Category Archives: Itinerary

Things relating to my overall trip. Whether it is the actual itinerary, or general posts.

Four States Down, Four to Go

I am half way into my big east coast trip, and I am definitely getting back into the swing is travel again. I forgot how much I loved getting on a plane, knowing that soon you will be in a totally different place. What’s more, an unknown place yet to be explored by you. Sadly, in exactly two weeks, I leave the USA and return to New Zealand. I am excited to return, see family and friends, and start work as a real lawyer, but I am sad to say goodbye to America me. To California. And to this life. I left New Zealand nine months ago, and returning means the end of travel for a while. So I am definitely appreciating it while I can, doing lots, sleeping little, and visiting as many places as possible.

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And this trip is also full of many firsts. The first time to many American states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. (Although not technically a state). I am half way through, on a bus en route to Philly. I am also doing things a bit differently, I am couch surfing my way through all these places. Yes, I stay at a strangers house, though hopefully by the time I leave we will be friends. So far I have slept in the living room of a house, on a couch, in a private room on a loft bed, and shared a studio on an air bed. All experiences, all part of my trip, and it has led to unique things I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

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And to me, that is what travel is all about. Going outside your comfort zone, leaving your mark, and taking part of a place away with you. Keeping memories of every single destination in your heart. And being a traveller, not a tourist. Tourists observe from the outside, and never truly immerse themselves. Travelers, however, experience a place in all it’s glory. I have been reading a book by Paul Theroux, called ‘The Tao of Travel’ and in it he states that ‘In Mumbai: A tourist would have been in a temple or a museum. I had been in a slum.’ Of course I did museums, and there were no slums to be found in Boston or New York. However I love this quote and can relate to it. Because travel not only holds the possibility of excitement, but also reinvention and discovery of ones self. And the possibility that you may fall in love with a place, be for the museums, skyscrapers, food, culture or even it’s slums, and never want to leave.

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When I arrived in Boston, I stayed out in Cambridge. My first evening was spent at a birthday celebration, at a bar on the other side of town near the end of the subway (“T”) line. I tried local brews, and socialized with people i had never met, in a bar I would have never been to otherwise. I fit right in, and by the end of the evening knew all the gossip of the group, and got back to Cambridge at 4am. Tuesday night was bluegrass at a local bar, and Wednesday drinks at the Cambridge brewing Company with couch surfing hosts and surfers. In New York, I stayed in Hell’s Kitchen and Inwood (end of the A line, up at 207th street). I went to the Brooklyn flea market and Hell’s Kitchen flea market, neither in the lonely planet. Had the most amazing grilled cheese from this deli on 10th and west 47th. Took the bus to New Jersey for lunch (no normal sane tourist would ever do that!!) And went to a movie on my last night with my host and her friend. All these people whom I had never met, taking me into their homes, sharing their lives. This human interaction, for me, is what travel is about. You can move through a city totally alone and invisible, as if people see through you. Once you leave, no one notices. It is as if you were never there, apart from the pictures on your camera. But if you interact with people there, your absence is noted. As was your presence. And these moments are not on your camera, they instead last as memories, in your head and heart.

Of course I have done tourist things. In Boston I did the freedom trail, had chowda and explored Harvard and MIT. It snowed, and I experienced some very very cold weather (-16 degrees C one day! I went for a 5km run around Harvard when it was -12). I had a martini at the Top of the Hub, 52nd floor of the Provincial building. In New York I went to the Met, MoMA, and the museum of natural history. I saw Chicago, went to the opera, and explored the Chelsea markets. However I also achieved another first while in New York – I ran my first half marathon.

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As many know, I injured my knee last April. I had been in recovery all last year and only was able to run again as of October 2012. I decided to do the half marathon 6 weeks prior to it taking place. I semi trained, and my goal was to finish. Not be constrained by my knee, or my asthma. No goal for time. If I had properly trained and planned months in advance, my goal would have been 2:15. 13.1 miles. Two hours fifteen seemed like a reasonable first marathon goal, had that been my goal.

