Up early and in to the busy early morning rush hour. We caught the metro to the airport and had our last Asian meal (Burger King! 😂) for breakfast. We flew Bangkok to Helsinki (11 hours) and then Helsinki to Heathrow London (3 hours). Both flights were good with the second one being a little bumpy (we slept through most of this having been up since midnight UK time!). We had a massive shock when queuing on the runway to board the flight at Helsinki; flip flops were not made for 2° winter!? We ended the trip back at my Auntie and Uncle's house near Heathrow (thank you!) where we had started the trip in March.
I still don't think it's quite hit us yet; how did 294 days pass so quickly?! I'm sure as January hits it will sink in but we'll focus on all of the happy memories to get us through the cold and we have Christmas and catch ups with missed family/ friends to keep us busy before that. 3 continents and 17 countries; what a brilliant journi and thanks to everyone for following! 😘
20 December 2016
We spent the day by the pool and then headed out for our last night in Bangkok. Aim of the evening: to forget that it was the last night of our trip! We wandered a market but were put off by the men trying to sell dirty shows so weren't impressed. We headed up to a bar over looking the city and took it all in whilst having a few drinks. Wow was this really it?!
18 December 2016
We woke yesterday to more rain! We caught the ferry at 10.30 to the mainland. This only took 1.5 hours but at times there was screams as the boat appeared to leave the sea and thud back down and approx 30% of the people on board were throwing up as the staff ran around swapping filled sick bags with fresh ones! Probably one of thr most choppy ferries I've been on! We got to the train station on the mainland and despite having booked the train for the 19th were able to change it for for the night train that night... Just 6 hours to kill in a little town in the rain then! We boarded the train at 9.15 and were asleep by 10pm; arriving in Bangkok this morning at 6.30am. We made our way to our hotel (via McDonald's...) and were able to check in early. The hotel is great and has a rooftop pool with views over the city! We went to the huge weekend market and did our Christmas shopping and then relaxed by the pool!
16 December 2016
Another day of torrential rain in the morning and thunderstorms through the night! Luckily it cleared up enough in the afternoon for us to spend 2 hours by the pool and then take a walk along the beach. The bay is beautiful and it's such a shame that our planned few days of relaxing hasn't worked out. It started raining again in the evening so we've decided to leave Koh Tao and head north to less wet climes.
15 December 2016
Unfortunately we woke to severe rainstorms today but we had to take the bike back and get a ferry to Koh Tao. We waited as long as possible but had to just go for it. Halfway it was torrential so we waited under the shelter of a lovely man's shop. He brought us coffee and chatted whilst we waited. When it slowed we got back on the bike and made the 1.30 ferry (we set off at 2.15 as it was delayed luckily!) The crossing was rough and many people were sick but we made it OK. We've got a lovely sea view bungalow. Just need the rain to stop now!!!
14 December 2016
We moved to a quieter beach called "Haad Salad" after Charlotte and rich left us for Koh Samui. We had a lovely bungalow on the beach for 2 nights so we could relax! Due to the storms/tide the sea was in a long way though so we had to be careful where we lay and the sea was sadly dirty rather than crystal clear blue as we expected.
12 December 2016
A special birthday breakfast on our bikes, the day by the pool/beach and then cocktails!
11 December 2016
We awoke to rain and clouds!! So hired bikes and went to explore the island. There was a lot of storm damage on the roads and on the beaches. Hopefully the storm has passed now but it'll take them a while to repair the roads and electricity lines that have fallen! We finished with more cards and the Derby Vs forest game on an iPad!
10 December 2016
We set off from our hotel at 8.30am and after a mini bus, coach, ferry and a short walk arrived at our bungalow on Koh Phangan island at about 2.30pm. Our old friends Richard and Charlotte were there to greet us and we spent the rest of the day by the pool and watching the sun set on the beach before getting back to our old cards tournament!
9 December 2016
Today we rented a bike and explored the Krabi area. This included Ao nang beach and further up the coast Nopparat Thara beach. Ao nang was a busy then area with lots of bars and tat shops ( we weren't impressed) but further around the coast Nopparat Thara was a wide quiet bay with flat sea that went on for miles. You could lie in it and felt like a bath! We finished the day by climbing up to a budda shrine for the view. But I'm not sure it was worth the two massive spiders I nearly walked in to!
8 December 2016
Today we caught a boat to Railay beach. It's a beautiful headland into the sea which has 3 beaches - Phra nang (including James Bond cave), Railay East (more a port) and Railay west. The beaches are beautiful with clear water, white sands and for us blue skies but it's hard to find a quiet area to relax due to the mass tourism! There are many cliffs surrounding with rock climbers but we didn't have a go. I think the view from up there is meant to be spectacular! The cave was a slight let down just because of the amount of tourists but you can deny that they are stunning beaches!
7 December 2016
We had a lazy morning and then were picked up for our short trip to Krabi. The long-tail boat took us out to the bay again and we waited for the ferry to come in to view. I used this opportunity to get a quick sunbathe in! Soon enough the ferry came in to sight and the boats scrambled to pull up alongside it to deposit us and take on new holidaymakers. The ferry then took about an hour to Krabi town. From there we took a taxi to our hotel which was nearer to the pier for boats to Railay (the real reason for us visiting the area!). Railay is beautiful but very expensive so we were getting the best of both worlds!
6 December 2016
There was a bit of rain in the morning but then the sun came out so we spent the day on our deserted beach and had a pretty good sunset!
5 December 2016
To get to our beach we had to walk down 184 steps on the cliff (yes I counted!) but it was worth it! The beach was nice and quiet with just a handful of guesthouses and two bars. It would be perfect if the bloody sun would come out!!! 😡 We had a long walk along the shore and saw a couple of other people. The sea was very calm and flat. We finished with some quiet contemplation and then a beer (why not?!) Fingers crossed the sun comes out before we come home!!!
We awoke to thick cloud cover (although the rain had stopped 👍). We hopped on a ferry to one of the smaller islands nearby as we'd decided that Koh Lanta was a little busy for our liking. The ferry couldn't doc on the small island so pulled up next to it and many long-tail boats came out from the beach to meet it. Just our luck, the boat from out guesthouse was the furthest away so we had to clambour over 4 other boats all tied together and bobbing up and down at different times to get to it with our backpacks! We made it safely to shore and the man from our guesthouse was waiting on the deserted beach. He took us up to the huts which sit on a cliff overlooking the mountains on one side and the sea on the other! Despite the rain it was a beautiful view!!
4 December 2016
The cloud cleared just enough for a spectacular sun set!
We woke to pouring rain but it cleared by 10am and just left cloud which isn't great but better! We hired a bike a did a circuit of the island seeking out the little beaches. We had lunch at a great view point overlooking the sea and then in the afternoon visited the Lanta animal welfare centre. They take in many stray and injured dogs/cats and give them medical care and neuter them. You can volunteer to take a dog for a walk so we took biscuit. They try and rehouse the animals and people can volunteer to escort them on the plane home. They've got a few puppies but many older dogs have sad stories. One had been shot twice and one hit with a machete. It is run by volunteers and they have volunteer vets. They are doing a great job and the local now bring their pets there for treatment.
3 December 2016
Laat night we took the night bus from Hua Hin to Krabi (hopefully our last one!!) The bus was 1.5hours late but although the wait was annoying it meant that we got in at 8am rather than 6am which was a nice little lie in! 😂 We then took a mini bus to Ko Lanta; a beautiful Paradise Island on the west coast of Thailand. Unfortunately it started raining on the journey south in the night and it hadnt let up by the time we got to the hotel so we couldn't enjoy the beachside pool we'd booked! 😡 Apparently the locals tell us they're experiencing a strangely long monsoon (it should be sunshine all the way in December) and they expect it to end in the next couple of days. Fingers crossed!!!! We still managed a walk along the beach when the rain let up and made a lovely little friend at dinner. She attacked Ian whilst I rescued her younger sister from chewing on a plug socket whilst she was in the floor crying! 😂
1 December 2016
We took a long walk down Hua Hin beach today and watched the many kite surfers. We had to be careful to not step on the many jellyfish that had washed up on the sand! We relaxed on the beach for the afternoon. It's a nice beach (slightly windy!) but it's busy and the town is very OAP (slightly like the Thai mablethorpes!) so we're looking forward to moving south to the quieter islands.
