Thursday, 20 April 2017


Of all the places on our big old trip, Bangkok was the only one that was sort of chosen for us, our fine travel agent pointing out that flying back from here saves a lot of money, and that Thailand is actually quite nice. 

We arrived and took a taxi to our hotel, eventually were allowed into our room, and we relaxed and unpacked a bit and counted the clean underwear. We wandered our to find some food, and discovered that we had arrived in the middle of the Sonkran festival, (the same new year that had been the reason for loads of decorations and the occasional water pistol in Cambodia.)

The area we were staying was near some of the biggest shopping centres and open spaces, and the weather was well into the high 30's, which gave people free rein to have the biggest mass water fights we'd ever seen. No one was safe, and in the heat we didn't mind the surprise body shots, were less keen on the full in the face ones (we researched afterwards and apparently you are supposed to use "good" water, not straight from the taps, so hopefully that was adhered to) and people were generally respectful of mobile phones (most had them in waterproof lanyards, but I didn't have that luxury)  

We knew that finding food might be tricky, and went past dozens of restaurants in the big mall without a single veggie item on the menus, but eventually found a burrito place that had the option not to add the chicken, so we ate there. We came back via the Erawan shrine, where people decorated the idols with yellow things. Mostly marigold garlands but the occasional bottle of pop would turn up too. 

Our first full day was the height of the new year celebrations, and we took the bus (it was made of wood, but free) to the old town, and visited wat phra, the huge complex of temples which included the temple of the reclining Buddha. Loads of spectacular pinnacles, sparkly rooftops, decorated statues, rows upon rows of golden Buddha statues, and the epically huge reclining Buddha, which photos don't do justice to. 

We tried to visit the royal palace, but there was a parade happening later in the day, and the whole area was cordoned off. Unless you were an official mourner (dressed all in black, from Thailand, that sort of thing) you weren't coming in. 

The Thai king passed away last year, after over 70 years on the throne, and the year of official mourning is evident all over Bangkok - every building has black and white drapes around it, huge photos of the king with shrines in front and messages of condolence are outside every building, and lots of people are wearing black ribbons. 

The journey back to our district took forever on the bus (which we had to pay for this time, possibly because it had air conditioning), largely because the whole world wanted to be part of the water fights again. 

On Sunday, Sonkran had finished, and the streets returned to normal. We tried to take a riverboat service to the old town, but that wasn't running (google being rubbish) so we got a bus instead, hopping off at the golden mount, a temple atop a hillock, with a spiral walkway up. Bells were the big thing for this one, so we rang a lot of them as we climbed, including an epic gong, and the wind kept a constant jingling going of the tiny ones you could pay to dedicate (write your name in sharpie) and hang up from the eaves. At the top level we visited the shrine, ate an ice cream, and then went up on the roof to admire the golden pinnacle, and the panoramic views. 

A quick trip to the metal roofed temple at Wat Ratchanatdaram and a pause for a smoothie and a waffle, (it was still high thirties) and we riverboat to take us to Wat Arun, the sunset temple, covered in beautiful and intricate white and patterned mosaics, with demons and little wizards holding up the roofs.

In the evening we ate a pad Thai (Lisa's had something odd in it, we don't think it was meat, but we don't know what it might have been), and drank a mai Thai and all was well. 

On Monday we took the metro to the central railway station, and bought two tickets for the two hour journey to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand. It cost us about 35p for the tickets, and we sat in comfy leather seats, and looked out of the window at rural Thailand whooshing by as people tried to sell us food and drink in the carriage. 

On arrival we took a walk past the hundreds of tuktuks all trying to sell us tours, through the most rancid smelling market I have ever known, paused to eat crepes and drink smoothies, and then we hit the temples hard. 

The temples here are a combination of ruins, rebuilt from the ruins, and rebuilt to show what they would have been like (if concrete had been available back then) but they were very spectacular, and we spent ages wandering around.

A tuktuk back to the station, and a short wait for our train (we bought tickets for e express, which were more expensive, at about 40p each) which on arrival was completely rammed, so we stood crushed up against random people for the first hour of the journey, which was not amazingly pleasant. We ate pizza for dinner! 

We took the tube back and then walked the last bit through Lumpini park, where lisa had run the previous evening. 

Our final day, and we did the royal palace, another incredible complex of temples and shrines, including the emerald Buddha, the palace itself (not allowed in, but we watched the guards parade around) and an exhibition on the Queen's wonderful clothing through the years. 

We then bought some trinkets in the backpacker district, including some first class haggling, and took the bus back to the mall, where we ate Japanese food, and then got the packing done for our early flight in the morning. 

Monday, 17 April 2017


Cambodia for us was all about the temples. We stayed in Siem Riep, and for our first full day, we had a driver and a proper car with AC take us round all the main temples. Starting in Angkor Wat, with the classic multi pinnacled towers, and amazing friezes along every wall, we then did Bayon, with benevolent smiling faces adorning every tower, and a thousand little corridors to get lost in, the Elephant Terrace, then Tomanon, and Ta Prohm  (the amazing overgrown one from the Tomb Raider movie) there was one more on the way home - banteay kdei, but we'd been out and about for about 7 hours by the time we got back.

