A Travellerspoint blog

Weeks 21 - 23 - The Philippines

(Manila, Banaue, Donsol, Bohol, Cebu, Malapascua & El Nido)

We flew into the Philippines from Kota Kinabalu. We arrived in Manila after an interesting flight with Cebu Pacific air where after takeoff there is an in flight quiz and the air hostesses stand at the front of the plane, asking quiz questions in broken English about celebrity marriages and general trivia and if you got the answer right you could win a naff prize! Even if you knew the answer, there were far more enthusiastic philipinos waving their hands up to answer them! A very bizarre set up!
On arrival, we went in search of a hostel we were recommended by friends we had met earlier in the trip called Pink Manila Hostel. After a couple of hours circling the city in a taxi we managed to find it. The hostel was really cool, it was about 6 storeys high and had an outdoor pool and bar and the view from the rooftop was amazing, you could see for miles over the city into the distance.
We went out for dinner on Josh’s birthday to a nice pizza place then sampled some of the bars around the lively parts of the city, including a bar famous for its midget boxing and wrestling shows! We were also very happy to find a couple of sports bars to watch the six nations rugby.
Whilst in Manila we got around the city by Jeepneys, these were open backed trucks used as hop on, hop off taxis, they are all decorated in unique ways with bright colours and paintings and patterns across the sides. Manila was quite rough in parts and there were lots of homeless about, especially children living on the streets begging.
After a few days here, we felt we had seen all there was to see and wanted to get out of the busy city and head to Banaue.
We got an overnight bus which was pretty cramped and after a few hours sleep we arrived in Banaue bright an early the next morning. Banaue is a town in the North of the Philippines, famous for its rice terraces.
After we got off the bus we had some breakfast in a café that overlooked a valley of rice terraces and booked our guide and jeepney for the day. We then set off in the jeepney towards Batad, a tiny village located high in the mountains, only accessible by foot through the valleys of terraces. Our jeepney ride was great; we sat on the roof whilst we drove up small roads on the mountainside, looking out to some stunning views over mountains and valleys. We then reached the furthermost point you could by vehicle and got off the jeepney, beginning our walk down the valley towards Batad. The views all the way were great but when we reached the town itself, we realised what all the fuss was about. The village overlooked a huge valley where vast rice terraces dominated the countryside and provided one of the best and most impressive views of the trip. After a drinks break and some time to take in the views, we trekked down through the rice terraces, walking on the stone brick walls that act as boundaries around each terrace, made by the rice farmers years and years before. As we walked through the terraces you appreciate how big they are up close, each terrace standing about 10 feet high and at times you had to climb up them to get onto the next walkway. We walked passed and greeted a few farmers on our way, many of them old women who would work all day tending to their paddie. Each terrace was owned by individual families who are responsible for their own patch. One terrace about 30 metres long would provide enough rice for a family for only two weeks! And once the rice was picked, it would be months before it was ready to be picked again as they only harvest the rice twice a year.
We carried on this trek for an hour or so before we reached another impressive sight, Tappia Falls. This was probably our favourite waterfall we had seen on our travels, tucked away in a valley, high in the mountains. It was a welcomed sight as we knew we could swim in it, a perfect way to cool down after a long walk in the midday heat!
After a swim in the waterfall, we trekked back to Batad and had lunch in a small family restaurant overlooking the terraces. This was easily the best view from a restaurant we had ever seen and probably one of the best you could find anywhere! After a quick nap, we then got the night bus back to Manila.
Our next stop was Donsol, a small town roughly 10 hours bus journey south of Manila. Donsol is famous for its Whale sharks or ‘Butanding’ that swim and feed off the towns shores.
The town of Donsol was a lovely place, a very laid back way of living with beautiful beaches and surroundings. We stayed in a bungalow in a nice resort on the beach front. On our first day there we played basketball on the court at our resort with a French guy we met and spent the evening having some dinner and watching the sun go down with a few beers on the beach.
The next day we hired our fins and snorkels and went down to the visitor centre where you can book a boat to take you out in search of whale sharks. After a quick video about the whale sharks and the dos and don’ts when near them in the water, we set off on our boat in search of Butanding. We were surprised by the amount of boats that were out at the same time; about 20 boats all within the same area searching for whale sharks. We waited patiently for an hour or so with no sightings then another boat made and sighting and all of the boats rushed in towards it. Within seconds the whale sharks had disappeared. We spent the next couple of hours searching around with no luck seeing whale sharks, just a few dolphins jumping out the water, and eventually time was up on the boat and we had to return to shore. We were gutted not to have seen any whale sharks and we were pretty disappointed overall by the way the whale shark centre was run. They claimed to be wildlife friendly but, there were far too many boats, all with loud motors, that would scare off the whale sharks before you could get near to them. Most people we spoke to didn’t manage to see any either so we decided not to have an extra day and spend extra money trying to see them, especially as our visas were running out rapidly! Whilst in Donsol we did however manage to go and experience a couple of cock fights.
The cock fights were really good fun, although they are quite brutal, the whole community gets involved with food stalls nearby and people sitting in families drinking beer and chatting. Then when the fights begin, its organised chaos! There are loads of guys in the pen shouting for bets to be made waving arms and taking money from the crowd. We got involved and put a few bets on and we all managed to come out in profit! Enough to buy a beer in the evening anyway! It was well worth a look!
Following Donsol, we made a fleeting visit to Bohol, a small Island in the central Visayas region, south of Cebu. We planned to cram all the sights in one day here and just about managed it!
