Friday, 15 March 2013

Norway tomorrow

Tomorrow I will undertake a very exciting 2.5 week holiday, I'm off to travel around Norway partly on my own and partly with my Dad and I am beyond excited! This holiday is a little random I must say, as a keen traveller I have many detailed lists of places I want to go and Norway isn't exactly top of the pile. So why am I going there for so long I hear you ask? Well in all honesty I'm not sure why. This year my holiday allowance at work shot up from 28 days to 39.5 days so first thing I decided to do was make the most of the Easter bank holidays and book myself a big trip. The next step was to decide where on earth I wanted to go. Perhaps my recent trip to Iceland had something to do with it but I've been sort of obsessed with Scandinavia recently and the fact that Northern Norway is in the 'Arctic circle' sounded pretty darn cool. I've been to Oslo before and whilst I did enjoy my couple of days there it was far from a favourite city of mine. However, after a little research into the Scandinavian countries and discovering just how big and beautiful Norway is I decided to take the plunge and book some flights. Also I might as well add I really want to see the Northern Lights and in March you have to go very north so in that respect going to Norway made perfect sense. I spoke to my uncle and cousin who had been on a short trip around the country, they gave me excellent advice for places to visit and combined with my love of maps and planning trips I eventually came up with my perfect route.

So here goes:
Stavanger - Bergen - Flam - Dombas - Alesund - Trondheim - Bodo - Lofoten - Narvik - Tromso - Alta - Nordkapp - Kirkenes - Oslo

The trip is going to be action packed and fast moving, I'm in most places for 1 night and will be doing an awful lot of travelling via boat, bus, train and plane. Dad will meet me in Lofoten and after getting the bus to Narvik and Tromso we will rent a car and drive across the wild north. In Oslo I want to go on a mini Edvard Munch pilgrimage and check out the 3 Scream paintings I have yet to see. I want to go northern light chasing, check out the snow hotels, take pictures of the beautiful countryside, eat lots of delicious food including reindeer and explore all those little fishermen towns that look to picturesque. It's going to be cold and expensive but the lack of tourists will make up for it. To me Norway is a winter destination hence the reason I am going now and not in the summer, yes a lot of the tourist activites will be shut but bird watching and hiking isn't really my thing. I'm happy to explore museums and discover what Sami culture is all about plus the cold weather means I'll be on the hunt for the perfect hot chocolate in the nicest little cafe. I can't wait!

Friday, 28 December 2012


Hi there, I'm Hannah and I'm passionate about travelling. There's no doubt about my love for exploring new places and I like writing about the trips I go on so starting a blog about my adventures makes perfect sense. The is my official first post but as you can see below there are a fair few posts about my 2 big trips through Europe (2009) and SE Asia (2010). I had an old travel blog but decided I wanted to start a new one over here on blogger so it made sense to import all my old posts as I have a lot of love for these and my early days of writing. Since travelling around SE Asia 2 years ago I've been on lots of exciting holidays but not another 'big trip' however a year and a half travelling the world is something I seriously want to do in the next 5 years. Until then I'm going to use this blog to talk about trips I've been on and what I go up to. I want to review hotels I've stayed in and restaurants I've eaten at. I want to talk about fun nights out and crazy bars I've discovered. I want to give my insight on museum, galleries and other tourist activities. But most important I want a place where I can record the way a certain country, city, town made me feel and most importantly whether I liked it there, would I go back and would I recommend it as a place to visit.

First of all I've got a little catching up to do. During 2011 and 2012 I've been very lucky to go on several exciting trips. Last year I spent my birthday weekend in Berlin and this year I've been to New York, Munich, Marrakesh, Paris and Reykjavik. I live in London and am constantly exploring the city plus my family are fortunate enough to own a place in Northern Ireland which is where we're all from so I get over there a fair bit as well. I already have an assortment of exciting trips planned for 2013 including 2 weeks travelling around Norway (mega exciting), a weekend in Paris and Berlin for their half marathons, a week spent in New York (I love that city) and a few other European weekend getaways if time (and money) allow.

