Blog Archives

This is the end…

After over 70,000 blog views in 113 countries, visiting 21 countries over 15 months and quite a few memories along the way, the time has come and our travels have ended. We’ve now been back in London for about a month and we’re depressed, bemused and discombobulated. It’s cold…too cold…far too cold.

It’s hard to put into words how much fun we have had. It’s also hard to pick out specific highlights. Lots of people have already asked us ‘what’s your favourite country’, and it’s really difficult to choose one over another.

So we thought we would write a quick summary of everywhere we have been and talk about what we liked and didn’t like. So here goes…

Beijing Tapas

Beijing Tapas

01 – China

Our first stop and still one of our favourite countries, China was an amazing place to begin our trip. We found it an easy place to get around with a very good train network. The people can take some getting used to, especially the constant spitting and coughing but on the whole they were friendly and very interesting to watch. Probably the highlight of China was the food, specifically dumplings, hot and sour soup, Peking duck and schezuan food. The Drum and Gong on a tiny hutong in northern Beijing provided us with the best food of our whole trip, hands down.

Hong Kong Peak

Hong Kong Peak

02 – Hong Kong

In Hong Kong we were treated to some lavish accommodation and wild nights out courtesy of Dave, Shiona and friends. With Katy as my guide we squeezed a lot into our two weeks there. It’s probably not the most accessible place for a traveller due to the cost of everything, but we both really enjoyed our time there. Even though it is a fairly small space, there is so much to do there outside of Central. You definitely need to explore to get the best out of Hong Kong.

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

03- Vietnam

Vietnam was by far the cheapest country we visited on our trip, and very easy to get around. Ha Long Bay was one of the highlights of our entire time away, and even though it is one of the ‘Wonders of the World’, it was peaceful and serene without hoards of people elbowing you out of the way. I was very ill in Saigon, and we had to miss out Hoi An and Huế due to flooding which was a shame. It was interesting to learn more about the ‘American War’ and visit the Cu Chi tunnels…especially when Katy got stuck in the hole.

Buddha heads, Bayon Temple

Buddha heads, Bayon Temple

04 – Cambodia

One of our favourite countries, and I’m still trying to persuade Katy to buy a hostel here. Hot, humid and packed with culture, great food and friendly people. The coast (if you avoid Sihanoukville) is idyllic and somewhere we would both love to visit again (to look for hostel locations). Bus journeys are an experience here, but we got what we paid for. We have mixed feelings over Angkor Wat, we loved climbing over all the ancient temples, playing with the local children and listening to them counting to 10 in about 5 different languages. It’s just a shame we couldn’t have had the place to ourselves for the day.

Road obstructions

Road obstructions

05 – Laos

Our most adventurous and unforgettable country of the trip saw us zip wiring through the jungle, tubing down rivers and motor biking for the very first time through the remote southern region. We had some travel partners in Seb and Sophie, who helped us see in the new year at a Laos bowling alley after bumping into them on a hellish bus journey. The transport and ‘Laos time’ was probably our biggest challenge but taught us how to be more patient. Our favourite Laos dish was the Laap, a spicy minced beef or lamb salad packed with fresh coriander and chilli…delicious. Laos is a fantastic country; cheap, beautiful and very friendly.

Bagan

Bagan

06 – Myanmar

Probably my favourite country of our trip, Myanmar is so different to everywhere else we visited. There is no western influence there at all, so no Coca Cola, Malboro etc…anywhere to be seen and that just added to it for me. It has a huge Indian influence, so eating biryani from a coconut leaf with your hands is all part of the experience. It’s a tiring place to travel around with a very bad and uncomfortable bus network, but it’s all worth the effort. Bagan is just the most amazing place I have ever been, and with so few tourists, visiting it almost feels like you have the place to yourself.

