A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

WA - MEL - NSW

sunny 27 °C

Good afternoon everyone! first of all we are reeeallly sorry its been so long since we updated our blog. We wont bore you with our excuses but we've had our reasons! ( living in a campervan part-time being one of them!)

Australia.

We arrived in Perth - WA on the 12th March, after a little stop over in Singapore. We had arranged to stay with some of my mums family in oz which was such a great help . We hadnt met them before but had heard lots about them from my Grandad so we had decided to spend 2 weeks with them to get ourselves settled for a while and then move on..... we ended up living with them for 6 weeks. We couldnt have asked for anything better, they were so kind and made us feel very at home. Whilst we were in Perth we made sure we saw as much of the west coast as we could. We had a house to stay in so we didnt have to worry about rent which meant we could hire ourselves a car and go on a few adventures! Before that though we got to know Perth City. It was such a lovely place to be, after spending 4 months in Asia it was nice to be back into "reality" . Lucky for us my " second cousins twice removed...." were happy to take us out for day trips to places we would never have seen if it wasnt for them. Ian, Lisa, Micky and Robert.. THANKYOU.
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Our first road trip took us from Perth down to Esperance.. we hired ourselves a tiiiinnnnny little nisan ( being the budget travllers that we are) and started our journey south. The weather was perfect! We stopped in Rockingham, geographey bay, Bumbry,Margaret river, Albany and Esperance - Althought the driving was very long at some points it was so so worth it. Esperance was great we camped right on the ocean , it rained a little bit but that made it all the more exciting ( apparently ) We also visited the Cape Le Grande National park... quite possibly the biggest highlight of WA, it was stunning, the waters were the bluest we've ever seen, the sand looked like snow it was so white and there was no one except for us ( we did go very very early in the morning ) there was a beach called Lucky Bay where kangaroos and their joeys were just relaxing on the beach, chilling out, not caring atall that we were taking photos .. it was amazing. The drive back to Perth was abit of a nightmare, we had to get the car back at 9 am the next day so we put our foot down and drove for 9 hours straight.. swapping every two hours so didnt fall asleep! anyway we managed it and mike got up at 6:30am the next morning to clean all the dead animals off of the car ( it was awful, he even found a bird tuck in the grill ) before we took it back to the hire company who were obviously chuffed at the fact that they didnt need to clean it for the next customers.
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As the weeks went on we went to lots of other places, had LOADS of bbqs and laughed alot. We spent easter weekend ( which happened to be my birthday weekend too!)at a beach house in Lancelin which is just north of Perth. We spent most of the days on the beach, drinking wine snorkling and having just a great time. We also visited the Pinicles, which were fantastic to see. My birthday was a big surprise too abit emotional as my mum and dad had sent me birthday cards and mike had spoilt me rotten with presents and an ice cream cake! once again this was arranged by Ian and Lisa!

After 6 weeks, we had started to get really comfortable staying at Roberts wonderful home, getting to know all the family so when it came to saying our goodbyes it was really sad. Thanks to skype we'll all try to stay in touch! But we were ready to move on, we realised how much we missed the traveling bug so getting on the plane to Melbourne was so exciting!

It was a very quick flight, couple of hours sleep and we were there. This time our new home was our Campervan! We picked her up at the airport and got settled! First stop was melbourne city (mike talking now!) it felt a whole lot bigger second time around and it took us an 1 30 half to find my old street 8 faulkner street south yarra. everything was in the same place except for my basketball hoop which used to be on our porch and i couldnt show char around as the new owners wernt in. the house had been painted from red to white. the primary school has obviously grown and gone into the 21st century with lots and lots of redevelopment :( no afterschool care house any more :( although the basketball caught where we used to play basketball was still there. times change but i dont think i had really allowed myself to think that melbourne had grown so big! from the airport drive we could see that there had been lots and lots of city buildings put up! anyways i decided after showing char where i grew up for a 1 very happy year of my childhood in a quiet town bout 5 minutes from the city centre with lots of parks to show her the royal botanical gardens! an absolute must if you have the time to stop and stare. beautifully kept gardens with 100s of types of tropical plants - the weather couldnt not have been more perfect and we enjoyed a nice stroll to the new tea house which had changed as well! none the less our scone and whipped cream and strawberry jam went down a treat after not eating anything since the previous evening we decided something sweet was in order! we then walked back to our van and headed to my old beach st kilda. what a dissapointment! i mean honestly the beach was so small! how did i ever run around with loads of room thinking it was quite simply the best thing on this planet! oh yeah i was 8 and the world is a lot smaller to you when your 8! we walked along the pier which is still there! with the coffee house on the end of it! yippee! where i shouted char to a hot chocolate, latte and wedges! oh they tasted just simply devine like they had done when i was 8! we had originally allowed ourselves two days to check out my childhood favourite spots but (becuase they were even closer and smaller then i thought we had actually managed to do most of them in 1 morning!) we thought best not to waste the glorious weather we had! so we spontaneously changed our minds and headed straight for the great ocean road! i drove the whole way to torquay where we stopped for our first evening. we found a supermarket and stocked up for the two weeks, making the most out of us snapping up an amaizing deal of 22 sausages for 7 S !!! the campsite was nice right on the cliff of torquay renowned for as cracking spot for surfing. sure enough when we woke up to eat our breakfast on the cliff there were neumours surf schools out in the water looking like they were have great fun but it looked too cold for us to swim.
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the second day saw us drive further up the great ocean road from torquay to apollo bay through a place called lorne that i remember having some of the best fish and chips! i remembered most of the towns that we passed through although they had also become more developed then i remember.Next on our list of things to see was the 12 Apostles, the weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, sun shining and the views were breath taking...its hard to describe something so stunning, we took lots of photos hopefully they will show you a glimps of how wonderful it was. The weather took a turn for the worst and a storm had blown its way over by the end of the day which we embraced as i had warned char that it can be like that even in summer! day 3 we were headed further up the great ocean road past port cambel, we ended up driving back in land to get abit of a change of scenery.
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After doing to Great ocean road and having an amazing time we then headed to Philip Island to see the Penguins! We both loved it, it was such a wonderful experience to see these wild animals doing their day to day thing, with us just sitting there watching it happen! Unfortunatly cameras were not aloud so we couldnt take any pictures ( We tried!!!! but the park keepers werent having any of it) We stayed over night at a nice campsite , abit wet and cold but we had learnt by then how to deal with it. the next day we made our way along the coast stopping wherever we fancied to have lunch, go for walks, camp over night. We headed to Sydney, our final stop in Australia. Sydney was amazing, Mike had been there before but I had only seen it in guide books, films! so to see the harbour bridge, opera house on such a beautiful day was wonderful. We took a boat ride up the river, went to the aquarium and did lots of art galleries which we both thouroughly enjoyed! So that was day 1, day 2 we drove an hour outside of sydney to the beach where we went surfing for the first time, it was great! we put our wetsuits on, had an hour lesson on the basics doos and don'ts the got thrown straight into the surf. Lucky for us we only had 2 other people in our group so it was so much easier to learn. Mike and I were both up on our boards first time! .... we had a few crashes and were aching like mad the next day but it was completely worth it, we loved it.. another new hobby we're hoping to carry on when we get home ( not sure how realistic that is with the english weather but we can try!)

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Whilst we were based in Sydney we took the opportunity to visit friends and family that live close by. Mikes friend Matt lives in Newcastle which is 3 hours north of Sydney so we went to stay with him for 2 days which was lovely, we were taken around the town, watched a few rugby games and spent most of the time catching up as mike hadnt seen Matt in 10 years! From Newcastle we drove back to Sydney, parked up in our campsite and went to visit some of my family that live in the City, another lovely evening spent with dinner in the park looking over the City at night, the view was stunning! After that it was our time to leave Oz! We had a bit of a nightmare handing our campervan back, we got stuck in a major traffic jam on the way to the airport and ended up having our names called out throughout the airport to say that our flight was about to leave!!! Im sure you can all imagine how that went..... everything that could have gone wrong went wrong... security wanted to check our bags.. TWICE.. we tried running to our gate but with two massive backpacks and lots of extra bags ( all our presents for you guys back home!!!) it wasnt easy!.... anyway we got onto the plane sweaty and horrible but we made it. ( the flight ended up being an hour delayed anyway as they didnt load the bags on the correct way so we didnt feel too bad in the end.

Our flight to Aukland was easy, 5 hours went very quickly and we were both so excited to start the next park of our trip! x

Posted by charnmike 15:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Thailand round 2 - Koh Phangan

Paradise.

sunny 37 °C

Hello!!

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Its been ages since we've done a blog and we are really sorry about that! ( mums and dads ) We have just had the most relaxing 3 weeks in paradise. This blog wont be very long because to be perfectly honest all we did everyday was get up, swing on a hammock, go for a swim, sleep on the beach,eat some food, drink some drinks and good to bed. That was our 3 weeks. But in between all of the above we have found somewhere that we have decided we want to bring all of you back to to see. ( once we've picked our bank balance up a bit of course!)

