India. It’ll invoke every emotion you have in a single day. It’s enthralling. It’s exhausting. It’s intense. I love it!!!

I’m so glad that we changed our itinerary to include some countryside stops in India. It seemed for a while that seeing something incredible had become normal. It got harder to impress us, as we’d been aesthetically spoilt beyond belief - a sign it was definitely time to go home. But the Indian countryside blew my mind despite all that. And yet again, the photos don’t do it justice.

Kodaikanal, a hill station town up in the clouds, is just beautiful. I’m sure I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ll ever look down on the clouds in my life, whilst having my feet planted firmly on solid ground. It’s quiet, and cool, and green, and lush and welcoming. It was the first place on this whole trip that I could get Rich to sit still in a park, just to people-watch. It’s a mesmerising place.


When you plan to go to a "Wonder of the world", you get the idea that it's probably going to be pretty great, but that you're going to have to deal with a LOT of other tourists when you get there. With the Great Wall, we had heard mixed things, but did a lot of research into which was the right place to see it, and it really paid off since we got an amazing stretch of the wall with barely anyone on it. The Taj Mahal isn't quite such a big place, so we were resigned to the idea that we'd have to share it with thousands of other visitors.

Abby doesn't feel comfortable wearing her vests in India (Nobody dresses like that here, so I don't blame her) so she decided she needed some more tops that cover a bit more up. We went to Cotton World in Chennai, and she got this. I'll be taking bets on whether she'll ever wear it again once we're home...

That's all!

I was completely expecting to have a marmite reaction to India, as I'd heard from people that love it and people that hate it, but not really anywhere in between. I wasn't really expecting to love it AND hate it. So far I've loved it, hated it, loved it again and then not liked it all that much. Right now though, I think it's fine. Just fine.

I actually wrote this post a few days ago, but we haven't had reliable enough internet for me to get the photos uploaded to go with it, so sorry for the delay!

While the chaos of Myanmar was endearing, it was also tiring. We decided on having a 2 week break for Christmas and new year in Jomtien, near Pattaya (Thailand).

Burma (or Myanmar, as it's now known) is a magical place. There is no other way to describe it. Entry to the country by land is intentionally made difficult for tourists, so along with a plane load of people we arrived at Yangon airport on 25th November, with absolutely no idea what to expect from the next 3 weeks bouncing around the country. What happened in those 3 weeks made us feel like we were on another planet entirely.

Before we get into this, it's worth knowing the following: Myanmar has two names. Well, it has one name, but the British government don't recognise it under the name Myanmar, which most of the rest of the world knows it as, so they still call it Burma, which explains why most people at home have never heard of Myanmar. Myanmar's biggest city, and former Capital, Yangon is apparently also known as Rangoon. I honestly don't know why that is, and when I asked our taxi driver about why it's sometimes called Rangoon, he seemed like he'd never even heard the name (I've since Googled it to find out for myself, but didn't find an answer straight away, and it's nicer to try to find these things out from local people if you can anyway - I will get to the bottom of it!). For the sake of avoiding any issues, I'll stick with Yangon and Myanmar from now on.

Our first night in Myanmar turned out to be a really interesting one, and an opportunity for some cool photos. We're staying in Yangon to start with, and we didn't realise until we went out to get dinner and saw what was going on, but we're here right in the middle of the Tazaugdine light festival, which goes on for the next few days. The streets were closed to vehicles, and jammed full of people, market stalls, street food and fairground rides. Here are the photos...


Anyone who is friends with us on facebook should know by now that we got married yesterday. Some others reading this won't be facebook users, but hopefully we've already told you via another channel, or word has reached you through someone else. If not - exciting news! We got married! Anyway, here's a blog post about it, to give you a bit more background...

