Tag Archives: photos

San Diego in pictures

The Santa Fe train station with downtown as the backdrop

A highly detailed spanish facade in the Museum District (Museum of Contemporary ART)

 

The Botanical House in Balboa Park

A Pitcher Plant in the carnivorous plants exhibit

Louie Mattar's 1947 Cadillac that he drove non stop for 6320 miles... look it up!

The original "Herbie" bug!

The MTV Piaggio

Spreckles Organ Pavillion, Balboa Park

Having drinks on Coronado at the "Del"

Glorious Pizza at Village Pizzeria, 1st St, Coronado

MIssion Beach and a bit of volleyball

Wavehouse at M Beach

Margaritas at Margaritas

Fall for the Arts festival at Broadway Pier

Grandpa Lionel will appreciate this one :)

Boarding the museum at the USS Midway

Inside the lower deck hangar aboard USS Midway

Lieutennant Corporal DD Kotz

Airshow at MCAS Miramar

MRT Trolleys that buzz around SD

The kindly fellow who let us crash at his place, at times a gentleman....

 

Newport 'Party' Place

A stellar time was had by all, what a great week. Look out for our new post on Austin… coming to you computer screens soon!

Ciao for now!

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San Diego…City of Sunshine!

The train trip down from Maricopa, Arizona down to San Diego was pretty painless, in fact by the time we arrived in Los Angeles to catch the connecting train to SD, we were well rested and ready to go. There was a moment, however, when we thought we were going to miss the train altogether, like venice all over again… but it was quickly sorted out by MJ’s speedy Nascar driving :)

Luckily when we arrived we found a Starbucks to stand outside and siphon some wifi off, and quickly orientated ourselves and found the trolley (tram) station. Our school friend Adriano, who is currently studying here, met us at the trolley station a few stops down and off we went to his student digs down the road. Newport Place, a modern apartment block across the road from the City College, is a hub of activity with students coming and going at all times-and then of course, there’s Roger, the 60-year old biker dude, who also joins in the festivities. It’s like one big family here, everyone knows everyone and if you need anything, you just pop over to your neighbours and ask. Every day at 5pm is cocktail hour, everyone gets together in the courtyard downstairs to have a drink and a chat, then either they bring some food and share it or they head back to their apartments and make their own dinner. A really friendly vibe :) Last night we even chatted about their attempt to make Newport Place into a reality TV show…it would definitely catch on, I’d say…never a dull day I hear!

Our first day was get-to-know-San-Diego day, we went for a long walk all around the Downtown area and down to the pier to see what’s what and made it back to the apartment for cocktail hour :) Today we got out after lunch and took a trolley down to the pier, then we hopped on a ferry to the island Coronado. Coronado is mostly a Navy retiree town, but it’s also a beautiful town full of boutique shops and a really nice resort on the beach. We took a bus down to the resort and had a look at the beach, which is really beautiful, just like Cape Town’s camps bay, but we got a bit hungry so we walked back into the village and found a nice pizza place to enjoy a slice or two. After lunch we ventured down to the marina to ogle at the yachts and then back to the beach to have a cocktail or two.

We found a spot to sit on the deck facing the sea and there we sat drinking beer/pomegranate daiquiris until late afternoon. Ah bliss…

Cocktails on the deck

There is also a Naval and Air Force base on the island so every so often there were a couple of low flying black hawk helicopters or carrier planes which would fly over and stop the conversation while everyone stared at the sky.

Low-flying aircraft!

When we eventually made it back to the ferry around 6pm, the sun was low and the skyline of San Diego was showing off in all it’s glory.

San Diego skyline

Certainly a great day all round! Now its time for dinner and maybe a couple of drinks with the neighbours, tomorrow we’re off to Balboa Park!

D x

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Up next, the Canyons

So tomorrow we embark on another journey, this time through Arizona to visit all the amazing canyons we can… Antelope Canyon, the Grand Canyon and maybe even Bryce Canyon in Utah!

We are hiring a car in Phoenix from Enterprise for a week and making the trip up to Page and across to the Grand Canyon before we make our way back to Phoenix through the smaller towns of Sedona and Jerome.

