Its been a while since we last sent an update. Jade's signoff on the last blog "we will try to update within the next week" never seemed to materialise. Every time we log on to a computer we head straight for the most important pages, Facebook, BBC News (Jade says this the first website she visits when she gets on a computer so she can keep up to date with things going on at home - this is a lie), BBC Sport (Me) and Email, and by the time we have finished with them neither of us can be bothered to spend another hour or so writing the blog. So prepare yourself for a marathon update now. Since Koh Tao, we have travelled up to Bangkok, through Cambodia, up Vietnam and across to Laos. Many things to tell you about, so we have split the workload between us and have decided to send you two updates.
From Koh Tao we took an 11 hour boat and bus journey up to Bangkok, arriving on the Khao San Road at 4.30 in the morning. Being the main backpacker area, the street was still pretty busy, but the nights activities had began to die down. People passed out in the gutter and drunk blokes stumbling around hand in hand with their lady-boy catches. We decided to take refuge in a near by MacDonald's as we planned to head out of Bangkok to Kanchanaburi at 7am. More travelling! This would be a little more exciting than our journey up from Koh Tao however, as this was the railway line made famous in the film The Bridge On The River Kwai. Our first day in Kanchanaburi was spent looking around the town, visiting museums and the bridge. That evening we came across a Buddhist night market, which seemed to have attracted the whole town, and ate probably the spiciest meal on earth. Apparently it was only medium hot. The locals seemed to find it funny though as I made my way through a roll of toilet paper from wiping the sweat from my face. The following day we headed to Erawin National Park, and walked up the Seven Steps Waterfall. Very nice. Jumping into some of the pools gave me a chance to cool off after the last nights dinner. We were warned to beware of the pesky monkeys that would steal food and water bottles left hanging out of your bag, but we didn't seem to have any trouble with them.
After two days in Kanchanaburi we went back to Bangkok. Again to the Khao San Road, but this time we arrived at 10am and the street had transformed into a market. The first day we spend looking around China town, discovering that Chinese food at home is very very different to the stuff you get here. Our second day we headed to Chatuchak Market - one of the biggest markets in Asia. It has 15,000 stalls, ranging from Thailand's newest fashion designers to pets. It was the pet section where Jade fell in love. Pug puppies. They were going cheap as well - about 90 quid. Our plan for the third day was to look around the sights. We headed straight for the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha. Having forgotten to cover up for the occasion, Jade had to rent clothes from the entrance. She looked stunning. I have a feeling that all pictorial evidence has been lost, but I can assure you that her blue workman's shirt, its size probably a large men's, complemented her green sarong. She was not happy.
From Bangkok we headed across to Siem Reap in Cambodia. After a very stressful boarder crossing, and a 7 hour bus journey we arrived. After finding our bearings, and numerous trips to Jade's favourite bakery in the world (bold statement I know, but i'm sure one day we visited it 3 times, and each time she got an ice cream) we visited the Temples of Angkor to watch the sunset. Our ticket allowed us entry the following day as well, so this was when we properly explored the temples. The day started at 4.30am, so we could get to Angkor Wat in time to see sunrise - very impressive. Then it was off to the other main temples, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Tah Prohm (which was used in Tomb Raider) and a a few others. By 3pm we were templed out. The heat played a massive part in this - 42 degrees! The next day we visited a floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake . We hoped onto a boat and floated around the Cambodian and Vietnamese villages for about an hour. Our guide explained to us that since his last visit to the Lake, which had only been three days previous, one of the villages had moved about 100m.
The next day we moved onto the capital, Phnom Penh. It was a lot less touristy than Siem Reap - understandable as in comparison there was a lot less to see or do. After a Lonely Planet recommended walking tour of the City and a trip along Mekong we found it difficult to find much to keep us occupied. Jade's highlight of Phnom Penh was coming across a perfect DVD copy of the Twilight Saga New Moon. Throughout our stay in Cambodia we were approached at meal times by kids that could reel off facts about Britain. Standard knowledge was the population of London, and the Capitals of Scotland, Wales and Ireland, but one kid was able to name British Prime Ministers going back to WWII. A few mistakes popped up though. My favourite was Jordon Brown. After we cottoned on to there extensive knowledge we thought we should test them a bit. By the time we left Cambodia I was from Bosnia and Jade was from the Moon.
Now I pass you over to Jade. Enjoy.
From Phnom Penh we travelled up into Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, one of our more pleasurable bus journeys. Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) was almost a sigh of relief from Cambodia, a very busy, buzzing, happy city we both immediately had a good feeling about the place. The amount of motorbikes was insane, out of the 9 million people, 5 million own a motorcycle of some sort. Rush hour was probably the craziest part of day with motorbikes coming from every direction including the pavement!!!
Our first day was spent visiting museums on the Vietnam War. Very interesting, but very biased. Ho Chi Minh is worshipped like a god. The following day we booked a tour to the Mekong Delta. This incuded visits to a floating wholesale market and villages that specialised the popular coconut candy sweets, rice paper and rice popcorn. I also overcame me fear of snakes. It took me a good 15 minutes to pluck up the courage to hold a massive python.
