Us in the SunChandraMukhi - our mighty steedUs in the Snow

Current Blog: Asia

[ Current Blog: Asia ] Photo Album ] Links ] Contact Us ]

India Blog

Current: June 07 - November 07: China / Vietnam / Singapore / Indonesia / Malaysia / Thailand

Asia Map 0511.PNG (1561315 bytes)
(Click on map for larger version)


05/12/07: Melaka / Tioman / Sebana Cove (almost Singapore) / Port Dickson / Penang / Langkawi
Well we have a good excuse for it being so long since we updated our website - we've been busy and pre-occupied learning to sail our newly acquired yacht! Yes you read right, we've bought a yacht.  In fact the one we were on in Perhentian.  But it's a long story so we'll tell it in order:

23-25/10/07 MELAKA: Got a VIP bus (3 seats wide as opposed to the usual 4) to Melaka, and met a Yemani guy who was also at Perhentian there.  Had dinner at a local place which was nice except for the spicy squid - we explicitly asked for no "dried shrimp paste" 'cause it smells disgusting, but when it arrived so did the pungent aroma.  They were very apologetic, they put it in loads of food and don't notice. They brought us another dish instead and when we finished the meal they brought out the raw ingredient to see if we liked that or not - Yuck!!! Then they brought out fresh shrimps - Yum!! Much to their bemusement.  Next day wandered round Melaka and bumped into Enrique (Spanish guy from Perhentian), small world.  Decided we'd seen everything so bought a bus ticket to Tioman for the next day where we're meeting up with Clement on his boat.  We've kinda decided to maybe buy the yacht as we want something else to do and he is bored sailing on his own.  

25/10/07 - 2/11/07 TIOMAN: Lovely island, and tax free so a case of beer from the duty free shop is only 50RM (7 quid).  It's the end of season so it's very quiet and nice, however we're getting itchy feet as we want to get down to Singapore to get the boat surveyed before we buy it (just to make sure it's seaworthy).  However as Clement was coming into Tioman the accelerator lever came off in his hand (he's very strong and does tend to 'cheeseburger' things).  I know it's a sailing yacht but we do need the engine for when there's no wind and entering marinas.  We had to wait for almost a week before we got it fixed and in the end it was fixed with a bit of ingenuity from both Graham and Clement.

3-4/11/07 SAILING: Sailed for two days and anchored up in bays on small islands both nights.  Clement gave us lessons on navigation and how to plot our course using paper charts as well as putting sails up and anchoring etc.  So spent the next few days just checking our course on the paper charts against that on the auto pilot and computer maps, which was quite fun, but I like puzzles so maybe that's why.

5-14/11/07 SEBANA COVE (just north of Singapore): Got to Sebana Cove, just north of Singapore at about 4pm Saturday, first things first head straight to the pool for an hour or so.  One good thing that we are coming to realise about marina's is that they are often associated to a nice 5* hotel which means you get to use all of the hotel facilities as part of your 5 pound a day mooring charge!  We organise a surveyor to come from Singapore to look at the yacht on Wednesday (if a Singaporean surveyor says it's a good boat then it must be - they're so anal about everything all 't's crossed and I's dotted)!.  Survey will be ready on Friday, but needs to be paid in Singapore dollars so decide to take the ferry from the marina to Singapore (takes about 45mins) to collect  the survey and get Indian Visa from Embassy.  However the facist Singaporeans made Graham pay $15 to bring in 2 packets of cigarettes he bought in Malaysia and took half an hour to debit the money from his card.  By which time the Indian Embassy visa department had closed AHHHHHHH!!!  Then went to meet the surveyor and his wife at the Singapore Cricket club where we spend maybe 3hrs drinking and chatting (very civilised!).  Then off to shop for goodies for our new boat.  Spend the night back at Nava's Place in little india and shop some more the next day.  Whilst surfing the internet we find that due to new legislation (1week old) we can't get our India visa in Singapore anyway.  So go back to the yacht late on Saturday night and Clement has a Singaporean girl (Clara) staying.  We drink alot of G&T's then when we've finished 2 bottles head up to the bar, but for some reason decide to swap clothes, this leads to lots of drunken behaviour and Graham frequently showing his bottom to the world "Well I have to I'm wearing a short skirt", this eventually pissed off the security guard who threatened to evict us.  
Next day arranged for a SWIFT transfer of deposit for the yacht, post our passports to KL India Visa place and organise for them to be delivered to the Marina in Langkawi - should take a week, then readied to leave the next day.  Next day there was a new notice up at the bar about appropriate dress and lewd behaviour.  Oh and Katrina had to climb out of a window 2m up which she could only fit her hips through diagonally, then climb down a tree as she got locked in the changing rooms whilst having a sauna - Very amusing!

And Graham decided that having long hair was a real bastard when sailing or diving, so had a hair cut - looks loads more babelicious (if possible) and younger.

Next day we left and headed for Port Dickson on the way to Langkawi - after we left the marina we found a gift on our bed curtesy of Clement - it was the sign from the bar re: Lewd Behaviour! 

15-20/11/07 PORT DICKSON:  It took 2 days to get to Port Dickson as it was all of 230miles away (what a difference in speed from motorbikes which are limited to 186mph!).  The first day we had to sail/motor around Singapore avoiding all of the huge cargo ships and tankers which was really busy then that night we anchored in a bay of a small island.  Next morning set off at dawn and sailed all day and all night with Graham and Katrina taking 4hr watches throughout the night (Clement slept on deck so he was available at a moments notice).  It was quite an experience recognising tugs towing barges, working out which direction boats were travelling based on their lights and trying to avoid small fishing boats and their nets.  Got to Port Dickson at about 7am and stayed there fore 4 nights as the SWIFT payment wasn't.  In the end Katrina got on the phone to the bank gave them hell and they did the full transfer for all of the money next day!

