Komodo, Land of Dragons.

Today was the day we had been looking forward to, we were off to see the Dragons! We had been on Flores Island for a few days and booked the trip while we were there through Seeksophie for ยฃ45pp. Seek Sophie

This was a full day boat trip to 4 locations and we were so excited for each one. We were picked up at 5:30am and taken to our boat for the day. There were 12 other people on the boat and we bonded with a girl from Perth and a guy from India.

It was pretty quick and easy getting on the boat and sorting money etc out. You have to pay between 300,00-460,000IDR in national park fees depending on how many people are on the tours. We were given all this information in our emails from seeksophie, and ended up paying 350,000.

So off we sped! We went to the top of the boat and watched the sunrise, it’s beautiful out on the water with all the little islands and villages on the way.

Our first stop was Padar Island, famous for it’s views of 3 beaches, one pink, one black and one white. It was 3 hours away but it went so quickly, you could say it sailed by!

Arriving at a little jetty it’s a pretty steep hike up to the top when you consider the heat even at 9am, but there are lots of places to stop and admire the amazing views. The landscape is truly incredible.

The downside was the black beach, there was a lot of rubbish on it which was a sad sight.

There were cute deer on the main beach eating old coconuts and playing in the water, we had some time to spare waiting on others to climb down so checked out the crystal clear water and the jetty.

We had an hour here and once everyone was back on the boat it was on to our next stop. As we sailed around the island we enjoyed the views and the interesting rock formations, some of them looked like animals or shapes.

Pink beach is about an hour away, named because a certain red coral mixes with the white sand making it a gorgeous pink colour. There were only 2 other boats and it didn’t feel crowded at all which was amazing.

The beach exceeded all expectations, it was so pink! The water was crystal clear and the snorkeling was amazing, we saw so many fish including a clownfish. The surrounding area is also photo worthy, we both wish we’d had more time here as 45 minutes was not long enough.

The excitement of the next destination prevented us from being too sad though. We were headed to Komodo island! Finally after months of looking forward to it we were here!

This time we met up with a few other boats and there was quite a large group of us. We were given a few rules and then taken into the island on a 2.5km walk by the park rangers armed with sticks.

We spotted some wild pigs and deer, then as we approached a watering hole we spotted two Komodo dragons lazing in the sun! There was even a baby Komodo walking around which is quite rare as the adults eat them.

The park rangers helped us take this amazing photo and we stood watching the Komodo for a while, they’re pretty big but they seemed chill as they mainly sleep in the heat of the day.

We were then herded along the track to see if we could spot more, but we found ourselves at a cafe/bar. There were two huge Komodo sleeping under some steps and it was fun having a super cold Bintang after trekking in the heat.

Then we were all hurried along to the boat, as we were walking along the jetty we spotted a small reef shark swimming along which was cool!

Our next stop was Manta Point where we’d hopefully see some Manta Rays! Indonesia is where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet and the current between them means there is a huge variety of marine life.

We passed some amazing looking islands and sand bars on the way, definitely worth a trip if you have time.

We were warned that the currents out here are pretty strong, and the depth is about 10 metres. We jumped in and the current was really strong, I’m not an amazing swimmer but we stayed close to the boat and it wasn’t too bad.

There were no Manta though! We saw a few fish including one with a long nose and I’m pretty sure I saw a bamboo shark laying on the bottom. However our snorkeling got cut short as the girl from Perth was struggling with the current.

We all had to jump back in the boat and sail over to rescue her, and after this there was no more snorkeling. It was sad that we didn’t see Manta but we were happy everyone was ok, there’s always another time!

Everyone was tired after the heat of the day as we made our way back to the mainland. So we watched another magical sunset behind us and arrived back in the town at 18:30. 13 hours after we left! We stopped off at Warung Mama for dinner to talk about the spectacular day we’d had.

The food here is great, you pick what dishes you want from a glass counter with some rice, the vegetarian options were great and the spicy sauce is a must!

