Saturday, 25 June 2011

Rain, rain, go away.

I think I'm going to get enough of this at home!

2 weeks and counting..and yes I am counting. I  never thought I'd say this, but I actually can't wait to come home. It's been too long without seeing all your happy, smiley faces. I have come to realise, that as amazing as traveling is, it is also an endurance test. Especially when you've been constantly moving and slept in over 100 different beds in the last 9 months. Testing, yes.

I think we got to the final straw on our oh-so-painful bus trip from Vientiane to Luang Prabang in Laos. In western time, it should've taken 3-4 hours. In Laos time, it takes 11. All uphill across windy mountain roads with sheer drops on the side of you. At least it wasn't raining this day. It was yet another example of a bus journey on this trip where you think that death is a real possibility. But we live to tell another tale.
And yes, the wet season has finally, and fully caught up with us. Its like being bucketed every time you attempt
to go outside. Shame really, as its a beautiful place to explore - not quite like Hoi An in Vietnam, but def the Laos equivalent. Lots of bakeries, orange robes monks, golden temples, amazing handicraft markets and generally peaceful and relaxing. Not a bad way to end the trip.

So we're here for a week before we fly to Bangkok - really couldn't face the 2 day journey by bus! If the rain holds off, we're gonna attempt to get our tans back. Scarily, I am almost as white as when I left the UK - leading to the theory that I actually never left. Ah, and I was so golden. Sad times.

And Daves treating us to our last 2 nights in a nice hotel - a bit of luxury before we leave, hurrah! A soft pilow is always welcome!

And I have much to look forward to when I get home - Dad and Adrian picking me up at the airport, Ben and Jerries Festival, The Fringe Festival, Reading Festival as well as many catch up lunches, drinks and general shenanigans that I plan to have before the lead up to my birthday! (and hopefully I will have a job and a room in London by then!) and all will be well. And all of this includes the lovely Dave, who is joining in these festivities from August 6th. 

Definitely the best year.

Ok, time for a curry. See you in 2 weeks!

Muchos love xxx

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Why hello there. Long time no speak.

So alot has happened in the past month. We basically started and finished Vietnam and am now in Cambodia, which despite being right next door, is a totally different feel to Vietnam.

But first things first. Vietnam. Ended up being a rollercoaster ride. Started with hectic Hanoi, where the air is polluted as standard and you can carry your whole life (and a couple of extra people) on the back of a motorbike. Its pretty insane. So when Daves sister Kristy came to visit us, we were happy to escape to Sapa - near the Chinese border and way into the hills, for a bit of a break. Sapa is a beautifully green area, full of farms, rice paddies, the Hmong tribes people and water buffalo. A great area to trek around, get some cool fresh air and watch the royal wedding of course, mwah ha! Oh and sample the french bakeries and eat a duck feotus on a stick. Barbecued of course.

So after this we did the once in a lifetime, cruise around the UNESCO site of Halong Bay ( yes, that place where they filmed Top Gear). It went pretty shambolic. We got on our luxury boat, had a nine course lunch when they told us a storm was coming and that we would not be able to stay safely on the boat and have to drive 3.5hrs back to Hanoi, where we had just come from. Of course, no one was happy. The large group of young american medical students decided to get really drunk and shout at our guide as they had 'ruined their trip'. We waited in the mini bus to try and start again tomorrow. Annoyingly, the weather was a perfect sunny 36degrees and all the other boats were staying out. Apparently their was issues regarding the captains wage so he didnt want to do it. Hmm...

So anyways, when the trip got going it was good. We didnt have as great weather and it was fairly overcast, but with a good chance of burning! We had 9 course meals, sea kayaking in caves and lagoons around the bay - was beautiful. And it was a great chance to get to know Kristy and obviously great for Dave to have her there - all in all a great trip (minus the hassle!). We spent our last day in Hanoi running around thinking that we'd been charged twice for the Sapa trip, which was later refunded to Daves account, but meant that it was super stressful and put a bit of a taint on Vietnam, as the north had been harder and more expensive than we thought.

We wanted out to we flew to Hue for a few days just to chill out before we hit the beautiful Hoi An. Another Unesco site, its an old french built town, still kept in tact and where motorbikes and cars aren't allowed to go to! Heaven from the constant beeping. You cycle around the small old town where they burn insense in the air and have classical music played in the streets. They also are the home to the delicious white rose dumplings. If you go to Vietnam, Hoi An is a must see.

The beach resort of Nha Trang was our next stop, on the non sleeping 'sleeper'bus. It basically is a coach with 3 aisle of metal bunkbeds, which move up and down as seats. It means that your feet are under your neighbours head. And any normal westerner cannot physically fit into these tiny asian constructions. and you have to sleep on your luggage. all while the driver smokes, swerves at high speed and beeps the horn all the way through the 12 hour night journey. interesting. the best thing was seeing the brilliant orange and red sunrise over the mountains.

The best thing we did in Nha Trang, was to meet Robert from the Laterns restaurant. All the profits from this business help fund local orphanages and school children. They also have a scheme to help feed the local people. A lot of the children in the orphanages do have parents, they just can afford to keep them. so they get left outside pagodas, orphanages, in rubbish or on the beach. its really sad. we went to one of them and as soon as you walk in, the kids are all over you, climbing on you, wanting to play, sing, have cuddles, hold your hand and wear your sunglasses! they are all so cute and friendly and just normal kids, who have a harder life because their family is poor.

they get a few new kids each week, ranging from new born babies to young children. they grow up under the strict rule of the female monk, who is at least 80 years old but a tough old bean! they all have to help out and they will also become monks themselves. they also get an education there, but because they are next to the river, every year in the wet season, they move upstairs as everywhere floods. really eye opening.

So, after this and a few days at the beach, we went to Dalat. Don't go to Dalat. Its rubbish. Proof that you dont always enjoy where you go to. and Mui Ne is where we got all adventurous on the motorbike and went out exploring the beaches and the landscape, which was beautiful. we went to go sandboarding on the white sand dune 28km from mui ne, a beautiful scene - like the sahara, but stupid hot and not very successful for the boarding.

