Phnom Phen to Siem Reap

On the way we stopped a couple of times for rest breaks (no WC on the bus). There was a huge storm as we were driving with lighting strikes causing fires on our route.

There was this smell of burning plastic on the bus and then we stopped!

Broken down!!!!

A little panic swept over us….but about an hour later, and one very soggy driver we were back on our way. He had to get under the bus in the pouring rain…didn’t quite get that picture but this one is him at the back trying to fix it at first!

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We were exhausted when we arrived in Siem Reap and pissed off as usual as the driver refused to let us off where we asked (he let all the locals get off outside their doors) and drove us to a tuk-tuk station. Anyway in bitterness we decided to walk instead of paying someone which took us about an hour as we got soooo lost! we were staying in siem reap pub hostel which is really nice but hard to find, its down a little muddy dirt track, just about wide enough for the tuk-tuks.

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Crossing the border – Vietnam to Cambodia via bus

We booked our bus ticket through a travel agent (Long Phuong) which is on backpackers road almost nextdoor to a great little cafe called the Luke’s cafe.  They were very professional here with excellent English and gave us a great price for the Cu Chi tunnels (check out our Cu Chi page) and a bus ticket to Cambodia (520,000 VND for two people both trips)

We left Thao Dien Pearl 10:30 am and got a taxi to Long Phuong, this took about 30 minutes as the roads were pretty clear.

We waited for transport to the bus station which drove us 10 meters down the road to the bus station… It was pretty hilarious!

Got on the bus which was half empty,  lots of boxes at the back as usual as they use it as a parcel service too.  Got in our allocated seats and off we went.

Everything was running smoothly until the bus driver wanted money for visas and our passports. We handed over our passports as we thought maybe we all stay on the bus and the the police need to check the passports from the driver…anyway we then realised we’d been had as he then started to ask for money for the visa…more than the price the boarder control actually ask for.We had a bit of an argument with him at this point and asked for our passports back as we realised at boarder control you have to get out of the bus anyway as you have to go through security etc. He then refused to give our passports back and said if we didn’t pay him he’d drive off without us. The queue at boarder control really started to build up now and we were panicking. Luckily a local spotted the situation and came over to help….he obviously wanted money too but much less than the driver. So we paid him and he managed to get our passports off the driver and take us to the front of the queue. So in the end it was us waiting for the driver and the rest of the group! He wasn’t happy about us getting back on the bus but eventually gave in.

Anyway a few lessons learned ;

  1. Do not give anyone your passport!
  2. Always carry american dollars when going in/out of Cambodia (we didn’t have any which meant we were close to not getting a visa, luckily a nice Canadian guy on the bus had some extra and swapped some dong for us!). In Cambodia they only accept american dollars.
  3. Have a budget for money that you just have to pay to avoid stress….the saving of a few dollars probably wasn’t worth the massive argument and hassle.

Indonesia – Gili Trawangan (Gili T)

Our hostel was close to the harbour (about 10min walk) and we stayed there for 3 nights. The hostel was basic…but it was cheap so we didn’t expect much! We are not really sure how we feel about Gili T, some bits were nice, some bits not so much. The west side of the island is much better, but a bit more pricey as it’s where most of the more expensive resorts seemed to be. If you definitely want to go to Gili T, we would say two/three nights is plenty. We did do a really good day boat trip which was 80,000 IDR pp and went to a couple of snorkeling spots and then to Gili air. Seeing Gili air we think we should have stayed there, seemed much better!

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On our last day we met our friend Katie from Oz and cycled around the island and went to take the obligatory Gili T swing pics, bike ride around the island and swing pics are a must! Such a fun day :).

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As the weather had calmed down we took the fast boat back to Bali, to a small place called Amed. This boat cost 200,000 IDR pp. We went straight from Amed to Permuteran as we were starting to run out of days, this was our most expensive journey at 550,000 for both of us. That night we stayed in a cute little homestay, the owners were lovely.

In the morning we headed to the main road and got a local mini bus to Gilimanuk, this cost us 45,000 IDR which was a massive rip off, make sure you try and barter more! We just jumped in the first one and after we had paid then saw the locals paying 2,000 IDR each!