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I completed it in 1:54. 1:54. I still can’t believe it. It was the hardest half marathon of all NY ones, as many runners after told me, and probably one of the hardest half marathons in my life, according to some. There was snow on the ground, it was -6 degrees Celsius, and the course was two loops around and through Central Park, which included one very steep and difficult hill – the Harlem Hill.

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I woke at 6, had a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, Gatorade, and put on my many layers. Stretched, made sure I had my inhaler, and took the subway two stops uptown to the park. Told myself ‘you can do this’. I kept thinking positive. Thought ‘You can totally do this.’ And I did. In under two hours. I still can’t believe it. I was in the top 2/5th of finishers. Number 60 in my age and gender group. My first half marathon, in New York, in the middle of Central Park, with snow on the ground. That, is a traveler story, I will never forget. The whole trip could be a failure, but it would still be my best visit to NYC, because of that achievement.

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And as I write this, I am on a bus to Philadelphia. Taking in the sights of the countryside, on this cloudy cold winter day. Moving south onwards to DC. More sights to see, more people to meet (and couches to sleep on!), more fun to be had. Hell if I have to leave America, put away my passport and say goodbye to traveling for a while, I am going out with a bang.

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Whiskey-Drinking-Football-Watching-America Jen

When I arrived in America, a mere four months ago, I was excited about the possibility of ‘reinventing’ myself. No one knew me, so I could be whoever I wanted. I could dress a different way, be interested in new things and have a completely different personality, without anyone realizing. I could escape all the prior restraints on who people expected me to be, based on high school, college and work.

The funny thing is, even knowing that I could do this, become someone brand new, free from all prior expectations on who I should be, I am the exact same person here as I am back in New Zealand. Of course I am not absolutely the exact same person, because I traveled for 3 months, am experiencing new things, and of course learning and changing based on my experiences. But for the most part, I haven’t changed too much. The things that have changed are pretty trivial, and really quite entertaining.

For example, America Jen wears jeans whereas New Zealand Jen does not.

New Zealand Jen wears skirts and dresses. She owns about five pairs of jeans, but hasn’t worn them in over two years. However in San Diego, I own two pairs of jeans (including the pair shown in the photo). And I have worn each pair at least 5 times.

Further, America Jen drinks whiskey.

New Zealand Jen hates whiskey. Hates it. Hates the smell, the taste, the thought. But somehow, here, in California, for America Jen, whiskey is a common Friday or Saturday night drink. America Jen will order a whiskey in a bar and drink more than one. Happily. Any kind of whiskey. I have even had whiskey just by itself…yep..not even mixed with diet coke, 7up or even water.

What is wrong with me….

America Jen also watches American football. Actually enjoys American football. Understands and follows American football. And college football.

New Zealand Jen doesn’t watch sports on TV. She is not a sport enthusiast. Whatsoever.

New Zealand Jen is also not nearly as studious as America Jen. America Jen spends an average of 8 hours a day (during the week) doing law school work – attending class, researching for my two papers or doing readings and preparing for class. And add on around 10 hours on the weekend = 45. New Zealand Jen spent 8 hours a week in classes, and about 8 hours a week outside of class doing research and readings for class. 16 hours.

16 versus 45.

So actually, after looking at the above, America Jen kind of is different. She drinks whiskey, owns a San Francisco 49ers tshirt and Dallas Cowboys running shorts (I may follow football but I don’t necessarily have a set team!), and wears skinny jeans. She spends far too much time in the library, and therefore spends far too much money on iced lattes (which also, prior to California, I never drank).

But the important things haven’t changed. My morals haven’t changed, if anything they have become stronger. It has reinforced that I know who I am, and I am happy with that. I like my personality. I like who I am. I like my international background and the fact that I am ‘from’ New Zealand – it makes me who I am. I like what I like and what I don’t. The important things haven’t changed, and they aren’t going to change anytime soon.

