Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry (37 degrees C) Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! We have been living the hot Christmas dream and had a BBQ! Standing behind a BBQ with the air temp at 37 degrees it really does start to feel like Christmas, I know that's what you've all been doing too! I even wore a Christmas hat just to make it a little hotter! But we have been making it as Christmassy as we can, we declared Christmas Peace (a la Finland), we've been listening to Christmas songs, we've got a tree and fairy lights, and we've even made glögi!

We have had a cool couple of weeks since the last blog, going to an ultra posh hotel in Malaysia, visiting beautiful islands in Thailand and living with our friends back in Malaysia!

We met Lasse and Marika (Jenni's cousin and his wife) at the most amazing hotel I've ever been allowed to step into. The security guards were a little dubious though as we walked in from the local bus with our traveller clothes and big back packs on! But the receptionists were expecting us and greeted us with Champagne and an Orchid! Our room was like something from a film with a huge bedroom, lounge, bathroom with the best showers in the world(notice the multiple!), balcony with a massive outdoor bath, and even TV controls in the toilet! It was proper full on 5 star, the best hotel in Malaysia, 4th in Asia and 22nd in the world (they let you know the rankings!).

The outdoor bath was amazing, they would come run it for you (it took an hour) and fill it with your desired oils and bubbles and even flowers! We had three different baths with rose petals, yellow orchids and purple orchids, it was ace!

Lasse and Marika had arranged a little Christmas party with some other guests that they had made friends with, which was great fun. We started with Champagne and cocktails in the hotel lounge and then went to their room which they had decorated with a tree and things, and had more champagne. Then we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and some impromptu singing, and ended with a huge snow and silly string fight over the table! Then to a bar on the beach for some dancing and then back to the hotel to help the staff decorate the Christmas tree in the lobby (not quite sure how much they appreciated our help though!). We had so much fun and so much to drink, but Jenni and me were the only ones with hangovers the next day!

It was such an amazing change from our usual lodgings, we loved it, so thank you Lasse and Marika!

We then went down to Taru and Ville's house (near Pangkor Island in Malaysia) to say hello and meet the kids, and we left our big bags there so that we could go up to Thailand with just little packs, before returning for Christmas.

We went to two islands in very southern Thailand called Ko Tarutao and Ko Lipe. They are really beautiful places, Ko Tarutao is a national park and nature reserve, so there was lots of wildlife and no commercial developments or villages. You have to stay in the national park accommodation which was lovely and sympathetically constructed so you can't see it much from the beach or the mountains. The island wasn't great for electricity, you only got it from 6pm till 10pm when the whole island shuts down and goes to bed! We have a new favourite monkey now, its called a Dusky Langur and they look wicked, Google it for a picture! We then went onto Ko Lipe which is outside the park boundaries so it has many bungalow and restaurant developments and a little village. It was a really lovely island with beautiful beaches and sea and a little more electricity, but not much! We really recommend the two islands, especially Ko Lipe is great for sunbathing & swimming as it has amazingly clear turquoise water and sand that is like white silk - perfect!

Getting to and from Thailand was a bit of a mission. On the way up from Taru and Ville's house we set a new record in taking different types of transport in one trip! We did car, bus, bus, taxi, boat, motorbike, minivan, and again motorbike! It was a pretty fun day and the boat that took us across the boarder was hilarious, it looked as if it would sink if you blew on it, it had a old plastic chair screwed to a box for the captain and a big steering wheel from a truck, and a engine that he was building as we watched! The only scary bit was when he decided to fill the fuel tank whilst smoking. We got in and then were completely covered over with tarpaulin, it looked like we were being smuggled out of the country! Coming back was much less exciting, actually it was decidedly dull so I want bore you with it, but basically, it took bloody ages!

We are now doing lots of Chritmassy things, homey things and playing with kids things, which is fun! We are really enjoying having things like a fridge and a kettle, it's weird the things you miss! Ville got a remote controlled helicopter for Christmas which is really cool and fantastically difficult to fly! We can make it hover and not spin round anymore, but going forwards or backwards when WE want to seems a bit beyond us, the grass is getting a good cutting though!

We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and do lots of fun things in the cold like sitting in front of the fire and wearing woolly socks! Oh, and we've just been to the beach and paddling in the warm sea - on Christmas day!

Lots of love,

Dan & Jenni

Monday, December 03, 2007

It's all about Nam man

Hi it's Dan, in Vietnam!

We seem to have neglected you all some what in the month of November, sorry we do have a few excuses though...In the south we couldn't get onto the site for some reason (censorship apparently), and then we have been out on boats and up mountains in the north so we have been a bit busy!

We have really loved being in Vietnam. We had heard lots of stories about how horrible people were and how disapointing the country was from people we have met on our trip, so we had been a lottle apprehensive. But we have absolutely loved it, it is one of our top countries and the people are lovely!

We spent a couple of weeks in the south around the Mekong delta, Saigon and Mui Ne beach and then took a flight up North to Hanoi, running away from a big storm, and visisted Halong Bay and the hill tribes in Sapa.

One of the most exciting things that you can do in Saigon is cross the road! There are millions of motorbikes there that come in a constant stream along the roads about 10-15 bikes wide in both directions. The accepted wisdom when trying to cross the road is to just keep moving and praying to the traffic gods! Drivers prefer to use the horn than the breaks, so woe betide any pedestrian that stops, stumbles, or hesitates, and causes a motor bike to actually slow down! It does seem to work quite well though, we move steadily forward, everyone swerves around you and each other, we get to the otherside, nobody uses their breaks and everyone is happy!

I got to go windsurfing finally, yeah! In Mui Ne beach there were load of windsurfers and kite surfers and top of the range equipment to hire. It was so great to get out on the water, there was wind, waves everything! It is a really great beach warm sea and lovely sand and no sellers harassing you. There were also some cool sand dunes there which we went to see one day. It is amazing how much fun you can have leaping off sanddunes into umm lower down sanddunes! We have got some good pictures which I'm sure will make there way onto flickr soon.

We want to give Vietnam a big thumbs up on the food stakes as we keep on talking to peole here who think it is bland and rubbish, but it is not, it is fantastic, if you eat the right stuff. Unfortunately lots of the hotels and some tourist restaurants seem to think that westerners like bland flavourless food which unfortunately is all some people get to try. The food isn't that spicy here, it is very fresh tasing and uses lots of fresh veg and herbs instead of spice. So if you come here make sure you eat at the busier street stalls and little signless cafes, they generally only sell one thing, so you don't have to worry about choosing what to have, and it is so tasty and cheap, you can't go wrong. You just have to accept that sometimes you have no idea what you are eating! Also there are great baguettes and cakes and coffee, all remnantes of the French occupation that everybody welcomes! Oh and Bia Hoi is fantastic, it is fresh beer that they sell in little street side bars for about 6p a glass! It is apparently free from any chemicals or preservatives so it only has a 24hour shelf life, it tastes great and doesn't give you a hangover, ace!

We have just got back from a few days up in the mountains in a town called Sapa which was frickin freezin! It was 14C but it felt like minus 14C. What was wierd is that it is always like that there but nobody and no buildings were equipt for it! Everyone has to wear big puffer jackets all day and night as there is no heating in any of the buildings! So all the locals and tourists were shivering together. We had to sleep in all our clothes with big duvets and a fire to try and keep warm. We did some treking in the moutains which have been carved into amazing rice terraces by the local ethnic minorities. They all wear cool costumes and are really friendly and welcoming, they too don't have much in the way of heating or appropriate clothing!

