A Travellerspoint blog

Brisbane, the East Coast - Fraser Island

semi-overcast 28 °C

Ok Ok I know I'm useless at keeping this updated, and it was sucha promising start too!
So we stayed in Brisbane for a while (2 and a half months) in which time we lived in Base Palace Backpackers hostel for a week (thanks to Scott and his discounted rates...not entirely above board but these are the things your Geordie friends will do for you!) then found an advert on share-accomodation.net which offered us a room in a very nice Queenslander house for $190 a week for both of us for 6 weeks which came inclusinve of a very graceful (not really) sausage dog called Ruby and a very timid and slightly schizophrenic terrier called Custard. It was great becasue is was only a 40 minute walk (or 10 minute bus) to the city where both me and clare had managed to get jobs. Clare scored a waitressing job in the best paying bar in town called Fridays and I got a very well paid job temping for the Queensland Nursing council doing admin for $20 an hour (better wages than at home and less effort involved) and we merrily worked for 37 hours a week and tried (and failed) to save money for the first four weeks. (Top money saving tip - visit the food courst just before they close and you can get dicounted food, usuually half price) To be honest the working and going out at weekends ended up making us feel like we were basically doing what we would have done back home so after a rushed decision we headed off one weekend to Byron Bay to try out surfing and to see the sea and nota man made lagoon in a city centre (i.e. Brisbanes South bank...approximately 70% kids pee we're told). It was amazing, it was the remedy we were in need of, it was beautiful, it was the kick start of our adventuring again! We stopped into a Tribal Travel (local backpackers holiday booking place) and managed, in 30 minutes before our bus took us back to Brisbane, to have entirely booked our last few weeks in Australia, making sure we hit all the highlights on our way round!
We handed our notices in a our respective palces of employment and began our saying our goodbyes (and had a samll gathering for my 30th birthday....our first BBQ in Oz and a night out!) before packing our bags and saying goodbye to the dogs and Jane (our hostess) before getting on the Premier bus (greyhound buses are notorious for breaking down and more expensive!) and heading to our first East coast destination Rainbow Beach. To be honest our first impression was not the best....we arrived at 7pm to a town with everything shut apart from one shop that shut at 7:30pm which we had to scamper up to to make sure we could eat that evening! We were in a very quaint backpackers called Pippies though so we were at least comfortable for the night. The next morning was a glorious day and we finally got to see the very small town in the daylight. It's really nothing to shout about, it is pretty off the beaten track however the beach is worth seeing. there is an aboriginal stroy relating to the beach which gets its name from the thousands of colours found in the cliffs surrounding the bay but it's long and I'll probably get it wrong (must google it) and it was lovely just to lie on the beach and run into the freezing cold water every so often and watch the 4x4's trundling along the sand.
We left Rainbow Beach that evening (we had a lot to fit into very few days!) and headed up to Hervey Bay which is the main jumping off point to Fraser Island (the largest sand Island in the world) where we were going on our self-drive (although neither of us can drive) 4x4 tour. We stayed a a very clean backpackers called Next and had also met up with Adam (Clare's university friend) on the bus up so we decided a celebration was in order and defied hostel law and drank some drinks in Adam's room to catch up for a while before trying to find somewhere to go in town (nowhere, everything seems to close at 11pm), but it was a nice walk around! In the morning it was a fruit breakfast on the beach before aome fribee-ing on the beach and some fish and chips (I just had chips) and some angry seagulls circling us and trying to steal our food. We then had to meet out Fraser Island group and have a safety talk (for anyone lucky enough to watch the Queensland offical safety video....it is hilarious and "Be Dingo Safe!"). We then had to do our shopping for 9 people ($20 each) in the shop next door, of which we managed to buy too little.