It was here, on the dirt road back, that we had our bike crash. I remember lying on the side of the road, with the full weight of the bike on my leg white i was worried i couldnt move. Dave was up and panicking, trying to get it off of me. I rolled over, my leg in a lot of pain, covered in red sand-realising that i broke Daves camera in the fall. After the shock, i realised that i wasnt badly hurt, just had cut my knee and leg up a bit. I wasnt looking forward to having to get back on the bike to ride back to mui new, as we were near nothing. so we wrapped my leg up in a vest and hopped back on. to run out of petrol down the road from where were staying. hmmm...not a brilliant end to the day but at least we were alive.

Then we hit Saigon - aka HCMC for the Chu Chi tunnels in the vietnam war - amazingly  impressive - even the widened 'tourist tunnel' was tiny and very claustrophobic. Not nice to have to live down there and fight a war. And the war musuem, which was incredible. Documenting the war and the affects of the use of Agent Orange was another eye opening event.

so now we are in cambodia. we have just spent the last few days in siem reap having a look around angkor wat and such like, very impressive but super hot. extremely fed up of sweating now. there is no escape!!

am looking forward to the cold summer of the UK!! Which is only in 5 weeks! I arrive at 9am at Heathrow 5 weeks today, cant wait to see everyone! I cant deny that it is getting much harder the longer you travel. i keep dreaming of home and seeing my family again, which makes it hard but also exciting to see u all again!

so dont worry, i am still thinking of you as i hope you are still thinking of me. much love and see u all in 5 weeks!!! xxxxx

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Good Morning Vietnam.

So, as you may have guessed by the title, we're in Vietnam! We arrived this morning after less than 2 hours sleep, from clubbing it up in Singapore. Not a smart move maybe, but it was fun! So am sitting at the internet, after sitting on the smallest plastic table and chairs in the street, eating Vietnamese fried food which you dip in some kind of cold soupy liquid. Was much better than it sounds!

A quick catch up...we had a great time in KL with Niamh and Clay! Me and Dave just loved it, such a cool city - soooo much shopping, huge malls etc with killer air con. Just what you need. The city at night is really exciting, just buzzing with people, food, decorative lights etc. I want to live there! We stayed with Niamh and Clay in Midvalley, which was a beautiful place to stay - and we felt so welcome! And I loved it that we got some cinema sessions in as well! Has been a while, and Scream 4 was hilarious!

Again, not my work.
We had to get up super early to do the Petronas Towers - the Petroleum company- with a killer office! Its a truely beautiful building, designed with Malaysia in mind, it all means something and its quite unique. The skybridge  (the viewing bridge inbetween the towers) is where you can go up to visit - however, we got there at 8.10am to be in the mega huge line for tickets for that day, and we were the 3rd to last couple allowed to get tickets! Crazy! You do have to get there super super early! The trip up was a bit underwhelming, with a strict 15 min allowance up there, however the exhibition and video information afterwards was really interesting. And we chatted to a guy that works there for a while as he was clearly very passionate about his job and knew everything! We learnt that the whole thing was built in 2.5 years - and it was a race, the Japanese and Koreans took a tower each and the first to get high enough could do the skybridge. Insane! But it worked, as it was built super quickly.

We also did the Menara Tower, which is much higher up, but super tacky touristy. Lots of families, screaming children and pony rides?!? Strange. But the view at night is quite beautiful and you get a good view of the Petronas Towers.

Before KL, we did Melaka - a fusion city of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dutch and Portuguese cultures. So much architecture, history, foods - amazing. And we stayed at Emilys Travellers Home, which is a cool lil hostel just outside of the historical centre, where they have jungle showers, you have to step over stepping stones through the Koi Carp pond with a turtle - and Mr Playboy, the resident rabbit hops around eating Bread soaked in Milo (chocolate powder). Love it!

And then after we said our goodbyes to Niamh, Clay, Linda and Brendan, we were off to Singapore! Expensive fun was had. Universal Studios on Sentosa Island was def my fave day out! Sentosa Island is a tourist purpose island, built with theme parks, man made beaches, resorts,m hotels, restaurants, an 8bn dollar casino (with only 1 bar?!) and much more. A weird lil bubble of Singapore. Shows that its just for the rich kids. However, we had lots of fun, hitting the big rollercoasters before the big queues arrived and going on everything we could! Also saw all the weird and cool lil shows and had prime posing opportunities at every corner.
Was also amazed at how the asian tourists all carry the biggest lens camera you've ever seen, complete with tripods. For a theme park. Madness. They document every second of their life.

We also did the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari in the rainforest which was really nice -a zoo where the animals actually seem happy and active as its a more natural habitiat for them. Alot of them, especially the night safari, just wander around - not many are actually caged in, which is a much better idea.

Marina Bay Sands

And as you can see above, this is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Where we didnt stay, but would like toin the future. You have t be super rich to go here. It has the world famous 'infinity pool' on top (the long boat bit). Its basically a swimming pool that looks like it goes on forever as it doesnt have proper sides. And you get amazing views from the top. So I here. You cant use the pool if you dont stay there. Sad times.

So thats a brief rundown for now. We're in Hanoi at the mo, awaiting the arrival of Krisy, Daves sister who's visiting us in a few days! Amazing.

So to everyone at home, Happy Easter! Enjoy the hot UK weather, it doesnt ever last! And all the time off - and the Royal Wedding of course! So patriotic.

Miss and love you all lots.

Muchos Love as ever xxxx

Monday, 4 April 2011

Today I saw a snake.

This is true. And it is my most favourite snake in the world.

Now we are in the wonderful world of Malaysia, after a 10 hour escape from Hat Yai in Thailand (they do however, have very good bakeries..). The Cameron Highlands is in central Malaysia, is at approx 1200m above sea level, and specializes in growing strawberries, tea and growing butterflies. Its a very beautiful area, and the people are so friendly!

Yesterday we did an 'easy and pleasant' jungle trail past the Robinson Waterfalls. This walk included climbing over fallen trees, scrambling through the jungle, sliding down on my bum, holding onto vines and plants, walking through a vegetable farm and wondering where the hell we were! It was getting really hot, and we were told that the BOH Tea Estate - our final destination- was 6 km away. So we started walking.