We arrived by ferry at Bohol early morning and shortly after got on a bus to the chocolate hills, a large set of hills, close to each other that at certain points in the year, turn brown in colour, appearing like chocolate drops in the landscape, hence the name. The hills weren’t too brown when we saw them which took away a bit of the novelty but they were still worth a visit and we had a laugh imitating the shocking poses we had seen the Chinese and Japanese tourists doing earlier!
After the chocolate hills, we paid a Philipino couple who offered to take us to the tarsier sanctuary centre on their motorbikes. It took about 40 minutes on the bikes and we went through some stunning scenery and winding roads. At one point, we passed a buffalo that was running down the other side of the road with a rope attached round its neck, dragging on the floor behind it, which we thought was odd, then about a minute late we passed an old farmer bounding down the road at about 2 miles an hour, chasing after it, too far away to ever catch up with it! We were in stitches! It was like something off a comedy sketch!
The tarsier centre was pretty cool, we sat and watched a very dated video about the tarsiers and the work the sanctuary performs and then we had a guided tour around the sanctuary, looking at the tarsiers. They are really unusual looking creatures, on one hand they are quite cute being tiny with big eyes but they also have a long, rat-like tail and alien -like feet! You were able to get really close to them but you could only see them sleeping as they are nocturnal, however, some of them sleep with their eyes open so you can still get some good pictures. They were definitely worth visiting, especially as they are rare and the Philippines tarsier is one of the smallest primates on earth and Bohol is one of the best places to see them in their natural environment.
After a manic but fun day in Bohol, we got a night boat back to Cebu, followed by and early bus down to a port where we would catch a boat over to Malapascua Island, a small Island just off the coast of Cebu.
We caught a rickety old boat over to Malapascua, crammed full of local people and boxes of fruit and veg. The waters on the way over were really choppy, we got pretty drenched and we weren’t far from going completely under at times!
As we arrived on the Island we were bombarded by locals advertising their accommodation as per usual but even so you could tell straight away the Island had a laid back atmosphere and the locals were all sitting outside their homes chatting.
Malapascua’s main attraction was the opportunity to dive with thresher sharks, in what of the best spots to see them in the world, so straight away we booked on to a compulsory refresher dive the following day at 7am and then the thresher shark dive the day after. For the rest of the day we walked around the Island seeing what was about, then sat around the pool and played table tennis. We had planned to have an early night, until we heard the locals were having a community party in the middle of the Island around the basketball court, so after some nice local food we walked down to have a look.
It was a lot livelier than we expected so we sat down and had a few beers. After a few more beers we then lost a few pasos on the local gambling game similar to roulette and hit the dance floor/basketball court to have a dance with the locals. Before we knew it, it was 4am and we were at the bottom of a large bottle of local rum, sitting with the village elders, putting the world to rights! Josh was asleep cradling one of their kids who had also fallen asleep in his arms and the boy’s dad was too drunk to move so Josh woke up carried him to his house and tucked him in!
After the heavy night, we slept through our alarms and the diving instructor had to come and wake us up! We were not in the best state to be out on choppy waters on a rocky boat about to go diving! On reflection, we don’t really remember much about that dive or the morning in general!
The next day we went on our thresher shark dive. We had a good night’s sleep and were well rested, setting off early to the dive site called Monad Shoal, about 40 minutes off the coast.
The dive was amazing; we slowly descended down to around 30m depth towards the cleaning station were the sharks come to clean themselves by the small fish that feed on their dead skin. For the rest of the dive we stayed at the bottom on our knees watching the sharks swim past and over our heads! They were huge, some nearly 4 metres long and they are not afraid to come close to you! We saw about a dozen of them and at first it’s quite scary as they come so close but after watching them for a while you realise how calm and peaceful they are, they are really elegant in the way they move with their distinctive long tail gliding behind them. It was such a good experience and the Island of Malapascua was one of our favourite places we have stayed with its laid back atmosphere and friendly people.
After leaving Malapascua we got a boat to Cebu and flew to Palawan, the long, thin Island in the North West of the Phillipines. We caught a bus from the airport at Puerta Princessa and headed straight for El Nido, a coastal town in the north of the Island. We met an English girl from London called Hannah on our bus and the four of us arrived in the pouring rain late at night searching for somewhere to stay, after a couple of hours getting soaked walking from guesthouse to guesthouse with no luck, we managed to find an awesome beach house on the sand for pretty cheap.
Unfortunately, for most of the time we were in El Nido the weather wasn’t great and it rained a fair bit but on the rainy days we explored the town , had a massage and ate some nice food and in the evening there were some really nice bars on the beach just down from our beach house, with live music till late every night so we spent our nights drinking beer on our balcony as the sun went down then moved a few yards down the beach to the bars till the early hours most nights!
We did however, have one day of nice weather so we made the most of it by going on a boat trip to nearby Island and hidden lagoons off the coast, where we snorkelled off the boat and stopped on a nice beach for lunch where we had an amazing seafood barbeque. The Islands around El Nido were almost a smaller version of Halong Bay, with big Island Casts dotted around the sea. El Nido was a beautiful place and the town looked impressive with the mountains in the backdrop.
We loved our time in the Philippines and if it wasn’t for the 3 and a half week visa, we would have stayed longer. It’s definitely somewhere we want to visit again in the future.
Also the Philippines is where we discovered our favourite beer, “Red Horse” a 7.5% lager that cost 30p for a large bottle and tasted amazing! It’s worth going again just for that!
After El Nido, we flew back to Manila where we would head to our next stop, Jakarta, Indonesia.