21-26/11/07 PENANG:  Sailed overnight to Penang, sudden storm hit and caused the boom to bash on one of the solar panels and put a hole in it - Doh!  Get to Penang where we were supposed to get a 'Cutlas bearing' which Clement was going to change as part of our purchase agreement, only to find that the prearranged part was wrong and we had to wait until Monday for the correct part.  So did more shopping, stocked up on food at Tesco's.  On Monday transferred registration to us and UK flag then left for Langkawi where we were going to leave Clement and set off for India.

27/11-05/12/07 LANGKAWI:   Another night sailing this time Clement stayed in his cabin all night.  Arrived safe and sound, ordered new solar panels from Singapore and checked post.  Our passports haven't arrived yet.  End up waiting for a week for the registration, passports and solar panels to arrive but they have now so we're off to India today!!!!  Hopefully next update will be from India.

22/10/07: KL / Cameron Highlands / Perhentian Islands / KL - MALAYSIA
It's been so long since we last updated the website that we've forgotten everything that's happened, but we've had a good month!  This is the news in brief!

27/09-01/10/07 KUALA LUMPUR:  Arrived in KL at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal, which is about 50km outside the centre and got an AirAsia bus for 8RM each (just over a pound) for the 1hr journey to the centre.  Then having consulted our guide book headed to China Town and the cheap hotels.  Booked into a hostel for the first night, dumped our bags then spent the rest of the evening looking at all of the hotels in the area.  Eventually (about 20 hotels and 2hrs later) found one we liked and changed rooms the next day.  Spent the next couple of days wandering around KL which as cities go is very nice - in fact probably our favourite capital city.  It's quite vibrant and clean (but not as sterile as Singapore), with good public transport (tubes, monorail, trains etc).  Went up the twin towers and across the skybridge which connects the two towers about halfway up (nice free excursion).  Splashed out and had dinner at the KL Hard Rock Cafe - which was playing the Carpenters??????? Oh and Katrina had her hair dyed blonde - Graham always had a penchant for Blondes! Then booked VIP bus to Cameron Highlands hillstation. 

01-05/10/07 CAMERON HIGHLANDS:  MMmmmm what a bus!  Only 3 seats wide, which recline and have leg rests, the 5hr journey just flew by.  Arrived at Tanah Rata in the Highlands and had to put fleeces on - it was cold!  KL had been 32degrees and up here at 1800m it was only 22degrees during the day.  As is usual we checked out at least 6 hotels / hostels until we settled on Twin Pines which has a bonfire pit out the front.  Cameron Highlands is full of tea plantations and strawberry farms, and that's it!  Met Georg a german guy and we went for a 15km walk up to the highest point (last 1km upwards was more of a climb using hands and feet and getting very dirty - then all downhill to a tea plantation for a visit of the factory and some cake.  Unfortunately we had to walk back up to the main road so we hitched a lift on the back of a passing tractor - well Georg stood in the middle of the road so the tractor couldn't pass and we all jumped on!  Bought some yummy strawberries on the way back as a reward for our efforts.  Spent a few evenings drinking vodka and stuff sitting around the bonfire (it's only 14degrees at night) talking to people.  Had intended to go from Cameron Highlands to Penang then Langkawi on the west coast and across after to the Perhentian Islands on the East coast but having talked to various people it would seem that the monsoon is on it's way down the east coast so if we don't go to Perhentian now it will be closed (closes down during monsoon).  So we book a minibus to Kuala Besut on the mainland next to the Perhentian Islands from where we get a speed boat. 

06-17/10/07 PERHENTIAN ISLANDS:  Well we got a good deal on our speedboats tickets by playing operators off against each other!  When we landed after a rough bumpy speedboat ride for 30 mins we chose a place to stay with a great view of the beach and sea but not so great facilities. We then did the usual and checked out the other options.  Next day we moved to Mohsin Chalet which was a bit behind the beach but lovely room with bathroom. We stayed on Perhentian Kecil ( small Island ) which is more Backpacker orientated than the larger island , and chose to stay at long beach which is the liveliest place on the island. Just as well because already most places had closed for the season and the beach was already fairly quiet.  Georg was there so spent the evening with him and a Dutch girl, they both had frogs living in/outside their bungalows so decided to catch them and try frog racing - however one was not so obliging so gave up on that idea and went dancing on the beach at a bar which had built a bonfire.  They both left the next day and we spent the next few days just chilling out, did a couple of dives including one at a shipwreck, where we swam through the holds and into an air pocket 10m below the water - Coooool!  
Met loads more cool people including Clement a french Canadian guy with a yacht who moored up in the bay and came ashore lugging a 7ft Marlin which he gave to one of the few restaurants open who cooked it on the BBQ that night - yummy.  Having met Clement our remaining time was spent sailing on his yacht during the day with him and his friends Jean-Marc and Amelia who arrived from KL.  This meant that we were leaving for at least 5days before it actually happened (Perhentian is a hard place to leave).  When we did eventually leave it was with Jean-Marc and Amelia who kindly offered us a lift in their car back to KL and free lodging at their house - How could we refuse?

17-22/10/07 KUALA LUMPUR:  Well we arrived back in KL after a 9hr car journey (should have been about 5hrs but it's Hari Raya - Malaysian Holiday), we arrived back in KL and were treated to a lovely meal at a french restaurant including Bourgogne wine Mmmmmmm.  Then to Jean-Marc and Amelia's house where we were introduced to their two dogs 'Vic' and 'Fefe' who are both Chow-Chows (25kg dogs that look like Lions), and their maid - who doesn't look like a lion!  Spent a few days mooching around KL and bought tickets for the Malaysian MotoGP.  Then Saturday and Sunday we spent at Sepang race track watching the racing.  Much cheaper and emptier than in Europe, shame championship had already been won by Casey Stoner - made the racing a bit less intense.  Got home from the circuit to find dinner being cooked (Amelia is a fantastic cook - sweet and sour, black pepper lamb, Thai Green curry to name but a few of the dishes she has rustled up).  They are toooo hospitable we might never leave!  Although the plan is to head to Melaka tomorrow, but still need to buy tickets, we may get round to it today! 

