Backpacking Bali

Standard

Bali was one of the most favourite places I have visited over the past 7 months. Its beautiful terrain, culture and people are second to none.

CDBA597C-3D3D-4A26-A1FE-22C831C38FD3

451E9A09-D634-4A22-91A0-894AF459C730

Arriving at the Airport was a challenge I remembered well. The local taxi drivers were still there waiting for me in abundance as I exited the departure lounge. The new price apparently for a one way taxi to Kuta was 250,000rp. The last time I visited the country I bargained well and managed to pay no mote than 50,000rp, so I knew once again had to have a strong will to succeed in not over paying.

The short story here is NEVER pay 250,000rp to get anywhere. This is ridiculously over priced. You will be told many stories and tales of how the prices have changed due to new laws, but this is simply not true! You are being scammed! But lets remember here guys, these taxi drivers are only trying to make a living to feed their families, so don’t be too harsh on them. Have a laugh, have a joke and play them at their own game with a bit of a haggle. I sure did- Hey, its good fun! Its why we love travel!

I arrived in Kuta, a place I already knew from a holiday with a friend. Kuta is not a relaxing place to be if I’m honest. Its a very touristy place specifically targeting holiday makers and party animals in the main areas.

I spent 3 days here in my old hotel which was lovely. I did this to have a cheap room to myself for three nights, in familiar surroundings and far enough away from the centre to not be noisy at all.

It was so great when I arrived! They remembered me from 2 years ago! I was greeted by “Mr Kyle, Mr Kyle, it is so good to see you again, I remember you, you remember me” as I was paraded around the reception desk saying hello to all the staff- What more can you ask for on returning to a hotel after two years?

From Kuta I decided to travel to Canggu, from the recommendation of a friend, Dan, who I’de travelled with in Malaysia. To make things even better, Nathalie, who I’de also travelled with in Malaysia was still there! So off I went to this new town and new hostel for some new experiences and to see a much needed familiar face!

In Canggu I stayed at ***Hostel. The place was awesome with 2 swimming pools and an amazing cheap but beautiful restaurant a 2 minute walk away! We all ate there- All of the time!

376BA610-9C64-4FFF-A926-65DBB0A2464A

It was so great to see Nathalie again! We organised for a big group dinner before heading on to various bars, pubs and clubs… We ended in a club on the beach partying until the early hours with the sand and ocean beneath our feet- and of course, many many drinks in our hand! That mad night will stay in my memory forever hahaha! A few drunken secrets were shared amongst friends on this night aye Nat!!!

Next, I moved onto Ubud. My favourite place in Bali. Not so much for the town itself but more for the central location and ease of renting a bike and scooting off around the island! In Ubud I managed to stay in the cheapest hostel I have ever found. $1usd a night, thats about 50p! As you can imagine you didn’t get much for your buck on the dorm front but I have honestly stayed in a lot worse places! You cant grumble at a dollar anyway! The positive to such cheap accommodation is that it attracts the real backpackers up for a laugh, up for exploring and up for new experiences!

(Guess who came to join me again in Ubud after her trip to the Gili Island… Nathalie! So I got to spend even more time with this amazing new friend who I hold very dear to my heart. In fact, from here we then moved on to Australia for a month travelling together- But that’s a whole different post yet to come!)

We decided to trek up a volcano together, (as you do) leaving at 2am to ensure we got to the top on time for a beautiful sunrise! I strongly recommend doing this. It was one of the most spectacular sites I have so far seen in my life. Not to mention the hysterical laughter at having to trek up a mountain in the dark while slipping and sliding all over the place- It was harder coming down! One too many times we found ourselves skidding down the loose rocks and ending flat on our asses!

0911A31C-A34D-4F0F-ABCF-167673B7C0EB

22AB5CAA-C645-4736-853F-DF79DEF79B66

63CD5311-A7E8-4563-A75A-A66847D0A2C4

7A76B6B3-A13F-45B0-8D45-9ED90EDE8FC0

After a day of rest the friends I had made and I, decided to rent scooters together and go on a day tour en mass! I think we had 8-9 bikes and off we went! On our journey we were stopped by a local guy who wanted to take us to places and show us his local town. He wanted to show us places the tourists didn’t always get to see. At first we thought he was a tour guide after payment. This wasn’t the case at all. He was just a lovely local guy who wanted to help himself by practicing english and also help us by spending a few hours with us! What a nice bloody chap!

0897D6C1-83ED-41E8-BCCC-CAE6340FDA41

22AB5CAA-C645-4736-853F-DF79DEF79B66

6F8A689B-C581-45AF-AF7C-43E15FBD8E75

15F9D1E3-B95F-4E09-B5AF-3F949F53DBFA

B7D44758-4724-41DC-A938-AEF23A6805A0

My month in Bali was awesome for meeting new people and experiencing different places to what I had seen before. I really enjoyed heading off on my own at 6am a few times on my bike to visit tourists stops on my own before the rest of the world woke! One particular day there had been a landslide into the road and it was remarkable to see the local town all out together clearing the roads! What great team spirit! This is what makes me appreciate different cultures!