30 November 2016
We started the day with a visit to the bridge over the river Kwai on the death railway. We were lucky that a train was coming whilst we were on the bridge and moved in to one of the safe areas to watch it pass. We then visited the allied war cemetery where many of the Pows who does building the railway were laid to rest. It was very sad to see the such young ages of the men who died. We then got a 3.5hr bus to our next stop, Hua Hin on the east Thailand coast. We finished the day with a beer!
29 November 2016
Today we got a bus to Erawan National Park about an hour away from Kanchanaburi. The national park is a series of 7 levels of waterfalls which you slowly ascend; the first 4 levels are pretty easy but it gets harder as you go up (especially if you were unprepared and wearing flip flops!) The waterfalls and pools were all a beautiful blue/green colour and were only slightly ruined by the mass of people clambouring in them to get a good pic (clearly a few people wanted a new facebook profile pic!). We decided that if you can't beat them you must join them and managed to find a quiet fall to indulge in a few waterfall pics (which will no doubt end up as our new facebook profile pics!) 😂
28 November 2016
We had a relaxing morning and a late breakfast before heading off on a bus to the Sai Yok Noi waterfall. We were expecting a bit of a trek as usual but the Thai seem to have made the waterfall into a bit of a family park and it's easily accessible from the road with lots of places for families to sit and picnic. We didn't spend long there as we were headed to the death railway to get the last train back.
The death railway or Burma railway is a stretch of 415km track linking Burma and Thailand during the Japanese occupation of ww2. Forced labour was used during the construction and at the end they estimate that 180,000 workers had died in its construction; this included nearly 7000 British POW. At the end of the war 111 Japanese officials were trialled for prisoner brutality and 32 sentenced to death.
The journey took 2 hours and the views were beautiful. It ends with the track going over the bridge on the river Kwai back in to Kanchanaburi.
27 November 2016
We left Mae Sot (just over the thai border) yesterday morning & were hoping to get a bus directly to Kanchanaburi. After a few difficult conversations at the bus station we were told to head to Tak along the main highway to catch a bus. It took us 2 hours in a mini van to get there but once there we were told we had to go to Bangkok to change buses. We really didn't want to go back there but saw that we didn't have an option so were ushered on to a hot coach. 7 long hours later we crawled in to Bangkok (a lucky bonus on the bus had been a free lunch at the service station!) Once in Bangkok we were told we could get another bus to Kanchanaburi which was leaving now (7.30) but wouldn't arrive until 10.30pm. As we didn't have anywhere booked to stay we decided against that & found a hostel close by to the bus station. This morning we did a little shopping & then caught the 3 hour mini bus & arrived in Kanchanaburi in time for a sunset walk along the river. Time to chill for a few days!!
25 November 2016
After a long bus journey today (made slightly longer by one break down - luckily the driver fixed it quickly or we may not have made it before the border closed!) we have arrived safely across the border and back in to Thailand. It is nice to have Wi-Fi again so the posts may actually be up to date from now on! ☺
24 November 2016
We made our way from Yangon to Kinpun for the last stop on our tour of Myanmar. This was to see the famous "golden rock" pagoda or Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. It is perched on the edge of Mount Kyaiktiyo at 1102m above sea level and surrounded by beautiful views. It is said to rest on one of Buddhas hairs and is sacred as it defies gravity and has survived many earthquakes. We took a very cramped truck up to the top; thousands of pilgrims visit everyday and they have to get them up there somehow! After winding our way up a steep and bumpy mountain road we made it safely. There were many pilgrims there lighting candles and meditating and men are allowed to cross a bridge and add golden leaf to the rock. We sat and watched a brilliant sun set before making the long journey down the mountain in the dark! Many of the pilgrims sleep at the top in and outside the temple but we didn't fancy that!
22 November 2016
A day wandering around Yangon: we visited the independence monument and sat reading in independence park, walked down to the river (uninspiring) saw the government buildings and lots of colonial buildings before wandering through the market and ending up drinking beer and having grilled meat at a bust street food vendor.
21 November 2016
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yanyon: we visited this sacred Buddhist site at mid afternoon so unfortunately it was a little hot for us to linger... But we appreciated it's beauty for the time we were there. There were many people meditating and enjoying the temple as well as some young Buddhist nuns. They are called "sila-rhan" (keeper of morality) and can join the nunnery early on in childhood. Some poorer families see this as a way for their daughters to have a god education and hold an honourable position in society. We were tired after our night bus so spent the afternoon people watching in the park. The park is near the university so there were lots of students and we sat near two nursing students who practiced taking each others blood pressure.
19 November 2016
We spent the day relaxing by the pool and then headed to a different temple for a different perspective on the beautiful sunset. Bagan has definitely been a fave of the trip!
We were up at 5am to watch the sun rise over Bagan. It was truly spectacular and one to tick off the bucket list. The many balloons flying over the most rising from the plains added to the view. Well worth the early get up!
18 November 2016
The first day exploring the temples of Bagan. Lots of temples but we had ebikes so the heat didn't bother us too much and it was easy to ride between the little ones. The day ended in a beautiful sunset from one of the temples.
17 November 2016
We set off at 10am for Bagan which was set to take 6 hours. The bus was suitably packed to the rafters with people sat down the aisle on plastic stools and children stuffed anywhere they could fit. The journey was windy and bumpy so people were being sick left right and centre. An eventful journey but we made it safely to Bagan on time.
16 November 2016
This afternoon we visited the national botanical Kandawgyi gardens on bikes. It was quite similar to visiting chatsworth house and gardens on an English summer day! There were many families enjoying a picnic and lots of roses with swans swimming on the lake. The lake was very pretty and we climbed (I took the lift!) a tower to look at the surrounding view.
We visited the Anisakan waterfalls this morning. It took about 40 minutes to walk to the bottom of the falls but when we got there it was worth it. We weren't looking forward to the walk back up but a local man told us he could take us on a short cut past another fall.... 40 hot/sweaty/tiring minutes later we made it back on to the original path. You can see by the final photo that I wasn't happy (there were FAR to many massive spiders lurking in the forest for me!!!!)
15 November 2016
Pyin oo lwin is an old colonial hill station from when the British occupied burma; the British used to summer here when the heat got too much in Mandalay! We hired bikes to explore it and were pleasantly surprised. It is cooler here and there are many old colonial buildings to look at with some interesting architecture. We were even lucky to see some English looking dairy cows! The local taxi's are colourful horse drawn carriages! We finished the tour at the central clock tower and then cycled back up to our hotel for a lazy dinner.
We took a two hour pick up to a little town called Pyin Oo lwin. It was very packed and we were hanging out of the back for the first part of the journey and squashed by massive milk jugs for the second. We had to stop once to cool down the engine but it still only took a couple of hours. We were entertained by watching an approx 18month child drinking an energy drink and the anticipation of what he was going to do when the caffeine hit his system but we're disappointed when he quickly latched on to his mums boob and fell asleep! (not quite sure how I had to give up caffeine when I couldn't sleep and he mustered that! - the power of breast milk!) We checked in to our hotel and were pleasantly surprised by the colonial feel; it also feels like nothing has changed since the 1800's!
14 November 2016
Today we explored Mandalay by bike. We saw the royal palace walls and moat but didn't go inside. We then climbed up many steps barefooted to see the view from Mandalay hill. This evening we visited the teak bridge which is a very long wooden bridge across the lake. It didn't have any sides and was a little rickety in places, especially as it's full moon and a big national holiday so very busy! Despite the danger the views over the lake were brilliant and the sunset beautiful.