We have been on a few organised tours in Vietnam which has made a nice change from doing everything alone, and has allowed us to meet some really lovely people from all over the world! We are already planning our visits to Ireland, Germany, San Francisco and Australia!

We are off to Malaysia in a few days to meet Jenni's Cousin and his wife for a few days in Penang, and then we will nip up the coast to Thailands most southern islands for a bit of sunbathing, before heading back down to Malaysia for Christmas with our friends Taru and Ville who have just moved there from Turku. So we have quite a hectic shedule, and lots of stamps in our passports ahead of us!

Lots of love
Dan & Jenni

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It got a lot easier

Hi, it's Jenni

After leaving you with the story of our very adventurous and action packed entry to Cambodia, things have calmed down a bit. We've been here 3 weeks and next stop is Vietnam where we're going tomorrow, but first we'll tell you the best bits from the past 3 weeks.

Our first stop was Siem Reap which is the city where you stay to go to the Angkor temples. We think that telling you about them is really best done through photos, we've got some pretty stunning ones that will tell their own timeless story better than we can. They're definitely worth seeing if you're in this part of the world (although you could just watch Tomb Raider which brings them to life pretty well, with Lara Croft thrown in for good luck). But they were just beautiful, and had a great atmosphere that made Dan feel like a real life Indiana Jones! They were full of false doors, mystical statues, strange stone urns and huge roots growing through it all, reminding that the temples had been lost and forgotten in the jungle for hundreds of years. All in all, great!

We thought that several of the smaller & less famous temples were more cool than Angkor Wat itself, which has been very well restored, which unfortunately seems to have taken away some of its charm. If you're visiting the Angkor temples, make sure you give yourself enough time at the other temples that are a lot more fun to walk around and explore, such as Ta Prohm (where Tomb Raider was filmed), Ta Som (which we thought was very Indiana Jones-esque), Bayon (with huge faces carved onto its sides), Banteay Kdei etc.

Unfortunately, Dan fell ill after the first day at Angkor temples (we had a 3 day pass), and the poor thing seemed to really have the flu - his symptoms matched the ones you get if you have Dengue fever, Malaria, or Bird Flu, but whatever it was, he's fine now! But that will explain why there's not that many photos of him from the temples, he was just too snotty ;) We did manage to go out every day though so we got to see all the ones we had planned, and even managed to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat.

The next stop was the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh where we fell in love with a new fruit - pomelos. They're massive and basically taste like a cross between grapefruit and orange, they're almost the size of a football! And Dan's not allergic, so that helps too. We also went to see a killing field near the city, which is one of the places they were doing the mass murdering during the Pol Pot regime. It was a very sobering and harrowing experience, there was a huge hollow monument that is filled with the skulls of some of the victims, and you could see where they had dug up some of the mass graves. Here and there you could see clothes, teeth, and bones scattered across the earth. Nowadays it's a peaceful and beautiful place, but that didn't make it much easier to cope with.

In Phnom Penh we also visited the National Museum. If you're coming here anytime soon, you might as well miss it because they've taken all the best bits to an exhibition in Switzerland so we didn't think there was that much to see.

For last week we went to the South coast to Sihanouksville, which is a beach resort with pretty beaches and some very happening parties and cheap alcohol in the beachside bars. We stayed at a guesthouse run by a French lady, and the restaurant attached to it served some looovely French food, which was a very welcome break!

Cambodia used to be a French colony, and the French influence runs through the whole country. Very importantly, you get fresh and very yummy french bread everywhere :) Also, they brought with them some lovely architecture, so there's pretty and colourful colonial stone buildings popping up even in the middle of the rice paddy fields!

Tonight is our last Cambodian evening, tomorrow morning we're off to Vietnam on a 4 day Mekong Delta tour. We'll visit some of the smaller places with their floating markets and stilted houses, and will end in Hoi Chi Minh City (Saigon). We're very excited and look forward to the next border crossing, which just has to be easier than the previous one we did. You'll be pleased to know that we already have our visas, so there shouldn't be any more arguments!

Thank you once again for your comments, they're such fun to read and we really look forward to getting them!

Lots of love,
Jenni & Dan

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Corruption and potholes in Cambodia

Hi there,

We've only just written to you, but we had a very eventful day yesterday travelling from Bangkok to here in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and we wanted to tell you all about it. The day started with us waking up at 3.30 am, and catching a bus to the main bus terminal we we could catch a bus to the Cambodian border. We got to the bus station at 5 am ready to catch the 5.25 bus, which we then discovered no longer existed, so we had to buy tickets for the one at 6.30 am. The bus finally left 30 minutes late, and we trundled through the Thai countryside, with several visits inside the bus by the Thai police and army, getting out all the Cambodian passengers and replacing them with others that they brought from their offices - all very weird!

We finally got to the border crossing (at Aranyaprathet to get to Poipet at Cambodia) and had to ignore several people telling us things like we have to buy the Cambodian visas at the Thai side for about double the price, and that we have to change our Thai Baht to US Dollars before leaving the country (at very poor rates).

Getting through Thai immigration was fine, but once we were through to the no-man's-land between the countries is when the fun began in earnest! We wanted to get the Cambodian visa on arrival because we had found out in Thailand that you could get it for just US$20, and we would have had to pay US$35 for it in Bangkok. However, the Cambodian border officials were not quite so keen to let us have it for just $20. We were "helped" by a whole host of friendly locals and also officials, who could all help us pay way over $20, to varying degrees. It was quite an eye opener to have officials in uniforms all so openly corrupt! There was even a sign saying the tourist visa costs $20, but still they gave us different lies to try to explain, the best being that the sign was to give us the prices for a visa in the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok!

Despite all their insistence and us being passed around 6 different border officials, we were not prepared to pay the various "taxes and charges" and said we wanted receipts for any extras they demanded, and so eventually I guess they decided we were getting too annoying (and might put the other tourist off), and they let us into the country for $20 (which is what they should do anyway). Unfortunately, everyone else we saw at immigration and have met since have paid various amounts for their vises, much over $20, and unfortunately this will only encourage the border officials to keep on overcharging unsuspecting tourists. We have to say we were quite proud of ourselves!

So finally we were on Cambodian soil! And soil it was, the roads were unsurfaced, and the recent rains meant that everywhere was covered in red mud, and because the roads resemble the craters of the moon, that also meant huge puddles / small lakes.

We joined forces with a Russian couple and decided to get a taxi to Siem Reap. After a bit of haggling over the price, we set off on what turned out to be a 4 hour assault of the senses! The journey was on roads that shook and threw us around the back of the rather unsuitable Toyota Camry saloon, we should have been in a landrover / tractor / moonbuggy. As we finally arrived at the outskirts of Siem Reap, we had to get out of the taxi and into a tuk tuk for our "free transfer" to a hotel. This in South East Asian travel terms means that they'll give you the hard sell on a hotel / guesthouse that will pay them to bring them tourists. You see, here the tuk tuk drivers buy tourists from taxi drivers, that's nice isn't it. So another small bit of strong discussion later, we were taken to the guesthouse of our choice, with the hard sell on tours of the temples of Angkor Wat instead.