After that it was time to walk back to our hotel, obviously with a pit stop at the supermarket for ice cream. I couldn’t recommend this day enough, it felt like such an adventure in a wild part of the world.

El Nido and paradise at Nacpan beach.

I arrived on Palawan Island in the Philippines, excited to get to the beach after a month of City and Country. I landed in Puerta Princesca, the capital of the island. I knew it was pretty easy to get to El Nido in the North via a minivan. It cost around ยฃ10 and took 6 hours.

El Nido is basically the name given to the area you stay in to explore the Bacuit Archipelago, a group of karst islands that is unparalleled paradise.

The journey there was beautiful too, through lush jungle and past dramatic coastline. It was a bit uncomfortable but there was one stop to stretch the legs and eat/buy snacks/toilet.

I finally arrived in El Nido and for some reason hadn’t really planned my itinerary there very well. But I’ll go through it anyway! I stayed at a little hostel called Pawikan which was cheap, clean and only sharing with one other person.

The first thing that struck me about El Nido was how small the little town seemed, stuck between huge karst cliffs, it felt like I had reached a different world. I immediately set off to wander the streets, full of nice looking restaurants, shops and beachfront bars.

El Nido is famous for it’s boat tours, of which you can do A,B,C or D or a combination of them. So there were plenty of places to book, all offering them at similar prices. For reasons unknown even to me, I didn’t book the boat trip immediately, instead I decided to drink a few beers on the beach, got some amazing deep fried chillis and booked a mid morning bus to Nacpan beach for the following day.

Nacpan beach is found North of the town, down a small dirt track that was barely passable. There was one or two hotel/bar/restaurants on arrival, but I was staying at the only hostel. Located right on the beach, The Mad Monkey is a well known chain for backpackers across South East Asia.

After about ten minutes of walking along the beach, a good bonding session with a Swedish guy who had also been on the bus we arrived in paradise. Beautiful beach, clear blue sea and a bar. After checking in we stripped down and got straight on the beach.

I ordered a couple of beers and spent the next 2 days soaking up the sun, drinking heavily, making new friends and enjoying our little slice of paradise.

The mad monkey offered all you can drink for one mad, happy, crazy hour every evening. This is how probably the best experience of my trip started. I had made friends with a Dutch guy called J, and a Ukrainian girl called Svetlana. So we met on the first evening and started drinking, and these were strong rum and cokes and red horse, a 7% San Miguel.

Feeling a little tipsy, I agreed to Svetlana’s request to go for a night swim, now I’m not recommending drunk swimming as it can be dangerous, but off we went with J and a Canadian girl called Sam and dived in. As we were swimming we noticed something odd, we realised that glowing plankton was all around us. Every time we splashed in the water it lit up, if we dived down lights glittered around us.

It was truly an incredible experience, we were so excited and spent so long swimmimg and couldn’t believe our luck. The people working there said it’s super rare to see.

On my last day I felt super ill, hungover and unable to bear the heat. So I cut my trip short by a night, booked a room in El Nido with air con, bought enough snacks to last me at least 2 days and spent the afternoon hibernating. Feeling a little refreshed I finally booked one of the boat trips for the following day.

I was up early and ready to go, our boat left from the main beach and we were soon on our way to small lagoon We arrived and everyone jumped into kayaks, but being on my own I just jumped in the water and started swimming, it was amazing, the water was warm and so clear. It was a lot of fun going through the little cave and emerging into this pool surrounded by vegetation and cliff faces. I couldn’t believe how cool it was.

The next stop was big lagoon! This was just as interesting, it was so shallow as we walked between two cliffs to then dive into the deepest blue lagoon ever. I could see fish swimming in the depths beneath me and it was a nice way to cool off.

Even sailing between all these islands was amazing, like a less crowded version of Ha Long Bay in it’s beauty. We stopped on this tiny beach for lunch and got to explore and swim a bit. The lunch was great, even for a veggie like me.

