A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about travel

Jakarta, across the Equator.

sunny

We landed on new soil, the first time in my life I have ever crossed the equator, in Jakarta, Indonesia. After the usual boarder inspections and paying for our visa we gathered our bags and headed via taxi to Jalan Jaksa, the travellers hangout in Jakarta. It has all the cheapest guesthouses and a few bars down a narrow one way road. Once we arrived we spent a little while searching for cheap rooms, all were pretty grimy. Then on a road just off Jalan Jaksa we found a hostel with a nice room, slightly more expensive, but it had everything we needed and was very comfortable. We went out for a little wander quickly and decided to grab a bite to eat. It was already noticeably hotter in Jakarta and we decided to take shelter until it cooled down a little later on.

That evening we met up with Jesse who we originally met in Kuala Lumpur, she was kind enough to come meet us after work and showed us a nice restaurant nearby which was nice. Afterwards we headed to a little bar where an Indonesian Reggae band were playing, they were very impressive, and they looked the part too with their dreadlocks and afros! It surprises me how popular Reggae, and Rastafarian culture is in South-East Asia. A lot of them seem to live a laid back lifestyle, as well as indulging and embracing some other famous Rastafarian cultures!

The following day we went for a walk to have a look at some local landmarks. I'll be honest nothing too impressive, and in fact the day can often expose some of a cities less finer points, as of course a night can. The only issue with Jakarta being it's uncleanliness, especially mixed with it stifling heat. It bodes for a bad impression. 

101_2847.jpg

101_2848.jpg

101_2854.jpg
(The Presidencial Palace)

That evening I received some news which I had been anticipating for a while, but was still ecstatic to read in a message from my Brother-in-Law, that my sister had just given birth to a baby boy! Harry was born on the 22nd of Feb, to two very proud parents, and I cannot wait to meet him!

05UploadedFile0.jpg
(Recieving the good news! I was just out of the shower, that's why I look a little dishevelled. I havnt taken to walking around with my flies and belt undone, hair unkept and no shirt on!)

48UploadedFile1.jpg
(My Nephew Harry on his way home, making a bid for freedom from the Hospital!)5

That evening we decided to treat ourselves to a bit of western living by going to Pizza Hut and then to the Cinema. I'll be honest the Pizza Hut was nothing to write home about, in fact it was a little bit of a disappointment, but I really enjoyed the cinema, I had forgotten what it was like, you cannot beat watching a film there. When the light came up it was bizarre. I could have left the theatre and walked out into the big car park outside the Vue at Westwood Cross, it was a little strange when we didn't. Instead punched in the face by the night heat and smells of the noisy city.

We had read about a water park just outside Jakarta and thought it would be a good laugh, unfortunately the taxi driver took us to the wrong one, it was pretty dire and clearly few westerners go there which was a great shame! That evening we met up again with Jesse, grabbed some street food, Indonesia's famous satay. We had arranged another cinema trip, after all it only cost a few pounds and we met up with Stephanie, Jesse's friend, and fellow English teacher. After the film we said our goodbyes before we headed for Yogyakarta the following day. 

Posted by Christian25 05:25 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia travel Comments (1)

Singapore!

all seasons in one day

Singapore is a good few hours bus ride from Melaka, and unfortunately we arrived in an area we didn't expect to in heavy rain. After spending a while trying to flag down a taxi we were soon on our way to our home-stay accommodation in little India called Al's Nest. The place was actually recommended by Howard from Melaka. Al's Nest was nice enough, not the same atmosphere as Ringo's, but then Al had his family living there and from the pictures on the walls had been doing it for sometime. Singapore is an island off Malaysia, however, like Hong Kong, it's a city state and therefore has it's own currency, government and laws.

We decided to have a wander round the local area, little India, which is where we were staying. We found a little food quarter which was pumping out some delicious smelling Indian food, so we decided grab a bite to eat and we were not disappointed! That evening we had a couple of beers outside a trendy bar that cost an arm and a leg, Singapore is not cheap!

The next day unfortunatly was a little bit of an anti climax, the weather was poor so we spend most of the day wandering round ridiculously expensive shopping malls, Singapore isnt mucking about, they have money and they are flaunting it!

