Completing the West Coast: San Francisco to San Diego

San Francisco

Continuing down Highway 101, I arrived into San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge, which makes quite an impressive introduction to the city. After spending the last 5 days driving alone and sleeping in roadside motels (due to a serious lack of a hostel scene along the coast), I had booked into a hostel called The Green Tortoise and I made a good group of friends almost instantly. It was great to hang out with a like-minded bunch of travellers wanting to explore the city by day and check out the bars and live music scene at night.

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The Golden Gate Bridge

Various sight seeing trips included a visit to the iconic row of houses nicknamed “The Painted Ladies”, a hike to the top of Twin Peaks to take in the stunning views from above, a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, a visit to the Mission District to soak up the atmosphere and check out the amazing street art, and a relaxing afternoon of listening to an array of live pianists perform at the Golden Gate Park.

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The Painted Ladies.

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The view from Twin Peaks

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Street art in the Mission District

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‘Flower Pianos” – 12 pianos in the park.

3 nights in San Francisco didn’t seem like nearly enough time, as there’s so much to do there, I had visited before and managed to take in some of the sights back then, but I could have easily kept myself occupied for a week or more.

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The crooked part of Lombard Street.

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A tram negotiating one of the steep climbs up through the streets.

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Alcatraz in the distance.

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San Francisco is full of character and charm.

 

Yosemite

From San Fran I had another hire car booked and planned to spend 3 nights in Yosemite national park. The drive out there was a bit of a grind, it took around 3 hours from San Francisco city centre to the hostel in the village of Groveland, which was just outside of the main park, and the landscape en route was mainly flat and covered with dried golden grass. Once I had checked in, I decided to drive another hour or so into the centre of Yosemite just before sunset and I was instantly blown away by how beautiful it was, the contrast from what I saw earlier in the day was mind-blowing. I arrived at “Bridalveil Falls” late in the evening and it was almost deserted, I managed to get close to the waterfall without being swarmed by hundreds of people trying to take the perfect selfie.

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Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite Valley.

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El Capitan at sunset.

Prior to arriving in Yosemite I had done my research and planned a couple of hikes, the first of these was called the “4 mile Trail” and the route takes you to the top of Glacier Point which offers some amazing views down into the valley, views which are even more incredible knowing you have just walked up from the bottom of the valley and are about to walk back down again! The name “4 mile Trail” is a bit misleading however, as I tracked it on my phone and it was actually 5.5miles each way, but still it was a very rewarding hike.

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Yosemite Valley.

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Glacier Point with Half Dome looming in the distance.

After a long day of hiking, we decided to go for a few locally brewed beers at California’s oldest Saloon bar The Iron Door. It’s a cool place to unwind and it definitely gives you a taste for what it would have been like to hang out in a Saloon bar back in the days of the Wild West.

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California’s oldest Saloon bar – The Iron Door

My second hike was along the “Mist Trail” which takes you up past Vernal and Nevada Falls where the reason for the trails name soon becomes apparent. After a solid day of hiking the previous day, I struggled with the last mile or so to the top, but again, the views were stunning and the aches and pains soon disappear. I took a slightly different route on the way back down, along a small section of the John Muir Trail, which is named after the explorer who helped with conservation around Yosemite and many other National parks across the US. The full trail is 211 miles from start to finish, but the section i hiked was around 5 miles.

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Vernal Falls along the Mist Trail

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Nevada Falls taken from The John Muir Trail heading back down.

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Along the John Muir Trail.

Monterey and Santa Barbara

To complete my journey south to San Diego I decided to opt for an upgrade of hire car, for an extra 20 bucks a day I managed to go from a Toyota Corolla to a convertible Ford Mustang which I grew very attached to!

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A nice upgrade from my Corolla.

My first stop after San Francisco was the wealthy fishing town of Monterey, it’s home to an area called Pebble Beach, an area of privately owned land, which you have to pay to access. For $10 dollars you can enter “17 mile drive”, which loops around the stunning coast line and past a series of some of the world’s best golf courses. Monterey used to be famous for it’s sardine canning factories, which are no longer in use, however the area named “Cannery Row” has now been turned into a popular tourist attraction where you can find museums, an aquarium, no end of amazing seafood restaurants, and souvenir shops.

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17 Mile Drive around Pebble Beach.

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Between Monterey and my next stop Santa Barbara, is another area of incredible natural beauty called  “Big Sur”, basically another strip of coastline full of incredible beaches one side and national parks on the other.

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Pfeiffer beach – Big Sur.

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McWay Falls – Big Sur.

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Santa Barbara was the perfect stop to relax for a few days, I decided to stay here instead of LA for it’s laid back surfer vibe and it didn’t disappoint, two days of being beach bum was just what I needed after all that driving.

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Santa Barbara Beach.

I stopped in Venice Beach (just outisde of LA) for only a few hours, but managed to bike along most of the beach and take in a few of the sights.

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VW campervans at Venice Beach.

San Diego

I had finally made it all the way from Seattle down to San Diego, my last stop in the USA, an epic road trip taking around  3 weeks to complete and it’s going take a hell of a lot to beat, from the stunning, incredibly varied landscape, to the contrast of tiny villages and massive cities, hiking mountains one day and surfing waves the next, the Pacific Coast Highway has it all.

When I arrived in San Diego I was fortunate to be able to stay with Seamus, a buddy of mine who I had met whilst travelling through Australia. Seamus was a great host and showed me some awesome places to eat and drink around town and we had a blast. San Diego seems like the perfect place to live, it’s sunny all year round, has a great night life, plenty of sights to see, and is situated along a stretch of coastline with perfect conditions for surfing, and during my stay I managed to take full advantage of all of these.

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Surfing at Pacific Beach.

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Balboa Park.

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Street Art down at Pacific Beach.

Whilst in San Diego we managed to get our hands on tickets for a Blink 182 gig, they were one of my favourite bands growing up, so i loved it, they played an awesome set which included most of their classics.

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Catching a live Blink 182 show was a definite highlight of mine.

San Diego is also home to Del Mar race track, so we spent an afternoon of placing bets on the races and drinking Margaritas, I didn’t even come close to backing a winner, but it was great fun.

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An afternoon at Del Mar races.

 

Next Up…

The start of my adventure through Latin America, first stop Mexico City.

