Asia · 234 Days · 72 Moments · February 2018

A Feeking great time in South East Asia


20 October 2018

One evening I took a surfing lesson as the sun set right in front of me. The setting was truly stunning. My surfing skills are not quite up to scratch though. We took a tour to visit the Aeta community at Yangil Village. The trek towards the village in scolding heat was through desert-like terrain created by a volcano that erupted two decades ago. The eruption, along with climate change, destroyed the forestry in this area so we helped the tribe by planting 700 new trees. A carabao and cart took us the remainder of the way to the tribes village, where we had lunch with the families. The tribe seemed genuinely happy with their basic lives and were keen to interact with us. They showed us how to shoot a bow and arrow, then attempted to teach us some local dance. Turns out I’m not great at shooting arrows or dancing. Back in Liwliwa, Wendy and I watched the sun set with a few beers and enjoyed the fireworks being set off by other tourists. It was the perfect end to a rewarding day.

18 October 2018

We’d had enough of busy cities so travelled into the provinces. The bus to Zambales was like nothing I’d experienced before, with vendors jumping on at every opportunity to sell their weird and wonderful products to the passengers. We stayed in a small surfing resort called Liwliwa and got to experience true Filipino province life, where people live happily with just the basics. Here I learnt how to wipe my arse with my hand and how to shower with just a bucket of cold water. Our accommodation of choice was a guesthouse called Hideout, run by a keen Filipino traveller, Ian, who’s very conscious about the environment. We were not allowed to bring in any plastic, they only served vegetarian and vegan food, and no alcohol was permitted on site. Ian grew a lot of his own produce, including bananas and lemongrass, and had an incredible selection of coffee. His rules might seem over the top, but the atmosphere was so relaxed and it really made me think about becoming more eco-friendly.

14 October 2018

Wendy and Jonah introduced me to a homemade cocktail before our first big night out in HK. Soju Yakult is a mixture of Soju (a Korean spirit), lemonade and a yoghurt drink. After pre drinks we went to a cool, secret-like club based in a block of flats. Apparently dancing to experimental techno and drinking litres of yoghurt drink isn’t good for your insides, and I was near to unloading my bowel into my underwear. The following day, we had our second Michelin star meal of the trip at Din Tai Fung. The famous xiao long baos (steamed pork buns) were filled to the brim of tasty soup and the meat inside was so tender. In the evening, we stood at Victoria Harbour to watch ‘A Symphony of Lights’, a light show projected onto the buildings the opposite side of the river. We finished the night at a fairy-inspired bar, dancing to a reggae band with the locals. The trip was concluded with a ‘magical’ day at Disneyland. It was reasonably quiet so we made the most of the short queues!

13 October 2018

From one hectic city to another; we spent a long weekend visiting Wendy’s friend, Jonah, in Hong Kong. Before flying, we made use of the unlimited booze in the lounge Wendy kindly treated us to. Our accommodation was high up and offered a great view of the compact skyline. A lot of our time was spent eating the amazing food on offer. We went to Yat Lok, a restaurant with a typical cheap and cheerful Chinese appearance, but has been awarded a Michelin star for the last 4 years. The restaurant cram as many people in as possible, so it wasn’t particularly comfortable. The famous goose dish, hailed by Anthony Bourdain, was very tasty but certainly not life changing. Before sunset, Wendy and I took a trip up Victoria Peak, the highest point in HK. We enjoyed amazing views of the skyline in daylight and at night. The temperature dropped as the sun set and we had to buy hot chocolate to warm ourselves up. There’s no doubt that the city looks far more impressive when lit up at dark.

10 October 2018

It was interesting to wander around Intramuros, the historic walled area of Manila. We spent hours at The National Museum, the home to some famous Filipino art, but it was just a little bit too arty for me. The Museum of Natural History was a bit more to my taste and the old building was beautiful. In the evening we strolled towards Fort Santiago, passing Manila Cathedral along the way. Saint Padre Pio’s incorrupt heart relic was on display at the cathedral, so the area was buzzing with devote Christians waiting to honour the saint. The queue was easily a few kilometres long. It was dark by the time we made it to the Fort, an old citadel, but it was nicely lit up and very peaceful, aided by the lack of tourists. We ended the day by indulging in Filipino food at a night market, followed by a rooftop bar, overlooking the carnage below. They make use of all parts of the meat in the Philippines, and here I surprisingly enjoyed chicken intestine on a stick. Next up: chicken arse.

3 October 2018

The next 8 days were spent back in the chaotic city of Manila, infested with so many cars and such a poor transport network that it takes at least an hour to get to any attraction. Nevertheless, it is still a charming city, rich in history, and with great food establishments every way you turn. I spent some time meeting some of Wendy’s friends, reuniting with the girls Lee and I had already met in Vietnam, and even got the opportunity to watch Sam Smith in concert with Wendy and some of her family. We took a day trip out of the city to Tagaytay to visit Taal Volcano. We boarded a motorised outrigger and enjoyed a 30 minute boat ride to the village of Talisay. As we hiked up, the views of the surrounding lake and mountains were incredible, and we passed by volcanic steam vents which gave off a sulphuric odour. The views of the crater lake at the summit were breathtaking and well worth the trek. Wendy booked us a glorious room that night, with a hot tub that looked over the lake.

30 September 2018

In Dumaguete we visited a bell tower and cathedral before hitting the market to try some Filipino delicacies. We ate tempura and Balut, which is a developing duck embryo. It didn’t taste as bad as I thought it would, but contained so many different and weird textures. We took a boat to Apo Island, a community based marine sanctuary. The tiny island with a population of 745 people was very quiet, with all lights turned off at 10pm. This wasn’t a problem because we weren’t visiting to party, we had come to swim with turtles. We rented snorkelling equipment and a guide and headed straight down to the beach. Wendy managed to lose some of the equipment during the 100m walk to the beach, much to the renters disappointment. It was an incredible experience to swim amongst the turtles and other tropical fish that live and feed amongst the corals. The reef itself was breathtaking and completely untouched. Wendy was stung by a jellyfish along the way, which luckily wasn’t poisonous.

28 September 2018

Following the cliff diving, we rode to a waterfall via a wet and slippery off-road path, followed eagerly by a few young locals that made me even more nervous about crashing and making a fool of myself. The young locals ended up being our guides, and ushered us down another slippery and rocky path by foot. The fresh pool of water at the bottom was large and deep enough to swim in, with a small cave behind the waterfall. There was a rope swing above the pool, which I finally plucked up the courage to try after watching a 10 year old boy pull off some tricks with ease. Our final night in Siquijor was spent at Czars, a venue that holds a Friday night party the whole island attends, both locals and travellers. It was the epitome of an authentic island party. The boat back to Dumaguete the next day was the rockiest boat trip I’ve ever been on, with the waves crashing way above the ferry windows.

25 September 2018

After a short stopover in Manila, Wendy and I flew down to Dumaguete, towards the South of the Philippines. Although there’s not a huge amount to see in Dumaguete, it’s the gateway to some other popular islands. We visited the island of Siquijor first, known by locals to be a mysterious land of witchcraft. The island is a peaceful and simple one, it’s not commercialised, and it has no large malls or fast food chains. This is what makes the island so beautiful. The beach at our resort wasn’t the best, and Wendy even described it as “the worst beach she’s been to in the Philippines”, but the fact that we had the resort to ourselves made up for that. We hired a motorbike and headed to Salagdoong beach for some cliff diving. The first diving platform was 20 feet above the stunning emerald colour sea. I’d never cliff dived before so decided that bombing into the water was the best option. I can confirm that it hurts, a lot, and left a bruise the size of a large watermelon on my thigh.