I think the main part of this is that in a new country where no one knows who ‘you’ really are, you are more willing to do different things. Try things out. Be social. Be exciting. I realized this weekend that in the States, I never say no. I never turn down an invitation, be that for a night out, a breakfast burrito, an evening of study fun in the library, or a trip to the beach. If someone wants company, they know I’m in. I am only in California for six months, I might as well make the most of it. Take every opportunity that comes my way, and have every experience possible.

So that is why I drink whiskey on a Saturday night and Bloody Marys Sunday morning. Why I have been to two NFL games and spend 3 hours watching Ohio State college football on a Saturday. Why I even stay at the library until 11:30pm on a Monday. Because I don’t say no. Sure I may regret it on a Sunday morning after only 4 hours sleep, getting up to go to breakfast followed by the library. But I would rather do that than stay in bed a few more hours, missing out on what the day can offer. Because this year has gone by incredibly quickly. I don’t want to miss another day or waste a day away doing nothing, when the sun is shining outside.

In 3 weeks, I will have completed my last exam for my law degree. Ever. 4 weeks, and my last law school research paper will be handed in. The last component of my law degree. 6 years done. Finished. No more university classes for the foreseeable future. A day after I hand that paper in, I turn 24. I’m getting old. A week later, it will be Christmas, then New Years. Then before you know it, I will be back on a flight to New Zealand. I can’t believe the year has disappeared. It feels like yesterday that I packed up my room in Wellington, and like yesterday that El and I boarded our flight to Singapore. It feels like I only just got settled into life here in San Diego, only to be leaving in two months. So there is no way I am slowing down now. I only have two months left, but I am going to make them count.

Tomorrow I am flying to Ohio for my first American Thanksgiving in 20 years. My first time in the Midwest, and first time going to a college football game. I can’t wait. I packed last night and can barely focus on class today because I am so excited. Sweet potato casserole. Stuffing. Pumpkin pie. Cranberry sauce. Oh man. So excited. For my New Zealand friends, you may not know where Ohio is, only that it was a very important state in the recent US elections. I had to look it up on a map myself, and inquire as to why it is the ‘Midwest’ when in fact it is quite far east, especially as California is ‘west’.

After finals, I am planning on going to Texas for a bit, seeing family and friends, and spending a few days in Austin. Then once my lease finishes in January, I want to explore the Northeast – Boston, Connecticut, New York, Philly, Baltimore and Washington DC. Get some winter weather into my system before I return back to New Zealand. And again, try to do as much possible before I get on that plane to Auckland. Before I pack away my jeans and my 49ers top, have my last Bloody Mary and say goodbye to America Jen, as I don’t know how much of her will return back with me.

Leaving Laos for a few days of sunny island paradise

I apologize again for my lack of blog posts. Truth is I have been enjoying my trip so much I forgot about my blog!! That and I have so many amazing photos that I want to attach to my posts. But I thought it was time for a quick run down as I am currently sitting in KL low cost airport for a 5 hour layover. It was meant to be a 3 hour layover, but 2 days ago we received an email saying our flight was delayed by 2 hours. So here we sit in coffee bean nursing our ice blended coffees to retain these comfortable plush seats before having to brave the check in havoc. However it is most depressing because they are playing a wicked upbeat playlist very similar to my running playlist. It has been almost 3 months since my knee injury, and although my ruptures have repaired, my knee cap is still not properly aligned. So I have 2 more months of taking it easy according to a knee specialist in Jakarta. And 2 exercises to do every morning and night. They hurt and are difficult but at least make me feel like I am making progress. I may not be up for the San Diego marathon in August, but I am going to find another run to make my goal.

It is also nearing the end of Asia (round 2). Andy and I spent the last 12 days in the beautiful country of Laos. It was the place I most looked forward to going to this trip, because I know no one, except my dad, who has been there. It also seems slower than the rest of SE Asia and at least 10 years behind in terms of tourism and popularity than Cambodia and Vietnam. It did not disappoint. 12 days was too little, and to Andy’s horror I am already planning another trip, to see the entire country by motorbike.

