A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: millfred

Happy Birthday Ella

Birthday wishes from around the World (ish)

xxx MillPo combo xxx

Posted by millfred 23:44 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

The Million'dong'er Man

rain 19 °C
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Last amount withdrawn from cash machine = 4 million dong (another country with inflation through the roof)
Cost of draught beer in Hoi An, Vietnam = 10p
No. of Laughing Cow sandwiches procured = 4 (quite popular in Vietnam)
Weight of Mulberry sweets consumed = 1kg

We are now 10 days into our journey through Vietnam and it's a great place to be. Beautiful mountains, beaches, rivers along with freindly people and above all cheap accomodation and great food!

We crossed the Cambodia - Vietnam border by boat along the Mekong River. The customs procedure was a bit of hassle. We had to endure a 5 minute boat swap with travellers going the other way then sit and eat noodles while our guide sorted out the details with the officials! Nice. The local people use the river for everything - transport, fishing, trading and even washing their hair.

Our first destination in Vietnam was Chau Doc. Our first accommodation, included as part of the Mekong tour, was a bit grotty (putting it mildly since my ma is subscribed to this). As if the gecko poo on the bed wasn't bad enough it had a stale stench, hole in the roof and looked like it hadn't been swept in a week. The response from the manager when I complained was "You can use my shoes" meaning his manky flip flops! We half made up for it that night by sitting in the poshest hotel in town and using internet for free for 2 hours. I think the receptionist thought all white people were guests! Later that night I (Richard) sampled my first Vietnamese cuisine - Shakin' beef which i'm guessing was a reference to the fact it was fairly raw and you could make it wobble if you tried hard enough!

After Chau Doc we went back to big city life in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Like all the Asian cities we've seen it was busy but had some smart colonial architecture and decent parks. We 'endured' the war museums which are hard going due to the visual portrayal of the victims of the Vietnam War but interesting too. We weren't much luckier with our hotel here having thought we'd found a bargain ourselves. The second morning Pauline was forced to go sit in the park at 8am after feeling sick due to the non-stop drilling next door. Apparently I mumbled a few words before dropping back off. We also got scammed in a cafe when sitting down for coffee's. When we came to pay the lady decided to show us an 'amended' menu where the price had pretty much doubled! It was much better to sit on stools on the pavement with the Vietnamese workers and drink good coffee for half the price.

Getting back out to the countryside and the Vietnamese highlands we took a sleeper bus to Dalat which was surprisingly comfy and I was slightly annoyed to get woken up in the end when we arrived.
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The place was chilled out and picturesque even though after the first day the weather took a turn for the worse and its pretty much rained ever since! On our first day here we happened to come across a gaming centre where I got hammered at pro-evo by the owner (since when was Ronaldo at centre back for Chelsea). The second day we joined the tourist trail and took a tour round some of the sights, the best of which involved taking a single seat toboggan down to a cracking waterfall.
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Not so good was the tapestry museum with its weird phrases written above every doorway like "Stage for children to argue". Bizarre.

For our next destination we took a day bus through the stunning mountains to beachside Nha trang. Our hotel standard seemed to have drastically improved and we even had a flat screen TV. Luxury! I think we got a few hours sunshine on the beach before the clouds rolled in.
After two nights we took another night bus to Hoi An were we sit now. This is another small, chilled out town with a reputation for tailoring, something Pauline couldn't resist as she picked up a pair of her own design Tiger trainers and made to measure jeans.
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I spent most of my spare change on extra food (Chocolate Werthers original and fried peanut pasties!). On the topic of food we even got the chance to cook our own dinner last night with a cookery course in one of Hoi An's finest eateries. We knocked up a fabulous Pho noodle soup with peanut sauce as the evidence below shows.
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So we travel to the capital (Hanoi) tonight on yet another sleeper bus hoping that its not too cold and wet up north. Not that we're getting soft or anything!

