Wanna see an elephant with diarrhoea?

You sick sick people! Come on! Can’t believe you guys! Still….don’t worry to satisfy your cravings we took a close up picture of it πŸ™‚ (ps Kish and Meera this elephant post is dedicated to you guys btw :))

Before we get to that, let me tell you where we are…we’re in Thailand, in Chang Mai, the land of the elephants!

So after arriving through our flashpacker methods (flights)- we decided the best way to start is to go and see ourselves a Muay Thai boxing night!

To give you an idea of the atmosphere at the boxing stadium, there’s a ring in the center of a massive warehouse kinda room with concrete flooring all around, foldable chairs on 4 sides of the ring, and a drinks bar and food stalls surrounding. Bookies are moving around shouting and trying to push people into betting against them, and there’s some crazy clarinet style instrument playing constantly in the background, even while the fights are on. Completely raw and pretty cool!

Me and Anj had reserved our seats and had center view to watch a total of 7 different fights!Β Β As we watched each battle in the run up to the main international fight, it was crazy to see how intensely each of the fighters went at one another…

A few fights stood out though. A junior match involving probably 12 year olds where one got seriously injured is one. People were taking photos, cheering and shouting abuse, but to us, it seemed pretty bad to be making money off two kids brawling in a ring! But that’s competition I guess!

Anyway another special fight was set up for fun, where it is like a royal rumble – 4 fighters in a ring with a referee, but here’s the kicker the 4 fighters were all blindfolded. They all went at each other like mad men, but the funny part, because they couldn’t see each other, the person who got beat on the most was the referee! Lol… Too funny, hmm maybe it’s one of those you had to be there moments!

Finally we arrived to the main event; an international fight with Spain vs Thailand. The Spanish fighter had his massive entourage supporting him in the corner as he entered the ring looking pretty confident.

Now, before each fight starts the fighters do a little warming up and some dance to the music. The Thai fighter did his bit pretty quickly and went into the corner…the bigger Spanish fighter though took literally 10 mins as his entourage cheered him on. He was so cocky, he decided to start showing off with his dance moves and trying to psyche his opponent out!

Finally he finished, the bell rang and the fight began….and yep within a minute the spanish guy was down on the floor, writhing in pain! So funny – A First round knockout! And that ended our night!

The next day was our elephant jungle trek! This involved us taking bamboo rafts down the river, seeing a beautiful waterfall, trekking and the piece de resistance; riding on elephants within the jungle up and down hills.

This part was amazing. We arrived to find 6 elephants waiting for us and one baby elephant. It was sooo cute and would follow you around.

So after our little play time, we got on these sort of thrones which sit on the elephants backs to be taken into the jungle. This is no normal elephant ride. Its hilly and the elephants are inclined to do their own thing, like suddenly stopping to eat random trees or sniff at poop on the floor. We were literally getting thrown all over the shop and holding on tight for dear life…

Then our ‘driver’ asked me if I would like to sit on the head of the elephant, where he was sitting…there was no way I was gonna turn down the opportunity (as none of the other people with us were given this chance), so on I got whilst the man went and sat at the back, on the throne, next to Anjali!

The next 40 mins were insane. I was holding onto the elephant’s head with every muscle in my body and honestly did think I would fall off. Anj I think was scared for me, which is really cute :), but I kept my cool and held on. However, a couple of times, Anj did nearly fall off herself and kicked me in the backside! Thanks Anj! πŸ™‚

Anyways whilst I was on the head, the elephant in front kept pooping big lumps of mushy poo and farting like a trooper (as Anj says) in my face. Serious case of diarrhoea. I would like to say I turned away and closed my nose, but noooo I took a massive whiff and Anj took a picture…NICE…yep we enjoyed every minute of it!

Afterwards Anjali got the chance to feed the elephants bananas…it was so much fun and we kinda bonded with the big guys…gonna misss them…Then again we have our own pair of Hathis at home ;)!

Finally the last day of our action packed Chang Mai experience involved a Thai cooking class at the Asian Scenic School (Mitan, or as Anj calls him Moogle our very own SE Asia Google guide, convinced us on this one). We went to the food market, learnt about what types of veggies to pick out and the main thing, how to make Thai food like spring rolls from scratch, papaya salad, pad Thai (even though the dish “raad na” sounded interesting), green curry, massaman curry and veggie tom yum soup.

A really enjoyable and tasty experience, though I was a bit slow! Anj on the other hand smashed it; her papaya salad and soup were incredible! Know who’s doing the cooking at home when we get back! πŸ™‚

Well…what a great end to Chang Mai…next is Phuket and our luxury part of the trip, the Kho Phi Phi islands! On and away with our flash packer trip – yep we taking a flight again! Bring it on!