23 September 2018

Back in the city of Kinabalu, we visited the Museum of Sabah. Probably the most exciting and interactive museum we’ve been to, we were able to try out some local instruments and play with some old science equipment. Our favourite local band, who we watched several times and were on first name terms with, played in a local bar so we went to see them for the last time and to say our goodbyes. We saved taking a trip to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, a set of 5 protected islands, until Lee’s last day in Asia. The weather was absolutely perfect on the island of Mamutik and the best we had seen in weeks. In between some snorkelling in the crystal clear water, we went trekking around the small island. That was until a massive Komodo Dragon stopped us in our path, stared at us and hissed at us back to the beach. Our hostel owner kindly dropped us both off at the airport, where Lee headed for home and I continued my journey to the Philippines.

18 September 2018

Although we could not afford to climb Mount Kinabalu, we travelled to a small village at the base. We stayed at Jungle Jacks, owned by a Chinese man. Jack is an absolute character and is hated by the locals for building his hostel on ‘sacred’ ground. Jack let me borrow his truck for the day, so Lee and I travelled to the nearby hot springs with our new American friend, George, who was celebrating his 58th birthday. We stopped by a garden that was growing Rafflesia, a rare flower with the largest bloom in the world. Although it was still large, this specific plant wasn’t fully grown and not quite as spectacular as we had hoped. Badly influenced by 58-year-old George, we snuck into the hot springs park avoiding the entrance fee. We got sweaty by completing a trek to a nearby cave, then relaxed in the cold and hot springs for a few hours. We finished the day at a natural fish foot spa, a lake home to some ridiculously huge fish that fed on our dead skin, drawing blood in some cases.

12 September 2018

Lee and I’s last destination as a duo would be Kota Kinabalu. We met an Egyptian man at our hostel that took us to the local nightclub that he worked at. Apart from two Belgians that arrived late, we were the only two white people for the majority of the night. The locals enjoyed our company and bought us whisky shots, which made Lee throw up. Standard. We had seen a poster in a previous town for a festival called The Rythms of Rimba, just outside of the city. We could not believe how quiet it was when we arrived; there were around 10 small white tents with locals selling products and about 50 other attendees, at the most. We were directed to the beach where a contemporary dance was about to take place. The creepy performance consisted of them acting possessed and getting in the audiences faces. We wandered around the rest of the festival in just 30 minutes so snuck into the resort next door instead, making use of their football pitch, beach volleyball court and the swimming pool.

10 September 2018

A couple of sites required us to hire a car. A local man dropped off the old and battered Proton. He didn’t ask to see my license, didn’t require any paperwork or a deposit, requested £20 and handed over the keys. We had no idea if I was even insured. Nevertheless, we took the car and drove for two hours to the Gomantong Caves. Once we got used to the strong stench of cockroaches mixed with bat faeces, we were able to admire the small limestone cave system. Just outside of it we spotted a wild orangutan above us, climbing across the canopy. It was incredible to watch for a while, even though we were getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Via a bumpy and unfinished road, directed by GoogleMaps, we went to a Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary. It was one of the most expensive wildlife centres, but was worth every penny. Around 20 monkeys swung across the trees over our heads towards the feeding platform. The playful monkeys made hilarious noises and the alpha had a particularly funny pose.

7 September 2018

Sandakan Town became our home for the next 8 days. We were told this was far too long to spend here, but we were looking forward to immersing ourselves in the very poor but super friendly local culture. We visited the central market which had a vile smell of rotten fish mixed with durian. The locals were sociable and one chancer attempted, and failed, to swap shoes with Lee. We went to see Orangutans at the world renowned Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Our highlight was watching the young apes play and swing around the manmade nursery. On our way back we jumped on the best local bus we’d travelled on; a Liverpool FC themed bus, with booming speakers, flashing lights and a lot of The Beatles. The rest of our time was filled visiting other sites such as churches, mosques and Agnes Keith’s old house. The so-called haunted house was owned by the American author during WW2 and certainly had a creepy feel to it. Next door we enjoyed tea and scones with a view at an English tea room.

4 September 2018

We took a short flight to Sandakan in Sabah, a region known for its vast rainforest and abundant wildlife. Our Sandakan adventure begun with a 3 day tour of the Kinabatangan River. We were greeted by the naughty macaque monkeys, who were already in the process of stealing food from the guests. The tour included 4 river cruises and some jungle walks. After being lucky with the jungle weather so far, it was time to experience the true definition of a RAINforest. The heavens opened just as we were about to board our first afternoon river cruise. Lee and I were pretty unprepared, boarding the boat with very little waterproof clothing. The rain was fun at first, but became a bit tedious after an hour. Despite the bad weather, we were able to spot lots of wildlife including a variation of hornbills, kingfishers, crocodiles, proboscis monkeys and silverly monkeys. It was amazing to live within the rainforest for the next few days, witnessing the animals play in their natural habitats.

29 August 2018

We spent a day in Sarawak’s Cultural Village, an area that portrays the states rich cultural diversity. The village has 7 authentic ethnic houses built around a man-made lake. Each house represented a different culture and included traditional games, local snacks, household chores, rituals and handicrafts demonstrated by craft people. The village was very quiet, which made it a little awkward at times as some of the locals performed to just Lee and I. My personal favourite was by the Orang Ulu people; the man played an electronic sape while his lady did a very strange dance that I could perform with my eyes closed. We tried a number of weird and wonderful sweet treats, but my favourite was a cake made out of wheat, rice and nipa palm sugar, called Penyaram and made by the Melanau people. The day was rounded off by one large final performance which showcased all of the different dance and music. Some of the dance moves were so basic it actually sent Lee and I to sleep.

27 August 2018

Bako National Park was the destination for our next adventure. We travelled in by boat and were excited to see a wild proboscis monkey in the flesh, which is what the park is famous for. We trekked through the jungle with another group of travellers seeing a bearded pig, macaques and silvered-leaf monkeys along the way. Sadly the only animal that somehow eluded us was the proboscis. Before travelling East to Santubong, we had a night out with our new friends. The drink wasn’t kind to Lee, and during our taxi ride the next morning it took a good few minutes to explain to the driver that he should pull over so Lee could be sick at the side of the road. In Santubong we completed one of our hardest treks yet, climbing up vertical hills in sweltering heat and humidity to reach a waterfall that we were told we could swim in. Dripping with sweat and eager to dive into the fresh cool water, we were devastated to find an unimpressive fall with no water to swim in.

22 August 2018

Due to the earthquakes in Indonesia, we decided to travel Borneo for a month instead. We headed to Kuching, which translates to the City of Cats. Ironically, we saw just two cats the whole week we were there. I had an awkward moment in our hotel when I barged into a random guys room thinking it was our own. Lee, standing behind me, decided to watch it happen and laugh rather than point out it was the wrong room. We went to a newly opened water park, where we were the only two westerners in the whole park. Not only that, but we were just two of around ten people that decided to take our shirts off. I felt like we were more of an attraction than the water slides. That evening we ate amazing indigenous food of Sarawak, which included some vegetables and ferns that we’d never eaten. Luckily we saw 7 semi-wild Orangutans at Semenggoh Nature Reserve during the morning feeding time. It was an amazing experience watching them swinging and playing together in a natural environment.