Posted by Ben-Rob-Josh 19:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Weeks 18 - 20 - Malaysia & Borneo

(Kuala Lumpur, Mount Kinabalu, Sandakan, Semporna, Spidan & Mabul)

We entered Malaysia on a night boat and bus, stopping briefly for a night in Penang and then straight down to the capaital, Kualu Lumpur. Whilst in Kuala Lumpur, we spent our days exploring the sights, walking around the hectic streets of Chinatown and visiting the famous petronas towers and the menara sky tower. The petronas towers were an impressive sight close up and looked even better when illuminated at night. We went up to the viewing gallery at the menara sky tower and enjoyed the amazing 360 degree views of the city from 420m high, the views stretched for miles on end!
In the evenings we had some cheap and tasty meals in Chinatown and little India. Little India was not as bustling as we had anticipated but Chinatowns lantern lit streets had a good atmosphere in the evenings.

We decided to move out of Penninsula Malaysia as we had planned to fit a lot of things into to our time in Borneo. We flew from KL to Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of the sabah province of Borneo. We stayed here a night or so and then moved up to stay at a mountain lodge at the foot of Mount Kinabalu. The lodge had a great view looking out on the the hills and mountain and was completed isolated and very peaceful. After a night of relaxing here we set off the next dy to the kinabalu park headquarters to begin our mountain climb.

On the first day of our climb we ascended 6km up steep steps and slippery tracks in very humid conditions until we arrived at our lodge at Laban Rata, a small collection of accomodations two thirds of the way up the mountain. We were late to leave but first to arrive here wet and tired and in need of some good scran.
After topping up with some great buffet food we got an early night ready for our early morning start the next morning to see the summit at sunrise.
We got up at 3am and grabbed a quick bite before setting off again up the mountain in the pitch black, climbing up more challenging terrain where you had to use a rope to pull your self up the steep slopes. As we moved further up the rope, the temperature dropped rapidly and the trail got steeper and steeper, often having to climb up rocks on your hands and knees alongside the rope. The climb to the summit took a couple of hours and we got to the summit a little too early as we had to sit for an hour in the freezing conditions waiting for the sun to come up. However, it was well worth the wait as the views of the sun burning off the couds and rising behind the mountain were sensational and we fought off plenty of trigger happy Japanese and Chinese photo enthusiasts to get some cracking snaps at the summit sign and the mountain backdrops.

