September - November 2017
  • Day35

    The long journey to Christchurch

    November 2, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We were up early to check out and walk to the airport. After checking in we got a croissant and drink for breakfast and waited for our first flight at 9am to Kuala Lumpur. Apart from the lack of leg room the flight went smoothly and just over three hours later we arrived in KL. It took ages to get through immigration but it wasn’t a problem as we had a long layover.
    Luckily we could drop our bags off early and had a drink before going through security. We then watched a film before getting some lunch whilst David had a beer. Then we boarded our flight ready for the long haul to Auckland, as soon as we got on we realised it wasn’t going to be the smooth half full plane we had got from London. Luckily we managed to change to two seats near the window giving us a bit of our own space (and a bit further from the kids). The food was rubbish and our moods matched by the time we landed. After finding our way over to the domestic terminal we got a tea, pie (for Kerry) and a McDonalds breakfast muffin (for David). A few hours and a short flight later we landed in our new home, Christchurch. We got a shuttle to our Airbnb before heading out for a pizza and bottle of wine. This was followed by an early night as we were both shattered.

    After having a fantastic 5 weeks travelling, we are both looking forward to what the next year ahead will bring us.
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day33

    Last day in Vietnam

    October 31, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    After breakfast we left on the tender to go and explore the "amazing" and "surprising" cave. 100 steps later we were at the mouth of the cave before descending into and through the three chambers. Although it was beautiful, it was slightly ruined by the snake of people and multitude of coloured lights, our tour guide explained it was discovered in 1901 by fishermen but now has thousands of people visit it each day. We returned to our cruise to check out and watch a cooking demonstration for fried spring rolls where we both got to roll our own. We had lunch including what we had all made as the boat headed back to the harbour. Again, although the scenery was gorgeous, we saw evidence of the damage the number of boats were causing such as rubbish and dead fish in the waters around us. We hope that despite the demand, tourism doesn't destroy such a beautiful place.
    Once back on land we faced the four hour transfer back to Hanoi. We were pleasantly greeted by the hotel we had previous stayed at (Hanoi Stella Hotel) who gave us a drink and looked after our bags whilst we went to find a coffee and doughnut. A taxi picked us up and took us to our last hotel of the trip. It's a simple airport hotel, but the staff were very friendly and the food was cheap. We are just finishing packing up ready for our horrendously long journey onto New Zealand starting with our first flight at 9am tomorrow.
    Read more

  • Day32

    Exploring more of Halong Bay

    October 30, 2017 ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    An early start for our morning Tai Chi session at 6:30am, most people made it and we all practiced our balancing whilst watching the sun rise over the cliffs. Following breakfast the rest of the group, who were on a one night trip, boarded the tender whereas we and a German girl waited for another boat to take us for our day trip. We were taken to meet other people on a two night cruise from other boats and headed off to see the maze/honeymoon cave. Here we explored different chambers within the cave, having to crawl to get between them. The tour guides used the stalactites and stalagmites as musical instruments and pointed out "animals" in the rocks. The rest of the group then went kayaking whilst we decided to finally relax in the sun (and get sunburnt). The bay was quieter than the others we'd seen in Halong and we enjoyed this. Lunch was served; multiple plates of rice, seafood and meats kept appearing until we were stuffed. The boat then took us to the pearl farm we had seen the day before so we stayed on board to have green tea and fruit before transferring back to our own boat. It was nice to meet some different people and by the time we arrived back the new one night tour group had arrived. We watched the sunset from the top deck over a cocktail or two before dinner.Read more

  • Day31

    Halong Bay

    October 29, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    We were picked up from our hotel in Hanoi and set off for the four hour drive to Halong Bay with one stop at a ceramic/embroidery workshop. We arrived at the marina and after a short wait we boarded the boat (nearly without our bags) to be greeted by a welcome cocktail. We then had lunch whilst the boat headed out into the bay. The food was great and they have kindly adapted the menu so Kerry doesn’t have to suffer through three days of seafood.
    The first stop was a pearl farm where we had a tour round, unfortunately due to poor English we’re still not sure how they culture new pearls. Next we went kayaking as the sun set over the limestone peaks, Kerry particularly enjoyed David’s ability to kayak us around in circles. As we got back on the boat happy hour started (buy two get one free). We enjoyed some cocktails and got to know another English couple (Cat and Reece). There was a chance to go swimming but with the high risk of jellyfish stings we passed, one girl unfortunately took the chance but got stung. Dinner was then served - a seafood BBQ (pork for Kerry).
    We later tried our luck at some squid fishing but during our hour long attempt only Cat was successful! We gave up and went to sit on the top deck instead. There was a big party boat nearby, so we spent most the night listening to old English pop remixes as we try to get to sleep (feeling very old).
    Read more

