Kuala Lumpur- A melting pot of culture

It’s funny, when we look back over the countries we’ve visited, the consistent feeling we’ve had in capital cities is we don’t really like them all that much. That feeling of ever so slight anxiety I recall from London commuting, constant sensory overload and claustrophobia on public transport feels like such a distant memory, until you enter a capital city. Bangkok is quite simply bat shit crazy, and cities like Delhi are just such an assault on the senses. The great thing about cities though sadly don’t outweigh the bad things from my perspective, but it’s always worth at least experiencing them for a couple of days just to get a feel for the place. So when we arrived to Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur, we weren’t particularly excited about the prospect of another mega city. I’d heard all the things about the airport being a total monster, but I hadn’t prepared for it clearly! 

KL airport is like no other airport in Asia I’ve seen. It’s a shiny glistening city, rammed full of commuters traveling all over the world, absolutely jam packed full of shops (there’s a mall comparable with a Westfield inside the airport), and more importantly, everything was just so damn easy! I remember on a connecting flight to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, we made our check in with 4 minutes to spare thanks to a shocking passport check process, but KL was totally the opposite experience. Everything from buying a local sim, to getting a taxi to the city was a total doddle! This ease of movement continued into the city too, where the metro is dead simple and studiously cheap! 

What definitely made things easier though was meeting a friend we made in Hanoi back in November. Cadmon happened to be flying to Hong Kong for a concert that same night so caught up with us at arrivals. After a quick hello and goodbye we were in a cab to the city, with a vague idea what we were doing, where we were going, and a plan to link up with Cadmon later in the week. 

We decided to stay in the Bukit Bintang district of the city and I’m so glad we did! This area was an easy walking distance from so many attractions and areas defined as ‘must see’ in KL, as well as hundreds of opportunities to sample the famous food of Malaysia (and particularly KL). The food here is a wonderful mix of Indian, Chinese, Thai and the home grown Malay, totally in line with the culture and population. I’ve never seen a place that is so multicultural but more importantly, beautifully integrated multiculturalism. I didn’t get any impression that there were issues with so many cultures living intertwined unlike sadly, we see all too often in the UK (especially if you read the daily mail). It really doesn’t matter where you are in KL you see examples of this; from the Indian/Asian fusion food on the streets, to the general feeling throughout the streets. We saw a mosque next to a Catholic Church, next to a Hindu temple on one street, turned a corner and you’d see a beautiful government building with Islamic architecture mixed with Colonial British influence, aided by a impeccably manicured cricket pitch and pavilion. It’s such a weird yet wonderful mix that you see throughout the city. 

The food is legendary in Malaysia and I can totally see why! Firstly, it’s everywhere you turn, and such a huge part of Malaysian culture. The streets have a constant aroma of Indian spices (it really made me feel like I was back in India), the constant percussive beat of wok’s making amazing stir fries, the smell of BBQ satay and fresh fish, and sadly durian. They bloody love durian here, and unfortunately it kind of smells like a mix of a bin that’s insides are rotting in direct sunlight, and vomit. Needless to say, we took full advantage of this wonderful culinary hybrid and ate our way around the city joyfully (but avoiding durian). If you come to KL, the tourist street food spot is called Jalan Alor and is well worth a look at night. I can’t comment on any restaurants (like proper restaurants, with napkins and silver polished cutlery etc) but I can say all of the street food restaurants (with plastic tables and chairs, plastic forks and plates, and fairly in/out service) were sublime! 

Like with any city, different districts have very different feels. We spent a day walking around the city (getting very weird looks from locals as most people don’t seem to walk around much due to the heat, which is pretty intense) just exploring the different areas. It’s incredible how much change there can be between Chinatown and little India, which are literally a ten minute walk apart. Chinatown obviously felt similar to many others all around the world, but with a market selling fake EVERYTHING that made me feel like I was back in Bangkok. A short trot down a busy road, and you enter little India, where buildings are painted with the most vibrant colours imaginable, statues of Ganesh and Brama are all over the place, the air is perfumed with Hindu incense, and the shops belt loud Bhangra music across the road like their having a decibel battle; just like being back in India, but with considerably less chaos. It was such a nice reminder of all the things I loved about India, with the subtle removal of the things I didn’t love so much! To follow this all up, we walked to the national mosque and surrounding areas. Sadly we couldn’t enter as we were here during Eid, but just being able to check out the mosque from afar was good enough. For the rest of the day, we explored the district around the mosque, housing a number of government buildings, the worlds largest outdoor bird sanctuary, a few more temples, a botanical gardens and a planetarium. What really astounded me was the cleanliness of this area. The pavements and roads were immaculate; so alien for most of what we’ve seen in other Asian capitals. Many of the buildings followed the architectural style of Islamic/colonial British we spotted earlier, and the area felt eerily quiet, mainly due to the Islamic celebrations. Combine all of these things and you could definitely question if you were still in Asia, all of this was just so alien to another places we’ve been! 

To finish off our day exploring we went to see the iconic Petronas Towers, the highest twin towers in the world. These buildings are absolutely stunning, I can see why they are so iconic now! At night, they illuminate and sparkle like diamonds, visible across the whole city. Underneath the towers is yet another monster shopping mall, leading outside to a beautifully landscaped garden and lake area. Walk through the other end of the mall and continue walking for ten or so minutes along the skywalk, and you enter time square, absolutely filled with designer stores ranging from Prada to Hugo Boss. This part of KL reminded me so much of the opulent areas of Dubai. This kind of over polished and shopping centric way of life is so far removed from my day to day it’s unbelievable: people were spending more on handbags and watches in the ten minutes I walked down that road than we’ve spent in a few months in Asia! Still, it’s nice to see how the other half live I suppose. I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb in my £2 singlet and grubby shorts though 🤣.  

As with any place you visit, it’s almost mandatory to visit the touristy stuff, especially as it’s free! I think it’s safe to say there’s not that much really historical stuff in KL apart from the Batu caves, so off we went to see them. Sadly from our perspective we both felt totally underwhelmed (sorry KL). Don’t get me wrong, the outside is pretty impressive, but the caves themselves and the temples inside just didn’t blow us away as much as expected, or anywhere near as much as some of the Hindu temples in India. I appreciate thisbprobably sounds very spoiled, but for us it’s the truth. There’s lots of work going on there now too, in an attempt to ‘jazz up’ the surrounding area which for us just felt fake too. But again, it’s one of those things you’ve got to do and we did it, and it was free, so nothing lost. 

As I mentioned earlier, we had agreed to link up with Cadmon again whilst in KL. We spent a quality day with him exploring the non tourist areas of KL. The day started off with a trip to a Chinese/Malay food market for breakfast, where we got to experience some PROPER local grub, costing all of about £2. We’ve definitely found here (as well as many other countries) the best trick in the book for saving money is to avoid restaurants and eat with the locals, and this summed it up beautifully! Ordering was a bit of a challenge as no signs were in English and many people surprisingly didn’t speak English (in Malaysia it seems like the vast majority do) but the battle was sooo worth it! Following this, Cadmon drove us out towards Cyberjaya to see some of the lesser known areas and buildings. We got to explore one of the biggest mosques out of central KL, and saw some stunning buildings including the presidential offices, a monsterous building that really stood out around the others in the area. I’m so glad we got to see these other areas that were so different from the main body of KL we’d witnessed thus far. After stopping for lunch to have one of my new favourites, vegetable pandan thali (and selection of vegetarian curries, dhal, breads and chutneys served on a banana leaf) and a cheeky beer whilst watching the lions, we finished off a cracking day with some real icing on the cake, a pint on a helipad at dusk! It’s not often you get do to something like this, and doing so in KL whilst overlooking the Petronas towers and KL Tower was simply awesome! I guess the company was okay too ☺️. 

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we both got tattoos too! 

I’ve wanted a forearm piece for ages, but have been undecided on what for ages (as well as being fairly apprehensive about a visible piece day to day, but oh well). After a lot of searching, we found a tattoo studio very highly recommended (and with a huge portfolio of stunning inkwork) called bloody ink, situated a ten minute walk from our hotel in a small shopping mall. This mall was so different to the others in KL; feeling more like an old school bazaar, with stalls selling everything from cheap knock off goods to smartphones, tattoos to manicures. The mall still allows smoking inside, isn’t even remotely polished, and has a food court upstairs that I don’t think any other backpackers have ever entered, but that’s all part of the charm. Down one end of a small alley in said mall, are a number of tattoo stores; we definitely picked the best! 

I decided to get a piece to commemorate the memories and challenges of this trip. Hanzhi, my artist, was awesome at really taking on board what I was after, and after a bit of redesign work he produced this freehand!

I couldn’t be happier, the detail he’s managed to squeeze in is so much more than I ever expected, and he’s absolutely nailed the brief! To add to all this, I shared my new piece of ink of Reddit, and it totally exploded! At time of writing this has over 250000 views, nearly 300 comments and over 16000 upvotes, making it to the front page (in Reddit terms, this is a big deal). I’m just glad people like it! Kelly went for something totally different. She’s become obsessed with diving on this trip, and counts herself as a bit of a mermaid at the best of times (oh, and she loves Disney stuff), so got herself a constant reminder of her times under water and got a watercolour mermaid. After much deliberation on colour or not, and more importantly watercolour or not she went for it, and 3-4 hours later this was the outcome. I’m sure you’ll agree her artist Miiaow did a cracking job too! 

So that’s our time in KL done! I can definitely say this is my favourite capital in Asia thus far, and I’m actually looking forward to going back. Special thanks to Cadmon for being such an awesome tour guide and friend (and driver especially when you bolted us to our bus with minutes to spare). 

