A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: BrettBethany

It's not a bad place to be stuck....

If only we were in Bali at the time....

sunny 28 °C

So its back to squat toilets, yummy and sometimes nondescript street food, relying on questionable public transport, not quite knowing whether your being scammed when purchasing toilet roll, vibrant colours, sights and smells, humid nights and even hotter days.......... Its back to the hustle and bustle of South-East Asia.

First Island Java

Our first night we arrive into Jakarta airport slightly anxious and anticipating a long debate and possible bribery at the visa desk as to why we do not have an onward ticket out of the country. Who knew this was a requirement to enter Indonesia.....With deportion in the fore front of our minds and with luck on our side we managed to squirm our way past immigration (thanks to to the guy who just started his shift and didn't bother checking our onward tickets that we didn't have) and we finally entered Indonesia.....

We scrambled outside of the airport and headed straight for the bus. It was here where I noticed that everyone who pointed us in the right direction or gave us any info were genuinely being helpful and were not trying to scam us, something that I don't think I have experienced alot in Asia but I am liking it a great deal.

We spent a couple of days in Jakarta organising transport and having a wander round the city. Came across a national monument – couldn’t actual tell you much more about as everything was written in Indonesian obviously but here is a lovely picture for your enjoyment. What we did find here was that there was alot of ‘hello Mr hello Mrs’ from giggling teenagers wanting a picture of us with them. And then families flying their kites spotting the foreigners and running over just for a photo. I still find it amusing, Somewhere in Indonesia there is a family photo album with us two.
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We also came across a fair in Jakarta which happens once a year and it is kind of like a January sales with fair rides for the kids and knocked down foods on sale followed by a parade with princesses, brass bands, doctors and nurses with ‘blood’ down them. All very random in my eyes but nonetheless very entertaining.
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Onwards from here we travelled by bus to Pangandaran, the place we like to call Bety’s. The bus that was meant to take 8 hours took 13 however it was a reasonably comfy bus and we paid an extra dollar for aircon which was a wise move, so there was no major dramas.
We found a sweet little place couldn’t tell you what its called but the lady who ran it was called Bety who made amazing Banana pancakes. We found a local Warung place which did amazing food cooked in the back of the shack for 25,000IDR including drinks (1.75 GBP). Awesome!!
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We met some guys on route, little did we know at this point how much time we would spend with them....Emily and Jez who are mates from Hazelmere come out travelling together for 5 weeks and a couple, Joe and Hannah who are travelling for a couple of years. We had some lovely nights having a few drinks and dinners. During the day Brett and I went off to the fish market and tried out the local fish cuisine.
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Then we spent the next couple of days hiring a motorbike and riding around the local town and up to Batu Karas. The first day we went it was rammed because it was the end of the holidays for the locals, the following day was completely empty in comparison.
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We attempted surfing however I found the current far too strong and failed miserably (It had been a couple of years since we last did it). Of course Brett managed to do it being the sporty type he is....not jealous one bit. Joe and Hannah then did a bit and just put us to shame really.
We soon realised we were moving on the same time as the other guys to a place called Yogyakarta. A place full of sweet little alleys, each alley has its own unique design every corner we turned. Indonesia is known for its batik art especially more so in Yogyakarta so we thought it rude to visit Indonesia and not purchase any art. We even met the artist as they had an exhibition on at the time. That is now on its way home to the UK to be stored.
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On one of the days we all went to Borobudur, this itself is a buddhist temple that is in the ranking with Bagan and Angkor Wat....It also cost $20 to get in but thats ok because its going to be amazing, we even got to wear a sarong kindly placed on by security (although I did already have my legs covered so I still do not understand this concept?) It was ok, nothing to what we were expecting. Maybe we have been spoilt in Nepal with the magnificent, vibrant stupas and religious sites, however the restoration of Borobudur was quite interesting. The temple was covered by volcanic ash in 1006 and not found again until 1814, since they have been restoring it following another natural disaster by a volcano erupting.
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From Yogyakarta we were all splitting up and going our seperate ways. Brett and I were going to Surabaya at 7am in the morning, Joe and Hannah were to to Solo and Emily and Jez were flying to Bali which we were suprised at how cheap it was to fly there. So that evening we all sat having a beverage I think Emily said something along the lines of, ‘do you fancy changing your plans and coming to Bali with us...’ It was too tempting. We cancelled our boat ticket and booked a flight to Bali (38GBP!) and the next day instead of travelling on a sweaty train to Surabaya we were flying to Bali.......

In total we spent two weeks Island hopping with Emily and Jez, at which point Brett and I decided that this would be our first year anniversary holiday. We started in Kuta which to be honest is very much like Khao San Road. Crazy manic and many drunken holiday makers. However this was just a port to begin our island hopping. We met a tour agent ‘Bat’ who did a cracking deal for us 4 and also mentioned he does visa extensions without us having to have an onward ticket (of course paying a little extra). So we thought he was a trust worthy guy and left our passports with him for the next few weeks whilst we went island hopping.

Nusa Lembongan

Our first place was Nusa Lembongan, a fishing Island with beautiful beaches, beautiful views, amazing fresh seafood and rather bumpy roads. Our accomodation was amazing with the restuarant heading out to sea. It was Idyllic. Whilst riding round the Island we came across a cliff jump (Hanban you will be pleased to know I did not do this.....But Brett did) 13 meters. Crazy thats all I’m going to say. Jez jumped before he was meant to and was lucky to have caught onto the ladder before the wave got him, however managed to pull a mooney. And then Brett jumped. Fools the lot of them, but survived so added bonus. We spent alot of time eating, lying in the sun (getting an amazing tan which I am swiftly learning I may lose very soon by a major balls up – time will tell) exploring the island via motorbike and playing cards on the veranda.
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Lombok

The next Island we visited was Lombok. It was here where Emily was meeting up with a family friend, Max for the first time in years who lives on the island. I think she was slightly apprehensive – not sure if thats because she was worried that we would also meet him ha ha! He was a very lovely guy and also his mates, he even invited us to his house for a fasting feast as it was Ramadan and in the evenings after sunset they put on a massive feast, it was brilliant and very tasty! We felt very honoured to be invited especially having just met Max and his friends. We spent a day travelling round the island and came across a local waterfall following a local guide across bridges that they made theirselves and taking us to this secluded waterfall. It was stunning. The guys did there manly thing and jumped in off the rocks. It was a very well needed dip as it was a rather hot day. We also decided to spoil ourselves and spend a day at this lovely pool – and it had a pool bar, cocktails everything. It was perfect.

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Gili Islands – The place with no roads just horse and cart

...But it has a pizzeria?!
The next day we caught a boat to the Gili Islands, first stop Gili Trawangan. This Island is called the ‘party island’ and Brett and I weren’t going to spend much time on here and our original plans were to head over to the islands during the week. Of course we like to change plans regularly and decided we would stay on this island, it grew on us. Another one of Emily and Jez’s friends lived on this island as a dive instructor, Ellie so we met up with her initially and then she helped us locate a sweet little room. We then literally chilled out for the rest of the week. We went snorkelling one day with Ellie and her crew which was very awesome! And I think it was this night that we met up with Joe and Hannah again. A couple of days in we met up with Felix, a friend of Jez and Emily’s who came on holiday for a couple of weeks.. It was a little reunion on GT. We had many nights of drinking and for me and Brett a couple of ‘detox’ days as the local alchol is not the best on the stomach. The nights I had been warned were to get heavier, and that they did! On a couple of these days of ‘detoxing’ we heading over to Gili Meno. Known as the chill out island and that is pretty much what we did. The first day we headed back to the main land then Brett and I decided to head over again, then we saw the sweetest room on the island with no door and the sea just lapping by our feet, we were in perfect position to watch the sun go down and watch the sunrise – too awesome to turn down so we stayed on that island for the day and night then headed back to GT in the morning. We literally had nothing on us apart from what we were wearing that day so we probably stunk the boat out on the way back home.
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The next day was Jez’s 24th Birthday so we greeted him with a large Bintang which i am sure he loved us for  We spent the day chilling on the beach, attempting to paddle board and then a few cocktails to start the night. Jez had birthday cake and we went out for a meal which was kindly paid for by Jez. Which in return we all made sure he had an awesome birthday night – It esclated from there.
The following day was our one year anniversary. I think or I know we woke up feeling how Brett felt a year ago on that day – luckily we got to lye in and sweat out the lovely hangover. We met up with the guys for brunch at about 1pm. Literally finished eating and they pulled a suprise on us – they booked us a couple massage and it was amazing and definately needed. Ellie then as a gift for our anniversary gave us this waterproof bag which is fantastic for travelling so we are well equipped now. We chilled out for the rest of the day followed by an evening meal at the best pizza place we have ever been to (Including England – it was run by an Italian.) We finished our day by a couple of drinks followed by a skype home to family (who were having a BBQ for our anniversary). It was great to speak to everyone. It was an awesome First year Anniversary spent with some awesome guys and one we will not forget, thanks guys xxx
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So it was back to Bali or ‘Indonesia’......

