70 Facts: Our Four Month Backpacking Trip

backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

It’s hard to summarise in words everything we’ve done so the best way to showcase it is through some facts… 

Travel

 
117 hours of self driving
44 hours of coach journeys
26 public bus rides
15 flights
14 boat trips
12 rented bicycles
11 train journeys
1 crazy tuk tuk

Accommodation

21 Hostels
15 Hotels
8 Air bnb’s
2 Boat sleeps
1 Sleeper train
1 Airport sleep
1 Tent

Highs

42 cities/towns
29 beaches
16 amazing sunsets
15 lakes
12 waterfalls
7 countries
7 temples
6 museums
5 kayaking trips
5 snorkelling trips
4 rides down the luge
3 caves
2 paddle board sessions
2 mountain bike rides
2 shooting stars
1 surfing lesson
1 shot over jet ride
1 cliff jump
1 whale watch
1 black water rafting experience
1 mountain climbed
1 game of mini golf
1 trip to the zoo
Infinite amounts of walking and hikes

Lows

13 bug exterminations
3 bouts of The Bali belly
2 bouts of The Thai tummy
2 bouts of The Saigon squirts
2 packets of Imodium
2 scars
1 foot wound
1 leg wound
1 earthquake
1 missed flight
1 monsoon
1 migraine
1 lost bum bag (later found in a basket)
Infinite insect bites
Infinite repacking of bags

Miscellaneous

109 days without any major fallouts
60 litres of sweat
60 unnecessarily bought protein bars
19 nationalities befriended
18 dogs we named Alfie
14 books read
14 bottles of suncream
7 vodka buckets
6 massages
4 haircuts
4 near death experiences crossing roads
2 kisses from a ladyboy
1 new year in Thailand
1 birthday
1 anniversary
Infinite amounts of street 

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109 Days Later 

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

Well, it’s finally upon us and I cannot believe this is the final blog but we certainly ended this incredible adventure on a high. We booked onto a two day, one night cruise around Halong Bay. As I mentioned in the previous post, by paying for the top ship known as the ‘Dragon Legend’, we were allowed access to the unexplored Bai Tu Long Bay where only two boats are allowded to sail (this is in direct contrast to the two hundred boats that have access to the main section of Halong Bay). It was worth every penny from the moment we stepped on board. The room was twenty seven square metres with a king size bed and five star furnishings, it had a jacuzzi bath with panoramic views of the islands. The food was seven courses at every meal and consisted of fresh seafood the crew members caught. We always dined on the outdoor deck as we slowly passed all the islands around the bay (one thousand nine hundred and sixty to be precise). 

The first day we sailed to one of the islands, departed the boat for kayaks and then made our way across the still ocean to a secluded beach where we relaxed for an hour or so. It was quite surreal that we were the only people in the world on a paradise island in the middle of Vietnam! After another incredible seven course dinner we did some night time squid fishing and although we were unsuccessful, the crew managed to catch a few which were served for lunch the following day. 

The second day (after an absolutely glorious sleep) we sailed to a cave (again only two companies are allowed in it as opposed to up to four hundred people in the main halong bay caves) and saw some pretty stunning views from the top. We met some really cool people on the cruise and this, combined with the night time Vietnamese musical performance from the staff, the exceptional food and perfect weather, it was the best end we could have had for our travels. On the four hour drive back to Hanoi, we all converged at a local water puppet show and watched an impressive performance which demonstrated the culture and lives of the Vietnamese population, all illustrated by handmade puppets. 

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Lanterns Of The Night

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

So after 10 hours on the sleeper train sharing with a family of Vietnamese above us we arrived into Hoi An pretty shattered. Hoi an is definitely Vietnam at it’s finest. The beaches are paradise, there are working water buffalo and rice paddies all around, miles of vibrant green in every direction, all viewed from bicycles which we took out for the day. As you can see from the video, the roads remained pretty manic and it wasn’t perhaps the safest mode of transport but it was definitely a highlight of the country. 

As impressive as the day time is, visiting An Bang Beach for instance, what really makes Hoi An special is the night scene. Every single evening, thousands of lanterns are displayed in the ancient town and can be seen from miles away. You walk through a floating world of these multi coloured displays to find your restaurant and then have dinner while you listen to the locals play music and perform shows, it was genuinely stunning. We went here both nights of our stay and have also decided Vietnamese food has surpassed thai food for us!