It should be interesting once again as this time we will be taking a tent and camping along the way :)

Look forward to telling you all about it when we get back to Phoenix on the 26th!

x

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One Night in Vegas

After Yosemite, it was a straight shoot through the beautiful Sierra Nevada and on to Las Vegas. The scenes were something out of Jurassic Park with massive plains of desert, where it seemed that dinosaurs might once have roamed. Even though there was desert everywhere, in the background were the large snowy mountains of the breathtaking Sierra Nevada mountains.

A long road to Vegas

We arrived in Las Vegas and hit the rush hour traffic. From the freeway we started to see the outline of the monstrous casinos and hotels of the Las Vegas Strip. We were so exhausted from the long drive from Lee Vining that morning that after we eventually found a RV park right on the strip, we went straight to sleep for a power nap. When we woke up a couple of hours later, it was dusk and we were starving, so we made some dinner in our handy RV kitchen and then headed out to paint the town red! :)

Welcome to Vegas

We started our walk down the strip starting from the RV park at Circus Circus Casino where we were parked. It was a decidedly warm night, probably about 30 degree Celcius even at 8pm. From the minute we started walking down the strip, we were overwhelmed by the towering buildings, bright lights and the sound of a non-stop party. We were amazed at the detail of each of the themed hotels on the strip…The Venetian, with its gondolas and a mini St. Mark’s Campanile, Treasure Island, with its pirate ship and even Paris casino, with a mini Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomph! We walked through the casinos and watched all the different people gambling and enjoying themselves. There were a few different types of people: the bachelor/bachelorette and their party who were crazily celebrating their last night of ‘freedom’ before the wedding; the tourists like us who looked like deers in the headlights while we wandered around open-mouthed; the seasoned gamblers, who sat for hours at the same machines smoking and drinking away while they gambled, and the American families, some gambling, others just enjoying the festivities.

We took a walk through the Venetian wandering through the ‘allyways’ with their fake sky ceilings and old-looking buildings just like the real Venice and we were glad that we had been to italy to see it for real. The casino even has a river running through it, with gondolas and singing gondoliers to set the tone.

Outside the Venetian with a mini St Mark's Calamine

After the Venetian, we hot-footed it over to the Bellagio to see the world-famous fountain show. It was spectacular, to the tune of Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas!

Next we headed over to Treasure Island to see the Pirate Show, a musical skit with fireworks and special effects to entertain the whole family, and down the strip a little further to the mini Eiffel Tower!

Treasure Island Pirate Ship

Eiffel Tower in Vegas!

We had to say that we gambled in Vegas but managed to do it budget style by starting with a dollar in the penny slots and trying to make up as much as possible… lets just say that these casino’s will even take you for your dollar… sneaky buggers! It was great fun though, going from Casino to casino, watching the shows and seeing all of the interesting characters that frequent Sin City.

Gambling our $1 at Casino Royale

Much later, we stumbled home on aching feet and crawled into bed at 3am completely knackered. Who said you couldn’t do Vegas in a day? Well it would’ve been fun to have some more time! Another place to return to then!

The next morning we were up fairly early again to take the RV back to the rental company and got a shuttle back to the strip to wait at the Excalibur for our bus to Phoenix!

The Excalibur Hotel and Casino

It has been a lazy few days in Phoenix and we’re enjoying catching up with Bret and MJ as well as our sleep :)

On the Bus to Phoenix

D x

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RV ready or RV not?

The title of this post will come as no surprise to anybody who has been following either Dom’s or my Facebook entries over the past calendar week. So now is the time to tell you all about it!

The pickup point was El Monte RV, a grand bunch of people who were very cordial and helpful in directing us to their premises in Dublin, a fair way East of San Francisco proper. Nothing however could have prepared us for what was to come. We should have realised that something was awry when the friendly sales guy told us that we would have to bring our belongings “out back” because the RV was too big to be parked in the substantial space in front of the building.

Dom in for perspective!

Regardless, we left our inhibitions in one of the many storage trunks under the vehicle and set off in the direction of Frisco to the Great Ocean Highway and a parking lot where we were supposed to be able to spend the night before the long drive to Yosemite.

The drive up Van Ness Street in the middle of rush hour traffic in Frisco was quite hair raising for us and mildly life threatening for anybody who was unfortunate enough to be driving anywhere near us at the time but we made it and finally pulled up over about five parking bays in the lot which was right on the beach. A great place to “set up camp” we thought, the authorities had a different idea though.

