Wednesday, 29 February 2012

a little bit of island hopping and a lot of mosquitoes.

Seem to have developed a habit of losing track of time but didn't have too much to report on until yesterday! We got back to Bangkok on Monday night - amazing how different a place can seem when you know where you're going! Now I've got used to life out here Bangkok didn't smell half as bad as some of the other treats we've had! Flight was good, really short which I was gutted about when I realised they had Disney films on the little screens! Anyway, had a nice day wandering around the city, and then decided to get a Thai massage (i was suspicous of this but we went in together...) Weirdest half hour ever, they poke at you with their elbows and knees and their full body weight, and she was definitely bigger than me. Managed not to giggle until she had a knee on each bum cheek, hands on my shoulder blades and started crawling up me, but then the randomness struck me and so did the giggles! Due to dancing I was a bit bendier than she expected so she was at a loss when she tried to crack my back, I flopped all the way over and she ended up sitting on me! That night was our first experience with a sleeper train. All looked very sticky and grotty when we got on, but then a tubby guard came along and transformed the 2 armchairs on the floor into bunkbeds complete with pillows covers etc. I decided the guard was a genius and had pretty much a full nights sleep. Sean was less lucky as a beetle attempted to make a little home up his nose at about 3am, so the sleeping stopped there for him. We then got a bus, then a ferry, then a pick up truck to the side of the island called chaweng beach. It seemed as though we were going for every mode of transport possible! Found a 'beach bungalow' to stay in, which I ended up renaming mosquito hovel! Squashed one of the little buggers as it helped itself to my leg and blood went everywhere! May just let them get on with it next time... although I have a running total of 20 bites on my legs alone, which is a new record even for me! We have spent most of our time on the island on the beach and reading or swimming. When the mosquitos got a bit much we swapped to a different guesthouse which was actually cheaper but has a pool. It is right behind the moulin rouge cabaret club, and a nice lady boy on the door has taken a real shine to Sean. We have named him Pete, and he makes sure he squeezes Sean's arms at every available opportunity. Not sure if it will work out though as we also saw him showing a middle aged man what was up his mini dress. Fickle. We decided to make the most of the island and do one of the day trips to see the main sights and a safari park. We were taken to the big Buddha, a massive gold statue and kicked out of the pick up truck, leaving us a bit baffled but we went for a look around anyway. Then a fat man with dreadlocks that looked like Mr T walked up to us, announced that he was our guide and walked off again. Same thing happened at the next spot, a lovely bay which is famous for having a huge rock shaped like something rude... I believe there is a legend surrounding this rock but can't verify as Mr T spent the visit taking pictures that involved other people on the tour and the rude rock. We also went to a place called the secret garden, full of streams and statues. Mr T sat in the cafe. The garden was up a mountain, and on the way up we discovered that the driver was not a massive fan of the gear change. Even more worried when they stopped the van to say someone had to sit on the roof. Russian couple volunteered and the rest of the journey was accompanied by yelps as we drove through overhanging trees and electric cables. For some reason we decided to take a turn in the death seat for the descent. Even more scary when you can see the cliffs on either side and other vans hurtling towards you (like hard knot pass Alic and Ant!). Also saw a mummified monk wearing sunglasses, bringing our total dead body count up to 2. In the afternoon we went for a dunk in a waterfall and then the bit I was most excited about... elephant trekking! Our elephant was a rebel and definitely took a different route to the others! Was just about getting used to it when the driver asked if I wanted to drive! Climbed down onto her head with my knees behind her ears - being slapped on the legs by an elephant ear is odd! Also they are quite hairy close up, who knew! Got lots of pics which will hopefully put on Facebook if I ever get near a pc. Was one of the most surreal experiences ever but amazing. In the afternoon we watched animal shows - I have now seen a parrot and an otter compete in a race to recycle drinks cans?! There were some animals there in cages that were far too small though, and you could get your picture taken with a tiger which was so drugged up it couldn't even lift its own head. Felt really sad after that, and sorry for the animals. That was pretty much the end of our koh samui adventures. Spent another day lazing around and set off for koh phangan yesterday morning. I was very sick on the boat, but have discovered I have pretty good aim when it comes to throwing up. Eventually got to the island and got a pick up to hat yao, the other side from the loud party bit. After koh samui I think we both just want a full nights sleep! Took a while to find somewhere to stay, and after looking at a place with holes in the concrete floor, ants in the bed and a black toilet which used to be white, we made the executive decision to splash out. We are now in a lovely little cluster of bungalows, got hot water for the first time since Vietnam, a pool, a lovely lounge/bar/restaurant and I am sitting in our hammock on our porch writing this, and its only £12 per night still! I think we deserve a treat, last place there wasn't even a light or a window in the bathroom! Anyway, that's pretty much it from me. Think Sean has finally woken up so looks like it is time to top up the tan! Lots of love to everyone! Xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 19 February 2012