I don't really want to set myself a travelling challenge but considering I've travelled to around 50 odd countries (I need to make a proper list) I wonder if I can make it to 100 by the time I'm 30 (I turn 27 in 2013). This might be possible if I get to go on my dream around the world trip but I'm not holding my breath. In my life time more than 100 for sure but let's just take it one country at a time. There's a lot of cities and countries I've been to before that I want to revisit so it's not always about discovering new places and I certainly don't want it to ever be a check list sort of job.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading through my old blog posts whilst I get the new ones up and running. And just out of interest here are the countries I haven't been to yet that are on the top of my must visit list:


Until next time, happy travels.

Friday, 17 December 2010

SE Asia done... for now!

So I've been back in cold old blighty now for just over 24 hours so I need to finish off my adventure. After leaving Singapore for KL we flew to Tawau which is in northern west Borneo (the Malaysian part) where we were picked up by our scuba company Scuba Junkie and taken to a little coastal village called Semporna for the night. Since Claudia was recovering from food poisoning and didn't want to eat anything remotely Asian we headed to KFC for dinner. On our way to and from dinner we realised what a dump Semporna is and we glad we were only staying there for one night. The next morning we awoke early to catch the boat to Mabul; an island where we would be staying for the next 3 nights. The first day was spent Scuba diving around the island and relaxing in the hotel bar. Because we were staying in a resort just for scuba divers and snorkellers everyone was pretty like-minded and really friendly.

The reason we went to Mabul was to dive around the world famous SIpadan; a protected island with only a limited number of permits thus limiting the number of visitors. When Claudia and I first contacted Scuba Junkie all the Sipadan permits were full for the days we wanted to visit but we were told out names would go on a waiting list and fingers crossed we would be able to dive around the incredible island. Fortunately (as it would have been a shame to travel so far for nothing) our wishes we granted and both Claudia and myself were given last minute permits to dive at Sipadan and by god was the diving amazing! Sipadan is surrounded by a 600m wall of coral which means the marine life is incredible. Sharks come up from the ocean depths to feed on the large fishes of all colours and shapes. The diving was indeed world class, we lost count of the numbers of turtles and sharks we saw and the fish we some of the most incredible I've ever seen. The day was exhausting, a 5.30am start followed by 4 dives but it as completely worth it!!!

On our third day we dived around another island; Siamil where there were tonnes of macro organisms to see. It wasn't as amazing as Sipadan (I doubt many places our) but it was still great fun. Over my travels I hacked done a total of 30 dives!!! Increasing my mere 7 I came away with to a much more respectable 37 and I can feel a massive improvement in my abilities. That evening we were able to finally relax as we didn't have to get up early the next day and therefore enjoyed a little rum with our dive masters and ended up on the beach until the early hours.

The following day, which was started by a much needed lie in was a haze of rain and an awful lot of travelling. After a boat, bus and plane journey we arrived back into KL in the evening where Hairah, a friend from our toxicology masters was waiting to pick us up (THANK YOU again)!! That even we stayed at her sisters house (just outside KL) and spent the night chatting and catching up, it was lovely! Hairah drove us into town on Wednesday morning where we eventually found a place to stay for the evening. After out goodbyes we explored the city and headed to the KL tower for afternoon tea. Unfortunately the weather the rubbish and all we could see from the 300m high revolving restaurant was clouds and rain plus the cake we had for tea was pretty nasty. The clouds started to clear and we were eventually able to see the Pertronas towers and the city scape which was pretty cool! That evening we headed into town for some ladies night action (read: free drinks) and a little bar hopping. We ended up in the Luna Bar which is on the top floor of a skyscraper where the views of the city at night are incredible. We got there after the bar had shut but we were still able to behold the city from the swimming pool and surrounded sofas at the bar.

The Thursday was our final day in Asia and we spent the majority of it shopping around China Town. We all spent far too much and took far too long doing it so we were unable to see Little India or anything else for that matter. In the evening we went to the airport to board our final plane journey, a 13 hour flight to London. The flight was of course delayed and we feared it would even be cancelled but it wasn't and we arrived into Stansted at 6.30am on Friday. Mum and Dad were waiting for me with some tasty sandwiches and I said goodbye to Claudia and Martin who had to wait until 1pm for their flight to Berlin.

