As part of our ongoing monster commute, we headed out of Kuantan and hopped another bus to some random little spot called Jerteh. Happy to report that the bus standard went up considerably back to the standard that we first had. The organisation at the bus terminal however was atrocious.
There are about 6 gates, servicing 12 bays. However all but one of them are closed. So you end up with about 70 people (and their luggage jamming up the only access point listening intently to the guy yelling out which ones can board (in Malay). Even if you happen to catch the call you then have to try and fight your wat through to get to the platform.
Jerteh is a dot on a map around 15 km away from where we were spending the night (Kuala Besut) and we had no idea what transport arrangements were available to get us the last 15km. This was of some concern to me as the idea of walking that far in extreme heat was very unappealing.
As it turned out it was very simple, there was a waiting taxi, who charged a fair price, and dropped us straight to the door. The only real challenge was the absolute shitbox that we drove in. This has not been mentioned yet, but many of the cars in Malaysia are rubbish and should be taken off the road or put out of their misery. The Malaysian local builds are the Proton and the Perodua, and having ridden in many versions of both, they are trash.
The roads themselves are excellent and (for the most part) are of a better standard than we enjoy in Australia. But the cars are crap.
We got to our dodgy little homestay in Kuala Besut (which was ok but super simple) and headed out to find dinner. Unlike the Mersing dramas, it was a very easy and pleasant experience. Having found a nice little restaurant by the water we had a nice meal, well-priced, but with no option to have a beer. So we headed towards our Malaysian default, fresh lime juice.
The next morning we were up, on a ferry and on our way to Palau Perhentian. Another 60m walk from the jetty to our accommodation and another 3 days of beach and snorkelling to look forward to. We grabbed some lunch while waiting for our room to be ready, dropped off our bags and headed out for a snorkel. And within metres of where we were was coral and fish aplenty.
That night we did not do our research properly and thought (wrongly) that there was no beer to be had nearby and that the closest place was the next beach over. The only access to this was to hike a jungle track over a mountain to get to the next beach. We did this, amid much swearing, the emphasis here is more jungle than track. At one point Jill slid down the hill on one of her more fleshy parts while my dodgy football knee hated every second of this. Anyway, we got to the next beach, found the restaurant, had a very poor and overpriced meal (with some beers) and negotiated a boatman to drive us back rather than brave the track at night. The price was double during the evening than the daytime. So we paid our $3.40 and sat calmly in a boat back home.
The next day we mentioned it to our hotel and was told that where we were staying was the only one that didn’t sell beer and that the 3 others happily did so. The jungle track was never seen again. After breakfast we were picked up by our boat at 10am and were off. The trip took us to Coral point, Shark point and Turtle point. No prizes for guessing what we got to see at each.
There is no way that this place could not deliver. Even I got to see and swim with two huge turtles (about a metre in diameter). This time they were not one of Jill’s mythical beasts. This came along with some 3-4 foot black tip reef sharks. The usual fish and coral, a bloody good day.
Importantly we stopped at a restaurant on the way back to have one of the best meals that we have had on the entire trip. Beachbox is a boutique hotel/restaurant that does a single-item menu for each sitting. If you want it you order it, if not, go someplace else. And be sure to book, because everyone wants it, it is that good. But we ended up eating here twice and they were both spectacularly good. Our first foray was a lamb pie and the second (2 days later) was the fish. Absolutely the best restaurant on the island.
The next day we were going to have the day off but instead jumped on the Rawa tour which took in a ton of more snorkelling, to different locations and ended up seeing (surprisingly) coral, fish, baby sharks and the same turtle as the day before. We knew it was the same turtle as it had clearly had an adverse run-in with a propeller. The sharks this time were tiny (50-70cm ) and the contrast with the sand made them a bit tough to get a good picture of.
The one thing that Jill has been doing is identifying and making notes on great places to come back to. And the Maldives, Tioman and here in Perhentian have all made that list. While our commute to get here was unruly, it doesn’t need to be, and with an easy commute these places represent good value and a nice way to amuse yourselves for a week or two.
Mersing is a transit town for those people that are heading to Tioman Island. As a transit town, it is very popular as everyone must funnel through here. We figured that if we were coming that we should spend a day or two and look around.
To be fair, it was in the middle of Ramadan so virtually everything was closed. Perhaps, under normal circumstances, it might be worth visiting. But for us that was not the case. In reality, the place we stayed was fantastic, with great internet and an owner that couldn’t help enough. He even brought us free meals (as everything was closed for Ramadan), on two separate occasions, and would not let us pay.
On arrival (around dinner time) we settled in, found out where the restaurants were, and headed out for a walk. Headed to the restaurants to find that they were closed, and that none, within a reasonable vicinity, were/or would be opening that day or for the next few. So we found where the shops were and aimed for them (about 2-3km away) in extreme heat. We wandered our way to the shops. On the way we came across the dying remnants of street stalls and I managed to purchase the last thing that was available for sale – a roti john.
Now, a roti john is a local dish, unique to the Malay Peninsula, that consists of a long bread roll that is used to soak up an omelette,which is then topped with onion and smothered in a particularly local tomato sauce and mayonnaise mix.
We then found the shops and picked our way through the supermarket landing on some bread, jam, eggs and butter before heading home.
I settled down to my roti john only to find it entirely unappealing, both visually and otherwise. Being the last item available for sale it may well have been sitting there all day before I came along. And it looked and tasted as though that may have been possible. In fact, upon opening of the parcel it looked as if it may have even come pre-chewed and pre-digested.
From Mersing our friendly inn keeper drove us to the pier so that we could make our ferry across to Palau Tioman. Two hours later we arrived on the island to find that our room was about 60m from the pier, facing straight out onto the ocean. It was simple and basic, with a balcony.
In doing her research, Jill found that Tioman was a duty free island and if we went for a (short) walk we could buy some well-priced alcohol (something we had rarely seen since leaving Vietnam). So we set off, in 32 degree temperatures, on a day that felt like 38, in full sun. The short walk was more like 5 km and I had melted and sweated through every item of clothing that I was wearing. It is an island, I tried to dip into the water but the only spot that I could access (along the walk) had sharp rocks and I could not get in.
The path was narrow and was regularly traversed by motorbikes, meaning you had to mount the railings to let them pass – or be run over. Their version of a speed bump was a strip of nautical rope laid and pinned across the path. So we kept walking, eventually we made it to the shop, only to find that nothing was that cheap and that anything that we bought we would have to schlepp all the way home. We grabbed a few beers and headed back.
