Posted in Australia, Travel, Uncategorized

City lights and a sand island. Brisbane – Fraser

You can’t go to the biggest city in Queensland and camp so we’d decided we’d treat ourselves to a nice city apartment in Brisbane. It had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom with a bath!! Luxury. Sadly because we’d needed an extra day to do the Mt Warning climb we only had 2 nights in the city but we managed to get a lot done. Me and Rod had a nice stroll around the river in the afternoon and then we made the most of having a living room and got to spend the evening sat on a couch instead of a picnic bench!

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We had to make the most of our limited time in Brisbane so I joined the city commuters and was up for a run at 6. Found a lovely route that hugged the river through the botanical gardens and over Eagle point pier before crossing the Story Bridge back to Kangaroo point. Rob somehow managed to blag 2 free days at the local gym so that kept him busy whilst I was out. After our early bout of exercise we went to meet our old pal Kelly who we met in Thailand. Was lovely to see her and we enjoyed a nice spot of brunch on the Kangaroo cliffs.

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Literally had the worlds busiest afternoon after that, Brisbane has got a free bike system which gives you 30 minutes at a time to cruise around town. We picked up a couple of bikes and headed out to explore. We cruised down Southbank and got to see Brisbane’s city beach, it makes up for being 20 minutes away from the sea by having a man made beach overlooking the city. After that we hit the modern art museum, very quirky place. Then we headed over one of Brisbane’s many bridges and made our way through the shops in the city, looked like any other shopping street in any other city but nice enough.

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After that we headed out of the centre and up into the Roma Parklands, enjoyed ourselves too much in the park and went over our 30 minute cycle allowance, cost us 2 dollars each for our tardiness! We checked out China town after that, not much to see there, a few Chinese lanterns but not a dumpling in site. We stopped for a pint in an Irish bar to refresh and then last stop was the New Farm park for a mooch round the gardens. We docked up the bikes and then jumped on the free ferry back up stream to our apartment. Enjoyed our tour of Brisbane very much, it’s got a nice city feel, better than Sydney but still not a patch on our home town Melbourne!

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Soph has some family up in the Sunshine coast and they’d said we were welcome to stay so we said goodbye to Brisbane and headed up the coast to Moffat Beach. Christine and Gary were absolute legends and they happen to have an amazing house about 2 minutes from the beach which meant no more tent for another few days! Both are born and bred Wiganers so it was like home from home. They treated us to the most amazing paella at their local restaurant on the first night, I could tell we’d like it here!

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Even though we’re on a permanent holiday Gary and Christine still had to work so whilst they went off to earn some dollar we all took a day trip to Australia Zoo – the Steve Irwin zoo!! Absolutely loved Stevo growing up so I was so excited to be finally going to his zoo, didn’t disappoint either! Saw the usual animals and we got to see all the Ozzie specials, lots of kangaroos as standard but also Tasmanian devils, Echidnas, Dingoes and a Cassawray which is essentially an emu sized Turkey. Obviously it wouldn’t be Steve Irwin’s zoo if it didn’t have crocs so there was plenty of them and we even got to see them take down some meat in the Croccy show in the Crocoseum.

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Had a chilled out evening with Gary back at the gaff, he sharpened his darts and chalked up his pool sticks so we played a few games through the evening. We found out that Christine was in a Ukulele band that by chance was playing in Moffatt beach the next day, we couldn’t miss that so we decided we’d stay another night. Nothing too wild on the Friday night though because me and Rob had found a local park run for the Saturday. We tried to get Soph and James on board but with little success so we headed out without them and joined the runners of Golden Beach park run at 7am. Nice little out and back route along the sea front but rather hot in the muggy heat of Brisbane. We both managed to come in in under 27 minutes, Rob was 15 seconds in front but I let him win obviously.

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Christine’s ukulele gig was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, we walked in to a huge room absolutely ram packed with ukulele players. Reckon there was over 150 people there with the average age being 70 (and that’s being generous) but they could belt out some tunes. We were lucky enough to go to the Australia day special which meant a lot of songs singing about how great Australians are…very big headed if you ask me. But it was a good laugh and Christine even let James join her table of Uke players for some Ozzie classics.