Dear Diary…

Okay this post is a little off the cuff, but laos has been inspirational even just from the 7-8 days we’ve been here…and I had to write this…

Everywhere we look around we’re surrounded by monks and other travellers we recognise along the way. Purely just because here the major cities are all actually tiny but amazingly beautiful and serene towns! You can’t help bumping into the same people…

And well, getting to the point…the monks and the travellers we met truly put life into a different perspective which is soooo refreshing…

We’ve met a number of couples and individual travellers who have been travelling not just for a few months, but for years!

In fact one couple, after they got married, went off for their honeymoon, and never looked back! They been travelling for 15 months now and working in cities around the world, including rome and mexico, and enjoying life…

It kind of puts things into perspective…they don’t earn to get rich or to get wealthy…money isn’t first…money doesn’t make the world go round…for them, living life makes the world go round…

Yes you need money to live life…but only enough to meet your needs and wants…what’s the point of getting rich if your not living life!

And the key point is, the standard accepted way of life which is you have to work hard in a job you don’t like is simply not true…its your choice to be there…not living life to its full potential!

I don’t think I’ve met many happy couples like them! And definitely truly inspirational people!

We also met 2 other girls that do the same…8 months work hard and then quit and 4 months travel…wow…they aren’t scared about not finding a job when they go back. They’ll do whatever they have to do to live the life they want!

Shows even though whatever way we try to avoid the rat race…have we really avoided it?…coz these people are living the dream, not waiting till retirement or till something else changes…they are living in the now!

Again I repeat what’s the point in being wealthy if you aren’t enjoying life or savouring every moment…?!

That leads me onto the monks…obviously very religous and work through donations…I think about the life of a monk…who eats only twice a day, with food coming from the towns people (people wake up at 6am to give monks cooked food for there day ahead, every day- amazing tradition and so much respect and love for its religion- we woke up also to give them alms and its humbling, especially as you see the monks also give homeless people some of their food) and who do not focus on earning money or greed. It is whatever is given to them they work off.

Who do you think is happier…those with materialistic greed trying to constantly earn more money and become rich or those that are happy with what was given to them and live life in the now!?

Well all I can say is, talking with the monks, made us realize they are playful, fun and soo happy(Something we could all aspire to be, more of the time)…not the serious, quiet people we expect them to be…

Before you say anything…I’m not saying we should become monks and nor am I saying we shouldn’t save for or look into the future. Yes its important to have goals and create achievements but they should be a bonus to what we already have…not the be end and end all of our life or of our happiness!

Live with gratitude and live up to your responsibilities, but live life to the full, live your dream life, today, right now! That’s how I want to live life!

I know from now on I’m going to savour every moment and have fun…I also know money is just a tool and nothing else…and we can be happy if we appreciate what we have got right now, no matter what we have! πŸ™‚

There you have it diary! time for me to sign out…and for those reading this…be good to hear your thoughts? πŸ™‚

Lao Laos.. hmm tasty!

Its been a week or so since our last post when we were leaving Nam and heading into Laos.. And what a faaabuloso week its been…

Think we have finally settled into the ‘backpacking’ … Ok ok flashpacking lifestyle… More of the self-guided tours, jumping off random things, wandering the streets, eating from the market and being inspired by the gazillions of serial travellers..

Having nearly been a month of travelling, I think it has just hit us that we aren’t going home for a while yet and it ROcKs!!

As soon as we arrived in Vientianne, the capital of Laos, we couldn’t help but feel the need to chiiiiillll right out… After about 3 hours in Laos we could already see why people rave on about it… Totally loved the vibe of the place. Despite Vientianne receiving very mixed reviews, the friendliness of the people and the lazy sunday morning feel of the city gave us a great warm up to the culture of Laos. As I said to Rishi at the time, if this is the less liked part of Laos, I can’t wait to get to the loved parts!

Overall the main highlight of Vientianne for us was the Bhudda park.. Which has loads of statues of Bhudda and even Hindu Gods including a gorgeous statute of Krishna, but it’s 25km out of town…easy to get to for 50p on the local bus! Don’t take a tuk tuk there..

Our other most favourite place was a little cafe called Fruit Heaven which began our addiction, and I mean addiction to yuuummy fruit shakes…hmm, my mouth is watering thinking about them… You get a fruit shake for less than a dollar in Laos… it’s not whether you should have one, it becomes a question of what fruit to have this time!

To give an idea of what Laos is like, the best story I can recall is in this little cafe where one of the staff got an order wrong and they had a little telling off, but all the while they were smiling and said it so jovially that it seemed more like friends just chatting… SOoo relaxed.. Something I could definitely learn from!! I know Rishi agrees…

We moved on to Vang Vieng pretty soon after, having heard that its an absolutely gorgeous place which has been trampled by 18 year old chavs who are constantly stoned and drunk… Sweeet!… Ok to be fair I was a little apprehensive, hmm, that’s sooo unusal for me, no?!…

Anywho, after our bus ride, aka a minivan which was made for little Laos people, I.e. No space… we immediately found ourselves a little guesthouse, dumped our bags and went exploring. VV is a super duper party and chill out place.