  • Day30

    Ba Be Lake

    October 28, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    After a better night's sleep and breakfast (cold eggs, bread, steamed sweet potato and banana fritters), we joined a bigger a group and boarded a boat to explore Ba Be lake. After taking in the beautiful scenery the boat headed up the river to a local Tay village. Here we walked through the village and were invited into a local's home for bananas and corn wine. At the end of the village we got back on the boat and continued up to Dong Puong Cave. We walked through it and spotted thousands of bats in the roof of the cave. Long had inscribed David <3 Kerry in the sand as we bordered the boat again.
    We continued up the river to meet the minivan where we drove for around an hour before stopping for lunch. After lunch we left the rest of the group and headed back towards Hanoi. Long asked if David wanted a beer, we agreed and so we stopped off at a café overlooking a river and met one of his friends. 3 jugs of beer later we were just about to leave when a local man came up to us and chatted to Long in Vietnamese. Long translated that the man was very happy that we were tourists travelling through their country and learning about their culture. He then ordered another jug of beer and explained in his culture they do 'bottoms up' and down their whole drinks. Two more beers down David was now pissed. After a quick visit to the happy room (Long's name for a WC) we got back in the bus. Soon after David needed a wee, again. When we asked the driver (as Long was comatose on the front seat) if we could stop somewhere he just said "45 minutes to Hanoi", so we woke Long and asked when we could stop. A quick order to the driver and we had pulled over onto the central reservation of the motorway and Long guided David to a bush to relieve themselves. Once more comfortable, we made the final journey back to Hanoi, being dropped outside of our next hotel. We said our goodbyes to Long and Long.
    When we tried to check in, the manager came over and said he would upgrade up to his better hotel, with lift and balcony room. We agreed as he said it was only 2 minutes away. Outside we realised he meant by motorbike, so both hopped on the back and were sped through town to another hotel. Up 4 flights of stairs (no lift) we arrived at a outdated, damp twin room. Unimpressed, but too exhausted to argue we agreed to stay. The manager reorganised our pickup for the morning and got new sheets (as the previous were ripped). Hungry we went out for dinner to a restaurant recommended by Long; the food is all cooked in different stations around the seating area in middle. After some chicken, bamboo-steamed rice and beef Pho (noodles) we were done for the day.
    Read more

  • Day29

    Mountains, Waterfalls and Caves

    October 27, 2017 in Vietnam

    So we obviously did not drink enough of the corn wine last night as the firm mattress and sounds of the countryside won against our sleep. Up just after sunrise for a surprisingly hot shower before homemade pancakes, bananas and honey. We said goodbye to the host family and drove even further north, stopping at a village known for forging. We got to watch the blacksmiths at work making knives (with no ear defenders, eye protection, gloves or even shoes).
    Our next stop was the Ban Gioc–Detian Falls, a huge waterfall straddling the Vietnam-China border. It consists of multiple smaller waterfalls creating an impressive display. We were able to walk around and get some pictures before boarding a wooden raft which took us closer until we were in the spray. Long enjoyed borrowing our cameras to take photos before hiding under a lifejacket from the spray.
    Next we were taken to Nguom Ngao Cave, which translates to Tiger Cave as there used to be many tigers in the area and locals believed they lived in this cave. Long took us inside, around a kilometre of impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
    We had a long drive to Ba Be National Park, stopping for lunch and to enjoy the views down Snake Pass. When we arrived in the park Long told us about the ethnic minorities that live within it and how livelihoods have changed from fishing-based to tourism (mostly Vietnamese from the cities). We got to Ba Be Lake where we quickly changed into our swimwear and got a boat out to a small island where we then jumped in for a swim. Long directed us up the island to a place we could jump off from, it was about 5m high but felt more like 50m. It was a great way to cool off and stretch our legs after a long drive. We clambered back into the boat and were taken the rest of the way to our next homestay - Mr Linh's.
    After showering and a beer we sat down for dinner, another array of foods was laid out in front of us, including some purple sweet potatoes and green sliced pumpkin. Once full we headed up to our room to relax and get an early night (the mattress feels a little more promising tonight).
    Read more