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We made use of having a full working kitchen in the evening and made ourselves an early Sunday roast, meat was cooked on the BBQ though obviously, gotta keep it a bit Australian. The next day was time to say goodbye to Gary and Christine, belting stop over but time to keep moving up the coast, next up Noosa.

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Noosa was only an hour up the road from Moffat Beach, but we were reluctant to leave the comfort of a house and head back to the tent so we didn’t leave until late. We stopped off to have a walk around Mooloolaba on the way and then pitched up in Noosa before tea time. We were only giving ourselves one night there so we could make it a bit further up the coast before bank holiday weekend, but we tried to make the most of our time there. We went for an evening stroll along the river and then played a spot of table tennis against a French couple on the campsite.

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In the morning me and Rob put the running shoes on and went to explore, there was a river that split the main section of Noosa apart from the Sandy national park, a stretch of coast which only 4 wheel drives could negotiate but we hopped on the ferry as the only 2 foot passengers they’d had all week and crossed over to check it out. Only cost us a dollar return. We went for a run through the national park, spotted a few kangaroos and got stopped by an old bloke in a jeep who couldn’t quite understand why we were on foot on this side of the river, he was determined to give us a lift to somewhere but we explained the concept of running and he let us get on our way. We skirted through someone’s back garden by accident but eventually found the beach, it stretches for about 100km right up to Rainbow beach which was our next stop on the road trip but sadly for us our RAV4 wasn’t quite as 4 wheel drive as we thought so we were going to have to hit the road and take a 3 hour detour there. We ran along the beach for a while, joined back up to the road and saw more dead frogs than I thought possible and then headed back to the campsite with our return ferry tickets ready.

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Before we left Noosa we went for a mooch to the more popular part of the national park, no ferry required we parked up and went to explore. Jophie had a bathe in the rockpools and me and Rod went for a wander round the coastal path. We managed to spot a school of dolphins just off the rock and then found a huge monitor lizard in the bush, somewhere in all the excitement Rob managed to lose his very expensive Ray Ban glasses, this is in the same week that he lost his camera tripod and my sunglasses, and he wanders why he can’t have nice things. Anyway after a brisk walk back through the rainforest we loaded in and hit the road again.

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Our next destination was Rainbow beach, the gateway to Fraser Island, we’d chosen there over the more popular Hervey Bay to avoid the crowds whilst Australia day was approaching. We’d definitely found the quieter of the two spots, think we were the only people on the whole campsite, kitchen to ourselves though, belting. The town itself was pretty quiet as well, we went on a walk to see the Carlo Sandblow, essentially a lot of sand cutting its way through a forest, impressive sight but pretty much the only thing to see in Rainbow beach.

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The reason we were in Rainbow beach was so we could hop over and check out Fraser Island. It’s the largest sand island in the world, made of 98% sand and 2% rock, and it is pretty big, the beach stretches for over 100km. Only 4WD are allowed on the island and seen as Trav the Toyota sometimes struggled going over big speed bumps we thought it was best to leave him behind and let a professional take us round. Our ride was a big pimped up school bus, it fitted about 30 people on it but it was kitted out like a monster truck. It had no issues whizzing over the sand at 100k an hour and it made light work of the dirt tracks across the island. The tour was actually really good, our tour guide knew his stuff and we got free muffins and buffet lunch! In the morning we took a trip up to Lake Mackenzie, literally one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, a fresh water lake on top of the island filled entirely with rain water, and so warm, just like taking a bath.

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We saw a few more of Fraser Islands highlights after lunch but ended up spontaneously taking a plane ride over the island as well. I’ve never been good at making decisions under pressure so when two pilots jumped on the bus and told us we only had one chance to go on a flight over the island and it was the cheapest scenic flight on the east coast how could we say no. Apparently one of only 2 places in the world where you can take off and land on a beach (the other happened to be in Scotland, who knew). Pretty special experience, the four of us squeezed into our own tiny plane and took off for a tour over the island, sadly for me I didn’t realise that the headphones I were wearing were broken, they were meant to be providing us with interesting commentary from the pilot, so I have no idea what we learnt but Rob assures me it was lots. The only thing I managed to hear through the whole ride was Sophie’s scream when the pilot let us feel what free falling felt like, it doesn’t feel nice believe it or not, and my dinner almost came right up with it. Back on land we cruised round the island a bit more, had a few more stop offs and then headed back to the ferry, saw our very first wild dingo on the way back too which topped off the day nicely.

