A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: kbenfield

Super Duper Sydney

Back to the real world

Oh dearest darling Australia how I'd MISSED IT!!!!! I was so ready to get back to the western world exactly 6 months after I left the UK, and 9 countries later, and arriving on the hottest day on record in the beautiful city of Sydney was the most perfect way I could think of.

I was so excited to see all my friends and have just had the best ten days hanging out with the gorgeous Cherry sisters, Boatman and his buddies and amazing dogs, Shan Man and his beautiful girlfriend, lovely Miss Haylett, everyone. It was just perfect.

Darling Olivia from our Asian travels was there too and Franky boy and Phil from Vietnam so it was a very full couple of weeks.

I almost cried when I got to wash everything in my backpack in an actual washing machine and hang it in the garden, and have a proper hot shower, and do some cooking!! I can't even describe how happy I was!

It was a lovely way to spend time before heading to New Zealand. Many BBQs were had, far too much beer was consumed, beach time and city shopping were enjoyed, a gorgeous boat trip took place, and new friends were made. There couldn't have been a better way to end the travels section of this big trip.

I arrived in New Zealand two nights ago and now it's on to find a job and get settled for a year. Scary stuff this going back to the 'real world'.

Stay tuned.....

Posted by kbenfield 00:58 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Philippines. Hmmm...

So on to the Philippines after our mad dash in Malaysia. I was so looking forward to this destination but sadly I can't help feeling disappointed. Unfortunately we didn't have the best weather, and I think by this point I was pretty knackered and didn't want to have to haggle prices, argue we were getting ripped off, and have to distrust everyone we were dealing with.

The islands proved quite a chore to get around as obviously they're not that set up for tourism. Funnily though it was the least touristy destinations we stayed that I enjoyed, more so than places like Boracay which was tourist central.

I can't put my finger on it entirely but something was a bit odd with the Philippines. There were take aways EVERYWHERE, nowhere really understood the not eating meat thing, prostitution was so in your face it was quite uncomfortable on occasion, it was just all a bit wonky. That's the only way I can describe it - wonky.

Saying all this, we did some more diving and took our advanced open water certificates which was fantastic. Diving in Puerto Galera was so great - we did a night dive, a deep dive at 30m, an amazing ship wreck dive, a navigation dive which Lauren and I were terrible at, and a buoyancy control dive which was hilarious having to stand on our heads under water etc. I LOVED both the night dive and the wreck dive and can't wait to do both of these again.

We also dived on Apo Island which is just off the coast of a place called Dumaguete. The town isn't overly exciting though we did find a restaurant that cooked real proper vegetables so ate there a fair few times (other than that I swear I have never eaten so much crap in my life than these two weeks). Apo was amazing though, we saw huge fish and nine turtles!! I got very excited about the turtles!!

We did an amazing bit of snorkelling too with whale sharks which was absolutely terrifying but SO COOL!! They grow up to 12m long and they were right next to us! Four of them! Their mouths are a meter and a half wide, it was so scary, but they're vegetarian apparently so it's okay?! It was brilliant, and this to me is how the Philippines redeemed itself on our last day.

I'm glad we went, but I'm glad we only went for two weeks. And I can't ever see myself going back to be honest, but it was good for the diving at least!

Posted by kbenfield 00:57 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

49 Minutes in Malaysia

An unexpected dash round Kuala Lumpur

After sadly having to say goodbye to Thailand all too soon we were on the plane bound for the Philippines with a 5 hour wait in Kuala Lumpur. Not too bad I thought after my 14 hours in Milan airport, but what a surprise when we got let out of the airport! It was TOTALLY unexpected and bless Lauren, the whole way through no matter how much she tried to say we were being let out I was saying it was impossible. I simply refused to believe it and then BAM, a revolving door and we were on the pavement! Amazing!!

We only had a few hours but despite the airport staff all saying we didn't have enough time to get into the city we were determined to take on the time challenge and get to the Petronas Towers. And we bloody did! It was fairly manic I won't deny that, but after an hour on a bus, working out the subway system in 0.4 seconds flat, running down the street with our mini backpacks, there they were!!

It was SO funny. Everyone was calling after us asking why we were running, we had our hand luggage bags with us, my camera was out ready to snap away, I felt like I was on that tv show where teams of two take challenges in different countries to win prizes, was bloody brilliant!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to one day going to Malaysia properly, but the 49 minutes we had between getting off the bus in town and getting back on it were definitely a lot of fun - more than sitting in the airport for 5 hours that's for sure. The towers were cool and we even got a little photo shoot taken of us by randoms a la India. Fantastic!

Posted by kbenfield 00:55 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

A Thai Thai Christmas!

Koh Mak & Koh Chang

IT'S CHRIIIIIIISTMASSSSS!!! Well, it was. And what a Christmas on the beautiful island of Koh Mak.

Koh Mak is situated in the gulf of Cambodia rather than southern Thailand and after previous Thai trips I knew this was the part of Thailand to head for. And it truly didn't disappoint. The island was very rugged, lots of scrub and trees, not so much roads as tracks, and glorious beaches.

We stayed at the gorgeous Cococape resort in a beautiful room steps from the crystal ocean, not to mention the infinity pool! Olivia and Harriet managed to get a basic hut there too very last minute right over the water. It was fantastic.