Having said goodbye to Dee, we spent a few days wondering around Saigon just soaking it all up. We both love this city, for reasons that are hard to explain but I'll give it a go. The people here are lovely. The locals find you as interesting and curious as you find them. The city buzzes all day and all night, and somehow it doesn't get old. It feels alive with all the people that are living there, rushing around (or not!) in the craziest rush hour traffic you'll ever see. People socialise, cook, eat, sleep, do business, laugh, cry, love and live their whole lives right there on the pavements. And they wear that wide Vietnamese grin while they're doing it. Ever seen someone taking a nap on their parked motorbike, perfectly horizontal? Been run down by motorised traffic on the pavement? Walked straight out into incoming traffic to cross the road? No? Go to Saigon! It's just such a great, energetic place, I miss it already.

For those of you who don't already know, Rich's mum Dee came out to meet us in Cambodia during her half term break from work. This week was so busy, and poor Dee must've gone home exhausted after her holiday! But we all loved it, and a quick tour around Cambodia with Dee beats taking it slowly any day. Here's a quick summary of what we got up to this week:

Getting back to Thailand really felt like arriving back home. From the abundance of 7-Eleven convenience shops (where everything is clearly priced!), to the cars driving on the right side of the road, to the usable pavements, to the English-language signs and friendliness of everyone we meet. Everything just works, it's so good! It's hard to explain, but there is a definite Western feel to most of Thailand, but with the added bonus of Eastern warmth and exciting colours and flavours everywhere you turn.

I thought I'd put up a really quick post summarising the journey so far - The map shows the countries we've visited this year.

Since Cambodia was next on our list of places to go, we knew we needed to head south, and because we were in Luang Prabang, if we went south through Laos, it'd have to be back through the places we'd just come from. So, we decided instead to head west into Thailand, first to Chiang Rai (where we are now), then Chiang Mai and Bangkok, before getting to Siem Reap.

Once we knew where we wanted to go, it was a case of deciding how to get there. The decision became easy as soon as we knew about the boat though.

This was recommended to us by Abby's dad (Thanks Chris!). We took a trip up to Kuang Si Waterfall, by flagging down a tuc-tuc outside our hotel. We'd originally wanted to hire a bike and get their on our own - it's generally a much better way to do things if you can, because you can do everything at your own pace. Unfortunately in Luang Prabang bike hire is about 3 times what you'd expect to pay elsewhere in S.E. Asia. At first we thought people were trying to rip us off, but it turns out it's because the government occasionally bans bike hire here, and so during the times that it's not banned, they have to charge more. Interestingly the reason it's sometimes banned is because a lot of the hire companies will take the spare key to your hotel, and steal the bike back off you, so it's their own fault... Anyway, we took a tuc-tuc.

After pulling up and paying 20,000 kip (about £1.60) each to get in, the first thing we came across was a sanctuary for bears rescued from the Chinese medicine industry, who kept them caged for their bile. The were quite a few bears, but they were a little shy (understandably), so I didn't get that many photos. Still, I'm happy with this one.

I'm really not a big fan of markets in general. It's the crowds and tight spaces mainly - I just don't like being bumped into constantly, and having to fight my way through to where I want to go. However, Abby keeps dragging me to them, and so I have had to find a way to like them. Thankfully I have - they're a great chance to take photos! Here are some that I took this evening at the night market in Luang Prabang, Laos.

My favourite photo from tonight was this one of a lady using her tablet. Life in Asia is different from at home in almost every way, however one thing thing remains constant everywhere you go - people are glued to the internet! There's so much going on around her, and she's got a stall to run (or a floor space, anyway) but she hardly ever looks up from the screen. Just like home!

I can't remember if I was even aware that Laos existed before we started planning this trip, but I'll definitely always remember my time here, and not just for the awful bus ride getting here (which is something I'd rather forget!).

I'd like to say the main reason I'll always remember Laos is because of the beautiful scenery, or the friendly people. Both of those are enough on their own, but the main thing I'll remember about Laos is what we learned about its tragic history.