But all's well that ends well, by the (late) evening we were in our lovely guesthouse by the river sitting at the bar having local yummy Angkor beer. The beer is quite cheap as well at $0.50 a pint, and our guesthouse (Shadow of Angkor) is lovely and clean, so we're very happy here. Today we have been recovering from getting here, so we haven't tackled the amazing Angkor Wat temples yet, we'll need 3 days and a tuk tuk to get around them all.

By the way, this isn't the only eventful and demanding travelling we've done lately, we just decided you might be bored of reading about it after Sumatra, but yesterday was so hard core we just had to share it with you.

That's all for now, we've got to go as it's happy hour again!

Lots of love,
Jenni & Dan

Sunday, October 14, 2007

All itchy again!

Hi from Bangkok where bedbugs have been having a great meal out of me! For some reason they haven't been going for Dan, the pharmacist thought it may be because he smells! After this he's bought a new wardrobe.

We've had a great time here, shopping is very good and cheap compared to a lot of other places we've been to, and things are so cool and funky here, we just can't resist.

So a quick update on the rest of our trip in Lombok. We headed to Kuta on the South coast for a few days, and it had some just amazing beaches, we think they were the best we've seen anywhere! Pure white sand and turquoise water, and the beaches were miles long and absolutely deserted. The only thing that having a deserted beach to yourself means is that there's no other tourists! And having no others means it can get a bit lonely... I'm exaggerating, there were others, but they were all surfers. The surf there is world class, and people come from all over the world to surf. Dan had a go as well one day on a point break, and discovered there are lots of muscles in his shoulders he should have, but didn't! Anyway, he had a great time.

We're now in Bangkok, and planning to go to Cambodia tomorrow or the next day. We've put LOTS of new photos on flickr, so please click on the right and marvel at our old adventures!!! Pictures from our new adventures also coming soon, promise! :)

Everyone in Finland, please buy the first issue of MeNaiset magazine in November, because they're writing an 8 page story of the 30th Birthday party our group of friends is having this week's Saturday! We wish we were there!!!

Got to go, they're closing the Internet cafe and throwing us out onto the streets of Bangkok... I think we'll head for a beer to congratulate ourselves on all the photo work we've just done.

Thank you for all your funny comments!

Jenni & Dan

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What a great holiday!

We wanted to tell you about our holiday we've just had in Gili Air in Lombok, Indonesia. On the way over on a little boat we got talking to this over enthusiastic middle aged Californian ex-pat lady, and she asked us whether we wanted to stay in her house for a week whilst she went back to Bali. We weren't convinced until she mentioned she had a dog and a kitten that needed looking after. That was it, we basically agreed even before seeing the place, meeting the pets, or getting off the boat!

The house was kind of odd but OK, it was right on the beautiful white sandy beach and it included kitchen, lounge, a DVD player, and the rather reluctant services of a maid. But the best bit was the animals! We really fell in love with Shadow, the crazy ADHD cat, and Arien, the neurotic and needy mongrel dog (she has something to do with a Labrador, but the rest is anyone's guess - something very low slung probably). We threw ourselves into the family idyll with great gusto. By the second day Arien (the dog) followed us everywhere, here dogs run around freely, and she would never let us out of her sight. If either of us even left the room when we were at home she would get terribly upset and worried, but she was great fun to play with on the beach, and she was really well trained. She came to us whenever we whistled or called her name, and people were impressed how well we had trained her. They all thought she was ours, and we loved it! We taught her to swim as well which was really sweet, until we went off snorkeling and after a while noticed she had come after us and was swimming quite far from the shore - yikes! Shadow (the kitten) was really small boned and had something to do with a Persian breed, and she looked like a little ball of fluff and fur. Dan was very excited because he seems to have gotten over his cat allergy for the moment, which meant he could play with the cat loads.

This probably isn't very exciting for a lot of you dear readers, but this is very exciting for us, having the chance to play home after 6 months on the road!

Gili Air is probably one of the best places we've been so far. It doesn't have any cars or motorbikes or anything annoying, the only transport is horse and cart (just like in the good old days, Kati & Johku!), but you can walk around the whole island in about 1.5 hours. Arien got to do that walk plenty of times with us, which probably isn't something she's used to with her real owner, but she had a brilliant time with us. It's all white sand, turquoise crystal water, amazing snorkeling, and really fantastic food. So again, we really recommend it! We ended up staying there for 10 days and didn't want to leave... So it felt like a proper holiday from travelling!

We came to Sengiggi (still in Lombok) for a stop over tonight, and tomorrow we're off to Kuta in the south of Lombok for some more white sands and quiet beaches, it's a hard life!

Hope you like the photos of our new found family! We've desperately tried to put them here, but computer says no. So you'll have to click on the right again to have a look.

Lots of love,
Jenni & Dan

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Six down, six to go

Hi everyone, it's Jenni! Today is our 6 month anniversary when it comes to our travels, so we've still got half to go! It feels like we've been gone for ages and ages, and at times we really miss being at home... Dan misses cooking (I obviously can't say the same), I miss wearing pretty (and clean) clothes, and we just generally have started to feel the weight of having to make constant decisions about which country / city to go to next, where to stay for the night, which restaurant / street stall to eat at this morning / this lunchtime / this evening, what activities to do each day... You see what I mean! But then again, we are so lucky to be here, seeing all these amazing places and beautiful countryside and meeting new interesting people, so we know we really shouldn't complain!

After we left Yogiakarta where we wrote last, we did a hellish 12 hour minibus journey to Gunung Bromo which is a volcano in Eastern Java. What you're supposed to do there is to see the sunrise (in that region the sun rises at 5.30, but we arrived there at an unfairly early time of 4.00!). Although it was fantastically freezing at the altitude we were at, it was very beautiful. Gunung Bromo is an active volcano surrounded by a few others, one of which is a very high cone shaped one, puffing out black smoke every hour.

After the sunrise they drive you down in your hugely over the top, off-road jeep type of vehicle into the crate so that you can walk up the volcano. When we got down there it was still full of mist, and as we drove nearer we were greeted by hundreds of tiny horses and their owners wanting you to hire them to take you the 200meters to the steps up the volcano. It was a great scene watching every jeep driving through the mist and getting surrounded by horses (which is an animal you rarely see around here and then suddenly at 5am in a volcano crater there are loads!).

It's Dan now, Jenni got too hot and had to go outside to get some fresh air. We have done a bit of exploring the countryside in Bali, which is really beautiful, lots of terraced rice fields, lakes, mountains and beaches. We hired scooters a couple of times as this gives you so much more freedom than anything else (and its the cheapest option).

We have been very good at being careful and driving slowly and avoiding all the various dogs and cats and children that are liable to jump out in front of you at any moment. the local bird population has been less careful though on a particularly picturesque road along the top of a mountain ridge a lovely swallow swooped down in front of us and straight into my face! luckily for me I had my visor down so I didn't get bird in my eye, but I think it may have got a bit more visor in his eyes than he had planned for!

A few days later on another bike we got pulled over by the police for going the wrong way on a one way street and driving without an international driving licence, both things we were guilt of but also felt were pretty unfair. We followed a whole group of locals the wrong way down this street, who all seemed to magically disappear just before the policeman! Somehow, we are not really sure how, we managed to first talk our way out of the licence fine leaving just the traffic fine, and then after a couple more minutes of chat and the arrival of some other tourists he could stop he decided to drop all the charges and let us go without paying a bean, brilliant!

