Around The World · 97 Days · 88 Moments · January 2018

Tim and Alex Explore Asia and other places

17 April 2018

Time on the islands is spent between eating, hanging out and trying a few activities. Our bure was cool. It even had a secret panel in it that lead to the bathroom. We tried our hand at snorkelling in the blue lagoon, scraping out a coconut and a bit of basket weaving. We had four lovely days at Nabua but it was time to move to the next location. It’s worth mentioning the lovely tea shop on he beach which every afternoon would serve coffee and homemade cake. Travelling is such hard work!

15 April 2018

Our first full day was a Sunday so after breakfast we were given the chance to attend the local village and go to church. This was something all the guests decided d to do so we had a great turn out. The village was lovely and we met the local guard dog, Boy. A trip to the islands let’s you experience the culture and as Sunday is a day of rest, we watched a bit of the commonwealth games rugby and enjoyed a couple of cheeky beers with a rather nice view.

14 April 2018

Life on the islands is great. On our first night we were treated to a traditional Fijian dinner, which was various meats and veg cooked in a love, which is an underground oven. All the food is wrapped in the leaves of the coconut trees and left for a few hours. We then watched some traditional dancing before they put on a bit of a disco.

13 April 2018

We returned to Nadi for a night where we finally got to see some sunshine! With the weather having settled down we got ready to catch the boat and start our island hopping adventure around Fiji. First stop was to be Nabua lodge which is situated on Nacula island. This was about a 2 hour boat journey from the main island. Home for 4 nights was going to be a traditional Fijian bure, set on a beautiful beach. This was definitely more like the Fiji I imagined.

11 April 2018

We were told that Keni had finally passed and we were free to come and go again. We didn’t have to return to Suva until the following day to pick our visas up so we took the time to visit the rainforest and complete the hike around the water pools, on the look out for the parrots and other animals all around. This gave us plenty of time to practice our model poses again by the rather impressive waterfalls. Once we had dried out a bit we took the bus into Suva to have a walk around and get some supplies in for the bus journey the following day.

6 April 2018

Hello Fiji! What a time to arrive. Right in the middle of the cyclones! We arrived in Nadi which is a transitional town. The flight landed around 04:00 so we had a bit of a wait at the bamboo backpackers for check in. We were stuck without too much to do except hit the bar as the tail end of the cyclone passed us by which resulted in a lot of rain. Our first destination was to be the capital of Suva in order to arrange our visa for China. The trip to Suva was wet and windy, but we checked into the rain forest lodge which is set in the rain forest itself. It’s built around a volcanic plug and is a beautiful place. We made the most of one good day of weather to get into town, look around and try out some delicious local food. The rain was getting worse and our fears were confirmed when the owners of the lodge told us we had to stay in the following day due to Cyclone Keni getting ready to hit.

4 April 2018

On the second day we started off with a walk around Little India which offers a heritage walk and then we moved into Kampong Glam which is the Arab quarter. We then tracked back to Chinatown to visit the Thian Hock Keng Temple which is the oldest and most important temple. Right next door was an old doctors surgery that was now a really cool bar. The rest of the afternoon was spent looking around the Quays before we went on the hunt for Bugis Street. An area that Alex’s Mum told us about from her time when she was stationed here in the RAF. The area had changed from the time of drunken sailors! After a walk around the market we got ourselves ready for our flight to Fiji.

3 April 2018

In the afternoon we took ourselves off to the National museum which guided us through the history of Singapore from its time as a tiny sea town into the thriving financial and cultural hub that it is today. The sign in the pictures is from a house that catered for the Chinese coolies working in the area, a bit like the start of hostels. There was also a great exhibit in the top of the museum which included a really impressive star show where you could lie on cushions underneath the dome watching them fall down. In the evening we headed down to the marina and gardens by the bay which is a clash of nature and technology. On our travels people had told us that Singapore wasn’t a great place to go, but I found myself really enjoying our time here. It would be a great place to come back with a ton of money and stay in the ultra cool places we saw here.
Another day, another Country! We arrived a little late in the evening in Singapore, and checked into our hostel in the buzzing Little India area. We had a little walk around before finding ourselves in a hawker centre for some fine Indian food. The following day we jumped on the hop on hop off open top tour bus. This is a great way to visit all the areas of Singapore and it comes with a free audio guide. It gives you 24 hours to get around. Our first stop was Chinatown. The area is crammed with shops, eateries and tradition. One of the main sites is the Sri Mariamman Temple, which is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. We also visited the Buddha tooth relic temple. This is the so said home of a tooth that belonged to Buddha and was recovered from his funeral pyre in India. It was a beautiful stupa made of 420kg of solid gold.

31 March 2018

The next stopover was a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur. We opted to stay in Chinatown and we did as much as we could in the limited time we spent here. This included the national museum which included an exhibit on Malaysian cartoon history and then we had a walk around the botanical gardens. I quite liked Kuala Lumpur. Despite being a major city, everything was within walking distance of our hotel and there was lots going on. Next stop, Singapore.

30 March 2018

On our final day in Georgetown we started off with a trip to Fort Cornwallis which was built by the British East India company in the 18th century. We had a lovely free tour of the site which included a church and prison on the grounds. From here we made our way to Pinang Peranakan Mansion, otherwise known as the Emerald mansion. It once served as the home to a Chinese tycoon in the 19th Century and also was used by a Chinese secret society. It is now a museum which shows the way of life back then and it was a very impressive collection. The site has been used in various Asian films and television series. After taking in more street art, Alex helped out at a local Indian restaurant where we spotted Jimmy Saville and plenty of locals sleeping on the job, before we had a great feed at the local bustling food stalls.

