Ayutthaya: A Day Trip

Back in March 2018, I visited Bangkok for my fourth time in the last 7 months. Having pretty much exhausted most of the main tourist attractions, I wanted to visit other places that I hadn’t previously been to. My girlfriend, Sita, suggested going to visit the ancient capital city of Thailand, Ayutthaya. She explained how the Burmese burnt the city leaving now ancient ruins. As someone who loves history, this got me very excited to visit!

Ayutthaya is a place that you will find fun to explore if you’re interested in learning more about Thai culture and its history. However, I know some of you won’t be interested in history, temples and ruins, and so I thought I would pre-warn you!

Modern-day Ayutthaya has been built on top of the ancient ruins left by the Burmese attack. It’s quite strange to be able to walk around an ancient city that has all the amenities of a modern day city. The two intertwined so much that it does make for a great experience to be able to compare two completely different eras at the same time.

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In this post, I won’t go into every temple that we saw in Ayutthaya, as we visited most of them and there isn’t that much to say about each and every temple! However, I will sum up the best temples, and give some tips on how we got there and how we got around the city.

Starting our trip in Bangkok, we took a minibus from Bangkok Mo Chit Bus Station which took about 2.5hours to reach Ayutthaya where we got off at the final stop. (The minibus costs 60TBH for a single ticket).

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After getting off the bus, we walked around the city a little bit before hiring push bikes for the day. Originally we were going to hire a motorbike, but decided that as everything in the city is so close together, it would be fun to cycle. The bikes cost 50TBH for the day (Until 7pm). They also give you a map which clearly shows you where all the attractions are, making it nice and easy to locate your way around the city.

Soon after getting our bikes, we set off on our temple hopping tour and started at Ayutthaya’s Historical Park, which has most of the city’s ruins. If my memory serves me correctly, it costs 50TBH per temple for non-Thai citizens and 10TBH for Thai citizens. The Historical Park is probably the main attraction of Ayutthaya. As a bit of a history nerd, learning about the history and culture of the Ayutthaya Kingdom was so interesting! The site also has a model located at the front of the park which shows you what the Kingdom used to look like before being burnt down by the Burmese.

After we had finished walking around the Historical Park, we set off on our bikes again and visited Wat Phra Sri Sanphat. This was the holiest of the temples in the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. Personally, this was one of my favourites, as the architecture was just awesome. Unfortunately, like most of Ayutthaya, the temple has succumbed to the destruction of the Burmese and has taken substantial damage. Nevertheless, the damage adds to the historical importance of the building as it is where the 35 Kings of the Kingdom would come and use for royal ceremonies.

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Without a doubt, the temple that I found most interesting has to be Wat Mathathat! Its location near the Grand Palace made it one of the most important temples throughout the Kingdom. Why I find this temple so interesting is how most of the Buddha’s heads are chopped off all the statues. So when you’re walking around it’s quite a weird experience to just go past statue after statue of Buddha with no head! Another interesting point to make about this temple is that there is a Buddha head in the roots of the sacred tree. This is where most of the tourists head first so it can get quite packed. Whilst there I noticed many tourists only came to see the Buddha head in the tree and leave the site soon after. However, I would advise walking around the whole site as it makes for a really nice walk. Also, the unusual sight of headless statues makes for a thought-provoking walk on why the Burmese did this.

 

Although I was told that the Burmese were the ones that chopped off the heads as they believed gold where inside. It seems that after doing some research, it was actually looters that had cut the heads off and sold most of them to collectors in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately for Thailand, after asking for part of their heritage back they were declined as they form part of many modern-day museums.

Before we headed back to Bangkok, we decided that we should go and get some food from one of the restaurants just outside the Historical Park. The food is really good and incredibly cheap! I got a Pad Thai for only 35TBH!

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Most of the people that travel to Thailand skip out Ayutthaya as it isn’t really a place that many people have heard of before. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed my day trip to see all the ruins and I am glad I delved deeper into learning about Thailand’s history.

After the fall of Ayutthaya, Thailand decided to move its capital city to Bangkok which was designed in such a way to keep out foreign invaders. For centuries Thailand had been at war with its neighbours, especially the Burmese. By moving their capital to Bangkok, they had hoped that due to the defence of the capital being a lot stronger, this would put off future invasions of the Kingdom. 

Although I am a bit of a history nerd and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ayutthaya,  I wouldn’t recommend going for more than one day, as all the ruins can be seen if you arrive early enough. The city doesn’t really have that much more to offer bar the ruins and temples and there are better places to spend more of your time in Thailand!

Unfortunately, as I broke my phone, the only pictures I have left of my trip are saved from what I put on Snapchat so I apologise for the lack of pictures!

Check out the rest of our Ayutthaya pictures here.

Bali: A True Adventure

During my first trip to Bali in November of 2017, I always felt like I had unfinished business there. Although I only spent 5 days in Bali, getting a big stomach bug cut what we saw short. Almost a year later, I decided that my girlfriend and I should return back to Bali to explore the areas we previously didn’t explore.