We have been very good over the last few weeks at going to cultural things! We have managed lots of temples and historical sites and culturally significant things, we are very proud of ourselves. In Yogiakarta we even had a very long tour of the huge Hindu temple with a guide who turned out to be very into theology and philosophy, we were quite out of our depth but the bits we did understand were great!

We went to a really cool dance the other night in Ubud, Bali. It was called the Kecek fire and Trance dance. It was cool we chose it because it is the only one that isn't accompanied by gamalan music that we have rather gone off over the weeks! Instead it is accompanied by 100 men who sit on the floor singing and chanting and clapping and hooting and things which makes a really cool sound and gives the whole thing a great atmosphere. The actual dance is done by others in fancy sparkly costumes. The story is part of the long Ramanyana ballet story, that we saw in Yogiakarta (aren't we getting cultural!), it is a slightly confusing story that seems to involve various princes, princesses, monkeys and birds going about the forest fighting people, destroying the flower beds and burning things, quite fun really!

At the end of this performance they did the trance dance, when one of the men from the group of 100 gets into a trance from all the singing he has been doing, picks up his hobby horse and then runs about through a big pile of burning coconut husks! He is bare foot and does it until the fire is pretty much out, at which point he goes a bit crazy and the other men have to chase after him and wrestle him to the ground to bring him out of the trance! We loved it, we were in the front row so got lots of embers kicked on us and things which add spice to any dance performance!

If you ever find yourself in Ubud, Bali there is a lovely little place to stay right in the centre called Raka House. It is owned by an old man called Raka (who always talks about himself in the third person!) and his family, it is very friendly and the 4 rooms are like posh hotel rooms, but only cost about 5pounds/7euros a night, they are way, way nicer than anything else in the area so it is worth looking him up. It is next to Sayong house which is in Lonely planet, but the rooms there smell and are a bit grotty.

Well that is all for now, we are off to Gilli air tomorrow which is supposed to be a paradise beach island, off Lombok, for a bit of sand and sea.

Lots of love,

Dan & Jenni

Friday, September 14, 2007

We're fine!

We have received text messages and emails asking whether we're OK, and we are! The messages were the first we had heard of the massive earth quakes in Sumatra that took place a couple of days ago. We've been in Bali for just over a week, so luckily we're well away from it all. Thank you for all your concern, and for keeping us up to date with current affairs! As for the trip, we've been up the Mount Bromo volcano in Java, Lovina in Northern Bali, and now we're in Ubud, which is the cultural (and souvenir) centre of Bali. More to follow soon...

Jenni & Dan

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Javanese sanctuary

Hi there it's Jenni! Just a quick blog for you this time, I think I'll have to give you guys a break after the way Dan went on and on in his last epic!

We're in Java and we like it here! The public buses go according to the timetable, the coffee is fantastic, the roads have a hard surface, people give way to pedestrians, and they seem to obey the traffic lights! Madness!It's very different from Sumatra, especially if you compare the public buses. In Sumatra it took us one day 12 hours to travel the distance of about 170km, but then about 2.5 hours to do 95km another day. The best was 1.5 hours to do 10km. The distance really doesn't give you any idea of how long it will take to get there. Imagine all this done in the boiling hot tropical sun with our huge backpacks to wrestle with, on roads that sometimes have more resemblance to the craters on the surface of the moon than what you would call a road.

This will take me nicely to the next bit, where I'll be telling you about how we've spent a lovely 7 days in one city! We're in Yogyakarta, and have found a really lovely hotel with a swimming pool, lush garden, unlimited coffee&tea, daily afternoon cakes brought to you on a tray, need we say more?

Another odd thing is that the bits of Indonesia we've seen so far seem to be inundated with Dutch people! We wanted to give special mention to Terence and Geety from Amsterdam, whom we first met at Lake Toba (where they stayed in OUR hotel and ate in OUR restaurant), and who then continued to stalk us via Bukit Lawang (where they, again, stayed in OUR hotel and ate in OUR restaurant), back to Medan (where they also stayed in OUR hotel and used OUR Internet cafe), and this continued all the way to here in Yogyakarta, where they kept "bumping into us" on the streets. In the end we decided to confront them about their stalking problem and after a few beers and a meal, we haven't seen them since. ;)

That is one thing that we have really noticed over the last few months, various towns or resorts in whatever country often seem to have a large population of tourists from one particular country. It is kind of weird as you walk around and everyone is Swedish (Koh Tao in Thailand), English (Cameron Highlands in Malaysia), German (Perenthian Islands in Malaysia) and French (Cherating in Malaysia) and, well you get the point! It's still really odd, it's like we're travelling around Europe!!! Not really sure how that happens, they're not on organised tours, they're all independent travellers, but end up in these specific towns in South East Asia!

Anyway, tomorrow we're giving up our little restful sanctuary, and going to climb a volcano called Gunung Bromo! We've taken in all your wishes we tried to avoid danger, and in the end decided not to climb Merapi, one of the most destructive as well as the 6th most active volcano in the world, which is what we had first planned (it's just outside the city we're in at the moment, so it would be a short bus journey, if you get the point). This means that we've got a 10 hour bus journey ahead of us tomorrow! After the stint with the Gunung Bromo volcano which is active, but not quite so deadly (which we'll climb at dawn to get the view of sun rising behind it, with a view of Bali in the background) we'll be heading to Bali for some sand!

Sorry we haven't had any exciting chases and adventures this time, the closest we have had is a handful of over enthusiastic rickshaw drivers following us down the road. We'll put some new photos up soon, for you to marvel at. Oh and we tried (with a little help from Jamie) to create a map with our route showing, so you can see all the little obscure places we stay at, but it isn't brilliant yet, but we'll get the hang of it soon!

Lots of love to all,
Jenni & Dan

Monday, August 27, 2007

Running like the wind

Hello it's Dan, I thought about trying to start this bit with a nice story full of suspense and excitement building up to the crucial exciting twist, but I couldn't quite contain myself long enough to think of anything, so I am going to just blurt it right out. We got properly, full on, runningly, chased through the Sumatran jungle yesterday by a big hungry pregnant orangutan! Now I've blurted it out I can concentrate on telling you the whole story.

We went on a brilliant full day trek through the jungle in Bukit Lawang, Northern Sumatra. You have to have a guide as the trails aren't marked out and the terrain is much more rugged than the other places that we have trecked in. At some points we were going down almost vertical slippery cliffs having to use the big Tarzan vines to work our way down. We saw a wild orangutan which was brilliant, as the only ones you normally see on the trecks are from the nearby rehabilitation centre and are a bit too used to humans, but I'll get back to that bit later! We also saw a hornbill, a toucan (which looked like a peacock), Thomas leaf monkeys (which are our new favorite monkeys, they have really cool hair cuts like the singer from the Prodigy!), and a land turtle that was covered in massive leeches, which we looked at for a while until I then discovered my own little leech on my leg! I was saved by my wife and our guide's cigarette!

