Asia · 91 Days · 47 Moments · February 2017

Tamsin's travels

4 May 2017

•Laos• Time is now our enemy and we have a mere week to explore the whole of Laos! We decided on fewer destinations with longer stays. In order to get to our first stop we had a 30 hour straight bus journey from Vietnam. Luckily, we had a great group of people and the journey ended up being so much fun (highlights include getting on the service station microphone and MC'ing with the locals, meeting a pet eagle and me being gifted a squirrels tail- chopped off in front of my eyes) We crossed the weirdest border and eventually arrived in Luang Prabang. One of the days we went to the most spectacular waterfalls and watched the sun set from the waters of the crystal clear lagoon. Our next stop was in Vang Vieng. We went tubing down the river which was one of the funnest days to date, discovered the most beautiful beach bar and found a club offering unlimited free drinks all night, no catch. Safe to say, our week in Laos has been brief but very enjoyable.

29 April 2017

'A northern loop'• We have hired motorbikes, despite numerous promises to ourselves we wouldn't. Jemima could not, she drove up a wall, on an AUTOMATIC?! It's almost impressive:') so she hopped on Max's and we set off in convoy. We did a 5 day trip from Hanoi-Phuong Mihn Xuan-Ha Giang-Sapa-the middle of nowhere-Hanoi. The driving is the most exhilarating thing I have ever experience. We go at speeds I shall not disclose, zipping down mountain roads, through rural villages and past emerald green rice paddies. Although there have been some terrifying moments along the way (I'll save those tales for when I get home) it has also been one of the highlights of my trip and I'm so glad we took the risk.

25 April 2017

Hanoi• We arrived in Hanoi at 5am and after a kip on a bench we met with Jemima!!! We are staying in Funky Jungle Hostel which is really cool. The roads are heaving with motorbikes weaving between the maze that is Hanoi. Each road is named after the primary item sold there. Naturally, we headed for Hang Gai; clothes street. After an evening wandering the neon lit streets and sampling the street food, it was time to head to bed. On the second day, after the worse night sleep of our lives (lesson learned: refuse to share a dorm with a 70 year old snorer, it ends in conflict) we met the boys who have shipped their bikes up from the south. We dragged them out to the museum only to find it closed which was a disappointing turnout until we found it was situated next to a MAC makeup shop;) Hanoi is a really lively, atmospheric city and we will be sad to leave it..p.s sorry parents, we may have hired motorbikes for the next leg of this journey...

22 April 2017

•Hue• Day 1: Our first full day in Hue was spent exploring the Citadel in our matching ponchos. Despite the consistent drizzle, the 'forgotten purple city' and architecture of the imperial buildings was beautiful. We later met the rest of the group and went to a bar to watch the football. On our way home we stopped to get egg baguettes (women sell them from trolley stalls on every street corner.) To cut a very long story short, a man stole 500K of my friend, this escalated quickly and we ended up in a stand off with the Vietnamese mafia, I nearly took a backhand slap to the face and Fi almost got flattened by a motorbike. A somewhat terrifying end to an otherwise very enjoyable night out.. Day 2: the following day we hired a motorbike and went to visit an eerie abandoned water park. After a nice lunch we got on our 15 hour bus; next stop, Hanoi, where Jemima awaits!!!

16 April 2017

•Nha Trang-Hoi An• We stayed only one night in Nha Trang. It has become extremely touristy as hundreds of Russians go there on package holidays so the town is catered entirely to their needs. We spend a day on the beach, somehow managing to find an empty stretch, and then departed the following day. Hoi An, on the other hand, is amazing. We arrived at 5am and had the pleasure of motor biking though the silent town. On the first day, we didn't do much, simply enjoyed the luxury of our 3 star hotel, curtsey of Fi's very generous mother! In the afternoon, we ventured out and got tailor made clothes; Hoi An's speciality. The 'old town' is a world heritage site and is so beautiful. We biked along paved streets lined with jewellery stalls, handmade lanterns cast coloured light onto the street below and the smells of fresh donuts wafted from the street vendors carts. We also stayed one night in sunflower party hostel with all our friends which was a lot of fun!!