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We arrived back in thailand after an incredible month in Cambodia. It was such a good feeling stepping onto the streets of Bangkok. 3rd time round, it kind of felt as near to "home" as we'd been in a while. We stayed in Bangkok for 3 days, in the same guesthouse ( Shanti lodge) as we had the 2 previous times. This short stint was enough time for us to get some washing done, hit the Koh san road to pick up a few last minute souvenirs and for us to go and buy a replacement camera .... I accidently left our digital on a mini bus in Cambodia.. obviously not realising until we unpacked our bags in Bangkok... bad times but thank god for mike being so into his technology as all of our photos were backed up in 3 different areas ( no photos were lost!) and thats all we really cared about. Anyway so bangkok was good fun as usual, we booked our train/ boat ticket to the island ( koh phangan) and set off on the very familiar journey south. 3rd time round and the sleeper train grows on you. Before the train left we got our takeaway fried rice in a box, stacked up on water and drinks, got the cards out and settled in. It wasn't a quick journey... 18 hours to be precise but thats what you do when you cant afford to fly! to be honest it really isn't that bad, its actually pretty nice to wake up to the most amazing sunrise knowing your not going to have to step onto another train for a good few weeks!

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We arrived in Koh Phangan at around 12pm, jumped in a tuk tuk and headed back to Haad salad, north west of the island. Like we've said in our first blog the island is just gorgeous. Its completely green and full of lush rain forest, all sorts of tropical animals running around, elephants on the side of the street. It sounds a bit cliche but we felt such a massive relief to be back where we started our trip. Haad salad is a small stretch of beach in a cove thats surrounded by palm trees. There are a few other beaches surrounding it but they are a good car ride away. So, we spent the first night in a bungalow at the very end of the beach, it wasn't exactly where we wanted to be but everywhere else was full so we had no choice. Anyway the next day we checked out, kicked our flip flops off and walked a bit further up the beach to find Coral Beach Bungalows.... Thats where we stayed for the rest of our time on the island. For all of you guys who saw it on skype i just wish you could see it in real life, its is so perfect. The bungalow was the cleanest we'd had, gorgeous smelling sheets and towels!! ( its the simple things in life that make you happy after 3 1/2 months away from home ) as sad as that will sound to probably all of you lol. Everything about this place was fantastic, we got into a routine finally, we unpacked our bags .. finally! and we managed to settle in perfectly. ..... We had big plans in those 3 weeks to travel around the island, see a few waterfalls, go on a few boat trips.. but none of that happened and for the first time it wasn't because we couldn't afford it!!! We really cant say too much else about it really, we've uploaded our piccys and the only thing left to do now is tell you all to go and stay there and see it for yourselves!!

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As you can probably tell we didn't want to leave. But once again our visas didn't have much time left and our flight to Perth was booked. We set off , waved goodbye to our beach at 5:30am and headed to the pier where we got on a 2 hour boat ride to Donsak, passing by and dropping off people at the neighboring island Koh Samui. What we knew of this trip before we left was that we would leave the pier at 6:30am and we would arrive in Phuket at 2:30pm the same day. Simple?. Well no, nothing, absolutely nothing is every that simple in Thailand. So we left at 6:30am which was great, the boat ride was 2 ours which was great.... then came the first bus ride.... no aircon... 37 degrees and jam packed ( over the limit of how many people a bus should carry) with tourists. That journey lasted about half an hour, then came bus number 2.... EVERYONE GET OFFFF THE BUUUUUSSSSS... ok, so we got off the bus and stood in the road for a bit whilst the driver told us that as we were going to phuket we had to get on another bus that was "coming in a minute" apparently.. so we waited and waited and waited... the mini van pulled up, we jumped in and thought great here we go this is it, we got comfy put our music on and hoped to get a good few hours sleep before we arrived. BUT NO... 1 hour later GET OFF THE BUS... we got dropped off at a small little road side cafe where we then had to wait 3 hours for the next bus to come and take us to Phuket .. anyway to cut the story short 2 buses after that and another 8 hours later we arrived in Phuket. Exactly 10pm. Never ask anyone in thailand how long a journey is going to take, it really isn't worth the pain! that is what we learnt that day!

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Phuket was alright. We were only there for 12 hours before our flight to Singapore. We stayed in an ok guest house slept like logs and headed for the airport the next day. Our flight was good, really quick! Obviously when we arrived in singapore we knew we were going to be sleeping in the airport as we couldn't afford the luxury hotel that was gleaming at us with its bright lights from the arrivals terminal, plus our flight was the next day so we didn't think it was going to be a big deal just for one night. Oh how wrong we were ( again) i wont go into too much detail but neither of us where in the best of moods, tired doesn't even begin to explain how we were feeling... I started going hysterical,as some of you might know that tends to happen to me sometimes and I start to laugh at anything and everything.. then it terns into crying for no reason! which mike soon worked out! anyway it was pretty rubbish for 24 hours but we boarded our flight to perth and finally got some shut eye.

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Arrived in Perth at 1am... customs was probably the quickest we've ever had and we were out of the airport by 1:30am. My grandads cousin was waiting for us with a big sign with our names on it. We were sooo glad to see him! And that brings us to now! We are in Perth in a town called Dianella, spent the last few days being shown around the city, handing out c.vs, setting up bank accounts and joining the gym! we're really happy to be here, after such an amazing start to our trip we;re now ready for the second leg to begin!!!

we'll try our best to keep updating our blog.. sorry if it takes a while

loads of love

Char and Mike xxxxxx

Posted by charnmike 09:07 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Cambodia - Part 2

Kep - Rabbit Island - Kratie - Seim Reap

sunny 37 °C

About 25 km away from Kampot is a small sea side town called kep. unsure if we wanted to stay there or not but set against doing a tour we took off to try and achieve the trip on our own. How pleased we were to do so as well! when you arrive in Kep there's lots of resorts leading up to the sea but no real beaches or town as relaxing as Kampot. so we decided to travel light with only an overnight bag and head on our own boat to a small island near by called Koh Tonsay which roughly translates as 'Rabbit Island' - not really sure why as we couldn't see the resemblance at all. When you arrive after a 20 minute boat ride you think you've arrived in a local village on the beach. except it is just for tourists. several beach/bungalow huts align the beach front. 8$ a night for bed mosquito net and a toilet/shower of soughts or 5$ for a hut with a bed. again we were very grateful to be able to cool off in water (though this time still warm ridiculously shallow), at one point i thought i was going to be able to walk back to mainland i had walked so far out to sea! The next day we returned to kampot and it was our last night so we finally gave in to temptation and tried out the rustykeyholes famous award winning BBQ ribs. they were quite spectacular and the most amount of meat we have eaten since leaving the UK. They came recommended to us and we leave certainly recommending them to others. right enough talk next stop KRATIE.

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After thouroughly enjoying everything about southern Cambodia we started to make our way north. From Kampot we had to get a bus back to Phnom Phen for 1 night and the next day headed to Kratie. Kratie is a town 7 hours north of PP, our bus journey was so long. 7 hours turned into 10 by the end our trip and we were exhausted. Kratie was tiny. The main strip where most of the restaurants /guesthouses are is on the Mekong river, a great setting. Other than a few markets there isn't too much going on in Kratie town but once again the atmosphere was very laidback and most people were happy just sitting watching the river and the locals go by their day to day lives. Kratie is famous as a viewing point to see the Irrawaddy river dolphins, apparently only 100 left in the world the dolphins have lived in the Mekong for thousands of years. So we hired a tuk tuk and spent the rest of our time travelling through the countryside making our way to the river. As soon as we arrived at the small port we saw the dolphins. It was amazing! our little boat took us out into the Mekong where we sat and watched the dolphins swim and play for an hour, as hard as it was Mike managed to get some great photos! It was a massive highlight being able to see these amazing animals in their natural habitat.. although their not as "pretty" as the dolphins you find in the ocean they are still extremely cute! ( in a massive kind of way!) After that our driver took us to a place called Sombok mountain. Its a Buddist meditation village at the top of a hill in the countryside.... the most peaceful place we'd seen in a while. And that was Kratie! a great little town, somewhere you can really expereince Cambodia's countryside life, miles and miles away from what we are used to back home. Fantastic experience.

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Our next and final bus trip for a while was from Kratie to Siem Reap. Totally prepared for a 12 hour total time from a to b we were pleasantly surprised when it was actually what it said on its cover. Eugh 7 am on a bus - 4 hours to Kampong Cham 11.20 change bus's for bus from phnom penh to siem reap 8 hours later pull into siem reap very tired and usual story look for a guesthouse. luckily it was for 1 night but we found a room that claimed to have hot water shower cable tv and you might laugh but a toilet in with that at no extra charge! grand total 7 $ ... what actually came with that price tag was a shower not connected to the heating unit, a tv with no arial and yup you guest it a broken toilet! smashing stuff. we found some average food but really cheap 1$ a meal no arguing about that!
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The next day we checked into a better guesthouse and spent the day looking ahead of our trip and tried to start applying for jobs/houseshares in Perth, Australia for the middle of march. Not an easy process but better to attempt it earlier than later we thought. In the evening we found a delicious Khmer BBQ street kitchen offering decent sized BBQ meats at an affordable price - it certainly satisfied my (mike) appetite!

