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