Sunday, 25 March 2012

Nick and especially Natty feed a generation of mosquitoes in Borneo!

On crocodile-infested waters

So, it's been a whirlwind of a journey through the jungles and beaches of Borneo. After a few nights in Kota Kinabalu, with a wet day of riding up to the national park of Kinabalu mountain and riding right back down again because it was so cold! Poor Nick was soaked to the bone, riding at the front, and we never imagined we could get so cold in such a hot country! I would say it was a rooky mistake, but we have been through this before!
We took a plane to Sandakan, which is a town out to the east of KK in Malaysian Borneo. We went straight to Sepilok where we stayed at Uncle Tan's, the hostel that is attached to the jungle camp where we did a 3 day and 2 nights package.
Before leaving for the jungle, we went to the Orangutan Reserve in Sepilok. We seemed to have a similar experience to everyone else we've spoken to. We paid about 8 quid to stand for 45 minutes with a few hundred other folks to watch some orangutans have their breakfast. After such a long time waiting, we were graced with the presence of a young male orangutan, who came out of the jungle hand in hand with one of the reserve staff. It was a little disappointing, and although atleast we can hope our money is going to the orangutans (if there are more than one), I wouldn't go back there. There were supposed to be a maximum of 50 people viewing the feeding, and it was pretty noisy despite signs saying 'BE QUIET' all over the place. So, in the future I hope the reserve sticks to keeping visitors to a minimum, rather than crowding the place with so many people that the orangutans stay away.
The entrance to the jungle camp

Luckily for us and the lovely Kristel from the Netherlands who we met that morning, we proceeded to the jungle where we ended up seeing 4 wild orangutans!
A wild orangutan

On top of that we got to see plenty of Proboscis monkeys, the kind that have that huge nose. And we saw a ridiculous amount of Long-Tailed Macaques, or as the locals call them, the Jungle Gangstas! They call them this because they are constantly fighting. These are the least shy and roam around in groups of up to 25 monkeys.

A pathway leading through the camp

My favourite was the night trek, where we got to see beautiful kingfishers and other colourful birds sleeping on low branches, so close you could touch them, though of course we didn't!

Black-backed Kingfisher (inappropriately named?!), asleep from behind

We also saw plenty of big spiders which is, let's be honest, what Nick was looking forward to the most! In the end we also finally saw a crocodile, which is really what you want when you spend the best part of 3 days on crocodile infested waters!

After our jungle adventure we spent one more night in KK (after a seven hour bus journey) and then headed up north to just outside of Kudat, at the Tip of Borneo. The beaches here were pristine and beautiful, basically empty, and we stayed at Tampatdoaman, a resort and restaurant.

Not a great picture, but wanted to show one of the beaches

The accommodation was simple, a traditional longhouse where we all shared compost toilets and showers with a fantastic view into the jungle around. We also had the company of some ducks, one who was particularly crazy called Fred, some chickens and roosters, and the odd dog. And don't forget the spiders and mosquitoes!

One of our roommates!

The owner, Howard, who is from Stratford, is expanding and building some 'nicer' accommodation, but we were very happy with our little room! It's a very sociable and relaxing place and the staff, Howard, Bronson and a few lovely ladies are very helpful. We spent a week on the beach, reading and eating delicious food from Howard's TipTop Restaurant. We spent one of our days on a challenging bike ride exploring the other beaches down the coast, but to be honest, the one we were on was the most beautiful!

Taking a breather on a hot journey up and down hills

A beautiful sunset from the beach

Every morning Howard or Bronson drove us the 2km to the beach from the longhouse, and every evening they ferried us back. It was a truly relaxing week and we met some great people.

Nick with the lovely Lisa from Sweden and Kristel from the Netherlands. Watching the sunset at the very tip of Borneo.

Next stop, the Philippines....

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Well I think we say Mt. Kinabalu...

So after a couple of days exploring KL, and having done a bit of research into our 14 hour lay over in Jakarta ( voted one of the worst airports in the world), we decided to bite the bullet and book a new flight straight to Kota Kinabalu. KK as it is known by the locals is a bit of a surprise really. It's not what I expected but I don't really know what I expected...Maybe something less, commercial.