430 am wake up. the alarm goes, we roll out of bed into the quickest shower you've ever had and stumble down the 3 flights of stairs still half asleep we left our guesthouse to get in a Tuk-Tuk. 5 am turn up at ticket booth get stung with a 40$ each 3 day ticket fare ( after previously agreeing to our Tuk-Tuk 3 days hire all inclusive would be 60$ .. hes laughing all the way to the bank / were thinking omg we have to buy tickets on top of that?! clearly sometimes things get lost in translation ( quite important things may i add!), never mind its only a minor detail!!! :(!) 5:03 am shoved in front of a camera (like the ones you get when you enter the USA) picture more like the sketchiest image youll see of us is taken (see photos) not one for the mantle piece. 5:06 back in the tuk tuk, its pitch black, you sense there's lots of activity going on but your in an out of the moon light that manages to filter through the jungle trees.. then suddenely a break in the trees you see reflections from a long stretch of water. 5:20 am you stop, you have arrived at your first destination. ANGKOR WHAT?! surrounded by torch lights and not much else we walked through and waited for the sun to rise. quite an amazing experience watching the sunrise but watching it over angkor wat was something that wont be matched in a while. when the sky turns from black to pink the 5 peaks of the temple appear as silhouettes. we checked it out for about 2 hours before moving onto the next temple angkor thom. anyways ill save the descriptive malarky for when we get back! we had a couple of days around the temple sites including going to some pretty big temples far far away on the second day. i think the pictures will give you a pretty good idea of how much we enjoyed it.

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Today is our last proper day in cambodia, a few last souvenirs and just time to post this blog before flying out of phnom penh tomorrow. yes you did hear correctly right now were in siem reap and we had planned our whole trip as we had thought we were flying out of siem reap - but we got that wrong (luckily about a week ago we realised and checked our tickets) tomorrow were getting up at 7 am and leaving for phnom penh and tomorrow evning we will be back in thailand. we have both LOVED cambodia and are really sad to leave it behind.

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( dodgy mug shots for our temple pass at 4:30am!!! )

Hope there are more pictures for you this time and that your all well

lots of love
Char and Mike xxxxxx

Posted by charnmike 06:19 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Cambodia - Part 1 (part 2 follows)

Phnom Penh - sihanoukville - otres beach - kampot

sunny 37 °C

We left HCMC Vietnam early to get our 7 hour bus into Cambodia. The journey was really easy, we had to stop a couple of times to get our Visas stamped and that was it! Once we were officially in Cambodia the scenery completely changed. From dusty city streets to lush green countryside our first impressions of Cambodia were good ones!
We arrived in Phnom Phen in the evening ( friday night from what we can remember!) We didn't really have any expectations as we've learnt not to whilst travelling around certain parts of south east asia. Phnom Phen wasn't really somewhere we would chose to stay for a long amount of time. It was a hectic city but also the poverty was so much more evident here, something that takes a while to get used to. Anyway we found our guesthouse and decided to make the most of our time there.
Our first full day was spent visiting the "Killing fields". Words can't really describe what we felt that day, it was horrific to learn what the cambodian people went through and so recently too. We wont go into too much detail of what went on as we're pretty sure most of you know about the khmer rouge and Pol Potts regime ... something myself and Mike were completely ignorant to before we came to Cambodia. As tough as it was to see and hear everything we did at the Killing fields we learnt a lot, we also felt as though we could now understand and respect the local people and there lifestyle throughout our trip.

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We were both quite emotional after that, It probably sounds abit extreme but its one of those things you have to see it to believe it.

Anyway! on to better things, after another day in Phnom Phen we booked our bus ticket to southern Cambodia (sihanoukville). We hadn't really heard great things about Cambodias coast but we had decided to check it out anyway, you cant beat being by the sea whilst temperatures hit 36 degrees! we arrived at a cheap guest house with in walking distance of a locals beach. relieved to finally be able to cool off we were on the beach with only a handful of tourists. The beach wasn't the nicest we'd seen but the water was warm and the tourists were few so we stayed for a few hours, had a swim and some food and then the next day we headed in search for a beach ( which is only really spoken about through word of mouth) It was called Otres Beach. The only way of us getting there was to hop on a motor bike each, backpacks and all!! The journey was interesting, apart from the road being full of pot holes and massive rocks the heavens decided to open on us too... and we don't say that lightly... we got SOAKED. Mike forgot to put his waterproof cover over his bags so that was already a bad sign luckily nothing got ruined and it only took 5 minutes for them to dry off in the glorious sunshine that appeared 20 minutes later! Our motorbike drivers dropped us off, drenched at the top of a hill... for all we knew we could have been anywhere , so off mike went to explore!( leaving me alone in a little shack..... with all of our belongings..... he was gone ages!) but luckily he had left me in the hands of a group of english tourists.... from Hampton!! of all places so i was quite happy chatting whilst he found us a gorgeous bungalow on the beach... he did good!! Otres beach was amazing. It was the most idylic beach we had seen, pure white sand, terquoise waters as flat as a pancake .. there were tourists but so few that you could have been on a private beach most of the time. We stayed here for 6 days... origionally meant to be a 3 day stay but when you look at our pictures you'll realise why we stayed longer. We met some great people here, Locals that made us feel so welcome and at home. Characters that we'll have to tell you all about when we get home! ( we've made sure to add them on skype too so you can meet them yourselves if you like!!!)

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Our stay in Otres Beach was really relaxing more like a weeks holiday you would book yourself on and we had just discovered it! our bungalows were brand knew only be open since january 1s 2012 and very basic. The owner was still in the process of building the resort. Everyday something knew was being added. He was a lovely guy. After Otres we knew we had to claw ourselves away to discover some more of cambodia. We were in good spirit and totally relaxed and headed on a 2 hour bus to Kampot.

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Anyone who would turn up in Kampot might be forgiven for thinking theres not much going for it it. It's a quiet town situated on a lovely river with buildings influenced heaavily by french reign architecture. We had heard a friend say that they loved it so much they stayed there for a week instead of a couple of days which is reccommended. at first we couldnt quite work out why (probably because we were still in beach mode!), but after you have had a couple of days and done the tours on offer it becomes quite an enchanting place. A few big plus's for us was a pub called the rustykeyhole and our guest house blissful. both two completely different atmoshpheres but both equally awesome. the rustykeyhole a must for any spare ribs lover or traveller in need of a good hearty meal. imagine a chilled out pub in england slapped by a big river and oh yeah glorious sunshine to actually enjoy that beer outside?! they also have a love for sport quite handy when the big games come on. Blissful at the other end of the spectrum was a chilled out guesthouse with a 'blissful' garden with hammocks where you could just spend time reading a book or recover from dodgy street food poisoning - something some of you would have heard about!

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Just a quick note about Tours in kampot!! you have been warned.. if you had seen the sights perhaps 5 or 6 years ago you would probably have loved it or blown away by its mystical charm. however sadly now the only thing mystical about it is the weather which even though we were able to experience on the top of bokor mountain the other half of the experience no longer adds up. a chinese business man is in the process of well and truly turning it into a las vegas in the sky. building works of 5 star 12 stories high with 1000 rooms are mainly all that can be seen on the tour! we were taken to see a massive waterfall - which had no water in it. that says it all really - our advice if you do want to see it get yourself a motorbike and go up and see it yourself and see what you want to see!!

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Posted by charnmike 06:18 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Goodbye Vietnam

Hoi An - Nah Trang - Mui Ne - Saigon (HCMC)

sunny 35 °C

Helloo so our 3 weeks in Vietnam has come to an end! We can't believe how quickly its gone ( scary!) but we've had a great time. Since the last time we did our blog we've managed to make our way down the southern coast of Vietnam. After 3 days in Hoi An we jumped on yet another bus and headed to Nah Trang ( another over night job!) but this time we actually arrived on time! 6am we pulled into Nah Trang bay, we'd heard lots of mixed reviews on Nah Trang but we were just happy to be by the sea... so we checked into our hotel which was in the centre of Nah Trang , 2 minute walk to the beach. It was a nice enough hotel, it had a bed and a shower.. oh and a balconey!!! ( check us out) for $12 we couldnt complain. Unfortunatley Nah Trang isnt the most atmospheric city. It consists of hundreds of multi story hotels and buildings slapped right on a long stretch of beach... from far away it looks gorgeous but we were soon to find out that that wasnt the case, there was alot of rubbish in the sea and on the beach which we had to try and avoid but that put us off quite quickly ( didnt help finding a washed up used syringe either) Anyway , we found ourselves a tiny little spot under a palm tree as far away as possible from the massive crowds of roudy tourists ( when we say roudy we mean it, we felt like we were outside of Kingston Oceana at 3am....except it was 11am and on a beach!..in Vietnam)

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Over the next 2 days we got some sight seeing in, which was good Mike found out about a local Photographer who had a gallery just outside of the city centre. It was abit of a mission to get to but well worth it. We went to see the Nah Trang cathederal which was closed.... typical ... found a small little market and spent most of the day wondering around the small streets seeing the locals do their day to day thing! On our last night we managed to find a greek taverna actually run by a greek couple and the food was amazing!! I know your all probably thinking why eat greek food when your in vietnam? seriously...after nearly 2 months of asian food your taste buds are ready for a change! We decided that 2 days was enough for us in Nah Trang, it was good to see but not somewhere we would want to go back to , after being in Hoi An where it had such charm and character Nah Trang just felt like quite a sad city. So we booked our bus for the next morning, packed our bags ready for Mui Ne our next destination on the map!

