On Tuesday we spent a whole day travelling to Phuket after the Full Moon Party; more boats, buses and minivans. We finally arrived at 8pm and had ice cream for dinner before heading off to bed exhausted.
The next day we ventured off to Koh Phi Phi, which is a 2 hour ferry ride from Phuket. Koh Phi Phi is a gorgeous little island where no cars or vehicles are allowed, we thought this was great until we realised we would be carrying our backpacks up hill to our hostel.
Our original plan was to go back to Phuket after a day, but we loved it so much that we stayed an extra night. We spent our time canoeing in the sea and chilling on the beach.
Later on that night I decided to embrace myself in the Thai culture with some Thai boxing. I felt great until I realised that I would be boxing some massive 6ft Ukrainian girl. All was OK, I didn’t sustain any major injuries and won the match.
We then headed down to party on the beach, just like a mini full moon party.
On Thursday we went on a boat trip, the guy told me it took 20 minutes to get to the other island so I prepared myself for feeling sick for 20 minutes. However, it turned out that it was an actual tour and we were on the boat for hours! Between my sea sickness and fish phobia, this was probably the worst trip I could ever have done.
On our tour we saw monkeys, so cute.
The rest of the group did snorkelling and swimming with fish – I waited on the boat.
Next up was Maya Bay, where The Beach was filmed. Getting there was a nightmare, we had to swim through fish infested water. I never realised how bad my phobia was until I froze on the edge of the boat and couldn’t get in…blood, sweat and tears later (well maybe not the blood – the mosquitos have all my blood) we finally arrived. It’s a beautiful little bay with powdery white sands and clear water, it was beautiful but I didn’t feel it was worth all the hype. I’m glad I did it, but won’t be doing it again.
Once it got dark, the group had a chance to swim with plankton, I didn’t but I could see how the plankton lit up when you move in the water – very cool.
After the boat tour we went back to the hostel and went for dinner before having an early night to prepare us for nearly 12 hours of travelling the next day.
After a long 17-hour journey we had arrived on Koh Phangan, the party island. We made our way by jeepney taxi to Leela beach where our bungalow was. The views from our bungalow were amazing we were on the beach front on the sand just metres from the sea – beautiful.
Unfortunately the inside of the bungalow was not so good – there weren’t even beds, just mattresses on the floor. That night we met up with Mark and Josh (mini Intel reunion) for a few drinks before going to one of the islands pre-full moon parties, the Jungle Party. The tickets we got included two free drinks which would have been ideal had we been able to get to the bar, the whole place was far too busy and we weren’t impressed by the music choices. So, we decided to spend the remainder of the night drinking on the beach.
The next day we hired mopeds so we could visit more of the island, having never rode any sort of bike/moped thing I was a little apprehensive but soon got the hang of it (except for the bits where you have to turn – I don’t think I will ever get that).
We rode up the west coast of the island stopping for breakfast en route to Koh Phangan’s equivalent of a ‘Total Wipeout’ course. The roads were decent and pretty clear which made riding feel much safer. I didn’t do the course, as it looked painful and the lake would be full of fish (and cholera!) so Tom, Lozzy and I watched on as others swing into the lake, climb inflatables and slip off any surface they were on – amusing stuff.
That night was the night of not just the full moon party, but the ‘Supermoon’(which turned out to be regular size) full moon party, we got ourselves ‘neoned-up,’ drank buckets full of cocktails and headed to the massive party on the beach.
The party did not disappoint, thousands of people filled the beach, the bars and surrounding streets. The music blasted from various bars and fire dancers were showing off their skills. We continued to party until the sun came up dancing on any bar or table that we could. Realising that it was now light and people could see what we actually looked like, it was time to call it a night and got into bed about 7am.
I am now sat blogging in the bar near our beach bungalow watching the calm sea and can still hear parties going on – it’s 2pm. Crazy. For us, it’s going to be a chilled one today.