101_2732.jpg

We had decided that the following day we would go to the Singapore zoo, we were lucky with the good weather so thought we would make the most of it. It's easily one of the best Zoo's I have been to, there is a fantastic variety of animals and the enclosures are fantastic. The animals are almost always visible because of the way it is designed, but the wellbeing of the animal isn't compromised by this fact. It was a great example of a well run and designed zoo! The added bonus was the fact that we got to see Orangutang's, which I had never seen before, their enclosure was ingenious, with them being able to get to trees and platforms above the paths that the zoo-goers  walk along without it being enclosed. That evening we had a little wander around china town. 

101_2742.jpg

101_2752.jpg

101_2753.jpg

101_2759.jpg

101_2760.jpg

101_2773.jpg

101_2774.jpg

101_2781.jpg

101_2786.jpg

101_2790.jpg

101_2804.jpg

101_2820.jpg

101_2825.jpg

101_2736.jpg
(China Town)

Following day wander at the harbour area which has received heavy investment and the majority of the buildings are space age, and cutting edge in design. It felt like you were an extra in a science fiction film, a microcosm of what the developing world may look like years from now! That evening in Little India, being a Sunday, Indian men gather in their hundreds on the grass greens and mingle, when we went out to get some food it was almost intimidating, and we only saw a handful of women if that. the food we had that evening was arguably the nicest curry oi have ever had!

101_2833.jpg

101_2842.jpg

101_2844.jpg

101_2826.jpg
(Indian male gathering)

The next day we had to be up early to catch a flight to Indonesia, and after our exploration of Singapore, I think it might be a world apart!

Posted by Christian25 18:51 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore travel Comments (0)

Melaka.

sunny

Melaka is a new member of the 2012 world heritage sites. It is a really pretty town, with it's old colonial buildings and mazy streets filled with little galleries, boutique shops and trendy cafes. This is a place to enjoy a wander and have a chilled out time.

101_2703.jpg

101_2705.jpg

101_2707.jpg

101_2709.jpg

We arrived at our accommodation, Ringo's Foyer after a while of searching to be greeted by a smiley Chinese man by the name of Howard. We initially chilled out and then he recommended that we check out the weekend Market and get some food from there. He said that the people staying at the guesthouse had had a heavy one the previous night and that we should join them on the roof for a tea party as everyone attempted to recover!

The following day we went for a wander around the local area and explored the town in the evening we went for a bike ride with Howard to the food quarter and around the town at night. it's a regular thing that he does with his guests, it's a nice touch, he is all for his guests bonding. Every now and again he would stop and tell us all about different sites of interest. Considering the price of the room Howard's service to his customers is second to none.  

101_2711.jpg

101_2712.jpg
(Howard told us a story about how the local government decided to put about 40 ducks on this river, he said that after they were released with in a day or so they had vanished, he joked that the Chinese will eat anything and everything!)

101_2713.jpg
(The monitor lizards were a common sight around Melaka, and again, Howard said that Chinese tourists have asked if they are edible!)

The following day Howard informed us of an opportunity to get a free lunch. So a group of is from tue guesthouse followed through Melaka to go to a book launch. Howard's a bit like the pied piper, except he goes everywhere, on foot or bike with tourists following him. Melaka has just become a world heritage site and they were putting on a book launch and free food to celebrate this. That evening we ventured out on another Bike ride to the big night Market for snacks for the evening, we had asked Howard about getting some beers to have on the rooftop, and he offered to sorts us out with beer on the cheap from a friend. There was a nice group of us up on the Rooftop chatting and playing games. It actually resulted in a bit of an All nighter, Smith myself and a new friend Sumiyah chatting and chilling until the morning. The next day I didn't get up till the early afternoon and next day was a bit of a right off. Smith and Kailey had already been out and found a Pizza Hut, but Smith couldn't bring himself to eat. I was a bit jealous that I had missed out on Pizza Hut, so me and Sumiyah headed out to find it. That even was taken up with relaxing and watching films, much need!