The next morning we hopped on a tour and headed out to do the round island trip. This involved stops at deep bay, Asah waterfall, Tomok island, Renggis island and Soyak island. Importantly, we got to swim with black tip reef sharks (about 4-5 feet long) and the usual assortment of reef fish. According to Jill she swam with a turtle for about 25 minutes. This was at Soyak Island where the guide told us to do a lap. Being nothing but obedient, I started swimming and snorkelling to do the lap and totally missed the turtle. Jill, who was behind me, saw the turtle and abandoned any thoughts of doing a lap.
This has become a pattern whenever Jill and I snorkel together. We snorkel along and see the usual fare of parrot fish, angel fish etc and when we separate she returns asking whether I has seen the unicorn, the griffon or anything else she can dream up. It seems that all of these magical creatures turn up when I am nowhere around. My response is usually that I missed it and then she raves about how good it was. In the mean time I saw coral and little fishies.
The main issue that we had here on Tioman was that it was the last few days of Ramadan and that almost all of the restaurants were closed and those that stayed open were packed and only had a limited supply of food and an abridged menu. That said, we did not go hungry and were able to have some really lovely meals. The highlight of these was Jill’s foray into what was called a “Shell Out”. Pretty similar to the Philippine “Boodle Fight” but in individual portions. The “Shell Out” was a mass of different seafood (with your choice of sauce mild-spicy) piled in the centre of your table, served with rice.
Backing the snorkelling up day on day we were off on the Coral Island trip. This involved Malang Rock, Tulai Island, Salang Village, Soyak Island (again) and Monkey Bay. Usual story, lots of fish and coral to see and a bunch of underwater shots. Once again others in the group saw the turtle and I missed out (again).
Given that visibility is not always the best for photographing the fish we see I thought I would grab some better photos off the internet of the fish that we regularly see. These include (clockwise from top left) the angelfish, banner fish, barracudas, parrot fish, sweetlip, rabbitfish and the ubiquitous parrotfish.
Leaving Tioman started what was to be a monster transit that took us the better part of 3 days to get to our final destination. The timing and linkage between transport services and our low trust in timetables and scheduling meant that we spent a lot of time transiting. The ferry from Tioman to Mersing was easy and comfortable. The bus station was about a 2km walk but we had 6 hours to kill while we waited for our bus, so we decided to walk it. It was another hot day and we sweated considerably. A few days earlier (when we arrived) we saw that there was a food court at the bus station so figured that food would not be an issue.
Have I mentioned the end of Ramadan yet…well this kicked in in earnest. Virtually everything was shut. The exception was 2 little take away shops selling chips and drinks, any other option involved doing the 2km walk back to near the dock. Having lugged our bags one way we did not relish the idea of doing it two more times. So we sat, read books, did crosswords, listened to music and waited. Finally (6 hrs later), the time came and our bus came to get us.
Having given a rap on how good the Malaysian buses were, we were met with one that shot that idea down in flames. Clearly, not all companies are equal, and we had an almost 4hr crappy ride that saw us delivered in Kuantan at around 9 pm. Given the time, we stopped for the night (taxi from the bus station to a hotel) and steeled ourselves for the next leg.
Point number one…they are Mal deeves, not Mal dives, regardless of the spelling.
The Maldives are a nation that is 99% water, with 1192 individual islands (about 200 of these are inhabited). The islands extend more than 820 km from north to south and 130 km from east to west. All the islands are low-lying, none rising to more than 6 feet (1.8 metres) above sea level.
The geography naturally divides the country up into 26 atolls (chains of islands) but for administrative purposes, the government has divided it into 20. Added to this there are many sandbanks however these tend to change locations with the tides and are not usually mapped.
Maldives has a very friendly and welcoming population. The official language is called Dhivehi (or Maldivian) which is a sort of hybrid version of Arabic, Hindi, and English but most Maldivians can speak English with no problems.
Islam is the state religion and our timing put us here right in the middle of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, when the new crescent moon can first be seen). During Ramadan, Muslims worldwide fast from sunrise to sunset. And Jill and I in the middle of it. No alcohol allowed and no food during daylight hours. Forced detox it is.
Now let’s not be silly here this place is stunning…and we have only seen a minuscule amount of it. Warm, open waters of every shade of black, blue and green that you can imagine and white sandy beaches everywhere you look. Even walking out of the Male Airport you are not met with the usual grey bitumen cab rank, you are greeted by pristine blue waters and your taxi is invariably a high-powered water taxi.
This place is also hot. The numbers don’t show it (28-32 degrees) but the feels like is always reported around the 38 mark. This is mainly because there is no avoiding the sun. It hits you on the way down and reflects off the gleaming white sand and hits you on the way back up. The up side to this is that you are just a quick dip in the water away from dropping your body temperature considerably.
Some of the islands and atolls are named using local names while others are merely known by the particular resort that has been established there. Eleven of the Islands are serviced by airports with the remaining 1181 islands being serviced by boats (of varying quality and standard). Male is the main international airport with other islands having smaller local airports, and seaplanes servicing many of the other islands.
Important Note: your flight time and the boat/ferry times are unlikely to match each other. This will be a critical point when planning your trips, particularly for arrivals and departures. The local ferry is cheap as chips, the fast ferry is around $25 USD/head and a private boat could be any number they think of.
We set up camp on a little island called Guraidhoo, which was about 36km south of the capital Male that we got to on a high powered jet boat (for $50 USD each way). It is small (about 700m by 500m but has numerous shops, dive and tour operators, and a few restaurants.
80% of the Maldives’ GDP is generated through tourism with over 1.5 million people visiting annually. Other than that there are is boat building and a few cottage industries (handicrafts, weaving, embroidery etc).
There are over 130 resort islands, including almost all of the top hotel chains. As with everywhere, the accommodation ranges from the top of the line to the cheap and cheerful depending upon your budget. These numbers also go up and down depending on the time of the year and season.
I found 5 star rooms and villas on offer for between $2200 and $4500 USD per night. Needless to say, these were pretty bloody nice. The place directly opposite our island had bungalows over the water for $1500 a night and the ones with pools were more than double that.
I also found some all-inclusive deals that started for around $400USD a night and they went up from there. Oh, the other factor here is that you can get booze on some (if not all) of the resort islands.