12 November 2016
We took a pick up to the festival of hot balloon flying in Taunggyi which took about 1.5 hours due to the amount of people heading there. This is one of the most popular festivals in Myanmar and we were lucky to be in the area at the same time! The festival was huge and very brightly lit. There were many stalls selling food and drinks and a carnival atmosphere. A hot balloon (no air involved just fire) went up about every 30 minutes, helped by a crowd of people. After they took off people ran as tbe baskets were packed full of explosives/fireworks and it seemed there was no real knowing when and where they would go off! Many went off early and landed in the crowd leaving a war zone feeling with bangs/lights and people running/cowering under taupalin! We were unfortunate to be near one when this happened as it flew over us in the wind and we sustained some small burns! No safety what so ever it seemed but there were fire trucks! It was spectacular to watch and worth the ride!!
A day spent cycling around Inle lake. Unfortunately we didn't have time for another boat ride but cycled to a temple to look at the view of the lake from above. We got to see local villages on the way and on the way back got stuck in a massively chaotic traffic jam due to all of the locals heading to and from the balloon festival at Taunggyi! We stayed in the little town that's popped up near the lake down a little canal. Unfortunately it's suffering with the amount of people and the rivers are all very polluter.
10 November 2016
Day 3: with 14km to go we sat eating breakfast looking at torrential rain with despair. 4 of our group had decided they weren't completing the 3rd day due to sickness & a rather bad blister so after saying goodbye to the little girls in the family (who were still clutching the toothbrushes we had given them the day before) we set out as 7 & Momo. Within minutes we were soaked to the bone. We walked for 2 hours with no let up & got to our rest stop. A few other groups had decided to be picked up from there as they were miserable but we decided to soldier on! Another hour on the road (nice & not slippy) & Momo informed us we were starting the muddy bit which would take us 2hours down to the finish point. We were not impressed! What followed was steep, muddy & very very slippy. We had to find the best way down the valley amongst mist, trees & some dangerous rocks/slopes. We were all covered in mud & a few scratches by the end but we made it in one piece! A brilliant but hard experience!
Day 2: After not much sleep (rain + tin roof) we woke to find it rather wet underfoot. After some brekkie from the outside kitchen and a dubious trip to the toilet we started out on our longest walk of the trek, a whole 24k. The morning was a hard slog with conditions slippy and uphill. The scenery was very similar to the UK with rapeseed and other similar crops. We also saw many chilli pepper plantations (apparently very spicy when tried!) and sacred banyan trees. Along the way our guide (mo mo) pointed out the 'winter spider's which come out this time of year (no thanks). Lunch was a welcome break but we soon started up again, all the way to a lovely village with an open 🚿 and of course, a squat toilet.
After a good rest and some food and rum our guide busted out the 🎸 and played some tunes for us in English and Burmese. A hard day, but satisfying. Tomorrow is the last day before Inle Lake, only 14k to go.
8 November 2016
Day 1 of the trek from Kalaw to Inle lake:
We started off at 9am (a group of 11 and our guide) and were soon sweating in the heat! The trek itself wasn't strenuous but the heat and carrying our bags made it worse at times. We visited a British colony made reservoir in the morning before climbing up to our highest point and having dinner with a beautiful view of the mountains. We set off in the afternoon and walked around to a village; we saw tea plantations on the way. The village had a monastery and the local school had the children out clearing grass and cleaning up ready for a new building. We had taken pens and toothbrushes for the schools and were mobbed by children as we tried to give them to the teachers! We carried on walking down the train tracks visiting another village for a stop and arrived at our homestay after dark. The total we walked was approx 23km. The evening meal was gorgeous & we settled down to sleep early on our mats in the loft all exhausted!
7 November 2016
We arrived at the airport of Kengtung for our flight to Heho amongst organised chaos as usual. The check-in desk had a pile of tickets and were calling out names so that people could weigh their luggage. It seemed like no one had stuck to their limit and the small room was full of boxes, bags and packages. The flight took off at about 1pm (only 40mins late).
The flight took 35 minutes and was relatively OK (I say relatively as I'm suddenly terrified of flying again and cry at any slight noise or bump!). In Heho we collected our bags, avoided the taxis and walked 1.8km to the end of the road where we stood trying to flag down a bus to Kalaw. After 10mins one stopped and we got in. I got to sit next to a lovely old woman who chain smoked the entire way! 😂 but it took less than an hour so all good.
We checked in to the hotel, slightly explored Heho (nice temple and view) and booked a 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle lake starting tomorrow! 👍
6 November 2016
We had planned on going trekking today but because in Myanmar it's easier said than done and we hadn't organised a guide we were left with the lonely plant for guidance. They recommended a walk through countryside to a temple but did not specify exactly where or how long we would be walking. We tried our best and walked out of the town along a long road. After 20minutes the views got better but we were still unsure as to whether we were going the right way. We tried to ask some boys who were laying the new road but they were all giggling and unsure and just pointed us the way we were going. We continued for another 15minutes but the heat overcame us and we began to make our sweaty way back. We ended up back at the hotel, exhausted and stinking and decided to spend the rest of the day in the coolness inside reading. We became hungry a couple of hours later and explored the other direction. We were lucky to find a bustling market street with lots of weird and wonderful things on offer!!
5 November 2016
A day full of walking and exploring. We set off to explore Kengtung in the heat and by the end of the day we had walked in to town, around the market, to the lake, around the lake, up to the standing budda, along to the sacred tree and view point, around a smaller lake and back to our hotel. We had a lovely meal and a little restaurant in between and arrived back at the hotel in need of a good rest. The views of the town we're lovely and we found that the locals were very friendly and almost shy/abashed when we said hello!
Later we went for some food and ended up at a very funny little club that was blaring out music (we'd heard it the night before and decided to investigate!) we had a warm welcome from the owner and a bunch of military pilots who made us dance and bought us sun flower seeds to share. Luckily we didn't have to stay too long as the place had to close at 11pm. Despite the early curfew there were many young locals enjoying the aggressive dance music!
4 November 2016
We started out on the local bus from Chiang Rai at 9am, this took 1.5hours and was hitch free. We then caught a short tuktuk to the border and exited Thailand with no problems.
We walked through to the Myanmar border and were ushered in to the immigration office. They were all very friendly asking us to sit and helping us with our forms. They took our photos stamped our passports and with lots of smiles and a bag of apples covered in chilli for a present we were on our way!
It took a while for us to find the right bus station in our tuktuk and there was some slight apprehension when they needed to take our passports to get permission for us to travel but after a wait we were on the bus north to Kengtung. The bus was slow and crowded and took 5hrs when it could have been 2 (there was a problem and we had to go 10mph for a bit) but it was nice to have a careful driver on the windy roads! We had a nice stop for lunch and arrived in kengtung at 5pm, finding a hotel with relative ease.
3 November 2016
We spent the morning at the cat cafe having a coffee and a play with the cats! In the afternoon we visited the white temple. After seeing many many temples recently we were honestly impressed with it! It was different and contemporary showcasing heaven and hell. You had to walk over a river of reaching hands (temptation) to get in to the temple.
We then did lots of planning and admin jobs. Tomorrow we are attempting to enter Myanmar and continue our adventure. Apparently electricity and internet are dependable on where you are so we'll update as we can!
2 November 2016
A simple day of bus rides. Had to remove a cat from me moped 🏍 then to the bus station. Bus to Chiang Mai from Pai then from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. Easy. Hostel is very nice and Anna says it's the best toilets she has seen in a hostel. 🚽🚿🛁. Went for a walk and saw the clock tower (normally has a light show but the mourning of the 👑 is still going on so no fun allowed).
P.s Today we got our visas for Myanmar 🇲🇲.
1 November 2016
Today we explored the area around Pai. We started off at the local hot springs but weren't impressed so asked for our money back and left! We then went to Memorial bridge and checked out the view of the valley. We had lunch at Pai canyon and looked at the view but weren't brave enough to walk along many of the paths! We then spent the afternoon relaxing whilst the rain poured, before driving up to an amazing view point in the valley just before sunset!