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta

07 – Thailand

We spent just over 6 weeks in Thailand, 3 of which were spent on a beach on the beautiful island of Koh Lanta where we got to recharge our batteries. The food was a real highlight for us, especially the massaman, green and red curries. We liked the food so much that we took a second Thai cooking lessons whilst we were there. We learnt how to scuba dive which was amazing and also got to play with real life Tigers. Bangkok was hectic, expensive but great fun, especially when we met up with Dave and the HK football lads.

Petronas twin towers

Petronas twin towers

08 – Malaysia

Our highlight of Malaysia has to be the food. From the amazing tikkas and curries in Penang to the cream teas in the Cameron Highlands. We definitely indulged. The Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur was a wash out but a great experience, and the music festival although fun was disappointing. We got to visit my Mum’s old school (now an army base) and found some photos of her in a local tea room. We didn’t have enough time in Malaysia which meant we missed the East coast…but there is always next time.

Central Mosque

Central Mosque

09 – Brunei

We had only two days in Brunei which to be honest was enough. Not a lot to do or see and it wasn’t helped that we couldn’t even have a drink to pass the time. We did however get see their National Park which involved a very funny boat ride in a coffin and a climb up on what can only be described as scaffolding to walk a series of bridges high above the trees…a fantastic sight but not very in keeping with the jungle. The food wasn’t very exciting which meant that we ordered in Pizza Hut on both nights we were there. Maybe the Sultan needs to invest a bit more into his restaurant scene.

El Nido sunset

El Nido sunset

10 – Philippines

With some of the best beaches and views I can remember, the Philippines will definitely be somewhere we will visit again. In fact we have already checked prices for 2014. EL Nido was simply stunning, and the diving in Malapascua out of this world. A definite highlight was diving with Thresher sharks and snorkeling with Whale sharks. The Philippines did see Katy have a mini breakdown though when she decided that she needed a holiday. It didn’t last long, especially once she had a beer in her hand and watched yet another amazing sunset.

Gili Air

Gili Air

11 – Indonesia

We have many highlights from Indonesia; the amazing diving, hunting for Komodo dragons in Flores, climbing the volcano Mt Bromo and relaxing on the beaches of the Gili islands. Bali was disappointing as it was far too touristy and Jakarta was just a massive concrete jungle. Some of the rooms we stayed in were basic to say the least, with sinks and throne toilets nowhere to be seen. It’s a big place and we barely touched the sides, so we’re definitely thinking of going back for another look some day.

Malaysian Tapir

Malaysian Tapir

12 – Singapore

Singapore was very expensive and saw us stay in our first dorm room of the trip. It’s a big city, pretty easy to get around but not really that much to see. We did venture to the zoo though where I got to see my favourite animal…a Malaysian tapir. Being on a budget we didn’t get to experience much of the glamorous side of Singapore and settled for street restaurants and the odd happy hour beer. It is a place that I could quite easily see us moving to, as there is a great expat community…and the weather is slightly better than the UK.

Sensoji Temple area, Asakusa

Sensoji Temple area, Asakusa

13 – Japan

So Japan beats Singapore hands down for being the most expensive country we visited…£12 for a pint of beer…enough said. The tube and rail network in Tokyo is immense and took some getting used to but we managed to take in most of the sights. The restaurant scene wasn’t that easy; secretive and expensive so we ate our fair share of pot noodles that week and of course squeezed in as much sushi as we could.

Sea lion

Sea lion

14 – Ecuador

Ecuador saw us swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos, climbing volcanoes, whale watching, learning Spanish (sort of) and watching a very uneventful European cup. We visited South America’s largest handicraft market which was the start of Katy’s alpaca addiction. We ate our fair share of almuerzos…a set 2 or 3 course lunch for $2-3 and tried our first of many empanadas. Our real low light of Ecuador was having our camera stolen on a bus near the Peru border.