101_2725.jpg
(at the book launch)

The following day we had almost said goodbye to all of our little group from Ringo's, we went and had a wander around a shopping centre during the day and in the evening we were chilling in the lounge area while Howard was out on his usual bike ride with some guests and some people turned up, later in the evening we had some beers with them, they were from Australia and kindly said we could crash at their house when we passed through which was kind. 

We were all sad to leave Melaka and the the little community that develops at Ringo's Foyer, all down to Howard!

Posted by Christian25 20:04 Archived in Malaysia Tagged travel malaysia melaka Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur.

sunny

Kuala  Lumpur, felt like we had walked back into that modernity of Shanghai or Hong Kong. One of the most prosperous and developed cities in South East Asia. We had been informed by a guy we met in the Cameron Highlands that the day of our arrival coincided with the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam. He recommended that we went to have a look at the Batu Caves a little way out of the city. After arriving at easily one of the nicest hostels we have stayed at so far, we arranged ourselves and headed off to locate the caves, there is a train after getting to central K.L. that takes you all the way there. It was packed with Hindus making their way to the holy site, but for a few tourists. 

101_2591.jpg

101_2592.jpg

101_2593.jpg

101_2597.jpg

101_2607.jpg

101_2612.jpg

The scenes at the Batu caves were like what you can quite often see on the news where religious celebrations in foreign countries almost become out of hand. There were thousands of people. It was quite intimidating, Indian music was blaring out at a deafening volume and smells of different curries and snacks punched you in the face and tickled you taste-buds! The actual caves themselves were pretty incredible, packed with people praying, and at the foot of the steps that lead up to the caves people just discarded their shoes. I'm sure their intention was to collect them once leaving the cave, but the shear volume of people doing this would rend it impossible, it gave the experience a bizarre feeling, but a great experience. Some people almost appeared in a state of trance. Men, Women and Children had shaved their heads and covered their scalps with and Ochre coloured power. When we eventually decide we had had enough, we realised the train station was what appeared almost dangerously packed. We decided to get a Taxi, the driver proudly announcing that we visited during a point where the festival is at a relative calm, 'you wait till this evening' he chuckled!

That evening we went for a wander, deciding to walk toward the famous Petronas buildings. The tallest twin towers in the world. The city this particular night was a little unnerving, with many of the shops and people you would usually expect to see celebrating at the caves. The towers are an impressive sight on the skyline, once considered the tallest buildings in the world, the tops if them have an Asian style. they almost reminded me of a modern take on the architecture at different religious sights we have visited in South East Asia, particularly Angkor Wat. 

101_2624.jpg
(This is the K.L. tower)

101_2629.jpg
(Petronas Building)

The following day we decided to have a walk round the local area and in particular the China town area. We found a restaurant that is actually recommended in the lonely planet, it's not too pricey, but is well renowned for it's tasty food, so we decided to have lunch there, and it was particularly nice! That evening we went up the K.L. tower (one of the worlds tallest telecom towers) to have a look at the evening vistas of the city, they were impressive, especially looking across to the glowing Petronas towers.

101_2657.jpg

The following day was one of the highlights of my trip in it's own individual way. We had payed to go to an Elephant reserve about two hours out of K.L. We booked it with the hostel and they included lunch into it for us, which was brought along, almost like a picnic, as well as a cooler with plenty of drinks, which I thought was a nice touch. The driver and the guide from the hostel got involved too, having lunch and charting with us. It was only a small group, Smith, Kailey and myself and joining us was a girl from California called Jesse. She was on a long weekend away, renewing her visa as she is teaching English in Indonesia. We wandered round the museum first, then watched a video on how they are protecting Malaysian Elephants, and even using trained elephants to relocate troublesome wild elephants encountering humans. Then was the time we were looking forward to, we were loaded up with fruit, our guide even bringing extra watermelon with our packed lunch. We met the gentle giants, playfully feeling out with their nimble noses trying to pilfer fruit of the tourists. The keepers encouraging us to pop the food directly into thief mouths, I wasted no time fattening them up and attempting to win them over as the person who gave them the most treats. After this we looked at some of the recuperating elephants, one who had lost a foot, but was almost nonchalantly aware, and also one who lost his tail to a tiger attack in the wild. After having a little ride on the back of one of the elephants, some of the tourists got into swimwear and took to the river to get involved with bathing the elephants. It was a really special day with these magnificent creatures!