We were lucky enough, however, to hitchike up to the estate with a young married couple from Kuala Lumpur. They were lovely enough to drive us up there, have a lil look around, and carry on with their own plans. We got to the tea estate and walked up to the viewpoint to see the miles of hills, covered in tea plants. Absolutely amazing! A really surreal kind of green, that reminds me of Tim Burtons Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

We then had some tea, overlooking the tea estate, being the only westerners there, we shared the experience with many local families and visitors from KL. And we took the 5-8 minute advertised factory tour, which had the strongest and freshest smell of tea - which they break down, not using any chemicals - over the course of a day and a half. Incredible. And the tea is still handpicked.

After that, we started walking down the windy, green hill back to the main road, as there are no buses up to the tea estate. Again, we were lucky enough to get picked up by one of the families we took the tour with to get dropped off at the bottom of the long hill and onto the main road. Funnily enough, the malaysian woman actually lives in Swansea and runs a Chinese takeaway and was on a holiday visa in her own country, as she is now a UK citizen. She also did not miss the snow.

Once we said our goodbyes to her and her family, we managed to hitch yet our final lift of the day, with a woman from the perinthian islands and a local girl. The little girl was really funny, asking if England was as cold as the Cameron Highlands and if we get snow. So we were very fortunate to meet some very friendly and kind locals, who thought we were quite novel and no one can understand Daves Aussie accent!

Today we went up to the butterfly farm on the local bus, which was beautiful - and this is also where the snakes were. The butterflies - some of which are the size of small birds- fly around freely around the beautiful enclosed gardens. Along with the butterflies are rabbits, koi carp, chickens, a goose, a scorpion nest, snakes, different beetles and a tarantula. Weird.

We walked down the hill to get to the strawberry farm in Brinchang, not realising that it was 4km away and it chucked it down with rain. Again, luckily for us, a local couple took pity on our silly, wet tourist look and dropped us off in town. We are very lucky. The Big Red Strawberry farm was nice, although not peak strawberry season. We had a gorgeous strawberry fondue and strawberry juice whilst looking at an extensive range of strawberry paraphernalia. Amazing. You can put a strawberry on everything.

And i had the most amazing strawberry tart. Delish.

And that brings us up to now. In a couple of days we'll be heading to the perhinthian islands - if the weathers good - and then KL to meet up with Niamh and Clay - yay! Can't wait to see them!

Also, a Happy Mothers Day to the mum and a Happy Birthday to my lil sis, Saskia. Sorry I'm not there, and I miss and love you both.

Muchos love, as ever xxx

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Wedding bliss, D-day and Monsoons.

Wow, so another crazy couple of weeks have just passed. Beautiful times with beautiful people.

First stop. The Wedding.

Ah Sarah and Macca, it could not have been a more perfect wedding if you tried! Of course with Sarahs planning it could not have been anything but. You could not have asked for more.

Sarah looked beautiful. On the arm of her dad, a long, white strapless dress - perfect for a beach wedding- also showing off a major tan! Love it. A white flower in her beautifully curled hair, white perls around her neck, she looked amazing. Absolutely stunning, so happy.

The ceremony was so emotional, set against a late afternoon sun on Hat Rei Leh, Krabi, Thailand, beautiful white sands, clear and blue waters, green limestone cliffs. The set up of the wedding was incredible. The wedding team in their pink tshirts running around making last minute finishing touches - the detail was amazing.

Wedding of the year.
 As they stood at the alter they looked so lovingly at each other, so intently - like it was a private event just for them. So incredibly happy, so in love. Happy being together forever. 

The whole scene was picturesque, as Sarah and Macca said their vows, I couldn't help but cry with happiness for them. They are just going to be sooo happy!

So to follow the beautiful ceremony, we had tropical cocktails before getting wedding pictures as the sunset - a massive wedding meal of vegetable tempura, green curry and banana flambe. Then the real partying began!

We continued with cocktails on the beach whilst watching the fireshow and letting up chinese stye lanterns - then we hit The Last Bar in Raileigh with Buckets (actual buckets with ice, straws, a ton of alchol and red bull) dancing the night away in our wedding gear, ruling the roost and celebrating Sarah and Macca style! Had such a great time - even challenged (and won) the dance off between me and Pete the Best Man. What can I say? I got some moves.

Amazing. So amazing.

Anyways, now I am in Thailand with the lovely Dave, who arrived on 17th March - Paparoos birthday! And we're having a great time! Spent a couple of  days in Hat Yai, Phuket, before moving onto the interesting Phi Phi. This is the type of island that is good foor getting drunk and sunburnt, watching 18 year old European kids get wasted, wee and have sex in the sea. We saw all of ths\is. However, it is wicked for a hen do - like sarahs...

Hens on tour!
So we went to Phnang Nga to see the national park and the limestone islands in the bay - beautiful although the weather has been pretty wet ever since. We also zipped through the countryside on a motorbike, after I nearly killed us determined to do it! Dave, having never done it before, is apparently better at it than me. Hmmm...Safety first I guess.

For those of you who dont know, the lovely Dave.

So everything is going very well, its so good to be able to start sharing my experiences after being away for over 6 months now. I dont need to prove anything to myself  now, as I know that I can do it, and can do almost anything now. Its amazing, and I feel that now its a new and even more exciting travelling chapter.

And I am happier now than I have ever been :)

A big Happy Birthday to Franamuffin and my Paparoo! Sorry that im not there and miss and love you lots.

For now, I shall go back to the absolutely monsoon ran we've had for 3 days straight, leaving us stuck here foor a while. Not always paradise eh? At least im in good company.

Muchos love as ever xxxx

Monday, 7 March 2011

"I love a good medley" and the Gilli Saga.

Right now, I am one worn out, super tired, but happy lady. I have just spent the week with Jess and Joe, who flew down to Bali for a lil reunion and it ended up being quite an interesting, eventful, unpredictable but amazing week.

Let me set the scene. It all begins with a very excited Heather, meeting a lil Jessica at Kuta Aiport, Bali. I stood there, amongst a sea of people at the international arrivals gate, waiting a lil nervously as I haven't seen her, or anyone I actually know from home for nearly 6 months. I see her walk through the doors, a lil bewlidered, as its dark, humid and a million people with signs. So I shouted, "Jeeeessssss!!!", to get her attention.