In Israel, we have twelve of these.

Well Hello Everyone! It has been a while since my last blog - time seems to go quicker than I realise out here! Since I last wrote there have been all kinds of adventures and crimes - murder of lizards and theft of pants to name a few. When we got back up to the room after the last blog we were met with the sight of a lizard scurrying out of sight. I know this probably makes us wusses but we didn't want to sleep with it in there! Told reception who didn't seem to care too much, so took our own measures and chased it into a hole which we then covered with surgical tape! At this point a grumpy man armed with a can of cockroach spray and a flip flop marched in and released it from the little prison and chased it round the room until it got a few too many smacks on the head with the flip flop and it left our little family forever. Still covered the hole with some more surgical tape, just in case it had any vengeful relatives lurking around. While in Hoi An we also had a set menu - traditional Hoi An food. Oh my gosh it was blooming gorgeous! Definitely the best meal we have had so far, but don't worry we took a picture of every single dish plus the menu, definitely going to try and re-create some of those when we get back!However, in spite of these good times there was more drama to come when our laundry was returned and 3 pairs of Sean's pants and 2 pairs of socks had vanished! Reception man (aka lizard killer) did not seem as responsive to the news as we had hoped - no finger prints taken or anything. Would have been slightly better except for the fact that we were due to get on a coach at 730am the next morning! This proved to be a dramatic half hour - Sean stood watching the reception for any sign of them trying to track down the stolen goods, while I was dispatched to the bus station to wave frantically at him if we had to go. At 745am, a van (yes, a whole van) arrived bearing the pants. Disaster averted, as luckily the bus company runs on the strange time zone that people seem to operate on over here so was a bit late too! The bus was to Hue, and went along some beautiful scenery and coastal roads. Went through a high pass but don't worry, overtaking was still rampant on the narrow, winding road on the edge of the cliff. In Hue we went on a boat tour of some famous tombs and other landmarks, such as the citadel. Tour Guide performed a rendition of some traditional Vietnamese folk songs. And then warbled his way through Unchained Melody as well. We are still not sure why but it seemed to make him happy and we got it all on video. Also went to see a martial arts performance which was really good, spent some of it peeping through my fingers as they held blades against their exposed throats but no one was harmed in the making of this blog. Very strange man in Purple trousers/waistcoat ensemble spent the majority of the tour boasting about how much better stuff is in Israel ('we have twelve of these bowls, and each is carried by twelve bulls'). Best bit came when we were on the Perfume River and another tour boat overtook us - Japanese lady going to the toilet, only to discover that even with the door closed there was a 6 inch gap. Plus the door was see through. Got more of a view than we payed for! Only got better when someone else came to use the toilets and was shocked to find her in there and proceeded to have a discussion with her about it - very happy that these bathroom issues are not just happening to me! Immediately after the boat trip decided to get the FINAL sleeper coach to Hanoi. Busiest one yet, but we were at the back so actually next to each other this time - Lord of the Rings on the ipod, happy days. Then to Hanoi. Definitely the loudest place we have been so far. And the rooms here are more expensive too. Found somewhere after a while but