29 March 2018

I really could talk about Georgetown forever, I loved the place. After building up an appetite, we headed down to Chew Jetty. In the early 19th Century Georgetown was home to one of the worlds most thriving ports and there was plenty of work for the influx of immigrants. Soon a Chinese community set up stilt houses and the area was full of clan jetties. Chew jetty is the largest that remains intact today and the descendants still live here. It provided a beautiful setting for the evening, as well as the local Police warning which took to shaming the most wanted with rather embarrassing pictures.
In 2012 in order to add something more to the streets of Georgetown a Lithuanian artist was commissioned to add the artwork to breathe life into the streets. It’s similar to Banks, and it has sparked an interest amongst tourists who can be found with a map in hand exploring the streets and alleyways in order to see the paintings. It’s a great way to see more of the place and we took in as many as we could before heading to dinner down by the jetty.
After dragging Alex round a couple more houses and various other places of interest, we decided to visit the ghost museum for a bit of fun. I laughed all the way round as we took in the various displays including the rather graphic birth, ghost ships, and zombies. My favourite room was the dining room full of ghosts and ghouls! I was a bit offended when Alex said that she enjoyed the new company more than mine though! As with most of our days, we enjoyed a few roadside drinks before we decided to go on the hunt for the street art. It was here we watched two very grateful dogs enjoying their daily soak!
Georgetown is now a world heritage site, and it’s easy to see why with a mix of Chinese shophouses, temples, mosques, and narrow street filled with houses built during the times of the British-Raj. First stop on the tour was the Khoo Kongsi Clan house. The Khoo are an extremely successful clan and the house was built to show this success as well as a place for the family to worship their ancestors. It is one of the 5 big clans that formed the backbone of the community in Penang long ago. It’s lavishly decorated and includes murals of birthdays, weddings and the 36 celestial guardians. It also showed living conditions and Alex soon made herself at home in the kitchen! Along he way, we also found some street art, but more of that later.
Alex had the idea to have a mini trip into Malaysia, and what an inspired decision it was. Described by the trusty Lonely Planet as being the intersection between Europe’s powerful colonies and Asia’s great kingdoms, we arrived in Georgetown, Penang and we weren’t disappointed. We were greeted by a mish mash of culture which made this place one of, if not my favourite place on the trip so far. It was a place full of colonial and Asian influence which can be seen in the buildings. I was really looking forward to exploring for a few days.

27 March 2018

With time to kill on the second day, we ventured up to the Tiger Temple Cave which is regarded as one of the most sacred temples in the province. When we arrived, it struck me as being very plastic looking and a little over the top. We set off on the climb up 1237 steps to reach the temple and it was definitely worth the effort. We got see loads of monkeys who are quite happy to try and steal anything you have in your hands and once we reached the top drenched in sweat, the views were so worth it. We made our way back down and then visited the cave itself, which resembled something out of a game show with the flashing lights. It was then back to Hogwarts to get ready for the 7am bus to Penang.
Krabi Town is a market town that has been around long before the tourists started arriving. It goes about its daily business first and then caters for very one else second. With that said though, we stayed in the very lovely Hogwarts hostel and had ourselves a nice couple of days just mooching about. On the first night we hit a couple of bars and then got back into the serious business of eating street food. Cheap and delicious, you just can’t go wrong. The plastic table and chairs were lined up by the riverfront, so we had an ideal setting.

26 March 2018

To wave goodbye to Koh Jum was quite sad as we had been well looked after and it was such a beautiful setting. We decided to stay in Krabi Town for a couple of days before heading off through Malaysia to reach Singapore, which is where we get the next flight from to Fiji.

24 March 2018

The best thing about Koh Jum was it’s location. We landed on the beach and were staying on the hilltop bungalows next to the jungle. We were told to keep an eye out for he monkeys, and every morning they would arrive on the balcony, looking for something to steal. We spent some time at the beach enjoying the sun and sea. As it’s a small island though, we hired mountain bikes again and went exploring. In the south of the island is a small fishing village which was a nice area to look around and grab some food. The island is still very traditional and the residents have preserved this lifestyle. There wasn’t an ATM available and everywhere closed by 11. It was my idea of heaven! The bike ride then took us back into he north where we managed to get lost somehow, but after covering around 20 miles we were back on track!

21 March 2018

We took an early ferry to Koh Jum. As we got close to the Island, 3 longtail boats pulled up next to us. These come from the different resorts and everyone piles on and gets the quick ride to wherever they are staying. It’s a slick operation and before we knew it we were heading up to our hillside bungalow. Not a lot happens on Koh Jum, which was exactly the point of going. We spent the first evening having a walk and exploring. We found the rock bar which was he perfect location to watch the sunset and enjoy a beer.

20 March 2018

The last few days have been spread between Muay Thai lessons in the local stadium and a snorkelling trip to 4 local islands. Unfortunately the camera battery was dead so we missed out on some photo opportunities, but it was everything that you see in the films. With the limestone karsts in the sea, crystal clear water and golden sands. For the final island we had a quick swim through a cave to get to the emerald cove which was a little hidden beach. I could have stayed here all day, and it was a great way to round off the trip. We spent the last evening deciding on our next part of the journey. We are moving onto Koh Jum for a few days which is even quieter than Lanta. We have also also decided to take a few extra days to travel through Malaysia on our way down to Singapore.

18 March 2018

We arrived in a Koh Lanta after a very long bus journey from Bangkok and a quick ferry ride from Krabi town. It’s described as one of the most beautiful islands in Thailand and its easy to see why. With a large Muslim population, and home to the Chao Leh, or sea people the island has managed to avoid over development and is unspoilt. We were booked into the Ozone beach huts, which were in the middle of the back packer area and right on top of the beach. The first evening was spent just chilling and watching the stunning sunset. This was to be home for the next 5 days.