23/09/07: Johor Barhu / Borneo - MALAYSIA

09-10/09/07 JOHOR BAHRU:  Well got the bus from Singapore to Johor Bahru in Malaysia, it took maybe one hour and was fairly painless.  There is a mile long causeway which connects Singapore to Malaysia on one side you have to go through Singapore immigration, which means everyone off the bus, with all luggage (actually we were the only non commuters on the bus so the only ones with luggage), through immigration and back on to the bus.  Then 1km later off the bus again to go through Malaysian immigration where Graham asked very nicely for a 3mth visa rather than the standard 1mth - were told it was a 'Pass' not a visa and 3mths was no problem, you just have to ask (and it's free!).  Once on the other side we were on our own (bus headed back to Singapore) so we decided to head for a hotel listed in our Lonely Planet.  Asked a taxi driver how much to Hotel Fortuna, which he replies is in the city centre so is 20Ringits, according to our book it's not that far so seems a lot of money and we say so, but he reckons it'll take him 1hr round trip which is why.  Still seems a lot so we say goodbye, anyway we don't have any Malaysian money so need to find an ATM before we get a taxi.  The one at the border was broken (typical) so we head towards the town.  After maybe 500m we find an ATM then look around, there are a couple of hotels here so maybe we won't head for the city centre, but then surprise, surprise it's the Hotel Fortuna no more than 1000m from the border (Skanky Ho taxi driver, so much for an hour round trip, knew he was talking rubbish).  So we book into the hotel for 2nights, spent the best part of the next day sitting in Starbucks using their free wifi, then organise our transport to the airport next morning - which is a bus leaving at 5:30am to get our flight to Borneo.  Back at the hotel we repack our bags in readiness for the flight the next day - AirAsia who we are flying with are super cheap, but also only allow 15kg each check-in luggage and our bags currently weight about 18kg.  We both wear our heaviest clothes, Katrina's even wearing a fleece and our hand luggage is very heavy, but we pretend it's not.  .

11-15/09/07 KOTA KINABALU and KUDAT: Arrived in Kota Kinabalu (known as KK locally) and started off really well.  As we're walking out of the airport a lady pulls up in a car and asks us if we're lost, we tell her we're on the way to the bus stop, so she offers to give us a lift into town, all the way to our hostel.  Think we're going to like Borneo.  Find a really nice hostel, no ensuite but only 7 rooms and a really nice balcony area with TV, chairs, table and little kitchenette with fridge/freezer, toaster and microwave.  Have a wander around KK, which considering it's the capital of Sabah (area in Borneo) it's pretty small, but sweet.  Then find a restaurant for dinner, a local man invites himself to join us, buys us beer and chats for ages then gives Graham a Chinese Medicine tablet called BingBong (or something like that) claiming that it's like Viagra and makes you 'Like Glass'????.  Back to our hotel and surprisingly Chinese Medicine does work!  Next morning Katrina gets up for free breakfast of toast and coffee supplied by the hostel, whilst Graham remains in the room - Chinese medicine is still working!  Bit later (and lots of thoughts of football) we go to the tourist information centre and pick up a diving brochure, go to the supermarket and buy some provisions (such as eggs and milk for scrambled eggs in the morning made in the microwave) then back to the hostel to decide where we're going to go whilst in Borneo Malaysia.  According to the brochure we picked up there are 3 shipwrecks near Kudat at the tip of Borneo, so the plan is to head there first, then carry on round clockwise onto Sandakan to see the Orangutan then further south to Semporna to dive at Sipadan.  So next day we get a bus for 3hrs up to Kudat (the tip of Borneo), it's like a small welsh town that time forgot, and they have no idea what we're talking about when it comes to Scuba diving - Doh!  Turns out that the only way to dive up there is to get a liveabord boat from KK, which is really expensive.  Stay one night and move to Sandakan the next day but small problem, no buses direct to Sandakan, we have to go back to KK and we've missed the one 'fast bus' so have to get the local bus back to KK which stops whenever anyone waves it down - return journey took almost 5hrs and no bus to Sandakan until tomorrow.  So we book back into the same hostel in KK and get the bus to Sandakan the next day.

16-19/09/07 SANDAKAN:  Arrive very late at Sandakan bus station(bus was supposed to take 5hrs and in actual fact took 7.5hrs).  Arrived in the dark and rain and turns out that the bus station is 5kms out of town.  So us and two English girls tried to get a cab but turned out that there are no taxis, but a 'friendly' local told us you can wave down a local bus and showed us where.  We got on the bus and sat at the front, and paid 1 Malaysian Ringit each for the fare to the boy.  The girls sat at the back where they were guided by the same friendly local.  One of the girls came down the bus and asked how much we'd paid 'cause they thought that 10 each was a bit much but the 'friendly' local told them it wasn't enough.  We pointed out the real bus conductor and told them how much it should be so she stomped up the bus, demanded their money back and paid the real bus conductor, it was very amusing!  Anyway get to Sandakan and find another nice hostel and decide to go on a river trip into the jungle to see Orangutan and Pygmy Elephants.  So spend the next couple of days finding a trip.  Spent 3days, 2nights in the jungle did 2 dawn cruises, 2 late evening cruises, 2 night jungle walks and one day jungle walk and saw a plethora of animals including 2 wild Orangutan, a couple of Crocodiles and about 50 wild Pygmy Elephants (they're about 2/3 the size of a normal elephant but still big!).  We both got leeched whilst walking (Katrina twice on the underside of her boobs whilst wearing a buttoned up shirt!!!), oh and on the night walk Katrina had a Scorpion walk over her.  