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The trip already started off on a high as when we were landing we saw one of the many volcanoes that Bali has to offer from the plane. On our arrival, we planned to stay one night Kuta as we really wanted to get to Ubud as quickly as possible. We stayed at Angkul Beach Inn Hotel, which was located right in the centre of Kuta Square. However, this wasn’t the best hotel as the cleanliness could have been a lot better. Nevertheless, it was only for one night, it was cheap and had breakfast included.

The next morning we woke up early and took a grab to Ubud. We were going to rent a scooter from Kuta as we had to eventually return back here to get our flight home. However, we decided that riding for two hours with our backpacks wouldn’t have been the most comfy. (Side note: It did probably cost us around £50 more over the entire trip as we didn’t hire a bike from Kuta, but we decided we wanted comfort over budgeting).

After around a 45 minute taxi drive we arrived on the outskirts of Ubud at our Hotel, Casa D’ Sami. Although the only downside was that it didn’t have air conditioning which was surprisingly not an issue, it was a really clean and a nice hotel. As soon as we checked in, we hired a bike for 50k Indonesian Rupiah and set about exploring Ubud. First we drove about 4 km to Ubud centre where we stopped to eat. We ate at a restaurant called Buddha bowel which served phenomenal Asian food.

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After eating, we drove the short trip to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary which was an incredible experience, if not terrifying. You can spend as long as you want here and the tickets are 50k each. Just be careful you don’t end up becoming one of the unlucky few where a monkey jumps on you and won’t jump back off. Saying that, the monkeys have obviously become comfortable around humans and do usually just sit around or play with themselves. It is quite incredible how close you can get to take a picture without them seeming to care. Obviously, it goes without saying, do be considerate of the sanctuaries rules.

From here, we went to Campuhan Ridge where we walked through the rice fields and the surrounding mountains. We got to witness an incredible sunset as well as some stunning scenery! What’s best about the Ridge walk is that it’s completely free!

Although we were in Bali, we had come across a Mexican restaurant (Taco Casa) which was absolutely rammed all day from the moment it opened. We decided for dinner we would eat here and wow it didn’t disappoint! After visiting Mexico earlier this year and falling in love with the food, I would never have expected for a restaurant in Bali to live up to the standard of food I had in Mexico – But it did! As you can imagine, the food is more expensive here than eating traditional Balinese food, but if you can afford to splurge a little then make this one of your places to eat.  When we eventually got back to the hotel, it was around midnight and we decided to go for a late night swim at the hotel’s pool.

After again eating our free breakfast, we checked out and headed to our new hotel in the centre of Ubud. The plan was to base ourselves here and then travel up to the north of Bali and visit its many waterfalls and volcanoes. Unfortunately, the place that we stayed (Alam Terrace) was fully booked for the day after our stay. Therefore, we could only stay one night here which meant we had to move to a new hotel again. However, I would definitely recommend this hotel as its quite simply stunning. The rooms are amazing and the pool is sublime.  

Before arriving at Alam Terrace we still had our bike from Casa D’ Sami, and we drove to Tegenungan waterfall. Although it wasn’t the best waterfall that we visited in Bali it was still a stunning waterfall and one that should be high up on your list. What is also convenient about this waterfall is its accessibility. Other waterfalls such as NungNung require a 2 hour drive just to get there.

When we did arrive at our hotel, we decided to just have a chill day where we relaxed and ordered room service. The hotel served incredibly cheap food, which was some of the cheapest we saw in Bali and also some of the best.

The next day we moved to our new hotel which was next door (Tenah Semaujan) and we set off early as possible as we knew we would have a long day ahead. Firstly, we visited the rice terraces just north of Ubud which had awesome views and also areas where you could go on massive swings. Do be warned that it is incredibly humid and hot walking through the rice terraces. After we had finished admiring the views,  we made the long drive north to Mount Batur national park where you have to pay an entry fee to get in (around 32k). Although we wanted to climb Mount Batur, we knew the mafia had taken it over and therefore charge you a ridiculous amount to climb. We felt that it wasn’t worth the price and decided that we would just admire it from a far. We did drive down to the lake area which was really nice although there’s not much to do there. We finished our day with again, another long drive to NungNung waterfall which was probably the best waterfall I have ever seen! My girlfriend had previously visited Bali before and said that this is one of the must do things to see, and she wasn’t wrong. As you can see from the pictures below, the waterfall is just simply awesome!

Our last day in Ubud saw us moving hotels again (Indira Cottages). As we didn’t have much planned we had a chill start to the day just trying different Balinese foods. We then decided that we would go and visit the Ulun Danu temple which is in the north of Bali. Ulun Danu temple is far away from Ubud (around a 1.5hour drive) but is a really cool temple to visit. The temple is “floating” on water and is in the midst of an incredible mountain range! The only problem with the temple is its location. Although there are some great views to admire on the drive north from Ubud, there isn’t much to see around the area. Therefore, if you are planning to come visit the temple then I’d suggest setting off early so you can go and see other things throughout the day before they close.