The walk took us up and down lots of hills and rocks, and as we were scrambling up a rocky section our guide pointed out a nearby orangutan called Suma that he used to work with at the rehabilitation centre. She was up in a tree and recognised him, and started to make her way over to us. Because our guide doesn't want to encourage her to approach tourists, we carried on walking slowly away from her. As we got to the top of the hill we came across another guide and two tourists having their lunch, which didn't go unnoticed by our stalker either. She really wanted their lunch and started to swing quickly through the trees towards them. The other group came over to the track we were using to get away from the orangutan, so now she was basically after us too! Our guide made us move off at a brisk walk, with the rather large orangutan only a few meters behind us on the floor, now looking angry. It is not a good sign when your brave trusty guide starts to look really worried, and starts running! Our brisk walk turned into a full speed running through the jungle away from the ape, it is amazing how your balance and agility improves when you are being chased by an orangutan. It is like some caveman instinct taking over, you really should try it! We had to run at full speed over fallen trees, rocks, mud, vines, swing round small trees and steep sections, basically all the normal stuff but at ten times the pace! The section would have taken us quite a while to walk normally, but we covered it in just a few minutes! The guides stopped running after a few minutes to stand up to her because we were getting to the edge of the hill, and apparently orangutans always win on a downhill section! The guides had to do lots of shouting at her and threatening her with sticks until she stopped chasing us and went back up into the trees. The guides then caught up with us (we were reflecting with the other tourists how surreal it was that we had just been chased through the jungle by a great ape) and the two groups went different ways. We carried on at pace and as quietly as we could, to make her follow the chatty Irish couple and their guide instead! Our guide was very impressed with our sudden increase in ability down the hill!

Our guide showed us the scars on his knees from bites from another aggressive orangutan, she goes for the knees as she knows that it is the best way to stop a human, very clever. It is all because some guides feed the orangutan in order to get them closer to the tourists, so then they start to expect it from everyone. And if you don't give them food, or you have a backpack that looks like it might have some in it they might go for you. So don't feed the orangutans next time you're in the jungle! So yeah, lovely friendly docile orangutan can be a bit scary really! But it made a good story though, our day trek was a lot more eventful than most peoples!

We are in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia at the moment and have been spending a lot of time on crazy cramped crowded buses and equally crazy roads and drivers! We have discovered a new level of chaos here, it is a real experience doing just about anything! Our first trip was to a small volcanic hill town home to a mere 500,000 people! It is only 70km from the main city Medan, but getting there was fun! First we had to get in a sort of truck with sideways bench seats which took us about 10km in just over an hour, good going eh! We then were hustled into the next bus which was a very brightly coloured crazy thing with six seats across about the width we would normally have 3! The discomfort of the blaring music, tiny legroom and chain smoking was only slightly outweighed but the huge woman asleep next to us sitting on top of Jenni and taking up two of the tiny seats! We had half of one each and about ten people standing/leaning/sitting next to us for three hours. The bus had seats for 20 people ours had 31 sat inside 5 hanging out the door and about 6 on the roof! This felt like our first bit of "proper" travelling! Since then we have been on loads of buses of all different shapes and sizes with leg room ranginging from none to minimal, capacity ranging from full to ridiculous, and drivers mentalities ranging from crazy to suicidal! But we are still here and all is well!

The countryside around here is stunning. We spent a few days at Lake Toba which is a giant collapsed volcano crater full of water, with a big island in the middle. It looked really like New Zealand or Lake Garda, it was really beautiful and a very relaxed place. The people here are really friendly and enthusiastic to talk to anyone who crosses their path, obviously some of them are trying to sell you something or get you in their transport, but a lot of people just want a chat. I have now had to become a strong Arsenal supported to give me a good topic of conversation with the men, they all love football and follow the premiership avidly.

It was Indonesian independence day here last week, which meant there was lots of celebrations and things going on in all the towns. I had to convince our new local friend of my weak back and knees to avoid being the "strong, tall" baseman in a 6 person greasy pole climbing team, as he had planned! I am about a foot taller than most people, so it would have given his team a good advantage, but I didn't fancy my chances at holding 5 grown men on my shoulders!He was convinced I would be much stronger than the half naked local Adonis' we saw in front of us, I wasn't! It was very impressive to watch them try and build a tower of men up the pole about 9-10m high covered in grease to try and get the prizes at the top of the pole.

It is a very poor country and many of the people are living in third world conditions, it has been a real eye opener travelling through the small towns and villages in the area with no plumbing and very little electricity. Everyone washes their clothes, dishes, themselves, their kids, everything, in the nearest river or stream and the women carry huge containers full of water or washing up or clothes to and fro on their heads. The place we did the jungle trek in, Bukit Lewang, was totally destroyed by the river that runs through it in a 15 minute 10 meter surge that destroyed the whole town flattening everything and killing 500 people. It is awful to see the wrecks from that day and to hear the peoples tales, as they don't have anything like insurance, savings etc, so if your cafe is destroyed and your land washed away then your livelihood is destroyed too, and you have nothing to start again with. It makes you realise how much you take for granted at home.

So on that cheery note I will leave you and say that we are flying to Jakarta tomorrow on Air Asia, which is not on the EU black list (all the other airlines in Indonesia have had so many crashes that they are not allowed in the EU, and it is strongly advised to avoid them) and will be making our way across Java to Yogakarata hopefully on a posh train. We have got a few new photos on flickr that some random person accidentally uploaded to our space, but they are good photos of the same places that we have been to, so we thought we would keep a few!

Lots of love,
Dan and Jenni

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hello big nose!

Hi it's Jenni! We just got back from Bako National park, which is in the North West corner of Malaysian Borneo. It was just brilliant, a lot better than we'd hoped it would be. We got up at 6am both mornings we stayed there (very early for us), and managed to be the first ones on the trails, which meant we got to see lots of wildlife, and that's what it's all about there. We saw the usual macaque monkeys, they're the ones you see all over the place in Malaysia going through the bins and stuff, but in Bako they were actually in the trees where they belong, eating fruit and leaves and other yummy things, and the little monkeylings were busy playing around in the trees, almost falling off every other second. Very cute! Also, a lot of the little ones didn't seem like they should be allowed to jump from tree to tree yet, as they seemed to misjudge their weight and break off the smallest branches regularly.

At the park head quarters there was this odd family of bearded wild pigs (looked like wild boars, with huge long furry faces). The adults were huge, and their 3 babies were heffas as well. They were just walking around quite happily near all the people, eating the roots they dug through the lawns and taking some naps. Very odd when we first saw them.

And then to the more rare animals... There is a large population of the very rare proboscis monkeys, which are these very funny looking orange/ginger coloured big-nosed things (with their noses drooping down over their mouths) with huge pot bellies and skinny arms and legs. The locals originally called them "Dutch men", but political correctness changed that somewhere along the line! On one of our walks we suddenly heard this small crashing in the trees above us. We've learnt to know that this means that there's a monkey nearby, so we stayed absolutely still, and soon had a whole group of them was all around us jumping and crashing about and eating the fruit and leaves. It was a really special sight, as we had been really quiet and still, so they hadn't really taken notice of us, and they stuck around for quite a while, about 1/2 an hour.

It was great to be able to have a proper good look at them and see the adults jumping from one tree to the next, because they can jump such long distances despite looking so ungainly in flight, although we did see a lot of them accidentally break a branch or two... They're pretty hefty animals! The alpha males have these absolutely massive noses which they hoot through. He gave us a couple of half interested little hoots as well when he saw us peering at him. All very exciting for us. There was a mom and little baby monkey near us as well, and of course the baby was amazingly cute.

We tried to get a few photos, but it was more fun just enjoying watching them. We'll pick a few to put on flickr though, so you might want to check the photo link on the right hand side in a bit.