At Gilimanuk we got the public ferry across to Banyuangi/ Ketapang which took about an hour and cost 9,000 each. Luckily this was a fixed price so as tourists we didn’t get ripped off again.

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Indonesia – Java 

Banyuangi

We stayed at a great hostel in Banyuangi called Panorama homestay. It was a 10,000 IDR pp local taxi ride away from the ferry port. The rooms were nice and clean and there was a lovely pool with a great view :). That night we didn’t get to enjoy the hostel too much as we set off for our Mount Ijen trek. The hostel helped us organise this through a contact they have. For the whole trip we payed 275,000 each. We were picked up from our hostel at 1130 and then taken to the base of Mt Ijen where a guide met us and lead us on the trek. We commenced around 2am and got back to the base about 8am. This was by far the best thing we did in Indonesia. The views were stunning, well worth climbing vertical through the night. The locals nick name it blue fire mountain because the heat from the sulphur creates a blue fire which you can see at night.

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After the trek, we were driven to a waterfall which is included in the trip. This was lovely but I think we were all a Little to tired to enjoy it properly!

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When we arrived to the hostel we jumped straight in the pool and then for a nap. The hostel owner let us stay in the room until after check out so we could sleep which was much appreciated.

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At midday we had booked a cab to Banyuangi train station to get to Probolingo, where we were planning to climb mount Bromo. Sadly there were no train tickets 😦 so after a (small) stress from Lara we booked a ticket for the next day to Yogyakarta which meant we couldn’t do Mt Bromo but we have heard really good things about it so we would recommend to try and do it if you can!

So we stayed in a Homestay close to the train station, it was not anything great but was in walking distance to the station which was great as our train to Yogyakarta was at 0630 the next morning! We bought economy class tickets for 90,000 each. The journey was 13hrs which was an interesting experience! The seats were bench style, rows of three facing each other so pretty cosy, especially when Indonesian style is to spread out, take up as much space as possible, make lots of noise and make a 5 course meal at their seats. Luckily we had downloaded a load of things from Netflix so this kept us occupied most of the journey, if you havn’t got it people it’s a must! So after surviving the journey we reached Yogyakarta at about 1930 and walked to our hostel about 10 mins away. We stayed at ‘Laura’s Backpackers’ which was fine but the bathrooms were pretty dirty and they kept loads of animals in tiny cages and didn’t seem to be looking after them very well. The staff were all really nice but I think just a bit lazy.

Yogyakarta

So things we did were; muin temple, chicken church and prambaran temple. I don’t want to have too much of a rant here but we were getting a little sick of Indonesia by now and the temples just exacerbated this. For ‘locals’ and they would accept anyone who vaguely looked Indonesian for this, the price was 30,000 IDR pp and for anyone else it was 260,000 IDR pp so for Bodora we put our foot down and did not go in but we decided to pay for Prambaran as it was a bit cheaper at 230,000 IDR pp. We understand that locals may be allowed to have a cheaper entry fee but the difference was extortionate and after being ripped off since day 1 we were bored of it.

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Indonesia – Lombok

At Lombok airport we went through the usual stress with the taxi drivers and managed to get one for 150,000 IDR. We then headed for Mataram, the capital city where we were staying for one night. The hotel was really nice (favhotel) but I’m aftraid to say that’s all that was. There isn’t anything to do in Mataram, if there is please let us know! So late morning we got in a cab to our next destination- Senggigi. We just used a local cab and asked them to put it on the meter, it ended up costing 60,000 IDR. Which is reasonable.

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Senggigi is much nicer and had a bit more to do. We wondered down to the beach and had a little walk and Danielle finally purchased some elephant trousers she had been wanting since we arrived in Bali! She paid 50,000IDR which seemed to be the lowest any stall would go.

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We also treated ourselves to a massage from what seemed to be a chain spa as they were everywhere, called ‘Orchid’. We both had back and shoulders, 30 mins, which was 45,000 IDR pp.

That evening we walked to a local bar which was pretty much empty but had live music and a pool table so we were happy!