31 October 2016
We're still taking advantage of the lazy atmosphere in Pai and spent the morning eating a long breakfast and then sitting by the pool. That lasted until in the afternoon when it began to chuck it down and we had to retreat inside! Once the rain had cleared we headed up the mountainside to the Budda on the hill and watched the sun (kind of) set behind the clouds. It was still a good view of the countryside despite the weather!
30 October 2016
We had a lie in and caught a minivan to Pai this morning. The drive was a little windy but the driver was careful so no ones breakfast made a reappearance. Pai is a little hippie town up in the mountains and we immediately fell in love and decided to stay here and chill for a few days. We're staying at Mountain view guesthouse in a lovely cabin. It does what it says on the tin and i watched the sun set over the mountains whilst doing my squats on the balcony today!
29 October 2016
A day spent exploring Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside. This started with the ascent of Doi Suthep, there were many view points but as we got higher the cloud got thicker and at the very top there was no view! On the way down we visited the pretty temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. We then drove to the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon; we think this used to be a quarry which has been filled in and made in to water park. Slightly strange and lots of rules regarding swimming/jumping but it was good to look down on for a short while. We didn't partake in the water fun but I'm sure it would make a fun day! In the evening we explored the very busy Saturday night market and got some food from the street.
28 October 2016
After a brief rest we decided we needed to head out for some food. We then spent the rest of the afternoon "wat spotting" in the heat. Trailing around the many many beautiful Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. After a long long day and night it's an early night for us tonight!
27 October 2016
We left Don Det at 11am & caught the boat to the main land. Our bus left the port at 12 however we only made it 200m down the bumpy road before we stopped and the driver got off with his tools. 45mins later they announced that we needed to change buses. Some how we still made it to Pakse on time & were transferred to a car to be transferred to the Thai border. This was a swift crossing & we walked over to Thailand to be greeted by a small mini van which took us the rest of the way to Ubon Ratchathani. It took 7 hours in total just as they'd said (a first!). We arrived at the bus station & tried to find out whether there were any trains (we'd heard not due to the mourning period). Luckily (or unluckily) there was a night bus to Chiang Mai leaving in 10 minutes which was our final intended destination. A little weary we boarded & having received dinner (rice and chicken) bedded down for the 15 hours, arriving at 10am today - only 24 hours later! We then got a tuk tuk to a hostel.
26 October 2016
Today we had a rest day and spent the day relaxing at the hotel pool. A much needed recuperate ready for our mega journey up to north Thailand
25 October 2016
Sunset on the Mekong.
Today we went on a kayaking tour of the islands. This included a lot of arm work on the Mekong river, a pet monkey (sad times) meeting lots of children/puppies/kids, visiting two waterfalls (Tad Khone Pa Soi falls and Khone Phapheng falls), visiting the sacred tree (which fell over in the water so they rescued it and put it in a temple) and a lovely BBQ lunch in a little village in Laos/Cambodia (they're not too sure they just mix). We were dolphin spotting but apparently due to the Chinese making a damn and blowing up rocks they've migrated up the river so we didn't spot any.
24 October 2016
We took a 7 hour bus to the port near 4000 islands and then a canoe across to the island of Don det. The islands are on the Mekong river, link Laos with Cambodia and are very rural. Once we arrived on the island we were able to find a guest house pretty quickly and were in 2 bungalows within 5 minutes. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the island (walking about 6km in total) which took 2.5 hours (even though we were assured you could walk around the island in 40 mins!). We walked through rice fields and met lots of children and puppies.
23 October 2016
Today we had a travelling day. We were up early to catch the "quick, aircon" bus from Thakhek to Pakse further south. Unfortunately when we turned up at the bus station the bus was neither the quick or the air con bus! It was packed full of packages and we had to clamber to get on. It quickly filled up and with just windows we were all sweating lots! The journey lasted 7 hours so not too bad and the highlight was lots of ladies getting on to sell us chicken on a stick (we did not partake!). Once we arrived in Pakse we admired the view from our hotel roof top and went for a walk along the river (Mekong of course)
22 October 2016
Day 4 of the Thaklek loop- we had a nice lie in as we knew we only had to drive 105km back to Thaklek down the highway. We started out driving 50km to a turn off to a lake but having driven 10km down a bumpy road (and realising we still had another 10km to go and the road was getting progressively more dangerous) we decided to turn back and just head back down to Thakhek. Once there we treated ourselves to a couple of beers on the river (with the view of Thailand over the river) and took the muddy bikes back to the owner.
21 October 2016
Day 3 of the Thakhek loop- We started off today by visiting the Konglor cave. The cave is 7.6km long and you have to take a motor canoe through it. It was very dark and an huge space inside; a little bit freaky. They say there are spiders the size of your hand in there but luckily we didn't see any! As it's dry season we had to get out of the boat at times and wade through the rapids in the cave. After the cave we drove about 40km back to Ba Nahin for lunch and then another 40km to where we were staying for the night.
20 October 2016
Day 2 of the Thakhek loop pm- after some noodle soup we set of in the sun in search of the "cool water springs" unfortunately we couldn't actually find them (we later found out that the bridge to them had collapsed!) but we were treated to amazing views of small lakes, grassy plains and limestone cliffs. We carried on further and stopped after about 20km at a small village for a drink. It was then another 40km to our village for the night near the Konglor cave. The road was straight and to either side was rice fields and limestone cliffs. We went though many villages where the children and adults waved and we had to wind through buffaloes, goats, chickens and goats. As the sun was setting behind the cliffs we decided it was one of our favourite drives of the trip!
Day 2 of the Thakhek loop am- last night there was a massive storm and it didn't let up this morning so we waited a little while but then had to just head out. We covered ourselves up and put our head down and got on with it. Luckily there were some beautiful views, statues in the rock on the side of the road and then the rain began to ease! By mid morning the sun was shining and we were able to enjoy the windy roads. We travelled about 50km and then stopped at the roadside for some lunch.
19 October 2016
Day 1 of the Thaklek loop in Laos. We rode to the Budda cave 15km from Thakhek which involved a very very muddy road (a couple of slips, some very muddy legs/bikes and a lost shoe). We then rode up another bumpy road (but quickly abandoned the bikes and walked) to a lovely green lake but didn't have a swim as there was many locals fishing and bbqing (and offering us some kind of alcohol that we declined!). It was then about 55km to Mahaxai village where we had a lovely noodle soup for lunch. We carried on another 30 odd km past the Nam Thaun damn and along a beautiful windy road past a large lake. We arrived at our guest house in Tha Lang village at about 5pm. A brilliant first day to our adventure!
18 October 2016
The morning started with a full exercise class in the room and then a hearty breakfast. We were looking forward to your VIP bus 🚌 which turned out to be a strange experience. It was a decent bus but we ended up round a table as there were no seats. I was sat under the speaker which played aggressive Asian action films then music for the whole trip. We arrived in Tha Khaek for some much needed beers 🍻 and started to plan our 4 day biking experience. The loop.
17 October 2016
We decided to have a relaxed day in Vientiane rather than move further south. We hired bicycles and explored the river and some monuments including a temple covered in moss. We tried to visit the cope museum which is for rehabilitating people who have lost limbs in land mines but due to the big boating festival everything was closed. Because of the heat we decided the best course of action was to retreat in to the mall (not buying anything due to the the extortionate prices) and watch "girl on the train" at the cinema. A pleasant way to spend a hot afternoon with some snacks (not including the vacuum packed chicken feet). In the evening we avoided the larey locals and their many dangerously placed street fireworks and enjoyed some fresh noodles at a local restaurant. Tomorrow we will head south!
16 October 2016
A good nights sleep 😴 was just what we needed....to lie by the pool for a bit. ☀️ a good mornings topping up the tan was followed by a walk down to the river to see Thailand (literally) and some of the boat festival. We found an amazing popup restaurant selling incredible food for only 15,000kip (£1.50). We returned later in the night to see some 💥 fireworks and many lanterns released into the river.
Tomorrow we may rent a bike and go to the prosthetic limb centre which helps out all the people who come across the many mines and bombs that have been left.