Fraser island done, time to head up north for Straya day!

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3000 km to a big red rock

Seen as we couldn’t extend our Melbourne accommodation any later and we couldn’t check into Sydney any earlier we decided to fill the gap with a nice long road trip all the way to the middle of Oz! The mayhem of leaving Melbourne meant our planning only got as far as google mapping the route and buying a tent. But who needs a plan anyway, it’s only a 5000km round trip, so Saturday morning me, Rob, Rach and Steve packed up all our worldly belongings and hit the road!

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First days driving was a shock to the system especially for for poor Rach who went too hard the night before for old Mike’s birthday. An early start, an 8 hour drive and the taste of vodka is not a winning combination but the girl pulled through. Fortunately she didn’t have to drive and our first planned stop Adelaide was a pretty easy drive. The drive itself was pretty uneventful, main highways connect the two states, a few petrol stops and a stop for lunch but not much else to report. We made decent enough time and had chance to check out a bit of the city after a spot of tea. Seems like a pretty enough place, nothing on Melbs though! Stage 1 complete, 750km done.

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Day 2 we were up and on the road for 8, a few hours outside of Adelaide we joined the Stuart Highway which runs from the top of Oz to the bottom. It’s the only route to Uluru and it is longgggg and boring. The scenery is pretty much the same all the way along, lots of grass or rocks for as far as the eye can see, then every 100km or so a tiny town with a population smaller than some houses in London. We shared the driving and sleeping and played plenty of car games to get through. We stopped in Glendambo for lunch, they have a solid population of 30 people and the town consists of a petrol station and a pub, they made a good steak sandwich though. After 850km we found the mining town of Coober Pedy, our home for the night. Very odd place, apparently the home of opal mining, the landscape consists of weird martian mounds of dirt and oddly placed windows and doors in the side of hills… Turns out everyone in Coober Pedy lives underground, the heat is too much in summer!  Being a Sunday in a town in the middle of nowhere there isn’t really much to do on a Sunday night. When we say the middle of nowhere we’re not exaggerating either, our hotel owner makes a 8 hour drive every 3 months just to get a KFC, wow. Anyway the only pub in Coober Pedy closed before we got there, so me and Rod went for a little evening run round the town, we cooked up some delish chilli and jacket potatoes and then all hit the hay, another long day of driving done.

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We said goodbye to Coober Pedy at 7am (getting good at this waking up malarkey) then jumped back on the Stuart Highway, next stop Ayres Rock! Same road, same scenery, lots of hours to kill. The road is perfectly straight and just seems to go on forever. There wasn’t even any exciting wildlife to look at, I expected kangaroos everywhere but the best we got was a few dead ones on the side of the road. After another 9 hours of driving we could finally see a big red blob in the distance, we made it! 26 hours of driving but we made it, all the way to the centre of Oz! And there was real people and civilisation and everything. The tent is more like a castle, room to stand as well! And we had airbeds with an electric pump!! Camping isn’t so hard after all.

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We had 3 days camping at Uluru so plenty of time to see everything. The first evening was spent building the tent, cooking up a feast on the BBQ and then catching sunset at the rock, pretty cool. Next morning we were up at 4:30 to catch sunrise and then me and Rod took a run round the rock, 10km all the way round it means it’s a pretty big rock, apparently the biggest solo rock in the world. After that it got far too hot to do much,  Uluru is definitely a bit toastier than Melbourne, we had highs of 41, absolute killer when your tent doesn’t have air conditioning. There was a pool at the campsite which gave us something to do for a while and then we went in search for anywhere with air con. Spent time in the shops, found the astronomy hub and learnt about the stars and then headed back for more BBQ’d tea. Credit where credits due, Steve and Rob bossed the BBQ’ing and not once did we have burgers and hot dogs.

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We took a ride to Katu Tju the next day, only about an hour away but a pretty cool set of mountains to walk round. Rach and Steve walked for a bit with us but conveniently needed a wee when we set off to the next view point (we found them asleep in the car an hour later). Me and Rod took a hike round the canyon, probably more impressive than Ayres Rock, the views were amazing and there was hardly anyone else around, apart from the million flies that buzz round you constantly. Honestly the insects in Oz are something else, even in the cities the flies just follow you round. We took to wearing fashionable fly nets when walking round Uluru and nobody even bats an eyelid.