Another day, another early journey…We took a taxi to the Cambodian border, crossed the border was harder than we imagined and took a lot longer. This meant our plan to get the train to Bangkok was out of the window, so hopped into a dodgy minibus with a driver that spoke no English. It took him about 7 hours to do a 4 hour journey, but we arrived where we wanted safe and sound. Finally we settled into the hostel and headed off down Khaosan Road for a couple of drinks and some food before bed.
The next day we met a woman that panicked us that we would not be able to get tickets for the overnight train the next day, we did not want to miss the full moon party, so went in search of tickets. Later that day we went on river boat tour to see all the temples and houses on stilts, even though I hate boats – the river was calm so it wasn’t too bad.
After, we then saw the reclining Buddha and witnesses some chanting monks.
For the evening we had tried to plan a trip to a Bangkok Ladyboy show, we booked our tickets and paid online, but it turned out the tickets we had was for a location on the other side of the city, somewhere taxi drivers would not take us to. Absolutely gutted our plan had failed we headed back down Khaosan Road to drown our sorrows.
The next morning we checked out of the hostel then headed off for the day. We spent the day in (air-conned) museums and wandering round the streets of Bangkok. That night we then made our way to the train station for our overnight sleeper train to Koh Phangan.
This was one of the best decisions we made (with persuasion from Pippa before we left – thanks Pip!), as we were going to fly down to the full moon party. Once settled into our seats we resided in the restaurant carriage which turned into a massive party, with lots of dancing to the best selection of 80’s music. It took me until Irene Cara and the YMCA to come on to get into the full swing of the party. Once things had died down we headed back to our seat (which had now turned into beds) to sleep the rest of the journey to Surat Thani station where we would get a bus and a ferry to take us to the party island of Thailand, Koh Phangan.
We arrived into Cambodia at half 9, got our visas and headed straight to the Mad Monkey hostel. The most shocking thing we found once we were outside is the number of bugs that are flying around everywhere, there is just so many. It’s not just little mozzies or flies they are huge flying crickets (gross) which meant I flinched every time something flew past my head or landed on me.
After checking in to our room we headed to the roof terrace beach bar which had sand on the floor – not too practical if you ask me, sand gets everywhere. There we had a couple of cocktails before heading to bed.
The next morning was another early one; we left armed with sun cream and Jungle Formula, dressed in our Lara Croft attire ready to explore the Angkor Temples.
The level of detail carved into the stone was incredible, and the whole site was so picturesque.
Lozzy spent pretty much the majority of the tour ‘being Tomb Raider.’
That evening we headed to Pub Street in search of food, as the name suggests it was full of pubs, bars and restaurants so we had plenty of choice. Pub street resembles a Malia or somewhere like that, with young backpackers stumbling out of bars and clubs at 4am. We had our fun, and headed back to the dorm for some well needed rest.
The next morning our hangovers were awful, the mixture of sun, dehydration and drinking didn’t go quite so well. This meant that we wasted a day chilling out, eating and sleeping before heading to Pub Street for a 45 minute massage for $2! Bliss. Then it was back to bed for an early night before we make our day-long journey to Bangkok.
All in all it was a fab couple of days; the people were great, the nightlife was fun, Angkor Wat was beautiful and the hostel was nice. The only thing that puts me off Cambodia is the size and volume of all the bugs, no amount of Jungle Formula can help.
Our first evening on Mactan Island we spent getting manicures and pedicures, just because we are the worst travellers ever! But we only spent a few pesos, so all was OK. We ate at Tokyo Joes that night, and had the Japanese equivalent of a KFC box meal – it was quite nice to be fair.
The next morning was a very early start, we were up at 5.30am (yes that’s only 10.30pm in the UK) to get a boat to Bohol at 7am. The ferry was interesting and resembled more of an aeroplane than a boat.
Our tour started by looking at a rather large (300kg) python that had been captured (in 1996) – yes, it’s bloated; it had a whole goat for dinner.
Then on to a butterfly farm – look here’s a butterfly.
The tour included a riverboat lunch, which I wasn’t particularly looking forward to. However, it was surprisingly good (even if the food wasn’t) the water was smooth and the views were beautiful.