Our place, by comparison, was a meagre $60 Australian a night and included breakfast. When we go out for dinner we hit one of the few restaurants on the island and our general spend is between $20-25 USD for our meals. This includes a restaurant where your feet are in the sand while you eat. Bear in mind that there is no alcohol included in this price as we are in a Muslim country.
The streets are not paved but are made of a sandy/coral mix, which means you are virtually on the beach 100% of the time. The Bikini beach was a 3 minute walk for us and was stunning. Jill got into the pattern of heading out to the beach after breakfast and lazing under one of the cabanas (with regular dips into the ocean) and returning at around 5 pm. I on the other hand would pop in once or twice a day for an hour or two to get my swim in and chat.
The funny thing was that each day a boat would arrive from one of the resort islands and drop off a bunch of people to laze on our beach, because it was nicer.
After a few days of lolling around on the beach we decided to do a day trip. These are available for about $500-700 USD per day, but the price per person drops the more people that go. We managed to get on one that was $100USD / head. It was meant to include dolphins, turtles, sting rays, sharks, snorkelling, lunch, sandbank and manta rays. We were warned in advance that it was the wrong time of year for Manta Rays and given that it was Ramadan, lunch did not happen.
As for the rest though…they seriously delivered on all fronts.
Neither of us were that thrilled with the dolphin idea as we have seen them often. In fact, in Perth there is a local pod that lives in the river and swims past regularly. And then we saw a pod of about 100+ dolphins and they were magnificent. The little ones were leaping out of the water and spinning and generally just having a good time.
The boat dude handed out snorkels and said, jump in…in the middle of the ocean. Everyone stared at each other not too sure, but someone had to make a move so in I went. That was basically the last that I saw of dolphins. They did not come within 20 meters of me and my GoPro.
Jill on the other hand had them swimming all around and underneath her (with no GoPro). I had the ability to capture the images but didn’t get near one, she did not and was surrounded by them.
The next stop was the snorkelling and the turtles. Now this has been on my bucket list for a long time. I have always wanted to swim with turtle and am happy to say that this has now happened. More importantly both Jill and I got to get VERY close to it. From here we hit a local island (Fulidhoo) where we saw the sting rays right on the beach. In fact we can see this every evening at our own island but is was still ok.
From here we headed over to the next stop, which was the sharks. Now this was impressive and terrifying at the same time. We pulled up in the boat and the dude immediately started chumming the water so that the sharks would come to the boat. When there was around 20 sharks under the boat he told everyone to jump in. People were nervous enough in the middle of the ocean with dolphins, needless to say nobody rushed to do this. Jill and I filmed from the boat while I decided that I did not really need to swim with sharks.
These sharks ranged in size from about 2m to 3.5m and google tells me they keep going over 4m. The dude who kept urging us to get in, made the comment not to touch the sharks. I’m not sure how stupid I look but I am pretty sure that this is advice I probably didn’t need to be told. Jill (who is obviously over my company by now and knows the value of my superannuation) kept encouraging me to jump in.
After the first 2 people had gone in with no incident I made my way to the front of the boat and prepared to jump. Just as I was about to leave a shark emerged directly below me, that I would have landed on. Now I don’t know a lot about sharks, but I am pretty sure a fat bugger landing on your back while you are happily swimming along, might prompt you to bite. Anyway, long story short, I jumped in, while my bride watched and filmed from the boat.
I spent the next 20-30 minutes getting bumped into and shoved by sharks. Don’t touch the sharks, bloody well tell them that.
Uninhabited Islands – there are more uninhabited islands in the Maldives than there are inhabited ones, they are the closest you can get to ‘truly untouched’ natural environments. And virtually every resort, guesthouse, hotel will have a day trip to private sandbanks and uninhabited islands. They almost all have powdery sandy white beaches and pristine lagoons. However, a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience comes at an expense, both financially and physically. There is often no escape from the heat, and the shifting tides and currents can drastically change the formation of the sandbank throughout the day.
The traditional Maldivian cuisine is known as Dhivehi Cuisine it is a fusion of Indian and Sri Lankan food (more so the Sri Lankan) but heavily influenced by the seafood and coconut that is in abundance. Obviously fish is a staple and many nights during our time here did we eat a lot of fresh whole fish. These varied greatly, depending upon what had been caught that day.
On our last morning before leaving we even tried the Maldivian traditional breakfast. This consisted of a mix of tuna, coconut flesh and onions served with a boiled egg and some chapatis.
Extras – There are some extra hidden costs that sneak up on you, particularly that you are subject to a 10% Service Charge plus a 16% Goods and Services Tax (GST). The GST is applied after the service charge has been added on. In addition, there is a green tax applicable of USD $6 per person per night.
Leaving became a bit of an issue as we had a 10:30am flight out and the ferry that came at 7am was a slow one (for $1.50 each) that takes 3 hrs to do the 36km trip. The fast one (for $25 USD each) that takes 30mins came at 9:45 and a private one would have cost us $200 USD. So a last minute scramble saw us heading out from Guraidhoo back to Male and getting a night’s accommodation at Hulhumale. However the hotel helped with all of this (including transfers) and it generally worked out well.
This place is heaven on earth and we will definitely be coming back. This time we had 10 days on the one Island, with the tour taking us to 2 others and our departure to a third (due to boat and ferry times). Next time we may split this to 5 and 5 moving to another island to get a bit more variety. Besides, there are another 1188 islands that we haven’t been near yet. But Jill has already got a travel alert set up for when there are cheap flights.
While I am certain that the resorts are lovely, so too was our little cheap and cheerful. And regardless of where you stay, you end up swimming in the same crystal clear waters and seeing the same fish, dolphins, sharks and rays.
We came to Danang last time around and really liked the place, although there was very little really to do here. Well, that has changed considerably since our last visit. In 2017 the golden bridge was built and has quickly become one of the most visited and photographed things in all of Vietnam. I saw the images and decided that this was something that I really wanted to see.
Being up in the hills, and incredibly popular I have been warned that the bridge may well be shrouded in clouds or packed with people. Anyway, that is why we are here, more about the bridge a bit later on and we will see which version of the bridge we will get to encounter.
The other thing that we saw when we were here last time was the dragon bridge. This was a bridge that had its curves painted and styled to resemble a dragon. It didn’t particularly do anything but was an interesting enough oddity.
Well, this too has changed, the bridge has had a heap of lights added to it and of an evening it cycles through a range of colours, however, I still think that the original yellow is the most striking.
