Sydney….some hidden gems

To be honest when I got to Sydney I wasn’t particularly impressed. It felt like any generic medium sized city in the world. It probably didn’t help that I loved Melbourne so much and was making comparisons.

However the fact that Sydney is a Coastal city gives it some absolutely lovely walks especially in the Aussie summer. There is a whole host of walks you can do but I would personally recommend a few:

Also for a good selection of asian food check out Spice Alley (BYOB as well).

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Khoa Sok-get ready for amazing views

I have been a bit laxed since getting to Thailand. I have been either chilling out in cool areas like Pii or partying on the Islands. So it was amazing to get back to one of my passions, hiking.

Khoa Sok National Park for those not planning a multi-day hike can be split into two sections

Section 1: The National Park forest trails-these are accessible via Surat Thani town. They can broadly be split into three parts.

  1. Main paths via the main entrance in town- this section is super accessible and although the forums say you need a guide they are so well laid out both in terms of the path and signage, even if you haven’t hiked before you will be fine.
  2. Advanced path via the main entrance in town-these trails are a follow through from the first section-you will see signs once you hit the restaurant. You may read on forums that you get fined without a guide-this is bullshit. It is true that the paths are more difficult and the signs are limited but if you are a semi-experienced hiker you will be fine. If however you haven’t hiked before this is where a guide will come in handy.
  3. The forgotten path via motorway 401 near the Khao Sok Valley viewpoint. This path leads to a beautiful waterfall and flora. However the paths are confusing. I went with another experienced hiker and we got very lost. Lucky we used logic and eventually made it back to a waterfall we recognised from a previous day hike. Please don’t attempt this on your own, you will need someone with experience as there is no real information online about the geography of this trial.

Section 2: The National Park lake and caves-this is accessible via the Phang Kan region.

Broadly speaking there are two ways to do this:

  1. Good old fashioned tour (please note the park entrance is 300, cave entrance 200 on top of the price you pay). From what I could see you can do a day trip or a two day with an overnight stay.
  2. Do it yourself-Really you need 4 or more people to make this work. In essence you need to get to the pier of Phang Kan. Personally I hired a scooter with a friend and drove from Surat Thani as the views are amazing. Once you get to the pier you need to negotiate a price for a private boat-don’t pay more than 2000BHT in total (500 each if four). Then sit back and enjoy a private tour for a friction of the price.

Enjoy your trip to this amazing park. Also Jungle Hut Hostel has the best beds in Thailand.

Travelers vs homemakers-Quotes

I have been travelling now for almost 10 months (10 amazing life changing months). One of the questions I often get from friends back at home aren’t you fed up with travelling now. I understand that question completely of course, but its a strange question when every new person I meet on the whole just wants to travel forever. So I thought I would try and explain the two sides via quotes.

“I would rather have a passport full of stamps than a place full of stuff”  Vs. “A man (or woman) travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it”

“I wake up each new day and wonder what I will discover next” Vs “nothing is better than going home to family and eating good food and relaxing”

“Home life is no more natural than a cage is to a Cockatoo” Vs. “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort”

“Travel makes one modest- you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” vs “The ache for home life is in all of us , the safe place where we can go home as we are and not be questioned”

“Travelling leaves you speechless-then turns you into a storyteller” vs “Home is where one starts from”

Where do you stand on the debate?

Full Moon Party, Thailand-stripped back

So a couple of days ago I went to the full moon party on the Thai island of Koh Pha Ngan. Instead of sharing my experiences as this blog is purely PG 😉 I wanted to explain what’s it all about outside of all the hype.

Format

In its bare form its about a mile of beach, which 40k plus people descend on to have a party. The beach hosts a number of bars/clubs. From what I could tell the beach could be broken into around 4 sections.

  1. Techno/ drum & base
  2. Food stations
  3. Pop music
  4. Old school 70/80’s remixed

People

The majority of people will be tourist on the younger side, covered in body paint and will be wasted or chemically altered.

People go to have a good time, so expect people to be partying hard, and if your foot is stepped on only a few times that’s a great night.

Drinks and food

So drink prices vary a lot between bars and side streets, so if your on a budget shop around. To the most part people will be drinking buckets. Just a caveat these are super strong so unless you don’t want to remember the night pace yourself because they hit hard.

Food is a crap take on western classics e.g. pizza’s/burgers, but when your altered you don’t really care.

If substances are your thing look for locals in the side streets outside of the bars.

That’s all folks- just a piece of advice if you are older and don’t bounce back like the youngsters don’t hit the Jungle party the night before….I made that mistake.

 

Hostel dorms…the experience

To the most part I have had good experiences in hostel dorms and through sharing rooms met a lot of nice people. However occasionally its bizarre…

Last night was one of those occasions. A man from the Philippines comes back around 1am and turns on the light, I wait for a while. I then ask do you mind turning the light off.