Mui Ne was great. 6 hours away from Nah Trang it couldnt be any more different! Mui Ne in a small seaside town, everything is based on the beach..and its become famous for its kite surfing and windsurfing due to the amazing beaches and wind speeds. The atmosphere was great, our hotel was right on the beach. Dad and mum ( glenn and deb) the only way i can describe this place is to say its exactly like Skinia but smaller. Anyway we spent most of our time in the sea watching the kite surfers ( we've decided thats our next sport to try!) if we'd had enough cash/time we would have got ourselves onto a course but as it was Vietnams New Year holiday everything was jam packed and fully booked. It sounds silly because we've been away for 2 months now but we both felt for the first time like we were on "holiday" here. Mui Ne is also well known for its massive sand dunes, you can hire a sley and ride down the dunes which looked great but we didnt fancy it as it was 36 degrees all day and we were too tempted with the sea 2 steps away to venture out to the sand dunes. The seafood in Mui Ne was amazing. We ate in the seafood resturants most of the time, they have all of their freshly caught fish displayed in freezers where you can choose what you want and they cook it on a massive outdoor bbq in front of you. Luckily for mike they did do other meats aswell...phew. So everything over the 4 days in Mui Ne was great, we had a brilliant time. But as our visas were slowly coming to an end we packed up ( we are now pro packers by the way! we might offer our servises when we get home, only a small fee for your suitcases to be packed in 5 minutes ;) ) Our last bus ride was to Saigon ( HO CHI MINH CITY ) the final stop of our month in Vietnam.

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( OVER TO MIKE!! X )

wow saigon secretly i had been waiting for this moment for a while but im not sure why and what we were to expect. hopefully more than the first impression we got from our guesthouse. located on what can only be described as the Koh San Road of Vietnam. but actually after being here for a couple of days it has grown on us. we arrived on the 22nd which just so happened to coincide with Vietnams Lunar New Year. so we decided to get fully involved. mark these words closely. when day light had faded we headed out onto the streets of HCMC, to discover that about a million other locals had the same idea. quite a sight. massive street light displays and yellow and pink blossom trees lined the streets. a very very happy ambience could be felt but nothing could have prepared us for when we reached the river saigon. a massive fire work display had been arranged and thousands of people had gathered and were sitting around waiting for it. When i say thousands of people i mean thousands of people AND their mopeds. luckily the majority of tourists had decided to stay at bay in the comfort of there loud pumping music bars which left us able to enjoy the evening with the locals. the firework display which kicked off at 12:03 am (asia times and without any real count down..) brought in there new year with quite literally a bang. probably one of the best firework displays we have ever seen and it was completely FREE! non-stop chemical reactions provided us with 3D like imagery of butterfly/hearts/flowers/PLANETS! with out the need for any 3D glasses. after standing in awe for 25 minutes the fireworks finished and was only really met with a few happy new year shouts from the locals nothing like how we celebrate in the west arguably a nice change. just smiles and warmth and happiness. HOWEVER. the walk home can only be described as something that could have jeopardised the whole event. quite literally we were lucky to have escaped with our lives ( maybe a little exadurated). the fireworks finished and everyone and remember its everyone and there mopeds decided they would leave at the same time. the so called soldiers and police sat back on there motorbikes on their mobile phones, while behind them the streets of traffic ripped through a sea of people. with no clear action plan for major public events we were left to witness scenes 10 times worse than in hanoi at the beginning of our trip. luckily though my natural organic shape helped us push a way through to a safer area where we were able to walk home. the next morning we got on a bus at 7 am to the cao dai temples & chu chi tunnels. at first i was regretting that i had booked us onto a bus that was just going to be driving around the whole day but as soon as we arrived at the cao dai temples some 3.5 hours from saigon that regretting feeling just subsided completely. the Cao Dai relgion was founded in 1926 but only became legally recognised in 1997. Cao dai is a combination of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam. We were allowed to go in for there pray time which was interesting, the followers all wear white and the teachers wear different colours we only saw 3 types of teachers; red christianity, yellow buddhism, blue islam. it was quite a peaceful place even if we didn't completely get our heads around the idea of a religion of all religions. we were then whisked off on another 1.5 hour drive to Chu chi. where we were to see some extremely crafty and sneaky work of some very determined local Vietnamesse or Viet Congs.but the whole place was nothing more than experienced organised locals who knew how to protect and respect there green lushious paradise. we pulled in to what can be seen from all the vietnam war films palm trees and real high levels of humidity.The Chu chi tunnels were built by the vietnamise during the war with america, they used the tunnels to get from village to village without the americans knowing about it. Part of the tour allowed us to go down into the tunnels, an amazing experience, we both found it so clostraphobic luckily we werent down there for long! i could probably write for another hour about this place but i wont to save you all. we really enjoyed this day trip and will fill you in more when we return home.

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Yesterday we took it a little easier and headed back on foot around the city again. we managed to find vietnams equivalent to tate modern. FINALLY! or not... we found a national art gallery which was situated in the most amaizing building, high ceilings with ornate original floor tiles of an exotic nature and a minute amount of art works. but still it was refreshing to get my eyes back on some art work. after that we found a small cafe where we taught ourselves how to play chinese chess. something we had seen a lot of vietnamese locals playing all over our travels and i for one am a sucker for a good board game. its very strange at first and extremely hard. were about to play another game after we have finished this. its a great way of killing time. something we have quite a bit of between now and tomorrow, when your all waking up we will be on a bus to cambodia. 24$'s + 6 hours of bus journey and 50$'s worth of visas we shall find ourselves in phnom penh.

Were both very excited about cambodia :) we have heard some great things. Hopefully we will manage to catch up with you all soon on skype.

Lots of Love
Char and Mike xxxxx

Posted by charnmike 02:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Laos (Vang Vieng,Vientiane) to Vietnam

all seasons in one day 15 °C

Hi everyone! so sorry its been ages since we updated our blog, we've been constantly on the go for the past couple of weeks! ( we've got 5 hours until our bus leaves so now is a perfect time)

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So the last blog we wrote was from Vang Vieng in Laos, we left there and headed to Vientiane to get our visas for Vietnam. 3 hours on the bus wasn't too bad ( no bags needed!). Vientiane wasn't too thrilling, it was a small city the capital of Laos. We found a cheap guesthouse and spent the first day sorting out our visas. In the evenings we found out where the market was, walked around looking at the amazing food and fruits of Laos, mike ended up getting a big bbq piece of chicken on a skewer probably the best bit of meat we've had since being away! ( the littlest things make us happy these days!). Day 2 we found a little cafe and spent most of the day planning our first leg of Vietnam then headed to the airport to catch our flight to Hanoi. The airport was great, so easy! we checked in, got some lunch, went to our gate ( our flight was delayed by about an hour but we didnt expect anything less looking back at other experiences in asia) The plane that we got on was small!.... but it was brand new and very very comfortable, we were barley in the air before we landed again! 50 minutes was all it took to get from Laos to Vietnam ( hanoi) and compared to the 30 hour bus that we would of taken we were happy we'd chosen to fly!

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Hanoi was FREEZING ... 5 degrees. We'd just come from Laos where the temperature in Vientiane was mid 30's so theres us with our shorts and tshirts on, everyone else was wearing scarfs, gloves and hats! it was quite a dramatic shift but nice to not be sweating buckets. We'd booked our hotel a few days before arriving in hanoi, it got great reviews online, in the centre of the old town and was well under our budget ..... when we pulled up in our taxi "Blue sky hotel" wasn't quite what there website had told us... it was a building site! literally cement on the floors, walls half up, paint pots everywhere... what they hadnt mentioned online was that they were completely renovating the hotel. Anyway the staff were really really friendly and so kind, we didnt have the energy to say anything at that point. We went to our room ( the only room that was finished in the whole hotel) and it was actually a lovely room, the shower was just about hot and mike managed to change the settings on the air con machine to turn it into heating! perfect. That night we went into the town. It was crazy! we thought Bangkok was pretty much off the scale when it came to mad drivers and no pavements but Hanoi was something else! we literally had to walk single file through the streets ( on the curb) praying we wouldnt get knocked over by a motorbike carrying what seemed like the entire content of his home on the back! We got used to it after about an hour, realising again that youve just got to KEEP WALKING.. dont stop or wait for anyone to let you cross, just keep walking. And it worked!. We found a local restuarant got some food, a CUP OF TEA!!! finally and then wondered through the many night markets. Vietnam celebrates there new year on the 23rd Jan so everywhere was selling all sorts of decorations, music was playing and the atmosphere was crazy but quite enjoyable. Oh I also brought a pair of thermal leggings! ( they were a life saver in the days to come, a good buy.. i tried to convince mike to get some too but he wasnt having any of it ;) ) That evening we booked ourselves a tour to Halong Bay 2 days 1 night. The bus picked us up early the next morning, with lots of other tired backpackers we headed on a 4 hour journey to Halong City harbour, making a brief stop along the way for our tour guide to try and make us buy completely over priced souvenirs ... something we'd had seen enough of in Hanoi. When we arrived at the harbour we had to wait for a while for another group to join us, then we made our way to the boat.