Day two proper we lazed about in the morning, and had a swim in the pool, before hopping in a tuk tuk and going back to Bayon. We found a shady spot and just sat and watched the world (literally, a tourist from every country) go by. We immersed ourselves in a beautiful place, until we ran out of water and went out to the next bit.

Baphuon, was a small one we missed the day before, part of the royal palace.

We spent some more time at the elephant terrace, finding some of the hidden bits, and moving on to the leper King terrace, a 6 layer sculptured terrace.

Day three was an early start and a long drive out to Beng Malaya, a huge and still in its fallen state complex, with more trees growing through it, tunnels and piles of stones to explore and walkways to climb and finally Bantea Srei, an intricately decorated "ladies" temple, quite small, but extremely beautiful.

We had lunch at a really posh restaurant - more amazing sea bass for me, loofah for Lisa, and we shared the most amazing banana fritters for pudding!


We went to Laos! Before we started planning Laos was little more than a useful answer in pointless, but after visiting we came to be rather fond of the place. For the next few years, a page in our passports will be fully devoted to it.

We started off with a climb up the steps to the mount Phusi temple, where the buddha's footprint (it is about 3 feet long) , and a lot of Buddha statues can be found. This is also one of the best places to view the famous Laotian sunset, but we didn't fancy sharing it with the hundred or so backpackers, or waiting an hour and a half for it to finish setting (it was already looking beautiful and deep red) so we went down the other side and found some dinner. I was delighted to discover sweet and sour chicken under "laos dishes" and he local beer was delicious. (I didn't dare try the draft, which worked out at about 10p a glass. I love my ability to not spend 4 hours a day in the toilet).

The next day we did some serious loafing in the room with the air con on full blast. Eventually we got hungry so went and found coffee and foot at a cafe, then walked around the other temples and had a boat ride at sunset, ticking "see the sunset over the Mekong in Laos" off my list of cool things I didn't know I wanted to do until I'd done them.

The temperatures were hitting 38°c so we were quite lethargic and taking our time getting anywhere. We visited the royal palace (they exiled their royals in the 70s, but still don't mind showing their old cars to the tourists) and drank more coffee and generally chilled out.

On our final day we took a minibus out to the massive waterfall, which was beautiful and spectacular at the top, but also had pools where you would paddle and swim underneath, so I cemented my position as someone who frolics under waterfalls, but I didn't actually swim, as the water seemed to be full of those fish that bite the loose skin off your feet, and I was quite startled.

Then we took a plane to Cambodia!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Hanoi and ha long bay.

We stayed a single night in Hanoi, enjoying the street party that seems to kick off on a Sunday evening, with groups of kids playing on closed roads around the lake, live music and general fun and frivolity. A late lunch of pizza meant we didn't need to eat until quite late, when we found a little gem of a restaurant, named Aubergine, we rolled our own spring rolls, I drank Hanoi beer, and we generally ate ourselves silly.

It was an early start the next morning, and a bus ride from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, stopping half way for a toilet break, and the opportunity to buy a two tonne water feature or marble elephant (we declined) it was a total of three and a half hours on the bus, and it had less legroom than Ryanair.

It was totally worth it though - as we boarded a little boat, which took us to treasure junk, a lovely two deck, plus sun deck on top ship, with masts and cold drinks and comfy beds. We started off with a five course lunch (I avoided two of them for being too heavy on the squids and prawns) then we relaxed as we cruised into the depths of the bay.

We stopped off to go into a cave, and then again to visit a secret beach, before dinner was served, this time it was another 5 courses, but I only needed to miss one. We drank some wine, and called it our anniversary celebration (technically we were a day late).

The next morning we woke deathly early, did tai chi on the deck as the sun rose behind the magnificent islands, then had a light breakfast before heading out to a floating village. We were rowed from there to a pearl farm, however, Lisa didn't want a pearl necklace, so we headed back for brunch.

Our 24 hours on the boat were up, and I'd taken about 400 photos of amazing islands and cliffs and misty seas and it was lovely.

Another 3 and a half hours on the bus and we were back in Hanoi, where we ate even more amazing food and ambled around before an early night.

Next day we had brunch at a rooftop cafe, tried to visit the temple on the lake but my shorts were too short so we went back to change, then we visited the temple on the lake, before walking across town to the temple of literature, where schoolchildren were praying for good grades (with much hitting of drums and clanging of gongs)

I bought some excellent ties, and then it was back to the hotel for a final interview, and a job offer.

In the evening we jogged round the lake a few times, and then we ate at Aubergine again!

Then it was off to the airport in the morning...

Friday, 7 April 2017

Hoi An

We are a bit in love with Hoi An. Yes, it is quite touristy, an obvious destination for backpackers and proper travellers like us, but this just seemed to me to make it more welcoming, accessible and friendly. Our first evening was punctuated by me having an interview, which was after dinner, and lisa went out to the night market.

After this, lisa came back to pull me towards town, where a big festival or some sort was happening, including big dance numbers where 20 identically dressed school children would do their thing, while hundred of parents and school mates videoed them on their phones. There were illuminated lanterns, sculptures lit up on the water, food stalls and the night market was also in full flow, so we had a look around, bought some (small) souvenirs and had a mango based cocktail.

