A Travellerspoint blog

the surprise

sunny

after months of keeping it a secret, the surprise finally came. we surprised pauls sister jenny and hubby gary 15 days ago in brisbane, australia...

** video may take a while to load before you can play it

will write much more soon... just wanted to upload the video for now :) x

Posted by mico82 21:47 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

kuala lumpur

all seasons in one day

our reason for having so many nights in kl, was so we could spend a few nights elsewhere and see more of malaysia. all we have seen is kl though. we have spent 9 nights in a city and were getting very bored with it. but we were so tired of travelling, packing, unpacking, looking for accommodation etc (i know, it's a hard life huh!) so we decided to just stay put for 9 nights. come the end of our stay we were dying to get away! we originally had 4 or 5 nights in malaysia and i remember thinking we should extend it so we can head north and see a bit more. silly idea now lol.

we booked our hotel back home before leaving and thought 9 nights in this hotel will be fine because it looked lovely on their website. we checked in and found our room to be a box... damp smelling and no window. 9 nights in this would be like prison, not knowing if it was daylight or not. it was terrible. we asked if we could get a room with a window. so they moved us for an extra 10RM a night. the window looked on to the busiest street in kl; chinatown. i have never seen a street like it. there are stalls everywhere with very little space for people to walk about. we were right next to a cd stall where they blasted rap, rnb and club tunes. i can't even listen to that music at a normal level of volume! it was so loud. the manager told us it gets played till midnight and also finds it very frustrating but there's nothing he can do.

we had no option but to check out. we got a taxi away from chinatown and already kl was looking far better. chinatown for me was terrible. stalls everywhere selling cheap junk, fake labels and food that was stinking. think of the barras all crammed into one street.
with our backpacks and rucksacks on we must have spent about an hour trying to find somewhere. the humidity was terrible and everywhere was fully booked because it was the malaysians new year.

paul left me in an air conditioned cafe with all the bags so he could run about trying to find somewhere. he came back with a hotel finally booked. probably one of the most expensive hotels in kl. backpackers we are definitely not. we entered our premier room on the 18th floor, opened the curtains to find the petronas twin towers in front of us (the second tallest building in the world). the view was so cooel.

we spent 2 nights there enjoying the comforts of our hotel. our first day we headed down to the pool to find it empty. we were the only ones there for hours and it was brilliant. i swam for a while whilst paul was geeking away on his laptop. again, we had some cool views of the city at the pool.

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unfortunately we had to check out and start living a bit like backpackers... 9 nights in that hotel would have broke the bank balance. after some searching i finally found a budget hotel. we checked in there for the remainder of our stay.

our taxi driver that took us from the airport to our hotel told us the number 1 thing to do in kl was.... eat! and we sure did. we went to a restaurant called the ship which is known for having the best steaks in kl. it was the best steak that we have ever had. for the first time ever i was able to eat a full steak without leaving horrible fatty, weird looking bits. it was soooo yummy. we went there twice because the food was so good. and cheap for what we were getting. paul ordered a tiger beer and look what arrived...

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we also had dinner at this sushi restaurant near the petronas towers. it had all kinds of dishes, some quite bizarre and some that we weren't so sure what they were. i went to order chicken with vegetables, paul made a comment that suggested i should be more adventerous. so i ordered this fish sushi dish with noodles, rice, vegetable and all sorts of other wee nibbles. we order by just telling them the number. paul joked about ordering macaroni cheese because we both have such a craving for it since we've been travelling. but sure enough, out comes my bizarre looking meal and he's went and ordered frigging macaroni cheese. i didn't even see it on the menu. it had fish in it but it was quite tasty. and there's me picking at weird looking things such as a whole crab done in batter and eel.
unknown to me, i put wasabi in my mouth just as the waitress was coming over to top up our drinks. my mouth was burning and she was pottering about at our table for what felt like hours. paul was pissing himself laughing... she eventually left, my face was burning up and i spat the stuff out in my cloth. it was horrible. how anyone can eat that stuff?!
not the best dinner we've had and probably the priciest dinner in kl.

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we also visited the kl tower to get some good views of the city. we went back the following night and had dinner at the revolving restaurant. a buffet dinner where we definetly got our monies worth. paul had many servings of the mains and i had many servings of the desserts.