19 August 2018

After another long journey through Singapore immigration we made it to Melaka, a UNESCO site, full of history and culture. We stayed at a guest house with amazing reviews aimed at the host, Tim, and his cooking abilities. Tim was a great guy, who cooked up a smashing breakfast and a lovely raspberry and rose cheesecake. A city with a rich and colourful seafaring history, we decided to go on a river boat cruise and visit the Flora de le Mar Museum, a Museum on a restored ship, that explained about the colonisation by the Dutch, Portuguese and the Brits. We tried our third durian flavoured product, Durian Dodol, a Malaysian delicacy. It had a strange sticky consistency, that got stuck to the roof of our mouths, and the durian flavour just seems to get worse every time we try it. It is Chinese Ghost Month in August so the town had a great vibe at night and the karaoke lovers were out in force. As always, our ears were in pain as there wasn’t a half-decent singer in the whole town.

16 August 2018

Our first evening meal would be our first ever Michelin-star meal. The Hawker Stall is the worlds cheapest Michelin restaurant. As tasty as the chicken and noodles were, I have absolutely no idea how it received a Michelin Star. We wandered around the beautiful Gardens By The Bay in anticipation for the well renowned light show, Garden Rhapsody. The super-tree lights dazzled and the music entertained, in front of the amazing Singapore night skyline. Singapore Zoo is one of the best in the world, and it lived up to its reputation. The zoo is very open and we were able to get up close and personal with some of the animals. Lee’s delicate relationship with monkeys continued when he caused absolute carnage in the Baboon enclosure by banging his hand on the glass. Our last evening was spent at the Marina Bay. We watched another light show along the promenade. Spectra combined the effects of water, light and sound, and really summed up the modern beauty of Singapore.

15 August 2018

We made our way down to Singapore via Johor Bahru, the gateway to Singapore. Being the gateway, we thought it would be pretty touristy, but we were the only Westerners in sight and were getting some pretty odd looks. Nevertheless, we headed out to find some food and had our favourite Malaysian meal yet, Kacang Pool, a beef mince dish with onions, peppers, egg and served with doorstep toast. It was well worth the visit. We headed off early the next morning to cross the border into Singapore. What a nightmare. There were no clear signage or instructions anywhere to be seen, and the Johor locals didn’t seem that keen on helping us. Several hours later, we made it through the two checkpoints and onto the metro system, which was clean, cheap and easy to use. Exploring the city by foot we quickly realised this might be one of our favourite destination so far.

12 August 2018

Tioman was by far the best island I’ve ever been to; it was full of beautiful white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and an incredible jungle backdrop. Our area seemed quiet so we trekked 4km through the jungle to a more lively village, Paya, seeing Komodo dragons, snakes and monkeys along the way. We spent the day chilling on the beach then went to a beach bar to watch the sun set. The trek back in pitch black wasn’t ideal, especially wearing sandals. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky that evening so we were able to watch the meteor shower, lying on the beach. The following day we hired a kayak and snorkelling equipment and made our way back to Paya. The kayak journey back was against wind, far from enjoyable, and took us twice as long as the first journey. We met a lovely Danish mother and daughter who we agreed to meet again in Paya that evening. The mother paid for our evening meal, a bottle of rum and let us sleep in their room as she didn’t want us walking 4km at night!

8 August 2018

We moved onto Malaysia’s National Park, Taman Negara, which also happens to be the oldest rainforest in the world at around 130 million years old. Our route into the park was via a 3 hour longtail boat. We thought the best way to fully experience the jungle would be to camp. The tent provided was basic at best and was very uncomfortable, but it was all part of the fun. The night we arrived we did a guided night trek. The guide was extraordinary at pointing out wildlife. We saw a plethora of different creatures, including spiders, scorpions, snakes and owls. The next day we went rapid shooting and visited a local tribe with the same guide. We learnt about the oldest inhabitants of Malaysia, the Orang Asli, and were taught how to make fire and shoot the blow dart gun. We booked a day jungle trek for the last day. Unfortunately the guide was ridiculously unfit and slow, so we ended up going it alone. On our way, we wandered over a canopy walk and trekked up Teresek Hill.

6 August 2018

In Ipoh, Lee met a couple that said “whatever you do, don’t attempt jungle trek 10”. Challenge accepted. The 10km hike was very steep, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle, and the view at the top was worth it. Lee and I both took tumbles as we attempted to walk back down a different wet and muddy ‘track’. As the ground levelled out, we found ourselves walking through picturesque tea plantations. After our trek we paid a visit to the Time Tunnel Museum. It contained memorabilia and collectables from the British colonial times which explained a lot about the area. We booked a tour for our last day. The BOH Tea Centre, founded by Brits in 1929, was our first destination. At the factory, we learnt about their tea making process. Next door was a Bee Farm where we tried ginger, strawberry, durian and tongkat honey. After an orchid, rose and vegetable garden, we checked out a butterfly farm, which also contained other bugs. Here, Lee got up close and personal with a stick insect.

5 August 2018

After a 1 night stopover in Ipoh, a town pretty run down and with little to do, we made our way along the winding country roads to the Cameron Highlands. It was a place we knew little about and had no expectations for. On arrival, we were surprised to find typical English weather, strawberry farms, tea plantations, Horlicks, Ovaltine, Guinness, Land Rovers and afternoon tea resorts with scones and homemade jam. We were intrigued and couldn’t wait to explore and find out more about the area. We walked for 5km towards the first strawberry farm, passing a rustic golf course and a Tudor looking building called The Smokehouse Inn. We met a man outside called Bonavendure Basilias who explained that the Cameron Highlands was discovered by a British explorer, George Cameron, in the late 1800s. The strawberry farm was nice enough, and we both enjoyed some strawberry flavoured produce! There was a jungle trail back into town which went via a waterfall and took us a couple of hours to walk.

1 August 2018

From one island to another, we travelled to Langkawi via a 30 minute flight. Unlike Penang, Langkawi had a really chilled island feel to it. We hired a motorbike and travelled to the Sky Cab, a cable car that took us over 700m above sea level. The Sky Bridge offered us amazing panoramic views of the island and South Thailand. Included in the price of the ticket was a 3D and 4D cinema experience. Thankfully they were a million times better than the awful 5D cinema we went to in Penang. The weather finally permitted us to go island hopping. Our boat seemed to be going ridiculously fast, as we raced and overtook pretty much every other boat. We visited Dayang Bunting to swim in a beautifully warm fresh water lake followed by Singa Besar, where we witnessed the marvellous spectacle of eagles swooping down to catch their prey in the water. Before heading to the last destination, Beras Basah beach, we stopped off at a floating building where we held turtles, sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

30 July 2018

We travelled up North to Penang on the West coast. Our first dinner was in an area called Little India, where we ate like true Indians, with our hands. Probably the messiest meal I’ve ever eaten. We enjoyed a couple of nights out in the town, hitting up the party hostel, Tipsy Tiger, and the local nightclubs, meeting some great people along the way. Our first full day was spent up Penang Hill, a resort discovered by the Brits in the 18th century. It’s over 800m above sea level and offered amazing views over the island. There were tonnes of attractions at the summit. We went to a 4D cinema which showed a film about a trapped princess. It was absolutely awful. Our favourite attraction was The Habitat, a rainforest that’s home to a wide range of wildlife and flora. It was here I saw my first tarantula of the trip. Penang is well known for its street art, so on our last day we hired bikes and cycled around the town to discover the different pieces of artwork.