Sadly, we then decided to leave Ubud and go check out Uluwatu. Again, as I was ill the first time I came, we never really got to visit Uluwatu that much and I really wanted to go back. We stayed at an amazing hotel called Seno Guesthouse & Cafe for two days and I wish we had more time to have extended our stay. Uluwatu is a place that I could have stayed, like Ubud, for a lot longer than we did. During our stay in Uluwatu we chilled by the hotel pool whilst also visiting Dreamland Beach and surfed.

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We did contemplate diving as we are both licensed divers, however, Sita previously burst her eardrum whilst diving and it still causes her problems every now and then.  Therefore, we didn’t want to take the risk of it causing her problems for the remaining time we had left. As we wasn’t going to dive we made the most of our time chilling by the pool, the beach and surfing.

Beyond any doubt, my favourite moment in Bali was watching the sunset at Uluwatu sunset point. The place is just crazy! Sunset point has a bar with loads of fellow travellers just enjoying a beer whilst relaxing in beanbags watching the sun go down. Being able to experience that moment with my girlfriend was really nice and one I won’t forget any time soon. At the time I didn’t think anything would trump NungNung waterfall but I can’t recommend sunset point enough! During our last night in Uluwatu, we visited Single Fin Bar, which has some amazing views overlooking the sea. Even at night time the place is buzzing and offers great food. Although as you can imagine, with a view like that, it is more expensive than your typical restaurant.

Unfortunately, as we were running out of time, we had to cut our stay in Uluwatu short. We headed to Legion as we wanted to be close to the airport as our flight was in the middle of the morning. We stayed at Si Doi Hotel, which was decent although it had a power cut for the first night (although they did give us a 25% discount on our stay). In the Legion/Kuta area there is a lot more to do/see. There’s markets, shopping centres and just normal day to day stuff. If you do visit the beach I personally prefer Legion beach to Kuta beach just as its less packed and a lot cleaner.

Ubud and Uluwatu are definitely in the top 5 places that I have visited. Both places had just a great but different buzz about them. Ubud seemed more for the busy traveller, the one that wants to go out and explore all the different things Bali has to offer. Whereas, Uluwatu was more for the chill traveller, where you surf and watch the sunset go down with a beer. The only disappointing thing about them both is that we couldn’t stay longer. I make the point again, watching the sunset at Sunset point was just incredible and anyone who visits Bali should definitely visit this place!
View the rest of our Bali pictures here

Malaysia: A Look into Paradise

After thoroughly enjoying our stay in Hong Kong, it was now time to head onto the second country of our tour of Asia. Malaysia was the next country and we didn’t really know what to expect. However, when we landed in Kuala Lumpur we instantly fell in love with the city and ended up staying for what some people might say, is way too long.

We arrived in KL late at night and took a taxi from the airport to our hostel ‘Sunshine Bedz’. Little did we know this hostel would be one of the highlights of our entire 3.5month trip. As soon as we got there we decided to go to bed so we could wake up early and start exploring. We began our day by eating at Dragon’s View Restaurant (DVR) where we tried some local cuisine and quickly left to visit the KL Forest Eco Park. The park had a walking canopy where you can walk through the forest and see an abundance of wildlife. However, the Eco Park seems more of something you would do if you prefer hiking than wildlife, as dynamic of the Park seems more built around hikers than animal lovers. After spending a couple of hours at the Eco Park, we left to go and visit the Batu Caves for the 1st time. We got to see most of the Batu Caves, which we would recommend visiting as it’s a really cool place. The caves are full of Hindu paintings and statues and it gives you an insight into some Hindu spirituality. Unfortunately, we could not visit the main attraction as one of us wasn’t wearing appropriate clothing. To enter, you can wear shorts and a T-shirt but your knees and shoulders must be covered, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking of visiting.

As our first day in KL was coming to an end we went back to the hostel to get showered before visiting the night market. Personally, the night market was my favourite place in KL. As a food lover, this market is amazing. During the course of our stay we must have eaten here most days. After eating all different kinds of weird and wonderful Malaysian cuisine, we headed back to the hostel where the hostel Rep, Kat, convinced us to come on the pub crawl tonight. The reason we needed convincing is that we had an elephant sanctuary visit at 7am the next day which we didn’t want to miss. However, even though the next day was a massive struggle, we were so glad that we decided to go out that night. Not only did we have a great time, but also met some incredible people! KL has a great night life down Bar Street and the club Sutra is awesome. KL has a policy where it’s ladies night, 5 times a week!