The climb down was quicker and less taxing but we paid for our quick pace the day before with some jelly legs and wobbly knees on the steep descent down.
We finally reached the bottom and gorged ourselves and more buffet food before having another nights rest at the same mountain lodge.

The following day we got a bus to Sandakan where we had a couple of days chilling at a nice hostel and hobbling around the town. We used Sanadakan as a base to visit the Orangutans and rainforest discovery centre at Sepiloc and the Kinabatangan river.
The Sepiloc Orangutan Sanctuary was a great experience to see the orangutans close up and learn about the work the sanctuary does to raise orphan orangutans in a programme to rehabillitate them back into the wild. We got some fantastic photos of them swinging around and enjoying feeding time.

We then booked onto a 3 day, 2 night trip for a Jungle experience at the Kinabatangan river. This was a 3 hour bus ride away into a jungle area where we stayed in cabins on the river front called nature lodge. The 3 days consited of river cruises, trekking and night walks.
As soon as we arrived we dumped our bags and went on a river cruise in search of wildlife. Just 10 mins journey down the river we encountered our first sighting in the form of Borneo Pygmy elephants! This was an extremly lucky sighting and our guide told us this was the first time he'd seen them in 5 months. We were able to see them just metres away and get some great photos. We saw the elephants in the same place on every cruise we went on over the 3 days which was great.
Whilst on the trip we also saw orungutans in the wild, lots of macaques, probiscus monkeys, a cobra, yellow ringed cat snake, monitor lizards, hornbills, eagles and kingfishers.

We really enjoyed this trip and in particular the boat cruises and we thought it was great value for money at just over 60 quid for the 3 days with food and accomodation.

A couple of days later we moved down to semporna which was a bit of a dump but was where we would get our boat to Mabul island, the island where we would be staying to do some diving at the world famous Sipidan island which is renouned for being one of the best dive sights in the world.

Mabul island is a tiny island with lots of dive centres built on wooden stilts on the coast, and we stayed on one of these.
The Island was beautiful and although being relatively small, it had about 2-3000 inhabitants, two thirds of which were children and each parent having on average 10 kids!
You could walk around the whole island in under 20 minutes and we walked around it on a couple of evenings and the place was built up of tin shacks surrounded by kids playing in the streets and kids playing football.
Their way of living was very basic and a complete contrast to some of the luxury holiday resorts on the otherside of the island. It was nice to see that even though most people were very poor, they always seemed happy and very friendly.

On the first day we got a boat to do our diving at Sipidan Island where only 100 people are allowed permits to dive there per day. On the way we were informed that there was a mix up with our diving permits and we had to pretend we were two Lithuainians and a Russian called Zameta Naidil, Danila Ustinor and Geidrias Pavimes!

The Sipidan Island was the picture of paradise with deserted beaches with jungle in the background and the diving itself lived up to it's reputation. We went on three dives, 2 of which were to the infamous Barracuda Point.
As soon as we jumped off the boat on our first dive there were lots of turtles and huge bumphead fish right underneath us and we were instantly amazed at the marine life and clarity of the water. The diving got better and better and along with hundreds of colourful tropical fish we saw lots of huge green turtles, lots of reef sharks, barracuda, bumpheads, huge schools of jackfsh and small barracuda and big parrot fish. It was amazing to be inside the big schools of fish and swim feet away from turtles!
During one of the dives, whilst looking for barracuda, we were caught in a strong downwards current and we were quickly swept from around 18 metres down to over 26 and ended up away from the coral wall in the deep blue where the only thing we could see was each other and walls of blue around us!

The next two days were spent diving around Mabul island where we were staying and a nearby island called Kapalai. This wasn't as impressive as the Sipidan but was a great area for seeing smaller marine life and here we saw green turtles, frogfish, blue spotted stingray, seahorses, lobster, maoray eel and loads of small tropical fish.

