Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Facts, favourites and findings

Number of days we were away:
249 days

Number of different beds we slept in:

Number of countries visited:
Kilometres traveled:
51,203 km

Number of countries we planned to visit, but didn't:
1 - Vietnam
Two days before we were due to fly to Hanoi, a massive typhoon hit the country and the majority of places we wanted to visit were flooded. We'll definitely head back that way one day though.

Modes of transport used:
Aeroplane, car, campervan, bus, taxi, train, camel-cart, tuk tuk, elephant, donkey, horse, yacht, rowboat, metro/underground, pick up truck, motorbike, speedboat, songthaew, minivan, monorail, gondola
Countries visited:
New Zealand, USA, France, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Australia

5 places we enjoyed the most:
Goreme - Turkey
Chiang Mai - Thailand
Siem Reap - Cambodia
New York - USA
South Island - New Zealand

4 places we didn't enjoy quite so much:
Luxor - Egypt
Allepo - Syria
Bikaner - India
Batu Ferringgi - Malaysia

Best places we ate at:
On the Rocks - Jodhpur, India
Tanta's - Ao Nang, Thailand
Food hall in the Paragon shopping centre - Bangkok, Thailand
Some random pizza place in East Village - New York, USA

Cheapest place we stayed:
Encore Angkor Guesthouse - Siem Reap, Cambodia
US$24 per night for the 4 of us, including a fantastic breakfast, free wifi, satellite tv, a/c, a pool and staff who adored our kids! (This place also happened to be one of the best places we stayed).

Most expensive place we stayed at:
East Village Bed and Coffee - New York, USA
US$170 per night for the 4 of us, included free use of the kitchen (including free tea/coffee), free wifi, satellite tv and it was in a pretty good location.

Cheapest beer's we bought:
US$0.50 - Siem Reap, Cambodia

Number of times we were ill:
Alain - 2
Nicola - 2
Mia - 0
Dallas - 4

Towns we spent our birthdays in:
Alain - Jaipur, India
Nicola - Anaheim, USA (I went to Disneyland for my 30th, yay...)
Mia - Phuket, Thailand
Dallas - Jerusalem, Israel

Things we discovered whilst on our trip:
That the world isn't a big bad place full of people 'out to get you'. The vast majority of people we encountered were interesting, kind, generous and extremely giving. We had so many random acts of kindness bestowed upon us, that it makes my heart flutter just thinking about them...

Like when we were in Cairo. We arrived at our hotel at round 7.30pm after a long day of travel, only to find that the hotel we had reservations at had no electricity or running water (for whatever reason). There were were, in a strange new city, it was dark, we were all exhausted, we had two huge backpacks to lug around and two small children who hadn't even had dinner yet (and we didn't know where we were going to get some food from either, as it was right in the middle of Ramadan). And now we needed to find somewhere to sleep. We turned to our trusty guidebook to find the nearest hostel and off we trotted...

Upon our arrival at the Sara Hostel, we were warmly greeted by Mohammad (the owner) and when we enquired whether he had room for us, he exclaimed "Yes, yes of course I have room for you, but first, come and have breakfast with us." He then ushered us into the dining room where at least 15 members of his family were all breaking their fast and he wanted us to join them (during Ramadan Muslims sustain from eating, drinking, smoking amongst other things, from sunrise to sunset). It was such a wonderful experience, to be able to share this meal with his family and to be some warmly welcomed, we felt honoured to be allowed to share this ancient tradition with them.

We also discovered that we in the West aren't very accepting/welcoming of children. In the Middle East, India and South East Asia, our children were constantly dotted upon by absolute strangers! Wherever we went, the children would receive alot of attention. People in markets would give them free fruit or trinkets, people on buses or at our hostels would play games with them or just sit and chat. It truly was amazing...

Mia's favourite parts of our trip:
Seeing the Statue of Liberty, patting tiger cubs in Chiang Mai, and seeing her grandparents in France and New Zealand

Dallas' favourite parts of our trip:
Going to Nana's house in NZ and going on the Buzz ride at Disneyland

Would we go again?
In a heartbeat. Without a doubt... Yes! We are actually in talks already about our next big trip. So watch this space...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

That's all Folks

We flew back to Australia today, so our 'Big Trip' has officially come to and end.