Back to Kuta for the last few nights of our holiday before going into the depths of Indonesia. That was if we didn't miss our boat back to the main Island. However after much debate we managed to get back that day on a different boat.
The last few days with the guys were spent chilling and having a few beverages. We also had to arrange our transport to our next location which I wish now we went for the first option - which was to go with Bat (the guy who had our passports - which we got back safely) on a tour to Mount Bromo. But we both decided we would arrange it ourselves. Flying stupidly was cheaper to get to where we needed to be followed by us arranging our own accomodation and other transport. So we booked our flights to Surabaya, the following days we said our sad goodbyes to Emily, Jez and Felix. It has been an awesome month spent with them and definately would have been a different experience going to Bali on our own so cheers guys for a rather awesome time!!

We caught a tiny plane and finally made it to Surabaya. We were doing it cheaply so we shunned all the taxi touts and made our way to the local bus. We wanted to get to Gubeng and a local guy showed uis the correct bus. However we suddenly realised half hour in we were going to Tubang - lost in translation.......We got told to jump off the bus as it slowed down, we then ran across an eight laned highway and waved down a bus going in the direction we just came from. We jumped on and made our way back to the bus station. Quite funny and even got to listen to some live local music on the bus. We arrived back at the bus station and got shown the right bus (we hoped) which turned out it was but dropped us off in the middle of nowhere we knew at which point it was dark. We eventually gave in and got a taxi to the train station so we knew where we were on our map. Whilst there we thought we'd book our train tickets to Bromo for the next day. Excellent at least we have got that done. Now to find a hotel. Brilliant found hotel. Check in. Yes we have room........Can I have your passports please.....sure one moment......

Actually no - the passports are still on the plane in the pocket of the seat we were sitting in.

We catch a taxi to the airport, we spend an hour talking to the airline at which point (8.30pm) we decide to get dinner as all we can do is wait to see if they find them. The plane has already left and gone to Lombok....We catch a taxi back to the hotel. Nearly crash the car on the way back because of the driver not getting on with other drivers at which point I insist on him stopping the car to get out. To no avail. He gets the idea and slows done for a bit. We arrive back at the hotel and sleep.....

Realisation sets in

So we are in Indonesia, no passports, no luck in finding them and with the thret of having to go home on a temporary passport to get it sorted........Its not a bad place to be stuck, that would be if we weren't in Surabaya, Bali would have been better given the choice.

Things happen for a reason.......I'm waiting on the reason.

Till next time.

Bethany and Brett xxx

P.S We'll update you on the passport situation soon, we may be seeing you all a lot sooner than we thought.

P.P.S We will be going back out again once we have got the passports sorted. Hoping 2 weeks max.

Posted by BrettBethany 00:10 Archived in Indonesia Comments (3)

Australia has done it again!

The love is still very much there after our beautiful road trip.

semi-overcast 29 °C

In honour of my good friend Mr Titman, I'll begin with a short hand update that he suggested after my lengthy update in Vietnam:

Having a great time, not dead yet, speak to you all soon.

So I hope that covers everything, for a little more detail please read on...

5 Years of dreaming, and we're back

The last time we were in Australia was in 2007 and we managed to go from Melbourne in the south east all the way up to Fraser Island up the east coast, as well as doing a west cost road trip taking in everything from Rockingham in the south west up to Broome in the north west. We had an incredible time and the memory of Australia has always remained one of our favourites...but we always felt like we hadn't quite done everything that we wanted to do.

For 5 years now we've been itching to get back and travel 'the north and The Kimberley', and since we were in Asia and had the time and money to go back, we decided now was the time, otherwise we may never get the chance to do it. So ensued a lot of number crunching to figure out if we really could afford to go, with budget set the fights were booked as were the two seperate camper vans that we needed for our trip and the internal flights to see some. So we said goodbye to Asia on 27th May and were greeted at Brisbane airport by Sharon and AJ who we met last time we were here and spent a lovely couple of days with them before setting off. Thanks again for the hospitality guys :)

Hippie camper for the east coast

So on to the east coast in a cool little 'hippie camper'. In all we spent a sleepless night hoping that we wouldn't slip down the wet grassy hill that we had parked on for the first night, another evening enjoying fun and frollocks at a proper outback pub on the side of the road with a rugby club, a stag party, hen party and an apparent psychic who made a premonition that Bethany would give birth to a baby girl who's name begins with 'I' very soon i.e. in the next few months she'd find out that she's pregnant (don't get excited Mum, she turned out to be incorrect much to our disbelief, she seemed so certain!). This got us to Airlie Beach which I'll come to in a minute, after which we spent another couple of days travelling up to Cairns staying at a couple of beautiful camp sites and passing through some rather picturesque towns that line the route up to Cairns.

As mentioned we did some sailing around the Whitsunday islands from Airlie Beach as well as doing some more diving in Cairns. The diving was great, we had two dives, one of which was our first unguided dive which has given us a bit more confidence in our own ability which is always good. The reef was beautiful as were the fish and it was really great to get some more experience in our diving.We also got some lovely pictures because we hired a digital camera for our last dive, so it really was a highlight and we're really glad that we got to visit the GBR.

Without a doubt the highlight of our east coast trip - and our Australian trip as a whole in fact - was our trip from Airlie Beach sailing around the Whitsunday islands. Those of you who remember our wedding day might just recollect a smattering of rain, barely noticebale really, accompanied by a subtle breeze that made mine and Titman's speeches almost inaudible to most of the room. This, we were told, was good luck, which I was sure was something someone made up one day to make someone feel better. That was until the luck came in for us. The weather from the start of our trip was pretty miserable and we were writing the Whitsundays off saying that we didn't want to did it if we weren't going to have decent weather (this was due mainly to our thoughts of Halong Bay in Vietnam which we insist would have been much better if we had had blue skies), but luckily for us the weather cleared and we had blue skies and sunshine for the whole sailing trip. We also got a great deal on the trip that we decided to go for because it had been massively discounted and only had another 4 people on board, when most other boats have between 12 and 28 people. We later found out that the discount was because they couldn't cancel the trip (as they normally would when less than 6 people were booked on) because there were some honeymooners on board, so the luck that we were due for our wedding rain had definitely come in for us. The time we spent on the boat was perfect, we were with two other couples who were very easy to get on with, the crew of two kiwis were great fun and very informative, and the food was incredible. All of that before I've even mentioned how majestic the Whitsundays were, which I won't do because the pictures will tell you everything you could want to know. We also did some snorkelling and saw a few turtles within arms reach, had champagne and nachos on a secluded strip of beach at sunset, and in general had just a perfect time, there really is no other word for it, we really felt so fortunate to have had such an amazing time.

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The North

A few long days

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The morning after diving we picked up our wonderful 4WD campervan. At the time we were both in awe of it because it was fantastic, but we didn't even know yet what it would take us through whilst travelling to Broome, which only improved our opinion of it. Basically we loved the van and it was very very good to us.