101_2686.jpg

101_2690.jpg

101_2691.jpg

The next day we went to one of the largest enclosed Bird parks in the world, it was cool to see all the birds quite natural and being able to fly about rather than caged up. Later in the day we went and did some window shopping at a shopping centre called Time Square. The place is that large it has a roller-coaster an a small theme park inside it. That evening we went up like most evening and had a beer on the rooftop bar overlooking the city, with K.L. Tower and The Petronas building lit up in the distance!

The following day we sorted out our bus to our next destination, Melaka, and just chilled out about the hostel which was nice, as we had been relatively busy in the stuffy heat of the city. However, it had proved to be one of my favourite modern cities we had visited so far!  

Posted by Christian25 21:54 Archived in Malaysia Tagged travel kuala lumpur k.l. Comments (0)

Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

sunny

Siem Reap was only ever going to be a fleeting visit, we only had one desire while we were there, to visit Angkor Wat and the other temples. The first day after travelling overnight was taken up with just a wonder around the town. Unfortunately as the day progressed as did me feeling poorly, and unfortunately that night I spent in bed recovering and hoping that I would be well enough to go visit the temples the following day!

101_1912.jpg

101_1915.jpg

101_1946.jpg

101_1942.jpg

101_1947.jpg

101_1948.jpg

101_1957.jpg

Luckily sweating it out paid off and we got up early enough it head to Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples while it was still dark with the intention of seeing the Sun rise. Our TukTuk driver drove us to a temple which is located up a large hill. He pointed up a dark pathway and told us that's where we needed to go. He must have realised that we were not convinced so said he would guide us. Once we got up there there were a few others waiting for sunrise and it eventually came. Cloud cover interrupted the spectacle, but it was a good way to start the day. After that our driver took us to get some breakfast. During the chaos of a tomato sauce bottle exploding and causing great amusement at our table I noticed a monkey about 100 metres away and decide to steal away mid breakfast to take a picture. It started towards me with conviction and I feared I might get accosted by it, when it charged passed me towards the breakfast table and shimmied up one of the legs and stole Kaileys baguette. This obviously caused a greater eruption of laughter to explode over the group of us. 

101_1966.jpg
(the culprit!!!)

101_1967.jpg

101_1974.jpg

101_1982.jpg

101_1984.jpg

101_1998.jpg

101_2003.jpg
(this picture doesn't do justice how large this spider was, it had made it's web between two trees and was sitting in the middle of it waiting for birds I expect!)

101_2004.jpg

101_2014.jpg

101_2016.jpg

101_2018.jpg

101_2019.jpg

101_2021.jpg

101_2022.jpg

101_2024.jpg
(the temple with the trees growing out of it is where Tomb Raider was filmed, it's called Ta Prohm).

101_2039.jpg

The temples are arguabley some of the most impressive temples I have ever seen, and although many are ruins the place is still considered a religious area and is still in use for Buddist Monks. There is a large distance between the temples an each one is different, some have large moats around it, and others have trees that have become rooted in the fabric of the building, pulling it over or sitting on top of the large stone walls. The Cambodians proudly call it the 8th wonder of the world, and in all honesty I felt that it would be ranked in the official 7. 

The Cambodians seemed to have only very recently realised what they are sitting on in terms of tourism, and there is now efforts to repair the temples and make sure that nature doesn't damage too much of it. I expect in years to come the place will, if not protected, turn into somewhere much like the Pyrmids or the Great wall, where some of the magic is lost because of the comercial element that comes with popular tourist attractions, sone I'm pleased to say I have seen it before that potentially does happen. It was arguably the most interesting place I have visited on my travels so far!

The next stop is in a new country, Thailand!