The last 2.5 months have been completely amazing and I am already desperate to go back to SE Asia and see much more. I think my favourite places have been Hong Kong, Vietnam and Northern Thailand and even though I hate to admit it tubing in Vang Vieng was one of my highlights. There are many places we didn't get to see or spend enough time in but I'm still young so there is plenty of time to go back. I would like to see more of Vietnam including Sapa, Dalat, Muine and more of Hoi An and the Mekong Delta. I would like to see the coast of Cambodia and spend more time exploring Laos. I really want to go back to Thailand and see more of the north and dive in the Simalan islands. We hardly saw anything of Malaysia so I definitely want to go back there (including Borneo again) but the country I really want to see the most is Indonesia.

I'm actually happy to be home (despite the cold) because it is so festive here but that doesn't stop me yearning to go back, which hopefully wont be too long away.

Fingers crossed it wont be too log until I update this blog again xx

Friday, 3 December 2010

Bangkok and Island Hopping (Thailand and Singapore)

Hello folks, I am in Kuala Lumpur airport waiting for our flight to Borneo and the internet costs a fortune so I'm going to have to be super quick even though I have about 3 weeks of catching up to go.... d'oh!!!

Last time we chatted I was heading towards Bangkok where Daire would be replaced by Martin (miss you). I only spent 2 days in the capital which really wasn't long enough as it is so big and there is so much to see (read shop)!!! First of all, after thinking we would miss our flight in Chaing Mai and going actual bonkers at the minibus driver, Lena and I then had to navigate ourselves to Chinatown which is where we were staying. After a slightly terrifying journey along the dark alleys we made it to the hotel where Claudia and Martin were waiting for us (on the rooftop bar). The next couple of days were spent shopping at the weekend market (totally huge and too crazy to orientate) and Khao San Road. An evening spent bar hopping was followed by a morning spent at the immigration office where Claudia and I literally begged for 2 weeks visa extensions... we were only given 1 week and it cost 40 quid not including the monstrous taxi fares!!!!

That evening we bused it down south where our 2 weeks island luxury time (or so we thought) was about to begin. First stop Ko Tao!!

The main reason for hitting Ko Tao was for some scuba diving! Many people rave about the diving on the island but in all honesty it isn't that special. There are more divers than fish and the marine life isn't really anything amazingly special. We saw some turtles, sting rays and cool fish but I've been to better places. Asides from disappointing diving the island itself was a dream and definitely one of my favourites. It is pretty small and not so built up so you can get a really good feel for the places in only a few days. We went to some lush beached (Nang Yuan) and ate some yummy food including a crazy hot curry that nearly burnt my face off. We had a few nice days of sun and on the day it didn't stop raining we hired a taxi to drive us around the place which was really interesting. The only bad thing that happened, which I completely blame crystal divers for is some dodgy wiring from a non existent light bulb on a staircase... the result... my electrocution!!!!

After a 4 night stint we boated over to Ko Phangan for the only and only Full Moon Party! Not only did we get to meet up with the lovely Bob and Natalie again (miss you too guys) we had a brilliant time at FMP which I was originally feeling sceptical about due to the abundance of 18year old pissed kids. Apart from Haad Rin being a complete and utter dump, we got to chill on some nice beaches, the weather wasn't shocking and swimming at sunset after FMP was stunning. We also checked out some Muay Thai boxing and ate some amazing pizza pre FMP and bucket frenzy.

After the party I decided to check out Ko Samui whilst Claudia and Martin stayed to rent a moped. To be honest I almost wish I hadn't bothered because Chaweng was pretty awful. Samui is the largest of these 3 islands and to me it is lacking that essential island vibe that is so present on Ko Tao. Maybe if I had seen more of the island I would feel differently but I definitely wouldn't bother with Chaweng again. After an epic journey down both ends of the beach (which is very nice) I tried and failed to find a second hand book shop so resorted to the English Pub (oh yes) and had a chicken curry pie, delicious!!