13 March 2018

We loved our time at the blue lagoon, but sadly it was time to move on. We even had our first go at Stand Up paddle boarding which was lots of fun, and will be something we look to carry on with in England. Our guesthouse was just stunning and we made friends with the local wildlife which came to visit. They really made an effort to decorate the place. It’s somewhere I would recommend to anyone who fancies a visit. We moved back to where it all began in Bangkok for a couple of days before making the 17 hour journey to our current home, Koh Lanta.

12 March 2018

Koh Chang is a fairly small island, so we decided to take the bikes out again. Wow, what a stupid idea! We tried to ride to Ban Bao at the end of the island, but due to a few massive hills, we ended up on lonely beach. We found some comfy beach beds and allowed our pants to dry out as we soaked up the rays and enjoyed a very cooling swim in the sea before we had to head back home. I managed to bust another bike as somehow I managed to break the pedal of this one, but luckily the deposit was returned! After expending all that energy we rewarded ourselves with a Greek dinner.

10 March 2018

As soon as we arrived in Koh Chang, I fell in love with the place. We found the blue lagoon by accident, but what a place. It’s an eco hostel which was set in the National Park, so we would fall asleep listening to the sounds of the jungle. One of our first sites was the old chap walking down the road in his speedos and crocs. I knew it was my kind of place. With an elephant sanctuary just across the road, and lots of places to eat and drink, we were in for a good few days!

7 March 2018

Finally, after what seems like forever exploring museums and being landlocked, we finally made it to Otres beach for the start of a few weeks being beach bums. Otres beach is the quieter area in Sihanoukville but it was like stepping into paradise. The bungalow was very cozy and we were a 5 minute walk from the glorious sand and crystal clear sea. The days were spent doing very little, and enjoying the food, including a massive BBQ on the last night. As you can see from the pic, we also had some great hammocks to hang out in. Cambodia was a country that had everything and it was sad to leave. It was time to head to the south of Thailand to see what the islands have to offer.

4 March 2018

An easy couple of days were had in the seaside village of Kampot, which we used as a stop over before moving onto Otres beach. There wasn’t loads to do, but we did take an evening boat cruise which took us to see the fire flies and allowed us to have a lovely swim just before sunset. It was a cool little place to be, and we found a bar called the rusty keyhole. Unfortunately it was closed.

3 March 2018

A slightly hungover final day saw us take in the governors house before going onto the bamboo railway for a quick spin on a very old rail system that gets up to about 12 mph. It’s a rickety old track and a little platform to sit on. The statue pictured is that of Ta Dumbong who is at the centre of the legend where the name Battambang comes from. He was a cow herd who found a magic stick to kill the King. The Kings son managed to escape and became a monk. Ta Dumbong had a dream that a monk would come back and kill him, so he rounded uptrend holy men who were put to death. The monk Prince encountered a hermit on his way to town and was given a flying horse to go on. Seeing this, Ta Dumbong threw his magic stick at the flying monk but missed. This story confused me too. So we just waited for our night bus to Kampot.

2 March 2018

The tuk tuk dropped us off close to the local bar area, which consists of about 4 bars which as it turns out are a lot of fun. It started off in Buffalo Alley before moving next door Ganesha Guesthouse where we stumbled across a music quiz. Well, I can’t post videos on here, but after leading the quiz by two points there was a dance off. I pulled out the robot and the running man in order for us to walk away with the top prize of a beer tower. Get in!
Once we got to the bottom we walked to the Bat Bar which has an amazing rooftop area to watch the bats leave the cave. At sunset, a huge number of bats, possibly around a million leave the cave for the night, and it really is a spectacular site. It carries on for some time, so is really the ideal spot to sink a few cold ones to recover from all the climbing. This is where we met a nice lad who gave us some island advice for our onward journey into the South of Thailand.
Battambang is home to a collection of temples which are classed as a mini Angkor. It involved a huge amount of steps, lots of sweating but also some magnificent views of the Town from the top. We went to see the killing caves where prisoners of the Rouge were tossed in from the top in order to save money on bullets. We encountered lots of monkeys on the way, who were only after food. As we arrived late in the afternoon, we took motorbikes up to the top and enjoyed the walk down just in time to get to see the bat cave.

1 March 2018

The evening was spent at the local circus. All the performers are children from a performing arts school for under privileged kids. They put on a fantastic show and it was great to watch, even if we didn’t understand the storyline, but who doesn’t like watching backflips and somersaults?!
This included babies, who were taken from there mothers and repeatedly smashed against the trees. Bodies were then placed into mass graves. Even today, after bad rains, pieces of skeleton and clothing are brought to the surface and are collected by the workers on the site. A commemorative stupa has been built and filled with the skulls of the victims. It’s hard to believe that all this happened 42 years ago. Although it sounds depressing, the trip to both sites were worth it just to learn the history and to see how the Cambodian people have bounced back is amazing.

28 February 2018

Another day, another bike tour! It was just the two of us on this great little bike tour that took us round Battambang, with a local guide. Even this town was effected by the Khmer Rouge and we were shown where a temple was used as a prison for women and children, and to this day it hasn’t been opened. However, every year on the day that the regime came to an end, the local monks perform a ceremony and blessing. Like the killing fields, there is also a stupa for the dead. The tour also took us to a local fish market, a crocodile farm and a local rice wine making facility, where wine with a snake in is a speciality. We also tried our hand at rice paper making, but the puppy was more fun!
Ever the sucker for a good boat ride, we caught the boat to sleepy Battambang, the elegant little riverside town which is so laid back, its horizontal. The boat took about 7 hours so Alex was glad she picked up her very questionable Ray bans the night before. Most of the trip was spent on he roof, watching everyday life in the floating villages. During the trip, we picked up monks, dropped off grandad at his floating home and had lunch next to a little Police Station. We were slightly let down by our French cousins who refused to get off the boat, when they found out we had been dropped off about 5 miles outside of the town. At one point they tried a sit down protest on the boat and demanded to speak to the captain...He simply stated “Get off my boat” and off they trotted into the sunset. Is it a ploy to get the tuk tuk drivers business? Possibly. Is it worth the hassle over a £2 fare? Definitely not.

