Indonesia: Bandung and Jakarta

Bandung

From Yogyakarta we went to Bandung which was an 8hr night train. This time we paid the much more expensive 350,000 IDR pp executive tickets as we couldn’t face the economy over night. This was definately the right choice as the seats reclined and had lots of leg room, however they kept bright clinical lights on all night so make sure to take an eye mask!

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Bandung is meant to be really good for cheap shopping however we didn’t really find this the case and only bought Danielle one t-shirt!

Bandung was a bustling city from sunrise to set.  It had some type of stall lining every street, they are most famous for their tshirts. It was challenging for us to shop as their super cheap stalls were mainly local clothing and the huge malls were incredibly expensive, think Westfield type of shops and tags.

We did take advantage of the western culture of Bandung.  We had a Dunkin Doughnuts breakfast,  KFC lunch and Pizza Hut dinner. Very naughty but after a month of fried rice for every course a change was needed.

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Jakarta

From here we went on to Jakarta by train in economy again as it was only 3 hours.  This time it was great. The seats were in twos and were individual rather than a bench. There was a charging station and tray for every seat. Sounds like a normal train right! We don’t even have chargers in the UK sometimes.

From the train we tried to get an Uber but they cancelled twice as the traffic around the station was awful. We ended up getting in a bemo type taxi (a scooter with two seats and a little cover).  It was a fun ride as we could skip loads of traffic but he got lost about three times and in the end kicked us out as he couldn’t cross the main road. We walked the rest of the way.

We had 24 hours here so not much time to do anything and I (Danielle) had to get yet another PhD application in.  We did however find an amazing restaurant. The food was Indonesian but in a funky style and they did these amazing milkshakes.

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Our hotel was nice for the price but people were allowed to smoke inside and in the eating area which means it smelt disgusting as well as giving you sore lungs.

Then next day we managed to get a grab taxi to the airport. The traffic was so manic it took about 30 minutes just to get onto the main road. Just as we were starting to get a good flow we were being bibbed at and harassed by a taxi behind us, he even drove between the two lanes to get by the side of us.  We had no clue as to what was going on. In the next breath we were pulled in by the police.

It appeared that the grab car was driving in the taxi lane, he ended up with a ticket and a fine. In all this time Lara and I were panicking about getting to the airport on time as it had already taken so long to get to that point. The taxi man gave us the international money sign and said toll road.  After agreeing as we needed to get there he stopped at a toll card vendor and said 50,000IDR.  We realised he didn’t have his own card so instead of just us paying the tolls he wanted us to buy his card and weeks worth of tolls for him! Needless to say we were pretty ready to be leaving Indonesia…we had had some great experiences here but also a lot of stresses, we would just say be careful if you are a female travelling alone. It is still a very masculine dominated environment.

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Toll roads are usually about 10,000IDR per car per road and are a good idea if you want to get anywhere quickly. If you have loads of time you can go the long slow route.

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Northern Thailand – Pai

Then in the morning we went to Pai. We had been recommended Pai a lot by various travellers. Its about a 2/3 hour journey from Chiang Mai, and such a beautiful drive through lush Thai jungle. We stopped along the way for a nice rice lunch in a little road side cafe. When we arrived we went straight to our hostel; Spicypai, another recommendation from a travelling friend. This was a nice friendly hostel, just beware of the mosquitos and spiders. The rooms are bamboo shacks with holes in the walls and the beds are crazy  uncomfortable….but for one night the hostel has a good vibe. I can’t say there’s much to do in Pai but enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, a big buddha and a canyon, pick one to watch the sunset, we tried to do both and kind of ended up missing it. Just about managed to get a couple of snaps over the canyon which was amazing. In the evening we went to walking street and had a few drinks, the night life is pretty good here if your interested!

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After our outdoor shower we started making our way back to Chiang Mai, goodbye hippies and mushroom lovers! Just as we were winding through the middle of nowhere enjoying the northern Thailand jungle..bang! we managed to get ourselves a puncture :(. The roads to Pai are in perfect condition so we realised it was because the inner tubing had melted in the heat!

Northern Thailand – Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle

Next day we took a day trip to Chiang Rai and the golden triangle.

We left at 7am. Got into the usual minivan, where every Thai and other Asian seem to have permission to drive like an F1 racer. We first stopped at the eggy hot springs. These have been encompassed into mini wishing well like creations and dumped in the middle of a car park so everyone can visit and eat at the same time. They were pretty hot and steamy (with the usual sulphur odour). The difference here is that some very cleaver ladies started up their own boiled egg business, plopping small baskets if eggs in the boiling ponds to then sell on.

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We then drove onto the white temple which is a must see! Even if it was rather rushed and very crowded, it’s still beautiful.

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We then kept driving and went on a boat trip over to Laos For a quick stop. After a buffet lunch we went to the viewpoint where you can see Myanmer,  Laos and Thailand.  We had a great local guide called Tik who was a really interesting guy.

 

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The hill tribe and long neck was the final stop and we just about managed to get a quick photo and chat with one of the ladies before a storm decided to set in!

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We all bundled into the van and then about halfway back to Chiang Mai the van broke down…It was our lucky day! Tik was very good about it and 40 mins later another van turned up to deliver us back to the hostel…sleep time!

We had a chilled out day in Chiang Mai after this, walking around the markets.

Vietnam: Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh City

The first night we arrived we decided it was time for a drink as we hadn’t had one in a while…anyway a few Long Islands later we were both extremely worse for ware and have vowed not to drink again 🙏. Local Vietnamese spirits are lethal!

