TL;DR January

Welcome to 2017!! We have had an amazing month after seeing in the new year watching the fireworks over Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Top Posts For January

We appreciate every single view, like and comment we get whether that’s on the blog, or on any of the social medias. Our top three posts this month based on viewing figures are (drum roll please);

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This month our top post is still about the amazing time we had in Miami. In fact, it accounts for over half of the views we’ve received this month. The next on the list is all about free things to do in Las Vegas, and in number 3 is all about the award we were nominated for!

Where We’ve Been

We started the month out in Sydney, watching those fireworks over the Bridge. Since then, we travelled down to Melbourne and then back up through Sydney along the East Coast. We’re currently hanging out about halfway between Brisbane and Cairns.

Celebrations

New Year is a brilliant celebration that can just about get away with being in two months. You can read more about the time we had celebrating the New Year in a coming blog post (so keep your eyes peeled).

About four years ago we were the only people in attendance at our friends’ wedding. This month we had the privilege of picking them up at Sydney airport to move them from Bristol to their new life on the NSW-Victoria border. We also discovered they don’t read our blog, so I did debate whether or not to mention them.

Australia Day is a bit contentious, celebrating the day that the English arrived to establish the penal colony. These days it’s mostly just a good excuse to have a day off and get out in the sun with the family. We had a brilliant time in Brisbane, and nearly won a $100 bar tab playing beer pong.

Best Bits

  • Having a surf lesson near Byron Bay (because the waves at Byron were tiny!)
  • Camping in the Blue Mountains.
  • Wine tasting in the Hunter Valley.
  • Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Worst Bit

Driving in the dark trying to find campsites that don’t exist, and also nearly running out of petrol.

Top Instagram Picture

Money Roundup

We split our spending into 5 categories; Accommodation, Food and groceries, Activities, Travel and Miscellaneous.

In January, we spent £158 ($199) on four nights in hostels and one night at a campsite. The rest of the time we have been staying at free campsites, housesitting or being put up by very kind friends.

This month we spent nearly as much money on alcohol as we did on groceries (oops!). Food and groceries was definitely was highest expense this month, reaching £447 ($563).

We have been doing some pretty cool things this month, but we do love a freebie. Our activities total only came to £96 ($120), but I have a feeling it will skyrocket next month.

The biggest expense in our travel category this month is undoubtedly petrol. But we have driven 3,500 miles so I’m not terribly surprised. It’s usually one of our lowest categories, but this month we have spent £295 ($371). We did also buy our flights home earlier this month, but we don’t count that in our monthly totals.

Finally, our miscellaneous category total came to £49 ($62). This include a couple of camping things, and two lots of washing.

In total, in January we spent £1045 ($1315), which is probably a little less than we would normally spend in a month in the UK. Having such a low accommodation cost has meant that we can be a little freer in some of the other categories than maybe we would normally be.

WHERE NEXT?

Our flight to the UK is booked on the 26th February, so January really was our last full month of travelling (although I’m sure we won’t be fully recovered until March). We are finishing our time in Australia off with a bang, finishing our East Coast road trip by sailing the Whitsundays and diving the Great Barrier Reef.

What have you been up to in January? Let us know in the comments below!

Hotel Review: Frangipani Royal Palace | Cambodia

Phnom Penh is an absolute must on the circuit of South East Asia. On the banks of the Tonle Sap River stands the Royal Palace, the official residence of the King od Cambodia since the 1860s. We were lucky enough to spend our time in Phnom Penh at the Frangipani Hotel, which has a beautiful view over the palace, as well as the river.

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From the second we walked in the door, we were greeted with friendly faces and smiles. We cooled off with wet towels and a complimentary orange juice. Our bags were taken from us and delivered to our rooms, which is a bit of a shock when you’re used to carrying everything up 3 flights of stairs – I’m looking at you Italy!

Our room had a gorgeous view of Wat Ounalom and the river further out. Relaxing in the bathroom was one of my personal favourite things. It felt like a spa, the calm blue walls exuded serenity with the vibrant pops of colour ensuring I didn’t fall asleep in the bath.

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There is so much to do in Phnom Penh and a lot of it can be reached on foot from the hotel. For the things that are slightly further out, there are always tuk tuk drivers on hand to whisk you around the city.

See our 48 hour in Phnom Penh Guide here.

One of the most spectacular bits about this hotel is sitting in the rooftop pool, preferably in the bubbly bit, sipping an happy hour cocktail and watching the sunset over the city.

The bed was cloud soft and you could melt into it after a hard day of sightseeing. The wifi was great for streaming and skyping, anything that you could possibly want it for.