Our next day was a cycling tour to the Me Sung temples. Just us and a guide, on three slightly ropy mountain bikes, squeaking into the countryside. We went through farmland, we saw a bull being carried on a trailer behind a scooter, we ate boiled peanuts, every schoolchild called "hello" as we went past, and one even raced us on his bike. I failed to try snails at the market, and it was a lovely way to see come more of the Vietnamese countryside.

We stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe. There were a few locals there, and the family of the owners (2 beautiful toddlers, 2 quiet girls, and 2 adorable boys, King and Bing, aged 8 and 7, but dressed alike and looking like twins, they were keen to practise their English conversing with lisa on favourite colours, pets, school, sports, and even singing Scarborough Fair (I sang, not Lisa.)

We ate Pho and made spring rolls, and drank chilled iced tea, and it was all lovely.

After lunch we got to the temple car park, left our bikes, and took a little shuttle to the temples themselves. Overgrown and fallen down over a thousand years, and then bombed by the Americans too, they've been restored or rebuilt to varying extents, but each cluster was interesting to walk around, cool to hide in, and fascinating to hear about.

The journey back was by minibus, our bikes stowed behind.

Our last full day in Hoi An was spent enjoying the old town. The ticket you buy gets you into five attractions, so we saw a very old house, the communal hall, and a temple in the morning, and a family chapel and the local museum in the afternoon.  After this we had a massage (both of us in the same room, with the girls climbing all over us to sort out pretty much everything above the waste) my favourite moment was when I realised he plinky plonks musak in the room was actually playing a version of "little drummer boy."

Then it was time to pack up again and prepare for the city again in the morning...

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Ho Chi Minh City

A slightly longer flight, almost two hours, and we were in Vietnam! My 40th country, not long after my 40th birthday (I'm now using a combination of the pointless criteria, with a caveat for actual separate stamps in my passport, so Hong Kong and Macau count separately, not as part of china, but I've removed the Vatican from the list.

Our taxi ride to the hotel was a lot of fun, with a thousand motorbikes swarming around us, lots of good natured tooting, and the enjoyable game of trying to outdo each other on the heavily laden scooters, our favourites being whole families of four, sandwiching children between adults and handlebars, huge boxes on the back, containing TVs, beautiful girls riding side saddle and my favourite, 15 full water-cooler bottles, strung on every available surface.

With three full days we didn't waste too much time, so we braved walking around the block in 35° heat, and buying crisps and sushi (and obscenely cheap beer) in a grocery store, and called it an afternoon well spent.

For the evening, we met up with Paul, who has been living in Ho Chi Minh city for a few years now, and had already provided us with all manner of useful advice for our arrival. He'd found a nice restaurant just down the road, and we ate honey chicken, tofu, and morning glory with garlic (our new favourite thing), and Lisa's wine was about a quarter of the total cost of the meal!

We walked back via the big town square, where pretty much everyone was just hanging around and enjoying the cool evening (it was down to 29° by 10pm.)

Day one proper we spent on a proper tour, taking a fast boat up the river to the Mekong delta, visiting families and drinking coconut milk and rice wine, admiring the various uses of the river bank, from rice production, timber treatment, heavy industry and general fishing and farming. Lunch was a huge affair with many courses of spring rolls, tofu galore for lisa, and chicken and fish for me. It was at an orphanage (although mostly it seemed to be more of a foster place, where kids can get an education without having to work on a farm as soon as they are old enough) so some of us played football with the kids afterwards
, before being dragged back to the boat. We took a ride on little rowing boats, and visited a farm, which was also home to the biggest snake we had ever seen.

Our second day, Paul was off work for most of the day, so he showed us some of the prettier outdoor bits of the city, taught us how to cross the roads, we visited the cathedral, and the post office and found little cafes and exciting lunch places. One of the cafes was just in what looked like an apartment block, but when you looked closely every apartment was a different cafe.

When he went to work in the evening, we visited the opera house, where they have the AO show which is pretty much the Vietnamese cirque de soleil- taking various aspects of Vietnamese culture and turning it into a thrilling set of dances and acrobatic skits.

That evening (having had a hefty lunch at a vegetarian restaurant, introducing us to wonders such as lotus flower seeds) we went to the bar on the roof of the xxxxx hotel and looked down at the fountains on the square, and the statue of Uncle Ho, while drinking cocktails (and in my case eating chips. Yes, sorry, I fancied some chips.)

Day three we spent the morning in the National art gallery (which was really good, contrary to the comments in our guide book) while the other museums were closed for lunch, then we visited the palace, and the War Remnants museum, before finding dinner at the Secret Garden - a rooftop restaurant serving amazing food with cockerels in (not too tiny) cages and nice views.

We left Ho Chi Minh city early the next morning to head to Hà Nội.

Friday, 31 March 2017



Back into uncharted territory and we took the very short flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, (although the airport is actually about a 45 minute drive from the city) and checked in to our room with a view. The traders hotel, a recommendation from friends whose photos we had envied, put us on the 13th floor (the hotel didn't have a 7th floor, but 13th is fine in asia) with a view both of the Petronas towers, and into the rooms on the other wing of the hotel.