We'd booked 21 days with the van and knew only that we wanted to go to Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park and probably Darwin. This meant that we needed to put in a couple of long days driving to give us more time in the national parks. The guy at Apollo where we hired the van from told us about a little known national park in Queensland that was only a small detour from our route, so we visited Lawn Hill National Park as instructed and weren't dissappointed. We had driven for the whole day to get within 100km of the park to make it an easy trip in and out of the park in one day, so the relaxing day we spent there really was welcome. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, flat land for miles around and then this gorge appears. We decided to do some canoeing in the gorge for a couple of hours followed by a short hour long walk and a bit of swimming in the croc infested waters (although they were 'freshies' so nothing to worry about). The guide book describes it as an 'oasis of a place' which we couldn't really argue with, it was wonderful and there were hardly any people there, so a really great day...followed by another couple of long days driving over unsealed roads which was either corrogated, covered in mud tracks where vehicles had been through in the wet, or had river crossings to get through. This brought us out at 2pm to Daly Waters pub for the evening. This place is well worth a stop, you walk in and there's stuff everywhere, a section for bras, another for pants, another for business cards, photos, football shirts...there's just loads of it, and they have entertainment every night as well as serving steak and barramundi with salad for dinner if you go for their famous 'beef n barra BBQ'...which we did as well as their happy hour just before. We didn't partake in the entertainment because we were talking to three Aussie guys from Victoria who were travelling together, we had such a great time and it has gone down as one of our 2 best nights on our trip, the other was in Darwin. If anyone was planning a trip to this part of the middle of nowhere, we've left a picture of us with a few friends for you to try and spot.

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Kakadu National Park

From here we went north for Kakadu, Litchfield and Darwin, Kakadu first after a swim at Mataranka springs. We spent 2 nights and 3 days at Kakadu, the first night at a campsite near a waterfall but we shouldn't swim because of crocs, so we didn't, but we did go for a rather beautiful walk that wasn't long but lead to a lovely lookout for sunset. The next day we went to a pathetic lookout that was obstructed by trees, followed by a humbling walk at Nourlangie taking in some Aboriginal rock art and a wonderful lookout. The campsite was our next desination purely because it takes so long to get anywhere in Kakadu because it's so big. We stayed about 6kms from our morning destination and had to eat inside our van for the first time purely because of the ridiculous amount of mozzies around. In the morning we went for a sunrise boat trip at Yellow Water which was such a nice way to wake up. We spent two hours taking in all the wildlife, plenty or crocs and birdlife as well as some beautiful plant life and headed to Ubirr after we got back. Ubirr is the main Aboriginal rock art tourist site because there's just loads of it. This once again was rather humbling - seeing as the younger drawings were 3000 years older than when Jesus was supposed to have died - and led to another beautiful panoramic lookout. We finished with an hour long walk which was nothing to brag about and headed out to a camping spot next to some wetlands which was beautiful for sunset and nightmarish thereafter because of the returning mozzies...in to the van for dinner once again.

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Darwin

Darwin was our next stop, and we'd planned it to be on a Sunday so that we could visit Mindil Beach sunset market. This was the other night that was once of our favourites. It's such a fun market, all the locals come along with their camping chairs or a blanket and sit on the grass fringing the market and just enjoy the atmosphere, food and company of friends and family, a great way to end the week. Needless to say we took full advantage of the fact that we had one night only to enjoy this and ate as much of the different foods and drinks as possible from Thai food, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Chinese, Aussie of course, fruit shakes, juice stalls, ice cream...it goes on. We strolled around the market after the sun went down when the lighting gives it a different feel. The stalls were perfect for meandering around and the street acts made good places to stop for 10 minutes or so, our favourite was a guy at the end of the market who played 4 different didgeridoos accompanied only by a drummer and creating songs of drum and bass. Sounds strange but it was great fun and the Aborigines loved it and got fully involved with some wild dancing that was great to watch and pretty impossible to replicate. The market happens every Thursday and Sunday evening and again, if anyone is around Darwin on one of those days I'd urge them to go!

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Litchfield National Park

Kakadu is definitely the most known national park in the north but that's mainly because of the heritage, not because of it's beauty, that is where Litchfield National Park comes in. It's just so beautiful and a lot smaller than Kakadu which makes it far more accesible and easy to do multiple things in one day. The first day we got there from Darwin via another particularly lovely swimming hole called Berry Springs (Bethany's favourite due to it's warm waters together with lovely setting), we went to Wangi Falls and stayed there for the whole day. Wangi Falls is a waterfall with a swimming plunge pool at the bottom big enough to accomodate a rather large number of people, and it also has a little grassy patch at the edge of the water to relax on. So we went for the short hour long walk up and around the falls, placed our things for the afternoon and had a dip several times taking in the beauty, the sun and the relaxing ambience of the place. The pick of our second day was the Cascades and Florence Falls. The Cascades offered a 2 hour walk that ends up following the river down to the car park complemented by, as it's name suggests, several cascades. At that point it was our favourite walk of our trip so we thoroughly enjoyed it. After the walk we went and spent the rest of the day much like the first day at the bottom of the waterfall and swimming plunge pool at Florence Falls. By this point we'd developed a habit of going for morning swims so we headed to Buley rock pools for a dip in the morning and then left the park. So Litchfield served us very well, a place of beauty and tranquility, we thoroughly enjoyed it. There is a saying about the big 2 national parks which we agree with - Litchfield Do, Kaka-don't - but we would say that if you've got enough time to visit both then you won't be dissappointed, they both offer so much but in very different ways, together they were amazing.

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On to the west

So we had done the first part of our trip, we wanted to then get across the border to enjoy the second part of our trip. This was done by visiting my favourite swimming hole at Edith Falls, another swimming plunge pool at the bottom of a falls, this time a pretty pathetic falls but it was a huge pool and the walls/cliffs around the pool were fantastic, that with the fact that for some reason nobody else was there meant that we had the place to enjoy all to ourselves, but the water was very cold which is why Bethany preferred Berry Springs. We then went on to Katherine Gorge for the night, did a walk that afternoon and another in the morning which trumped the Cascades walk. We awoke at 5:15am which sounds early but in truth we were waking and sleeping by the sun, so 6am was pretty normal for us to get up and 9pm was a late night, but we got up and went straight for the walk in Butterfly Gorge watching the sunrise on the way and enjoying the beautiful gorge. The best bit was at the end of the gorge as the walk through it was all in the dry but it opened up to the river that flowed through the main gorge, so we climbed up the side of the cliff and sat on a ledge in the silence as the sun had just come up. The cliffs were beautiful and red, the water was a greeny colour and I would say it was the most tranquil place we visited on our trip, just wonderful.

Both Edith Falls and Katherine Gorge were part of Nitmiluk National Park so it's another national park that we'd advise going to. After our walk in the morning we went to Katherine springs for our now mandatory morning dip, but sadly our last one for a while, and headed for a camp spot just before the Western Australia border. In the morning we reached the border and frustratingly had all of our fruit and veg taken off of us by the WA quarantine because they not only don't accept fruit and veg being brought in from other countries (fair enough) but they don't allow them to be brought in from other states either (rather ridiculous in my book), so we had to re-stock in Kununnara over the border, ready for our assault on the Kimberley, which we knew very little about.

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The Kimberley

All we'd ever heard about the Kimberley since our last trip up the west 5 years ago was that it was 'beautiful' and everyone we met suggested visiting there. It was the same this time around but we still knew very little about what to do there or where to go, but in the end we managed to put together some sort of itinerary, the golden piece of advice that we received was from the three Victorian guys that we met at Daly Waters pub, they suggested dipping in to the start of the Gibb River Road to El Questro, coming back out and going along the better road the goes further south, then dip back in to the Gibb on the west side for a couple of other sights. This is exactly what we did and we can't think of a better way to do it, the Gibb is an infamously horrible road - 500kms of corrogated red dirt road - so if you don't have to go all the way along it then it's wise not to, the way we did it we could take in the best part of the east and west sides of the Gibb and then also visit the Bungle Bungle range along the sealed tarmac road further south. So we were left to discover the beautiful ranges of the Kimberley knowing that we had plenty of time to relax along the way.