19-25/09/07 SEMPORNA:  Got the minibus from where we stayed in the jungle to the main road where we were supposed to pick up a bus for Semporna. However we were told a while later the bus had broken down and we could either wait for 3.5 hrs till the next one or we could get a minivan. We opted for the minivan. The minivan was suited to mini people and bloody uncomfortable. We then had to switch minivan in Lahad Datu to get to Semporna. Not such a great journey. Also had a bit of a row with the first minivan driver who tried to overcharge us, but we eventually got away with paying the correct price and not the hiked foreigner price. Eventually did arrive in Semporna and found a hotel room on stilts in the harbour, really nice big room with aircon and bathroom with hot shower (just what we needed having been in the jungle for 3 days and not showering).  You could see the water in between the wooden floor planks but a little expensive for us (just under a tenner for one night). Once we've showered and feel a bit more human we wander around Semporna looking for cheaper accomodation and the cost of various dive packages.  The next day we get up for our complimentary 'Breakfast' of 1 cup of coffee and two slices of toast pre-buttered and honeyed.  Then check-in to a slightly cheaper hotel and book our diving.  We spend the next day (well half an hour) checking our Semporna then on Saturday we go to Sibuan to do 3 dives.  We actually entered the water from the beach - which is a first, we've always backward rolled in off a boat, the dive was a bit disappointing really, think we've been spoilt by learning to dive in Bunaken, the water was not as clear and the coral wasn't as plentiful or bright, but we did see a couple of turtles which made it worthwhile.  Next day was a non diving day as we had to watch the Japanese MotoGP and drink beer.  Then Monday was Sipadan!  We awoke to the P*ssing rain which really doesn't make you want to do a 1.5hr boat trip, but hey!  Got to Sipadan did 3 dives and the weather definitely improved, in fact had lunch sitting on Sipadan beach in the sunshine looking at the turquoise sea - perfect.  Whilst diving we saw loads of turtles, in fact one swam straight towards Katrina, looked at her then swam off, also saw quite a few reef sharks and white tipped sharks of varying sizes upto about 2m long - very nice.  But again although saw more big stuff wasn't as pretty as Bunaken (hey I should get paid for all this positive advertising!).  Next day we get the bus (minivan) to Tawau where we're catching a plane back to the mainland.

Singapore and Diving

08/09/07: SINGAPORE

Well lots has happened yet another route change.  We're now going to include Malaysia including Borneo into our travels - so we can do more diving as well as see Orangutan etc.  However, the advent of diving (and the associated cost), does mean that our Australia stint might be reduced to pay for it.  Oh and we need to find a map of all Asia to put on the website, so you can see where we've been.

18-20/08/07 HO CHI MINH CITY (aka Saigon):  Not much to report really HCMH is just another big city.  We arrived at about 8pm and got a taxi with all of the usual hassle involved, decided that the best thing to do at airports is to get a meter taxi from the official taxi rank as they're the most honest, with the most to lose if they mess you about.  Looked for a hotel in "Mini Hotel Alley", whilst wandering down the road looking at all the hotels an old lady approached and asked us to look at her hotel (we don't do touts) so we said no thank you, but she kept following us.  Whilst Katrina went to look in yet another hotel she kept saying to Graham "Why you no look at my hotel?" to which Graham replied, "We will look where we choose, and we don't like being hassled", to which she started screaming "YOU GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY" and walking up the road saying "SONOFABITCH" lots of times.  Mad woman!  Still found a hotel which we stayed in for two nights, watched Rossi not win again on the TV then caught a plane to Singapore on the 20th.

20-22/08/07 SINGAPORE:  Got to Singapore and found a hostel in Little India.  Singapore is just a giant shopping mall and was a big shock to the system cost wise.  This is the first time in 9mths that we've not had our own bathroom (excluding a couple of days trekking), but the room is still $40 Singapore Dollars.  Anyway checked into our hotel then went in search of some new earphones for Graham (he's been having decent stereo withdrawal) so we hopped onto the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) which is a really clean efficient subway and zipped to various Malls in Singapore. Then went to meet up with Jo, Martin and the boys (Josh and Ryan) who we are going diving with.  It was really lovely to see them and we had dinner at one of the Food markets and spent the next day lounging around their hotel pool.  In readiness for diving and therefore mass bikini wearing Katrina 'treated' herself to a 'Brazilian' which cost a whole days budget.  Next day flew to Manado.

22/08-5/9/07 BUNAKEN ISLAND (Two Fish Divers):  Fly to Manado in North Sulewesi with Jo, Martin and the boys (From now on known as J,M&B) and are transported to the Marina where we get the shopping boat back to Bunaken Island, home of Two Fish Divers owned by Martins brother Nigel and his other half Tina.  The first week we spend getting our PADI Open Water qualification during the day (which includes lots of school work and exams, as well as diving), followed by yummy food and drinking in the evening with J,M&B.  The Boys are also doing their PADI Open Water, but J&M have already qualified so we're in three different groups during the day (groups of 2 plus a guide or instructor - pretty good ratio), but we get the same boat to dive from each day.  Diving is really cool, at first there was the odd moment of "You really shouldn't be able to breathe underwater" followed by "Ooooo look at the pretty fish".  Bunaken is in a national park with coral reefs just off the islands, from the waters edge of the islands it's shallow, shallow, coral reef - big massive drop of hundreds of meters and a coral wall with lots of colour and things to see.  Our Instructor Lucy (which we subsequently renamed Mistress Moist - which she's not quite sure how to take) was fantastic.  
On J,M&B's last night there was an improptu party with the local dive guides playing guitars and a home made bass singing "Hotel California, Leaving on a Jet Plane and the Bunaken song" lots of times and handing around the local brew of Palm wine, which they pour into a glass, you drink then they refill the glass and move onto the next person.  Next morning we got the boat to Manado with J,M&B plus two Dive Masters (Lars & John), who were supposed to be diving, but decided that they'd rather come to Manado too (morning after). Said goodbye to J,M&B, which was really quite sad, but might see them in January for Grahams birthday, then spent a couple of hours in Manado doing some essential shopping (bottle of Vodka, Bottle of Rum and Suntan lotion), then back to Bunaken for another week.  We've decided to do the PADI Advanced Open Water course so that we can dive to depths of 30m and check out shipwrecks (also as we get a certificate at the end we can justify the extra expense to ourselves).  Following week we do just the 5 dives which are part of the course (can't afford to do anymore).  Go to one of the guides birthday party in the village and drink more palm wine and 'helicopter' home.  Then two days later it's our last night which of course means - party and more palm wine!