We had a few "quiet" drinks at the Skygarden, Kutas biggest and loudest club - not ideal for a travel itinary talk/general catch up, so we quickly moved to a reggae bar - where a large drunk man fell over and tried to take us all out. Naturally, Joe being the man, was in the toilet at the time and did not save us. That was an occuring theme throughout the week.

We spent the next day in Ubud - and had the most amazing massage ever. It was my first massage ever, but the others confirmed this belief for me. An hours full body Balinese massage, followed by a herbal body scrub, being smothered in moisteriser and then having a herbal and floral bath, with a cup of giner tea and some biscuits. Our individual rooms had open views to the lush green garden, with running water. Beautiful. Couldn't have asked for a better massage.

We left feeling relaxed and enlightened, like the weight of the world had been lifted off our shoulders...until we visited the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. You'd think visiting a foresty area with temples and lots of monkies would be awesome and super cute. But they are on a mission.

Example 1.
I was sitting next to a monkey for a classic, 'we're in the monkey forest sanctuary' photo, when a sneaky other monkey creeps up to me, steals my bottle of water, unscrews the lid, licks it so i dont want it back and tried to drink from the bottle. I take it back off him, thining that plastic is bad for him, but no, we starts to come and get me. So obviously i scream like a girl and through it back to him. I haven't had a rabies shot. It cost 150 quid.

Example 2.
We walk past these group of monkies, when one bares his razor sharp teeth to Joe and runs at him, trying to scratch and grab him

Example 3.
An older English man tries to discipline a 'very naughty monkey' as he is stealing things from his bag. Telling him off in a very posh english way, doesn work. They are monkies.

After this slightly stressful situation we got in a taxi to padangbai - in order to get a boat to the gilli islands the next day. We spend the evening drinking all the newly made crazy cocktails at Alola Cafe, with Marco reading our palms well into the night. Apparently I am very laid back, but contradictory but have problems with love. Inciteful stuff.

In the morning we left our beautiful bungalow to get the boat to Gilli T, where we spent the day on the beautiful beaches, covered in dead razor sharp coral. The sea is turquoise, clear with lots of coral and fishes. Snorkling here is excellent. Then in the evening, Wednesday night is The Night so we hit the Irish bar, needless to say it got messy. Joe getting a lot of man love from practically everyman there, him dropping me on the floor after insisting that he could carry me off the stage me and Jess were dancing on..another example of Joe not saving us.
As the night draws to a close, Joe heads back to our room and me and Jess get into the pool-hopping. Basically, the island is v v small (you can walk around it in an hour) and everything is on the same street...including a lot of nice bungalows with swimming pools (at least 10). Of course ours doesnt have one, and we are sweating with the heat, the drink and the dancing, so jump into 6 of them fully clothed. Refreshing.

We get back to our room, to tell Joe all about our night and he looks disturbed andvery confused. Turns out, he fell asleep to wake up with an indonesian man kneeling on his bed trying to give him a blow job. Funniest thing ever. If me and Jess had walked in 2 minutes earlier, Joe would not have been able to explain his actions and I'm sure the whole office would see documentary evidence of the nights events...

moving on...

the next day was a natural hang over day. we spent it eating and sleeping at the beach cafe called mozarts. rubbish food, great beach huts and sun loungers. when we could manage it, we got up - i did a bit of snorkling, amazing as ever - beautifully coloured fishes and all that. Then we hired bikes and cycled around the island. this would have been even more amazing if we didnt have to cycle through sand. the gilli islands dont have cars or roads. its all sand, bike, horses and carts. pretty old school.

but an amazing lil island. we had a well deserved drink on a lil remote beach bar we found, blaring out classic dance hits. a romantic dinner for three then followed, with an early morning rise to get the boat back to bali. we wanted to stay longer, but saturday was the quiet day.

Hindu New Year and the Quiet Day:

again, not my talents but you get the idea.
so basically, saturday was the hindu new year. we saw amazing, gravity defying papier mache statues carried through the street, all menacing and brightly coloured, making lots of noise to scare the bad spirits away. amazing to watch and experience, but it means that the next day - or even from the friday night - 

"bali is closed".

this means you can not be on the streets, all the shops, hotels, restaurants are shut. no taxis, no airplanes, no atms working. you get fined around 350 quid if you are on the street, so you just have to stay in your hotel all day, and hope that they do food. otherwise you'll go hungry. and in the evening theres no electicity. total darkness. 

now Kuta is such a crazy place that it seems unbelievable that they can do such a thing. but they can and they do. incredible. we were lucky enough to find a hotel with a nice pool and did food - accompanied with a bunch of people from all over the world who were really cool and fun to hang out with. it meant that the next couple of days were spent drinking all the hotels beer, in the pool. not bad eh?

so thats pretty much been it, now im back on my own - or at least with the guys at the hotel - ready to leave Bali to start my new adventure in thailand for sarah and maccas wedding. im expecting it to be pretty messy! but incredible. married in krabi, hen do on phi phi, beautiful. and to catch up with these guys after months of not seeing them since south america, alot to catchup on!

and i know that Jess is probably reading this at work with the holiday blues, but dont. we had such an awesome time together - despite our silly (and i think funny!) bickering. I absolutely love you and are over the moon that you came to visit me here. can't wait for our bagel and sushi lunch dates again! <3

so now its the countdown till the wedding and till Dave joins me in Asia. 10 more sleeps. cant wait. super super excited! what a journey.

also tres excited that natalie portman got the oscar along with colin firth - sad i couldnt see it, but so happy. she truely deserves it. amazing performance.

and loving the book "one day" - check it out.

muchos love everyone! xxxx

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Heather: Indonesias Number 1 Tourist Attraction.

Borobodur Temple, Java, Indonesia

So, I am in Java, and it rains all the time. Its stupid hot, sweating my life away over here, yet its so tropical it rains. And at night, they have the loudest thunderstorms you've ever heard in your whole life, with monsoon rains. Insane.

So this picture, which I cannot claim to be mine, is of Borobodur Temple - one of the largest in the world. It is around 46km away from Jogyakarta, Java - which I have been based the last 4 days. Its impressive, and Im glad I got to come here, as it was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Indonesia.

