City love

Myself and my boyfriend Gary have been living in Melbourne for 7 months now. I just want to do a short post about the city because we love it. It reminds me a lot of London as you have the range of cultures and the abundance of things to do/see but unlike London there’s more of a laid back vibe which I love.

I guess most cities have a variety of people living and working in them so there’s always a range of cultures. And from the cities I’ve been to there’s always been lots to do. But what I love about Melbourne is that you can just walk down the streets for hours and not get bored. It reminds me of doing this in London when I lived there whilst at university. Especially at night when the city was lit up and everyone was a bit more chilled out and not in ‘work mode’. And there was always free things to do which was an added bonus. Comedy shows, plays, independent film showings, all for free if you were willing to travel into the city, wander the streets and be a bit spontaneous.

But Melbourne never feels like it’s in ‘work mode’. I love the little alleyways filled with cafes and packed with people drinking coffee or something stronger. I love the street art. I love the huge architecturally amazing buildings, old and new. I don’t think I could ever get bored with Melbourne city but at the same time I love the countryside.

Here’s some pictures I’ve taken over the past 7 months.

 

On the bridge overlooking Southbank
Queen Vic markets
St Kilda Pier looking over to the city
Federation Square
Hosier Lane famous for its street art

Thanks for reading  x

 

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Our mini Tazzy adventure

When ever Tasmania used to come on tv or I used to see it on a map, it just made me think of the Tasmanian devil and apart from that I didn’t know much about the island. I never even considered I would get the chance to go and explore it so I was very excited when we booked our trip. Myself and my boyfriend decided on a 3 day mini holiday due to not wanting to take too much time off work but we both agreed we could have spent at least a week there. Maybe we will one day.

We stayed in Hobart for the 3 days and hired a car so we weren’t restricted on just the Hobart area and didn’t have to rely on public transport. It was definitely the best decision as it was very cheap for petrol and we got a good deal on a hire car (85 dollars). Plus my boyfriend Gary missed driving so he was looking forward to that. We flew there as Gary found pretty cheap flights and it’s obviously a lot quicker than the ferry. As this was a mini break for us, not backpacking like we did in Asia, convenience and comfort took priority over price (within reason).

 

 

 


DAY 1

We arrived in Hobart early afternoon, grabbed our car and went straight to our hotel to check in. It was only a 20 minute max drive but in that time we saw so many mountains and the countryside which made me realise how much I’ve actually missed the green scenery and fresh air that I’m used to at home (Cornwall, UK). The weather was beautiful, sunny, clear skies and between 18-22 degrees. So pretty perfect for what we wanted to do whilst we were there.

We stayed in the town centre so it was only a quick walk to find lunch and we had a short look around the centre of Hobart but we were keen to go and explore. We drove to mount Nelson lookout which provides amazing views of Hobart. It was only a 20 minute drive and very easy to find. There is a bus route there if you are using public transport. The roads were quite steep with sharp bends but nothing like we were going to experience the next day! We realised pretty much most Tasmanian roads were like that. I’m a nervous passenger so that was the only bad thing about Tazzy for me.

When we got there, there was a little car park and cafe and a beautiful view. We both agreed if we lived here it would be our ‘chill out’ place.


What also made it a relaxing spot was that there were several comfy beanbags scattered for the public to use and appreciate the view. We did go for a walk to try and get in front of all the trees for an even better view but after a while we gave up haha.

DAY 2

This was our one full day here so we had planned to go and see Wineglass Bay. It took 3 hours each way to drive to but it was so worth it!

As you can see from the map, it was a long way. Wineglass Bay is part of Freycinet national park and is one of the routes out of many available. If we go again during a warmer month we would love to go back to Freycinet and explore more of the routes and see more of the bays and mountains there. We thought it would be nice when it’s warmer because they’re the perfect places to take picnics and chill out on the beaches.

The drive was long but we saw so much of the island on the way. It’s so beautiful and is actually the first time we’ve seen a bit of rural Australia since we’ve been in the country. We did stop for a 10 minute break around halfway at a place called the Rocky Hills and I had a quick walk on the beach. The sand was so soft and a beautiful light golden colour. What we both noticed about Tazzy was the clear sea. Everywhere we went it looked so clear, clean, blue and just made you want to jump in.