Diving in Tayrona National Park

Diving in Tayrona National Park

15 – Colombia

Colombia was a nice surprise. We were expecting it to be bit dodgy but the people couldn’t have been friendlier and they couldn’t have put any more police on the streets if they tried. The big cities of Medillion and Bogota were average (we do tend to prefer places out of the city) but the real highlight for us was the Caribbean coast, particularly Cartagena and Tayrona National Park. We really enjoyed San Agustin where I rode a horse the first time and visited the ancient statues scattered across the countryside.

A room with a view

A room with a view

16 – Peru

Peru started badly with us getting mugged in Mancora. It took us a while to shake off the experience and probably ruined our time in Peru if we’re honest. It wasn’t all bad though as we enjoyed sand boarding in the desert, driving through the Andes, climbing Wanapicchu at the top of Machu Picchu. Our first half an hour on Machu Picchu was wonderfully quiet, serene and beautiful but it soon became overcrowded and just another disappointing tourist attraction. The food was pretty good and we became quite adventurous trying cuy (guinea pig), alpaca, Llama and ceviche.

Salt Flat Sunset

Salt Flat Sunset

17 – Bolivia

What a beautiful and extremely diverse country. We visited the highest city in the world, fished for piranhas and swam with pink dolphins in the Amazon, hunted for anacondas and capybaras in the jungle, rode horses across Bolivia’s wild-west and spent three days visiting the amazing salt flats. We had some of the best food in South America, especially the saltenas (empanadas) and enjoyed some very nice (and cheap) Bolivian red wine. The only downside was that we didn’t see a sloth.

View from Cerro Santa Lucía

View from Cerro Santa Lucía

18 – Chile

Arriving on a National holiday wasn’t the best start (you’d think we would have learnt by this point of the trip) and meant that we stayed in some very average hostels. Chile for us meant civilisation after being in basic Bolivia for a month so we took advantage of the wines (of course), being able to choose what and where to eat and paying for things with a credit card (a real novelty). We were there out of season so the snow had melted and the coast was just too cold.

Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy

19 – Argentina

What’s not to love about Argentina…amazing wines, steaks, beautiful scenery and the friendliest people we met in South America. A real highlight for us was of course the wines but Patagonia was simply stunning. Our walk across the Perito Mereno glazier was incredible and an experience we will never forget. Katy even enjoyed our trek to Fitz Roy. It’s another huge country with so much diversity. Patagonia although expensive was worth every penny. We had five weeks in Argentina, and that just wasn’t enough.

Just another beach

Just another beach

20 – Uruguay

Punta Del Diablo although out of season was a great place for us to chill out for a few days. We enjoyed walking in the national park and along the extremely long beaches (we won’t mention the cows as Katy is still having nightmares), some home cooked meals (not that we had a choice with all of the restaurants closed) and catching a little sun along the way. It was a place that I am glad we stopped in. We really enjoyed our time there, although I’m not sure we would go out of our way to visit there again.

Caipirinhas

Caipirinhas

21 – Brazil

As Brazil was our last stop, we treated ourselves to several nice hostels, meals and private transfers. The food was a real highlight, especially the rodizios (all you can eat meat buffets) and of course we drank our fair share of caipirinhas too. Florianopolis was beautiful and we really enjoyed chilling out there for a few days. Iguassu Falls was incredible and we especially enjoyed the Brazilian side. Rio was a great city to end our 15 months away and we celebrated with visits to the many sights including a very interesting Favella tour, a couple of Lapa street parties and of course many more caipirinhas along the way.


So there you have it. We want to thank everyone we met whilst away; you helped to make this an amazing trip for us and it wouldn’t have been the same without you. If any of you are ever in London, make sure you get in contact.

We also want to thank everyone at home for reading the blog and keeping up with our exploits. The blog has done really well with over 70,000 hits in over 115 countries. We even won a best photo of the week competition along the way.

World Blog Coverage

World Blog Coverage

So you don’t have to hear from us anymore. You’ll just have to buy us a drink when you next see us to welcome us home. I am still unemployed after all.