After being convinced that drinking 2 for 1 long Island Iced Teas all night was a good idea, it actually took the hostel receptionist to wake us up at 7am so we didn’t miss our bus to the elephant sanctuary. After what was a horribly bumpy, hungover, 3 hour journey, we arrived at the elephant sanctuary, via the Batu Caves, which we once again could not see the parts we didn’t see because we weren’t i wearing adequate clothing. However, the second time we actually did not know that we would be stopping at the Batu Caves. At the elephant sanctuary we started the day by feeding the smaller elephants that had clearly been in captivity at some point in their lives. Some of the elephants couldn’t even stand on one of their legs. Nevertheless, it was fun to be able to feed the elephants as it felt like, although our contribution was very small that we were in fact helping just a little. The day continued with us watching educational documentaries on why and how they poachers are capturing elephants. However, even though the reviews on trip advisor for the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary were good, we quickly saw that the sanctuary might not be treating the elephants as well as we imagined. The set up of the day seemed to be more about the elephants being a tourist attraction rather than travellers coming to help volunteer at the sanctuary. Personally, we would not recommend coming to this elephant sanctuary as the one we visited in Chiang Mai, was much better ran and the elephants treated with a lot more respect!

Our third day in KL was a very busy one. We woke up quite late as we were still so tired from the night before and went back to DVR for a quick lunch. Today we decided to visit some temples as well as just explore the city by walking around and taking it at our own pace. We began the day at the Guan Di Temple, which is a Taoist temple dedicated to Guan Di, the Chinese God of War. This was an interesting visit as we had never been to a Taoist temple and therefore became educated on Taoist rituals. After, we visited the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temples in Kuala Lumpur. What draws your attention to this temple is the architecture. The front of the temple is decorated with depictions of Hindu Gods sculpted by artisans from Southern India. Both temples don’t take long to visit so if you have some spare time you can fit these into your schedule. Merdeka Square was the next place we wanted to visit as we had heard that you can just relax and watch the city go by. Literally “Independence  Square”, here is where the Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the Malayan flag in 1957 for the first time. The annual National Day parade is held here, although we weren’t there at the right time to experience it. We actually spent quite a while at the square, although there isn’t much here to do. We enjoyed just sitting and chilling on the grass.

We then decided to walk for at least an hour to visit the National Monument and War Memorial. For those of who you have our blog before, you will know that history and politics interests us and therefore this was a must do for us. However, be aware that it is quite far away from the city centre, so if you do not want to walk, getting a bus is probably the cheapest way. The monuments were stunning pieces of design and symbolised the soldiers who fought for the British Empire. We ended our day by visiting KL’s Botanical Gardens and visiting the Batu Caves for the third and FINAL time, this time appropriately dressed! The Botanical Gardens is like most other Botanical Gardens, with large walking areas with nice scenery. We only stumbled upon it during our walk back from the War monuments. We left here to go to the Batu Caves which we finally could go and see the caves that we were not allowed into the first two times. With 272 stairs up to the cave, we definitely went at the best time of the day (just before closing time) when the heat had calmed down a bit. Although we felt the caves we had already seen were much better than the cave we were finally allowed in to see, the sunset and view over the city coming out of the cave was really good and definitely worth third visit. Like most days, we decided to go and try some more local cuisine at the night market which is located close to our hostel. We tried stingray, which is still one of our favourite dishes to date!

With it being Sunday, we decided to chill and just relax in the hostel and catch up on some much needed rest. The heat and humidity in Malaysia was not an experience we were used to coming from the north of England. By the time we decided to get up and do some exploring, it was afternoon and we decided to just go for a walk and see where it took us. It led us to going on a 2 hour walk through Little India, which is a street which gives you a taste of India, and onto Thean Hou Temple, which is probably one of my favourite temples. We had been walking for over 2 hours on the hottest day we’d had to date, by the time we got to the temple we were dripping in sweat but the temple architecture made it all worthwhile.  You can just get a bus or a taxi to the temple, but we really wanted to just go for a walk. The temple has elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism and mixes modern and traditional designs together. Everything combined makes for a stunning temple, and when you get to the top the view over the city is just as good. Personally, if you’re not really a temple person then only go and visit this temple in KL because it is worth the visit.

When we got back to the hostel, one of us became really sick because we had started to take our malaria tablets for our trip to Cambodia. Nevertheless, we still got convinced to go out, even though it was a sunday and we wanted to just chill. Again the hostel rep Kat convinced most of the hostel to come out on the pubcrawl and again we met so many awesome people that we are still in contact with today. One of us met their now girlfriend on this pubcrawl. Although Kat no longer works at this hostel as a rep, she made our stay in Malaysia amazing. Not only did she make us feel comfortable and convince us to do stuff that we might have not done otherwise, she was really fun to be around and to talk to too.