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view from the tower (the building with the pool is where we stayed at)

we visited the petronas towers one day as well. the second tallest building of the world. the set up for this place is a shambles though. you can't just walk in and take the lift to the bridge. you have to be at the ticket office for 8am as only 1000 tickets are given to the public free per day. we queued for about an hour, given a ticket whilst queuing, given another ticket once at the desk, then told what time to come back at. arrived for another 20 minute wait, then given a pass and given 8 minutes to check out the views from the bridge.
it's crazy. the second tallest building of the world but you're not allowed at the top. we were just about half way up the building. you actually get a higher and better view from the kl tower.
i suppose it's just one of those things that you have to do though in kl. we would have been disappointed if we hadn't had done it.

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petronas at night

our last day was spent at sunway lagoon. an amusement/water park. we had lots of fun here. we went on the flumes about 10 times and a few other water slides. we then changed out of our swimming gear to then get absolutely soaked in our clothes when we found out there were river rapids and a log flume. we also went on 2 rollercoasters and a few rides, some swinging us upside down. pauls face was a picture in one of the rides that went upside down. i was nearly peeing my pants with laughter. it was such a fun day.
it got off to a bad start though. the taxi driver charged us 113RM to get to sunway lagoon. we knew it would be pricey but not that much. there was no arguing with the guy though. we gave him the cash feeling like we've been robbed. we then arranged for a taxi back to our hotel... it only cost 28RM. we've had quite a lot of taxi drivers over here at it, trying to charge us crazy amounts.

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me and paul at the petronas bridge (and me with a new hair dooooo)

kl has so many shopping malls. there's one that is so big it has a bowling alley and an indoor amusement park. there were about 8 floors of shops at one bit... and 5 levels at another. it was so easy to get lost in it. we went to the indoor amusement park... where paul went on his first upside down rollercoaster. he was pooping his pants but enjoyed it once it got going.

apart from that we've not done much else. just slurping away in cafes, walking about the city, eating out and sleeping. we are so glad to be leaving malaysia. it's a place that i'll never be able to comment about because we only experienced kl. my advice for kl... spend 2 nights there then leave lol.

Posted by mico82 17:31 Archived in Malaysia Comments (4)

hue, hanoi & halong

all seasons in one day

it's our last night of vietnam. as much as we've loved vietnam, we're looking forward to a change of scenery now. we always feel like this come the end of our stay in places.

we booked a 3 day tour of halong bay and twice it got cancelled because of typhoon hagupit that has killed 32 people so far in vietnam. it started in china and made it's way to the phillipines and then northern vietnam. hanoi has been pouring down for the last week because of it and halong bay was empty for days because tours were getting cancelled.
the day we got told the tour was going ahead we decided to reschedule it for the following day and we are sooooo lucky we did. our tour guide told us that the tour group the previous day couldn't stay overnight in the boat because the weather was so bad. our main reason for doing a 3 day tour was so we could stay overnight on the boat.

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hoan kiem lake in hanoi

we were soooooo lucky as the weather for us was scorching. the tour was perfect, it couldn't have been better. after speaking with a couple in hue they advised us to spend extra on a good tour company as their tour of halong bay was very disappointing. so we did, although it was still very cheap for what we were getting. we spent one night on a 'junk boat' which was the complete opposite of what the name suggests. it was way cool. our second night was spent on the tour company's private island.
all food was included as well as a welcome drink. we had fresh fish caught that day such as crab, shrimps, squid, tuna, prawns and some sort of fish tasting a bit like haddock... along with veggies, spring rolls, chicken, beef, rice, salad etc. there was so much food and it was well yummy.

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what we loved about the tour (aside from how well organised it was, good tour guide and lotsa food) was how chilled out it was. we had plenty of time to just relax and admire the views of halong bay. the roof of the boat was kitted out with deck chairs where we spent most of the night talking with an australian couple. there was lightning that night and it was amazing to watch from the deck. that day we also spent an hour kayaking and we loved it. we were paddling through a few caves and afterwards were jumping into the water from the roof of the boat... was pretty scary but we eventually done it lol.

