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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…

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A holiday in Cambodia…

The two day trip down the Mekong was not really what we expected. I had visions of Apocalypse Now, drifting down a quiet and beautiful setting of the Mekong Delta. Instead we spent most of our time on a bus rather than the river itself.

When we were eventually on the river, we were taken to a local floating market, which was closed. Apparently the market opens very early in the morning so the locals can get everything they need for their daily trading. It does beg the question as to why we went there in the knowledge that it would be closed, but who are we to argue.

Elephant Fish

Elephant Fish

We were taken to a small village where they are famous for making their alternative to chocolate, a coconut candy. Here we were also shown how they make rice paper for their spring rolls and various other things, before heading to lunch. Katy and I enjoyed an Elephant fish, where we made our own spring rolls. We also stopped in to a crocodile farm which housed over 15,000 crocs. They are no longer really found in the Mekong as so many locals capture them to make these farms for meat and their skin.

By that point we were ready to get to our hotel for the night, which was a floating hotel in Chau Doc near the Cambodian border. The night was pretty uneventful until a full scale thunderstorm hit us. As the entire hotel bobbed up and down on the river, Katy frantically asked me “the hotel isn’t going to float away is it?” Thankfully we survived the night, and awoke to calm waters and clear skies.

When we got to the Cambodian border the next day, it consisted of a ridiculous foot bridge that looked older than I am. It almost makes our border control look competent. What we did notice after crossing the border though was how much nicer the river was. Everything was cleaner, greener and the river wasn’t used as a personal dumping ground as on the Vietnamese side.

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

We arrived in Phnom Penh weary but excited about being somewhere new. First impressions were that it was much more laid back than anywhere we had been so far. What shocked us is that it was more expensive than Vietnam. Don’t get me wrong, it is still cheap with beers averaging $0.75, and meals $5. We were in Phnom Penh for four nights, and in that time we saw the Royal Palace and a few other sights as we walked around the city. Katy also took me to another 15 markets, where we spent hours looking for replacement clothes for her, as she is already bored of what she has got.

Most nights were spent by the river in bars or restaurants, where there is a fairly lively crowd. The FCC is a famous bar on the front where all of the journalists hung out during the war, and it’s a great place to sit for some cheap beers at sunset.

We also visited the Killing Fields, where 20,000 bodies were discovered. Although rather morbid, it was an interesting place to walk around and learn a bit of history. 3 Million people were killed in total from a population of 8 Million, which is quite hard to comprehend.

Taking a plunge in Kampot

Taking a plunge in Kampot

After Phnom Penh we headed to the coast, and a 7 hour bus journey to little town called Kampot. It’s famous for its green peppercorns, and Cambodia’s only vineyard. Other than that there is very little to do other than chill out and relax. We stayed in a lovely place right on the river, and although we had a room with no power for the first night, it was a great place to stay. We cycled into the town for a quick look around, although there is not a huge amount to see other than a huge Durian monument, which is quite bizarre. We went swimming in the river, played some badminton, found frogs in our bathroom and dinner each night was whatever they had bought from the market that day. We were only there two nights before heading off to an island for some beach time.

After Kampot we left for Otres Beach in Sihanoukville. This was a quiet beach of about ten beach bars, and we stayed in a funny place called Mushroom Point where all rooms were designed around mushrooms…quirky but expensive. We got chatting to one of the Cambodian beach bar owners, Joe, who taught us some local lingo in exchange for some cockney rhyming slang. He also wrote our names in Cambodian, and told me that my name means that I don’t stop talking and tend to repeat myself, and tend to repeat myself.

Bamboo Island (or Koh Russei) had been recommended to us by my friend Alex. We also happened to meet the owner of the resort (if you can call it that) in our hostel in Phnom Penh. Everyone told us how nice it was and that we should go there.

The bungalows consisted of a bed…that’s it. The showers and toilets were 100 meters down the beach. Having a shower and then having to walk through sand back to the room just makes no sense to me. There is only electric for about five hours per day, and in the bar only. Toilets are rated in a different way in places like this, as these didn’t have a lock, a flush, the sink didn’t have a waste pipe, no soap and nothing to dry your hands on. But all in all, they weren’t bad.

Koh Russei sunset

Koh Russei sunset

But all of that was forgotten when we sat in our little beach bungalow and the sea was only 10 meters away. There were only about 30 people on the entire Island, so the beach was pretty much deserted. The bar was lively at night, serving good food and drinks with great music in the background. We also bumped into a friend that we met in Beijing on our last night (small world), and we watched the most amazing sunset over a few beers.

Today we have arrived in Battambang after a night in Phnom Penh (to break up the journey). It’s another fairly small city, but we have just bought tickets to go to the Friendship Music Festival tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what a Cambodian festival is like.

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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