Singapore πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬ ➑️ Indonesia πŸ‡²πŸ‡¨

Singapore was a quick city break before the final country. It was one of my favourite cities to stop in. It’s multicultural population, amazing buildings, fascinating landmarks and incredible food centres had me hooked instantly! A small island off the south of Malaysia that has become a global financial centre, attracting people from all over the world.

After arriving in Singapore we headed straight for the famous Hawker Centres, starting at the Indian one in Little India. The Hawker Centre was full of vendors advertising their low prices and award winning food. For five Singapore Dollars I had one of the tastiest Indian butter chicken meals I’ve ever had!! Satisifed and full it was time to do a bit of exercise so we headed to the 100 year old, World Hertiage Site of the 74 hectare Botanical Gardens. The gardens had so many different areas and were too big to conquer in just a few hours. However, they were beautiful. The perfect escape from the city life.

The first full day in the city started in the colourful streets of the Arab Centre, lined with so many different restaurants, boutique shops and a beautiful Mosque at the far end. Next stop was Chinatown which had Chinese New Year decorations still hanging high. The Chinatown market was huge and the food streets had Chinese food we’d never even heard of. We finally decided on pulled duck and hoisin Chinese burgers which were AMAZING!!

That evening we joined the scooter tour put on by the hostel. A 4 hour, 14km tour around the city of Singapore on a scooter. My legs were aching! After stopping at a few famous landmarks and scooting past places we’d been earlier in the day we stopped for a food stop at the Lau Pa Sat food court as energy levels dwindled. Here every type of food was available and it took me so long to decide on a vendor. Finally I settled for freshly made sweet and sour chicken with special rice and vegetables!

Next stop was the water and light show on the water under the Marina Bay Sands. The synchronisation of the water and lights with the dramatic music was mesmerising! After that we rushed round to the Gardens By The Bay to catch the Super Trees light show. Laying flat on my back on the tarmac gazing up at these giant structures, listening to the soundtrack and seeing these solar powered trees flash different colours.

In the day we got the chance to fully explore the Gardens by the Bay. Wandering around the two famous areas, the flower dome and the cloud dome. With over one million plants, from 19,000 different species and nine different gardens displaying landscapes from around the world, the flower dome housed some beautiful fauna. The cloud dome was a wetter climate with a 35 metre tall waterfall and a rainforest high sky walk. Our final stop was the supertrees in the day, absorbing solar energy to power the night show. Of course after walking around in the Singapore heat we couldn’t resist a trip to the top of the Marina Bay Sands to enjoy a couple of Singapore Slings!

For the final night in Singapore we ate at the famous Maxwell Hawker Centre with the street food award equivalent to a Michelin Star. The food scene here is just something else with Hawker Centres packed and stalls with lines snaking around. We then returned to the supertrees but this time we watched the show from 22 metres above, from the Skywalk. A great end to our time in Singapore!

After returning to the world famous Singapore airport it was time to fly to Indonesia!

The final country in South East Asia was Indonesia. A nation made up of thousands of volcanic islands that are home to hundreds of ethnic groups speaking many different languages. Known for its beaches, underwater world, incredible landscapes and amazing wildlife, Indonesia did not disappoint!

The first stop was Denpasar where we met our tour group for the next two weeks. Denpasar was a quick stop over and after one night we were heading towards Munduk via the famous Balinese rice terraces. With a world hertiage recognition for it’s simple yet extraordinary irrigation system the rice terraces rolled out into the distance as far as the eye could see. These particular ones were famous for their white rice but also had select areas growing red rice which we tried mixed with hot water. The end of the rainy season caught us with several down pours and water rushing down the marked footpaths. But even with the rain the landscape was incredible, a lush green at different heights, with rows of rice stretching to the horizon.

After some lunch and finally drying off we arrived in Munduk and settled into our homestay for the night after enjoying a tradition Balinese dinner, where I opted for Balinese curry with a Munduk twist followed by banana fritters with palm sugar and grated cheese (trust me the cheese made it perfect!!)

Next day it was time for a bit of self care with a morning at the local sulphur hot springs. Natural heated water in giant and small pools with water fountains all around. The perfect stopped after months on the go! After a rinse off we headed to the Brahmavihara Arama Temple where we were dressed in sarongs before entering. This temple was beautiful with several different sections and a gorgeous view. In one building was a traditional fortune read where each person picked a stick out a pot with a number one before matching this to the book for the set year and month.

Our stop for that evening was Kintamani. A hotel at the foot of Mount Batur giving you the perfect view of the volcano. But the view wasn’t close enough so the next morning we decided to climb the volcano for sunrise, battling wind and rain. After stopping for a bit to let a thunder storm pass we made it to a sheltered hut at the top, appreciating a hot drink! The hike was good however, the stormy sky prevented us catching a glimpse of the sunrise.

After warming up and nursing aching legs we stopped for a community lunch at one of the G Adventure’s foundation. A foundation supporting those with a physical disability as their religion deemed a disability as karma from evil in a previous life. The food was incredible and walking area their school, gardens and kitchen was eye opening, seeing just how much these people adapt every day and manage with very little.

That evening we arrived in Ubud. This was probably one of my favourite stops in Bali. The area was so chilled out and there was so much to do and see. This was the first evening I had tradition Nasi Campur. A mix of different Balinese food served on one plate! The following day was more self care and TLC after wandering the unique streets and shops before stopping for a two hour spa session. Probably the best and cheapest spa treatment I’ve had! Β£10 got me a 60minute full body Balinese massage, a 30minute foot massage and a 30minute facial. Oh I’ve never felt so relaxed!!