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The next morning we awoke fresh and eager and headed up to the restaurant to fill up on cooked breakfast, freshly cooked eggs, fruit cereal and the all important coffee. Then we set off onto the streets to discover what Cambodia has to offer (which is a lot by the way).

Many, many thanks to D’s parents for treating us to the Frangipani Hotel while we were in Cambodia. Thank you!

What did you make of Phnom Penh when you visited? Any hotel recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Something that is on thousands of bucket lists across the world is seeing the sights of Sydney from on high. In fact, it was on our bucket list from the beginning. Sitting in a cold kitchen in the UK in December 2015, we were so generously promised tickets to climb the Sydney Harbour bridge as a Christmas present the following year.

We could barely even comprehend all the things we would see between the two points. How much of the world we would have travelled. We’ve seen Machu Picchu and Las Vegas since that moment we were clutching our coffee to stop our fingers going numb.

Still, the day we woke up to climb the Harbour Bridge was a magical one. Full of excitement and tinglyness. It kind of marked the beginning of the end. Ticking off all the most important (for us) things to do in Australia would mark the end of our fantastic year abroad.

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Arriving at the bridge climb centre, there were so many people milling about. Those that had been up and come down, and those who were excited to begin the ascent. The Centre is in the middle of the Rocks district in Sydney, which is an awesome place to hang out for the day. Just make sure you eat something before the climb and don’t partake in any afternoon beers in the sun (yes, they DO breathalyse you). breath

We filled in our disclaimer forms and then climbed into our very attractive blue boiler suits and then replaced our flip flops with the trainers we had brought with us. We stuffed everything else into a locker because unfortunately you can’t take anything up there.

After being taken to a warehouse next door, we were fitted with harnesses, radios, hats and a hankie. Everything has to be attached to you using cables – to make sure they don’t fly off into the distance. Thankfully, everyone passed the initial test of a practice course using the harness safety system.

Our guide, Sam, was a fantastic guy. He remembered all of our names after hearing them once and was knowledgeable and frankly, hilarious. He got us all to line up and then we hooked ourselves onto the safety system. It’s designed so that once you hook on, you can’t get off again for the next two hours – so make sure you choose who you’re next to wisely!

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We walked under the bridge for a while, marveling at the roads below and the lapping of the water against the harbour walls. There were a few tight squeezes, but everyone managed.

Then, we started to climb. First up several ladders to take us to the top side of the bridge. Once we were there, we were standing on the arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge! The view was already incredible, but we still had to make it to the highest point by climbing more stairs.

Sam stopped us occasionally to tell us about the history of the bridge, or Sydney in general. There were plenty of opportunities for photos, but sadly we had not been allowed to take our camera with us. We received one group shot for free, but were required to pay for the others.

We finally reached the top and stopped for a moment to cheer and congratulate ourselves on a great achievement. Some people had been nervous to start with, and others had gradually started getting anxious as we got further from the ground.

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All good things come to and end and we made our way down the other side. The sun was just starting to set and the sky was turning a beautiful orange colour. We stripped off all of our gear (although we got to keep the hat) and I was surprised to find myself incredibly pleased to be back on solid ground.

All in all it was a fantastic experience and we are eternally grateful to my Mum who generously gifted us the tickets.

Have you climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge? What did you think? What has been your biggest bucket list cross-off to date? Let us know in the comments below!

   
 

Restaurant Review | Lord of the Fries – Sydney

Meal times can often be an absolute nightmare for us. Between our lack of any ability to make any decision, plus our complete inability to spend money added to the fact that meat is a complete no go for us (well me), we wind up getting frustrated and hot, grumpy and hungry.

So it was an absolute delight to happen upon Lord of the Fries in Sydney. Despite reminding me of the honestly terrifying book our GCSE class was forced to study, it turned out to be a fantastic oasis in the concrete jungle that is Sydney CBD.

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The red and white interior is definately reminiscent of an American Diner – but without the grease, lard and sad cows.

LotF offers a completely vegetarian fast food option that is filling, great value and available at 12 locations across Australia. Plus, it’s friggin’ delicious.

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Simply choose a burger or hotdog, fries, a sauce and any other sides you might like. These are perfectly and thoughfully formed, not your usual veggie burger. There’s also things like Phish and chips, nuggets and vegan milkshakes.

It’s absolutely a place you should check out, whether you’re a veggie or omnivore. D loved his hotdog so much it was gone before I could even take a picture!

What’s your favourite go-to lunch option? Any veggie places you think we should try? Let us know n the comments below!

  

 

48 hours in Kuala Lumpur – An Itinerary

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia and is known as the Garden City of Lights. It’s a sprawling metropolis and a gateway to the rest of Asia, with approximately 50 million passengers passing through it’s airport each year.

