A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok to Vang Vieng

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Its been a crazy few weeks since our last blog. We've left Thailand now and are currently in Vang Vieng, Laos.

We spent 5 nights in Bangkok, staying in a guest house in Sukhumvit. The guest house was run by a crazy expat called Max who would spend hours telling crazy stories about his life as a pilot. The name of the guesthouse was "The Mile High Club" which gives you an idea of what his stories were about! Two of our days in Bangkok were spent trying to sort out a visa for Vietnam, the rest of the time we were either looking at the many temples or having a few beers on Kho San Road. The highlight of our stay here was the Sunday Carvery we had in the Robin Hood pub (really getting into the Thai culture!) We also spent a day looking around the huge weekend market where you could buy anything from fake Ray Bans to Pug Puppies

On the evening of the 24th of January we got the night bus out of Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The bus was supposed to take 12 hours, getting us to Chiang Mai for 9am. It actually only took 7 hours, leaving us in Chiang Mai at 5am with nowhere to stay. Luckily after walking around for an hour or so we found a guest house where we got an English breakfast and sorted out a room. We only spent 2 nights in Chiang Mai but we managed to see yet more temples and have a good night out at a reggae bar.

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The next day we got a mini bus to Chiang Khong, a small town on the Thai/ Laos boarder and right on the the Mekong River. We stayed here one night. The next morning we got a lift to the river where we had to get a boat over to get our visa to Laos. Here we got our first taste of how completely unorganized Laos is. Getting the visa was an absolute free for all, with people just shoving their passports through the office window and hoping for the best. Luckily it only took around 45 minutes before we were on our way.
Then we boarded our slow boat, which would take two days to arrive in Luang Prabang. Once on the boat we waited around 3 hours before the boat actually left. That is known here as "Lao time" basically nothing here leaves or arrives anywhere near the time its meant to. The captain literally had to be dragged away from his Beer Lao before we could leave. The views as we cruised down the Mekong were awesome, well worth the wait. That night we had to stay in a small town called Pakbeng which basically just exists to house the people from the boat. Pretty horrible little town really,everyone there is just out to make as much money from the tourists as they can.

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The next morning we were back on the boat and away by 10am. We arrived in Luang Prabang at around 6pm. We spent at least an hour walking around town before we found a guest house. Luang Prabang is a beautiful small town on the river. The French influence here is clear in the architecture and the baguette stalls on every corner. We spent 3 nights here and had a great time. On our last day here we did an Elephant trek. One of the best things I've ever done. After spending a while feeding an elephant bananas we rode around on one for about an hour. After that we rode them bare back down to a lake and had a bit of splash around with them. Amazing.
In the afternoon we got a tuk tuk to the Kuang Si Waterfall where we had a swim and a play on a rope swing.

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We left Luang Prabang last Tuesday and got a mini bus to Vang Vieng. The bus trip was pretty awful, pot holes everywhere and half the roads not even complete. All this on a winding mountain road. We were glad to get to Vang Vieng safe and sound. For those who don't know Vang Vieng is famous for one thing....tubing. Everyday up to 400 people rent big rubber rings and get a tuk tuk to the top of the river. From there you spend the rest of day floating down the river, stopping off at the many many bars along the way. Its absolutely crazy. We spent 2 days doing this and spent the next 2 days recovering by the pool.

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So thats where we are now. We're getting a bus to the capital Vientien tomorrow, spending 3 nights there and then flying to Hanoi on Thursday. Only 42 days to go now!

Posted by ElliotWebb 23:50 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia

15 days on the Kiwi Experience followed by 3 weeks of hell!

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Ash again, Elliot is lacking the motivation to write at the moment so has left it up to me again!
NEW BLOG! Yeah i know its been a while, but a combination of The Kiwi Experience, natural disasters and laziness has prevented us. I guess its been about a month or so since our last one, so i'm going to struggle to fit everything in here. I'll try my best.

