It was inevitable. After over 400 days away from home the complacency starts to set in but not the alcohol consumption. One beer leads to another and the next thing you know you’re absolutely hammered rolling around the bars of an unknown place, Gili Trawangan in my case. The next thing you know you’ve had a drink of some suspect tasting vodka (which is probably fake) and you black out until you wake up the next day. What a mess! This definitely isn’t why I came travelling! All those things you say to yourself before doing the usual check “spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch” as one of my scottish friends liked to say. Suddenly it dawns on you, only 3 of the 4 are there. Wallet gone. F**k.
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Singapore itself is cool, a really smart looking city but I personally prefer Hong Kong for the WOW factor and the atmosphere. Singapore seems a bit too clinical with people scared of their own skin. It’s also extremely expensive to have a car. You have to pay £40,000 for the piece of paper that allows you to OWN a car in the first place, let alone buying the thing. So anyone with a car is basically loaded, no matter what make or model.
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Well, after 7 months on Koh Phangan it’s time to leave the island and head for a new adventure, albeit for a month. First stop is Singapore, and knowing how expensive it is fills anyone with a sense of dread.
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Being the massive geek that I am I do love numbers and statistics. It’s what makes the world go round and what gives newsreaders things to talk about other than banal drivel relating to Z-List celebrities. So here’s a list of some random statistics from the time I’ve been on the road.
There comes a time when everyone living in South East Asia fancies something new, and for me, the new challenge will be New Zealand. With the working holiday visa applied for there’s a new hurdle to face. The dreaded chest X-Ray. Read more about it here!
I’ve gained a severe case of island brain, that may be the cheap Sangsom buckets, the knowledge that I don’t have to catch a bus in the next few days or that I’m just getting too bogged down in work and the strange obsession I have with trying to make money. One thing is for sure though, this island gets hold of you in some form of grip that makes it difficult to slip away from gracefully.
It’s been a while since I posted, mainly due to laziness and being flat out with other work to the point of near exhaustion. So guess what I decided to write a post about? Last time I wrote I was telling you about China and the dubious joys of travelling that place alone. Now it’s time to discuss the myth of living in paradise as a location independent web designer.
Before I start on this post I just want to get one thing straight. China is a charming place and every traveller that travels different locations enjoys or dislikes things based on their own backgrounds, upbringings and views. Therefore this is a no holds barred review of China through my eyes. Don’t take it as gospel, except for the tips of what you really should know before you go! Read on for a laugh…
Any visitor to Beijing will know the tourist attractions are plentiful, and the cost of visiting each and every one can make your budget explode by simply visiting the ‘must see’ places in Beijing. So, what are the places worth visiting, the places to avoid, and the places you can enjoy for a minimal entrance fee? I’ll tell you…
Shanghai nightlife, it’s freakin’ awesome. So much so that any jobless traveller will be hating themselves a little bit more upon leaving. Sightseeing and picture taking took a major knock in place of dancing my ass off and drinking like a fish until the small hours most nights – I’m british, that’s what we do right? Shanghai has no shortage of great places to go. Here I’ll give you a rundown of the spots I hit up, with some good advice from locals and hardened ex-pats alike (what can I say? I like to make friends as quick as I can).
Now, before I start this I must add a disclaimer. Chinese people on the most part are nice, friendly and in some cases extremely helpful. As a race I like them a lot, even though between us there is a humungous language barrier; even learning the amount of Mandarin I did it’s not helped me one bit!
Posted in Travelling tips
Being sick when you’re travelling isn’t seen as a good thing. Stuck in a hostel feeling sorry for yourself whilst everyone else in the hostel is galavanting around the city/countryside seeing amazing sights whilst you’re all on your own with nothing to do. Boohoo. I’ve been sick the last 3 days and to be honest I’ve absolutely loved it! Here’s why.
Posted in Travelling tips
The travellers lifestyle. So carefree! Partying all the time, meeting loads of great people, seeing great things, expanding the mind, broadening the pallet… what’s not to love? But wait! Something’s not quite right. The people you’re with are starting to grate on you a bit, you’ve seen so many waterfalls the thought of seeing another one drives you insane, or maybe the thought of eating another dish that may or may not taste amazing pushes you into the safe a comfortable embrace of those golden arches. You start to question yourself, “is it time to go home?”, “am I just a miserable person?”, “what is wrong with me?”
Zhangjiajie isn’t one of those places whose name is echoed through the backpacker trails of South East Asia or even through China by western travellers. I have no idea why though. This was easily the most spectacular place I have ever been in my entire life!
After the train ride into Guangzhou I was ready for the culture shock to begin! It definitely didn’t fail to surprise. Entering a new country always is a slight shock to the system, although the IndoChina loop gives you a false sense of security bearing in mind everything is in English to some degree!