26 July 2018

Following our bad experiences in Cambodia, we were really looking forward to seeing another country. We headed to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. On arrival, we knew we were going to love the place; it’s massively built up and has a London feel to it. We visited central market and tried durian flavoured coffee. Probably the most disgusting thing that’s entered my mouth, and it left a bad taste on my tongue for hours. Quite incredibly there’s a forest bang slap in the middle of the city. We wandered around the canopy walk and enjoyed the sounds of all the insects and animals. It was a nice break from the concrete jungle. That evening we visited a rooftop bar that’s a helipad during the day, and it offered beautiful panoramic views of the city. A pint was a little dear though! Our last attraction was the Batu Caves, a series of caves inside a limestone mountain. It was cool but we enjoyed the animal park next door even more; I’ve never seen so many peacocks in my life!

23 July 2018

We moved on to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, in hope for some better weather and luck. We tested the nightlife and ended up in the city’s most popular club, Pontoon. Walking back from the club we were singing James Blunt in the streets when a motorbike snatched Wendy’s bag, containing her phone and purse. Apparently our luck didn’t improve. We visited Wat Phnom, a temple in the middle of a roundabout, with monkeys, which looks great in the day and beautiful at night. We found out a bit more about Cambodia’s history when visiting Choueng Ek, the killing fields, and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as the S21 prison. We opted for the audio tour around both sights and the stories we were told were disturbing and absolutely heartbreaking. You can see the skulls of thousands of murdered Cambodians at the killing fields, and blood stains on the floor of the prison cells. Our bad luck continued when another motorbike snatched Lee’s phone out of his hand on our last night.

18 July 2018

The weather in Kampot didn’t get any better, as it rained torrentially every hour. But we did manage to get out and about to explore some of the city and it’s crumbling French architecture. We hired motorbikes to visit Bokor National Park, which is a mountain 1,048 metres high. The weather was pretty poor when we left our apartment, but got even worse as we ventured up. We entered thick fog and the rain was so heavy that it was almost impossible to see. We took a pit stop half way up the mountain to take a break from the madness, enjoy some Cambodian tea, and to decide whether to carry on. We’d come too far to retreat, so we continued up the mountain. We visited a waterfall, which was more like a murky river, and a luxury hotel which used to be an abandoned casino. Our favourite stop was an abandoned church. I’m sure it’s creepy at the best of times, but the mist and the fact we were the only people there made it feel even more eerie.

15 July 2018

The overnight bus down to Sihanoukville took around 8 hours and was extremely bumpy, as the road conditions in Cambodia are pretty awful. The plan was to travel south so we could visit the islands, but again the weather scuppered those plans. We decided to remain in Sihanoukville, which felt eerie, like a ghost town, and was full of casinos and building work. The area we decided to stay in was called Otres Beach, which is a very run down and poor area. We strolled along the nice white sandy beach in awful weather conditions, but it was still full of Cambodians ‘enjoying’ their holidays. We found a cinema that you could hire a private room and choose from over 12,000 movies, so we enjoyed a great evening there with happy pizza. On our last night we looked out of our window to witness a large Western man beating up a Cambodian girl on the balcony. It was very distressing, left a sour taste in our mouths, and we just couldn’t wait to move on to Kampot the next day.

12 July 2018

My fears became reality and I ended up being ill for the first time on this trip, during the flight to Siem Reap. Luckily the sickness didn’t last too long so we were able to meet up with Wendy and Naomi, who we’d met in Vietnam just over a month ago. The weather was pretty bad so we aimed to fill some of our time up with some more indoor activities. We visited another 3D Art Museum, this time it was the worlds largest Trickeye gallery. We organised a tour around Angkor with a Cambodian local and his tuk tuk. He was a lovely guy and wouldn’t stop smiling and waving at us. We awoke at 4am the next morning to witness the sun rise at Angkor Wat. Although the clouds had other ideas and covered most of the sun, it was still a very peaceful and memorable experience. We also visited Angkor Thom, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, which is where parts of Tomb Raider was filmed. We enjoyed a BBQ on our last night and I tried lots of meats including crocodile, kangaroo, eel, frog and ostrich.

7 July 2018

From Phi Phi, we took a ferry East towards the island of Phuket. The minibus that transferred us from the port to Patong sounded like it was going to fall apart at any moment. We arrived at Patong’s pub street, Bangla road, just in time to catch England’s win over Sweden. The bar we chose to watch the game in was full of England fans and the whole strip was in really good spirits after the win. The weather scuppered our plans of visiting the beach and other outdoor sites so we resorted to some indoor activities. We caught a local bus, which was more than 10x cheaper than a taxi, to Phuket town to see a Trickeye museum. The art was all in 3D and we managed to capture some fun shots. The day we were set to leave Phuket for Cambodia, we settled on a dodgy looking restaurant for lunch, after spending a good time looking around for the perfect establishment. As I was eating my Chicken Thai Green Curry, I had a horrible feeling it was going to make me ill.

5 July 2018

The next two days were spent on the Phi Phi islands. We booked a tour that would have taken us around all the bays on the islands, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the adverse weather and capsized ferry the day before. Instead, Lee and I took an hour walk to one of the islands prettiest beaches, Long Beach. The sand was super soft and the water beautifully clear. During our walk back we followed a sign for a viewpoint and ended up trekking to the highest point on the island for well over an hour. We made it to the top just in time for sunset. Sadly a wild monkey decided he didn’t like the look of Lee, and ended up biting him. Fearing the worst, we visited the islands hospital who suggested that he should be injected, to be on the safe side. The hospital was the most unprofessional establishment we’d ever visited. The doctor was playing rap music out loud on her computer and even asked “Why did the monkey bite you?”, to which Lee replied “sorry, I forgot to ask him”.

2 July 2018

We got the ferry back to the mainland and arrived in Krabi Town. Immediately Lee and I didn’t seem keen on the area, although they did have impressive traffic lights. It was quiet, anemic, and full of dodgy looking characters. It was up to Lee to find our accommodation for the next 2 nights, so we checked into a room resembling a prison cell; it smelt stale, was dirty and was surrounded by barbed wire. We both got great hair cuts but decided it wasn’t enough for us to remain there, so checked out a day early and moved along the coast to Ao Nang. The staff at the hotel didn’t give a toss, and ushered us to move out the way of her TV, as we handed over the keys. Ao Nang was more what we were looking for. We visited the beach and both got amazing massages from 2 old Thai ladies. As we watched the England game we ended up buying Hawaiian Leis after losing thumb wars to a 16 year old Thai girl. We soon noticed the girl was a pro, as she scammed the whole bar into buying them.

28 June 2018

Our next destination was Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party. The island would be beautiful if it wasn’t full of English people. The party was pretty crazy, with around 20,000 people flocking from nearby islands to party on one small beach. Each bar had a different genre of music and there was lots of entertainment. Lee decided to have a go on the fire skipping rope and singed all the hair off his leg. 3 nights of partying took its toll, so we moved onto the neighbouring island of Koh Samui to detox. We hired motorbikes for the 3 days, because it worked out cheaper than 2 taxi rides. We visited Hin Ta and Hin Yai, a natural arrangement of rocks that are supposedly meant to look like male and female genitalia. While driving around for the whole day, we also saw the Big Buddha and another waterfall. Our last day was spent playing footgolf, with me scoring 2 under par and Lee scoring 5 over par, followed by some much needed chill time at the beach.

20 June 2018

We left the north of Thailand, heading to Bangkok, feeling a little disappointed that we didn’t have more time to explore more of it. Our first meal in Bangkok was at Max’s Magical Thai, where the owner wanders around the tables performing magic. Naturally, Lee was called up to the front and was asked to take his shirt off in front of the whole restaurant. He put just a few people off their food. The rest of the night consisted of too many beers and buckets of rum on Khao San Road, the equivalent to the strip in Magaluf. We were scammed at the end of the night when a Tuk Tuk driver took us to the most expensive club in Bangkok, and refused to take us home for a reasonable price. We visited several temples in the city, including Wat Saket, walked around the Grand Palace and Wat Po, and used the taxi river boat system to check out the markets. During another night out on the strip I was ‘peer pressured’ into eating a scorpion, and we decided to get henna with two Fins we just met.