We loved our experiences diving here and we definately want to do more diving in the Philippines, our next destination on our trip!

Much Love,

Danila, Zaneta & Geidrias!


Posted by Ben-Rob-Josh 22:57 Comments (0)

Weeks 13-17 - South Islands, Thailand (Christmas & New Year)

Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Railay Bay, Krabbi, Koh Phangan & Koh Tao

We flew into Bangkok from Hanoi and got a bus and ferry down to Kh Phi Phi, a small Island off the coast of Krabbi. Here we spent a week or so relaxing on the beaches and enjoying the rowdy beach front night life.
We had a few good nights here at the beach parties where there were fire shows and several eager girls climbing totem poles revealing their assets to the crowds cheers. There was an interesting bar with a Muay Thai boxing ring in the centre where people in the bar could fight each other to entertain the crowd and in exchange get free buckets of Sangsom (Thai whisky)!
We also visited the viewpoint, which looked over the whole island which was pretty impressive! This is the highest point in the island, where people fled to during the 2004 tsunami.
On another day we went on a boat trip to maya bay (the bay made famous by the film 'The Beach'). Whilst on the trip we stopped at monkey beach and did some snorkelling just off the coast.

After Koh Phi Phi we got a boat to the island of Koh Lanta. The island was really chilled out and was a nice contrast to the crowdedness of Phi Phi. Here we spent a few days on the beach and by the pool and had some highly competetive games of volleyball with some Malaysian holiday makers and massage girls from the beach which was a good laugh. We also hired scooters and explored the coastal roads and beaches. We spent our evenings eating fresh fish and seafood on the barbeque and chilling by an open fire.

After Koh Lanta we took a ferry over to Railay Bay, which was a beautiful place and had some amazing scenery, however the weather was pretty poor whilst we were there so we took a longtail boat to the mainland to Krabbi where we caught a bus from the South West coast over to the South East coast. Here we jumped on a boat to the Island Koh Phangan where we were for Christmas and New year.
Our first stop in Koh Phangan was to the North of the island, at Had Salad Bay where we stayed at Salad Beach Resort. It was here we joined up with Lewis again and we stayed here for 4 nights until boxing day.
The resort was really nice, with good rooms and a lively restaurant overlloking the beach. It had a private pool and beach that we spent our days on.
It wasn't the average Christmas day, after breakfast in the sunshine we spent Christmas morning on the beach with our santa hats on and after a quick dip in the sea, we made our way to the masons arms. This was a traditional English pub which was an exact replica of a pub in Southampton. It looked bizarre amoungst the palm trees and shacks that surrounded it.
We started off our festivities with a D.I.Y bucks fizz...it turns out white wine with fanta tastes nothing like it! So we washed it down with Guiness, ales, whiskys and baileys throughout the day!
Some questionable christmas presents were exchanged including a christmas cock and some strap on breasts (see photos for amusement). The Christmas cock now sits behind the bar as a token of our appreciation for an amazing christmas dinner they served us! We were pleasantly surprised with the standard of our xmas dinner and we never thought we would find one with all the trimmings in south east Asia!
Most of the afternoon was spent playing pool, killer darts and table tennis with the losers drinking shots of the victors choice. Needless to say our aim got progressively worse as the day went on and it became a very Merry Christmas.
Unfortunately the pace was too much for Shia Khan (Lewis) who started to show his age (estimated to be between 38 and 45!) and he couldn't keep up with the young guns! It's safe to say 'Old Man Ryan's' glory days are behind him!
In preparation for the big day we had bought a variety of cheese and crackers we had managed to unearth after an afternoons search round the island. By about 7pm we felt it was time to feast on our cheeseboard which was chilling in the pub's fridge. However we we mortified to find out they had 'misplaced' the cheese and it's whereabouts was 'unknown'. Rob delicately questioned how the chese had vanished, with one direct quote being "You stole our cheese you b*stards!". Thankfully Robs way with words promted the cheese to be found intact and it was fantastic!
At aprroximately midnight when we realised we were the only 4 remaining in the bar and we were refused a lock in, we carried Lewis out the door into a taxi and made our way to the Reggae bar next to our hotel. It was here that Rob and Josh convinced the management they were talented musicians and took to the stage for an inpromptue gig, Rob on drums and Josh on vocals. This lasted all of one questionable rendition of Folsom prison blues by Johnny Cash before an angry and misinformed owner pulled the plug. If only Lewis was awake to see it....
We spent our boxing day on the beach with a cold beer nursing a few heavy heads!