On our third day in HCM we went to the Cu Chi tunnels which were really interesting and very very small! Our tour guide explained to us that there were two tunnels, the 'tourist' tunnel which apparently has lights and air con or the 'local' tunnel which has undergone very few alterations since the war. We were informed that it was 1.3 metres high, and 60cm wide. We opted for the local tunnel, Luke had quite a bit of difficulty fitting inside. We were only underground for about 10 minutes but in this short amount of time we realised how small, hot and sweaty it must have been for the Vietnamese! I salute them for spending 20 years down there!!!
From Ho Chi Minh we moved onto Nha Trang which is a small seaside town a little further up the coast. The first night we were there Luke got chatting to a girl in our dorm and it turned out that she was in our year at Reading and graduated at the same time as us! We ended up travelling with her and a few others for the next couple of weeks. Whilst in Nha Trang we visited some Mud Baths for an afternoon of pampering which was very nice (Luke especially enjoyed this!). We also went on a days boat trip where lots of food and alcohol were involved! One of our friends had one too many cocktails and broke her toe! It was a good day apart from that.
After two full days in Nha Trang we moved along the coast to Hoi An. As usual we got the raw deal on our sleeper bus with the worst seats possible at the back next to a smelly diseased Vietnamese guy (who kept on coughing in my face). As we arrived in Hoi An Luke checked his bag to make sure he had everything only to realise his camera had been taken. We suspect it was the diseased guy sleeping next to me as he looked a little shifty from the beginning and when we woke up in the morning he had already got off the bus. Trying our best not to let it dampen the mood we had a stroll around Hoi An, a quaint world heritage town. A lot different to the other places we had seen so far, we both really loved the French feel it had. Famous for its tailors we jumped on the band wagon and got some things made. Luke got a suit and a shirt and I got two dresses.
Upon leaving Hoi An we hired motorbikes with Easy Rider tour guides ready for a days riding through the mountains en route for our next stop Hue. If anyone has seen the Vietnam Top Gear episode you will know what we are talking about, we travelled along on the Hi Van Pass which has the most incredible views. With his new hairstyle Luke thought he was Hammond for the entire day!
Hue is very much an inbetween town between Hoi An and Hanoi, we stayed here just one night before moving on.
Hanoi had a lot of character, probably more so than Ho Chi Minh. We had met quite a few people by this point and we all decided to book a boat trip to Ha long Bay. On the first day we visited some caves which were pretty cool, way too touristy though so you couldn't really get the proper feel for them. We also visited a fishing village where we saw gigantic fish! Ha long Bay was amazingly beautiful. After lots of photos, dinner (which consisted of rice and cold veg) and a few beverages everyone hit their cabins as we had an early start kayaking the following morning. Bright and early at 6:30am we were in our kayaks, although a little chilly it was a lot of fun until Luke spotted a floating human poo. yuk!!
At about midday we docked at Cat Ba Island, one of the larger islands in Ha long Bay. It was quite an odd place to be taken to, described as in idyllic island, it didn't quite fit this description after witnessing a fight involving crow bars, bottles and machetes! After one night here we quickly got back onto our boat!
Back in Hanoi we spent one more day exploring the city, fitting in with the locals sipping our iced coffees and chewing on sunflower seeds. To round our time up in Vietnam we watched one of our friends eat a snake, including its beating heart. The whole thing was very bizarre, Luke decided to join in and drank some snake bile. so gross!
After our longest bus journeys yet - 23 hours - we arrived in Vientiane the capital of Laos. With very little going on we moved on to Vang Vieng the following afternoon. Vang Vieng is the crazy place with the tubes! For those who have never heard of tubing, it consists of one tube, yourself, a river and lots of alcohol! Arriving at the river mid afternoon we were surrounded by hundreds of very drunk westerners! It didn't take long for us to get involved, after about 20 minutes Luke had already downed a large can of beer through a funnel, and we were both covered in a lot of marker pen! After two days we thought it was best to move on, so with a hangover and a marker pen graffiti all over our bodies we left for Luang Prabang.
Far more chilled out Luang Prabang was a really nice town. We hired some bikes for a day and cycled about 10km out of town, heading for a waterfall which we discovered was closed when we got there. Bad times! We visited a beautiful waterfall the following day where we relaxed on the Lagoons. On our third and final day in Luang Pranbang we spent a day training to become Mahouts. Working with the elephants was most defiantly the highlight of my trip so far, we learnt many elephant commands, rode them, fed them and washed them in the river.
We are now back in Thailand, after two days on a boat, two nights in tiny villages and a very corrupt and frustrating border crossing we finally arrived in Chiang Rai. We plan to spend about 10 days in the north of Thailand before making our way down to Singapore to fly to Australia on the 12th April.
I hope you look forward to our next blog update which we shall post in 5 weeks time, only joking we will do our best to update you all when we get to Melbourne. In the meantime, enjoy your long bank holiday weekend, we've been enjoying this luxury since January 17th.
Much Love x x x