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There is so much to do and see in this amazing city that 2 days just wouldn’t be enough. But if that’s all the time you’ve got to see Kuala Lumpur, check out this 48 hour itinerary to make sure you see the best KL has to offer.

Day 1 – arrive in kuala lumpur

Early afternoon and you’ve arrived in Kuala Lumpur; Drop your luggage off at your hotel/hostel and get out to see the city. What better place to start than where it all began?! A few minutes from the road from where Kuala Lumpur was established, you’ll find Merderka (Independence) Square, one of the best known landmarks in KL. The square is surrounded by beautiful architecture from the city’s colonial past. Take some time to enjoy the surroundings and read the info boards.

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Kuala Lumpur or “Muddy Confluence” started here where the Gombak and Klang Rivers meet.

Feeling hungry? Head over to Jalan Alor for a truly Malaysian food experience. The street is lined with hawker food stalls selling so many varieties of food you’ll want to revisit.

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In the evening make your way to KLCC to see what everyone comes to see: The Petronas Towers. Get your camera ready to capture those Instagram-worthy photos of the Malaysian Twin Towers which we think look way better at night. If you want a bird’s eye view of the city by night, why not book a tour for just MYR85 per adult, approximately £15 or $19.

day 2 – full day to explore

Kuala Lumpur - Batu CavesStart the day nice and early. Grab some breakfast at your hotel/hostel, jump on the train and head to Batu Caves. Just 11km north of the city, this limestone outcrop consists of three big caves containing Hindu shrines and temples.  A great opportunity to find out more about one of Malaysia’s main religions and grab some awesome photos. Warning: the steep 272 stair climb is not the faint-hearted and make sure you wear appropriate clothing.

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After an hour or so, head back to the city.  Pay a visit to the beautiful and peaceful Botannical Gardens and enjoy some down time.

Now to grab some lunch; Head to the trendy Burkit Bintang area of KL for some healthy but delicious vegetarian food. Simple Life, located on the 2nd floor of the Lot 10 shopping mall serves amazingly fragrant and tasty meals which are organic, natural and nutritious. From noodle and rice dishes, to set menu hot pots and salads

Kuala Lumpur - Time Square Mall

The rest of the your afternoon will be taken up exploring the Berjaya Times Square mall. If there’s one thing there is no shortage of in Malaysia, it’s shopping malls. Times Square is a behemoth. Based over 10 floors containing hundreds of shops, food outlets, a multi-screen cinema, a 48 lane bowling alley, an Escape Room and Malaysia’s largest indoor theme park suitable for the whole family, there is no end of entertainment.

Having exhausted yourself traipsing round a mall, head back to your hotel/hostel for a quick rest and a shower. Put your glad rags on and head back out to Burkit Bintang and find Jalan Ceylon. Pick a table order some drinks and some food and party the night away!

Day 3 – last chance to see the sights

Hopefully you’re not all “shopped-out” yet. There are still two places you should definitely visit whilst you can in Kuala Lumpur. Head to Central Market to pick up some authentic Malaysian souvenirs. This is an indoor market with shops across two floors. There are also some stalls along the street outside.

Kuala Lumpur - Petaling Street

No visit to Kuala Lumpur would be complete without hitting up Petaling Street. At the heart of China Town this street is lined with shops, market stalls, cafes and hostels. The goods on offer may not be 100% authentic, but you can definitely grab a bargain or two! There is also plenty of stalls offering hot and cold food so you can grab an early lunch or late breakfast.

Have you been to Kuala Lumpur? What was your favourite thing to do? Do you think we missed off any “must-do’s”? Get in touch in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

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Quirks of…Vietnam

It’s time for another “Quirks” post.  This time I’ll be highlighting some of the Vietnam quirks we spotted.  Unfortunately we had some camera issues whilst we were there; our memory card decided to corrupt resulting in most of our pictures looking like this:-

In spite of this…onward! Vietnam, the famous home of Ho Chi Minh; the location of the infamous Vietnam War (or American War, depending on whom you talk to) and now a bustling tourist destination.  We enjoyed our whistle-stop, two week trip down through Vietnam taking in six different locations and we spotted plenty of oddities.

Without further ado, onto the Vietnam quirks!
The Hats

I thought I would start with the most obvious!. The triangle hat; or as it’s known in Vietnam – Non lá, meaning leaf hat.  This hat, the stereotypical image of a Vietnamese person, isn’t just a stereotype.  Lots of people wear them, and not just out in the rice fields.  Walking around the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll see many a street seller and scooter rider wearing these! I ended up posing (and paying for) a picture wearing one whilst carrying two baskets of food across my shoulders.  Unfortunately this is one of the photos that fell victim to memory card corruption. That’s VND30,000/£1 down the drain!