  • Day28

    Out of Hanoi, into the Wild

    October 26, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    Glad to be leaving the capital, we got picked up by Mr Linh's Adventures. Our driver is called Long, our tour guide is also called Long. Oh, and the group consists of David and Kerry.. Yes we are having a one-to-one tour with the Longs.
    We were driven north out of Hanoi, a total of 340km to the Chinese border. We stopped at the Ethnic Minority museum where Long showed us the different typical houses of the different minorities (including one with someone asleep in it) and then let us wander round the rest of the museum on our own. Next stop was an hour an half later for lunch, a local restaurant with whole cooked chickens with heads still on. Long told us to sit down and he would order. We sat anxiously wondering what would be served. Luckily, a selection of steamed rice, bits of lemongrass chicken, pork ribs, whole shrimps and vegetables came out. All of it was pretty tasty and we washed it down with iced green tea.
    The scenery on the way up into the hills was beautiful, although it was misty. The Longs kindly stopped so we could take some pictures. We arrived at a Nung's (local minority group) village which is known for making incense. We got out the minibus and walked with Long through the centre, past water-buffalos being washed, corn being hand-harvested and the sun setting behind the huge hills around.
    Tonight we are stay at Mr Him's homestay. It is a stilted house with a downstairs kitchen/dining room/garage and outside toilets. We are sleeping upstairs on a firm (a complete understatement) mattress on the floor beneath a mosquito net and behind a curtain. We had dinner with the family just after sunset. It is customary to serve green tea and corn wine to visitors and they plied us with both. Dinner was the usual rice, chicken, pork (both BBQ and roasted) and then pig's colon. Kerry politely declined but David was braver and had a piece - it was...chewy. The rest of the food was tasty. We had a great evening chatting to Long before getting an early night. Hopefully the alcohol will help us sleep, as the mattress will not.
    Read more

  • Day27

    What a welcome to Hanoi!

    October 25, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    After dinner last night we got on the sleeper bus to Hanoi. A bumpy ride and little sleep later we arrived just past 5am. Exhausted we tried to barter with a taxi driver but he agreed to put the meter on so we got in. The meter started at 80,000 dong ($4) which seemed high but didn't go up straight away so we didn't think there was a problem. About a kilometre later then meter started increasing and fast. Before we knew it, it stated 320,000 dong ($16) and we asked the taxi driver to stop. He pulled over and we checked the amount, he suddenly spoke no English and kept pointing at the meter. The doors were locked and with the recent news story of a guy being 'kidnapped' after refusing to pay in our minds, we decided to cut our losses, pay and walk the rest of the way.
    Stumbling the last steps to the hotel we were met by a locked door and a guy inside asleep on a mattress. He luckily awoke and let us in but informed us our room would not be ready until after midday. With 6 1/2 hours to kill, we left our big bags and wandered through the streets of Hanoi. We found a restaurant just opening overlooking the lake so had breakfast and played some uno for next couple of hours.
    Feeling we had out-stayed our welcome, we totted off and found the women's museum. It focused on the women's role in Vietnamese history, marriage and children, and fashion. We walked around the lake and picked up a croissant on our way back to the hotel. By now it was half 12 and we were so ready for a shower and nap. We were asked to sit down (hoping for a welcome drink) and were told they had a water problem and so we needed to find another hotel to stay in tonight. The only help we got was the Wi-Fi password, and trying to sell us a tour. Deciding we deserved a comfortable bed to make up for it we splashed out for a $28 room including breakfast and dragged our tired legs across the old city. The hotel gave us some fruit juice and even took our bags up to our room, which they had kindly upgraded to a family suite with balcony. We made the most of the shower but decided as it was mid afternoon we should head back out to see what the city had to offer.
    Hanoi is a busy city full of motorbikes, people and tourist traps. We weren't in the mood to be sold souvenirs, tours or foot massages so went for lunch (where the owner tried to sell us a tour). The food was good, sharing a beef coconut curry and sweet and sour chicken. We then booked tickets for the water puppet show and had a coffee and smoothie while we waited for it to start. Although the show was very interesting, we struggled to keep our eyes open. Afterwards, hardly hungry we decided to share a baked black pepper chicken pot in a cool little restaurant, Lantern Lounge. Completely exhausted we headed back to the hotel for one of our best night's sleep.
    Read more