Our final stop on the Bali island was Candidasa where the thunder echoed and the lightning struck on the horizon for the first afternoon we arrived. The next day was time to get back in the water and dive. This time a shipwreck dive. USS Liberty Wreck just off the west coast. The wreck positioned just 20 metres off the shore after an earthquake and depths up to 25 metres, the coral and marine life were amazing. Bright corals had grown all over the decaying ship and a large variety of fish darted in and out of holes. A perfect day of diving!

Finally, it was time to leave Bali and catch the long public ferry towards Lombok. This seemed to be an island with no rules, especially in terms of the road. Areas of this island were still recovering from the recent earthquake but the area was still as breathtaking.

Our first Lombok stop was the Sesak Village of farmers and weavers. A village that married their cousins, after the girl was kidnapped by the boy to confirm weather or not they would marry. The villagers didn’t know their birthdays and instead based their age off the rice harvest as this only happened once a year, our guide was 44 rice years old.

Exploring this village was such an experience, seeing where they lived, worked and played off very little.

Lombok was beautiful to drive through with arces of beautiful rice fields had locals in water up to their knees working the crop they rely so heavily on. We stopped at the village and rice fields at Tetebatu trekking for a couple of hours in the humid heat of the fields. We watched locals harvest the rice in a traditional way and helped when asked. We balanced on the grass verges surrounding the rice crop and jumped across the irrigation system several times before trekking through the forest and spotting the black bears.

After a tiring, hot trek and a nap on the bus we arrived in Senggigi, our last stop on the Lombok island. The next morning we arrived on Gili Trawangan by boat. An island where you can walk, cycle or catch a horse drawn carriage. We jumped straight off one boat and onto the next to snorkel the clear crystal warm waters. The turtles, underwater statues and bright tropical fish were beautiful snorkel spots for explore before stopping for lunch at Gili Air.

The final day on Gili Trawangan was the perfect weather to cycle around the island, stopping at beach front bars and sandy beaches to cool off in the water. The day was finished with pool volley ball, beach bbq dinner and finally a movie at the outdoor cinema on the beach.

Indonesia has been breathtaking and I have adored the Balinese food! There is definitely plenty more islands to explore on the next trip!

So long Indonesia, hello Australia!πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί


Thai Islands πŸ‡ΉπŸ‡­

73 days after first touching down in Thailand we were back! However, this time we were heading south for the warm waters and white sandy beaches of the Thai Islands.After a long overnight lay over in Bangkok airport and then a nap at the hostel, I was wandering the beach front of Phuket. Meandering through the sea front markets filled with food, clothes and small hand made souvenirs. Pad Thai was advertised at nearly every other stall and the smell of fresh cooked food filled the air. Markets out here amuse me because at nearly every stall there’s a tourist tapping in a number on a calculator to bargain a better price with the vendor and normally the tourist gets a lower price than initially advertised. Not something you’d be able to in England. Walking along the beach it was weird to see tsunami evacuation route signs nearly every 50 metres. Following the devastating effects from the 2004 boxing day tsunami they had put a lot of time and money into education and route planning if it were to happen again.After a beach chill day in the baking Thailand sun at Kata Beach and a short walk further down the coast I decided it was time to book in another dive! The following day I was on a big three tier high dive boat heading for Koh Bida. I completed three dives at Koh Bida Nok, Mushroom Rock and Shark Point. Another amazing day of diving with black tipped reef sharks and bright coloured fish swimming in all directions.A few days in and it was time to head to the next island, Phi Phi island. At night this island was the biggest beach party I’d ever seen, with loud bass, fire shows and dirt cheap alcohol. By morning the beach was tidy, stages put away and the calm waters gave a peaceful island feel.We hopped on a boat day tour from Phi Phi to explore further into the national park. Our first stop was monkey beach and this short stretch of beach was filled with monkeys running around. Then viking cave were a few locals live and complete the dangerous job of harvesting bird nests to sell. The cave is protected and anyone who tries to enter can be shot.Our third stop was Phi Ley Lagoon where the waters were crystal clear and the cliff faces towered high above us. The fish darted around the tropical underwater world. And it was time to snorkel where the black tipped reef sharks were out in force. Our final stop was sunset at the famous Maya Bay, which is currently closed allowing the coral and marine life to regenerate after the negative effects of mass tourism.A few days on the party island of Phi Phi and it was time to move on to the calmer island of Koh Lanta, which was one of my favourite stops in the whole of the Thail Islands. I loved Koh Lanta so much we extended our nights. The island had everything, bars, beautiful beaches, escapes from reality, incredible dive sites and some amazing restaurants, including some incredible Masamman Curry!Koh Lanta was the place I got back on a scooter after the Vietnam accident. We headed south for seashell beach and the lanta secret beach, which wasn’t so secret as the white sand was full of sun bathers and the beach side bars had plenty of people sipping ice cold beers.The next two days on Koh Lanta were some of my favourite, snorkelling boat trip then a day diving. The snorkelling trip took us to two islands off the east side of Koh Lanta before stopping at the Emerald Cave, where you swim 80m in the pitch black before finding yourself stood on a white sandy beach in the centre of what looks like the sides of a volcano. The final stop was lunch on an island resort admiring the clear waters fading into the reef then the deep blue sea.The next day I was back under the water, some 25-30 metres below sea level. These were honestly some of the best diving I’ve ever done. The visiablity was around 20 metres and the corals were so bright with fish weaving between them. The underwater rock formations, caves and marine life left me speechless. The fact these dive sites also weren’t as busy as the Phuket ones also made these dives so much better!After almost a week on this island paradise it was time to move on and head to Krabi, the last stop on the islands. Our first stop in Krabi was the famous night markets. I have been to much better night markets in terms of stalls and food but this one had a lot of entertainment going on throughout the evening. It was a great atmosphere of performances, bars trying to tempt people in and a small of the variety of food cooking.Massages in Asia are cheap and it was time to experience the Thai massage, designed to stretch, pull, push and compress the body. And I must say never underestimate the strength of a small Thai Woman, she used her arms and feet, walked on me, manipulated my back so well I felt I’d never had full mobility before her massage. It was quite the experience. I enjoyed the Thai massage so much two days later after an island boat tour and kayaking through the Ao Thalane I returned to have another.The island boat tour was more touristy than others we’ve been on and the sea was full of giant pink jelly fish but still the landscape, rock formations standing alone in the sea and amazing island stops were just incredible! After our last Thai island hopping day trip we decided to spend the next morning kayaking in the water jungle known as Ao Thalane. A narrow passage through the jungle filled with monkeys, caves and beautiful views. The kayaking was tiring in the open sea but within the jungle the current gently moved you past this breathtaking landscape. The monkeys deep within the jungle were curious and jumped on the kayak if you were too close to the side. The perfect end to Thailand island hopping!Next stop the diverse city of Singapore!!