We tried to pack in as much as we could in our time there… Caving was loads of fun, especially the water cave where you sit on a tube and drag yourself further and further in… Being chased by several dogs while trekking through local villages was undoubtedly another one of the highlights too, especially when even our tour guide was suggesting we make a run for it and had to warn the dogs of with sticks… Really inspires a lot of confidence! Lol…

But the ultimate part of VV has to be tubing… We sat on tubes about 5km up the river from VV and floated down past loads of bars, pumping out party music, who throw you a rope and drag you in when you want to stop… At the bars you can go nuts by ziplining, sliding or just diving headfirst into the river… Be careful when it’s low tide though, sooo many people were on crutches or had got other injuries! Eek!… We somehow managed to get a chaperone who followed us on a kayak and pushed our tube along till we got to his bar… As anyone who’s been here knows, first thing you gotta do when you stop is knock back some Lao Lao… A shot of whisky… Hmmm, tasty… And obviously I had to wash that down with something a bit sweeter so we ordered a vodka lemonade… 5 bucks for a bucket of the stuff and it tasted really good too…! This has to be the ultimate party/adventure destination in SE Asia!

Even if you don’t drink or you aren’t 18… Tubing alone is a super cool experience. The scenery is absolutely awesome as you float down, and the people aren’t all chavs…it’s all totally up to you how good you make your trip while you’re there!

After a tiring, strenuous day rolling down the river… Don’t scoff.. It’s hard work flapping yourself down that river!! Lol… You are bound to be hungry… Starving!! We enjoyed our cheap as chips food sitting on raised ‘floor’ like seating while watching god knows how many episodes of Family Guy… I cannot understand why people put Vang Vieng down… This day has to be one of our most favourite in the trip so far! BIG THUMBS UP VV!!!

Sadly, we had to move on, but that’s the amazing part of travelling… End of one fantastic place, means moving onto another.. And meeting even more new people!

Off to Luang Prabang, which is sooo beautiful.. It has the Mekong River on one side, the Nam Song on the other..and plenty of temples in between…

Rishi will I’m sure go on and on about the new obsession I developed with photographing monks…Seriously they totally make the photo so much more exciting.. And then I discovered the kid monks.. Cute AND fantastic colouring for pictures..!! It was a 2 for 1 I couldn’t resist.

Despite, Rishi having teased me on my monk obsession… He made us stand around one of the temples while the monks were getting showered up and dressed… Before they came down for chanting (amazing vibe) and prayers inside the main temple… It was worth waiting for though. The monks found us as intriguing as we did them.. Seeing an Indian is apparently a exciting sight! Talking to them in broken English/ sign language we got an insight into their lives as monks.. They are just normal boys wanting to get an education and because many families can’t afford it, the boys become monks.. They won’t necessarily remain as monks forever.. But while they commit to this life, they commit to 4am prayers, only two meals a day, shaving their heads monthly, living on alms from the local people…and a devotion to Bhuddism. Pretty full on..

If you do go to Luang Prabang, get up at early to watch (6am) the procession of 200 monks through the city as they collect alms from the local people… Ok its probably more tourists now, but the sight is fantastic and something you are unlikely to see elsewhere… It took us 3 mornings and several snooze buttons before we did it.. but we got there in the end…

There are not sooo many activities in LP… But you will know the most popular thing to do here as soon as you arrive because you’ll hear the ringing in your ears from the tuk tuk drivers… “Waterfall today… Cheap cheap”.. Of our 4 days here, we did go to the waterfall once with a French/Finnish couple and a couple of girls from Dorset.. I’m particularly proud of myself. After going on an trekking adventure to the top of the falls and sliding down the otherside!!

(It was kind of steep!!) I became Jane from the Jungle.. I even had my safari print bikini on… I flung myself using a rope into the waterfall lake… I think the other spectators worked out that I was scared, as I collated a queue of people behind me waiting to do the same thing and when I finally jumped in, everyone cheered for me! … Woooh!

I must mention the night market here too, firstly because its surprisingly a pretty market with the usual handicrafts, notebooks , jewellery etc but more so because we visited it EVERY night we were in Luang Prabang… Rishi bought some of those big travelling people trousers and actually looks good in them while I bought a random chunky silver chain… Well I had to get something and I’d already bought another pair of short shorts in VV, there’s only so many of those I could get!! (Sure the girls will disagree with this).. πŸ˜‰

This part of the trip, we really started to get into traveller mode.. We even gave up our nice Phousi guesthouse for our last night in Luang Prabang to stay in one of the cheap guesthouses without A/C!!! I knooooow!! Am only kidding, it really wasn’t bad at all…but, we had been spoilt while in Laos cos it’s super cheap here.