To summarise: Comfortable. Sleepy. Lights and sirens. Loudspeaker. Police Officer. Possible Fine…

We awoke to the distorted sound of “All vee-hicles must vacate the beach area and any remaining after 11pm will be subject to a fine and possible arrest.” The officer behind the loudspeaker was quite cordial when I asked where we could spend the night and he kindly offered to ignore all 40 feet of our RV if we parked up one of the side streets. He did however add that this was NOT legal and we may be woken up at any time in the morning by another cop who may not be so lenient. Thus we spent the whole night wide-awake and terrified of being arrested for inhabiting a parking space. What we did do was drive back down to the beach, which reopened again at 5am, and slept sweetly until we left at 8.

We drove North and over the Golden Gate bridge in the mist and headed towards the Napa Valley. A great surprise was to come across the Infineon Raceway and to watch some Lotus Cup action for a while. Since we were driving, wine tasting wasn’t an option but there were certainly more than a few opportunities where I really could have stopped for a small sip or five!

All we got to see of the GGB!

 

Driving through the wine country!

Our route took us in a big circle and back past Dublin where we fetched the RV, it was great to see just how much we’d adapted in the short day that we’d had the vehicle.

We arrived at the gates of Yosemite a bit later that evening with a vag9ue plan to ask about RV sites that would fit our monstrosity. This wasn’t to be because the reservations office had closed so we retraced our steps a few miles (yes, we say miles now…) down the road to Yosemite Lakes and set up our camp!

The day that followed in the park was something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. We drove up to the gates again at 8am and went straight up to the Merced Grove of Sequoias, these giants are ancient and completely overwhelming, living for thousands of years and growing to heights in excess of one hundred meters tall. And it’s the same with everything else in this park, the views are incredible, the air crisp and clean, it is definitely one of the most beautiful and magical places in the world. The pictures give you a good idea idea, but to actually be there was certainly one of the highlights of this whole trip.

!!!

The trunks were much wider than the gap between them!

Ancient Giant

Our route took us from the Merced Grove down South and into Yosemite Valley, we had originally planned to visit the largest grove of Sequoias that is right down at the Southern end of the park but we were advised otherwise by a (far more experienced) park ranger who was more realistic about the time that it would take to haul the RV down the smaller roads. After lunch we visited another, larger, grove of Giants and about halfway in, the heavens opened. Undeterred we carried on down the path which had, by this time, turned into more of a river than a forest track. With torrents of rain and thunder as loud a freight train we reconsidered carrying on for a while but eventually made the decision to continue.  Knowing what we do now, the decision we made was the right one because the trees in this grove dwarfed those in Merced in size and age. The living ones thought to be close to 2500 years old and the largest diameter (unfortunately dead) trunk was close to 4600 years old. Large enough to drive a car through underneath it and completely awe inspiring. Unfortunately, due to an early start the next day and a very long drive to Vegas almost upon us, we had to leave the park after driving along the Tioga Road and ended up in Lee Vining for the night, population 387, no jokes! The pass that took us there wasn’t unlike Zoji La in India, except with perfectly surfaced roads and no enormous trucks fighting for space. It was, however, just as breath taking.

We had pulled over, blocking a bit of the road, to take some shots over the valley.

Well worth it!

The views of the mountains were almost as impressive as the Giant Sequoias and just as beautiful.

Some of the trees grow directly out of soil caught in the crevices in the granite.

Tioga Road

Tenaya Lake in all of its glory, just before sunset when the light is just right!

Monday morning we were up with the birds to get an early start on the drive to Vegas, and D even drove some of the way while I navigated. We drove through more beautiful misty forests and a few one-horse towns, saw tumbleweeds and cool-looking Joshua Trees. As the snowy mountains of the Sierra Nevada changed to cacti filled desert, we hit Las Vegas rush-hour. For the rest of our night in Las Vegas, you’ll have to wait for the next post :)

Long straight roads and blue skies!

Vegas BABY!!!!

The result of rental/relocation is a cheap way to travel on your own steam but it really limited us in time, and we could have spent a week out there in the “bush” because it was truly magical. Our next mission is to drive up to Page, Arizona and to the Grand Canyon. For the meantime, Bret and MJ are looking after us in Phoenix!

Later Gang!

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Frisco in pictures

We took a walk out to the Municipal Pier to look back at the city and whilst it was a gorgeous view we managed to get in the way (again) so all you have is us with a bit of San Fran in the background!

The view out to Alcatraz was only made better when some ocean-going yachts made their way into the bay.