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the private island was brilliant too... very peaceful. there are 5 bungalows on the whole island and only 7 tourists there. me and paul went kayaking again as we loved it so much the previous day. we then chilled out on our balcony where i slept for about 2 hours as paul was typing his blog and admiring the view. we had dinner with a couple from the netherlands, again it was a lovely night with plenty of fresh fish, meat, asian type nibbles and veggies.

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our bungalow to the left

we also visited the 'amazing caves' on our first day. i wouldn't say amazing but it was pretty big and took us about half an hour to walk through it all. we also had a few boat trips to get from a to b which was brilliant. the views of halong bay are stunning... we had no idea just how big the bay is. it's been our highlight of our trip so far.

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me sleeping at the island at halong

in hanoi we've been just walking about, eating out and getting very 'hanoi'd' with the motorbikes. although hanoi is less populated (and less motorbikes) than saigon, the roads are a lot smaller and paths are non-existent as they're filled with parked motorbikes. so it makes walking about so frustrating at times. we're constantly dodging the traffic... the bikes, cars, pedicabs, bicycles and the locals. and not too mention the puddles because it's been raining so much lol.
the tooting of motorbikes is unreal. they do it so much that it becomes redundant. every second, if not every 2 seconds we hear beep beep and it's for no reason at all... the traffic slows down so they beep... a bike on the opposite side is driving by... they beep. some just beep for the sake of it. one of our hotels in hanoi was so noisy with the traffic outside that i was wakened at 7am and couldn't get back to sleep. now it must've been pretty loud to wake me... AND keep me up ;)

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not much to report from hue. we spent a day touring the sights such as 3 royal tombs and the citadel; a walled part of the city that housed the emperor and buildings related to the government in the 18th century. most of it was ruined with bombs from the vietnam war but parts of it are still intact. the tombs were probably the highlight from that day as we got some lovely views from them.

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we left hue to visit the dmz (demilitarized zone) where some of the heaviest battles took place during the vietnam war. unexploded land mines and bombs are still there and have caused many casualties such as farmers and children. we saw bomb craters and tunnels similar to the cu-chi tunnels near saigon. it was okay but we felt that once you've had a tour of war related stuff it's just a repeat of what you've seen and heard before.

after the tour we had about 4 hours to kill in this small town before catching the overnight bus to hanoi. it was a 12 hour journey... we managed to sleep okay even though the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. again, i couldn't help but laugh at pauls face once he was in the "sleeper seat"...

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tomorrow morning we leave for kuala lumpur, malaysia. we've got 9 nights there and haven't got a scoooooob what we're doing yet. will update soon... i've uploaded more snaps on flickr :)

Posted by mico82 23:37 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

ontario!?

overcast

when it comes to flights we have no luck. we were sitting in a cafe yesterday sorting out accommodation for canada. paul booked the flights when i was at the orphanage and i was sure we landed in ottawa which is in the ontario province. paul was adamant it was toronto. after checking the airport code online it turns out we were both wrong... paul had booked flights for ontario, ca. ca not being canada... but friggin california. another $860 wasted.

the timing couldn't have been worse as we were sitting working out our finances which is never a good thing. we really want to go to canada but can we afford spending more cash on flights? and do we really want to spend time in the states?
i quickly looked at flights to toronto from california and they were coming in at $2000 each. we were panicing. we thought the airline might be sympathetic and give us a refund, so we checked our e-ticket and surprise surprise... it was a 'non refundable ticket'. we started thinking of just scrapping canada and make do with the states... but the more we thought about it, the more gutted we were about missing out on canada.

it was an hour of complete hell. paul was in a stinker of a mood and we were both frantically tapping away at our laptops trying to figure out how we can sort it. hotel california came on in the cafe and i couldn't help but laugh. paul can't even remember hearing it because he was no doubt thinking all sorts and cursing to himself.

we decided to log on to the airlines' website to see how much it would cost to change our flights. a message appeared asking us to phone the airline as there has been an amendment to our itinerary. paul phoned to find out that our flight times had been changed by an hour. paul was absolutely gutted about this ;) and told the girl that the flights are no use to him now. within 10 minutes we got confirmation that the total cost of the flights will be refunded to his card.

we've been unlucky with flights... but for the first time ever we were extremely lucky with that one! a non-refundable ticket, but the airline made changes to our flights so they must refund the cash if we're not happy with it. hee hee. if only we phoned them straight away.

after all that we realised that from alaska we have no flights whatsoever... not even a flight home (because of zoom airlines going bust about a month ago). after hours upon hours of surfing we finally got every single flight sorted and booked. from alaska we fly to toronto... and instead of flying home from toronto, it worked out cheaper flying to new york and then glasgow. so we're spending 4 nights in new york before making our way home.

we have checked (i don't know how many times) and we are definitely flying to toronto, ontario... canada!! lol. we're soooo relieved we realised all this yesterday... who knows what we would have done if we found out at the airport.

we sat last night laughing about it all and relieved that everything worked out well. we're just waiting for another airline to go bust now...