After a much needed early night in front of the telly (once I finally found my hotel because I couldn't remember where it was or the name for that matter) I awoke early to catch the ferry to Krabi where I was reunited with the Germans AKA Claudia and Martin. Krabi is on the main land and we decided to stay in Krabi Town (cheap and cheerful) and catch a long boat to the beach instead. We hung out on Railey beach which was completely stunning if not a little over crowded with fancy resorts. Claudia and Martin went rock climbing, I managed to finally find a book shop (I finished the beach and veronica decides to die and am now reading life of pi) and we checked out the night market.

After a couple of days of relaxation we went over to Ko Lanta for some even greater R&R time. Whilst Ko Lanta is a pretty big island the relaxation vibe is intense. I chilled by the beach / pool, went swimming and snoozed almighty. The weather was still a bit hit and miss at this stage but that's what happens when you go to Thailand in November, it rains!

Ko Lanta was followed by a not so relaxing 3 night stint on Ko Phi Phi. First and foremost, Ko Phi Phi is amazing and definitely my favourite island. It is beautiful, the water is gorgeous, the island is alive with people but not a dump like Haad Rin, the diving was the best I've done to date and the most amazing thing is you can't even tell the 2004 tsunami destroyed the majority of buildings on the island!!! I went a bit mad on the diving in Phi Phi and managed to squeeze 6 dives into 1.5 days. I did a wreck and night dive which were really cool plus the more standard dives where we saw turtles, leopard sharks, sting rays, massive fish, millions of nemos and general awesome stuff!! I was very fortunate to do most my dives 1 on 1 with my DM which was certainly not the case on Ko Tao (8 people in one night dive group, no thanks)!! Phi Phi has a great night life too and there was loads of cool fire shows going down on the beach in the evening plus 10minute frenzies at each bar where you can get free buckets. The shopping is pretty great too but by this stage the funds are dropping with all the diving I've been doing.

After Phi Phi we hit up Phuket; our final stop in Thailand. By this stage mine and Claudia's visa's had expired but more on that later. The only reason for coming to Phuket was to catch a flight to Singapore. We were staying in Phuket Town which was close to being a dump but I did manage to see Harry Potter 7.1 at the cinema which was a nice treat especially since I got free popcorn, free drinks plus a massive sofa chair complete with blanket, lush! Claudia and I did a couple of dives which were OK (not as good as Phi Phi but more expensive)! We didn't manage to get to Patong beach but since Phuket is so massive on the tourism front it wasn't really are scene anyway.

On our final night in Phuket we went out for dinner to this 'nice restaurant' where they used old TV sets as fish tanks (pretty cool) and served really delicious food which later caused Claudia to develop food poisoning.

On Dec 1st (visa minus 3 days and a 30 quid fine) we flew to Singapore. Claudia still feeling rough stayed in the hostel the entire time except for a ride to the hospital on our first evening where she was diagnosed. Martin and I checked out the rides and beach on Sentosa which was lots of fun. We went on the ludge where I managed to drop my flip-flop from the chairlift (hilarious) and the mega-zip where I thought I was going to die with fright!!! We walked around Clarke Quay which is the place to go out night and we also went to see the pretty Christmas lights on Orchard Road (but did no shopping; damn you expensive Singapore). The following day we explored Little India, Arab Town and China Town but were caught in a thunder storm. We also tried to see the Singapore Flyer (a bigger London Eye) and Marina Bay but had to give up due to the rain. After the rain settled we headed to the north to see the night safari which was really fun. There were tons of animals so doing their animal business but under the cloak of darkness ie way more interesting than a standard zoo.

Today we caught a flight to KL in Malaysia before heading of to dive around Semporna in Borneo. Claudia is feeling better and it looks like we might get some good weather for the next few days. I can't believe I'll be home in a week, the last 2 months have gone so quickly and even though I have seen so much there is still loads we've had to miss out. I'll probably fill out the last blog post once I'm home as we only have 2 more places to visit. Hopefully we wont be stranded out here due to the snow at home because a. I really want to get home now and b. I have literally run out of money which is never a good thing.