The city itself was lovely, although getting around was most easily achieved via air conditioned walkways between shopping malls, and one time we tried to find an area with street food the whole outdoors of the city centre was full of smoke and ash from a car fire!

We browsed the malls (Lisa took a fancy to a rather nice Alexander McQueen handbag, which we discovered cost about £10000) and ate green tea ice cream and exciting curries in the food hall. On the second day there we went to the top of the towers, and across the sky bridge which made us both feel pretty wobbly, and we were quite glad that the ticket was for a limited time, and we were herded back down from the 88th floor.

The next day we used the subway, and a train to get out to the Batu Caves, a complex of temples utilising some spectacular caves in the cliffs we could see from the top,of the towers.

The first was full of life size models of the Hindu gods, and told various stories about waking a giant to fight in the war, and the monkey god not realising his tail was on fire.

The second was up a flight of about 300 steps (in 32° heat, with monkeys jumping all over people- at one point a monkey tried to jump on a lady's hat, discovered it wasn't solid, so bounced off her shoulder, leaving a tiny poo on her nose. She was not impressed. I laughed.

At the top it was like being in the bottom of a volcano, with open air above, and monkeys and chickens around, and some sweet little shrines around us.

A cornetto and a bottle of strawberry Fanta later, and we headed back into town. We tried to see the historic quarter of KL but it was surrounded by a building site so totally inaccessible.

The second part of Malaysia involved a plane to Penang, for a laze by the pool or on the beach, some reading of books and chilling out, and an enjoyable day trip to Georgetown, the old capital of the island, which is now a unesco world heritage site so protected to ensure it retains its colonial charm. Unfortunately, and for only the third time of the whole trip so far, rain stopped play, so we hid in a cafe and braved the storm, making a juice, an iced tea and a plate of (spectacularly good) waffles last a good hour and a half, with only the local cat to entertain us.

Eventually the rain subsided, and we happened upon a hairdresser called "son and dad" and realising this might be my last chance for a while, I allowed a man who spoke barely any English to have his way with my Barnet and beard. He did an excellent job, and I rounded the price up to something resembling what I used to pay for a haircut 10 years ago in Cardiff. Lisa was happy looking round the shops, and sheltering from some more rain.

We drank cordials and compared pokedexes with the old men who were camped out in the pokemon cafe, before eating some excellent Italian food (slightly randomly) and heading back to the resort on the 101 bus.

The final whole day we once again lazed around the hotel, only going out in the evening when we got hungry, exploring the night market, and eating curry from the hawker centre.

Monday, 27 March 2017


Part three of the trip (in our heads it was always 1- New Zealand, 2- Australia, 3- Southeast Asia) began in a familiar way, with Singapore, one of only two places we had both been to before, but one we had unfinished business with from last time, so this time we made a bee line to the gardens by the bay, which weren't in our guide book last time we were there, and we only found out about them when we got back.

They didn't disappoint, with spectacular sky trees, each being a vertical garden in itself, connected with terrifying walkways, an added bonus was that they were surrounded by colourful animatronic dinosaurs. And hoards of children, but that wasn't so bad.

We ambled around there, then went into the huge glass houses (climate controlled to be nice and cool - my glasses only steamed up when I went out again). One was full of flowers, with the emphasis on the Japanese cherry blossom, and the other was more rainforests, with a 7th floor walkway around the inside (Lisa didn't partake).

It rained mightily while we had coffee and cake, but we didn't mind a bit. Got the tube back to find out luggage, and headed over to our friends Bert and Adrienne, and e settled into their beautiful 20th floor apartment.

After lots of wine and Mexican food by the river on Friday night, we were nicely prepared for the early start for Singapore's nicest parkrun (they have two) where we stumbled round, ended up as a pair of sweaty messes (Lisa beat me!) and had coffee and cake at Starbucks.

We showered and then headed out to little India, visited some temples, (one Buddhist, and one Hindu) and stopped for wine, then found an amazing veggie restaurant, where we ate masses of dosas and vadai and then we had more wine.

On Sunday morning, Lisa and Bert went running in the other (proper) botanical gardens, and Adrienne and I met them later on. We had breakfast, and then did some more exploring, finding the orchid garden, and a palmetum. It was lovely, and we found monitor lizards and chickens too.


Hobart airport is tiny, and Hobart itself is pretty wee too, although not without a lot of charm. We spent the first evening wandering the hip waterside and battery point, finding things which it would be impossible to continue to carry round the world or send back (massive metal garden sculptures, that sort of thing. We admired the number plates, (they have thylasines on them) and generally mooching about. We ate by the waterfront and drank local wine and all was well.

The next day We did more of the same in the morning, then picked up the car (same Toyota Camry as before, but in white) and drove out to the museum of old and new art (Mona). We had heard good things and it didn't disappoint. Hewn from solid rock, we took the lift to the bottom, and were faced with four doors. Each took us into a different selection of works, and we could have spent hours and hours there. There were a few old favourites, and some new wonders, and experiments and theories being tested (I got to try a method for drawing/forging based on using a little mirror to copy an upside down photo, and produced a passable pencil drawing.

We had to leave earlier than we would like, and drove off to Coles bay, ready to do an epic walk the next day.