they seemed to forgot who we were each time we came in and out, and had a very relaxed attitude towards things like looking after the key to your room. Final decision to move came when we discovered that every time we flushed the toilet the room smelt like a dead body. Went and bought some jeans as it is pretty chilly here (fleeces are coming in handy!)and went to the Temple of Literature. Mainly were just finding stuff to do until we went on our Ha Long Bay trip - had to spend a fair bit on it but we had done our homework and found a reputable company, which is not massively easy around here! So thursday morning saw us off on one of the trips I had been most excited about. And to make it even better, as we sat waiting for the mini bus a fight broke out between two women on the street. Ninja Kicks and slaps everywhere, one ofthe women had a meat stall so the other one was throwing her pots and pans around. Culminated in a massive lump of meat being lobbed at the others head and landing in the road. true to form when the fight was over the meat went back on the shelf don't worry! $ hours later we were in Halong City - what appears to be a collection of hotels. Got a little ferry thing to the boat where we would be spending the night, and a seafood lunch mmmmmm. After that we cruised around the islands for an hour or so until we reached 'Surprising Cave' which is like a grotto of stalagmites and tites that all look like various animals and creatures (provided you have a small amount of imagination which luckily we did!) Alicia - the bins there were all in the form of five foot penguins!!!!!! In the afternoon we went Kayaking - I was terrified and wanted to go in the rowing boat but gave myself a talking to! We kayaked into the lagoon and saw monkeys clambering around our heads - so amazing. I won't even try and describe the overall trip as it is too difficult, Pictures will be uploaded soon! Second day we climbed to the top of an island (nearly killed me!) but we were rewarded when we got back with TEA AND TOAST AND JAM!!!!!!!!! Made me very contented, although pined for a bit of hovis and peanut butter! Returned to Hanoi that evening and had been accidentally upgraded to a gorgeous room in our new hotel - still blooming cold though alas. On Saturday we got our first moto to the Museum of Ethnology. Probably not interesting enough to report on in detail but good enough for two anthropology students! The moto ride was good, not as scary as I thought. Although it wasn't until the way back that I noticed his petrol light was on, he had no mirrors ANYWHERE and then he started trying to tell me something about what I can only assume was a huge pineapple?? Not helped when he could tell I didn't understand so started to text it to me on his phone as he drove along. Unfortunately I cannot read Vietnamese so we will never know the riddle of the pineapple. Next day we went to Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. Pretty Creepy, first dead body I have seen! Very very busy and serious - I got in trouble from an armed guard because I was walking with my arms crossed - never mind we had been queuing outside for half an hour! had to check in our rucksack at one place, then later get a scan and a little bag for your camera, then later still check in your camera, all before you could go in! We must have been in there all of two minutes, and spent the remainder trying to find where our various items had been stored or moved to. Signposts? No, that would be too easy. Today is our final day in Vietnam. Have checked out and killing some time before we get a taxi to the airport and return to the warmer climates of Bangkok. We have just realised though, that we have got more money left than we thought we would, so if you don't mind we are going to stuff ourselves now! Lots of love and snuggles. xxxxxxx