Posted by mico82 20:18 Archived in Vietnam Comments (4)

beep beep

all seasons in one day

after 14 days of vietnam... and no update... this is bound to be a long one.

my first impressions of vietnam? motorbikes and surprised as to how developed it is.
after 30 years of war, vietnam appears to be doing really well. i was surprised to see shops like mango, a kfc and decent coffee shops. even some of the houses here are actually quite pretty looking, tall skinny colourful houses. we'd pass houses made from the likes of wood, bamboo and iron plates... and then in the middle of it all would be a few of these tall houses. quite bizzare how it goes from one extreme to the other. it turns out that during the war, some vietnamese seeked refuge in the states and have now made themselves a pretty good life over there. so they send money to their families that are still in vietnam.

i knew vietnam was known for it's motorbikes, but i had no idea just how much. saigon has a population of 6.5 million, 5 million of which have motorbikes. crossing the road is an experience. you've just got to go or you'll be standing there all day. even when it's a red light they are still going. they dominate the roads, we rarely see a car as no-one can afford them. motorbikes here go for $300 US dollars and that's why there are so many. i've seen 4 people on the one bike, toddlers standing at the front as their mum drives, and one guy driving past with a 5ft fridge tied to the back.

the humidity is terrible. it's soooooo hot and we're sweating buckets. our first week we had rain on and off but it's getting brighter and drier as we move up north.

the people here have been amazingly friendly. and from what i've seen so far the scenery has been stunning. the food is superb, and the prices are crazy! we eat out and our bills are coming to about 300,000 dong, which is about £10. we could do it a lot cheaper as well. last night, we went for some western food, bruchetta, pasta, pizza, 7up, orangina, coffee, tea, water and 3 glasses of wine... all for about £8.

it's definitely been my favourite place so far.

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we arrived in ho chi minh (saigon) and spent a couple of nights there. both of us are interested in the vietnam war so we booked a tour to go and see the cu chi tunnels. my understanding of the war so far is... the north and south used to be seperate countries, north wanted control of the south, they fought, north was for communist rule, the south for capitalist. then the americans got involved as they didn't want vietnam as a communist country. they were on the south's side and fighting with the north. 30 years of war that finally ended in 1975. the north won and liberated the south.
what surprised me, was the amount of countries involved in this war. we only ever hear about the americans involvement but australia, china, philipines, south korea, north korea, thailand and new zealand were also involved. although the biggest impact was with the americans.

the cu chi tunnels is a 200km network of underground tunnels where cu chi guerillas hid. they lived in the south but were against capatilist rule and therefore fought with the south and the americans. i can't remember the details but basically if the americans had captured the guerillas the outcome of the war could have been a lot different.
the tunnels were tiny. one of the entrances was so small that paul and i had no chance of fitting in it. they delibirately made them so small so the americans couldn't fit in it.
there was a section for tourists to crawl through, slightly bigger so we crawled through it for about 10 minutes getting very clostraphobic.
we also got a shot of a gun. i had an ak47, 10 bullets, shooting a target. i didn't like it. it felt a bit weird learning all about the war and then getting a shot of a weapon that killed thousands of people.

from the cu chi tunnels we were driven to the war remnants museum, the reunification palace and a post office. i have no idea why the post office was part of the tour. something to do with the collection of stamps ?! the reunificaton palace was home to the president before he moved to the states after the war. it was boring. i had no interest at all about how the president lived. the palace was bombed during the war and there were 2 red circles on the helicopter pad to show where the bombs had landed.
the war renmants museum was okay. learned a bit more, saw photos and the cells where they kept troops from the north in.

from ho chi minh we headed further south of vietnam for a 2 night tour of the mekong. the mekong river runs through most countries of south-east asia and the say the heart of it is where we were... where the river starts.
we spent 3 days visiting villages, seeing the floating houses, the floating market and learning all about local life in the mekong.