After lunch we were then led onto a hanging bridge (that didn’t look particularly stable), on the other side was a man that could open a coconut with his teeth – it was pretty amazing, but I don’t have a photo because he was going to charge to 200 pesos for letting me take one.
The next stop was the Chocolate Hills, the reason we came to Bohol. They are called Chocolate Hills because in winter when the grass dries/dies it becomes a chocolaty-brown colour.
Our last stop of the tour was the tarsier enclosure; these little primates are incredibly cute. But get stress easily and commit suicide, so no noise, camera flashes or holding the tarsiers was allowed.
On Sunday we flew from Cebu back to Manila for our evening flight to Cambodia. We had a whole day in Manila before our flight so we put our bags in storage and headed to the safest place we could think of – The Mall of Asia. The third largest mall in the world – imagine 3 Meadowhalls. Being the world’s worst backpackers we wandered around some shops, we could have been in the UK with the amount of British retailers there, before catching the 1.40pm showing of ‘Man of Steel’ (luckily in English).
After the movie we still had so time to waste so headed to TGI Friday’s for BOTTOMLESS Mojito’s before getting our flight to Cambodia.
Our favourite airline, we were gutted when they said they no longer did the safety dance.
So all in all, the things I have learnt about the Philippines are as follows;
• Everyone will call you ma’am or sir – thus we felt obliged to do the royal wave from the back of the taxi.
• Everyone will look at you if you have ginger hair and/or are Caucasian – we grew to love our new found celebrity status.
• The local people tend to understand the northern one – I’m not sure why, but no-one could understand Lozzy or me. We had to get Tom to translate.
• The line markings on the road are just general guidelines – feel free to drive wherever you like as long as you are only centimetres away from the car in front.
• When plugging in electrical items to charge the sockets will spark – if you tell someone about it they will either laugh or give you a ‘yeah, so….’ look, it’s completely normal.
• Mutya Buena from the Sugababes is in actual fact a Filipino, and her family lives on the island of Bohol.
• The tour guides have some sort of obsession with asking to take a photo of you on your camera, like the only reason we came is to take photos – weird, I don’t understand.
We left Hong Kong on Monday morning and felt a bit nervous about boarding the Cebu flight to Manila, good old blacklisted airline. It was made worse by the turbulence during take-off, but once we were in the air the cabin crew started playing the ‘show me’ game where they read out items and passengers had to show them the item from their seat. Obviously we were well into it and won. Our prize was 3 different coloured pens (yay!) We then headed to our hostel in Makati City (which, like always, was difficult to find) but the room was big and the air-con was freezing so all was good.
Manila didn’t seem so safe, so we tried to avoid wandering round the city. In the evening we headed out for food. So, being the tight-budgeted, fresh out of uni travellers that we are, we managed to end up at the Hyatt hotel and casino. So, went to the bar for dinner and lychee martinis before heading downstairs to the roulette table where we managed not to gamble away our months budget (good result!) Off to Cebu in the morning, so it’s an early night for us…
We woke up early to get to the airport for our flight to Cebu. Another Cebu pacific flight, another Cebu pacific prize – yes we won again! The hostel we stayed in was ok, but the air-con wasn’t strong enough and we shared our first dorm room with 3 other strange guys. Cebu city is pretty boring so we spent the day booking trips and hostels for the rest of the week then went for food. And of course our travels would not be complete without the obligatory game of travel scrabble and a drink before bed.
I’m not impressed with the Philippines so far and can’t wait to get out of the cities and go off to Moalboal in the morning for sun, sea and sand!
The 9 and a half hours to Beijing went pretty quickly – I think it was because they continually fed us, not that I’m complaining! We arrived into Beijing airport at 9am, and after a bit of hassle getting our 72-hour ‘transit’ visa sorted we were allowed into the country (yay – there were fears of deportation at one stage). We located our lonely bags on the baggage claim and headed into the smog (Beijing).