Highway 101: Seattle to San Francisco

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Having booked a car from downtown Seattle, it was time to hit the road and drive south along Highway 101. I have to admit, before arriving in the US the only famous road I had heard of was Route 66, but every time I mentioned to people that I planned to travel South from Seattle, the first thing they would say is “you have to drive the 101, it’s beautiful!”, the recommendations couldn’t come highly enough.

It was the first time I would be driving in the US for around 10 years and back then I had a pretty shaky experience with driving a hire car. When pulling out of a car park, I had a momentary lapse of concentration where I managed to drive onto the wrong side of the road, we only avoided the oncoming traffic because a mate had grabbed the steering wheel, so I was a bit apprehensive to say the least. I would also be doing the drive alone, so I had no one to tell me how good/bad (most likely bad) my driving was.

Leaving Seattle

Leaving Seattle was fairly non-descipt, my route out of the city was straight forward and I hit the freeway within minutes and apart from swerving too far to the right every now and then, driving on the other side of the road was fairly easy. Luckily my previous disaster hadn’t scarred me for life and I soon found the driving enjoyable.

I didn’t join Highway 101 until South of Olympia and to start with the roads were fairly flat and the landscape was about 99% trees, I made my way to a small town called Long Beach (home to the world’s longest beach apparently) and along the route passed by some cool windy roads and the landscape finally changed to a series of lakes and inlets.

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I decided to make a stop in Long Beach for a quick lunch break. The town was cool but it’s best days are probably behind it, not only is it home to the Longest Beach but also some of the world’s oldest fairground rides, which reminded me of Felixstowe but without the pier.

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Long Beach – home to world’s Longest Beach!

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Long Beach

Into Oregon

Once I had crossed over the State border via the Astoria-Megler bridge into Oregon, the coastline really began to impress. After the town of Astoria, I continued on to the most incredible stretch of beach I’ve seen, starting at Cannon Beach the roads meander along the cliff edges and I had to pull the car over at nearly every corner to take pictures. The area was the filming location for the final scene of The Goonies and further down the coast is where they filmed parts of Into The Wild – two of my favourite movies. After a full day of driving (including many stops) I made it to Newport, where I stayed for two nights.

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Cannon Beach.

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The roads are literally on the edge of the cliffs, but so much fun to drive!

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Haceta Head Lighthouse, just south of Newport, is one of many lighthouses which were built to try and stop the large numbers of ships which kept sinking just off the coast. The conditions are treacherous with so many rocks sticking out of the shallow waters. I managed to hike up through the trees to take a look inside.

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Heceta Head Lighthouse

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The beaches are incredible and mostly deserted.

Oregon Sand Dunes

Part of the Oregon coast line (around 40 miles or so) is made up of Sand Dunes and what better to do on the sand dunes, than Dune buggying!

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I booked myself onto a Dune buggy tour, an hour of hacking up and down the sand dunes, it was so much fun! You could rent a quad bike, but these were restricted and looked tame in comparison, the buggy was driven by a pro and was definitely the better choice.

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Whilst at the Dunes I also decided to do a bit of hiking along a route called the John Dellenback Trail, a 6 mile round trip of trudging along sand. Luckily there were clear markers along the route, otherwise I could have easily lost my bearings.

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So much sand!

After stopping off for a few days in Newport, I headed further south across another State border into California. For this part of the trip the weather took a slight turn, however the gloomy grey clouds floating amongst the tree-lined cliffs, completely changed the landscape and made for some awesome pictures.

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The Avenue Of Giants

Continuing along Highway 101 from Oregon to California, the coastline changes from collapsing cliff faces and beautiful beaches, to mile after mile of condensed Redwood Forest and the aptly named “Avenue Of Giants” allows you to drive through and experience the Redwoods up close.

I visited an area called Fern Canyon, literally a Canyon of Ferns (way more impressive than it sounds), and hiked right into the heart of the Redwoods. It was tipping it down with rain and thick mist drifted through the trees, I hiked for around 12 miles on my own and it was spooky as hell. My phone died half way (so no GPS) and it was one of those moments which could have gone very badly, lucky I’m an expert navigator and made my way back unscathed…..it was more luck than judgement if I’m honest.

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A trail through the trees.

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Fern Canyon – Film set for Jurassic Park: The Lost World

For $10 you can drive through a Redwood and although it’s a complete tourist trap, I thought it was pretty cool.

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It’s not every day you get to drive through a tree.

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A hollowed out Redwood.

 

Next Up…

After completing my trip through the Redwoods I stopped off in San Francisco to spend a few nights in a hostel, I was then due to head out East towards Yosemite National Park for more outdoor adventures and hiking!

My American Adventure Begins!

I can’t believe that I’m 3 weeks into the trip already, so much has happened, I’ve been lucky enough to stay with friends for the most part, so it’s pretty much been an extended holiday up to this point, but I’ve  managed to make my way through Boston, Cape Cod, Seattle, and Vancouver, so here’s my attempt at picking out a few of the highlights…I promise my next post won’t be quite so long!

Boston and Cape Cod

My first stop in the US was Boston, where I was lucky enough to be able to stay with friends of mine, Eric and Caitlin, their apartment is in a great location in South Boston, so I could easily make my way into town on foot or the easy option of Uber (old habits die hard). Boston is a fairly small city but there’s plenty to do and see, I managed to take in most of the sights in around two full days, but there was definitely more to take in and the city had a cool vibe and is way less manic than some of the bigger American cities such as New York or LA.

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The Washington statue in Boston Common.

On my first day in Boston I signed up to the “Freedom Trail”, which is a guided tour through the streets taking in some of the key historic moments in America’s fight for Independence. Our tour guide was great and with me being British he made sure I received plenty of stick. It made me realise how little I know about the history of America, so it was definitely a worthwhile investment. When the tour finished you can continue to follow the trail via a line of bricks which meander through the streets  to the north of the city. I managed to do most of it, but it wasn’t quite the same without the guide or someone telling you what to look out for.

The Freedom Trail - a guided tour through the streets of Boston.

The Freedom Trail – a guided tour through the streets of Boston.

The further north you go, the older and more quirky the buildings become, the streets are full of tourists, but it was definitely my favourite part of town.

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After a long day of sight-seeing I stopped off at the “Top Of The Hub”, a bar/restaurant which has incredible views of the city and is located at the top of the Prudential building. I made my way through a couple of pints of Sam Adams which is brewed locally in Boston.

A well stocked bar with a pretty awesome view over the city.

The Top Of The Hub  has a pretty awesome view over the city and a very well stocked bar.