19 June 2018

Our next stop was at a foot bridge made out of bamboo. It measured 800m in length, stretched across rice fields and lead to a quiet temple. On several occasions Lee and I thought we were going to fall through the bridge, as it felt so unstable. Just down the road was a ‘Land Split’. An old farm created a tourist attraction out of their garden when seismic activity created a split 2 metres wide and 11 metres deep in 2008. We were greeted with fruits from their farm and tried their homemade roselle juice. We paid a visit to Pai’s answer to The Grand Canyon, called Pai Canyon, funnily enough. Although not quite as impressive as the real thing, it was fun to climb and walk around the narrow sandy paths. On the way back, we stopped off at the Memorial Bridge, originally built by the Japanese in 1941 to help them attack Burma. An interesting and popular local, dressed up in army gear, was stood on the bridge posing for photos for a fee.

18 June 2018

We left Chiang Mai feeling a little disappointed, and headed 130km North to Pai, a small town full of hippies wearing elephant pants with no shoes. We rented motorbikes for our 3 day expedition. The roads were beautifully smooth and in a lot better condition than in Vietnam, while the drivers in Thailand are ever so slightly better. We experienced our first bit of police corruption when going through a police check point. Lee didn’t have the correct driving documentation and had to pay a bribe of 1000 baht. After 3 hours of driving, which included a quick stop off at Mork Fa Waterfall, we arrived at our accommodation for the next 2 nights, an indoor tent each. Our plan was to cram as many tourist attractions as possible into the next full day. We began with the Yun Lai viewpoint, where we enjoyed a pot of Chinese tea each, while looking over the nearby Chinese Village, Santichon. In the village itself we tried some Yunnan cuisine, which was to neither of our tastes.

17 June 2018

We spent a few more days in Hanoi, visiting the Military Museum and catching another football game, before heading off to Thailand. Chiang Mai is a chilled city, and we spent most of our time there visiting temples and eating good food. We spent a day at one of the local elephant sanctuaries. We did a lot of research beforehand to make sure we visited a natural and ethical centre. The day began with the guide saying “elephants spend all day eating and walking”. So we were surprised to find them tied up to trees when we first met them. We shovelled sugar cane into their gobs for the first half an hour. The elephants were greedy, but cheeky about it, as they wrapped their trunks around us to try and steal food out of our bags. We walked around the jungle with them for an hour before heading to the bathing area. This part felt forced and I’m not sure if they actually enjoyed it, so we felt a bit uneasy about it. All in all, it seemed more like a tourist trap than a sanctuary.

9 June 2018

We arrived in Du Gia as the sun set and decided to stay the night in a homestay. The large Vietnamese family were so welcoming and accommodating. We had dinner with them that night, which included an unlimited amount of corn wine, that the mother picks from their field. The beds were pretty uncomfortable and there were no windows, so the outside noises kept me up all night. The final day of the loop was spent travelling back to Ha Giang city. Unfortunately I did not read the part of the map that said “Road really bad, Avoid it!”. This was an understatement; the roads were the worst I’d experienced in Vietnam. I guess they weren’t really roads, just rocky paths for around 20km. We made it back to the city, and decided to stay another night in a homestay. Again, the Vietnamese family were lovely and plastered us with apple rice wine all night. There was a Swiss Masterchef contestant staying, who cooked us the most amazing meal. The Vietnamese family did not seem too impressed by it.

8 June 2018

After another sleepless night sitting on an overnight bus, we finally arrived in Ha Giang city at 5am. We hired motorbikes to travel the Ha Giang loop and set off towards Yen Minh. The views towards the end of the day were exceptional, as we drove the winding roads through pine forests as the sun set. Day two of the loop was spent driving up to Vietnam’s most Northern point, Lung Cu, where a flag pole is positioned. Standing on top of the flag tower, you can see across the border into China. We stayed in Dong Van that night, and were invited to breakfast with a Vietnamese family the next day. The next day was the most spectacular, offering jaw dropping views. The Ma Pi Leng Pass roads meandered along a steep cliff edge at an altitude of 1,500m. What was so incredible was the scenery completely changed after every corner. It was impossible to resist stopping every few minutes for a photo. Along the way I was mobbed by a young group of girls, part of a tribe, who stole my lychees.

3 June 2018

Part 2 of the trip didn’t start very well when Emirates refused to check us on to our flight, unless we booked an exit flight out of Vietnam. Lee and I quickly made the decision that Chiang Mai would be our next destination in 15 days time. We arrived in Hanoi after getting very little sleep on the flight but still decided to go straight to the Hang Day Stadium to watch my second favourite team, Hanoi FC, beat Nha Trang 4-0. It was early the next day that our next bad stroke of luck struck; Lee forgot to remove his card from the cash point, and he would now be cardless for the rest of the trip. That evening we visited a theatre to watch a Water Puppet Show, a tradition dating back as far as the 11th century. Although the commentary was in Vietnamese, the scenes were easy to understand and the unusual instruments they played were great. We met a lovely group of people from the Philippines and spent our last 2 nights in Hanoi with them, before taking an overnight bus to Ha Giang.

14 May 2018

We decided to get an overnight train back to Hanoi, which required a short drive to the city of Lao Cai, which is so far North that we were able to visit the border with China, which was pretty cool. Stupidly, we had forgotten that the petrol tanks needed to be emptied before loading the bikes onto the train, and had arrived with half tanks. It was funny to see the locals swarm to take the petrol that was drained out. The boys left for Cat Ba, but I stayed alone in Hanoi to have a few days of detoxing and culture. First I visited Huu Tiep Lake, where a downed plane from the war still remains. Followed by the Old Citadel, which contains an interesting bunker where the war campaign was planned. My final cultural visit was to the 54 Traditions Gallery. It contained objects from the history of the 1 majority group and 53 minority groups throughout Vietnam. Although I walked in while he was having lunch, the American owner was kind enough to walk me around and educate me for an hour.

12 May 2018

The final stretch began on pothole-infested roads, and I began to think leaving 220km to the last day was a mistake. However, apart from the pigs and dogs running out in front of us, the butterflies splatting against my visor and the short storm, the last stretch of road was an absolute joy, even if it did take us 9 hours in total. As we hit tourist central, the formerly mentioned tribal women became extremely irritating as they persisted to sell any old crap they could find in their bags. The highlight of our first evening was a game of UNO. It was the most incredible, longest and tense game ever, with all of us calling UNO several times each, before Kieren finally took the crown. We visited two waterfalls, named Silver and Love. We bumped into a couple of devil children, who stared at us with no expressions on their faces for half an hour while we took shelter from the rain. One of my favourite views so far was from ‘Heaven’s Gate’, a viewpoint that looks over the Quan Ba Pass.