Oh yes, they added a couple of other features. Every Friday and Saturday night, to coincide with the riverside night market, at 9pm they put on a fire and water show.
The dragon literally spits fire…
and water, while thousands watch on with awe.
All in all, it is an excellent way to bring people to the city and have them in a central location. From here you have the markets with tons of fresh seafood on offer, along with the usual tourist fare of trinkets. The area is full of restaurants, vendors and performers. All in all it is an excellent evening and is highly recommended.
After this we organised a day trip out to the Cham Islands which is a 15 square-kilometer island cluster consisting of 1 main island and 8 surrounding small islands. It is about 20km from Hoi An and 45 from Danang. We actually tried to go the day before but strong winds meant that the government banned the tourism operators from taking people out.
As we got our tour pulled we decided to walk down to the beach and check that out.
Having gone out the next day, which was dramatically calmer, we were glad they stopped the trip. The seas were brutal. You are in a high powered speed boat, that holds about 30 people, and you belt across the straights at full tilt being bashed and bounced every inch of the journey. And that was on a calm day. Having arrived, the main island was pretty stunning as was the seafood lunch on offer.
Unfortunately, most Vietnamese people cannot swim. This means that they get loaded up in life vests and floatation rings, with goggles on, and tramp all over the reef and coral. So that which is left has been and continues to be pummelled.
And now on to the reason we came to Danang again, the Golden Bridge, situated in the Ba Na hills. On our way to the mountain, the guide told us that there had only been 4 good days of viewing over the last 30, so our expectations were suitably low.
The Ba Na hills area was once a mountain retreat for French emigres, back in colonial times, but had been long since forgotten due to limited road access. The solution to this was to join with European engineers and build the world’s biggest cable car at 5,801 meters in length. Additionally, this cable line has the largest height difference between the upper and lower stations in the world.
This was the introduction that you have, as you ride the almost 6 km cable car up to the French Village and La Jardin D’Amour Gardens. I had only ever seen the images of the bridge online. I did not realise that it was actually part of some massive, artificial amusement park akin to a Vietnamese version of Disneyland, known as Sunworld.
The bridge itself is 150m long, 12.8m wide and is made up of 8 arches and obviously has the two main supports sculpted to look like two giant stone hands.
While it is all fake, it is still very impressive to see and is nonetheless impressive.
As for the type of day we got…not a blue sky in sight. It was cloudy and wet and cold, considerably colder than I had counted on. In fact, I think it was around 10-15 degrees colder up the mountain than it was on the flat of Danang.
At the first stop you have the bridge and a French Village, which has been designed to look like an old fashioned France lined with recognizable classical landmarks such as the square, church, town, old village and inns.
From the bridge and gardens, you get on another cable car that takes you up to Sunworld proper. This is the blingiest fantasy theme park around…but I’m not sure that it means to be. I think that the attempts to re-create European cityscapes and plazas were genuine. There are castles, fountains, cathedrals, you name it…they are incredibly kitsch and tacky looking but fun nonetheless.
Fantasy Park is the largest indoor game zone of Vietnam that includes countless games, recreations and sports for families. The Jurassic Park is a must-visit for fans of movie with animatronic dinosaurs around every corner.
Besides, this complex also puts on offer the first wax museum of Vietnam, in which lifelike figurines are modeled after prominent figures worldwide. A personal favourite of ours was the incredibly blingy Helios Waterfall. This was some type of reimagining of the Spanish steps in Rome, the fountains of Versailles and who knows what else. The blurb tells you to “Admire the collection of classic god statues such as Helios, Apollo, Bacchus, Venus, Athena, and 15 other gods”. All of the statues were painted golden and glistened in the sunlight, oh and the photo with blue skies is Jill’s Camera doing tricks, there was no blue sky in sight.
The one thing that must be said is that the landscaping was incredible. The amount of effort and expense that must have gone into it was phenomenal and it was by far the standout for me. This goes for the entre place. There are obviously feature gardens that are lovely but even just walking around, each path is meticulously done and maintained.
And of course there was the usual amount of funpark randomness to be seen as you wended your way through the place.
As fake and tacky as some of this was, it was still a really good day. The buffet lunch that was included was incredible, the bridge was exactly what it seemed like and if you were willing to fight with the thousands of instagrammers you could get some nice photos. The earlier you arrive the better your chances.
And as a non-gardener…they really need to be commended…they even managed to impress me.
Boracay is another of the islands in the central Philippines. Boracay has been listed many times as one of the best islands and beaches in the world by all the travel experts. The island itself is tiny, being only seven kilometres long, and less than one kilometre wide at the narrowest spot. The total area is 10.32 square kilometres and it is packed with resorts, particularly along the west coast where White Beach is lined by palm trees, and directly behind them come the bars and restaurants.
In short, this place is tourist central. But unlike most places we have been to lately, this place is mainly for the locals to come. Not so many western tourists here, the lion’s share of people are local Filipinos enjoying the beach, diving, snorkelling, dining, and parties.
Our first raid on arrival was to wander down to White Beach for the famous sunset. Us along with about 2-3000 other people. This truly is a very popular beach. The sun sets here around 6:00 pm all year round and it is the busiest time on the beach, with lots of people taking pictures and enjoying the view.
After sunset, the beach path gets very busy with a lot of people hitting the various restaurants and bars until around midnight when the bars become quiet as people move from the bars to the clubs. We are old so we typically bail by about 10 after dinner and a few drinks.
Day two saw us jumping on the Island hopping tour so that we could get a good taste of vitamin SEA. The itinerary included stops to Puka Beach, Crystal Cove, Crocodile Island, Magic Island and Coral Garden. Puka Beach was just a nice beach to loll about with some rather impressive sand art and Crocodile Island, surprisingly, looked a bit like a crocodile. Coral Garden was nice but a bit busy, rough and a bit too much current for good snorkelling. This was made a little harder by a few Japanese tourists, who clearly did not swim too well and were thrashing about hitting anyone within range – not to mention scaring away all of the fish.
The thing that amused Jill the most was the Instagrammers. Almost without exception, they all hired the crystal canoes (plastic see through numbers) and spent the better part of 20 -30 minutes contorting themselves while the poor local paddling them about had to take photos of them. They were sitting, kneeling, lying, hanging over the side, just about anything to get their perfect shot. And they were doing it by the dozen as the shallow clear waters were full of these crystal canoes that had turned into photo studios.