After demolishing too many 2 for 1 Long Island Iced Teas all night (breaking Kat’s record of the most she’d seen someone drink by far!), we were completely written off the next day and actually did nothing during the day time but eat and stay in the hostel. We did pull ourselves together enough to go to a pub quiz where we failed spectacularly as a group to put many answers together. We left the night early as we were heading to the Cameron Highlands the next day and did not want a repeat of our journey to the elephant sanctuary.  

Before leaving for Asia, we booked the Cameron Highlands tour with Anuar who we would like to personally recommend as a great host and incredibly knowledgeable guy. He picks you up from your hostel and drives you for 4 hours to the Cameron Highlands, which is a place everyone should visit if you’re in Malaysia. During our trip to the Cameron Highlands we learnt how to hunt with a blowpipe by getting a demonstration from a local tribe, as well as visiting some amazing waterfalls. Other activities included strawberry picking, where you get to pick your own strawberries, and the time tunnel, which show a history of the Cameron Highlands dating back to when the British first invested in the area. After visiting the “time tunnel” where Anuar had educated us on the history of Malaysia as well as the Cameron Highlands, we took a visit to  the butterfly centre where we got hands on with snakes, scorpions and other exotic creatures. We ended our visit by going to the BOH tea plantation where we got to see up close the process of how the tea was made and how many different countries import their tea from the Cameron Highlands. We even got to taste the tea at the end, and even for someone who isn’t a big tea lover, the tea was great!

As we were coming to the end of our stay in KL we were thinking if we should leave KL and go and explore other areas of Malaysia which we really wanted to or leave and visit another place like Bali. As we had a couple of more things we wanted to see, we decided we would put the decision on hold. As we had visited Hindu and Taoist temples we decided to go and visit the National Mosque as we were in a Muslim Country. Visiting the Mosque was quite a brief experience as we were not allowed in the main area as we aren’t Muslim. Therefore, we headed over to the National Museum which gave you an insight into everything related to Malaysia. From prehistoric animals and early civilisation to the British Empire, the Museum was really fun, interactive and educational. We ended the night again going on the hostel pub crawl (again) where we met some Australians who were leaving to go to Bali the next day. We got on so well and we really wanted to go with them so badly, but the money we’d lose on our flight to Cambodia and activities booked there persuaded us against it.

We ended our trip in Malaysia with visiting the Petronas Towers, which with student discount only cost around £12. The Petronas Towers give you an amazing view of the city from every angle and was incredible as we headed there for sunset.

Even though we spent 9 days in KL and only had day trips out of the city visiting other parts of Malaysia, it is still one of our favourite countries. Not only did we fall in love with the city, but we met so many amazing people from all over the world. We enjoyed the food, the culture, the night life and it’s of the reasons why we just couldn’t leave!

View the rest of our Malaysia pictures here.

 

 

Vietnam: Riding The Buffalo Run

After one final night in Hanoi after Sapa, we left to start the Buffalo Run. The Buffalo Run is an epic week-long adventure where you start in Hanoi and finish in Hoi An. Inspired from Top Gears Vietnam Special, the Buffalo Run gives you a great chance to experience the culture, the scenery and history of Vietnam. Like the other trips, it also gives you a great chance to meet new people from all over the world and since you’re with them for a week, really get to know each other.

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SONY DSC

On the first day of a trip down to Hoi An, we cycled to a local temple where our tour guide (Ricky) explained about history of Vietnam and its kings. After this we took a two-hour boat tour through caves and around mountains where they filmed ‘Kong: Skull Island’. This was a lot of fun as everyone we met got competitive and we made it into a race to see who could get around the quickest. This was funny as our guides who were rowing us also got competitive. We won the first leg, but unfortunately, one of us had to help another boat which was stuck after disembarking to explore an island and so we only could claim second place. After sweating profusely during the boat race, a shower at a hotel was more than welcome before taking the night bus to Phong Nha.

Day two was one of the funniest days of our stay in Vietnam, if not the whole trip. After driving from about an hour from our hotel, you get to take a 400m zip line trip across the river before entering the dark caves. In Vietnam, they have a naming method in English which is very exact. So, the dark caves are genuinely just caves that are dark. However, these caves had a mud bath right at the end, where many a mud pie was thrown when the lights were turned off. Nevertheless, it was a great laugh, especially the mud slide back into the river at the end of the cave.

Lunch consisted of DIY spring rolls, before venturing onto a cave in which 80 people became trapped and died from in a US bombing campaign. Ricky explained a lot about the history of why the US bombed the area and it was a sobering activity. What we liked about the Buffalo Run was it was a good experience learning about the history of Vietnam, with almost constant fun as well. After visiting the war cave, we went to a farm stay where we sat by a pool drinking beer and watched a beautiful sunset. It was the perfect ending to a great day and a start to a great night. We later bought drinks from a shop and stayed playing drinking games in a hotel room, having a fantastic time.

Day three, we decided to go in the back of a truck to our next place instead of taking bikes. This was a fun experience but not exactly a luxurious journey, as the truck didn’t have the most advanced suspension system. If you decide to do the Buffalo Run you do get the option the night before on your mode of transport, whether that be bicycles, scooters or a truck like us.