Being in Laos and meeting some really cool people over the past few weeks, we’ve really started to enjoy the trip… Letting ourselves really get into the activities and sights and also permitting ourselves to just STOP, relax and soak it all in… Crazy talk from a city girl ei?

I’ve read 800 pages of Shantaram in the last month, and also decided with Rishi to go on loads more of these trips… Hope we remember this when we get back!

Missing everyone back home. Not that you’ll recognise us…Over-indulgence of food and sunshine means that day by day we are getting darker and fatter… O well!!

Till next time… x

Our Valentines getaway… ;)

Hanny hanny fanny, oi, oi, oi…

Welcome to the bustling metropolis that is the capital of Vietnam… Having heard the great tales of this city and how soo many people loved it, we had high expectations which were VERY quickly driven over by the 20+ hour bus journey (supposed to be 12 hours) from Hue; the cold and rain and not to mention being ripped off by the taxi drivers on arrival…. Aaahh, what was not to love?!

We had a full five days to spend in Hanoi, thinking that we would be doing a 3 day tour to Halong Bay, but judging by the weather, I sure as hell wasn’t going to spend my nights stranded at sea while being offered additional options of kayaking, swimming in the freezing seas and the ultimate activity for the vegetarian, fishing!

So, the first couple of days we wandered around the Old Quarter, which is full of little shops selling anything from souvenirs to light bulbs. As Valentines was coming, many of the shops had been taken over by an abundance of heart shaped biscuits and chocolate boxes and others were brimming with humongous teddies … Wonder what I was gonna get for Valentines?

Anyways…The real hip and happening places were the street food stalls… On our first night there; a Saturday night, the street food vendors were packed out with girls dressed up in pretty dresses and heels and obviously accompanied by the boys! These were the places to be and be seen at!!

We also found a lovely little hotel/travel agent/ foreign exchange company/ launderette which would clean our clothes for just over a $1 per kg! Sweet! (This is pretty typical pricing in SE Asia)… I’m sure they had many more services to offer but we didn’t dare to ask! … Rishi had already been offered his fair share of beer, cigarettes and marijuana during this trip.. (Excuse the pun).

Valentines day came and my God, the roads had been taken over with flower stalls now. Big bouquets of flowers EVERYWHERE you looked! .. Yes ladies, Rish did offer to buy me flowers but I really didn’t have the energy to haggle with the flower sellers for my own roses!

We did however visit a really cool restaurant for lunch called Qoan An Ngon. It’s like a food court or market but very aesthetically pleasing and you sit in the middle on long tables with other people (kind of like Wagamamas) and order from a super long menu. Rishi and I had the choice of about 4 items from the full selection which included way more than 100 dishes, but still it was sooo good. We tried papaya salad, noodles with veggies, garlic rice and a tofu dish… Washed down with fresh watermelon juice all for the grand total of $7.50. It tasted incredible. A MUST visit in Hanoi.

Nearby was the Temple of Literature, which is a univeristy and temple dedicated to Confuscius. A cute little place to see. It was interesting to see the locals praying to a statue of Confuscius who was a man made famous for his high morals and high regard for education. Not a God by any means, but certainly extremely respected. The Temple has tortoise statues which have big tablets on their back with names of the graduates who went through gruelling exams to achieve this status. Apparently if you rub the head of the tortoise, you will have good luck in your studies. I made sure Rishi rubbed the tortoise head for a good 5 mins!

It was enough with the museums for Valentines day, so we went to visit West Lake for a romantic afternoon of tea and cakes… Let’s just say it didn’t quite go to plan, although we did venture into a 5* hotel, which was gorgeous except for the tons of mosquitoes and ridiculously priced food, so we had to do a runner. πŸ™

We ended the day with a cyclo ride around the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake…(Another MUST do!)

Followed up by a slap up meal at a classy indian restaurant.. Ok it wasn’t classy, but after 3 weeks, we’ve already started to loose our concern of what kind of establishment we eat in… Think our regular phrase of ‘it does the job’ sums it up!

After such a wonderful day in Hanoi… We really started loving Hanoi and understood why others like it too… we strolled back to our hotel and on the way decided to pick up our laundry…. But ta ta ta, the a**h***s had lost the two of my most favourite and expensive items I’d handed in!! We sat there for an hour while the guy laughed and IM’d on facebook… Nice… As I sat there pissed off and upset, I couldn’t help wonder… how he was accessing Facebook?! cos it’s banned in Vietnam. I’ve sure got my priorities sorted ei?.. Don’t worry guys, I did manage to get my stuff back the next day..