Crystal Cove was the main port of call (and a 300 peso per person extra). This is a small island surrounded by very nice turquoise waters, with a couple of caves. On top of the coves, various huts and platforms have been built that overlook the water and waves hitting the rocks of the cove. Underneath is a hole with stairs leading down the cave and a natural pool where you can take a dip.
On the east coast, is Bulabog Beach its strong winds make this side a hub for water sports. This also means that this is all the western tourists, that were missing from White Beach, have gone to hide. The place is chock full of expensive resorts, overpriced restaurants (and I thought the prices at White Beach were high) and expensive past times. The sky is full of kite surfers and the water full of windsurfers – invariably all western, and the street is full of touts.
We thought that we would bum around on this beach as it was less busy, however the wind meant that a lot of debris had blown up on shore and it was not that nice. With the exception of the 100 meter strips in front of the major resorts, where they employed people to rake and sweep the beach constantly.
Nearby is Mount Luho, the highest peak on the island. While only a bit over 100 metres above sea level there is an observation deck that offers panoramic views over the island.
After hitting the tourist spots we decided to have a nice beach day. We headed out to White Beach, waiting an appropriate time for all the tours to go. Even then we got there too early as there was a steady stream of tour boats setting off until almost noon. A bit over the free breakfasts (Silog) we found a cafe that did real coffee (a bit over the 3-in-1) and after ordering found out that they also had real bread (not full of sugar). So Jill had the bacon and egg burger and I had an omelette with mushroom and gruyere cheese.
In short, Boracay is truly one of the nicest beaches in the world and its place on the lists warranted. It is long, with some of the finest sand that I have encountered and generally pleasant. The island however, is much more suited to scuba divers than it is for snorkelers. The nearby reefs have been hit hard by tourists and the currents are a bit too strong for most swimmers. A few meters down, these issues tend to go away. As you can see from the map below there are many dive sites surrounding the island.
Missed piece: this bit happened in Coron but I forgot to add it and it was one of Jill’s favourite things. After the departure of Brad and Nora, Jill and I went out to dinner. We sat down and I ordered a bucket of beer (6 bottles) the waitress turned to Jill and said ‘and for the lady’. This had Jill laughing for quite a while.
Sadly, in our transit to Borocay, an event overshadowed this. So much so that Jill will almost wets herself every time she thinks of it. We were sitting in the waiting area of the airport waiting for the assured gate change. When it came, we were approached by a very meek Filipina girl to advise us of the change (a fact that we knew and were about to move). At this point she looked at me and asked ‘are you wheelchair’, in disgust I got up and headed off while Jill virtually needed the wheelchair as she was laughing so much. For the next few hours, all that I heard from my wife was ‘are you wheelchair‘ followed by her cackling.
Well we left off the last post with us on the Nullarbor Plain doing the drive from east to west. We had just left South Australia and had entered what we found out was an entirely new time zone (The Central Western Time Zone) that we had never known existed. This differential messed with my mind more than anything before…I just could not work out what was going on. Having left the east coast during the end of summer daylight savings time applied in some states and had finished in others but none of this was the issue.
The move to SA was a known 30 minutes difference and Perth was a known 2-3 hr time difference depending on the daylight savings component. We knew we were to be driving around 800kms, how long that would take and what time it would be in both SA where we had left and Perth where we were headed…we knew all times but in the middle there is this random 45 minute time zone… and none of the maths computed in my head. Ignoring the time zone issues we kept heading west and eventually we found ourselves in a zone that allowed my tiny mind to operate again.
As you drive across the Nullarbor there are any number of random roads or dirt tracks that spill off to the left. These take you to the ocean and the Great Australian Bight which primarily is a really long cliff face around 60 meters tall ….randomly dotted along the road are surfing beaches and viewing platforms. These side roads are a good distraction to what can be a long drive and some of the scenery along the way is unrivaled.
The other major distraction on an almost 48 hour drive from east to west is The Nullarbor Links. This is an 18-hole par 72 golf course that exists between the WA town of Kalgoorlie and Ceduna in South Australia. This stretches a distance of 1,365 kilometres and the holes are located in the various towns and roadhouses that you hit along the way and equipment can be hired at each.
The concept was developed to give travelers a reason to stop and spend more time and money at towns and roadhouses that they may otherwise just blast past at 110kph. Some of the holes are at actual golf courses at either end while others have been designed to show off the local landscapes and wildlife. Some of these also provide degrees of difficulty for the golf game. Some of the highlights include:
Hole 4 – Nundroo (the wombat hole) has the biggest population of the Southern hairy-nosed wombat in Australia.
Hole 5 – Nullarbor Roadhouse (Dingo’s Den) reinforced with dingo traps and scrap iron.
Hole 8 – Mundrabilla one of the world’s largest meteorite sites
Hole 10 – Cocklebiddy Motel a series of interesting cave systems
When you hit the border of SA and WA you come across a compulsory agricultural checkpoint and a little joint called border village. Just south of Border village is the Bunda Cliffs which at the right time of year (between May and October) provides views of the Southern Right Whales and in between times gives views of 90 metre tall perpendicular limestone cliffs alongside the Southern Ocean.
Having crossed into WA we then passed through a range of towns such as Mundrabila, Madura, Cocklebiddy, Caiguna, Balladonia, Fraser Range and Norseman. At Norseman you get to make a choice…head north to Kalgoorlie-Boulder or head south to Esperance. Having seen enough desert and barren landscapes we chose to head south and do the scenic coastal route into Perth.
This is a straight steal from the WA tourist website but it is about as accurate as it gets for the area around Esperance.
A beach and nature-lover’s dream, Esperance is blessed with squeaky-clean beaches, turquoise waters, untouched islands and colour-filled wildflower country. Among its most famous beauty spots is Australia’s whitest beach, Lucky Bay – set against a stunning seascape of 110 islands of the Recherche Archipelago, even the kangaroos can’t resist lounging here.
In 1979, the space station skylab fell to earth with pieces of it landing across WA and in the vicinity of Esperance. In typical Australian style the mayor of Esperance issued a $400 fine to NASA for littering. Leaving Esperance we headed along the coastline taking a series of relatively similar photographs as we came across bay after bay of white sand, crystal clear water and stunning scenery.