Ahh Hong Kong. Like a crazily overdeveloped jewel in China’s crown, although most of the locals seem to declare they are a completely separate entity (free Hong Kong!), with more british in it than a London Premier League football team. I love this place. It’s crazy! Every single street is teeming with life constantly, at any time of the day or night (and trust me, I’ve seen most of the times of day in this place).
I ended up in Hanoi on 3 different occasions whilst I was in Vietnam. You don’t really get much choice. Hanoi is to Vietnam like Bangkok is to Thailand. The gateway to everywhere more or less! I’ll keep all 3 visits to one summary and I’ll keep it short, because I really didn’t do much there!
Ha Long bay, another jewel in the crown of northern Vietnam, somewhere which I was indifferent too judging by the pictures. “Looks just like Phi Phi”, I apathetically claimed when people aired their excitement in front of me. I really should Google how people continuously get excited about things even after being on the road for months on end.
I was looking forward to Sapa, I’d heard so many stories of a picturesque village set in the mountains which was just up my street. When you’re in Hanoi there’s a large amount of places offering the Sapa tours from $65. This sounded a bit expensive to me so we decided to ‘wing it’ and try and sort out our own tours.
I love trains, for some reason I get excited going on them. I think it was the rarity which I got the train when I was young, and that it was something of a treat and we knew we were going somewhere. The train from Hue to Hanoi was no exception!
Hoi An, the tailor capital of South East Asia. You get there, with no intention of buying any tailored goods and I’ll bet you 20 bucks you’ll leave with at least one item of clothing! It’s too easy to!
Tailors aside, Hoi An is simply beautiful, another place with a strong french influence with dilapidated buildings that would make a HDR photographers dream. The river at night is simply stunning with lanterns adorning all of the trees and boats docked at the rivers serving as bars. But, there’s one thing that beats them all…
Posted in Travelling tales
The bus ride from Mui Ne to Dalat sets you up perfectly. Driving mountain roads with views across sheer green valleys into a more temperate climate which awaits you in the peaceful yet tourist driven town of Dalat. Dalat doesn’t necessarily cater to your average backpacker though. This place is for loved up Vietnamese people looking to whisk away their significant other for a weekend of romance or whatever they fancy getting up to. With wedding shops at almost every turn it’s like they’re trying to force an ideal on the local lovers, whilst making a fast buck. These vietnamese people never miss a trick!
Posted in Travelling tales
From Ho Chi Minh the next logical place on the trail for the traveller who is trying to suck up as much of Vietnam as is humanly possible in the space of a month is Mui Ne. Located on the China sea Mui Ne is a windy, Russian ovverun slice of paradise. Perfect for kitesurfing hence the winds and with a fishing village full of circular bowl boats and reports of some amazing sand dunes I was sold and ready to bed in for a few nights.
So, after almost four months on the road it’s time to enter my fourth country, Vietnam! The stories you hear on the road about Vietnam vary in their praise and disdain for the country. From amazing food and scenery to people who are less than accommodating it really is one of those places where you find out for yourself. After a while listening to people on the road becomes tedious as inevitably you have to make up your own mind. I dare say if everyone listened to me moaning and acted on it they’d be in trouble! First stop on the bus, Ho Chi Minh!
Sihanoukville, the name alone rattles around the Indochina loop, infamous for its crazy partying, utter debauchery and it’s lawless nature. I couldn’t wait! I got into Sihanoukville on one of the luxury Ibis buses, the prices for all buses had gone up to 10 dollars although for some reason Ibis held their price at 10 dollars also, meaning I could get a slab of luxury for the same price. Free wifi on the bus (I still can’t work out how it works) and films that are actually watchable instead of the usual Cambodian Karaoke rattling through your ears (it’s times like that when I’m greatful for spending 7000 baht on some Sennheisers all those weeks ago).
After some time travelling I feel like I’ve turned into the typical weary traveller. I was feeling burnt out, run down and tired from all the constant socialising and partying; not to mention feeling as rough as could possibly be expected from drinking every day to excess and smoking way too many cigarettes. Add to this the constant eating in restaurants and lack of exercise and I was feeling less than 100%.
After arriving in Siem Reap from a pretty hellish bus my first impressions weren’t great. Pushy tuk tuk drivers and a city which looked so much like many other asian cities I’d been to. Jaded traveller or what? A few days in I’d find out how wrong I was, and how party hostels are sometimes a little bit too much to handle!
The journey from Don Det to Siem Reap is nothing short of a hellish bus ride. First off, you’ll need to get your ticket, this is available from any restaurant/exchange/mini mart on Don Det and should cost you around $35. When you get your ticket make sure to find out if it’s a VIP bus. If not, don’t take it, as that’s the mistake that I made when buying my ticket.
After a lengthy bus trip from Vientiane to the port which serves the 4,000 Islands on the sleeper bus I awoke bleary eyed with a slight Diazepam hangover, a commonality for any traveller who wishes to be able to sleep on a night bus.