I mean don't get me wrong,it's quaint, there's palm trees everywhere, walking along the promenade( much like morecambe) you can see the local fisherman doing their thing and from the middle of town you are only a 30 minute drive into beautiful mountains and jungly looking stuff...but there's something off about the place. Maybe it's the Burger king and Pizza Hut, maybe it's the Rashid Mall style mall at the end of the road, but hey it's Asia and it seems ever
country round here has a knack of making things a bit odd.
Just like More - e - cambe right?

Beer's expensive, room's cheap, internet is fast, Indian breakfast is great ( masala Dhosa every morning with a steaming cup of chai), oh and it rains here.

Yesterday we rented a Honda Wave. Bog standard, semi automatic bike seen all over asia that we thought would be a great way of driving up through the mountains to Mt. Kinabalu and back. Now the idea of flying through the twisty turny roads with Nat on the back and the wind in our hair was appealing to us both as you've probably all gathered we like being on bikes, but the image I had for this fun day out was of us under a blue sky, a few whispy white clouds and looking in awe at the peak of Mt. Kinabalu from the hot springs which on the map we had were just down the road...

Don't we look so happy!

We took off from KK and the weather was lovely, weaving in and out of the traffic, having to wave to the locals as they were big and smiley at seeing us ' doing as the locals do'. Lots of lane splitting and chatting to other bikers at lights basically. We followed the directions we'd been given and after filling up at 'the last petrol station before the mountains' we started to head up
an incline into the hills. It was delightful, within 30 mins we couldn't see anything that resembled a village let alone a city and the jungle just went on and on. We then saw the cloud line in the distance, but it looked broken, as if we would pass through them into a land of unimaginably beauty...but alas this was not to be. From the moment we entered the cloud cover, that was it. the last time we would see blue sky until the following morning!

It rained.

Not too much at the start, but enough to get us wet when we just had shorts and a linen
shirt on. But by the time 2 hours later, when we had arrived at the Mt. Kinabalu National Park, it was pelting it down. Visibility was down to 20m ( metres not miles) and when we got to the park map, we couldn't see the tree behind it, never mind the illusive mountain itself!

Ah, you say, it's ok because your plan was to stop at the hot springs anyway right? Warm up, dry the clothes? WRONG! the hot springs were another hour into the rain, NOT GONNA HAPPEN! so we turned around, and drove back to KK. Another 2 hours, this time on really slippery roads. Freezing cold and hard work!

Look what I got for a quick refreshing drink on the way up the mountain...this was just before it got really bad!

For anyone who hasn't ridden a motorbike in the rain it actually asks some very difficult questions of the driver. You basically have two choices. (A) drive faster, get out of the rain faster but get really cold, wet, and the rain actually hurts when it hits you at 80kph! or (B) drive slower, be a bit a bit warmer but get just as wet and spend more time in the rain wishing you were at home. I found 60kph was my happy medium!

So we survived, it was a long day but fun either way, didn't see the mountain, but got a fun story out of it anyway, and believing we'd deserved it went and had a slap up dinner and a few beers. You'll be pleased to know, and not surprised in the slightest, that I still managed to get sunburn on my hands and forearms...typical.

A little bit wet, but we gave the locals something to chuckle about!

What else, seen a few rats. Having a beer with a couple who were on the Queen Elizabeth round the world jobber and a kitten fell out of the roof, somehow dodging the fan on the way down and landed on the fella's true Northerner style his first comment was " It's not often that pussy falls right in my lap" - Not bad and very quick for an 81 year old! haha. Brian- the pussy magnet!

We agreed before we left that we had to surprise each other with something during the trip and Nat's arrived on our second day here. I'd booked us into a rather exclusive and very good massage here, most relaxing couple of hours we'd had for a long time!

Nat's feet at the start of the spa afternoon.

Ate some lovely food as you would expect from some rather questionable establishments but have stayed healthy so far!!

How'd you like them prawns!

Tomorrow we fly into the jungle for a few days before heading to the 'Tip of Borneo' for week on the beach. Hope you are all well, and we'll try and post an update when we can.