11 May 2018

Owain and I travelled back to Hanoi to greet our next guests, Ricky and Kieren. Our plan was to ride to Sa Pa in 3 days, stopping in a couple of towns on route. The first stop was Mai Chau, a world away from Hanoi’s hustle, a rural town set in an idyllic valley with beautiful scenery either side. We stayed in a nice family’s stilt house, with whom we shared the space. They cooked us a delicious meal, despite the fact every insect under the sun also decided to join us for dinner. We managed to polish off a bottle of rice wine before we checked out the nightlife, or lack of. Our next stopover was Son La. During the drive, we could see the culture and traditions alter before our eyes, as we came across tribes with funky hair. Like Gia Nghia, it seemed the locals had never seen westerners before. Most people giggled at us, and others requested photos. It was nice to feel famous for a day. In the evening we ended up in a Karaoke bar, we hired out our own room, and sang the night away.

6 May 2018

Our next stop was Tam Coc, an area described as ‘The Ha Long Bay of the Land’. We had an interesting encounter with a crazy Vietnamese mute, who jumped out from behind the bushes at the Bich Dong pagoda to help us climb a mountain. At the peak he made strange gestures and pretended he was flying while holding Danni’s sarong over his head. We realised he wanted payment for his time, as he rubbed his fingers together. Standing at the top of a mountain, we weren’t in the best bargaining position. Despite climbing 500 steps to get there, one of my favourite views so far was at Hang Mua. The lookout at the top had incredible panoramic views of the countryside. As Izaak and Danni left us to travel the North on their own, Owain and I explored Van Long Wetland. We were rowed around by a sweet old lady, who was sweet until she demanded extra cash at the end, even though we were going to tip anyway. I caught up with an old work colleague who is holidaying here, as an incredible storm hit.

28 April 2018

Following another drive along Vietnam’s busy a-roads, full mostly of buses and trucks, we finally completed our Saigon to Hanoi adventure, just in time to meet one of our next guests, Bov. Prior to his arrival, Owain and I treated ourselves to a spontaneous night out on the town. In typical fashion, we ended up beatboxing and rapping to a number of unfashionable songs, including Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’, while sat on the side of a busy Hanoi tourist-infested Street. One local lady seemed to enjoy our performance. I treated myself to some Saturday live football as Hanoi hosted Saigon in the Vietnam Cup Quarter Final, with Hanoi comfortably winning 5-0. After a scare when the kitchen went up in smoke due to a dodgy pump, we celebrated Bov’s arrival with another night out in the city, which again ended with ‘band practice’ back at the house. This time Owain, Bov and I wrote new material and sang a ‘Magic Song’ until the early hours of the morning. The poor neighbours.

24 April 2018

After a few days of driving hell, we finally arrived at the island of Cat Ba, just a few hours later than Danni and Christian, and via a ferry that cost just 80p. I was given the responsibility of chauffeuring Chris to Cat Ba National Park, which thankfully went well. We hiked for around 1.5km through the forest to the peak and were all drenched in sweat by the time we got there. We were greeted by breathtaking views of the island. The next day was spent kayaking around Ha Long Bay. Izaak and I shared a kayak, but the workload certainly wasn’t shared, as he attempted and failed to catch fish rather than paddle. We kayaked to Monkey Island and were disappointed to find just the one monkey when we arrived. Luckily as more tourists got there, the monkeys came out to play and terrorised people, stole food and viciously chased them around the beach. This was exactly what we came to see. We spent the whole of our final day chilling in a lovely little cafe, as a storm hit the island.

20 April 2018

I made the decision that paying £70 for an unfixed bike was too much, so I took it back, promised to collect it when it was fixed properly, and never returned. Because of the amount of time wasted, we ended up staying in a local motel, which wasn’t miles better than the horror show we stayed in a few nights before. With a large distance to our next destination (Cat Ba) and with only 2 days until we met Danni and Chris there, we set off nice and early towards Vinh, with me on the back of Owain and Izaak with the bags. By midday, I had managed to buy a used bike off a guy that worked in a Honda Dealership, so we were back up to 3 bikes. The quickest routes were A roads, but it meant driving along disgustingly monotonous roads with lorries beeping in our ears all day long. After a stopover in Vinh, things went against us again and it was Owain’s bikes turn to surrender. Hours of negotiating with mechanics passed, and one finally agreed to patch it up enough to get us going again.

19 April 2018

It would be a moderate four our drive from Phong Nha to Vinh, or so we thought. 30 minutes in, I got my 1st puncture of the trip. We thought it was our lucky day when a truck pulled over within a minute, loaded the bike up and dropped me to a mechanic, around 25km away. The tire was fixed but the bike would not start again. He went off to find a part for over 3 hours and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere, extremely bored, trying to entertain ourselves in ridiculous heat. At about 4pm, he finally returned with a part and by 6pm the bike had been put back together, with a hammer being used far too often for my liking. They seemed to think it was fixed and shockingly requested 2.2m VND (£70), more than twice the amount I’ve spent on repairs during the trip so far. To make matters worse, we did not have the money to pay them. On the way to an ATM, I tested the bike and it had not been fixed at all. I had a decision to make. Do I pay them £70 for an unfixed bike, or ditch it?

17 April 2018

We were up and out the door of the motel as early as possible, and within 10 minutes of leaving Izaak’s motorbike broke down. Thank the lord it did not break down the night before. While it got fixed, we enjoyed ample cups of Vietnamese tea with an old gentleman, who we think was trying to tell us he was shot during the war. Once we’d arrived in Phong Nha, we decided to spend my birthday pub crawling on bicycles. We had two bikes between the three of us, because one of them had two seats. The round trip was about 20km and included a beer at The Duck Stop, a small farm where you can feed and throw ducks (yes, throw). We started drinking at midday and ended at midnight, after seeing some live music and going to our first Vietnamese night club. The building work next door woke us up very early, but it meant that we could start exploring early. We headed to Hang Toi (Dark Cave), where we rode a zip wire, swam into the cave, enjoyed a mud bath, then kayaked out.

16 April 2018

It looked like there was life about 50km from us if we travelled off route, so we took a gamble on it. With conditions still extreme, and having to avoid cows and rocks in the road, it took us an age to get there. Owain’s bike ran out of petrol on route, but luckily we had a small jerry can of fuel to try and push him over the line. Miraculously, we finally arrived at a creepy motel that was like something out of a horror movie. We pulled up to the locked gates and a very old man slowly hobbled to the gate and ushered us in. It was the most vile place I’d ever stepped foot in, with dirt and cobwebs on every wall, wonky fixtures and furnishings, smelly and dirty duvets, and spiders the size of my hand. We had no choice but to stay here. I didn’t sleep much, as I thought about insects crawling all over me, the trains steamed past every hour and the old man snorted, coughed and snuffled all night. This is where I would wake up on my 26th birthday, a day I will never forget.
Phong Nha was only an 180km drive from Hue, or so we thought. One breakdown aside, it was one of our best and favourite rides yet. We high-fived and waved at the local kids as the roads wound around the mountains. As night fell, we realised that our lack of planning in the morning had come back to bite us. We checked the map again, and we were in the middle of nowhere with more than 200km to our destination with no towns in between. It was pitch black when a thick fog moved in, the temperature dropped and it began to rain torrentially. We could not see 10 yards in front of us, our teeth were chattering, we were extremely wet and were driving around the mountains with cliff edges and drops at every corner on the most unreliable motorbikes known to man. Right on cue, Izaak’s headlight exploded so he had to use the light made by our bikes to see in front of him. After hours of driving in extreme conditions, we made the decision to divert our route in search of accommodation.