But yet I can't help but feel its all a bit empty on my own. After 5 months travelling, you come and go, meet people, hang about and then you leave them. At least I won't be on my own for much longer :)

And I have become the tourist attraction, at the tourist attraction. Not even joking, I think I must have had my picture taken at least 200 times, posing with school girls, teenage boys, old men, families and young children - its crazy! I think that its low season here, so they dont see many tourists. And they are all eager to speak to you - to improve their English and just have a chat, which is good and means Im never lonely for long here!

I have met so many locals - I love it! The Indonesian people are by far the friendliest I have ever met. Everyone smiles at you, talks to you, they rarely want anything of have an agenda, they are just happy and friendly. And its super safe for a young girl travelling alone. People ask why you are alone, and can't believe that you dont have a husband - everyone says just how beautiful you are, just walking down the street. Even when you are in the oldest clothes, sweating away - they think you are beautiful. Good for the ego i guess!

So its been quite an experience here, Bali is different, Kuta is crazy and im not a fan. Its full of western kids getting drunk on motorbikes, with dirty beaches and people trying to sell you stuff. This is not representative of Indonesia. Padangbai - where the boats go to Lombok/Gilli Islands, is much nicer - quiet, calm. Im going to Sanur tomorrow, the quieter version on Kuta and only 30 mins away - dont want to be around the craziness! Not until I have my dancing partner Jess with me - who arrives in Bali on monday - cant wait!

So i'd like to show you some pics, but the comps out here arent great, so you will have to wait for the next installment.

Prambanan, Java, Indonesia

I have also been to Prambanan the other day - the highest hindu temple in the world, another impressive sight. And another place where I was the main tourist attraction! They take school groups of local kids here so that they can talk to tourists and practise their English. I also got a free guided tour from a 17 year old school boy who was on tourism training here, again, practising his tour in English. Its amazing, these kids learn English very well, as they know its their ticket out of there. Many have dreams to work in tourism and to be able to work in America and Australia.

A guy I met who works in Ahola cafe in Padangbai shares these dreams. He offered to take me to the local temple on a motorbike, as I wasn't sure how to get there myself, and technically speaking, tourists cant drive out here without a permit. So I hired the bike and he kindly took me to the temple, got me a sarong to wear (as neccessary) and gave me a tour around the temple. 

After a while, we sat down and just chatted about life and stuff. I learnt that he has applied for a job on a cruise ship to America and has had to save hard for the application, which isn't cheap. He has made it through 2 rounds of interviews out of 1000 applicants - and I really hope he gets it. I am reminded yet again, how many people around the world long to travel, but just dont have the means. People are genuinely surprised when you tell them that you're 'holiday' is 10 months long. Travelling is not a real concept here.

So I am learning lots everyday - and trying new things as well. Instead of eating at the western places, I have been eating in the little warungs on the street, where at night, on Malilioboro, you sit on a rug on the street and eat at a low table - whilst local musicians play guitar to you. This is how I met a few young Indonesian guys, who are street musicians and sat with me for dinner. We discussed many things, including the strange topic of whether vampires are real or not. I thought this was a joke question, but I saw that they weren't sure of this strange vampire idea - i guess all the films and books at the mo dont help either. So I explained that they werent real, just like ghosts. But they believe in ghosts here, many people claim to have seen them.

Oh and I am learning to speak Bahasa Indonesian - very similiar to Bahasa Malaysian, so will keep in handy to remember all of this!

An interesting time has been had in Java. A lot of local interaction, great local street food and interesting but actually quite easy, local bus travel. Who wants to go on a tour bus full of Americans anyways?

So for now, terima kasih and muchos love xxxx

Saturday, 19 February 2011

One from the journal...

( the following extract is taken word for word from my last journal entry)

Jetsetting ( You know you've been flying too much when you know the inflight magazine)

So, I think I've become quite blase about this whole flying malarky. I rock up to the wrong airport terminal, 2.5 hours after checkin in opened. In my defense, I thought I was flying domestic.

So, I was wrong. Luckily, I still had half an hour to play with and the queue wasn't long - after a waddling walk in between terminals and actually sweating my life away.

Red, sweaty and frantically fanning myself with my passport, I get to the check in desk to discover that my bag is now 19.2kg. Ouch! What happened? Need a cull, quick!

Oh and I also needed to prove that I had an onward flight from Bali. Ah. This is something that they either
a) don't make very clear
b) I didn't think about it. I like to think it was both.

Luckily, I did actually have an onward flight booked, just no proof. And also lucky that I changed my plans to make my stay in Oz longer, as I was planning to overstay my visa in Indonesia. Something I dont think they would let me do.

So, with my 19.2kg backpack plus rucksack and a Bolivian Hat, I quickly waddled - once again- to use the internet to email the check in guy my flight details. A $2.50 for 2 mins. Bargin.

And if all of that wasnt enough, the airline had me down as a man. A man?!? How is that possible? Idiots.

So made it through all of that, rushed through security to discover that Cairns International airport is a bit shit. There's one place to eat and like, no seats. So I had $6 worth of chips, sprayed myself in a ton of Diors Pure Poison (my fave) to cover up my sweaty backpacker state, and sat on the floor. Sigh.
So now I'm on the plane to Darwin, to spend 5 hours in the airport before finally getting to Bali. Its taken 3 cyclones, a late departure, 2 missed flights, 2 cancelled flights and approx $1000, but I'm finally leaving. What a journey eh?

Despite all the changes, throwing my money away and initially not enjoying it, I've loved Oz. The family, the friends, the lifestyle. I just wana come back - and once again, im sad to leave another place and always saying goodbye.

But at least this time, its "see you later"  :)


So, Darwin Airport. Smallest transit area ever. I need to kill a few more hours, so have some more handy travelling tips:

- Bring Pot pourri sachets to keep your clothes smelling good in your backpack. ( card perfume sticks from duty free at the airport also work for a bit as well)

- Keep your computer electricals in a seperate bag - saves time when trying to locate the USB, the card reader, other devices etc. And tie them in a know to save even more untangling time!

- I'ts handy to have a plastic knife, fork and spoon. You'd be surprised how hard these are to find when you need them.