Take care,

Nick and Natty, doing the world once more!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Nick and Natty back on the road...first stop Kuala Lumpur!

Lokhee and Anthony took us for galmegisal. Delicious! Beautiful Lokhee. x

So, we're back on the road, but before leaving South Korea we spent a week in Gwangju and Seoul with friends Lokhee and Anthony and then Josh and Mel.

Before we left Seoul, with plans to return in six months, we went for a much anticipated 9 course meal with Josh and Mel at OKitchen in Itaewon. It was AMAZING! Forgive the terrible pictures, but this was what was on offer!

This was the very first course, some delicious seafood. There was plenty more but I am no food photographer I'm afraid!
It was a pleasure staying with our friends for our last few days in Korea, we'll miss them!

On the 8th of March, we set off for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a cheap upgrade to premium class on Air Asia! Nick had a wonderful time in their flat beds, as you can see!

We stayed at Ribbon Stayyz guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur for two nights and it was comfortable enough, with the only downside being the shared bathrooms were very busy, seeing as half of them were being repainted and therefore were out of use. Good location though, with the busy Petaling Street just around the corner.

Our first breakfast was in a vegetarian restaurant in what we believed to be the Little India turned out this was not where we were, but we got to eat Indian anyway! Nick got his Puri Bhaji for breakfast after such a long time!
We had a great start to our travels in Kuala Lumpur. It is a much nicer place than I imagined, people don't seem to have a lot of nice things to say about it. The colonial buildings are overgrown and charming, and we found everyone to be helpful and friendly.

The highlight for both of us was probably the KL Bird Park. It is the biggest walk in aviary in the world, and there are plenty of species to see. Nick was especially pleased when this Hornbill regurgitated a piece of banana in an apparent attempt to befriend him and possibly share his lunch! If only the cage hadn't prevented an exchange!

Nick also enjoyed it when I I decided to feed some parakeets who were apparently very hungry! They have surprisingly sharp claws, and I should have know it wouldn't be the peaceful experience I had imagined!

That'll teach me to feed the birds! It isn't like Mary Poppins promised!

So, fun times were had all round, and next we are off to Kota Kinabalu, on the island of Borneo! Woopee! Natty xxx

Monday, 4 January 2010

Nick and Natty do NYE by the harbour bridge...

Happy New Year everyone!!!

How bad are we! it's been almost 2 months and Nat is really sorry she hasn't been but seriously big sorry for not updating you all on our whereabouts.

We had a great time after Laos travelling through Cambodia and back to Thailand and Chiang Mai. It was great to spend Nat's bday with our friends Bart and Inge ( the guys we did the trek with in Nepal) and as you've all probably seen Nat's prezzie to Christina went down like a treat! We then spent a few days on the most amazing desert island and hung out with Fran and Jennie in Chaing Mai ( old friends of mine from saudi ). Then that was it, we boarding the plane to Sydney and we said our farewells to the 'backpacking' part of our trip. We'd survived, both as individuals and as a couple! have some great memories and made some great friends along the way, but now it was holiday time. We met up with the rest of the Hough gang and have had a great time down under so far!

We rented a car and heading down the coast for a few days, we've done the Opera House, Zoo and spent New Year's Eve on the biggest balcony i've ever seen watching the fireworks over the bridge and all along the river. We've seen tom and Sarah, old friends from back home who I went to uni and lived with, went to the opening day of the test match and saw the Aussies colapse to 127 all out in an afternoon of play! drank lots of beer, visited the real Aussie beaches, not this Bondi and Manly rubbish. I jest really, we've had a great time and been shown around by Hannah and Sarah the cousins here, cooked for by the great Eric and Julie and been made a fuss of which has been great!!

So going forward, we have our tickets booked for the uk. Yes we have to go hom for a couple of weeks. We've been offered a job in korea and need to go do an interview with the consulate in London. Would have loved it if during the last 9 months that we've been looking at doing this, that someone had mentioned that we would have to do this. All the agencies said that we would have been able to do the interview over the phone...rubbish. Except that now we can go home , see family and friends and Luna of course and also get our winter clothes...urgh that last bit sounds nasty!!