The next morning was 'Launch day', we packed up our 4x4 and headed to the ferry terminal and the adventure began! No one told us the weather was going to be rubbish....it was a hard drive and a miserable time was spent looking at Lake McKenzie for our first stop. We ran back to the 4x4 and decided we needed to find some cover so we could rummage in the Eskies (food containers) on the top of the truck. We found the only town on the island and used a bench outside the shop to hastily prepare cheese sandwiches, cuningly using two swiss army knives to butter the bread before doing the dangerous beach drive up to the aboriginal camp ground we were camping in on the first night. The tides are extrememly dangerous on Fraser Island and you can only drive up them on certain times of the day for fear of being swept out to sea...
We made it in one piece though and we lucky enough to be able to sleep in a rotunda rather than tents and we even got to build a massive camp fire which we shared with another group once the rain had stopped. It was a great first night with preparing our dinner and drinking goon (boxed Oz wine which is rahter too cheap and nasty) and sitting round a huge fire sharing stories and looking out for dingoes. Me and Adam decided at one time to go searching for firewood which led to an amusing incident of borrowing and axe from the aboriginals and deciding whther it was better to take wood to axe or axe to wood....being a woman I was right and the axe needed to go to the wood as the original need for an axe was that we were uable to lift the log we needed to chop!). Cue hilarious attempts to chop the log in front of another group of amused Germans... we eventually got enough fuel for the fire!
The Second day was much nicer in terms of weather, although it was a bit cloudy. We got up and had breakfast or cornflakes and other such hangover cures and got into the packed 4x4 and headed to Indian Head in a hurry (we were behind schedule and the tide was coming in FAST!). We got there unscathed and saw the breathtaking views from on top of Indian Head (a hike up the hill first) but the sea was too rough to see the whales and turtles usually visible in the sea below.
There was then the hard decision on whether to drive up to the Champagne Pools but due to our late arrial at Indian Head it was decided that it was too much of a risk so only 3 of us then decided to walk to 2km to see the Pools. they were spectacular but as we had missed low tide they were also a bit dangerous and we nearly got swept away! So we headed back to the 4x4, taking along with us on Clare's towel, what looked like a tarantula...cue hysterical twoel throwing and me carfully removing the 6 legged-half dead spider...which turned out to be a non-dangerous Huntsman.
We headed down to Eli Creek and waded down the crystal clear (and very cold) water creek and did more frisbee-ing before heading to our next campsite (where nasty rangers were willing to dish out harsh fines for noise after 9pm.
We set up our tents and set about making dinner of pasta and beans and any other food we had thought to buy and ate huge amounts before heading to the beach for more goon drinking (to avoid the ranger fines). After a few dune related peeing trips and some dingo scaremongering we deceided to head back to the campsite and hit the hay and be ready (on time) for day 3.
The best was saved for last.....beautiful weather and easy driving! We hit Lake Wabby first and it is well worht the 45 minute walk to see! It is just amazing....we swan on the lake and even took part in some dues boarding down the massive sand dune and into the lake before heading back to the 4x4 as quickly as possible so we could sample Lake McKenzie in nice weather. It was a completely different place than what we had seen on the first day and we were massively disappointed to only have 15 minutes of the lake (in which some very funny fastforwarded beach frisbee-ing and sunbathing took place) before heading abck to the ferry home.

