Thursday, 29 May 2014

That's amore! Pizza Neapolitana

Pizza is one of my top reasons for coming to Naples, so here is each one I ate!

We ate at Franco's, Pizzaria la Michele and Cantina dei Mille. La Michele opened in 1870 and people can queue for 2 hours for a table. It was also made popular by featuring in the film eat pray love. They only serve margherita and marinara pizza.

Franco's was close to our hotel on Piazza Garibaldi and had great reviews on trip advisor so really it would have been rude not to!

We had eaten a great traditional Italian meal at La Cantina dei Mille on our anniversary but had to go back and try the pizza too! When in Naples and all that!


Pizza Caprese (cheese, tomato, basil)

Pizza Caprese, Franco's

Pizza Chef (ham, mushroom and cream)

Pizza Chef, Franco's

Pizza Margherita double mozzarella (tomato, mozzarella, oil, basil)


Pizza Magherita double mozzarella, La Michele

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Magherita, La Michele

Pizza Campagnola (tomato, cheese, rocket, prosciutto and parmesan)

Pizza Campagnola, Franco's

Pizza Diavola (tomato, cheese, salami, crudo and basil)

Pizza Diavola, Franco's

Pizza Cappriccio (Tomato, mozzarella, mushroom, artichoke, olive, ham)

Pizza Capriccio, Cantina dei Mille

Pizza Peperonata (Sausage, pepperoni, provola cheese, olive)

Pizza Peperonata, Cantina dei Mille

All were delicious and I would order any of them again, but I can definitely say nothing beats a true Pizza Margherita in Napoli!

Buon Appetite 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Pompeii

Pompeii is a place that has fascinated me for a long time. When I heard a Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition was coming to London a few years ago I was determined to go, and watched all the documentaries which complemented it.

Unfortunately I couldn't get to the exhibition, but vowed I would in the near future make it to the actual site.

Vesuvius


Arriving in Naples after a week in Rome, I was excited to get to Pompeii. Its easy to reach on the Circumvesuviana, a metro costing about €5. Free maps and a booklet guide are available near the ticket stand if you keep your eyes open, and with this and a quick listen to an online guide, like this from Rick Steves you can get by without paying for a tour or audio guide.

Tip: the water sources in Pompeii still work so don't worry about carrying lots of water with you, just top up from the tap.

As we entered the ancient site it was amazing to see how well preserved some areas are. It really is like being in a deserted town. Stunningly, you could see proper road layouts, complete with pathways and raised crossings so you wouldn't get those fabulous new gladiator sandals wet.

Pompeii pedestrian crossing


House proud citizen's mosaics were still on display, and the countless food stalls echoed of late night snacks after too much grappa.

In the distance Vesuvius loomed, and it was quieting to imagine the eruption and burial of this city; a living breathing community so similar to our own today.

The details on the casts of the victims was incredible. Although there aren't many left, the one that remained showed the toenails, clothing and expressions of the people not Pompeii. I don't think I need to explain how scary and terrible it felt to imagine their last moments.

Cast of one victim, made from solidified ash


After a pit stop lunch (in the surprisingly well priced cafeteria) we visited some well trodden sights; The House of the Faun, the brothel, and the baths to name a few. I was surprised to see stone beds in the brothel, but was reassured they used to have mattresses. The tiny rooms were decorated only with a menu of the positions available; reverse gladiator looked fun!

Preserved mosaic


We ended our visit in the amphitheatre, which enjoyed great views over the hills and recent town developments, still under Vesuvius's threatening eye.

Monday, 26 May 2014

All roads lead to Rome

16 - 23 May

It was always a dream that we might end our travels in Italy, so to have been able to turn it into a reality was beyond our wildest expectations! Rome, Naples, Florence, Bologna and Milan are where we are headed over the next few weeks.

I am beyond excitement at starting our Italian tour with a whole week in Rome, one of my favourite places in the world.