That was 2 days ago, yesterday we did a fab day tour to Halong Bay. (Separate post)….

hmm got too lazy for separate post… but yes we went to halong bay in the fog … hurrah, not quite what the pictures you see online show you but hey ho… we also got to see some awesome caves, so cant complain tooooo much!!!…

Today, we checked out the French Quarter, went back to the market style restaurant, where we tried a Vietnamese pancake… Again SO good and ventured over to the 7p ice cream as Mit keeps calling it (it costs 7,000 Dong now – about 25p) …

As we licked our lollies, dressed in full winter clothing we came to a busy crossing. Most crossings in Vietnam are an opportunity to contemplate suicide or test your skills at dodge ball but with motorbikes.. (I did get hit on my arm by a passing car the other day!!) We must have looked pretty stumped at this crossing as an old Vietnamese lady came beside us, smiled and through her gestures told us to walk with her across the road. She grabbed my arm, took us across, smiled again and walked off… Now, if you’ve been to any Vietnamese cities you’ll have noticed that the people aren’t particularly friendly (not all, but A LOT) especially as they are too busy trying to rip you off. But this gesture by the lady totally blew me away.. Definitely made me re-evaluate my perception of the Vietnamese people. You’ve got to consider how many tourists even bother to learn how to say hello or thank you here in the Vietnamese language.. I’d guess not many by the reaction we get when we say thank you in Vietnamese.. Hmm…

All of that however, did not even compare to our next stop. The water puppet show… YES that’s what we do! We spend our time watching puppets. Not sure if that means we are very youthful or becoming old fogies?…

Despite my reservations, the show was actually quite good. The music reminded us a little of indian bhajans, and the water puppets were quite impressive. The horsey puppet jumped through fire!!! How cool is that? To be fair at $3 each for an hour’s show, you really can’t go wrong!

After all that excitement, we are now sitting in Highlands coffee overlooking the Hoan Kiem lake, having eaten a scrumptious brownie and the best sandwich ever.. We started in Vietnam at Highlands Coffee and ending it there… Perfect end to a varied and interesting couple of weeks.

Harley Davidson… Eat your heart out!!

“Get the motor running, ta da ta da, running on the high way… (okay god knows the rest, so I’m gonna skip to the chorus )…Born to be willlllldddddd!”

Okay enough with embarrassing myself…(Coz that’s so unlike me Anj is saying in the background)

Well before we get given the title of old foggies, it was time for some serious adventure…

It started with our first ever sleeper bus to Hoi An. Now a lot has been written about how uncomfortable these buses are, especially for tall people like me…but to be honest they aren’t that bad…okay they’re not 5 star, and agreed, you may get whiplash as you’re thrown up and down off the bed as the bus speeds over bumps…but you’re asleep for most of the journey…so another tick off the daring list for me and Anj!

Hoi An, if you don’t know is the clothes making capital of Vietnam, where you can get shoes, boots, suits, dresses…in fact even if you wanted a gorilla outfit they probably would have made that too…

However as cheap as it’s meant to be, its not really! Well for men’s suits anyway. In London, you can now get a tailor-made suit for under 100 quid, while Hoi An prices were around 50-70 and the material was not necessarily what they said it was. Hmm. Plus, with the reviews we had read about fitting, we decided it was better to stick to London where we can return it if it isn’t right!

After seeing the small number of sights and the main town (which only took half a day), have to say it truly is a beautiful, quaint little place. Absolutely loved the atmosphere.

Okay doesn’t sound too adventurous so far, I admit, but here’s where it gets fun…

During our bus journey to Hoi An, two girls we met from Germany told us about some wacky “easy rider trip” they took and told us we should take it too…

Now let me explain what easy rider is, and this will also explain my little intro song (as i sing it to myself again!)…

Easy rider is where you jump on the back of one of those random biker dude’s Harleys (okay…Honda) and they take you out on the open road..

You commit to staying in a random hostel chosen by them (god knows how bad that would be), eat where they eat (remember we’re veggies), do what they do, go where they go and literally give these strangers your lives in their hands…as they speed around remote places with you holding on to them for dear life…

…Well guess what we decided to do? Yep we booked it and not only for one measly day, but 2 days and 1 night… They would take us from Hoi An to Hue (another massive city in vietnam)…But instead of the normal, safe, city roads, they would take us through the mountains and villages so that we could see Vietnam in a completely different light (via the Ho Chi Minn trail)!

Those 2 days were the best part of Vietnam so far, without a doubt. Apart from just the pure adrenalin rush (and butt pains) you get from sitting on those bikes (head out of gutter again people…come on! :)); the views were spectacular and the things we experienced amazing.

We had the opportunity to see some breathtaking temples (including the hindu “My Son” temples), a few surrounded by beautiful serene lakes and wonderful forestry, that included pineapple trees, and other plants which close just from your touch.