14 April 2017

•Da Lat• Dalat is located in the central highlands and the cool temperature and relaxed vibe is a welcome break from the heat and madness of Ho Chi Min. Day 1- me and Fi climbed Lang Biang mountain. An exhausting hours walk was rewarded with spectacular views at the top. We also went to 'crazy house' which is a treehouse built by a Vietnamese architect. The 30m high walkways were so narrow and had only knee-height, vine-like barriers which was slightly unnerving!! We are staying in Panda hostel with two friends, Joe and Anto. They're great company and we went out to a Vietnamese club; our first experience of an Asian nightclub did not disappoint. The next night us 4 went to Maze and ran into the Abingdon boys! Maze is a huge bar with tiny twisting corridors and countless ladder staircases which provided hours of fun as we explored the labyrinth. Terrifying realisation; we've only a month left out here so it's time to get a wriggle on and leave our friends. Next stop, Nha Trang.

10 April 2017

•Ho Chi Min City• We returned to HCM which is definitely one of my favourite cities so far. We stayed at Hangout hostel with an eclectic mix of mine and Fi's friends. Everyone got on a treat and we ended up in a cycle of pub crawls and subsequent recovery days. It took all our will power but on the second day we made it out to the War Remnants museum. We spend 3 hours looking at the collection of images which were powerfully haunting. It is scary that the US, a nation founded on principles of freedom and equality, engaged in the slaughter of thousands of men, women and children over political differences. The visit left a lasting reminder of the trauma the Vietnamese so recently suffered; the kindness of the local people towards us never fails to amaze me.

9 April 2017

• Mekong River delta • We signed up for a £20 all inclusive overnight tour to the Mekong River delta. Day 1 included visiting a bee farm, coconut candy workshop (delicious) and boating down jungle flanked waterways. We stayed in Can Tao where they put us up in a 1 star hotel; AC, a functioning tv AND a side lamp!! Sadly, we could only enjoy this rare luxury temporarily as we were up at 5am for day 2. We visited the Mekong's largest floating market- locals used their boats to zip between wholesale barges bargaining for all sorts of goods, ice coffees were made in seconds and passed in a chain across the river into our outstretched hands, pineapples and mangos were thrown expertly over our heads to customers and children relaxed on the decks, unfazed by the noise, as their parents did business. We've really enjoyed the trip but group excursions mean very little independence so it will be nice to regain some freedom back in HCMC!

6 April 2017

• Phnom Penh • Today was by far the most moving and difficult day I've experienced so far. We visited the Choeung Ek killing fields and the Tuol Sleng museum. Formerly a school, under Polpots regime it became S21 prison. Here, thousands of innocent civilians- men, women and children as young as 2 months old- were brutally tortured and forced to confess to crimes they had not committed. After months, even years, of debasing cruelty they were taking the the Choeung Ek site and killed in their thousands. Most poignant was the 'killing tree' where babies were beaten to death against the trunk before being slung into mass graves. Over 1/4 of Cambodians were slaughtered yet their deaths remained unreported for years. Today was heartbreaking but also eye opening. I hope that humanity learns from tragedies like this as that is the only way to honour the millions of innocent lives lost.