Posted by garvie 18:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia

sunny 20 °C

It's been a long time since I've blogged and I apologize but things have been pretty hectic. We moved through the rest of South East Asia so quickly that we just didn't have time to keep you updated.
We're in Australia now, a little later than planned as our new found friends from South Africa begged us to go back to Koh Pangnan for another Full Moon Party which meant we had to change our flights to Oz.
We made it here though, after a long 12 hour flight with British Airways (not as good as Qantas!) to Sydney. It was a night flight and I unfortunately did not get any sleep so we landed at 6am, I was groggy and....COLD. We travelled in the usual style of shorts, flip flops and vest tops after spending a few hot days on the beach and in Bangkok to arrive in winter in Australia. It was a bit of a shock to the system but we're glad to report that Australians are mad if they think that the weather here ever gets cold...it only gets lukewarm compared to the UK!
We spent about an hour getting out of Sydney airport, due to their need to check everyone for wood items (because they don't have woodworm here apparently, and don't want it for obvious reasons!). We did have to remark that the customs people were really lovely and helpful, possibly due to having to deal with the stern faced Vietnamese previously.
We headed out at 7am to find somewhere we could store our luggage for the day and to find jumpers to wear. We successfully ditched our bags and walked through the city centre ona mission to find the Opera House and Habour Bridge. We stopped for a hearty breakfast of course and studied the maps we'd found for free and decided we were fit enough to walk the sights of the big city.
We literally kept walking in a straight line to find the world famous landmarks but it was all a bit surreal at 8am and we've also come to the conclusion that we're suffering from 'Landmark Viewing Fatigue' which means we no long 'ooooh' and 'ahhh' over the things we've been wanting to see for years. For exmaple, Clare's comments on the Harbour Bridge - "Oh, it's just a bigger version of the Tyne Bridge then..." and my comments on the Opera House - "Oh, it's a bit small really...and there are too many stairs...now where are the toilets?".
We took some pretty pictures though and killed some time sitting by the landmarks taking turns to snooze on the park benches and listening to the Aboriginal man play his digeridoo.
The reason we needed to kill so much time was because we were meeting Clare's cousin once she finished work at 5pm so it was a long wait when you're that tired and a bit disorientated.
Luckily, we survived the wait and met Nicola and she took us back to the suburbs (Hornsby) so we could stay there for a few nights and recouperate and doing plenty of laundry. It was great to just be able to take our time and relax and be in a house rather than a guesthouse. I remember the first night, sitting down to a home cooked dinner and sitting around a dining table and not having to pay...it was bliss!
We mostly hid in the suburbs for a few nights and tried to catch up on sleep and adjust our body clocks again before we hit the city again. We decided to check out Manly beach (tip from Nicola) rather than Bondi beach as it's a nicer area. And it was lovely....we stood and watched the surfers try and catch some waves and had a nice lunch and tried to find bargains in the surf shops (nothing is going to be as cheap as Bangkok!). We headed back on the commuter ferry at 5pm so we could see the sunset over the Harbour Bridge which people usually pay a lot of money to do on a private cruise and it was stunning.
The next night we said good bye and many thanks to Nicola and headed for a night in the city before catching our flight to Brisbane. It was a bit of a mistake...we wanted a bit of a night out and we got a big night out which ultimately led to a bit of a disaster of sorts! We managed to set an alarm to wake us up at an appropriate time to catch the flight...however, we forgot to change the alram clock to Oz time and so we slept in until 10:30am and our flight was at 11:10am... I was very optomistic that we could still make it but we only managed to get on t a train to the airport at 11:10am rather than the plane! It wasn't a complete distaster though, we had to pay a small charge to change us to the next flight (it was a popular morning for it according to the JetStar staff) and we were on our way to sunny Brisbane in search of jobs and cheap accommodation (and a few friends from home!).

Posted by garvie 18:36 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Na Trang, Hue, Mui Ne and Cambodia

Sorry it's been a long time since I last posted a blog but we've been ever so busy over the past few weeks! So...Nah Trang was beautiful. It is a beach resort with a huge stretch of beach with plenty of sun loungers and umbrellas and people willing to charge you a fortune (a relative, 'on a tight budget' amount anyway) to have the pleasure of a day filled with sunbathing, and scuttling across the red hot sand to the sea to cool off. We spent 3 days there, taking a break, as it were, from the long bus journies and making the most of not being in the city envirnoment.
We took a boat tour on our second day to see some of the small island, to snorkel at the reefs and swim beside the boat drinking, what the captain of the boat described as "f***ing minging wine!" at a very loud volume from his floating bar whilst we all circled him in the safety rings from the boat screaming "Yo!' (Cheers!). A truely bizarre experience...and truely awful mulberry wine! We were fed a huge lunch though on the top of the boat, in the blazing sunshine and were taken to a man made beach where we had to pay to have the privilige of sitting on the very small beach.

Sorry I'm going to publish this then get back to it at a later date to fill in the details about South East Asia.