We moved down to the south of the island for New Years at Haad Rin, where we attended the infamous full moon party and met up with loads of people we had met on our trip so far, having a couple of nights out with them warming up for New Years Celebrations. Here we met up with a few of Robs mates from home and spent New Years with them and 30,000 others on the beach watching the fireworks as 2013 rolled in.
Before we left Koh Phangan, we went to watch some professional Muay Thai boxing. This was brutal and the loser was often seen being carried out the ring.

After a crazy couple of weeks in Koh Phangan, we looked forward to relaxing in Koh Tao. Here Rob, Ben and Lewis did their open water scuba divers qualification which took 4 days and we went on 4 dives down to a depth of 18metres. The highlight was the final day where we got up at 5am for 2 fun dives, it was so peaceful watching the sun come up on the boat and the water was so clear and calm. Diving was amazing and has made us want to do more of it on our trip and in the future. Josh did a refresh course and went on some fun dives whilst the rest of us did our course.
We really enjoyed Koh Tao, its a really chilled out and beautiful island and we spent a couple of days post diving soaking up the rays on the beach watching the sun go down.

Our next stop is Malaysia,

Untill next time,

The Cheese Bandits


Posted by Ben-Rob-Josh 19:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Week 11 & 12 - Central and Northern Vietnam

Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, Dak Glei, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi & Halong Bay

We set off from Nah Trang along with Lewis and Adrian, heading towards Hoi An. This journey would take four days along the inland mountain roads (Ho Chi Minh Highway) so we stopped off at some towns in between.
Our first days ride was in glorious sunshine up some winding mountain roads where we spent a lot of the ride trying to dodge or overtake lorries that were far to big for the roads! Over 200k later, we reached a town called Buon Ma Thuot. Judging by the inquisitive looks and attention we got from the locals, this was not a place tourists often visit. In the evening we searched for somewhere to eat, and ended up in a lively locals hangout. The menus were all in Vietnamese and none of the staff spoke English so they brought out a few traditional dishes for us to share along with local beers, the dishes included ducks throat, chicken feet, and jellied cubes of pigs blood! All the locals were so friendly and wanted to chat and practice their english with us. Our glasses were never empty and we were being offered shots of whisky every other minute!
The next day we set off early with another 200k or so ahead of us. The weather was really good but the roads were awful, with pot holes everywhere and dusty tracks replacing roads for short stretches. It took its toll on the bikes and Arche's bag rack cracked and needed re- wealding, and Rob's wheel buckled! We stopped off for some lunch and a much needed drink where we met two German Lads who were doing the same trip also on bikes and they rode with us for the rest of the day, until we reached Pleiku where we would stop for the night. We all went for out for a feast of a dinner then got an early night as we would be setting off the next day at 6:30.

The next morning we got 50k or so under our belt before stopping for breakfast in Kon Tum. After taking a wrong turning we nearly ended up at the Lao border! But we realised our mistake and it was a blessing in disguise as we went through some beautiful scenery and stopped for lunch by an amazing lake with a family who owned a roadside shop. We took photos of the views and sat and ate lunch while they filmed us eating and chatting on their phones! Once back on track we headed up back into the mountains and after a short while we stumbled across a load of kids playing football on a dirt pitch where the mountain had been dug into and flattened out and goalposts put up.
We couldn't pass up the opportunity to challenge them to a game, so we jumped off our bikes and the 5 of us played the 30 or so of them! After some liquid football and sneaking into a 4-3 lead, our fitness levels were shown up and we were blowing out our arses, but we all concluded it was down to the altitude! Dripping with sweat, we had a quick team photo and then got back on the bikes. After our exertions we were quite glad of some light rain to cool us down but this soon turned into a terrential downpour and unfortunately, a stretch of road ahead was still under construction and consisted of a foot of wet, slippery mud. Arch was the first to approach it and decided to gamble through it, only to end up face down on the dirt with his bike on top of him! Josh, following closely behind witnessed the whole ordeal and managed to contain his laughter momentarily but almosty ended up on his arse next to Ben as he went to help lift the bike back up. Luckily no damage was cuased to the bike or the rider!
We had a quick overnight stay in a small town called Dak Glei where we spent the night having a few beers and playing billiards with the locals.

