Monthly Archives: January 2012

Jan 27th 2012 – Sydney, Australia

We arrived at our hotel on the 24th (nice place, clean and modern) to find it was right on the edge of the central city, and everything was just a walk away. So after a sleep we set out to explore Sydney, heading straight for central George Street, the heart of the shopping district and access to the harbours and parks.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Me with Sydney Harbour Bridge

It was raining! (and still is) What happened to the Australian weather! We managed to get around without getting too wet on our first day, but not without coats and brolleys – visiting the iconic Sydney harbour with the bridge that all Newcastle people will recognise, but we found to our surprise, that Australia refuses to acknowlegde that they nicked the blue prints from Newcastle, England! We visited the iconic Sydney Opera House, which really is fantastic but could do with a good hose down! We ended the day with a steak and a beer in a  typical aussie pub and then headed back to the hotel to sleep like the dead.

Sydney Opera and Bridge

Sydney Opera House and the "ripped off" Bridge

On our second day we eventually gave in to the rain, it was torrential, and after dinner – in a really good Korean restaurant (a first for me) – we headed back to the hotel to watch TV and get hammered on another bottle of wine (just as a sleeping aid you understand).

On our last day in the city it was all out celebration, Australia Day! And to our relief the rain held off, the sun came out, and we spent the day walking miles around the harbours and bontanic gardens, to a chorus of cockatoos, which gets on your wick after a while – they don’t tweet they shreeek! but it was a huge novelty to us to have these white crested parrots flying around us.

Sydney Park

Sydney city skyline with the botanic park in the foreground

We left the park to explore the trendy outer suburbs of The Rocks, and then as twilight fell, and the massive fruit bats were coming in to roost for the night, we headed for Darling Harbour and the firework display.

Australia Day

Australia Day in Darling Harbour

The place was heaving! So we joined the crowds to watch the tall ships sail into the harbour and the massive firework and pyrotechnic show. It was a good day to be in Sydney! Eventually hunger got the better of us and we left the crowds behind to find something to eat (in the Korean restaurant again!) and organise ourselves for leaving the city in the morning.


Jan 23rd 2012 – Bangkok to Oz

Our last 3 days in South East Asia were spent in the manic city of Bangkok. This is our second time here so we’ll keep it short. Compared to the rest of Asia Bangkok wins all the top prizes for pollution, noise and filth. I mean where else can you have rats as customers in your restaurant?? Not that we have anything against rats… and neither do the Asians seeing as in the rural areas  they eat them – so more dinner than vermin.

So  Bangkok was a bit of a shock to the system after the more quiet and laid back north.  This was probably a good thing as it made it easier to leave! We spent three days pottering around Khaosan Road and remembering the highlights of our trip through the whole of South East Asia (SEA). For me the highlights were… diving in Sihanoukeville, Cambodia, and snorkelling the reefs in Nha Trang (Vietnam),  the classic beauty of Louang Prabang, Laos and last but by no means least the Elephant nature park in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  For Jane it was, elephants. elephants and, guess what, elephants…..but not forgetting the trekking in Malaysia, the temples of Angkor, Cambodia, the charm of Hoi An in Vietnam, ALL of Loas, and the iconic Mekong river cruise.

Elephant image

Jane's adopted daughter... Bogan

Elephants image

Heading for Sydney Australia next!! But not on the elephants obviously!

We met up with Neil (Skellaz – a previous work colleague) in Bangkok and had one hell of a drunken evening remembering things about our previous employers (‘nough said)… but we laughed ’til we cried about the graphics library at emedit (you know what I mean guys… see a certain Mr A Smith graphic on the “telelphone” 🙂 Classic!

So here we are now in Sydney, Australia just in time for Australia Day celebrations. So stay tuned for more adventures on a different continent!

 

 


Jan 18th 2012 – Last day in Chiang Mai

We spent a few more days in Chaing Mai, and as we are coming to the end of our budget for this leg of the journey, we are keeping it simple… just chillin around the city, eating out at our favourite places, listening to some live music, and strolling around the city walls.

Tree image

A tree next to the city moat in Chiang Mai

The backpackers lodge is definately the best for breakfast, so much so I’m linking to it here. The live music is weird cause you have a bunch of oriental guys (and girls) playing “The Streets of London” or some obscure John Denver track. But it was enjoyable none the less.

Backpackers Lodge

The best English Breakfast in town bar none. Set breakfast 3 🙂

We took a walk over the river to the train station a couple of days ago to book a two berth compartment to Bangkok. Guess what? its Chinese New Year in a few days (Someone had told us that it would be celebrated on the full moon, which was a week ago, so we were a bit surprised)…and there is not a single seat on the train left. There are no plane tickets left either. Sh*t. You know what this means – the bus. What the hell, its our last journey in SE Asia, bar the taxi to the airport, so the bus it is.