It was too rough and busy to go to the secret lagoon which was a little disappointing, but we headed off to 7 Commandos beach. Here I went snorkelling for ages, saw clown fish, a big white sea snake and loads of other colourful fish. Then I attempted to play beach volleyball, I was pretty bad but it was still fun. Although I think the Filipinos were a bit more competitive than me. I was also told you could sometimes see turtles!

After lazing on the beach with a coconut it was time to head back. I had really enjoyed the trip and to top it off we had a karaoke competition on the way back and I won! With a beautiful rendition of Oasis – Wonderwall.

After a busy day swimming and still feeling a little rough from Nacpan beach I had a tasty dinner and booked my bus back to Puerta Princesca in the morning. Looking back I wish I had spent more time in El Nido and planned my itinerary a little better. I rushed off and regretted not going to Coron and even maybe doing a different boat trip, but there’s always next time!

A day on the lake in Inle, Myanmar.

So we were up super early today to explore the lake by boat. I think it was around 4am we were getting ready, the tour was through the amazing hostel I was at…the Song of Travel.

Ready for sunrise we set off down the river towards the lake, it was so calm and peaceful as we passed through the town. Once we entered the lake it wasn’t long before we spotted the traditional fisherman. Unfortunately they are posing for the money, as fishing techniques have moved on, but it was cool to see them.

Next up was breakfast! Sat on our little 5 man boat we tucked in as the sun rose, unfortunately it was really cloudy so the sunrise wasn’t the best. Though it was cool when the shafts of light started peaking down through over the mountains.

We were soon off again, the lake was beautiful and we could spot fishermen paddling with their one leg, so they had both hands free. Pretty ingenious!

Our first stop was at a traditional silver smith, where we were shown how they make silver and watched them make extremely detailed pieces of jewelry. It was interesting but I enjoyed the cats that were hanging about more than the shop at the end.

After this we travelled past some incredible floating gardens, with loads of tomatoes growing in all different colours. Then stopped at a ‘floating market’ that was actually all on land apart from a couple of boats trying to sell us souvenirs.

I enjoyed walked around and checking out the various produce and no one is very pushy in Myanmar which made the whole experience more relaxing.

As we left we also spotted a lady wearing traditional brass neck coils, the traditional clothing of the Kayan tribe. It was a good spot and she smiled and waved at us as we sped by.

Our next stop was the Shwe Inn Thein pagoda, this was near the small village of Indein and the journey there along these small waterways was amazing.

The little village we stopped by was cute and the old ruined Pagoda were amazing, you have to pay a fee to take photos, I thought I was templed out but wish I had done it now. You can rent longyi, the traditional cloth worn in Myanmar there too. I enjoyed hanging out by the bridge while some of the others wandered around.

We went Speeding back through the little waterways towards the lake again, our next stop was to learn about lotus and cotton production. This was really interesting and we learnt a lot! A few people on the your bought some clothes from here too.

I was excited for our next stop, lunch! We were brought to a stilted village on the water and led into a room where we had some snacks and tea.

This feast they made for us was so tasty, I couldn’t have the fish but all the sides and salads tasted so fresh. I loved the green tomatoes grown on the lake. The food was soon devoured and we lay out for a rest, I even fell asleep for a moment.

Then the women who had cooked for us had us paddling them around the village in little wooden canoes. They were giggling at us trying to row the whole way, finally before we left this little guy posed for us.

I even saw a snake pop his head up out of the water as we rowed the little boats around! Our final stop was to see traditional cigars being made, I’m not much of a fan of cigars but I enjoyed trying the flavoured ones, especially banana and I liked that they made them with 100% natural ingredients.

We ended the trip going through big water plants and at the same bridge we had been on the day before. We didn’t stay long here and started the journey back to the hostel. This was one of my favourite parts as I enjoyed the views across the lake.

We finished the day with some amazing food, including tea leaf salad, and a few beers at a bar in the center of town. The next day it rained from morning till I got my night bus to Yangon, but the staff kept us we fed with evening snacks. The hostel and their staff were incredible and I would recommend everyone to stay there.