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Halong bay was just amazing. There were about 12 of us on the boat, the first day we sailed to acave where we explored.... it was huge! unfortunatly its become a massive tourist hot spot and the cave has been installed with big brightly coloured lights that make it seem like your stepping onto a ride at disney land... something that put us off slightly. But even so, it was amazing to see. After an hour there we got back onto our boat, the scenery was like nothing we'd seen before, the water was so calm, the massive lime stone mountains poking out of the water ..everything was just so calm and quiet. The next stop on the boat was at a small floating village where we were allowed to use the kayaks and kayaked around for a good hour, we were told there was another cave we could go into but unfortunatley the tide was out that day so we werent able to go in. Turns out me and mike got the dodgy kayak though.... typical it meant that we could only turn left!!! so im sure you can imagine the scene we caused trying to get back into the boat... it was hilarious. After that we all got changed into our cosey trackies and coats and went to sit on the top deck of the boat, there wasnt much of a sunset as there were too many clouds in the sky but that didnt matter, we were heading to a small island where the boat would stop quite close to over night. We had a meal cooked for us all on board and we spent the evening playing all sorts of card games and listening to the crews choice of music ( interesting to say the least!) a really good night. The second day we woke up feeling abit stiff.... had breakfast bright and early and spent most of the day sitting on the deck of the boat reading, taking pictures...heading back to the harbour. The trip was fantastic, we're so glad we booked it even though it was short and not exactly what we were told we were going to get ( as usual) it was well worth it. When we arrived back at our hotel we got showered,checked out, managed to get a discount due to the building site we were staying in which was a bonus! and waited for our bus to take us to our next destination, Hue.

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It may well have been a different country that we were going to judging by the length of time we spent on the over night "sleeper" bus. 16 hours enough said really. little sleep. apparently the average size person in vietnam is 1.6 m and about 20 cm wide or thats what the sleeper units allow you to relax in... so after playing lets see how many packages we can deliver along the way. we must have stopped every 1 hour.. so just like a football match that should be 90 minutes plus stoppages our stoppages came to an extra 2 hours!!!! eugh. when we arrived bleary eyed and knackered in hue which is apparently pronounced hway we were welcomed with rain. kind of a nice change but not really. Hue is really small city and its the old capital where until recently the king lived. we were roped into an unbelievable deal.. at least we thought. and when something seems too good to be true it normally is *. the deal was for 10$ a double bed private ensuite, breakfast, wifi and free pool table and a local beer between 6 and 9 pm so we thought great! comming in well under budget and after seeing the rooms we were squids in. Unfortunately upon unpacking we realised that the rooms window was broken and there were moldy pillows due to severe problems with damp. not something we had really bargained for. we headed out in search of food to fix mikes rumbling stomach and all too familiar tale.. We were kindly pointed in the direction of a locals cafe serving delicious cheap vietnamese food. saving money on our meal meant we were able to indulge in a much needed hot chocolate to warm the toes up! made with condensed milk giving it an added sweetened taste. Now armed we went over a big bridge over the perfume river to the old part of the old capital. still pouring down with rain mike decided that he was going to try and embrace the rain. Probably not the best of ideas as a cold was to later follow as there was no heating in our room and no hot water as advertised.. anyway side tracking from the main story a little bit. we checked out the main local market which was at least a little bit dryer.. rows and rows of inter grated stalls trying to sell you things even if you didn't need them! after that we stumbled back over the bridge and tried to gather some heat and some much needed z's. the next day we had a slow start but cashed in on the free breakfast ( american breakfast - fried egg warm baguette two stingy sized bits of bacon and CHIPS wowzors! ) we went out in search of cheap rain jackets, ended up casually picking up 2 north face jackets for 40$ not bad. but not before mike had acquired one of the locals rain coats for 2$ (there would have been a photo had char not valued what's left of my credit back home). we then went on a mission to see a 'Contemporary Art Gallery' which mike had picked out of the guide books, to be fair one of the only few things mentioned in the book. Eventually after some reliable map reading skills for once we arrived and were pleasantly surprised. A small interesting collection of sculptures, drawings and prints from a 20th French/Vietnamese artist with apparently big recognition in europe. Then we had to re cross the river this time by a different bridge further down river to go and see the old citadel. the kings kingdom. Had we been alive in mid to late 1920's it would have been quite a sight.. 150 buildings,every need catered for with in the kings immediate life. but sadly due to natural disasters and bombing during the 2 vietnam wars the kingdom was in a serious need of repair. It made a change to some of the complete ruins of temples we had seen in thailand and laos as here they are at least trying to rebuild the citadel... one building at a time (even if it is with dodgy looking bamboo scaffolding). We had a good two hours walking around before we headed back to our hotel to pack our bags AGAIN and get ready for our journey to Hoi An.

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The bus trip to Hoi An was only 4 hours and most of it was spent driving along the coast. We arrived to warm sunshine! not so blue skies but we were just so happy to be warm again! ... we managed to find a cheap hotel, dumped our bags and went for a walk ( the usual routine when arriving in a new place!) Hoi An is probably one of our favourite places in Vietnam so far ( we haven't been here long or seen that much yet but still...) It is a very small town with old rustic buildings turned into cafes and restaurants... the town is split into two with the Thu Bon River running through the middle. Hoi An seems really laid back, there are a lot of tourists all here to get their suits, jackets and shoes tailor made ( thats what hoi an is famous for) but apart from that the pace of the town is slow, something we really needed and made the most of. The first hotel we stayed in was a bit of a nightmare, so we checked out and found somewhere else on the other side of the river just in time for mikes birthday! The sun was shining and we had bright blue sky! We went for a birthday breakfast, hired a couple of bikes and headed to the beach. We hadn't heard too much about the beaches in Hoi An but we didn't want to miss out on the perfect weather that we had so we cycled 25 minutes out of town with our trusty map! The beach was perfect. White sand that stretched for 10km from one end of Hoi An to the other.. luckily we had chosen the less touristy end and managed to get ourselves 2 sunbeds and a bamboo umbrella for the day. Mike spent most of the day in the sea, the waves were big and most people were out on their surfboards so it was lots of fun.... The water was freeezing however so i went for a couple of swims not loving the fact that every time i got hit by a wave my cozzy would pretty much be down by my ankles. So i ended up watching rather than joining in! We decided that we would head back to our hotel at about 3 o'clock, Mike had chosen which restaurant he wanted to celebrate in and I had ordered a little cake that morning for us to celebrate his birthday! Thats when we skyped everyone at home, which as usual is the best part of the day especially with the little bit of news mikes sister had for us! So that was mikes birthday :) one he wont forget for a while!

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Today we're waiting for our bus that leaves Hoi An at 5 o'clock to take us to Nha Trang, We've been sitting in a little cafe by the river for a few hours trying to update our blog as best as we can! hope you enjoy.

love you all loads

Char and Mike xxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by charnmike 00:32 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Chiang Khong - Laos

sunny 32 °C

Happy new year everyone! last update was boxing day so we've got quite abit to catch up on!
We left Chiang Mai feeling a little bleary eyed and tired after our trecking but optimistic about our journey into Laos. We did the usual, got picked up in a mini van and travelled for 6 hours heading north to Chiang Khong. After having a decent 12 hours sleep in our guesthouse we set off to the pier where we crossed the river into Laos ( 2 minutes on a taxi boat is all it took!!) but this was just to collect our Visas, a process that we are both quite glad to see the back of ( it was a nightmare!) .. finally after Mike did his best to stay calm at the fact that there is no queueing system in this part of the world we got our visas and made our way in a tuk tuk with 7 others to get our Boat to Luang Prabang. A journey about 2 minutes up stream had us fairly confident we would be on our way speedy gonzalezly.... 10 am turned into 11 am and 11 am turned into 12 pm, waiting around for the river boat to leave downstream. i suppose when the ticket was only a 100,000 kip about £8 for a 7 hour journey you cant be pushy. The people of Laos seem to be more laid back then thai people. any how like sardines crammed into a tin we got on the boat and we were on our way!!