After a couple of days in the city we made our way down to Cape Cod, a popular resort area for weekend breaks and vacations just outside of the city. The area is made up of a series of perfectly manicured little villages located by the coast and it was easy to see why it was such a popular area. There are no end of decent restaurants and bars to enjoy and while I was there I got my first taste of Clam Chowder, which is basically a clam soup which almost every coastal town in America makes the claim that theirs is the best, I also tried a lobster roll and not being a massive fan of seafood I didn’t know what to expect of either, but to my surprise I loved both of them.

One of the many beaches in Cape Cod.

One of the many pristine beaches in Cape Cod.

Cape Cod is the perfect getaway from the city and the 3 of us had an awesome weekend!

Excellent hosts right here

Excellent hosts right here

Whilst staying in Boston I experienced my first ever Baseball game, watching the Boston Red Sox take on the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park. Despite being warned numerous times that I would find it boring, I really enjoyed it and once I understood what was going on it was fairly easy to follow. With the game all tied at 1-1 going into the 9th (final) innings, Eric warned me that, unlike Cricket which can last 5 days and end in a draw, there had to be a winner, given that only 2 points were scored in the previous 8 innings it was quite possible that the game would take hours to finish, so we decided to retire to a nearby pub which served hundreds of different beers, ales, and IPA’s – American’s love a good IPA – every screen in the bar was playing the game so we watched as the Red Sox were defeated 3-1 – sorry guys I must be a curse!

My first Baseball game, watching the Red Sox play White Sox. Unfortunately Boston lost in the 9th Innings, still a good night though.

First game of Baseball at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.

 

Seattle

So after spending my first week in Boston, I took a flight out west to Seattle, a city which I didn’t really know anything about, other than it’s the setting for the TV show Frasier and a ton of great bands are from the area…Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, to name a few, so it must be a great place!

During my time there, I stayed with Claire who I met travelling Thailand, it was great to have a friendly face with local knowledge show me around town. Her apartment is in one of the best parts of town and has the most incredible views of the city from the balcony (pictured below). We had some epic nights out during my stay and I can safely say the city has a cracking night life.

The Seattle skyline.

The Seattle skyline.

Seattle doesn’t have as many tourist attractions as some cities and I guess it’s similar to Boston in that way, but it’s easy enough to walk around and take it all in. Pikes Place Market is probably one of the main attractions, after the Space Needle, and is a cool fishing market with lots of character and was fun to walk around and people watch.

Pikes Place Market.

Pikes Place Market.

Down by the harbour you can take a ferry across to a number of different islands, or experience a whale watching tour as Orcas are often seen swimming just off the coast, you can even take a cruise across the Canadian border up to Vancouver or Victoria.

The harbour in Seattle.

The harbour in Seattle.

Seattle is also home to Starbucks, and love it or hate it, it’s absolutely every where, the picture below is their first ever store.

Starbucks started here.

Starbucks #1

The entire state of Washington is full of incredible natural beauty and there is no end of places to go hiking, camping, or even skiing in the winter, all just a short drive outside of Seattle. We spent hours online scrolling through lots of amazing looking hikes and settled on an area called Wallace Falls.

Hiking in the rain at Wallace Falls.

Hiking in the rain at Wallace Falls.

The hike was about a 6 mile round-trip to the top of the water fall and back down again, it rained nearly the whole way, but it was completely worth it for the views from the top looking down at the water fall and through the valley.

Wallace Falls.

Wallace Falls.

I also experienced my first MLS game whilst in Seattle, watching the Seattle Sounders take on New York City. The atmosphere was great and I was pleasantly surprised at how popular the local team were. The Sounders play in the same stadium as the Seahawks and I can only imagine how great the atmosphere would be when they play.

Seattle Sounders vs New York City - Seattle lost 2-0 to strong NYC team with Lampard and Pirlo both playing.

Seattle Sounders vs New York City – Seattle lost 2-0 to strong NYC team with Lampard and Pirlo both playing.

The atmosphere at the Sounders game was great and the big band playing during and after the match made for a slightly different experience.

The big band playing during and after the match made for a slightly different atmosphere.

It’s also worth mentioning I went to two more baseball games watching the Seattle Mariners win both times. The first of those was mainly spent boozing in the beer garden, but the second we actually sat down and watched all the way through as we managed to blag our way to the best seats in the house.

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Safeco Stadium, not a bad spot.

Vancouver

From Seattle we made the drive up to Vancouver, which only takes around 3-4 hours, we made a slight detour along the way to a place called Deception Pass, a stunning set of two bridges which connects Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island.

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Deception Pass on the way up to Vancouver.

We arrived at our hostel in the Gasworks area of Vancouver around sunset and took a stroll along the harbour, the views across the water to North Vancouver were stunning.

Sunset by the harbour in Vancouver.

Sunset by the harbour in Vancouver.

On our first full day we made our way to Grouse Mountain to hike a trail nicknamed the “Grouse Grind”, it’s not the longest trail by any means, but it’s a near vertical incline all of the way up. It took me around 1hr 22mins to walk all 2830 steps and after almost stopping half way up, Claire managed to finish only a few minutes behind. It was tough!

The "Grouse Grind" up Grouse Mountain, harder than it looks!

The “Grouse Grind” up Grouse Mountain, tougher than it looks!

1hr 22 minutes of near-vertical mountain climbing, worth it for this view though.

1hr 22 minutes of near-vertical mountain climbing, worth it for this view though.

Vancouver is a lovely city, we only spent two days there, but I would definitely go back. There was so much more I wanted to see, but we ran out of time. The ironic thing about our stay was the hostel we had booked into was actually one of the worst places I’ve been to on my travels, it was overly expensive and in serious need of an update, the bar area and night life was decent, but the rooms weren’t the best. On our second night we had a drunken lad stumble into our dorm and mistake it for the toilet! Yep that’s right, a random person came bursting through the door in the middle of the night and emptied his bladder all over the floor, he was either completely hammered or sleep walking (probably both) – plenty more of these hostel experiences to come I’m sure!

The Gasworks area of Vancouver.

The Gastown Steam Clock

On our final day we decided against paying $20+ to cross the Capliano Suspension bridge (which did look incredible), but we managed to find a free alternative at Lynn Valley instead. It still offered some pretty breathtaking views so we weren’t at all disappointed, the bridge then leads into a nice easy hike around a series of nearby waterfalls.

Crossing the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge.

Crossing the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge.

Twin Falls in Lynn Valley.

Twin Falls in Lynn Valley.