We wandered around Fishermans Wharf looking in at all the shops and stared longingly at the barrels full of salt water taffy...

One of the many fascinating features of Frisco are it's hills, this one one the way to Lombard Street was very steep!

Lombard Street is the "twistiest" street we've ever seen!

The preferred method to climb the steep hills in SF is the cable car, one that we didn't use and are all the fitter for it!

At the Musee Mechanic there are all sorts of antiquated (and working) games and arcade regalia that take you back in time where things were simple and entertaining. A far cry from the computer generated entertainment of today. Take these singing minstrels for example, 25c a song... I bet Katy Perry wouldn't settle for that!

On a whim we walked around in the SF City Hall for the morning, a three layered dome that is larger than the US Capitol in Washington DC.

And from the outside later that evening, the temperature was decreasing rapidly and with sore feet we still had a few blocks to walk before we reached the warmth of the hostel.

A day in the Park, it was designed by Ferdinand Olmsted of Central Park fame... but twice the size! We know, we walked it! Unfortunately one of the oldest businesses, the boathouse and bike shop, in the park has had to close down because state funding is paying multinational corps and has thus cut small business funding. Even though it's been around for 72 years... This pic is taken outside of the Japanese Tea Garden (still operational).

We had to do some washing eventually...

This is about as much of the Golden Gate Bridge that we were able to see in our time in SF. At least it was dramatic!! It was pretty dramatic driving over it aswell... in fact very much so considering it was blowing a gale and the RV is almost four meters tall.... Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!

Yosemite next, its a big one! D & T *grinning*

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A Little Bit of Home

When we arrived in Melbourne at 8:30 on Tuesday morning, we were met with permanent air conditioning at about 12 degrees Celsius. It was a

Cuddled up against the cold!

welcome change and we stuck on our jackets and scarves and enjoyed not sweating for a change! Were picked up at the airport by my aunt Lee and cousin Glen, and made the 85km drive back to their house in Cranbourne East. The funny thing is that they live on the city limits, which means that the city is about 90km in diameter! Crazy, considering that the whole of the city of Cape Town is just 60km in diameter.

As soon as we arrived at my family’s house in Cranbourne, we felt at home. It has been great to have a bit of space to unpack our backpacks and have a kitchen to make some food if we feel like it. We spent the rest of the day on Tuesday relaxing on the couch, cuddled up in a blanket, watching movies…divine! It is certainly different to have a hot home-cooked meal ready for you every night.

On Wednesday we thought we would take a walk to the local shopping centre and orientate ourselves with the area. We didn’t have a map, so we check out the directions on Google Maps. Unfortunately, we didn’t pay enough attention to those, and ended up walking in the wrong direction. The problem was, once we got onto the main road, we turned left (the correct way) but then doubted ourselves and turned around and walked the other way. We walked for ages and ages and eventually decided we must have gone the wrong way and had to make our way back to where we had started. After about 2 hours and much giggling, we eventually found the right road, just a little further from where we had turned back in the first place. Ridiculous! Anyway, it was a good walk, and we had definitely orientated ourselves by this stage. I was exhausted by the time we eventually got to the shopping centre. We spent maybe half an hour wandering around the centre, just looking at all of the different shops and prices, and then we made the trek back home. Once we had found our way, the walk back was quick, figures!

On Thursday we decided it was time to go into the city. We bought a daily card for A$11 each and took the bus and then the train into the city. We got off at Parliament and took a slow walk past the gardens, St Patricks cathedral and the National Treasury building. The feeling I got from the city is a mix between Washington DC, probably because of the cold weather, and a European city like Paris.

The Old and the New of Melbourne

There are lots of old buildings mixed in with the new ones, and the old trams run around the city on the same tracks as the new trams. Our first stop was to Flinder’s Street to the tourist centre where we collected all of the pamphlets we needed to read up on Melbourne. Armed with a map and a better sense of direction, we made our way over the Yarra River to the South Bank to walk around the gardens. By this time it was time to stop for lunch so we settled down on the grass next to the river and watched the kids learning to row while we ate our packed sandwiches :)

It was a slow day, we were not in any hurry to get anywhere in particular, so we ambled along in the direction of the Shrine of Remembrance, which looked like a good place to visit. We passed the Sidney Myers Music Bowl, where they have regular concerts apparently, and a few monuments to this person and that. The gardens themselves are beautifully tended and the flowers make this city garden feel more like a botanical garden like Kirstenbosch in Cape Town. We made it to the Shrine of Remembrance just in time for the daily ceremony. We crowded around the Shrine, and took a moment of silence for the soldiers of war as a ray of light moved across the plaque in the centre of the room, which states: ‘Greater Love Hath No Man.’  It was a moving ceremony, although lasting just a few minutes. It really shows you how much the Australians care about their soldiers and all of the soldiers of war in general.