  • Day26

    Cycling up and down Phong Nha

    October 24, 2017 in Vietnam ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    Today we rented bikes from our hotel. Please keep in mind while reading the rest, these were two road bicycles with baskets but no gears. We started off in the wrong direction, realising not when the path turned to a fly-tipping area and further narrowed but when it finally ended at a wall. Back we went, dodging the young children on their bikes as they yelled hello at us. We followed the track parallel to the river, stopping at the Bomb Crater Bar which was shut but had beautiful views. We turned off the main track onto a dirt path, past a farmstay and to our first big hill of the day. Most of the rest of the cycle until we stopped for ‘lunch’ was rough, rocky and hilly terrain. We were glad to see signs for the Moi Moi restaurant, pulled up ready to fill up. Unfortunately, the chef wasn’t there so the girl serving us got some water, lemon juice and heated up some spring rolls for us. We soon remembered why we always order vegetable spring rolls as Kerry dissected, with a chopstick, the grizzle and fat from each of the 9 rolls to make them palatable. A bit disappointed we got back on our bikes and headed down the river to a bridge and then we were on our way back. More rough hills, a duck farm and local villages brought us back to our town, totalling 27km.
    Our hotel host was kind enough to allow us to use our room until our night bus so we had a quick shower and went to have some proper food. The drinks tasted more like grass than the fruit smoothies we had ordered. We then watched a film and packed up before sharing a blue cheese pizza at Capture. It was delicious, and the brownie was gone too quick to comment.
    Read more

  • Day25

    The Caves of Phong Nha

    October 23, 2017 in Vietnam

    Today we did a tour of some of the caves in the Phong Nha national park. There were 12 others in our tour and a Vietnamese guide. On our way to the first stop the guide explained a bit about the Vietnamese war and the history of the caves. There are a total of 300 caves in the national park, including the biggest cave in the world ($3,000 for a trip inside that one!). We arrived at the the 8 ladies cave - now a memorial site to remember the 8 men and women that died inside after a rock avalanche, caused by American bombing which blocked the exit. After paying our respects, we continued in the minibus to the Paradise Cave, where we got a buggy 1.6km and then walked a further 500m up stairs through the rainforest to get to the entrance. By the time we arrived we were all very warm (and certain hungover members of our group finally stopped complaining).
    Paradise Cave (Thien Duong) is 31km in length, making it the longest dry cave in Asia. Inside it has vaulted ceilings with huge stalactites and stalagmites. I don't think our descriptions could ever do it justices, and neither do the pictures; the place is mighty and beautiful. An hour later we headed back down the stairs and towards the next stop - the Dark Cave.
    Lunch was presented to the group on a large platter of banana leaves with rice, bits of meat (well, bone), noodles and salad. It was also a good chance to get to know some of the other travellers - meeting a second person from West Yorkshire.
    Next, we changed into our swimwear, picked up a helmet with a head-torch, harness and lifejacket. We climbed more stairs to reach the top of a zip-line, hooked on one-by-one we flew down, across the river below to land just outside the next cave. Leaving our harness behind we creeped into the chilly water and headed into the Dark Cave. Walking barefoot over slippery wooden planks, sharp rocks and slimy mud we made our way 500m into the quiet cave to reach a mud bath. We bathed and covered ourselves with the mud before heading back via a mud slide.
    Next we hopped into some blow-up kayaks to paddle back across the river. Here we had some time to play - including swinging down short zip-lines into the water below. Once dried off we went back to the restaurant to find a bottles of local rum and coke waiting for us before the drive back.
    In the evening, we had a starter in one restaurant, some drinks and shared a main in the Easy Tiger Hostel, before finally sharing a curry and roti in an Indian for dessert. Completely and utterly stuffed we rolled back to our hotel.
    Read more