27 February 2018

Our day at Angkor Wat was our “big one”. We had booked onto a days tour by mountain bike with a small group and our local guide, Sambo. The tour centred on the 3 main temples, Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm, which is home to the Tomb Raider temple. It also took us a little off the beaten track. This lead us to a chance encounter with a monkey. He was so happy to be my friend when I was feeding him. I forgot where I was for a moment, and stroked him like he was Brodie, our dog. This resulted in a showing of fangs and a near punch up with him! Still we all calmed down, realised we were friends and I avoided a second trip to hospital for a rabies shot! The temples themselves are an amazing site, and I’m so glad we chose to do the tour this way. Sambo filled us in on all the history, and pointed out little things, such as the bullet holes which were there from when the Khmer Rouge were present.
Alex got herself blessed by a monk and the day went quickly inside. It’s easy to see why this collection of temples is considered the 8th wonder of the world. When London was a small town, Angkor Wat was home to a population of over 1 million. People can take up to a week to explore it all, and some like to witness the sunrise. This means an 04:30 start though and having seen the hundreds of tourists that gather I’m sort of glad we skipped it. After being extremely well looked after by Sambo, he took us back through he local villages to home. Next stop, Battambang.

26 February 2018

We had arranged a bike tour to Angkor Wat for the second day, so we decided to head out of town to the landline museum. The centre was started by Aki Ra, who was a former child soldier in the Khmer Rouge who was used to deactivate mines. He started the centre to raise awareness of the mines that are still in Cambodia and his organisation work to clear the area of the mines that are still present. Attached to the museum is a school which is for the children of victims of the land mines, and the donations go toward funding their education. One of the co owners of the museum is an ex pilot in the American airforce who was involved in the bombings during the Vietnam War which ended up effecting both Laos and Cambodia. It was a bit of a distance from our guesthouse, but we travelled in style in a Batman tuk tuk!

25 February 2018

We left Phnom Penh and took the bus to Siem Reap, which is the home of the Angkor Wat. The legendary temples that have appeared in films such as Tomb Raider. Alex proved again that she can sleep anywhere, ncluding on a cramped mini bus! We arrived at our guesthouse which was right in the middle of everything, and we headed off to explore Pub Street for the night. Although the more we explored, the more we found it to be a charming little town lined with old French shophouses and a very relaxed atmosphere. It quickly became our favourite place.

24 February 2018

On the final day in Phnom Penh we finished off with a trip to the National Museum and the Grand Palace. This was a pleasant enough day, and the museum houses the worlds finest collection of Khmer sculpture so gave us a bit of a taste as to what to expect from Angkor Wat. Alex decided against the Palace, but I decided to take a look. As it’s home to the current King, a lot of it is out of bounds, but it was a good way to spend an hour. I enjoyed our time in Phnom Penh and we were lucky to get ourselves a great driver. The only downside was that it’s very seedy with lots of old, fat European men sat outside bars with young Cambodian women. It starts very early too so literally puts you off your breakfast! Still, with the sightseeing done, we booked the bus to Siem Reap to check out Angkor Wat.

23 February 2018

Friday was a lazy day for us, but Donnie was on hand again in the evening to take us to watch some Khmer boxing. This is essentially Muay Thai, but Cambodia invented the sport, hence the name. Every weekend the various tv studios open their doors and it’s free entry to watch the fights. We were treated to 5 bouts, ranging from amateurs to guys who fight 4-5 times per month. A friendly local who we sat next to explained about the rules and told us who was who. It was lots of fun, the local fighters did well against Thai opposition. I even managed to grab a selfie with the winner of the main event. At the end of the night, we said goodbye to Donnie and planned the next day.

22 February 2018

Cambodia is a beautiful country with friendly people who are always smiling. It is no different in Phnom Penh, which is considered the Pearl of Asia. However between 1975-1979, the Khmer Rouge were responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th Century. The regime, lead by Pol Pot claimed the lives of up to 2 million people. The evidence of the atrocities is for all to see in the Tuol Sleng museum (S21). This is a local school which was taken over and turned into a high security prison. In the four years, over 17,000 people were tortured and executed here before being taken to the killing fields of Choeung Ek. It didn’t feel right to take pictures here, but you could see that most of the visitors were taken back by what had happened. It has been known to cause people to cry. After two hours, we moved to the killing fields. Any of the inmates who hadn’t died at S21 were taken here, where they would be beaten and bludgeoned to death in order to save bullets.

21 February 2018

The bus trip from Hanoi to Phnom Penh took around 6-7 hours but the time went quickly. As with everything here, the operation was slick and we were taken through the border process with minimum fuss and arrived in Cambodia in good spirits after watching a couple of Jackie Chan films on board. We were greeted the other end by Donnie, who quickly became our driver for the next couple of days. After asking our plans, and we told him we were yet to decide, he dropped us at our guesthouse and was waiting for us the next morning to see if we had made a decision! Still, we couldn’t of asked for a better driver. He was so happy and helpful and made sure we did everything we wanted. Our guesthouse was quite cool, apart from the room which resembled a prison cell! Alex didn’t seem to mind too much though and made friends with the local dog. They offered plenty of tours, including a trip to the firing range, but we settled into our usual routine of checking out the fresh market produce.