When we got to Freycinet park there was a 20 dollar fee per car which isn’t much considering all money goes towards keeping the park running. From there we had a walk to the top of the mountain to a lookout to see Wineglass Bay. It took us around 45 minutes and although it wasn’t easy, I reckon most fitness levels can do it as it’s not overly steep or a dangerous terrain and there’s plenty of resting stops. It was definitely worth the journey!


We even met this little fella in the carpark!

DAY 3

As we had to leave for the airport early afternoon we couldn’t stray too far from Hobart so we went down to where the Salamanca Market is every weekend. Unfortunately it was mid-week so we didn’t get to experience the market but hopefully one day we will! Instead we had breakfast at Rendzvous cafe which was amazing I highly recommend it. And had a browse round their shops and the Salamanca area. It’s a very nice, modern area and it’s right on the harbour where hundreds of boats are docked. I can imagine on the weekend it’s bustling and a good place to go for a weekend drink.

I absolutely loved being back in the countryside and exploring a different part of Australia. I hope that we come back one day and visit the north and west side of the island. Even though it’s small in comparison to the mainland, there’s still so much to do especially if you love the outdoors. It really reminded me of home and was a great break from suburban Melbourne.

Boats and caves with Skippy

Is it Ha Long Bay or Halong Bay?

Either way, what a beautiful place. We only had a couple of days in Hanoi, Vietnam and there’s so many appealing ways to spend your time there so it was hard choosing. We spent one of our valuable days on a day trip to Ha Long Bay and I’m so glad we did. When we first arrived in the country at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi there were several stalls where you could purchase day trip tickets, accommodation and onward travel. Very convenient- maybe a little too convenient so we thought surely everything must be overpriced. Because we were extremely short on time and wanted to do the day trip to the Bay the next day we decided to take a chance and book through the agents there and hope we weren’t getting ripped off!

I think our spontaneity paid off as we got a super day out. The total cost per person was £35 which compared to other prices that we had seen (£100+) for the same kind of itinery, it was a bargain. We were picked up from our hostel at around 8 in the morning as it took 3ish hours to get there with a short stop halfway. What was brilliant about the trip was our tour guide, Skippy. He was so enthusiastic, even early in the morning, and tried his best to get us asking questions and introducing ourselves to the rest of the group.

We arrived at the port and boarded the boat which would take us to the Bay, where we could take pictures and have a wander round the deck. The weather was very misty and drizzly that day and although it would have been amazing to have sat in the sun and admired the view, it still looked stunning.

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Skippy and the locals that worked on the boat served up a massive lunch for us all and it was lovely. A mixture of seafood, meat and local dishes which were all tasty. I even tried some food that I hadn’t eaten before which I was quite happy and proud of. Nobody could quite believe how much food we were given. We shared a table with an older couple from Manchester, UK who were very nice and interesting and they had traveled a lot.

The next part of our day involved exploring some of the caves by either a boat rowed by the locals or a kyack if you weren’t bothered about getting wet or lost (or if you’re a bit more adventurous than us). We went for the first option! It was so relaxing meandering through the ocean and admiring the natural beauty of the Bay.

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When we were back on our boat I thought we would just head back to the port but there was one more activity for us. It was such a packed day for the price we paid. Skippy took us to the biggest cave in Halong Bay called Paradise Cave and we went inside which was our first time going inside a cave of this size. It was massive. And Skippy knew so much about how it was discovered and lots of other facts about it that I actually learnt a lot.

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I’m not usually one that enjoys a tour guide kind of situation but he was so knowledgable and just such a nice guy that it made the day even  better. What we both would have loved to do if we had longer in Vietnam is go on a tour that lasts a couple of days. You get to camp out on the beaches at the Bay or stay on a boat and if you have the blessing of the sun I’ve heard it’s an incredible experience.

In a nutshell, if you’re ever in Hanoi, make sure you go and see Halong Bay.

Two words: travel insurance

Everybody has experienced that feeling of excitement before a holiday or an event to the extent they count down the months and days. This is definitely how I felt about leaving for Asia and when it was around 4 months until we left I started making lists (love a good list) of things I needed to sort out/pack for my journey.

On my list albeit not at the top (which I majorly regret now) was travel insurance. To me travel insurance was that thing you know you need to get but don’t really understand it so you put it off and then google it and just go with the flow. Me and my boyfriend (mainly him not me I admit) did lots of research into which was the best travel insurance on a budget. But we just didn’t understand what we were looking at and what to look for.