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The next day we made it across the river to Dani’s friend Clair’s flat. She lives on the 29th floor and has stunning views over the city, after a tough day nursing deadly heads this was a glorious feeling! We bought ourselves copious amounts of crisps and pot noodle.

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So the main (tourist) things we did in Ho Chi Minh were the war remmenants museum and a day trip to Cu Chi tunnels. The war museum is a must if you’re there, it’s only 15,000 dong and gives an interesting account of the Vietnam with some really eye opening photography.

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The Cu Chi tunnels we are not so sure on, it was what felt like a really long day with not much time actually at the tunnels. It was over a two hour journey from HCM. It was good to see the surroundings and try to understand what it must have been like but it was quite pricey ~180,000 dong (bus and tunnels entry fee) and a long trip, the museum in the city centre was much more informative and you could get a much better feel of what really happened. The Cu Chi tunnels tour was interesting but much less informative…if you have a penchant for small spaces though you’d love it! you get the chance to crawl through one of the tunnels, Danielle got half way before freaking out, but I couldn’t even go in 😦

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Whilst staying with Claire she took us to two lovely restaurants, one aimed at the expatriates; pretty classy food with a price tag to match. We had a lovely ‘English style fish and chips’ which was perfect after being away from home for so long! The other one was a Thai restaurant.

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Vietnam: Dalat – Mui Ne

Next bus journey took us to a little place called Dalat, we stayed in a hostel called ‘Dalat Green’, the owners were lovely; we had nice breakfasts and a free dinner one night. However, it was very small so quite difficult to meet people and was far away from the town (we would advise to stay near the lake). The main thing we did here was rent a scooter and enjoy a proper tourist day going to; Pongour waterfall, Elephant falls, a silk factory, a temple with a huge laughing Buddha and a coffee plantation (worst coffee we’d had in a while!). It was a beautiful day and quite easy to fit it all in as all fairly near each other…Pongour is just a bit further away and be prepared for about 500m of a bumpy scooter ride down a dirt track.

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So after our busy day we had a good nights sleep and in the morning got the bus to Mui Ne. To be honest the only thing we would recommend here is the sand dune sun rise tour which was pretty stunning even though our driver got us there late and we missed the first part of the sunrise….also our jeep didn’t actually drive on the sand which we thought it was going to so check that out when you book, we paid 70,000 dong so maybe you have to pay a bit more to get a better service. After the sunrise we also got driven to the red sand dunes where you can surf, to the fairy stream which is a stunning little walk, then finally to the fishing village which is quite sad as they don’t know anything about conservation and throw away scraps they don’t want and leave the poor little fish to die on the sand instead of putting them back in the water. We are not sure what/if anything we can do about this so if anyone knows or works in this area please tell us!

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From Mui Ne we took the us to our final destination in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon, we found they were both used interchangeably).

Vietnam: Hue – Hoi An

From Hanoi we then got another night bus to Hue. We only stayed here one night but had a great day exploring; took a dragon boat trip (300,00 for two people) to the pagoda and then got off by imperial city. We only walked around the outside as the entrance ticket was 150,000 and you can see so much from the outside anyway. One thing we would recommend is a little cafe called mandarin orange, lovely food and the owner gave us some really nice postcards of pics he had taken himself.

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From Hue we rented a scooter to do the next leg of the journey to Hoi An; The Hai Van Pass made famous on Top Gear. This was really fun, got some great views of the scenery. If you’re not confident driving you can pay for someone to drive you. On the way we stopped at Lang co bay, a massive white Buddha and marble mountains.

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Hoi An was really lovely and the first night we stayed in a great homestay called golden bee, sadly it was really busy so we could only book one night but we’d definitely recommend and they have free bicycles to use. We had a lovely day cycling to the beach. We then went to a hostel closer to the old town which was still good just a bit more expensive, Hoa Binh.

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Next day we hired a scooter and drove to ‘My Son Temple’. This was beautiful, a definite must if you’re there! Be prepared for the 150,000 entrance fee but we thought it was worth it.

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From Hoi An we got another night bus to Nha Trang, which is basically a holiday destination for Russians. Imagine southern Spain for the Brits. We had a really lovely time mainly relaxing here and taking couple of days out of travelling, especially as it was Dani’s birthday. We treated ourselves to a facial where they wrapped us up in cold cucumber, much nicer that it sounds!!

Thailand – Bangkok

I don’t think we’ll ever forget arriving into the Khao San Road (where our hostel was) at midnight with weary legs and heavy backpacks. For anyone who’s not been there, imagine trying to walk through hundreds of tourists dancing to booming music in the middle of the street, most of them out of their minds on local spirits and laughing gas. Plus the hundreds of locals trying to get you into their bars, sell you flashing light toys and street food-fried spiders and cockroaches!
We somehow made it to our room (a sweatbox with a fan) and drifted off to the sounds of drunk teenagers and starboy.

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In the morning we explored the less crazy Khao San Road and had a yummy, cheap (40baht), pad Thai for breakfast. The first of many to come! That night we took the local bus to soi cowboy… lots of bars, lots of western men, lots of lady boys and girls in bikinis. We sat and watched in amazement speaking to a nice couple from Yorkshire.

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In the morning we took a tuk tuk (40baht) around some of the temples. It was boiling so we were pretty happy to be driven around in a shaded tuk tuk. Just be careful of the stop off at the tourist centre to try and get you to buy something. We just sat and talked to the lady and told her we couldn’t buy anything yet as we had to talk to our friends. Don’t feel pressure from the tuk tuk drivers they just really want you to buy something because then they get a fuel voucher.

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