20 February 2018

We organised a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels the following day. This is a remarkable set of tunnels in the jungle that were used by the Viet Cong to fight against the Americans. They would set horrendous booby traps for the opposition as well as use the tunnels to move around the area. The pictures show just how small the entrances are and how well they were disguised. We had the chance to make our way through a 20 metre stretch of the tunnels to see what it was like. It was hard going and very cramped, but this intricate set of tunnels went on forever, and there were many levels. Our guide was called Hi, and his family were split between the north and south Vietnamese during the war, and he told us the history and story of his family in a way which made the tour. In the afternoon we went to the street food market, and the beer started to flow with friends from the tour. The night was rounded off with a traditional coffee, served over ice. Next stop, Cambodia.

17 February 2018

After a 20 hour bus ride, we arrived in Saigon very tired and very smelly. We settled into our hotel before exploring for the night. We were based on walking street, which is a bit like Khao San road in Thailand. Very busy, full of life and a great place to enjoy a beer and watch the world go by. The following morning, we decided on a rickshaw ride of the main sites. The dude who took us on the tour was a veteran of the war and had also been held as a POW. He was very knowledgeable and gave us a great insight. We spent the most time at the War Remnants Museum. There was a great photo exhibit here that was of the pictures taken by the journalists during the war. We also covered Notre Dame cathedral the central post office and the opera house. The only downside was our guides buddy who was helping got involved at the end and tried to overcharge us 4 times what we agreed on. This left a bit of a sour taste for us, but we stood firm so we didn’t fall for the scam.

16 February 2018

Tet is great fun, especially in Hoi An. After walking round and taking in the various sites, such as the live street theatre and fairground, as well as two giant bananas, we found ourselves at Moes Tavern. There were a few bars that catered for the tourists, playing hip hop and it was close to a New Year back home. We had a couple of drinks and watched the drunken antics of everyone before heading back to our guest house, stopping off at the street food market on the way. It was great to see all the locals enjoying themselves too. The holiday seems to last forever and has only just finished.
Hoi An has been one of the highlights of the journey so far. In the morning we covered the Old Town area but this time took in the important sites, including the Japanese Bridge which was built in the 1590’s by the Japanese to link them with the Chinese quarters. There was also the assembly hall of the Chinese congregation, a temple and a chapel. The best part was, because of Tet, it was free! There is also an area in the centre of the town that people sit on wooden platforms and play bingo. After buying our matching melon hats we hit the road again to finish the day off by the beach. We had one more day in Hoi An before we jumped on another night bus for 20 hours to get us to Saigon.

15 February 2018

In the morning, we jumped on the local bus that took about an hour to reach Hoi An. It used to be a major port, with grand architecture set by the riverside. The Old Town is a heritage site and has left a legacy of Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and old tea warehouses. These have been converted mainly into restaurants and tailor shops, but you can still see how beautiful the place is. After arriving without a plan, we stumbled across the discovery villa at the end of a dirt track. We couldn’t of asked for a better place to stay. It was so clean and comfortable, and run by the nicest family who couldn’t do enough for us. They even provided us with mountain bikes to head off into the Old Town and join in with the Tet celebrations.

14 February 2018

After a very smooth and comfortable overnight bus, we arrived in Hue, where we had to swap buses to get to Danang, which would have been another swap to carry on to Hoi An. We decided to stay put in Danang for the night. This is a town on the Han riverfront and has really developed. It was used as a place for American soldiers to take leave during the war. There isn’t much to do except relax and enjoy the scenery for a day. The highlight is the dragon bridge that runs over the Han. Unfortunately we missed the fire and water that comes out of the dragon’s head on the weekend, but preparations were in place for tet, which is the lunar new year, and is the biggest holiday in Vietnam. As it’s going to be the year of the dog, there are lots of dog related exhibits everywhere.

13 February 2018

With time to kill before our 15 hour bus journey to Danang,a walk round the city turned into a fresh haircut in the street for me, followed by a bit of an afternoon session. We plonked ourselves down in a local watering hole and pondered on what the chickens outcome was going to be! It was here we met this mental bloke who can only be the town drunk. He licked Alex’s face, danced like Elvis and laughed manically. I wanted to take him with us, but a stern word from the owner of the bar soon moved him on. The time arrived for the night bus, and we made friends with a load of Chinese tourists who just love a group selfie. The bus was comfy enough and there was enough space. It was quite easy to sleep after a belly full of beer, and the hours tumbled by. We eventually arrived in Danang around 09:30 today.
A few photos of the cooking lesson. The other lady is some mad Iranian woman who was permanently drunk and just helping everyone.

12 February 2018

When we got back to Hanoi, it was back to reality with a bump as we checked into the hostel again. We then booked the overnight bus for the following day to take us to Danang. As the weather wasn’t the best, we invested in some questionable North Face coats before going for a few beers. This is where we discovered the real local brew, Bia Hoi. This is drunk by everyone and you sit down on little plastic chairs and pay around 22 pence a glass. It was a great way to round off a lovely couple of days.

11 February 2018

After waking up on the gulf of Tonkin, it was time to head to one of the limestones to explore. We walked up around 100 steps before you actually enter the caves inside, and they were something else. This trip took about an hour and we also got our first taste of the beach on the trip, even though it was a bit cold and overcast! We returned to the junk for the final time, where we were fed...again and then it was time to checkout. Clearly Alex didn’t want to leave and had a bit of a sulk, but I finally managed to prise her fingers off and got her back to shore and we headed back to Hanoi to sort the next leg of the journey.
In the morning, we were taken to the dock where we would set sail on our junk for the next couple of days. We didn’t really know what to expect, but when we got on board, we were blown away. The rooms we stunning, complete with jacuzzi bath, and the views were amazing. We knew we were in for a special treat. After a seven course lunch, we were taken on a 45 minute tour around a local fishing village, which is situated between the limestone towers to protect the houses from the weather. Around 50 families live here and rely on fishing and tourists to earn a living. We were taken out in a bamboo boat and then taken back to our junk, where it was time for a quick cookery lesson in how to make spring rolls, before we finished the night with another feast.