The next morning we started our 4th and final leg of the journey to Hoi An. This road was incredible and we made some great progress without any stoppages. We passed stunning views and waterfalls along the way, taking snaps and soaking up the sun in some phenominal scenery.
We made it in good time to Hoi An, but unfortunately on the outskirts of the city, Adrian hit a Dog that had ran out into the road and fell off his bike. Luckily he was going fairly slowly and got away with a few cuts, grazes and bruises. On a more solemn note, the dog quite literally had it's day...

Hoi An was an amazing place, the streets were filled with coloured, candle lit lanterns at night and the town had a great atmosphere. The streets were narrow and old fashioned with lots of shops and market stools. It had some fantastic restaurants through the town and along the river front with amazing vietnamese food.
Josh and Ben had tailored suits made on one of the days and the rest of the time there we spent going to the beach in the day and wondering round the town in the evening.
We could have spent a few more days here but time was against us so we had to move onto Hue.

Our days ride towards Hue was a game of two halves! It was our last full day of riding on the bikes and the morning was one of the best rides of the whole trip- a coastal mountain road with unbeatable views in glorious sunshine. The second half however was the worst and unfortunately the last leg of the journey. We had to head down the notoriously dangerous and busy highway 1 and the heavens opened and did not stop till we reached Hue. By the time we got there it was pitch black and we were lost and separated in the city. Once we found the backpackers hostel we got showered and warm and ended up having a good night catching up with some people we had met earlier on in the trip.

The next day to save time we put our bikes on the overnight bus ad headed to Hanoi.
During the journey, Rob lost his bike key so it had to be hotwired everytime to start!
We spent a few days in Hanoi, repairing and reluctantly selling the motorbikes before going on our trip of Halong Bay.
Our Halong Bay tour was for 3days, 2 nights with 50 or so other backpackers. The drinks started flowing early doors on the boat whilst getting to know other people, playing games and taking in the incredible scenery.
After 4 hours on the boat through the thousands of mini islands and carsts that make up Halong Bay, we ended up reaching the private island were we would be staying called Castaway Island. We were greeted by a group that was already on the island and soon had dinner and carried on in a merry fashion, partying into the early hours!
The next day we woke up blury eyed, and confused as our clothes were no-where to be seen, but we were soon reminded that they were on the beach after we had gone for a late night dip out to the pontoon so all was well.
We spent the next day on the island kayaking around carsts and small islands with breathtaking scenery, passing other fantastic beaches and floating fishing villages along the way. Later that afternoon we had a go at wakeboarding but had little success but enjoyed it nonetheless.
We then greeted the next tour group onto the island, brushing them up to speed with the drinking rules and had another goodnight.
The journey the next day was a struggle but when we got back to Hanoi we went out for a meal with a group we made good friends with on the island. We met some great people on the trip, in particular a group of kiwis and a group of Australian lads who were insistent that we go and stay with all of them when we go to Aus which will be ideal when we are there.

After an amazing time in Vietnam we were sad to be leaving but looking forward to the next month in the South Islands of Thailand where we will be spending christmas and new year.

Wrap up warm and the fire on,

The Three Wise Men x

Posted by Ben-Rob-Josh 07:00 Comments (0)

Week 9 & 10 - South Vietnam, Motorbikes!

Ho Chi Minh, Vung Tao, Mui Ne, Dalat & Nah Trang

We crossed the border into Vietnam and arrived in Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon). As we entered the city, we were taken back by the sheer size and busyness of the place. The roads were filled with hundreds of thousands of bikes, beeping their horns every other second, this made crossing the road a challenge in itself! The city looked really impressive at night, with all the colourful lights illuminating the streets and skyscrapers towering over you.

We spent our time in Ho Chi Minh having a few home comforts, in the days we went to Diamond Plaza, a big complex with a cinema and bowling alleys, we even managed to see the new bond film which was quality! We spent our evenings in the backpackers area drinking 30p beers in family run street stool bars, meeting other travellers and also bumping into people we had met previously. One night, we were sitting enjoying a few sherries when a huge brawl between local families errupted in the middle of the road where chairs, bottles and bamboo poles were being thrown about, willy nilly. We thought the old dears were coming out to diffuse the situation but they were up to their usual tricks, stirring the pot! It soon dispersed when one lad came out firing gunshots in the air, which caused a hellish panic in the bars as plastic tables and chairs were flying all over the road! We were later told he was an undercover policeman but we weren't convinced!