Posted by millfred 08:51 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Chinese Crackers

sunny 6 °C
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No. of 7/11 convenience stores per sq km in China = 7
No. of street escalators used in Hong Kong = 25 (including the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world)
Size of box room in Hong Kong = 1.5m x 2.5m
No. of street gyms where pauline failed to complete the monkey bars = 5
No. of dumplings consumed by Richard on Chinese NYE = 35

We are a bit late with this blog, sorry. We are now in Bangkok but realise we haven't given you a China round up yet so here it is...

Xingping, wowsa (Pauline's word) what a lovely place, found almost completely by accident. Beautiful mountains adorn each side of the equally breathtaking Li River, ( I know enough lonely planet bumff!).
Xingping - gnipgniX

Xingping - gnipgniX

This place is really special though and we were genuinly sad to leave. 'This Old Place' hostel was the best we've stayed in yet and the staff there we so welcoming we really felt like we were spending Chinese New Year with an adoptive family as we were taught to make Chinese Dumplings and drank very strong cocktails.Concentration face!

Concentration face!

The town has two main streets and at midnight on 2nd Jan, every house, shop and restaurant set off a barage of firecrackers and fireworks. The noise was incredible. A few mini heart attacks for Pauline as there was no break from the fire crackers, bu her bravery was rewarded with a turn on the kids fireworks. The local kids had no fear with their handheld fireworks. (Basically a thin loo roll tube that you light and it shoots out about 10 in a row!). Perfectly safe if you haven't been drinking any of the cocktails!

Bit of a struggle to get from Guilin to Hong Kong in the end. Won't bore you with the details (2 buses, 1 sleeper train, 2 metro's) but we managed it and it was worth it. Hong Kong was really cool. Very multicultural and provided us the chance to reignite our Indian food passion. Only 2 days there but an early start meant we had enough time to get 'The Peak Tram' and see what was on offer in this very modern city. On our first night there we stumbled upon what turned out to be the most amazing fireworks display we've ever seen. (Mam, if Lynn Duffy ever gets wind of this, tell her its a lie and their back garden displays were unbeatable!). Not sure if its on YouTube but if it is, watch it. Unbelievable, must have cost millions and Hong Kong's biggest ever. HK did however continue the Chinese pattern of being pricey so we had to limit Richard's snacking tendancies.

Not once in India were we tempted by MacDonalds', so much delicious, cheap food on offer. Three weeks in China was enough to allow our feet to wander through the dreaded golden arches. To be honest though, it was the novelty of the Prawn Burger that drew us in (pauline that is, as if Richard needed any persuading). In any case the vegetarian card was out of the window after one week in China when Pauline tucked in to a KFC.
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Only KFC prawns this time though!
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And yes, Richard really did eat TWO scorpions on the night market in Beijing.
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Posted by millfred 12:29 Archived in China Comments (1)

Travellers stare kitsch horror bus in the face

rain 3 °C
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No. of street sweepers per square kilometre: 10 - communism and all that
No. of days snow: 3
Hours spent queueing at train station not to get a ticket: 5
Current pool score: Richard - 13 Pauline - 7
Number of tantrums during pool: Pauline 13 Richard 0
Speed of the Shanghai to Beijing sleeper train: 243 km/h

A quick update from Guilin (home of the HSBC adverts showing the fishermen collaborating with the cormorants). Its nice to finally see some Chinese countryside although the food is still a minefield, for Pauline at least! Who knew Tofu would be served with minced beef sauce (and the menu was in English with no word of a cow!). We flew from Beijing to Guangzhou since there was no other form of transport not fully booked and after a few enjoyable days there took a sleeper bus here which was interesting. Unlike India where the worry is cockroaches and the cold, we suffered from death by Chinese (anti-American) movies and variety shows played throughout the night and the sweltering heat from the air-con not because it was actually hot! Add to that the dolls house-esque furnishing with beds sized for far-eastern proportions and the sealife scene glass flooring meant it was a strange, sleep deprived experience.