Market image

One of the many markets we found around the city walls

We leave laid back Chaing Mai on the 19th, and will be sad to go. We would recommend coming here to anyone who visits Thailand, the North is a great place to experience…but for now we head back to manic Bangkok.

And just for a laugh a dodgy dragon…

dragon

Badly painted dragon outside a Chiang Mai temple


Jan 9th 2012 – Pai, Thailand

We decided to travel up into the North West of Thailand to a place called Pai.  Over 700 bends in the road through the mountains and we pulled into Pai on the bus, with Jane feeling pretty travel sick !

Pai street image

A street in Pai

Pai is a really cool place, really laid back and a bit of a rasta/hippy hang out.  Its full of music bars, with guys or bands playing some kind of instruments…some are really good….some not…and some bands have saxaphone players they should never have met, never mind play together, but this makes it all the more fun while you knock back a bottle of the local beer listening to a sax player murdering a 70’s classic!

We stayed about 2 miles outside of town in a kind of wooden cabin sitting on the hillside. It was quite posh and Jane raved about the gardens, which I must admit were nice, if yer like plants and fish 🙂 It was a good spot to chill away from the bustle of town.

Puravida garden image

Plants & Fish... blah blah.... 🙂

There is no public transport in Pai, so we headed off to the equivalent of Westgate Road, Newcastle to get ourselves a mean little 125 moped. Then for 3 days we bombed around the deserted lanes of the area to see all the local sights. We found lots of waterfalls, a really odd land split on a farmers land – each year for the last 3, the land has split away to create a kind of gorge, and no-one really knows if it will continue, but if it does this farmer isn’t going to have much land left! His daughters were at the entrance to the land offering free cold juice and fruit to anyone who came to look at it.

Land crack image

Land falling away from the farmers fields

They had a donation box, but no pressure to put anything in it – we did of course because thier hospitality was great. We also found this canyon place, which is a really odd place as it looks like it belongs more in Utah than Thailand.

Pai Canyon

More "Utah" than Thailand I reckon

On our second day we headed out for a waterfall and found a chinese village. Here we managed to order edible food without any one of us understanding the other. We just smiled and pointed and what we got we could eat… amazing!

Chinese Village image

Note the chinese gamblers in the pagoda

The village was a little odd. Thier only attraction besides pony rides was a make shift London Eye see pic… Mick… you would have a field day… “stop that. You can’t do that. Put that girl down…. Health and Safety, section C, paragraph 3, 4th sentence. “You shall not engage in any wooden activities, that involve handcranked ferris wheels!”. Really funny to watch though…

Ferris wheel image

The Chinese London Eye

Along the lanes here are lots of elephants. They once worked in the logging industry, but now earn their keep giving rides (they have to earn thier keep somehow as they are massively expensive to keep). To our relief they all seemed well cared for, fat and healthy, and the different owners were more than happy to let us feed them bananas as a treat without pressurizing us into paying for a ride. So this is good news for the elephants. What is interesting is that the people here belong to the Karen tribe, where Lek (Elephant Nature Park) comes from – so maybe she has been a good influence here.

After four days in Pai, we reluctantly got on the bus, for two reasons: we didn’t want to leave because we love the place, and Jane didn’t relish the impending, inevitable motion sickness on the journey back. But back to Chaing Mai we go to plan the last 10 days of our time in SE Asia.

And just for larfs here’s our favourite dog in Pai…

Dog image

He's pretty photogenic isn't he???


Jan 7th 2012 – Janes’ Birthday

Today was a day of celebration. Jane’s 50th birthday. Yes folks she’s THAT old 🙂 So, what better present than… more elephants!! A trip to the Elephant Nature Park was booked and anticipation was high. This is the park run by Sangduen Chailert “Lek” (which means small) a great woman with a huge heart for these creatures. She was born in a similar village to the ones these elephants are rescued from so she knows the craic when it comes to saving them from a life of utter misery.

elephant family

Happy families

Our day started at 8am with a 40 mile drive out of the city to a lush mountain valley (200 acres of which was bought by the park from donations of people just like you (go on donate… they need to buy another 500 acres). It is an amazing place. Just the sort of place that these old (and  young) girls (and boys) can enjoy a happy and healthy existence for the rest of thier lives. It does me good to see this place, I did some web work for this park many years ago when I was a wet behind the ears web designer. It is the best park we have been to.

elephant

Jane sharing a joke with an elephant

These are all rescue elephants, some of thier stories are terrible, but now they have earned the right to an easy life: no one hits them with sticks with nails in them, and no-one forces them to work in extreme conditions (some of which result in landmines blowing thier feet off). It is a place of retirement, recouperation and, dare I say it, love. Check out this photo…

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park - there's a lot more to this too.

it is a vast hill valley with a natural river running through it. There isn’t a better place to calm the damaged spirits of these guys.