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The afternoon we had a little camel ride round a paddock. Very strange animals, with some impressive sets of teeth. Apparently there are more wild camels in Oz than Egypt all because some blokes brought them over to work in the 1800’s and then refused to kill them at the end and let them go wild. Since then they’ve been busy and now there’s 800,000 wild camels roaming round. The government is not the biggest fans of camels so they’re classed as vermin and have to be put down if they’re found on someones farm. Poor fellas.

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We spent the evening visiting the field of light, such a beautiful installation of thousands of lights at the base of Ayers Rock. All sorted out by some Brit called Bruce, looked pretty impressive though and it gave Rob an excuse to practice his night photography, he’s still a work in progress.

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That concluded our Uluru visit, one hell of a drive to get there but definitely worth seeing. We packed the tent back up, loaded the car and then hit the road ready for a long drive to Sydney! Another 9 hour slog took us back to Coober Pedy  But we had a bit longer to see the sights this time. We made time to go to an underground bar with the only underground poker machine in the world… Then we ate pizza in the tent and settled down. We decided to stick around in Coober Pedy for a bit longer the next morning to see what all the crack was about, we visited an underground museum and got to chat to Rudy the miner. He reckons that every bloke who has dug his house out here has found at least a couple of hundred grands worth of opals. Not a bad find. After our chat with Rudy we visited the kangaroo orphanage! Kangaroos are also classed as pests and aren’t allowed to be kept as pets or re released back into the wild so if a kangaroo ever gets injured it ends up at Josephine’s kangaroo orphanage were they try and release them to wildlife sanctuaries in South Australia. Anyway we got to see  a baby kangaroo and it was the cutest thing ever, worth hanging around for.

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Back on the road after that. Next stop Port Augustus. Easy 6 hour drive back down to the coast. Finally there’s shops and people and roads with traffic lights again. We didn’t see much here, caught the sunset on the beach and ate some food but slept well in a proper bed for the first time in 4 days. Next day another 6 hour stint to get us to Mildura, back in our favourite state Victoria! We had a poolside apartment so treated ourselves to steak on the barbie and a few drinks to celebrate being back in civilisation. Had a cheeky game of Monopoly too, mad Friday night! Started the next day with a quick run down to the river and then we checked out the local market. More like a giant car boot sale but Rob got a bacon butty anyway.

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By this point everyone was pretty much over driving but there were only 2 days to go before we’d make it to Sydney! Our next stop was Wagga Wagga,  we’d booked what we thought was a whole house just outside the town but on our way down we realised it was just 2 rooms shared with the couple that lived there. Fair to say we were a bit skeptical when we pulled up down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with a message saying ‘if we’re not in just throw a ball for the dogs and let yourself in’. Anyway we couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Pip and Lachy were the homeowners, only a few years older than us, both studying to be vets at uni and with the hugest house ever. Enough room for their 2 adorable dogs and 3 horses! Pays to live out in the country. They took us for a ride in the Ute down to the river so the boys could have a swim and showed us round the area. We nipped out for tea in Wagga and then came back and shared some beers with them. Two of the nicest people we’ve met, they let us help ourselves to breakfast and show ourselves out whilst they headed to work, great decision to stay.

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Last day of driving before Sydney! And only a 5 hour drive! Few stops on the way to see the dog on the tucker box and a giant ram and then we could see the signs for Sydney!! Bit of a hectic drive through the city but we made it. 5,600km of driving and over 60 hours in the car but what a road trip, looking forward to a few chilled weeks in Sydney before we hit the road again and head on the East Coast road trip!

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Living in the most liveable city

We’re back online! Had a quiet few months on the blog front whilst we’ve been saving some dollar but our time in Melbourne is finally up and we’re ready to hit the road again. It’s absolutely flown by, hard work this working full time malarkey. I did plan to update the blog a few times during our time here but times have been busy! Four months is a bit too much to write about now and I can’t remember half the stuff we’ve done now either so I’m just going to throw some of our pictures up and write about anything I remember.

