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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…

Bands, cars and sweaty bars

After leaving Melaka we headed back to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend for the Future Music Festival. The site for the festival was the Sepang F1 circuit which is about 40 minutes outside of KL. The festival gates opened at 13:00, so we decided to get there on time to take a look around whilst having a few beers. On arriving we were told that the gates wouldn’t open until about 14:30 as they were running late.

Grandmaster Flash

Grandmaster Flash

So instead of being able to get in a festive mood, we were left waiting with no shade from the 40 degree heat, nothing to drink (water or beer), and getting more frustrated by the minute. While we were waiting we bumped into a couple we had met the previous night; Laurence and Rosa. When we eventually got into the site and heading straight to the bar, we were told that they didn’t open until 16:00, including for soft drinks. At this point we were feeling slightly weary after standing in the mid-day sun for two and a half hours.

But the bar eventually opened (£3 for a small can of Heineken…ouch), and it was great to be back watching live music after such a long time. There were three stages spread across the site, with mainly dance acts playing. I was subjected to some utter dross (namely Flo Rida), but it was good to see some acts we’ve never heard of. The highlight of the day was Grandmaster Flash, who played some old classics and got everyone going. Chase and Status, Pendulum and The Chemical Brothers followed, and all-in-all it was a great day.

Chase and Status

Chase and Status

We had to leave slightly early due to a combination of too many extortionate drinks, too much sun and a slightly dodgy tummy for Katy. Not ideal in pitch black porter-loos. Thankfully as we made our way to the taxis, a group of Australians offered us a lift back into town. It saved us a huge taxi bill, and got us back much quicker than we would have (much to Katy’s delight).

The following day we took a walk around Bukit Bintang, which is the shopping district of the city. As much as I hate shopping, this is definitely the place to do it. Cheaper than almost everywhere we have been, and the choice of shopping malls to look in is endless. The air-conditioning is also a welcome relief.

Port Dickson was a place a few people had mentioned, so the next day we took a bus there via Seremban. When we arrived we were a bit disappointed. It’s made up of dilapidated buildings and fairly average beaches. During the week there is almost nothing open, so we ended up spending the evening watching films on the laptop eating pot noodles. One night was enough, so after spending a day there doing very little, we headed back to KL.

Katy, birds and poo

Katy, birds and poo

There is a lot to do in KL, but it is an expensive place to be. Food can be cheap if you stay to the local street food restaurants, but drinks and accommodation are expensive. We took a visit to a bird park, which has the biggest free-flying aviary in the world. Normally I wouldn’t be excited about going to look at birds (no pun intended), but it was actually quite a nice place to walk around. Katy had her picture taken with a hornbill and a parrot sat on her, and she was enjoying it until one of them pooed on her. She did have the option to have an owl or an eagle, but for some reason chose not to.

After a few hours walking around the huge park in the centre of town, visiting the national monument and an orchid garden, we headed to China Town for some dumplings. We also took a walk around Little India, but compared to Penang there wasn’t really too much to see.

Batu caves

Batu caves

One of the things to see in KL is the Batu Caves. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. To reach it you have to climb a steep flight of 272 steps, and inside a huge cave 100m high there are various Hindu shrines. While we were there we also had a tour around some bat caves, which had over 250,000 bats in there. It didn’t smell particularly nice, and most of it was pitch black, but it was quite an interesting thing to do.

Petronas twin towers

Petronas twin towers

Since then we have spent some time in the city centre to see the twin towers. We visited on the Friday before the Grand Prix, and there were various things going on there. The headline act was a Korean pop band called Girls’ Generation. It was absolutely packed and a really good atmosphere, despite the music. As we headed to Jalan Alor to get some of the famous street food, Katy decided that she knew a short cut. Instead of walking back ten minutes the way we had walked earlier, we ended up on a two-hour trek, mainly down dual carriageways, back to our hostel. On the way back we bought some pot-noodles from a 7Eleven. Not exactly what I had envisaged for my dinner.

The next day we went for breakfast in a Nasi Kandar restaurant just around the corner from our hostel. After finishing our chicken curry with vegetables (which was lovely), we got chatting to a crazy man called M S Tamby. I say we got chatting, but it actually involved him speaking at us non-stop for about 30 minutes. After telling us various stories, including one about when he met Winston Churchill in Canada, he then drew us a picture on a napkin. Some of his abstract art apparently, which is very bizarre. Apparently we should insure it for £5M. He then started telling us what kind of people we are, and what we should do with our lives. It took us a while, but we finally managed to say our goodbyes and get away from him. Nice guy, but very scary.

After a heavy night watching Arsenal and Bolton win in the expensive bar district of KL, yesterday we headed back to Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix. When we got there it was so hot, that the thought of sitting there for three hours or so wasn’t good. The atmosphere on the hill was great, and with two Brits at the front of the grid we were looking forward to the race.

Safety car restarting the race

Safety car restarting the race

About five minutes before the race started, the rain came. Thankfully it also brought a huge drop in temperature to a more acceptable 26 degrees. We were prepared for the rain as it had been forecast for the weekend, so we sat there in our attractive ponchos looking like idiots, but dry. The race started without any huge incident, but it was clear that the rain may cause problems as it was really coming down now. Eight laps into the race it was stopped as it was deemed dangerous for the drivers. There was a break of about 50 minutes while waiting for the rain to ease, and then the race was back underway.

Looking good

Looking good

At first it was fairly easy to follow who was leading and the general race order, but as the race went on it got more difficult. As people were lapped and the cars got more spread out, we didn’t really have a clue what was going on. Every now and then we saw the race standings on the big screen which brought us up to date. It is definitely better when watching on TV. Yes you don’t get the atmosphere of the crowd, or the deafening sound of the cars, but at least you know what’s going on. Alonso ended up winning the race, with Lewis Hamilton in third and Jensen Button back in 14th.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Kuching in Borneo, and after almost a week in KL we’re looking forward to it. The one thing that has really stood out here is how hot and humid it is. Most of the time temperatures have been in the late 30s with humidity at about 90%. It makes walking down the street hard work. But this is a great city, and one that we would definitely come back to.

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…

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