Before all that we're going to Thailand again...we should have residency by now i reckon! and seeing mum and dad, Chris and Di too. It'll be great to see them all and spend a bit of time together although we'll be seeing them a few weeks after anyway!!

Anyway, please check out the flickr accounts in the next few days as we are putting a load of pics up from the last couple of months...finally got a connection that is pretty good!!

Love to everyone, and see some of you very soon! xxx

Nick and Nat

Monday, 16 November 2009

Nick & Natty do Laos...and meet a famous actor!

Well, we're currenly in Pnom Phen, Cambodia after a long 12 hour bus journey from the border ( which was meant to be 9) we have spent a couple of days here and are heading up to Siem Reap tomorrow. PP is a mental place, we went to the killing fields yesterday and S21 which is the prison where Pol Pot kept over 20,000 people over a few years back in the 70's. It was quite a heavy experience, not to say that it wasn't worth it but seeing the memorial a the killing fields is incredible, there are 12 floors of skulls and bones that were pulled from mass graves in the area, in 5 years Pol Pot killed over 3 milliom Cambodians, at the time there were only 7 million in the whole country...

Anyway, before all this we spent a great 2 and a bt weeks traversing the incredible Laos. So at the end of the last post we were in Luang Nam Ta, a great little place, so peaceful after a week in bangkok! Now Laos was lovely, but the north is VERY hilly! We spent 9 hours on a bus that got us 250k...but it was worth it.

Luang Prabang was wicked, its a world heritage site now so hardly any development has take nplace, still has te 'old charm' we had baguettes for breakfast and some crazy hot noodle soups for dinner! Met some crazy Europeans but hada great tome, one night we were sat with 4 Germans, a Dutch couple and 2 guys from Belgium we were all speaking English with funny accents but was great, bit weird hearing them not speaking their first language but using it to talk to each other!

Then onto Vientienne where we were going to spend a few days as we had to get our Cambodian Visa, turns out it took 1 day and we got a 90 visa whichwe certainly dont need but it wa the same cost so... Vientienne was cool though, we stayed in a great little guestouse with a lovelyfamily, we bought food from the market which we took back and they gave us stuff to eat it with, we had fried fish from the Mekon, some of he est fishi've ever had and the pancakes! oh my god the pancakes! these were crazy though, folded over and then sprinkled wit sugar and condensed milk. I know sounds weird but ate 3 in a row they were that good! the belly's back!

We were kinda sad to leave but lookng forwad to the next stop, the 4000 islands. Now a lot had been said about these islands and we were eventually not dissapointed...first though we had an overnight sleeper bus, see video

and then a night in Pakse where the street chef tried to blow my face off with the Beef Laap! but we arrived safely if a little jaded on Don Khong. The big isalnd. Crap, nothing there and nothing to do. To be fair we met some lovely people but really the lonely planet let us down again...familiar story there then. Next was Don Det, a totally different story. Despite the electricity running only from 6 -11 every night, we had a great time. Hired bikes and cycled around, relaxed on the varanda, read books ate good food, Natdid a yoga class one morning, i did a cooking class and this is where we met Keifer Sutherland. Legend.

The memorial at the killing fields

The one, the only, Keifer Sutherland!

Sunset on Don Det

On top of Champask ruins outside of Pakse

The waterfall just outside Luan much fun

So that was Laos, we're doing our little tour of cambodia now and then heading back to thailand before our flight out to oz on the 20th december. Can't believe it's here already but i guess we've been going long enough. It kinda feels that once we hit Oz the 'travelling' is over i mean we are more like on holiday at that point before we get to korea and can move out of our rucksacks! Hope everyopne is well, Love to you all, Nick x

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Phew...Nick and Natty get pulled back into a consumer society and hence fail to blog or do anything else for about a week...

So, Bangkok was AMAZING!!! We have obviously both been before, and I recall the first time I arrived there I was overwhelmed by the chaos and couldn't wait to get out. BUT thanks to our sojourn in the manic land that is India, there was relief and calm rather than shock and we both felt rather at home in Bangkok. Siam Square is dominated by malls aplenty and HOORAY they love Boots in Thailand (must have happened since I was last here 5 years ago) so I went body butter, eye liner and general toiletries crazy! There are some crazy posh malls with posh car show rooms up on the top floors (how did they get them there?). Nick also got his tattoo in Bangkok, I will post a video on here (when time allows), so yes, it was an expensive BUT highly enjoyable week.

nick's a badass now...

