Australia and Oceania, Asia · 108 Days · 102 Moments · December 2015

F & M's journey; first stop, Singapore

14 April 2016

We spent yesterday at the pool and beach all day, it has a great view across the infinity pool, and our last evening in a pretty setting. We are now on our way home. It has been our adventure of a lifetime and the adventure we dreamed it would be and we are so happy. And, yes, because we're on our way back to the family we love and the friends we love and the home we love and to Duke and Poppy and though we have loved so many places, there's nowhere like home and no place M and I are agreed we'd rather be. And we've laughed so much on the plane; trying to pick a favourite place, a favourite experience..... in practice for all those who will ask it of us, but there were just so many. We've read out loud to each other every Journi entry just to remind ourselves. And then we've laughed out loud because, against all the odds, we boarded with me 2 games ahead in the crib stakes and now played 5 games to finally end the trip with us both equal......of course we are, yeahhhh!

12 April 2016

Dubai is mega-awesome, actually, it's mega everything. It reminds me of a song..,, 'Anything you can do, I can do better'! The tallest building in the world, the biggest man-made island, the biggest airport, the largest aquarium, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! In fact, our sightseeing recalls another song..... 'I been everywhere man'; I was Big Bus tour'd out! And I was skyscraper'd out; and they're still building.... I wonder if they'll ever recognise when it's time to stop? I didn't get shopping mall's out though, avoided them like the plague as the mega everything includes mega expensive! We did absolutely LOVE the Dubai Fountain. So much so, we stayed to watch it again; the first time we saw it at 6pm, it was to rousing Arabic music and we expected the same at 6:30pm. Imagine our gobsmacked joy and laughter when they belted out The Magnificent Seven.... I'm still laughing.

10 April 2016

We spent our last day in Bangkok 'jus chillin out' by the pool plus happy hour of course where I finally evened the stakes at cribbage; yeahhh! ♥️♦️♣️♠️. It's been a really enjoyable stay in this capital, not least because of the pretty riverside location of the hotel as well as its ambience, not to mention the joys of his n her loos (ladies, you're with me on this one, I know!) and 5mins across the river, courtesy hotel boat, was Asiatique with over 40 restaurants to choose from. Our Emirates experience this time though was way below par; I swear the chauffeur didn't take the limo (which was luxurious ) past 2nd/3rd gear and we were bumped and jolted the entire way. Our hostess was as miserable as sin, we departed at 9pm and it was gone midnight before we got dinner and then we wished we hadn't, it was awful. C'est la vie, we did get an apology from the purser. Dubai, last stop of our adventure, here we come.

8 April 2016

Day2 Bangkok. We've just had the most awe inspiring and wonderful day...... with elephants. Picked up at 6am for a 3hr drive to a sanctuary called Elephant World. More like a retirement home for these amazing giants, they've been rescued from brutality and begging and starvation to live out the rest of their lives in peace and with respect. And everyday about 40 of us 'humans' turn up to get 'up close and personal' with them....and they let us! They now have 23 in their care, the oldest almost 80. Mike & I were appointed to look after Krating Daeng, 42yrs old and me in elephant form......a mind and will of her own! So we began by feeding them, 30k of fruit and veg for breakfast each; each melon and gourd and yam and banana given individually to them in their trunk and boy, did those trunks snake back fast for the next helping, until it was all gone.
We watched them take a mud bath then split into teams (which is when we found that the other 2 'oldies' in the group were ex-Lichfield clients from Teddington! Small world or what?) to chop pumpkins and cook with rice in giant woks over claypit fires. The mix had to be rolled into half kilo balls, complete with vitamins, and fed to the older elephants who've lost their teeth. Canny beasts, they love them and know exactly when they're just ready, almost taking the roof off as they jostle in. There was lots more to the day but the undoubted highlight was bathing them in the river, in up to our armpits scrubbing therm with brooms. Such an experience; I swear everyone of those magnificent animals was looking at us as if to say 'we're only doing this for you, you know'!! It was fond goodbyes at 4pm and back to hotel a hair-raising 4.5hrs later (driver defo needed specs) to finish our day in Trader Vics with glorious burgers (the first in months!) and a cracking band. Perfect.

7 April 2016

We're back in Bangkok at Anantara Riverside in the beautiful suite we occupied 3 wks ago. We've stayed in lots of lovely places but this river location with their pretty boat shuttle, lovely staff and facilities; I think this is one of our favourites. Our aim today was The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. And, along with 20,000 other tourists we achieved it albeit it coming very close to beating up all the 18,000 obnoxious, noisy, screaming, rude and utterly offensive, not to forget incredibly vain, Chinese ones!!! But the temple and the palace are stunning and, before any of you say 'but where are you in these photos?', we're in every one of them.....those melted puddles of lard down the bottom 😜 OMG; it was hotter than hotter than hot! But thanks to a great guide called 'Captain' (85 if he was a day, Mike thinks I exaggerate??) we not only survived but enjoyed the experience. The buildings and shrines are incredibly beautiful.

5 April 2016

We've had 5 lazy days chilling out on the island of Koh Samui. I think I have finally beaten the cold that has dogged me for the last 2weeks but Mike's digestion is still playing up. Regardless, we have been very relaxed, eaten and drunk too much.....what's new? And Mike is still 2 ahead in the cribbage stakes.....aargh! It is an idyllic setting to look at but that beautiful beach is like shredded glass under your feet and from the persistent odours everywhere there's a fairly big question mark hanging over the word 'sewage' I'm afraid. But it's also very very cheap here 👌👌👌

31 March 2016

Cambodia is a small country, the last100yrs has been beset with fighting; against the French for independence, then a coup, then civil war and the ravages of Pol Pot. They have their King back but it's still, like Vietnam, a one party state, with all the issues and corruption that come with it. Despite which, they're making such efforts to move forward. OK, they're still light years away from catching up to Western standards but we found them to be a lovely natured people and we really liked them. The food too has been delicious. As we leave Cambodia I feel the need to pay homage. We've had 4/5* hotels, private cars & boats, and great service. Most of all, we've had private guides and drivers and they've all been stupendous; bending over backwards to ensure we were happy and sharing not only their wealth of knowledge but themselves with us and so giving us insights into their countries and cultures we would not have otherwise gained.

30 March 2016

We did 5 temples in all, over 2 days; Banteay's Srey, Samre, and Kdei and Angkor Wat itself (the biggest) and Preah Khan (our favourite) where the trees have grown into it and where they filmed part of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I think we were almost temple'd out and the very, very high humidity that had me certainly looking completely washed out and bedraggled, coupled with the fact that it involved a lot of walking and climbing was exhausting BUT it was SO worth it, and Nhi made it so interesting; we are both thrilled we've done it. The town of Siem Reap has literally been built for the tourist industry but in a style so suited to the country, even the airport, and we loved it. Also our hotel was top notch.
We've come to Cambodia specifically to see the 11th and 12th century Hindu and Buddhist temples that were rediscovered as ruins in the forests in early 1900. We've barely landed in Siem Reap and our new guide, Nhi (knee) whisks us straight off to our first temple..... and I'm hooked! It's the stories and legends of the various Khmer Kings who built the temples mixed with the myths/beliefs/legends of the Hindu gods that hook me as well as the ruins. The buildings and statues and carvings are awesome, I think equally so as ruins than if you'd seen them when they were first built? But then again, look at an artists impression of how they once were and a WOW! And although the forests that have overgrown them since they were abandoned 500 years ago have been cleared away, there's still enough to get a feel for how they looked when first rediscovered.