Day three was not as hectic as day two. We thought it was strange that our guide Ricky kept on specifying that the pub we were going to had cold beer, but the place was actually called ‘The Pub with Cold Beer’. Here, you can relax in hammocks with a beer, play volleyball, and then cool off in the river afterwards. This was a very nice addition as the volleyball got quite heated when we started a tournament that pitted the British and Irish Lions vs ‘Canasians’ (Canadians and our Asian tour guide, Ricky), especially when we introduced the rule that the losers had to buy the winners a beer each!

Also at the Pub with Cold Beer you can partake in a more unusual, perhaps once in a lifetime activity and kill a chicken. The method for doing so is somewhat brutal (a machete to the back of the neck) and not for the faint of heart. However, everyone in the group agreed that the chicken tasted phenomenal and it was a very rewarding experience to take responsibility for ending the animal’s life that you were about to eat.

On day four we travelled to Hue, whilst also stopping at a land mine museum as well as some Vietnam war tunnels. Again, our tour guide explained the history behind the land mine museum and the war tunnels. This was very interesting as the three of us did not know much about the Vietnam war prior to our trip. After arriving in Hue, at another Vietnam Backpacker Hostel, there was a pub crawl with the theme ‘shit shirt night’. The whole of team Buffalo Run made a strong effort for the event. In our shit shirts and matching shorts, we were ready for a crazy night. Here, we also met some friends that we previously met in Ha Long Bay and made plans to meet up in Hoi An.

Day five of the trip was a beach day! However, we stopped off at a temple first, where the car in which a monk drove himself into the town square and set himself alight to protest the anti-Buddhist regime was kept. After Ricky had educated us more on this temple, we finally set off to the beach and spent the day there. All of us decided to play volleyball in the sea as well as playing another competition for beer. Probably wasn’t a clever idea as we kept losing more than we were winning. In order to play, we first had to find buckets and bottles, fill them with water and throw it on the volleyball pitch, as the sand was far too hot to play on. One of the most ridiculous things we did, but Ricky had assured us it worked beforehand. If it’s stupid and it works, then it isn’t stupid.

On day six we travelled to Hoi An via the Hai Van Pass in ex-army jeeps from the war. It is also possible to do the pass on motorbikes through VBH, but we decided to take the jeeps and felt it was the right decision. This was such an incredible experience as big fans of Top Gear. We also stopped off for lunch and had a swim at the beach before arriving in Hoi An. Again, stopping at a Backpackers hostel, we signed up for the ‘Beer Olympics’ but were cheated out of a victory! But it was all just fun and games really, and there was the opportunity for everyone to get involved.

On the final day of the Buffalo Run, we rowed in bamboo boats and went crab fishing. Accidentally, one of us dropped a crab in our boat and as the guide went to pick it up the crab pinched him. This was funny though as he made a massive joke out of it and we continued to have a really fun experience. As it was our last day we had one last game of volleyball in the hostel pool before going out for our last night out together. Here we met up with our friends from Ha Long Bay and had an amazing night. Unfortunately, the next day we had to leave to Ho Chi Minh City as we were flying out of there to go to Thailand. Although we deliberated whether we should just stay another night we finally decided to leave.

On arriving in Ho Chi Minh at night and not having much time there before leaving for Thailand, we visited some markets and walked around the city a bit. We didn’t experience much of the city so we can’t say much for it. But this just means it’s somewhere we will have to go back and visit!

Overall, I wish we could have spent a lot longer than just 17 days in Vietnam. It was all absolutely incredible, and we did so much but it felt like we were only scratching the surface. If you’re going South East Asia and not visiting Vietnam, I would strongly recommend changing your schedule.

View the rest of our Vietnam pictures here.

Vietnam: Climbing The Mountains of Sapa

After returning from Ha Long Bay to Hanoi for the night, we woke up again at 6.30am to leave to Sapa. A six-hour bus journey into the mountains takes you to a hotel for a one-night stay. However, the bus was incredibly cramped as we were stuck right at the back where its almost like mattress. If you are going to take a bus to Sapa from Hanoi make sure you are one of the first ones on so you can guarantee yourself a comfy seat in a normal sleeper seat.  The hotel we stayed at was amazing and for us very luxurious. Staying in a 6 bed room where only the three of us stayed, meant that we had lots of space to just chill out and have a good nights sleep. The hotel offered a motorbike rental scheme, which we decided to take advantage of and visit some waterfalls, as well as Sapa’s breath-taking mountain range views. Note if you are renting bikes in Vietnam (or most countries in South-East Asia), please be careful when riding as the roads are crazy and the rules most Westerners have grown up with do not apply. One of us was forced to fall off a bike when a lorry decided he didn’t want to wait any longer to pull out in front of us, but luckily escaped with no injuries. It was a shame we couldn’t say the same about the bike!