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So we flew from LA to Auckland on the 9th of December and stayed there for 4 nights. Spent a day at Mission Bay Beach, walked around Queen street and checked out a crazy open air Christmas concert in Domain Park. Also went to the Auckland Museum which was really interesting, loads of great Mauri stuff. Got on the Kiwi Experience bus the next Monday and had a fantastic couple of weeks. Far too much went on to write here but we went Kayaking, White Water Rafting, saw glow worm caves, jumped in freezing lakes and met some great people. Spent Christmas day with the bus group, which wasn't the same as home but still a good time. We ended our trip in Christchurch a day after a powerful after shock from the September earthquake had pretty much closed the town down. New Zealand overall was awesome, beautiful scenery, great people, and loads to do. So much so that we already want to go back and do more!

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After an all too brief visit to NZ we flew to Australia on the 29th of December, just in time for New Year. We spent New Year's Eve down at Sydney Harbour. You have to get down there by midday to get a good spot, so we spent the rest of the day sitting in the sun with a picnic. The fireworks at midnight were very impressive, and all the party ships in the harbour were covered in lights. While we were in Sydney we spent a couple of days on the beach- visited Bondi and Manly, both gorgeous sandy beaches.
After this everything started going a bit downhill. Our hostel was pretty grim, and to make matters worse we were stuck in an over crowded room with some messy and unfriendly room mates. We couldn't get to Byron Bay because everywhere was booked up, so we got on a Greyhound to Surfers Paradise. Where it began to rain, and rain and.....rain!

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From Surfers Paradise we headed up to Noosa, and got stuck there for about a week! It just did not stop raining! I'm sure you've all seen on the news about the floods in Queensland. Luckily for us Noosa wasn't too bad, and we managed to change our flights and get out of there pretty quickly! Which was sort of a blessing in disguise as not only were we not having a great time in Oz, we were spending a lot of money doing it! Everything is so expensive over there, from accommodation to food.

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We flew to Singapore on the 14th January, where we stayed for 3 nights. Basically the only 2 things to do here were eat and shop. We did a lot of eating. From here we got a train to Kuala Lumpur where we stopped for the night. Much the same as Singapore, but less developed. the following day it was another train journey, this time overnight- and in first class! Elliot was very excited about this and could barely get to sleep!
We arrived in Butterworth the next morning, and got a boat over to Panang. Panang is an old colonial British town. Lots of Victorian architecture, mixed in with Chinese and Indian styles, temples, and mosques. Quite an interesting place to walk around.
We only stayed there for the morning, as we had to get on another train at 2.20pm that afternoon. Another sleeper train to Bangkok, however not first class this time. Elliot was still very excited, and throughout the night would burst out "We're sleeping on a train Ash, how good is this!?" We arrived in Bangkok at about midday and headed straight to our accommodation for a much needed shower after 2 days and nights on a train!
First impressions of Bangkok is that its a very busy city. The roads are a bit mental, loads of mopeds weaving in and out of cars, and the occasional one almost knocking you over on the pavement! We saw one lady driving a moped while holding onto a young baby, her friend on the back...also holding a baby....safe.

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So that pretty much brings you all up to speed on what we're doing and where we are! We don't have a plan for what we'll be doing from here, but we'll try and make the blogs more frequent and more interesting!

Posted by ElliotWebb 03:34 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Monica, Las Vegas (Part 2)

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Greetings from New Zealand!

Hello all, arrived today in Auckland, New Zealand after a pretty decent 13 hour flight from Los Angeles. Managed to get checked straight in to our hostel and also booked ourselves on the Kiwi Experience bus for Monday. First impressions of New Zealand are good, its nice to see the Queen on currency again!

So since our last blog we visited a few more places in California before we flew out here. We spent three nights in Santa Cruz where the weather was awful. As it was out of season a lot of the town was closed down as well which was dissapointing as we were hoping it would still be warm enough to spend some time on the beach. We spent most of our time there in the hostel or looking around the shops in town. Would love to come back here in the summer when I'm sure it would be heaving.