Anyway we're here now and it gave us something to blog about! Onto Yangshuo tomorrow (supposedly more picturesque) and then to Hong Kong where we've managed to book the last two beds in town, albeit in a shared dorm with shared squat toilet (good exercise for the quads!).

Struggling to upload videos and photos at the moment or even get on the net sometimes so please be patient, there's lots to share from the last few weeks.

One final thought, in one of the nicest hostels we've stayed in a rat has just ran over my feet! The staff just said: 'Don't scare him he's our pet!'

Posted by millfred 22:00 Archived in China Comments (7)

1 month down, hopefully 11 to go!

sunny 20 °C
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No. of different beds slept in = 21
No. of days rain (pretty much just a light shower for less than an hour) = 2 / 34
Ratio of cows to people in Mahabalipuram = 1:1
No.of mozzie bites on feet = 14

We've just about survived the first month, although Pauline has thought about coming home about 10 times! Seriously though we have a great Christmas and New Year and hope you all have too.

So we left Mysore for Chennai and stayed with the Shah family who were amazing hosts for four days. We had a cracking time modelling for a new fashion store (see our celebrity interview), going to the cinema and were privileged enough to have an audience with a guru at a Jain temple. Richard also got to experience life on the back of a motorbike on the manic indian roads on a trip to the post office. No protection (helmet/jacket) deemed necessary!

After Chennai we went to a small beach village called Mahabalipuram for Christmas and Boxing day which was just the chillout we needed. Spending the day in 30 degree heat on the beach was certainly different for Christmas. We decided to try and make it more like home by buying as much chocolate as we could (not an easy task) and Pauline had a cheese toastie for lunch. SANY0415.jpgSANY0444.jpgOn Boxing day we got up at 5am (yes 'we', Pauline did get out of bed) to see the sun rise over the east facing beach, which was made more surreal by the realisation that it was the anniversary of the tsunami that affected that coastline 5 years previous. Later Boxing day we got the bus to Pondicherry to experience a french colonial town on India's south east coast. By far the cleanest place we've seen and some great ice cream.

After two days we got the bus back to Chennai and then straight onto a 17 hour overnight train to Nagpur. SANY0508.jpgThe trains have been a breeze and much more comfortable than the buses. Not much to see in Nagpur though, we just used it to break up our journey North. We did try to go to the cinema but the rickshaw driver took us to the wrong one inside a different mall so instead we ended up eating pasties in the supermarket! In the hotel in Nagpur we had our first cockroach in the bathroom experience too so we didn't come away with an affection for the place. The staff in the Hotel however were a class act, and actually booked our next two nights accomodation for us!

We left Nagpur on another overnight train to Jhansi, which is the furthest North we have been, and a bus to nearby Orcha for New Year which is a nice quiet riverside village with some good temples. Can't say we larged it on New Years Eve though. We gatecrashed a party in a nearby hotel but found it to be a big cheesefest and we sloped off at 11.00pm. On New Years Day we went white water rafting and trekked the local nature reserve. We stayed in posh swiss tents on the night which was the best 'payed for' accomodation so far but we spent the night shivering only to realise in the morning there was an electric heater under the table!SANY0550.jpg

So we're now in Khajuraho and today had two full games of cricket with some local kids. Richard was rubbish and embarrased by the nine year olds and Pauline turned out to be a bit of a pro (1 over, 2 wickets)!270_SANY0577.jpg

Anyway, will try and do this more regularly so its not so long winded.

Till next time...

Posted by millfred 05:04 Archived in India Comments (4)

India 'Heat' Magazine Christmas Exclusive

Worlds' first Interview with India's hottest new minor celebs!

sunny 22 °C
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Heat magazine's chief interviewer caught up with India's hot property this week in Chennai. The celebrity couple were launching a new ethnic clothing store in a trendy suburb. No-one knows why they are famous but Richard and Pauline have been pulling in the crowds, stares and interest throughout their journey so far. Here's what they had to say for themselves...