We've been here twice before, the first time in 2010 when we got engaged, and the second in 2012 as a surprise for Marks birthday.

Roma, Roma, Roma!


This time we arrived late in the evening from Bali via Shanghai, and the sun was just setting as our Terravision transfer brought us into the city. The light was reflecting off the terracotta buildings illuminating the eternal city - it was good to be back!

After a little fuss trying to get our metro ticket at Termini (tip: have change) we were on our way to Silesia's. She was our air bnb host for the week and her place was a 10 min tram ride away. It was lovely to be staying in a home again, it was cosy and very welcome after months of hotels.

After a good nights sleep we were ready to get reacquainted with the city, after cappuccino and cornetti of course! My friend Chloe was also in Rome, so we arranged to meet her for dinner after a little shopping.

One of the best things about Rome is that the history is all around you, and you don't have to go far to see a stunning sight. Even one of the tram stations is built into an ancient wall! It's an easily walkable city in the right shoes, and you can keep hydrated by drinking from the water fountains on almost every street (perfectly safe and free!). On our first day we revisited the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Pantheon and the Roman Forum, all stirring the emotions and reminding us why we love this city.

Clean and cold water, available everywhere!

Almost 4 years later it's wonderful to be able to find the spot Mark proposed, shed a tear and feel happy to find a memory.

The wine and conversation flowed when we met Chloe at sunset by the Colosseum, and before we knew it we'd talked our way through dinner to midnight and had to get a taxi home!

The following day was a Sunday and we'd planned to go to the Vatican and hear the Pope. Mark and I had accidentally seen this once before, but arriving at the Vatican it became clear this Pope is so much more popular that the last. St Peters Square was at bursting point! It was nice to be part of a large gathering, and even though no one in our group were practising Catholics, we could appreciate why people come, and got a good vibe!

The Pope, second window in on the right!

After, we strolled along the Tiber to the Mouth Of Truth (free) and on to Capitoline Museum for a view of the Roman Forum where we left Chloe. That night we ate traditional Roman pasta with cheese and pepper and washed it all down with a bottle of red. It's lovely to be drinking wine again after months of lager!

What's best though, is already being familiar with a place after months of 'new'. We knew enough about Rome to get about without a map, and even when we got lost we could find our way when we eventually stumbled upon a sight, obelisk or familiar road. This all added to the homely feeling we were getting which made the whole week not even feel too much like we were away from home. Add in dinner with friends and a boozy picnic and it could have been a regular Saturday!


Something beautiful in every direction!

Running in Rome


After seeing friends Dave and Sarah for a quick espresso and catch up, we were on the hunt for running kit. It had been 3 months since I last ran and I was sure all this pasta and wine would make it catch up with me at a faster rate than usual. 

The next day we tested our kit out at a park near Tor Pignattara. It's frequented by runners and must be used for regular races from the looks of the notice board. For the 10k the best time was around 36 mins; not bad considering most of the runners were 50+. 

We managed to squeeze 2 runs and a lot of pulled muscles into our week, and it was nice to know that even in Italy people on the street look at runners like we are crazy people!


Villa d'Este


On Wednesday, we hopped on the train to Villa d'Este (€11), a place I've been dying to see since it popped up on my Pinterest feed. Its a 30 min/€2.80 train from Tiburtina and absolutely worth it if you have time.

The largest fountain in Villa d'Este


Villa d'Este is a stunning Italian villa and garden of water fountains which just take your breath away. The largest jetted water up 20 meters. It's the perfect place to sample small town Italy close to the big city; just stroll away the afternoon in the beautiful grounds and enjoy dinner in the charming hillside town.




I love fountains so it was the perfect way for me spend an afternoon in Italy. The views over the rest of Lazio were also beautiful.