Our final domestic flight came after the short but brilliant stop in Hoi An. Another standard early start to the airport, accompanied by a strange Vietnamese breakfast and we made it to the capital Hanoi! We can’t quite believe that this is our last major stop before our return home but have made the most of our time in order to squeeze as much in as possible. This included a trip to Hoa Lo prison which was used both in the French colonisation of Vietnam and the American war. The prison still contained the guillotine used to behead revolters and all the cells on ‘death row’. It also displayed the actual sewer that over 100 prisoners managed to escape from (how grown men fit through those spaces is crazy). We also took a trip to the women’s war museum which showed the impact and contribution women all over the country made during the brutalities of the war.

I cannot believe I am writing this but our final activity of the incredible four month trip is a visit to the world heritage site ‘Halong Bay’ on a one night two day cruise on a ship called the Dragon Legend. The boat is one of a very small number who are allowed to travel around the unexplored ‘Bai Tu Long Bay’ which is off the beaten track from the hordes of boats which now saturate mainstream Ha Long Bay. We feel this will be a special way to end the trip and the pot noodle dinners are not a particularly difficult burden to bear. We will let you all know how it goes and include it in the final blog before we make our way back to home soil.  

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Time For A Bit Of History

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel, Travel Tips

It’s scary how quickly time has passed us by and that in in a few days time our final week of the four month adventure will be over. We’ve definitely saved one of the best stops until last in Vietnam and are already half way up this beautiful country. 

Up first was the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh city where we stayed for two nights. As a prime spot for robberies and taxi scams we kept our wits about us more than ever. A few little tricks like playing google maps on full volume at the start of a journey seemed to do the trick. As we only really had one full day in Ho Chi Minh we had to maximise time and therefore had a full day of activities planned. First stop was the famous war remnants museum which illustrates all the awful incidents and war crimes which occurred from a Vietnamese perspective (a lot of people think the Viet Cong were ruthless but after seeing what the Americans did it is seems it was a pretty level playing field). As sad as it was, the museum was really interesting and had war tanks, planes and helicopters that the Americans left behind. There were also genuine photographs of the continued effects of agent orange which still impacts two generations of Vietnamese families.

Next up was the Cu Chi tunnels which were absolutely brilliant to see. Our tour guide took us through the jungle where we saw just a snippet of the endless tunnels built by the Vietnamese and crucial in their efforts to repel the Americans. He showed us how all the Americans weapons and equipment was constantly recycled into deadly traps laid out amongst the tunnels, we also got to try the potato meals they lived off. As you can see from the picture, I volunteered to go inside a genuine tunnel (the ones tourists usually enter have been widened as a couple of people died of heart attacks in them). It was an extremely tight squeeze and when they shut the lid it was a weird sensation to think people lived in them for years (30 seconds was enough for me). We finished with a lovely claustrophobic 60 metre walk through the tunnel and popped up out of one of the many concealed exits.

A quick 30 minute flight took us to Da Lat which was quiet but stunning. Although this stop wasn’t jam packed with activities, we had some great meals including a picnic by the lake, met some cool people in the world’s strangest/most dangerous bar and visited the ‘Crazy House’. So this bar we came across on trip advisor was called 100 roofs and they were not lying. You enter into what can only really be described as a cave, buy your drinks and then are free to literally ‘get lost’. There were just so many exits and routes to take, down small tunnels and then up some very tight spaces in the roof (not a good place for anybody with claustraphobia). There were two toilets but they took us about half an hour to find as they are situated deep inside the maze… Surprisingly there is a pretty social atmosphere inside, mainly because you end up asking every other randomer for directions with each person knowing as little as the next. We hit it off with some Londoners and spent most of the night with them.

We sweated out the hangover the following morning and caught the public bus for 4 hours to Nha Trang which was interesting to say the least. You have an arched bed on two tiers which caused both Brogan and myself some travel sickness as it’s not natural to be laid down so high on a bus but we eventually got over that and relaxed. The buses have a fairly bad reputation for crashing and theft but all we experienced was excessive honking of the horn and a few of the usual long stares at the Westerners. One thing we weren’t expecting when we were told about the ‘toilet stop’ was that the bus literally just stopped in the middle of some tarmac and about 10 old ladies got off the bus, whipped their trousers down and squatted their bare bums in front of the entire bus (you’ve got to admire their distinct lack of care for what people think). When the yellow waterfall was finished, we carried on and made it to Nha Trang.