Must dash, this internet bill is quickly racking up and we probably need to check into our second flight soon. I'm really looking forward to the diving around Spidan because it is meant to be the best in the world, see you soon xxxx

PS no time to do spell check so excuse my terrible spelling =)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Laos and Northern Thailand

I'm going to have to write this quickly or at least try to because I don't have too much time. The last time I wrote it was the night before we left Siem Reap on an epic 26 hour bus journey to Vientiane in Laos. The bus journey wasn't actually as bad as I thought but that probably has something to do with the Valium we bought. I spent most of the day reading Dexter so I was happy but was sad we didn't have time to stop in 4000 islands which is meant to be beautiful... damn our time constraints!! We arrived in Vientiane early on the morning of October 30th and after an extremely quick breakfast we boarded another bus to Vang Vieng.

If you've ever been to SE Asia you will probably know about Vang Vieng, it is a small town in the middle of nowhere with not a whole lot to do except the infamous tubing. For those that don't know tubing is when you sit in a yellow rubber ring and float down a crappy river. On the way down the river you are pulled into many bars where there are buckets full of booze, free shots with insects in plus rope swings and slides to injure yourself upon. By the late afternoon everyone is pretty intoxicated and having the time of their lives. Out aim was to do this on Halloween and of course we did not let ourselves down. We did it 2 days in a row despite the fact I almost fatally injured myself on a rope swing. After a day of tubing everyone heads to the Bucket Bar for more free booze!!! We stayed in the most fantastic hostel called Spicy Laos. You sleep in wooden huts and hang out around a massive fire talking about your day on the river. On our second day tubing a bunch of us from the hostel went together and we all spray painted our right foot green, random I know but that's tubing for you!!! Despite Daire nearly drowning both days (he can't swim) we had a blast =)

To be honest we didn't really do much else in Vang Vieng except chill out and eat pancakes. On our third day we left for Luang Prabang on the most terrifying bus ride ever!! LP is a UNESCO world heritage site due to the massive amount of temples used as places of worship by the orange robed monks and because of this there is an 11.30 curfew. Whilst here we shopped in the amazing night market, wandered about and went to see a magnificent waterfall. It was a pretty chilled out couple of days to make up for the madness of Vang Vieng.

We left Luang Prabang for Thailand on a epic 3 day trip. The first third on the trip consisted of a full day boat trip up the Mekong to Pakbeng. We had to stay the night in the tiny little town where only 1 bar existed. On the second day we caught another boat to Huay Xai on the Laos-Thailand border. We arrived too late so had to stay the night but this time the town was a decent size and we spent the evening drinking and playing Israeli card games with our fellow travellers. On the third morning we had a 3 minute boat journey across the river (border crossing) to Chaing Kong, Thailand where we caught a 7 hour bus to Chaing Mai where we reached our first proper Thailand destination. That evening we checked out the might Sunday market and ate some delicious food.... mmmm I LOVE Thai food.

In Chaing Mai I did an 'elephant experience' for a day where we got to learn Mahot training techniques, feed the elephants, ride the elephants bare back and wash them in the river. It was fantastic but I don't think I'd ride an elephant again since I was terrified of falling off most of the time. That evening Daire had a bit of an experience with the crazy red bull they sell over here (which is banned at home) but all was all right. The following day Claudia, Lena (our new German friend) and myself did a Thai cooking class for the day. I made a Thai green curry, friend prawns in curry sauce, hot and sour soup, spring rolls and sticky coconut rice with mango for desert. We got to eat everything we made and could barely move after. It was fantastic!!!! That evening was a bit of a chill since we were all too full to move.

On the 10th it was Claudia's birthday so we spent the day wandering around the city. By this stage I had finished my 4 Dexter novels and The Alchemist so I went to a book shop, sold The Alchemist and bought The Beach and Veronica Decided to Die. I am currently reading The Beach and it is completely addictive, I love it!! After our trip to the book shop we went to buy some cake followed by a long jaunt at the Night Bazar. I decided (somewhat stupidly) to but a beautiful handmade bed throw and matching cushion cases. Don't get my wrong, the bed throw is stunning and cheaper than the one I almost bought in Laos but I takes up a fair bit of room in my rucksack which is now overflowing!!!! Nevertheless it was something I really wanted to buy. Because it was Claudia's birthday she wanted to get one of those fish feet massage things so of course we all had to oblige. It was pretty weird and we all spent the first 10 minutes screaming but it did leave our feet nice and smooth. We went out for some yummy food and hung out with the hotel neighbours who were lighting lanterns and let u join in, lovely!