All good he turns it off and sits in the dark for a few minutes; then turns on his reading light. He then proceeds to introduce himself, ok I’m not in the mood but I’m too English to be rude. He then tries to seduce me! when that doesn’t work he tries to cop a feel. I very firmly tell him good night at this stage. Like I said bizarre.

What are your strangest dorm/hostel experiences?

Travel hacks

There are some amazing travel advice sites/blogs out there on how to save money, where to go etc. I even attempted an article to travel cheaply.

I wanted to do an article today on the more unusual tips I have discovered.

  • Blanket– bring a blanket with you (or take it from the plane). It can be essential when the aircon is full blast on buses-I learnt that the hard way. However its also great if you have a bottom bunk as you can hang it up to give you more privacy.
  • Cards-always have a pack with you. It can be lonely as a solo traveler. However start playing a solo game in the common area and sooner or later someone will ask what your playing and you have a potential new friend.
  • Dorms– most long term travelers opt to stay in dorms due to it being cheaper. However there are usually a few sizes. I always opt for the middle dorms- in most cases you get more space, they are rarely full which means you minimize snorers.
  • Frisby– It is nice to have a token of the people you meet. Personally a frisby is my choice as its easy carry, to get new friends to sign and can be a great group game.

 

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam in pictures

I wasn’t really sure how to judge Ha Long bay in Vietnam. On the one hand its some of the most amazing sights I have seen. On the other its touristville. Whether you explore as part of a tour or do it on your own having to book on tourist ships there is no escape.

So instead of telling you to go or not. I thought sharing some key pictures of what you will see would help with the decision.

The Bay

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The stunning caves

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National Park on Cat Be island

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Monkey Island

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What was your experience of Ha Long Bay?

Ba Be national park, Vietnam-hidden gem or worth a miss

Ba Be National Park is situated about 250km north of Hanoi. I came across this place while doing research that would fulfil my need for nature and peace. And this is exactly what Ba Be does, nature and peace.

So if you want to relax, listen to nature, eat good home food at a homestay, hike and explore the massive lake go to Ba Be. If however you want bars, cafes/restaurants, shopping etc Ba Be will be your hell.

Top tips for Ba Be

  • Find a home stay on the actual lake, its beautiful at sunrise/set.
  • Transport-getting to Ba Be can be tricky. If coming from Hanoi don’t rely on local buses. Hire a car/bike or a private transfer (Q-Bus express).
  • If like me you don’t like to trek/hike with other people then download the mapsme App because it shows some trials (they don’t show up on googlemaps).

Remember Ba Be isn’t a massive tourist hotspot so the locals while lovely often don’t speak any English-its their country so don’t expect it.

The road to Ba Be, Vietnam National Park

Ready to get out of Hanoi and into nature I decide on the National Park of Ba Be. My research told me it was hard to get to but my hostel organised it.

The journey

So it started with a mo-ped whizzing through traffic with my backpack on his leg rest and me grabbing on for dear life. Then onto a cute little bus, where rows of four seats became 6 thanks to wooden planks. I felt like a circus attraction with a young lady staring at me fascinated by my blue eyes. But what can you do but embrace the new and laugh.

The bus ends in a tiny village in the dark at the wrong place! the bus driver organises a motorbike to my homestay. On the back of a motorcycle we whiz through dirt roads in the dark dodging pot holes and sleeping cows.

The lesson

I feel this experience more than any so far has helped me realise my growth. The old me would have totally freaked out, but I am appreciating the new and when in doubt just laugh.

Also future tip nature lovers book the QBus express, a private bus that goes from Hanoi to home stays in Ba Be.

Hanoi, Vietnam-first impressions crazy

So there’s no two ways about it, for a somewhat middleclass western Asia virgin this place is fucking crazy. The question is it a good crazy?

So my first day here jet lagged I was almost in tears. In a city with 6 million mopeds and no regard for traffic lights or crossings I was sure I was going to die. I like to think that I have become a bit of an explorer the last 9 months, but I ashamed to say I found the most Western restaurant in a fancy hotel to escape. By the time I could check into my hostel I was sure I had made a major mistake….

Day 4, armed with sleep and the return of my adventurous spirit I have decided that Hanoi is now a good crazy.

Tips for changing Hanoi to a good crazy

  1. Ignore everything you learnt about traffic. You need to be aggressive getting across the roads without fear. Strangely since adopting this attitude no one has come near to hitting me.
  2. Get a local guide and ask questions. Hanoi has a strange layout and food scene. It is well worth getting a tour. If on a serious budget use couchsurfing to find a local. They want to practice their English, so a win win.
  3. Just point and smile at the food you want. The worst case scenario is you don’t like the food and wasted a couple of pound/dollars.
  4. Use the hostel/hotel reception-you may have to pay a slight premium in Vietnamese standards to book things but you gain peace of mind.