- Bring brightly coloured string - handy for tying up zips in the airport (stops people going in stealing/planting drugs on you), tying up excess stuff to your bag, a washing lines in dorm rooms etc etc.

- tape - a lil roll if any kind of tape (preferably duct/electical as its stronger) will come in handy more often than you think.

- scrap paper/post it notes - very useful if you dont have a journal/ guidebook that you dont mind scribbling notes all over.

- whilst travelling, keep washing powder in an empty drinks bottle - much easier to transport.

- do not underestimate the power of waterproof mascara. Wish i'd taken this advice.

- Bring enough of the things you cant get out here and that you need. ie - the world doesnt sell vaseline roll on deos - weird as you cany buy other vaseline far 5 months = 3 roll ons ( for those who are as equally allergic to alcohol as me and cant use other deos).

- dont use your uk phone in oz! unless you want 200 and 300 quid monthly phone bills. Like me. Ouch.

- girls, Oz apparently charges for contraceptives such as the pill (as my friend emily found out, they're not cheap) get it from home, where it is free! (or get the implant - no babies or periods for 3 years - best thing ever! and no mood swings - huzzah!)

- greyhound passes in oz are a con. get cheap flights and spend less time on stupid buses. Jetstar/virgin blue/ tiger airways are good for cheap domestic flights. i've done this and only taken 3 greyhounds. flying is the way to go.

Best Airports so far: Gatwick, Sydney, La Paz, Rurrenabaque (novelty factor), Brisbane.
Worst Airports so far: Hobart, Buenos Aires, Prosperine, Cairns, Darwin, Lima, Byron Bay.

Can you tell im bored yet?

Quotes i like from "Eight Lives Down"

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising each time we fall" - Confucius
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go" - TS Eliot
"It is foolish to fear what you cannot avoid" - Publilius Syrus

"I'd rather give my life than be afraid to give it" - Lynda Johnson

ok, so thats an insight to my wonderful journals!

finally made it to Bali and loving it! so thats "How for now!"

muchos love as ever xxxxx

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

And I should just stay in Australia...

Because clearly thats what it wants! I obviously had an AWFUL day yesterday (see previous post), only to wake up today to find out that my flight to Darwin has been cancelled because of another cyclone.

Seriously, more cyclones? I can't take much more. I just want to get to Bali now - it's not fair, I'm stuck in Cairns, on my own, can't afford to do the trips and there's nothing to do in the town centre. Sucks to be me.

Ok, so it could be worse, I know this, I just want to get there - especially as it's gonna take me all day when I do get there anyways. Ugh.

So have moved my flights to the 18th, fingers crossed I can fly then, otherwise I won't have time to see anything before I meet Jess and Joe. And I would've gone stir crazy in Cairns by then. Seriously dull. And stupid hot. You sweat just be breathing. Ugh.

So another complainy one from me. Enjoy your regular cool day, whilst I sweat my life away, trying to escape this country!!

Muchos love xxx

Airport Action and the Worst Day In the World.

So, obviously the day I try to leave Brisbane, the world falls apart and becomes one of the worst days in the world.

I have to say goodbye to everyone - the girls - Jen and Jess who live with Dave, who are some of the best girls I have ever met! Obviously I then had to say goodbye to Dave, which was sad - but its ok as I'll be seeing him in 4 weeks as he's going to travel Thailand with me! How exciting is that?!?

But I was due to have 3 flights today - one from Brisbane - Cairns at 7.30 am, Cairns - Darwin and then Darwin - Bali.
But of course when I get to the airport, the flight is delayed by 2 and a half hours, with no explanations of whats going on and a fake landing time, which was way off mark. I had to fight my way to the front of the plane, and literally run to find someone from the airline who saw I was in such a panic and asked me where I was going. Only to be told that the check in for Darwin had shut 10 minutes ago. AAGGGHHH!!! Could've have made it if they were on time. 

So then, I had to go to the service desk and when they told me I couldn't fly today and that there may be charges for it, I just burst into tears - actual sobs. I was soooo tired from not having a lot of sleep, nervous about leaving to start again in a new country on my own, and emotional from saying goodbye to a few people that I love. So I told her that I was going to miss a wedding- in case that helped. It didn't, but I did get sympathy in my broken down state.

For every few amazing weeks, there's always a killer bad day.

So I pulled myself together and went into Cairns and got a room for the night. Only to find out from my cousin Matt later on, that my Uncle Patrick, who I stayed in Tassie with, has got throat cancer. Talk about making a shit day worse. There's nothing worse than feeling completely useless, alone and so far away from everyone. All my thoughts to Patrick, Matt, Gem and family. xxx

So, that's been my day so far today. Apparently there could be another cyclone tomorrow in Darwin. Good thing I'm flying out of Darwin tomorrow then isn't it? Jesus. Ugh. All of this is basically telling me I just should've stayed eh? You always seem to be right. :)

So anyways - a catch up on the week before. Obviously extended my stay in Brisbane, and ended up doing a lot of shopping and watching Gossip Girl with Jen - as she can't walk at the mo, we needed lil cheer up trips! That and we love to bitch about Gossip Girl.

Me and Dave went to the desert cafe for dinner, which was amazing! Except it makes you feel kinda sick...but in an awesome way.

Saturday afternoon, we had a bbq for Dans 24th bday ( a great age obv!) which was really cool, but a bit surreal, as everyone crowded around on of his friends and started quizzing him. I was like, what's going on? Turns out he was the winner of the 2nd series of the Australian Beauty and the Geek - how surreal is that?!? He's a sweet guy, and he came to the Press Club later with Dan and Jess and naturally, Jess kissed his face ;)

So in the eve, we had a big night out in The West End and The Valley - started off with Jen dressing me in some of her amazing clothes/jewellery/shoes (girls, check out or something similar) - killer heels which my feet are still recovering from, but make you feel a million dollars. Silver and sparkly...beautiful. 

And so the night started with The Getaway Plan, in my  killer heels...kinda hard work but they were really cool! Then we met with Sabina, Megan and Nat for crazy dancing with live music, lots of red it! And at 2am, we said our long drawn out goodbyes, to hit The Press Club in The Valley for club-tastic times! When we saw Jess, she went crazy for us! We were gyrating at the bar, ordering green goblin shots and getting crazy! Lots of dancing, photos, kisses, licks, haha etc. Such a great night!