I'm sad and don't want it to end...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

South Island road trip

Where we stayed:
Akaroa - Chez la Mer Backpackers
Queenstown - Mercure Queenstown
Franz Josef - Rainforest Retreat
Christchurch - Chirstchurch Ibis

After a few days in Hamilton settling the kids in at my Mums place, Alain and I flew down south to Christchurch to embarked on an awesome 10 day road trip. After 9 months of having the kids with us 24/7 we were relishing the idea of some 'kid free' time and getting to do what we wanted, when we wanted.

Our first port of call was to Akaroa, the quaint little French influenced village situated on Banks Peninsula. It's a beautiful wee town and you can understand why French settlers chose to stay here, the bay is breathtaking, especially when the sun dances upon the water as it sets.

We were extremely lucky to also spot a couple of Hector dolphins frolicking in the water not too far from the shore, whilst we enjoyed our dinner at one of the many wonderful cafes in Akaroa. We had a wonderful 2 days here and we'd go back in a heartbeat given the chance.

From Akaroa we made out way down to Lake Tekapo (via a brief stop in Ashburton to pick up some thermals, lol). Nothing really prepares you for your first glimpse of the lake. You drive around a corner and then suddenly, wham... there is is. The most amazing body of water I think I've ever seen, the colour is kind of difficult to describe, it's just awesome! We spent about a hour or so at the lake taking pictures of the church and beautiful surrounding landscape, skimming stones and being goofballs before continuing on to Twizel.

We originally planned on staying in Twizel for the night, but upon our arrive we saw that there isn't a hell of a lot to do there and since we still had so many hours of daylight left, we decided to push on to Queenstown (a decision we are very pleased we made).

We both instantly fell in love with Queenstown. It is a beautiful wee town nestled in between some awesome mountains which reflect off the splendid lake which the town is built around. Yes, Queenstown is touristy, but it is still charming nonetheless. It is has great shopping and lots of wonderful restaurants and bars (which we frequented regularly, of course).

We filled our days in Queenstown with touristy stuff, like going up the skyline gondola and zooming back down the hill on the luge. We went for nature walks (up very very steep hills) and were rewarded with splendid views and we enjoyed leisurely lunches which included a few bevvies (think Montheiths, Speights & Macs and you get the idea of the type of lunches these were). We did a day trip out to Arrowtown and enjoyed wandering around the beautifully manicured town, and we even stopped in a a winery on the return trip to pick up some wine.

We also booked ourselves onto one of the many bus tours which take you down to Milford Sound. Luckily for us, we chose a really good company and we had an excellent tour. Our leader Bruce was a classic Kiwi bloke, full of great information and a few tall tales to boot. I'm glad we didn't drive ourselves down like we originally planned, as we (or should I say Alain) would have missed so much of the beautiful scenery. It's breathtaking and well worth the long journey.

From Queenstown we headed up to Fox and Franz Josef glaciers (via Wanaka and Haast Pass). This leg of our trip was definitely a highlight for us, the scenery is amazing... We were lucky enough to have a break in the weather, so we quickly paid a visit to Fox Glacier. Alain and I were the only ones there walking around in shorts and jandals (we did have jerseys on though, so it wasn't that bad) and I'm sure all the other tourist thought we were nuts. Seriously, who visits a glacier in jandals???

From Fox Glacier we quickly went and walked around Lake Matteson, unfortunately though, it had started to drizzle and was really overcast, so we were unable to get any good reflection photographs... Oh well, thems the breaks.

From Franz Josef, we headed to Greymouth, with the intention of visiting the Monteith's brewery. Unfortunately, the buggers wouldn't let us in, so we thought bugger it, lets got to Christchurch... We made the wonderful journey across Arthurs Pass, and stopped for a good old fashion pie in the township. We watched some of the local kea's attacking a few cars and counted ourselves lucky that they didn't go near our beast...

We didn't do a hell of a lot in Christchurch, truth be told. We went to the Saturday market at the racecourse, and we also spend a day at the beach in Sumner and that's about the extent of the excitement... We did however find a lovely little French restaurant called Le Croix Blanc down one of the alleyways, and we enjoyed a rather boozy and very expensive lunch there (is it still called lunch if you arrive a 1.00pm and don't leave until 5.00pm?).