9A84F82F-DCBC-4CB4-809C-C2B297B7F81C

I could honestly go back and do it all again- And I will! If anyone needs any advice or ideas on what to see, do or how to make the most of their time here… please ask in the comments- I cant talk about this place enough!

My lasting impression of Bali is: Mashed Potatoes! Don’t do what I did and get over excited at an “all you can eat” buffet serving mashed potatoes and gravy! Its wrong, its dirty and you shouldn’t ever allow yourself to eat that much… I looked like Pumba from Lion King with mashed potatoes and gravy dribbling down my chin and corners of my mouth! It was bloody good though 😜

Enjoy!

Backpacking Vietnam

Standard

Overall Vietnam by far has been my favourite country visited. The people, the culture and the beauty is phenomenal…..

My route South to North in a nutshell:

*Ho Chi Minh – buy an on/off coach ticket, no restrictions, all stops for $34usd!
*Mui Ne
*Dalat
*Hoi An
*Hue
*Phong Nha
*Hanoi
*Ho Long Bay

I headed to the country on a whim actually! Originally, I’de decided I was going to skip it all together and spend extra time else where. Thank god I didn’t!

I travelled South to North and I would advise anyone to do the same. Each town or city I reached impressed me even more than the last.

Ho Chi Minh City

My Must Do’s:

*Saigon Notre-Dame
*Saigon Central Post Office
*Ho Chi Minh City Museum – Learn about the pre and post war!
*Independence Palace
*Ben Thanh Market – Haggle for your bargains!
*Cu Chi Tunnels
*Try Vietnamese coffee shops – it’s the best!
*Try Karaoke – They love it!
*Try street food – It’s delicious!

Ho Chi Minh was my starting point. As always with Southeast Asia, I was dropped off in a carpark nowhere near where I needed to be. Something that at first was a bloody nightmare, but by this stage in my trip, didn’t faze me in the slightest. The MapsMe App on my iPhone is now an everyday tool I can’t do without – The fact it works solely on GPS is a god send to get you out of a sticky spot with no wifi.

I found myself on a street called Bui Vien. The street was alive with bars, clubs, drunken westerners, you name it- This street had it! A very similar street to KhoaSan Road in Bangkok. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but it was where I had booked my hostel. It seemed convenient enough though, to be able to mix with other travellers, get talking over a few beers and make new friends. I found my way to K2 Hostel and I was all settled in.

IMG_9590IMG_9562IMG_9585IMG_9568

Ho Chi Minh City by day is just as vibrant as it is in the evening. Scooters are rife, there is a busy buzz sound in the air and the smell of the street food fills the air. Street sellers are walking around with big square boards with an array of “genuine fake” Ray Ban sun glasses, all the cigarette brands you could ask for and “genuine fake” Zipper lighters flying out all over the place! It was a mad but lively set up!

I found myself caught with a motorbike taxi man (who for many hours and days after, heckled me from all parts of the City, “Hey ‘English’, you want ride, it’s tomorrow, today”) He had a delightful little book of recommendations and reviews from people he had given tours to. These reviews were from all corners of the globe and I found it hard not to read a few with him out of politeness… This ended up the wrong way to deal with the little old man, in a bright red helmet and blue shirt. But he was a funny guy, I joked and laughed with him that in England, tomorrow rarely comes! This guy was my first impression of Vietnam and although a bit of a handful, he was a pleasant representation of all the kind hearted people I was going to meet over my month in their country.

IMG_9554

Going from City to City was hard going. Normally in my travels I like to pop into a City for a few days and then head back to an island for my beach life. Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh was jumping from the frying pan into the fire – that being said I’m glad I did it. I managed to catch up with Crunch a lovely lady from Singapore, I had met in Cambodia, for an afternoon of shopping in the markets, some lunch and a few evening drinks. I also met a nice guy called Moritz from Hamburg, Germany, who I spent 2/3 evenings having a beer and food with. He was a cool guy.

AD60D421-8090-4AEC-B1B1-810C687B81C5

Mui Ne

My Must Do’s:

*Fairy Stream – wander through a Stream to find the waterfall at the end
*White Sand Dunes – go quad biking!
*Red Sand Dunes – great sunset photo!
*Early morning fish market – See the real locals at work!

My second stop in Vietnam was Mui Ne. Mui Ne is a fishing village at the end of a very touristy strip of hotels and hostels. It is very Russian based and reminded me more of a holiday resort in Spain than the Vietnam I was looking for. I stayed for 2 nights. There’s a few things to do in Mui Ne, most of the tourists that come here are looking to venture into the White Sand Dunes and The Red sand Dunes. I also had a little adventure all of my own walking down a stream of water with red sand dunes cascading high either side resembling cliffs and mountains…. The aim was to find the pot of gold at the end, which was the waterfall. The waterfall was a little unimpressive, but I really enjoyed wandering along a stream, ankle deep in water and taking in the uniqueness of the experience. This place was called The Fairy Stream.