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It was quite a peaceful journey, the sound of the motor just trudging along the murky mekong river with jungles and sporadic hill tribes either side of you. If you've ever had a trip along the river thames on a sunny day its quite enjoyable but then the journey you took on the river thames was probably a 2 hour loop max... not for us! we got nearly 4 times that "excitement" and so much going on, on the boat and around you to possibly report back on so we can leave the pictures to try and give you a pretty good idea of what can be expected from the slow boat. We were however grateful we wern't on a tiny speed boat which we had heard were quite dangerous.

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Pakbeng.... tired, bums numb from 7th class wooden seats we arrived.. Pakbeng was interesting, it consisted of one road and several guesthouses. Thats it. The town has only started using electricity in the past year and everything closes when it gets dark so we clambered off the boat, found a room for the night and tried to find somewhere to get some food in our bellies! On our boat trip we met a really good group of people, most of which were staying in the same guesthouse as us so we headed out for dinner with 2 argentinian girls who we'd been travelling with for the last few days and enjoyed some grub.

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The second day on the boat. We left Pakbeng behind having stocked up on drinks and food for the 8 hour journey that was ahead of us. It was pretty much the same as the day before, a few pick ups along the way as the boat we were on was also used as a taxi for the local village people who rely on it as there way of getting around, it was great seeing all of the villagers and watching them go by their day to day lives. The river is what they live eat, play and even sleep on... a million miles away from what we are used to it really made us appriciate everything that we have back at home.

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We arrived in Luang Prabang at about 5pm... so happy to see a town that had such charm! The riverside was spotted with cafes covered in fairy lights and small shops selling all sorts. We found our hotel for the next 2 nights and went to explore the town. Luang Prabang used to be governed by france, until the 1950s so alot of the buildings are influenced by the french style housing you would find in a quaint little village somewhere in the French countryside... of course this wasnt everywhere, there were still the usual tin houses, street kitchens and all the other quwerks that make south east asia what it is. New years eve was great! Mike managed to watch the Chelsea game ( well 45 mins of it so luckily he didnt find out the result until the next day...pheew) we met up with the group of people we travelled into Laos with and celebrated the new year with them! We started off in a gorgeous garden bar next to the river then headed to a club called Utopia, it wasnt the usual night club, it was a a bar with a massive garden / pit fire/ sand and palm trees it was perfect, a really good night and the best thing about it was that it wasnt planned. New years day was abit of a write off, we tried going out to enjoy the sunshine but the after affects of LaoLao ( local rice wine.... never ever ever again) from the night before werent too good!

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The next day we checked out of our hotel and started on our journey to Vang Vieng. The mini bus picked us and 7 others up chucked our bags on the roof and off we went! ...... 7 hours later, quite possibly the worst journey of our trip so far..There are no speed limits in Laos, there are also no roads WITHOUT holes in them so when you combine that with long winding mountain tracks saying it was awful would be an understatement..luckily i had mike to look after me but theres not so much you can do with 1 plastic bag at the back of a mini bus crammed with other people :S Anyway we arrived safely, thank goodness, got dropped in the middle of town centre. a bit of a higgledy piggledy town. deserted really. we had been reccomended to stay somewhere that was amaizing but there website had failed them our custom as we couldnt find anyone who knew where it was! pffft so we were quite fed up after the journey we had had. we walked out of the town towards the namsong river. upon we found a beautiful hotel with semi detached bungalows if you can call them such a thing, a swimming pool and an amaizing view! mike made an executive descion to book 3 nights here which definetly put a smile on my face! i think its probably a bit out of our budget but i think he could sense that we needed to treat ourselves and i wasn't about to complain :D.

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so today we just lounged around by the pool drinking fresh lemon shakes playing backgammon and sunning ourselves.. managing to sort out the next leg of our trip into vietnam. tomorrow were heading of to the blue lagoon on bicycles that were renting from the village.

hopefully you've all had just as fun a new years as we have and we cant wait to catch up with everyone!

lots of love
char and mike xxxx

p.s if this text sounds a bit odd me and char keep hijacking the computer off each other to get our pennies worth in! so every now and then it changes from me to char. sorry :)!!!!

Posted by charnmike 02:25 Archived in Laos Comments (4)

Chiang Mai

"Oh my Buddah!"

sunny 26 °C

Hello guys, so christmas has been and gone already! We both hope everyone enjoyed celebrating, eating lots of nice food and drinking together ( we certainly missed each and every one of you thats for sure) but thank god for Skype!

We've been in Chiang Mai for 5 days now and we're loving it. It's alot cooler up north, not so humid so we've managed to do all of our sight seeing without thinking we're going to pass out along the way! Our first day was spent un packing our bags, doing some laundry ( FINALLY) and having a wonder around the city. Our hotel is situated in the Old city of Chiang Mai, its alot easier to get around than Bangkok and less tourists wich is great! So we started off getting a tuk tuk for a few hours to take us around 3 of the main temples, they were all beautiful so colourful and vibrant it was a massive change to what we saw in Ayutthaya.... but they were all the same, same, same... I think we're officially templed out. ( we have made a joint decision in that we're not going to visit another temple until Cambodia!) Anyway day one was very chilled we met our group who were going to be joining us on our 3 day treck for a brief meeting then headed to the night markets.

Day 2 - First day of our treck! we were up bright and early to get ourselves prepared for the day ahead. Our driver turned up at 9 , picked up our group and set off to the mountains! ( stopping at a fresh food market along the way to pick up some supplies ) Everyone was in high spirits, our tour guides were hilarious - Oy a tourism student from Chiang Mai university and Lan ( the man with not so much of a plan ) whos been doing trecks for the past 15 years. So first stop was Bamboo rafting!!! this was great fun, literally 10 strips on thick bamboo tied together to make a raft...thats it! 5 of us on one raft heading down the river, passing elephants along the way! We all got SOAKED.Second stop was a small farm village where we had lunch and wondered around waiting to find out what we were going to be doing next! 1 hour past, 2 hours and finally Lan ran over to tell us that we would be leaving soon but someone had had an accident 1 hour into their treck and no one knew what to do as there was no signal and no first aiders or medical equipment to help this person but we figured they were going to sort it out and it was going to be fine. It was very hectic, but finally we set off on our journey. The first hour was great, wondering through the rice fields, slowly heading up hill into the lush mountains.. Mike singing " everywhere we goooo people want to knooow, who we arrrre, where we come from ..la la la.." as you can imagine it got everyone going but slowly started ware off after 2 hours climbing UP HILL in 30 degree heat! ( i think mike got the hint and decided to save his singing voice for another day :P) We had been walking for 2 hours when we got to a very narrow pathway, crumbling rocks on one side and a 30 ft drop on the other we took it slow...very very slow but these guys had done this trip 2 times a week for the last 15 years so we trusted that it was as safe as it could be! It wasnt until we saw a group of people in the distance that we realised this was where the ( what we now know) american girl had slipped and broken her leg... All of our group rushed over to her, she had been walking near a stream to wet her feet in the water, slipped and broken her leg.. she was white, shaking and petrified about how they were going to get her back down to the village. None of the guides knew what to do. It took Alex, who was a member of our group to step in as he was first aid trained to try and make her feel as comforable as possible, me and mike got our emergency numbers out and went with this girls best friend and one of her guides to try and find signal to call the hospital.... but we were 2 hours into our treck which meant 2 hours away from the village. Anyway to cut a long story short fianlly one of the guides went back to the village, called a doctor and they arrived back with a stretcher and some seatbelt straps to carry her back down the mountain. After this we were all in abit of shock, it was the lack of organisation and lack of knowledge of what to do in an emergency that freaked us out slightly. All of our guides were telling us not to worry and that " everything good! everything good!" but we werent very impressed. The mood went from being upbeat to us all feeling like we just wanted to get to camp, get some food and go to bed. We arrived at our first camp at around 4:30pm, it was right next to a massive waterfall which was fantastic, we all got our swimsuits on and went to cool off. This got our spirits up and we enjoyed an evening of fresh homemade chicken curry done on the bbq , a big camp fire, beers and a 2 hour long game of cards! Finally, bed time.