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Bit of filler information about our last 4 months though first. Rob stuck it out with the cushiest company ever, free food every day and office beers on Friday, not sure how much work he actually did but at least it paid the bills. I worked for Australia post, turns out Australians send a lot of packages and when they get lost they get mad. Also Australia is a big place, like a really big place so delivering letters can take time, patience people. Anyway I’ve gained a lot of respect for Royal mail whilst working here, so up the posties! We stayed living in St Kilda for the whole time, weather never did get good enough to make use of the beach at the end of the road and the house was a bit of a dive but we did end up with a good bunch of people. In fact thanks to Vale Street we’ve grown an 8 man crew to take to Sydney with us! Just about worth hacking the living conditions for!

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Melbourne has been a lot of fun, wouldn’t recommend it for the weather (very British) but it’s been a cool place and we’ve had some good times. Here’s some of the highlights:

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Family fued filming
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Welcoming home the Olympians!
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The Melbourne Show

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Day trip to 1000 steps & morning billy
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Cycles along the coastline

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Weekend Road Trip along the Great Ocean Road!

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Finished the Melbourne Marathon!

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Day trip to the Morningotn Peninsula
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Strawberry picking
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Oktoberfest at Birrarung Mar Park
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Melbourne Cup day
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Work Christmas party
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Weekend getaway in the Grampians, saw our first kangaroo!

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Family Christmas meal at Sails on the Bay

Melbourne it’s been a blast!

Posted in Australia, Uncategorized

The Holiday is over! 

​We’ve been in Australia for almost a month but it’s official, we’re both employed and working! It’s definitely a shock to the system but it feels so good to be earning real Ozzie dollar, we can finally afford to buy a beer again! Rob is working back in accounts at a firm in the city, but he gets free burritos and cereal bars so he’s a happy boy and I’m working at a call centre (it bores me to tears but pays very well). At the weekends I’m working at a restaurant serving the brides and grooms of Melbourne, that doesn’t pay well but we do get leftover meals and wedding cake so everyone’s a winner.

Even though we’re back to the grind we’re still in Melbourne so life is still good! And we have friends!  Mike from the Isle of Man and Rach and Steve from Essex have all joined us from the hostel so now we’re one big happy family. Five people means everyone only has to cook one meal a week and then we can have BBQ’s and takeaways at the weekend! Life is good! We’ve also been hitting Gumtree to kit out the new gaff, the boys have picked up a poker set, we’ve all got bikes for the commute to work and we’re on our way to pick up a trampoline! There’s literally nothing you can’t get off Gumtree, I think both my jobs have come from it as well! 

Since my last post we’ve also both had our birthdays! We went out for a nice brekkie for mine and then Rob put his baking skills to use and made me a cake. Unfortunately for me and everyone else who had to eat the cake Rob didn’t read his measurements and we ended up with about 10 times as much flour in it, still it’s the thought that counts! We also went for pizza and comedy in the evening so not a bad way to turn 23 by all accounts! By the time poor Rob’s birthday came along everyone had started work but he did get presents and a cake courtesy of Mike, oh and we almost won the pub quiz, what a present that would have been. 

We also went to a live music night that was being played by none other than Dr Karl Kennedy (Neighbours superstar if you’re unaware). He was super nice but I’m not sure he’d be given too many gigs if he wasn’t famous…

We’re keeping up the running, only 7 weeks till the marathon! Thankfully it’s getting a little bit warmer so no more Arctic conditions to run in. I’ve also found a running club to join so that’s next weeks goal! And now I’m working I can afford new trainers to run in hooray!

But yeah so far everything is smooth sailing in Melbourne, it’s an awesome city, we’ve got a house and we’ve got some pretty cool housemates. Bring on the next few months! 

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Hoi An

Hoi An is about a million times more chilled out than Hanoi, it’s a riverside town filled with market stalls and streets lined with tailor shops but everyone seems to be plodding along at a much more relaxed pace. The town itself is predominantly made up of tailor shops, honestly there’s nothing they won’t tailor for you! Rob already had his heart set on a cashmere suit so when we were approacehd by a little old lady asking us to visit her family shop we obliged. The shop was a family business and it seemed that every member of extended family was in on it. I didn’t even want anything when we went in but ended up leaving with two tailor made dresses. The family where hilarious though, poor Rob formed the majority of the jokes, every woman seemed obsessed with smacking his bum and the little old lady took to calling him ‘big bum, Lady boy’, poor Rod.