0ED4A098-EE31-40EA-B7FE-19AC53DFB737894AF391-7127-4406-9FAE-09ADB3B73561IMG_9616

Dalat

My Must Do’s:

*Canyoning – Abseil down waterfalls, who can say no to that?
*Maze Bar – Get lost in the weird and wonderful maze bar!
*Crazy House – Wander round this unique and Crazy hotel/house!
*Waterfalls – Elephant Falls, Datanla
*Family Dinner – Normally organised Hostel – Try Dalat Backpackers!
*Take in the idyllic scenery, while enjoying rest bite in the cooler temperatures.

Leaving Mui Ne, I travelled next to Dalat. Dalat was exactly what I was looking for. Dalat is where my Vietnam trip really began. The weather here is a little chilly after Cambodia, in fact it was a bloody cold 17 degrees up that mountain when I arrived. Freezing!!! “A bit chilly on the ole’ willy” I can tell you!

Dalat Backpacker is absolutely the place to be – That’s Dalat Backpackers guys, NOT ‘Dalat Backpackers Downtown’. Dalat Backpackers is an amazing place for solo backpackers. The evening of your arrival you are given a free family meal made by Mr Vu and his family. All the new arrivals sit together for free beer and free food – Friendships are made right here!!! More about my bromance later…..

E4BFF13E-F69C-4895-ADF1-D4480AD9EB33E29F8EB2-53FE-47AB-8C04-4B479F919A88

The Maze Bar in Dalat is a must for anyone and everyone. In the day time the place serves the best Vietnamese coffee and by night the alcohol is flowing. I spent three very drunken nights in a row at this place. One of which I lost my iPhone7plus 256gb in the bar – but do you know what, on going back at 8am the next morning (a little worse for ware, staggering the streets) it had been handed in and was tucked safely in a draw at the main bar! If that doesn’t tell you what an awesome place it is – nothing will! The poor cleaner woman that helped me look for it didn’t know what to do when I threw my arms around her and thanked her so much!! (I was still somewhat intoxicated) The Vietnamese people are the nicest and most helpful people I have met.

6C8D2D83-A9C6-4BEF-BFC0-73DF292A9955

The major thing to do in Dalat is Canyoning. Unfortunately, the day I booked for this, the tour was cancelled due to bad weather, I stayed to do it the next day but again the tour was cancelled due to bad weather. Although a disappointment, this just goes to show how much Mr Vu cares about his guests at Dalat Backpackers – I can’t recommend this Hostel enough!

33FE6F3D-45A4-474D-8651-FFD08E29D272

At Dalat Backpackers, I met some awesome guys, Brody and James being amongst the best. Myself and Brody were heading in the same direction and so decided to stick together from Dalat to Hanoi with all the stops in between. (I miss that guy) The next stop being Hoi An. I had originally decided to go to Nha Trang, but after hearing how similar it was to Mui Ne, I decided to skip this town and move to the delights Hoi An had on offer.

BBC36DF4-FB52-4ED6-82DB-4D0BF4561795.jpeg

Hoi An

My Must Do’s:

*Ride a bicycle through the old town – It’s worth taking your time!
Have a suit made – The town is famous for it!
*Take a boat trip – people get proposed to on these waters!
*Marvel at the Street lighting overhead after sunset
*Japanese Bridge
*Rent a scooter – it’s a great quiet place to learn- This is where I learnt, thanks Brody!
*Drive to Denang – on your scooter!
*Visit the Beach – Drink cheap beer from 7/11 and watch the sun go down!
*Be amazed by the locals hospitality and kindness – It’s overwhelming!
*Hai Van Pass – What a ride!

Arriving in Hoi An was as interesting as every other overnight journey. Dropped off with lots of bike taxi’s waiting to pounce! I hopped on a bike with Brody and headed to our Hostel. We had chosen Paddy’s Hostel (We were up for a bit of a party atmosphere for a couple of days) we arrived at the hostel at 5am and to our surprise the cleaners welcomed us in, set us up with some fans and instructed us to get our heads down for some shut eye! What a bunch!!!

We took free bicycle rentals from the hostel and rode into town. Now, these bicycles are a little rickety, squeaky and the furthest away from a secure and stable ride as you can get… but what a fun rid it was using the bike bell to *ting ting ting* anything and everything that moves – This was a little bit of a piss-take on our part of the scooters, bikes and all motor vehicles that drove us mad with there continuous beeping of the horn- What fun! We rode through the old town shocked at its magical aura, its magnificence and outright beauty! Our hour trip before the beach turned into a full afternoon and evening in the town…. Followed by cheap 7/11 beers on the beach late evening!

D81EBD4A-EDEA-4926-8691-831901045C1D

7A040B38-9034-434B-9DD4-542F9A56252BD6366E22-1A9A-4F6E-8ECD-8E444A341D3C49CAEB4F-2510-4397-A344-17F8A035D49C

The next day was Scooter rental day- I was a little nervous about this I must say, but after 10 minutes, I was speeding off like the best of them. But… there was the slight issue of turning! Turning on a scooter is not as simple as turning the handle bars, oh no!! So after nearly going arse over tit, gliding into on coming traffic on the other side of the road and generally not getting to grips with it at all… It was time for an extensive 2min practice ‘leaning and steering’ in a car park before we hit the main roads and traffic! Those 2 minutes were very intense learning not to be dismissed!