Cambodia πŸ‡°πŸ‡­

Cambodia really does have it all. Beautiful landscapes cut by the Mekong Delta, the Gulf of Thailand coastline, beautiful mountains and of course Angkor Wat.

Vietnam to Cambodia was a land crossing that amongst the chaos actually turned out to be easier and more organised than the Thailand – Laos land crossing. We arrived in Phnom Penh at night. I enjoy arriving into a city in the evening, it’s lit up and alive with markets and the following day it looks completely different. There’s a driver on every corner saying “tuk-tuk?” to everyone who walks past. There’s waiters stood on the street trying to entice you into their restaurant. There’s a certain vibe to the night life of these countries and I like it.

After a chill and journal time with an iced tea on a roof top terrace it was time to explore this city and it’s history. First stop was the Choeung EK genocidial centre, also known as ‘The Killing Fields’. This was an incredible experience. Everyone walked round in silence with their head sets telling each part of the story as you followed the numbers round. Today this place is filled with trees, a beautiful lake and bird song giving a peaceful feeling but as you walk round, learning more than 300 prisoners a day were slaughtered here a sadness engulfs you. Your feet move on the dirty dusty paths, dust that holds the terrible truth and fragments of a horrible past that this country had to suffer through. In the centre was the memorial Buddist Stupa. A memorial filled with skulls and bones from over 5000 victims. You could enter and see the lower levels and to be honest there aren’t many words to explain what you see.

Our next stop was the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as ‘S21 Prison. This was one of the secret centres of a network of nearly 200 prisons. A place that took nearly 20000 prisoners with only 12 confirmed survivors. The site is a former secondary school but it’s hard to imagine an environment of kids learning and playing after the stories this site tells following the Khmer Rouge operating from it. Again people wandered in silence listening to their head sets, hearing victim’s stories and the history of the country’s genocide.

The second day in Phnom Penh was less history and more about the city they are today. The central market was a crazy maze of stalls selling anything and everything under the sun. You could literally buy anything and argue on the price until buyer and seller were happy. I love the artwork at the markets in South East Asia, they’re amazingly detailed and so colourful! After the markets we headed towards the Palace however, the Cambodian heat beat us and we ended up with a $1 ice cold Cambodian beer instead!

It was time to leave Phnom Penh. Next up was Kampot and after passing the beautiful seaside town of Kep it was obvious you weren’t in a city now.

Bokor National Park is a main attraction from Kampot. A giant park set high in the hills with winding roads, hair pin bends and views that go on until the horizon! We explored the abandoned black palace, the giant Buddha that sat high on the hill top and the abandoned Catholic church. There was previously an abandoned casino which used to attract tourists from all over but more recently this has been turned into a 5 star hotel that’ll set you back $500 a night! That evening we were going on a boat tour but randomly ended up on another boat. One with a live band, a fire show, beer and food. It was a great few hours sailing on the river and catching the sunset!

The next day plans changed and we were on the way to Sihanoukville to catch the ferry to the islands. After an hour hold up to fix the bus we were on the way, literally bouncing along in the bus on the bumpy roads. It reminded me of Mario kart as no car kept to their side of the road, everybody under and overtook and turned left and right to avoid the pot holes, a but like avoid the bananas thrown on Mario kart! The boat was something else. Getting on the boat was a challenge in itself. We arrived late. Then the pier changed and we were racing through Sihanoukville is a tuk tuk pilled high with luggage. We made the ferry. Just. I wish we didn’t because it was so rough I felt horrendous! But I survived.

We got to our accommodation and we immediately asked for a refund and found a new guesthouse. After a hectic day of travel I very much appreciated sitting at the beach front with a few beers and some good food.

The first full day on Koh Rong was a much needed beach Day. The walk to 4k beach was beautiful. Through the jungle that opened out onto the blinding bright white soft sand beaches and clear blue waters. Bungalows lined the shore front with the perfect view of paradise. Swimming in the sea was like getting into a bath of the perfect temperature.

Finally, bike accident wounds were healed and I could get back in the water and scuba dive! Three amazing dives in the warm waters of Cambodia were just perfect! The marina life is amazing. The macro life living on another life. The corals moving in the current. The clams closing as you swim by. The brightly coloured fish in every direction. An amazing day out on the boat.

The next day was also a boat trip sailing around the whole island, stopping at quiet, long sandy beaches then a local community before watching the sunset set on the other side of the island. The boat tour finished with a swim in the dark sea with the bioluminuous plankton. Tiny tiny plankton that glistening as you move in the water.