Posted by Christian25 19:27 Archived in Cambodia Tagged travel cambodia angkor wat reap siem Comments (1)

Sihnoukville - Cambodia

sunny

Sihnoukville is one of Cambodias most popular seaside resorts. On arriving we headed to try and get accommodation at one of the most popular hostels in the town Monkey Republic, we were already sure that three of our friend were already there and Smith, Kailey,Emma, Zoe an myself were lucky enough to pick up the remaining beds available and meet up with the other Emma and Leanne and Sammy.

Our first full day in Sihnoukville we headed down to a beach called Otres beach. The sand was warm white and the water was calm, clear and a beautiful inviting blue. We spend the day by the beach and ate at one of the restaurants overlooking the sea. I mentioned to Smith how guilty I felt sitting there hot and sanding in my swimming shorts while everyone back home was working, it honestly did bother me and it pleased me that I haven't forgot about everyone or the desire to work. Feelings like this are easily forgotten however when you are being hugged by the warm embrace of the tropical sun and repetitive swell of the waves.

The following day after a heavy night out with a large army of fellow travellers, our group, growing larger by the day surfaced late and headed for a local hotels swimming pool. The evening is Sihnoukville are taken up at the beach bars or across the road from Monkey Republic is a place called TopCat's. A little cinema with private booths for about 5 or 6 people maximum. Any film they don't have is not worth watching, the American owner is happy to find you anything on his huge database of movies. Or as was the case a few hot afternoons, me and Smith hid ourselves away and played FIFA 2012.

I hadnt been massively keen on the idea of another boat trip but everyone we had made fiends with was going and dinner on return was included so it sounded more inviting. As it turned out, even with the freak weather conditions that came over the boat, apparently massively rare in Sihnoukville for the time of year we embraced the different nature of the trip. Lashing down with rain it was warmer to be in the sea so we continued to jump off and back onto the boat throughout the afternoon. Nobody seemed to care that it was wetter aboard the ship than it was in the sea. Plenty of beers were consumed on the trip back while dancing away on the packed deck!

By now we had been joined by our German friends who had been traveling along the coast with a friend they met on the road Tom. Off Sihnouville are several islands, and one in particular Koh Rong has several small beach resorts where you can stay in bamboo huts on stilts. Monkey island was the name of the bungalows we decided to stay in, run by the same guys who own Monkey Republic. Our whole group decide to go and spend a couple of nights on the beach front. The boat trip was set to take about 2 hours, but when we arrived at the port, we were informed it was likely to take longer because the sea was particulary choppy. The boat ride was an experience, with several people being sick, I managed to keep my breakfast down and relatively enjoy the trip. Once we arrived at the island we had to walk across the beach following a resort employee. The place looked close to paradise, and as we walked along the blindingly white fine sand, close by the little jetty, standing in the surf with it's owner was a massive water buffalo. I'm still upset I didn't get a picture as it was quite a surreal sight. A short walk along the shoreline and we arrive at Monkey Island. We dumped our belonging in our little bamboo hut and ran down to the beach to jump in the sea. After we washed up and went to get some food and relax. During my washing up process, in the little bamboo bathroom something caught my eye. On the back of the door, relatively well camouflaged was the largest spider I have ever seen. I promptly dried myself and got out of the room, then explained to smith the size of it, and he looked sceptical until he shimmied in and peered round the door. The thing was bigger than my hand and we decide it wasn't allowed to stay rent free! Standing in the bathroom with our weapons, me a bin and Smith a broom, we had decided to knock it into the bin and chuck it outside, until I gave it further thought and didn't like the idea of holding something as small as this little bin with a potentially poisonous and disgruntled insect inside, so smith went ahead and hit it with the broom. In all honesty I'm surprised it didn't whip it out of his hands and snap it over one of it's many knees, but it scurried off shocked but unharmed under the bamboo wall.

101_1853.jpg

101_1856.jpg
(our bunglow)

101_1857.jpg

The following day we got up early to watch the sun rise, it was a little cloudy so not quite as impressive as we had hoped, then later in the morning me and Smith went on a little trek along the coastline, dipping in and out of the rainforest. It was like the film 'The Beach'. The rest of the day was spent either sun bathing or playing volleyball until the sun went down behind the island.

101_1878.jpg

101_1883.jpg

101_1884.jpg

101_1886.jpg

101_1888.jpg
(you might just be able to spot a water buffalo!)