 

The Plaque in the Shrine of Remembrance

We took the tram back up to Flinders Street from the Shrine, and took a wander around the laneways. They are so quaint and pretty, I enjoyed looking at all of the boutique shops and cafes. Unfortunately, it was all window shopping and no buying. We decided to go for a drink before heading back to Cranbourne but no where grabbed us. As we were heading back to the station however, we were approached by a local guy who had obviously seen us fumbling along and told us that if we wanted to see a real Melbourne landmark, we should go to Young and Jacksons bar and head upstairs for a drink and to see Chloe, an elegant nude painting dating back hundreds of years. So we did, and it was great. Chloe did not disappoint, and neither did the beer and cider after a long day of walking :)

Our view from the upstairs room of Young and Jackson's

 The weekend was spent with the family, Claire came home from her placement in Bairnsdale for the weekend where she is practicing physio and we caught up until all hours of the morning. We made another trip into the city to see Luke and Lucy in St Kilda before they headed on their ultimate road trip around Australia (so epic guys!!). We had A$5.50 pizza’s at Baanff on Fitzroy Road (well done Lucy for that find!) and then walked for a bit around St Kilda. Its a lovely area, and I’m keen to go back there, but maybe when its a bit warmer, and not raining! :)

Lunch with Lucy and Luke in St Kilda

Saturday we watched Kyle play rugby at his club and then spent the afternoon watching the Tri-Nations, so all round a rugby day – and even watched  a little bit of Aussie rules footie too. Thats an interesting game if ever there was one! In the evening Claire had a friend’s 21st so I went along and crashed the party! So much fun we had, dancing all night and even learnt the Nutbush-a very interesting Aussie dance which brings everyone into a flashmob on the dancefloor and jumping around like a couple of crazies. Fun!

Sunday evening we all piled into (two) cars and headed to the Lysterfield Lake Park to see if we could spot some Kangaroos and Wallabies out in the park. It was a lovely walk around the park and we saw loads of roos and wallabies hopping about in their natural habitats. It was fantastic! :)

A roo watching us having a walk in the park

Our adopted family for a while :)

All in all, its been a great week with a little bit of everything and a lot of nothing! Just how I like it :)

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Tips for Thailand

Our time in Thailand was nothing less than incredible. We loved everything about it, the food, the happy people and the beauty of the country itself. Here are a few activities we enjoyed and some that are not to be missed out on while in Thailand:

-       Hire a scooter and take a ride along the hilly roads to see the picturesque beaches or the exotic jungles. The cost is about B150 per day, excluding petrol, and petrol will cost about B40-B50 per litre. (TIP: Remember to have your  driver’s license with you and wear a helmet at all times, as there are occasional roadblocks and you don’t want to ruin your day by having to pay a B500 fine for no reason.)

One of the many amazing views we have seen in Phuket

-       Go for a Pad Thai at the local restaurant on the side of the road, the one with the menu only written in Thai. It is always the most delicious food and is much cheaper than the tourist spots. (TIP: Try a mixed fruit smoothie with your meal, it’s refreshing and is soothing if your meal is a little spicier than you expected.)

Delicious Pad Thai from a local place

-       Go out for a day trip to see the real Thailand. Go elephant trekking, visit the national parks, trek through the jungle or canoe down a river. There is plenty to do and it’s a great day out of the city. (TIP: Sometimes these trips can be cheaper if you book them through your hotel, and usually include pick up/drop off from your hotel too.)

The real Thai jungle

-       Go to the markets. No matter where you are in Thailand, there will be markets or walking streets. As Mari said in the guest post, the food here is fantastic and the souvenirs and clothes are cheap too! (TIP: Don’t accept the first price you are offered, even if it seems cheap. You are doing us all disfavour by accepting the hiked up prices, as often the goods are not worth the money or they are fake brands. For some excellent bargaining tips, check out this post by fellow travel blogger, Twenty-Something Travel: Bargaining Tips for the Non-Confrontational.)