East Kimberley

El Questro Wilderness Park was our first stop and it was just brilliant. It was different to the national parks because it was privately owned so the roads were pretty dicey any way, but they also have 4WD tracks all around the park for anybody to try, and they had lovely walks and a natural springs as well. We had crossed the NT/WA border that day and decided that we'd go for a short 3.5km walk to a lookout for sunset and then do a longer walk in the morning like we did at Katherine Gorge. We decided to start our sunset walk at about 4:45pm because the sun set the night before at about 6:45pm, so we'd have plenty of time to get to the lookout and enjoy the sunset for an hour or something and come back down by torch light. It was at about 3:30pm that Bethany mentioned the sun was coming down pretty fast...this was when we realised the 1.5 hour time difference in crossing the border made a lot of difference in terms of sunset, we had about an hour or so before the sun was down! So we quickly put our trainers on and got going on a fast paced walk with a bit of jogging, all up hill to get there in time. This after jumping into someone's car to cross the river crossing at the bottom before the ascent began. In the end we had got to the top in 35 mins when it should have taken 1.5 hours which we were proud of, we then enjoyed 30 mins of sunset, and headed back down with no car to take us over the river crossing this time, so we took our shoes and socks off and crossed, put them back on and continued our walk back to the campsite, at which point we found ourselves staring straight at a rather large bull. We decided it was probably best just to continue walking, hoping the bull didn't take a liking to my red shorts, so we carried on and when we were about 25m from the cattle grid the bull let out a huge noise, which shook Bethany into a bit of a jog and celebratory dance when she'd crossed the grid. She was still nervous when she heard more bull noises through the night.

The morning brought our favourite walk of the trip, El Questro gorge, made even better for the route in. As I mentioned the roads were fairly dicey any way, and we'd already done a few river crossings on our trip, but the route into El Questro gorge had the deepest crossing we've done. There were no depth markers, just a sign telling us to engage low range 4WD and crawl across...this at 6am with nobody around. So I asked Bethany to see how deep it was, hoping she'd wade in a bit, and she told me after peering over the cloudy water a bit, that it was indeed deep. Still not knowing how deep it was I decided we were going to go for it, so Bethany jumped in, low range engaged, crawl in motion it got pretty deep. We were both pretty nervous because we didn't want to ruin the car and end up with a massive bill from the hire car company to repair it, Bethany was finding it hard to breathe, so held her breath, and I just made sure my foot was on the accelerator still. It was all going ok when the water got even deeper about 5m from the other side which left us feeling like we were floating. Thankfully we continued and made it across, exhaling together when we were there. We then completed the apparently 5 hour walk in 2.5 hours having had to literally climb over rocks for the second part of the 'track' as well as wading through a swimming hole to reach a conveniently placed log that needed to be scaled to reach the top of another bolder. For pure adventure this walk was definitely our favourite, it was also very pretty and ended with another swimming hole at the bottom of a small waterfall, it was just so much fun, with the crossing as well which was even harder when we had to go back through. We finished our time in El Questro with a smaller walk to Emma Gorge, a more scenic walk than the morning one with another swimming hole at the end, which was freezing! And then we came out of the Gibb River Road and made our way to the Bungle Bungles.

The Bungle Bungle range is probably the most famous part of the Kimberley but even that had a ridiculous road into the national park, this time Purnululu National Park. In short we spent the afternoon doing a walk around the Bungles on the Cathedral Gorge walk which was fairly crowded compared to the places we'd been to, but led to a dead end where the rock formations make an echoing sound like it does in a Cathedral. We then relaxed for the afternoon taking in another sunset lookout, and got up in the morning for the Mini Palms walk, more picturesque than the Cathedral walk and a lovely way to spend the morning. After this we headed out onto the now greatly anticipated sealed road and made our way to the west Kimberley.

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West Kimberley

This is much easer to short hand. We went to the 'magnificent' Geikie Gorge which we thought was nice at best, certainly not magnificent but we may have been spoilt beforehand with the other gorges which meant this didn't seem as nice as the others, then we made our way back onto the Gibb to walk through Tunnel Creek which was totally different to the walks we'd done before. A flow of water has carved out a tunnel through the limestone which means you can walk through the tunnel underneath the limestone hills, but it's a wet affair, it took 2 days to dry our shoes out and it's pitch black so there's a few moments when you're trying to keep your balance to avoid falling entirely into the water. We also managed to see a couple of bats flying around which was pretty cool. Then we headed to Winjana Gorge which really was magnificent. During the wet season the river running through the gorge would be much higher but at the time we were there it was lower allowing us to walk on the sandy river bed in the middle of gorge walls, and spot the many crocodiles sunbathing on it's banks. Another beautiful way to spend a morning and it fulfilled one of my hopes which was to see crocs in the wild whilst just walking past them rather than on a boat tour or something, we had passed a few on the way which made me happy, but on the return we spotted a full 14 crocs sunbathing on the opposite bank which we both thought was terrific.

We then headed to our last stop of our Kimberley tour which was in King Leopold National Park. We stayed at the campsite at Silent Grove and headed to Bell Gorge for our last morning walk and swim. The walk was pretty average until you reach the top of the waterfall which was particularly beautiful, but then you cross the river and descend the rocks to get to the swimming plunge pool which was gorgeous. The waterfall was a 5 tiered cascade into a big pool of water, seeing as it was the last opportunity we had for a fresh water swim I stripped down to my swimming shorts and got in...FREEZING! I only stayed in for 4/5 mins and had to get out, Bethany then got in as well but couldn't manage much longer than a minute. It was just so cold. But a great way to finish our trip. We then headed to Derby to see the old prison that was used to imprison Aborigines during the 20's to the 50's or 60's in pretty horrible conditions, and then had a look at the Boab Tree Gaol which they think was used as a holding point when Aborigines were being brought to the prison in Derby. After that we headed to Broome and dropped off our beautiful van ready for our flight to Perth.

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Visiting friends

With our road trip completed we then headed south to visit 3 sets of friends to finish our time in Australia. Jim and Kellie moved from England to Yanchep (an hour north of Perth) in January and we've known them since school, George and Desi have lived near Melbourne for years, Bethany has known Desi since she was 4 when they met on a European road trip that both sets of parents were taking them on, so we met up with them last time we were in Australia and have been in touch ever since, and then there's Ginny and Zoe who we've known since school as well, Ginny being one of my ushers for those of you who might remember him from our wedding last year, and who are now living and travelling in Australia like we did 5 years ago, living just outside Melbourne city in St Kilda.

So we flew from Broome to Perth and were met by Jim at the airport who took us to their new home in Yanchep. They live in a lovely location, about 15 mins walk to the beach, and a bit longer walk in the other direction to a forrested national park, with the luxury of one of the best climates in Australia seeing as we had beautiful blue sky and 20 degrees for the two winter days that we were there for. It was great to see them again, especially seeing as they've had a baby boy called Harrison since arriving in Aus, and they seem to have settled in very well. Even though they've spent 6 months here already it seems like they haven't really stopped since they got here, firstly trying to find a house, then redecorating, as well as becoming new parents, having both sets of parents over and of course a couple of travelling bums. Thanks for putting us up for a few days guys, it really was great to see you again and who knows, we may be back soon, big hug to Harrison too :)

Jim dropped us off at the airport so that we could fly to Melbourne, our last stop before heading to Indonesia. We were met in the city by George who took us back to their house in Point Cook, about 30 mins from the city to meet Desi again as well as their children Pearl and Spencer. When we were here last time Desi gave birth to Pearl and when we left she was about 10 months old. We saw them again in England when Pearl was about 18 months old, and this was the next time that we saw them, so it was really nice to see Pearl now she's five years old a doing all the things kids love to do, like our neices and nephews do at home. It was great to see Spencer as well, he's a lovely little boy who always seems content, they are lovely children, a credit to the parents I think. We spent 4 days with George and Desi, revisiting a few places we'd been to together last time, visiting new places that we didn't know about purely for the reason of convincing us to move to Melbourne, and spent a girl's night and boy's night respectively at Crown casino in the city. Bethany continued her excellent form at casinos by not winning a single bet, and I managed to come out with the same amount that I went in with. Thanks to George and Desi as well for making us very welcome as usual, it was great to see the kids again, looking forward to meeting up again whenever that might be :)