101_1894.jpg

101_1895.jpg

101_1897.jpg

101_1899.jpg

101_1900.jpg

101_1902.jpg

The following day it was time for us to leave, the Germans and their motorbike buddy Tom decided that the island was too beautiful to leave behind and decide to stay on, so we begrudgingly said our fairwells to them, knowing we wouldn't see each other again until potentially the New Year due to our directions changing.

The boat trip was a little rough again, but more pleasant, and once we were back on dry land we had to wait around until the evening to be picked up to move onto our next destination Siem Reap, where the famous Angkor Wat temples are situated.

Posted by Christian25 20:03 Archived in Cambodia Tagged travel cambodia sihnoukville Comments (1)

Phnom Penh - Cambodia

sunny

Phnom Penh was the first stop in Cambodia. Cambodia is somewhere I had been really looking forward to but was also quite apprehensive. It was somewhere that in all honesty I knew relatively little about, plus it was the first place we had been advices to take our malaria tablets. Arriving in Phnom Penh at night by coach to be greeted by a small Cambodian man with Mr. Smith held over his head on a piece of paper. The hostel had kindly offered a pick up service and hilariously we all crammed onto this TukTuk and bombed though the traffic. That evening we went out for a meal after having a wonder around the night Market.

The following day we organised with a TukTuk driver who worked from the hostel to take us to the cheerfully, but honestly named Genocide Museum, then onto the Killing Fields. The Genocide Museum is located in a suburb of Phnom Penh. Before the Khmer Rouge seized power of Cambodia it was a large school, but it was converted into a prison to interrogate people who Pol Pot belived was scheming or against his regime. The fact that the Prison had been left almost exactly as it was found after the regime was overthrown was a little difficult to comprehend. Some of the makeshift cells even had spot of blood on the tiles and manacles and chains connected to the floor. In other areas were rooms where beds had been left with implements of torture. It was a particularly depressing place! In one of the building where they we exhibiting some of the items found at the prison were all of the pictures that had been taken of the inmates that had been taken to the prison. It was had to believe how recently these acts of horrendous treatment had occurred. Between 1975 and 1979 20% of the population of Cambodia lost their lives at the hands of the Khmer Rouge!

101_1808.jpg

101_1810.jpg

101_1813.jpg

101_1814.jpg

101_1815.jpg

101_1818.jpg

101_1820.jpg

101_1822.jpg

101_1823.jpg

101_1826.jpg

101_1816.jpg
(Just one of the many frames with pictures of the inmates tourtured in the prison)

After the Museum we headed out of the city to the Killing Fields. There were Killing fields located all over Cambodia but this was know to be the largest of it's kind. The fields are located in a rural area which actually had been used as a grave site by Chinese people living in Cambodia years before it was taken over by the Khmer Rouge. Included in the priced of the ticket was an audio guide which was fantastic at helping someone understand what they were seeing. It's a strange to say but the place was amazing peaceful and actually quite beautiful which set a strange contrast against the horrendous atrocities that happened! It's a place that needs no explanation, if anyone is more interested in what happened at the killing fields I think it's important that people learn for themselves, it's almost too difficult to put into words.

101_1840.jpg

101_1842.jpg
(during the rainy season, bones and rags of cloohing that have not been retrieved yet surface from the mud!)

101_1844.jpg

101_1846.jpg
(this tree was used for actions that are too terrible to explain)

101_1848.jpg

101_1849.jpg

One evening we had out we made friends with some a group of Cambodians. The following day I went along with them to their house for some beers and then we met up with the guys we were travelling with for a night out which proved to be very funny, all of us dancing a progressively getting more drunk! It was really fun to mix with the locals and it gave us a taste of how friendly and hospitable some Cambodians can be!

After the horrors and joys of Phnom Penh we decided to move on to a seaside resort for a bit of relaxation. Next stop Sihnoukville!
 