14 April 2018

After a fun packed 10 days with Helen and Paul it was time for them to head home. We had a few days left in Hue before Danni’s brother (Chris) arrived, and spent them chilling out on the beach in 35 degree heat. It was a Saturday when I felt an urge to watch some live football. Luckily I found out the local team had a game, so I took myself off to watch Hue FC at the Independence Stadium, which has a capacity of 25,000 and was constructed by the French colonialists in the 1930s. I bought a ticket off two old ladies outside the ground for just 80p. The game finished 1-1 and included a comical own goal and last minute equaliser. The locals seemed to love the fact that I was there watching their team. I think I must have been the only westerner there. The evening that Chris arrived we had a few beers, a dance, and some limbo with the locals and bar staff. Very hungover the next day, Izaak, Owain and I set off towards Phong Nha a few hours later than expected having done no planning.

10 April 2018

We travelled to Hue via the Hai Van pass, the incredible coastal road that is shown on the Top Gear special. Unbeknown to us, Owain and I ended up in one of the trendiest hip hop bars in Vietnam, a place that young Vietnamese people flock to from all over the country. A few rums had been sunk and we decided that it was a good idea to mix with the locals. I started ‘beatboxing’ along to one of their live raps, and they seemed to like it. Embarrassingly, one of the rappers could beatbox incredibly, and completely showed me up. This wasn’t enough embarrassment for us, so Owain had a go at break dancing and street dancing. It was ugly to say the least. Nursing a hangover and in ridiculous heat, we visited The Hue Citadel, a walled palace with temples, gardens and tombs. One of my favourite evenings so far was spent travelling around the outskirts of Hue visiting Pagodas and Tombs. We managed to catch the sun setting over The Perfume River, which was pretty epic.

8 April 2018

Back to Da Nang for a couple of days, we visited the marble mountain, a group of hills made from limestone and marble. As we trekked up the mountain, there were a number of amazing caves, tunnels and temples to explore, and at the summit was a spectacular panoramic view. I ate probably the best burger I’ve ever eaten at a bar called Surf Shack. The beef patty was bursting with flavour and was covered in cheddar, parmesan and blue cheese. When visiting the Lady Buddha, a statue nearly twice the height of Christ the Redeemer, I had a very awkward moment with a sweet old Vietnamese lady when she tried to cover up my legs just outside a temple (a religious thing). At the time, I thought this was a scam and she was going to force me to pay for the item she was wrapping around my legs, so I bat her off me and yanked the material back over my head. It was not until I turned around and spoke to Helen, that I found out she was just trying to do me a favour. I’ve never felt so embarrassed.

6 April 2018

Before travelling to Hoi An, we paid a visit to Tam’s Pub for breakfast to have one of her world famous omelettes. Tam was an interpreter for American doctors during the war and told us many interesting stories, some of them quite controversial. She states that the My Lai massacre is a lie, and 500 villagers were not actually killed. Tam does LOVE to chat, and we did get stuck with her for quite some time. Hoi An was charming; it’s a quaint ancient town full of colourful lanterns and brightly painted buildings, even more beautiful at night when tourists and locals drop candles into the river. The town is full of lovely places to eat and drink in the evenings, and you can get a beer for as little as 10p. We spent a day visiting My Son, a cluster of abandoned Hindu temples, now a World Heritage Site. The ruins are full of history and some were heavily damaged from the war.

5 April 2018

From Hanoi we got the overnight train back to Da Nang. We booked a 6-sleeper cabin with hard beds for our 17 hour journey. The room was extremely tight for 6 people and came with a bed sheet, pillow and blanket that smelt of urine, probably used for the 10 previous journeys. As night fell, the cockroaches came out to play, and it was nearly impossible to sleep as the rickety train bumped along the old railway lines. No earplugs could possibly drown out the noise. Luckily the views across the sea as the sun rose were absolutely incredible, and made up for the shoddy nights sleep we had just experienced. We arrived in Da Nang hoping that our bikes were still where we left them, and that they would start. They didn’t. Owain’s had run out of petrol and I had battery issues. Now experienced in dealing with these situations, we all went off in our separate ways to sort out our problematic bikes. They were all fixed up and ready to travel to Hoi An within the hour.

3 April 2018

We made a last minute decision to fly up to Hanoi to meet the Flanders parents, rather than take the 16 hour overnight train. On the day of the flight we settled our flight nerves with many a beer and bowling. We met Helen and Paul in Hanoi and stayed at a lovely house in the city, with the luxury of a bedroom each. It was obvious that Hanoi was the place to buy cheap clothing and accessories, as we stumbled across many great market stalls. We all put our haggling skills to good use and I purchased a Herschel rucksack and Adidas t-shirt for just £7. We ate a local delicacy called Bun Cha in a restaurant that like to remind you of the fact that Obama ate there 2 years ago, so much so that they have put a glass unit around the table that he ate at. Although we turned up on the wrong day to see a train pass by, we had a few beers at a bar on the tracks of Train Street. The lady brought out our beers while saying ‘choo choo’, which kind of made up for the lack of trains.

26 March 2018

My bike made the 150km drive to Quang Ngai in one piece, despite one quick trip to the mechanic costing me £1.50. We arrived at our hotel to an amazing welcome by the sweet Vietnamese owners, who greeted us with hugs, laughs, coffee and cookies. We stopped here to go to the My Lai Museum, dedicated to the 504 innocent and unarmed villagers massacred during the war. The memorials and signage when wandering around the ruined village are poignant. From there we travelled to Vietnam’s 3rd largest city, Da Nang. We walked round a few markets and ate some really great street food. My bike finally seems to have been fixed by a rare competent mechanic. One evening we entered the dark side of Da Nang, a market no Westerner dare ever enter before. Izaak set us the task of buying each other a gift to wear for £1. During my quest, I had a particularly uncomfortable encounter with a local shopkeeper who decided to grab me by the crotch and rub his fingers across my chest.

23 March 2018

We arrived in a quaint little village tucked away from Quy Nhon. It was here that we would find 1 of our favourite accommodations so far; a quiet hostel just a stones throw away from the beach. We spent 4 days here, eating good food, drinking alcohol and playing copious amounts of music. I realised that the harmonica that I had bought is not for beginners, and therefore YouTube tutorials are no good, so I have resorted to ‘free styling’. We kept bumping into a suspicious one-armed man who kept asking us to drive him into town to buy marijuana or he could show us some waterfalls. We made it up in our heads that he must be a scammer. Just moments after being given the all clear by a mechanic, my bike went bang and lost all power. Luckily Izaak was on hand to push me back to the garage on his bike. We took it back to the same mechanic, hoping he might feel guilty. He didn’t. 1 day later, a total rebuild, a whopping £17.50 in repairs, she sounded marginally better and was ready to go.

19 March 2018

Nha Trang was a beach resort full of Russian and Chinese tourists; not the most polite and extremely loud. We found ourselves a nice Airbnb for £3/night each. Unfortunately I felt pretty ill and run down for 2 days and spent quite a bit of time in the apartment. My illness ruined the amazing duck meal that Owain found and I was so looking forward to. But I was able to enjoy some pork wraps made out of rice paper, called Nem, the next evening. On our last day we had planned a sunny beach day out in the sticks. Unfortunately it was here that Izaak’s bike decided to fall apart, twice. First he got a puncture, then something went wrong with the engine. After hours spent locating a mechanic, and towing the bike, we arrived at the beach just as the sun set. Tuy Hoa was our next destination, where we spent just the one night. Again, Owain found a nice little restaurant full of locals and we had some pork and shrimp pancake rolls, known in Vietnam as banh xeo.