Posted by garvie 23:21 Comments (0)

Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An

After our Cruise around Ha Long Bay we decided that we needed to see more of the city. We went to see the water puppetry (after a very long walk in the wrong direction before realising we'd walked right past the building we needed) which was....interesting. What made the night more amusing was Clare's questioning afterwards..."How did they get the fox from the water up the tree?!"...hard to explain why that question was so silly!
The next morning we were up early to go and see Ho Chi Minh's (Uncle Ho) body at the mausoleum... we just about made it on time, using very excitable taxi man and some cunning queuing techniques (just walk faster than the other people queuing). We were ushered into a giant pyramid tomb by very solemn looking guards (who 'shushed' Clare) and past the body of Uncle Ho. I didn't enjoy it at all, firstly because in his will Uncle Ho asked to be cremated but the government decided this was not what the people wanted, secondly, he didn't look real and thirdly Uncle Ho's museum was a very strange mix of art and propaganda which seemed more about symbolism and less about history. As Clare put it "It made my head hurt!".
We got a taxi back to the guest house and we're going to venture off to more things that afternoon but a trip to the post office to send things home took up practically all of our spare time (due to the copious amounts of paperwork involved in sending anything out of Vietnam!).
We caught our 12 hour night bus to Hue at 6pm... this bus was like nothing we'd seen before, it actually had beds in it and a toilet - which we sat too close to in hindsight! We grabbed to bottom bunks (for fear of falling off the top bunk due to Vietnamese driving skills) and settled into our journey before realising that someone had very stinky feet...
Hue was a very historical city with it's massive citadel and forbidden city (where the king stayed with his harem) which we walked to see on the morning we arrived. It was a very hot day so we spent most of our time trying to get from place to place via any shade that was available. As I said the citadel is huge, and there were even elephants you could go for a ride on, but it's also undergoing some restoration work so it looks a bit like a construction site in places. We also managed to get on TV as there were some people running around being chased by camera crews (it was possibly for a programme called The Greatest Race?!) and we were accosted by one of the girls shouting "Have you seen the check point?" to which we replied "The what?" and she said something about a giant red dot but the look on our faces must have been totally clueless as she darted off seconds later.
We had a late lunch at the Madarin Cafe and had a look down the many streets near our guest house before getting ready to go and try and find another bar we'd heard was a great place for travelers to visit. We failed to find it (this is becoming a recurring problem for us) and ended back in the Madarin Cafe for a beer before heading home.
In the morning we hired two xe oms (motorbike guides) to take us to one of the tombs (of king Tu Duc) and the Buddhist pagoda which was a fun way to see everything when you're in a hurry (the bus we needed to catch to Hoi An left at 1pm).
The bus to Hoi An was a short one (only 4 hours) and our first during the day for a while which made it interesting as we still had to sit/lie on the sleeper bus beds which made it impossible to sit upright. We busied ourselves with finishing off a packet of Ritz crackers and some Pringles and let out a few ooh's and aah's when we saw the South China sea.
Hoi An is a town mostly filled with tailors and shoe shops and as much as we didn't want to get anything made we ended up getting far too much. The protagonists of this shopping spree were the two South African girls we've known since our boat tour of Ha Long Bay who have a toy panda who walks and sings the Lambada as a traveling mascot...they showed us Panda in his coat made by the tailors and we just had to get things made! I got two pairs of light cotton trousers in brown and black and two Chinese style tops (which look fantastic) in red and in silver. And a pair of black flip flops which they actually measured my feet for so that the fit like a glove! Also the ladies from the tailors we used (Phong Cloth Shop) took us all out for dinner (for free) for buying lots of things and telling everyone to go to their shop (they had just opened their shop two days prior to us arriving!).
Around Hoi An are the Marble Mountain and China Beach (where American GI's spent their R and R time during the Vietnamese War...it was a beautiful beach with the most crystal clear water and white sand...we hired scooters with the South Africans from the guest house and took our time driving to see everything (ok, we got lost so we took the long way round!).
We spent two nights in Hoi An before heading off to the beach resort of Nah Trang on another 12 hour night bus... more on Nah Trang in the next blog!