90F50931-A35C-4E45-8B8B-4930161738D4

We drove to Danang, it was a 20 minute ride if that. I must be fair the only part of Danang I saw was the beach. From the beach you could see the tall buildings, hotels and malls, it reminded me of a much smaller version of the Gold Coast in Australia, but that could be over estimating things perhaps?!

With my new found scooter skills we decided to ride to some caves and temples I forget the name of for a spot of sight seeing.

The next day was a big adventure for me that I advise anyone to do… renting a scooter and driving to Hue a rough 5-6hrs north. On this journey you will drive through the famous Hai Van Pass- A spectacle not to be missed!

7E420507-83C7-4E15-A2E0-2BBBDB2285AFFF6C8A7A-8F49-42E4-A03E-9B54F3F23075DCIM100GOPROG0051560.DCIM100GOPROG0071562.

Hue

Hue for us was more of a stop over for the night before our adventure to Phang Nha by coach.

Phang Nha

My Must Do’s:

*Phong Nha Caves – Paradise Cave. Dark Cave.
*Zip lining
*Mud baths
*Kayaking

We arrived at our hostel- Gekko Hostel. We were just in time for the free BBQ night so we rushed out of our room, down the stairs and to the BBQ and had the scraps that were left. We still had to order food but at least we got a freebie on arrival huh! We were excited as soon as we got to Phong Nha because we had our adventure sorted for the next day…. and what an adventure it was!!

Phong Nha Cave Tour: The caves were incredible. The biggest I had ever seen with stalagmites and stalactites as big as your house! The cave goes on and on. Apparently there is an underground beach, and forrest further in but the tour and entrance we had booked only allowed us to venture a mere 1km into the cave. On our way back out of the cave we bumped into a few guys and girls we had met in our previous hostel which was great! Its funny how you bump into the same people on your travels!

5EE1542B-3AA3-480F-9717-BA77C9EB5232072E32F5-1ADC-4F59-9830-644B904C0522C28C036B-EF52-49A4-BA37-8C0EB03F4351

The next cave, The Dark Cave, started with an adrenaline rush zipline into the waters where the entrance was waiting!

CDFF7D7F-2B3D-4D13-ABE3-9E09D233461D

We were all given helmets with lamps on so we could find our way in the cave. We swam towards the entrance and we were in. It was true to its name- DARK! We waded through waters, swam when it got a little too deep and clambered over rock formations, sometimes having to slide down on our arses and sometimes a shuffle and a skid. We were searching for the mud baths hidden within. When we found it we squelched and crawled our way through the thickness into the more fluid central parts. It was like our own private thick chocolate milkshake heaven. We all got carried away throwing mud at each other, rubbing the thick sludge into one anothers backs and generally being a little bit too hands on with each other to talk about in any great detail hahah.

633AF5C5-A524-4091-954A-9C7856C5CD3B60091666-B165-407F-B1BA-DA3564EA930278F33D7A-5DF8-4E1C-997E-DE0A032C195E

After the excitement of rubbing each other with mud we headed for a water obstacle course which was a great way to end the adventure… Well that wasn’t quite the end, we had complimentary rum and coke to drink once we had all dried off and re grouped back together- Happy days!

5127AC56-3EA7-4019-AD3A-8506C19DE8B6

Hanoi

My Must Do’s:

*Drink cheap street beer with the locals!

Myself and Brody had been travelling with each other from Dalat knowing that Hanoi was our last stop together, so we decided on a party hostel to celebrate our little bromance! And a party hostel we indeed found: Hanoi Backpackers Old Quarter! Free all you can drink beer for an hour on the rooftop bar (no cap) Free shots every hour and a great party atmosphere to enjoy and let some steam off after our travels and adventures.

53FDCC9E-A18A-4AE3-BDCB-9A2AEE4A7591CE6D31DD-E182-4F92-8C03-54D001BC40C9378874CF-7AF0-4E71-AF27-63BBC985B1656C687715-2E5F-4CFB-9256-F9372890FEF49F02288B-B09E-47B4-8B87-91D1B5DE57DC

Ho Long Bay

We all know why we go here! The views. The bay. The tranquility. We all want to marvel at the thousands of islands and relax. I did just that. The weather wasn’t at its best sun wise, but this didn’t stop the spectacular views, the adventure or the amazement that is Ho Long Bay!

What a place to say a farewell to Vietnam!