Now onto Penang to explore some street art and to eat our way across it!

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap – Do what you gotta do 

If you speak to anyone who’s been to Cambodia they will have done two things for sure; been to Phnom Penh to learn about the atrocities the country endured under the Khmer Rouge, and seen the temples of Angkor. After an amazing few days on a beach, we went back to Phnom Penh to visit S21 and the Killing Fields. We knew this part of the trip would be tough, and it definitely was,but you can’t go to a country like this and not learn what it’s been through. 

This is pretty hard to write, so probably read too. Warning for those of you easily upset.

A brief history lesson

For those that don’t know the history, after getting clobbered during the Vietnam war by US bombs, the Khmer Rouge were elected into power and immediately enforced atrocious social conditioning regulations nationally. Pol Pot, the leader of the party vowed to create a totally self sufficient nation, meaning Cambodia created all their own goods and produce. This included EVERYTHING in his eyes, like medicine and vehicles as well as food produce, which was never going to be possible. Pot ordered and forced (violently) all Cambodian residents living in cities to go and work on the fields in the rural areas of the country. The results were devastating as half the nation obviously didn’t know why they were doing! The country was immediately hit by famine, and thousands died from malnutrition and exhaustion (people were forced to work 20 hour days with almost no food).

This sounds bad, but it gets worse. 

It’s safe to say the Khmer Rouge drew its ideology from Marxism and the more extreme Maoism, but took things an extreme to say the least. The concept of creating the pure Cambodian culture stretched to pure xenophobia towards anyone not 100% Khmer, and resulted in widespread ethnic cleansing exercises. It didn’t end there though, Pot believed that the west influenced culture too much with education, medicine, culture, even religion, so simply banned it all. He wanted the nation to return to a agriculture based existence, replicating the life of the Angkor tribes still living in rural areas. Anyone who was educated, spoke another language, or even wore glasses was immediately sent to the farms to work, or to the prisons like s21 to avoid repercussions from family members, the whole family endured the same fate too. Prison camps like S21 (originally a school that was converted into the prison) would torture thousands of Cambodians to endure inconceivable levels of horrific torture and humiliation. The aim of this was to identify the believed spies for the FBI, KGB, MI6 and other nations secret services which obviously didn’t actually exist; yet more of the horrific propaganda spewed from the Pot regime. 

Pot declared the nation full of ‘Enemies’ of the nation who would be punished (tortured and killed). Anyone who had connections to the previous government, was educated, a ‘professional’, anyone not pure Cambodian, ‘economy saboteurs’ who didn’t buy into the new ideology didn’t stand a change, even just being perceived as being intellectual, cause having glasses means your clever innit.

The crimes against humanity committed in Cambodia resulted in a quarter of the nation being murdered. It’s quite rare to see anyone elderly here now, and the average age in Cambodia is one of the lowest across the globe. Research indicates that anything between 1-3 million people died during the Khmer Rouge rule.

S21 Prison


S21 is a prison that was discovered after the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia to remove the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979. There are only 8 people who are known to have made it out alive I believe. There have been hundreds of these camps discovered across the nation. What we heard, read and saw there was utterly harrowing. The museum is in tact as it was found. Over the 4 years the Khmer Rouge were in control, around 20000 people were imprisoned here, tortured, and murdered, and this was one of hundreds of prisons. It’s inconceivable to think this happened to recently, yet when we look around we see atrocities continuing all around the world to this day. It really made me take a step back and think about humanity and how shit we are in general.

Sorry, but it kinda gets worse again.  

The killing fields 


After nearing a pretty tough morning at s21 we head to the killing fields (Choeung Ek). This is exactly how it sounds: a field for mass murder. 

After prisoners confessed to treason (or whatever crime they were forced into confessing) at S21/similar they were bussed to killing fields, where they were murdered and thrown in mass graves. Bullets were scarce, so the killing was done with handheld weapons in the main. Horrifically, there was one mass grave just for women and children, where the kids were picked up by their feet and smashed into a tree head first before being flung on a pit with hundreds of other victims. This tree has been named the killing tree and is now covered in bracelets and gifts from those that visit. 

Towards the end of the rule, anything up to 300 people were sent to this field every day! Once you ended up here, you didn’t make it out again: your fate was sealed. Over 9000 bodies have been found across the vast array of mass graves at this site alone. Again, hundreds have been discovered across Cambodia. 

This place was eye opening. From the pits dotted all over the site, to the bits of bone and clothing that still come up from the soil after rainy periods, to the Stupa in memory of those that died, which contains over 5000 skulls discovered so far at the site. I can only use the word harrowing again, it was eye opening, horrific, truly upsetting, and thought provoking.

What I think makes all this worse though, is the criminal charges against the leaders of the Khmer Rouge are STILL GOING ON! Pol Pot took exile in rural Cambodia near thailand until he died, and his cronies have either escaped through dementia, ended up in prison for the later parts of their life, or died themselves. I think to date, only a handful of the party leaders have been imprisoned and only ONE has accepted any remorse or responsibility. Along side this the Khmer Rouge had a seat on the UN throughout all of this, other nations played dumb and didn’t intervene, and some sources imply that countries like the UK And USA actively supported the Khmer Rouge! Even if this isn’t true, there’s not much evidence showing global intervention to stop anything! Seriously, WTF kind of world do we live in? Even writing this is making me hate waves of humanity. How the hell is stuff like this still going on daily across the globe.

Okay that was tough to write, but needed to be written.

So after a day of sadness in Phnom Penh we got a night bus to Siem Reap.

Siem reap- unleashing our inner Tomb Raider


After getting dropped off on the outskirts of the city before 5am, in the rain, with nowhere booked to stay, we weren’t really feeling a day walking around the temples, so spent the day researching the temples and planning our next two days, as well as exploring the city. Firstly, I need to say I really liked this place. The atmosphere is quality, and there’s so many things to do (including going to the cinema on a miserably rainy day, which I definitely did). I’d recommend staying around Pub St if you go as this is where all the action is. I ended up out with some guys from the island for a few bevvies and had a great night. Regardless, you don’t go to Siem Reap for a piss up, you go for the temples.

The Angkor temples are a UNESCO world heritage site; It’s actually the worlds biggest religious site covering a vast distance through forest and jungle land. You could probably spend a week here and barely scratch the surface. We spent two days exploring the main areas but definitely could have done way more. 

Now rather than talking about each temple individually, I just want to give an overview.

Firstly, each place seems like  a one of a kind. We probably visited 20 or so temples over the two days we explored I didn’t get temple fatigue for this reason. On day one we hired a scooter and drove around ourselves, starting at the other end of the main body of temples, and each one we saw was totally different from another. Our first two were either vast and in the middle of the jungle, or a floating temple on a tiny island, even getting to the temple was like nothing I’ve experienced before. You know those scenes in Harry Potter where the ghosts come out the water? This made me think of that!


The highlight of day one for me was the famous “tomb Raider” temple, Ta Phrom. I can see why this temple is so famous, it’s incredible! The whole temple has been taken back by the forest, with tree routes running through the whole thing, taking over vast areas of the site. I have never seen anything like this before, and probably never will again. Seriously, everywhere I looked I was mesmerised. It also made me think the earth always wins in some way… Words can’t really describe this, so just take a look for yourself; this was probably my favourite place over the whole two days.



On day two we decided to be lazy and get a driver. Doing things yourself is cool, but actually quite draining as I spent half my time trying to not tip the bike over on the slippery clay roads peppered with massive pot holes! We started the day with the most famous temple, Angkor Wat.


Again, I’m struggling to put an explanation of how amazing this place was into words. The building itself is huge and beautiful. I can only imagine what it would have looked like in its hay day. The truly amazing thing though is it was built in about 18 years, with rock taken from over 20 miles away. Comparatively when cathedrals were being built in Europe they took at least double this time to be constructed!

We were lucky enough to get up to the top of Angkor Wat; I think the fact it was raining helped us a lot.the views were outstanding but to be honest the higher parts of the temple were simply mesmerising! I also got a blessing from this monk; probably need a few more before I’m accepted into Nirvana!


After a good 2 hours at Angkor Wat we went full blown Lara Croft and went off finding our own temples. I think between us we’ve probably taken 1000 photos of all the temples we visited so theres way too many to put up here, but it was a great few hours seeing some of the lesser known temples buried more in the forestry.

To finish up, we visited Angkor Tom and the surrounding temples. Again, this is HUGE! Climbing up to the top of these was a battle as the steps are so steep, uneven and obviously rather rocky, but it felt like an achievement! Our favourite temple here was the Bayon temple, paying homage to shiva. Again, it’s vast, but the heads of Shiva are just everywhere and so many are so well restored or preserved. It’s a very spiritual place to be and even better place to finish up our trip. I can see why this has been dubbed one of the must see things across the globe. Lonely planet actually named it number one! 

I A couple of pointers if you go manage to go:-

  • Book your own driver, it’s so much easier
  • Ask your driver about the routes and timings of the coaches. There are thousands of people doing these temples each day so if you get it wrong, you’ll be covered in tourists wearing silly hats, thats never good good for once in a lifetime photos.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. We didn’t get to do sunrise at Angkor Wat because it was overcast or cloudy each morning, fortunately we checked the weather so didn’t get up super early to be disappointed. 
  • Likewise if you go when it’s clear skies it’s gonna be HOT! You will get burned and will get dehydrated unless you properly hydrate yourself.
  • Be careful with where you eat. You will get stung in most places. Ask your driver for cheap place, we did this and had one of the best meals we had in Cambodia.
  • DO NOT buy things from kids. Child poverty and child labour are issues here and Cambodia are trying to do something about it especially around Ankor. Don’t encourage it!