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Morningggg, we all woke up at about 7:30am, after sleeping on bamboo flooring in a large hut we were all quite excited about the day ahead. 4 hours trecking to a small hill tribe village, the tibe we were going to be staying with were called the White Karen tribe, a village of only 50 people all of whom were related in one way or another. Unfortunatly we didnt really get that much info out of our tour guide, he was too busy giving us biology lessons on the opium that grows in the mountains and picking leaves from trees that if you broke the stem you could make bubbles,all very entertaining wen you've been walking up hill non stop , every break we had there was something new for him to show us! I have to say, if it wasnt for Lan and Oy i dont think we would have managed to get through the three day treck, they both were great characters and pretty much made us laugh the whole time, full of stories and funny sayings " Oh my buddah!" being one of the most commonly used by Lan! Anyway, we arrived at the village just in time for sunset. The people where lovely, so many children running around full of smiles and cheeky grins. We managed to hear lots of stories on the history of the tribe as Lan has been visiting them for the past 15 years, so all in all it was a great experience to see how far away from our world these people are. Once again we made up a camp fire, had dinner , met the Chief of the tribe also know as Pu ( grandfather) who looked about 100 ( was only 80) he didnt speak any english but his face told us all we needed to know. After we ran out of wood for the fire we all went to bed, accommodation the same as the previous night...only all of us were exhausted and hoped that we would get atleast 5 hours of sleep. No chance. Our hut was right opposite the chicken pen, which meant at 4:45am the roosters started singing, then the sound of cow bells filled the quite in between roosters and what we didnt realize was that at 5am the village started to wake up too!!! so thats everyone except for us.. great.. after scraping a couple hours of non memorable sleep we decided to press on the trek back down the mountain to get to the elephants. (something that had quietly kept us all very excited! )

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The trip down seemed to be a doddle but it was still with its quirky entertainment from lan. Oh yeah and CHRISTMAS!!!! not quite the usual one we were used to. A few out of tune songs got the walk off to a happy start. and hearing the auzzie versions of our jingle bells made us all laugh. the breaks from walking we had been taking on the trip were no let down just because we were walking down hill...Lan wipped up a jungle joint and instead of offering us drugs he shocked us with his crude demonstration of gun powder! yes you head correctly gun powder. this genoristy of thrills helped us down the mountain where we reached the end of the trek. All exhausted but relieved to reach the bottom we only paused for a minute before we were carted off to lunch followed by visit to the see the ELEPHANTs!! Very excited when we got there!

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char and i were the first to get on an elephant, it was reassuring in some strange way to know before we got on the elephant that thai's dont do health and safety.. at least our nervous laughter at times helped us get through near moments of almost falling off this elephant, as the trip we were taken on went up and down some pretty steep terrains and there was no seat belt just like in other transports in thailand. so when your hanging vertically over the edge as the elephant is going down a rocky hill your quietly praying that the elephant is strong enough to take your weight but kind of thinking that everythings normal as it can be on an arranged tour! It was a really great experience though and was definetly a christmas highlight for us both and one we wont be able to repeat for a very long time! After hour 40 minute ride we were able to feed the elephants bananas! sounded bonkers at first i thought that was a monkeys favourite food! but these elephants new exactly what they were and after we gave them one they wasted no time using there trunks to put it in there mouths whole - peeling it would be a waste of time right? as we were leaving i ( mike ) decided to ask an elephant ( just so happened to be the naughty baby elephant! ) how his food was and if it he was enjoying it. not offering him any food this time i must have looked like i was trying to take his food away from him.. he didnt waste any time in answering me back. He tucked his trunk with his (precious) food underneath him and lowered his head and charged at me. luckily i have enough padding in certain areas that he just managed to knock me for 6 before i managed to roll out the way. not really sure what had just happened i got up to relive the whole thing through chars face! took me a few minutes of laughing hysterically to get back to normal. it had been a great way to end an interesting trip. in the evening of christmas day we headed into chiang mai old city in search of some filling grub! avoiding anything that wouldnt come close to resemble a roast dinner that we knew were being eaten at home we ended up at a boutique thai restaurant. we had some lovely food and watched the night market as other people did the walking for a change! we ended the night on a lovely couple of skype sessions with the family and hit the hay pretty rapidly. a proper bed. priceless.!

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Boxing day... the cooking course!! :D :D

this blog is starting to turn our to be an essay! so were gonna keep it short. we had a lovely day cooking a total of 12 dishes which we are very much looking forward to cooking you all when we get back! some truly delicious flavours even if you do end up sweating the chillis out afterwards! the day ended with a couple of skype chats and an enjoyable but frustrating 90 minutes of football.

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The next blog will not be for about a week or so due to unknown internet connection availabilty in laos but be sure to check in soon for the next update!

Lots of Love

Mike and Char xxxxxxxxxx

Posted by charnmike 09:23 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Bangkok x2

added bonuses : kanachuburi, ayutthaya all the km inbetween!

sunny 29 °C

After arriving at 6 am on saturday morning after travelling nonstop (since 10am friday the day before..) Bangkok certainly felt like home. We checked back into Shanti lodge who remembered us (nice feeling, even though it was probably the tired dazed looking faces that we arrived with a few weeks before that jogged their memory!). We decided to take a couple of days to see the things we didnt quite manage to the first time around. However nothing could have prepared us for the generoctiy that we were going to receive from the happier of thai people that day. We were walking to the Khaosan road to plan our route up North when we were stopped by a guy called chai. At first he was teaching us how to cross the road (thai style), we got chatting it turned out that it was 'National Tourist Day'. We were soon hooked by his words of wisdom(and football talk). and set out in a tuk-tuk. 20 baht for a whole day of sight seeing! Some very special places which we would never have found on our own and were only to tourist for 1 day. I ended up buying an early birthday present too from myself to myself - not 1 but TWO! thai hand fitted, tailored suits from a leading thai company apparently that makes hugo boss, and armarni for the ex-pats living in Thailand. after being some serious squids in we went on to a TAT office to get free information about the north of thailand. They are run by the government and set up to make sure tourists don't get ripped off. 1 hour later we walked out of the office with the whole of our trip organised to take us from bangkok monday morning to laos for the end of the month when our visa runs out, all very reasonably priced! sunday prooved to be an interesting trip to the tailors for a 3 minute fitting and then onto MBK - bangkoks equivilant of a shopping mall all 2,500 shops of them!( char was in heaven.... for the first hour then it got slightly overwhelming knowing that all we could do was window shop!)

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Monday morning 7 am were picked up in a van and taken to the floating market, 2 hours outside of Bangkok. The first 10 minutes were exciting and a unique experience but from then on in its a tourist trap. Not really like the postcards they try and sell you but we were glad we had seen it. We continued our drive for another 2 hours west to kanachuburi where we stopped at the river kwaai and we were enjoying the feeling of escaping bangkoks smog. surrounded by lakes and mountains. scenary was amazing and apart from a disapointing train journey on the jeath railway we were throughly enjoying ourselves. this adventure continued when we pulled up after a long day to sunset by our accommodation. a floating set of huts on rafts on the river kwaai, all competetley attached to mainland by ropes and not alot else. with the sound of running water flowing underneath you it was something we had never experienced before. ( oh and the whole thing rocked when a speed boat drove by just incase you thought we were lieing about it being attached by ropes) after a scrummy dinner and a disastourous breakfast we set out on tuesday to see some waterfalls!

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quite spectacular! Earawan Waterfall, total 3.5km trek up a mountain to see 7 distinctive levels of the waterfall, swimming in each of the tears in the coldest water iv swam in in a long time! not completely alone included as a bonus not described in the tour was a foot spa with the fishes that eat your dead skin on your feet - the new craze that you can pay for, except these fish were massive and had we kept our feet still, long enough we probably wouldn't of had much left of our feet!!!!! We have met some lovely people on this part of our trip and had some great conversations using english as a common tonuge. but they were all getting excited about going home for christmas something we couldnt be more opposite to. so there was no point dwelling on that too long. we got back to bangkok and got straight on a train to the old capital of Ayutthaya. Yes all in the same day!

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Ruins, ruins, ruins.... ruins yup more ruins... all enclosed within an island. In its credit the amount the city had gone through being burnt back in the day by wars with burma, flooding since the wars it still has a few beautiful buildings standing and a lot of history even if 3/4 quarters of it is no longer. we got a tuk tuk for the day probably the best way to get around and see it if your short for time like we were and to be honest one day is probably all you would need. we saw big reclinning bhuddas and fragments of budhas that had been destroyed which have now been left as a testoment to the city. but not alot else! as you can see from our pictures its mainly a place to go and understand thailands past.

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so we leave the old capital after having a delcious lunch from a street kitchen for 60 baht for two, to head further north to chaing mai. our sleeper journey was made all the more homely after sitting down next to three lovely thai lady's that looked after us. all sisters it turned out on the way north for a family wedding. they came prepared for the journey with food home cooked sticky rice and pies all of which we were offered. it gave us a chance to engage with local thai people and learn so much about the area we were travelling through. We wish we had taken a photo of these women, they were big boned and full of smiles and cheeky jokes, it was hilarious. As per usual on the sleeper trains you dont get much sleep! The journey started off boiling, but being in Thailand we're quite used to that now... what we werent ready for was the extreme drop in temperature as you head up the mountains through the northern villages..it was freezing! Anyway we are now Chiang Mai bound and ready to see what it has to offer! will keep you posted :)
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loads and loads of love

Mike and Char xxxxxxxx

Posted by charnmike 00:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Photo Update!

all seasons in one day 29 °C

Hi guys here are the missing photos from Koh Phangan, Krabi, Phi Phi Islands :D ....