We also crossed a lake on a motorbike ferry, met a cute family who make fresh rice paper like crepes….(mmm boy was that tasty), ate real cinnamon leaves, saw waterfalls, met 2 snakes and stopped at boiling hot water springs which are used by the locals to drink, shower and just have pure fun messing around in! Absolutely zero tourists, just real Vietnam life!

In fact, we also went to one village where the spice girls wouldn’t be too popular. In this village, after the men get married its apparently tradition that they do nothing but chill… the wife works and brings in the money, cooks, cleans, raises the children and does everything… so I did what every caring husband would do..I asked Anj if she wanted to move there… Don’t think I can repeat what she said here πŸ™‚

…And how about the food…well it was proper street food, surprisingly tasty and didn’t make us ill…

Another surprise was the guest house, it was a lot cleaner then we expected too! What a relief, can’t imagine how Princess Sparkle would have dealt with it otherwise… Actually let me rephrase that, what she would have made me do otherwise! πŸ™‚

But in all seriousness, one of the key things that truly hit us was the difference in the people we met…

Everywhere outside the city, people welcomed us with open arms, expected no money and even waved at us with a smile when we zoomed past. Stark contrast to many of the city people we had come across!

And getting to know our easy riders; Uncle 9 and Mr Trong was great. They were loads of fun, and they gave us some insight into really how people live in Vietnam, what they think and believe in. Was great!

If I could make one suggestion in vietnam…do Easy Rider, but make sure the drivers have a valid easy rider id!

(For those that want to know, here’s the people we used:

Truong Van Trong’s tour
Email: trongn59@yahoo.com
Tel: +84903597971)

Our easy rider trip ended in Hue, where they showed us some stunning pagodas and the massive citadel.

Here one tourist from China decided to run at me and hand me their baby and asked if they could take a picture! RANDOM (even though for some reason i did kinda feel chuffed :)).

Well after our previous few days adventures, Hue has provided a day of rest…especially before we hit the next sleeper bus to, the capital of vietnam, Hanoi in a couple of hours! Can’t wait…NOT!

We got ripped off… but hey there’s a beach!

We arrived in Nha trang after our first overnight bus.. Because of Tet (I.e. Chinese New Year) we had to get a sitting bus and pay a ridiculous price for it too! But it was a fun journey. We’d met a couple of girls from Denmark who were doing a similar journey to us. Mid way through the trip, I looked up to see one of the girls was missing and checked whether we were at a stop, but no, we were moving. As my eyes wandered down, there she was splayed out on the floor of the bus.. Not a bad idea to be fair..

It was 5.30am when the bus dropped us off in Nha Trang. After being offered a taxi for $2 to our guesthouse, we realised we were actually a 100m away from it and the taxi driver made a very speedy getaway without any passengers. Cheeky sod!

We woke up the guesthouse owner at the beautiful time of 5.30am! She didn’t actually seem too annoyed to see us… After a few moments, she suggested that we must be very tired and her guests obviously hadn’t checked out for the day, so she would do us a favour and take us to another brand new hotel instead so we could sleep… Hmm, how generous of her… So we walked with her to the new place and it was nice and clean plus available immediately so we accepted to stay there. She said it was the same price and quality as her guesthouse! As the hotel was new, they didn’t serve breakfast, which was included in price we were paying and so she suggested that every morning we walk back to hers for brekkie… Uh… No! I asked for discount instead and got a fabulous $6 per night discount – that’s for both mine AND rishi’s brekkie! That was after full force bartering!!

The new hotel was actually really good. Clean, simple and had the best shower we had so far… But didn’t quite add up to the $45 per night our lady was charging us. We got ready from our slumber to go and discover nha trang in its full sunshine glory and as we left asked the receptionist how much the room rate was… It was $30 per night!! Silly guesthouse lady was charging us 50% extra and the hotel didn’t even know about it!

We confronted her bout ripping us off, so she did what anyone in her situation would do …she called our hotel to shout at them!!… We did eventually come up with a sneaky plan with the hotel which involved us pretending we checked out; but can’t say was too impressed with the service so far (even though the hotel was really helpful, so quick shout out to ‘green peace hotel’)… There are many stories of being ripped off in Vietnam, but this tops them!

Aside from that saga, Nha Trang has a pretty beach (I mean don’t expect the Carribean but its good!)…

And a fabulous spa just outside of town where for $17 each you can go for a luxurious mud bath, have a quick hydrotherapy shower, relax in the baking hot mineral water pool and sit under a mineral water fall…o and then have a 45 minute massage followed by 15 mins in the steam room… Hmm, I can’t think of many better ways to spend a few hours for so cheap!

This part of the trip was purely chilling out on the beach, having the treatments and over eating from the wide choice of food options yet again…. It was so relaxed that we often were asleep by 9! I’m pretty sure I enjoyed 12 hours sleep for both the nights in Nha trang… To be fair I think we deserved it! Lol…

Rishi reading!!! :o I KNOOOO!
It’s a cool location for a break on the north/ south journey… Busy enough to keep you entertained but quiet enough to take a time out… Just don’t expect beaches like the Maldives cos you ain’t gonna get that. So keep that in mind and go visit Nha Trang!