So this is our last stop in Cambodia. It’s a magical county that should definitely be on your bucket list. Like India, we both endured a myriad of emotions as we travelled around but overall it’s a wonderful place. Next stop, Thailand for a week of frolicking around the north in the jungles, before celebrating xmas in the sun!

Coastal Cambodia- chasing sunsets and climbing mountains

So I’ve clearly been having too much fun, and I’m two posts behind. Sorry about that… 

We’re now back in Phnom Penh before heading to Siem Reap for Ankor Wat for a few days of pretending to be Indiana Jones….We decided to start our Cambodia adventures on the southern coastal stretch of the country. Initially, we had planned to cross the boarder to Cambodia via the Mekong delta, but plans changed thanks to some very accommodating friends, and we ended up crossing straight to the capital. After a great evening with UK buddies Steph and Tim that resulted in me losing my beer pong virginity (and winning I should add) we headed straight to Kep.
Now after speaking to a bunch of people about this choice of location, it’s made me realise that listening to others opinions isn’t always the best option. We both LOVED Kep, a very quiet and small fishing town made famous for its crab fishing. So many people said it was rubbish and only worth a short day trip, yet we spent 3 days there in the end. After arriving, we pretty much just stayed at our wonderful accommodation, treetop bungalows. We’d read great reviews about this place where you literally stayed in a pivate treehouse. Sadly, we discovered upon arrival we’d booked “the cheap huts” as they were called by the owner, so weren’t in a treehouse, but it was still awesome. We had our own bamboo hut with a great mosquito net and big bed, power, and a powerful fan for less than £7 a night, a pretty good price for Cambodia.
Treetop as a place to stay is awesome and just what we were looking for. Yes, we didn’t have the treetop bungalow due to budget, but everything else was wonderful. The complex is made up of the bungalows, a main building where you eat and socialise with other guests, and the whole site is absolutely riddled with fruit trees. During our stay here, we absolutely gorged on fruits growing on the site, including jackfruit, passion fruit, fresh green pepper, lime, and banana. We even helped the grandmother harvest passion fruit one morning: I’ve never eaten passion fruit straight from a tree (unsurprisingly) but I can recommend as its DAAAAAMN TASTY!

We decided to spend our first night exploring the crab markets so I could sample the speciality of black pepper crab. We’d been told the sailing club had great views, and we were told right! See for yourself….

Sadly by the time we ventured down to the sea front most of the market was closing up; you win some you lose some. However we dined at a sea front restaurant and the food was amazing! I was served I think 3 crabs in total for about £5, which by anyone’s standards is damn good! I must say though, trying to eat crab without the very western crab crackers we’re so used to isn’t the easiest thing to master without getting very messy. Following this, we headed back to the treehouse to soak in the sound of silence (the only sound we could hear were bugs from the surrounding jungles). 

The following day we decided to do a hike around the national park to save some cash. Cambodia has turned out to be SERIOUSLY expensive, especially in contrast to our planned budget. Cambodia primarily uses the dollar as its base currency, and since Brexit that’s been pretty shit in relation, we were not getting as much bang for our Buck as planned. THANKS BREXIT YOU SHIT!

I’ve digressed again, sorry…

We started by heading to Led Zep cafe at the bottom of the hill, recommended by Bub and Fran who did this trip a couple of years ago. Led Zep have set a bunch of hiking routes around the national park so we stopped to have a fresh lime juice and get some advice. The local lady who served us recommend a route through the jungle known as a “short cut” which we thought was a great idea….


WHAT SHE FORGOT TO MENTION WAS THIS ROUTE INCLUDED ABOUT 600ft ELEVATION, NEAR DEATH CLIFF EDGES AND UNMARKED ROUTES DIRECT THROUGH A JUNGLE!

Seriously, this was an experience and a half. There were honestly points where if we mis-stepped, we would have fallen down a mountain (The photo doesn’t do this statement justice. You’ll have to trust me). 

DON’T WORRY MUMS WE ARE BOTH FINE!!!

However that wasn’t the end of the fun. Once we reached the summit, we realised we had to take the “tough” route down to avoid increasing our distance way more than we wanted. After already sweating out half our bodyweight in about 2 hours this seemed sensible. This route was called the ‘jungle route’, and had a bunch of signs saying this route was only for ‘experienced walkers’. I’m still waiting to find out what an ‘experienced walker’ is to be honest, because what we endured can’t be described as walking! 

We decided to go for it to avoid adding the best park of 10k to our hike, and quickly realised he signs underestimated the route.These photos don’t do this justice in the slightest. We literally spent the next  hour abseiling down a dried up waterfall, trying really hard to not slip on a loose rock and let go of loosely tied ropes. Now, for those of you who know me, you know i like a challenge and like an adventure, but this was pushing things a bit. There were a number of times I honestly thought if something happened to us, we’d be in a right pickle as we had no guide, and didn’t see anyone else on that route since we started. Obviously we made it, and it was an amazing experience and achievement, but it was squeaky bum time for lots of it!


Over the duration of the day, we hiked for over 12 miles around the national park, along the coast, and back to the bungalow, over a duration of 5 hours. I can’t stress enough, in 30+ heat this was TOUGH, but bloody great fun to do together. 


As we felt we earned it we endured a happy hour on the coast to celebrate survival, and we’re greeted with views like this. I’d say it was all worth it…


And this ladies and gents, is why we packed in adult life!!!!

The next day we headed to Kampot where we spent a couple of days exploring the town. It ended up being quite an admin driven, yet social, and booze fuelled couple of days (yes I appreciate those don’t all work well together). We stayed in a great hostel (Monkey Republic) with great people, and ended up partying both nights we were there with new and old friends. This is why it’s so good to stay at hostels here, the social aspect is amazing and you learn loads from others experiences! We decided at this point to head to Koh Rong, two islands off the coast of Sihanoukville. Koh Rong and its neighbouring island Koh Rong Samloem are known as being similar to Thai islands 20 years ago (before they got super built up) so we thought we had to experience this. All I’ll say now is it was so good, I’m writing a separate post about this (COMING SOON!). Kampot was cool, and I don’t feel we made full use of it, but we enjoyed the general vibe and the views. 

After two days in Kampot enjoying the coastal town life we headed to Sihanoukville for one night, which again turned into a party (we’re not good at not socialising clearly). Staying at the Big Easy on the main road heading to the beach resulted in meeting more people we’d end up on the island, as well as people we’d met in Vietnam totally by chance. In our defence we did head to the beach when it immediately started raining so we went back to get some grub and bumped into all the people’s. 
Sihanoukville didn’t really do it for me to be honest. If you love getting utterly wasted and taking hallucinogens this might do it for you, but I’m not feeling that kinda vibe. The town felt disjointed, and totally overrun with tourism, taking away from the heart of the town. This is actually something I’d say about all of Cambodia sadly. The contrast between Vietnam and Cambodia tourism is huge, with Cambodia smacking you in the face with tourist prices, promotions, and offerings. It’s actually a real shame as I feel like we’re missing the real Khmer Cambodia. Considering everything this country has been through though, I can’t say I’m totally shocked tourism has become so important so quickly to support local economies. Sadly so much of the local cultures, traditions and religions were wiped out by the Khmer Rouge that it seems like those holes are now filled with tourism. 
One night in Snook was definitely enough, and I was super ready for a few days doing nothing on a beach completely off the grid! 

Saigon- A home away from home

When you go traveling like we are (i.e. living out of a backpack with a seriously small budget), it’s very easy to forget about the normal things you get so used to in your previous life. You quickly forget about simple things like having your own shower, getting washing done, being able to cook your own meal, drive yourself around,  and even just watching a bit of TV or using a Laptop are all the things that are so normal back home and missed whilst on the road. That’s not been an issue at all so far to be fair, but when you return to this kind of lifestyle you quickly remember what you’ve been missing!

On our final leg in Vietnam, we finished up in Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh). We were very fortunate to be staying with some old family friends from the UK, the Kelly’s. The family (Charlie and Janette, Blair and Cameron) moved here around 4 years ago when Charlie got a new job with a Vietnamese firm as their Director for the Vietnam office . They live in a wonderful compound in District 2; about 20 mins on a scooter from the famous backpacker area in the central District 1 of Saigon. Blair and Cameron are both still at school/college, but have been a joy to hang around with at the house in the evenings. They also have two awesome little dogs, Frankie and Pickle who managed to fill our doggy quotas very nicely!


Being at the Kelly’s and living with a familiar family has been the reboot we both needed! Having those creature comforts like a kitchen, a pool, and our own bathroom has been SUCH a nice treat, and company has been fantastic! We’ve been out for dinner with Janette (known by the Easties as JK) and Charlie a couple of times, as well as a family BBQ by the pool one evening: what a fab way to recharge after the non stop madness of Vietnam for a month. The Kelly’s were very kind and lent us their scooter for the time there as well, so we had free reign of the city when we needed. Honestly, if you guys are reading this, we can’t thank you enough for your amazing hospitality and making us feel so at home! We owe you BIG TIME!!!!

We stayed here for about 5 days, and head onto Cambodia next. On our first day here, Charlie drove me around his district to see the sights around the local district. This place is really cool, there’s a very strong arty feel around the whole area, mixed nicely with some very trendy restaurants and bars dotted along the river. D2 is clearly more geared for the more Western audience, with craft beer bars, artisan deli’s and a flood of shops selling American/British produce dotted all over the place, some very snazzy restaurants alongside the more traditional street food vendors you see all over the country.