This night ended with the boys getting pizza, and the girls running across the valley to look at shoes. Thats just how we roll baby!

Naturally Sunday was a hangover day, so we cured this with an epic cooked breakfast on the bbq with Jess in killer cleaning mode - despite nearly dying the night before! Ended the day with dinner at Daves sisters place which was cool.

And finally, valentines day - my last day in Brisbane. Was cool because i dont believe in it - so we had a leaving meal at wagamas which is much more to my taste, with all the gang! A great way to end!

So a great couple of weeks, with a killer day today. But looking forward to the future :)

Muchos love as ever xxxx

Monday, 7 February 2011

Brisbane #2

Hey guys.

Well, as some of you may already now, my plans have changed, yet again! I escaped Cairns just in time to come down to Brisbane, to visit Dave - and haven't quite left yet!

We've done sooo much this week - picnics, national parks, glow worms, swimming, cinema, and the Story Bridge Climb!!

Jess, Me and Dave doing the climb.

Basically, I have been more than spoilt here - having the best time with these guys! Just spent today with Jen - another of Daves housemates - shopping and lunching in Brisbane. Also getting to drive around as she's broken her foot, poor thing. And I LOVE driving!!

And also, go see Black Swan. Best thing you can do. Its haunting, dark, incredible. And Natalie Portman will win the Oscar. And she deserves it.

So, am heading up to Bali next week now - do a bit of Flores, Komodo and Rinca before meeting Jess and Joe in Bali for cocktails and a bit of cheeky English fun!! Can't wait to see some people from home!! Has been so long.

Also got to talk to the family the other day - Jack has grown sooo much. Insane. Sad to be missing out on these little things.

Anyways, so back to Brisbane. Its surviving pretty well considering how badly they were flooded. Queenslanders really do pull themselves together and everyone helps each other out. Theres real community spirit here. Its incredible.

You can also just chat to people and they open up, tell you a story whether you asked to hear it or not. Everyones so honest, friendly - we can learn alot from this in the UK I think. If you spoke to someone in a lift or on the tube, people would think you either:

a) Had some kind of agenda
b) You're mental
c) You're coming onto them
d) You might mug them

Shame really. Think of all those people we could have met.

Just a thought.

So I was really bad and bought some beautiful clothes today with Jen. Bit of retail therapy! But I am sick of everything I own - worn them to death in the last 5 months. Plus I really did need 2 dresses, sandals and 3 headbands for the wedding. Such a girl thing.

So I am now pretty much half way through my trip. Can't believe how much I've done and achieved in this time - actually crazy! Still got 5 more to go though, so as incredible as it's been - maybe the best is yet to come!!

Muchos love as ever xxx

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cyclone City...

So, as I write this Cyclone Yasi is preparing to hit Queensland at a catagory 5 rating - the worst cyclone in almost 100 years. It can basically flatten houses. Luckily, I managed to get one of the last flights out of Cairns yesterday, and am now being well looked after in Brisbane :) finally, I get to see Brisbane.

The floods have disappeared from here, but the damage is clear - alot of businesses are still closed, and everything that was affected is kinda sad and grey. These guys have been through so much with the major floods and now cyclones...

Everyone is just waiting now. Cairns has been evacuated, as well as the Whitsunday Islands, Magnetic Island and everything inbetween. I'm just worried now about the 5 friends I have holed up in Cairns...just really hope everyone stays safe.

So my plans have changed, yet again, for the time being. I am due to fly up to Cairns on Monday - so hopefully the worst of the damage is done, so I can finally fly up to Indonesia. We'll just have to wait and see what happens!

Despite all this craziness, I am having a lovely time in Brisbane. Being treated like a princess!

And we saw Black Swan last night - for anyone who hasn't already seen it - its incredible. Haunting. Natalie Portman is truely fantastic. The story is dark and twisted, but as its from the director of Requiem for a Dream, you wouldn't expect anything less. And she totally deserves the Oscar. More than Sandra Bullock did. What happened there eh?

So for now, its the waiting game, to see how much damage there will be and how badly it will affect the communities. Fingers crossed. So glad I came to Brisbane.

Regina, Tanja, Eugenia, Emily and Henry - stay safe up there!!!

Muchos love xxxx

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Alot can happen in a week...

On the Whitsundays

G'day there!

So...alot happens in a week doesn't it??

I'll tell you whats happening right now, then i'll fill you in on the rest. Ok, so sit back and relax.

Today, I had to make my escape from Magnetic Island, as there is a cyclone coming today - and I didn't want to be stranded on the island, as I have a very busy week ahead. Funnily, all 50 other backpackers had the same idea, as the ferrie were going to stop in the afternoon, so we amazingly, all squeezed onto the bus to catch one of the last ferries going out. Phew! 

And I met up with Reggy - a girl I met on the Whitsundays trip, so now we are in Townsville, killing time before the cyclone hits today. And theres another one hitting on Thursday as well. Fantastic! (and don't tell mum and dad this - they will just worry!). So hopefully it won't stop my flight to Bali on Friday, as I'm trying to escape the crazy Oz weather...hmmm....

So anyways, before all this craziness, I was in the beautiful Gold Coast - and NOT at Surfers Paradise, I hasten to add. Me and Matt (my Aussie Cousin) walked around there and it's a weird place. Not my kinda thing. So I was lucky enough to stay with Matt and his family in Robina, which is a beautiful little place - and I was once again, well looked after, and had the special Matt guided tour!

And on the friday night, I got picked up by the lovely Dave, who I met in Peru - got taken out for dinner, drinks, dancing and a casino. Needless to say, it was a great night, with a bit of a heachache in the morning! And I got treated by Dave to allsorts of Australian type things, like pies, lamington and Tim Tams - oh my god, they are MUCH better than penguins - I have been sold!!
 And my plans changed over the weekend so I was able to stay for The Big Day Out! This is a one day music festival in Oz, and I have always wanted to go - it was soooo much fun!! Highlights were Plan B, the giant inflatable Owl, lots of Gin, seeing lots of cool Aussie bands and of course, hanging out with Dave.