15 March 2018

We saw two more waterfalls in Da Lat. The 1st was called Datanla and we rode a toboggan down to the bottom. The 2nd was called Prenn and was combined with a very odd, confused, run down amusement park. It had rides, fancy dress, an antiques gallery, and ostrich & elephant rides. The animals were not treated well, so we did not spend much time or money there. The next day we took our bikes to a mechanic, who ‘fixed’ all 3 for about £7. At least mine sounded slightly better. I also bought a harmonica, that I’m going to attempt to learn to play in the next 3 months. In the evening we went searching for beers and street food. We tried some rice paper pizzas, which originated in Da Lat, and found a lady selling Cornish pasties! We also had a drink in a bar that is built like a maze. Along the way, a nice Vietnamese mother and son started chatting to us and added us on Facebook. Had I of known he was going to ring me constantly for the next 3 days I would have rejected his request.

11 March 2018

On our way to Dalat, we stopped in Gia Nghia for a night. It seemed like the locals had never seen Westerners before. We were stared at, laughed at and one guy even asked to take a picture of us outside his stall. After our short stopover, we were excited to make our way to Dalat, as we had been told the route is incredible. It didn’t disappoint and was sheer riding pleasure; the roads were new but empty, a blend of long straights, hairpin bends and meandering chicanes. It’s essentially a private motorbike track in the mountains, with amazing scenery either side of you. On our way into Dalat we stopped off at Elephant Waterfalls. It was a beautiful waterfall and climbing down the slippery, rugged path to the bottom was fun. On arrival in Dalat, we all fancied a BBQ restaurant. We ended up having to cook our own meat. The pork belly was thin strips of bacon and the BBQ would not heat up enough to cook the meat. On the bright side, 2 bottles of Vodka only cost us £6.

10 March 2018

On our 1st full day at Cat Tien National Park we decided against a guide because they are very overpriced, so went trekking on our own with very little information and a park map written in Vietnamese. One thing we did know was that the walk to Crocodile Lake was “only 15km”. Not realising how far this was to walk, we began our journey. During the walk we saw lots of butterflies and lizards, and Owain claims to have seen a snake. After 4-5 hours of walking, we arrived at Crocodile Lake absolutely knackered. Another group of travellers were already there and gloated that they had received a lift. This didn’t help the situation, and I thought Izaak might thump them. We did manage to see one small crocodile in the lake, which was a consolation. The next day Owain, Danni and I went to a Gibbon Sanctuary. It was quite expensive and we were only able to see animals in the distance. Our guide was Vietnamese and spoke with a posh English accent, learnt from watching Attenborough on TV.

7 March 2018

On Wednesday we completed our first long haul ride. We set off at around 8.30am and arrived at Cat Tien National Park at around 5.30pm. The route we took had some beautiful scenery as we rode around the outskirts of the National Park. On route we stopped at a roadside cafe for lunch - the staff weren’t friendly and just pointed to some meat that looked like it had been sat in an unrefrigerated cabinet for days. We ate a selection of said meat for lunch. After lunch, Owain’s bike was the first to brake down, just as we reached a rocky path in the middle of nowhere. A Vietnamese man stopped to ‘help’, but was more insistent on chuckling to himself and repeating the word ‘Vietnam’. At least somebody was amused by the situation. Owain managed to roll his bike down the hill to the nearest shack, who invited us in and sold us some drinks. A few locals turned up to see what was going on, and one man was able to get Owain’s scooter going again, in exchange for 1 Great British Pound.

6 March 2018

Yesterday we drove to Trảng Bàng, the town in which the iconic photo of Kim Phuc, the Napalm girl, was taken. We were starving when we arrived so chose to eat at a restaurant called ‘Naga’. The main ingredient in their food was a Naga Viper chilli; which originated in Cumbria. We all chose the mildest noodle soups, which were still so hot it made our lips burn and bloat. In the afternoon we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. We were taken to the hole in picture 1. I thought he was joking when the guide asked us to enter the hole. Izaak and Owain did it with no complaints, but it took Danni and I a little longer to overcome our fears. After crawling through the tunnels we tried Tapioca, a starchy food they ate during the war. Driving back, we got stuck in a storm and ended up in a cafe who spoke no English. Unfortunately Owain accidentally ordered the only thing on the menu that nobody wanted to eat; snails. We were all forced to try them as the Vietnamese lady eagerly watched over us.

4 March 2018

On Sunday we visited the War Remnants Museum. The museum contained some powerful (and disturbing) images, and it was difficult to walk round without feeling emotional. Quite incredibly, there was a lady walking around in an American flag Tshirt! After the museum, we wandered over to what seemed to be the posh ends of HCM and stumbled across a flat like block of boutique hipster coffee shops, which was pretty cool. In the evening, Owain bought a Vietnamese toy called đá cầu. We played with it in the park, and a few locals joined in with us. It’s safe to say đá cầu is not my sport, but I have the next 3 months to improve. Then we found a bar to watch the Brighton game in. Unfortunately the bar was part of the party strip of doom. It was tacky, seedy, overpriced and was no better than the strip in Magaluf. Nevertheless, the Albion won and we enjoyed a few celebratory beers before eating a Burger King and hitting the hay!

3 March 2018

We arrived in HCM on Fri and travelled to our hostel via Uber. The roads are pretty hectic and it’s a bit of a free for all. We dumped our bags and found a nice little local restaurant in a nearby alleyway. It looked dirty and basic, so we knew the food would be good. The owner was a funny little man who had a good sense of humour and a hilarious cackle. 4 meals and 4 beers cost no more than £6. The next day was spent trying to buy motorbikes. Owain and I travelled out of town to look at 2 scooters. Only 1 was in decent enough nick, so Owain purchased that and we rode it back to the city. Due to my awful navigating, the 12 minute journey took around 45 minutes as we took several wrong turns and missed many turnings. Luckily Owain was very patient! We met Izaak at an Aussie mechanics, where the bike he had bought the day before was getting fixed, after breaking down within a day. The mechanic had a great condition Yamaha Scooter which I bought with new top of the range helmet.

28 February 2018

30 mins after meeting Izaak, Danni & Owain I’d changed into summer clothes and we were boarding the fast ferry to Koh Rong. We arrived at Long Set Resort, surrounded by sandy beaches, clear water and was just outside of the really touristy area. My 1st night we bar crawled along the beach, drinking 1$ beers, to Koh Tuich Village. In the village, we ate some average food, drank and played some intense games of Connect4; the losers forfeit was buying ‘Joss Shots’. We were on the beach when some locals pulled a Puffer Fish out the sea. We all stroked the fish, which I later found out are very poisonous. We went to a few more bars on our journey home. One bar owner was from Brighton and took the piss when I said I was from Worthing. He got a bit strange so we decided to leave, which he threw a strop over. Still peckish, we ate some potatoes off an abandoned BBQ and made our way home. After another night in the village we departed the Island via a bumpy ferry back to the mainland.
I boarded the plane to Ho Chi Minh to find I had 2 free seats next to me. I thought I’d be able to stretch out and enjoy the extra space, until this Vietnamese lady plonks herself onto one of the seats 10 minutes into the flight and proceeded to touch my legs with her naked feet for the next 12 hours. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant flight and I was able to enjoy a few glasses of cheap red wine! I arrived in Ho Chi Minh with 2 hours spare before my next flight, on the smallest plane I’d ever been on, with propellers and about 100 seats. About 12 of us boarded in total and after a quick 1 hour flight I landed at Sihanoukville Airport. I entered the departures area to 3 stalls shouting ‘Taxi, Taxi, Taxi’ in my face, which wasn’t ideal as I had no WiFi, no data and no clue where I was going, apart from the name of the hostel. The short taxi journey took an age as we followed battered lorries up and around the hills. After 45 minutes I was greeted by Izaak and Danni at Monkey Republic.