D2 is TOTALLY different to anywhere else we’ve stayed in Vietnam. The Kelly’s live on a compound that is actually quiet at night to start with! The area is lovely and has everything you’d need surrounding you within 500metres at the most. I’ve also seen more 4×4 cars around here than in all of Vietnam for sure. Whilst it’s not a traditional backpacker spot, it’s been great to see stuff beyond the status quo for backpackers, there is actually so much to see here! We were able to eat at some quality restaurants, including a Thai street food place that needs a special mention. This was easily the best thai food i’ve ever eaten, the restaurant was hidden down a small alleyway and as you can see, it’s designed to look like a street food market (it reminded me quite a lot of the Street Feast pop ups in London to be honest). If you haven’t been to one of those, I wrote a blog about that too! 

When venturing into D1 for a couple of days to do the sights, we also discovered the Bến Thành Market and the new addition of the street food market. If you are in Saigon, you HAVE to stop over at both of these. Seriously, the market itself is crazy, and the new street food market adjacent to the old market is absolutely fantastic, with a great array of goodies to sample. HIGHLY recommended for some cheap grub and even cheaper clothes (if you’re good at haggling).

 I also need to give a shout out to Pasteur Street Brewery. I discovered this craft beer in Hanoi at the start of the trip, but it was sadly rather expensive in relation to our budget so didn’t get to enjoy it too many times on the trip. Kelly agreed that I should go and have a wee sample though whilst in it’s hometown, so we went to it’s bar. I can honestly say that some of their beers rival some of my favourites from around the world. I would HIGHLY recommend the coconut porter, the nitro porter, and the jasmine IPA, all of which were top class! There bar is again hidden down a tiny alleyway and can’t really be seen from the road, but it’s worth finding if you’re into craft beer, and Western food.
A lot of the activity in Saigon that’s a ‘must see’ is kind of based around the wars the country has endured. Over 2 days we visited the American War Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels. Needless to say, after the war museum, a beer or two was needed! It’s quite amazing how little we are taught about the atrocities that took place during the war. I knew it was pretty brutal, but had no idea about the level of chemical warfare that took place. If you don’t either, just have a Google about Agent Orange, an awful herbicide the Americans peppered all across the place, causing huge devastation at the time, but also continues to cause a number of genetic mutations in newborns. You can really see the impact around the country of Agent Orange, it really was a horrific thing to unleash on the country. I appreciate the museum is clearly one sided and somewhat propaganda fuelled, but the atrocities that occurred from both sides were truly appalling. I can’t imagine anything worse than what went on in the war. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t take any pictures there; it was bloody horrific and out of respect I didn’t think taking photos was the done thing.

We also spent a day at the Cu Chi Tunnels. Whilst this has been jazzed up for tourists, it’s a very good way to get a feel for the way things were during the war, and how the Viet Kong outsmarted the American Army. The Viet Kong basically built tunnels across the whole area, covering over 200km of underground tunnels. These tunnels were used to transport people and goods, but also keep people hidden during the war. The fact that people lived in these tiny tunnels up to 3 floors down is actually incredible. We both had a go clambering through the ‘touristy’ tunnels (slightly expanded for the slightly larger Western tourists). We endured the 60m route underground, that went down 3 floors underground. Now, i’m not someone who gets freaked out by small spaces, but this was something else. Firstly, it was BLOODY hot and humid, it was absolutely tiny (especially with a bag on my back), and super dark. Someone in front of Kel starting freaking out, which didn’t help things. Needless to say, the thought of getting stuck down there, not being able to turn or move past anyone isn’t that appealing!!! Whilst this was a bit touristy and at points felt a bit fake, it’s definitely something I’m glad I saw. I can’t understand though after seeing everything we did, people had the urge to shoot the bloody great guns that are there as more as an attraction; definitely not my cup of tea!

On our final day in Saigon, we took the scooter and rode across to the Mekong, as we didn’t have time to do a proper tour around the area. After a 30minute drive to the river, we boarded the boat to cross over. Unfortunately at this point, Kelly managed to burn herself really badly on a neighbouring motorbike that certainly put a dampener on things. We spent the next 2 hours riding into the delta, but didn’t get very far as we attempted to find something to cover and clean her leg with. We fortunately found a local doctor from the help of a lovely local lady, so decided to ride back to central Saigon along the back roads; again an experience in itself!

Whilst our trip to Saigon was made super special by the Kelly’s, the city itself is pretty awesome. I could definitely see myself living somewhere like this; it’s all so chilled and generally a nice place to be. The roads are f****** crazy though, you honestly can’t fathom how mental they are until you see them!

I think it’s safe to say, this will not be the last time we will be in Vietnam. I know I said i’d fallen in love with India previously, but this is another level. Vietnam has been such a nice (and EASY) change to the total madness we had in India! The people have been fantastic from start to finish, and so helpful at every occasion, the food has been out of this world, and the things we’ve seen I will never forget. I WILL be back one day for sure, and now definitely have the urge to buy a bike and ride from Hanoi to Saigion (Gary, Bub, and Sam, take note. I’m not letting this one go)!

Next stop, CAMBODIA! We start in Phnom Penh before moving South to Kampot and Kep and Sihanoukville. We’re going to spend a couple of nights on one of the Koh Rong islands to have a touch of beachy life again, before heading up to Siam Reap to experience Ankor Wat (well that’s the plan so far anyway). Now I just need to source some dollars!

Hoi An and Dalat- Different Different but Same

It’s amazing how you can pick up on similarities with home regardless of where you are in the world. I’ve found myself on a number of occasions on this trip saying “This reminds me of that place back in England”, but without a doubt I did this more in Hoi An and Dalat  than anywhere else we’ve been so far. The city itself reminds me of the backstreets in Brighton, with a mix of Cambridge and some hipster-esque ends of London too. The place is tiny though, and there’s only really a handful of key roads that people frequent in Hoi An. Regardless of this, the place is awesome, and has a huge amount of character different to many areas of Vietnam we’ve experienced so far.

We decided we wanted to stay closer to the beach than the city centre, and also decided to spend more time here than initially planned so we could just chill out and do nothing for a couple of days, which we definitely managed to do! In fact, we loved where we were staying so much, we booked an additional day beyond our initial stage. We booked into a place called SeaSun Homestay, close to the famous An Bang Beach. To be honest I couldn’t really rate this place higher for anyone traveling on a budget. We had a private room with AC and a BATH (yes, a bath, remember those kids). Every morning we had fantastic breakfasts made up of banana/pineapple pancakes or baguettes with an array of fillings; a great way to start the day. The host also let us use her scooter whilst we were there, which really helped out on a couple of days! The best thing is we paid less than £8 a night for all of this! If you are visiting Hoi An, I would say stay closer to the beach, drive into the city when desired and make the most of the sand and sea.

In total, we had 6 days in Hoi An. This consisted of a couple of days doing very little on the beach, a day exploring the city centre, a day on an un-planned pub crawl (thanks to a day of rain and randomly bumping into 6 people we met across Vietnam previously), and a trip out to My Son that became way more of an experience than we expected thanks to a flat tyre on the highway!

Hoi An City

There are 2 things that apparently everyone should do in Hoi An; get a suit made and do a cookery course. Initially, we intended to do both, but realised quite quickly that all the cooking courses were set at a really low level (I know how to make spring rolls and Pho thanks), and the idea of getting a suit made 2 months into a year away was a pretty shit idea (i’m very likely to expand or contract over that time). We decided fairly quickly to sack off these cliche activities and just explored the city, and realised very quickly that listening to ‘what the tourists do’ is often a TERRIBLE idea when backpacking!  As i’ve said already, the city itself reminded me so much of places like Brighton. Imagine the back street architecture mixed with the boutique nature of shops in Cambridge. This place is trawling with little boutique coffee shops, art shops, and independent furniture shops, not to mention the deluge of tailoring places that absolutely litter the whole area. Oh, and the street food and small shops are pretty much all amazing! Seriously, I think i’ll come here when i’m a proper grown up to just buy some suits, get some art and table decorations for my house (that I currently don’t have), and stock up on epically good coffee!


Apart from all the shops and stuff, there isn’t that much to do in the centre. The whole main area is accessible by walking, and you can easily see it all in a day. The thing is, there appears to be a charge to see some specific parts of the old quarter, but to be honest I wouldn’t bother paying (we didn’t and had a great time regardless). I would suggest spending a day exploring the old town is good, maybe spend a day getting something made, then a day on the beach and that would be enough.

Seeing familiar faces

It’s funny, regardless of where you are, you still see familiar faces. We’ve spent a month (ish) in Vietnam now, and have stopped in about 6 towns/cities, and we constantly bump into faces we recognise. In Hoi An this went to another level though!  We arrived at the homestay and immediately saw a couple we became friends with in Phong Nha from Denmark, so went for lunch with them. We then discovered another couple we met (from Colchester) were also in the city, so they joined. We THEN found out more people were in the city (via social media but also just bumping into them) so had a good little crew with us for the day. On this day the heavens decided to open, so we took refuge in bars for the whole day. This was actually quite a nice blow out! 

Alongside this, we also bumped into loads of the guys we met at the bar in Phong Nha (the Buffalo run crew) on the beach near our place, totally by chance. For those that haven’t traveled, it can actually be quite a solitary activity. Yes, Kelly and I always have each other to chat to, but spending every living moment in each others pockets can be challenging sometimes. Seeing people we’ve met along the way is a really nice reboot to the system and can really make a trip! Obviously, we linked up again in the City on a few occasions which was also lovely.