So, I was sad to leave the Gold Coast, and meeting friends and family has now made me fall in love with Australia, after all my moaning about it and sad about leaving South America, I am finally sold. Too bad that I'm leaving next week then.
Guess I'll just have to come back :)

Muchos love, always and forever xxxx

Happy Australia Day!!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

a listy and lizardy one...

just wanted to say, that as i am writing this, just saw a MASSIVE lizard roam the streets outside.. crazy.

anyways, just a quick one:

i am very jealous of all the boys backpacks. they are small and compact. and jealous of people with wheels...oh my god, such a great idea. i will never take a backpack again.

Things i miss from south america:

dulche de leche
fried street food from bolivia
bon o bons!! (my absolute fave!)

Things i miss from home:

good cheese (particularly goats cheese)
beans - although i finally had beans on toast!! its been 4 months...
mums lasagne
dads curry
reading festival - even though its not on yet, I CAN'T WAIT!!

and i miss everyone!!

ok so im off to visit matthew and his family on the gold coast, so sleep well and i'll speak to you all soon.

muchos love xxx

Monday, 17 January 2011

One for the ladies...

Girls of mine, I am very sorry to declare that the mission has been abandoned. It's just no good out here.

For those who are uninformed of said mission - a few friends of mine decided (pretty much for me!) that I was to come back from Australia with an Australian husband (or suitor) and to already be carrying his child.

I was always a little sceptical of this plan - it just didn't sound like a great idea. But I can now announce that it's definately NOT happening, for the sad truth is ladies, we have been deceived.

The Australian men are not all golden, buff with sunkissed locks. They wear vests, board shorts and even if they are good looking, they know it. Thats not an attractive quality.

But, surprisingly, the nicest guys I have met on my travels so far, happen to be English. Would you believe?!? You come all this way to meet nice English guys. Typical.

So for the ladies at home, there is hope. I think all the nice English guys are just travelling, that explains alot huh? But they will come back to the UK and all will be good again.

Also, more travel tips from a girls perspective...

You just can't wear make up out here - its too hot, it just melts right off your face. I recommend a mineral powder based foundation - nice, light and a life saver!! So it's possible to look a little less sweaty in this insane heat!!

And you just miss wearing heels - so bring a small, compactable pair that go with everything. I miss that - you try and dress up out here, but your always in sandals..not as glam as it could be...

And you will get beach girl envy. Inevitable. You just hope that these surfer style girls, with tiny bikinis and super slim bodies are just holding it all in as they swan down the beach. We can hope.

And take some tips from my lovely Racheroo - bring lots of pedicure type instruments - you will not regret it!! Especially Nivea cream - where would I be without it now? An actual life-saver for my feet.

So an actual update on what I'm up to at the moment... leaving Byron Bay tomorrow to go to Surfers Paradise and stay with some family for the next few days. Hoping to catch up with Dave, who I met in Peru, in Brisbane, but have to see how that goes as they've still got serious flood issues over there. Sunday I fly out to Airlie Beach to do the Whitsundays - on a pirate ship!!! Tres excited about that!! Then magnetic island for a few days and Cairns - where this will be the last stop on my Oz trip. I'll just have to come back with a bag of money and when the weather is better.

So literally just been on the beach and swimming in the pool the last few days. Went out to Cheeky Monkies on Saturday night, where the goon was a flowing, and the tunes were a pumping, and come sunday, the hangover was definately hanging in there! But we still managed to walk around the Byron Bay market - which is a major hippie fest (always reminds me of macca!!). But nice to be in a place where there's no judgement and everyone is so chilled out.

Just what I needed.

So hope you're all well and all that!

Keep you updated soon.

muchos love xxx

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Tassie Tales and Fears of the Flood

So, my current location is Byron Bay, Australia, which is a cute and chilled hippie town. Where people wear rainbow dresses and walk around with no shoes. Where there are actually golden blonde Australians who can surf. Its a cool little place.

Anyways, so I really enjoyed Tassie - was amazing to meet Gemma, her partner Fluffy and the kids Joshua and Jacob, they are the sweetest boys - they remind me of our Max and Jack! And Gemma reminds me of a very Australian version of my  mum! They really must meet one day.

So I was very well looked after - being wined, dined and champagned pretty much everyday! Went to Port Arthur for the day to see where all the convicts from the UK were sent. This was really interesting as its a part of our history that we don't learn about, I guess because England wasn't very proud of what they actually did. They basically used to send all the convicts that they didn't want in the UK, over to Australia where they lived in prisons and were made to build ships, builing etc - kind of like slave labor. Except for a lot of people, their crime was petty - like stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family. That kind of stuff.

I also went to a couple of exhibiton openings, hence my face in the paper: 

Tassie News Pic

NOT - my face literally stuck to the paper whilst out drunk, like some people thought...tut tut! Seriously guys, what do you think I'm doing out here?!?  ;)

So yes, now in Byron Bay, deciding what and how I'm acutally going to manage my trip - as Queensland (the north east state) has had major floods - some places up to 9 metres and lots of people have died. So that's quite scary and that is supposed to be where I'm heading - even Brisbane has been flooded now (good thing you got out Jo!). So my new plan is to whizz up super quick in the next few weeks, have a few stopovers and do the Whitsundays - as I was told that I HAVE to do it by a few people - so I'm going to do it on a pirate ship!! Awesome!!

So now I have moved my flight out of Oz to the 4th Feb to go to Bali - save myself a few weeks and an absolute fortune! Will do as much of east indonesia as possible, before meeting Jess (yay!!) to do Bali and the Gillis, and then Sarah and Maccas wedding - super exciting!!

So lots to look forward to, which is good, as I wasn't sure on Australia when I first got here. It reminded me too much of home, which then made me miss everyone, especially as I was sad to leave south america and all the friends I made there. I guess I'm just looking for something very different, interesting and challenging, which isn't Australia, as it so easy to travel.

I also feel old here. Everyone travelling here is super young.

So thats the plan, hopefully the rain will stop so the floods will go away and we can spend some more time on the beaches.

Thats all for now, as I realise I have used the word 'so' to start my paragraphs 6 times in this blog - I won't bore you anymore.

So goodbye for now!! ;) muchos love, as ever xxxx