Cu Chi, Fanny and Hung Hung Long…

It’s the 3rd day in saigon and over the past 2 days we have seen the dragons, gone DEEP into the cuchi tunnels, had a creamy fanny, and saw a hung hung long!

LOL! Okay get your minds out of the gutter people! Let me explain…

We first stopped at the peaceful Cai don temple. Just in case you’re wondering Cai don is a type of religon that worships multiple religons including budhism, hinduism, christianity etc.

The temple was like nothing we’ve seen before, with architechture consisting of spiraling dragons and “the all seeing eye” to which they worship.

We were lucky to be able to watch afternoon prayers and chanting, which were very calming. In my opinion, something you should see if you can…

However the best part is the famous underground cu chi tunnels that were used in the vietnam war by the guerrilas to protect themselves!

This is a MUST see! You get to see how the guerillas lived, see their barbaric traps with sharp, long bamboo spikes, their very own customized land mines they made from captured american weapons and also get the chance to crawl through 100ms of tunnels which were about 3ft high (back then it was something like 1.5ft high, god knows how they did it).

This is where anj gets a special shout out! Even though shes chlostrephobic she did it! So proud!

Anyway, they used these network of tunnels to build a full underground village, a way to suprise those incoming attackers and as a bomb shelter. Crazy stuff!

After that, We had an opportunity to shoot some guns, but we thought we’ll save that ak47 for a later date for those that decide to mess with us! You know what i’m sayin! Okay okay, enough of the gangsta talk.

Anywho, we got back to Saigon, having slept most of the bus journey to begin our search for dinner…. starving for food, we came across one restaurant called hung hung long, safe to say I refused to eat there…

So we quickly scooted along to the place next door to enjoy our favourite and obviously national dish here (sarcasm)…pizza and pasta!

After the few busy days we had, we decided to have a chill out day the next day (today)..

Just roamed the streets and ate.. We have noticed our meals our becoming fuller and fuller… However not satisfied by our three hearty meals..(baby, baby!), we decided to head to apparently the best deserts place in vietnam…”Fanny”……mmm, Sounded good so me and anj had “100% creamy ice cream” (again head out of the gutter people) of coffee, chocolate, vanilla and caramel…A great end to saigon…

Now we are on our first overnight bus to nha trang, a beach location… As its been so busy from Tet (chinese new year) we are spending the night on a sitting bus.. Anj has already made herself comfy with a pillow (i.e. Me!!) .. The bus is fully packed out with Vietnamese families who seem to be having some loud family reunion and some backpackers 3 guys who’ve already checked out the 3 girls next to us… This should be fun πŸ™‚

Good Morning Vietnam

wow, that was some baller status bus we took right there…okay maybe i’mΒ exaggeratingΒ a little but so far the best bus journey we’ve taken…it included water, a latest hollywood filum, reclining seats, air conditioning and a person leading us through the whole border process all for 12 bucks! (So use mekong express shuttle buses if you can)

Yes we arrived in hoi chi minh city a.k.a saigon in vietnam on the eve of chinese new year!

This is the first place we had a real nice hotel upgrade by the chance of half price due to there being only half the normal staff working there! (We’ll take whatever we can but well done anj for the clever spot :))

Neway enough about us being cheapos…So off we went to explore this beatuiful city!

We started with the amazing sight of highlands coffee house (mmmm chocolate milkshake, mango smoothie) followed by the street of flowers.

This street stretches nearly a mile long and was planted with some of the most beautiful flower displays we’ve ever seen, and all dedicated to the cat (year of the cat).

After many posed photographs, (well that’s what everyone else was doing and as they say when in rome…)… off we headed to quickly see the amazing architechture of the post office, the cathedral and the war remenants museum.

To be honest the post office and cathedral in my view were…well okay…the war museum on the other hand had tanks, war planes and helicopters but it wasn’t till we walked into the museum and saw the gruesome pictures from the war that it really shocked us!

It really does make you question, if this happened so recently, where else in the world is it happening now? And why?! There truly is no need for such attrocities in this world! Peace and love can reside if we have respect for one another!

Neway after that we strolled back towards the flower street in anticipation for the massive celebrations that were about to happen!

The streets were packed, rammed and filled with motorbikes! The flower street was jammed with people, it was like normal new years but an amazing new experience!

We talked with locals, sat on the dirty pavement, wedged between loooads of motorcycles and bought a pink balloons as we waited in one tight spot for 3 hours for the fireworks! Was well worth the wait though…at 12 am we were bomblasted with an amazing array of colors in the sky with the crowd cheering each bang! Wow! Seriously words cannot describe!

