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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Trunks and Tuk Tuk’s

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel

Following a fantastic two weeks with our friends, we were once again airbound and headed for chiang mai ‘aka elephant land’. As elephants are an issue in Thailand (with the ridden and working elephants enduring awful lives, not to mention the behaviour that goes on to get the elephants to submit to riding in the first place) we decided to book onto an ethical tour. The company’s purpose was to home elephants and care for them where others fell short. The income from the tours was primarily spent on food and medicine for the upkeep of the nellys. We both agreed this was one of our favourite days in Thailand. 

Throughout the day, we fed the elephants, gave them treats (sugar cubes), we then went into a thick mud pit and rubbed sludge all over an elephant who was loving every minute of it (this is done to cool the skin down and the elephant fully lies down which was awesome). We spent most of the day feeding and washing the animals and they were so well looked after it was brilliant to see. At the end, we all washed ourselves in the mini waterfall and the elephants soaked us all with their trunks! We also had homemade thai food and learnt all about the country and heard some sad stories from the tour guides. After we said goodbye to the animals we were taken to a waterfall to do some cliff jumping. My stupid foot was still causing issues at this point meaning I wasn’t able to do it but Brogan took the plunge and nearly blew her eardrums up as a result! As time was so short we were back in the air again the following morning, bound for our final destination in Thailand… Bangkok. 

Our accommodation in lady boy land was quite strange, it was a hostel above a massage parlour (although ours seemed to be the only one on the street not offering happy endings). On every corner there were provocatively dressed boys, no wait girls, no wait boys with girls’ bits… never mind, there were ‘humans’ on every corner in mini skirts enticing men all over the place. We felt like three days was enough in Bangkok but were impressed with the ginormous shopping malls and eye catching temples. We enjoyed 70p meals at the terminal 21 food court, experienced the infamous tuk tuk, watched locals all over the place blasting each other with water pistols (Thailand new year) and even managed a sunset on the marriot rooftop (happy hour 241 cocktails of course). We both concurred that one lady boy show was enough (in Koh Samui) and avoided a repeat in Bangkok! I nearly got to meet up with my friend Jake who I lived with in Leeds for two years through university but the time slot was too thin and we weren’t able to make it happen which was a shame! A fantastic end to our time in Thailand and a perfect prelude to Vietnam! 

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Oh Barnacles!

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Island hopping has continued but unfortunately we have been bombarded with relentless rain nearly every day which for the islands is not ideal at all. First on the agenda was Krabi which we used as a gateway to visit 3 more islands on a tour (we took advantage of a rare sunny day): chicken island, tub island, and koh poda. Everything was going swimmingly until the snorkelling started. Jamie and Dan were exploring the sea life and as Jamie put his head out to clean his snorkel he kicked out really hard to stay above the water and (cue the cringing) sliced sliced his foot straight down a barnacle. The staff on the trip were on it, drowning it with antispectic and cleaning up the trail of blood he left on the boat. After bandaging it, the tour guide told us she would have to take him to a doctor when we landed which kind of ruined the rest of the day for him as he could no longer walk… everyone else had a blast though! Anyway, to cut a long story short, he should have had stitches but because the wound is right across the base of his foot, the stitches would just tear so he had to just let it heal slowly by itself. The doctor was really helpful and as the boat operators should have apparently informed us of the barnacles and rocks it was technically their fault and obligation to pay (woop). 

It’s been a nice change in dynamic with Dan and Leila and really good to get much closer to them. They also helped plan a lot of our days as they’ve been to Thailand before! After Krabi we arrived at Koh Phangan (aka the ‘party island’). Aside from finding a really cool outdoor cinema, the snorkelling wound meant we couldn’t get our dancing shoes on as originally intended and combined with the constant rain, really brought everybody’s mood down. As a last minute solution we decided to change our plan and spend 4 nights in the most developed island, Koh Samui. This was the best decision we ever made as the rains continued to pound us but we had plenty more options on Samui. The airbnb we stayed in was brilliant and brought the mood back up. We thought it might be interesting to give Thailand driving a go so we rented a car for a few days. This allowed us to travel over the entire island and was good for honing the driving skills as we constantly had scooters taking us on either side and floods to avoid on most roads, not to mention the absence of a police force on the island (you can imagine the driving conditions).

Never letting the rain stop our plans, we experienced a live escape game, waterfall walk (Jamie perfected the hobble walk further – probably not doctor advisable), visited a few impressive temples, and enjoyed our first ladyboy show! We also watched a sunset from our balcony with some drinks which was pretty damn sweet. As with many Asian countries, stray dogs continue to be a big issue in Samui, and we drove to one of the biggest shelters on the island to try and understand the problem and donate some money to support the respectable cause. It was quite upsetting to see so many abandoned animals when we are used to our pampered pooches back in England, but at the same time we have the utmost respect for the owner who works every day to feed, wash and care for these poor animals.

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The time has gone incredibly fast and we have completed our twelth flight to make it to Chiang Mai, home to the elephants! From here we fly to Bangkok and then onto our final destination of the trip, Vietnam! 

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Island Hopping

adventure, backpacking, Couples, Travel

Before we had chance to say Singapore Slinger, we were back in the air on our way to Phuket, one of the many stunning Thai Islands on our itinerary. Having your birthday abroad has it perks, my present from my parents was a two night stay in an Anantara two bedroom villa which was nothing short of insane. The private pool was bigger than most communal pools and for a short time we had a taste of the good life. Although it was a struggle, we did leave the villa and explore the island via bicycles. There were a couple of restaurants we visited to try out the authentic thai dishes. We were also impressed with how friendly the staff were, they were constantly working from morning to night yet the smiles rarely left their faces. 