Heat: It is a real pleasure to meet you both, thank you for taking the time out of your hectic travel itinerary to be here today. I know the public are desperate for an insight into your trip, and indeed your lives so let's press on. Let's hear how you would describe India so far in 3 words?

R: Busy, spicy, horny (in reference to constant car and 2 wheeler horns, we think!)
P: Crazy, tasty, wild

Heat: We've seen for ourselves the reactions you get from the crowds here, who would you say has been the most 'starstuck' upon meeting you?

R: Yes, it is getting difficult to get around without being noticed! The school kids are always pleased to see you. In Hampi they were daring each other to say hello, I think they thought I was a football player with my shirt on, name on the back and stunning physique! When I replied, the giggles continued all the way down the road obviously.

P: People seem more amused by Richard than me, maybe it's the ferocious fire red of his beard. I get more inquisitive stares than hellos. Infact, one girl stared a hole through me on a bus in Goa and didn't avert her gaze for the entire hour. It's weird, I never know whether to stare back or not so I just smile and look away. I found it a bit unnerving at first but i'm getting used to it. In a nature park in Pune, more people took photographs of us than of the animals! I wonder how many Indian family albums we are in so far?

Heat: Just curiosity I suppose, still, must take a bit of getting used to coming from being relative nobody's in UK to this level of exposure. So we've heard a lot about where you have been in previous blogs, we'd like to know what have been your highlights and low points, if any, so far?

R: Low point? Getting on the Hampi to Bangalore night bus. The highlight, getting off the bus, you can't call that a road!
P: I'm sure Richard has enjoyed more than he's letting on there, but that bus ride surely was horrific. So far my highlights have come daily. Waking up in new places, exploring, talking to locals, getting advice and obviously the wildlife. The low points, erm, maybe the same things actually, when i'm tired and something goes wrong, what was a highlight and perk of travelling one day becomes a pain in the arse the next!

Heat: You must have tried so many new foods this month, have there been any disasters and what have you enjoyed the most?

R: I tried to think of a top 5 foods and ended up with 10 so here we go...vada pav, any dosas, ghulam jamun, butter chicken,thalis, buns puri, goan sausage, black dahl, malai kofta and mysore pak (which I would have enjoyed more of had Pauline not used the plastic bag as her sick bag!). The only thing I haven't liked was Pani Puri. we tried this Indian delicacy on Chowpatty beach in Mumbai and it took all of our strength to keep it down! Sorry India. It's not for us.

P: Couldn't agree more on that one, don't think i'll be trying that again. Apart from that though i'm in pure veg heaven. Loving the snacky food and breakfasts. Addicted to dosas. Loved all the things we tried with Nisha in Pune and with the Shah's here in Chennai.

Heat: So you'll be hoping pani puri isn't on the Christmas menu then! I know you have both been overwhelmed by the sheer size of India and it's 1 billion people, you must have seen some weird and wonderful things so far?

P: Yep, i'm pretty sure I've seen at least half a billion men have a wee in the street, some turn away so i'd like to thank them for that. Other odd sights and experiences are standing for the Indian National Anthem in the cinema in Bombay, 7 people on one moped. too many to remember i'll get back to you... oh the black market down the harbour in Chennai was an experience for sure.

R: Men in the street are very affectionate towards each other, they hold hands a lot and cuddle. Most recent funny experience was here in Chennai, where our host Naina turned off her engine and refused to budge in a traffic jam until the rickshaw driver blocking her apologised. Girl power!

Heat: So you've made a few long distance journeys already, are these just a necessity or have you enjoyed them?

R: Well. I've mentioned the nightmare trip from hampi...