Vientiane is the most boring Capital city in the entire world. Fact. It’s pretty rare that I give such a damning opinion to a capital city but it’s been uttered on the lips of many a traveller before me and I can only expect many travellers after me.
Vang Vieng, the first thing that springs to mind when journeying through the mountain rides between Luang Prabang and this seemingly sleepy town is tubing. Vang vieng was a place that, at one point had almost a ratio of 10 tourists to every local. With tubing being essentially stopped in the sense that it used to be (think crazy parties on a part of the Mekong littered with bars, ziplines and masssive slides) there was talk of this place now being boring. Oh dear god no. I arrived in Vang Vieng to a chorus of rain which persisted for 2 days. This wasn’t a problem at all because every single bar in Vang Vieng seems to be showing either Friends, Family Guy or South Park. I have no idea why they choose to do this but it’s an easy way to waste a day so it wasn’t a problem for me!
In my effort to be more efficient I’m going to do a town by town blog post, hopefully that will make them a bit more succinct as a by product!
I really enjoyed Louang Prabang, for a town so small in size which is so humble in it’s offerings; a night market like most Asian towns and 11.30pm closing times it’s easy to think that you won’t be charmed by the place. I loved it!
The slow boat down the Mekong from Houay Xai to Louang Prabang is one of those legendary journeys which get uttered from the lips of many a traveller around the north of Thailand so I had to indulge. The trip is a 2 day affair which takes you steadily down the jagged edged meanders of the Mekong river with a stop off in a quaint little town called Pakbeng which seems to only exist due to tourism.
Having finished travelling around Thailand many people find themselves in Chiang Mai. Some people will go on to Chiang Rai but I decided to spend a few more days relaxing before I made my departure for the Laos border.
Another late post! It’s so easy to get behind with these things it’s crazy, you’d expect all the free time you get when you’re travelling would mean the posts would come thick and fast but it’s sometimes more enjoyable speaking to new friends or just watching a film.
The last 2 days could be described in many ways. Probably the main way to explain it was eye opening! We met up with Hans, a Thai Buddhist Monk through the luck of a German friend I’d made in Chiang Mai around a week ago. The second we met him and spoke to him I realised my preconceptions of monks were way off the mark.
I love downhill mountain biking. When I was back at home I used to ride as much as time allowed and my wallet could stomach. Living in the centre of England has it’s drawbacks when you want to do a mountain based adrenaline sport! Even though there are some really good spots like Swinley Forest (also known as the Look Out) in Bracknell and Aston Hill in Wendover it can be difficult to get some prolonged runs in which really test you.
After my first night in Chiang Mai I was in the mood for adventure. Chiang Mai is a lovely place but seems somewhat soulless to me, as one girl I met put it “it’s all just concrete everywhere”. Cue meeting with Rob, a dutch guy and Christian the German. We were all on the same page as far as adventure went and the plan to ride to Pai was formulated over beers as always!
My stay in Kanchanburi was always going to be a short one. With my visa rapidly running out (where does the time go?) I had a maximum of one full day to see as much as was physically possible. I decided that Kanchanburi was going to be a solo affair for me, as much as I love company, I can achieve more of what I want when I’m alone. I’m stubborn like that.
Posted in Travelling tips
6 weeks into my travelling experiences I feel like a seasoned traveller. Although this may or may not be the case, especially as I’ve only spent 6 weeks in Thailand I’ve come to learn (or perhaps unlearn) certain things. I’ll try and break these down for you.
Posted in Travelling tips
As a contact lens wearer and someone who is currently suffering from their second eye infection in the space of a month due to some poor eye care practice I thought it was a good idea to write this post so other people who are travelling South East Asia don’t suffer the same afflictions as me! When you’re on the road it can sometimes be really difficult to maintain good eye care, hell sometimes it’s even difficult to keep your hands clean! Here’s a few things I’ve learnt the hard way.
For the last week I’ve partaken in a Muay Thai training camp. It was originally an idea of a friend of mine from back home and it sounded like a great idea. Picture the usual traveller scene; partying every night of the week, drinking so many Chang’s it’s a wonder how the brewery keeps up with the demand of the average traveller who finds a reason to celebrate something every day. Maybe someone new turns up at the hostel, let’s go for a beer! A group of new friends all go their separate ways, leaving party! Or a really good day was had seeing some mindblowing sights, definitely worth a beer to celebrate the days new experiences and to mull over the great things which were seen or done.
One month on into my backpacking around Thailand and I think I’m pretty savvy with what you do and don’t need to make it through the land of smiles spending the minimum amount of money before you leave and during your stay in Thailand. There are a lot of blogs which tell you your packing list for travelling and what you need when you travel Thailand, which I took as gospel when I first left, but have come to realise that many of these are overinflated and expensive versions of the truth when living on a backpackers budget.