On Friday we did an epic walk. Do a google picture search for Tasmania, and you will get 200 views of wineglass bay. We did the walk to the top, met a friendly wallaby. Then carried on to the bay itself. The day was beautiful, the water was a crazy colour, the sand was pure white and we practically had the place to ourselves. Not fancying the really steep climb back up, we continued round the hazards bay route, taking a total of about 5 hours hiking in 30° heat (albeit in the shade for some of it). We got back thirsty and hot, but it was totally worth it.

A two hour drive to Launceston, and a glass of wine and a pile of food, and a hotel over a nightclub and Friday was done.

Saturday started with a lovely parkrun (Dave was fastest again!) and then we headed over to the east coast again. In a desire not to go over the same roads, we went the long way, and ended up doing about an hour on proper unsealed mountain roads. Oops. Glad it wasn't my car.

We spent Sunday around the bay of fires, and Monday in Richmond, the oldest town in Tasmania.

Monday night we were in a place in the middle of nowhere, where we ate mulberries off the tree,  Lisa was attacked by the biggest spider in the world (it took a cereal box to evict it) and she met a tiny snake while running. After dark we went out with torches to spot the wildlife, and our airbnb host came out with a proper torch and showed us stuff, lots of wallaby eyes, and we could hear possum fights.

We spent the last two nights on Bruny island, which is a ferry ride, and a long drive south. We did some good walks, visited a vineyard, and destroyed the house's water supply (and the front bumper of the hire car), just as we were leaving. It only rained as we were driving back to Hobart on the final morning, which is probably a record based on what we had been warned about Tasmania, but we really warmed to the place.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The great ocean road and the grampians

We spent the next few days driving along the south coast, pausing to admire the beautiful beaches, to walk inland up rivers and see waterfalls and to eat local fish (usually battered) and massive salads.

Lorne was a nice seaside town, with a holiday park at one end, and a pretty prominade of shoots and cafes. We are huge ice creams, drive up to viewpoints over the mountains, and jogged into the woods.

After lorne we found a little koala on Lisa's map, so stopped there for coffee.

We walked up a road from the coffee shop, and found some very tame parrots sitting on tourists hands and heads. Further up the track and into the forest every hundred yards or so there was an adorable bump in the tree which was a koala, just sleeping or occasionally eating. A couple had babies with them, although none were close enough for any brilliant photos, it was still a pleasure to see them in the wild.

Port Campbell and port fairy were both nice places to stop, and happened to be where we had found airbnb places, they also had more exquisite beaches, and amazing rock formations, the 12 apostles being the equivalent of old harry rocks done the Aussie way, bigger and brasher and more obvious.

I had my close encounter with a snake on a walkway here, literally about 8 inches from stepping on something huge and brown/black, which was either the eastern brown snake (utterly deadly) or a tiger snake (mostly deadly). I heroically held Lisa back as I stopped sharply. A couple walking the other way jumped a mile and sprinted off like lunatics, and the snake slithered over the path and hid in the bushes.

Forgive me for not going into more detail of the great ocean road, but the photos I will put up eventually should do it more justice.

The end of the road was mount Gambier, which just sneaked us into South Australia, so we had to change our clocks by 30
Minutes (hardly worth it really) where we stopped at a cheap and cheerful motel, ate copious amounts of pizza, and a garlic bread smothered in bolognese sauce and mozzarella (which I had seen advertised 200 times on local tv).

The next morning was the mount Gambier parkrun, 5k around the lake, (although actually the rim of an extinct volcano). We found a little village type fair on a green bit by the town hall and had coffee and cake, and chatted to some locals and listened to folk and admired some old Holdens.

A march up the mountain, and down a sinkhole, in blazing sunshine meant we were ready to spend the early evening in the cinema (the excellent trainspotting 2) before spending the evening in the local pub drinking cheap local reisling, and eating roast pork (me) and veggie stir fry (Lisa)

The next day was a long drive out towards the grampians national park. We stayed in halls gap, at a holiday park surrounded by kangaroos and cockatoos, and drove to all the viewpoints, where crazy rock formations stick out of craggy mountains, and you get 360° vistas over the whole of Victoria.

Again, the pictures I'll eventually share will be far more effective than my gibbering attempts to describe these places

The drive back to Melbourne a couple of days later was lovely, with aboriginal paintings and a walk round a lake, before a final night near the airport, and an early flight to Tasmania!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017


Delays in actually getting (and then finding) our hire car meant we got into Melbourne pretty late, and were thrown into the traffic good and proper. They have a massive bridge with views over the city, and it all goes a bit bladerunner, which is a good look for a place.

Without a working phone (the NZ one didn't roam) we had to beg local bars for wifi to contact the airbnb host and find out where the keys were hidden, which gave us an excuse to sit in a lovely bar and drink some wine while I communicated. There was an r&b covers band playing, who were really good (they made Rihanna's "Diamonds" sound good, and I really hate that song.

We had been fed on the plane so didn't have to worry about that, and we did eventually find a key to the flat, which was tiny, but really nice.

We liked melbourne a lot. The mistakes we made were getting accommodation with cooking and breakfast/coffee making facilities, which meant we didn't have a good reason to utilise the amazing cafes and restaurants right outside out doorstep.