Working on my beach bum

To note, this has nothing to do with my bum…


An Bang Beach is quite famous, but to be honest I can’t really work out why. After arriving in Hoi An we went to check it out, and realised pretty quickly it’s totally saturated with expensive beach bars and, well, PEOPLE! We’d been told by a buddy in the city to find other areas along the beach, which we did. We discovered an area called Hidden beach (not that well hidden, it had a sign on the road) that was perfect. We were 2 of about 10 people on this large stretch of beach, and there were smaller restaurants we could make use of that weren’t that expensive (not all that good either, but you can’t win them all).


I must say though, this has quickly become one of my favourite beaches anywhere! The water was lively but okay to swim in (see note below though), and an absolutely beautiful temperature! The beach itself was clean and lovely sand, and the fact it was quiet at this stretch just made it. To top it off, I squeezed in a 4mile run along the beach which i’ve been dying to do for ages! If you’re ever in Hoi An, search out hidden beach and avoid An Bang like the plague! The only thing I’ll say is be careful here. The water is choppy, and we aren’t 100% sure, but we may have seen someone drown the day we arrived (we saw them get pulled out then carted off the beach, locals were saying they weren’t breathing).

Expect the unexpected

It’s often the way; you follow others reviews and find totally the opposite. Likewise, the stuff you don’t expect is often the best stuff you never forget. This trip had both experiences in about 7 hours…

After a few days of doing very little, we decided to ride to My Son, a Hindu temple area and UNESCO Heritage site that sadly has been ruined from all the wars this country has endured. After a 90min scooter ride we made it there (but check out these roads, they are certainly testing!)

To be honest it was cool, but somewhat underwhelming (and bloody sweltering too, making walking about 7k a battle). We rode back and got caught in a monsoon, which again, was quite the experience. En route home, we managed to get a flat tyre on the highway, surrounded by thousands of lorries and other bikes. As you can imagine this wasn’t the greatest experience ever. Kelly managed to run across to the nearest built up area, and somehow managed to get a family to call a mechanic via Google Translate (thanks Uncle Google). An hour later, and an extortionate (apparently) 300k (about £10) we had our rear tyre fixed and were back en route. This was actually quite a stressful situation; we literally couldn’t have broken down at a worse spot, and were still wet from monsooning it 30mins earlier, but it’s certainly something I won’t forget anytime soon.

Dalat

After a number of wonderful days in Hoi An, we decided to head to Dalat. Dalat is the main area in Vietnam where fruits and veg are grown; nearly 80% in fact (other than rice, obviously). Dalat is right up in the mountains, about 2000m above sea level, so the temperature is much more like Europe than anywhere else in Vietnam (it was about 20c most days and actually chilly at night)! After a 12 hour sleeper to Nha Trang, we moved onto a smaller bus to take us to Dalat. It was actually only 150km from Nha Trang but with the crazy windy roads through the mountains it took about 5 hours! I must say though, the roads were amazing and the views probably rivalled those on the Hai Van Pass.

Dalat is famous for canyoning, which is basically abseiling down a waterfall. I’d been really looking forward to this. Sadly whilst getting off the bus, I managed to roll my ankle on one of the steeply angled curbs. I know, how very rock’n’roll of me! This somewhat scuppered our plans whilst in Dalat, but at least we saved some money!

We hadn’t booked a hostel, so spent the morning we arrived trying to find a good one which didn’t break the bank. After a couple of hours, and far too much walking on a recently twisted ankle we checked into Dalat Backpackers, where we discovered the guys we shared a room with in Phong Nha were in the room opposite! That evening I went out for drinks with them whilst Kel went to bed. We explored the evening market and literally ate everything that we could see, including satay clams (probably my favourite thing to eat in all of Vietnam), a Dalat Pizza (a rice paper cooked over coals, with egg, spring onion, and dried shrimp), but then we went somewhat off piste and ate an array of the organs on sticks freshly barbecued.
I sampled brain, liver, lung and heart (I think mainly Chicken). Whilst not all were my cup of tea, it was good to try some different things and to be honest, I really enjoyed the heart and liver! I would definitely say to anyone get out of your comfort zone and try new things! That night we ended up in the 100 drop bar. Just go, it’s absolutely crazy and like no bar you will have been in before. 

The next day we met up with Sam from Colchester. We hired bikes and headed to the waterfalls. By doing this ourselves we saved about $20 each at least (another backpaker tip from me, sack off the tours to save mega bucks! En route, we stopped by the Crazy House, another must see in Dalat. Now the name is bang on, this place is utterly crazy! It’s actually a hotel, but i’m not sure i’d want to stay. I’d love to know what drugs the owner was taking when designing this place.

The waterfalls were really cool, and these are nothing by SE Asia standards, but my first experience none the less. We stopped by the Datanla waterfall as we kinda fell across it (plus it had a rollercoaster type ride to get to it).

We hiked to the fall (and snuck past guards to get further down the fall), saving ourselves probably £5 extra each, which was just great! I’d really recommend seeing this if you’re in Dalat; the whole experience was just great, very laid back, and quite easy. Many people recommend the Elephant waterfalls too which look much more grandiose, but i’ve heard they are quite polluted now.

The following day, we went to explore the town on our own. It was a very chilled day that didn’t consist of much, but was just lovely. It’s so nice to see the proper town as it is day to day just by walking around. We stumbled across the markets and became immediately mesmerised by the vibrance surrounding us. I’d like to think I am fairly good with produce, but I literally didn’t have a bloody clue at half the stuff I was looking at. What I did recognise looked so much nicer than the stuff we get back home too!

That night, I headed out with some guys from our hostel (more people we just happened to bump into that we’d met previously) , and ended up at a bar playing live western music. The band were AWESOME and we had a cracking night, until en route home a card machine swallowed my mates card. 2 hours later and still with no card, we made it back to a locked up hostel, so spent about 30mins trying to wake someone to get in. As you can imagine, at this point, I just wanted bed, especially as we had a bus at 8am the next day.

Hoi An and Dalat were great areas to visit. I’d highly recommend at least 3 days in each area, and try to get off the beaten track. We’re now in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) staying with the wonderful Kelly’s (family friends from Dedham). I’ll try and write that blog whilst crossing the boarder to Cambodia in a couple of days.

For anyone who has done this kind of trip before, I literally can’t get over how quickly it’s all going. Today is day 65 of being on the road, and a day before we reach our third country. It all feels far too quick for my liking! What I can say is we are both having the absolute time of our lives, with absolutely no regrets, a shit ton of wonderful memories and another 9 months of memories to make.

Phong Nha to Hỏi An- SameSame but different

SameSame but different- A phrase used across Vietnam by those selling stuff. Definitely made us chuckle on many occasions.


Firstly, an apology. This is a somewhat delayed post. We’re now in Hoi An and left Phong Nha probably a week ago. We had non stop activities there and getting to Hue took it out of us (more on that later), and to be honest we’ve been having too much fun so haven’t had time to write anything. But I won’t apologise for having too much fun, that’s kinda the idea of giving up on adulting for a year!
Following the amazing days we had in Hanoi and Ha Long, we caught a sleeper bus to Phong Nha, an area that’s only really been on the map for backpackers the last few years. About 6 years ago, the worlds largest cave was discovered here, bringing thousands of avid cavers to this place. Because of that, it’s now a must stop place. The waiting list to explore this cave properly is going into 2018, costs about $2000 and lasts a minimum of two days. Needless to say we didn’t explore this place but there was plenty to keep us occupied.

Phong Nha is a pretty awesome place to be honest. I can see why so many people come here. It’s totally different from anywhere we’d seen in Vietnam, or have still seen to date. Totally in the middle of nowhere, in a super rural area, it was a really nice change from the hustle and bustle of city life. We stayed at probably one of the most lively and generally awesome hostels called Easy Tiger, which I can’t recommend any higher. With a great bar, about 200 other people staying, a pool (!!!!!), live sports on almost non stop (got to watch McGregor smash his fight with 40 other hostel goers at a non God awful time, bonus!),amazing staff, live music almost every night (that was good I should add), decent food and awesome dorms, this would be a tough one to beat. Also, they sold cider which kept Kelly very happy (especially on the 2nd to last  night when she embraced all the cider).

We decided to stay for 3 nights as I’d heard so many people say they wish they spent longer, and I’m so glad we did! This place certainly kept us occupied without feeling like we crammed stuff in every day. After a long and rank journey on a sleeper bus (imagine sitting in a dentist chair for 9 hours whilst on a bus, that’s basically what we did) we arrived around 5am, couldn’t check in, so slept in the bar for a couple of hours. We were given a talk about the local area by Mark, an Aussie member of staff who arrived here 3 years ago for a holiday and just never left! He walked us through things to do and see, and what was really awesome is he was telling us how to save money! This was such a nice change from the normal money grabbing lifestyle we’d become accustomed to, so was greatly appreciated. He also gave us an overview of the history of the area that got absolutely clobbered during the American war. It’s crazy to think what this country has endured over the years, and continues to experience, from the left over bombs covering the land (the are shit loads, and people still set them off every week!!!!!). Phong Nha is badly affected by flooding, and a week earlier half the hostel was under water, the impact we could still see quite clearly. Fortunately by the time we arrived the water had subsided somewhat,but how people live through this so regularly continues to astound me.