Mingun and the cracked pagoda.

I was up early again today, knowing that my bus to Bagan was booked for 2pm I deliberated on what to do. I went down for a breakfast of noodles and fruit and spoke to the reception for help. I wanted to know if I could make it to Mingun, an area North of Mandalay, and back by 2pm.

Luckily for me if I left in the next ten minutes I could make the 9am boat up the river, so with the help of the hostel staff I was racing there in the back of a tuk tuk.

After sitting around from 8:45 the boat was acually ready to leave for 9am so myself and 4 other tourists walked a very unsteady plank of wood up to the boat and we sped off up river. The journey took around an hour and it was great, I spent it bird watching and looking for river dolphins, unfortunately I didn’t see any of the latter.

Once you arrive in Mingun you pay a small tourist fee, and decide if you want to walk around yourself or let a local latch on to you and take you around with the expectancy of a tip at the end.

A young guy latched on to me and I let him take me around as he promised me some thanaka paste. It’s a traditional paste made from a tree, they rub the bark onto a flat stone with some water to create it. Then apply it to areas at risk of sun damage.

Thanaka’d up the first sight was the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, a huge unfinished pagoda, first the king who was building it died, then it was hit by several earthquakes. It’s very impressive even unfinished and it’s cool seeing the huge cracks going down through it.

Next up is the Mingun bell, the second largest in the world and the largest uncracked bell. I got to stand in it and listen to people striking it with a huge piece of wood before I had a go myself.

The 3rd sight is the white pagoda, almost blinding to the eye in the sunlight. Hsinbyume pagoda is striking with its wavy design and golden pagoda at the summit. I wandered around here in awe.

I stopped for a drink as it was getting pretty hot at this point and chatted to my guide. Then we went to see a small pagoda with some interesting Buddha inside. One was made completely from one teak tree, another was stone and another made from metal. It was nice but probably not a must see.

The huge traditional boat just outside was pretty cool, again being carved from one huge tree. The last stop were the huge lion sculptures that are now missing their heads. I thought they looked more like elephants but was assured they were lions. At this point I went my seperate way from the guide, giving him 5000 for his troubles. He started asking for US dollars and I think was a bit disappointed I didn’t have any.

I spent the next hour wandering around checking out all the fried goods and trinkets lining the main street. Then it was back on the boat and back to Mandalay. I took a motorbike taxi back to the hostel with 30 minutes to spare till my bus.

Then it was a 6 hour, 96 Mile journey of stopping every 10-15 minutes to let people on and off. Even when I thought the little mini bus was full they pulled out plastic stools for more people to sit on. I was super excited to get going to Bagan, it’s probably the main reason people head to Myanmar.

I arrived at the station around 7:30pm and had to take an expensive taxi -12,000 kyat into New Bagan where I was staying. There are 3 areas you can choose from, the others being Old Bagan and Nyaung-U. It’s pretty same same with anywhere you stay as they kind of surround the main temple area. You have to pay 25,000 kyat for a 3 day pass to the Bagan area. About ยฃ12 which I didn’t mind at all if it allows them to keep the temple complex in good shape.

I checked in and immediately headed to a vegetarian place I had heard of called Moon (Be kind to animals) it was a 15 minutes walk from the hotel and I saw my first pagoda in the darkness just off the main road. The food at Moon was amazing, I had a tea leaf curry with rice, it tasted so fresh and garlicky. I couldn’t wait to try more on the menu.

Heading back I was up early (again) to rent an E-bike, am electric motor bike at 5am to go see the sunrise from one of the pagoda.

Gili T and the Waterlice

Even after doing so much sightseeing every day, 2 days of relaxation and chilling out was enough for us so we decided to take a boat trip out to some cool snorkeling spots where we might see more turtles and some other cool sealife. Our hotel organised it and after being escorted to the boat we jumped and were given the chance to have flippers.