A little Eat Pray Love in Rome


On our last day in Rome, we revisit the Vatican (much quieter today) and see the grottoes which house the past popes and the supposed resting place of St. Peter. We missed this before; as the entrance isn't clear. FYI it's behind the statue that stands behind you to the right when at the top of St. Peter's chamber - and that description should make sense when you are there!

After we had lunch in Piazza Cavour before stumbling across these filming locations from the film of the book Eat Pray Love!


Liz's house in Eat Pray Love

What's your word?
The first is Liz's house in Rome; it's at the end of Via dei Pianellari. The second is the restaurant where they talk about each others word; it's called Santa Lucia on Via do Santa Maria dell' Amina. Both are very close to Piazza Navona!

By the end of the week we were sad to be leaving this little piece of home, but excited about the coming week in Naples! Rome has always been a special place for us, and this time was no different.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The newlyweds

Today, 25th May 2014 is our first wedding anniversary!



This time last year I was getting myself ready to marry my best friend and partner in every sense of the word. We would have the best and happiest day of our lives surrounded by all those we love and love us.

This time last year I also had a lovely big flat a short stroll from one of the best beaches in the UK. I had a job, a car, debts and a full diary of family gatherings and dinners with friends.

In the past year, our first as a married couple, I've moved all my stuff to my parents house, quit my job, paid my debts and sold anything I could to raise funds for travelling.

But one thing hasn't changed. Mark is still my partner in everything, and without him I don't think I would have had the courage to break out of my comfort zone. In fact I think he is my comfort zone. Travelling with him means I can choose to cuddle up like it's a rainy Sunday, I can drink like it's a Friday and I can moan like it's a Monday and so can he.

It has always been noticeable to me how compatible we were at home, and even on the road I don't think we've been any different. We still think the same thoughts and perfectly assume our different roles, namely Mark looking after the money and me handling the logistics.

We vowed to each other a life of excitement, adventure and love and I can certainly say we are keeping our promises.

So let me finish by saying, Mark I love you. Thank you for a wonderful first year of marriage, and I can't wait for all those we have to come. 

"Love is what happens when your roots have grown towards each other underground, so that when all the pretty blossom has fallen from your branches, you find that you are one tree and not two."




Saturday, 24 May 2014

Asian airlines!

Whilst travelling in Asia we've been on a few flights for a range of distances. Here, I'll give an account of the journey and the positive/negatives of each airline in my opinion. I'll also cover the most important bits like free food, entertainment and overall experience.

FYI, I am not a champagne traveller, but I draw the line with Ryanair, they are just awful. My on board concerns are safety, price and good service!


Vietnam Airways


Long haul: London, England to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

It was an 11 hour flight from London Gatwick to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). The flight staff were welcoming and passengers were given a cold towel during boarding. The traditional Vietnamese dress gave us a taste of the orient we were destined for. After taking off we were offered a refreshment and snack. Private entertainment screens offered a range of films, TV and music. On our flight not everyones screens worked. A few people were able to move to free seats, but some had to deal with a long flight movie-less.

Tip: Vietnam Airlines entertainment all began running automatically, so you need to be quick to find something or you'll have to wait the length of the movie for the next showing. 

We had a menu to choose from for lunch, and I do not recommended the fish (who serves fish on an aeroplane?). In addition instant noodle pots and drinks were available.

Snacks and the dinner menu on Vietnam Airlines

Overall we were satisfied with our experience, but I'm sure it would have been a different story if we were one of the passengers starved not only of oxygen, but entertainment too!

Rating: 8/10


Short haul: Hanoi, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia

This 2 hour flight was pleasant enough to be pretty forgettable! I chose to rebook with Vietnam Airlines after all!

We were greeted with a refreshing towel and were surprised to be served a lunch shortly after take off. Food is rarely included in short haul flights with low cost carriers in the UK. It was a tasty meal and a delightful change from noodles and rice.

Tip: cheaper food is available before security at Hanoi Airport. Smile nicely though and you might be let off a few thousand dong at Burger King!