It was such a gorgeous country with such wonderful friendly people. So many beautiful temples, great rural scenery, with mountains, rain forests, the might Mekong River, and so many nature activities such as Rick climbing, caving, kayaking, mountain biking, elephant riding and more. We sadly did not participate in any, due to either rain, my knee, or Andy being diagnosed with tonsillitis on day 2, at the Australian embassy medical clinic in Vientiane. This meant not only did it hurt to eat and drink, but prolonged periods outside or doing physical activity was out of the question. Which is why another trip is on the books!

Whilst in Laos, we spent 2 days in Vientiane, basically in order for Andrew to be well enough for a bus ride. It is just a big city that we didn’t really enjoy. The sights aren’t very spectacular and the river front is very commercialized. It was hard to find local food not in nice restaurants or westernized, but we did find a restaurant literally on the side of the road, where we had our first experience with sticky rice, which became a staple food throughout our trip.

It is soaked for hours and hours, then cleaned and rinsed 3 times, drained, and cooked in a bamboo basket. You pick up a lump in the left hand, take a small portion with your right, and roll it into a ball so it starts to stick to itself. You then use your thumb and two next fingers to dip it and pick up laap or other food. It is only for dips and dry stir fries though. Any curry or saucy dish has steamed rice. Of course we learnt this all throughout our trip, so with our first experience we just picked at it and ate it, not quite sure what to do!

After Vientiane, we took a 4 hour bus to Vang Vieng, the party town. It is basically a town in the middle of no where, with two main strips, full of places serving up hamburgers, pizzas, “happy” additions to your food, and playing family guy or friends on full blast. It is also popular for it’s caves and water sports, but the talk in our bus there and when we left was “are you going tubing?” or “did you go tubing?”. Still, better than Vientiane. It at least had something making it stand out from a normal city. A strange western influence that no one quite understands.

After 1 night we then endured a 7 hour ride to Luang Prabang. My favorite place in Laos. It was beautiful and magical. It had an old school French feel about it. We stayed in the old quarter on the river amongst French colonial style houses and cafes, with crepe shops on street corners and numerous pagodas and temples about. We saw monks live their daily lives, and after 5 days i can now say it is no novelty seeing a monk. They are everywhere in Luang Prabang. It is another reason the city has such charm. It is peaceful and calming, and it is wonderful seeing monks in action at the temples, walking down the road with a yellow umbrella sheltering them from the sun, or younger ones running around playing games like the boys they are. It was our favorite place, and I want to rerun, especially to go further north to Luang Namtha and other more rural areas.

After LP we had another stint in Vang Vieng, this time involving tubing, injuries, lost jandals and a broken camera, but we made it back to town after tubing down the river in the dark unsure of where we were. We only lost $2 of our $7 deposit for returning the tube after 6. And despite the blunders, we can now saw we have tubed down the Mekong in Vang Vieng. Our last day in Vientiane also involved a visit to the COPE visitor centre, which was my favorite museum/war exhibit on this trip. We met a 20 year old man who lost both his lower arms to unexplored ordinances dropped over Laos during the Vietnam war. He was also partially blind but full of life and joy. The only really sad moment was when he revealed he has never had a girlfriend, because “no one likes disabilities”.

The exhibits were neither political nor hateful, they presented statistics, photos, and information about what COPE does to help, through rehabilitation, rural visits and prostheses. It was a wonderful albeit heartbreaking visit, and really brings you back down to earth and makes you thankful for having all your limbs in tact. 40% of those injured are children, as they follow adults into the forest, searching for exploded bombs to sell as scrap metal, and picking up the unexplored ones set aside by the adults. Or they are discovered while farming or even cooking, by heating the earth and setting one off without knowledge of its existence. It is so sad, especially as 30% of the bombs dropped on Laos did not explode upon impact, with up to 90,000 estimated to still be hidden. Makes you thankful to live in a place where you don’t have to worry about stepping on a bomb.