We bumped into the Canadian girls we went trekking with and alltogether we visited the Ho Chi Minh war museum. This was really interesting and shocking at the same time, especially the after affects the chemical warfare has caused to this day with people being born with physical and mental deformities.

It was whilst speaking with other travellers in Ho Chi Minh, we decided to buy motorbikes to ride the length of the country to Hanoi. We bought our Honda Win bikes off an English guy who moved out here 5 years ago who owns a garage. He sorted us out with good helmets, wet weather gear and a map. He then gave us a lesson for a couple of hours showing how to ride them and then showed us the best route up the country, and good places to stop along the way.

The night before we stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of the city, so we could start our journey away from the chaos of the inner city and get onto the highway easily. We treated ourselfves to the hotel spa, equipped with some fruity golden robes and enjoyed the sauna, steamroom, jacuzzi and massage. The next morning we set off on our first day of riding to the seaside town of Vung Tao. After starting in the chaos of highway 1, it was nice to get onto the wider and quieter roads, it wasn't the most interesting of rides but it was nice to reach the coast in good time without any problems.

The following day we rode up the coast to the beach resort town of Mui Ne. The weather was awful and we go absolutely soaked but the ride was pretty good as we went through lots of countryside and some beautiful coastal roads, even in the shoddy weather!
Our time in Mui Ne was spent in rainy weather, but we decided to brave the conditions and spent the day sand boarding on the red and white sand dunes.
The following day we set off early and headed inland to the french colonian town of Dalat, located in the mountains. The weather was great for this leg of the journey and the ride was also really enjoyable; with a big ascent and descent up winding, thin mountain roads, dodging lorries and bikes! The views were great with farmland and rice paddies dominating the landscape.

Dalat was a beautiful place centered around a large lake, the scenery here was different to the rest of Vietnam, with pinetrees replacing palmtrees and the climate was cooler, , for the first time yet we had to get our jumpers out! There was a good atmosphere in the town and it was surprisingly busy for a town up in the mountains. Whilst here we ventured further into the mountains and went to local waterfalls and a cable car ride that took you over pineforests and amazing views of Dalat and the surrounding area. At the base of the cablecar there was a monestary and gardens occupied by monks, the place was crowded with Chinese tourists and a group of teenage girls took a liking to Josh and all insisted on having their photo with him, they must have mistaken him for Bepe Di Marco due to his filthy facial hair from his Movember effort!

Our next ride was the best so far, we headed from Dalat out of the mountains towards the coastal town of Nah Trang.
Going through the mountains there was some breathtaking views where you could see for miles on end and it was awesome riding through and above the clouds past loads of waterfalls and cliff edges and we got some great photos.
Nah Trang was very touristy but we enjoyed it nonetheless. It was a classic beach resort with lots of restaurants and bars. We had a couple of goodnights out here and spent a day on the beach. We also visited Vinpearl waterpark on an island where you had to jump on a cablecar ride over the bay to get across. This was great fun and as we spent the day on water flumes, rollercoasters and a big arcade with bumper cars and Vietnamese karaoke boothes! There was also an aquarium with sharks, turtles and sting rays.

Riding the hogs from place to place is so much fun and you get to explore the real Vietnam with so much more freedom, off the beat and track away from the tourist routes, through the countryside and rural villages, experiencing the Vietnamese peoples lifestyles and stunning areas.
The Vietnamese people are so friendly, every time we have stopped they have been helpful and welcoming, offering food and drink and assiting us with our route and bikeproblems.
We have had a few minor bike problems on the route so far but luckily mechanics are easy to come by and are dirt cheap and do a good job. For example Rob had his chain tightened, puncture repaired, oil changed and startermotor replaced for 120,000 dong which is about 3 quid!
The petrol is also really cheap, it costs about 4 pounds to fill up your tank which will last you all day, doing between 150-200 kilometres.

We are now heading further North on our motorbike adventure joined by two other lads, a Welsh guy called Lewis and a Portugese guy called Adrian.

Drive on!
The Wild Hogs!


Posted by Ben-Rob-Josh 00:45 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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