E070EFA3-C5A4-4E4F-8C82-3BE5F44D368F16B8C8E4-E2C5-4C84-A649-BB1D6C2964DDDCIM100GOPROG0111635.742523A9-C654-4651-A25C-79D5A98D19B5D6763041-2A4C-43C4-B72E-30E3A179572C4FA754E0-2A3F-48EE-9864-2282A36F1857

Continue reading

Cambodia: Koh Rong

Standard

I planned this particular part of the journey really well (or so I thought). I’de arranged my pick up time to coincide with an 8am drop off in the new town of Sihanoukville, ready for my ferry across to the the island Koh Rong. As with “Everything Kyle” this was not the case and things were not quite as smooth sailing…

The coach dropped me off in a pitch black carpark at around 4am. In a place which appeared to be miles from anywhere. There was not an ocean. There was not a sea, there was not a river… nor any water for that matter, let alone the bloody ferry port I was supposed to be delivered to! The coach load of other travellers were all confused as to what we were doing pulling up into the derelict grounds. Some of us, including myself were pretty sure it was just a toilet brake… How wrong we were!

“FINAL STOP, FINAL STOP” was shouted down through the aisles of the sleeper coach as we were frog marched off.

On attempting to exit the bus, what appeared to be 20,000 tuctuc drivers descended on us like 20,000 flies attracted to a rotting meat market, in the mid day sun. It was pandemonium! Drivers were trying to take the bags off your back, hands were grabbing your shoulders left right and centre- quite literally! Enthusiastic drivers would be your “best friend” from the second you made eye contact, following through with the mandatory “where you from, where you from, where you go, come come, I take you my friend”. Of course, all of this was done by multiple drivers at the same time making the whole situation a little unbearable. Half asleep at 4am, dazed by confusion and agitated by not having a clue where they were, some people, including myself, were understandably ‘direct’ in their responses.

I met up with two other guys who were travelling my way. Fena from Chilli and José from Equidor. We decided that the three of us together should just get a tuctuc to the ferry and by splitting the bill, it would be dirt cheap… so we did just that. Just in time too, as the heavens opened and what must have been a 2 hour solid monsoon hit! We arrived at the ferry port and sat together under a porch finding out about each others adventures, cultures and travel plans. The ferry came at 8am, we boarded and the 40 minute trip across the water went well.

Thanks to a friend I had met, Jeremy, from Paris, I already knew my heading on reaching the Island: Nest Hostel. I was also meeting him there as he had left on a coach, an hour or so earlier than me from my hostel in Cambodia, Siem Reap.

IMG_9825.JPG

The Nest hostel was a fair walk from the ferry pier on the Island. It was about a 20 minute walk. (Remember at this point we have overfull backpacks on our back, overloaded rucksacks on our front and are somewhat unsteady on our feet, especially on ‘unstable’ ground) The three of us walked across the beautiful white sand beaches, through a little woodland area of exotic palm trees and dangling vines, over a little stream with natural stepping stones, under a tree branch or two, up a slope, down a few rocks and then round a corner…. We had arrived in pure paradise! Our own private beach which had views spreading out miles in to the ocean and strategically far enough away from everything else so as we felt as though we were on our own private island.

IMG_9824

Nest Hostel was fantastic. The beds in the dorms were and still are the biggest and most comfortable I have ever slept on! Big up those Nest Hostel guys 💪💪💪

IMG_9826

Our private beach was glorious in the daytime sun, but come sunset and in the dark of the night came a very big and beautiful surprise… our own private waters full of plankton lighting up like a million tiny stars as you walked through and disturbed the waters!

IMG_9823

This island was and still is in my mind -PURE PARADISE ISLAND

Cambodia: Siem Reap and the Temples

Standard

I had opted for a $2 a night hostel- Swimming pool included! Oasis Siem Reap.
My first day in Cambodia was spent relaxing and getting over my 12 hour ordeal of travel from Thailand by coach. The sun was out, a bit patchy in some places but the sun was shinning, therefore, the pool was calling!

IMG_0553

Everybody that goes to Siem Reap, goes to see the temples. Angkor Wat being the most famous. But not to forget the countless other ruins and not to mention the temples that were used in the Tomb Raider films starring Angelina Jolie. The day I decided to go to visit Angkor Wat and explore its ruins, it decided to rain (all day). I wasn’t going to let this defeat me or make me change my plans as after all, I had decided to start my travels smack bang in the middle of the wet season- so what could I expect! I decided that the rain today was going to be a good thing. I could get some different photo’s from the generic ‘front view’ against a clear blue skyline.

The temples themselves are Siem Reaps major tourist destination and therefore they understandably come at a cost. You can buy a one day ticket for $37, a three day ticket for $62, or a seven day ticket for $72. (Since August this year, the ticket office also takes debit/credit card which was handy to keep the cash in my wallet) I opted for the three day ticket because after visiting so many temples at once in Thailand, I knew the dreaded feeling of being “all templed out” would hit at some point during the day… and the rest would just blur into one. I wanted to explore, take my time and really feel the essence of each of the different places.

As previously mentioned, Angkor Wat, being by far the biggest, was for day one. The rest of the temples I actually did manage to squeeze into the second day, with no need for a third. That being said, I could have easily stretched it out had I wished.

The temples were not what I was expecting at all. In my head I was expecting the gold and white buildings of Thailand with their painted dragons at the entrance, shoes left outside as a sign or respect and silence in the chambers. What I got was the amazing stone ruins in the middle of forest areas and a chance to explore whilst getting down and dirty in the mud. I was in my element- Thank God (Buddha), I decided not to wear flip-flops!