We ended up going for insurance from Boots. They were rated in the top three best travel insurance plans (this is in the UK) had loads of positive reviews and are a well established company. From what we could understand they covered what needed to be covered and it was a good price.

WORST DECISION EVER. And I mean the worst. If anyone reading this needs travel insurance never buy travel insurance from Boots. We found out the hard way unfortunately.

When we were in Koh Tao we decided to rent a scooter so we could get around cheaper and easier. It was 400 baht a day (I think) so £6. Which is ridiculously cheap for the amount of miles you can do. There are hundreds of travellers riding scooters on the island because of these reasons. We had a great couple of days exploring the island and beach hopping in the beautiful weather. We understood that the roads were dangerous on the island mainly because of other drivers but it was a risk we were willing to take at the time and I personally had that ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude even thought I was a nervous passenger.

Well it did happen- to my boyfriend. To cut a long story short, he popped out on a 2 minute ride to get some drinking water for us and had an accident. Not his fault as somebody else was pretty much driving on the wrong side of the road and he had to swerve out of their way. He hurt his ankle/leg really bad. There was basically a hole at the top of his ankle where the scooter had ripped a chunk of flesh out. It was gross.

We went straight to the nearest hospital which was luckily only 2 minutes away, ironically he drove us their on the damn scooter. There was an English consultant there who asked pretty much as soon as we got there if he had insurance and I explained he had. Anyway to cut another long story short:

  • We stayed in hospital for 3 days and he had surgery to close the wound.
  • During that time the hospital was in constant contact with Boots regarding our claim and they were unsure we were going to get it for several reasons.
  • We couldn’t leave until the hospital bill was paid either by Boots or us (the hospital didn’t care who paid).
  • They took my boyfriends passport to make sure we didn’t leave without paying.
  • Boots finally agreed to pay our claim- happy days.
  • We left hospital and had to return every day for a wound clean and bandage change.
  • They found an infection in his wound because the doctors didn’t remove the dead flesh properly (brilliant). We were readmitted to hospital for another 10 days.
  • It was bad.
  • Boots would not pay for his second visit because they are greedy mother truckers. And so was the hospital but I’m not going to get into that.
  • So the co-owner of the hospital told us we had to pay. Our bill was £20,000+ but he ‘kindly’ wanted whatever we could pay him.
  • In a nutshell, it was all very dodgy and we needed to leave!

gross

Boots use another company to actually deal with people’s claims called Infinity. They RARELY pay out and will find any legal loop hole not to. It’s disgusting. We shouldn’t have had to go through the stress and worry that we did especially my boyfriend who was in so much pain.

We learnt our lesson the hard way, big time. If you’re clueless when it comes to travel insurance ASK somebody who understands or has experience with it. This accident cut our travels short by only a couple of weeks luckily. However, my boyfriend had to have further surgery and spend a minimum of a month recovering when we arrived in Australia due to the horrendous healthcare he received in Thailand.

My tips: have good travel insurance and if you really want to risk riding a scooter, BE EXTRA CAREFUL.

Rant over.

Also sorry about the gross picture haha.

Vietnamese paradise

One of my favourite places in Vietnam was Hoi An. We happened to visit just before their New Year so lots of preparation was being made for their celebrations. I must say, they put England to shame! The magnitude of colours and materials that covered Hoi An was amazing. Their high level of attention to detail and traditional style oozed elegance and charm that only the locals could achieve. However, from what I’ve heard it’s not just this time of year the place looks this wonderful and that is part of its magic.

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Hoi An, Old Town

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Old Town

We found it relaxing and easy to spend time just sitting by the river in The Old Town and soaking up the atmosphere. I loved walking alongside the river and watching the locals at work on their boats. At one point the port was one of the biggest in that area so it has a center spot in their history. There are loads of boat trips you can take which we didn’t do unfortunately. But the tickets are so cheap and from my experience in other Asian towns you learn lots and it’s a great way to see the place. Whilst in the Old Town it’s worth visiting any temples that you come across, albeit they are mostly small but still beautiful. There are also lots of cafes and restaurants that sell traditional Vietnamese food and food specifically from Hoi An.