29 March 2016

Cambodia...... when we set out in December, this part of our journey seemed ages away, suddenly, we here! As we pose for a selfie at the border (spot the massive bees nest above us!) we're in very good spirits thinking back on all we've seen and done and wondering what Cambodia would offer. Well, it's been absolutely awesome. Our Cambodian adventures started with our first meal here? Crispy Tarantulas for Hors D'Oeuvres!! I ate two! Phnom Penh, the capital is lovely; a riverside city with lots of good restaurants and bars. No Taxies, it's tuk-tuks; motor scooters with cushioned carriages behind.....the only way to travel! We stayed loyal to No.3 tuk-tuk as the driver was super sweet and so keen and proud to point out all the sights. Yeah; we know we were $$ generous but you feel you want to be here and he was worth it 👌👌
The Royal Palace is beautiful, interestingly it's not that old having been almost rebuilt in early 1900. The buildings and gardens as well as the sculptures and artefacts remind me of one of my favourite films, Anna and the King (Jodie Foster and Chow Fat) and I wonder if they used it as inspiration if not location rather than Thailand. The National Museum is brimming with the sculptures and artefacts from the 11th and 12th centuries, most dug up from the temple regions of Angkor Thon. Not entirely M's cup of tea but I have found myself intrigued by Cambodia's history. They were once a much bigger country, encompassing Thailand (then Siam) and most of Vietnam and known as the Khmer Empire. So much has changed for them since then. Our flight from PP to Siem Reap was a blast from the past small propellor plane......we said a prayer or two!

27 March 2016

Vietnam is a strange place, much to admire; they are a resilient and entrepreneurial race. Much to despair; the pollution is bad. Nothing is as anticipated but nothing is boring. A rice paddy field, after 4 or 5 yields is dug out, the soil sold for brick making, the field filled with water and turned into a fish farm, then the cycle starts again. Still in the Mekong, Can Tho is a popular riverside city. We have a perfect view from our hotel. We cruised a floating market, the boat people are like wholesale distributors of fruit and veg, then a private fruit garden bursting with pineapples, rose apples, mangoes, kumquats, dragon fruit and jack fruits. Their Koi Carp were stunning, the adjoining crocodile farm a little scarier! We're now at Chau Doc, last stop before Cambodia and it's farewell to guides Liem and An. Our hotel is right beside the Mekong and we're just gonna chill out; it's a 5:30 wake up tomorrow morning for the long boat ride into Cambodia and Phnom Penh.

26 March 2016

Today, our first Mekong adventure and turns out we have a private boat, with its own Happy House (WC!) didn't we feel swanky 👍👍👍. We cruised, then stopped for the customary tea ceremony and a folk music demo, next a tiny paddle boat that we virtually had to squat on as a petite woman rowed us down narrow channels and then back to our boat (relief, it was not a comfortable ride!) for lunch. And lunch was amazing; cooked on board, we were treated to deep fried elephant fish, spring rolls, stir fried beef and fish noodle soup and not a few looks of envy as we cruised. We toured a family rice company and another where it was coconuts; at both they use every part of the product to make so many things, their inventiveness and speed is awesome. And everywhere.... tea and tasting.

25 March 2016

Day2 Saigon has been full on and serious. First the Cu Chi Tunnels and they ARE incredible. They were initially dug secretly by hand by the villagers in the countryside and forests north of Saigon to hide their sons from being conscripted in to the French Army. The French ruled Vietnam from 1854 to 1954 and it was Ho Chi Minh who lead the uprising that overcame them. Then the US got involved and so started another horrendous and cruel war. The tunnels were utilised by the Viet Cong guerrillas, alongside the villagers; 250k of them on 3 levels and all so tiny with cleverly hidden points of entry. The War Museum is also a must; definitely not pleasant but a photographic reminder of what war does to people and the atrocities that occur. The repercussions of Agent Orange and the Napalm that the US used are still going on today....

24 March 2016

Our last evening at Hoi An was just lovely. Watching the lanterns float down the river (a custom for full moon evenings but mostly for us tourists these days!) and dinner at a recommended restaurant that was awesome.....we are still loving the Vietnamese food and it's staggering how cheap everything is. We have now arrived in Saigon (the name suits it so much better than Ho Chi Minh) and WOW; it's light and loud and lovely. There is so much going on and it's clear the investment is all here; Hanoi the capital is a very poor relative in comparison. We're hardly checked in and it's off to the Opera House (check us out!) to see a stunning show called My Village; reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil it was all done using only bamboos as props. Then a wow dinner at Hua Doc whose soft shell crabs in green rice batter were to die for.
I forgot the funniest story of our stay in Hoi An, probably 'cos I got kiboshed with a stonking head cold when we arrived and it's clearly affected the few grey cells I have 😷😷😷!! To start, I must introduce Bag; given to me for Xmas and I love her. Bag has been best mate on this wonderful journey (aside from M, of course 👀) always at my side and gifted with the perfect number of zipped pockets to take everything; passports, paperwork, phone, selfie-stick, charger, fan, purse, wipes, tissues, toothpicks, plasters, etc, etc and still be the size of half a place mat. She has shared every moment with us.....and I left her in a bar in Hoi An on our first day! Panic! But they found and kept her, whew, so we'd return each evening as a sort of Thank You when a particularly young street seller (14 if she was a day!) suddenly leaned over to Mike and whispered in her best Vietnam-English 'I know why you luh her; she got big bress, you vely lucky'. Then she smiled at me and left. Hysterical!

22 March 2016

Hoi An has been a lovely interlude; this is the Vietnam I'd imagined. Our hotel is brilliant, nestled between the beach and a beautiful river. We have a bungalow with a garden on the river; it's so very peaceful as we watch local fishermen in the mornings and the sun go down each evening. The old town of Hoi An, about 10mins away, is now a Unesco Heritage area. There's a lot of really old buildings and artefacts there, a mixture of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese, but also it's a frantic kaleidoscope of shops and markets and restaurants all vying desperately for the tourists business. The Silk Road factory was really fascinating and the material beautiful but the pressure to buy something afterwards was so in your face it put me off.

19 March 2016

We took an overnight cruise to Halong Bay, a stunning sea area of over 126 islands. It's beautiful and us probably stunning in sunshine; we had very low cloud and mist but somehow that added a mysticism and magic to the scene. In one place we were transferred and then rowed through crevices and gaps by Vietnamese boat people who live there all year on their boats.
The cruise was actually good fun too; a lovely cabin, a fun crew, great food and a demonstration of cooking Vietnamese Spring Rolls with the men being yanked up to try their skills.