Friday, 10 February 2012

Saigon and Nha Trang!

Well hello again everyone! Am actually at a computer today, so maybe the blog can be a bit more in depth - at very least the spelling should be better! So last time I wrote Sean was transfixed in the Arsenal Blackburn game. Couldn't tell you what happened with that as I was in the land of nod before half time, just how I like it! Was a bit wary of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) as the lonely planet book (aka our bible) said that it probably has the highest crime rate in Vietnam. Obviously I then translated this to mean there would be masked robbers lurking around every corner (Granny if you are reading this, don't worry, there weren't!). It was actually a really nice place to be, found a hostel with a little pagoda in the room - not sure why but we liked it - and loads of good places to eat around the area we were staying in. Went to the Vietnam War Remnants Museum on the first full day - was very one-sided and full of propaganda but seemed fair enough to us! I didn't know anything about Agent Orange, and there were kids in the museum doing crafts that have been born in the 1990s with all these disabilities. Apparently the museum closes for an hour and a half in the middle of the day, so we were unceremoniously kicked out at 12pm, and told not to darken their door until 130pm. We went and found a lovely little park to shelter in and sample some of the bakery's work - lots of women in mini dresses with people following them round and taking pictures of them by trees??? Then went back to the museum and finished nosing around. After this we went to the Reunification Palace, half followed some tours around and listened in then went to get a view of the city from the helicopter pad (standard). Some Chinese teenagers took a shine to us and spent a while posing for pictures with us as the stars - they never really said why though. Must be our beauty and exoticness. On the way home we went to the market and Sean got some Abercrombie shorts for 4 quid and I got a polo shirt for 2 quid. Am saving it to wear until I smell a bit better though! Had ANOTHER beer with dinner. Am becoming quite a little party animal apparently! Monday we had lots of time to kill so went and sat in the park, Made friends with a Vietnamese girl who had only been teaching herself English for 6 months and was fluent. Made my attempts at Spanish in High School look a bit weak if I'm honest :S She thought it was very funny that Vietnamese people want to be pale and I was trying to get a tan, but then she also thought Sean was a 21 year old German so she was a bit off with her guesses. That night we got our first sleeper bus. Quite an experience! I slept most of the way although the seat/bed things were made of plastic so I was quite stuck to them. To be honest it was a bit of a squeeze for me, so Sean never stood a chance! Turns out I must be an Asian as I am NORMAL SIZE here! I can see the tops of things and whats going on in the world around me! Don't think Sean slept the whole night (being taller than me), and then when we got to Nha Trang at 6am none of the hostels were open! Saw a little old lady beckoning us down an alley way and showed us to her guest house- really cheap and most importantly had a room there and then! Nha Trang is pretty resorty, a beach haven for a huge number of Russians apparently! Spent the first day being beach bums and the second walking to this Pagoda/ Temple thing, where they have massive statues of Buddha and you can hear the monks praying and ringing the bells - sounded like one of those meditation CDs they used to play in the Natural World shop in Sutton! Skyped both our mummies while we were there, was really weird just chatting and then remembering where we were and how far away we were! Made me a little bit sad just as it made me miss everyone lots. Quite a few people there that I found quite rude, an Australian boasting about starting fights on the beaches in Thailand, and an American girl demanding a waitress who spoke better English than the girl who worked in a restaurant and had already changed her order twice! Luckily, it turns out nobody really wants to make friends with a couple! We are officially uninteresting to fellow travellers. Fascinating to Chinese teenagers at least though, if we ever get really sick of each other! Last night (Thursday) we got another night bus, went with a company recommended in Lonely Planet this time and was much better. Bit more leg room for Seany, blankets smelled like they had been washed, and THERE WAS A TOILET!!!! I only visited once though as I had another traumatic experience - decided to go when the bus was stopped as that was what everyone else was doing. Except that as I went to sit down the bus lurched into action, sending me flying, accidentally pressed the flush button before I had even gone and that then in turn switches the lights off as it assumes you are finished. Am having no luck with toilets. The majority of the passengers were staring at me when I emerged as it must have sounded like I was having some kind of disco in there. I miss English Toilets. Thats all for now, have just spent our first day in Hoi An but will write about that the next time. Hope everyone is keeping safe in the snow and not too jealous of us! Lots of love xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Saturday, 4 February 2012

on to vietnam!

