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.
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!
As with most university students at this time of the year, final exams are just round the corner. It’s not that I’m dreading them or I’m stressed or anything I just cannot be bothered (wrong attitude to have after 4 years hard work and a bucket load of money on tuition!) My life is far too exiting busy right now.
I thought it was wise to buy a house (to re-locate for my new job!), plan (to travel round south east Asia), fundraise (for Practical Action), train (to climb Mount Kilimanjaro) AND revise for and sit my finals all within the same month! Crazy, right? Yet instead of doing all of these things I have now decided to update my blog – it must feel neglected after no posts have been uploaded since January.
Needless to say I have failed on pretty much – well actually – all of my new year’s resolutions (but it’s May, no-one ever really sticks to them, do they!?)
However, today marks the beginning of my new fitness regime. It will only last a month because I am heading off to Asia on June 3rd (not long!) so I am hoping I can stick to it. Today I started with a 4km run which took me 28mins (this will get better…) and tomorrow I’m up at 6.30am (!) for a gentle morning aqua aerobics class. I’ll let you know how that turns out!