18 March 2016

So from NZ, overnight Bangkok and then to Hanoi, Vietnam; what a culture change and I'm reeling. You wouldn't believe this city. For EVERY car and taxi and bus you see traffic jammed in London you'll see 10 motor scooters in Hanoi, most of them carrying 3 if not 4 people! It's staggering. We've never seen anything like it. And whatever road laws are in place are completely ignored including traffic lights; it's everyone for themselves, hooting, tooting, riding on the pavements, wrong way down one way streets and undertaking in droves. Crossing the road is serous risk to life! It's 32,000 dongs to the £, we've just had 3 beers and 3 wines = £14, Dutch courage to cross the streets! Our rickshaw ride was more exciting and scarier than the worst roller coaster!
I had this romantic image in mind of greenery and rice paddies and sunshine and wonderful street food. I'd forgotten civil war and poverty and communism! And I never even thought of smog! Our guide Cong is a 60yr living encyclopaedia of personal experiences and history. His memories of Hanoi as a boy, conscription into the Vietcong and the horrors of war (both as a soldier and to his family) and then the aftermath with hard-nosed communism have been riveting. Equally so his knowledge of the history of his country and it's heroes and gods. It's not a pretty city by any stretch of the imagination; old French architecture vies with new Russian and in between are bedraggled temples (albeit beautifully ornate inside) and many people still living in abject poverty. Yet, in the midst of it is a brand new mall housing only the Dior's, Burberry's, and Louis Vitton's!

11 March 2016

Our drive north to Ahipara on 90 mile beach was a long one (our longest of all our drives at 7hrs +) but we made good time and to what turned out to be a fairly swanky Bach; pronounced batch, it's NZr's name for a seaside holiday house. And there we stayed and simply chilled out for 2.5days. Had the place to ourselves, a veranda with a 180 degree view of the beach and sea with a fab deck-bed that I claimed immediate ownership to and its own lit up palm tree. The sous chef delivered great breakfasts and I handled dinners which we ate outside; defo true what they say about the stars seeming closer down under 🎇🎇🎇

9 March 2016

We'vevspent a fab 5 days with Jim & Rene. J & R, you've been the best of friends and hosts and we've been thoroughly spoiled. We have paddled the bay their home overlooks at low tide, gawped in awe at the open-cast goldmine of Waihi, wallowed in thermal hot water pools on the beach, admired the perfect NZ numberplate, lunched in some cracking places (I've put on another 3lbs at least!), danced (well, staggered) and swum in the surf and seen some great places. My best memories will be 1) Rene's Mum, a legend of 88 who doesn't forget a thing, still gardening every day incl laying paths on her own; she told us her childhood memories of hot water from under the earth running down the sidewalks on frosty mornings where she could warm her hands and 2) Jim and Mike jumping the waves like 16yr olds to be surfboys with boogie boards.....the film Cocoon comes to mind 😜😜😜😜

8 March 2016

More pics of Hobbiton. Unfortunately it turned out to be a fairly expensive day as we pranged the car!! Reversed it into a telegraph pole.....oops! Not guilty m'lud! 🤐🤐🤐😉😉😉

7 March 2016

For those of you who are not Lord of the Rings enamoured....tough! I loved the book and the films so Hobbiton was a must. It was brilliant, I went to Middle Earth....even Mike enjoyed it. More pics to come.

5 March 2016

Still the same day as we drove towards Rotarua, I saw my first geyser blowing.....literally in the trees as we passed by. Rotarua itself is now excessively commercialised and with time against us, we to decided stop at a smaller 'thermal activity' area. It was enough to get a flavour of the steam and the rocks and the mud and, of course, the smell! 😷😷😷 We were delighted to find the best place in Rotarua town as we passed through! Arrived at Tanners Point in perfect time for 'drinks on the deck' and dinner; Jim & Rene, what a great welcome 😘

4 March 2016

We left Wanaka early, heading to our friends Jim & Rene, but aiming to stop at Lake Taupo (NZ's biggest lake) at least if not Rotarua too on the way. As we arrived at Taupo, so did the Ironman Race....and we almost had a Birdseye view. They do a 1.9km swim in the lake followed by a 90km bike race followed by a 22km marathon; awesome, eh? The drive round the lake is very picturesque, we even managed to sneak-park into a little alcove and have a swim, giggling like 6 and 5 year olds rather than 65yr olds, as we changed out of our wet cossies beside the car! Check out the little red roofed church with its mini-me; Mike said 'don't think much of the vicarage'!

3 March 2016

We said Adios to South Island today, caught the early ferry to Wellington on North Island. What a poor excuse for a city let alone a Capital. So shabby and uncared for, like walking through Peckham! Definitely better viewed from afar, it has no saving graces at all, well apart from Ortega's which is deservedly Trip Advisers top rated eatery there. Napier however is a lovely coastal town. We arrived yesterday after a lovely drive through the Kaitoki Gorge and the Rimutaki Crossing Memorial. It has no decent beaches to speak of, black sand and riptides, but they make up for it with a brilliant seaside swimming complex and a really pleasant laid out shopping and cafe Art Deco town. We went up 'the bluff' where I tried very hard to get a 2 finger gesture to appear behind M's head as he tried to take selfies of us but he just wasn't having any of it by which time I was laughing so much I couldn't have gesture'd anyone.

29 February 2016

We visited 5 vineyards and 'Cellars'; St Clair's, Framington, Forests, Cloudy Bay and, our favourite, Villa Maria both for its Reserve SauvB and for the lovely lady who told us the story of the vineyard and served us. (Maria, my darling, these pictures are for you 😘😘😘😘 ). But we did make a point of revisiting Pinot Gris' and (apparently dry) Reislings....still way too sweet, but coming back into fashion!! We tried a few Piniot Noirs too but, again, didn't rate them. In this territory SauvB rules, The Marlborough Valley is literally blanketed in miles of martial vines...there's a sergeant major who goes around measuring that they're all the exact same height 😜😜😜. What the vineyards now do is contract out to landowners to grow their vines for them. Sadly, sheep grazing is no more in this area; the prices offered are too good for landowners to pass on but my guess is that, as with milk producers, they'll push the price down when all these landowners are too committed!l
We've arrived in wine territory 🍷🍷🍷🍷cheers! We're surrounded by vines, they are growing for miles. We treated ourselves to the Marlborough Vintage Hotel and our apartment is ace. Last nights sunset was stunning. We're off on the wine trail tomorrow, I what's new 😜😜 Hard to believe we've been away 2 months now! Anyway, if you're still keeping up with this blog, send me a face......just click on the heart above right and pick a face 😃👍

28 February 2016

Say no more! 🐳🐳🐳🐳🐳

26 February 2016

We have done some hair curling driving in NZ; you noticed, huh? Miles of hairpin bends as we climbed and traversed mountains. On our way to Hanmer Springs, at the top of a mountain was this little lake, so unexpected. Anyway, we have spent the day unwinding (all puns intended) in wonderful hot thermal springs, no pics I'm afraid, I was enjoying it too much, and then having a really top notch meal in a restaurant called 31. My age Mike said, he's such an accomplished bullshitter, not because it was no.1 on Trip Adviser! A great day. We're off to Kaikoura tomz, whale watching trip.
Pancake Rocks

25 February 2016

Hokitika Gorge
Now, our digs at Hokitika were ace, a place called the Shining Star and it was. A lovely wood cabin on the beach. The weather brightened, the sun got his hat on, I fed the horses, walked the black sands, cooked good food, scored s couple of Cribs (but Mike his still ahead on aggregate, damn him)and relaxed. Then as the sun sank, we wandered over the road to see a Glow Worm Dell.... that's a bit of magic too. First thing, we diverted out to Hokitika Gorge, WOW, I've done pictures on just this alone and the our route to Reefton took us via so much more picture postcard scenery (the Buller Gorge - stunning) but a place called Pancake Rocks simply took the biscuit (duh!) and gets the full monty on its own.