5-8/09/07 SINGAPORE: Back in Singapore and massively expensive prices and tempting shops.  We've decided to go and check out Sabah in Malaysia Borneo so we can maybe do a bit more diving (but no eating or drinking to pay for it) and see Orangutans which should be cool.  We've discovered that if we fly from Johor Bahru Airport which is in Malaysia, just over the Singapore border we can get flights for about 1/3 the cost of flying from Singapore, so today we're getting a bus to JB and flying to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo on Monday.  Bus should take about 1hr and cost s$2.40 each (less than a quid).


vietnam map.jpg (97436 bytes)

17/08/07: Hoi An VIETNAM

Yet another change of plan re our route.  It's Graham's 40th Birthday in January and he'd really like to spend it in Goa and meet up with some of the people we've met along the way (Yo Scotty Monkey and Adriaan) and any of you guys who'd be up for an all night party on the beach.  So we've decided to spend Christmas, New Year and Grahams birthday in Goa.  So now following diving we're working our way up to Bangkok, flying to India, hanging out there for a while then flying directly from Chennai (Madras) to Perth in Australia.  Driving round Oz whilst the weather's nice, then back to Asia to finish off when the Ozzie weather turns bad.  Finish Asia then back to complete Australasia in the good weather.

30/07/07-17/08/07 HOI AN: Haven't done much in the last couple of weeks - we've just been living in our house, most mornings eating breakfast of fresh mango, muesli and yoghurt - reading lots of books, going to the supermarket in Danang once a week (where the scooter broke down and cost us the grand sum of 2GBP including spark-plug and call out fee - breakdowns are not just the province of the Enfield, but definitely cheaper than in India!!!).  We had a week of rain for a couple of hours each day when Vietnam was hit by a tropical storm - haven't seen so much rain before!!!!!  Keep checking with the post office to see if Katrina's repaired sunglasses have arrived (today is the last chance) if not Maui Jim have said they will post me a new pair to Singapore (Fantastic customer service).  Spent lots of time planning and replanning our trip and now we're looking forward to seeing Jo and Martin on Monday for Diving - Whooo Hooo!!!!

HURRAY - last day and Katrina's sunglasses have arrived, but typically Vietnamese we have to pay customs duty and import duty 'cause customs didn't notice the invoice said 0.00 to pay and "Warranty Repair" so we had to pay both duties otherwise the post office wouldn't hand them over.  But Katrina is very happy anyway - didn't think they would arrive before we left even though Maui Jim sent them registered post 7-10day delivery one month ago!

30/07/07: Hoi An - VIETNAM

Think that we might possibly have yet another plan change.  Having booked our flights to Perth we sent nice grovelly email to Pete asking for free board and lodging, only to find out that he's going to be in Greece on the 6th of September and not back until beginning of October.  We really want to see him, would seem a shame to travel so far around the world and not see him so we're considering pushing our flights back a month and going to Malaysia after diving.  Depends on the cost of changing our bargain basement non refundable flights.