Until the next time…

Hola South America

This entry was supposed to be written by Katy, but she decided that she couldn’t be bothered. So instead I am left to pick up the pieces and try and write an insightful and witty piece for readers all over the world to enjoy. I haven’t even had time to come up with a tabloid style headline, but here goes…

The flight to Ecuador was fairly uneventful, which is generally how I like flights to be. The only fly in the ointment was our stopover in Houston, Texas. As we were in transit with our bags automatically being forwarded on, I expected us to stroll through to the departure lounge and enjoy the three hour break from flying; maybe a cocktail and a bite to eat. Instead we stood in a queue for three hours being scanned, searched and questioned before being sent to the departure lounge as the final call for our flight was announced. I know we all have a reason to be precautious at airports nowadays, but as we had just landed and weren’t even entering the country, it was a bit over the top.

We arrived in Quito excited about seeing a new country and a new culture; so much so that within ten minutes of getting to our hostel we were asleep. In fairness the long flight and the huge time difference really got to us (we’re now five hours behind GMT after being eight hours ahead in Japan). To add to the strain Quito is located high in the Andes, 2900m above sea level.

Quito old town

Quito old town

The next morning though when we opened our curtains and took in the amazing views of the city, our tiredness was forgotten. Sandwiched between the rolling peaks of the Andes, Quito is a striking city. After being in SE Asia for so long, it is also quite a culture shock. Even trying to order breakfast via my trustee Spanish phrase book was an experience. So far in almost nine months of travelling, China has been the only country that English wasn’t spoken throughout. Even in countries like Myanmar, English was spoken almost as if it were a first language. That isn’t going to be the case in South America, but it is a good excuse for me to learn Spanish; something I have wanted to do for years, mainly due to my Spanish roots.

Iglesia de San Francisco

Iglesia de San Francisco

We spent most of our time just wondering around the city and taking it all in. It’s a fairly easy place to walk around, with lots to see along the way. It’s a city split between the historic colonial buildings of the old town, and the more modern restaurant and bar area of the new town. People in Quito are fairly friendly, but there is a definite edge to the city after dark. But other than a failed pick-pocket attempt, nothing untoward occurred. We visited some of the cathedrals in the city, but after the amount of amazing temple complexes we’ve seen in SE Asia (namely Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia), they don’t really compare.

Plaza de la Independencia

Plaza de la Independencia

One thing we did do whilst in Quito was visit the centre of the world. Thankfully this didn’t involve burrowing a huge hole hundreds of mile deep to the core of the earth. Instead we got a one hour bus outside of the city to the equator. It was a bit of a funny place that was almost deserted. Supposedly it gets very busy on the weekends, but we got to enjoy it without the crowds. What does make it slightly fascicle is that we found out that the line that marks the equator is not actually the real equator line. The actual line is about 300m parallel to their line…very bizarre.

Whilst in Quito we also booked our trip to the Galapagos. This trip is something we had been looking forward to for a long time, and had heard so many good things about. It’s a very expensive place to visit, so we did shop around a lot to try and get a good deal. We were very tempted on a last minute deal on a luxury catamaran, but we finally decided to go for the budget option of a four night land based trip for a cool £1400.

For those that don’t know, the islands are famous for the huge number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin. These studies contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

After a three hour flight about 1000km west of Ecuador, we arrived in the Galapagos on Santa Cruz Island. We were supposed to get a boat straight to another island, but our flight was delayed. So instead we checked into our hotel and headed out to Charles Darwin Station. Here we got our first glimpse of the Galapagos giant tortoise. Young tortoises are kept here to ensure they are healthy before being let out into the wild. They are quite strange animals really, and living to over 150 years old in some cases.

Giant tortoise

Giant tortoise

Santa Cruz has a small town near the port with various bars and restaurants to keep you entertained in the evening. Most people on the islands are here just for the tours, but it is clear that this would be a nice place to just visit for a week or two. The islands sit right on the equator, so the weather is usually good, and there are plenty of things to do on each island without having to do a tour. If we had known we would have just turned up on the island and booked the tour there, but we still got a fairly good deal.

Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay

The next day we took a walk down to Tortuga Bay to an amazing beach. It was a 40 minute walk to the bay, but when we got there it was definitely worth it. One half of the beach has huge waves prefect for surfing, and the other is a calm secluded spot. In between the two were marine iguanas, and lots of them. Just as we were setting up our little spot on the beach, I noticed something move behind a tree just to our side. There was a sea lion there taking a nap in the shade. It was quite a weird experience being sat on the beach just one metre away from a sea lion who was taking no notice of us at all. Even when the frisbee made an appearance it didn’t budge. So after a couple of hours of sunning ourselves (or burning as the case may be), we headed back to town.

land iguana

land iguana

That afternoon we took a boat to another island called Isabella. The boat journey wasn’t the best, as the captain didn’t feel the need to slow down in the very choppy conditions. Instead he went ahead full throttle causing the boat to almost leave the water on a regular basis. I thought I was going to be sick, and Katy was stuck at the front of the boat desperately holding on. This went on for two hours, so when the boat finally arrived on Isabella, we were very happy to get off.

Flamingos

Flamingos

Isabella is a really nice place to visit, and probably our favourite island on the Galapagos. It’s the largest of the islands, and has several active volcanos. Here we got to see some very pink flamingos in one of the lagoons as soon as we arrived. It’s much quieter here than on Santa Cruz, and that evening we found a nice bar on the beach to enjoy a beer a watch the sun set.

Volcanic landscape

Volcanic landscape

The next day we had an early start for one of Katy’s favourite activities, trekking. Although slightly cloudy, it was a very hot day, but surprisingly the three hour trek to the volcano seemed to go quite well. The scenery and landscape around the volcano are not like anything I have seen, with black crystallised rock crunching underfoot. The first volcano we saw has the second largest crater in the world and last erupted in 2005, but the second volcano was the most impressive for me. So after a brief lunch break, we headed back to camp. But this time the trek wasn’t so easy. It may have had something to do with the heat or the extremely steep 200m climb back up to the rim of the first volcano, but either way we struggled on the way back. When we did arrive back in our hotel, we were pleased that we could relax and put our feet up…for five minutes anyway.

Marine iguana

Marine iguana

Next we were off on another island tour just to the south of Isabella. On the way we stopped in a small cove for some snorkelling. The water here is quite cold, and conditions weren’t the best for snorkelling, but we did see some huge sea turtles and box fish, along with some eagle rays.

Penguins

Penguins

After drying off, we were on our way again to the island where we were greeted by penguins. The island is quite small and could be walked around in about 20 minutes. It was a great place to see the hundreds of marine iguanas and also to get close up to more sea lions.

Sea lion

Sea lion

The next day we had a very early start to get 6am boat back to Santa Cruz. The journey was much nicer this time, and we even managed to get some sleep on the boat. Our plans were ruined though as we got back into port late, and missed our connecting boat to Floreana. We weren’t particularly happy about this, as it was one of the islands we really wanted to go to, but our tour rep didn’t seem too concerned. So instead we were treated to a bay tour just off of Santa Cruz. The tour itself was pretty poor…that was until we snorkelled with sea lions. It was a pretty incredible experience with these inquisitive animals so close to you.

Giant tortoise

Giant tortoise

In the afternoon we headed to the highlands to see some giant tortoises in the wild. It took us a while to find them in the long grass, and when we did they didn’t seem too pleased to be interrupted. After getting our fair share of pictures, we then headed into some lava tunnels. These are basically formed around free flowing lava, leaving a cave-like formation once it has cooled. After a brief look and a Katy tumble up the stairs, we headed back to our hotel to pack our bags ready to leave the Galapagos in the morning.

Today we flew back to Ecuador in Guayaquil. We were sad to be leaving the Galapagos so soon, as we had a really good time. But we have a lot to look forward to now, and we have already started to think about our next stop.