Next up…

My plan from here is to make my way down the picturesque Highway 101 along the West coast through the states of Washington, Oregon, and California, I’ve hired a car to get me as far as San Francisco and will then make further plans from there….speak soon.

Along with Facebook I’ll be posting more pics on my Instagram, so check it out @reviewedbydrew

 

A Rough Plan

Once the travelling bug has set in, it really is hard to control and the only known cure is, well, travelling some more. This time things are a little different, where before I was fortunate enough to be given a 6 month sabbatical from work, this time I have had to quit work completely, it is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but I’m hoping that the lack of time constraints mean I can travel at my own pace and should make the trip even more enjoyable. Second of all I’m hoping that after my last 6 month trip I will have gained a lot of experience on how to travel alone and take comfort in the fact that I now know what to expect, although travelling in different parts of the world always brings along it’s own unique challenges, I’m hoping now that I’m more prepared and in a better position to be able to handle them. Last but not least, for the vast majority of this trip I will be making my through latin america, a part of the world which I know next to nothing about, along with the culture shock, there will also be the challenge of the language barrier, although I spent a lot of time in SE Asia before, speaking English was never a problem and it was fairly easy to get by in most places, however I’ve heard that things are a little different in this part of the world, so learning some Spanish is almost a necessity and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

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It all looks so easy when looking at the map!

To start things off I will be flying to America, where I will be staying with my friends Eric and Caitlin in Boston, before making my way West to Seattle to meet up with Claire an old travel buddy who I met in Thailand, we are then planning on making our way across the Canadian border to Vancouver, before heading back South to Portland for Independence day (July 4th). From there I will be travelling by myself down the West Coast as far as San Diego, breaking the journey up by taking in as many sights as possible along the way. From here the plan is a little bit loose at the minute, but I am hoping to spend some time in Mexico, before heading South through, Guatemala – where I’m hoping to enrol in a Spanish school for at least a week, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, then onto South America through Colombia, Equador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and finally end the trip in Brazil. This seems to make sense when looking at a map, but I’m fully expecting things to change along the way, it always does. There are so many places I want to see, but if my plans have to change then I will settle for seeing any number of the countries listed above. This will be without a doubt, the biggest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m ready for the challenge and I can’t wait to get started.

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Obligatory pre-travel selfie

Please keep in touch while I’m away and feel free to comment or ask any questions, travelling can be pretty lonely at times (sob sob) so it would be great to hear from you all.

Time for my next adventure

With all of the best intentions in the world I wanted to finish updating my travel journals from my last trip, as I still had Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and two weeks in Europe to write about, but I am now embarking on another adventure through the Americas, a trip which will see me travel down from the North of the USA, south towards Mexico and onwards through Central and South America. This time I will make every effort to keep this blog updated as I go and share all of my adventures as they happen, the rest of 2016 promises to be an incredible year.

One Month In Vietnam

Hanoi

I arrived in Hanoi, the northern capital city of Vietnam and instantly fell in love with the place. I stayed in the “Old Quarter” which is situated by the side of a lake, and when I arrived it looked eerie and ethereal with a low-laying mist hovering over the top of the polluted green murky water. Hanoi is what I would describe as an authentic representation of Vietnam, I can imagine little has changed over the past 100 years in the way the locals go about their daily lives and apart from a few new hotels dotted around the place, I would imagine it looks much the same as well. Like Kuta in Bali, the streets are jam packed with motorbikes, defying the odds of colliding with each other at every intersection and crossing the road is a true test of faith and a skill which was essential to learn if I was to ever leave the hostel. Advice which I picked up from fellow travellers was to just go for it, “cross the road and the traffic will flow around you”, at first I thought this advice was insane and bordering on suicidal, but after observing local pedestrians and other travellers, it seemed that this was common practice. To my amazement, I tried this technique and it actually worked, I adapted quickly but will confess to holding my breath on a number of occasions when a motorbike came flying towards me at speed.

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During my stay I visited the Hanoi prison, now disused, but full of history as it once held Vietnamese rebels during the French colonial years and was then used to detain American prisoners of war decades later. The prison’s Death Row includes the original guillotine used to behead the prisoners all those years back under the rule of the French, and to be left in a room alone with this imposing instrument of execution was pretty scary. I also paid a visit to the Ho Chi Minh museum and mausoleum; here you can still see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh himself during set visiting hours. The former Vietnamese emperor has a truly legendary status throughout Vietnam and I learnt that as soon as you are old enough to talk, you are taught to sing the “Ho Chi Minh Song” in his honour.

Ha Long Bay

After Hanoi I made my way to Ha Long Bay, for this part of the trip I was joined by Gadis, a girl I became close to during my time in Singapore and I was pleasantly surprised that she agreed to meet me in Vietnam after having recently quit her job. We made our way to Ha Long Bay, having had a two night boat trip arranged for us by the incredibly helpful staff at our hotel in Hanoi. Something I was to learn throughout South-East Asia is that the basic level of customer service is truly exceptional and puts most of the Western world to shame, the staff genuinely want to help you and they take pride in the work they do. The boat we stayed on was amazing in its own right, we had a room with a balcony, where we sat for hours drinking wine and watching the incredible landscape change as the boat meandered its way through the mountains. Ha Long Bay is naturally stunning, we were slightly unlucky with the weather which meant visibility wasn’t great, but it done little to take away from the experience. On board we were joined exclusively by couples either honeymooning or celebrating a significant anniversary, but when the cruise manager congratulated us on our recent wedding we were rather shocked, we had only known each other a week, but with the offer of free drinks and cake we decided to play along. We later found out the company we had booked through had requested the “Honeymoon Package” so we would get the best value for our money.

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Sapa

After Ha Long Bay, I made my way north to the Chinese border and the small mountain village of Sapa. During my stay I planned a two day hike and overnight stay with a local family. The hike down through the rice paddies and the mountain valley was fairly challenging but great fun, we made our way through farms full of cattle, a bamboo forest, and a river full of rocks just large enough to be able to hop across to escape getting wet, before ending up at the homestay where we would be spending the night. The local family we had arranged to stay with lived solely off the land so the chickens which greeted us upon arrival would soon provide lunch, dinner, and breakfast the following morning! The night of our stay just so happened to coincide with Vietnamese New Year, so we were encouraged to join in the celebrations by toasting to good health with a glass of locally brewed rice wine at every possible moment, our tour guide was completely hammered after a few shots and had to call it an early night, as for myself I managed to go round for round with my host and then lived to regret it the following morning!