10 February 2018

After two busy days in Hanoi, we caught the bus to Halong Bay where we decided to spend a night and then organise a cruise around the Islands and the Gulf of Tonkin. The bay itself is another world heritage site and we were excited about seeing the limestone towers and just getting away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. When we arrived, we jumped into a dodgy cab and negotiated a price to take us to our home stay just outside the City centre. When we arrived we were in the middle of nowhere, and I made a promise to myself to read more about places and locations before booking them! However, it was clean,comfy and the owner and his family were very kind and looked after us.
That evening we walked just over a mile in search of food. When we reached a motorway bridge, we didn’t hold out much hope. Just underneath the bridge was a local family run restaurant that never sees tourists. The son is learning English, and was keen to practice so we joined his entire family and had a great feast for about £4. It was a great evening and we managed to have a giggle with the family and we are all now Facebook friends!

9 February 2018

The 2nd day in Hanoi saw us visit St. Joseph’s cathedral which looks like something out of the Omen, then it was onto Hoan Kiem lake. The story goes that heaven sent an Emperor a magical sword to help defeat Chinese invaders. When the war was over, a giant golden turtle took the sword back to the gods at the bottom of the lake. The name translates to “Lake of the Restored Sword”. We took the time to practise our best poses that all Asian tourists seem to do when in front of the camera. The final stop of our sightseeing tour was the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. This was the hub of military powers for over 1000 years and is still subject to archeological digs. They have also included a command bunker from the Vietnam war as part of the exhibit.

8 February 2018

The final evening in Hanoi was spent at Beer Street in the Old Quarter sampling the local brew at 79p a bottle and the local dish pho which is noodle soup with beef. It was then time to practise a few more poses. In Hanoi there are loads of shops that sell old propaganda posters. I couldn’t help but smile when this one commands you stop in the name of a massive rifle! Hanoi has been great fun and an eye opener. Next stop is Halong Bay and a cruise on a junk.

7 February 2018

After a bit of a walk round in the evening, the first full day was spent exploring the city. This included a visit to Hoa Lo prison. This started life as a prison built by the French colonialists to house the Vietnamese prisoners, but was later used to keep the POW’s in the Vietnam War. It gained the nickname the Hanoi Hilton. It’s a great building and we got to try out the various rooms where the prisoners were kept. Alex is in the solitary confinement room, and I tried the death row cell. We then moved on to the Police history museum which has a rather different take on Officer Safety Training. Next was a visit to the military history museum which houses a collection of various items from the Vietnam War, including planes that were shot down. You could also walk up to the top of the watch tower which looks over Hanoi. We also squeezed in a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum at the end of the day.
We took a tuk tuk from our guesthouse in Vientiane to the airport and made the short flight to Hanoi. This is a city that has it all. On the one hand it has lakes, pagodas and a cathedral, yet you run the risk of certain death each day as you battle through the traffic that doesn’t seem to follow any sort of laws, and scooters that use the pavement as an extension of the road! It was the first time on the trip that we have tried a hostel, and we were in the Old Quarter which makes life a bit easier for exploring.

6 February 2018

We made the 3 hour journey on to Vientiane, which is the capital of Laos. Alex has been hit with tummy trouble again, so I took off to explore on my own for the day. It’s a very small capital and doesn’t have the charm of Luang Prabang, but it has some highlights. Amongst those visited were That Luang which is the most important National monument in Laos. Wat Si Saket is the oldest surviving temple in Vientiane and there was also Patuxai which is the Laos version of the Arc de Triomphe. I then visited the COPE centre which supports victims of unexlopded bombs that still lay hidden around the Country after a bombing campaign during the Secret War. These bombs can be detonated by farmers tending their crops, or children using them as toys. COPE helps to provide artificial limbs to the victims, and also provides training programs to local doctors. It was a great exhibit with lots of their handiwork on display! Dinner for one rounded off the night nicely. Next stop, Vietnam.

3 February 2018

So, how would I describe Vang Vieng? Perhaps as one of the most beautiful places on God’s green earth...with Magaluf stuck right in the middle! Between 1999-2012 it was the hedonistic place to be with tubing down the Nam Song river whilst taking a cocktail of drugs and rave platforms popping up on the route. After several deaths per year, the government clamped down in 2012 and most of the bars are now closed and the midnight curfew remains. Still, we tried tubing anyway without any bar stops, (none were open) and it was a very lazy 3 hour drift down the river. The Magaluf side was in full effect when Alex found the hotdog van that night! The next day we rented bikes again and headed for a series of caves, including one where you sat in tubes again and pulled yourself along a rope trail that took you underneath them on a lake. The final cave was Tham Sang cave which contains a Buddha footprint and an elephant shaped stalactite that gives the cave its name “Elephant Cave”.
It’s been a few days since the last entry, and it’s been quite an incident packed time! After arriving in Luang Prabang we quickly settled in for the evening at our lovely guest house in the Old Quarter, which is run by the lovely Mr. Bill. Earlier in our trip, I hurt my foot in Chiang Mai when trying out Muay Thai, and it had got to the size of the elephant mans! This made life easier for deciding our first days activities as it was straight to hospital! All I can say is that staff were fantastic. Within an hour, I had triage, an x ray, a load of people laughing at me and a bag of drugs big enough to make Howard Marks eyes water all for £20. They soon kicked in and we managed to do some exploring.