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Next up we headed a few miles down the coast to Monterey. In the 1930's Monterey was the "sardine capital of the world" and was made famous by John Stienbecks novel "Cannery Row". In the 60's, when sardine populations fell, all the canneries closed down and Monterey became a tourist town. Most of the old Canneries are still there now and Cannery Row is the main street in town, with loads of shops and cafes ect.... Monterey also has some of the best marine wildlife on the west coast. We saw loads of sea lions but you can also see sea otters, lots of different birds and you can also get on a boat and see whales. We happened to be in Monterey for Thanksgiving and had a nice lunch and a few pints whilst watching the NFL and Macy's Day Parade at a local bar.

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After Monterey the original plan was to head down to San Luis Obispo and then Santa Barbara. But because of the weather and how quiet Santa Cruz had been we decided to head straight to LA. During our travels so far we'd heard nothing but bad things about Los Angleles and our minds weren't put at ease when the first thing we saw after leaving the greyhound station was a car on fire in a McDonalds car park! Thankfully Santa Monica (where we were staying) was a lot nicer. Santa Monica is what you'd expect California to be like, huge white beaches, palm trees, and orange sunsets. The place is awesome. A block away from our hostel was 3rd Street Promenade, which was a really nice high street, all lit up for Christmas and full of street performers. We spent 4 nights there, and then, after finding some decent deals on hotels decided to head back to Las Vegas again.

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We spent most of our four days in Vegas in our hotel complex. We stayed in the Excalibur hotel which is the giant castle oppostite MGM. We had a room that faced out on to the strip which was amazing. We played a bit more roulette in the Bellagio and MGM and managed to come away even which wasn't so bad. We also managed to look around a couple of the hotels that we missed first time around.

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After Vegas we got the Greyhound back to Santa Monica for 4 more nights. On sunday we rented beach cruisers and rode down to Venice Beach. Checked out the skate park and arrived just in time to see a skate boarder take a nasty bail and crack his head open, it wasn't pretty but he was ok in the end. Ash and I thought Venice felt like Camden Town on a beach.

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The next day we got the bus into Hollywood to see all the sights. Pretty underwhelming really. We checked out the walk of fame and the Hollywood sign and then left.

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So thats America done. Next Sunday marks the half way point of our trip, its flying by!

Posted by ElliotWebb 02:03 Archived in USA Comments (2)

San Francisco, Yosemite National Park

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Ok, so i'm writing this from some wierd hostel in Santa Cruz. I say "wierd" because there's no alcohol allowed, an 11pm curfew and we're not actually allowed to be here between 11 and 5 during the day. Which wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't freezing cold, windy and pouring with rain outside. I didn't think they had rain in California? Starting to thunder now, great. Anyway, we caught the Greyhound out of San Fran this morning after spending just under 2 weeks there. Stayed in a great hostel in the centre of town and a short distance from Fishermans Wharf. On our first day there we went and had a look around Fishermans Wharf. Nice place, great view of Alcatraz and we found the Sea Lions at Pier 39.
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Again, the homeless population in San Francisco is pretty large but not as bad as in San Diego. The next couple of days we just spent hanging around the hostel or out getting food. Our second favorite Burrito place "Chipotle" was only a block or two away which was handy. That weekend we decided to go to Yosemite National Park, which was a pain to get to as we had to get two buses and wait for 3 hours in the shady town of Merced. It was all worth it though as Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places you're ever likely to see, especially in Autumn (or Fall as they like to say here).
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Our first day there we did two small hikes, the first one took us to the Lower Yosemite Waterfall which was pretty cool, the second took us to Mirror Lake which was nice too. On the bus on the way back home from the park we were able to get a great view of "El Capitan" which is a fantastic mountain with an almost vertical face. Unfortunetly I didn't take a photo of it so if you wanna see what it looks like you'll have to google it.
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Whilst in Yosemite we stayed at the Yosemite Bug Resort which was really good. Every night we just ended up in the club house with a cold bud and a nice meal sat next to a fire. Good times! Our second day in the park we hiked the Mist Trail which was slightly more strenuous than we'd anticipated. An hour and a half later and 1400 ft higher we arrived at the top of The Vernal Waterfall and what a view! One of the best things I've ever done. Once at the top we ate some lunch whilst looking over the entire valley of Yosemite. Awesome!
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Due to how much hassle and the expense it took to get to Yosemite we were not sure wether it would be worth it, but the 3 days we spent there were some of the best days of the trip so far. So after getting a bus then a train and then another bus back to San Fran we spent another 4 nights there. On the wednesday we took the ferry over to Alcatraz. Great trip and for only $26 I thought it was pretty cheap too.
We got a free audio tour there which talked about the prisoners who were kept there and some of the escape attempts all of which was really interesting.
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Also whilst in San Francisco we checked out the Golden Gate Bridge and went on a pub crawl with the hostel, all good fun. 3 nights in Santa Cruz for us now, then heading down the coast for Thanksgiving in Monterey. Hopefully the weather will have improved by then.
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Posted by ElliotWebb 20:20 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Pheonix, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Diego