Posted by Christian25 23:08 Archived in Cambodia Tagged travel cambodia phnom penh Comments (1)

Hanoi

sunny

Hanoi came as a shock initially as we stood outside the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel with out bags. It had only been a two hour plane ride and a relatively easy bus ride into Hanoi. The whole front of the hostel was opened up and the place was bustling with young westerners either checking in sweating and lugging their massive rucksacks about or people drinking and eating, with loud music booming out. I had been a little disappointed that for the first few months of our travels we had bumped  into very few fellow travellers and now there was so many people who were clearly doing the same thing in one place I couldn't work out if I liked it or not. 

We checked in and decided to come down for a beer and quickly struck up convocation with and Australia called Chris. He recommended that we went with him to a small bar round the corner which sold the local home brewed beer called 'bia hoi'. Once arriving we were greeted to a narrow cross roads with motorcycles zooming in all directions and two opposite corners packed with people sitting on little plastic stools up to mini tables drinking the local brew. It was actually very nice and we ordered several round as well as some street food and conversed about each others travels so far, later crossing over the road to sit with the Vietnamese after they ran out of beer on the primarily western side, typical westerners.

The first whole day we went and explored the city which is ruled by the motorcycle. Crossing the road becomes a game of chicken, even more so due to the fact that although a pavement exists, it isn't used for pedestrians, rather parking the mopeds or motorbikes that are not currently choking the roads! Hanoi is a maze of similar looking streets which have have shops spilling out onto the street and a sticky heat that makes you feel a little dirty, but you soon get used to it.

101_1668.jpg

101_1670.jpg

101_1674.jpg

We have done lots of tours and trips through China, but in Hanoi we didn't feel like doing too much but becoming comfortable with our new surroundings. However, one excursion we had repeatedly been recommended was the Halong Bay trip. It's a place that has been shortlisted for the latest list of the 7 natural wonders of the world. 

It took a four our coach ride to get to the Halong port where we picked up our boat. Once aboard we were soon treated to a delicious lunch of all different Vietnamese dishes, many of which were seafood as we cruised for and hour and a half or so to eventually moor up in Halong Bay. Once we had anchored up in the bay we were able to cool off by jumping off the top of the boat. Later on we went canoeing round the bay, exploring the caves and visiting floating fishing villages, arriving back at our boat at dusk to another tasty meal after we had showered up. The evening wasn't as picturesque as the bay and descended into some drunken antics with the guides getting us playing drinking games, the rest of the evening became a bit of a blur, probably due to the long day and all the excitement.

101_1677.jpg

101_1682.jpg

101_1686.jpg

101_1687.jpg

101_1688.jpg

101_1690.jpg

101_1691.jpg

101_1692.jpg

101_1693.jpg

To cut a long story short I woke up in high spirits, had a nice breakfast and went up on top deck to soak up the morning rays. The other boat we were moored next to was continuing the trip further into the islands, bit our boat was heading back with us and a small group of people who had decided one day would be sufficient. I'm not sure if it would have been beneficial for me to have stayed, but due to being one of the last people up the night before my condition deteriorated on the journey back to the port. Boats and four hour coaches do nothing for a hangover, especially one that starts at midday because the initial good feeling when you have woken up is because your still drunk! After such a cultural and educational trip so far it's all a bit blasphemous to be describing getting myself into a bit of a pickle, but it was a funny memory (from what I can remember) and I'm sure you can pull something cultural out of my experience! 

One of the most interesting meals we have had so far on the road was at a grubby looking restaurant, with small plastic chairs and tables. The menu gives you a choice of different plates of raw meat (we chose beef) and vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, aubergine, garlic which you then cook yourself over a hot plate on the middle of the table, it was a really fun experience and also very tasty when put in one of the fresh rolls that they offer. 

We bought from our hostel in Hanoi a bus ticket with four stops on it that can be used within a month heading south for the equivalent of about £30, you can't go wrong, next stop Hue!

Posted by Christian25 07:34 Archived in Vietnam Tagged travel vietnam asia Comments (0)

Helsinki and beyond!