We decided to pay a driver for a day with a couple we met, Sam and Charlie, who turned out to live in Colchester too, and Henry from London, who was I guess secretly an evil genius (engineering genius from Oxford Uni; we stayed up all night chatting about the world, it was awesome)! It’s amazing how you can be half way around the globe and meet people from so close to home. We started the day by going to the Dark Cave, known for its mud baths. The day started with a zip line to the cave, followed by a swim through the cave.

We were really lucky to do this as the cave was closed a day before because the water was so high. Normally you don’t have to swim the 1/2km in put it that way!

After an hour we made it to the mud pools, which were AWESOME! I’d missed my favourite OCR back in the UK, Nuclear Races, so getting my mud fix was just what I needed! 

After that we swam back out, and kayaked back to the starting point. This was all a bit expensive by Vietnamese standards (1/4 million VND, or about £9) but well worth it. Following this, we got in our car and went to paradise cave. Now I’m hardly a geology geek, but this was something else! After a hike for an hour we reached the cave and spent the next hour walking through a MAHOOOSIVE labyrinth of caves like nothing I’ve seen before. Seriously, it was awesome. Pictures can’t do it justice, but it was breathtaking. That night, we stayed up boozing in the hostel with our new friends and more we made there.

Day 2 consisted of hiring a scooter and exploring the more local sights. To start this section, I’ve NEVER ridden roads like this! Because of the flooding the pre existing roads were quagmire like paths that required some serious attention, especially with such precious cargo on the back.

We stopped at the duck stop first; a small duck farm a local guy started up. He fed us up on guava and peanuts that came from his land, both were delicious! I can highly recommend eating peanuts with peppercorn now too!

I’ve had a few comments from friends about the welfare of the ducks following a video I uploaded. Fair point, but I can say these ducks were LOVED by the owner. The duck tossing thing is probably questionable, so I apologise for that.

Following the duck stop we endured a 40 minute ride across the quagmire roads to the Pub with Cold Beer. Yes, this is literally a must do in Phong Nha, a Pub with Cold Beer…….

NO CHICKENS WERE HARMED DURING MY TRIP HERE

We were greeted with rice wine and welcomed to join a group traveling on the Buffalo Run (a pre-organised tour lasting a week doing the route we plagiarised massively, saving about $400 each)! The guys we met were AWESOME, and we have seen them at every other stop purely by chance (including today whilst just casually walking down a beach in Hoi An). We ended up having a cracking night with them back at the hostel that night, when ‘Cidergate’ occurred. I spent the night playing Cahon with the band which I loved (my hands definitely didn’t though)! I’m really glad to say we will probably link up with a few of these guys whilst away and back home again; another beauty of backpacking!

That’s definitely one of the best things about traveling, the people you meet all with knowledge, stories, and shared aims. I want to give a couple of shout outs to people we met actually. Firstly to Tim, an Aussie who’s bought a bike and ridden from basically Cambodia. He told me a story about his experience in Malaysia that ill never forget (and he definitely won’t).

Tim decided to hike up a mountain with two Italian dudes he had just met to avoid paying for a guide. Starting late in the day, they reached the peak around sunset; never a wise move! On the way back, relying on the awesome power of an iPhone torch, they heard a massive ROAR. They turned around, and saw a tiger looking at them! Obviously shitting themselves, they continued to walk back to civilisation, but quickly discovered this bloody tiger was blocking their way back. They ended up having to sleep In the jungle, through a monsoon, to avoid becoming tiger grub. Apparently they all said if they survived they’d get tattoos. Needless to say they did, and the tattoo is hardly the only lasting memory I’m sure!

Secondly, on the last night, I met two young guys traveling with their family. These two brothers were 15 and 16; their dad had been made redundant from YouTube in California and they decided to pack up and see the world. They’d been traveling about 6 months already and had about another 6 to go. Chatting all evening with them and the owners of the hostel made me realise how amazing traveling is. These guys had some inspiring heads on them, and really had a great appreciation of how lucky they were, but what the world had to offer. I can’t find their blog right now, but will post in the future for sure.

Following this we headed to Hue, on a 5 hour dentist chair bus journey again at a wonderful time of 4:30am. The bus was late, so we waited outside for 2 hours and obviously arrived late. Sadly the highly rated guesthouse we stayed at was actually a bit shit, with moldy walls and a very noisy bird waking me up at 3am consistently, which I think tarnished my view of Hue a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it was cool, but nothing on Hanoi! We spent the first day exploring the city and then hopped on a local bus out to Thuan An beach. We were pretty much the only people on it. Then we walked the 4km to the Beach Bar for some less than average grub where we bumped into the Buffalo crew yet again. The town was cool, but super touristy, with a street solely known as backpacker street. The second day revolved almost entirely around the imperial city though, which was breathtaking. I said I wasn’t going to write about the architecture in this post, but I have to for this. The imperial city oozes the Chinese Influence I expected to see here. It’s a truly stunning area that I highly recommend! Just don’t spend all day with no water exploring it, the prices inside are astronomical!

I was quite happy to leave Hue to be honest, it just didn’t do it for me. We decided to book drivers to take us along the Hai Van pass to Hoi An, made famous by our wonderful export, TOP GEAR! Whilst it may not sound like much, riding this road was one of the best things we’ve done so far I’d say. We rode with Lindsay, a Canadian who has been on the road for two years now. She was awesome and more than happy to let me ride her bike on loads of the journey (I wish I hadn’t got a driver now). By a country mile these were the best sights I’ve ever seen or ridden on. After a full day of riding, experiencing waterfalls, historic cemeteries that put ours to shame, and landscapes like nothing I’ve ever seen, we reached Hoi An, which is where I end this post. Words don’t describe it well, check it out yourself (or if you aren’t coming here anytime soon, watch my video below). I’ll end up writing a blog about editing on the move ưith below par equipment to be honest, as this was a challenge to say the least!


Basically, again, Vietnam is quality, and I can’t recommend coming here highly enough. The Hai Van pass is definitely a must, and thanks so much to Matt and Charlie (a couple we met in Varanasi) for saying I had to do it! That’s gonna be a tough one to beat.

We’re now on day 2 of Hoi An, here for two more days before another 16hour onslaught of the bumpy dentist chair. I can get over that though, everything else so makes up for it!

​ Varanasi- An atheist abroad

Okay so the title may be misleading, I’m basically atheist, but I don’t tend to define as atheist as I’m not that clear cut for me. I believe that science can explain way more than religion can, as has been proven time and time again from my perspective. I believe religion has many benefits to society, but sadly from my perspective these are generally overshadowed by the turmoil that surround most, especially with regards to the wars and attacks we seem to witness daily across the globe now. I would never go as far as saying these things wouldn’t happen if religion wasn’t a thing, but I do believe we’d be in a very different world and sadly in some ways,coffee the better. For me, religions set clear principles and values that when adhered to (to a point) can shape a fantastic society, and a happy community, and improve societies. Obviously, though, there’s a flip side to that as well.
I’ve always been interested in theology, but not really studied it in great detail. Coming from an atheist family, but marrying an Irish Catholic girl and my family moving to. country in the Middle East my exposure to Islam and Catholicism has increased exponentially over the years. Plus, I’m now very much at that age where I’m spending more in time in churches for weddings and christenings, and sadly far too often, funerals, so the impact religion has become more commonplace in my life.
“Why the bloody hell are you chatting about religion Matt, this is a travel blog!?”
For those that don’t know, Varanasi is the most holy city in all of India. It’s history dates back thousands of years, and millions of Hindus make a pilgrimage to the holy city every year. Hindus believe that if you are cremated and released into the Ganges River (River Ganga) you will break the cycle of reincarnation and go straight to Nirvana (minus Cobain obviously😬). For this reason there are hundreds of cremations every day at a number of burning ghats, which I’ll talk more about later.img_8261
The city isn’t just Hindu though, across the skyline of the cityscape you see the minarets at mosques dotted all over the place, and hear the choir of the call to prayer. Alongside this, a scattering of beautiful Buddhist temples. Around our hotel in the old town, we could see at least 5 mosques, and had at least 5 Buddhist and Hindu temples within our immediate vicinity (as the crow flies, it probably would have taken hours to find them on the narrow backstreets of the old town). Because of this, Varanasi has an amazing aura around it, with so many people visiting to follow emir believes alone. As you can imagine, this brings with it a true melting pot of cultures and experiences. At one time, I was walking to see the Hindi Ganges ceremony while hearing the Islamic evening call to prayer whilst walking past coach loads of Buddhist monks who were arriving for a Buddhist festival. You wouldn’t see that at the Vatican!
The city itself is amazing, truly amazing. It’s so unbelievably different from Kolkata, with car horns and traffic jams replaced with rickshaws and cows. Yep, cows. The Hindu faith regards cows as holy creatures, so they are everywhere! The labrynth-like experience of the back streets around the old town is made even more ingesting by dodging cows, cow shit, stray dogs, uneven stones for the walkways, and locals on their motorbikes. That in itself is an experience, especially when you see a couple s having an argument! Whilst the are beggars and people trying to flog you stuff everywhere, the poverty on the streets is nothing like what I saw in Kolkata. I must say these street sellers week utterly relentless, and by the end of my 4 days there I was getting rather pissed off with a few of them repeatedly trying to sell me some cheap crap or give me a hand massage. Seriously, these guys will try anything, t always use he standard chat up line of “where are you from?”
For me Varanasi is about the sights and spirituality, the spirituality being the things that’s totally alien to me

The Ghats

The ghats offer a myriad of services, but basically, they are stairs to the Ganges. There are a number of ghats in Varanasi (83 in total I believe), the most famous are the Assi Ghat (where the river Assi meets the Ganges), Dashashwamedh (where the wonderful Ganja Artii celebration is held every evening) and the Manikarnika Ghat, where the cremation ceremonies are undertaken, about 400 each day.img_4080
Each Ghat obviously offers its own experience, but my favourite had to be Dashashwamedh with the ceremonies. Every night, people gather to watch the prayers to the river Ganja, thanking it for its good givings and bringing life to the people of India. It’s without a doubt the most wonderful religious activities I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, and we were very fortunate to be there with about 10000 other guests on Ghandis birthday, and to top it off we were speaking with a Krishna throughout the before and during the ceremony about everything from Hinduism to world economics (and more importantly, the false economies and impact of gentrification on modern day society), global warming, and India on the whole. This Krishna completely went against the stereotypical “religious guy” image, and reminded me a lot of the chaplains from my old stomping ground, Anglia Ruskin (big up Nigel and Tony, you guys rock).img_8117
Many people I’ve met have talked about the burning ghats no sadly most of the focus tends to go to the smell. To be honest this didn’t bother me, but seeing the whole process was quite overwhelming and emotional, from preparing and washing the bodies, preparing the fire, placing the bodies, covering with more wood, and finally taking the ashes to the river. Even though I had no idea who was being cremated the openness was obviously alien to me, but the wealth of emotions around the area were very powerful. It’s just such a shame there are still people exploiting the ceremony by trying to catch out unaware tourists (take note people, if someone says to you they are asking for donations for the hospice, they aren’t, they are lying).