P: I do like watching the world go by from the bus, the streets here are so hectic that you are never bored on the bus as there is so much to see. I've seen a few crazy things through the bars of the local buses. The overnight buses are ok, some better than others. The first sleeper we took from pune was mental. still not sure why its called a sleeper, not-going-to-get-to-sleeper would be more accurate in my opinion. Think we'll stick to trains where possible, the scenery is amazing and so far no cockroaches, bonus. Hopefully our celebrity status will improve and we'll be upgraded soon.

Heat: With so much to see and do and such a rich culture, you two must have learnt a lot?

P: yeh for sure we have, loads of interesting history, my brain can't remember it all but bits keep popping into my head that i've picked up from here and there. Each place has a story or two to tell and we are doing our best to learn them. Oh and Carrom ( i think it's called), a mix between pool and tiddlywinks, love it.

R: Our hindu wedding experience was interesting and as a lefty eating with my right hand has taken some getting used to. I've learnt two hindi words!

Heat: So we know how much you are both missing your family and friends at home but what else do you miss, anything you weren't expecting to crave?

P: I miss neighbours, not the boring couple next door, the TV programme.

R: Boosts, jelly babies, sausage and footy!

Heat: And finally, you both must be so excited about seeing more of the world but what is on your 'not to miss' list here in Incredible India?

P: Moving onto the North and exploring there. People here have told us that Varanasi is cool and we can't miss out Rajasthan. Oh and of course i need the obligatory 'Diana' picture at the Taj Mahal.

R: Boat trip down the Ganga at Varanasi, who knows what the North with have in store for us.

Heat: Sounds fabulous, we wish you all the very best. I'm sure you'll be safe following your blessing from the Jain Monks yesterday! Any final comments for your readers?

R&P: HAPPY CHRISTMAS xxx

For an insight into the Orly fashion launch see the following link (be patient and wait till the end to see the star catwalk attraction).

http://chennaionline.com/video/city-feature/ORLY---Mens-wear-store-launch/2525.col

Posted by millfred 11:02 Archived in India Comments (1)

Hampi Bizarre

Day 15 to Day 19

sunny 25 °C
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No. of times Richard has dropped video camera in the sea = 1 (it survived!)
No. of Mahatma Gandhi roads seen so far = 7
No. of times Pauline has tripped over her own feet = 23
No. of hours thinking of stats = 12!

Well it's been a busy week and we've travelled from Goa to Hampi, then to Bangalore and we are now in Mysore.
Hampi was amazing, unlike anything we've seen before. The boulder strewn landscape, awe-inspiring temples and history of the place totally bowled us over. We loved it. india2010-12-16_008.jpgindia2010-12-16_011.jpgindia2010-12-16_005.jpgUnfortunately, leaving Hampi was a bit of a trauma due to no lights on the rickshaw to the bus stop (middle of the night) and we can now confirm there is no actual road between Hampi and Bangalore, most uncomfortable bus ride yet and zero sleep.

Bangalore was a typically busy city and the first place we saw a rat (or two) but was welcoming as always and we had a lovely timing meeting up with Hector over a couple of cold beers. (no alcohol in Hampi!)SANY0351.jpg

Whistle stop tour of Mysore today. the palace is cool and when we arrived last night it was all lit up especially for our arrival. (96000 bulbs no less)SANY0406.jpg

On to Chennai tonight on the overnight train. Hoping for a smoother ride and not too many cockroaches!

Posted by millfred 15:28 Archived in India Comments (2)

Gotta Goa

Day 13

sunny 33 °C
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Average no of black outs in Goa per night = 5
Average no .of switches in an Indian room (half of them useless) = 15
Bottles of suncream used in 2 days = 2
No of table tennis games before Pauline flipped out = 0.75

Last couple of days in Pune were quality, got the overnight bus to Goa which was cramped, bumpy with one persistant mozzie that we could only hear not see until the last 10 minutes! Funny experience though. Good job we travelled as a couple though since you have to share a double (not much bigger than an ironing board) even if your on your own. Cosy to say the least! Goa is everything expected hot, laid back, colourful and cracking beaches.SANY0268.jpgSANY0297.jpg Moving on to Hampi next (once Pauline has control of her motions anyway!) .