2 April 2017

• Koh Rong Saloem • We have moved to Saloem; Koh Rong's smaller neighbour. Our first night was spent in m'pay bay. The locals are lovely (a recurring theme in Cambodia) but the beach is tainted by litter. The next day, we continued on to Mad Monkey. We'd heard a lot of hype about this secluded party hostel and so expectations were high. They did not disappoint. We spent the next 2 days lounging on swings and sea hammocks in their private bay, meeting the best people and dancing on tables dressed as men for the 'gender bender' themed evening. My highlight was when we all went for a swim at midnight- when dark, any movement in the ocean illuminates the plankton which glow and sparkle like silver glitter✨

31 March 2017

Sihanoukville-Koh Rong We arrived in Sihanouk and met some friends from home at Monkey Republic, a very fun party hostel. After 2 nights here, we caught a relaxing 2hr boat to Koh Rong. The main town wasn't that appealing but by fate the taxi boat dropped us in the wrong village (funny to look back at; a nightmare at the time) Although this meant being fined for not turning up at our booked hostel, it turned out to be for the best. We have found paradise. A 7km white sand beach meeting turquoise sea m. The joyful locals rented us a bungalow costing a mere $15 total for all 6 of us!! We've even found a teeny restaurant where holidaying Italians cooked us authentic, divine pizzas and pasta. I can only assume this is what heaven looks like?

28 March 2017

Today we leave Chi Phat:( A key aspect I'll miss about Chi Phat are the free roaming animals. The guard dogs are a bit daunting but I've never seen so many puppies and calves in my life. Even more enchanting are the children here; me and Fi still stop to admire every baby we see..♥️ It has been such a beautiful and calming place to have stayed and it will be sad to leave the peace as we head onwards to Sihanoukville. Our journey to the bus stop involved us piling onto motorbikes, our 15kg bags in tow, and zipping along winding country roads for half an hour. Such a great way to see the scenic surroundings and also the isolated villages dotted along the route.

26 March 2017

Chi Phat• After a scenic 2 hour boat ride, we arrived at Chi Phat, an ecotourism village. This is probably the most rural place we've stayed; there's only one place with wifi in the village and to 'shower' you simply throw ice cold water over yourself with a bucket!! To an outsider, you'd assume the level of poverty would be depressing but this is far from the case. Everyone smiles and laughs constantly, children run out into the street to greet us and the community is clearly bound by a closeness we lack entirely back home. The landscapes here are also breathtaking. The river so wide and flanked by mangroves, it reminds us of the Amazon. Today, we walked to Butterfly island and cycled to a waterfall. In the evening, we sit on the tiny pier and watched the sunset. Chi phat is truly serene and has given us a taste of real Cambodian village life.

25 March 2017

Kampot • Today we visited Bokor National Park. We hired a motorbike as it was 40km away but worth it once we got there. Firstly, we saw a waterfall; dried up but still beautiful. As a geography student, it was fascinating to see the river's path of erosion in the bedrock. We strolled down forest paths and later, visited the famous abandoned town. The only thing still functioning is a garish casino! It was ginormous but ghostly empty and the waiters clearly bored- they spectated us drinking our iced coffees, much to our amusement. On the way home we were caught in monsoon strength rain! Driving uncovered motorbikes at 70mph through hail certainly taught us a painful lesson!! A really fantastic day- surprisingly exciting to see rain for the first time in weeks!!

22 March 2017

Battambang ("Bat-tam-bong") In Battambang we decided to be lazy for once and let someone else organise our day so asked a kind man called Seth for a guided tour of the town. We at 9am and had an amazing day packed with activities; we saw his adorable family, rode the bamboo train (this entailed sitting on a wooden plank whizzing along the ground at 40mph through Cambodian countryside- YouTube it!) saw temples and buddhas, visited a rice paper farm and ate spring rolls prepared fresh in front of our eyes, walked the killing caves and watched 7 million bats explode out of a mountain and set off for their nightly feed.

20 March 2017

Today we helped at Mr Ross's House; an orphanage and school. I've tagged this post as 'entertainment' because I haven't laughed that much in a long time. The children were a joy to be around and their English was unbelievably good; I ended up playing on my snapchat filters with the babies and talking about Ed Sheeran with the olders! We held an 'English lesson' but found they completed the grammar exercises faster than us, much to their amusement! Such a good experience and all credit to Mr Ross who is a saint and has created one of the happiest places I've ever had the honour to visit.