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Hoi An

My next stop in Vietnam was Hoi An, this small riverside town has a very relaxed vibe and is full of shops to purchase authentic Vietnamese artwork and various handmade items, it is also renowned for being a hub for world class tailors who can make almost any item of clothing to the highest quality for a fraction of the normal retail price. Although I decided against a tailor-made suit, I couldn’t resist the temptation of purchasing a few paintings as they made for perfect presents for family back home. I enjoyed my time in Hoi An so much that I extended my stay by a few extra days, this gave me an opportunity to hire out a motorbike and ride to the nearby temple of My Son despite the warnings from hotel reception about how dangerous the roads are for the less experienced rider. The gamble paid off and the temple was well worth a visit, plus the roads were no where near as bad as they were made out to be, the ride along the river was stunning and I only managed to get slightly lost on my way home.

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Hue

From Hoi An I caught a coach up to the old capital city of Hue, I spent a few nights here and it was enough to explore the ancient citadel or “The Forbidden Imperial City”, a rather extravagant name, but a very impressive set of buildings and structures built over centuries for the Emperors of Vietnam. However, much of the Imperial City is left as rubble as many of the buildings were destroyed in the Vietnam war by the Americans who were clearly trying to prove a point to the Vietnamese, this is a real shame as the scale of the area is enormous and with all of the buildings left standing it would of made for a truly incredible sight. Hue is also full of temples constructed in memory of Vietnam’s previous emperors, I paid a taxi driver to escort me for the day and I managed to see 5 of them. The temples were built to reflect the personality of the emperor and each structure was completely unique in design, my only regret here was that I should have paid the extra cost for a fully guided tour as my Taxi drivers knowledge was very limited.

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Dalat

Continuing my journey south I made it to another town up in the Mountains, Dalat. Dalat was probably the least favourite town I visited in Vietnam, aesthetically it isn’t particularly easy on the eye and my only noteworthy experience of my stay there was Canyoning. This however, was incredible, jumping off the edge of a cliff, swimming down the rapids, navigating our way through the forest, and abseiling down a waterfall, made for an exhilarating day out. There were moments when I truly feared for my life, but the adrenaline rush was incredible, what a day!

Abseiling in Dalat

Ho Chi Minh City

My final stop in ‘Nam was Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it was known a few decades back. One thing I noticed in Vietnam is the stark contrast from North to South, this probably has something to do with the Vietnam war with the Americans offering their support in the South vs the communist allies in the North, the effects of this are clearly visible to this day. Hanoi was the authentic Vietnam and was a true cultural experience, I can’t imagine much has changed there in the past 30-40 years apart from the numbers of tourists, compare this with HCMC and the contrast between the two is unbelievable, it is much more Westernised, the roads are wide and the buildings are sky high. My personal preference was the North.  HCMC has a lot to offer and 3 or 4 days here is a good amount of time to see a great deal of it. I visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of underground tunnels built to gain tactical positions and evade capture during the war against the Americans, I was shocked at how claustrophobic they were with barely enough room to squeeze into let alone crawl for miles in complete darkness. There were sections of the tunnels which have been made bigger to allow visitors to go some way towards experiencing what it would have been like to navigate your way through, I decided to give it a go myself and joined a group of eager (and not so eager) tourists who made their way in one by one. Halfway through the tunnel the girl in front of me decided now would be a good time to realise just how claustrophobic she was and after a mini panic attack she began to reverse back out of the tunnel, it was so tight down there it meant we had no choice but to crawl backwards on our hands and knees, not easy and not comfortable, but this experience put things into perspective, as the group of tourists groaned at the minor inconvenience, I couldn’t help but think, imagine doing this if you were confronted with an enemy at the other end firing rounds from his M16, terrifying but that is the reality. The National War Museum is also in HCMC and my visit there was a sobering experience, the room with the biggest impact was the one based around chemical warfare and in particular “Agent Orange”, the pictures on display showed evidence of the aftermath of this chemical which was used to break down supply lines and destroy crops, resulting in genetic mutations and deformities, the pictures were disturbing and upsetting, but it’s a significant part of the Vietnam’s history and it would be wrong to forget about the atrocities that occurred only a few decades back.

It’s also worth mentioning that HCMC has a vibrant nightlife and the hostel I picked was in the heart of the backpacking district, packed with entertainment and no end of places to eat and drink, it set me back all of £4 a night and this pretty much sums up why Vietnam is such a perfect country to travel through.

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Highlights of Vietnam

Canyoning in Dalat – This was such a good day out, led by our charismatic group leaders “Tony” and “Tiger”, we abseiled down some epic cliff faces, a waterfall (which is probably one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever attempted), and launched ourselves off a cliff into a pool of water below. Then realising the company didn’t have a licence for us to be there, we had to make our way back through an overgrown forest which was apparently full of snakes.

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Trekking in Sapa – There were certain moments on my trip where everything came together and the feeling was just incredible, this happened in Sapa. Sat on the balcony drinking the best coffee I’ve ever experienced, eating Pho, gazing out across the mountains above the low-lying clouds, a beautiful moment. The two day trek through the valley ending in an overnight stay with a wonderful Vietnamese family was amazing and was a complete culture shock, staying with these wonderful people who are completely self-sufficient and as happy as anyone could wish for.

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Chilling in Hoi An – Hoi An is a small town with lots of character, the laid back vibe is perfect for a relaxing couple of days and the artsy feel of the place inspired me to draw some pictures which is something I haven’t done since art class at school. I enjoyed my stay here so much that I booked an extra few days.

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Ha Long Bay – “Where the dragon descends into the sea”, it’s easy to see where the mythical stories of dragons came from, the area is like a scene from Avatar or some far away planet. Our two night cruise was a little too formulaic and we weren’t given the chance to go off and explore ourselves, but I was more than happy to just take in the natural beauty of it all.

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Singapore

I arrived in Singapore not really knowing what to expect, I hadn’t done too much research on this wealthy ex-British colonial city-state, as it wasn’t initially on my list of places to visit, but was pleased with my last minute change of schedule. After checking into the Green kiwi backpackers hostel, I managed to get a run-down of exactly how to make my way around and was given a list of must see places to visit. Public transport is world-class in Singapore and the city’s metro system is clean, always on time, and the best way to get about.