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In the morning we had an early start as we were commencing the journey to Gili Trawangan. We paid 65,000 IDR pp which included the shuttle from our Hostel and the local boat over to the island. They picked us up from the hostel at 0830 (Lombok time meant this was really 0900) and our ferry was at 1030. We arrived on Gili T (feeling pretty queasy from the boat journey) about 1115.

Singapore

We decided to get a long layover in Singapore before going to meet Lara’s Dad in Hong Kong.

We tried to get on the free tour they do from the airport but as we wanted to get off and then do our own thing they wouldn’t let us; apparently there are no stops. So after walking back and forth through the huge airport we got a taxi to the gardens by the bay. We didn’t pay to go in as we didn’t have too long but you can still walk around the outside which is lovely.

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After this we walked to in infamous Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling and monkey nuts. They are making a killing on the drinks at £20 a cocktail but I guess you only do it once in your life!

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We then went to meet Laura (Lara’s old school friend who now lives in Singapore) in a wine bar which was much more reasonable! We had a great time catching up :), Laura then took us for dinner at Satay street which is a night food market. The food was pretty cheap and really good, try and fit this in while your there ! (Look up the days it’s on as I’m not sure it’s all the time, we went on a Thursday). Lau then went home and we got an uber to the airport, thanks for our night in Singapore Lau :).

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In the morning we would be in Hong Kong.

 Hong Kong 

We arrived early am into HK airport and got the express train ticket into central station, this was super easy; only  24min journey and cost us $170 for two people (I think single tickets are $100 so you get a bit of a discount on a group ticket). From there my Dad met us and we got a taxi to Wan Chai where we were staying. This was $40 and took 10 mins.

Travelling around HK is really easy. Get an Octopus card ($50, with $41 plus any leftover travel credit is refunded when returned) and top up whatever you like. Octopus is accepted on buses, trams, ferries, trains and even lots of shops in HK! We put on around $150 for the 5 days and we went everywhere including on the fast ferries.  A tram costs about $2.5-$3.5,a bus $3.5-$17 and ferry $17-$22. The journeys are split into zones so the further you go the more expensive it is. Also you pay a much higher cost to go to the touristy areas.  The city is so easy to navigate as a tourist. Most journeys co-ordinate around central station and the central piers.

Day 1

On our first day dad took us exploring the city on the trams, sit upstairs and it’s great for sightseeing! We then met uncle Johnny in the eve who was arriving from India after a 3 week ashram stay. Needless to say we had an interesting dinner catch up with all our different travel stories and 13 years since we had last seen each other! Eating is an interesting experience. There are very few, if any, traditional western Chinese or HK dishes.  A standard dish is chicken feet, tongue n cheek (haha), pigs trotters… the list is endless. We stuck to the basics of steamed rice, BBQ ribs,  sticky rice… they also give you copious amounts of Chinese tea for free which is great.

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Day 2

We can call this skyscraper day. Firstly we  went up the tourism centre which is free and has a bit of an exhibition about HK whilst you look out from the 50th floor.

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Next we caught the tourist ferry ($100, you can get the local one) which has a tour of the harbour and stops around HK.

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We got off in Kowloon where you can go into the Ritz-Carlton hotel and get the lift to the 1ooth floor where there is a (very expensive) restaurant and a fantastic looking tea room. At 3pm you can go up to the 118th floor where there is a beautiful open air bar as it is the very top of the hotel.  There is a closed lounge too as it can get a bit chilly.  The bar is fine just to walk into but the restaurant will need a reservation. It’s a stunning hotel with amazing views of the skyline, and you will pay for this through your food/drink consumption. So we took a few photos and left!

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That evening we went for dinner at ‘Kams roast goose’. Every night there was a huge line for this place and we waiting about an hour for a table (luckily they give you a ticket so you can go off and come back—danielle and I went for a cocktail).

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Surprisingly we had roast goose! We also got noodles, rice and some roast pork. I thought it was amazing, best food we’ve had all trip. Danielle and Johnny quite liked it too but dad hated it and went for McDonald’s afterwards, each to their own! It was quite pricey so make sure everyone in your group is prepared to try something new before you go.

Day 3

Today we took the bus from Wan Chai to Repulse bay which takes about 30mins. Here there’s nice little harbour to walk around and a beach. It was a bit cold for sunbathing but we had a lovely walk.