After two days on the water it was time to head back towards the main land. Our last stop in Cambodia was Siem Reap. And of course you can’t visit Siem Reap without seeing the famous Angkor Wat. So we got up early (4am) to watch sunrise over the 3 famous spires of Angkor Wat. By 4.45am it was 24 degrees Celsius. We had a tuk tuk for the day to explore as much as we could of this 400 sqkm national heritage site. I was used a human climbing frame by monkeys running around and held tight to my camera as they played. My favourite temple was Ta Prohm. A temple overrun by trees and plants. Roots burst through the famous ruins which had required maintenance. This was a particularly famous temple as it was where some of Tomb Raider was filmed. It was incredible. Climbing through the rumble of the ruins as trees grew within them, possibly holding the whole complex together.

After recovering from our early start and baking heat we decided to explore Kulen National Park and mountain the following day. We took the scenic drive up the road that only allows a certain direction of traffic at a certain time of day. The big reclining Buddha carved of stone rested high at the top of the mountain. We learned about the 1000 Lingas where the fresh water stream washed over them. Then our final stop was the waterfall. And it was definietly time for a swim in the heat!

That night we wandered into the night markets and pub street, a tamer version of Koh San road if you ask me.

The following day we took an evening flight out of Cambodia, heading for Thailand and a long Bangkok airport layover. The moon was a bright orange as it reflected on the plane wing and the sky seemed alive as the world slept below. It was time for the Thai islands, beaches and more scuba diving!!

Vietnam πŸ‡»πŸ‡³

Vietnam was the next stop on this South East Asia adventure. A country renowned for its beaches, rivers and various Buddhist pagodos. It has many bustling cities and our first stop was the capital Hanoi, famous for its celebration of Ho Chi Minh, a communist era leader, in the form of a giant Marble Mausoleum.

We spent a few days in the capital dodging the crazy amounts of traffic. Arriving at night and walking through the old quarter with backpacks on was a challenge in itself. Many things in Hanoi were closed in terms of sightseeing but we managed to get to a couple of the famous temples and wandered through the park to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which stood tall with guards below.

The Hanoi night markets were crazy. A street supposedly shut to traffic but that didn’t stop the motorcycles from tooting horns to manoveur past people. There was all types of designer merchandise copied to be sold at killer cheap prices and to be honest, you couldn’t really see much of a difference from the real thing!

After Hanoi it was time to see the famous Halong Bay. Some describe it as a wonder of the world with stacks, cliffs and caves all around as the waves were calm in the bay. We spent the night on a boat in the Bay after climbing into one of the largest caves and then to the Titop viewpoint for cloudy panoramic views of the landscape. It was breathtaking. Nothing could compare to this beauty.

That evening I tried my hand at squid fishing but had no luck despite sitting with a bright light on for an hour! The following day we visited a pearl farm learning how they artificially grow pearls in the oysters. Before returning to the mainland we kayaked around a quiet bay with towering cliff faces and caves are the bottom.

It was time to head further south and after our first overnight Vietnam bus, which was much better than the overnight one from Thailand to Laos, we arrived in a very rainy Hue. The rain really limited us on the first day but we still went out and wandered around the museum of war aircrafts and towards the imperial city before the rain got too much and we gave in to getting a bike tuk tuk back. The next day we rented a scooter and went out to the Kings Temple which was amazing to see and learn about. High above the road side the black temple was filled with visitors. Next up was the famous abandoned water park. A park closed for unknown reasons but the structures remain. A security guard walks round and sometimes gets people to pay and shouts at those who try to climb it. The dragon’s head, where an old aquarium sat underneath is the main attraction at the end of a massive lake. The aquarium is dark with smashed glass and a feel that things might still live there as enclosures have water in them still. At the other side is the slides and swimming pool. After A few hours in the waterpark we admired the river from the viewpoint and as the rain started again we pulled up at the 7 Storey Buddha Temple.

We had a couple of family meals at the hostel where this amazing traditional food was cooked and our plates were never empty.

By this point we’d had enough of the rain so it was time to head further south to Hoi An, where the sun was bright and the white sandy beaches were so warm. Hoi An was a much needed couple of chill days as we cycled to the pottery village and around the ancient city before enjoying some beach time. The evenings in Hoi An were my favourite. The night markets were full and the river was lit with floating candles with lights from the boats and bridge making reflections dance on the surface. Hoi An is close to Da Nang so we rented a scooter and spent the day there hiking around the marble mountains and exploring the water mountain with its breathtaking views from the top. We hung out on the Da Nang beaches and drove to the very end viewpoints where monkeys were playing in the road and trees. Da Nang is a place I’d like to explore more into before it becomes taken over by tourists.

Our next stop was Nha Trang and after arriving at 3am off the overnight bus we crashed out in the hostel common area. We decided not to waste the day so rented a scooter to head out to the Ba So waterfall. A beautiful place with a challenging hike and fresh cold water filled with fish. The perfect spot for a hot day. It was Chinese New Year’s Eve so we headed back to see how this country celebrated however, things went downhill.

Vietnam is a country with 42 million motorcycles. On average 34 people a day are injured on the roads of Vietnam. On the 4th of February 2019 we became a number in that statistic. A child kicked a ball into the road and before the brakes had time to stop us it was under the front wheel and we were sliding across the road. Luckily we were only doing low speeds. And after the ball hit us it was all a blur. I just remember laying in the road with a bike on top of me.

The Vietnamese hospital was so much different to home and as soon as you stepped through the metal shutter doors you instantly felt lucky to have access to the health care we do at home. There was no privacy cubicle. People lay in beds hooked up to drips, oxygen and medications. Some patients shared beds. A patient got intubated there and then in front of everyone else in the room. We filled out forms and were told to wait in the corridor and then the “foreigners room”. By this point adrenaline was wearing off and wounds were starting to sting but that sting and burn was nothing compared to them being scrubbed with iodine!! Dressings applied and hospital bill of 500,000 Dong paid (Β£18) we were on our way back to the hostel.