19 March 2017

Today we visited the War Museum. Our guide was a veteran nicknamed The Cat, relating to their fabled 9 lives; "most cats have 4 legs, this cat only has one." Humorous as this might be, amongst numerous other injuries, he has been shot 3 times, is blinded by fragments of his own footbone that were scattered when he stood on a landmine, was stung by 54 hornets, lived in a jungle for 4 years aged nine after his whole family were murdered in the killing fields, burned by a bazooka and has shrapnel visibly protruding from under his skin. Today was intense but eye opening. The stories I heard will stay will me a lifetime. It amazes me that the Khmer people are so welcoming and kind despite their traumatic history.

18 March 2017

•Angkor Wat• We are now in Cambodia (after a horrible border crossing) and have settled in Siem Reap. We woke at 5am and headed over to iconic Angkor Wat to watch the sunrise. Our day was spent zipping between temples, each more magnificent than the one before. Our favourite was Ta Prohm; the set for scenes from Lara Croft's Tomb Raider. The tree roots, entwined within the ruined temple walls, reminded me of mother natures fingers, reaching up through the earth to reclaim the ancient site. Another highlight of today was hiring our first proper motorbike! We were the sole tourists on bikes (others preferred tuktuks with hired drivers) which added to the fun! Definitely one of our most tiring, but awe inspiring , days to date!

13 March 2017

Today is our last day in Koh phangan. We are about to embark on an unpleasant 30 hour journey to cambodia; 4 nights on this party island and we're feeling a little fragile!! Aside of this, we can't wait to get back to seeing new sights and cultures. Next stop, Angkor Wat.

12 March 2017

•Koh phangan• A slightly less cultural stop off to phangan for the full moon party! We travelled all day; leaving at 10am and arriving at 8pm. We ran into a friend on the ferry, Fi then proceeded to be sick over the top deck balcony onto the innocent victims below (people fled) and finally we reached our destination. We went to the 'jungle experience' party which was fun even if it was expensive. Nice to see some familiar faces from home♥️

10 March 2017

Long beach Our last day in phi phi was spent relaxing on long beach. Although a bit of a walk away it was the most beautiful beach we've been to so far! Will be sad to leave this paradise island

8 March 2017

Monkey Beach Today, we hired kayaks and paddled out to Monkey beach. The white sands were peppered with the little creatures who were alarmingly clever and stole Fi's water- it took them less time to figure out how to open the cap than it did us!! Although they left us for dead, and we did nearly die from dehydration, it was a lovely day :)🐒

7 March 2017

• koh phi phi • We have arrived in Phi Phi. To get to our hostel requires scaling a hill which, although small, is practically vertical. However, after overcoming this first challenge we found we've been tricked- the pool we'd been promised was simply a myth!! Crisis avoided as the beach is only 5 minutes away but I think we'll be relocating tomorrow...

5 March 2017

•Krabi• After a very scary overnight bus (being awoken at 3am to huge bangs, choking smoke and panicked passengers is no fun at all😅) we decided we were due a relaxing day on the beach...

28 February 2017

Bangkok- THAILAND Finally on the mend and recovering from our crippling illness we have finally started to explore Bangkok. A huge shame to waste valuable days stuck in a hostel rooms but we're finally back at it. We visited the National Museum; a treasure trove and sanctuary from the city heat. We then visited the Grand Palace which was truly vast; stupas dripping in gold, oversized doors made from shining pearl; walls adorned with intricate glass mosaics. Unbelievably beautiful. I have been inspired to marry into a royal dynasty.

25 February 2017

Today we climbed Buledi pagoda to watch the sunrise over Bagan🌻 My iPhone camera doesn't do justice to the beauty of watching the sun ascend, backed by a horizon of hundreds of ancient temples and pagodas.