Our last visit was to Ginny and Zoe's house in St Kilda, we set of on the Friday morning (Ginny's birthday) and dropped our bags at their place and spent quite a bit of time just catching up, it had been aout 8 months since we saw each other, and for people who normally saw each other most weeks that's quite a lot of catching up. We then went to one of the biggest Aussie Rules games of the season at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) where Collingwood lost to Carlton, probably because we were cheering for Collingwood. Then we had a morning at Queen Vic Market taking in all the Australiana, me and Ginny both bought a pair of Saints socks for the AFL game that we went to that night - St Kinda against Essendon. I have supported the Saints ever since our last visit and because Ginny lives in St Kilda he also supports them, and luckily Zoe's cousin had arranged Medallion Club tickets for that game so we felt rather spoilt turning up for the game, which the Saints won comprehensively! A great way to finish my AFL viewing. Bethany and Zoe went for a meal with Zoe's work friends whilst we were at the game and we all met up afterwards and had a right giggle. The (very late) morning after brought a big breakfast and a nice leisurely stroll around the city for the day, as well as some hilarious antics at the park where Ginny nearly uprooted a tree after falling off a simple looking play thing that makes you dizzy. Our last day was beautiful, we hired a car and visited the Dandenongs just outside Melbourne and basically drove through the villages stopping at various points to admire the quirky shops, cute walks and amazing artwork at the William Ricketts centre. It was just brilliant to see Ginny and Zoe again and we had such a fantastic last few days in Australia with them. Once again thanks for the hospitality and thanks for spoiling us rotten. Can't wait to see you again hopefully in Thailand and we hope the next few months in between then and now are just incredible for you!

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Well that brings us to a close, we've arrived in Indonesia, spent a lovely first day in Jakarta at the Jakarta fair and are now planning the rest of our (hopefully) 2 months here. I say hopefully because there was a time that we thought we might get deported before even getting through customs but that's a story for another day.

Hope you are all well. Speak to you soon. Normally I'd leave you with a few more piccies but seeing as there's already a shed load in here I shall give it a miss this time, but thanks for reading :D

Posted by BrettBethany 02:36 Archived in Australia Comments (5)

Sad goodbye's to Vietnam

And a Good'ay to Oz

overcast 27 °C

Our last week in Vietnam

I thought since we have a few hours to waste before our flight to Oz I would update you on our final week or so in Vietnam. Since our last update I believe we were up to Hanoi about to fly to Saigon to meet up with Hannah and JP. We arrived Friday afternoon and were welcomed at the airport by JP and made our way to their apartment where we discussed our plans for the next week. Again our plans changed, as did the weather with regular thunderstorms and rain - at which point we decided this is probably not beach weather but definitely adventure weather :)

Obviously Han and JP still had to complete a weekend of slogging hard work and planning (felt slightly lazy that we would just be bumming around whilst they worked) but had the week to look forward to :) So to fill our time until then we booked a trip to the Mekong Delta. It was a 2 day 1 night trip with the option of staying at a local families home at night or staying in a regular hotel. So we decided to go with the home stay and it was fantastic, such an experience!

The Mekong Delta - aka Mozzie Heaven

The first day we went on a small boat and travelled across to the small islands, can't remember the names of the islands but they only had about 800 people max living on one of the islands so very small and secluded and most of all peaceful. On each island we got shown a glimpse into the daily life of the locals. From being shown how they make rice noodles, tasting honey from a bee hive (very sweet and yummy), drinking local snake wine (yes with a snake - dead- fermented in the bottle) and eating candy (and being shown the process) made from coconut. We took a small canoe like boat through the natural canals that had coconut trees and bamboo towering above us it was so quaint and idyllic I could have spent the whole day exploring the canals.

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At the end of the day we were driven to a road pretty much in the middle of somewhere but nowhere, there were three of us who got off the bus, myself, Brett and another lady Marion from Austria. We were met by a guy who took us for a 10minute walk to meet the family we would be staying with for the night. There was 2 aunties 3 dogs and then the husbands. The lady who greeted us (Nam) was going to be our host for the night, she was very sweet but did not speak a word of English. That night we learnt how to count to 5 in Vietnamese (through drinking the local Rice Wine) and also learnt how to make Vietnamese pancakes stuffed with pork and bean sprouts. We were Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver for one night only and successfully failed presentation wise however they did taste pretty awesome! We sat around talking and eating the feast that Nam had prepared for us and eventually retired to our rooms for the night. They have home stays pretty much every night which surprised me but also meant they were very well prepared and even had little rooms on the side for guests with mozzie nets floating over the beds. When we woke in the morning after being woken up by a cockerel I can definitely say the mozzies had an amazing feast on my feet, I look like I have chicken pox all over my feet...And even though I slept right next to Brett he got a couple of bites and that was it. Not fair!

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The following day we took a visit to the floating market. It was brilliant, amazingly hectic. The river was rammed with local boats with poles held above each of their boats displaying the product they were selling on that boat. It really was fantastic to see and nothing like what I imagined, I imagined the small rowing boats selling a whole array of products, not a boat overloaded with thousands of pineapples! After lunch we slowly made our way back to Saigon to Han and JP's.

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Time for an awesome adventure

Great news when we arrived back from the Mekong, Han was allowed the time off work during the week (bar Monday) which meant we had the whole week to spend with Han and JP on what was an awesome adventure! We changed our plans and decided we would go to Dalat rather than Phu Quoc/Can Dao due to the weather changing.

Dalat - the place to go for honeymooners to enjoy relaxing paddling in a swan on the lake and riding through the mountainside

Or.... alternatively to go Mountain biking through dirt tracks, camping eating sushi (aka uncooked kebabs but still very yummy) then followed by canyoning/abseiling through waterfalls and watersliding.

We arrived on a sleeper bus early Tuesday morning and had a relaxing day hiring motorbikes/mopeds each and riding through the mountain side hunting for waterfalls, hammocks and poo sticks. Brett has now successfully learnt how to ride a motorbike, I however chickened out and kept with the moped for now (you would if you saw the crazy driving out here!), perhaps I will learn from Brett when we reach Indonesia :)

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Wednesday reached us, the day of Mountain biking. Now, my legs were not made for cycling, running/swimming maybe but not cycling so why I thought I could do 25km of MOUNTAIN biking (clue is in the title really) is beyond me. However, we got our bikes and began the day of cycling - first part was a hill. I suddenly realised this was going to be a tough day as I looked at Brett, Han and JP cycling jut ahead of me appearing to be at ease. We then came to the off-roading up and down hills and I have got to admit, although it was tough it was fantastically fun! Slightly worried at times about the possibility of falling off a few times however managed the whole day without a crash as did the rest of us (nearly). There was a few harsh slips from Han and she nearly ended up over the handle bars but luckily stopped herself very gracefully. And then there was me who decided to get off the bike at one point and as I placed my foot down realised there was no ground beneath me just a man-sized pot hole - ouch and oops! We finished our day with only 1 change of tyre, numerous chains coming off and oil stained bodies oh and a round of rounders with a stick and pine cones. We arrived out our campsite and freshened up then collected wood for our fire. Our guide was preparing dinner, he literally had his hand in the fire cooking kebabs. So We decided to try and build a stone bbq - it worked eventually and hopefully saved our guide from serious hand burns.

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The next day we went abseiling. Very exciting and nervous at the same time. We walked through some tropical forest and down to the start of our training. A small wall to practice braking and moving down safely and swiftly. All geared up we climbed up the rocks and made our first attempt at abseiling. I was bricking it, I am not going to lie, abseiling was/is one of my fears, something about myself being fully responsible for myself and safety kind of nerves me with my known clumsiness. As always Brett took to the sport swimmingly and looked pretty professional abseiling down, I kind of wished I was attached to his rope so he could be responsible for me and him :) Myself and Han had one more practice before moving on to our first wall 18meters eeek!