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We spent most of the evening in the electronics shop which is right next to Wan Chai station. It’s two floors of madness and you can get lots in there for hours, which we did! And for the next couple of days. I’m not really sure how many bargains there are but if you know about technology and how to barter this will be the place for you. If your happy to have a second hand or refurbished phone/laptop then these are much cheaper than market price. Anything brand new seemed to be the same price as home.

Before going home we had to try the famous egg waffles. Although they look completely different to your average sweet waffle they taste pretty similar, due to the little bubbles they are a bit crunchier and taste slightly like coconut.

Day 4

Lantau island. Unfortunately the cable car wasn’t running so we took the ferry from central pier and then a bus on the other side. Took about two hours altogether. Definitely worth it if you have the time. There’s a little village for souvenirs, a Buddhist monestry and a massive statue of the laughing Buddha which was built it 1993.

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It’s worth buying a carved charm on a tassel. They were cheapish and came in beautiful boxes with the meaning of the carving on. We looked everywhere for some others but never found any 😞.

Day 5

A day of walking!

Today it was time to do some exercise and walk to the top of the biggest hill in HK called mount Victoria.  We typed “the peak” into google and off we went. After hiking along some really beautiful pathways we were nearly at the peak… and then we passed it. We were so 🤷‍♀️ confused and looked at google again and only then realised that there were two peaks, one called the peak which seemed impossible to get to and the other the actual Victoria peak which is not called the peak, doh.

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We found our way out of the jungle and got on a bus 🚌 which took 15 minutes to get there, we were so glad to have made the effort as it was an amazing place.  There was a plaza which we explored, we found another McDonald’s, it had an outdoor eating area with the most amazing view (you also paid for this as it was 2x the city price).  We then trundled up to the top floor to a viewing dec where the view was just magnificent, higher than any of the buildings we had been in due to it being on the mountain (big hill).

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There was another viewing platform with a 360 degree view however you had to pay for that. In this building there was a really funky 3D walk through gallery where you could take photos for free. We then plucked up the energy to talk the last 15 minutes to the very top, obviously going the wrong way so it actually took 45 mins.  After all this we got back on the bus to the city.

Before we went to the hotel we ended up at the computer shop again 😍. After leaving with nothing but joy we headed to McDonald’s (staple food of the week).  This time it’s because we wanted to try the purple ice cream, it was sweet potato flavour.  We decided to go for 1/2 vanilla, 1/2 sweet potato 🥔 just incase it was overpowering. It was surprisingly good for about $27 or 27p, McDonald’s was v.cheap.

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Day 6

Chinese Las Vegas : Macau!

We caught a ferry to Macau which cost $… for a single, it’s cheaper to book both together but we didn’t know what time we wanted to come back.  Don’t forget your passport as this is China 🇨🇳… super exciting!!!!

The first thing you see off the ferry is a huge bridge which joins the island to the mainland, it looks like a big white squiggle in the foggy air.  Then you get on any of the free transfers, just pick a hotel and off you go! The hotels were amazing, just like being back in Las Vegas, they filled the sky and had vast grounds full of fountains and gardens.

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We went to the Venetian which was a bonus as we missed this one in Vegas.  Just like the other it has the canal through the centre where you could take a gondola ride.  The great thing in here is that they were fantastic opera singers which performed for everyone lining the banks.  This place was so big it was hard to explain, floors of slot machines, video poker and video roulette, then a huge shopping mall which was double the high street price.  Then finally a food court which was great… finally found some sweet and sour, yum! On the way out (if you could actually find it) there were small stages for entertainment like singing, violin players and magic shows. They were really good 😊.

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We left here and went to the Wynn to see the fountain show just like at the Bellaggio in Vegas. It was really beautiful, another huge hotel and casino where Jonny couldn’t resist the allure of the poker table. Whilst he was playing the big boys game we went for a drink in a really nice bar before heading back on the 45 minute ferry to HK.

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Day 7

Walked to the train to go home.  Again this way a super easy trip. We even had time to get a refund on our octopus 🐙 cards before leving the station.

Bye bye Dad, Johnny and HK. On to Vietnam.