While there we had no plans but to relax and have total beach time. However we went out to another resort, Monkey Island, on our second night and got chatting to some diving guys who managed to persuade us to go diving on Boxing Day. Okay so it didn't take too much persuading as Lauren already wanted to do it and I'm a push over anyway but diving was not something I really wanted to do. But I'm SO glad I did. I totally fell in love with it, it was so much fun!!

Christmas Eve was the big party at Monkey where I danced till 5am, swam in the sea in my dress, and acquired a massive hangover. IT WAS GREAT. Christmas Day I went to a beautiful secluded beach and had amazing (really amazing) Thai food with a lovely diving friend Wes and just generally chilled out. A pretty perfect Christmas, although still a bit weird with no family around.

We moved on to Koh Chang for New Years as its a bit more of a party island. It was good fun though I'd definitely recommend Koh Mak as more beautiful and a better holiday place. I could've stayed there for weeks. Or months!! On Koh Chang though I did do my open water diving course to qualify me as able to dive a lot cheaper and the course was pretty fun. I passed on New Years Eve so was reason for celebration.

Koh Chang definitely reminded me more of the party islands of the south and was fun, but maybe somewhere I wouldn't go back. I think I'd just fallen in love with Koh Mak too much!! Plus we'd split off from Harriet and Olivia so it was weird being just a two again!

New Years Day Wes the diver came over as he was heading back to Bangkok the same day as us on the 2nd so we hung out some more and lazed around on the beach for the last beach day. Well, last Thai beach day at least! We headed back to crazy Bangkok for one night only where we had an amazing amazing dinner and the first red wine in months, it was so GOOD!!! Oh my GOD it was good!

Thailand I find gets better each time I visit. I remember going about five years ago and hating it and vowing to never return. That changed in 2011 when Maria and I went to Koh Samet and I thought it wasn't so bad, and now I'm in love again. I can't wait to get back and do some more diving! Ahh Thailand. You were a good place for a luxurious Christmas!

Posted by kbenfield 00:54 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Laos continued...

From he mountains to the plains

We reached Luang Prabang after a journey from Vang Vieng which made nearly the whole mini bus throw up. I have never been on a ride that wound round mountains like this - India and Nepal were both total breezes compared to this!

It at least helped us make further friends and the group grow. By the time we reached Luang Prabang there were 12 of us wandering around looking for accommodation. We found it after walking through alleyways in the dark for what felt forever in a guesthouse I will once again use the word interesting for. But it housed all of us so that was fine!

Luang Prabang is situated way up in the mountains of Laos in such a picturesque setting. As windy as the roads were the scenery was absolutely stunning rivalling that of Nepal. We all went to the most beautiful waterfalls and rock pools on our full day there, and there was even a bear sanctuary which was super exciting!!

We also had an evening bowling which apparently is one of the 'to do' activities in LP, and it was SUCH a fun night! I can now say I truly 100% SUCK at bowling having finished with the lowest score anyone has ever achieved there! But, I think of that as an achievement of sorts!

Unfortunately this was the night I managed to break my iPhone hence no updates until now. Yes, okay, I'll admit it - I was drunk and changed the pass code and forgot it. Retard I know. But that's definitely the only down point of this place. I love Laos, everywhere we've been has been so amazing, and the local people so lovely. And of course all the friends we've been making have helped make the trip too.

So anyway, we were supposed to go into northern Thailand from here but were having such a fun time with two girls - Harriet and Olivia - that we decided to head to southern Laos with them and into Thailand that way instead. We had to get back to Vientiane for a night before making our way down to Thakek.

Now, Thakek doesn't have a great deal going on however you can go on a four day motorbike tour called 'The Loop' to an amazing looking cave. Unfortunately I couldn't really afford this but Harriet wasn't keen either so us two decided to hang out one more night then head further south and meet Olivia and Lauren there. We were quite excited as being art geeks we'd read about Savannakhet and the old architecture and boulevards and I was going to teach Harriet to ride a motorbike. Fantastic we thought!

But of COURSE things were going far too easily. After they'd been gone one night poor Olivia came down sick (maybe the grey chicken she ate?) so was having to be picked up. Okay we thought, we'll wait then get straight on the bus out down to somewhere more interesting than Thakek. But no. They didn't get her till the evening so we couldn't leave. It felt a bit like how people say 'oh it was so amazing we got stuck there' but without the amazing bit. We were just stuck. We actually began to feel a bit like locals, it was kind of fun actually. I'll always have a bit of a soft spot for Thakek.

We eventually made it down to Savannakhet where I totally fell in love. It was so old feeling, the roads were wide, the buildings were kind of crumbling and gorgeous, there were temples, it was just lovely. We were supposed to be meeting Lauren in a couple of days but then heard on our first morning she was already on her way. Poor Miss Mack had come off of her bike the day after Olivia was collected and couldn't complete the loop either. Such a shame! She at least made it to the big cave though!

It was good to all be back together though and we had a few nice days just wandering around the town, I found some land for sale (!), eating REALLY good food - you get raw ingredients, a boiling pot, then you make it yourself at the table - watching the sunset over the river across which stood Thailand and our next destination.

By this point we had convinced Harriet and Olivia to spend Christmas with us yippeeee so we had to get down to Koh Mak sharpish as it was fast approaching. I can't wait to go back to Laos. It's my absolute favourite country within Asia hands down. I love everything about it and cannot recommend it enough people - GO THERE!!

Posted by kbenfield 00:52 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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