There wasn’t a great deal here other than a nice beach, a theme park and some relaxation. The last of our brutal journeys is now over as we have just completed a ten hour train journey in the soft sleeper berths (we’ve been up since 3am). This afternoon we will have made it to Hoi An and that leaves two more stops before the journey back to reality begins. 

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Our Liebster Award!

Couples, Liebster Award, Travel, Travel Tips

Wow! We are delighted to announce that we have been nominated by Wanderfully Living for the Liebster Award! We are really grateful for this award given we have only been blogging for just under 5 weeks now! Please go check out their blogs on Health & Fitness, Travel, Lifestyle and lots of great money saving tips!! 

So THANK YOU Sean & Rhianne for this lovely nomination, we are lovely forward to all your future posts. 



What is the Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award is an award that exists only on the internet, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. It’s a great way to discover great blogs by new bloggers and support one and another in the blogging community. 


What are the rules?

  1. Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blogs.
  2. Answer the questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  3. Nominate other bloggers to receive the award and write them several new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Liebster Award logo in your post and/or your blog!


Our nominees…

Gypsy Soul Travelling

Tales Of Elsewhere

The Quiet Traveller


Our answers to Sean & Rhianne’s questions…

What made you start blogging, and how long have you been? 

We first started blogging as a result of some really positive feedback from our family and friends. We only started a small blog on Facebook to keep all of our loved ones up to date with our adventures, then almost everybody was strongly encouraging us to make the blog more public as they were so impressed and entertained by our posts! 

What is your dream career and why?

It’s hard to conceptualise what a ‘dream career’ might look like, one does not truly realise the satisfaction they gain from work until they have immersed themselves in it, we like to think of work in terms of factors, that is, to establish a comfortable living, engage in work which positively affects the outcome of something wider, and to always maintain a healthy work life balance in order to sustain strong connections with not just each other, but also with our families and friends who are there for us.

Where is your favourite travel destination and why?

This was the only question we didn’t agree on so therefore…

Jamie: While our travels are not yet over, my favourite destination has been Sydney… The place has it all: bars, restaurants, beaches, atmosphere, scenery, iconic buildings and best of all the absolutely stunning blue mountains! 

Brogan: This is a tuffy! I have been lucky enough to travel different parts of the world with my family whilst growing up. Each country offering you something different. However in terms of consistency…I would have to say Florida. It has been such a big part of my childhood going to Disneyland etc that I could go there every year and never be bored of it. I’m still a child at heart! 

What is your number one piece of advise  to new bloggers?

Be yourselves. We blog our journey in a way that truly represents the experiences we encounter. From euphoria to disasters, highlight it all, nobody has ‘the perfect trip’ and if everybody cruised through hassle free, how would anybody learn and adapt for the future. Our goal from the start has been to assist other couples who may embark on similar excursions and in order to do that we always  advocate realism! 

If you could go anywhere right now, where would it be and why?

Well right now we are sat on the white sandy beaches of Bryon Bay with the pristine clear blue ocean at arms length, there really is nowhere else we would possibly want to be… 

Tell us about your worst travel experience.

So our first night of the 4 month backpacking adventure in the hostel was going well, nice comfy bed, fairly quiet, not too warm, pretty ideal really. At about 3am Brogan woke me up to inform me that somebody was trying to open our door, I initially brushed it off as noise coming from the other dorms. I soon realised that in fact yes our handle was going up and down and behind the frosty door I could indeed see the outline of a man, my heart really began to race when I realised there seemed to be a crow bar swinging from his hand. As the man in the room, I stepped up to the challenge, testosterone was flowing, my masculinity was at serious stake here, I flung the window open ready to engage in battle and was greeted with a heavily intoxicated german traveller trying to find his room. He also had a stray cat between his legs (giving the illusion of a crow bar). Thankfully he realised the error of his ways, drunkenly apologised, and wandered off to his own room…

Our questions to the nominees…

  • What inspired you to travel?
  • What is your favourite and least favourite travel destination, and why?
  • What are your Top 5 survival items for backpackers?
  • What has been your most creative meal whilst travelling?
  • If money, visas and commitment were no object where would you live, and why?