12/07/07-30/07/07 HOI AN: Got the bus at 8pm in the evening - Katrina slipped over whilst trying to put her bag in the bus and hurt her little finger, think it might be broken as it's really bruised and sore.  The bus turns out not to be a sleeper bus as we'd been led to believe, but one with reclining seats.  The bus is overbooked so some people are sitting on mats in the walkway.  Turns out that they probably had the best seats on the bus, much easier for sleeping, especially as the journey took 17hrs!  The bus pulls up in Hoi An and a guy gets on hands out maps of Hoi An and tells everyone to stay at his hotel, which the bus duly pulls up outside.  Being us, we don't like being told what to do so we consult our guide book and head off down the road to another hotel - which was rubbish!  But we basically fall into bed and sleep 'til morning so it didn't matter.  Next morning we wander around Hoi An and look at maybe 10 different hotels and end up checking in to the An Phu Hotel (one the bus pulled up outside and we poo-pooed).  It's probably the nicest room and hotel since we've been away, even has a pool!  End up staying up late drinking with a group of people and hanging out by the pool until 3am with the night staff telling us to go to bed - but we're not making any noise so there's nothing they can do, just stand there watching us glowering! (Hello Francois and Lisa!!!)
Hoi An is really cute - it's a small town maybe 5kms from the beach with lots of little streets and a market.  We like it here so decide to stay for a month and look for a house to rent.  We look at 5houses and eventually decide on a hotel managers house attached to the back of Greenfields hotel - it's expensive but we get to use all the hotel facilities (pool, wifi etc) but have our own privacy.  However, the house hasn't been lived in for a while so we agree to move into the hotel whilst the house is cleaned, fridge put in the kitchen etc.  Spend a lot of time round the pool and meet a Scottish couple - Robert and Pamela and we end up sneaking in two bottles of gin and drinking gin/tonic/redbull mix (surprisingly nice) getting quite drunk Rob pulling Graham into the pool, which resulted in impact between Graham's head and Robs chest.  Now Graham has had a stiff neck and shoulders for the last week and Rob has a cracked rib (shouldn't laugh, but we are!!!!) After two days in the hotel they tell us the house is ready, but when we look all they have done is make up the bedroom so it looks like a hotel room and remove all of the furniture.  After much discussion where the hotel owner goes back on his word and starts demanding more money, we ring the estate agent we'd been dealing with and agree to take another house out of town which is fully equipped including cable TV and washing machine,  for half the price.  We have to sign contracts in triplicate, visit a notary, register at the police station and then we're in the very next day.  Turns out it was a good move, nice to be in a residential area, away from all the tourists.  Only downside is that between 5-7am everyday loudspeakers start broadcasting what we assume is government propaganda.  We did consider a midnight sortie to cut the cables but now we just roll over and ignore it!  It's lovely having a house with a kitchen.  We go to the supermarket in Danang once a week on our mighty steed (Yamaha 125 scooter), which is 25kms away, and to the market each day to buy fruit and veg.  Market ladies are getting used to us and now we get Vietnamese price rather than tourist price -also helps that we noted the price of all the fruit and veg when we were at the supermarket, so no skanking us anymore!  We get quite a few little lizards in the house, they're cute and eat mozzies.  But a tiny one (maybe 5cm long) got onto the kitchen work surface - they can be anywhere but there, so shoo it off and Graham tries to pick it up with a business card, but instead manages to chop it's tail off, it was really weird, the tail thrashed about for 5mins afterwards, but the Eddy (that's what we call all lizards - Eddy Izzard - Lizard) was fine, we've seen him around the house still.
Only drama that we've had in the last week since we've moved into the house is when we went to extend our visa - which allegedly is just a formality.  We filled out the form and put our address, visa people said we had to stay in a hotel not a house because we had a tourist visa.  Went back home to think about that - then back to the visa place and asked for a business visa (according to the lonely planet, again it's just a formality, but it costs $75 as opposed to $20, but lasts for 3 months rather than one).  They start telling us business visa is $110 and that it's very difficult to get blah, blah, blah.  In the meantime they've called the police and told them that we're living illegally in a house.  The police call our landlady, who comes round to see us - Ahhhhhhh!  But all works out alright in the end, she sorts it out with the police (we're already registered with them anyway don't know what the problem is - think it's just visa people requiring some extra 'pocketmoney', but they don't get any).  We've booked back into the Greenfields hotel for one night and got them to do our visa extension, which should be back this afternoon. 
Oh, and the lenses of Katrina's Maui Jim sunglasses have been loosing their coating for the last couple of months, which she was quite pissed off about, they were very expensive, but she likes them.  Seeing as we're going to be stationary for a while she sent a snotty email to Maui Jim and they wrote back saying they would of course change the lenses free of charge, even though the glasses were nearly 2years old and that our closest service agent was in Australia.  So she posted them whilst we were in Greenfields hotel.  They fixed them and posted them back before we had a chance to tell them of our change of address, so have to keep popping into Greenfields to see if they have arrived yet - But good service, very impressed!

12/07/07: Hanoi - VIETNAM

Oooops, we're so bad, haven't updated the website in ages, but that's 'cause we've been really busy (honest governer).  Also we've had a rethink as to our route.  We're meeting Jo and Martin in Manado (Indonesia) to go diving so have flights booked from Singapore to Manado on the 22nd of August, so we've decided that we might as well hangout in Vietnam until then.  Once we get back from Manado we'll be in Singapore so seems logical to go onto Oz from there rather than finishing off Asia first, so we've also booked flights to Perth (Australia, not Scotland) for the 6th of September.  We'll do our Antipodean expedition and then return to Asia to finish off - Doesn't that make sense?

28/06/07 - 01/07/07 KUNMING: Back in Kunming again, really the only reason we're here is to get our Vietnamese Visa.  Ended up staying in the same hotel as last time (unfortunately - don't really like it much, but our other choice has been knocked down!).  Next day eventually found the Vietnamese visa place (which like everything else in China is no longer where our guide book states), pick up after 5pm the next day.  Then went for a late breakfast / early lunch and found a much nicer hotel to stay in.  So went back to the Camillia (although recommended in lonely planet, had a bad vibe!) and checked out.  However, when we tried to check into our new hotel they told us we couldn't 'cause we didn't have our passports (they're at the Vietnamese Visa place).  Eventually after lots of discussion and a phone call to the police station we were allowed to check in.  Moral of the story make sure you're in a nice hotel before giving passports to visa places.  Next day collected our passports (with visa's) showed them to a very relieved hotel.  Watched the MotoGP in the posh hotel next door.  The next day we got the alleged 10hr bus to Hekou which is the Chinese border crossing into Vietnam.  The bus journey was OK however the toilet stops were an eye opener (and nose closer).  Let me describe: A room with an overpowering ammonia aroma with holes in the floor going to a trough - no walls or doors (NICE!!!!).  Anyway get to Hekou at about 8pm Chinese time.  Walk across the bridge to Lao Cai in Vietnam and into the customs place and out the other side - and it's really hot, can't believe the difference in temperature from Kunming 10hrs away to here (the bus was air conditioned so didn't notice the change on the way).  Then get a taxi to Sapa, which is a hill station 45kms away.