The next day our outfits were done, no idea how they knock up a cashmere suit over night but it looked pretty decent! I don’t know how town becomes so obsessed with tailoring everything but it was almost impossible to buy regular clothes, even the bikini I needed for the beach had to be tailored to my liking! We had an afternoon of eating and drinking on the beach, not very cultural but we’ve got tans that need working on.
After a day off on the beach we were back to exploring Vietnam, we hired a scooter and followed in top gear’s footsteps and drove up the Hai Van Pass. This was the only road that joined northern and southern Vietnam before they built a big road right through the middle of the mountain. Now it’s only used by tourists and for some reason trucks carrying pigs (4 drove past just whilst we were parked up!). The views are pretty special though, the Vietnamese coastline stretches right on up as far as you can see.

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On the way back to Hoi An we spotted a sign for the Vietnamese 70.3 iron man (very exciting for us), and it turned out it was the next day, belting! The poor souls had to swim 2k, bike 90k and then run 20k…in 35 degree heat! Feeling inspired we went for a jog the morning the event and that almost killed us, it was so hot, even my knee caps were sweating, I didn’t even know that was possible! We were massively underprepared with our one bottle of water and no money so after 5k we called it quits and shuffled home wondering how the hell we’re going to run a marathon in a months time. Then we hopped on our bike and went to cheer on the heroes managing to complete an iron man in this weather! The route for the course was so tedious but it did allow us to ride the scooter up and down cheering on the runners, we must have been the only supporters on the run course because everyone looked genuinely grateful when they heard us whooping and cheering. Full respect to everyone who competed that, I’m determined that one year I’ll have the iron man medal round my neck but it sure won’t be from Vietnam, I’ll take a rainy Bolton any day!

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Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay

Fortunately, considering we were massively over budget due to our recent fine, we were spending the next few days on a pre paid tour of Halong Bay with all expenses paid, belting! We had such a good few days, the tour group was made up of me, Rob, Laura (also from England) and then an assortment of 10 French people. Everyone was lovely and the French people would even speak in English to each other when they were around us, we’re lucky we’ve got a popular language or we’d be in trouble! The first day was spent boarding our ship and sailing around Halong Bay, it’s beautiful but there are so many tourists there, hundreds of boats tour the bay each day. We headed a bit further into the bay and met our tour guide Tung. Bless him, he was absolutely lovely but had all the naivety of a ten year old boy. We didn’t learn much about the rock formations, but we do now know that he’s single, wants to marry a foreigner and something about chicken fighting that no one quite understood. Once we were deeper into the bay the kayaks were unloaded from the boat and we all climbed in, the boat drove off and we had 40 minutes to explore. It was really nice paddling about and seeing all the fishermen at work, but after an hour and no instructions from Tung we were all starting to paddle round aimlessly. ‘Where’s the boat’ we casually asked Tung, his face had lost its cheeky smile as he explained to us that actually he didn’t know. Apparently the boat never moves, but here all 14 of us were, in the spot were we left the boat and it wasn’t there. Poor Tung didn’t really know what to do, he sort of just looked worried for a while whilst the rest of us paddled round looking for boats, it’s a pretty big bay and they all look very similar so it wasn’t an easy task. Two hours passed and there was still no sign of the boat, Tung had explained our predicament to a fisherman nearby who had said he would try to help, he’d already tried ringing the crew from my phone (he hadn’t brought his own) but no one was answering. Just as we were about to kayak off to board another boat to await rescue we heard the toot of a boat horn and there she was cruising the rock coming back for us! The fisherman had found them and told them where we were, apparently we were meant to meet them at the second location poor Tung just didn’t know this, he maintains that they weren’t meant to move and seen as he was the only member of the crew who spoke English no one could defend themselves. Ah well a few extra hours kayaking never did any harm, we were allowed to jump in and swim after that but most people had seen enough of the sea for one afternoon!

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After we’d moored up for the night we tried our hand at squid fishing off the back of the boat. It involves a really bright light and a net. All of us tried, and failed to catch a single squid. Then one of the crew members came and caught 4 in one go, once we’d learned the technique it was easy(ish), after another half an hour and lots of blind swinging of the net me, Laura and Rob had all caught one! The rest of the crew had given up a long time ago but we made sure we wouldn’t go hungry! I even tried to eat one the next day for lunch but my new found fishing skill hasn’t changed my dislike for all things fishy, bleurgh it was disgusting.