We had an awesome 10 days down south, and I highly recommend a road trip down there to everyone. It was fab and it made me remember why I love my country so much. New Zealand... You rock!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homeward bound

We decided a few weeks ago that we would cut our big trip slightly short and head back to Australia early, seeing as we now were going back to New Zealand for Christmas (thanks to some cheap airline tickets). So from Kuala Lumpur we caught another VIP bus which took us down to Singapore, just in time to catch our return flight to Australia. We didn't want to linger in Singapore as we've been here before and already done most of the sights already.

After a rather uneventful flight we were finally back on Australian soil. It was lovely being back at home. Dad and Lyn were there to greet us and it was wonderful to finally see some people that we knew after so long on the road. The kids were so excited to see their cousins too, it was wonderful.

After 10 days back in Australia just relaxing, recovering and a wee bit of travelling (we went up to Mooloolaba for a night), we jumped on board yet another plane and headed to New Zealand... To Nana.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kuala Lumpur

Where we stayed - Impiana Hotel & Spa

From Penang we caught a 'Super VIP' bus down to Kuala Lumpur. It was less that $40 for the four of us to travel in absolute luxury, and boy, it was awesome! The chairs were electronic and you could adjust them to your liking, you could even enjoy a gentle massage if you so desired. We each had individual tv screens with numerous channels and also nintendo games (much to the kids delight)... If ever you get the chance to go on a Super VIP bus, you soooo have to do it!!

We decided that since we were coming to the end of our trip we'd splash out and stay at a really nice hotel. Luckily for us, we got a superb rate at Impiana. It was so good infact, that instead of staying 3 days like we originally planned, we ended up staying 10 days! The King of Malaysia even graced our hotel with his presence. It was quite surreal seeing the police and bodyguards crawling all over the place, and as for the red carpet, well you can only imagine how impressed Mia was with that!

We really didn't do too much in KL. We spend our days splashing in the pool, playing in the awesome park at KLCC and wandering around in the blissfully air conditioned shopping centres. We ventured up to the viewing deck of the Petronas towers and enjoyed the stunning views of the city, but the most enjoyable thing we did was spend time in the awesome food courts!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Batu Ferringgi

Where we stayed - Some right old shit hole!

What a disappointment Batu Ferringgi was! We'd heard that this place had Penangs best beaches, so we thought we'd head there for a few days of relaxing. WRONG! This place is a right old dump.

The township basically consist of one main road which has 4-5 star hotels which we couldn't afford lining the waterfront side of the road and crappy old dilapidated buildings which we didn't want to stay in lining the other. The beach is nothing to brag about, it is full of people trying to get you onto dodgy looking jet-ski's or horses and there are idiots zooming up and down the beach on quad bikes like it's a main highway...

If you are after a nice beach holiday, don't come here. Go anywhere, but here... We lasted less than 24 hours in this town, and even then it was a total waste of our time. The only redeeming factor of this place is that we found an Indian restaurant which served the best Indian we've had outside of India, oh, and the troop of monkeys we saw walking along the power lines whilst we waited for our early morning bus out of Batu Ferringgi.

*** Sorry there are no photos, it was just too crap to justify using up important space on our memory card ***

Saturday, November 14, 2009

George Town

Where we stayed - Sunway Georgetown

From Ao Nang, we booked ourselves onto a rather full and rather cramped minivan which would take us all the way over the Thai/Malay border to Penang. It was a long, boring trip and nothing exciting happened. The kids coped amazingly well, despite the 10 hours of travel. They're such good little travellers, we are so lucky!

Georgetown is alright, I suppose. It's nothing like what I thought it would be though, it's more Chinese that what I had imagined. We visited numerous temples, all of which are elaborately designed and decorated and all had the hugest incents burning I've ever seen. We also wandered around a museum dedicated to Penangs first settlers (the name of which escapes me at the moment).

Malaysia has quite the melting pot of ethnicity's. If you sit and watch the people on the streets, it isn't long before you'll spot a Muslim women in full burka walk along side ladies of Chinese decent who are wearing skirts which can be mistaken for belts. Yet, on the surface, they all seem to live in relative harmony.

Since Penang is well know for it's street food, it comes as no surprise that our evening meals always came from the vendors lining our street. We sent Alain out into the torrential rain to get our supper and he always returned with mountains of freshly prepared delicacy's, much to our delight.