Next update coming soon. Send us your comments and we'll happily answer your questions (we've become mini-celebs in India anyway so we're used to the exposure!)

Posted by millfred 11:53 Archived in India Comments (6)

Week 1

Maharastra Melange

sunny 32 °C
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Its hard to know where to start summing up our first week away but here goes...

You've already heard a bit about Mumbai. The highlights included our night in Bandra, the amazing food, Victoria Terminus, taxi rides and friendly people, leopolds (although we couldn't afford to eat there the beer was good!) and generally finding our way around this bustling place. We tried to go and see a bollywood movie but it turned out just to be a comedy about a guy who worshipped barack obama with no subtitles so we left at the interval which was handy as Pauline had started to nod off! Later that evening we were scouted on the street (quite common apparently, but I like to think they saw star quality) to appear as western extras in an actual Bollywood production being made now. We had to turn them down due to all the other offers we had (pre-blanned bus ride to Pune)!

The day after we went to Elephanta Island (9km out of Mumbai harbour) where they have a lot of Hindu gods statues carved into the rock faces. On the way back our boat's engine blew and we had to get towed back - this was all the more stressful as Pauline was convinced one shifty guy on the boat was a terrorist (think he was just dying for the loo!). Later we walked to Chowpatty Beach and had some Pani Puri ( dough balls filled with what tasted like sea water) and nearly both threw up on the spot in front a few thousand indians tucking into a Maharastran delicacy).

On Monday, we travelled by Bus to Pune which we thought might be more chilled out but with at least 4 million people of its own proved otherwise. If anything the traffic is more crazy because they favour the moped over any four wheels. Here we met our host Nisha who had kindly offered to put us up for the week.

Tuesday we met Nisha's friend Naina who gave us advice on travelling round India and also invited us to her cousin's wedding the same day! We spent the morning visiting some beautiful temples and then upon our return to Nisha's house were provided with traditional Indian wedding clothes (the traveller combats weren't going to cut it apparently). We then went to the grooms apartment complex where I was further kitted out with the Pagdi turban and Pauline a Bindi (decorative marking on the forehead). 270_SANY0224.jpgWe then followed the procession into the five star hotel and were witness to the whole ceremony including the lavish food. We couldn't believe the hospitality and welcoming we had from a party of total strangers! This it seems is what India is all about.

We are having trouble uploading photos but we'll try to put some on facebook in the meantime. Heading to Goa on Friday on an overnight sleeper bus, bit of chillaxing on the beach should be lovely.

More stats to follow in the next mini - update.

Mill & Po xx

Posted by millfred 23:17 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mumbai Madness

Day 4

sunny 33 °C
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No. of times we went through a red traffic light = 25? (apparently you don't have to follow them at night!)
No. of frantic trips to the toilet = 0 (surprisingly no reaction to the food yet!)
No. of mozzie bites = Richard 1 Pauline 0 (who'd of thought it)
Beard length Richard = 3mm Pauline = 4mm!

Still going strong (maybe pushing it) here in Mumbai. Off to see a bollywood show today and to Elephanta Island (caves and massive Shiva statues) tomorrow. Struggling with the humidity which is keeping us tired all the time. Had a great time with our indian hosts Jasmin and Ajay last night! Our wonderful guides in Bandra

Our wonderful guides in Bandra

Thanks for hospitality and the pan guys (pretty sure we only went so you could see our faces)!Richard tastes Pan

Richard tastes Pan

Pauline tastes Pan

Pauline tastes Pan

Pics and videos to follow when I can find a computer with a usb port.

Keep the messages coming and stay tuned.

Posted by millfred 15:50 Archived in India Comments (4)

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