And with that ending our Laos experience, we fly to Jakarta for 2 days to boat out to Kotok island in the thousand islands. Looking forward for more beach time, and time to read. Will be the perfect ending to my 2 months of Asia, and my 2 weeks with Andy before he returns to work.

Injured, but positive

An injury is the last thing you want before a big trip. I know this from my last overseas trip, where I injured myself 30 minutes before leaving for the airport. My Dad and I were playing tennis (Wii tennis) and he took a huge swing, hitting me right in my elbow with the remote. I had to decide right then whether I thought I needed to drive to the hospital, or whether I could travel for the next 30 hours, from Jakarta to KL, with a 3 hour layover before Paris. I decided that I could survive the plane, that it didn’t appear broken, and if it hurt in the next 30 hours, I would go to the American Hospital upon landing in Paris. Luckily, it was just a bruise.

However now, I injured myself 2 weeks before El and I leave. I didn’t think it was a big deal – my knee hurt – so what. I did Bikram Yoga on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then a 30 minute run around Hagley Park (around 7km) on Thursday. However, stubborn as I am, I listened to my partner and went to the Doctor. Turned out, I may have torn my medial meniscus – and needed an ultrasound and x-ray to determine whether I needed to cancel my trip. This was serious. I was also told not to run at all, and to rest it. So I gave in and rested. However it didn’t work, and my knee got worse. Doctor visit round 2 = I have patellofemoral syndrome. Basically “runner’s knee” where the knee bone is no longer in alignment. However, it isn’t serious (apparently), and my trip needn’t be cancelled. One, because I now am the owner of a sexy sexy knee brace to wear every day. And two, because if my knee gets worse, I will be in America in 3 months, and I can have surgery there. I just have to survive the next three months. And three, my father being as concerned and worried as he is, and wanting a second opinion, has booked me in for an MRI whilst in Jakarta for 3 days – just to make sure that we know exactly what is wrong. So yes, while we are off shopping at Pondok Indah Mall, I will just pop across the road for an hour to have an MRI scan!!

Besides my injury, things are on track. 4 days to go. My 3 page to do list is now down to 3 items. And I packed my bag just to see what I could fit – not a lot. My 10 dresses are now 5. And my shoes are still 6, but may need to cut back shoes to around 4. I also bought a beautiful digital SLR camera (Nikon D5100) that I have been playing around with – now that I can’t run for the next 6 weeks, I have taken to walking and trying out all the cool functions on the camera, and figuring out the manual settings so that I will be a pro by the time we are in Asia. So, to make me feel better, and to remind me of how beautiful Chch is once I have left, below are some photos I took. I like to think of it as rehab, for my knee and for my soul (broken by the fact that I can’t do exercise).

Andy’s gorgeous puppy dogs:


Hagley Park:

(first using a distortion setting, and the last using a color isolation setting to only pick up the brown/red color of the leaves)
 

Planning…

People plan their vacations and trips in a variety of ways. Some are travel agent planners, who book flights, tours, accommodation and transport through a third-party agent who does all the hard work. This method is fantastic because it takes the stress away and means someone else does the grunt work hunting down the best deals. However you are often confined to certain airlines, hotels or tour itineraries that aren’t overly flexible. Also in my experience, travel agents cost more money than if you do it yourself. However I have been pleasantly surprised with this trip – my Mom recommended STA Travel as they do discounts on flights if you are a student and/or under 26 years old. Which means, thanks to my star agent Nicola, that I bought a round the world ticket, flying Chch-Singapore-London-Barcelona-LA-Christchurch all for under NZ$3,000, and on Star Alliance (which means I get airpoints and fingers crossed I will make it to gold status by the end!). However the only thing with STA is that they can’t book air asia or other budget airlines, which means that all the internal flights have to be booked outside a travel agent, to get the cheapest deals.