24 February 2016

The Fox Glacier. A hell of a steep climb across stepping stones and over rocks but we made it all the way and were smugly pleased with ourselves.

23 February 2016

More Fjordland pics. That cruise ship dwarfed the Sydney bridge and opera house when we were there but here in the Milford Sound, it is in turn dwarfed.
So Wanaka; apart from a stunning mountain lake, not a lot to write home about but we did have a great motel room with lake view and a pleasant overnight stay. From there to Franz Joseph, via the Fox Glacier which we both successfully trekked up an hour long steep climb to see..... blooming well done us! But Franz Joseph was a disappointment on 2 fronts; the first being the bad weather which dogged us throughout......we were aiming to do a flight over the glaciers and Mount Cook but no chance. The 2nd was the motel which did not not live up to expectations. So we cut our losses, changed our plans and headed for Hokitika.

22 February 2016

We have been Fjording. On Saturday, an early start to drive from Qtown to Manapouri to do the Doubtful Sound. Doubtful is only accessible by sea, or, by taking a boat across Lake Manapouri and then a coach, on 28k of dirt track specifically cut through the rick and rain forest to the Sound. The weather was low cloud streamers and mists which made for some really good sights and feelings because it's SO quiet and like being in a huge granite cathedral, although not great for photos. Yesterday, the sun shone for us as we did a cruise on the Milford Sound, my favourite of the two as it's much narrower and you're up much closer to the soaring rock faces. Beautiful clear waters lap up against majestic razorback mountains bursting with waterfalls and greenery. We've seen Dolphins, Seals and Sea Lions and Penguins and a tender ride out to get closer to the cliff face and caves. As always with these tours, we've met some great characters and had lots of good laughs.

21 February 2016

In between the Fjording of the last 3 days, we've driven through some incredible scenery. Vast lakes and brooks bubbling like champagne as they catch the sun, snowy mountain peaks and beautiful valleys. Our B&B on Saturday night (which I nicknamed IKEA House!) was right down on the south coast of South Island, a place called Papatatatora, but the house sat on the bluff of a cliff top with fabulous views of the sea from every room. In June & July they have whales in the bay. The best route for scenery so far was defo from Te Anau to Milford. You were surrounded by and driving towards the snow capped mountains all the way but in this beautiful valley. We stopped at lots of places just admire views and take pictures, some of the best were Walker Creek and Lake Gun but Mirror Lakes with its boardwalk through dappled trees and through which the most perfect reflections was absolutely my favourite.

19 February 2016

Qtown is backpacker heaven and full of them. Hostels galore, lots of good cheap eats and bars (some expensive ones too) and loads of activities. Take the almost vertical sky ride up the mountain and peddle down or luge down or bungee jump it, boats, planes & heli rides, mountain treks & bike rides, it's all here. We've done the skyride today then driven round the other half of the lake to Glenorchy where we intended to do the scenic walk but it hissed down! So it was back to town for a wander and then 'home'. We've had a bit of fun with our accommodation here as it too turned out to be a backpackers hostel; we've a small twin to ourselves but share all other facilities......hilarious. Actually we've done ok, they're good facilities, 2 lge kitchens, loadsa fridge space and a good crowd always offering to share. Think I may be cooking tonight though 😉😋
NZday3, Oamaru to Queenstown, via the Moraki lighthouse sealions and penguins. I didn't realise sealions climbed but up the cliff they waddle to lie and roll in grass. Big laugh as we drove through Shag Valley to Happy Valley; equally funny to find ourselves in Chertsey! As you get nearer to Qtown, the scenery changes to dramatic mountains and then you see Lake Wakatipu and follow it, for miles. It's 46miles long and 3.5miles wide, mind boggling. We've had mixed weather on the journey but arrived Qtown early afternoon.

18 February 2016

The (scenic route) drive from CC to Oamaru was awesome; we did lakes Tepaki and Pukaki, both of which are a pure turquoise because they are glacier fed, and lakes Aviemore, Benlomond and Waitiki (along with their respective hydro-dams) all of them beautiful places to camp and fish and swim surrounded by mountains and trees. Oamaru turned out to be an unexpected gem. Firstly our B&B was beautiful; made instant friends with hosts Jacqui & Glen + highland terrier Ronan, a mini-Duke called Syd and sister Issy. Oamaru is a small but handsome harbour town and boasts some impressive Victorian edifices and a brewery with outside decking where we imbibed our pre-dinner lubrications and admired some great tree carvings. Spent the evening with J & G in their garden, chatting far too late. What happened to my intentions not to drink every night?!
So how different is New Zealand; the scenery changes all the time and we've only just begun to get to the really dramatic. We had a good flight and arrival, fairly low key the first night at Merrivale (just outside Christchurch) but spent the next day in Christchurch itself. There was no way to comprehend the complete the devastation until you see it. The city has been virtually obliterated, of 1600 buildings in the CBD 1200 collapsed! The place looks like a giant car park. Everywhere you look there is massive activity either building, testing the ground or clearing still unsafe constructions and the people are all being bravely stalwart and forward looking but, it's now been 5yrs since the main quake but they're still suffering smaller quakes and you have to question the wisdom of it. Mike is gutted; he remembers the city as it was and how beautiful it was.

15 February 2016

Our last day, what a wonderful way to say 'goodbye' to Sydney and what a wonderful birthday present. We flew over Bondi, over that famous rugby stadium (just for Mike) and the cricket one, then it was the opera house and the bridge. Goodbye Sydney, thank you for having us. Goodbye Australia, we've had an absolute ball. New Zealand here we come.

14 February 2016

Great, great night out at Darling Harbour last night, wonderful food and I think I've found my favourite cocktail......Toffee Apple Martini. Sorry Cosmopolitan. 🍸🍸🍸🍸
It's Syd-day 5 and we're on one of the most famous and iconic beaches in the world. The sea is calm.......actually, it's beautiful; a vibrant blue from a distance but clear as glass when you're in it, silky almost and very refreshing. It's Sunday so the world and his wife are here, most of whom for some unknown reason are all massed together down one end (a colony of penguins comes to mind!) whereas we are luxuriating at the peaceful end 😄😄😄😄😄. I am a sun, sea and sand worshipper; Bondi, I salute you. The added bonus is there are no stingers here, waters not warm enough for them. We're Valentining at a seafood restaurant in Darling Harbour this evening. M & I have been entranced with the food in Ozland, we haven't had one bad meal but the fish......mmmm, sensational, everywhere! Tomorrow, my helicopter ride, bring it on!