From here we headed to Albany stopping along the way at the the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk. This is a 600m walkway 40m in the air meandering through the canopy of some of the largest tress around. The Karri trees and forests of the southwest of WA are truly amazing.Huge trees with massive circumferences and even though you may be 40m up… the trees soar above you for almost as much again. To be honest even the drive to get to these giants is wonderful but getting out and wandering along gives an entirely different perspective. From here we were an overnight stay and a short drive from the place that would be our home for the next few weeks.
So we had a sleep and did the last 400kms into Perth. This leg involved :
Madura to Esperance – 730kms
Esperance to Albany – 480kms and
Albany to Perth 417kms
So pulling into Perth we headed straight for the accommodation that Jill’s work had lined up for us during our transition. It was in the Southern suburbs 50km south of Perth. It hasn’t been mentioned yet but Jill’s new job was a high ranking position with an aged care company here in WA. So of course the accommodation provided was a manager’s unit at one of the facilities.
So for the next 3-4 weeks we became residents of an old folks home.
As Jill does she flew straight into work and I was tasked with the jobs of finding us a place to live and finding myself a job. So it started…we scoured the real estate websites and went to open homes…basically hunting for some semblance of area familiarity. We had a brunch with my cousin who has lived here her whole life. Met her husband and child and got some tips as to good areas to look.
Subiaco was the first port of call, close to town and full of cafes and restaurants…one attempt at finding a carpark and a wander down the street surrounded by wannabe hipsters and I decided that Subiaco would not be for us. If I continually saw perfectly gelled hair, bowties, button up cardigans with skinny jeans, Ned Kelly beards and twirly moustaches…then I would likely as not punch one of them…
The next port of call was Scarborough Beach…neither of us had lived by the beach and we thought it might be worth a try. So while Jill worked I bounced around the laziest and least interested real estate agents on the planet. Bearing in mind that we were 50km south in the suburbs…each day was quite the trek. As the mining boom had flooded the WA economy…prices were through the roof and demand had been so high that people were knocking each other over to pay over the asking price. As such the real estate agents got complacent and when the mining money dried up prices plummeted and the attitudes needed adjusting.
We found a great place about 200 meters from the beach and put in our application…and waited…and waited…no word…so I rang and asked…no response…so we kept looking…we checked out other suburbs and got a sense of where would be good to live. We found a nice place, walking distance to town and signed up straight away…renting straight from the owners (more about this next post).
Three days later we got a phone call congratulating us that we had got the first place by the beach. This was almost 3 full weeks after we first saw the property. We declined and made comment about the lack of service provided. A month later on and this place was still on the market and the asking price for rent had dropped by about $25 a week. I wonder if the owner knows that if it had not been for the ineptitude and laziness of his estate agents that they would have had 12 months of guaranteed rent.
Our introduction to Thailand was atrocious…the first impressions were that of money hungry, gouging prices. We went in with our eyes open and were expecting it to be more expensive than the places we had recently been…but this took things to another level. To use an ATM here…any ATM…you must pay between 150 and 180 baht to withdraw funds. This is between $6-8 to get your own money out…further to this they limit withdrawal sizes…so that you must pay this fee over and over.
We arrived at the Bangkok airport (not the main one) at lunchtime and had a 3 hour layover until we could fly on to Phuket. We cruised the food options to be shocked at the prices…a subway sub was over $13 (once converted), a McDonald’s meal was well over $10 as was Burger King, a latte was $9. Now I accept that airport prices almost everywhere are high…but these prices are almost double the Australian prices…and as we all know Australia is expensive. We settled on 2 Burger King whoppers and we shared a large fries and a coke for $26 Australian.
We thought that after 14 months away a 2 week break by the beach in Thailand was the perfect way to wind down before returning back to Australia. The beach time may have been awesome…but Thailand…at least Phuket…was not it. This place is the pits. Having been through the last few countries…any one of these would have been a much better choice than coming here to Phuket.
Thailand is the home of the girlie-boy…officially titled the Kathoey…they are much more visible and more accepted in Thailand than the transgender or transsexual communities in Western countries. As Thais generally believe in Karma they tend to believe that being a kathoey is the result of transgressions in past lives, therefore kathoey deserve pity rather than blame. They are everywhere…you can see them working in shops, movie theatres and clothing stores…but mostly you see them working at massage joints. And mostly they are grabbing tourists offering massages with happy endings.
We settled in to an ok hotel in the middle of the tourist area near Patong beach. This is the most famous beach resort on Phuket and is tourism hell. Thousands of foreigners (mostly Russians and Aussies), bars, restaurants, touts, trinket shops, tourist shops, tailors and massage joints. Add to this the constant cacophony created by people touting for tuk tuks, massages, the nightly Muay Thai martial arts bouts or the Ping pong shows and this place sucks.
The main tourist strip is Soi Bangla or Bangla road. This is about a 500 metre long street running between the beach and the main shopping centre Jungceylon. The street is lined with bars that double as strip joints and knock shops. The road gets blocked off every evening at 6pm and the fun begins. Hookers spill out along the street, shake their asses (poorly) on poles, and sidle up to drunk, sunburnt tourists who are too under the weather to notice that 70% of the girls are blokes.
The prices reduced from the initial shock of the airport but are still about 400% higher than each of Thailand’s immediate neighbours. Jill, Cathy, Brett and I all went searching every evening on the hunt for the various culinary delights that were on offer…and there is a lot on offer. While the nightlife is scary the food scene certainly is not. We did find some incredibly good meals…but we also paid a lot of money for them.
The beach was nice…sort of…it is kinda tough to get excited about foreign beaches when you grow up in Australia. The last time I went to Hawaii I complained about crappy beaches…the beaches here are much nicer…but the water is dead flat so there is nothing surf related. As I mentioned earlier the main groups here in Phuket are Aussies and Russians. The Aussies that come tend to fit 2 categories…parents with kids… Or single blokes looking for the nightclubs, hookers, bar girls and the rub and tugs on offer everywhere.
The Russians however fit into one category but 2 age brackets. There are the early 20’s Russians who wear tiny shorts and muscle shirts, while the girls are in bikinis or G-strings and topless on the beach. And then there are the Russians in their late 50’s who are also in bikinis or G-strings and topless on the beach. I will not say too much on this subject for fear of instilling mental images that may never leave. Needless to say…we have seen some things that cannot be unseen.