IMG_8920

IMG_9223

Day 2 started with a 7am pick up. I could have had an earlier start in order to see the amazing sunrise over the top of Angkor Wat. After looking at the weather forecast and realising it was going to be overcast at that time, I decided on a few extra hours of sleep instead. I headed off and explored Bayon, Banteay Srei, Preah Khan, Phnom Bakheng, Banteay Samré, Thommanon,
Phimeanakas, Phnom Krom, Baksei Chamkrong and West Mebon.

My tuc-tuc driver for the day (known on facebook as Yuth BestBoy) was an amazing help. The tuc-tuc to myself for the entire day set me back $15 which I thought was pretty reasonable considering I was driven around all day long. The knowledge that the local guys have is so in-depth. You Don’t only hear about the temples and their history, but also about all the local goings on and excitement the areas bring to the people. I decided to give this guy $20 instead of $15. He had thanked me so much for giving him a job that day because he was sat waiting around for some work. It really puts life into perspective when someone thanks you so much for giving them work (well it did for me anyway). His enthusiasm and knowledge was just great! He also told me he was really trying hard to better his English, which was great for chatting away. I highly recommend this guy as your personal driver for the day if you can find him. He was sat outside my Hostel, Oasis Siem Reap!

The temples I visited on the second day were each a wonder in themselves. The natural stone walls were crumbling, letting you see into the grey and black stone whilst fresh vibrant green moss grew new life around them. I loved the idea of these ruins creating areas of new life for plants and agriculture… It gave them new purpose and I liked that.

The journey from Koh Chang to Cambodia

Standard

Leaving the paradise Island of Koh Chang was a hard decision, but my sense of adventure after 5 nights on an empty Island of pristine beaches, beach swings and hammocks was calling… It was time to explore!

ABD166D6-3060-4AE3-B26C-55A1B41E6952

My journey to Cambodia started with a 7am pick up by mini bus. The drive back to the ferry port reminded me just how beautiful the Island was. Also, just how erratic Southeast Asian driving can be. The mini bus was ‘punching-it’ around sharp cliff bends with sheer drops down into the ocean, clambering up steep hills, picking up speed down the other side and completely ignoring any pot-holes as our heads jumped to the roof, hit the windows and shook around like a nodding dog on a dashboard. What a thrilling adventure a mini bus ride could be! The island roads themselves reminded me of a child’s drawing of hills across an A4 piece of paper, rolling slopes up and down, of equal height, from one side to the other. Watching the early morning locals cleaning the streets and setting up their street businesses while enjoying the cooler air was a nice touch. It also helped to really understand why the people seem to sleep during the midday sun… Because they were up so bloody early to get the hard work done before the heat hit.

We arrived at the ferry port and boarded the ferry. I watched a sea of people wearing orange polo shirts board and engulf me seat by seat, person by person. I felt a little claustrophobic so moved to a side seat slightly to the right of the orange polo-shirt entourage. There was singing, and lots of loud conversation, Im not sure who or what this group was, but they were certainly well awake, happy and full of excitement for something!

As we set sail, a local guy signalled me for what I thought was to move aside for a second while he had his photo taken. To my surprise, on standing up I was signalled with waving arms to sit back down with a dramatic and high pitched “no, no, no, you, you, you” because it was ME he wanted to have his picture taken with… Being the only westerner on the boat and finding it quite funny I got into the celebrity moment of it all and was happy to oblige. We both sat there leaning towards one another, looking at the camera with our thumbs up in front of us. As the photo was taken there was a tremendous cheer from what must have been 30 orange polo-shirts, all happy that it had happened, the western guy had been caught on camera! There was a further wave of excitement with loud shrieks and laughter, as a girl was encouraged to come and sit next to me for the next photo with all of her fellow passengers looking on in ore. As she took her seat I was signalled to put my arm around her, hold her tight and give a big cheesy grin for the camera. Arms were throw in the air, hands were clapping as everyone again, started to cheer loudly together. This was a great experience to set me up for a happy and fun-filled day!

When we arrived at the mainland ferry port I was instructed to climb on to my mini bus to get to the Thai/Cambodia border before we would finally board a coach across the country and onto Siem Reap.

The mini bus had around 9 people from all different corners of the world. We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere at what seemed like an empty coffee shop with 4 Thai locals sat eagerly waiting in their shirts under the shade. As we were ushered off of the mini bus and I looked around at my surroundings I thought to myself with a sarcastic tone- What could possibly go wrong here… Theft? Murder? Kidnapping? Slavery? Who knew, but I knew there was something not right, but nothing I could do to get myself out of it now and I just needed to go with the flow and remain firm and direct.

Sure as shit it was a scam! Only what I would describe as a mini day to day scam. Basically we had been dropped off to wait for our Coach to cross the Thai/Cambodia border a few blocks away where the locals were going to ‘organise and take payment’ for our Cambodian visa’s… It was easily sorted though. A few people paid for their visa there and then at double the cost of doing it at the border, and others stood strong and stated they would pay at the border independently.