After a good 20 mins they finished…and then came the bigger task of the night, our survival (thanks for warning Neera – you were right, its mental). Me and jackie bauer (anj) were on the move, as we had people, cars and motorbikes coming at us from all angles, we swiftly dodged all of them and moved in between the small gaps to get out! This bit is NOT an exaggeration!

Was one of the craziest things ever! Well we’re now back at the hotel its 2.23am! Time for sleeeepp but what an amazing day, can’t wait till tomorrow! πŸ™‚

I’m in Phnom Penh B*?!+

You wouldn’t believe where you were as you walk down by the riverside in Phnom Penh, especially in the evening… Loads of people just relaxing on the riverside, with tons of bars and restaurants lining the strip. The crowd is mixed with many locals admiring the views as well as tourists and what appears to be a high volume of ex-pats who definitely seem to be enjoying the Cambodian lifestyle.

The real fun kicks off around 6-7 o clock and the place really reminds you off South Beach in Miami! An exercise class kicks off on the riverside walkway!! Yeup, that’s right, a random dude sets up his speakers and off they go. Passers by join in but there were quite a few people who looked like they had come specifically for the exercise routine!! And then come out the breakdancers… Like a G6, like a G6.. Admittedly not the best dancing, but still amusing to watch.. The little kids near there were even better!!

At the same time, we thought we’d check out the fishing boats which were chilling out on the river… And what better opportunity to perv on some little kids who were very photogenic… So we (ok I – Rishi pretending he didn’t want the photos) took a few photos of kids playing using the powerful zoom on our camera. Knew it would come in handy one day! Lol

My real aim was to catch the ladies who wear pyjamas as normal daily clothing. Now, you may think that this is a rare occurrence which is why I didn’t get a photo, but in fact its a very popular choice of clothing for the ladies in Phnom Penh!! The only reason I couldn’t get one is when you stare at them in their rather unusual choice of clothing, they stare back at you!! Odd ei?

We did however get pictures in yet another market… But it wasn’t very nice because they had poor live lil chickens just lying on the floor pretty much on top of each other, waiting to be sold and then…hmm… I was wondering why they weren’t moving around much but Rish has explained they were probably sedated! One little chicken tried to move and then the little girl watching it just smacked it on the head!! Hmm

Ok there is more to Phnom Penh than the above ‘interesting’ aspects… The main ‘attractions’ are; S-21, the school where people were prisoned and tortured under the Khmer regime from 1975 to 1979; the killing fields, where over 20,000 people were killed; the National Museum and the Golden Palace!

(I have a separate post for the Khmer regime related visits).

Now be warned if you go to the Royal Palace, make sure you wear long trousers and a t-shirt that has little sleeves at least. A scarf to cover your shoulders is not allowed but is ok to cover your legs!! Grr.. So if you don’t have the right clothing you have to buy an attractive t-shirt with a big picture of the palace on it. So, you may be able to tell that I was distressed at having to buy this silly t-shirt, but grr, it was sooo blatantly just to make money.. Anywho, the palace is very grand and beautiful. Huge elaborate crystal chandeliers in the main central building with opulent materials used for decoration. Around one of the courtyards, there are paintings all the way around the walls which tell the story of the Ramayan. There is also a pretty large Bhudda statue made of Emerald in the Silver pagoda and my favourite Bhudda statue made of Gold and encrusted with over 2000 diamonds!! That’s my kind of praying. πŸ™‚

The food is surprisingly varied here too! After trying the local cuisine, yummy veggie amok (mitan’s suggestion), noodles and veggies, we went to check out Dosa corner on recommendation from Hinal! It’s a cute little restaurant near the Independence monument and the road we renamed Linkin Road, because it looked just like the Mumbai street! The food compared well to home… Rishi wanted to order everything on the menu, but we had to restrain ourselves.. I’m certain we are coming back broke and fat!

Killer reflections

Words cannot describe the intensity of Phnom Penh’s sites which document and pay homage to the survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime…

It is reminiscent of the Weimar regime and other such atrocities we have read about in history. I think what shocks me most is how recent this is in context of history. The Khmer regime, which is responsible for over 20,000 genocides and other henious crimes, was over thrown only 4-5 years before I was born.

What crossed my mind constantly throughout the tour of the sites was the anguish, fear, panic, loss of faith and other feelings I cannot even fathom that the victims of the era must have felt.

In addition to that, I was struck by the explanations telling us that several countries were aware of what was happening but instead of helping to overthrow the Khmer regime, they supported it… It cannot help but make you wonder, what else is happening in the world right now, where similar atrocities are being carried out yet we go on living our lives in ignorance or denial. Should we just wait till the next ‘war’ is over then we can go visit the memorial centres on our travels and reflect on how dreadful it was?