12 February 2016

Day2; headed to Manly on one of Syd's famous old ferries to meet someone Mike has known 42yrs, also a Mike and his wife Jenny. They were just lovely; drove us to Palm Beach for lunch and a wander and then back to their home for tea.....a great day. And guess what M & I spotted on Manly Beach? Sunbeds! Umbrella's! For hire! YES! So that's where we spent most of day 3. Only fly in the ointment? Bluebottles! Only they aren't flies, they're jellyfish with a very nasty sting so you stay out of the water; well, we braved the surf once 😜. Anyway, these Bb's litter the beach as they're washed up, actually looking like mounds of discarded johnies if I'm honest, but as lethal dead as alive so you take care where you put your feet. Later day3, dragged M out to walk the bridge, had to be done and well worth the effort, then over to Darling Harbour to do Sealife and then dinner. Sensational place, absolutely buzzing. Canary Wharf, Covent Gdn and Fisherman's Wharf (SF) all rolled into one.
I have a new man in my life. Oh, I know, Mike's wonderful, 12 fragrant red roses for Valentine's on our first day here but I'm in love with Sydney! Well, truth be told, we both we've decided to be a threesome and see how it goes 😀😀😀😀😀 Post arrival it was straight to Circular Quay to pay homage to THE bridge, of course, and the opera house and the quayside itself, then on to do the Botanic Gardens.....oh, yes he did! By toy train mind you 😜😜😜 then shower, unpack and a great dinner where you buy your choice of flesh or fish and cook it yourself on a barbie. M did the whole man-to-man thing round the barbie with his T bone (loved every second of it 😉) and my whole Trout was totally amazeballs! Our hotel is positioned perfectly, in an area called The Rocks, to easily access everywhere and we are surrounded by boutiquey shops and cafes and eateries in cobbled alleys and streets, it's lovely.
WISH YOU WERE HERE! I think my blogs are like buses, none when you want one and then 3 in a row..... Sorry, Ozland free WiFi is awful; incredibly slow and then blows you out in the middle of a download. We're at a cafe in Manly at the mo having brekkie (and it's a cracking good one) having managed to access Surfers Free WiFi. Anyway, hopefully you're all up to date now. Lots of love from us both with a Me selfie and one of himself who is also on-line but getting quite annoyed with it!

9 February 2016

Day 2 and we are Blue-Mountained out! We have driven and walked miles; Govetts Leap, Evans Look Out, Pulpit Rock (defo the best) Coachwood Glen, The 3 Sisters, Echo Point...... incredible views. We've learnt that when a kindly looking guide in a visitor centre tells you 'this is an easy walk', she's lying! Up and down mud tracks through woods and glens, hundreds of steps (hundreds!) BUT the views at the end of them were epic; Pulpit Rock the best! With the exception of Leura, the little towns you pass through, as is Katoomba where we were based, are disappointing; quite shabby and run-down and very old fashioned. We're not quite sure why as there appears to be a tremendous investment in roads and infrastructure but the mountains are spectacular. Tomorrow, Sydney.

7 February 2016

The Blue Mountains are awesome; I'm probably going to bombard you with photos! On day 1, we were up at sparrows to 'beat the coaches' and off to Katoomba Scenic World. Brilliant; a 'skywalk' cable car (it has a glass bottom), a scenic train that practically stands on its head as it takes you on a sheer vertical ride through rock and then suddenly out to another panoramic vista, then a really good 1 hour boardwalk through the rainforest and where/how all the coal mining happened there and, finally a return to base on the main cable car.
Pictures of Lake Cathie and The Entrance

6 February 2016

Port Macquarie, which was a one nighter for us was unexpectedly lovely. A real pretty inlet, then they've let people paint the boulders protecting its entrance, unique. Our very cheap motel was better value than some more expensive places we've used, the local Thai was ace (so was their chandelier 😃👍) and Cedro's gave us the best breakfast of the trip so far. The drive down to Katoomba was funny, roads we thought would be picturesque weren't or were very commercialised and then places like Lake Cathie were untouched-stunning, really beautiful.

5 February 2016

Good journey down from Brisb and then, as we arrived at Surfers Paradise I finally began to see what all the fuss was about. Beaches? Miles and non-stop miles of beautiful sand; absolutely fabulous. But what so impressed me too was the care Aus is taking to protect the dunes, reseeding the sand grasses. The beach followed us all the way to Byron Bay, sadly so did the rainstorms 😂😂. We liked BB a lot, an entertaining mix of surfers, backpackers (intriguing to see that 70% of them are girls!) local hippies and rockers and a fair proportion of greyheads like M & I, doing similar treks. The shops and eateries reflected the same mix, great to wander (when not hissing down) but, regardless, we decided to cut our losses and change our itinerary to spend more time in the Blue Mountains.

3 February 2016

Our journey down the coastal road to Brisbane was lovely. At any moment you could park up, walk through a short pathway and find yourself on a glorious beach. Where it was higher up and rockier the views out to sea were enough to compensate. We stopped at a smashing seaside town called Mooloolaba! Very pretty, fab beach and beachside shops and cafes and within an hours easy commute of Brissie. The weather turned on us in Brisbane, despite which we've enjoyed ourselves there, walked a lot, eaten (and drunk) well, did the river Cats and's been good. One of the highlights was meeting up with Ben Thurlow, ex-Staines lad and ex-quins man, and his lovely Aussie wife, Becky. The other was our visit to Lone Pine. And the 3rd is the magnificent fig tree just by Eagle St Pier. As we leave now, having succumbed and bought ourselves some beach chairs 😜😜, we are looking forward to the Gold Coast and a leisurely 4days at Byron permitting!

2 February 2016

The pictures say it all!

31 January 2016

Had a Smorgasbord of experience yesterday on a trip to Frazer Island. Last night's weather and a 5:30am wake up had us both slightly off kilter to start but the sight of our awesome 4WD had us grinning (put a luxury coach for 20 onto tipper truck wheels and you get the picture) and as Andrew, our very own 'Steve Irwin' cum driver, cook & bottle-washer, slowed for my first sight of wild kangaroos, my 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed' sat right up on full alert. So, yes, I've seen my first Joey and his Mum and baby sister in her pouch, hopping over the road and into the brush, magic....didn't get a photo though. Almost immediately, we hit 40mile beach and then DROVE all the way down it, on the wet sand, waves lapping at our wheels one side, sand dunes the other. There's not a white line or a cats eye in sight but there ARE speed limit's a highway! And there are other 4WD cars using it as such; campers and fisherman have to beware getting run over! Surreal. Read on....
The weather, still stormy, dictated our last day in Noosa but we fitted in a ferry ride down the river and a trek through the national park up to Dolphin Point and spotted our first wild Koala way up high in a Eucalyptus. Zoom in on the picture to see him too. We also made it to Sunshine and Castaway Beaches for a swift paddle. Tomorrow, off to Brisbane.