The next day a local guide came to our hotel and took us to the starting place of our two-day expedition through the mountains. The treks last most of the day but we did have some free time to swim in the river and grab a bite to eat. The trek is phenomenal and give you the opportunity to see Sapa in its true glory. Some of the sights were memorising, and quite frankly out of this world. There aren’t any hotels or hostels in the mountain ranges of Sapa, so your only chance of a bed for the night is a homestay, provided by the locals who live there. After finally reaching our home stay late in the day we got food and got to know the people we trekked with better. The locals who host you are really friendly and make you feel very welcome. They serve some western food but mainly Asian cuisine. They also offer rice wine, which if anyone has ever tasted before it is something to miss.  I would recommend getting an early night however, as you will be trekking again all day until you come back out of the mountains and get another six-hour bus journey back to Hanoi.

After trekking for 6hours, mainly up steep hills and then back down steep slopes, we eventually arrived at our tour guides home where his family served us dinner before we left for our coach back to Hanoi. The hospitality of the guide and the locals were more than we could ask for and really added to the whole experience. By the time we got back to Hanoi, it was late at night and as we had to get up early to leave for the Buffalo Run we decided to get an early night and go to bed.

View the rest of our Vietnam pictures here.

Thailand: Islands and Krabi – Adventure Hard Party Hard

After having one of the best times of our lives in Vietnam for 17 days, (Vietnam: Home of Adventure) we finally left for Thailand. Initially, we were going to give ourselves a couple of days in Phuket but decided against this and headed straight to the islands. Arriving in Phuket late at night from Ho Chi Minh City, we went straight to bed so we would wake up early(ish) before getting a ferry over to Koh Phi Phi. The next morning, we checked out some markets in Phuket before heading over to the ferry point. Disclaimer: Before we set off on our travels, we had researched how to get from one island to another. We found very confusing information that made it sound very difficult and hard work. However, we got 6 ferries in total to all the islands and back to the mainland, and never experienced any issues and problems at all!

After arriving in Koh Phi Phi after a two-hour ferry journey, we headed over to our hostel. We had originally just booked a one-night stay at a hostel that I would not recommend. After we had checked in to our hostel, we decided to spend the rest of the day at the beach and just drink a few beers. This is one of the reasons that makes Phi Phi such a wonderful place to visit. In the daytime, you can just relax by the beach and then have a crazy night out.

The next day we checked into our new hostel where we would spend the next couple of days. I would definitely recommend Blanco Beach Bar hostel. This hostel offers trips, tips and a mad night every single night. From its fire dance shows, limbo competitions and its infamous hand grenade challenge, there’s no chance that you will not have a great night. As soon as we arrived, we signed up for their boat party. There are two prices you can pay either 1300Baht or 2000Baht. Obviously, we went for the 2000Baht, which included 10 free drinks after the boat party, a Blanco boat party tank top and a barbeque. Whilst on the boat party you can jump off the boat, snorkel and kayak, as well as meeting a load of new people that you’ll be spending the rest of the night with. It’s safe to say that the boat party is worth its money as you get drunk on the boat, as well as being able to “cash” in your 10 free drinks when you get back to the hostel.

After the boat party finished, we met up with one of our girlfriends and her friend, and one of our friends we had met in Cambodia. We’d like to say that we remembered the night. However, as you can imagine, the amount of drinking that is involved staying at Blanco’s means that night becomes hazy. What we know for sure is that there were a lot of drinks, party games and competitions. Even in our drunken state, we managed to come runners-up in the beer pong tournament. Our third and final day in Phi Phi started with a lay-in before walking around some of the shops. Later we headed to the beach where we relaxed all day, before “crashing” a pool party at the hostel next door. However, this wasn’t the best so we headed back to our hostel to get prepared to go to the viewpoint in the evening. To get to the viewpoint you have to climb hundreds of steps before finally getting there. Nevertheless, the view overlooking the island with the sun setting is phenomenal and definitely worth the climb!

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Back at the hostel, we decided as it was our last night, that we would attempt the Blanco’s infamous hand grenade challenge. For 600baht, you have to do shots of tequila, amaretto, jaeger, vodka and some even mixed with beer.  Safe to say we were all hammered after this. The good thing about staying at Blanco’s, is that the limbo competition means every time you do the limbo, you get a free shot (however it is watered down). Nonetheless, after you’ve been doing this for a long time it still gets you really drunk.

After a second crazy night out in Phi Phi, the five of us decided to get a ferry to Krabi and stay at Slumber Party Hostel. Known for being the best party hostel in Thailand, you can imagine what happened here. There’s only one word to describe Slumber Party – MAD. Free food at 8pm every night, quickly leads to getting people downstairs before free shots are dished out by the reps. A funny story was when one of us was showering, they came into the bathroom and poured a free shot into our mouth whilst we were showering. In other words, stay at this hostel if you want to party hard! The pub crawl here is immense. Paying onto the pub crawl gets you: Slumber Party tank top as well as a bucket of alcohol. (The bucket is literally just alcohol, or might as well be). The pub crawl leads you to several bars where the party doesn’t end and continues all night. The nights out that we experienced at Slumber Party were some of the best of our trip.