Processed with Snapseed.
Processed with Snapseed.
We spent our time at Assi Ghat watching the sun rise. We only just made it, t seeing the sun rise over the Ganges was beautiful, and following that was a fantastic yoga and meditation session run by a Krishna, definitely something I won’t forget any time soon!

I started this blog by talking about my position with religion. I can say hand on heart that Varanasi was the most spiritual place I’ve ever been. Whilst it hasn’t made me flick any internal light switches to on, it has definitely grown my interest in Hinduism, and question many of the priorities in my own life. How long that will last I don’t know but Varanasi will always hold a close place in my heart.

Two final shout outs to finish this post. The manager at our Guest House, Sanjeev, was an absolute legend. If you ever visit this wonderful city (and you should) I can’t recommend the Shivakashi guesthouse high enough. Sanjeev went out of his way on so many occasions to help us out. He got us train tickets, gave plenty of local advice on where to eat and go, and had I spoken to him sooner, would have even got us a boat ride down the Ganges, stopping us from getting ripped off! Sanjeev, if you are reading this, you truly are a legend and thank you for your help on manning our trip so special.img_8265
The final shout out goes to Matt and Charlie, a wonderful couple I met in the French bakery. We ended up chatting for about two hours about the world (they’ve been travelling a while chasing the best dove locations around Asia), and met up today as well over Lassi. We will hopefully meet up in Jaipur too if things work out. It was so nice to meet such a lovely couple who seemed to share a scary number of experiences, both whilst on the road and back home.
Sorry this is such a monster post. If you’ve made It to the end, CONGRATULATIONS! I’m sorry this is such a long one, but Varanasi really struck a chord with me, and I hope I’ve done it justice relaying that. I’m also writing this whilst on a 14 hour train journey and it’s only 9pm locally so I’m nowhere near sleepy yet! I’ll try and write something more succinct on our next stop, Agra.

Bombay- A Tale of Three Cities 

I don’t know why, but I’ve been fascinated with Bombay (or Mumbai by its new, second name) for some time. A big part of the research for this trip revolved around YouTube videos and blog posts from fellow backpackers, and it seems that Bombay is a place you either love or hate, very much like Delhi (or marmite obviously). After watching a number of cookery shows from Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay on touring India, it seemed like the natural place to finish, and after FINALLY finishing Shantaram after over a year of trying to find the time to finish it, that sealed the deal. What made the end to our India trip that bit sweeter was that we’d be there for Diwali and the start of the Hindu new year as well. Only one word can summarise this succinctly enough; AWESOME!

Our experience of Bombay has been fantastic, but the three main areas we’ve seen have been totally different and need special mentions, hence the title of this blog.

Versova and the other suburbs

We decided months back to book an Airbnb as we suspected it would be insanely busy at all hotels due to Diwali. We were very fortunate to stay with a guy called Baljit and his parents in an area called Versova, north of the main body of Bombay. Versova is the main suburb where Bollywood stars and staff from the film industry reside, so the level of affluence is en par with parts of London. When trying to compare, it probably rivals areas like Chelsea or Knightsbridge. This was obviously a very nice experience, as we were staying in a gated complex, in an open and quiet (by Indian standards) area, with a fantastic array of bars, cafes and boutique restaurants, and literally a stones throw from Versova beach. Whilst this beach didn’t rival the beauty of those we frequented in the South (this one also had a small slum, a sewer/dirty river feeding into the sea and a hefty amount of rubbish across the beach), it was still a lovely place to walk for a couple of hours near sunset.

As we were staying in this area, we were fortunate enough to see it in all its guises. One thing that really was apparent for me in Bombay was the change in the city from day to night, it really is the city that never sleeps. What starts the day as a placid and calm district turns into a bustling, lively and exciting area by night. We spent one evening just scoping out the local bars and venues for a cheeky beer, another dodging fireworks and bangers whilst admiring the beautiful light displays erected for Diwali, and another learning about the Sikh culture and visiting a local temple with Baljit and his mother. We even got given local clothing to borrow so we fitted in with  activities (codeword forndidnt stick out like a tourist as much). 

Following this we went for dinner and had probably the best butter chicken and mutton Bhuna I’ve ever had which was a great way to finish off a great day.
Versova and the surrounding areas were such a change from what I expected of Mumbai. Everything I’ve read and seen describes this place as wall to wall noise, smell and general madness, but this in the main was totally the opposite. Maybe we are just becoming more accustomed to the general carnage of India? Either way, we really lucked out staying in such a great place and with such a great family, who welcomed us so warmly and made us really feel at home and part of the community. If you guys are reading this, thanks for making our time in Bombay so wonderful! 

Central Bombay and Elephanta Island

We decided to try and squeeze the majority of the ‘sites’ into one packed day during our stay. To be honest, I’ve started to realise quite quickly on this trip that so many ‘must see’ sites or attractions aren’t actually that must see; I think I just hate tourist traps to be honest. I think both Kelly and I agree that some of the best things we’ve seen or done have been unexpected, and normally just happen because we are walking around and somewhat off the beaten track. Anyway, I digress…

We started the day off by heading to Leopolds cafe, a critical place in the book Shantaram. For many of you going to a cafe probably seems like a very strange place to head to, but for me this had to be visited. Shantaram for those of you who don’t know is the story of a man named Lin who escaped prison in Australia and ended up living in the slums of Mumbai where he becomes the slum doctor, gets involved with the mafia and ends up in jail again for months to name but a few critical points. The story spans everything from love, war, crime, philosophy, pain and passion over about 1200 pages. To be honest if you like reading and haven’t read this, just read it. I’m barely scratching the surface of describing it and it’s multiple layers. One thing I will say is it’s not really known if this is fiction or non fiction, but I believe it’s non fiction with an embezzled plot. To be honest everything I said earlier about tourist traps is kind of what I felt at Leopolds. The place was full of westerners and the prices were inflated easily by 200% on any other local establishment. Kelly and I shared a meal and went on our way. I’m still really glad we went but wouldn’t describe it as a must see place.

ANYWAY….

Following this we made our way to the Gateway of India via the Taj Mahal Hotel and a number of other historical buildings we Brits stuck all over the place. If it wasn’t for the palm trees all around, so much of this part of Bombay could easily be mistaken for central London, the architecture is so similar from Victorian age buildings in central. 

On this walk to the jetty, we walked through the Oval park, which was absolutely riddled with cricket matches. I’ve never seen anything like it! There must have been 30 matches being played on what I’d classify as a normal size pitch, I have absolutely no idea how the different teams kept track of their team mates, balls, the score, and those other important things for a match. To be honest it was wonderful to see and experience, and I can see why India are so good at cricket now! This photo doesn’t adequately show how busy it was sadly but believe me, it was heaving!

Once we made it to Gateway to India, we boarded a boat to Elephanta island. The island is an hour boat ride from the jetty, and contains almost untouched forest areas and some historical caves with monuments carved straight into the stone. This was such a wonderful change from the city madness, as the whole area felt fairly untouched and tranquil. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely rammed, full of people selling cheap crap to tourists, and people taking selfies in the most obscure of places, but looking past all that (as you need to do across India) it was a very special place. I Also managed to get a bit of OCR practice in on the tress at the top of the hill we trekked; the locals were fascinated! 

But seriously, the selfie thing here is crazy! We’ve been asked well over 100 times for bloody selfies on this trip. We’ve seen people having almost full blown photo shoots for selfies, it’s a little ridiculous to be honest. I had enough at Elephanta and just started photobombing people, and taking photos of people posing for photos. Here’s a small sample of said snaps…


For the evening, we decided to go on a street food spree. We’ve heard so much about the street food in Mumbai but hadn’t had many opportunities to tuck in, so we really went for it. We walked from the gateway to an area regarded as the street food Mecca of Mumbai, Mohammad Ali Road. Whilst on the 5k stomp past the famous CST station (which is absolutely stunning for the record) we tucked into some PROPER tandoori chicken in a roti, some Vada Pav (regarded as the Bombay burger, even though it’s basically potato cake in a bun). By the time we were done at Mohammad Ali road, we’d tucked into an array of Indian sweets, snacks, and small meals, all of which was superb and seldom seen in the UK (yes I got recipes where I could). Because we decided to do this on Diwali, the walk again involved dodging some very interesting and explosive banger and firework displays on the narrow streets. Health and safety well and truly went out the window! As you can imagine though, this really made whole experience of being in in the thick of it come to life.