The first morning we went out and had some of the rocket fuel they call coffee (I swear it was doing all the wonderful things that a good wine does, dancing on the tastebuds, and changing the longer you think about it...) and some insane breakfasts. I ordered the breakfast burger, expecting something similar to a mcmuffin, but it was actually a proper massive (and really good) burger with eggs and bacon all over it. Lisa had eggs and spinach or something. I didn't pay a great deal of attention through my morning meat sweats.

We spent the day wandering in the Nelson street area, lots of cool independent clothing shops, a Marimekko store, a Vodafone shop (yay!) and a vibe similar to Park Street in bristol, but three miles long. Lisa bought some socks, and I very nearly bought the most beautiful shirt I had ever seen, but then looked at the price and remembered I don't have a job.

Knowing we had an early start the next morning, early and headed back and prepared for the big race.

Saturday morning we had the alarm set for 4am (fortunately we were still on NZ time, so it only felt like 6am) and it was up and in the car to drive off to the Rollercoaster run. Even though this hire car was brand new, and huge and didn't smell of fire and death (the NZ one did, I might not have mentioned that, it was a Nissan Bluebird and it had 330,000kms on it by the time we gave it back, 2733 of which were ours) I still worried about some of the hills we were making it climb, and also worried that they same hills might be even less kind to our legs.

My fears were completely founded. Starting at the top of a mountain, it was basically a run down the mountain, back up a bit, down again, and then all the way back up. For a 21km race to have almost a Km of vertical ascent is insane, and it finished with about 4km up a dusty track.

I only fell over once, and a rolled, so didn't damage anything. My legs were better going up the hills than Lisa's although she is better than me going down. Finishing on a hill meant I beat Lisa in a distance event for the first time since the Budapest marathon.

The medal was beautiful, and the kudos was great. The times were hopeless (about an hour and a quarter slower than a normal half marathon!) but I'd class it as one of my favourite races ever. The slices of orange at the finish line was the best thing I've ever tasted!

After a shower and a rest (and a massive lunch by the beach) we met up with Duncan, (Lisa's second cousin,) and drank and ate and admired the beautiful people in the bar we'd found on our first night.

On Sunday we met up with Duncan again (a little later than planned, as we were both very tired, and not moving especially effectively - I've never known aches like it) and we took the tram to the national gallery of Victoria, a lovely space, crammed with are from Europe and Asia. Very impressive stuff. A light lunch in the sunshine, and a tram ride back to st Kilda, and we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening (finally) booking up all the flights around south east Asia, and most of the accommodation too.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

How could I forget Dunedin?

It was so long ago I forgot a whole two days in lovely Dunedin.

We found on airbnb a family who had a converted bus, which they used when they went on holidays, but was parked up on the small holding behind their house the rest of the time, so for a very reasonable rate, they let us use it, and fed us eggs from their chickens, home made bread and jam and generally were wonderful (they even let me cuddle their baby!)

On the full day we had in Dunedin we drove to the peninsular and did a few walks, and at the far end of a beach so secret my grandma would be proud (it was a 45 minute walk to get to it) I decided to go all the way to the rocks in the shade, only to discover they were seals, including some really tiny baby ones. We ate at a hotel with the most amazing food (I followed up the most amazing tomato soup, with an incredible piece of Gurnard) and it was all totally brilliant.

If it is any consolation my personal diary is even further behind this one.

Queenstown and the rest of NZ

Sorry this has taken so long. Let me tell you about all the other adventures in New Zealand.

Friends had recommended puzzle world in Wanaka which served as a great place for lunch (a pie and a tangram) and then some imromptu exercise in the mid day heat, as we attempted to solve the maze, a devilish and huge thing, with bridges and the objective to get to the four corner towers (we took selfies to prove it) and out again. I wish I had switched my garmin on, as I'm sure we moved several miles, used up all our water, but we make it through to tell the tale.

After that, the air conditioned luxury of the mystery rooms kept us entertained, with everything from a room at an angle to make you feel drunk/fall over, holograms and optical issusions, and one of those rooms that makes you seem big at one end and small at the other. Make sure to see the video on Facebook or when we get home.

After this it was onwards to Queenstown, and we checked in to our beautiful studio with a stunning lake view (another win for AirBnB) and had dinner at Fat Badgers Pizza (amazing pizza) before walking back via the town "beach" which was full of beautiful people, either slacklining or sunbathing.

The next day we drove up an endless gravel track, to the start point of the half marathon we had entered. And lined up with a hundred hardy fools (although not as hardy as those doing the full) to basically run up and down a mountain a few times. And through some rivers. Proper knee deep rivers, about 20 of them, and proper hands on the thighs to get up the hills. Stunning views, great fun, and beer at the end, we took it fairly easy, took lots of photos, finished together and got beer at the end. It was pretty awesome. I thought I had finished in 5th place for all those in my new category of 40-49, but the official results found some more and apparently I was officially 8th. In the evening we found a Mexican restaurant and ate our body weight in cheese.