To our nominees…

If you are able to send a message or email notifying us once your post is live to make sure we don’t miss out on it that would be awesome! 

Jamie & Brogan 

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@broganharker

@jamiedenison1993

Top Tips- New Zealand

Couples, new zealand, Travel, Travel Tips

As our journey of the north island has sadly come to an end we thought it may be useful to share our couple’s backpacking tips. 

The Bay of Islands

Must see’s & do’s:

The Rainbow Falls- beautiful scenery and a good picture spot. Pick a sunny day if possible! 

Grab a kayak and paddle your way around the islands. You will come across empty beaches which you can claim for yourselves! 

Take the ferry across to a town called Russell for a little sight seeing.

Places to stay:

We stayed in Pickled Parrot Backpackers in Paihia for our whole duration in the Bay of Islands and would definitely recommend it, not too noisy but enough going on if that’s your scene. 

Places to eat:

£-££ El Cafe- Serve a mixture of food but we got burritos from there which were amazing! Oh and a banana and Nutella milkshake! Cheap and tasty. 

££ Alfresco’s- Great spot for a beach view and amazing food! We went here a couple of times – more of a treat but shouldn’t break the bank too much (try breakfast for a cheaper option). 

When we didn’t eat out and wanted to save a little money we just went to Countdown (Big supermarket chain across NZ) and grabbed some groceries and cooked some meals. If you’re chicken lovers like us, they do some reasonably priced hot chickens ready to go -a useful tip is to go in the late evening and they sell these at big reductions! 

Whitianga

Must see’s & do’s:

Cathedral Cove- AMAZING and completely unspoilt. Definitely a must see! Also involves a pleasant 30 min walk with some incredible views.

Hot Water Beach- Gets very busy around low tide but worth doing for something a bit different. We struggled to create a “hot” pool at first so make sure you ask around to see which areas are hot – Buy a cheap spade before you go as they charge $5 to rent along with a $10 deposit! 

New Chum Beach- Quite an unusual/cool walk to get to but make sure you wear suitable footwear and avoid the mistake we made wearing flip flops! Big waves here so be careful! 

Places to stay:

Here we found that Airbnb was in our favour for cost and quality of facilities. Given we have a car, not all centralised hostels were ideal as they had no parking facilities. We were only a 5 min drive from the town and were very close to a couple of supermarkets and a petrol station. See link below!

http://abnb.me/EVmg/XnZ9k5FfgA

Places to eat:

We thought we would take advantage of the fact we had the kitchen to ourselves and therefore did a relatively big shop at Countdown for most of our lunches and dinners. 

££ LaLa Cafe- Just before digging our hot pool we grabbed a ham and cheese croissant, side salad and relish which was honestly delicious. Quick and easy!

Tauranaga

Must see’s & do’s:

Mount Maunganui- A great walk up to the top! Harder than expected, once we got to the top we got told we went up the easier way…we couldn’t believe it!

Places to stay:

We were fortunate enough to stay with relatives whilst being in Tauranga for the night, however friends have recommended the Pacific Coast Lodge Backpackers, Harbourside City Backpackers or the Seagulls Guesthouse.

Places to eat:

££ Pronto Burgers- After the walk we needed to refuel so grabbed a “healthy burger” (basically the burger without the bun and salad) from Pronto and it was very tasty! We had the peri peri chicken and the satay chicken.

Rotorua

Must see’s & do’s:

Hobbiton Movie Set Matamata- If you are a Hobbit or Lord of the Rings fan, this is definitely up your street! I don’t really want to give any spoilers away but it’s worth the money and the tour guides are amazing, they know everything and anything about the books and movies. Oh, and you get a free beer inside the hobbit pub!

Kerosene Creek- Really cool natural hot springs that can be quiet depending when you go (avoid weekends). It was rainy the day we went but getting into what seemed like a hot tub made up for it!

Geothermal Wonderland- If you are intrigued by the Rotorua smells, very interesting natural complex. Worth a visit but be prepared for the rotten egg stench!

Kuirau Park- Cute little park to have a picnic and dip your feet in the hot pools.