We fed them, washed them, and just hung out with them, then we watched them get medical attention. The medical attention bit was really amazing. The vet would say something in Thai and the elephant would lift her damaged foot up off the ground for him to work on. He cleaned it with a syringe of iodine and she was given a dose of anti-biotics for any infection that may occur. Unfortunately this wound will probably never heal well enough for her to walk on properly, but she was pretty happy with him fixing her up. This is the girl whos foot was damaged by a land mine whilst working in the illegal logging trade further north near the border with Burma… because of “unrest” in these countries with civil war, both sides planted land mines in the forest areas, you know the rest I won’t traumatise you. But here is a photo of her foot being worked on.You can see how her nails have moved under her foot slighty. What you can’t see here is the huge hole on the bottom of it. She walked away happy though, back in her pen she stood with the foot up off the ground. Elephant Nature Park is the first place to have performed a prosthetic limb replacement on an elephant… they really do good work here.

elephant

Vet working on mine damaged foot. See how she's lifting it up.

Jane couldn’t have had a happier birthday and even got a full on kiss from a young elephant. I say “kiss”, but when you think about it the trunk is a nose… so… she got a full on snot wipe for her birthday!! Happy birthday pet!

elephant image

Janes' birthday "snot" or "snog"?

And just for larfs… mud bath…

elephant

Before

elephant

During

elephant

After


Jan 6th 2012 – Chiang Mai

We’ve been in Chaing Mai for nearly a week now and its just flown over. Our first guesthouse was a bit crap, spacious, but absolutely zero comfort. The  bed was so hard we may as well have been sleeping on the floor – literally a plank with a mattrass cover thrown over it, and it was grubby. So exit the City Guesthouse…and now we are in a great place, with a sunset view and a good bed at nearly half the price. Result.

Sunset image

View from the TK Guesthouse in the old town (inside the walls)

Chaing Mai is more like a town than a city and it sits right on the edge of the mountain forests. Besides one small area near the river, where all the big five star hotels are, its not built up and over-modernised, so its a pretty cool place. The central area where we are staying is within the old city walls. Its a perfect square, with a moat running alongside the outer perimeter, so its impossible to get lost – you just walk until you find the moat and than follow it until you find the stone gateway closest to your hotel. Doddle.

Walled City image

The walled city of Chiang Mai (Jane's in there somewhere!!)

There must be more temples per square foot here than anywhere else we have been, and even though we are totally overdosed on buddhist temples, even we found some temple ‘adornments worth taking a pic or two.

CHiang Mai Temple image

Another fascinating temple image... yawn 🙂


Dec 31st 2011 – Mekong River – Part 2

We were up early to get down to the jetty for 8am, and board another, but similar boat (same same, but different-as they say in SE Asia) for the next leg of the journey North West to the Thai border at Chang Khong. You would think we would have had enough of boats by now, but no way.
We had got to know quite a few passengers, so today was a bit more social, and we chatted as the world went by and experienced another super chilled day.

Jane chillin on Mekong

Jane chillin on the Mekong

We passed massive sand dunes and riverside beaches, deposited by the river over thousands of years, where herds of wild goats and buffallo came down from the hills to drink. A highlight was spotting a family working by the river with their elephant! The rocks were a bit of added interest – jutting out of the river with edges as sharp as knifes and creating pretty dangerous waters in places.

A working elephant we glimpsed on the way

A working elephant we glimpsed on the way... looks well.

Another 10 hour day brought us to the town of Huay Sui, our last place to stay in Laos. It also happened to be New Years Eve!

Our boat for the duration

Our boat for the second day - Alan, in the foreground, and I got very drunk that night.

We celebrated the last day of 2011 with some great people from the boat, and got quite drunk – even though everyone said they would not stay out long, we actually all saw past 12am, and then staggered to our guesthouses – some to rise early and get back on the boat, but for us it was a lie-in as our crossing to Thailand was not until 10.30am. Result!

Last town in Laos before crossing to Thailand

Last town in Laos before crossing to Thailand

So, we left Laos on the 1st of Jan 2012, taking a ferry boat across the river to the border, shot through customs and jumped on the back of a moped (taking us to our bus pickup point) and on to Chaing Mai.