Dhravi slums

Before visiting the slums, I had a feeling this place was going to be riddled with crime, and poverty, and I’d see people living miserable lives and living in some absolutely appalling conditions. I was expecting to find my experience quite challenging and rather emotional. I think this is in part fuelled by things like Slumdog Millionaire, and the imagery the media use to paint such a picture and tell such a story to be honest, because boy was I wrong!

Dharavi slum is the largest in Bombay (and in Aisa to be fair), with over 1 million people living in an area half the size of Central Park in NYC. The unofficial number of people living here is likely to be much higher though. The slum basically has a population density about 20 times larger than the rest of the city, and average salary for those in the slums is less than £2 a day.


We went on a tour around the slums with a company called Reality Tours, a fantastic company who run a community outreach centre to educate those living in the slums. 80% of their profits go into this centre, and they run sessions on everything from computer use to basic numeracy/literacy qualifications that are endorsed by the British Council, but even sessions on personal hygiene, LGBT rights, elocution and CV writing/interview techniques amongst other things. They do some fantastic work and I’d really recommend checking them out if you are venturing to India at any point. 

We started the tour by exploring the commercial areas, that included the plastic recycling zones, pottery makers and leather workers. About 80% of the recycling for all of Bombay is done in the slum, and the majority of this is plastic. As you can imagine, the working conditions are not great, there’s no health and safety, and the smell of chemicals fills the air to an acrid level, but this is just the norm so everyone gets on with it. In a strange way it was really nice to see the end of the line, as we’ve seen so many people collecting plastic on the streets and now we have seen what happens to it. One thing that really amazes me about this whole process was the array of stages and ways the locals worked in challenging conditions and without all the modern technology we would be used to in the UK. Likewise with the pottery and leather workers, the work is undertaken using machinery, but due to cost and space restrictions many tasks are done by hoards of people. 

One thing that really jumped out at me about the commercial district is how much stuff you see on the streets clearly come from the slums. We saw Breads and cakes being made and packaged for large companies to be sold all over India, we saw leather bags being made for some very well known top name brands, all the crap that’s sold on the streets for ten times the actual cost, beautiful fabrics and saris, the list goes on. It’s a real shame though that none of this is promoted as coming from this area, probably because of the false perceptions  from the general public, just like my initial misconceptions! Likewise, it’s really obvious you shouldn’t buy any of that crap off the streets as regardless of your quality of bartering, you’re still getting ripped off.

Following this, we made it through to the residential districts down the labyrinth like alleys. Now this was exactly as I expected! You had to have your wits about you, as there was no lighting, low ceilings or awnings, broken pavement, open sewers, and trailing electrical cables daisy chaining over your heads in some crazy tangled mess. However, the living areas felt totally different. Unlike my belief that we’d be surrounded by horrific poverty, the area was alive with life. People took great pride in their homes, which were beautiful colours and had amazing street art on the sides of buildings. We saw children dressed up in beautiful outfits for the holy celebrations, more kids playing cricket in the streets (I may have got involved again), and you rally got the sense of a wonderfully close knit community all around you. The area, albeit a slum, actually reminded me of the area we stayed in Kolkata, just with corrugated iron houses.

The thing that really hit home with me, was how wrong I had got it. I reckon I saw less poverty, rubbish and general harshness in the slum than I have in any city in India so far! Come to think of it, I didn’t see a single person begging for the first time in India! Honestly, it was wonderful, and once I had realised my understanding of the slum was totally wrong I felt so comfortable being here. I felt so honoured to have met the amazing people, to see what I’d seen and to get involved in local activity in and around the slums; definitely the most eye opening thing we have done and something I can’t recommend highly enough. The slums are an organic and evolving city within a city, just go with an open mind and be prepared to be amazed.


Sorry, I’ve done it again. I’ve written far too much, but there’s so much to say about this city. I appreciate that being here over Diwali may have enhanced my experience somewhat, but I will go as far to say I bloody love it here! This city is so different to all the others we’ve visited over the last 5 weeks, but with subtle similarities in pockets. There’s so much going on that with every turn down an alley you get a different experience.

This is the last place we visit in India. It’s been a magical time to say the least. I’ll be reflecting on the trip whilst we are en route to Hanoi and will probably write an overview of the whole journey so far. Needless to say, I’ve fallen in love with India a little bit, and WILL be back to explore some more!

What’s in the bag?

It seems like a must do; you start a blog about travelling and writing a post about whats in the bag has to be done.

It’s now 43 hours until we are on our plane, and still definitely doesn’t feel real! We’ve both been so busy with last minute packing up (the house, not the bags) we’ve and saying goodbyes to old friends we’ve barely had a chance to stop and think! Only yesterday when I did round 1 and 2 of operation ‘get all my stuff for a year in a bag’ did it actually start to become a thing.

So. The important stuff…

Everyone I’ve spoken to strongly advised investing in good bags, so we both went for Osprey bags. Mine is 65l Aether and Kelly’s is 55l Arial, although she’s probably wishing she had a bigger one now! I’m so glad we listened because these bags are super comfortable and really sit nicely on our backs, even when full! I’ve also got a daypack for tech stuff to take on the plane, and obviously for day to day use

We (strangely enough) did quite a bit of research on what others recommend to take or use whilst away for a year. So here’s a list of the things that i’d also recommend. Don’t worry, this won’t be a post about EVERYTHING I am taking, just the useful stuff that you may not have thought of.

The general stuff

  • Packing cubes are a MUST! I can’t imagine not taking these backpacking. Just get some
  • Comfy flip flops. I foolishly bought some off Amazon that were rubbish and immediately gave myself blisters. I got these Teva flip flops later on as the brand was highly recommended, and I must say they are super comfy. It’s really worth spending more on these (and other shoes) as, well, you’re gonna be wearing them all the time!
  • GOOD trail shoes! Quite a lot of people swear by wearing hiking boots etc, but I can’t imagine anything worse, so went for some strong grip trail running shoes. I bought some Innov8 trail shoes as my OCR buddies raved about them. The idea is that these will cover general walking/hiking, but also running as they are super lightweight
  • Sandals. I wasn’t feeling buying sandals initially but actually, they are seriously comfy and more supportive than flip flops. Again, Teva are recommended, obviously wearing these with socks is NOT recommended

 

The Tech

So I was always going to take quite a bit of stuff, but i’ve tried to pull back a bit for this trip.what kind of digital nomad would I be if I didn’t include a section on tech!?

  • GoPro Hero 4 Black. Obviously an essential for underwater filming and just general filming. I’ve also got a bunch of attachments (remote, battery extender, etc) as well as a floating selfie stick, buoyancy aid and gorillapod 
  • Kindle, for all those long ass train journeys! This was a hand me down but does the job for sure. Kelly has a new PaperWhite which is so much nicer, but I wasn’t going to spend more on something I may not use.
  • iPad for everything else
  • iPhone for photography and day to day stuff (and staying in contact obviously for all family and friends reading this).
  • Garmin Fenix 2 multisport watch, for tracking activities (and to tell the time). I had this anyway and would have upgraded to a new Fenix 3 HR but Kelly would have KILLED ME!
  • Anker Power Charger. This was a present and is AWESOME! IT should charge all my stuff, but my phone about 6 times off one charge.
  • A wireless hard drive for backup and streaming of movies

And… A BOOK! To write in and everything! Joking apart this will be my recipe/scrap book for the trip.

Other things i’d recommend

  • Sleeping bag liner. You never know what you’ll be sleeping on/in. These have come recommended by people on so many blogs i’ve read
  • Travel pillow. We both got one that converts from a neck pillow to a normal pillow too
  • A LIFESTRAW! This was a must for us, especially considering some of the places we are going. Whilst it’s expensive it’s definitely worth it
  • Snorkel gear. We’ve looked into this and it can be a costly thing to hire. We purchased some gear on a recent holiday and thought it would be a good thing to take!
  • Get stuff that come with cases just in case. For example hard cases for things like sunglasses. For me with all the moving about we will be doing it’s not worth the risk of breaking valuable stuff on transit 
  • Sealable bags for keeping important stuff waterproof
  • Get an “airporter” for your bag. Convayerbelts at airports love to munch the dangly bits of backpacks.
  • Try and avoid taking random crap. I have a “thing” packing cube for odd bits but I’ve actually culled so much stuff out of it, although it may not look that way…


And to summarise some of the things others have said to us, and we’re definitely doing

  • Pack, pack, and repack! Seriously, be prepared to CULL clothes. We’ve probably done 3 rounds of repacking to remove stuff each time. DO IT!
  • Start early. I have mates who left this kinda thing till the last minute. I DO NOT recommend that!
  • Seriously, invest in a good bag. It’ll save your back
  • Really think about the climate you’re in. Do you really need to take 4 pairs of swim shorts if you’re trekking in a jungle for months? I’ve had to be really quite vicious with the tops I’m taking because of this, so no skinny fit polo shirts!
  • Be a little prepared for unexpected weather. I’m going to be chasing sun for a year but still taking a hoodie, fleece and waterproof coat. 
  • Keep your stuff to a minimum. I admit I’ve failed at this but remember you’re carrying all your stuff on your back!

So there you have it. My life for a year. I’ve got the weight down on the main bag to 13kg which is enirely manageable. I’m just glad i was hitting the gym lots before this trip really started to become reality!