Scam 2 was not far behind! After the visa situation was sorted (or at least understood) on getting to the outer border of Thailand, just before “no-mans land”, ahead of the Cambodia border, our coach driver grouped everyone together for a talk about the dangers of Cambodia and more specifically theft by credit and debit card. It was announced that the cash machines we were conveniently stood by, were the last cash machines of Thailand before we headed into Cambodia where the machines would then only dispense the Cambodian Riel and/or American dollars. The group was advised to take out as much money as they felt appropriate as there was a currency exchange office just the other side of the border. This office would give a much better rate into a Cambodian Riel from the Thai Baht than any other currency. I stood strong, refusing to go anywhere near those cash machines let alone take any money out! I watched 8 other people all be told to take out 15,000 Thai Baht (£340) and I had to say something. I took a few of them aside and said ‘be very careful because it’s very convenient that we are all being told to take a ridiculous amount of cash before walking through’

Sure enough on the Cambodian border there was a corner put-me-up shop selling convenience food, over priced water, a few Angkor beers, a shady looking man with a bumbag of cash and a calculator- This was the money exchange office we had been told to take a lot of cash out for! Luckily, everybody saw sense and nobody exchanged any cash at this point. The group organiser did not look too happy… It was clearly his side business!

Moving on we boarded our coach on the Cambodian side and got ourselves comfortable for the further few hours travel into Siem Reap.

At around 7pm the coach stopped with a violent jolt on the Cambodian dirt road (which is a staple other than motorways I think) We had arrived. I drew back the coach curtain to look out of the window… I could see nothing but pitch black darkness! Where the fuck was I? Was this scam number 3? Were we about to be highjacked? I had to wait to find out…

On climbing off the coach, my fellow passengers looked as confused and concerned as me. We were instantly flocked to, by a sea of tuc-tuc drivers (the local motorbike-taxi with a carriage on the back to sit in). There must have been enough for three drivers per person all wanting to offer a different price for their service ride to each individual hostel/hotel. Luckily, they were free for us because we had paid. But it was their opportunity to try to entice us with their best price for a ‘day tour’ the next day. After 12 hours of travel and a very tiring journey, their enthusiasm was not enough and each of us was very direct about just getting the hell out of the pitch black alley with no street lights. No one was around to here our screams if the situation was to turn sour. Typical for me… I was last! The sole westerner left in a pitch black alley with tuc-tuc drivers surrounding me, all wanting to book for a ‘tour of the city’ the next day. I was tired. I was uncomfortable and I was losing my temper. I instructed everyone to move away from me, start an engine and take me away immediately, or I would walk, and no one would benefit from this westerner!

Arriving at the hostel I realised that I had absolutely no local currency whatsoever. I had opted for Oasis siem reap and was thinking to myself what a typical situation to find myself in… homeless, sleeping on the streets my first night in Cambodia!

How wrong I was…

On entering the hostel I was greeted by two french guys. One called Lucas and the other guys name I cant remember which Im disappointed in myself for. They welcomed me and I explained my monetary situation. It was not a problem for them in the slightest. I could pay tomorrow or when I left… I was escorted to the bar and given several, if not a lot of beer! What a great reception! The pool was lit, the place was clean and the two manager guys who were best friends from France were amazing people willing to help out this English guy and see him through a night at the bar!

Bangkok to Koh Chang

Standard

After having a chat about where to go next, I was introduced to the idea of Koh Chang. Now, I’de been to Thailand twice before but hadn’t heard of this island. I knew “Koh Chang” must mean ‘island Chang’ like “Koh Phi Phi” so I thought why not… After all, the Island life with its beaches, ocean waves and sea front bars was for me!

But where was it? Was it Northern territory, was it in the southern regions- I had no idea!

After a little google mapping I realised that it was a perfect destination as it was pretty much next door to Cambodia which was a country I also wanted to visit. Without research I presumed I’de head to Koh Chang by ferry and then hopefully head to Cambodia direct from there (it is in fact possible, but more about that later when I have booked and understood for myself)

So how do you get to Koh Chang, this island a 6 hour drive away from Bangkok?!

I was staying in a hostel just outside and 20 meters around the corner from The Sky Hotel. (The Sky Hotel was great, I stayed there for one night on 64th floor overlooking the city scape and got some awesome pictures.) The hostel was called Coop Hostel. I took a taxi from the main road about 200m away – Ive learnt to always go to a main road for a ‘flag down’ taxi as side road drivers tend to charge more and have a “broken metre” meaning they can, and will, charge you whatever they like! I passed 3 or 4 side road taxis and ignored them it’s the best way to make them understand. If you make eye contact or conversation they buzz around you like an annoying fly that won’t go away.

The taxi on a metre cost 250tbh. I thought this was a little steep but at 6am I couldn’t be bothered to question it as it worked out £5.50. I could have taken the train as it was very close walking distance from the hostel too, but at 6am I didn’t want to get lost without having tried the route first. The taxi took me door to door to the airport which was what I wanted at that hour!