Some of the questionable fare on sale at the markets

-       Visit the magnificent islands in the South. Whether it’s Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao, Koh anything really, there are over 200 islands to choose from and they are all uniquely beautiful. (TIP: Try not to stray off the tourist path, yes it will be “untouched” beauty, but there won’t be much that is untouched if we keep touristing every part of the islands…leave some for the locals.)

The beauty of the Andaman Islands

-       Go for a surf! There are many beaches around the island but during the rainy season there is a small swell that comes up and brings with it some fun waves on the western beaches of the island. If you’re lucky (I wasn’t) they even get big enough to throw a small barrel. (Tip: Rental is around about 150 Baht for an hour depending on your bargaining skills and if you are a bodyboarder then be prepared to for out a bit more for fins. The water is super warm but wear a rashie to ward off the inevitable irritation that salt water rubs into your skin.)

The fun little waves on Surin Beach

-       Have sun downers at a rustic little place with a view. Thailand has incredible views from the tops of the hills to the flat sandy beaches, do yourself a favour and stop to admire them once in a while. (TIP: A lot of restaurants near the sea have “Happy Hour” which is between 6pm and 9pm and gets you half price cocktails or 2 for 1’s.)

Beautiful views in Phuket

-       Visit Bangla Road on Patong Beach, but be warned, you will get accosted by some nearly nude women and some not so much women. If you feel the need to see the ‘free show’ on offer, realise that you may be paying for the show in your B1000 drink. (TIP: The bars here are waiting for tourists to rip off, make sure you know the specials before you order drinks. Better still, head to the Blue Lotus for a cheap Chang beer or a cocktail and enjoy the passing parade.)

The chaotic passing parade on Bangla Road

- Visit the Sunshine Bar on Rawai Beach… just do it! :)

Crazy little bar where the staff sing and dance, you get to wear funky hats and sing a long :)

-  If you’re planning on heading down through Malaysia on the train, there are a few things you should know (we wish we had):

  • If you book your ticket online, be sure to print the e-ticket before boarding. The offices in Thailand will not help you, they will send you to the Malaysian offices at the border…this can be stressful.
  • Change your remaining Baht into Malaysian Ringgit at the border as they do not accept Baht on the Malaysian trains and no food/drinks are served.
  •  Try not to book a sleeper right near the front or back of the sleeper carriage. The constant opening and closing of the carriage doors is noisy and you won’t get much sleep.

We got to Singapore last night eventually after a 4-hour minibus trip, a 15-hour train trip and another 5-hour bus trip… can you say tired? But luckily we got to see Kuala Lumpur for a few hours and I’m glad we did, it’s a nice city :)

The massive Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur

D x

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Howling at the Moon

It’s far easier to reflect on past experiences when sitting in luxury at a family friend’s condo in Surin Beach than on a train or other form of relatively uncomfortable transport between places. So as I look out at the ocean and enjoy the peacefulness of it all I’m reminded that we are both so fortunate to be in a position to travel like this and are also super thankful to all of those who made it possible!

Some of the most fun you can have on a small island off the coast of Thailand is to rent a scooter for 24 hours and mission about to all of the sights. It gives such a rush of exhilarating independence and it really beats having to fork out hundreds of baht for tuk-tuks/taxis everywhere.

Hiring scooters for the day, definitely value for money!

We decided to visit one of the larger waterfalls on the island, about a twenty minute ride from where we were staying in Baan Kai, and another 25 minute hike up a super steep, rooted path. It was all worth it though for the view over the island from the high point above the falls and also for the refreshing mountain pool that we were able to dip in before beginning the trek down again.

We returned to Thong Sala for dinner and a wander around the night market. Cocktails and beer on the beach at the Highway Bar (a must visit) just made the experience all the sweeter. The poor 100cc bike that we hired really struggled up some of those hills though!

But now, on to the crux of the matter! The calm evening of the 16th brought the first bit of sun we had seen on the island since we’d arrived a couple of days before so the girls were up and heeding the call of Vitamin D and Marion swore blind that she wasn’t going home without a tan. We used up the last of our scooter rental by going into Thong Sala to buy an extra ticket for the ferry/bus to Phuket for Jade and then made our way swiftly to the beach.