1. Can I eat this pot noodle with a spoon?

2. What day is it?

3. I wish that guy would stop snoring.

4. I hope there are some English speakers on my tour.

5. Can I use shampoo to wash my clothes?

Part two of the Vietnam story is all about our 23 hour bus ride from Hue in Vietnam, to Vientiane in Laos. This journey has been dubbed "The Bus Ride From Hell" by many an intrepid traveller, but we got cocky. Plus, we didn't have a great deal of choice.

So, Vietnam. Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam. What a story. I'm not even sure where to start. I'll tell this story in two parts, as there's so much to cover! First up, the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

We spent another week in the Philippines after the last blog, but we were both a bit ill by that point from malaria tablets and not having had any rest or decent sleep for months, so we took the week off and rested/recuperated. Then we flew to Vietnam, and wow!!!

Our journey to get to Vietnam was a bit of a trek. First we took a tricycle (motorbike with a sidecar and roof) from our hotel, which was supposed to get us to the bus station. I think the tricycles might be my favorite thing about the Philippines. They're so tiny, the sidecars, but they still cram an ungodly amount of people/things into and onto them, and take them miles all for the cost of peanuts. So our first leg was by tricycle, but one of the tyres of our tricycle decided it had taken too much abuse, and gave out half way to the bus station.

After leaving Brunei, we received 8 new passport stamps (yes, 8!) crossing borders getting back into Malaysia. Our passports are a bit of a mess now, and almost half full.

We bumped into a guy called Abu while we were wondering around yesterday, and just randomly got chatting. He then invited us to a Hari Raya (feast) at his house today. We were a bit nervous about it (no idea what to expect, and not really certain whether he really wanted us there or was just being friendly!).

We decided to be brave, and went along. What an amazing decision! We turned up and were greeted by some kids playing out the front of the house, then some women inside welcomed us (with no idea who we were - there were a LOT of people there!) and led us through to the back, an outside decking area, hanging over the river. On the decking Abu said hi, and dished up some Bruneian noodle soup for us both, explaining why he's having the Hari Raya, and what's in the food etc.

After waiting patiently in Kuching for two days, for a cheaper flight to Miri, we arrived at Miri airport (still in Malaysia). Our guesthouse had sent someone to collect us from the airport for 20 ringgit, and from the minute we got into the car to the minute we closed the door to our room behind us, we had a barrage of information thrown at us from every direction. About anything we could possibly need to know, and some we didn't! I highly recommend Dillenia Guesthouse! Mrs Lee was basically acting as a travel agent for every one of her guests, as well as giving the personal touch to every aspect of staying in her guesthouse. This lady deserves a medal, and looking at her collection of certificates from Trip Advisor, she can't be far off! We ended up taking a day trip to Niah Caves, at Niah National Park, in a private taxi with another couple at the Guesthouse.

We thought Malaysia was civilised for this part of the world, but it's got nothing on Singapore! It's the cleanest, and best thought out city we've been to yet. All the bright lights and crazy buildings of Shanghai, but none of the smells, and a LOT less people. I really liked it.

We turned up in the evening, and checked straight into the worst hostel we've been to yet (don't get me started!) but it had some plus points. One was the rooftop terrace - despite the jaccuzi that you would definitely not want to get into! Some great views around at the other buildings, and our first taste f how Singapore loves to light everything up at night.

Blogging is so quick and easy. I really don't know why I'm not able to keep up. It means that this is a bit of a marathon blog, so I'm sorry about that!

Rich's last blog came from Satun in Thailand, and now we're in Malacca, Malaysia, having visited Langkawi, Georgetown, Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur in between. I've gotta say it, I adore Malaysia! Each and every one of the places we've been to here has been absolutely gorgeous, and I've no doubt the places we still have left to see will be too.

Thought I'd put together a quick collection of a few bits we've missed off the blog over the last 3 weeks...

Koh Tao

On the east side of Koh Tao, at Tanote Bay, there are these trees that are completely covered in butterflies. It's an amazing site, and gave me a really good chance to take some photos.