1 February 2018

Also at the waterfalls is the Kuang Si rescue centre, run by Free The Bears. This centre was set up after several moon bears were rescued when poachers were arrested. They were taking the bears to a place where they would be kept in cramped cages and have their bile taken from them in order to make natural medicines amongst other things. The centre has given them a new lease of life and they are well cared for and looked after. This trip ended our final day in Luang Prabang. On Friday morning we woke early to watch the local monks make their way from the temples down the street collecting food from the locals,before we caught our bus to Vang Vieng, a once notorious party town to try out some tubing!
On the final morning, we hired mountain bikes and started on our 30km journey to tat Kuang Si waterfall. We managed most of the journey on the bumpy mountain roads without a problem, until with about 5 miles to go I got a puncture! We walked the rest of the way and it was well worth the effort. The waterfall tumbled over the rocks into the pools which you can swim in. It was a bit chilly so Alex gave it a miss, but after walking to the very top I had a dive in for 15 minutes. It was a great way to cool down before heading home on the back of a tuk tuk. We also found Daisy the cow who was happy to stop for cuddles and selfies!

30 January 2018

Luang Prabang is a world heritage site in itself and is a mix of Buddhist temples and French colonial buildings where you can just sit and watch the day go by. We took our time to explore sites such as the Royal Palace and it’s museum as well as climb to the top of Phu Si, which is at the top of a 100m tall hill, and has 329 steps to reach the top. This provides great views over the whole area and was worth the climb up. We then spent an hour in the evening at a little theatre where a local storyteller, accompanied by the old dude on his khene recalling local Lao folk tales and legends. It was a great way to end the evening. A drink at the Luang Prabang motorcycle club finished the night off before we planned our next days adventure where we had planned to hire some mountain bikes and head to the waterfalls.

29 January 2018

I really enjoyed the first day, just because I could listen to some 60’s tunes and boom! It was just like being in one of the Vietnam war films where you see the Americans flying in on helicopters, hanging out the sides. We had a little competition to see who had the best song...It was me! On Monday morning we got to the boat early and sat inside this time. As we were getting ready to leave, a couple of baby elephants had gone to the river to bathe. The time soon passed. People would read, talk, play cards and drink mainly. The boat had a music system too and before we knew it, we had arrived in Luang Prabang, which is in Northern Laos. We intend to spend 7-10 days around Laos before moving on to Vietnam.

28 January 2018

Sunday morning saw us head into Laos border control where we sorted out our visas. The whole process took around two hours and was very efficient. You even get a really shiny full page stamp in your passport! Next we hopped on an old wooden boat that was to be home for the next 8 or so hours. We were the last on, so ended up sat in the kitchen on blue plastic chairs! We ended up with the best seats in the house as we had terrific views of the scenery and life on the river. This lasted all of 5 minutes before one of the other boats became grounded on a sandbank. We were dropped off by a local floating restaurant whilst the rescue mission commenced. Still, with the sun shining and beer in hand, it was better than being stuck on the M4 in January! Two hours later, to a huge round of applause the host was freed and the journey could start again. We reached Pakbeng at 7pm. This is a sleepy little town with a couple of bars and places to eat, so that is what we did!

27 January 2018

Our final day in Pai was a very lazy one, as Alex had fallen foul of the sickness bug I had, and we had to get ready for the start of our 3 day journey to Laos. On Saturday, we had an early start and got on the bus that was to take us to Chiang Khong, where we would stay overnight before catching the slow boat. Our day started brightly with a chat with a monk who stopped to say hello and ask about football! The journey had several stops, including 1 at Chiang Rai, which is famous for its white temple. This temple has been paid for by a local artist who has created his own impression of a temple, including lots of characters from films! I can see why it’s not to everyone’s taste, but it’s an impressive sight none the less. We then made our way to Chiang Khong which is a little town on the Mekong river. You can see Laos in the distance. There was time for a wander into town and a quick beer before getting ready for the following day.

24 January 2018

We decided to carry on with the adventure theme and booked a two day hike through the mountains and the jungle with an overnight stay in a local village. On the first day we joined another couple from Holland, and we set off with our lovely guide John, who constantly informed us he had to make pee pee! We walked mainly uphill through the mountains for about 3 hours before stopping off for a homemade lunch by John. The walk then continued for another 3 hours before we reached John’s Home. Although the place reminded me of a scene from The Seven Samurai, I fell poorly and had to retire from the trek, as it was flowing freely out of both ends! 🤢🤮💩 I had a very early night and got a lift to Soppong to catch the bus back to Pai. This was an adventure in itself as it was a 3.5 hour wait for the bus, before the hour bus ride home. Alex continued and had a great time on the second day, making me very jealous but she is suffering today now.

23 January 2018

Our adventures have brought us to Pai, which reminds me a lot of Pushkar in India. It has a very hippy feel, with lots of posh kids trying to “find themselves”. It’s a mix of village life combined with quite a lively night time scene. Our first night was spent just walking around the market. Today we hired bikes and took to the hills to discover China Town, a waterfall and the white Buddha which had 295 steps you have to climb if you want to reach the top. As with any mountainous area, there were lots of hills involved, but the views of this beautiful little village were worth it. Now it’s time to head out for a well deserved dinner before we head off on a two day jungle trek tomorrow.

21 January 2018

It’s now Monday morning and we are getting ready to head off to Pai, which sounds a little bit like a hippy haven. We spent our last night in Chiang Mai at the Sunday night market which just goes on forever. We decided to sample the local delicacies of crickets and crepes.....I’m beginning to think Alex made the wiser choice!