Needless to say, the afternoon came and went and we all had various degrees of sunburn (some desired and some not so much). But time was running out and we had a party to get to. So for those of you who don’t know about the famous, or possibly infamous, Full Moon party hosted by Haad Rin “Sunrise” Beach, here’s the low down.

Held once a month, these parties rival most if all trance parties that Cape Town has to offer and host between ten and fifteen thousand people on an average month and this number rises in excess of thirty thousand for New Years Eve. Now this may not impress some but when you consider that it’s held on a spit of sand thirty meters by 800 meters it gets pretty crowded. There are bars, clubs and restaurants lining the beach, with revellers, dressed from head to toe in lumo clothes and paint, listening to music that varies from commercial to psy-trance and there’s even a DnB venue for the coolest kids :) The drink of choice here is “The Bucket”, a mixture of your choice of soda, a local Thai Red Bull and… wait for it… 250ml of local Thai rum. The bucket gives Tipo Tinto (from Mozambique) a good run for it’s money and after a couple, many of the revellers are reduced to slurring, stumbling cretins.

Painted and ready for the party :)

We planned to meet our friends at Mr. K’s fried chicken (a GREAT place for a midnight snack) on the main street in Haad Rin at 11pm so we chilled out in our bungalow and had a good Thai meal up at our restaurant whilst playing cards and watching the sunset. We taxi’d to Haad Rin with a bunch of boys who were clearly on a mission to have a great night and despite our best efforts only made it to the chicken spot at 11:30pm and thus missed Jade and Lindsay and co. We were to meet them later under interesting circumstances but that’s a story for another time.

Watching the sunset at the hotel before the party

What an epic party though, one and all were having a decent jam to the music of their choice and far too many buckets were being consumed! Judging by the state of some that we saw, faaaaaar too many buckets!

T and D enjoying a warm-up bucket a few nights before the party

At 5:30 we really needed to make our way back to the Resort to fetch our bags because we had a 7am ferry to catch back to Surat Thani and on to Phuket by bus and this also turned out to be a story on it’s own.

We boarded the ferry with minutes to spare and immediately passed out for the duration of the trip between Phangan and the mainland. We had to endure another 90 minute bus transfer with blaring Thai pop music between the pier and Surat Thani town that would have been a big fat party had we not all been in some state of unconsciousness/hung-over. And then our reality from about 11:30 was a couple of transfers by local taxi and a looooooong wait only to be shuffled on to a local bus, not our booked minibus, and sent off in the direction of Phuket at breakneck speed.

The fact that we were still on the outskirts of Surat Thani an hour later should have told us something, just like the extra thirty people sitting in the isles and on the stairs of the bus should have. What really got us worked up and what finally ended our trip on local transport was when the driver cooked the brakes on the bus going down a steep hill far too fast, that resulted in the rear end of the passenger compartment full of smoke and the acrid smell of burning brakepads. This was far too much for us, and our newly made Aussie friends (and one American), and we exited quickly while being screamed at in Thai by the conductor. Fun times!

So there we were, at a bus stop about 180km from Phuket, and we realised that we were in a bit of a dilemma. The biggest problem was the language barrier but we managed after about an hour to organise ourselves a minibus down to Phuket that would not break the bank and more importantly leave us with our lives intact. So more thanks go to our CHAMPION Aussie friends who not only saved the day but also made the wait and the rest of the trip a good laugh!

Waiting for a taxi in the middle of nowhere, and this walks past...

Arriving in Surin Beach we did a happy dance when we saw the white-sheeted, air-conditioned, infinity-pooled Surin Beach Condos and did what all over-tired and underfed people do…ate, and went straight to sleep. No skaam, no worries, just incredible horizontal-ness!

Our view from the apartment! :)

The four of us enjoying a cocktail on Surin Beach

Phi Phi today! Whoop!

T, D, M and J! Party’s getting fuller!

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The Long Road to Paradise

After our fantastic adventure with the elephants on Monday, we spend the last day in Chiang Mai sampling more local food and fruit smoothies at

Fried goodies for sale in Chiang Mai

the market and packed up all of our goodies. We even hired a scooter and took turns riding it around the old town, T doing most of the riding and M and I catching a lift on the back :) After that it was time to start the long journey Southwards to Koh Phangan. We got to the Chiang Mai Railway Station, a very nice, clean place, in plenty of time, and boarded the Special Express to Bangkok. It was an overnight sleeper train, with a little too much AC (you can’t win), but it was comfortable enough and we all had a good few hours of sleep. We arrived in Bangkok before 7am, and had 12 hours to kill before our bus to the South. Luckily we could store our bags at the train station, with the tour company that we bought our bus tickets from, V.C Travel and Tours, a very reputable company if you’re looking to tour around Thailand.