30 January 2016

We had morning tea at Rainbow beach then, out of the blue, this ferry appears up on the sand, no signs or warning, on we all drive and off it goes to Frazer Is. Andrew is a driving encyclopaedia on Frazer which is 100% sand yet has a rain forest on it. We saw a sea snake, then a dingo (which apparently is rare) and stopped at a creek flowing over the sand into the sea yet so freshwater it had a waterlily flowering in it. Then we were into dense rainforest, with a great boardwalk through it and in the middle of it a beautiful lake with a white sandy beach. A perfect place to swim and while lunch was prepped and BBQ'd. Dolphins beside us on the way home was icing on the cake!

29 January 2016

Had a Smorgasbord of experience yesterday on a trip to Frazer Island. Last night's weather and a 5:30am wake up had us both slightly off kilter to start but the sight of our awesome 4WD had us grinning (put a luxury coach for 20 onto tipper truck wheels and you get the picture) and as Andrew, our very own 'Steve Irwin' cum driver, cook & bottle-washer, slowed for my first sight of wild kangaroos, my 'bright-eyed and bushy-tailed' sat right up on full alert. So, yes, I've seen my first Joey and his Mum and baby sister in her pouch, hopping over the road and into the brush, magic....didn't get a photo though. Almost immediately, we hit 40mile beach and then DROVE all the way down it, on the wet sand, waves lapping at our wheels one side, sand dunes the other. There's not a white line or a cats eye in sight but there ARE speed limit's a highway! And there are other 4WD cars using it as such; campers and fisherman have to beware getting run over! Surreal. Read on....
Arrived Noosa about 2pm and our hotel is unexpectedly in quite a large complex of holiday and privately owned apartments. In fact, our apartment is gobsmacking. His n her showers, walk in wardrobe, full kitchen, lovely balcony. We got checked in and then trekked down to the beach, which was beautiful, had a drink and then, having decided to take advantage of having a kitchen and eat in, made it to the supermarket for supplies. They've been predicting what they call 'cell' storms all day. It broke at about 6.0'clock; how can I describe it, torrential is an understatement. The thunder and lightening right over us, the noise of the rain is like those hurricanes you see on TV. It's all down the East coast apparently. Bruce Highway is closed in many places. Regardless, dinner was yummy and we were still able to eat it out on the balcony. Managed to turn the tables and beat Mike at cribbage both games 😜😜😜l
Rockhampton was a brief overnighter, good motel, then off the next morning for Hervey Bay. The marketing for Hervey Bay is 'misleading' at best. You drive through a ginormous modern shopping complex on the outskirts, but then arrive beachside to find it's very aptly named Torquay and as outdated as its namesake! Having said that, our landlord/landlady, Dave and Angela were absolute Angels and 'Paulo's' Italian they directed us to for dinner was ace. Our journey to Noosa was just a 2hr stint but we decided to divert and go see Tin Can Bay. What a good decision that was; way, way off the beaten track, we drove through acres and acres of black pines grown for timber, really impressive, and then Tin Can Bay was really beautiful. We stopped for brunch there. By then, we had convinced ourselves that the unbeaten track was the way to go, grit n gravel roads, serious S bends on 10 in 1" gradients, but it was beautiful.

28 January 2016

Left Airlie Beach and with Sheelagh's help (our satnav of course) rejoined Bruce's Highway (I kid you not, the A1 which takes you all down the East coast is called Bruce Highway!) for the 4hr trip to Rockhampton. And Bruce's Highway is one very straight single lane thoroughfare, running parallel with a very straight single track railway, with not a lot to show for itself apart from a great deal of sugar cane. But then we happened on this quirky roadside cafe with a giant model giraffe outside and models of every unAustralian animal you can imagine in their backyard. They also did scrumptious 'Jaffles' otherwise known as toasted sandwiches. As we sat outside munching on them, beautiful coloured parrots squawked overhead in mango trees, it was surreal. Look hard and you'll spot the mango and the parrot.

26 January 2016

It's been a fabulous birthday starting with a wonderful and so funny 'conference' call with us in Ozland, Dan (and all his mates!) in Las Vegas, Maria and Sam in Staines and Sofia and Diana in London. Don't know how you organised it Maria but it was perfect. Champagne and FAB breakfast served on the balcony (Sofia, that was such a nice touch) followed by a lovely day chilling out and walking round Airlie Beach, a swim in the lagoon (it's 'stinger' season, i.e. Jellyfish, so you can't swim in the sea) and then a superb birthday dinner. Check out the size of that Cosmopolitan! I haven't quite embraced being 65 yet but I'm sure I'll appreciate it when 66 arrives!

25 January 2016

I'm chillin' on our balcony, making the most of being a young 64yr old, obligatory glass of SauvB in hand, birds a chirping, sun slowly falling into sea. Mike's out on 'a secret mission' but this is heaven right now; it's warm but the humidity's gone. It's been a most ridiculous day; Mike managed to put all the laundry, with washing powder, into a laundrette tumble dryer instead of a washing machine where it baked for almost 40 mins. Quel disastre, actually and luckily it survived with no ill effects. I dunked it PDQ into cold water, got it through a wash cycle, then managed myself to forget to press the 'on' button of the dryer! We spent over an hour with Telstrar trying to install a simple 'pay-as-you-go SIM card into my old (apparently unlocked) iPhone; would it work, would it buggery!!! Our v. pricey NZ Doubtful Sound cruise has gone tits up due to me being a complete prat when I booked it. We're endeavouring to recover. Regardless, we're in great spirits and still laughing!

24 January 2016

Morning came, we again ate well (FAB 'full Australian Brekkie'), it was still only 8am and we had the reef to ourselves for another 3hrs and then a turtle arrived, YES! We were all in the water in seconds! So now I've swum with a turtle; it wasn't fazed by us st all. Fabulous. The giant groupers came out for a swim too. One of the guys has promised me copies of all the underwater photos he took, all I have at the mo is one of our host, Natalie and some of the Whitsunday Islands that we cruised through on the way here. It's now 3:0'clock, we're back ready to leave with 'today's masses' on the return boat; our final reef adventure over...... but, oh, it was an adventure of a lifetime.

23 January 2016

And it's just awesome. We snorkelled and snorkelled and all the fish that did not come out for the masses came out for us....... and we watched as low tide arrived and exposed the whole reef to us........ and we photographed a perfect sunset and an even more perfect full moon. Then, in the lights from the pontoon, the giant groupers played in front of us. A generous BBQ dinner with wine and good chatting exchanging stories saw 10:30 arrive before we new it. A little star gazing later and our new friends retired to sleep on the upper deck in 'swags', a type of low slung hammock and M & I to the only 'en-suite', I booked it 5 months ago!
So, yesterday, very early start to revisit the GBR, booked to do a Reefsleep....... Mike quite sceptical about this idea of mine. Amazeballs, truly amazeballs! (Dan, thank you for this word!) We cruised out through the Whitsunday Islands then set out to sea eventually to moor up at 'Reef World', a pontoon on Hardy Reef. There's about 300 of us but Hardy is a big reef area and there's lots on and plenty room. Immediately, from the pontoon, you get a view and realisation of the size and stretch of the GBR from this particular reef, it's just gobsmacking........and then you go in snorkelling and the scope and diversity of both the coral and the fish is just as you imagined it would be only better. And so you have an awesome day but then, at 3.0'clock, the boat leaves, without you. There's just 9 of you left and the whole pontoon and the reef us yours for the rest of the day, for the night and until 11am the next morning! on

22 January 2016

I'm finally taking some time to look back on the last 3 days which have been mega-awesome, MEGA-awesome! We made Airlie Beach by 3pm on Friday; just over 3hrs, we alternate an hour each. Whereas the drive from Cairns to Townsville was predominantly miles of lush forestry interspersed with acres of sugar cane, the drive from Townsville was much sparser brush (still interspersed with sugar cane..... I had no idea Ozland was a sugar producer) and much creekier, yep, there has to have been one creek every mile at least; Saltwater creek, Alligator creek, Rocky Pond Creek.....wonderful evocative names from ages back. Sadly, a lot of road kill too, small kangaroos most of them......I'm still waiting to see my first live Joey! We're in Airlie B until Wednesday, pleased with the hotel, great balcony view.