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Bicycles

We stayed at a hostel called Nature Homestay. I would highly recommend this hostel! The room was massive, clean, was in a great location, fair price and had free bicycle hire. We ended up using the bikes so much more than we thought. At first I was apprehensive as the roads are choca from vehicles (mainly scooters) and I’m not a confident rider but I’m so glad I tried it! We managed to get to so many places we wouldn’t have seen and for free. It definitely made such a difference to our experience of Hoi An and I recommend it to everyone (who can ride a bike).

bike
Cycling around the paddy fields

Shopping and markets

There are sooo many shops and markets in Hoi An. I thought the markets were very similar to the night markets in Thailand which literally sell everything and are never ending. You can spend hours looking even if you don’t intend to buy anything. And then when you do, you’ve got to haggle which I couldn’t get used to. Vietnam is famous for their tailors which are crazy cheap. I didn’t buy any tailored clothing or shoes but their shops always looked full of people choosing materials and the materials are beautiful. I think it’s something I would have been more interested in if I were on a holiday and not backpacking.

Beaches

While we were in Vietnam we got unlucky with the weather which meant we didn’t have a full on ‘beach day’. I’m a massive beach fan! Growing up near beaches has meant I have to get a beach fix every now and again so I was excited to find out we were just a short bike ride away from one where we were staying. We didn’t have time to check out any others but if I ever go back I would love to visit more and hopefully it would be sunny.

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I really loved this place not only for its beauty and the amount of things to do but because of its relaxed, traditional charm. During the evening myself and my boyfriend really enjoyed getting dinner and drinks and just watching the world go by. In the Old Town lots of the restaurants have balconies that look out onto the river and this was really romantic and just reiterated why I wanted to visit Vietnam.

 

Am I running away?

When I finished university lots of people were asking me what my next move was. Masters degree? Get a ‘professional job’? Figure out what I’m going to do for the next 50 years of my life? No thank you. I applaude people who know exactly what job they want to get and what they want to achieve from their career. I’ve just never been like that.

My family and friends were excited for me when I told them I wanted to travel. My older relatives thought I was brave and adventurous, I guess because people rarely did the backpacking thing when they were young so it seems like a big deal to them. However for my generation it’s a big step but the technology and transport that’s available to us makes it a million times easier.

I received confused responses more than negative. To fund my travels I worked in a coffee shop and got to know lots of our customers quite well. Many of them couldn’t understand why I wanted to ‘live’ out of my backpack and not just go away for a couple of weeks and come back to work. They didn’t grasp that going to work at the same place everyday, seeing the same people and same places would eventually drive me insaaaane. And I don’t need what I can’t fit in my bag. Some people love that life though. Everyone’s different.

For me it wasn’t just that I didn’t want to get stuck in a frustratingly dull daily routine for the rest of my life. I wanted to explore other people’s cultures, open my eyes and learn. I didn’t want to be that kind of person that lives in a small town for my whole life and ends up being arrogant and closed-minded through no fault of their own.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” -Mark Twain 

So am I running away from life just because I won’t be in one place for a length of time or have a long term job? No. Mine and lots of other people’s lives are just different. Doesn’t mean we are avoiding anything.

What I have realised recently is that when I do decide it’s time to stay in one place and have a long term job, I know that I will have to be doing something worthwhile, something that helps others. Any suggestions would be very welcome. But for now I’m happy just plodding along at my own pace going in whatever direction I want to.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

12,732 miles and counting

I thought I would quickly just share my adventure so far in the form of maps because I don’t want to ramble on and on ya know. I started in Cornwall, UK where I have lived for most of my life. I feel lucky to have been brought up there as it’s a beautiful place with a relaxed way of living. However, for me personally it has many drawbacks and this was highlighted to me when I went to uni in London for 3 years. But that is for another blog post because I have lots to say on that topic 😉

map

route 1

The route we did around Thailand and Vietnam is a popular one and one I think is great if it’s a first adventure or a solo trip. Although the countries were completely different to anywhere we had been before, it didn’t take long to adjust to their cultures. The fact sooo many people spoke English and there were always fellow travellers doing what we were doing really helped. I’m not saying our time there was plain sailing but it wasn’t as daunting as I thought. And most of our great experiences were made that good by the locals that helped us.

There are so many places/things we didn’t get to see, it would be easy to spend several more months there than we did but due to visas and money it makes it a bit more difficult (as I’m sure lots of people understand).