The Russians are calling!

overcast

101_0857.jpg

101_0853.jpg

The first day in Helsinki we decided to go for and explore using our travel cards which we purchased from the hostel lobby. Smith had suggested that we looked into going to see a Ice Hockey game, so we set off for the arena where it's played in Helsinki, once arriving though the impressive arena was completely closed. We were getting the hang of the tram system so hopped back on one and headed for central. Once deeper into Helsinki we got to a square with the large white cathedral perched on top of probably the highest point of Helsinki. We couldn't have chosen a better day to see it, the weather was hot and there was some event taking place on the steps that led to the cathedral. At the time we were unaware to the nature of the event taking place, as it turned out it was for a children's charity in which people had knitted hundreds of patterned squares which would later be auctioned off. It set an impressive picture in the cathedrals square of all the multicoloured pieces of knit-work laid out over a set of easily 40 or more steps, with the elegant White cathedral behind with a blue sky backdrop. The cathedral was originally built like many buildings in Finland in a Neo-classical style by the Russians after the Finish War. The cathedral was a tribute to Grand Duke, Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia. It was called St. Nicholas' Church until Finish independence in 1917. Later in the day we arrange our tickets between Helsinki and St. Petersburg the only bit of travel be hadn't arrange until Beijing before we left the U.K. Which fingers crossed will be ok, Russia after all being the biggest pain to sort out our visas for!

101_0842.jpg
101_0844.jpg
101_0849.jpg
101_0850.jpg
101_0851.jpg
101_0852.jpg

The following day we took a trip to Suomenlinna island and fortress. As I described in my previous blog this place is a world heritage site due to it's military and maritime history and many years of rule under three separate sovereign states (Swedish, Russian and Finn). It's building work therefore shares influence from all of these cultures and it's dry docks on the island are still in use. There are a mix of housing, small offices and a library on the island which is a 10 minute boat ride from the mainland. It's been under civilian administration only since the early seventies and even still has a naval marine academy on it. We luckily joined a guided tour that was in English which was great in helping us understand the history of the island. 

101_0864.jpg
101_0865.jpg
101_0866.jpg
101_0858.jpg
101_0859.jpg
101_0863.jpg

The weather unfortunately turned drizzly and stoped us from doing a great deal of sightseeing! We decided on our last day to go to Helsinki zoo, on arrival to our pleasure we found out the entry was free as the season had finished! Due to the weather being quite cool all of the animals were out and about. We had also arranged in the evening to go see an Ice Hockey game on tuesday evening which was exciting, I wasn't a hundred percent certain on the rules but the atmosphere was great and the home team which we were supporting, HIJK came back from two points behind to win!

101_0891.jpg
101_0892.jpg
101_0894.jpg
101_0898.jpg

101_0912.jpg
(the cheerleaders proved distracting as they danced about in the seating area when play stopped during the game!)
101_0920.jpg
101_0922.jpg
101_0927.jpg

We set off for Russia at 10am on the Wednesday, and after a pain free three and a half hour train ride, which included passport control, and the use of the first visa that was sorted in the U.K. The subway in St. Petersburg is very unique, building finished apparently in the 50's and it looks like it's stayed that way, it is very ornate, decorated with gold light fittings and marble flooring. The carriages of the train are dark and poorly painted but hold a certain charm and character, as well as filling you with a slight fear to keep you on your toes, even more so when you realise that the subway is one of the deepest in the world!

St. Petersburg is an amazing place but very unique, where most cities juggle a mix of old and new, where you can see different influences and periods in history in the architecture. St. Petersburg offers all but nothing in modern architecture, but a history lesson in buildings in neo-classical/baroque styles. After only a little while of searching we located the hostel which to our initial horror seemed to be in a building of very bad disrepair. A very old cage lift that was out of action, which regardless of our heavy bags didn't upset us too much due to it's condition! The stone staircase with tiled landings are uneven and the woodwork of the huge single glazed windows is rotten and stripped of paint. This we have come to realise is just the Russian ethos, like many of the buildings, the attitude seems to be only fix it when it's broken, which is also adopted with Their mechanics too!

its really starting to feel like we are experiencing something completly different from what we are used to, there is thousands of museums in St. Petersburg and there is lots to see of the history and culture, but I'll save that for the next blog!

Posted by Christian25 07:42 Archived in Finland Tagged travel finland russia Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 9 of 9) Page [1]