The boat was fun and pretty rocky as we crossed between the islands to Gili Meno and turtle point! Once we reached our spot everyone jumped in and followed our snorkel guide. As we were swimming it felt like something had stung or bit me! I had a bit of a panic and quickly looked around me but I couldn’t see anything.

This continued for the rest of the swim as we watched turtles far below us grazing on the seabed, one of them came swimming up to the surface and the whole group went crazy trying to get close to it, why can’t we just enjoy things without having to touch?

I later found out that the little stings I was getting were from sea lice – more on them here : https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/oceanfit.com.au/education/sea-lice-an-itchy-problem/amp

The swim took us to our boat which had gone ahead and was waiting for us all. We jumped back on and sped off to the next snorkelling spot a little closer to the shore. The fish here were good and it was fun being a bit further out than I had dared the day before, but after the 3rd spot it all became a bit too similar. Even though we were in a group of 20 or so I never felt too crowded apart from the turtle moment.

We stopped on Gili Air and had a little wander and a beer to celebrate a good days snorkelling before heading back to Gili T as the sun was starting to go down. When we got back Peter decided to go for a massage, but I was only interested in seeing that amazing sunset one more time.

So I walked over to the West side of the island and sat at a table, ordered a beer and watched an incredible sunset over Bali. It was sad to think that tomorrow would be the last day we spent in Asia. That night we went back to the BBQ place where I had lobster and Peter had steak. It was so good and cheap compared to back home, but expensive compared to the rest of Bali.

Gili T and the Seasnake

The journey from Ubud to Gili Trawangan, the largest of the 3 Gili Islands should, on paper, be simple. However, these types of journeys are rarely easy in Asia. Our taxi was late picking us up, and I knew as we got on that the empty mini bus was a bad sign. Sure enough we went to another 3 hotels to fill the bus out before heading off to the port of Padang Bai where our 1pm boat would be waiting for us.

We arrived at the pier just before 1 to crowds of people, and no sign of any boat. Basically a boat would come in, they’d shout a company and everyone with those tickets would board. Luckily we could buy beers, juices and snacks while we waited. I think our boat arrived at around 4pm. We randomly met a couple from a village not far from where I grew up who were waiting for the same boat.

We all crowded on, I bought a few beers for the 2 hour boat crossing and we sat near the back. I had read that the boat crossing wasn’t great and it turned out to be very true, the boat stank of petrol fumes and was pretty rocky. I was stood by the door with a bit of breeze but I don’t doubt the reason everyone fell asleep was because of the fumes.

Finally we made it to freedom and jumped off onto Gili T, after a full 8 or 9 hours of travel. Luckily it’s not a huge place and it was only a 15 minute walk along a main track which circles the island to our hotel, the Pearl of Trawangan. A beautiful bamboo restaurant and bar awaited us and a lovely little cabin in amongst the foliage.

We were pretty tired and once we had unpacked and relaxed for a bit we walked out to the beach and had a little wander before heading to the restaurant and enjoying a couple of beers and some great food. We had a little walk up the strip and sat on some bean bags at a beach bar. We were soon ready for bed so went back to our cabin and had a great night’s sleep.

We had a bit of a lie in the next day and enjoyed the free breakfast back up in the restaurant. Our plan today was beach beach and more beach, our hotel opened out onto beautiful white sandy beach and we chose a spot with some loungers and set up camp.

After a while sun bathing we decided to cool off and do some snorkelling. I’ve only really been snorkelling in Koh Samet, Thailand and this was a million times better. There were fish everywhere as we swam along grassy banks and over rocky areas.

As I was following some fish over one grassy peak I was greeted by the sight of a black and white striped sea snake heading straight toward me. I basically panicked, thrashed about a bit and turned round swimming like hell in the opposite direction. Looking back I probably scared the snake more than anything but there was no way I could act cool when one of the most poisonous animals was coming towards me!

I didn’t let this put a dent in my snorkelling fun and continued to explore, secretly hoping to see a turtle. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and after trying to relax a bit more on the beach we got itchy feet and decided to spend the afternoon walking around the island.