We did still manage to get out for Tet and see the fireworks at midnight which was a bonus for the day.

The next few days involved hunting for pharmacies for dressings, painful dressing changes and chilling before taking the overnight bus to Siagon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam Remnant War Museum is a main attraction in this city and it’s easy to see why when you go and explore it. It’s three floors of history that’s shaped a country to what it is today. Many people walked around in silence learning how this 17 year long war caused so much suffering for one country. How the affects of this war are still prominent today after exposure to toxic chemicals has been passed on through generations. It was a surreal experience but the Vietnamese people are strong and resilient in the way they’ve overcome their devastating history.

We gazed at the city from above on the 49th floor of the skydeck 5he next day and made a dessert stop on the 50th floor. The city stretched for miles. The buildings were so close and certain areas looked so densely populated it looked like there was no streets. After this we wandered around the Ben Thanh Markets were locals tried to grab your attention to sell their knock off designer clothes.

Our final day was a chill out in the heat with a bucket of cider bottles reflecting on the hour at through this country. Vietnam is beautiful and I will return, and hopefully I’ll get on a scooter again soon. But for now it’s time to get the bus to Cambodia and check off one more country.

Laos πŸ‡±πŸ‡¦

Laos is an amazing country in South East Asia that I had no real expectations for but it’s now probably one of my favourite places I’ve been.

It’s a country where the whiskey is cheaper than a large bottle of water. Where two packets of cigarettes cost the same as a large bottle of water. And where a street food meal will give you change from Β£2.00. It’s also the most heavily bombed country in the world. After visiting the UOX museum in Luang Prabang and the COPE visitor centre in Vientiane I learnt a lot more about Laos than I ever knew.

Between 1964 and 1973 there was a secret war in Laos. Over this nine year period America dropped 280 million bombs on Laos. That’s one bomb every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years. Nearly 30% of these bombs did not denoate. Laos was left with roughly 80 million unexploded ‘bombies’. The majority of these currently rest, hidden in some of the poorest parts of the country. Laos is a country who’s younger population was not alive in this war but are being killed or injured by the remains of it.

Learning about the history of Laos was a surreal experience. I’ve worked as a physiotherapist for over 3 years and have worked in many well developed areas of rehabilaition and medicine. Seeing the work COPE does with little resources really hit home how much rehabilitation and medicine is sometimes taken for granted in England and under the NHS. I watched documentaries about the bombies and how they’re being destroyed. I felt tears in my eyes as the documentaries told stories of families who had suffered loss due to the bombies. I tried to walk with their standard lower limb prosthetic and learnt how people in remote areas uses anything to help them get by, little a piece of wood with nails in the bottom to serve them as a false leg. It was such an eye opening experience!

We stopped at three places in Laos after a land crossing from Thailand on the 26 hour sleeper bus and what an experience that was. Double bunk beds, that weren’t big enough for two people and bumpy, winding roads.

Our first stop was Luang Prabang, a well known tourist destination but an area that has not let tourism take over and has kept it’s natural splendour, avoiding western modernisation.

The Mekong River ran straight through this amazing place, providing people with a source of food and of course a way to transport goods up and down the riverside. We explored the area meandering between temples before stopping for some street food lunch. That evening the early start off the bus caught up to us as we hiked the many stairs to the top of Mount Phousi to catch a phenomenal sunset over the river and mountains. As we returned to the town the night markets were being set up. Locals carefully aligned their goods and the smell of freshly cooked food began to fill the air. The artwork and handmade crafts were amazing, the detail, precision and how proud the locals were of their merchandise was something else.

Locals were friendly and smiled at every passerby. They showed you things to try and get a sale as you wandered by and they were always open to a bit of bartering for their products. It was so great we returned several nights to walk through these markets and eat the street food.

The next day we jumped on a boat up the Mekong River to stop at local villages and see the Pak Ou Caves. We tried sticky rice red wine and white rice whiskey as locals poured shot glasses full as you stepped off the boats. It was strong and burned as it went down. They had snake wine and various other reptiles in wine which didn’t take my fancy. The Pak Ou Caves were a religious sight filled with thousands of Buddha statues. They stood tall over the Mekong and many locals lined the path selling gifts to offer to their gods.

Our final day in Luang Prabang was one of my favourites as I stood mesmerised by the natural wonder of the several tiers of the limestone rocks forming the Krung Si Waterfalls.

I hiked to the top of the 50 meter falls in the humid heat gazing down at the water falling below. Heading down I couldn’t resist a swim in the cool turquoise blue waters in the lower tier.

That afternoon we drove to Vang Vieng which was probably one of favourite drives! The driver took the mountain road slowly as we twisted through the luscious green scenery. Ascending and descending the steep roads as the sun created an arrangement of pinky orange sunset colours. The rough bumpy terrain was forgotten as this beautiful panoramic view was lit with the last light of the day as the sunset kissed the mountain summits turning them into silhouettes in the distance.

Vang Vieng was an amazing place to chill and enjoy the great outdoors of Laos. We enjoyed tubing down the Nam Song River under the warm sun. We stopped at several bars for a drink and some food on the way down the 4km stretch. There was a few moments of dangerous currents with one involving my tube being impaled on an up rooted tree but we survived.

I loved spending time on the river so much that we booked a full day adventure tour! It started with a 7km kayak down the river, manouvering the rapids and bends of the river that cut through the bases of the beautiful mountainous peaks. Next up was ziplining through the trees and over the river! The views of the valley that high up as you soared through the air. No picture did it justice! After lunch we tubed through a cave and hiked through a cave which is normally flooded in the wet season before enjoying some free time at the blue lagoon. The water was crystal clear but freezing CD as you jumped off a 6m high tree into the waters below. The perfect end to an adventurous day!