On the next day Claudia and Daire headed off to Bangkok on the night bus to meet Martin (Claudia's boyfriend) on the 12th. Lena and I decided to go to Pai for a few days instead, which is where I am currently writing this. Pai is a little like Vang Vieng but bigger. There is a fairly big hippie scene here and loads of Reggae bars. It's nice and relaxing so I'm glad I ditched Bangkok for 2 days. We have been to hot springs which were too hot to get into and a waterfall that was too cold to swim in. We checked out the markets and local shops and generally chilled out. We keep bumping into people Lena met in Nepal and these 2 Israeli guys keep driving us about on their mopeds which is fab... free travel and all that!!! In the evening we have checked out the locals bars and eaten more delicious Thai food.

Pai has been a much needed escape but this afternoon we head back to Chaing Mai where we will fly to Bangkok this evening. It's only an hour flight instead of a 12 hour bus journey so woop!!!

I think that is everything but every time I write in this blog I always realise I left something out. I'm not looking forward to Bangkok too much since I haven't been in a buys city for ages so it'll come as quite a shock. Daire has gone home now which is a shame and I've only got a month left which is no time at all.

Laos was an amazing country and I would really love to go back and see more. The country side was beautiful and the people were so friendly, it really is the perfect retreat. Thailand has been fab so far and I can't wait to get to the islands in the South but I'm really worried I wont get to see everything I plan to. I'm kind of regretting having a booked flight home but what can I do?

We only have a couple of hours left in Pai to chill out so I best dash xxxxx

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Vietnam and Cambodia, done

Sorry it's been a while but I've been super busy and haven't had the best of internet access apart from trusty wifi on my phone.

Soooo, where did I last leave you? Oh yes Hoi An in Vietnam. After another horrid night bus journey from Hoi An we arrived at the crack of dawn in Nha Trang, a lovely town on the coast of Vietnam with a nice long beach. We ended up spending nearly an entire week here because a) I did my Advanced Open Water PADI course plus Claudia and Daire did their Open Water PADI course and b) I celebrated my 24th birthday there and was too hungover to undertake another night bus ride for a few days.

The diving was brilliant, definitely one of the better places I've dived and the course was great. I specialized in navigation. deep, photography, night and search & recovery. I was really happy Claudia and Daire decided to dive too because it means we can dive together in Ko Phi Phi, Ko Tao and Borneo =) I dived with Rainbow who were brilliant so if you are ever in Vietnam check them out!! After the course I joined Claudia and Daire at Octopus Diving and did a few fun dives which were extremely enjoyable due to the intensity of the advanced course. I saw loads of amazing fish plus I racked up quite a few numbers in my dive log.

On the 17th I celebrated my birthday with a few friends we've made whilst travelling. Natalie and Bob bought me a conical hat which is hilarious and I'm dong my best not to loose it (or squash it). Claudia bought me a beautiful silk kaftan and we went out for dinner where I had some over priced lobster which unfortunately wasn't worth the money I paid. Several bars ensued plus some paddling in the sea and we eventually arrived back at the hotel in a pretty bad worse-for-where state at 5am. I managed to get a bar to play some Green Day and ended up with a free bottle of champagne and chocolate cake, brilliant!!!

The 2 days were spent sleeping on the beach and we eventually left on another night bus for Saigon. Nha Trang was brilliant and even though it was a bit over cast the ocean was lovely and warm plus the town had a really good atmosphere about it.