01-04/07/07 - SAPA: Sapa is beautiful and quite cool and rainy.  Vietnamese are even smaller than Chinese and their eyes are a different shape too.  Local hill tribe woman come into town everyday wearing distinctive outfits, which include velvet type wraps round their legs which look like socks, carrying their babies strapped to their backs, trying to sell their wares to tourists.  They got used to us and our 'No Shopping' cry but were happy to chat for hours.  However, when we chatting to a group of maybe 8 woman and Graham asked them if he could have lots of wives they told him that if they ever saw him without Katrina they would "Kick his arse, shoot him in the head, chop him up and make noodle soup out of him, then sell it in the market.  Oh, and sell his teeth".  So he agreed with them that maybe he'd just stick to one wife. 
The one thing that we didn't like about Sapa was the fact that when we went for a walk down the hill to the local village they stopped us and told us we had to pay to enter the village.  So we went back to Sapa and drank beer instead (their loss).  In fact they charged you to enter everyone of the villages around and about and charged you to walk the last 20m to the top of the hill.  Out of principal we didn't go anywhere with a charge. 

05-07/07/07 - HANOI: Got a minibus back down from Sapa to Lao Cai and then an overnight train sleeper train to Hanoi.  Most uncomfortable night ever.  Got off the train at 5am and were surrounded by taxi touts.  Decided to get a meter taxi thereby avoid being ripped off.  However about 3mins and 125k Dong later (what a great currency, Graham takes great pleasure in asking pretty girls in shops if they want "Big Dong") we're sure that we've been massively overcharged, in spite of the meter, but it's too early to argue!  Spend a few days in Hanoi, which has definite French influence with all the buildings etc.  Discover "Bia Hoi" which is fresh beer and costs between 2-4k dong a glass (7-14pence), but is only sold in local hangouts.  On the Friday night go and find the 'Press Club' which according to our guide book does free canapes and happy hour on Friday.  The plan is to load up of free food during happy hour then leave.  It's a really posh place (bit of a gentleman's club), canapes don't appear but free Baileys for ladies between 7-9pm.  So we stay and drink lots and are by far the scummiest people there - mainly populated by expats.  Spend the evening talking to a really nice local girl who turns out to be the clubs marketing director who has only just moved to Hanoi and doesn't know anyone there (boy does she pick 'em.  We're the only people who are not going to be around next week probably the worst people to get friendly with).  Attempt to go and see Ho Chi Minh's preserved body in the Mausoleum but every time we turn up it's closed, "come back tomorrow".  Book a tour to Halong Bay as we're advised that it's Vietnamese holiday's now, so won't be able to book anything when we get there.  

08-10/07/07 - HALONG BAY: Halong bay is beautiful, we've booked on a 3day / 2 night tour with maximum of 16people cruising around Halong Bay on a Junk looking at the amazing islands (Man with a Golden Gun Stylee), which just tower out of the water.  The sea is really clear and warm, warmest we've ever swum in.  Then back to Hanoi.  

10-12/07/07 HANOI: Try yet again to see Ho Chi Minh but again it's closed.  Get a whistle blown at us 'cause we're walking up the pavement, so we move into the road and get whistled at again 'cause we're on the wrong side of the painted line (Derrrhhh????).  Eventually Katrina stands on the wrong side of the line directly in front of the Mausoleum doors and hollers at the guards standing there asking when is this ever open.  Eventually one of the guards come over and tells her that it closes at 11am each day and get back behind the line else she's going to jail!  Typical! this is our 3rd visit and only now do we find out about the time restrictions (it's also only 11:05am).  But we've had enough of Hanoi now and have booked our bus tickets to Hoi An where we might try and rent a house and spend a month.


27/06/07: Dali - CHINA

15/06/07 - Train to Xi'an:  Well after our night clubbing we just about managed to check out of the hotel by midday(ish), then spent the rest of the time lounging in the wifi cafe opposite until 8pm when we had to get our 14.5hr overnight train.  Got train no prob, the carriage (hard sleeper) consisted of rows of bunks 3 high, our train left at 8:52pm precisely and lights went out in our carriage at 10pm (no other lights).  We had the top bunks, which turned out to be a blessing, 'cause nobody complained about Grahams feet hanging out - definitely built for the Chinese physique.  Next morning Katrina was up bright and early (a shock), and spent the next hour 'conversing' with the Chinese people traveling on the train with the aid of her Mandarin phrase book (Lonely Planet Mandarin has the phrase "You're only using me for sex" in it - much to everyone's shock and our amusement).  Got to Xi'an, (home of the terracotta warriors) at about 12:30 and hot footed in a taxi, using our best Mandarin and a lot of sign language to our chosen hotel.  We checked in, Katrina shorted all of the lights, the hotel fixed them and in the process exposed a rat living in the bed side cabinet, we moved rooms and got a better one at a much discounted rate, then shopped (bad move).    One Ipod Nano later we went to bed.

16-19/06/07 - Xi'an:  Checked out the terracotta warriors, but made our own way there rather than tour (used local buses etc).  Glad we did, ended up loads cheaper and it's much more fun traveling with the locals (especially avoiding the puking girl, who Graham had previously commented smelt of Salami, on the bus).  One thing we have noticed is that the woman aren't as 'Babelicious' as in Chengdu (sever lack of denim hotpants and high heels - maybe it's 'cause it's rained since we've been here).  Looked for CD's to load onto Katrina's new Ipod, ate Duck and pancakes at a restaurant where the staff kindly found an English speaking customer to explain to us that they felt maybe we'd ordered too much food - so we only ended up ordering half a duck (much to Grahams disgust).  Decided that the great wall was too far away and in the wrong direction to visit, and Yes, half a duck was enough!  But did have litre glasses of beer each.  Next day investigated prices and possibilities of moving on to Dali and maybe a Kung Fu course.  Train 36hrs: Hard sleeper 365RMB, Soft Sleeper (bit nicer and softer mattress, own toilet) 600RMB; Airplane 1.5hrs 450RMB.  Next day we flew to Kunming.