We finished off queenstown the next morning, with an epic breakfast, a little Pokémon hunting and watching some of the crazy people doing crazy things with jet packs and shark boats in the town centre, and bungee jumps as we drove out (from one place we could see the view from lord of the rings with (or without as we didn't have the benefit of CGI) the huge statues on either side of the gorge, and a massive bungee jump off a bridge where they had people dunking their heads in the water as part of the jump. We didn't partake.

The rest of the day was another pleasant drive to Millers flat, a town chosen based on its distance between queenstown and Christchurch, where we also found a lovely community swimming pool, so did a few gentle lengths before dinner.

Another day of driving and stopping to admire the view and driving and having lunch in pretty little towns and driving followed, ending up at a horse farm, where we patted horses, were fought over by cats and a friendly dog, drank wine on the veranda as the sun set, and repacked our bags ready for the flight the next day to Melbourne

Friday, 24 February 2017

The west coast

Not much has happened between Nelson and queenstown, but that is just what we wanted. Driving, taking in amazing scenery, stopping at every viewpoint, scenic falls, or town with a pokegym has been pretty wonderful.

After Nelson we spent a night at the edge of the Abel Tasman trail, and then had a nice run along it, saying good morning to all the people who were rucksacked up to the point they were clearly planning to be out there for days. Pretty coves, secluded campsites, and little streams meant our run turned into a jog and then turned into a walk to take some photos. We covered about 7 miles.

Our next stop was a long way south, between punekaiki and greymouth, one being a beautiful coastal area, with walks to the pancake rocks, and the other being a more industrial town, the highlight of which was a petrol station.

It rained pretty much constantly on the full day we were there, so we stayed in, and only ventured out to go on a local walk to a spectacular waterfall. It was pouring as we left, but dried out quite quickly.

On our way south the next day, we visited Franz Josef glacier, and hiked towards it (it has receded so far that a helicopter is the only way to get up close properly) and that evening we stayed at fox glacier. It was Valentine's Day, so we had a romantic enchilada at the local pub.

Next on the list was fox glacier itself, again, so far up the mountain now that people with helicopters are the ones making some serious money out of the place. We did another longish walk to get to the main view point, a walk which included some steep climbing for about half a mile, which also included the "no stopping" sign due to the risk of rockfalls.

The accommodation was either crazily expensive, or fully booked (or beds in dorms) so we found ourselves in Haast for the next two nights, a lovely remote town, with a pub and not much else. We ate there on the first night, and had a massive lunch at Jackson Bay, the most remote place in New Zealand (apparently) the next day.

Sunday, 12 February 2017


 The road to the north of Kaikoura is still out of action, so a 2 hour drive up the coast became a 6 hour drive inland. With a massive breakfast before we set off, and regular stops for coffee, viewpoints, waterfalls and lunch, it didn't seem that bad, although he repairs from the earthquake were still evident with lots of gravelly bits of road and low speed zones, and loads of people working to repair them. Hanmer Springs looked like a nice place to stop another time, with hot pools and flumes, but we made it to nelson by 6pmish.

My dad's best mate from school moved to New Zealand ten years ago, and although it is probably over 20 years since I have seen them, we made contact and arranged to mooch a few nights off them. They haven't changed at all, and we instantly felt properly welcomed, as they cooked us amazing veggie meals and told us what to head to in the local area.

Our first full day in Nelson involved going into town, buying me a new phone, leaving it in the shop to set itself up (which ended up taking several hours) while visited the cathedral, had lunch at a Swedish bakery (excellent cinnamon buns) walked to the centre of New Zealand (amazing views, after a proper march up he hill, made harder by being up against the deadline of an expiring car park ticket), a drive out to the beach, and a lovely walk on it, followed by playing on the swings, then driving back into town, checking up on the phone, and visiting the jewellers who made the one ring (and all the other rings) for the Lord of the Rings films, buying Lisa something precious, then getting the phone (woohoo!) and heading home.

Day two took us to rabbit island, and Mapua, for walks and beaches, and an evening out for dinner at a lovely restaurant by the marina. The cruise ship "the world" was docked, which might explain why so many of the restaurants were full.

The next day we headed north just a little to the edge of Able Tasman national park, where we discovered we had booked he wrong dates for a hotel, so some frantic airbnb searches (hurrah for having a phone again) found us a room nearby. We ate burgers as big as our heads in the Sprig and Fern (a Nelson brewery chain which I would happily enjoy more often, especially as they have Mango cider, and he best crispy potatoes I've had this side of the Forest of Dean.

With the nearest parkrun about 200 miles away, and the race we had wondered about being too far south, we had a morning run up the Able Tasman trail, a well kept coastal path, with a liberal scattering of beautiful backpackers to say good morning to. It took us a long time to cover about 8 miles, as it was quite hilly, had far too many detours to secret beaches and secluded campsites, and generally was best savoured than sprinted. A quick shower back at the house, and then it was off for our second biggest drive of the trip, down to Greymouth.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Christchurch and Kaikoura

Christchurch had a lovely vibe to it, despite half the city centre being in ruins, there seems to be a good sense of people getting on with life, and not letting a little earthquake ruin everything. From he shopping mall made out of containers, to the cardboard cathedral, they are very much open for business. We stayed out to the north of town, in an airbnb, which enabled us do do our own cooking and be more independent. We ate pasta in the evening, and more interesting things for lunch in town.