This leads me to another type of planner – the self-sufficient planner who takes booking into their own hands. This type of planner differs from the third type – the ‘wing-it’ planner (yes, a contradiction in terms!) who books things themselves, but doesn’t really truly “book”. The wing-it planner does exactly that – wings it. Checks into hotels when they arrive to a city, books flights on the day or a few days before once they decide what they want to do. Doesn’t look at or book tours before leaving home. Does things last-minute. Often things work out for wing-it planners, however things only work out if you are ok with winging it and taking things as they come.

I, am not a wing-it planner. I am an organiser. A micro-manager. I color coördinate and cross-reference my travel guide books. I print out all flight and hotel confirmations, have them in order, tabbed, ready for access. I print out maps, know how to get from the airport to the hotel, and what the check in and check out times are. Although I often book later than I should (when there are only one or two rooms left), I have narrowed my hotel down using Trip Advisor, blogs, lonely planet guides, a variety of booking websites and with knowledge of what the pros and cons of the place I decide to stay in. So although I have a friend who recently travelled South East Asia, and bought a tablet so they could book everything when they arrived and book bus tickets etc when there, they blatantly told me that they knew I could not survive like that. I am too much of an organiser. I would not be able to handle flying into a city without a place to stay, and venturing out to find accommodation. I protested, albeit weakly, but then came to the same conclusion that I would not be able to travel like that, no matter how much I think I could.

But is this a bad thing?

I justify my extreme organisation on the fact that when I am overseas, I have a limited amount of time, and I therefore want to take full advantage of my time there. I want a place to stay so I don’t waste time looking for hotels and bargaining to get a good rate. I want to know the attractions so I know a rough idea of what to do each day, and what is close to one another so I don’t miss out. I also want to know how to get around, so I am not taken advantage of, and know the best and most efficient way, especially when buses or trains are involved, and can truly enjoy the trip as stress-free as possible.

An example of when I tried being a wing-it planner ended fine, but only thanks to my travel companion calming me, telling me things would be fine, and pure luck. We were in Chamonix trying to get to Geneva for a flight that afternoon. We hadn’t booked shuttles in advance, because I figured we would book them when we arrived, and get the best price and best company. We forgot, and then the night before we went to happy hour at 3pm and by the time we left, the tourist office had shut. 7am the next morning, I called every single shuttle company. No one could take us in a shared shuttle. We were looking at 150 euro for a private taxi. But a lot of googling found that a bus did the same route, and whilst I had a bit of a meltdown, Andy got his cold-weather gear on, ventured into the snow and bought us two tickets at the train station 10 minutes walk away. Crisis averted.

The bus actually ended up being better  – it was a double-decker bus, with about 10 travellers (taking up around 80 seats). We had a view, comfort, and were able to relax and take in the last of the snow before returning to summer in the southern hemisphere. And we arrived at the airport 4 hours early, plenty of time to check in and endure the chaos that is Easy Jet on a Sunday. But that is in itself another story.

View from the bus – Les Houches – where we skied the day prior

But what about you? Are you one of the three travellers or planners I mention above? Do you organise like me, or are you more easy-going and casual when it comes to plans. Or are you a fourth type?

One month and counting

In exactly 1 month I am embarking on a mini-world trip. I say mini because I am only going to 3 continents (4 if you include New Zealand, where I depart from and which is my final destination), although it is definitely not “mini” in terms of where I am travelling to and my plans once I arrive! This trip has been my baby, the thing to get me through my 5th year of law school. Only 1 semester left. 4 months. 3 courses. Although those 3 courses may end up being 4 due to California Western having such an amazing choice of subjects that I cannot narrow it down to merely 3! Either way, this trip was the light at the end of the tunnel of my 15,000 word masters paper and my 5 years of straight study.