Oh yeah, and we saw 3 movies here, which was such a pleasure! It's between 1 and 5 pounds to watch a movie, and for 5 you get really mega posh sofa sort of seats and I got a nice latte and it's just super cool! But the 1 pound tickets were good too, much better than home! We also ate Korea BBQ three times, our friends Mel and Josh told us we'd love it once we got to Korea, and we do love it and can't wait to eat more! They bring you all this meat and veg and you steam the veg in a moat thing around the heated grill and you cook your meat on it! Nick had a little system that developed over the 3 visits, which consisted of a marinading bowl that he had all his garlic and sauce and chillis in and then it became 2 bowls (one for fish and one for meat) and then he began hording his food in there so even when it was all gone from the plate he still had two courses to get through. He's special isn't he?

I could happily live in Bangkok, it's great. The guesthouse we stayed in was recommended to us by Mr Joseph Weeks of Bristol and we are truly grateful as it was a pleasure staying there for the week. There was free internet, free washing machines and a swimming pool and some great and affordable food. There was also a lot of chatting and meeting of many nice people and we will be going back there when we return to bangkok in early december.

So , we left BKK a couple days ago, getting the (awesome) VIP night bus up to a place called Chiang Rai. The bus was unbelievable and I will get a video on to illustrate this, and even this will not do it justice. I think we both actually slept, so apart from the random 2am wake up with music and tea (not complaining on the tea front) it was pretty special, as night bus and sleep does not go hand in hand.

2am tea...awesome

We arrived at 7 in the morning and our room was not available yet so we decided to rent a moped and go and see some sights while we waited, as we were only staying 1 night. Yes, we were tired, but there is no kind of wake up like a fast ride al fresco styley! We drove about 15k to What Rung Khun otherwise known as the White Temple. It is this crazy modern temple (1997?) and is still being painted now. It is almost entirely white with mirrors too that make it glitter and some really modern sculpture. It also has some crazy murals such as the twin towers being crashed into and some star wars stuff and various other trippy things.

We also visited a lovely waterfall in the hope of getting a such luck after monsoon, it was bursting with water, so we stood as far away as possible and got pretty wet, which was refreshing for all of 10 minutes!

We were pretty tired after our nightbus so we had an early night, but unfortunately my alarm was set for 4.45am so we could catch the bus to the border, and catch it we did! A river crossing and a few buses later and here we are in Laos a place called Luang Nam Tha about 3 hours north east of the border of Laos and Thailand. We did plan to take a boat for two days down the Mekong but after we started to talk about it and heard that they pack people on tight (ie max copacity 80, minimum passengers in high season tending to be 100) we decided to do things differently and we've come here to do some cycling and trekking. We are in a Unesco protected area and there are lots of larger mammals to been seen if we go trekking (maybe even a tiger...?) so we shall see. After that we'll head down to Luang Prabang to immerse ourselves in all the ex-french colonialism, maybe sample a few couissons here and there, and see sone lovely temples. Then down to the capital at Vientienne and after that we shall see. We plan to reach Cambodia around the 16th of November to have a bit of time to see the place before we head to the beach with Graeme and Rachel from Abu Dhabi and Inge and Bart from the Netherlands for a week of fun (with mine and Cina's birthday in the middle!). Then it's back to Thailand and up to Chaing Mai to see the McGuire's and have a generally nice time before we fly out to Ausland! hoorah!

Our wholesome lunch

We've just had a lovely lunch, some huge bowls of soup with sticky rice for a very reasonable price and I feel sleepy now. So I'm off to see Nicholas in our air conditioned room to watch bbc news on our satellite tv and relax after excessive bus journeys before doing all our biking/trekking for the next few days! Not bad for 4 pounds! I think I'm going to like Laos!

Much love and hugs to everyone, can't wait to see you Houghs for Christmas and hopefully you Wades in the new year!xxx