We TOTALLY hit the jackpot with the first resort we stayed at on Koh Tao. Well, I did anyway. After spending months using kettles in shared kitchens or common areas, we got to Montalay Beach Resort in Koh Tao and I nearly cried at the sight of a kettle in our room. Nay, not just a kettle, but a tea/coffee making station, all stocked up with tea, coffee, sugar, cups and bottled water (which obviously went straight in the kettle every day - sorry Rich!). I can't tell you how happy this made me! I could reminisce all day, but I don't think even that would help you understand how exciting it was. So, I'll reluctantly move on...

This blog comes to you from an overnight coach from Bangkok to, err, somewhere we then get on a ferry to Koh Tao. I'm not sure how long we'll be on this coach for, but it's surprisingly comfy so it'd be quite nice if it's all night. It's funny how much your standards change after spending 5 days on a train.

Where are all the women?! Seriously?! I must have slept in all these "mixed-sex" dorms with at least sixty different men by now. And do you know how many women have chosen to join these dorms? Two. Just two. What. The. Hell.

We'd heard before we left that a lot of internal flights in China get delayed. This is apparently because the Chinese Air Force control the skies, and are happy to delay domestic flights as and when they please. So, it was no surprise that our flight from Beijing to Shanghai was delayed. What was a surprise is how much hassle that actually caused us - every person on that flight had to queue up t the ticket office to get their tickets changed. Lots of angry people!

That meant we arrived in Shanghai fairly late in the day, and so we didn't get out until it was getting dark. We went to the Bund, which is a big area of shops and restaurants along the river. As we got closer, we started to see the tops of some huge and crazy looking buildings - Maybe getting to Shanghai late was more of a blessing than a curse - they look amazing at night.

The first time I wore flip flops out in Beijing, I was really surprised that, in this heat, no-one else seemed to be wearing them. Now I know why.

It has to be said, I very much doubt that anyone will ever be able to match the hospitality that has been shown to us here in Mongolia. What incredible people.

So! We had quite an uneventful time in Irkutsk, our last stop in Russia. Obviously we had a good look around the city, but sadly the plans we had to go to Lake Baikal didn't happen, as poor Rich had a funny tummy. It was very nice to have a rest from all the sightseeing though, and catch up on a lot of sleep.

Being on a train for 5 days is hard work. For one thing there's the lack of sleep. There are loads of reasons for the lack of sleep: being bounced up and down constantly, lights from towns and other trains shining in the windows all night long, going through 5 different time zones, inconsiderate cabin-mates... I could go on.

So, we've just spent 4/5 days on the train getting from Moscow to Irkutsk, and I'm learning that jet lag is still possible even when you travel that slowly over land. Not. Fair.

So on our arrival at Moscow a random stranger gave us a pass for the metro with 10 rides left on it, and when we got to the hostel we were ushered into the kitchen for a free cup of tea (with milk!) and given free apples. We were also offered free plastic cups when we asked where we could buy them for the train journey ahead. First impressions; I love Moscow! 

So me and Rich got up at 4:30am (2:30am UK time), to catch the train to St Petersburg this morning. Yes, it was horrible.

The Bridge of Love in Helsinki. This is just down the road from our hostel, and we cross it every time we go out anywhere.

Couples write their names on a padlock and lock it to the bridge, then throw the key into the river below.

Love Bridge, Helsinki

Checked out Helsinki train station today, to make sure we know where we're going on Saturday (don't wanna miss our train!). It's actually a pretty awesome looking train station. A huge old building. Might take some more photos of it when we go back, but here's a quick one I took from by the platform today...

Helsinki Train Station

Less than 24hrs in, and despite all our careful planning, we've already discovered something we need but don't have - Turns out hostels don't always have cups. We've managed to source milk, sugar and tea bags, and the kitchen even has a kettle, but there are no cups.

Why is it that when your alarm goes off to let you know that it's time to get up for work, your mind refuses point blank to pay any attention. But when you have a whole load of nothing to get on with, 4am is suddenly a perfectly reasonable time for your body to wake up...