Welcome salad on our way to Cambodia

We were handed the correct landing cards for Cambodia which saved some hassle at the visa desks, just don't forget your photos.

Rating 8/10


Cambodian Angkor Air


Short haul: Siem Reap, Cambodia to Bangkok, Thailand

This was my first experience of flying on a small aircraft and I didn't realise it was happening until we were sat in the departure gate. It was a noticeably bumpier take off and landing, but the rest of the flight felt like many others, though possibly a little less dehydrating!

For a 1hr flight we didn't need entertainment, so none was provided. Shortly after boarding each passenger was given a refreshing wipe, and not long after take off a packed lunch was served. It included a drink, sandwich (tuna mayonnaise) and a crispy chocolate bar. It was a lovely surprise as we had never expected any food for such a short flight time.

My first small plane!

All in all, from arriving at the very cute Siem Reap airport to landing my experience with Cambodian Angkor Air was a delight.

Rating: 10/10

Air Asia


Short haul: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Bali, Indonesia

Air Asia has something of an easyjet crossed with Ryanair feel. I initially tried to book through Expedia, but with no clear information on baggage, I eventually booked through their own website.

Kuala Lumpur airport is practically run by Air Asia and we were able to self check in easily, though we still needed to visit a counter to drop our bags.

Tip: eat before security if you want a larger meal as only snacks are available in the lounges, whereas outside there is McDonalds etc.

The happy fun feeling akin to easyjet carried on on board. There was no entertainment or food included, but meals and snacks could be bought from the trolley, some looking very tasty too.

The flight was otherwise comfortable, though I was not sat with my husband, and we arrived in Bali on time.

Rating: 7/10

China Eastern Airways


Long haul: Bali, Indonesia to Rome, Italy via Shanghai, China

Our final flight in Asia would be our longest, and though we had a 23 hour stopover, I'm going to review these two flights as one as they had the same facilities and the experience was generally the same.

For both flights we had a slight delay which I had been expecting given other reviews for China Eastern Airlines. It being our first stopover experience I was surprised about the lack of guidance about what we needed to do. So summarise, treat is as two separate flights. Leave the airport after getting a temporary visa, and check back in as normal for the connecting flight (experiences will be different between airlines I expect).

Our meal on the Bali-Shanghai leg

Tip: Shanghai Pudong Airport board passengers by airline, not specific flight, making queues very long. This plus the immigration line meant it took us almost 2 hours from arriving to reach our departure gate, so if possible allow extra time.

The entertainment provided was excellent. 100% work rate I believe and there was an amazing collection on films both Asian and western, TV, games and a map. All seats also had a USB port, perfect for charging devices. However we were asked not to use our mobile phones even when in aeroplane mode, but our tablet was OK.

We were served a snack and drink after take off and an Asian meal shortly after. Drinks and snacks were available later in the journey, and water was frequently poured.

The first of two main meals from Shanghai to Rome. Beef noodles inside!

The staff were attentive, and even prevented a team of track suited tourists from having a picnic with what I can only expect would have been some smelly food. It was nice to see them taking the comfort of everyone into account.

Overall it was a comfortable flight, and the on demand entertainment kept me busy for nearly the whole of the cumulative 17 hour flight time. Pleasantly at the end of the flight everyone was invited to do some in-seat Tai Chi, which was a great idea all round!

Rating: 9/10


Hope you've found this helpful! Feel free to ask any specific questions. Happy travelling.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Blissed out in Bali part 2: Kuta

5-15 May

We'd heard mixed reviews about Kuta; an Australian ghetto, a nightlife centre, just plain horrid. Regardless we decided to give it a go, as the beach was well reviewed and we knew we would surely find gems as we do anywhere.



Arriving we discovered Kuta is truly about as different from quiet, sleepy Ubud as you can get. The hawkers were more aggressive, there were more tourists and it wasn't as pretty. We found our place, Hotel Bakung Sari and settled in before going for a walk.