As always, in case you’re interested, there are more images available via the RSS feed on the blog, or via the following link:

Until the next time…

A shaky start to Tokyo

Midway through our night at Singapore airport, I decided that I am definitely too old to be sleeping on the floor…or trying to sleep as the case may be. There are worse airports to spend the night at, but that didn’t brighten my outlook or help my back the next morning. But as we sat on the flight to Tokyo, I was genuinely excited. It has been a while since I have felt like that when arriving somewhere, and Tokyo certainly didn’t disappoint.

Tokyo rail system maps

Tokyo rail system maps

The rail system is just ridiculous. It’s a vast sprawl of lines taking you to any crevice that you want to go within Tokyo and the surrounding areas. What it does mean is that there are always several ways to get to the same destination, so even getting on the wrong train isn’t the end of the world. Just looking at the map and trying to work out fares can be traumatic though, especially after a night lying on an airport floor followed by a seven hour flight.

It took us about two hours to get from the airport to the hotel, and it was a welcome sight when we finally found it. The room was small but very comfortable with everything we needed, with some added extras. The toilet had various contraptions attached that you wouldn’t get anywhere else in the world. I won’t go into details, but I can assure you that all were tested and I’m looking into getting them installed at home on our return to the UK.

View from the Government Metropolitan Building

View from the Government Metropolitan Building

That night as we slept, we were woken in a fairly strange way. At first I thought Katy was jumping on the bed, and it took us a while to understand what was going on. The whole room was shaking, with various items clattering to the floor. We were experiencing our first earthquake. It didn’t last too long, and almost immediately afterwards we were back asleep without a second thought; mainly due to lack of sleep. The next morning we checked the local news and confirmed that it was measured at 5.3 on the Richter Scale. There was no major damage or injuries, and although fairly common in Japan it was the first in Tokyo this year. It was a surreal experience which thankfully wasn’t too serious.

Downtown Tokyo

Downtown Tokyo

So we began to explore Tokyo and it really is a great city. It is by far the cleanest place I have ever been, and I don’t actually think I have seen one bit of rubbish on the floor all week. Although most people cannot speak English, everyone is very polite and respectful. The people we have spoken to are interested in what we are doing and where we are visiting, while recommending places for us to go. It’s a place that if you have the time and the money, you can do pretty much anything; and money is the operative word here. Tokyo is expensive.

Budget tips

Budget tips

Being on a traveller’s budget for the last eight months, we’ve gotten used to tightening our belts (unfortunately not literally) and finding ways to reduce costs. Nowhere has it been so important though. Beers average out at about £10 pint, although you can find it cheaper if you know where to go. Food can be tricky as most restaurants don’t have English menus, so trying to work out what things cost can be…err…tricky. Our room had a kettle, so we saved money by eating Ramen (or pot noodles). We did find something that we have had very little of in the past eight months, cheese and red wine. Both were cheap from the 7Eleven, and even though we sat in our small room drinking out of tumblers, it felt like a treat. And with a bottle of wine for £4, we treated ourselves several times throughout the week.

We have walked around most of the main districts of Tokyo this week, and a few places have stood out from the rest. Asakusa was probably our favourite area of the city, with a mix of very traditional buildings and ultra-modern. It has the oldest temple in Tokyo which was built in 628AD, and it’s just a lovely place to take in and watch people.

Karaoke booth

Karaoke booth

The best place in town for a night out has to be Roppongi, in Tokyo midtown. Here you can find any sort of bar for any budget. The bar that fitted in with our rather meagre budget was Gas Panic. It was recommended as one of the cheap trend bars of the moment, and was basically a hip-hop bar for young Japanese people looking for a good time. It did look like they were having a good time too. With cheap drinks and some great tunes blaring out of the sound-system, I thought it was a pretty good choice. That was until the DJ had a change of heart and began his Rihanna medley. As Katy took to the dance floor, I grabbed another beer.