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With the south partially conquered we've arrived back in Bangkok , the last 2 weeks have totally flown by! the islands were amazing, everything we wanted them to be and more. The only problem was the weather it sounds lame but you cant really make the most out of the islands if its bucketing down all day (even so we have seen some of the most beautiful places).. so we're heading up to northern thailand. We've booked an 11 day tour which will take us to chiang mai all the way into Laos, we'll be stopping in a few villages and hill tribes before reaching chiang mai which is very exciting. The tour also includes elephant trekking, bamboo rafting, visiting the Seven tier waterfall , 3 days of mountain trekking. When we get to Chiang Mai it'll be CHRISTMASSSSSSSSS... we're going to be filling our days with Thai cooking school! woop, we're gonna be learning how to cook 3 thai meals, learning about all the different herbs and spices used and they even take us to a fresh produce market to pick out the ingredients so LONGMANS and HALLS be prepared for a few spicy lip tingling meals when we get back ;). Having said all of that we're so gonna be missing you all ( that goes without saying) SKYPE is definitely on the cards. Its our first christmas away from home we're just hoping santa can still find us in the jungle!
love you all loads ( mum and dad sorry skype didnt work tonight our internet connection is really bad :( will try again tomorrow!) xxxxxxxxx nighty night

Posted by charnmike 06:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Koh Phangan to Krabi

just a quicky! internet is about to run out!

sunny 30 °C

Hi guys so we arrived in krabi last night after quite possibly the longest hottest journey so far! 10 hours it took from leaving Koh phangan... which was amazing! ( slightly stormy but that didnt matter) got ripped off big time by the people organising our transfer from Krabi town to our hotel which was annoying but we got over it :) luckily for us the people who own the bungalows that we're staying were kind enough to drive an hour out of their way to pick us up ( as our taxi driver refused to!) We arrived at Long beach bungalows an hour later and it was soooo nice to see a comfy bed, shower and sea! The family here are lovely, they have looked after us well, cooked and we managed to get chatting to grandad too which was interesting! Went kyaking today which was loads of fun, explored a few coves and beaches in the 2 hours that we had it for! ( PHOTOS ARE COMING SOON.....)
Tomorrow were going on a boat trip to Maya bay Koh Phi Phi( where the film The beach was filmed) and a few other lovely looking places.... then we head back to Krabi town in the evening. Apparently the weather is turning quite bad at the weekend so we've decided we want to head up to northern thailand where we're gonna spend christmas!!!( we'll come back to the islands on our way to singapore) very happy with that as we're going to be riding elephants and hopefully doing a cooking course or two! anyway mikes getting eaten alive by mozzies so im going to sign off here... .will update our photos soon when we have more time online.

On Friday we're going to be on a very very long trip back to bangkok ( trains taxis boats etc) so we wont be able to update again until sunday.

love you all lots, cant wait to skype you soon .

xxxx

Char and Mike xxxxx

Posted by charnmike 03:15 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Koh Tao - Koh Phangan

sunny 29 °C

On thursday char became certified as an open water padi diver! so proud and even more excited as now me and char can dive anywhere in the world and we can dive together :).. were due to return to koh tao before australia to both get our advance diver course ( money permitting..) either way we've had an awesome time at koh tao and we met some wicked people. we will definitely be returning one day soon!

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Next stop Koh Phangan! ( full moon party land ) after char finished her diving we had a quick bite to eat before a short ferry ride to koh phangan.. luckily this time we had arrived in more sunshine then we had arrived in koh tao so it was all looking promising. we got in a taxi but so did 11 others!! basically taxis here are like open ended pick up trucks that dont leave until there full of passengers.. we knew our accommodation was a good 30 minute drive away but nothing could prepare us for the lush green forests that surrounded this road ( but at times skeleton of a road!) we eventually started seeing signs saying paradise 10 km. :D again we probably didnt have a clue what we were in for as the signs are quite far fetched from what they mean in thailand. we arrived after several hills and bends to be backed into this resort where we off loaded bags and checked in. success our forward planning actually worked and we arrived at what i can say is truly paradise.

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we have decided to stay here for another 4 days hopefully get to see a full moon party on saturday a boat trip around the Angthong national marine park on sunday and maybe a kayak hire or a waterfall. we are both very happy and very chilled here in haad salaad beach and would definietly recoomend it to everyone! we move into our bungalow on the beach tomorrow and will write very soon.

lots of love mike and char xxxx

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Posted by charnmike 06:20 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

The Last Couple of Days...

semi-overcast 30 °C

Helloo, sorry its been a few days since we updated but we've been non stop since leaving Bangkok!... ( last Saturday morning). Our last day in Bangkok was a good'n we managed to visit some really interesting places. One of those places was a man called Jim Thompsons' house.. sounds odd but Jim Thompson seems to be a bit of a celebrity in Thailand. He was an american that came over to Thailand in the early 1950's, re-invented the Silk printing industry to a commercial level using all his inspiration from various antiques he had collected during his time traveling Thailand..... it all sounds a bit boring im sure but type him into google and you'll get a better idea! ( it is worth it) After a day touring his house museum we went back to the Koh san road, had a drink then packed our bags for our train journey down south ( not before abit of shopping though ;) )

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The journey ( starting from getting in our Tuk Tuk to Bangkok train station) was a whirlwind.... unfortunately for us we were leaving the city at the busiest time of night on a Saturday! So ten minutes in the tuk tuk and we hit BANGKOK traffic..nightmare....our driver tells us to get out and WALK the rest of the way ( and to pay him the same price for a quarter of the journey! also offering a motorbike ride instead with some dodgy thai man ...brill) Anyway we managed to get out of that one by smiling grabbing our bags and power walking to the station just in time for our train. 7:30pm we found our seats, took off our shoes and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we didn't have to carry our bags anywhere for the next 9 hours... Sleeper trains are not the comfiest and we started to feel like we were in a freezer after about 30 mins but we got on with it, got our beds out ( TOP BUNKS ) and tried to attempt to get a few hours sleep... didn't work.. firstly I was paranoid that i would hear a thud and mike would be on the floor ( as thats what he seemed to be doing our first few nights in bangkok :s ) secondly it felt like the train was either changing or about to come off of its tracks every now and again and that seemed to jult us into consciousness anyway! ... We finally arrive in Chumphon at 5am - - wait a few hours sitting on a bench for our connection bus to the pier, a bit of confusion with tickets etc but it all worked out in the end!

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0 hours sleep later and we arrive in KOH TAO...it was raining and continued to do so for 24hrs after but the island is beautiful! Our dive resort accommodation was basic.. bed shower toilet but thats all we needed. I started my dive course on the monday, a whole afternoon of classroom assessments whilst Mike took his Scuba review...Monday night we decided to do a bit of exploring, the Thai people were celebrating the kings birthday so the beach was lit with resturant BBQs and candles so we got involved with the traditional celebrations, had something to eat and headed back along the gorgeous sandy beach to our bungalow!
Tuesday morning we got all our scuba gear on and headed to the pool to practice some of our skills, Mike decided to take his sketch book to the beach to do a bit of drawing. Finished the day with a few beers and an early night ( first night since arriving that we've had a full nights sleep..wooopee)

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Posted by charnmike 21:26 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

The day i met my cousin...

(day 2)

sunny 34 °C

Unfortunately no floating markets as there an hour outside of bangkok and we were too busy walking around the grand palace.. it sounds grand but its not the word i would choose to use its massive! Everything was covered in gold and mirrors and was blessing our ears with the chimes attached to the roofs. Apparently warding off evil spirits. Then as we went round we walked into this temple which had this massive shrine and then a tiny emerald buddha which looked a bit like me... apparently its good luck so i'm happy with that! although he may have been richer as he was wearing some kind of gold bling i was happy we had been reunited again. But seriously it was so peaceful inside. A very well kept man! As we walked out of the temple some local monks were burning candles and incense which was extremely nice change compared to what we have been used to in the rest of the city! When we left the temples we came across a real locals food market by the river but i refrained myself from indulging in any of the local delicatessens... i think i can be forgiven for that!
After a massive traffic jam back from booking our train tickets for tomorrow at bangkoks railway station we freshened up and eat a very enjoyable although extremely spicy thai curry. (glenn you would be proud of char!) Just got back from the koh san road.. ready for ANOTHER early start tomorrow. Loving every second of it.

Lots of love

Mike and dont worry char is sitting next to me too!!

p.s Im a celebrity get me out of here.. eat your heart out ! yumyum
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Posted by charnmike 09:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (6)

Bangkok..

sunny 35 °C

]We're finally here! Flight was really good, slept for 7 hours of it anyway! Bangkok is everything we thought it would be..from what we've seen this evening. Arrived at our hotel at about 6:30pm, both of us were slightly apprehensive about what to expect £13 a night slap bang in the middle of Bangkok... its fantastic, basic but you would think your in the rainforest when you walk in...Gypsey Kings playing, people doing yoga on the balconys.. we're well impressed. After dinner we decided to do abit of "exploring", managed to get a first time ride in a Tuk Tuk to the Koh San Road and it was crazy, just full of people from anywhere and everywhere... < Mum and Dad, we realised now why everyone says " YOU CAN BUY IT WHEN YOUR OUT THERE".. we could have easily come to Bangkok with nothing but our tickets and brought everything we need in one swoop ... oh well!.

Anyway early start tomorrow.. temples and floating markets!

love you all xxx

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Posted by charnmike 00:16 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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