I made some great friends at the hostel and a group of us made our way over to Sentosa island, which is home to Universal Studios and the largest aquarium in the world, we also had fun on the downhill luge track (picture below) and went to a 4d cinema, it was a great opportunity to be a big kid for the day.

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At night Singapore comes alive, an area called Clarke Quay is probably the best spot for night life and if you can get your head around the astronomical beer prices then it can offer up some serious fun, I had some epic nights out there, you could be anywhere in Europe with the type of music that’s being played, but there is a friendly atmosphere and everyone is there to have a good time. We also made our way to the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, the view of Singapore’s skyline from up there is awesome, but after paying $24 SGD (roughly £12) for a pint of Stella, we decided to stay for only one drink. Although alcohol is extremely expensive, the food isn’t, if you find a local Hawkers Centre, you can pick up some quality local food for next to nothing, it’s a good opportunity to immerse yourself with the locals and the selection of food on offer means you will always find something you will love.

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As a tourist, Singapore has a lot to offer, there are plenty of places to visit and sights to see and it is, for better or worse, the most Western looking city in all of SE Asia. This is mainly due to its British founder Thomas Raffles, who made Singapore what it is today. And for all the good things I could say about Singapore, there is a down side, as it is very much a city governed by strict rules and regulations and this has had a noticeable impact on the vibe and atmosphere of the place. There is still plenty of fun to be had here though, it lacks the authentic Asian city vibe, but it makes up for it in many other ways.

Highlights of Singapore

Marina Bay Sands – Or the odd looking boat building as many people refer to it as. It’s an incredible work of modern architecture and has understandably become an iconic symbol of Singapore’s impressive skyline. Ku De Ta which is a bar at the top of the building can be accessed by the general public and although the views come at a price, it’s well worth a visit even if it’s just for one drink.

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Hawkers markets – The sheltered food markets are in stark contrast to the rest of Singapore’s overly manicured streets, but they offer the best culinary experience in Singapore at a fraction of the price and the variety of food on display is immense.

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Everything is pristine! – After spending a lot of time in SE Asia and many other cities around the world, Singapore just looks immaculate in comparison.

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My next stop after Singapore was Vietnam, where I would spend a month travelling from the North to South.

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Exploring Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu

From Bali, I made my way north to Malaysian Borneo, where I stayed in the city of Kota Kinabalu or KK for short, known for its local markets, street food, and fishing. It took me a while to warm to the place as it has a bit of an industrial feel to it, the buildings are tall and ugly, and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal to do other than eating out or shopping in overly extravagant malls, which is fine for some people but I struggled to keep myself amused for long. Having said that it served its purpose well as a base for my trip to Mount Kinabalu and my explorations into the rainforest.

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Climbing Mount Kinabalu

After a few days of eating my way around the city, I booked my trip to Mount Kinabalu, knowing very little other than I was required to have a “moderate” level of fitness and should probably wrap up warm. The summit is a colossal 4095 metres and it would take two days to reach. The climb began early on day one, just me and my mountain guide, a local lady in her 50’s who couldn’t have been much taller than 5ft but was somehow looked built for climbing. She was slow and steady, but was a great companion educating me with interesting facts about the mountain and Malaysia in general, I found out that she makes the climb up and down the mountain twice a week and has been doing this from a very young age, she explained how the people who live close to the mountain have incredible stamina and can walk to the summit without stopping to take a breather. She also explained about the spiritual significance of the mountain to the locals and how it needs to be treated with respect, I was quite happy to oblige. Day one was all about making our way to the hostel which was around two thirds of the way up the mountain, this took me around 4hrs 30mins which my guide was incredibly impressed by (maybe my ancestors were mountain folk too). For the final climb to the top on day two, we left around 02:30 under a clear starry sky and arrived at the peak just in time for sunrise around 05:30, I can completely understand why people become addicted to the feeling of conquering the highest peaks as the views from up there were unbelievable, and the sense of achievement having made it to the top really makes it an amazing experience. Although the application form stated you only require a “moderate” level of fitness, I would say this probably needs to be upgraded as I saw no end of people giving up along the way either through exhaustion, injury, or altitude sickness, some giving in literally within metres of the top. So walking up the mountain was tough, but what I hadn’t realised was how difficult the descent was going to be and I found this the hardest part, all of that effort I used on the way up meant that my legs were now burning and felt like jelly on the way down, it would have made for an entertaining watch seeing me wobbling all over the place, but I finally made it to the bottom unscathed and satisfied that I had conquered this awe-inspiring mammoth of a mountain, what a feeling!

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The Orang-Utan Sanctuary

After taking a few days out to recover from the climb I made a trip to a local Orangutan sanctuary, which oddly enough was situated in the grounds of a 5 star hotel complex. I was a bit apprehensive about visiting the place as I had imagined a tiny enclosure like one of the attractions in a zoo, but to my surprise it was actually a contained part of the rainforest where there was acres of land full of trees for the Orangutans to play in and instead of exploiting the animals for the sake of tourism, it seemed as though they were doing a fantastic job of nurturing them back into the wild. Watching the Orangutans swing from tree to tree was a pleasure, these incredible red-haired apes have an abundance of character and I really hope these conservation projects make a difference against the odds.

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Into the Rainforest

The following day I booked an excursion into the heart of the rainforest to get up close and personal with the wildlife; we were promised sightings of Proboscis monkeys (the strange looking monkey with the big nose), fireflies, and a locally prepared feast and luckily enough the trip delivered on all counts. We hopped aboard a boat and made our way through the mangroves and as we made our way deeper into the Rainforest we started to spot family after family of monkeys, and even our guide was shocked at how many there were; it had been raining constantly the whole day and as it had stopped as we arrived, it meant they were all now on the hunt for food. We were given binoculars to search through the trees, whilst our guide reeled off a ton of interesting facts about the wildlife and the ancient rainforest. Once the sun had set we went to a particular part of the Rainforest which was swarming with fireflies, this was my first time seeing them and I was pleasantly surprised as thousands of tiny little lights made their way towards the boat as our guide flashed his green tinted torch on and off to lure them in, it was quite a magical experience. Once we had finished gaping open-mouthed with awe at the fireflies (I may have swallowed one or two), we stopped for food. The locally prepared feast which was laid on for us was incredible, an all-you-can-eat Malaysian masterpiece of seafood, meats, rice and noodle dishes, and a fine selection of sweets for desert. Whilst I was sat down for dinner I was joined by a retired English couple, who were spending every last penny of their retirement fund to travel the world, they had been all over SE Asia, South and Central America, and just experiencing all the world has to offer. I was interested to see how they found travelling later on in life, as a lot of people decide to have children at a young age and then travel once they have retired. Their advice was very clear, although they had enjoyed raising their two children; they wish they had travelled more when they were young, as there were so many activities which they were just not capable of doing now. I was also saddened to hear that the man had terminal illness and was unsure of how much longer he had left to live, so this was obviously spurring them on even more. It was great to speak with this couple and to see how happy they were even in the face of adversity, it made me sad but at the same time grateful for my experience and I left feeling inspired.