After we were sufficiently lubricated we had planned to go out for a nice meal, but instead we had a McDonald’s and headed to a karaoke bar. We rented a private booth for an hour and we let rip. I’ve never heard such noises come out of Katy…luckily the booth was sound-proofed. We had a great time, and it is something that I think everyone who visits Tokyo should do during their time here.

We have also managed to squeeze in some really nice sushi meals while we’ve been here. It’s more expensive than I thought it would be, after all we are in the birthplace of sushi. The hardest thing is not to keep on taking more as they come around on the conveyor belt.

Sensoji Temple area, Asakusa

Sensoji Temple area, Asakusa

We’ve seen quite a lot of Tokyo in a week, but most of it has just been walking around the different areas of the city. We had a quick look at Tsukiji, the largest fish market in the world. We spent some time looking around some of the big arcades, and I couldn’t resist having a go on a few of the machines. Some of them actually look quite scary, and the locals definitely take their gaming seriously. In Ginza and Akihabara we had a look at some of the electronic gadgets, but there wasn’t really anything too cutting edge. I was picturing robots ice-skating or something like that, but unfortunately I was disappointed.

Harajuka girls

Harajuka girls

Today we went to Yoyogi Park in Shibuya to see if we could find the Harajuka girls. If you’ve not heard of them, they are basically teenage girls bedecked Japanese character outfits (such as Hello Kitty and Manga), goth makeup or punk kimono outfits. We had seen a few throughout the week, but this is the area that they congregate on the weekends. Well in fact we only saw about ten girls dressed up, and they weren’t too happy about getting their picture taken. It was great weather though, and an interesting walk through the park.

So tonight we are back in our room with a bottle of red wine, writing this blog. We fly to Ecuador tomorrow to start the second leg of our trip in South America. We have really enjoyed SE Asia, but we are definitely ready to move on now and experience different cultures and food. I will enjoy eating my bowl of noodles tonight, knowing it will be the last one for some time.

As always, in case you’re interested, there are more images available via the RSS feed on the blog, or via the following link:

Until the next time…

Life’s a beach

After a two hour delay at Yangon airport we arrived in Bangkok in time to check into our hostel, dump our bags and head out to meet Dave at his hotel. We found Dave and Dave (his friend) by the pool enjoying a cold beer looking very relaxed. The football boys were arriving late that night, so after a few beers and a curry we decided to leave the boys to catch up and head home as we were shattered.

Dave (err) flying down the wing

Dave (err) flying down the wing

The football weekend consisted of a Friday night match at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club where we were treated to a fantastic buffet meal and all the free beer you could drink. This was followed by a weekend of seven a side games held at the Royal Bangkok Polo Club, which is basically a very nice country club with an Olympic size swimming pool smack bang in the middle of the city. Unfortunately the boys (KCC Royals) didn’t have a great weekend in terms of results but I have a feeling that had something to do with the amount of beer consumed. It was great weekend, albeit a heavy one, and it was really good to see Dave and catch up with a few familiar faces.

We left Bangkok on Sunday afternoon and caught an overnight train to Krabi in the south. We loved the overnight sleeper trains in China so were excited to see if the Thai trains were as good. We’d been told that you start off with seats that get changed into beds. Each carriage has its own conductor who comes and changes the seats into beds when you’re ready for bed…quite cool. After a few hours sleep we were woken up at 4.30am to get our connecting bus to Krabi. After leaving Bangkok at 15.30 on the Sunday, we eventually arrived in Krabi at 14.30 on the Monday.

We arrived at our hostel very tired and also very disappointed when we realised the room wasn’t what we had booked and was a lot more money than we thought. So after a heated discussion with the owner we walked away with our money and checked into another hostel. There is not a lot to do in Krabi. I think most people use it as a stop-off or a base to visit the surrounding islands, so we decided to move onto Koh Lanta the following day.