On the Friday we picked up the hire car, which is an ancient Nissan bluebird, with over 325000 miles on the clock, clock hasn't already gone round once or twice. It gave us a mild worry when in the first 20km the fuel gauge had dropped about 20%, so I worked out we would be filling it up every 100km. By the time we got to the parkrun, we realised that it just had a funny shaped fuel tank.

Pegasus parkrun was lovely, quite small, and two laps of a pretty lake. Afterwards we had a massive breakfast, to prepare us for the long journey north.

Kaikoura was amazing. Again, a lot of earthquake damage, with lots of notable buildings closed because of it. We found the nicest Indian restaurant in the world, and booked some tours.

On the first full day we went kayaking around the seal habitats (I think they were actually sea lions, but I'm not totally sure) which was amazing, getting really close to seals and seeing the occasional penguin. Is is where I managed to drop my phone in the sea, losing most of the photos we had taken so far. It was an old phone, and would have died soon anyway, but still very foolish of me.

On the second day we hopped on a boat, after putting on wetsuits and flippers, and the took us out on a pancake flat sea to find the dolphins. Once we were amongst them, half the boat jumped off the back, and we all whooped and hollered through our snorkels and  made ourselves as interesting as possible. Getting face to face with dolphins, as they eyed us up, and wondered what on earth we were doing, and noticing them appear over our heads with enough bubbles to realise they had just jumped over us, was the most wonderful experience I've ever known.

Our guides reckoned there were around 300 or more, and we did four or five sessions in the water with them, moving back to them when they swam further up the coast. After we all got out, we stayed nearby, and the dolphins carried on playing, doing jumps and generally pissing about. Quite spectacular. We are at the Indian again that night (it really was that good) and then packed up to head north, by going south the next morning.

Thursday, 2 February 2017


On our last morning in the USA we popped off to the San Francisco modern art museum, which was lovely, although we didn't think we had long to look around. Turns out we could have stayed a lot longer, as our flight to LA was delayed by (eventually) about 3 hours! We had left what we thought was a massive margin for error when we booked, but we ended up sprinting through LAX to get our flight to Fiji.

It was all fine though. We had about 10 minutes to spare, and made it to Fiji.

The 24th of January didn't exist, which amused me, so we arrived early on the morning of the 25th.
A three hour bus journey, and we were in the resort by lunchtime.

The uprising beach resort was gorgeous, sand nice and hot, sea clear and warm and hammocks with little signs warning of the risk of falling coconuts. The staff were lovely, and the restaurant excellent (and generous).

Unfortunately on my birthday I ended up succumbing to the jet lag, and pretty much sleeping from lunchtime to the next morning.

The next day we chilled in hammocks and read books and snoozed, but we made up for it on our last full day, by heading out to Venga island, via some amazing spinner dolphins and a lot of rain, to snorkel with the fishes, and sit on an island beach, and jump into the sea from the top of the boat, and pretending I wasn't 20 years older than everyone else on the trip.

Final day, and we took the bus back to the airport, and that was Fiji.

Monday, 23 January 2017

San Francisco

I need to remind myself that this is just a stopover, an opportunity to see somewhere for a few days, so it doesn't matter that we didn't see it all in the 3 days we had.

After the epic flight to Los Angeles, a night in a hotel, an epic breakfast and a bus journey in the rain, we had a short flight to San Francisco, then a taxi to the hotel.

We wandered down the waterfront and ended up at pier 39, where sea lions stink up the place, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. There are nice views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from there too.

Then it started raining, so we hid in a cafe with a glass of wine until it went away, then went back to the hotel, via the Lombard street zig zag hill.

On Saturday morning we were up early for parkrun, the last parkrun of the day (being the most westerly of them all). It's a fairly small one (Americans don't know what's good for them clearly) but it has stunning views of the Bridge. We ran together, although lisa thought I was trying to overtake her at the end and sped up accordingly, when I was actually only trying to catch her up, so it would look like we were running together on the results.

A coffee and a lemon and huckleberry donut later (and then showers) and we then walked back to the waterfront and hopped on the boat to Alcatraz. Dave had done the tour before, but that was 20 years ago, and my memory sucks so I didn't have to pretend to look surprised.

The cable cars are broken, so we walked to the city centre, and then it started raining (are you seeing a pattern yet?) so we got the bus back, and got take out pizza to eat in our room.

Today we decided not to do the planned race, as it would have been a $50 round trip to get there, so after watching some football (the time difference meant we could watch the Arsenal match first thing this morning) we ran up to the Golden Gate Bridge and discovered how far our respective feat of heights would get us. (Not that far, nearly to the point that the cables start going up, but it was quite windy and terrifying).

In the afternoon it started raining, so we took the bus to Mission (a hippy district, with interesting street art, drug dealers, NO2 canisters littering the streets, amazing manhole covers), ate a burrito the weight of our Niece, and took the bus back. The weather has stymied a few plans this weekend, but we were able to watch the majority of a Back to the Future marathon on the TV.

It's now 9pm, and we forced ourselves to go out for some food, as we were still not hungry following the 5 year old sized burritos. Now enjoying TV and planning for Fiji.