At the airport I got dropped off at departures, but found my bearings and I went to Level 1 as it was clearly marked as the place to go for transport. There were lots of different numbers printed on the glass walls and I walked down to exit 8. Here there was a little bus desk for passengers wanting to go to Koh Chang. The cost was 600tbh and the coach left at 07:50. I had just over an hour to spare. Although I always try to eat the food of the country I’m staying in (it’s part of experiencing a different culture I think) I do however, allow myself whatever the hell I want in Airports – It’s a given! So Burger King Breakfast it was!

The coach was great. Air conditioning was strong, I almost felt cold. The journey was 6hrs all in but a relatively painless and very comfortable ride. We stopped after an hour and a half for breakfast/lunch for about 40mins. Stepping off the coach was like opening the oven door and not dodging the heat just right… from head to toe I was hit with a blanket of wet, hot, humid air. After a short break we were on the road again. Luckily as I was travelling solo I had nobody in the seat next to me- A great time to catch up on some sleep!

We arrived at the ferry port and boarded the ferry. The sun was out so I put on a bit of factor 30 and headed to the boat deck – I was the only one who seemed to want to sit directly in the sun- Maybe I didn’t know something? I don’t know… Although underway my cap did blow off and launch quite harshly into the faces of a seemingly unimpressed family – Shit happens!

Arriving at the island we jumped in a minivan and ‘bobs your uncle, fanny’s your aunt’… we were taken to our hotels/ hostels and in my case the beach because I hadn’t booked anywhere! The Thai’s seemed quite concerned that I had nowhere planned to stay? It was easy enough finding somewhere… its rainy season so most (if not everything) had plenty of room for me! I opted for: Paradise Cottage Resort

The guys at this resort were so friendly and helpful. It was quiet obviously because of the season, but that was exactly what I wanted for my first few days. On arriving I got talking to an owner of a different hotel who was visiting her friend at the bar. Her English was so good – sounded American. The resort had 3 different room brackets, 1000thb with air conditioning, 500thb with a fan and 200thb for a hut. I stayed my first couple of nights in the 500 and my last 2 in the 200.

The island itself was beautiful. Set on the beach front with hammocks and beach swings, a really relaxing place to spend a few nights. There were a lot of bars scattered around but literally had no one in them because there were no guests on the island. I truly had the island to myself to enjoy and relax.

Why I decided to sell everything and travel the world …Finding inspiration

Standard

There were a lot of questions to ask myself. Am I too old? What will people think? Will it work? Most worryingly to me, what if I end up with nothing after years of paying a mortgage, building a career and making a life?

These were all important questions, but none of them were big enough to stop the feeling inside that I was meant for something bigger, something better, something more!

I had an overwhelming feeling that I was trapped. Trapped in a life I didn’t feel in control of. Waking up in the morning to the monotonous sound of a buzzing alarm clock. Getting ready for work, putting a smile on my face like it was a regular piece of clothing. Heading to work, looking in amusement, but mostly fear at everyone around me doing exactly the same thing, at exactly the same time, on exactly the same day. It was a frightening sight but eye opening at the same time; to see the world in front of me for what it was…

A drone army programmed to deliver their purpose day in day out without question. To continue duties regardless of external factors. To repeat each day as it was done the day before, in a timely and productive fashion. To complete each week, each month, each year using the same structure, striving for the same goals and fighting against the same barriers – To pay the mortgage. To own those walls! (What can you do with those walls anyway? Other than sell them to release money in 30 years? You may as well spend the money in the first place and forget the walls, right?)

I started talking to family and friends about my new found outlook on life and my attitude towards society and the ridiculous social norms it has inflicted on us all. I was not met with the best understanding in the wold… but more, amusement and concern! Being told ‘what a day dreamer you are’ and ‘this is just life’- This was certainly not just my life at all! I was not here on this earth to just pay bills and die!

Looking around the apartment I could see my dark wood Moroccan furniture, my dining room table, a home interior design, complimenting pictures, ornaments and a strategically placed ostentatious lamp, slightly angled to the left of my sideboard. Everything looked great. Just so. Nothing out of place. I had strived to mortgage my home and I had worked hard to build up my nice matching furniture collection and all my one off bargain pieces from TK Max and other places.

But what did any of it mean? What did this “stuff” actually count towards? Yes, I had a lovely looking home. A duplex apartment that was spread across 2 floors and it was finally finished, looking great, a home anyone would be proud of.

The truth was it just wasn’t enough. I started looking at my belongings like the ridiculous things they were. Pointless items placed at the right angle, in the right light to give the optimum aesthetically pleasing view to the eye. Were these things really for me? Did I actually want them? I had to be honest with myself… The answer was a very simple, No!

It was so that other people would compliment my taste. So others would see that I “lived well” in a tasteful home that would give any show home a run for its money. So that others could see how “well” I had done to achieve it.

So what did I want? Why was I living in a home which after being honest with myself was more for others to appreciate… What did I actually want from my life seeing as I had worked hard to get this home, life and career.

I wanted to be rich in memories. I only wanted “things” because they meant something. I wanted to live like it actually meant something… I wanted to travel and be free.
Continue reading