Once again the night bus dropped us off at 6am in Saigon where we had to spend 3 hours napping in a hotel reception until a room was available for us. Saigon was fantastic whilst it was even bigger and busier than Hanoi it was more exciting and I would definitely go back. During our time there we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the War museum plus a pagoda and crazy market. The tunnels and museum were really interesting yet a completely harrowing experience. Whilst my history about the Vietnam war wasn't so great before I embarked on this trip I have learnt so much about the atrocities the US army did to the people of Vietnam. Yes, the Viet Cong did some awful stuff too which was very apparent at the Cu Chi Tunnels but the War Museum really showed the extent of the Holocaust like action the US Army caused with Dioxins and the other chemical they dropped on the country.

Anyway, enough of a history lesson. After Saigon we left Vietnam (1 week later than scheduled) and arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Whilst here we visited the Silver Pagoda (mega rip off), Killing Fields and Genocide Museum. This was another depressing day learning about the action of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pott's regime. The Genocide Museum (S21) is a bleak prison where thousands of Khmer people were sent for fear of bringing down the communist regime from the inside. The majority of people sent here were completely innocent and had to endure horrific interrogation and torture. The place reminded me of Auschwitz which I visited last year whilst inter railing. After being sent to the S21 the prisoners were then transported to the Killing Fields (just outside the city) where they were immediately executed. Babies and children were even killed here and now the person in charge of these actions is awaiting trails!!! Despite the reason for the Killing Fields it is quite a tranquil place and a memorial has been constructed in the centre where is holds the bones of the people who were murdered there.

After a few days of really depressing day trips we headed up north to Siem Reap (our current location) to marvel at some wonderful temples. We bought a 3 day pass for the Angkor temples and since then we have seen a crazy amount and personally I never want to see another temple again!!! On our first day we did the 'small circuit' which included Ta Prom my favourite temple of the 3 days. It is huge and has not undergone much renovation so is still in its original shape plus it has all thee magnificent tress growing through the rocks and looks completely stunning. It was the temple used in Tomb Raider so you would probable recognise it. We also went to see Bamteary Seria pink temple 30km outside the city and another one I can't remember the name off!!! There was a temple we wanted to see even further outside the city with a waterfall but our tuk tuk driver would not take us there unless we paid more and since we had already spent a significant amount on the temple pass we opted out.

On the second day we did the 'big circuit' which included some truly wonderful sights the temples of Angkor are unlike any temples you would normally see, they are in fantastic condition complete with intricate wall carvings plus they are HUGE!!! At the end of the second day we climbed the mountain (read large hill) to another temple to view sunset however the overcast weather made this a slight waste of time. That evening we checked out the market and met up with Natalie and Bob to explore Pub Street and eat Mexican food, yum yum!!! We knew we had to get up early so headed back to the hotel in good time however a problem struck... Daire, who was the last one out of the room locked the door but left the key inside.... Okay not to much of a problem because all hotels have spare keys right? WRONG!!!!! The crappy hotel we are staying in seemed to have a spare key for every room except ours. We spent over an hour trying to get in. We tried to pick the lock and failed, the staff tried to take the lock of the door and failed. Eventually Daire constructed a massive rod thing with a coat hanger at the end weaved t through the window and managed to pick up the key!!! It was all rather hilarious but a bit scary at the time since we almost couldn't get in!!!

After a short sleep and early 4.30am rise we headed to Angkor Wat to see sunrise. Angkor Wat is meant to be the most magnificent temple of them all because it is in such good condition and is huge!!! Anyway the sunrise was a complete waste of time and despite the grandeur of the temple I really wasn't 'feeling' it. Nevertheless we headed to Angkor Thom next where Bayon temple reside. This temple was really great because it is covered in faces carved into the towers. We looked around a few more temples and eventually headed back to the hotel at noon for some much needed sleep. This evening we are meeting people again for dinner, the night market and maybe doing that thing where you stick your feet in the water and the fist eat the dead skin!! Tomorrow we are headed to Laos and have to take a 24 hour bus journey because they plane is too expensive, joy!!! Cambodia has been a strange country and whilst the prices are surprisingly high and the people cam seem somewhat unfriendly I have enjoyed the contrast of war vs temples. However, I am really looking forward to Laos and tubing on Halloween.