19 January 2018

As Chiang Mai is so laid back, we have made the most of it and have enjoyed being in the same place for a few extra days. I tried Muay Thai at the Por Silaphai gym. This was an excellent place to train with friendly, helpful trainers and lots of students from all over the world. We then found a Guinea pig and hedgehog cafe where you get the chance to have a cuddle with the animals as you try to stop them pooing in your coffee! We looked at one final temple before we made our way back to the guest house. I was aching after training, but for some reason Alex wouldn’t let me have a massage?! Yesterday was spent on a fantastic half day tour of the city and outskirts on a bike. It was only the two of us, so our guide, Beam showed us a couple of city centre attractions before taking us to an old city that was lost underwater in the floods, only to be discovered hundreds of years later. This was awesome to see as it’s a bit off the beaten track, and not too many tourists visit.

18 January 2018

Chiang Mai is a cool, laid back city in the north of Thailand where we have spent the last four days. It has the remnants of the old city wall and moat, as well as numerous temples spread around. After a spot of lunch in an old lady’s back garden, I dragged Alex around numerous sights and forced her to wear a dressing gown to cover up. Her patience in the evening was rewarded with a few drinks at a local bar and the chance to cuddle a puppy.

17 January 2018

Where have the last few days gone?! Our journey from Chiang Mai began with a trip in a sidecar to the bus station where we hopped on for the journey to Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya was the second capital of Siam, and quickly became the trading capital of Asia, before the Burmese invaded. Today a lot of ruins are left and because we had a night train to catch, we only had the chance to visit a couple. There is a head of a Buddha entwined in the roots of a Bodhi tree. It is thought the head fell off the statue and the tree continued to grow around it. We had a nice slow walk round the city and made our way to the train station to catch the overnight train to Chiang Mai.

16 January 2018

The final part of today’s journey finished with the train ride home. Nam Tok station has a unique, but very clear way of displaying railway safety tips! The journey home takes you along the death railway and you pass along the bridge over the river Kwai. What better way to take in the scenery and relax after a great day than with a couple of Chang’s?!
This morning saw us take our minivan from Kanchanaburi to Hellfire Pass Memorial. This is the name of a railway cutting on the Burma railway built by the POW’s. This is where conditions were the worst for the prisoners, and many lives were lost. The name comes from the sight of prisoners working at night by torchlight and was said to resemble a scene from hell. The memorial is the walk itself which gives people an idea to experience the terrain and imagine how it must have been in the heat. After the walk, it was boots off and back in the cab which took us to Nam Tok train station.

15 January 2018

We arrived at the beautiful Kanchanaburi train station and made our way to Tara Raft, which was to be our home for the next couple of nights. It is basically a large raft with rooms and is the coolest place to stay. The pictures are the views from terrace of our room, and the roof. During the day, we visited Thailand-Burma Railway Centre which shows the history of the railway built by the POW’s during WWII. It was horrendous to see the conditions these soldiers had to contend with and was a truly humbling experience. Next door is the War Cemetery which is the main cemetery for victims of the Japanese imprisonment and is cared for by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. The book of remembrance showed that a fellow O’Mahoney was buried here, so it was only right to find his plot and pay our respects. I don’t know if he is a relative, but he, like all the others were brave souls who went through hell.
So on the 15th, we caught the train from Thonburi to Kanchanaburi. We got there at around 06:30, so we had a look around the market where you could buy fresh fish, pigs heads and other various delightful treats. Alex was content with a bit of sausage for breakfast! Then the lovely old train rolled in and we departed on our 2.5 hour journey to the next port of call.

14 January 2018

Once we arrived at Wat Saket, it was easy to see just how impressive it is, as it gives a tremendous view over Bangkok from the top. I felt it had lost something though with the Bhudda statues and ice cream shop at the top! After a slow walk back to Chinatown, we have to grab an early night for the start in the morning, when we experience our first train journey to Kanchanaburi and Hellfire Pass.

13 January 2018

The day started off at Khlong Lat Mayom market, which is a riverside/floating market which is very popular wth locals, and only a short distance from Chinatown. Once there, we watched our food being cooked riverside before heading out on a boat trip to a very small, rustic temple. I really liked it here as it felt more homely compared to the larger ones we have seen, and it had an added feel to it as we could feed the fish, and there were plenty of animals walking around. After this, it was onto the number 79 bus for the short trip to Wat Saket.
We finally ended the day with a walk around Chinatown before settling down to eat some great food, all served up by the original naked chef, and making friends with the local pets. I really love the bubbling nightlife and energy that this place offers. The sights and smells are really something else and people are queuing around the corner of some places just to eat the street food.
We then had a nice walk around the local area before hopping on the boat across the river to get to Wat Arun. Again, another magnificent building where we managed to watch the sunset. Apparently sunrise is the best time to view, with the light reflecting off of the pearls used on the temple.
Alex even had her fortune told. This was completed by shaking a tub of sticks until one falls out! Apparently she’s waiting to meet her soul mate. She wasn’t too happy with mine. I’m going to meet a skinny white girl at some point!
After checking in to Shanghai Mansion, our cool hotel in Chinatown, we headed off to explore Wat Pho the Home of the reclining Bhudda. This was a truly amazing site that was something to behold.

11 January 2018

We arrived in Bangkok a few hours late in Bangkok due to a delayed flight, but we eventually made it to our hotel on the Khosan Road. After a few Gin Fizz’s too many, we had a very hung over sight seeing day on Friday. Unfortunately, it got too much and Alex had to settle for a McDonald’s!

10 January 2018

So our journey has officially begun. It’s been a long time coming, and we are so excited. A cheeky spot of breakfast and off to departures. Follow us on Journi if you fancy seeing what we are upto!