14 October 2016
Today we decided was the day for trying the infamous tubing. We were actually happily surprised that it definitely has calmed down since the minister for tourism got involved and closed down the illegal bars and dangerous rope swings. We floated down the river in our big tubes and stopped off at two bars for a couple of whiskies and a game of beer pong. Ian and Richard went down the zip line but Charlotte and I refrained!
13 October 2016
Having had a few welcome drinks with Rich and Charlotte last night we treated ourselves to a lie in and decided that we wouldn't do the infamous tubing today. Instead we hired mopeds and explored the countryside around Vang Vieng. We swam in a blue lagoon and travelled through pretty villages and paddy fields. The roads were pretty bumpy and the somewhat short distance took all afternoon, especially as we had to take cover in a hut from a torrential downpour!
Having spoken to Ian I realised that I had a good 5 hours to kill before their bus got in. I checked in to the hotel and had a well needed shower. I then went for a wander around the little village/town of Vang Vieng. This pretty little village was once famous for "tubing" where drunken revellers would go down the (at times) dangerous river on inner tubes, stopping of to drink and jump on rope swings. Due to the increased number of deaths (many British and Australian idiots) the tourism board have cracked down on this and it is now a much more relaxed and sleepy affair. I sat on the river bank, read my book and watched the local rowing teams training. There was even a pretty hot air balloon floating by. Back in heaven...!
After landing in Bangkok at 9am I had a few hours to kill before my 8pm train so I promptly fell asleep on an airport chair. At 5pm I began my journey across the city using the subway. I picked up my ticket and boarded the train, staying in the women and children's only carriage. At about 9pm a lady came, made up our beds and put up our little curtains. I brushed my teeth, said goodnight to my old lady Thai friend and promptly fell asleep for the entire journey! We arrived in Nong Khai at 7am and I bought a ticket for the shuttle train over the border (passing through immigration at the station). At the station in Laos I filled in my visa forms and made friends with two girls to barter for a taxi in to town (Vientiane). I'd sussed out where the buses go from so went straight and paid cash to the driver to let me on. The journey to Vang Vieng took about 4hrs and when I arrived I headed for a wifi cafe to make contact with Ian (hoping he was on his way there!!)
12 October 2016
I spent a lazy morning waiting for the bus 🚌 before being packed into a minivan of intense heat and discomfort. Terrible roads, frequent stops and little space were on the cards.
However it was all worth it as met up with good travelling friends rich and Charlotte. After lots of catching up 🍻 we went to Luang Prabang's premier bowling ally to smash some pins. Unfortunately for Rich this was a bit too much and ended with a multicolour yawn 🌈. Tomorrow it's on to Vang Vieng where a very tired 😴 Anna Scott should be.
10 October 2016
This morning I awaited my fait with the cash machine. The bank said 1pm so I went hiking up to a look out. This was probably the sweatiest trek I've done in a while but produced some smashing views, if not a bit cloudy.
I left my group to run down to check out the cash machine and it was fixed so I'm back in the game, I'm able to eat and drink again! 👍🏼
My plan now is to travel to Luang Prabang and meet some friends and then travel down to meet Anna with them for the infamous 'tubing' experience. Take a tube, travel down the river, get drunk, try not to die. Sounds fun.
9 October 2016
Attempted a lie in this morning but my body wouldn't let me with these early starts. Plus village life woke me up with a radio, tractor and roosters!
Managed to watch some TV as wifi was decent 😂 and then a bus to Nong Khiaw. Note the long nails which made me feel slightly sick on the men.
It's very beautiful here apart form the concrete bridge but links everything nicely together.
Wanted to do a kayaking trip tomorrow but both cash machines are broke and so am I! Haven't enough money to actually get to my next destination so will have to see how things pan out tomorrow.
8 October 2016
Another day, another bus ride! Up early for the 7:30 to Vieng Thong 5 hours away. Visibility was down to 10ft but not sure the driver understood this. However the view was incredible once the cloud started to shift as we worked our way down. Very rural in this part and not many people on the road so that's probably why the driver threw it round the corners with gusto.
I have found a nice guesthouse and went to find the "hot springs". The guidebook said they weren't good and I agree. They were scolding hot so you even put your finger in. Also they were filthy so probably would have got cholera 💀.
On the way back some locals were having a party so I drank some beer with them 🍻.
Not feeling especially well, think I may have malaria so going to get an early night and another bus tomorrow to Nong Khiaw. 👍🏼😂
7 October 2016
Isn't it fun problem solving! This morning I went to the tourism office to get bus times and sort my day out to the caves at Vieng Xai. With this information I went to the bus station by tuk tuk van thing (4km out of town), only to be told that those buses aren't accurate and I would struggle to return to Sam Neua.
I decided that the best idea was a motorbike and although I had to walk back into town it was the beat decision as the views were awesome and I could take my time. Even had a proper Indian curry for lunch!!
The caves were a sanctuary from the US bombing. Some 450 limestone caves containing hospitals, schools and barracks during the "secret war". The caves were fascinating. Take this: more bombs were dropped per head in tonnes than any other war. They calculated it equalled one plane load of bombs every 8 minutes for 24 hours a day for 9 years! (Sweat I'm turning socialist).
Enough propaganda. Tomorrow early bus to Vieng Thong to split up the journey!
6 October 2016
Along the 9 hour bus ride I had one women spit out the window and then boomerang into my window onto me. One man fell asleep on me. One child poked me in the eye. One women throw up in front of me in a bag then throw it out the window, mercifully I had my window shut at this point.
The border crossing was fairly simple and I managed to change some money before hand which eased the process.
The scenery is fantastic on both sides (slightly better Laos side), however the roads deteriorated spectacularly in Laos. I finally arrived into Sam Neua picking a decent guesthouse that feels totally empty. Not too sure they are used to the old tourists here!
Anna has left me again! Party time 🎉. Being an adventurous person I fancied a more challenging border crossing than the simple "Gringo bus" to the capital Vientiane.
Instead I took the 🚂 to Thanh Hoa, stayed overnight and woke up ridiculously early for the 8am bus to Sam Nuea in 🇱🇦Laos.
As you can see the bus has wheels (it's only bonus) and along with piles of luggage and vegetation we set off.
3 October 2016
After arriving in Hanoi we set out for some chicken broth thingy, which Anna wasn't too happy about.
Next day we collected the trainers that Anna had left behind in Nha Trang and took part in a walking tour (not done one of those in agggessss). Ended up in a spot called beer corner which we went back to later on for a few beers and spicy meal. Fortunately we didn't have to use the toilets 😷.
We were up early to catch the bus from Sapa to Lao Cai where we were getting the train from. We wandered to to the bus through Sapa and past the church. The journey took 1 hour and was very windy but with very good views! We got the train at 10.05am and arrived in Hanoi at 7.30pm so it was a long ride. Luckily we had soft seats which were pretty comfy and we were able to take lots of naps!
2 October 2016
During the afternoon we spent a lot of time playing; no they're not shy around us it's hard to get a minutes peace! We were sad to leave them all and had some sad goodbyes; the children giving us bunches of flowers they'd picked. At nightfall we shared a taxi up the valley (very slowly due to the very bad roads) and then spent the evening in Sa Pa. It's a nice little town with windy streets and brilliant views but is beginning to be over developed.
We woke to sunshine so after breakfast, and a quick play with all of the children, we went to explore the valley. We left in a group with a local guide, the local villages are Mong (unsure of spelling!) people and they speak a language closer to Chinese than Vietnamese. We walked through the valley and learned about their culture. We walked about 15km in total and the views were spectacular.
1 October 2016
We woke up to rain and a valley full of clouds so we spent the day playing with the local children and doing some drawing. As the parents were all working we basically baby sat all day (think they're pretty much left to fend for them selves). The community tends to just look after whoevers children are around at the time! We stayed around for the English lesson in the afternoon and pretty much ended up running it ourselves! We had a bit of drama at the beginning of the lesson when a local dad started shouting at some girls as they'd fallen out with his girl. It escalated slightly and he began throwing things, we quickly got a lot of crying children in to the home and locked the door whilst the parents shouted it out. Local village politics i think and there seems to be a lot of jealousy as the homestay is doing well and other locals are farmers. Later that afternoon the rain cleared and we went for a walk through the valley.