We also saw some silver leaf monkeys in the trees, which were really cool as well. They look more like the conventional monkey, with a lot more slim and streamlined figure. Also there were the usual snakes (Dan got heart palpitations because there was a pit viper there - very deadly), massive monitor lizards and some huge butterflies.

Apart from all the cool animals, the walks themselves were really incredible. They went through all sorts of different types forest, e.g. mangrove and proper tropical rainforest jungle, as well as sandy areas in the middle of them with pitcher plants, which are carnivorous, and eat little insects. The only thing was that it was just insanely hot. The walks went up and down rainforest-covered mountains, and the trails were covered in tree roots and huge rocks, and some bits were so steep that you had to use ropes to get up them. But it was all worth it, and we were so proud of ourselves that we'd got up so early and were so disciplined and got to see so much! A few times I thought I'd go insane from the heat and the 100% humidity added to how hard the tracks were, but with the help of all the sweets and peanuts Dan kept feeding me I managed to pull through in the end.

We're off to Sumatra in Indonesia on Wednesday, and have heard that Internet isn't as reliable as we've got used to, so you might not hear from us for a bit. Also, in the town we're flying to the locals believe the loud noises ward off evil spirits, so they decided to build their airport next to the centre of the city... I think we're in for a bit of a culture shock!

We're planning to go to another orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sumatra, so you'll get even more enthusiastic monkey tales when we log on next!

Thank you for the new comments you've been making, keep up the good work!

Lots of love,
Jenni & Dan

Monday, August 06, 2007

It's Singapore and the living is easy

We're sitting on a designer sofa, writing this on our complimentary Apple Mac laptop at our super trendy hotel we're staying at for our first wedding anniversary.

Well that's how we'd planned to start our blog from there, but obviously we didn't actually quite get round to it! We did use the laptop and the sofas though, but not for anything productive. If anyone is planning a bit of pampering, the hotel is called New Majestic Hotel, and the website is: www.newmajestichotel.com We really recommend it, the room was amazing, staff lovely, and decor very inspiring. It was such a cool, funky, and trendy hotel we really loved our stay there. This came as such a change for us, as we'd grown quite used to the rundown places we've mainly been staying in lately... The outside bath on our own private terrace was something we'd never seen before, how cool was that.

Singapore was a real break from the rest of the South East Asia that we've seen so far - sculptures all over the place, very clean, lots of pavements on the sides of the roads (you really miss them when they're not there, i.e. most of Malaysia!), futuristic architecture, not smelly, fantastic food, automatic toilets, and air-conditioned outside spaces. Need we say more, we absolutely loved it, it felt like a mini holiday from our year's holiday!
One of the things that really set Singapore apart from anything we've seen before were it's mega malls, that went high above ground, as well as on and on underground for miles. It was weird being able to walk around the city and cover so much ground without ever needing to go outside! We had to use our compass a lot (thank you Juha, it's been a life saver!), as it was really disorienting going from mall to mall, and popping out onto a street god knows where.

Singapore zoo is also ace, they don't have cages for the animals, but instead they have moats, which felt really nature-like and cool. Usually it's quite expensive to get in, but trust us to have good luck, and as we were waiting to buy our tickets, this couple came up to us and offered to take us in for free with their gold pass! How unlikely was that! Anyway, we ended up spending 8 hours there and absolutely loved the tigers, the orangutans and the other monkeys, and took far too many photos.

On Saturday we went to the Baybeats music festival at Singapore harbour front. It was a free indie rock festival with local as well as international bands, and a great chance to see the funky young Singaporeans out strutting their stuff. They were a great crowd, they had energy until the end of the evening, and were jumping, dancing, clapping, cheering, and crowd surfing to anything and everything. With no obvious alcohol or drugs, how they had the energy, we will never know. We were knackered just having to walk between the different stages! All of the foreign bands were really impressed that they just kept going on with such enthusiasm.

A few photos for you to break up all my writing:

Dan's wanting me to write more about the food in Singapore. Barbecue pork and rice was one of his highlights, but everything was really amazing, so it's not a surprise that he really enjoyed himself there!

I wanted to give you a quick update on my horrid rash, and the good news is that with the antihistamine tablets and huge amounts of aloe vera the blisters finally went down. Although afterwards I've been shedding my skin, in fact I've been a proper snake, but at least now I've got lovely new skin on my legs :)

We're catching our flight to Kuching in Malaysian Borneo early tomorrow, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it, as Borneo has always sounded such a mystical and far away place to me, and now I'll get to see it for myself! Tonight we're staying in Johor Bahru, and in our hotel room we were greeted by this sign. Our sentiments exactly!

That's it for now, love to you all, and keep the comments coming, we love them and really look forward to getting them from you!
Jenni & Dan

Monday, July 23, 2007

The not-so-glamorous life of a budget traveller

Since we last wrote, it's been raining, and we've been travelling through lots of small and unimpressive towns along the East coast of Malaysia. We had hoped to find some windsurfing for Dan, he asked around about it, and was directed to talk to"a long haired man"on the beach. We eventually tracked him down only to find out that he had lent his kit to his mate, and that had been the only board in the whole town (not quite the windsurfing mecca made out in the Lonely Planet)! The other option involved lots of buses to nearby villages in the hope of finding some other man who might have bought some equipment in the mid 80's. In the end we decided not to bother.

Also, we had two 7cm (3 inch) long cockroaches in our bathroom the other day. Having had them in our room made me all jumpy for ages, they were so disgusting! Dan did everything he could to block their entry holes (by trying to fix the gaps around the bathroom sink with toilet paper- the places here are all full of insect-sized holes), but it didn't work. They were just too attracted to us, they found away in again. Dan was very brave (he's dictating this next to me) and caught them both and finally got rid of them both outside. Oooh, he's so courageous!

So we haven't really done very much, we've mainly been staying in some very grotty hotel rooms in various towns along the way. Some of the highlights apart from the quest for windsurfing kit include waking up to 5am call to prayer (accompanied by local dogs who decided to join in), and taking a ferry out of Kuala Terengganu to see this "traditional boat carving" that our Lonely Planet thought was a must see (when we finally got there, the bemused men allowed us to stay and watch them do some hammering - they didn't seem to think it was very exciting, and it wasn't!). We weren't sure Lonely Planet had actually gone there.

We are still having a nice time, and eating lots of nice food. Now we've made our way to Mersing, and we're off to Pulau Tioman-island tomorrow, where you can get duty free beer. Let's hope it's stopped raining by the time we get there!

Lots of love, we'll write again soon and maybe even put some new photos up.
Jenni and Dan

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's been a long time!

Hi it's Jenni! It's been so long since the last time we wrote I don't know where to start! After leaving Penang where we wrote the last blog, we've been to Kota Bahru, and some lovely islands off the east coast (Pulau Perentians and Pulau Lang Tengah), and to some pretty odd little places in between.

Kota Bharu was a very traditional Islamic place, with some cool cultural displays, we'll put some photos up once we find a computer that knows what a "camera" is... A reoccurring problem... Basically we saw some top spinning, traditional martial arts, and drumming. Sounds a bit dull, but it was really good to see! The performers were both young people as well as oldies, and it was all free to go and see, and there was loads of locals hanging about and enjoying it too, which gave it all a good feel - it didn't feel like it was put on especially for tourists, which was brilliant!