Places to stay:

Kiwi BnB- We decided to try a bnb out to see if there was any difference in terms of experience to backpacking hostels and Airbnb. We found that there definitely was…there were lots of rules we had to follow which we mentioned in our “We smelt it before we saw it” post. Check it out for more details! It was quite a unique experience to say the least, the hosts were incredibly polite and the place was super clean and quiet.

 Places to eat:

££ Indian Star- Incredible food, nice atmosphere. This place was located on Eat Street (a lively food area, lots to choose from) and was worth the 15 minute wait for the table! 

££ Nando’s- If there are any other Nando’s lovers out there then I’m happy to inform you there is a Nando’s just around the corner from Eat Street. Overall we were slightly disappointed with the standard of the food- think glorified KFC?but each to their own.

Taupo

Must see’s & do’s:

Black Water Rafting Waitomo- One of the best things we have done in the North Island for sure!! Not so nice putting on the cold wet suits but once you’re down in the caves in your rubber ring surrounded by glow worms it is all worth it. 

We would rank it in the Top 5 things to do in the North Island without a doubt! 
Huka Falls- You can walk, mountain bike or take a jet boat to see these falls but we decided to mountain bike. We thought we would take on the challenge, and it paid off once we had finished. We really felt as though we had accomplished something. Would recommend for people who are into fitness! P.S be prepared for a bit of saddle sore afterwards…

Tongariro Crossing- We did plan to do this 8/9 hour walk up the mountain but unfortunately with timings and the weather not being on our side we weren’t able to do it! We were gutted about this so if you are thinking about doing this, do plan ahead and check the weather etc. We have only heard good things about this walk.

Places to stay:

Base Backpackers- We booked a double room here which actually came with a private bathroom which was good! The staff were really friendly and didn’t have any problems except one night when we had to be up early and heard the nightclub antics! If you want a quiet location this is not ideal, the complementary ear plugs are a good indicator of what to expect, having said this it’s a really cool hostel. They have entertainment on every day of the week- we took part in the quiz! (Didn’t win I’m afraid but if you did you won a $75 bar tab).

Places to eat:

£-££ Element Bar- This was the bar that was part of the hostel. All meals were under $10 and were surprisingly ok! I’d recommend the veggie lasagne and the chicken burgers. Good place to eat if you don’t want to spend a lot of money and don’t fancy cooking. 

££ Yo Fresh- We grabbed a quick lunch here which consisted of chicken, veg and potatoes! Cheap eat and pretty good.
£-££ Sushi Paradise- This was right next door to Yo Fresh! This was more of your traditional sushi places with lots of options and tasty food. 

Wellington

Must see’s & do’s:

Te Papa Museum- Great place to visit whilst being in Wellington. It’s free and you can spend as little or as long as you want there. 

Empire cinema- Brilliant, large double seating and not huge so more of a cosey feel, bought some ice cream and sweets for the movie and went to see the award winning, Lion- fantastic film!!!

Cable Car- If you are wanting a good view of Wellington and don’t fancy incline walking for an hour or two then take the cable car, it’s cheap and you can walk around the Botanic Gardens.

Cuba Street- Lots of great places to eat down here and a few independent stores which were quite quirky.
Lambton Quay- Good place to shop if you are looking to buy anything.

Places to stay:

Back in Airbnb…we stayed at a place just 10 mins drive from the centre of Wellington. It had the most incredible views and a lovely dog named Ralph. The Owner Chris was a nice, chilled out guy who was more than happy to chat with us and give advice on nz – See link below!

http://abnb.me/EVmg/nG59EBNUgA

Places to eat:

£-££ Satay Village- A great cheap eat for those who like Malaysian food. 

£-££ Best Ugly Bagels- The Chickaboom bagel was probably the nicest bagel we have ever had! $12 may seem a little expensive but you get so much topping, sauce etc with it! 

£ Mojo- All you coffee lovers out there…head to Mojo, it literally has the best coffee going!

££ Dirty Little Secret- We went here for a few drinks, really cool place with some pretty sweet views of Wellington on the rooftop!

And there it is…Some of our tips and recommendations for the north island NZ! Let us know if you find this useful by liking or commenting below. We are happy to answer any questions you have!

#ITTAKESTWOTOPSTIPS 

Jamie & Brogan

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@broganharker