So in my months of planning my trip instead of writing my paper, I had to really narrow down my destinations to fit it all in. And to fit in with other people’s plans. Sadly I cannot do everything and see everyone, but I try my best. Malaysia will have to wait for another trip, as will regional Thailand and most of Europe. However Elle and I have a fantastic first month planned, and then Andy and I are currently working on our 2-3 weeks. Europe is also coming along, and the itinerary as booked so far (not so you can stalk me, but rather so you can stay in the loop with where I am, and if you are near, meet me!) is as follows (the photos are all Internet based – not from my travels, those will come!). Also if you want a different version of the trip, or Elle’s trip post our June 3 separation, you can view Elle’s blog here.

1 May, Elle and I leave Christchurch with a backpack full of everything I need for the next 3 months, and to start up in America (how on earth I am fitting this into a backpack that I am carrying on my back, I have no idea)

24 hours in Singapore – Chinatown, Orchard Road, Marina Bay Sands etc

2 May – Bali. Spend one full day in Kuta doing touristy things, having a beer at sunset on the beach, look at the shops, check out the clubs etc. Then one day up in Ubud, Legian, Seminyak – check out some other places outside of Kuta.

5 May – Jakarta. Relax, unwind by the pool, get Mexican food at Amigos, Italian at Toscanas, check out the bars in Kemang, check out the docks and the boats, and general non-tourist activities because Jakarta is not a very touristy place. Not in my mind at least.

8 May – Yogyakarta (ok this photo is one of mine!) Check out Malioboro and the copious amounts of batik (not that we have room in our bags to shop!) and then spend a full day at Borobudur and Prambanan, being tourist attractions in ourselves with pale skin – just wait Elle, just wait!

10 May – KL – never been, just a big city, but will be fun. We can check out the Petronas Twin Towers, Thean Hou Temple, Islamic Arts Museum, Chinatown etc. Ideas?

12 May – Siem Reap.


In between 12 May and 18 May, hoping to spend time in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh (where we depart from).

18 May – Bangkok overnight very briefly.

19 May – Very early morning flight to Ha Noi.

22 May – Halong Bay and Bai Chai Harbour for a boat trip with rock climbing, caves etc

24 May – Hue. Imperial tombs, Thien Mu Pagoda, Perfume River

26 May – Hoi An. Get clothes made overnight (I WILL find room for these, may have to leave them at Dads though…) My Son (relics of the Cham civilisation). Cooking class perhaps even.

28 May – Nha Trang.

30 May – Ho Chi Minh. The central market, war museum, Paris square (yes the Notre Dam photo above IS in Vietnam), Cu Chi Tunnels, Chinatown, amazing restaurants and fooooooood. Mekong Delta and floating markets.

On 3 June, El leaves Vietnam to go to Bangkok, and the plan is that Andy will meet me and we will do the floating markets and everything on a 2 night tour. The very rough plan from there involves Laos and Indonesia:




Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. The normal sightseeing stuff, PLUS some ziplining, kayaking, mountain biking and other crazy outdoor adventures. Also tubing in Vang Vieng (sorry rainforest), a sunset walk up Mt Phu Si (in Luang Prabang), and going to Luang Namtha for a cruise to the Thailand border, where we then go to Chiang Mai to fly to Indonesia.

Indonesia will then involve Jakarta again, the thousand islands (Pulau Seribu) and fingers crossed Sumatra where I am dying to visit.

From there, on 28 June, I fly to London and spend 2 weeks visiting my various relatives all across England, staying with them, catching up and remembering my childhood. I have a feeling that lots of cucumber sandwiches and tea will be involved, as will Granny’s chocolate cake (assuming Carol or Anne have the recipe, mine is in storage).

Around July 14, I am meeting Elle in Spain (Barcelona) to do a 2 week mini tour of Spain and possibly Portugal or Morocco, before I depart on 26 July for LAX, to reach my ‘final’ destination = San Diego, where I will be based for 4 months until at least December 16. I will then hopefully spend time in Texas with family and family friends, and check out the skifields in the States, and maybe even Canada if I truly get bored.

So there you have it. All rather daunting but so very very exciting.