Relaxing turned to stress when we boarded the ferry over to the next island known as Phi Phi. Unfortunately we arrived at the port in the middle of a torrential downpour, our bags were completely drenched and as the island has no transport we had to walk to our accommodation, it was one of those moments where you could only laugh as you waded through ankle high water. Our rooms were nice enough and built up in the jungle which is of course home to our primate siblings! On mornings we were greeted with monkeys which just sat on our balconies eating the food they stole from the kitchens and one of them was even clever/cheeky enough to attempt to slide the balcony door open in Dan and Leila’s room (thankfully it was locked). People pay good money to visit monkey sanctuaries and we were living in one!
Phi phi was a contrast to Phuket in that the island has more of a party vibe and hence home to the infamous ‘vodka buckets’. The first night we tested these out and watched thai boxing which was really entertaining. There was one organised match and the rest of the fights were fearless audience members who fought to win the prestigious award of… you guessed it, a free vodka bucket!

Feeling a bit hungover the morning after, we woke at 6am to beat the crowds to Maya Bay which has become intensely popular as ‘The Beach’ with Leo DiCaprio was filmed there. A quiet Thai man took us on his very wethered but beautiful long boat to the island and we had four stops including lagoons, snorkelling spots, a Viking cave , and of course ‘the beach’ itself. The day was fantastic and we ended it by once again getting back on the vodka buckets to watch a fire show which verged on madness. At one point, 5 volunteers put cigarettes in their mouths which were then lit by the performers who spun two blazing sticks in circles and got uncomfortably close to the audience member’s precious faces. Only in Phi Phi!

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Twenty Four In Singapore

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After the disastrous start with missed flights and lost luggage, the issues ironed themselves out and we began the next leg of the travels as a four… first stop Singapore! Check in was smooth and the rooms were okay but we did notice an unusual amount of high heeled, short skirted thai ladies dotted around the streets. A bit of research quickly confirmed our suspicions that we were staying in the red light district area! By night we may have been kept up by certain noises and moving beds as it seems our hotel was a sort of meeting point for clients and workers, but by day we really made use of our short time there. 

The second day of Singapore happened to be my (Jamie’s) birthday and what a birthday it was. Universal studios during the day ended with a thai curry, followed shortly by roof top drinks on Marina Bay Sands and a wander through the Supertree Groves to finish, all enjoyed with our friends who travelled 20 hours to join us on our adventure. It is certainly a birthday that will stick in my memory for some time! The following day we also got to meet Dan’s brother at Mambo Beach Club. The place was really cool as it played music throughout the whole day and also had some deals on the drinks. Perfect spot for a sunbathing day!

Although we only had 3 nights there, Singapore was a genuinely beautiful place to visit and a perfect warm up for our Thailand escapades. 

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Sunsets in Seminyak

adventure, backpacking, couple, Travel

So with the expensive destinations out of the way, our next step of the adventure was to touch ground in Asia, specifically Bali. Given we have arrived from the developed likes of New Zealand, Australia and of course England, Bali was quite a contrast to where we have been exploring up until now. 

Perhaps magnified by the fact we left a deserted Cairns airport, we entered an extremely frantic Bali airport. More or less from exiting the aircraft, people were trying to take our bags (for tips), surrounding us shouting taxi quotes at us, looking at our phones ‘claiming’ our plan for a taxi was not possible, basically finding any way to make us part with our precious Pennies! After a lot of negotiating and a fair degree of stubbornness we jumped in a taxi and made it to our budget hotel in Seminyak. We weren’t actually booked in for the first night which caused a few issues, not to mention the huge cockroach roaming the walls of reception! The joys of Asia!

Seminyak was really cool, the food is so cheap (dinner for two = £8, beer = £1), and the beaches are nice (although not quite on a level with Australia). We both loved Bali as soon as we got here, once you get past and ignore the constant haggling and touting at every step you turn, realising that these irritants are only trying to make a living, it’s hard not to love the friendly Balinese, their green beautiful country, and of course their awesome cooking skills. 

Towards the end of our short time in Seminyak we visited our friends down in Uluwata who we met up with in New Zealand some time ago. After a short walk past several drug dealers, and then ironically a swat team with semi automatics (one of them was genuinely on candy crush), we arrived at a place called Single Finn beach club which was a really good (albeit sweaty and overcrowded) drunken night. Heading home in a taxi was a bit of a nightmare (you’ll see why at the end) and rather irresponsibly, we paid a random old Balinese couple to take us on an hour and a half journey back to our hotel in a banged out car featuring cockroaches and some weird noises coming from the boot mid journey (we were too drunk to care). On the subject of taxis, the local drivers in Bali HATE Uber with an absolute passion as it is so cheap (a half an hour journey is around 98p), and the hostilities have turned quite aggressive as of late (local drivers have been following uber drivers and beating them up – not the customers). As a result of this, Ubers will either not pick you up, or will WhatsApp you first ensuring that there are ‘no dangers if I pick you up sir’. 

During our time we were lucky enough to have a clear night and watch the incredible Bali sunset. It was pretty perfect, lounging on the La Plancha bean bags at the beach, beer in hand watching the sun go down… pretty sweet right? We also spent a day at the popular Potato Head beach club, which although pricey was a lovely afternoon for a spot of lunch and swimming (cool place to go). 

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