30 September 2016
We arrived in Sa Pa and were picked up by two motor taxi's to take us to our homestay about 7km away. The view on the way down the valley was stunning and the view from the homestay just as good. We had dinner with the family and played with the 4 puppies. In the afternoon we helped with the English lesson - children come from all the surrounding villages to the homestay for this free and extra class. It's mostly girls as the families want them to become tour guides whereas the boys will help on the farms. They ranged in age from 6-14 and were very keen to learn! The lessons are run by a volunteer who stays for about 2 months. We tried to give some advice on learning language but it seems the lessons here are very formal and they like to keep it that way!
29 September 2016
We had an horrendously bumpy night bus from Halong to Sa Pa. We always end up over the wheel so very bouncy. We arrived at a town on the Chinese border at 6.30am and then had to get a bus to Sa Pa. Needless to say we were very tired when we arrived and sat down for breakfast!
28 September 2016
When driving back to get the 4pm ferry we got a flat tyre, the locals were very helpful at pointing this out & I was soon on the back of a scooter along with dried fish & crabs; she was trying to feed me fish as we scootered along & had much delight in showing me off as we passed people! She exchanged me on to a mechanics bike halfway to the harbour & we went back to find Ian (3.20pm). The mechanic took one look at the inner tube & said we needed a new one, but he wanted to charge us 300,000. An argument followed as we couldn't afford to pay him & didn't want to be ripped off (3.30pm). We told him to just shove the old inner tube in & we'd go (3.45pm). I then hailed a pregnant local & got on her bike to stop the ferry going but she'd only take me as far as her house (fair enough!). Ian then came tootling through on the flat & I hopped on (3.55pm). We made it to the ferry by the skin of our teeth! Once we made it to the mainland we found some lovely locals who helped us fix it!
Exploring Ha Long bay: we decided to do the less touristy (and cheaper) option and got the ferry to one of the bay's biggest islands Cat Ba and then explored it by scooter. The ferry went through much of the bay so we got the best of both worlds! On the island we visited "hospital cave" a cave that the Viet Cong used as a bomb proof hospital during the war with the USA; we were there alone so it was a bit freaky!
27 September 2016
A quick stop off in Hanoi (made longer by the fact we arrived at the bus station and it was under construction- something the taxi driver hadn't know- and had to find another bus station) and we were back on a very long bus (only 4.5 but felt slooowwwww) to Ha long bay in the east. Ian wasn't impressed by the man sat next to us sneezing! We arrived in Ha long at 7pm and needed a good rest!
The night train from Hue to Hanoi! Choo choo! We were lucky that no one else joined us so we had a 4 birth cabin to ourselves! We left hue at 9.30pm and arrived in Hanoi at 12.30pm today. A nice change from a night bus! I've also joined the Asian population and invested in some comfy flip flop socks! 😂
26 September 2016
Today we explored the imperial citadel of Hue. Hue was the capital city from 1802 when the emperor Nguyen took over and he tried to unite the north and south of Vietnam. The empire went from strength to strength until the French exerted their power in the 1900's. The city was extensively bombed during the war with the USA in the Tet offensive but is slowly being restored to its former glory. We stopped at an amazing little restaurant on the street where the lady showed us a piece of paper with 2 options; we chose one of each and weren't disappointed! The freshest food and tasted amazing. When the bill came to 60,000 dong (£2) we tipped an extra 20,000 which she gave straight to her little girl who had been BBQing the pork for us. Such an amazing little find!
25 September 2016
Passing through beautiful rice fields on the way in to Hue.
Today we had a great day driving from Hoi An to Hue along the Hai Van pass. We started out buying some new trainers as I unfortunately left mine at the last hostel. The journey was approx 120km and the Hai Van pass goes up over the mountains; you may all remember it from Top Gear! The views were spectacular and the road fun to drive. We passed through lots of low cloud going over the top and then got caught in a very heavy rainstorm but that added to the fun and we soon dried out! It took us just under 6 hours with lots and lots of stops to take in the scenery and take photos.
24 September 2016
This afternoon we took a bicycle from our homestay and cycled to the beach; stopping off at another pretty pagoda on the way. Ian cycled and I sat on the back in the Vietnamese way! It was pretty comfortable and apart from some negotiating junctions to get out of the town was all very pretty countryside.
We spent the morning walking around the pretty streets of the old town of Hoi an. It's a beautiful pedestrianised little town with lots of old chinese/Japanese and French architecture. It's protected by UNESCO and was lucky to be avoided by bombs during the war with USA however it does flood every year to quite a height! We visited old houses, temples and pagodas but the heat finally got too much and we had to sit in the shade with a refreshing sugar cane juice.
23 September 2016
We had a long and uncomfortable journey on the bus up to Hoi an today but luckily it only took 5 hours rather than the expected 7. When we got to Hoi an we walked along to the old town (UNESCO heritage site) and wandered around the streets and along the river. The old town is pedestrianised so it's nice to not have to avoid lots of motorbikes as you walk. You have to pay 120,000dong to get in but the pass lasts for a few days so we can explore in the light tomorrow.
22 September 2016
We had a massive thunderstorm in the night and it was still raining this morning so we stayed at the hostel and did some more relaxing. Late morning it cleared up so we went for a small stroll (it's a tiny village) around, past the village well (and it's many pumps!) and saw the fishing harbour. We stopped off for some noodle soup and then sat in the sun doing more reading in the afternoon. In the evening we played pool again and spent a long time giving English lessons/speech therapy to the guys working at the hostel!
21 September 2016
A very relaxing day in Bai Xep. We only left the hostel beach area briefly for a stroll along the beach to watch the locals in their fishing boats 😍 I've finished a whole book and we played some pool!
20 September 2016
After a short 5 hour bus ride from Nha Trang we arrived on the side of the road where the driver informed us we needed to get off to get to Bai Xep. We walked down through the village and right at the well (as told by our instructions) and came upon our lovely little hostel on the beach - life's a beach - just in time for sunset and the family BBQ. Bai xep is a working fishing village and there are only 2 hostel where foreigners can stay so it's a lovely little rustic place with a lovely atmosphere.
19 September 2016
After 3 long days of driving we spent the day relaxing by the beach in Nha Trang. Nha Trang is a city in the centre of the east coast and is a popular holiday destination for Russians due to its proximity to their south by flight. There are many resorts and we had a nice day relaxing but we head out tomorrow to find quieter beaches up the coast. We topped the day with Ian having a nice cut throat shave!
17 September 2016
Day 3: We set off from the hotel at 8.30am after a better night sleep than the night before (no government speaker to tell us to wake up and go to work this time!) we had a long ride on the bikes (about 200km) but we stopped regularly, visiting coffee shops, a pepper plantation, a goat farm and stopping at a local farmers house for a lie down when the rain got too much (strange but many people were doing the same!) We arrived in the beach city of Nha Trang for sunset and the hour of free beer at our hostel!
Day 2: we set off at around 8.45am and drove along the lakeside. We saw elephants swimming in the lake and the local villagers were all out working hard to harvest the rice. They lay it along the road to dry and then quickly take it in if it starts to rain. The lake and paddy fields looked beautiful. We carried on riding for the morning and met our guides neice (leader of a local primary school), visited a pepper plantation and stopped for a chat with some friendly petrol station owners! We had lunch and then rode to a big waterfall and had a paddle/swim. We finished off in the biggest city of the central highlands where we will stay for the night.
16 September 2016
We arrived in a small village by Lak lake at about 5.45 and were very tired after the days riding. The lake looked beautiful in the evening light and we watched the local children playing in it before going to the traditional long house where we were going to stay. We had BBQ fish for dinner; the driver bought it from the market and and it was still alive so it was very fresh and tasted delicious!