The second day at Krabi, we decided to do the hostels “Island Awesomeness” tour where you visit Krabi’s top beaches and go snorkelling. The first thing you do when you get off the boat at the beach is a shotgun at 10am. Safe to say many people struggled with this. Nevertheless, the day was packed with awesome stuff, from seeing the best beaches, going through caves to a secret swimming point and snorkelling. The cool thing we were shown when we were snorkelling, was to take some rice with us and squeeze it and all the fish would come. The only problem with this is, as we ran out of rice the fish started to bite us!! When we arrived back there was no time to relax, as we were forced to go on the pub crawl for the second night and enter the beer pong tournament. Unfortunately, we lost in the first round but we met loads of people so was worth it anyway. The second night we all got split up with one going home with a girl, one going home with his girlfriend and another “enjoying” his time with a lady boy…

 

The next day we took a flight from Krabi over to Koh Samui where we stayed at a hostel called Casa Luna. The hostel was very nice and the receptionist was ever so helpful. He recommended us to rent some bikes and explore some of the island. We only planned one night in Koh Samui as we had heard that it was overpriced and not worth it. However, if we had more time in Thailand we would have stayed for at least one more day as after a week of hard partying it was nice to just relax. During our stay in Koh Samui we drove to some waterfalls and trekked up the mountain to Na Muang Waterfall 2. This was awesome as we saw an amazing sunset with a stunning view. However, we would like to point out that when you get there, there is an option to take a truck to the waterfall. The people their claim its 30minutes away. But this is not the case!! They charge you 100baht to take you 2minutes down the road and then you have to climb for 30minutes. Do not fall for this scam! After we had finished watching an amazing sunset, we decided to head to a sports bar and watch some football before leaving for Koh Tao the next day.

Arriving in Koh Tao by ferry at early evening, we checked into our hostel, Taco Shack 1 and headed out for some food! We can recommend a fantastic restaurant called Seafood by Pawn. We enjoyed it so much we went back three times over the course of our stay in Koh Tao. The restaurant is usually really busy (a testament to how good it is) but the service is also really good! They serve excellent fish dishes as well as any Thai curry you could want. When you go to Koh Tao you can’t really come without trying diving. Our hostel was advertising trying some fun dives and this really interested us. One of us had already got their open water in Cambodia earlier in the trip and recommended it to us. If you book with Taco Shack 1, in the morning you are collected and driven over to the sister hostel Taco Shack 2 (The diving hostel). Here, we decided that we would go for two fun dives to see if we liked it or not. At the beginning, you learn the basics of scuba diving before heading out to a max depth of 12m. We enjoyed it so much two of us wanted to get our open water and one of us our advanced. However, the problem was we were leaving Koh Tao to head over to the half-moon party in Koh Pha Ngan the next day. Nevertheless, we decided to come back to Koh Tao after the half-moon party and take a diving course.

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Arriving in Koh Pha Ngan and staying at another Slumber Party Hostel, we quickly saw that we had made a huge mistake. Remember us telling you we wanted to go to the half-moon party? Well.. the half-moon party happened the day before we arrived. “Luckily” one of us was quite ill meaning that we would have missed it anyway as we always like to stick together. Nevertheless, it was an annoying mistake as we booked our stay at our hostel in Koh Tao in another two nights. As the island was pretty much dead, we decided to go and take on “The Challenge”. Like the total wipeout course you have probably seen on TV, there are obstacles that you must complete to get to the next level. We spent the entire day here and enjoyed it so much. The only problem is because it’s all upper body exercises, after spending five hours here we were dead. Still, when we got back to the hostel we headed out with some friends that we met and enjoyed a good night with the hostel!

After spending two nights in Koh Pha Ngan, we headed back to Koh Tao to start our diving course! The next couple of days in Koh Tao was spent with the two of us learning our open water courses, and the other, learning his advanced. Just a top tip, after saying in both Taco Shack hostels, I can honestly say that the Taco Shack 2 is a lot better. Although further away from the pier, it offers a great pub crawl and offers diving courses as well! The next three days were some of the best of the entire trip as diving is such a cool and incredible experience. We were all glad that we decided to head back to Koh Tao, even if it did leave us being skint. At Taco Shack 2 we met loads of people and got a good group together, where we went out and enjoyed the pub crawl! Passing our diving courses on our final day in Koh Tao was such a fantastic way to end our island experience. All three of us agree that Koh Tao was our favourite island and diving only added to that! Now we were leaving Koh Tao it was time to head to Bangkok and see the rest of Thailand.

View the rest of our Thailand pictures Here.