After all that culture we headed down the East coast of Malaysia to the Perenthian Islands. We went to the small one (Kecil). It had really beautiful white beaches and gorgeous turquoise water with some really good snorkeling, but we felt it was starting to get a bit overcrowded, and there's a lot of development happening (= noisy building work). That said, we did stay for 10 days and had a really great time... We had a brilliant snorkeling trip where we saw a few turtles and a couple of sharks, how cool is that! They have them living just off the coasts, so the boat just drops you in the water and off you go in search of them. We stayed at Panorama Chalets (in case any of you are going) which showed a film every night at their restaurant - pure luxury for us TV deprived folk!

After we decided we had to pull ourselves out of the island (on our way to the next island of course), we ended up spending a night in a town called Merang. We caught a local bus there, and to catch it we were told to stand near this bridge, and there would be a bus at 2 o'clock or after 2. Sure enough, it was after 2, but we only waited for 45 minutes, which was really very good for us. We then got dropped off at our destination, Merang. We thought we had arrived at just a junction near the town itself (this was a proper place on the map) and started started walking with our backpacks in hope of finding somewhere to stay. It finally turned out that the junction had been the town. That was ok, but the problem we had was that there wasn't really anywhere to get a meal. We were given instructions to walk out of the "village" and past the school, and eventually we did find a place that served us a meal - the only problem came with ordering, so we ordered whatever limited food related words we could read out of our guide book. Smooth travellers, that's us.

So the next morning we were off to our next island, Pulau Lang Tengah. This is a truly minuscule island, where the only way to get to was to book a very expensive 2 night full board package holiday. We discovered that we were the only western people there, which definitely gave the place a different feel to the previous touristy island we had been to. Our whole time was time tabled, so we had scheduled times for introduction speech, lunch, snorkeling trips, tea&cake break, evening meal, and our absolute favourite, "free and easy". This was because Malays love to have their time planned for them so they don't have to make decisions about what to do and when, the peak of which was that we were told when we could have time off, and go to the beach etc. Brilliant! Other hilarious things were the evening entertainment (karaoke, which is a national love of the Malaysians), and the breakfasts, which saw me and Dan in front of buffets full of things we really could not name, or eat for that matter! It was all full of fun in Lang Tengah though, and we really enjoyed our first time-tabled activities since god knows when.

The snorkeling on the island was about the best thing that has happened to us in Malaysia so far. Because the island is quite expensive and hard to get to (you have to be on a package holiday to get there) and therefore doesn't get huge crowds of visitors, the marine life is unspoilt and just spectacular. We stayed in this beautiful bay with powder soft white sand, no rubbish anywhere, crystal clear water, and we snorkeled just off the beach to these fantastic coral reefs, which had black tip reef sharks (they breed there, so we had shark babies feeding in the shallow waters just off the beach!), turtles, puffer fish, white eyed moray eels, giant clams etc etc etc. It was so beautiful and felt so special to be there, it was a shame we could only afford to be there for 2 days. If you want to go, we stayed in a great resort called Redang Lang Beach Resort, and really recommend it. Just a bit more about the baby sharks, there was these big schools of anchovies fishes swimming just off the beach, and when we came back from one of our snorkel trips around the bay we just noticed these about half a metre long sharks swimming around us and under our bodies in water about 30cm deep! I guess they were too young to know they're meant to be afraid of humans. That's something we'll never forget, they were so beautiful.

We're in a town called Kuala Terengghanu at the moment, because we had to get to a town big enough to see a pharmacist. You see I've had this really ugly thing happen to me where these blisters have started to appear first on my arms, then all over my back and chest, then down my tummy, and now both my legs are covered in blisters as well (sorry if that's a bit grose). They're not sore, but a bit annoying and itchy, plus I worry about losing all my skin and being left with scars all over my body! The pharmacist gave me some antihistamine, so cross your fingers for me it works! Also, Dan's got an ear infection from all our time in the water, but we'll both soon be on the mend ;)

We're off to a place called Cherating next, Dan thinks there might be some windsurfing there, and he's been getting so excited, bless him! I've even promised him that if it's good conditions (= sunny and warm) and not too windy (= scary) I'll get a windsurfing lesson or two. I'm just scared that it'll start him again on planning the family windsurfing board he wants to buy in the future so our whole family can use the same board...

We'll keep you posted!

Lots of love to all, and thank you for the comments!!!
Jenni & Dan

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Biggest, tallest, longest, widest

We have been in Malaysia for about 10 days now and have decided that it is a fantastically friendly country that seems to have a slightly unhealthy obsession with things being the biggest, tallest, longest, widest, whatever in the world! To get you started on the theme, at the airport you are encouraged to marvel at the amazing site of the worlds widest unsupported steel aircraft hanger, wow, what a sight! We have also seen the worlds largest walk-in, fully covered bird park (there seem to be a lot of caveats to there record claims!) and the worlds tallest twin structured building, the Petronas towers, but that was actually pretty impressive!

We have only been here ten days but we have already met more locals and spent more time chatting with them than in all our time in Thailand. There is a really interesting mix of cultures with Malays, Indians and Chinese people making up the majority. We have had good long chats with people from each ethnic group and it has been really interesting to hear there opinions on Malaysia as a country and each other. We both now know more about Malaysian history, religion and politics than we ever did about our home countries!

In the Cameron Highlands we went for a walk in the jungle and up to a tea plantation, it was a lovely slightly demanding walk, with a few landslides and fallen trees making it that bit harder. We saw a baby snake on the way up the hills to the highlands too, it seems to be becoming a habit! After a quick tour of the tea plantation and a few lovely cups of tea we thought we would try and hitch down the hill the 5 kms to the town to get the bus home. We were picked up immediately by Kalid and May an Army Major and his wife who took a liking to us and rather than dropping us at the town to get the bus, took us all the way to the hotel, then offered to take us on a tour of the area, so we did! It was great, we were taken to all the major sites and he explained loads of stuff to us and made us try durian, "the king of fruits" apparently, it's not it's gross it tastes like rotten cabbage and onions mixed with drains! The best bit is that it makes you burp like a drain for hours afterwards, what a treat! But they were a really lovely couple and we ended up spending the whole afternoon with them, and have an invite to visit them in Kular Lumpur next time we are there!

Another great bloke we met was an Indian guy whose name means arrow or knowledge, but i can't remember how to spell it. He owns a shop on the high street in the town we stayed in in the highlands and every evening we would go to his shop and talk to him whilst we ate our ice creams. One day we took a bus up to a town with another tea plantation as as we started the 3KM walk up the hill he pulled up behind us in his car, it turned out he had a farm near the tea plantation so offered us a lift, ace! He decided once we got there that he wouldn't both going to his farm yet and so he gave us a guided tour of the tea factory ( he is a guide there in peak season) we learnt loads. He decided it would be more fun to spend the afternoon with us so we had tea overlooking the plantation, visited his farm, went to a Buddhist temple and various other sites in the area. All through the afternoon he taught us about local and national politics, race relations within Malaysia, religion, particularly Hindu and Buddhist, the Malaysian education system and all about his family. When we left he gave Jenni a goodbye present, he was really sweet! There have been loads of other lovely people too, too many to mention!

We've got to go as someone wants to get on the computer, but we'll write again from Kota Bharu where we're going tommorow.

Lots of love
Dan and Jenni

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thieving bastards!