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Kuala Lumpur

My final stop in Malaysia was the capital Kuala Lumpur, this densely populated city is impressive and bursting with life, the iconic and world renowned Petronas Towers (pictured below) are an architectural masterpiece both inside and out and it was well worth the fee to access the bridge between the two towers. The hostel I chose for my stay in KL was the Reggae Mansion, no idea how they came up with that name but it would certainly feature as one of the best hostels I’ve stayed at; the rooms were massive with the biggest pod-style beds I’ve seen, it had a cinema, a fantastic restaurant, and a nightclub on the roof overlooking the city, it was classed as a party hostel (kind of obvious when you have a nightclub on the roof) but it was fairly chilled and I made some good friends there. The first night I stayed there, I made friends with a group of people who were headed out for drinks, we ended up finding a Salsa bar selling BOGOF Mojitos, I love these little moments where you just sit back and appreciate just how much of a culture clash has occurred, I mean I was in Malaysia, in a Cuban themed cocktail bar watching people Salsa dance, sat with a Scottish girl, Welsh lad, and myself from England, talking about our favourite destinations so far and it makes you realise that you can be anywhere in the world with anyone and in some weird way, still feel completely at home. Other notable mentions for my time in KL was the Birdpark, which is the largest of its kind in the world and was a good way to spend a few hours, Berjaya Times Square shopping mall to check out the indoor roller coaster, and the Islamic Arts Museum which despite the rather boring sounding name it was actually incredible.

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Highlights of Malaysia

Mount Kinabalu – Not only my number one of highlight of my time spent in Malaysia, but probably my standout moment of the 6 months.

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The rainforest – Over 140 million years old (thanks Wikipedia), the Borneo rainforest is full of some of the world’s most amazing species of animals and insects, 44 of which are endemic to this island alone. It had a completely different feel from the rainforest I explored in Cairns, but both were incredible in their own way.

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Next stop Singapore….

If you have any thoughts on Malaysia or anything travel related, then I would be interested to hear from you, please leave a comment or connect with me via twitter.

For more pictures, check out my Instagram @intrepidexplorerjournals

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Bali you beauty!

After a rather hectic 3 weeks of hopping between towns and constantly on the move in Australia, it was time to relax in Bali…or so I thought. For this part of the trip I was joined by my friend Greg who had made his way over from England.

I have to be honest when I first arrived in Bali it was completely different from what I was expecting, I had pictured a desert island with manicured beaches and palm trees with crystal clear water for miles and miles, with the only sound being the waves crashing against the sand. Our first stop was Kuta and it couldn’t have been further from the image I had painted in my head.

Kuta is crazy, there is no other way to describe it, I feared for my life on a number of occasions as the taxi driver sped from the airport to the hostel weaving in and out of cars and motorbikes, beeping his horn every other second whilst trying to avoid crazy pedestrians attempting to cross the road, welcome to paradise! However my opinion of Kuta soon changed, a few days in and it started to grow on me, from exploring the side streets and discovering hidden gems around every corner finding great places to eat or new bars to drink at, to discovering artsy shops full of expertly made local products, this place has it all, but only if you are prepared to embrace the madness and scratch beneath the surface. Greg had booked the hostel for our stay in Kuta, a place called “The Island”, even after all of my travels this is still one of my favourite places to stay. The atmosphere was just right and it seemed to attract a constant flow of great people, every night we spent there was a blast.

During my stay in Kuta I decided to purchase a guitar and this turned out to be quite an ordeal. After originally picking one up and paying a reasonable price, I took it with me to the Gilli’s and the taxi driver decided to throw my bag on top of it and snapped it in half, it lasted two days. When we arrived back in Kuta, my second attempt (pictured below) started off very promising, the gentleman in the picture carves these instruments by hand and they look incredible, I was instantly drawn in and paid a considerable sum of money owing to the quality of the craftsmanship (and my amateur bartering skills). Over the next few days I didn’t really get a chance to play it and ended up leaving Bali before really trying it out, it was  only then that I realised the guitar was impossible to tune and having taken it to a number of guitar shops it will cost a small fortune to adjust. Oh well at least it makes a nice souvenir – albeit a very expensive one!

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On the mainland we took a day trip to Ubud, a small village with a chilled out hippy vibe, surrounded by rice paddies and ancient Hindu temples, it is known as Bali’s cultural hub and it certainly lives up to its name. While we were there we visited the Monkey Temple and as the name suggests it is a series of temples full of monkeys which love to terrorise tourists. It was highly entertaining watching people purchase bananas thinking that the monkeys would just sit there, pose for a picture, wait patiently and then take the reward. Obviously this was never going to happen, the place was carnage, the monkeys weren’t vicious in any way, but they were not holding back either, taking people’s bags, and steeling every bit of food in sight. The trick is to sit back and watch other people attempt to feed the monkeys and just enjoy the free entertainment.

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After Kuta we made our way to the Gili islands, a group of small islands between Bali and Lombok, we stayed on the largest one of the three, Gili Trawangan. This island is a mecca for scuba diving and partying and that sums up nicely how we spent our few days there. We signed up for a “Discover Dive”, a crash course where you are taught the basics in a swimming pool first thing in the morning, before heading out to the open water in the afternoon. The open water part of the dive was amazing, we saw an incredible array of multi-coloured tropical fish big and small, set to the wonderful backdrop of the reef, but the highlight had to be swimming amongst the turtles.

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Our last stop in Bali was a small village in the South called Uluwatu. After spending most of our time partying, surfing, and exploring in Kuta and the Gili Islands, we used our time in Uluwatu to relax. The clifftops there made for a perfect vantage point to chill with a few bottles of Bintang and watch the surf come in.

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Highlights of Bali

The Island – This was the hostel we stayed at in Kuta, during our stay there we made so many friends and had so much fun, there was never a dull moment.

Surfing – I was dreadful at surfing, even after Greg gave me a lesson, but it was still fun and something I’d like to try again someday.