21 January 2016

We left Cairns at 11am this morning having celebrated our last evening at The Rattle n Hum (a thriving, imbibing and buzzing establishment on Cairns Esplanade, brilliant for people watching but also for stonkingly good thin-based flavour-packed wood-fired pizza's!) and started our journey to Sydney. The RAV4 is a good car to drive and we made Townsville by 4:30 having diverted to take in Mena Falls where the rope bridge was a 'must do'. Our 1 night hotel in Townsville describes itself as 'glam backpackers' and absolutely lives up to it; we're impressed.....except the room, which is lovely, has absolutely no hanging space! Who cares.....😀😀😀

20 January 2016

The snorkelling was fish and coral heaven; I saw so many different and good size fish including a moray eel and they come so close some of them. And then I did my first scuba dive, oh magic, well........after you've squeezed into the suit and been hidebound into the tank straight-jacket and then staggered on your 64 yr old overweight joints to the platform and finally, when you've made it into the water and learnt to breathe again....... It's worth every second of self-doubt 🐠🐟🐠🐟👌👌👌👌 and your husband's there recoding every second but also watching you every step of the way..... Love you Mikie xxx
Our last day in Cairns has been spent back on the reef and how amazing that has been again. Better even than the first time; we went with a different company called Down Under and they beat Magic Reef on every level to my mind. First and foremost the reef locations, they were really good, you saw a huge swathe of the reef (as you imagine you would from all the photos and TVs images you've seen) plus we moored at 2 spectacular locations called Saxon and Hastings (there's a third called Norman!) It was s super modern boat, the crew members doing the demos and instructions were really amusing and there were no sales pitches!

19 January 2016

The highlights of Kuranda itself were the Koala, the Butterfly and the Bird sanctuaries in that order and my cuddle with a Koala was the pinnacle. After which we took the Scenic Train back to Cairns........breath taking views all the way.
Our 2nd day (today) has also been absolutely brilliant. The Skycable up to Kuranda is second to none.....truly. It takes an hour and and a half from bottom to top and exceeds your wildest imagination in terms of views and seeing a rainforest from canopy level plus there are 3 key stops where you get off and follow boarded walkways to stupendous views and lots of information about what you are seeing. Couldn't recommend it highly enough although poor Mike, who does not do heights was incredibly stalwart and he really managed to enjoy it all too but the high speed launch on one occasion nearly gave me cause to snap a picture of a brown patch on his arse!

18 January 2016

There is quite a palaver involved in getting ready to go out snorkelling (not to mention hidden 'extra's' as, first of all, you have to wear a lycra suit to protect you from jelly fish, and then flippers, a lifejacket, and a snorkel and mask. But the fish you see are more than worth it. I got up close and personal with a Wrasse, at least 2ft in length, nearly got to kiss it! If iPhones could be made waterproof..... instead it'll have to be a copy! Although I did get some great photos of him later coming up really close.
It has truly been a fully-loaded two days; so much to tell, apart from, yes, we did finally arrive in Cairns 😃👍😃👍, just in time for a celebratory beer and Sauv.B, dinner and then to fall into bed. The wake up call was at 6:30am.......and we'd gained 2hrs on the clock......for our first excursion to the reef. Groggy is an understatement but a swift shower did the trick. Then it was wonderful blue sea and the blazing sun and wind in our hair....... and ok, YES, we got burnt...... but it was so worth it! They moor up at a 'station' on the reef, for want of a better word, for nigh on 5hrs and from there you snorkel, tour the reef in a submersible and in a glass bottomed boat.

17 January 2016

I spoke too soon......'the best laid plans of mice and men'; our flight was cancelled! We've been rescheduled to 13:00hrs today, that loses us a whole day in Cairns.....the joys of travelling 😬😬 and then there was the motel the airline put us up in for the night 😁😁 but we're good 👏👏👏😃😃

16 January 2016

Dolphins! The best saved himself 'til last, a big bruiser of a fish who swam immediately in front beside us for a good 5mins.....I was too busy laughing to take his picture! So it's back to Perth for a shower and some nosh and then a night flight to Cairns....happy days everyone 😀😀😀
It's our last day in Perth but our flight to Cairns is not until 23:40 (triple-checked) so we took the train to Mandurah (pronounced Mandra we were told very firmly; accent on the Man!) to cruise the canals there and see Dolphins and lots of wild water birds. That was after I think I broke my toe (I know, ouch, no, OUCH!)The train ride was about 45mins and for most of it, the railway line is literally in the middle of the freeway; great, when you think about it to start with a blank page and do your road and rail and sewerage and power all at the same time! The cruise has been really good with the added bonus of a good breeze to alleviate some of the humidity; and we saw.....

15 January 2016

We lunched at Fremantle harbour, wandered the markets (check out the new hats!) and wound our way back to Perth by train there to find that Friday nights the city comes alive. The bars are humming, there are pop up food stalls and music everywhere and films on big screens outside.
Another great day yesterday; we spent it cruising the Swan river down to Fremantle which is the main Port serving Perth but also a charming fishing town and harbour. The river is lovely, often with dolphins in it, and it's kept that way by not allowing any professional (i.e. fee paying) fishing, boating or water sports on it apart from the 2 main ferry services. And their swans are all black swans.

14 January 2016

Today we've been to Cottisloe Beach. Absolutely lovely, but not a sunbed or umbrella in sight and for two agile (not) athletic (not) stiff old farts, it was a challenge. But we rose to it, well, we helped each other up and down to it! 😜👍😜👍

13 January 2016

Before I tell you anything about Perth, we saw a kookaburra! It just gave me a cockeyed look and let me approach until I was almost under it.....and then it 'laughed'...... and so did I, all the way home! 🎼 Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree-ee....... I have 2 great videos of it but Journi doesn't allow videos...... Wait 'til I see a real Roo, I'm gonna go 3 rounds with the Joey at least!
Well, we are loving Perth. It's a smashing place, the Swan River is massive and beautiful. The CBD area has its fair share of skyscrapers but they've left room for a personality, like the very quaint London Courtyard. Like Melbourne, transport within the city area is free and very good. The bus stops talk to you 👌
We spent yesterday sightseeing lots; Kings Park with its fantastic views and their WW2 memorial. The Botanic Garden and The Mint where we had a awesome tour and demo of liquid gold being poured. Then on down into the harbour, where we clearly found every man's dream! The Bell Tower in the harbour houses England's 12 bells from St Martins, famous for ringing in the victory over the Armada and many other occasions. Don't know why they were given to Perth..... After some essential shopping and a bit of 'happy hour', it was SSS and back to Man's favourite watering hole for stonkingly good nosh.