Taking the opportunity to blog again as Sean has discovered arsenal v blackburn on the tv in our room, another 45 minutes to myself at least! We are now in Vietnam! Journey over the border was a lot smoother this time, but more on that later! The last few days in pnohm penh were really enjoyable actually, we switched guest house and went to one recommended in lonely planet. Easy to see why, hot water! Clean sheets! NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ON THE TV! we were happy bunnies about that. Went to tol sleung that day, which was a school, then a prison during Khmer rouge, and now a museum. There were photos of all the victims, including some after they had died, as well as the tiny brick cells they slept in still leaning precariously. Felt very claustrophobic and the sight of blood stains on the floor all got a bit too much for me so waited for Sean in a different section. Next day we got a tuk tuk to the killing fields. First tuk tuk that took us exactly where we asked and for the price we expected! Hallelujah! He said his name was Peter but we had our suspicions about that... killing fields were weird, really small, and in a beautiful orchard. Found it hard to imagine what happened there, until you saw the monument made out of 8000 skulls, and a sign that says they have only uncovered half the site. Really scary, and the people that did are mostly still alive today. After that was fairly uneventful, were treated to a few power cuts, one of which happened at the very moment I had stepped into the shower late at night. There I was, poking at the various buttons trying to turn it on whoosh, everything went black. Was convinced I had tripped some unknown fuse and caused the shutdown of the capital. On top of that, I was naked, towel in the next room and couldn't find the door. Not a good moment for me. Apparently though, these powercuts are common and not caused by stupid tourists that can't use showers. Next day and it was time to say goodbye to Cambodia and hello to Vietnam. Bus left at 8am and took us straight to the border and through nice and quick, memorable sights on this journey have to include a scooter with two HUGE dead pigs slung across the back. Lush. Just had a nice big dinner and some beer- only 75p for a massive bottle of tiger! The part of me that doesn't really drink had a battle with the bargain hunter, and the bargain hunter won! I'm becoming a real party animal, two beers in a week! Love you all, off to sleep in our very first air conditioned room! Xxxxxxxxx

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bangkok, Cambodia and some tasty eggs!

Right then! Sorry it has taken a while, the screen was all in Thai, then I forgot my password and now have resorted to Sean's phone so excuse any spelling mistakes! First flight was fine and seemed shorter than 8 hours. I had a little screen all to myself and a little remote in case I couldn't be bothered to reach out and touch the screen, which I actually couldn't so it was all ok! Stopover in Mumbai was definitely an 'experience' we had over an hour to transfer but there were about three flights trying to get through, only one body scanner for however many hundred women plus a mad old Indian lady who tried to run through security by throwing her handbag at the x ray machine. Ended up running for the plane but half the flight was in the same position so didn't get too worried. After 23 hours without sleep we made it to our destination! Bangkok was definitely an experience, we stayed in Khao San road area for a few days until we got used to the time difference and heat. The smells there were difficult to describe, and not all in a good way! I got a rotten cold and felt ill a lot of the time which was a bit annoying. Best meal was Thai green curry but unfortunately the place was crawling in cockroaches so I was a tiny bit suspicious about what could be lurking at the bottom of the bowl! Got a train for 6 hours to the border where a tuk tuk man dropped us at a dodgy fake Cambodia visa place but Sean had done his homework so we knew what to do. At the border there is a town called Poipet, bit of a dive. Floor was just sludge and casinos everywhere. Surprisingly difficult to actually find where to cross! Another 3 hour bus ride (made longer by the driver stopping for a 3 course meal) and we were at siem reap bus station. Except we weren't. Bus just took us to a parking space full of his tuk tuk driver mates who will only take you to their hostels! Next day we went to Angkor Wat. Hired bicycles for the day and got ourselves there (if you all could see the way people drive round here you would be proud I even got on the bike!) Was a brilliant day, temples are AMAZING, and massive too. Monkeys just chilling by the side of.the road, Sean got pretty close and took some pics, I told him he was going to get rabies but he seems ok so far. Cycled over 20 miles and saw a few elephants on the way back! Hurts to sit down a bit now mind you, might ask for a comfier chair next time? Yesterday got the bus from siem reap to phnom penh. Not a bad journey, took 6 hours with two quick stops, at one we bought 4 freshly boiled eggs for about 50p and anyone who knows me and my love for eggs will understand how happy that made me. Ipod died halfway through my ultimate Disney album though, so got involved in the cambodian karaoke dvd that was playing instead. Not sure if Sean was a fan! Going to tol sleung museum today and possibly changing hostels as I saw a cool one with a fish tank yesterday! Hopefully next blog will be sooner (and yes, shorter!) Miss you all lots, miss my bed and miss fish and chips! Lots of love, Morgan (and Sean) Xxxxxxxxxxx