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It was brilliant - we took it in turns and abseiled down into a pool of water below us which had quite a strong current and seemed to loose my memory on how to swim after concentrating on how to abseil. With the adrenaline pumping we moved on to the next one, 15 metres. You could see we were all slowly getting more confident at it however still nerve racking looking over the edge to a drop. We were then taken to a small waterfall that we told we were going to slide down. It looked painful, however it was actually alright bar a few bruises, especially going head first. Sadly JP lost his 11 year old glasses - We didn't find them like the wedding ring, it was slightly impossible. Moment for the lost glasses.....

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After lunch it was time to suck it up and complete the waterfall - 25 metres and a raging waterfall to contend with, oh and a 3 metre drop at the end which was actually more like a 5 metre drop into the unknown. Brett was the first volunteer to go (volunteered by all of us) followed by JP who was extremely lucky, on his 3 metre fall somehow he managed to get his body head down and cracked his head onto the rock of the waterfall before falling into the water - thankfully and surprisingly he was not injured! Han and I were standing at the top watching this and bricking it even more. Han was next, she made it down facing all her fears, after smashing her heel a year ago when she jumped 30 meters off a cliff into water and landed on rock - I really do admire Han for doing this as I know for sure I wouldn't of been able to do that drop after recovering from that! Finally it was my go - Scariest thing I have ever done in my life - going down the waterfall was amazing, ridiculously slippery. At the point where we had to stop, let go and fall backwards into the water below was the part that was scary..... after many counts to 3 I finally let go a fell - which seemed forever into the water below. Amazing fun, scary and gets the blood pumping - would I do it again - yes without a doubt! The final waterfall called the washing machine. You only find out why once you have completed it. It literally swirls you round and spits you out the other side.

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After our adventurous few days we made our way back to Saigon. Han and JP had to go back to work and we did our final tour of Saigon - Cu Chi Tunnels. It is an underground village of over 200km of a network of the tiniest tunnels where the Vietnamese fought the Americans (and won) for 9 years but only so much of it remains now because of the bombs. Seeing all the weapons made and traps out of bamboo really shows how industrious the vietnamese are with so little resource. Our tour guide actually fought in the war and showed us his bullet wounds, it really brings it closer to you.

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So, we are now just waiting for our flight to Australia. We have said our goodbyes to Han and JP, hoping to see them in Laos so not long before we will be meeting up again. Very exciting!! We have to pack our bags still and pop to the market, print off our tickets and then go go go!!

So it's goodbye Vietnam, all in all it has been a brilliant adventure, I have grown more and more to loving Vietnam and maybe one day we will visit again but there will be a few more countries to visit first.

Hope you all enjoyed the read, if you made it this far. I didn't mean it to be so long however it has been an awesome week!

Till next time (probably after the Australian road trip whoop!)

Hope you are all well :)

Here are a few more pics for you to enjoy....

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Bethany x

Posted by BrettBethany 18:19 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Changing countries and changing plans

The last 4 weeks of our travels have been anything but a set plan.

sunny 32 °C

Has it really been 4 weeks?

So here we are, it's been quite some time since I sat at a computer ready to disperse the much anticipated information of what we've been up to, and whilst I may have just slightly over cooked the readiness in which everyone is at home waiting for this entry, I must say that I apologize. I did intend to do an entry before leaving Bangkok but that never happened, and then we simply haven't had the time to do it, so it just means that there's rather a lot to cram into this one. So here goes, kettles boiled, brews made, Rich Teas at the ready, it's time once again for those steady 20 minutes of reading time with Brett and Bethany :)

The cost-saving border crossing

The last time we wrote we were just leaving Nepal, which now seems like months ago. Our destination was Vietnam but we decided that we would fly to Bangkok and then cross the Cambodian border, continuing on to the Vietnamese border, eventually ending up in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Two reasons...firstly we thought it would be much more fun, as well as cheaper, if we did our border crossings over land instead of flying, which would reduce our carbon footprint as well of course. The second reason was that we couldn't get to Thailand over land because of Burma getting itself all in the way and such. From Nepal the only way to get into Burma, and therefore through Burma, is to fly in, which meant that one way or the other we needed to fly. Which leads on to the second reason for Bangkok over Saigon...about $330! This was the difference between flying to Bangkok instead of Saigon, which also meant that we could continue our plan of crossing over land, even if it was just for a little bit.

So we arrived in Bangkok after about a 2 hour delay in our flight time, went straight to the backpacker area of Khao San Road and found ourselves an extremely basic room complimented with a fan, a toilet with no flush, (stupidly loud) music until 3/4am and humidity of about 4000% or so, which attributed directly to my favourite friend heat rash appearing on my feet after about 3 days. Still, we're travelling bums, that's what we have to deal with if we only pay 400 Baht for a room (about 8 pounds)...that is of course until you find that you have to spend about 3 days longer in Bangkok that you had originally planned, in which case you grab your things as soon as you get back (even though you've already paid for that night), meander about 10 minutes away from Khao San Road and find a lovely place with quieter, cleaner rooms with air conditioning and even a 'please clean my room' door knob hang, all for the princely sum of 450 Baht - about a pound more. It's fair to say that worked out quite nicely for us.

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Visa delights

The 3 day delay came about when we were organising our visas for Cambodia and Vietnam. For reasons that have drifted to the back of our minds we had a feeling that the Cambodian visa could be a bit of a mission to get, not because of our nationality or anything, just because of 'procedures' and because the Cambodian embassy's locality was a bit more difficult to get to than the Vietnamese embassy, so we decided on Monday morning to get there first and then try to get the Vietnamese visa sorted the day after when we had our passports back. In the event it worked out not to be that bad at all. Granted we had to get a boat, then sky train, then metro, then taxi to get to the embassy...to find that it had closed for lunch 15 minutes before we arrived, but we simply had a walk down the road to a restaurant where nobody spoke English apart from a rather friendly Thai chap who helped us out by ordering our delicious lunch (fried rice with sort sort of pork tasting balls in a soup), went back to the embassy after a Magnum from a 7-Eleven, handed over the required paperwork and walked out with our visa 15 minutes later. Happy days.

So it was now 2:15, we got a taxi back to the metro, the metro back to the sky train, and the sky train to the stop for the Vietnamese embassy to try and get both in one day, after all the Vietnamese one should be simple...
Hmmm yes, whenever I recount getting our Vietnamese visa I can never put my finger on way I thought it was such a hassle, we handed over the required paper work and got our visa 3 days later, I think it was just the Vietnamese way of dealing with any kind of organisation or bureaucracy that did it. At the time we wondered if it were to be an introduction to Vietnam or if it was simply a one off after getting so lucky with the Cambodian visa, now we know it was definitely an introduction.

Vietnamese bureaucracy

To fill you in please answer the following question assuming that you'd just handed over the required paperwork:

Can you pick the passports up tomorrow (it being 3 pm the quickest they could do it was for the following day)?
Answer: To us it was simple, we had nothing to do so yes of course.

Excellent...chap fills in a form...please pay at the counter immediately next to me. (So you don't take payment? You have a whole separate area for payment? A whole 2 inches to your left?).

Ok fine, he hands the payment lady the slip that he has just written on...at which point I notice sign-writing on the window stating that only Thai Baht is accepted as payment (even though on their website it lists visa fees in US dollars). Price is displayed to me in Thai Baht via the use of a calculator...that seems a lot of money, do you accept US dollars?

Of course they do, but only if the payment lady can let out an almighty sigh first, and then once again display the amount using the calculator from before. It's strange but I never knew 'an arm and a leg' could be displayed on a calculator screen but there it was in clear view. How much?! (In the Lonely Planet we'd read that visas cost '$30-$60 which in itself is odd because normally a visa costs 'X' amount, not a fluctuation) The price before me was $180!! But how, there's only 2 of us?!

Payment lady with her best upside down smile cheerfully exclaims that it's because we asked for the express service of course.
We did? When? Oh that must have been the informative 'Can you pick the passports up tomorrow (at a cost of $60, because sir, this is the express service, alternatively we have the normal 3 day service at which no extra charge is incurred)?'
Right, well actually no we'd rather spend a couple more days in Bangkok thanks, so that brings the total down to $120 which is the maximum they can charge someone for a visa, either money was low that day or they just didn't like my face because I can't find any explanation as to why it would cost more than $30 each, but still, the visas were indeed processed in the 3 days stipulated and there was no exchange of words upon pick up in case anything else were to be misconstrued.

Thailand to Vietnam

So we had a few days to fill and because we'd already done a fair bit of shopping and had never actually explored Bangkok, that's what we decided to do. It was a really lovely few days, especially with our new room welcoming us every night. We visited a number of temples, experienced all manner of transport and sampled a ridiculous amount of Thai food, all of which was either delicious or very good. The fresh fruit and shakes were an amazing change from the mass of rice and fried foods that we had for the whole time in Nepal. We even went to Lumphini Boxing Stadium to watch Muay Thai (Thai Boxing). In all it made our trip to Bangkok seem more worthwhile and made us feel like we'd given it a good go, there's nothing worse than visiting a place and not exploring it at all because we don't feel like we've got a fair reflection of it then - and now we actually like Bangkok quite a bit which is better than our thoughts before having been there on a stop over to Australia 5 years ago.

So all content and ready for something new we headed for Vietnam on the Friday morning. We used to always stock up with crisps, bread and biscuits for these long bus journeys but we've got quite used to just eating anything on the menu at the stops along the way so all we made sure we had was a bottle of water. We travelled for the whole day on the bus, crossing the border at about 1pm with no trouble, arriving at Siem Reap (the home of Angkor Wat) in Cambodia at about 7pm. Hotel found we went out and had some Cambodian cuisine for dinner whilst being in shock at how built up Siem Reap was, we were expecting dusty roads and small guest houses, instead we saw amazing 4/5 star hotels and well, seemingly a lot of money floating about somewhere. But we were off again in the morning, on a bus all day again ending up in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh at about 4pm. Like I said before we really don't like visiting a place without exploring a little but the purpose of our trip through Cambodia was solely to get to Vietnam, so we had to sail straight through and promise to ourselves that we'd be back (which we will be!), although Phnom Penh may well get the cold shoulder when we return because it didn't seem all too nice to us on first impressions but we have been told otherwise since then. The morning after brought another bus journey, crossing the Vietnamese border with the aforementioned smoothness of our day getting visas. Although no problems occurred, why they decided to stamp the whole bus's passports at once with everyone waiting in a huddle with all their luggage, waiting for their name to be called so they could muddle their way through the crowd of obliging participants to collect their passport and continue on, instead of simply dealing with each person in turn, is beyond me, but that's how things are done on the Vietnamese border. Then onwards to Saigon arriving at about 2pm.

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3 fast paced weeks

We now had 29 days to see Vietnam which sounds a lot, but when you spend 3 long bus journeys looking at things to do in Vietnam, it suddenly becomes a bit of a headache. There really was so much that we wanted to do, and still is, but we had to make a plan as to what we could do, and what we'd have to leave out. This has meant that since 29th April we have constantly been on the move and doing things which has been equally as nice as it has been tiring. In short we have made our way up the coast of Vietnam visiting Saigon, Mui Ne simply for the beach (and after having a very minor crash in the bus on the way, transferring to a comfortable seat in the aisle of another bus for the remaining 3 hours of the journey), Nha Trang for some snorkeling and scuba diving in the reef there, Hoi An (which I'll come to later), Hue to see the old Citadel and Forbidden City as it used to be Vietnam's capital city, Ninh Binh (another favourite that I'll come to later), Hanoi - current capital city which is where we are now, and Halong Bay. We are still to return to Saigon to visit Hannah and JP and see the city a bit more, travel through the Mekong Delta and have a relaxing day on Phu Quoc island.

Everyone has their favourites

Our favourites have been Hoi An and Ninh Binh without a doubt. We have really enjoyed our trip so far and I think every place has been worth a visit at least, some more so, but Hoi An and Ninh Binh have been delights to visit. Hoi An is a nice town-sized place with some beautiful architecture and a lovely old town to wander through on a lovely (if not too hot) sunny day. There is such a relaxed feeling about the place which is probably because it's one of the only places we've visited that hasn't been a small city at smallest, and the beach in our opinion is the best one that we've been to in Vietnam. All of this and we spent our 3 days there with some really good friends in the Rudderhams and JP. Hannah (one of Bethany's bridesmaids) and JP are working in Saigon and have been since October (I think), and Hannah's parents had come over to visit in May, so we luckily had our plans cross over in Hoi An. It was brilliant seeing some familiar faces again, it always is when you're away from home, and we had such a lovely few days together so thanks guys - especially for helping us in our time of need.

That's right, I LOST MY WEDDING RING!! We were all at the beach and JP (still your fault) said it would be a good if we had a ball to throw around. Me being the sport hater begrudgingly went off and purchased a particularly good ball for throwing around either on the beach or in the sea, it really was splendid. Then, before some pretty macho throwing around from JP, Ian and myself, Bethany, Hannah, JP and I all took the ball into the sea for some light hearted throwing around, which developed into piggie-in-the-middle naturally (this time Hannah's fault), which got quite physical to the point that JP threw the ball into some space for me to swim to whilst Bethany grappled with my left arm. I got free and just as I was about to break into a majestic swimming style Bethany screamed 'BRETT HAVE YOU GOT YOUR RING ON?!!' to which I half nodded and brought my left hand up to see that the ring in fact was gone. Panic ensued...

Luckily - somehow - JP and I had managed to stay in around about the same location to where the ring had fallen off, and luckily the sea was very clear, and luckily the girls had gone to buy some goggles to search around for the ring. I had a go under the water with no success as did Hannah, JP and Ian who had joined in the joviality, but Bethany was tiring emotionally pretty quickly, struck with panic (being as it was - by her own (later) admission - her fault that it had come off) she asked for the goggles for one last attempt. I handed them to her promptly, she dove down and immediately returned to the surface with her arm in the air, mouth open trying to shout that she'd found it but instead swallowing and chocking on sea water, with a huge relieved look on her face. She had indeed found it and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. The rest of the day was spent in the lovely sun and on our bicycles with a 'I can't believe we found it' from Bethany roughly every 20 minutes. But of course we were all in good spirits after that and the next few days were much better than they would have been had we not found it.

Ninh Binh was different because it was overlooked by most other backpackers and tourists. It was so nice and peaceful! We spent our time with an English guy called Steve who was the only one to get off the bus with us, everyone else went on to Hanoi. The three of us went for a bike ride on our first day to Tam Coc which was beautiful. It's known as the 'Halong Bay of the paddy fields' but in our opinion Halong Bay should be named after Tam Coc. Obviously Halong Bay is more renowned and is much bigger but the combination of beautiful limestone mountains and gloriously green paddy fields, floating through on a small boat with barely anyone else there was just fantastic. We had a couple of hours on the boat in the scorching heat and then continued on our bike ride, climbing to the top of one limestone mountain to get a wonderful view, and just enjoying the rest of the countryside. The next day in Ninh Binh was spent on motorbikes riding around Cuc Phuong National Park. It took some time to get to the park but it was a beautiful ride along quiet roads and through the forested national park. We then spent a couple of hours losing about 3 stone in sweat by trekking to a 1000 year old tree. We thought we'd got lost but it turned out we hadn't but we still ended up returning to Ninh Binh in the dark which in itself was an adventure because somehow between the 3 of us, we hadn't noticed that we'd somehow turned completely around to face north instead of facing south which is where we needed to go. So we added a good 30 minutes to our return trip on the bikes but it was a cracking ride once again, supplemented by the sound of thunder and lightning.

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A few days of rest, a well deserved treat

After those 2 days we headed to Hanoi and straight on the Halong Bay, then returned to Hanoi once more, planning on going to Ba Be National Park, but we decided that we'd spend the 3 days in Hanoi, with one on a motorbike to a closer national park (Ba Vi), and soke up the capital city and basically to unwind for a bit because we were so tired from all of the travelling around. So we've visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum this morning which was good, and now we're ready for our flight tomorrow back to Saigon. We still have a lot to do in Vietnam so still lots to look forward to. Overall we have found it to be a truly beautiful country and the people are generally really nice, and they've been a great help to us when we've ventured out of the main tourist areas, just take deep breathes when it comes to dealing with them about any kind of business.

Plans are made to be broken

We had originally planned to go to Indonesia after Vietnam, over land and sea of course, but we have since decided to change our plans. Since 2008 - when we left Australia - we have always wanted to travel the northern territory in Aus. We managed to travel the east coast up to Fraser Island, and the west coast from Perth to Broome, but couldn't afford to do the north, so now we have the money we've decided to fly over to Brisbane, travel north to Cairns taking in the Great Barrier Reef along the way, and then travel across from Cairns to Broome. It'll mean that we'll have travelled almost everywhere we've wanted to in Aus except Ulluru which we'll visit another time. It works out that we can either see Ulluru or spend a month in Asia, so we've gone with the latter. Whilst we're there we'll also see a few friends from our last trip which is very exciting, as well as a few friends from home in Jim & Kellie and Ginny & Zoe, so it should be a really nice trip. It gives our carbon footprint a huge kick in the stomach and means we'll also have less time in Asia afterwards but we're more than happy with those consequences if it means we can do the north, so we're extremely excited by the prospect. Only 10 days to go until we fly :D

So with all our plans laid out I guess it's time to bid you farewell on this occasion and leave you with a couple of pictures once again. I hope you've enjoyed this monster effort, the next one will either be a fair bit shorter because it'll be before we leave for Aus, or another marathon attempt if it's at the end of Aus, time will tell.

We both hope you're all well, take care

Brett

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Posted by BrettBethany 03:43 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

Work, Rest and Play.....and Delhi Belly

Our last week or two in Nepal...

sunny 27 °C

So the first travelling month has been and gone, our last few days in Nepal are slowly coming to an end and Thailand is just around the corner....actually its tomorrow.

Just a couple of rest days...

After the trek we thought it would be lovely to have just a couple of rest days before our visiting began, our legs had seized up and our bodies were screaming and cursing us for the last 20 days. So we thought we would just chill. Little did we know what was in store for us after the "amazing waffle" (Picture on previous blog) Something I am never 'treating' myself to again.

The inevitable Delhi Belly arrived, bed ridden for a day or so sweating it out and thinking of the worst things that it could possibly be, I can say that it wasn't very pleasant and for poor Brett to actually watch and not be able to do anything but bring me boiled potatoes and clean the sick bucket. They say every experience is a good experience....Perhaps not in this case.

The following day unfortunately Brett developed tell tail signs of the same bug, we managed to drag ourselves out and buy antibiotics at a pharmacy hut which we were to take for 5 days, our couple of days chilling were not quite what we had in mind! Still we managed a slow walk to Damside and had a fairly 'human feeling' day. Whatever the tablets were they seemed to be working so we could actually continue on as normal.

Orphanage Visits

The next few days were filled with visiting friends made from our previous visits and visiting the Namaste family (NCH). On the Thursday we met up with Surendra baai, he is working at a paragliding company and we were so pleased to see how well he was doing, a couple more years and he will become a pilot in Paragliding!! That afternoon Surendra baai took us to an Orphanage that John Riley had said to visit, it was a beautiful homely orphanage housing just 12 children. However the children were not there as it is currently 'Chhutti' at the moment (Holiday) and they get sent home to visit their relatives in their villages. It was a refreshing visit and lovely to see how the owner Manoj and his wife who are both volunteering, have been running and funding this home for 6 years.

The following day we visited the children at Namaste Children's house. It was lovely to see the children or for some teenagers again. We received a lovely reception and were surprised how many children remembered us as its been 3/4 years since our last visit. When we arrived we were surrounded by the children and they were shouting "whats my name, whats my name", surprisingly we remembered alot of the names but the look of disappointment on some of there little faces when their name just did not come into our heads.

Sadly Manju Didi (One of the mummies at NCH) has had Typhoid and was ill at home, however we spoke to her on the phone at which point she invited us to her home, which in Nepal is a great honour. So that evening we made our way to Manju Didi's home in Ranipauwa and eventually after some searching and asking the locals we found Manju Didi! (A phone may have been handy at this point) We spoke for hours catching up and we met her husband and 2 children, she showed us her wedding photos which were beautiful (she got married 4 months after us). We then had dinner (Dal Bhat) cooked by her husband and said our goodbyes and made our way back to Pokhara. It was so lovely to see Manju Didi again, hopefully she will fully recover soon!!

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Spot of Paragliding...Don't mind if I do

Having been to Nepal a fair few times we have seen most sights numerous of times and have completed a few treks, but there was one thing that we have never done (Purely because of the money) and that was Paragliding. And since Surendra baai worked for one of the companies we thought why not! So on Saturday off we went up Sarankot hill in the jeep, higher and higher. When we reached the top we meet our pilot, we had a brief briefing and away we go.........We were literally flying with the birds, and I have to say although it was not an adrenaline rush it was one of the most exhilarating things I have done. The views were amazing from the height, you never realise the size of Pokhara until you get literally a birds eye view! Brett wants to look into training to become a pilot, which I do think is a fab idea however I will stick to just being the client he can glide around the world with, don't think I quite trust myself to have full control. Here are a couple of pictures:

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Sad Goodbyes

We knew the time would come, and sadly we don't know the next time we will be coming back to Nepal and therefore the children we know may also be integrated back to their homes by this point, who knows what the future holds. So on Sunday we said our goodbyes which felt odd as we had only been there a few days and spent a short time with them but we always knew this would be the case with this visit. After wishing them all well with their final exam results and many hugs and kisses we left, happy to have seen everyone but a pang of sadness for leaving with no plans when to return.

In the afternoon we met up with John Bethell from the IOM, Krishna daai and Rabin baai (older child now 20yrs from NCH, John is his sponsor), had some lunch and caught up with them all. It was a beautiful afternoon and to finish our last day in Pokhara we had some dinner with Surendra baai and said our final goodbye!

What to do Kathmandu

On the Monday we caught the bus to KTM, it took 7 hours and was a fairly comfortable ride compared to ones we took 7 years ago. On arrival we managed to find a newly built/still building hotel for 400NPRs. The rooms had not even been slept in, the mattresses were proper mattresses not just foam and the pillows crisp and soft. The shower is like the shower from home. This was by far the best room we have stayed in so far!
That night we went to meet up with John again for a final get together before he flew the following day. We met at the Shangri-la hotel, well....it was rather an amazing hotel and did not even know these existed in Nepal. We had a lovely dinner with John and sat a chatted for a few hours before it was time to head back to our hotel. We said our goodbyes and headed home.

The next few days we have been chilling (again) and yes with chilling comes the inevitable Delhi Belly......again.......this time with Brett....I don't think he was fully recovered and the bug hadn't passed through before the end of the first lot of tablets. This time it was my turn to just not be able to do anything but watch and rush to another pharmacy for yet more antibiotics.Luckily he seems ok and was only bed ridden for an afternoon and night - it was a lovely hotel to be ill in! I did feel for him and its the first time i've seen him look so so ill. It makes me appreciate and feel very lucky that we both love travelling and can travel together rather than single travelling.

We also had the time to create our own 'sweat shop factory' in sandal making.....what do you do when the sandals you buy blister and cut your feet to pieces....but your current ones are ok on the straps but the sole is falling to pieces:

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I think we would make great manufacturers! ha ha! Move over China!

We are now just getting ready to depart to Thailand on Friday, our Flight number is RA401 (In case you have flight tracker) Flying at 9am tomorrow morning! We are very excited as its a new country, new things and bizarre as we don't know any of the language unlike here we can generally understand the gist of things. Time will tell......

Our next blog will probably be when we arrive in Vietnam. We are looking to go to Thailand, perhaps go to a beach for a couple of days then make our way through Laos then to the North of Vietnam and travel down to the South to visit Hannah and JP. Can't wait for our next travels.....Until then we wish you well and hope you have enjoyed the read. Slightly longer than I expected! oops!

Just checked Bangkok weather......storms predicted - Beach option? who knows, maybe not :(

Take Care
Bethany x

A few pics of the last eventful week:

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Posted by BrettBethany 21:46 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

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