10 January 2016

Other highlights have been the Victoria Food Market, beautiful meat and fish, and then watching the stalls trying to out shout each other as they tried to clear everything in the last half hour of Sunday trading! Breakfasts at Druids Cafe! Myki cards, Melbourne's answer to Oyster cards, but Mike now has a new name 😜, me renaming the Eureka Tower the Excrement Tower (I didn't mean it!), soft shell crab in the Italian Quarter, another great dinner and evening in a HOPhaus bar and restaurant and, finally for me, the beautiful pines that lined some of Melbourne's streets.
We've just lifted off on our flight to Perth; it's looking incredibly dry and brown below around Melbourne and they still have fires raging down in the Ocean Drive area. It's a 3hr journey so time to look back on our Melbourne highlights. We've had 2 beautiful days, weather-wise and in activity. The Radisson on Flagstaff was a good hotel and well located; having checked-in at 3am, the 8am wake-up was a good call as it ensured we were up and running (well, maybe not actually running) down into Federation Square, their really good visitor centre and the hop on/hop off buses. But quickly decided that shanksy's pony and the trams suited us much more. The trams have been a real highlight for us, it's an impressive network and free anywhere within the 'City zone'.l

9 January 2016

We're about to land in Australia and what a journey.....from disaster to a special memory with some really great people in between. I screwed up so badly; had it absolutely set in my head that our flight from Penang back to KL was at 2pm. I was so sure neither Mike nor I even looked at our printed schedule until we got to the airport. Can you imagine how my heart and stomach plummeted as we went to check in to find that it left at 10:45! It was now 11:30 and we had a 15:20 flight in KL to catch. The 1st great person was Mike who simply handled it, no recriminations! Read on....
The 2nd was a young check-in girl at Malaysia Airlines. It was solely with her help and good humour that we were changed on to a 12:40 flight, all sorted, we breathed in relief, it would get us to KL by 13:40.......plenty time! Oh no; it was delayed until 13:15 and we hit KL running at 14:15 needing to collect our bags and then get to international departures to check in. The young Emirates check-in guy, bless him, looked as if he should still have been at school but, whilst his initial reaction was 'the flight was closing', he then pulled out all the stops and marched us through.....magic. The final great people were our crew, what a super crew they were. We were spoiled throughout, Mike especially who, I swear had his port refilled 4 times, and then, just before landing they came and took a Polaroid of us as a memento of our trip. So thoughtful. Brilliant.

7 January 2016

Go to a Hawkers place, which is an enclosure that can often seat over 500 people with over 50 food stalls, and dine like a King on BBQ Stingray (like skate but meatier), prawns, duck, redang beef, the choice and range is limitless, for less than £30 in total for the two of you INCLUDING a bottle of wine and beers! Then there's the surprisingly good karaoke entertainment not to mention the Ladyboy! Conversely, go to a restaurant and you'll pay through the nose for a meal that just doesn't compare. So, it's our last day here, we've thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but look forward to Melbourne
Penang is a bit of a funny place really.....we find ourselves confused as to how we feel about it. On the one hand it's a mishmash of industrial and rundown tenements vs new skyscrapers, totally unexpected designer shopping malls, a surprising volume of traffic, and very few sandy beaches, not the vision of palm trees and sandy beaches we anticipated.......and we struggle to comprehend why people, Europeans in particular would choose to come here, it's a much longer journey, rather than the Caribbean. There's a Welsh couple here who come every year for a month, have done for 15yrs! I know exactly what a few of you are saying right now! On the other hand, the weather is stunning and this hotel is a very, very beautiful oasis, with gracious trees hosting awesome staghorns. You can lie here on extremely comfortable sunbeds (as we're doing right now, making the most of it on our last day) by a stunning pool and view, being thoroughly looked after; then there's the food........
Spent a pleasant day relaxing at Battu Ferringhi yesterday (Ferringhi Beach) courtesy of a sister hotel of E&O, 30mins away by shuttle but it was a nice change from the hotel pool. Not the greatest of beaches although a good mile long; I think M & I have been spoiled with the silken sands of the Caribbean! The sea also did not look clear and inviting (the straits of Malacca which apparently the busiest sea straits in the world so I guess full of who knows what!) and we were warned that it was full of nasty jellyfish too but we had sun beds by the hotel pool and could then just walk through a gate to the beach for a stroll. Lunchtime bloody Mary's and snacks were awesome though as was our lunchtime game, well from my perspective anyway 😜 There are a few cribbagers among you who will love this final photo as much as I did the hand as I whooped home on 24 points! Mike's still 3:2 up at the mo though!

5 January 2016

Then, there's the Planter's Lounge which serves complimentary drinks, cocktails and snacks for an hour every evening at 6pm and, downstairs, a bar with rugby on TV......Mike is euphoric! Finally, look at our breakfast view.

4 January 2016

I'll save Penang itself for later; for now, let me introduce you to this hotel, it's awesome. The Eastern & Oriental.....very colonial in style, we have a suite and check out this infinity pool!
It's been a good couple of days in KL. Spent yesterday exploring; the big bus tour, strolled through centre market and did the KL Tower to the top observation deck. That was good as it gave you the complete 360 degrees. Just sitting in the the hotel's outdoor cafe having breakfast before we leave for the airport and Penang. It's a lovely relaxing vista, park and the towers in the background.

2 January 2016

So, we made Kuala Lumpur at 4pm; I confess 8hrs and 600k of palm trees was not enthralling but we've made up for it this evening having walked a fair way around KL, incl the Petronas Towers and even sussed the monorail, ending up in Jalan Alor which is THE place for Malay street food. And what food it was, we've eaten and drunk as kings for less than £40!

1 January 2016

Finally de-comatised ourselves at 11am; it's last day in Singapore and we've been sweaty-trekkin it all over the place. Gardens by the bay; drinks in the sky garden/infinity pool of the hotel that looks like a space boat landed on it and then Chinatown for the best ever whole chilli crab. Intriguing place, Singapore, both its story of how it came to be Singapore and its lifestyle. What's been achieved here in a place that's the size of IOW is awesome but their underground warrens of huge shopping malls borders on the hedonistic. It's not cheap here either! Off for an early night, we have a 5am start tomz for the train to KL!

31 December 2015

Happy New Year. Lovely lunch out with Mike's friends then an utterly brilliant evening. Dinner at The Cherry Garden was simply awesome. Prime viewing spot on the roof for the fireworks.

30 December 2015

We are back in the days of tea plantations.....Raffles. In the Long Bar under synchronised punkawalla fans and everyone shelling peanuts all over the place; its tradition! For Mike, it's a Singapore Sling (celebrating its centenary) and for me, smile Glenis & Les, it's a Cosmopolitan.

29 December 2015

Felt like royalty when we left 👋🏽👑 then Emirates Business Class; awesome! Singapore 12hrs later