24 February 2017

Looking back at photos from our trek whilst waiting for hostel check ins at 1pm....bearing in mind we arrived at 4.30am😴

23 February 2017

Today was spent enjoying the tranquility of Inle Lake. We hired bikes and cycled to the hot springs, ate crepes and looked around the archives of inle's largest pagoda. We are now on a 12 hour bus journey bound for Bagan which, unfortunately, isn't quite as luxurious as our last overnight bus...

22 February 2017

Our hike has been amazing; the views, company and food all faultless (brushing my teeth with a huge cow for company is not an experience I am likely to forget!!) We finished today at Inlay Lake. The watery plains are a complete contrast from the dry forests we have spent the last 2 days trekking through. Tomorrow we will explore but for now we rest😴

21 February 2017

Today was the first half of our trek from Kalaw to Inlay Lake. Annoyingly, none of the landscape photos capture how amazing the scenes were. We are in a group of 8 and everyone is so nice. (we bonded over a game of cheat which I won, of course) Also, our guide is lovely but got us lost at one point which he found hilarious 🙄😂 We are staying the night with a local tribe in the mountains- they have their own unique language and traditions. The dinner was actually delicious and they are looking after us like family- the only downside is the fact it's absolutely freezing up here, a strange contrast from the baking heat we've finally got used to! Tomorrow we finish our trek and will arrive at inlay lake...

20 February 2017

Today we went to Kalaw's market, accidentally trespassed into a monastery-much to the monks amusement-fed stray puppies (so mangey they looked like hyenas) and climbed an exhausting/rewarding set of steps to watch the sunset. After dark, en route home, we stumbled across a set of steps leading vertically down into the earth but after clambering halfway into these tiny, pitch black caves we looked around and realised we were essentially walking into a horror film and that the devil was definitely about to possess one of us and so fled back to the surface in terror.. Dinner was had at 'Everest', a teeny restaurant run by a Nepali family. Despite a power cut it was packed and they served us, by candle light, the most divine dinner (curry and chapatis followed by sugar rotis and nepali chai) A grumpy old British man next to us ordered chips and eggs (🙄) and sent it back 3 times because the eggs weren't ON the chips, they were NEXT TO them....😂 Myanmar is the best place I've ever bee

19 February 2017

We were dreading our first overnight bus, but have been pleasantly surprised..a 'snack box' selection of 4 cakes delivered by our bus hostess, plush velvet blankets, the latest films on touchscreen mini tvs and fully reclining thrones, all for 13£!! First Great Western take notes...
Our last day in Yangon. We walked to the most important Buddhist temple in Myanmar which was so beautiful and so gold. En route we accidentally strolled into the valentines love walk in The People's Park, greatly to the amusement of all the couples there🙄 (We've also been asked for countless selfies and this time asked for one back, they think we are/we look hilarious)

18 February 2017

Yangon is a hectic city but I've never met people as kind or helpful as it's inhabitants ♥️

16 February 2017

First day in Myanmar- saw all the sights of Bago on motorbike; much less fun without my travel companion to share the views but an amazing day nonetheless

14 February 2017

Last beach day- treated to an Attenborough worthy scene 2 meters from where we sunbathed; two Komodo dragons fighting over a monkey carcass- the loser was content with a dead snake that washed up on the shore seconds later!!!

13 February 2017

Jungle trek to the turtle sanctuary!! 🐢

12 February 2017

Beach day 1/many
Our last morning stroll in Georgetown 🎎

11 February 2017

Our hired bicycles got us around the islands biggest mosque, a Hindu temple, Penang's museum and Cornwallen fort. We even (accidentally) negotiated a motorway on our trusty push bikes😬

9 February 2017

Georgetown 🐲
Parat Falls woodland walks 🌿

7 February 2017

Jungle hike nearly killed us, but worth it for the views

6 February 2017

Comfiest thrones on our bus journey to the Cameron Highlands

5 February 2017

Visited the worlds largest Avery and I didn't get a single picture of a bird..

4 February 2017

Day one spent exploring Chinatown

3 February 2017

The adventure begins..