Day 1 of our 3 day motorbike tour from Dalat to Nha Trang: we set off early (me on the back of our guides bike and Ian following on his own) we visited a temple for good luck and then spent the day winding through the central highlands stopping to look at different things on the way. We visited a weasel coffee farm (they pick the beans out of the poo once the weasel has eaten them and then process them- actually very nice!), a silk factory, flower farms, a weird market (where the locals loved covering me in caterpillars), a minority village, a floating village and stopped at many more places to take pictures of the beautiful countryside.
13 September 2016
Firstly, after I wrote our last entry we went for some dinner. Unfortunately on the way Anna was robbed of her bag by a bad bad man on a scooter who zoomed by and ripped it out of her grasp. It contained her phone so we spent the night sorting this out.
In the morning Anna had to file a police report and then we could resume our day!
Tunnels! The Cu Chi tunnels are a labyrinth of underground connecting tunnels used in the Vietnam war! Used by the Viet Cong they consisted of living quarters, kitchens, war rooms and supply routes. The tunnels were deadly effective and resulted in aggressive campaigns by the USA to bomb the hell out of them. On the other hand some of the traps the Viet Congs used were horrifying and life in that jungle must have been grim for both sides! The tunnels we went through were as tight squeeze but they'd actually been widened for us!!
To cheer ourselves up we went for a Vietnamese Mexican (tasty) and booked a bus to leave our mixed feelings of Saigon behind!
12 September 2016
After waking up with a slight hangover 🍻 we embarked on a self guided walking tour of HCMC. We visited independence palace, Norte dam (yes Catholics in Asia) and the war museum (Americans are dirt bags). A lot was propaganda but they did some very shitty things and dropped more bombs in 14 months than the Allies dropped in the total of World War Two. The war lasted 8 years and is a stain on Americas history (Anna says I'm a communist now but neither of us can shake the images of the young children gunned down in innocence).
Anywho after a quick nap we are back on it for some drinks and food with the lovely thought of going to some of the war tunnel the Vietnamese used....more to follow tomorrow. And probably more propaganda 👍🏼🇻🇳
11 September 2016
We left our lovely hut on the River in Can Tho at lunch time yesterday and boarded a very wet bus to Vinh long. The plan was to head to An Binh island for a couple of days to stay with a family. However because of the persistent rain we decided that staying on an island in a hut may not be the best idea and we quickly made the decision to board a bus up to Ho Chi Minh city; at least there there is stuff to do in the rain! We arrived in the evening and headed out in to the busy streets for some food straight away; we hadn't managed to find anything other than avocado shake in Vinh long! The streets in Ho Chi Minh are very busy and the pavements are not safe zones as bikes regularly charge down them as well! When crossing the road you must constantly look left/right as it is common that someone will be driving the wrong way down the road.
10 September 2016
After arriving in Can Tho We managed to find our "resort" and hastily signed up for a 5:30am start to the floating market. Cai Rang is the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta and was full of fruits and vegetables. Basically you motor around in a boat and get boarded almost by someone selling you noodles etc, brilliant fun! We then moved onto a noodle making factory before heading back feeling rather jaded!
A quick relax then fuelled us up to find some more food. However after 2 hours of a basic circle we were left very sweaty, hungry and annoyed and just went home for food (I blame trip advisor and apple maps).
Early to bed tonight for us 💤💤💤.
9 September 2016
After crossing the border in to Vietnam we said a sad goodbye to our friend Jack who we have spent the last 3 weeks with. He is heading straight to Ho Chi Minh city and we are going to explore the Mekong Delta. We boarded a very old rickety bus and had a very bumpy 6 hour ride before arriving in Can Tho. Although it was scary to look out of the front window because of the 1000's of motor bikes and the bus's honking horn, the views of the river and villages were good!
8 September 2016
Today we visited the abandoned hill station on Bokor mountain. Built by the French as a cool retreat in the 1920's it has since been abandoned several times and was used as shelter by Khmer Rouge fighters during the civil war. It is eerily foggy and windy at the top and felt very odd to explore the old buildings; the hotel still has rooms and bathrooms in it. The views from the top of Kampot and all the way to the sea are pretty good!
7 September 2016
After touring the farm we headed to the little beach town of Kep and their famous crab market. We ordered our crab from the shore and then paid a man to cook it on his stove. We accompanied the crab with stingray, mackerel and squid on a stick.
We arrived in the town of Kampot, near the Vietnam border yesterday. Today we hired bikes and visited a pepper farm. Kampot was once famous for its pepper but production was wiped out by the Khmer Rouge and then the Vietnam war. They began production again in 1993 and were awarde the world trade organisation's geographical indications status in 2010.
3 September 2016
A very fun few days on Koh Rong island! Unfortunately we had way too much fun and barely took any photos... But we had a lovely time staying on a beautiful beach in a cabin with friends.
31 August 2016
We went on a fishing adventure today! We were lucky that us and our friend Jack were the only ones so we had the boat to ourselves and were looked after by a 17yr old Cambodian guy and his 16yr old brother! The water was choppy as we left the beach but we sheltered in still waters just off a nearby island to fish. The guys started a BBQ on the boat and we used lines with octopus bate to catch. The fish went straight from the sea on to the BBQ so very fresh! Ian managed to catch 1 and I didn't get any 😢 but luckily Jack managed to catch 4 or we may have gone hungry!!
30 August 2016
It was cloudy in the morning so we took the opportunity of it being slightly cooler to walk all the way along Otres beach. Unfortunately they are doing building work on our road so the first part was pretty muddy! The cloud didn't stop us catching the sun though and we were soon sheltering back at the hostel. We played lots of pool in the afternoon and went to the rooftop in time for sunset that evening
29 August 2016
Sunset on Otres beach, Sihanoukville after a long bus journey down from Phnom Penh which consisted of torrential rain, driver/passenger arguments and child sick 😩! we arrived in the rain but it cleared up pretty quickly in time for us to walk along the beach.
28 August 2016
Round 1: it's kickboxing time. International rounds of Cambodia Vs Thailand.
After a long journey to the stadium our tuk tuk driver found us some seats in the "foreigner area" which was ring side 👍🏼. So penned in with other travellers in heat close to the Suns core temperature we watched sweaty men kicking the crap out of each other. Anna enjoyed it and I loved it. It's brutal and best of all free!
Once back in Phnom Penh we visited the Royal palace. The royal family still occupy part of it but there's but much else we can tell you about it as we refused to pay for a guide. Here are some pretty pictures of it though!
27 August 2016
In the afternoon we went back down to the forest and waited for the elephants to come for their bath; if they don't want to come they don't have to! We were lucky and 3 came down separately. We spent the time throwing water at them from buckets and scrubbing their skin to get rid of bacteria as this can lead to infection. They were all very cheeky and new exactly where to look for the bananas we had brought them; searching our bodies with their trunks! It was a brilliant experience to be in the river with them and one we will not forget. Once the elephants were ready to leave they wandered off on their own, sometimes causing us to have jump quickly out of the way in the river to clear a path!
We woke early after our uncomfortable nights sleep. The guide met us & explained some of the aims of the Mondulkiri project. The local rainforest has been reduced to approx 35% which has had a big impact on the population of elephants. In Cambodia there are few elephants left & locals work them hard; being reluctant to let them breed as they then cannot work for 5 yrs. The project aims to help the local tribes with education, healthcare & access to employment & aims to reduce the amount of deforestation by farmers & increase the population of elephants by breeding. There are currently 6 rescued elephants in the project, living in the forest with their "mahouts". It's an expensive business with the latest elephant costing $41,000 but they have all been saved from hard work & cruelty & put in to retirement. They roam their part of the forest freely & tourists are invited to see & interact with them but not ride them. We spent the morning feeding them bananas in the forest.