Must dash now, lots to do plus I have to pack. The bus leaves a 6am, FUN!!!! Laterz xxxx

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Hue and Hoi An

Whilst Hanoi was a city bursting with life, noise and colour Hue, a city in Southern Vietnam was much more tranquil and less exhausting. The night bus journey to Hue was pretty horrific but once we got there and settled into out hostel, Hue Backpackers (FYI it was amazing - free beer!!!) we instantly feel in love with the place and it's chilled out atmosphere. The first day in Hue was spent exploring the old citadel which to be honest was a bit disappointing especially when compared with the Forbidden City in Beijing. The weather was absolutely boiling which really did not add to my appreciation of the ruins. When we arrived in the citadel we bumped into Ben and Fran, an English couple we met in Halong Bay and arranged to go for a drink that evening. After exploring the old ruins and all the surrounding streets we headed back to the hostel for free beer, fish n chips and headed out for the evening. We went to a couple of bars including one with the most mental waitress I've ever met. Apparently she was called Crazy Bonkers and not only was she extremely annoying but hilarious she also had the most high pitched deafening laugh ever!!!!! The evening was a succession of jagerbombs and cocktails... not the best idea considering we had to get up at 7.30am the next morning.

After an early start we headed out on a boat tour to visit some tombs and temples. The temples were pretty templey (as if I'm templed out all ready) but the tombs were really fascinating. We saw 3 in total and each one was better and more grand than the previous. I can't remember their names and I don't have 'the bible' handy so I'm not even going to try and guess but I would definitely recommend checking them out if you are ever in this part of the world. Each tomb was completely different in terms or design, size and architecture but each fascinating to walk around and wonder how the emperors used to live way back then. Some of the sites were merely for burial purposes but other had live in areas and hence much larger in size. We meet another English couple on the tour, Bob and Natalie (we seem to have a thing for picking up these Brits) and that evening the 5 of use met Ben and Fran for some good English grub minus the beers and plus the hangover remnants.

Another 7.30am rise meant we could catch the early bus to Hoi An, a small city on the coast where tailor made clothing is a speciality. We arrived in the high heat and decided to stay at the first place are eyes meet. This happened to be a luxury hotel next to the bus stop and for $6 each we were in heaven complete with a swimming pool, a first on this trip!!! After a swim, it started to rain so I decided to have a cheap facial and pedi (Daire had a massage!!!) until the weather died down and we could hit the streets to get some clothes made. After looking for ages I found a place to have my 2 dresses made. A replica of a shift dress I already own and a floaty maxi dress perfect for summer parties and evenings on the beach. Daire had a suit and 2 shirts made and Claudia got a top and playsuit.

That evening we meet all the Brits again at an arranged time and place and enjoyed happy hour cocktails and beers plus some non Vietnamese food!!!!!! Once again not ideal for a 7.30 wake up call but fun nevertheless.

Today we went to check out My Son, an ancient Cham temple in the jungle which was pretty interesting but really run down. It was hit badly during the war and not much is really left standing. If I never see a temple again (except Angkor Wat!!!) it'll be too soon!!!!!! The afternoon was spent collecting out tailor made clothes. Daire and I got ours made in the same shop and they did such a good job neither of us needed any adjustments. Claudia however was not so lucky and is waiting to pick up her adjusted items as I type. Tonight we have to catch another night bus to Nha Trang, our much need beach stop!!! I plan to scuba dive and hopefully pick up my advanced PADI plus laying on the beach reading my Dexter novels will be a well deserved treat from all our early mornings and busy days.

I got a little sun burnt today but hopefully it'll sort itself out by the time I go diving! Last night we also had to say goodbye to the Brits as they are on a much longer and more relaxing time scale than us. The night bus this evening will probably be as horrific as the last one but at least we'll get a few relaxing days on the beach to catch up on sleep. It was pouring with rain again today so fingers crossed for some nice weather. After the beach we are heading to Hoi Chi Minh and the Mekong Delta before entering Cambodia where things will calm down significantly and we wont be as busy... phew!!

Anyway, must dash now. Bus to catch and shower to have. Speak soon xxxxxxxxxxxx