Another day in Vang Vieng saw us renting off-road buggies and exploring the lagoons. Although our day was haulted when one buggy broke down and we had to wait for the recovery guy. The buggy was replaced and we continued for the buggy to break down again. This time it was a little bit scarier as it was going dark and we were in the middle of nowhere. Luckily the guy pulled up just in time to avoid an unthinkable situation. Other than the buggy breakdown the day was good! Bumping over the dusty roads to the caves where the rocks glistening in the light and then blue lagoon 2 which was empty. A private outdoor, turquoise blue pool all to ourselves!

The final full day was the bumpiest tuk tuk drive ever to blue lagoon 3 where we hiked to the view point and swang on the Tarzan swing as the limestone cliffs surrounded this natural wonder. That evening we made the exhausting hike to the top of Phangern Viewpoint, watching the sunset over the breathtaking mountainous landscape. All you could hear was your breath as we recovered from the difficult hike, gazing at the view in front. Miles and miles of mountain tops, valleys and small settlements filled the picture perfect landscape.

Our final stop in Laos was Vientiane, the capital. We explored the vast night markets where you could replace your whole wardrobe for Β£30 and we discovered the rest of the city in daylight on bicycles. Vientiane was quieter than the cities we’d seen in Thailand. We explored the Patuxay, gazed at the shining gold of Wat That Luang. And our final stop was the amazing Cope Visitor Centre which has to be visited by anyone in Vientiane!!

Laos is such a laid back country with some of the friendliest people around. It’s a country I plan to revisit and explore further south! But for now it’s time for the 4th country on the trip! Next stop Vietnam.. πŸ‡»πŸ‡³

Northern Thailand πŸ‡ΉπŸ‡­

Thailand was the next stop on this South East Asia adventure. A country full of culture and history and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Thailand is commonly known for it’s picturesque white sandy beaches on the islands. However, this was time to head North and endulge in the history and beautiful temples that Bangkok, Auytthaya, Sukhothai and Chiang Mai had to offer.

We flew into Bangkok, the ultra modern city of skyscrapers, glorious temples and of course famous street food.

Unfortunately I could not enjoy Bangkok as much as I wanted. I was stuck down with serious food poisoning and after 48 hours of vomitting I didn’t have much energy to fully enjoy Bangkok. However, I did manage to get out to experience some of this city.

The streets were always full of colourful tuk tuks and drivers parked up trying to bargain you a ride. My first day out in the city was an easy one. It involved a lady on the street directing us, putting us in a tuk tuk and sending us towards the Big Buddha. This was amazing. A bright gold Buddha stood tall over gathering crowds, monks and people coming to worship their god.

Next up was Wat Pho were I took a breather to admire the wonderful architecture. It is one of the largest temple complexes in the city. It’s home to the famous reclining Buddha, thousands of statues and a gorgeous variety of colours which really does bring this city landmark to life. It was incredible to learn about the making of the Buddha statues, how they’re flat footed with long fingers and toes but the thumbs remain short.

We explored further into the city admiring the Golden Buddha Temple and then the Grand Palace which was full of your groups being told to dress appropriately and buy a ticket.

The final temple of the city I got to climb up was the Golden Mount Temple. It was definitely worth the 344 steps to the top to get a city view and listen as the monks said their sacred words at the foot of the Buddha that overlooked the city.

Bangkok isn’t just about temples and famous buildings. It’s home to some of the best street food in Thailand (some would say the world). It’s got famous Pad Thai, a bustling Chinatown and of course the famous Khaosan Road. We toured Chinatown one evening, weaving between food stalls, people selling fried insects and wonderful handmade souvenirs. Khaosan Road was slightly more lively with music blaring from each bar. A street packed with tourists, bars trying to entice you in with crazy cheap alcohol and vendors selling all kinds of crazy things. It was CRAZY!

By day four I was ready to leave Bangkok. Next stop was Auytthaya. After short train ride we arrived in this ancient capital situated where Lopburi Pasak and the Chao Phraya rivers connect.

That evening we explored by boat enjoying a three hour cruise on the river that encases all of Auytthaya’s historical sites and ruins. We stopped at Wat Panan Choeng to admire the giant Buddha. Then Wat Phutthaisawan and finally Wat Chai Wattanaram to watch the sunset behind this 17th century restored Royal Buddist Temple on the river side.

After the boat tour it was time for the night markets. A whole street lined with street food vendors.

Of course when you visit Auytthaya you have to explore the historic parks, temples and ruins, afterall that’s what it’s famous for. We hired bikes and cycled our way around this large site admiring the crumbling infrastructure and famous Buddas that stood tall amongst the ruins. We saw the famous Buddha head in the tree roots and wandered aimlessly through the ruins in the baking heat. Auytthaya is a place filled with decades of history and millions of stories that have yet to be told.

After Auytthaya it was time to head further north and explore the city of Sukhothai which means ‘dawn of happiness.’ This is also famous for its historic park and ruins but also boosts a large national park filled with hikes, caves and waterfalls which I am yet to explore so will have to return! There’s the modern town of ‘new Sukhothai,’ where we stayed and about 12km west is the historical park which is home to the partially restored 13th and 14th century Palaces and Temples of the Kingdom of Siam’s first capital.

We spent the day cycling around the park and it was amazing to see this Sukhothai style architecture that has become so famous throughout Thailand’s history. After a few hours cycling we managed to hop back on the old wooden bus just as the weather turned and a huge thunderstorm hit town.

Next stop was Chiang Mai, a city boosting a mountainous backdrop. Soaked in history, Chiang Mai still contains an old city contained by ancient walls and moats and hundreds of Buddhist temples.