26 August 2016
Day 1 of the jungle trek: we set off from the lodge at 8.30am and met our guide at a local village; the Mondulkiri project, who we were staying with employ all local guides from the villages. He set us up with bamboo sticks and gave us our rice rations for the day. We walked through fields and had brilliant views across the valley, the guide pointed out the farmers crops as we went. The day was long and hot; walking 18km in total. We were glad of our sticks as when we entered the rain forest the ground was slippy from the recent rains. There were many steep slopes and we all had some spectacular falls on to our bums! We saw two waterfalls and settled by the smaller one for our lunch. I think we were lucky as only one of our group got bitten by a leech. We arrived at our camp at 5pm and immediately showered off and watched the sunset over the forest from the deck. The family cooked us rice and we settled in our hammocks for the (long) night with a Jungle soundtrack!
25 August 2016
We took a bus from Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri in the east of the country near the Vietnam border. The journey was long and uncomfortable but we saw lots of beautiful views and rustic villages. I ended up babysitting a young baby at a food stop whilst it's mum sold eggs on a stick! We were rewarded at the end of it by the beautiful views of the rainforest from our lodge.
24 August 2016
A rainy day in Phnom Penh so we visited the Russian market. There were many stalls and we treated ourselves to a pedicure (Ian's first he tells me! 😂)
23 August 2016
Today we had a somber day learning about Cambodia's past. We visited the notorious s21 prison (tuol sleng genocide museum) and the killing fields. A day of quiet reflection for all.
22 August 2016
Today we travelled from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (the Cambodian capital) by mini bus. The journey was relatively painless with a stop for lunch - we refrained from the fried spiders that a lady was trying to sell and had noodles instead! In the evening we went to a food stall and sucked some crab meat. A simple day.
21 August 2016
We are still in Siem Reap but are all templed out. Today we did a lot of relaxing (both having full body massages in the morning) and then went on a food tour with a local Cambodian guy. We went to the market to try lots of fried stuff, traditional puddings and fruit. Ian really enjoyed the cows intestines (as you can tell from the photos! 😂)
20 August 2016
We were up at 4am for our trip to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat. We were treated to a beautiful sky so can probably say it was worth it! We spent the rest of the morning exploring the other temples in the complex. There were some very steep/precarious steps, It was hot and we were tired but there were some brilliant views!
18 August 2016
Today we caught a train to Batu caves, which are made of limestone and full of bats! After hiking steep steps full of aggressive monkeys (foreigners continue to feed them Coke and sweets and wonder why they are a bit crazy 🐒) we entered the Dark Cave for a guided tour. Saw lots of creepy crawly things (spiders, centipedes etc). This was followed by a curry and some fake merchandise purchasing ready to look stylish in Cambodia. 👜👛
17 August 2016
After a long day travelling on Tuesday we arrived in Kuala Lumpur late on Tuesday night. We were up on Wednesday to explore the city, going to the top of the KL tower and experiencing the skywalk and then watching the sunset behind the KL tower from a heli pad bar. The petronas towers then light up along with the rest of the city and its a beatiful view!
15 August 2016
Today we were up early to visit the highest point in Langkawi (mount Raya) with beautiful views and then spent the afternoon on one of Langkawi's less developed beaches 😍
14 August 2016
Exploring some of Langkawi's beaches 😍
13 August 2016
We are currently in Langkawi, an island north of Malaysia near the Thai border. After a morning of heavy down pours the weather suddenly cleared and we headed off to the cable cars to see the views of the island. The view was clear and then suddenly the clouds rolled in which was fun! We walked along the sky bridge through the clouds.
11 August 2016
We got the bus to Penang hill and the funicular train up the hill which stands at just over 800m and had good views over George town and the sea. When then explored the largest temple in Malaysia - Kek Lok Si
10 August 2016
We explored George Town, Penang on bicycles. George Town is an Unesco heritage site due to its old colonial architecture. We visited the harbour, the clan jetties (where Chinese families with the same name used to go and live when they arrived in Penang- they are all still lived in by the clans and maintained by the locals), wandered around China town and little india, and went on a treasure hunt of the over 80 street arts which George Town is famous for.
8 August 2016
Day 4: sadly it was time to say goodbye and make the journey south to Kota Kinabalu. The sun was shining so the views through the north of Borneo were breathtaking and we were treated to a glimpse of mount Kinabalu over the fields!
7 August 2016
Day 3: the sun was beginning to come out so we explored the local beaches. The winds were still blowing and there was an immense amount of rubbish about but we found a cute little beach bar being run by a retired Australian couple who are doing there best to keep their bit of beach clean.
6 August 2016
Day 2: the tail end of a Phillipines typhoon was making the sea too choppy to go out on and the skies were still grey so we walked up to the tip of Borneo. We were shocked by the amount of recyclable rubbish blown on to the beach by the storms so we spend an hour in the afternoon collecting rubbish! We were rewarded by a beer but it was probably the first bit of work we've done in 5 months!
5 August 2016
Day 1 of exploring the north tip of Borneo: we drove up from Kota Kinabalu (about 85 miles
And taking about 7 hours with stops) and checked in to our environmentally jungle camp (Tampat Do Aman). We stayed in the long house and slept with the sounds of the jungle. The camp does lots for the local community including education and employment and the camp is completely environmentally friendly; complete with compost toilets and outdoor showers!
3 August 2016
Today we arrived in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Sabah region of Malaysia. We are staying at a cool hostel with little pods instead of beds! We didn't manage to get much done after the flight but saw the beautiful sunset from the harbour and had some freshly cooked stingray and prawns from the rather smokey night food market!
2 August 2016
We were lucky last night and got told about the Kuching festival that was happening; we'd otherwise managed to miss it! It was full of happy people with lots of amazing food stalls, music and a carnival atmosphere (apart from a sudden and extreme downpour later on in the evening!)
1 August 2016
Today we visited the Semenggoh nature reserve in Kuching. We had to wait around for about an hour whilst the wardens called the Orangutans as it was pretty hot and they didn't seem to want to come out of the tree canopy but we were lucky enough that Richie came down in the end for some food! He is the dominate male in the group and asserts his authority with the other males. He has been at the lodge since he was rescued from captivity. The animals live in the wild and only really come to the lodge for food when it is hard to find in the trees; they kept warning us that sometimes none come down and people have to come back day after day in hope of spotting one!
31 July 2016
Today we arrived in Kuching, Borneo. We had a lazy afternoon and then headed out along the waterfront in the evening. We made a spontaneous decision and jumped on a river cruise to see some of the city sights and then ate at a really good hawkers market that specialised in sea food.
29 July 2016
We spent the last 3 nights in Singapore. It's a lovely clean city and we enjoyed walking around the tall buildings, visiting gardens on the bay with its brilliant tree/flower installations and eating lots of hawker foods in the food markets. We tried Stingray which is a speciality of Singapore and very nice, we stayed clear of the other speciality; fish head soup! We were lucky enough to stay with Ian's friends in their apartment.
26 July 2016
Yet more beautiful villages and beaches in Lombok 😍 will be sad to say goodbye to this amazing island tomorrow!
Today we travelled from Tetebatu to Kuta on the south coast of Lombok. We stopped off at a tile making business on the way to see how they made roof tiles! In the afternoon we wandered along the beach in Kuta. Another very pretty beach; this area is a lot less developed though and rustic bamboo buildings run along the coast with a few fishing villages.
25 July 2016
Today the son from our home stay (22years) took us out for a tour around Tetebatu. He wanted to practice his English and is hoping to start a touring company in the future. He took us on a walk through the rice paddies (explaining the process), to the local waterfall (which involved walking through some caves), to see local women weaving and then to see some bamboo handicrafts being made. We visited local villages and got to know the local people; one of which showed us around the local high school that he works at. This school is government funded, they can't always afford tables and chairs and the staff are low paid but he said he loves it! We also saw children playing football and the local fish in their baskets on the waterway. When they are grown the locals sell the fish.
24 July 2016
We arrived in Tetebatu at lunch time and spent the afternoon walking in the national park and discovering the Pengadangan waterfall. On the trip home we were lucky to finally have a clear view of Mount Rinjani over the rice fields! (it is usually covered in clouds).
We travelled from Senaru in the north of Lombok to Tetebatu via the Sembalun valley. We stopped off at the top of the mountain pass to see the spectacular views over the valley. There were lots of people enjoying the views and we were asked for many photos by the locals!