The Buildings

Vietnam was heavily bombed during the aforementioned conflict and one side effect of this is plenty of space to build.  However, despite this they appear to have been very economical when designing buildings, as lots of them are really narrow! Even when they’re completely on their own and not wedged between other buildings, they are still built really skinny.  Quirky eh?!

The Language

Normally I try to avoid this obvious ‘difference’ as it is not a quirk, merely a part their being foreign to us.  However the Vietnamese language is quirky due to its influences.  As a result of more than 1,000 years of Chinese rule, Vietnam used to use symbols to depict its language. The sound of the language is also very reminiscent of Chinese.  Now it uses a Latin alphabet and the Vietnamese words, influenced by French (due to its occupation in the 19th and 18th centuries) can be quite quirky, including words such as “Ca Phe”, meaning Cafe.

Scooters, scooters, and electric bikes.

In a previous post I stated that the large number of scooters/mopeds was a quirk of Thailand. Compared to Vietnam, Thailand is a scooter free zone! Arriving in Hanoi all you will see is scooters, absolute hoards of them, in a non-stop line. On the roads; on the pavements; everywhere. But not just scooters. There is also a large number of electric bikes being ridden, which in the UK would be an oddity.  Surprisingly crossing the road is actually quite easy, you just walk slowly at the same pace and they manoeuvre around you. The short video above should be considered a very very quiet road based on the number of scooters – a humbling thought!

clothes shop mannequinsVietnam quirks

Given the current “mannequin challenge” craze sweeping the internet, this Vietnam quirk is quite  apt.  All clothes shops have them, you know the people-like models used to show you what the clothes would like on.  Well, in Vietnam they have decided to make the mannequins a little less ‘people-like’ by giving them long, elongated heads! It’s rather strange. We first came across these in Hoi-Ann but saw them in several other places too.

Money

The money itself, called the Vietnamese dong (stifles immature sniggering) isn’t the quirk. What is quirky is that they don’t appear to have any coins or secondary currency.  This isn’t strictly true however; Coins do exist and are in circulation but you just don’t see them anywhere and the banks have had issues with traders not accepting them.  There have also been two secondary currencies the hao and the xu (1/10 and 1/100 respectively) but due to there ridiculously low value – £1 is equal to almost 30,000 dong, they were scrapped sometime ago. Finally there are still cotton-fibre bank notes in circulation that are accepted!

Taxi horns

As a result of the large level of traffic on the roads, there is a substantial and almost continuous amount of “honking”.  However, amongst the cacophony of horns there is one that stands out: the taxi horns.  They have a distinctive echoing sound which is quite bizarre and terrifying if it goes off when you’re stood next to it.

Basket boats

Vietnam quirks

One thing sure to catch your eye on many a Vietnamese beach, is hemi-spherical basket boats, or “thung chai”.  Dating back to French colonial times and trying to avoid the levied tax on boat ownership, these boats are made from hammered bamboo covered in water proof resin.  I think they’re really cute, but apparently very hard to row (I didn’t have the opportunity to try).

Xe-clo’s (Cyclo’s)

Whilst these are not solely found in Vietnam, there was a heavy concentration in Hanoi and HCMC especially, and its where we first came across them.  A three-wheeled bicycle taxi, consisting of a chair (which may or may not be big enough for two) backed by a bicycle, these are used to ferry tourists around.  Dating again back to the French colonoial era, you will sure to spot one of these hailing you for a ride.

Street beer

Finally, and possibly my favourite Vietnam quirk (despite not actually partaking in any, somehow!) is the street beer sellers.  World street food is becoming more and more popular but this is the first time we have come across street beer.  Kegs of beer will be delivered to a trader, with a spot on the pavement and a few plastic chairs, and a glass of beer will be sold for approximately 15p or VND5,000. The beer is brewed not to last, so has to be drunk within 24 hours. Once the beer is gone, the trader packs up.  Strolling around the streets in the evening you cannot miss these!

Have you been to Vietnam? Did you spot any of these Vietnam quirks, or see some others that we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to hear from you so get in touch below in the comments.

 

             
 

7 Budget Friendly Things to do in the Cameron Highlands

In our recent blog update, we mentioned that we spent a few days up in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. With C’s mum in tow, we had a lovely time enjoying the cooler temperatures and the surrounding greenery.

I thought I would write a post summarizing what there is to do in the Cameron Highlands. This gives you an insight into what we got up to and offers a helpful guide to others when deciding whether to visit.  The best bit about some of these, is that they are absolutely free! Continue reading