Posted by garvie 18:14 Comments (0)

Ventiane to Vietnam (Hanoi)

sunny 27 °C

The bus journey....oh my oh my! Firstly, the bus was not the VIP buses we had become accustomed to in Thailand, Laos is a very poor country so we boarded a very old rickety bus and hoped it would stay on it's wheels for the entire journey. We were placed on the back seats with the other Westerners and heard how the journeywould unfold (by a guy called Nate who has done the same journey 2 days earlier but had been turned away from the Vietnamese border for not having his visa on arrival). His story prompted 4 girls (who were wearing Ugg boots...says it all) to depart from the bus before it set off never to be seen again (well actually Nate says he saw them here in Hanoi the next night!). The journey was not for the faint hearted...the first part was in Laos which took us from 7pm to 3am, we parked up at a guesthouse which was closed, the bus driver got out of the bus and was let into the guesthouse whilst we were left to sleep on the bus with 50 other people. There isn't much room on these buses and being wedged between tiny Clare and her ability to curl up (taking up most of my seat) and Nate who is 6 foot 6 was not entirely idea for sleeping purposes so I decided to disembark and read my book outside the guesthouse, making sure I walked into all the people who had stretched out across the aisle. By 4am there was another attack of the bugs that are like ants with wings who have a tendancy to dive-bomb people so I took to playing flying ant tennis, using my book as a racquet...at 5am the locals got off the bus and looked at me like I was entirely insane.
The border opened at 7am so we headed off in our bus again for on of the most formidable border crossing we have encountered so far. The Vietnamese seem to have an aversion to smiling at Westerners (they apparently think we're all American) and they have very scary German Shepherds and they don't seem to want to help you to cross their border easily (let's just say it took us a while to get over!).
Back on the bus for our final leg of the journey...which was the most insane. they swapped drivers for this part, most likely for his amazing ability to continously honk his horn and avoid all traffic at the same time, this is the way of the roads here in Vietnam, they don't have many rules and any drive is incredibly scary. However, there was some amusement as we were stuck in a trafic jam outside Hanoi, Nate had been travelling with some friends and they had left him at the Vietnamese border... his friends are staying in the most helpful guesthouse in the world (where we're now staying also, the Kangaroo Guesthouse) and the staff set off on mopeds to catch every bus on the highway that had come from Laos to ask if Nate was on the bus... she found Nate, obviously to his amazement, and got all of us a taxi at the bus terminal and took us to their guesthouse. The staff here are brilliant, they pretty much do anything for you and they can actually smile!
Upon arrival Nate's friends took us all (ok I should explain, along with Nate on the bus there was an Irish girl and a Dutch girl) out in Hanoi for some food and coffee and beers (to the Loo pub which has toilet bowls with cushions on!) and back to the guesthouse where we also booked ourselves onto the boat tour of Ha Long Bay the next morning.
The boat cruise was just brilliant! We ended up on a boat with some Aussies and the fun never stopped! The first day was spent visiting the huge caves (the name of which I forget) and kayaking around the many islands and drinking copious amounts of alcohol on the boat, singing some terrible karaoke and diving off the boat into the sea before realising they had emptied the boats toilets! Luckily, we were on the 'deluxe' tour though so the cabins were very comfortable!
In the morning (far too early!) we had breakfast and headed off to Cat Ba Island, (via a 'beach' - it was a rock with a small amount of sand on it - for some swimming) which is the only inhabited island in the Ha Long Bay area so we could stay ina hotel for the night. Cat Ba is not the most exciting of places however we did make the most of it! We had dinner (why oh why do they only give vegetarians tofu??!) and headed to the bar across the road where the Aussies literally took over as the entertainment for the evening... they were absolutely crazy but I must admit we were all joining in on the fun and games! After the bar we went to the Discotheque (that's what it was called!) next door to experience the Vietnam clubbing experience. Basically, all the men dance and the women (if there were any) watch. and they have doorman/'fun police' who make sure no one has too good a time (I personally don't see the problem with placing a 4 foot 11 Irish girl on the 6 foot 6 guys shoulders myself....). We had a great time in the end, we laughed until we cried, danced until the flip flops came off and drank until they kicked us out at closing time.
The next morning.....oh dear! Everyone was feeling hungover and the thought of getting back on the boat at 8am was not appealing! We did it though, we all survived the trip back to the mainland for our lunch in a restaurant (tofu AGAIN!) and then back to Hanoi.
The Aussies and Nate and his friends have left already to get the bus to Ho Chi Mihn City which is a hop on hop off so they can stop at any of the cities on the way down for the night, whihc is what we plan to do tomorrow. We want to see Hanoi properly before setting off down south and to be honest, after the cruise, I need a good nights sleep!

Posted by garvie 03:51 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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