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the floating market was the biggest one in vietnam... i'd hate to see the others as it was pretty disappointing. it was basically a bunch of boats selling veg, meat and drinks. it lasted about 15 minutes and then we continued down the river.
we were on a few boats, one with just me, paul and a local rowing the boat. the boat trips were definitely the highlight... just cruising down the river and watching people go about their daily life. lots of kids shouting and waving at us... they're so adorable!
paul tipped the girl that was rowing our boat 200,000 dong which is about £6 pounds. she was so happy... we left the boat and i saw her dance up to her family, yapping away with excitement.

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we then headed to mui ne. the beach resort of the south. we spent 3 nights here doing absolutely nothing. the weather was roasting hot during the day, and we had 2 nights of thunder and lightning. it was so cool to watch. our accommodation had it's own wee private beach so we sat on the deckchairs one night watching the sky lit up.

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next was dalat for 2 nights. dalat is away from the coast and known for it's mountains and lakes. we wanted to see some of the countryside so we picked dalat. i'm glad we went as we climbed the highest mountain in southern vietnam. but apart from that there isn't much to see and do.

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we had a guide called paul who took us up lang bien mountain. it took us 5 hours to climb it and it was really tough. if not for the inca trail, i'd be saying it's the toughest climb i have ever done. it wasn't a long climb, it was just because it was so steep... and so slippery because of the wet season. we fell on our arses a few times... completely bogging and soaking wet with sweat.
the visibility at the top was poor. too cloudy but every now and then the clouds would break and we'd see a bit.

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view near the top of lang bien mountain

our guide paul then took us to his house to meet his family. all of them were sitting on a blanket on the floor eating food, one dish looking like intestines from some sort of animal. they gave us some rice wine, telling us it's impolite to refuse. we were praying that they weren't going to serve us food !
thankfully they didn't. paul then took us to a hut where they make the rice wine. he tasted one that wasn't quite ready, just to make sure it wasn't poisinous and then offered us a sip. when he removed the seal the brim of the jar was swarming with flies... when we took a sip from the straws (that have never been washed) the rice was crawling with flies. i took the tiniest sip ever... nice of him to offer but it was yuk lol.

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he mentioned how he loves the beatles so paul took out his ipod and played a beatles song for him. it was so funny. he was walking down the mountain screaming the words. he obviously hadn't heard songs from an ipod before as he was so amazed as to how clear it was. he had no idea that he was shouting too when he was talking to us and i was trying hard not to laugh in his face. the whole village could have heard him.

from dalat we caught the bus to nha trang. nothing for us here. we only came here to catch the train the following day to hue. an 11 hour train journey. we purchased the superior soft sleeper ticket. i wasn't expecting much. we were pissing ourselves laughing when we saw it. we took a walk to the other end of the carriage to see what was on offer for food... we then hurried back to our compartment realising that our superiour soft sleeper aint that bad really. basic we can live with... but to see the cleaner go in and out of the compartments, taking sheets off the bed, folding them and leaving them for the next person is pretty disgusting. who knows when the sheets and pillows were last washed.
the 11 hours flew in. we saw some great views... and it also gave us time to sort out our photos on the laptop and write blogs etc. it's becoming a chore this whole blog... but i'll be glad of it in years to come.

in the 14 days we've also managed to squeeze in a few massages. our first one was in ho chi minh by trained blind masseurs. the place was kind of hidden and we must've walked past it about 5 times. it looked a bit like a hospital ward but completely empty. we paid this guy at the desk and out came these blind folk wandering about with their arms out trying to find us. it was bizarre. the girl i had looked about 17. she grabbed my arm and led me to the room and paul was taken to his. it was one of the best massages i've had. it was sometimes a bit sore when she was working on the knots... and i wasn't too keen on my toes and fingers getting cracked. it was the cheapest massage i've had too. 1 hour massage for just over £1.

we are now in hue, arrived 2 nights ago and are leaving tomorrow for hanoi. will update you from hue onwards soon hopefully...

Posted by mico82 14:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

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