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At the crack of dawn the next morning we joined Tung on top deck whilst he taught us some Tai Chi and Kung Fu. It was impossible to keep up with him but it was fun to try! Then we headed out back in the kayaks, making sure the boat stayed where it was, and went to explore the Virgin Cave. It was pretty cool, a massive cave in one of the limestone rocks, during the war Vietnamese people hid in it because it was so far offshore and now the fishermen use it for shelter if there’s a storm. Apparently over 1,600 people live in Halong Bay on ‘floating villages’, each family has its own tiny boat which they live on day in and day out only going to land to sell their fish. They even have a floating supermarket where they can go to buy supplies! The villagers all seem to have claim to a cave and we had to pay entry to get into this one.

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For the rest of our tour we headed to a less touristy bay just north of Halong. Again it was absolutely beautiful, the rocks were bigger here and we were heading to a particularly big one called Quan Lan. We were the only tourists on the island and once we docked up we hopped on bikes and cycled to the beach. After 2 months of being on holiday we’d finally made it to a beach and the bikini could come out!! We played in the sea for a bit before heading to the little rural village where we’d stay. The family that owned the place were lovely, the little Vietnamese boy insisted on Rob feeding him his tea, Rob got him in trouble by letting him eat all the shrimp first and letting him leave the rice, tut tut. Then we learnt how to make Vietnamese spring rolls before tucking into them for tea.
On our last day it was time to head home, we hopped back on the boat for the three hour sail back to mainland but not without stopping for a quick kayak along the way. Five hours on a bus and we were back in Hanoi, just in time to make our 9pm flight to Da Nang, phew!

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Welcome to Vietnam – Hanoi

A short hop across the border and we arrived in Hanoi. On the bus from the airport we got talking to a Chinese girl called Shwa, Shwa is 26, not married (much to her mums disappointment), lives in Guangzhou, works as a manager for a cooking utensils company, loves rice, and doesn’t want to visit England because she’s heard we only eat sandwiches. We arranged to meet up for lunch after we’d all checked in to our hotels.
The streets in Hanoi are still as busy as China but it’s a touristy busy rather than a billion people live here busy! Much more relaxing! And even though there’s just as many motorbikes at least they stick to the roads so we can now walk on the pavements without fearing for our lives. We spent the afternoon exploring the city with Shwa, the streets are lined with restaurants and street food vendors and the coffee is the best I’ve ever tasted, seriously! Considering Shwa is a good half a foot shorter than us she sure could put away some food, she ordered twice as much as us in the restaurants and then stopped at every street vendor in between, no idea where she was putting it! We finished off our day in one of the many bars with a couple of pints for 10,000 Vietnamese dong, around 30p, not bad eh.

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The next day me and Rod hired a motorbike to do a little exploring. It surprised me but I found that I actually trusted Rob to keep us safe (we did a practice ride in the Lakes on his scooter and didn’t die) but it still didn’t stop me from being an extremely nervous passenger. I had to bear hug Rob tightly, make the occasionally arrgh sound and close my eyes until we left the city. Honestly there are so many bikes on the road and the rules seem to be, if it’s a green light go, if it’s an orange light go, if it’s a red light go but go really fast! We drove a couple of hours out of Hanoi to Ba Vi National park; nice place with some nice views but not much else. I had another cup of coffee, my fifth of the day, but seriously the coffee here is the best I’ve ever tasted, and then we headed home. Following our Google maps closely as well as a load of other bikers we ended up on a highway and next thing we know policemen are running into the road and flagging us to the side. As it was our first day here we were a bit clueless as to what was going on, the policeman took the keys out of the bike and then ushered Rob over to a quiet corner. Vietnamese bikers were being pulled over too, filling out some forms and handing over some money and then heading on their way. Rob was told that we shouldn’t be on this road and that his license wasn’t an international one so we had to pay 1.2 million dong! I wasn’t allowed to go over to Rob, the policeman kept telling me to go away and then he would drag Rob back into the truck and whisper the offence and fines. In hindsight we should have realised that it was a massive scam and we were being targeted because we were westerners but he dropped the fine to half a million dong and we agreed to pay, it as probably about 10 times as much as what everyone else paid, but we settled up and got the hell out of there and vowed to keep on driving next time a policeman ran into the road!

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