After arriving late we experienced our first Chiang Mai transport, the Songthaew. This can only be described as a red pick up truck that has a set rate, picking up many people who have different destinations along a route. Luggage is piled high on the roof and people are packed in, but hey it only cost 20baht.

We managed to get out of the city a couple of times, the first time being with a guide called Noi. He was funny and so knowledgeable of so many different cultures. He taught us basic Thai, took us to the Thai Silk factories where we watched the Silk Worms starting the process of the beautiful garments that were handmade. Then we had our first taste of Khao Soi a famous Chiang Mai dish commonly described as curried noodle soup. It was delicious.

We cycled around the old city stumbling across markets full of unique jewellery, clothing and food. Then made our way to the 14th Century Wat Phra Singh, which reflected brightly in the blazing sun and the 15th Cbetury Wat Chedi Luang.

Cycling in Chiang Mai is a crazy experience. The traffic and huge amounts of tuk tuks and motorcycles that weave in and out is insane.

Of course when you come to Chiang Mai you have to visit the elephant sanctuaries. We spent a morning at one before hiking to a waterfall and having a go at white water rafting. The elephants were amazing! We learnt had to chop and prepare food for them, sugar cane and bananas. How to feed them and of course play in the mud bath and river with them.

After rinsing the mud off ourselves we took of the rapids of the river in an inflatable boat and then hiked to a freezing fresh water waterfall.

Our few evenings in Chiang Mai we toured the Wat Umong Temple, walking in the tunnels to reach the heart of the temple hidden within the jungle. Then we took on the winding roads to Doi Suthep. One of the highest point over the city that is considered one of the holiest places in Thailand. And the steep 306 stairs to the top was worth the views of the city and the Buddhas!

We also managed to spend an evening at the Sunday night markets. This is probably one of the best markets I’ve been to! Thousands of amazing stalls and even more people! With so many people you were only able to shuffle between stalls but it meant you were able to fully take in the amazing items being sold.

Finally, it was time to start heading out of Thailand. A 26 hour bus journey from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang was on the cards however this did include a stop at the Wat Rong Khun, commonly known by westerns as the white temple. It was the perfect day for it. The silver tiles of this contemporary art exhibit sparkled in the sunlight making the brilliant white temple, in the style of a Buddhist temple stand out on a clear blue sky background.

It was the perfect final stop in Thailand! Thailand you’ve been incredible. Next stop Laos!πŸ‡±πŸ‡¦

Philippines πŸ‡΅πŸ‡­

I think this trip is the biggest one yet. One I was nervous and excited for. People go travelling for all different reasons. For me this trip was a dream. I’ve always wanted to travel and I’ve loved every country I’ve been to. I’ve always wanted to do an extended trip by the time I was 25. I’m 25. And being completely honest 2018 was a very tough year. I’ve found myself in places I never thought I’d be in. I’ve found myself with no idea what I was supposed to do or what would even happen. I’ve been stressed, low and anxious. Feelings I’ve never really felt to that extent before. I’ve realised how many people are around to support me if you just ask. I’ve met people that have turned my life around and people that I could never thank enough. I feel like with these people I’ve made it through. I’ve learnt, changed and grown as a person from the past year. So yes, it is a pretty big trip..

I quit my job in November 2018, moved all my stuff back to my Dad’s and jumped on a plane to fly half way round the world to Australia. I’ve now spent three weeks in the Philippines and I’m about to board a flight to Thailand.

Three weeks in the Philippines has been amazing to say the least! The Philippines is made of more than 7000 islands in the Western Pacific, and we saw five of them! Our three week adventure began in Manila, one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

As soon as we arrived in Manila the chaos of the airport engulfed you. The humidity and heat outside hit you hard as people darted around getting in transport away from the busy terminal. The roads and way of driving was crazy. It was a free for all as trucks squeezed down tiny lanes, cars turned left and right and motorcyclists weaved in and out of every gap possible. It was the most organised chaos I’ve ever seen!

We stayed out in Chinatown for a few nights and started to overcome the jetlag. We wandered 10km through numerous streets as markets overflowed the pavements and people dodged speeding bikes and cars.

After a few nights in Manila we joined our G-adventures tour. Getting to the starting point was interesting as we were driven through various areas of the capital. From Chinatown to slums to massive skyscraper buildings and a controlled manner with traffic.

Our first day of the tour was a flight from Manila to Dumaguete followed by a short ferry ride to Siquijor. This island is known by Filipinos as the island of mystery and witchcraft, with its famous mountain dwelling healers.

The boat ride across was calmer than expected as crew held people upright as they piled onto the small boat in the harbour. The luggage was piled high on the outside deck and you were pointed to your designated seat, where my life jacket became my foot rest.

Siquijor was a personal favourite for me out of all the stops because the accommodation was plain and simple but opened out onto this amazing white sandy beach where the sunset painted the sky a firey orange and the sunrise left you in a peaceful awe at the beauty before you.

We drove the circumferential road of the island stopping a the Century Old Balete Tree. A grand 400 year old tree with a spring at its roots where various sized fish nibbled at your feet. The next stop Cambugahay falls was just beautiful! It was as if someone had spent hours painting this picture perfect place of bright turquoise waters, waterfalls, rope swings and lush green scenery filling the backdrop. Of course we went for a swim and I couldn’t resist jumping off the Tarzan swing into these beautiful waters. Our last stop of the day was Salogdoong Beach Resort where the bright turquoise waters were replaced with a crystal clear sea and the baking sun.

It was then time for Bohol island. After catching a ferry to Tagbilaran Port we made our way through the villages to our homestay for the night. A local supported community full of life and happiness. We were greeted by so many young children all excited to see us and lead us to the hut to make Christmas decorations. It was incredible to see this basic way of life. They have very little but are so appreciative of the things they do have. The kids are happy and always smiling, the sense of togetherness and community is amazing and they’re sustainability is incredible.