We stopped our stuff off and started heading along the one track. The walk took us past super posh looking resorts, little huts selling magic mushrooms and a bit of a rubbish tip in what looked like an abandoned hotel development.

The best bit was finding some bleached trees out on the beach with a swing to enjoy the scenery and take some great Instagram pics. We continued on to the next bar and stopped for a drink and some shade from the sun for a bit.

Gili T is such a relaxing place in the daytime, the weather was gorgeous and you could see excellent views of Bali and Lombok across the sea.

We continued around the island and hit the beginning of the main strip, this is full of bars, hostels, restaurants and street food.

We grabbed a bite to eat at Scallywags, a BBQ place with unlimited salad bar and a hatch where you can order various meat and fish and tell them how you want it cooked, which sauces, rubs etc you want on it and they’ll then bring it to your table.

The food was really good, even the salad bar had some good stuff on it. Once we had eaten our fill we met up with the couple from the pier the previous day and went for a few drinks and a dance on the main strip. We had such a good time and agreed to meet up the next day to do some more beach chilling and snorkelling.

48 Hours in Hamburg

Hamburg is only around an hour and a half from most major UK airports. Germany’s second largest City, it lies in northern Germany just south of the Danish border. It’s famous for it’s canals and waterways, typical German architecture and slightly seedy red light district! Here are some tips on what to see, where to go and what to eat.

Explore Strandkai and Hafencity

Wander through the old warehouse district, with bridges criss-crossing the water ways it makes for some great photos.

You can also check out the modern Elbphilharmonie building, it’s free to enter and you can get great views of the City from up there.

Miniatur Wunderland is also located here, it’s a bizarre mix of central Europe’s most famous sights mixed with top industrial spots. It’s actually quite fun to walk around and there are some weird sights to find. It gets pretty busy so it’s good to book in advance.

Walk along the promenade and grab a beer and bratwurst, we got a great German hotdog from here and sat in deck chairs looking out over the water.

Rathaus and Aubenalster lake

Check out the beautiful Rathaus (town hall) and take some time to relax in the market square in front before taking a walk around Aubenalster lake for amazing views and a break from the bustling City.

Reeperbahn

For an interesting night life head to the busy Reeperbahn, filled with bars it’s the Cities Red light district. I’m not going to lie and some parts were pretty seedy, but it’s also just a good night out. We ended up singing in a Thai karaoke bar after doing a mini pub crawl down the street.

Wander around Sternschanze

This bohemian neighborhood is full of vintage shops and cool bars/eateries and a good way to spend a morning. On Saturdays they have a great market popup to visit! There’s also interesting street art to find.

Take a boat tour of the waterways

We did late evening tour, it took us around the shipyard and docks which wasn’t so exciting but entering the City waterways was definitely worth the wait.

Top places to eat in Hamburg

We found so many nice places, first off my best advice is to stop at any little place for bratwurst and currywurst, they’re a mainstay of quality and good for a quick and easy lunch.

Xeom Vietnamese

We love Vietnamese food and this place couldn’t do it any better, the whole vibe made us feel like we were back in Vietnam and the food was incredible and full of that flavour that the Vietnamese are famous for.

Pizza Bande

Hidden away just off the Reeperbahn, this place does the most amazing Pizza, you just order your toppings from the extensive menu and they cook it from scratch right in front of you. Mix that with a good selection of beers and a bohemian vibe makes this place a little gem in an otherwise slightly seedy area.

Brooklyn Burger Bar

We were a bit hungover and craving something really messy and dirty and this restaurant served it up for us. Loads of burger choices, excellent fries and most importantly, tasty dips to accompany it all. We loved the dรฉcor here, the friendliness of the staff and it was busy which is always a good sign. The food was delicious too, with huge portions.

That’s how you spend a few fun filled days in Hamburg. I’d love to go again in the Summer when they have their artificial beaches and bars out on the waterfront. It’s a cool City and a cheap destination if you’re looking to get away for a weekend.

Lets face it, who doesn’t love a big German sausage?