The easiest way to get from the airport into the city is via taxi, so we hopped into one outside and assumed the guy would know where we were trying to get to. After about an hour in the car, and many stops so he could ask for directions we got out in the middle of some small back alley. The hostel we were trying to get to was supposed to be around that area, yet no-one had heard of the place. Dragging our rucksacks around Beijing we followed maps, tourist information guidance, directions from Chinese teenagers but it was hopeless, the hostel was nowhere to be seen. The last resort was to head to McDonalds for WiFi and get Google Maps up on the laptop. It route seemed simple, but it wasn’t long before we were lost again.
Eventually we stumbled upon the hostel after 4 hours of walking; it just so happens it was 5 minutes away from where we were dropped off in the taxi (great!) We then spent the rest of the day wandering around the gardens, and getting food (because we hadn’t done enough walking and eating for one day!)
We started the next day at 7.30am, and walked to find the bike shop. Our excellent maps reading skills meant that after an hour and a half of walking we still hadn’t found the shop, so had to get the tour guide to meet us at the Apple shop.
The bike tour was amazing; we had so much fun, except for the poor bike riding skills on my part, and Beijing’s traffic system which can only be described as organised chaos. Everyone seems to know they are doing (organised), but to an outsider it looks like traffic is coming from every direction (chaos). Hero, our tour guide who was lovely, showed us around the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and other areas of the city centre. Our new found celebrity status became evident when everyone started taking pictures of us (Tom’s hair!)
After the bike ride we decided to head to Ho Hai, but being exhausted from riding bikes we got a tuk tuk to take us. However, tuk tuks are only designed for two people on the back, so naturally Lozzy had to sit on our knees.
We then had a couple of drinks near the lake of Ho Hai and then were stopped to ask if we wanted a massage – but for the equivalent of £1 we couldn’t refuse.
We then left to head back to the hostel, but in Beijing it’s almost impossible to flag down a taxi and get it to take us to where we wanted to go (no idea why?!) – but with the help of a tuk tuk driver we managed to get one to stop for us.
More difficulties came later back at the hostel, when we realised that we had to be at the airport at 6am, which meant leaving the hostel at 5am (eurgh!) After slight panic and worry that we would never be able to get a taxi (and the hostel reception guy laughing at us) we planned a route via the subway. Fortunately there was a taxi ready and waiting for us outside our hostel at 5am…everything worked out and we made our way to Hong Kong.
It’s finally here! It seems like so long ago that Tom, Lozzy and I were planning our trip to Asia and today is the day that I make the Journey down to Lozzy’s, so we can jet off from Heathrow in the morning. SO EXCITED.
I don’t know how but I have managed to fill a 65l rucksack full of things to take with me, but feel like a barely have any clothes in there…I don’t know what it’s filled with! I’ve tried to pack the minimal amount so it’s easier to lug around with me, but it’s far too difficult to travel light.
My trip to Asia also means I’m getting closer for my trip to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for Practical Action. After the carboot sale, random collection pots and a very generous donation from my Grandma (thanks Grandma!) I am closer to reaching my £2,650 target with just £1000 left to raise.
See my Just Giving to keep up with my progress http://www.justgiving.com/natalie-sharpe1
Let me know any tips you may have for packing light when backpacking (got a feeling I’m going to need them!)
So I still have a huge £1200 to raise and am quickly running out of time before my trip!
Check on my progress here: www.justgiving.com/natalie-sharpe1
On Sunday last week, my mum and I went out into the (surprisingly sunny) great outdoors and set up shop in Tansley at our local carboot sale and Sunday market. We managed to sell some of our old stuff and made £40 for Practical Action 😀
Tuesday was the first day of my finals, and I was pleasantly surprised at the exam, I must have been lucky because I felt well prepared and the questions I wanted came up (let’s just hope my result reflects this!) I am currently studying for my final exam on Wednesday 29th May, and I am counting down the days until it’s over and I’m free and get to spend a month in Asia!
Also, just two more days of the iPad Prize Draw…so get your entries in quickly!