First stop was Lumphini Park, an easy three Metro stops from Hua Lamphong Railway Station. Here we wandered around, in an early morning daze, watching the Thai people enjoy their morning in the park. We found that there is a whole section of weights and gym equipment that the public exercise on for free, there were a few people doing Thai Chi classes, a group or two of older people singing together, and people some just walking through the park to work.

Watching the Monitor Lizzards in the river

Next we decided to visit the Dusit Zoo. It was a fair distance from Lumphini so we took the bus to the Victory Monument and from there we walked, and we walked, and we walked, until we eventually found the zoo! What fun we had, looking at all the different animals. There were deer and binturong, bears and sharks, chimpanzees and lions, panthers and snakes, elephants and birds and monkeys of all shapes and sizes.

Albino Golden Thai Python

Hippo showing us her teeth!

We spent hours and hours looking at all the animals, and eventually, when we were starving and tired, stopped for lunch and headed back to the station by bus. Luckily, after such a long, hot, sweaty day, there were nice cold showers at the station that we could, and did, use. By that time, it was almost 5pm and we could relax with our books until the bus trip.

We had originally been told to be very careful with all of our valuables and belongings, as the buses going down South were known to be dodgy with the baggage. Some people have told us that someone sat in the bottom “cargo hold” of their bus with all of their bags and picked the locks and went through them looking for anything useful or valuable to steal. We were extra paranoid about getting our valuables stolen, and spent a good while securing all of our bags properly. Then we boarded the bus at 7pm and hoped for the best. Thailand also seems to be one of those places, like India, were you are shoved around from place to place and no one tells you exactly what is happening. On one of these unexplained moments, and there were many along the way, we sat for an hour on the side of the road, waiting for some unexplained thing to happen, whether it did or not we will never know, but we eventually made it to Surat Thani at around 6am. Well, I say we made it to Surat Thani, but to be honest, I can’t say for sure where we were dumped, as there were no signs or names in sight. We were dumped on the side of the road at a cafe, where another 30 people lay sleeping, clearly having already been dumped earlier that morning, and waited for the next instructions. We were each given a sticker with the name of our destination on it. Every so often a “mini-bus” would pull up and call a destination, and those people would scurry to get their bags and off they went to their island of choice. Eventually, after about 2 long hours of waiting, the ‘Koh Phangan bus’ arrived and we got on, hoping for a quick bus ride to the ferry pier. The bus stopped yet another three or four times before getting going but after about half an hour, we were on the open road, wind howling through the open windows and a very loud, skipping Linkin’ Park song playing on the stereo speakers. At about 9:30am we arrived at the pier, looking like we’d been dragged through a bush backwards, in two-day old clothes. No matter, a quick bowl of fried noodles for breakfast and a toilet stop and we were on our way to the ferry to the island.

Waiting on the side of the road in Surat Thani

A quick aside about the people on this ferry… In Leh we explained that there were lots of tourists, but the good kind, see this post on Leh to read it again. However, this ferry was FULL of tourists, like us, between the ages of 20 and 25, but not the good kind. I should have expected it, considering we are arriving on the island of the Full Moon Party (click here to read about what the full moon party is), but these young people seem really arrogant, rich and demanding. A far cry from the happy-go-lucky, tree-loving tourists in Leh.

The ferry took little over 2 hours, plus a good 45 minutes of waiting on the boat before we left, so by the time we got the beautiful island, it was lunchtime. Swarms of taxis waited on the pier to round up the tourists heading to the different beaches, and we headed through them, into the town of Thong Sala to find some lunch and plan our next move. After a healthy bowl of noodle soup and a fruit smoothie, we were ready to trawl the beaches for a place to stay. We took a taxi to Baan Kai, 80 Baht each, and started our walk up the beach asking at every bungalow for an available room. Not long after we started, and a short distance up the sunset beach, we found a little piece of heaven with an available bungalow at the Golden Beach Resort. Its not a luxury hotel, just 3 beds and a bathroom but our view is spectacular and beach is a few metres from our balcony. Paradise? I think so.

View from our room at the Golden Beach Resort

D x

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