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Diving – My first experience of diving in the Gili islands was memorable for a number of reasons, my only regret was that I didn’t sign up to a week’s course to complete my PADI.

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That was it for my time in Bali, not quite as relaxing as I first thought, but it was easily one of the highlights of my 6 month trip! Next stop Borneo, Malaysia.

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The East Coast Of Australia

Melbourne

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My first stop in Australia was Melbourne, I managed to get some great tips from friends back home, recommendations on coffee shops, great places to eat, and live music venues, this city is bursting at the seems with culture and entertainment, it’s obvious why Melbourne ranks so highly as one of the “World’s most liveable cities”. I saw the talented guitar duo “The Pierce Brothers” at the Ding Dong lounge, who I had previously seen in London a few months before and they didn’t disappoint on home soil and I also spent an evening at “The Night Cat”, which is an excellent live jazz venue. My home for my stay in Melbourne was St. Kilda just south of the city centre, it offers a good combination of a party atmosphere with easy access to the beach. I stayed at a notorious party hostel called “Base St. Kilda”, there was a nightclub next to reception so there really was no avoiding the crazy antics. In true Aussie fashion we spent Christmas day on the beach, and for a person used to spending Christmas day indoors, wrapped up warm in front of the fire stuffing my face with Christmas dinner, this was a culture shock, but one I could easily grow accustomed to.  I attended the Boxing day test at the MCG to watch Australia take on India, this was a great day out, not so much for the cricket as there was barely any action, but for the party atmosphere created by both sets of fans.

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New Year’s in Sydney

As I found with nearly everyone I met in Australia they were all making their way to Sydney for New Year’s, this was also my plan so I joined the hordes of people flocking there for what promised to be one of the most spectacular shows on earth. I had left it to the last minute to find accommodation and paid the price, both literally and figuratively, as this was by far and away the worst and most expensive accommodation I forked out for on my trip. £80 a night, afforded me a room shared between 7 people, with just enough space for one person to get dressed at any time, it was dirty, the rooms didn’t lock and the staff were miserable and completely inept. If you are planning a trip to Sydney for New Year’s, make sure to book well in advance and avoid Surfsiders hostel in Coogee Beach! After making a few friends at the hostel from hell and embracing the situation, I ended up having a great time. On New Year’s Eve I managed to meet a few friends from back home and together with people from the hostel we formed a good group and picked a prime position atop a hill in Sydney Observatory, although alcohol was banned from all public places that year we still managed to sneak some in! The firework display itself was outstanding, not many things in life completely live up to the hype, but the display at Sydney Harbour well and truly exceeded my expectations.

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A few days later I made my way to the Blue Mountains, a National park just outside of Sydney, the name coming from the blue haze emitted from the eucalyptus trees. The main tourist area is completely overrun with selfie-stick wielding families and wasn’t all that enjoyable in the heat, but we did manage to see the iconic “Three Sisters” which were very impressive. On our way up to the Mountains we had stopped via a tourist information centre where we were tipped off to spend more of our time exploring the surrounding areas such as Wentworth Falls, so that was our next stop. When we arrived we decided to hike to the bottom of the waterfall, this was about a 5 hour round trip down and then up again via a series of winding stone steps and steel ladders, we made it back to the top again just in time to see the sunset over the mountains, it was beautiful.

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Cairns

After a hectic 5 days in Sydney I made my way by plane up to the northern city of Cairns, the gateway to the Great barrier reef and home to the world’s only expanding rainforest. Cairns and the surrounding area is full of natural beauty and wildlife, exploring the rainforest gives you a chance to experience those famous Australian critters first hand, with snakes and giant spiders a-plenty and kangaroos and wallabies freely hopping from field to field, I was in my element. I found the weather in Cairns tough to deal with, it had been in the mid 20’s in Melbourne and Sydney, but when I arrived up north it was 35 degrees plus and extremely humid. One night at the hostel the air-con decided to switch off and I woke barely able to breathe and covered in sweat, the weather extremes in Australia would take some getting used to, but give me hot and humid over the drab and dreary UK weather any day!

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The Whitsundays

I travelled to my next destination by one of the famous Greyhound buses which make their way up and down the east coast; I always enjoy being on the road and this was a fairly relaxing trip and a much cheaper alternative to flying. I stayed in Airlie beach, one of the main towns where people stay to access the Whitsunday islands. I booked myself on a guided tour which included exploring the islands and snorkelling through the reefs. The weather wasn’t on top form during my stay and during the snorkelling trip it was considerably warmer in the water than it was on the boat, and as the conditions were poor it meant I didn’t really see the islands in all their glory. However, the marine life was extraordinary, swimming through the reefs and chasing after the multi-coloured tropical fish was so much fun, it was sad to see how much of the reef has been destroyed, but it was still an incredible sight.

Fraser Island

Fraser Island was probably the highlight of the East Coast for me, although it took 14 hours via an overnight bus to arrive this done little to dampen my spirits.  Fraser Island is the largest “sand island” in the world, so effectively it’s just a giant beach, but it’s much more incredible than that. The 75 mile stretch of mostly untouched pristine white sand is staggering and part of my tour included a plane ride around the island to see the view from above. Back on land the rusty wreck of the marooned SS Maheno, buried in the sand and left to rot, made for some great pictures. We were also lucky enough to see wild dingoes on the island, another one of Australia’s famous critters ticked off the list.

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Last stop Brisbane

My final stop in Australia was Brisbane, I enjoyed the laid back feel of the place, but only spending a single night there I had almost no time at all to explore. I had dinner on my own that evening followed by an early night, which was in stark contrast compared with the rest of the trip, but this gave me time to rest and recover and brace myself for Bali and the beginning of my adventures through South East Asia.

My Highlights of Australia

Fraser Island – Sand dunes, dingoes, a shipwreck and an aeroplane ride. What an incredible island.

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Christmas on the beach in Melbourne – My first experience of a Summer Christmas. Partying on St. Kilda beach all day in the hot Australian sunshine was a great alternative from being cooped up indoors stuffing my face full of turkey.

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New Year’s Eve in Sydney – An epic fireworks display and a great day all round, meeting up with friends old and new celebrating the arrival of the new year.

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Cape Tribulation – This area just north of Cairns is full of wildlife, we managed to spot crocodiles and giant spiders to name a few, but were not quite fortunate enough to spot the elusive Cassowary, the prehistoric looking bird which roams the Daintree Rainforest.

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