Sophie and Seb were already there which was perfect as they were able to find us a room. They did a great job, finding us a bungalow about one minute walk from the beach with air-con and a fridge, all for a very good price. After checking into to our bungalow, Sam surprised me with a Valentine’s poem on the back of a postcard which he had written whilst on the train. Who said romance was dead! Seb was almost in tears when I read it out that evening, and Sophie had to point out that it wasn’t actually meant for him. I wanted to post it on here, but Sam said it would ruin his street cred (if he had any to begin with).

No tripod required

No tripod required

We spent the next few days relaxing on the beach, working on our tans and playing Frisbee. We had one day exploring the town Saladan, and decided to check out another beach whilst there. We ended up taking a wrong turn and found ourselves on a deserted beach which was basically a huge sand bank covered in crabs and rocks with the sea miles out. We were clearly on the wrong beach but we decided to walk across to get to the next beach instead of turning back. It didn’t look that far when we started, but after a few minutes we were thinking we’d made a mistake as there were thousands of crabs and sea slugs everywhere. Anyway we persevered and made it to the rocks where a couple of local fisherman looked at us like we were crazy and pointed us in the direction of the right beach.

The next day was the first day of our Open Water PADI course but first we had to say goodbye to Sophie and Seb as they were headed back to Bangkok to collect their visas for India. We were sad to see them go as they’ve been our travel buddies for the last two months which has been a lot of fun.

Our first dive site

Our first dive site

We had already completed the first three chapters of the course so the morning was spent recapping on everything we had learnt followed by the next two chapters. We also took the final exam and both passed with flying colours so we were ready for our confined water skills test which took place in the sea rather than a swimming pool. We had to do lots of different things like pretend you’d run out of air and use your buddy’s alternative air source; let water into your mask and then get it out and take your mask off, which was the bit I hated the most. Our instructor seemed happy with everything so we were ready for our first proper dive.

Over the next two days we completed four dives, each time practicing the various skills we had learnt on day one and also reaching the course depth limit of 18m. We were diving in a stunning place called Koh Haa, a collection of five tiny islands each surrounded by beautiful coral reef and we saw so many fish including eels, lobsters, puffa fish and sea snakes but my personal favourite was seeing Nemo (clownfish). It’s very sad but I did get quite excited. We both absolutely loved it and can’t wait to do more diving, we’re even talking about doing our advanced course which takes you down to 40m and where we’ll probably do a wreck dive.

Our customary sunset picture

Our customary sunset picture

We met up with our instructor and her boyfriend for Sunday dinner at the local Irish bar which also happened to be playing the football. We hadn’t eaten a roast dinner for five months so it was a real treat to have roast pork with all the trimmings. We were also treated to a great game of football; Arsenal v Spurs (for those non-football fans) and to say Sam was happy with the game and the result is an understatement, ecstatic is probably a better way to describe him that night (except for the first 20 minutes). It’s a shame Bolton couldn’t pull off the same result the day before.

I’m not sure what came over me on Tuesday this week but I was out of bed at 7am running on the beach (with Sam). I think I was feeling guilty for all the beach time we’ve been having. Anyway it’s out my system now so no more runs planned for the time being.

Katy was on the back

Katy was on the back

We took a motorbike out one day to explore the island a bit more which was good fun, but very hot. We took a few wrong turns but I think we managed to see most of it and even stopped off at a beautiful bay for a little dip to cool off which was much needed. I did manage to lose my bank card at some stage over the day though which is really annoying. I’m hoping HSBC can send my replacement to a branch in Kuala Lumpur. For a bank whose strap-line is ‘The world’s local bank’, they sure know how to make it awkward for people overseas.

So other than the diving and the bike we have had lots of days just sitting on the beach, which has also given us time to start planning the next bit of our trip. We head to Langkawi in Malaysia on Monday where we’ll spend a few days before heading to Penang. Although we’ve enjoyed Thailand and the beach time, we’re ready to move on and are looking forward to seeing something new.

As always, in case you’re interested, there are more images available via the RSS feed on the blog, or via the following link:

Until the next time….

%d bloggers like this: