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Asia, Thailand, Travel

Chiang Mai, Thailand

March 6, 2014

Staying at The Living Place.

Before heading south for the Thai Islands we decided to have a quick visit to Chiang Mai to see a different Thai city and to visit the tigers and the elephants.

After a hellish overnight bus journey with broken air con, we managed to find our accommodation fairly easily and gratefully dumped our bags and headed out for some breakfast. We had to stretch out our breakfast for an hour or so as we couldn’t check in until 12. We’re becoming pros at out staying our welcome at restaurants now!

Once checked in, we showered and then had a little walk around the city. Chiang Mai is an old town surrounded by the remains of an ancient wall. It’s got a more relaxed vibe than Bangkok with a high population of monks due to the number of Buddhist temples here. Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains and rainforest so lots of trips include trekking but as that doesn’t really interest us (too many bugs) we booked an elephant training course and planned a visit to the Tiger Kingdom.

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The elephants were absolutely amazing! They are such beautiful creatures and you only appreciate how big they are when you get close to them. Our trip was with Woodys elephant training and involved learning some Thai commands to get the elephant to lift you up and walk in the direction you wanted, feeding the elephants, going for a ride on them and finally washing them in the river. The elephants seemed to enjoy this last part the best as they got to spray us with water…

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The next day was a trip to the Tiger Kingdom. I love this place! You can go into enclosures with tigers of all different sizes. I went in with the adult tigers last year so this year I chose to just visit the babies. They were only a few months old and were very playful but some were just sleeping in the corner (very cute!). It’s very easy to forget that they are still dangerous but I still wanted to take one home with me! One of the cubs kept wanting to play fight and challenged all the others to a fight, even the ones trying to sleep which was quite funny. Stu went in with the big tigers as well. Last year, all the big ones were asleep but this time they were walking around and jumping into the pool. I would have been petrified but Stu kept his cool and sat next to them.

We both loved our time here but we’re desperate for a beach after 3 weeks of cities so it’s time to head to the paradise of Koh Phi Phi!

Asia, Thailand, Travel

Bangkok, Thailand

March 6, 2014

Staying at the Samsen Skyline.

A new day, a new country!

We were a little worried about coming to Bangkok because we weren’t sure if the political unrest was affecting day-to-day life. In our taxi on the way to the airport we passed a couple of roads which were closed off due to the protestors but there was nothing in the city itself.

We arrived at our accommodation and the man on the front desk couldn’t find our reservation at first and then decided the give us a ‘free upgrade’ to a better room. We think this means he forgot about us and had given our standard room away. No complaints though!

After a quick freshen up we headed out on the streets of Bangkok and headed straight to Khaosan road. It put a smile on my face to be back on familiar territory and to see Stu’s face taking in all the sights, smells and sounds of the backpacker hub of Thailand. We grabbed some Pad Thai off a stall for 25 baht (50p!) and then walked down the road taking it all in. The street food is really good here and a good way of saving some money.

Whilst we were staying in Bangkok we wanted to see some of the Buddhist temples so the next day we had a crazy ride in a tut tut over to the Grand Palace and the surrounding temples. They provide some great pictures and it’s always nice to take in a bit of the local culture.

We both had a Thai curry whilst in Bangkok which was delicious but I think my mum’s might just beat it!

Asia, Travel, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

February 27, 2014

Staying at Thanh Thuong Guesthouse.

We weren’t sure what to expect of the South capital of Vietnam as memories of almost being run over by motorcycles in Hanoi were still haunting us. However we were greeted by a fairly modern city and although there were still thousands of bikes, this city had discovered pavements for pedestrians.

The staff at our accommodation have been helpful throughout our trip but they were particularly helpful here, giving us a map and explaining how far it would take to walk to certain landmarks and letting us know how much a taxi would cost it we were feeling lazy.

Memories of the war are most prominent here with a large war remembrance museum and trips to the nearby Cu Chi tunnels heavily advertised.

The war museum gave us a chance to see the war from the Vietnamese’s point of view and although I knew it was going to be very one sided, I didn’t expect the pure hatred of Americans which most of the museum concentrated on. There was lots of graphic pictures which we wouldn’t see in Britain of corpses and injuries and even disabled foetuses in a jar. It isn’t a trip for those with a weak stomach. We spoke to some local people about the war and they still hold a grudge against America. Only our tour guide in the Cu Chi tunnel trip admitted that the museum is very one sided and Vietnam was at fault too.

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There’s a large backpacker scene here, mostly based on the Bui Vien street which is full of restaurants, bars and market stalls. The food continued to be good and the beer continued to be cheap!

There’s a few sites to see around the city, including the Notre Dame cathedral (not kidding), the Financial tower and the Reunification Palace. All are within walking distance of each other.

We were meant to spend 5 days here but due to a mix up with our flight (me getting the dates wrong) we actually spent a week. It was an enjoyable week but 5 days would have been enough.

Next stop is Bangkok and a chance to avoid the protests!

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Asia, Travel, Vietnam

The Cu Chi Tunnels with Delta Adventure Tours

February 25, 2014

During our stay in Ho Chi Minh City we really wanted to go visit the tunnels as the Vietnam war is one of the only things we knew about the country before we came!

We booked the trip through our accommodation and paid 131,000 dong each and then you have to pay 90,000 entry fee when you get there. This equates to about £6 each.

We were picked up and on the road by 8:30am and our tour guide, Mr Bean (not kidding), introduced himself to us. He claims to be a war veteran and fought with the American soldiers against the VietCong. He was really nice and full of stories and facts and the war but he constantly talked and asked “Do you want to hear my story?” over and over again which did irritate a few people towards the end.

The tunnels themselves were really good. At the site they have examples of the traps set to injure the American soldiers. They looked like they could impale someone not just injure them!

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We were shown a sniper hole which is a narrow hole in the ground with a cover on the top to slip the gun under. Everyone had a go squeezing in it unless they thought they were too big to get out!

We also got the chance to climb through a stretch of the tunnel network. I have never been so hot and cramped in my life! It just kept going lower, whilst getting darker and hotter. I could sort of squat and waddle along but Stu literally had to crawl on his hands and knees! We were both glad when we reached the end but some people left via the emergency exits at certain points as it was very claustrophobic.

All in all a very interesting trip and worth doing if you’re ever here.

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Asia, Travel, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

February 22, 2014

Staying at Hoa Binh Hotel.

Hoi An, you beautiful beautiful town. After the madness of Hanoi, you were a much needed breath of fresh air. It’s fair to say that Stu and I fell in love with you.

We stayed a short walk away from the heritage town which is really pretty. The buildings are all painted yellow with colourful lanterns lining the walkways. It’s a ‘walking town’ with no cars allowed and for a few hours each day, not even bikes are permitted – bliss! A river flows next to the town with an old Japanese bridge connecting the two sides of town.

There’s lots of shops and restaurants and we both made a couple of purchases. I bought a beautiful pashmina scarf and we both got our first ‘traveller bracelet’. We just need a tan now and we will be looking like proper backpackers!

A Hoi An speciality is spring rolls and Stu and I could not get enough of them! You can tell fresh ingredients were used in all the food we ate here and the ingredients are sourced from a market in the town. We’re loving Vietnamese food and are becoming pros at using chopsticks!

I’ve really enjoyed my time in Hoi An, next stop is Saigon!

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Asia, Travel, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

February 21, 2014

Staying at Little Hanoi Hostel.

Welcome to crazy town! This is my first experience of Vietnam and what an experience… Hanoi is filled with people on motorbikes and scooters driving around beeping at each other and you just have to keep out of their way or lose a few toes. In fairness we did grow in confidence after a day or so but it goes against everything I’ve been taught to cross a road that busy!

Once you get past the crazy drivers you can start to enjoy Hanoi. We stayed in the Old Quarter of town which is filled with local restaurants and shops to enjoy. There’s plenty of parks and lakes just outside of the Old Quarter which we enjoyed even though the weather wasn’t great (I didn’t expect to wear my coat so soon!). We did see the strangest sights in one of parks… SEVEN WEDDINGS. Seven. Seven weddings?! All at different stages and having lots of pictures taken. We were literally speechless at first and then couldn’t stop laughing, especially as the couples all looked so miserable.

The food in Hanoi was good. Two places we recommend are New Day Restaurant on May Mai street and the City View restaurant which, you guessed it, gives great views of the city.

We used our time in Hanoi to plan the rest of the trip in Vietnam. As the weather is poor we have decided to give Halong Bay a miss and head to Hoi An next and then to Saigon.

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Asia, Malaysia, Travel

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

February 17, 2014

Staying at The Travel Hub.

And so the trip begins! After months of saving and waiting in anticipation, we said our emotional goodbyes at Heathrow and set off to travel the world. Our first stop is KL and we are staying next to Chinatown. We found the hostel on www.hostelbookers.com and chose the ‘deluxe double room’ (a double bed in a room haha).

KL is amazing! You’ve got the luxury surrounding the Petronas Towers with beautiful gardens and up market shopping malls and then the madness of Chinatown just a short train journey away. Chinatown was filled with market stalls selling everything you could ever need at really cheap prices. Think Khao San Road but bigger.

Getting around KL was easy, the train system was easy to understand and works like the London Underground. You buy a token from a machine at your start station which you scan to get on to the platform and then the barrier swallows the token when you leave the station. We were pros after a day!

We fell in love with the towers and saw them at night all lit up and then went to the top of them in the day. This costs 80RM each which is about £14. It’s definitely worth doing as you can see for miles and KL is surrounded by beautiful scenery.

There’s lots of good places to eat in KL so we had a mixture of Malyasian and more Western food. We’ll be back here at the end of March to catch our flight to Australia but after a 3 night stay it is time to head to Vietnam.

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