One of the more amusing aspects is the oldies…they are to afraid to get amongst the action on Bangla Road so they take up position on the opposite side of the road and just watch the goings on. We stopped in at the tailors and got a cashmere wool suit made up each…we figured that upon our return we would have to be grownups and get jobs and things. And this would mean job interviews etc…Yucko.
While here…I found the perfect shirt for my father in law but my wife overruled its purchase for fear that we may offend my mother in law. Anyway…sorry Jim…no shirt for you.
Well this was a break away from everything on a beach in the jungles of Borneo…literally. We flew from Penang to Kota Kinabalu where we were met by our cab driver who drove us 70 minutes into the jungle. As we popped into a village of about 8 houses he stopped the car and started unloading our bags…pointing at the ocean.
In the distance we could see two boys one 18 years old and the other about six…they were doing burnouts in a red inflatable rubber duckie. He saw the cab then sped over to where we were. He grabbed both bags (no mean feat as combined they are almost 40kg) and started wading through the water to the rubber duckie. We took our boots off, unzipped the bottom of our trousers and followed the wading.
Knee deep in water hopped on and we sat on the edge of the life saving rescue vessel and off we went to our lagoon. Same scenario on the other end…hop into the water and wade onto the sand…and be met by a grinning owner. This place is quite literally an inlet with about 100 metres of sand, about a third of that of grass and buildings…and then the jungle. There was a main building which was the size of a double garage that housed the kitchen and a dining area which was under a lean-to type structure attached. And then there was the little bungalows.
Our little villa had a ditch filled with stones running through it…we assumed it to be a drainage issue but we were raised above the ground so I don’t really know why.it may have been artistic…but in reality it was a fall hazard…especially heading to the toilet late at night. Our toilet was not in our villa but rather out the back in an open air lean-to. There was a toilet, a sink and a cold water shower which was attached to the upright of the veranda structure.
We had a dip in the ocean, settled into our hammocks and generally kicked back for a while. At sunset we took some photos from our villa and the beach then waited for the generator to kick in. That evening we headed to the garage for a reasonable sort of dinner and crashed early…making sure to plug in all of our devices as we only had electricity overnight while the generator was running. This place is a petrol driven, internet/ technology/ communications free paradise.
The next day we swam and lazed in our hammocks…that is all you can really do here. The one bit of excitement was watching Jill’s arm swell, blister and change colours after the jellyfish sting she got while swimming. This didn’t stop either of us from going for two hourly dips and lazing on the hammocks in between…did I mention that this is all you can do here. At one point we watched the English girl who made the cocktails hop in a kayak and paddle off returning about 3 hrs later. We found out that night that she had paddled to the opposite side to a different beach…to call her mother on the cell phone…as that is what you have to do to get any sort of reception.
Late in the day I started chatting to a guy painting a door blue at the extreme end of our 100 metre stretch of beach. He was painting the door of the soon to be established dive and snorkel shop. Many moons back I did my open water dive ticket…much to the amusement of my sisters who called me shark bait for a period. So anyway we arranged that the next day I would get a quick refresher and we would head out to dive some scuttled Japanese war ships a few inlets over. Jill would lay on her hammock.
The few days were mostly spent in the hammock and reading…as there was little else to do here…not so terrible. From here we did the reverse journey back to Kota Kinabalu where we hopped a 3.5hr ferry to Labuan Island which is a duty free launching point outside of Borneo. To be honest there is very little going for Labuan township. It is a ferry terminal, a dock and a bunch of duty free stores. But the timing of ferries is such that you cannot do it in a day trip but need to overnight here.
As you are forced to overnight…there are very few hotels here and of course all the cheap rooms are taken…always. It was quite a funny place actually. There were a lot of girlie/boys loading up on cosmetics, a bunch of body builders loading up on supplements (and probably roids) and a bunch of drunks getting booze and taking in their daily limit to Brunai Darussalam which is only a 90 minute ferry away…but is totally dry.
Leaving Cat Ba we were faced with the nightmare transit…but in reverse. After the journey inbound we decided to use a different company on the way out…and it was immediately better. The transit still involved a 45 minute bus to the ferry, a 40 minute ferry to the mainland, a 45 minute bus to the bus station, a wait, a 2 and a half hour bus to Hanoi bus station, a cab to the airport, a wait, a one hour flight to Da Nang, and finally a cab to the hotel. But even with all this it was fine…no screaming kids, no obese Americans with 15 items of luggage each, no obvious skin diseases, minimal loud talking…just a complicated commute.
Da Nang is the 5th largest city in Vietnam and was lovely. Very little to see in real terms but a really pleasant feel about it. Most people come for the beaches and the stunning seaside promenade…for this we chose Hoi An instead. Rather we stayed in the heart of the city and took in the riverside promenade scenery and checked out the local attractions. Temples, pagodas, dragon bridges and churches were the order of the day.
Add to this the street side gem restaurant that we always manage to find and life was good. Our first night we found a tent on the side of the road selling cold beer. It was hot so we stopped. We ended up playing menu point and pray, lucky dip and struck gold with 3 awesome dishes of Kim Cut Roty (quail), Ben Cha (mystery meat with raw garlic) and Cai Xao (pork mince with rice cracker and murderously hot chilli). These with 10 cans of beer came to a total of 240,000 duong ($12). The next night was squid, pork ribs and a different mystery meat concoction.
We hopped a bus for the 45 minute ride to Hoi An which is a tourist beachside town In the middle of the country. It is UNESCO listed thanks to its old town which is apparently the perfect example of an Asian port town between the 15th and 19th centuries. Today it is a tourist Mecca with everything imaginable on sale…but most notably the tailors shops. There is a tailor shop every third store ready to quickly knock together almost anything you like…for very cheap.
A tailored suit, with shirt can be purchased for as little as $65 but more likely around the $120-150 mark. You will be measured up and by the next day or two you can pick up your specially made items. This is a long held thing throughout Asia and I have had 2 suits made (one in Bangkok and one in Singapore)..but this place is even cheaper again. Alas our backpacking does not allow for such purchases…but if you were in the market you could not go wrong here.
The town and surrounds are beautiful, the food is great, the place is clean and almost everyone speaks fluent English. If anyone is looking for a 1-3 week getaway you really cannot go past Hoi An. There are 5 star resorts if that is your thing, backpacker hostels or in our case a nice 4 star equivalent joint, with breakfast included and a pool for $25 a night for both of us. We had blue skies throughout our time here and the only detractor was the oppressive humidity that leaves you soaked in sweat if you try to exert yourself too much during the middle of the day. We found that this could easily be avoided by lazing by the pool and swimming.