We are now in Malaysia, in the capital Kuala Lumpur. All was going swimmingly until last night when someone in the hostel nicked Jenni's Finnish mobile phone. We are trying to make people feel guilty so they might give it back, as it had photos from our honeymoon and lovely texts from everyone from the last 6 years. She is really upset and we have now lost everyone's phone numbers from that phone. If be some quirk of fate the person that stole it is reading this blog, please give it back!

Dan & Jenni

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rainforests - not just a clever name

After leaving our lovely little beach front bungalow in Samui (where we did out previous post) we have had some quite exciting experiences (to do with animals, once again), and also some extremes of comfort on the housing front. We took a ferry to the mainland to get to the Khao Sok national park and it all went very well, and as we had not booked any tickets beforehand we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves. It wasn't until we had got off the ferry and were trying to walk into the town centre to catch the bus, that we realised that our ferry hadn't taken us to where we thought, but to this little place in the middle of nowhere, where there was a further hour's drive to Surit Thani (the place we thought we were in already!). By this time we had missed all the buses, so we had to wait for the next ferry to arrive, and got on a minibus to the city. So it all ended up fine in the end, but we hadn't been quite as lucky with the travel as we'd hoped...

All this travel was to take us to Khao Sok national park, which is one of or the oldest rainforest in the world, something crazy like 130 million years old! We picked out a nice sounding place from the guide book and headed there, to find that they had slashed all there prices by half as it was low season. So we could stay in the top of the range bungalow for not much money at all (4.50 Pounds or 7 Euros), great... ish... It turned out, I suppose unsurprisingly, that there was quite a lot of wildlife in the area who thought our room was lovely, so we all shared it! Us, the frog, the giant beetles, the geckos, the bats, and the snake! We made a lovely little family! The snake managed to confine himself to just staring at us in the bathroom this time, but the bats thought it was great fun to fly aroud the bedroom!

This didn't make us immediately feel at home, but the scenery was beautiful and we thought a little walk in the jungle would but us at ease, as I was still getting over my snake-in-the-lap -trauma. Walking up the road to the park entrance Jenni suddenly stopped next to me and yelped, I looked down, screamed, and bravely ran away from the aggressively reared up 1.5m long bright green snake crossing the road! Jenni calmly walked away a little bit and took this photo so you could all see it. The snake then calmed down and slithered across the road and up a tree. So we have got a good collection of snake incounters now, Jenni almost walked into one, I had one in the lap and one staring at us in the shower, a snake lovers' paradise! We did make it onto the walk and were treated to a view of a small group of monkeys feeding up in the trees right near us, much more our cup of tea!

The next day we did an organised trek and visited a floating raft house deep in the jungle. We got to spend about an hour watching some more monkeys feeding in the trees which was great, and also a leech, which was gross! Our guide thought it would be good to leave it on the guy who had it on his arm so that we could all see how big they get and how to get rid of them! The scenery was again stunning, amazing rock formations around this lake that we travelled across for an hour on a longtail boat to get to the start of the trek. During the walk we discovered why they are called rain forests, it rains! Proper hardcore "I'm standing under a shower" heavy rain. The track we had walked up became a stream and we were then walking in at least 10cm of water the whole way back to the boat. It was great fun and we got soaked, but the camera didn't seem to agree, but it seems to have recovered now!

We then moved on to the Andaman coast which is the west coast and is in rainy season a the moment, which is proving correct! Were in Khao Lak which was hit really hard by the 2004 Tsunami destroying most of the beach front properties and killing many people. Lots of the places have been rebuilt now, but the beach still has many remnants of the pre-tsunami era and shrines to those who died that day. It is quite upsetting walking on the beach here and seeing the half buried steps and bridges to nowhere and the huge empty plots of rubble and debris.

We are staying in a super luxury hotel at the moment which is amazing, by far and away the nicest place I have ever stayed in. They have all slashed the prices massively to try and lure people in and it worked with us, it is not much more than the cheapy places we normally stay in but it has air con, TV, Swimming Pool, little shampoo and bath cream bottles, a bath, soaps, towels, toilet roll, orchids, it is lovely. It is a bit wierd as you feel like you could be anywhere in the world, it doesn't feel like being in thailand really, so it is like we have had a short holiday from our trip, strange but quite nice too!

Right that will do for now. We are now probably going to go to Malaysia, we are trying to work out how to go there as there is a bit of a slight bombing problem in the South of Thailand at the moment. We need to make sure we avoid as many bombs as we can as they don't sound very nice!

Make sure you check out our new photos, there's lots from New Zealand, and quite a few from Thailand as well. Click on the photos on the right!

Lots of Love
Dan and Jenni

Monday, June 11, 2007

Snakes and sweetcorn

Hi it’s Jen! We're now on Koh Samui, which is the largest island on the Gulf Coast of Thailand. It's just paradise in this little village we're staying in, it's a proper town where real Thai people live, and they've got really good restaurants serving real Thai food to Thai people - and us! They don't really have choice, they tend to have one or two dishes they sell, and you either have it or you go somewhere else, but it's really delicious, and it's super cheap. The village's called Mae Nam, and it's on the north coast with lovely 4km long beach with lots of coconut palms, and brilliant beach for swimming, in case you plan to come to Koh Samui at some point.

A couple of days ago we were exploring the island on our little hire scooter (it's turquoise, which goes very prettily with Dan's helmet, which is purple) and stopped to have lunch at this little restaurant perched on top of a cliff overlooking some white beaches, turquoise water, well you get the point, and anyway, so there we were sitting quite happily, Dan was sitting just under where the roof of this little shelter ended. We were eating some noodles, and the next thing I know is that Dan's screaming, has spat out his food, and flicked up this snake that had landed on his lap! The 75cm long green beast had obviously been on the roof trying to catch some birds or maybe just warming up in the sun, had lost its balance, and landed on poor Dan's lap! He was obviously just horrified and real scared, and after he'd stood up so the snake rolled onto the floor, it slithered off the side of the restaurant, and down the cliff. I just saw the snake's body rise over the table when Dan was struggling to get up. Isn't that horrible!!!

After the incident with the snake, Dan was very jumpy and twitchy the whole rest of the day, it wasn't till the next day that he seemed normal again, but we still didn't mention anything to do with snakes in case it made him go all weird again.

Another thing we wanted to tell you about is water buffaloes. As I said earlier, we're staying in a real village where people go about their real business, and there's this man near where we live who keeps water buffaloes, and he takes them one by one to have little walks on the beach at sunset, and he takes them into the sea to have nice little baths too. How brave he must be to be walking these enormous animals amongst people and make them be nice and not kill us if they've had a bad day. (Sorry the photo's not in focus.)

They also do bull fighting with the water buffaloes, but contrary to what they do in Spain, they actually make two buffaloes fight each other. Although I still am not sure I'd like to go and see this, it seems a lot more fair than a man with a spear stabbing an animal.

Oh and I've found my new favourite yoghurt - sweetcorn and kidney bean! They sell it here as a normal yoghurt, and it's sweet, and although I must admit that having vegetables and beans in your yoghurt is a bit odd, I quite liked it. Dan couldn't stand the smell so he would not try it although I especially picked a lovely selection of both corn and kidney beans for him.

I was also wanting to say that the rest of Koh Samui island seems to be full of tourists, and feels like you're in Mallorca, or Benidorm, or some other place we imagine not to represent a specific country, but just a resort full of red skinned sweaty tourists (we of course are something entirely different ;) ).

Hope to hear from you all again soon!
Jenni & Dan