That evening we were treated to a traditional Christmas party, amazing home cooked food, traditional games, dancing and music.

The following morning we experienced the farm life. They used recyclable waste from the homes to form flower bed edging. The farm grew the feed for the livestock, the fertiser was pulled from a worm farm and children from the community learnt off their elders about the farm processes. After a morning on the farm we helped prepare lunch with the locals.. chicken adobo, chocolate bananas in pastry, papaya curry and fried vegetables, it was all amazing!

Being in this environment definitely makes you appreciate what you’ve got and it also just highlights that a smile and laughter is the most diverse international form of communication.

After saying our goodbyes to the community members we made our way to Panglao stopping off at the Tarsiers sancuatary and the famous chocolate hills. The tarsiers were observed in silence as we learnt how they can’t be disturbed in the day or kept in captivity as they kill themselves if distressed. TheChocolate hills are normally brown with a green jungle at their footings however, they were surprisingly green from recent rainful.

The first full day in Panglao was an experience as we got a traditional loud engined, bamboo boat to a small island to snorkel. The corals below the surface were bright and alive with marine life of various shapes and sizes. As the water got colder and rain started to fall we made our way back to the main land. I think this was one of the scariest boat rides I’ve ever been on! The weather got worse. The waves got bigger. And this tiny boat packed with 9 people rocked heavily in the waves. The engine cut out and the driver had to refuel. We finally made it back, drenched from the waves that broke over the sides and traumatised from the whole experience.

After a traumatic boat ride a few drinks that evening were very much needed as the weather cleared and the beach became alive with bands and restaurants once again.

The next day was an early start in a tricycle out to Hinagdanan Caves. We were the first ones there. The dark narrow steps into the ground opened out onto a huge underground cave with a natural crystal clear fresh water pool. We swam privately in the cave for an hour before heading back to meet the group and catch the ferry to cebu and complete the long 3 hour drive to Moalboal.

Moalboal was one of my favourite stops in the Philippines. It was beautiful with a good atmosphere wherever you went and plenty of things to do. We woke up at 4am to snorkel with Whale Sharks, the majestic gentle giants of the sea. We island hopped seeing Pescador island, and stopping too snorkel between beautiful corals, sardines and turtles. And enjoyed food in bars on the beach front as the waves crashed against the stilts they stood on. We went on a 6 hour canyoneering adventure of crawling, sliding jumping, wading and floating down the canyon to find ourselves stood on top of the 14 metre high Kaswana Falls. And of course when you’re at the top there’s only really one way down.. jump! Prior to this we’d compelted 4m, 5m, 8m, 9m and 10m jumps.

Moalboal was also the place we celebrated Christmas. My first Christmas in the sun and it was amazing! The morning started with a full body massage, followed by a swim in pool overlooking the ocean in 30 degrees heat then a kayak out onto the sea in a transparent kayak where the whole ocean was alive underneath you. I finished the day snorkeling around the corals with a couple of turtles. Boxing day came and we decided to go a bit further. We hired a scooter for 250 peso and off we went like one of the locals, embracing traffic darting in and out and turning with no prior warning. We headed north for White Beach where the white sandy miles of beach stretched out in front of you. We then stopped off at Lumbug beach which was more alive with stalls and music before taking a scenic coastal drive down the coast as my forearms burnt in the hot Philippines sun.

It was then time to go a bit further, a new island. We flew from Cebu to Puerto Princessa and then experienced the 6 hour mini bus ride to El Nido. A mini bus designed to fit 10 people was packed with 12 and all the luggage however, the return journey was worse as 14 people occupied the van and I sat on a suitcase for the whole journey back. But hey it only cost 500 peso! The journey wasn’t all that bad though, with the high speed driving round right bends it was hard to sleep but you could enjoy the lushus green scenery and mountainous ranges that lined the road. And finally, the sea was in sight. Hello El Nido!

El Nido was probably the most touristy place I’d been in the Philippines. It was a very busy, small town filled with bars, shops, and loads of places trying to sell you boat tours around some of El Nido’s 45 islands. We picked tour A as tour C, another popular one wasn’t running due to the weather. A full day out on the boat where a bbq was set up to cook fresh chicken and fish as we sailed through the surrounding islands. The rock formations of the islands we sailed past were just incredible. We snorkelled in the small lagoon, climbed through a tiny hole to find ourselves in a shallow water secret lagoon, eat lunch on Shimuzu Island before my favourite part, kayaking into the Big Lagoon! We kayaked through a narrow canyon of clear water before a giant lagoon opened out in front of you. The peaceful tranquillity of the lagoon engulfed us as we stared silently into this natural beauty surrounded by gigantic limestone cliff sides.

After being on the boat the weather turned and most tours were cancelled. We braved the rain, jumped in a tuk tuk and headed towards Nacpan Beach. The beach was stunning, even with the grey clouds closing in. Returning to the town was not as fun. The weather had turned, a thunder storm was over head and the water on the roads was waist deep in some places. People in the town waded through the waters and tuk tuks drove slowly.

The next day the water had vanished, the sky was a clear blue and it was hot! The perfect day for scuba diving! It felt so good to be back under the water scuba diving, seeing a whole other world deep below the surface just swimming around you. One of my favourite dives was filled for turtles and schols of multi coloured fish that surrounded you. It was the perfect end to 2018!

The year was finished with crazy strong Filipino drinks and unplanned fireworks on the beach! And that concludes 2018! 12 countries, my 6th NYE abroad and my 1st in the Southern Hemisphere.

GOODBYE 2018. HELLO 2019.