At night ancient town glows from thousands of lanterns and the shops and restaurants are abuzz with activity. We found an awesome little restaurant on the recommendation of fellow travellers and sat down to the set menu (pictured beside). This place was amazing. your food was on the table before your bum was on the seat.
The staff had you watered, and were showing you how to compile the ingredients listed beside into rice paper rolls and how to eat the local delicacies. So mush so that they will dip the rolls that they make into the chilli and satay sauce for you and actually feed you. From here you are on your own. This place was an eat until you are stuffed joint and I am certain that they would keep food coming as long as you were able to ingest. Round one was more than enough for us.
At the end of our meal we had eaten our fill, washed it down with 4 beers and when our bill came we paid the exorbitant price of $15…for both of us. After a few days in Hoi An we headed back to Hanoi for the trip to Hong Kong. At this point we had had a great time in Vietnam with the minor exception of Saigon. As we were only transiting we stayed at a hotel next to the airport, with a pickup service, for a shower and an overnight kip. Alas our parting memory of Vietnam was spoilt by this…the hotel we booked and another one around the corner was owned by the same mob…one cost 50% more than the other…we had booked and paid for the nicer of the two and upon arrival the pick up driver was told to take us to the other one.
Arriving at the lesser one we were relatively understanding…until we found that the wifi was not working and they had lied to us about services available. Jill hopped online using her phone and found the price differential between the two and the ranting white woman kicked in. Within the hour we had walked out, been picked up by a taxi and shuttled to the original hotel, at no cost to us, and were given what we had paid for. Needless to say a gobful was handed out to any poor bugger who came within earshot of my darling bride.
That night we headed into the back streets to find a meal and came across a tent with a street side smorgasbord. We entered, pointed at an array of items which were piled high onto a plate of rice…then pointed at some beers and we sat down to a great meal. At the end we walked up to pay the bill…which came to a massive 80,000 duong ($4)…this was 2 huge plates of food and two 600ml beers.
Vietnam – an overview
Our introduction to Vietnam was not ideal. Saigon was a busy city and we were staying in the bar district which meant we saw the worst that western tourism can bring to a developing country…lots of old fat men trying to pick up small Asian women (LBFM’s for those that know the terminology). This gave us immediate Philippines flashbacks which were not pleasant. Add to this the poor initial food options and little to see and we were less than impressed.
This was followed by the Mekong delta which was a little better but not thrilling…and then the world changed. Everyone who has been here loves the place and from this point on we both understood why. We actually did not have any negative experiences at any point throughout our Vietnamese odyssey but by the same token it had not grabbed us by the throat like India, China, Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka had done.
It is possibly the most ideal introduction to Asia that you can find. The people are friendly, the food is good (once you learn to avoid the evil weed that is coriander…maybe that is just me), the prices are cheap, the place is safe, the beer rocks, and the sights are pretty without being historic. It is family friendly, has awesome beaches and Ha Long Bay is a must see for everyone.
I think the thing that turned Vietnam around for us was a change of attitude on our behalf. We had been travelling for almost a year, seeing historic sights and taking in the history and majesty of ancient worlds and huge constructions like palaces atop mountains and the Great Wall etc. Vietnam is not about this, it was smashed during the war and is a nation that is, and largely has, recovered. The historic sites are relatively minor…it is like going to Australia which is 200ish years old and trying to compare it with the colosseum in Rome…apples and oranges.
Once we shook off that way of thinking we loved the place. It is the ideal location for a 1-3+ week holiday and we will come back for just that at some point in the future. It would be incredible to do the country by yourself on a motorbike or similar where you can get up into the mountainous regions and explore the place on your own schedule and timeline. Everything that we have seen would mean that this is entirely possible, and every time we hopped on motorcycles here we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh may be tough to negotiate however as the traffic is entirely nutty.
Well we had a really easy commute to Phu Quoc island on a Vietnam airlines turbo prop. It was a wet and rainy day so the landing was a little on the rough side as we hit some serious turbulence on the way in. The female pilot had it all under control…I made the obligatory cockpit/box office joke…Jill was unimpressed…but we did hit a vew potholes on the way in that caused some people to almost soil themselves. It was pretty funny really.
We arrived at Phu Quoc island (which is essentially a series of beach resorts) at the end of rainy season. So of course it rained that evening and was torrential all of the next day…we sat and caught up with our blogging, reviews of various places and had a short walk for a meal when the rain briefly eased. We found a co-op store that sold cheese so bought some Edam and Gouda with some crackers, tomato and a local version of a cabana. A bottle of sav blanc and some beers and the afternoon just flew by.
Our neighbours in the next bungalow decided to cut short their plans and moved on…big mistake…the next morning (and the next two to follow) we woke to stunning sunshine, calm warm waters and an idyllic island lifestyle. We hired motorbikes for the grand price of $7.50 a day and off we went exploring. Zipping along dirt tracks alongside a beach for hour upon hour is pretty sweet. We climbed up what passes for a mountain (on the bikes) and headed to the southernmost tip of the island to the pier where all the fishing boats come in, dock and sell their wares.
After a good day we dropped off our bikes after getting more cheese etc for a late afternoon nibble and that night headed up to the closest thing that resembles a decent restaurant. This place is a culinary vacuum…the whole island. There are many restaurants but they all serve some form of fusion food. Given the wide variety of tourists nationalities that come here…this fusion is vast…and wrong. This is a theme that we have discovered throughout our travels…in every country…western food is tailored to suit local tastes and vice versa…and it does not work…ever. We have stopped trying to eat western food as it just gets destroyed. Eat local, it is cheaper, and better.
Phu Quoc island is currently pretty idyllic but the signs are bad…the place as it is, is full of beachside bungalows and little resort style accommodation… but the big hotels are coming. While doing the motorbike ride we passed the building sites of about 10 big 5 star hotels…side by side. This will greatly change the nature of the place so get in quickly before it changes forever.
We settled in to a few days of lazing by the beach, swimming in the surf, having late afternoon cocktails while watching the sun set and having evening meals at one of the crapy fusion joints. We found a decent coffee place which was about a one kilometre walk up the beach…so we made a daily trek…interspersed with dips in the ocean. We seem to have finished the hard travelling section of our trip and the places we are visiting have comparatively little to see…just things to experience.
Travelling the world in a pre and post COVID state