20-26/06/07 - Dali:  Got flight into Kunming, avoided taxi touts quoting 30RMB to our chosen hotel and instead went in an official taxi meter and paid 15RMB.  Arranged bus to Dali for next morning.  Next day took the poshest bus ever for the 4.5hr journey to Dali (small, cute town in the mountains).  However, when we landed in a big town Katrina went mad as we had not arrived at Dali - instead Xiguan (AKA New Dali) 14km away - what a skank!  Still a few deep breaths later and smooth talking by Graham we're in Dali - Fantastic place.  Really like China.  Cost of living here is half of in the big cities (just as well, we weren't doing very well in that department, after our fabulous success of budgeteering in the previous 7mths).  Decided to do a Kung Fu course for a week and if we liked it stay for another 6wks (need to be in Manado in August to go diving and meet Jo and Martin - Wooo Hooo!!!!).  However, as our plans seem to, it fell through.  Our chosen teacher ('Little Cloud' who grew up in a monastery and every thing - was in the US teaching as supermonk and won't be back for another 3wks) - DOH!!!!  We like Dali so much is a contender (who would have thought China????), but still if no Kung Fu, then Beaches - as Confucius would say .  We've booked our tickets back to Kunming, where we need to get Vietnamese visa. 

15/06/07: Chengdu - CHINA

09/06/07 - CHENGDU: Got the plane from Kathmandu on Saturday and found that someone in the airport had the time to go through the top pockets of our rucksacks once they'd been checked in - obviously we're not stupid enough to put anything of value in the only unlocked pocket, but that's not the point!  The plane flies round two sides of Mount Everest and we get a much closer view than the sightseeing plane trip we took - should have saved our money.  Quick stop over in Lhasa, Tibet, the landscape is very barren and mountainous.  Land in Chengdu at 16:00 local time and get a modern taxi into a very new and clean city.  
Chengdu is not at all as we expected, apart from the weird things on the menu that they eat, such as bullfrog or cows entrails etc - this means we're a bit more reticent about just pointing at an item and hoping for the best, as we occasionally did in India.  It is a very clean and modern city, with no packs of stray dogs roaming the streets.  And lots of pretty young things wandering around in very short shorts and high heels.  

12/06/07 - PANDA BREEDING RESEARCH CENTRE:  One of the best days ever!
We got there early (8am) and spent 4.5hrs wandering around taking pictures of various aged panda's - all of which were very cute, including raccoon like red panda's.  We must have spent and hour watching the cubs playing, fighting, rolling around and falling over, before they stuffed themselves stupid on bamboo and then lay in a stupor not moving (good thing we got there early).  In addition to wandering around the park you could pay an additional 400RMB (about 27quid) to have your photo taken with a real panda.  We saw the wife of an English couple we'd been talking to go into one of the enclosures and have her photo taken.  Her husband said to Katrina "Why don't you have a go?"  to which Katrina replied "Ahhh, it's out of our budget", so he shoved 400RMB into her hand and refused to take the money back so Katrina got to cuddle a real live Giant Panda - thanks to the unwarranted kindness of a complete stranger (Sending out good Karma thoughts to the couple wherever they be!).  Just seeing the pandas was one of the best things we've done, but to get in there and cuddle one - Katrina will remember it forever! (See panda pics).  
That evening we decided to try a Sichuan hotpot so asked the hotel to recommend a restaurant.  They wrote the name down in Chinese and gave us directions.  So we're walking up the road looking at the huge neon signs trying to locate one with 6 characters, where the 5th one looks like a 'K'.  We don't find it and have to ask - hotel had misspelt the name (not very helpful when you're just trying to match pictures).  The hotpot is sort of like a fondu.  You have a wok of boiling oil with lots of chillies and pepper corns floating in it.  In the middle is a pan of chicken soup.  You order meat and veggies which you then cook in either the oil or soup.  We were the last to leave the restaurant, mainly 'cause it took us so long to cook everything using only chopsticks.  It wasn't as spicy/hot as we'd been led to believe, but there again anyone who's eaten Katrina's food at home would know we're quite attuned to chilli - plus we have spent 6mths in India.  All in all food was fine, but a bit boring as it's all cooked the same way, would rather have had standard fare, maybe yummy twice cooked pork and Kung Pao Chicken which is so good.

13/06/07 - HUANGLONGXI: Ancient village and also used to film "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon".
Got a tourist bus for the hour long trip to this ancient village to wander around and look at something that looks traditionally Chinese (they're more proud of their modern advances and keep knocking down old buildings to replace them with new wonders).  Huanglongxi is only half a dozen streets so only takes an hour to look round.  Had some lunch and Katrina decided to be adventurous and ordered boiled fish with pickled veggies.  A huge vat turns up containing lots of pickled cabbage and chunks of fish (head, bones, everything).  How do you eat this with chopsticks?  Seems to be that you fish out a lump of something from the soup with your chopsticks, suck anything edible off the bones and spit what you don't want on to the table - very difficult concept for well brought up English people to get to grips with.  On the way back the tourist bus terminated the other side of Chengdu so we bravely used local buses which only cost 1RMB pp.  We worked out which bus we wanted by looking at the routes displayed on the map and then trying to match the symbols at the bus stops with the one we wanted - also asked the driver to tell us when we got to our stop, just in case.  We succeeded magnificently and now feel like we are real travellers and will use local buses again (at 1RMB leaves loads of money for beer).

14/06/07 - CHENGDU: We've booked our tickets to go to Xi'an on 15th on a night train (16hr journey) to see the Terracotta Warriors, which should be another adventure. And we went clubbing - which was fantastic (but blew our budget).  We were very popular and lots of people asked us to dance (strange foreigners dancing with their hands up in the air).  Got loads of free drinks and both of us ended up dancing on the podiums at various stages through the night.  We were the last people to leave at 2:40am.