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Hello, Elliot has allowed me to write this blog entry, however he doesn't trust me to do a good job and is watching over my shoulder while I write it.
So we left Houston on my birthday, and got a flight to Pheonix, Arizona to meet up with my parents. They are in America doing their own mini roadtrip for my Dad's 50th birthday. We all went to watch the Arizona Cardinals Vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an American football match. Arizona are known for being a bit rubbish and they lived up to that image! They lost after throwing a last minute interception. Before the game I wanted to buy an Arizona jersey, but after they lost i decided i would support a better team, with better team colours- go New Orleans Saints!
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The next day we headed off to Las Vegas!! We made a pitstop at the Hoover Dam, which was very impressive to say the least! More impressive still was the brand new bridge they have just built opposite the Dam. It opened a matter of days before we got there, so we were lucky enough to be some of the first people on it! It is the first time ever that you can get a view of the Dam without having to go over the Dam itself.
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We arrived in Vegas later that day, and hit the strip! The hotels there are unbelievable. 'New York, New York' being one of the most impressive, the outside is a giant montage of all the famous sights of New York, with a roller coaster on top as an added bonus! Elliot and I hit the Bellagio to gamble away what little money we have. We lost it all.
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After gambling away all our money we went outside the Bellagio to watch the famous fountain show, which was brilliant! The fountain looks like it's dancing to the classical music that is being played from speakers all around the fountain. Elliot later discovered the Volcano fountain outside the Mirage Hotel, which was even better, the water was made to look like lava, and there were fireballs and all sorts! Amazing.
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On our third and final night, we spent the evening checking out as many of the hotels and casinos as we could, including Ceasars and The Venetian. We could have spent twice as long in Vegas and still not seen it all. One of my favourite places on the trip so far.

After Vegas we headed to the Grand Canyon for two nights. It was my Dad's 50th birthday so we all went out for a meal on the first night to a restaurant right on the rim of the canyon- not that we realised as it was pitch black. Someone needs to light up that bad boy! The next morning we were all up early for a day of driving, hiking, and amazing views. We stayed until the sun set, which was one of the most incredible sights you could ever see.
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The next day it was another early start for the long drive to San Diego. This was where we said our goodbyes to my parents. We enjoyed San Deigo, however the amount of homeless people gets you down after a while. San Diego was a cool town, with a nice Park and Seafront (yes- we've now made it coast to coast!). We were staying in the Gaslamp district which was full of bars, restaurants and shops.

Arrived in San Francisco this morning, and that brings you bang up to date on our travels so far!...

Posted by ElliotWebb 19:32 Archived in USA Comments (5)

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