Soon enough we found the beach. It was long, deep and sandy and even had a few lifeguards. The beach was a great place for first time surfers, and it's curve reminded me of my local beach in Bournemouth.

The following day we headed back to the beach. We intended to hire a few beds for the day, but at 200 idr we instead flopped on the sand. It was really hot, around 34degrees, so it wasn't long before the crash of the waves beckoned us in. The water was amazing. It was cool and clear and didn't have any seaweed! I was in heaven jumping over the waves and splashing about like a kid. There were a lot of people selling things, from handy things like ice cream to more unconventional beach paraphernalia like bows and arrows, but we'd mastered our "no" face by now so it wasn't much of a bother.


In the evening the road near us was closed and full of people in traditional Balinese dress participating in some kind of ritual. The street smelled of incense and the sound of the gongs rang out. It was nice to know there are still parts of traditional Balinese life in Kuta.

On Wednesday we decided it was time to try out something new, and this time it was body boarding. Mark hadn't done it before and it had been a long time for me. We managed to negotiate hire on one board for the day for 80 idr. After a while I got my sea legs back and rode my first wave all the way to the shoreline. The waves were big enough to surf on, but I held my own amongst the surfers I think. It's such a great feeling when the wave picks you up; all the tiredness from your paddling is instantly replaced with excitement. Mark was a natural too, of course, and I get to thinking about if this could be a new hobby for at home?



We enjoyed a few more lazy days before Marks birthday on the 10th. He'd decided he wanted to go to a water park and it turns out we are only a hop skip and a jump away from Waterbom, Asia's number 1 water park! I'm dubious about how good it will be, but I'm so pleasantly surprised! The slides are great quality and the park is clean and safe. We have a fantastic day racing, dropping and swirling around on the flumes and slides and burn countless calories climbing all the steps.

In the afternoon we chat to our friends before going for a sunset drink on the beach. We eat at Havana, a Latino restaurant which lured Mark in with it's temping chicken wing challenge. I'll let him tell you about that! Afterwards, we thought about finding some nightlife, which we hadn't done since leaving the UK. We were given info on the beach about the Sky Garden and decide to give it a go. It was a mostly empty super club and we eventually found the 'VIP traveller lounge offering free drinks and tapas' or 'room for drunk teenagers with free blue vodka drinks from the sticky bar'. It isn't long before we decided to leave, and when we did we found a different world outside. Kuta had become Ibiza! We had no idea this was where it all happened, only a few roads from where we had been staying. Its surprising, but no where could tempt us in.

The rest on our time in Kuta is quiet. We enjoy the beach and pool at the hotel and discover some great places to eat, namely pizza from Pizza Pronto on Poppies 1, and Fat Chow for a mix of Asian cuisine on Poppies 2.

Before we knew it it was time to pack. We'd come to the end of our time in Bali and South East Asia and we are going to Italy for the summer. Looking back its amazing how much we've seen and done in the past 2 and a half months; going south to north in Vietnam, the temples of Angkor, island hopping in Thailand - its been amazing.

I came travelling, giving up a safe secure life at home because there was something inside me that needed to get out there; go where the wind took me and find out what I liked. I've learnt so much, a few of which I've already mentioned, but I'll leave now feeling I've done what I came to do. That's why I decided to remove my anklet. I bought it and put it on in Mexico on our honeymoon, when our travels were just an idea. I promised myself it would be a daily reminder of what we would be working towards, and I've done it.



Tuesday, 13 May 2014

What travelling has taught me

It's been over 2 months now since I left the UK for what I thought would be a new life as an English teacher in Vietnam. We all know how that worked out, but as I come to the end of my time in Asia I think now is as good a time as any to reflect on what the whole experience has taught me.

1. Try to see running a gauntlet of hawkers as a practise in tolerance
Yes boss, Hello motorbike, Want massage? And breathe. It happens to everyone, so just pretend you don't speak English and stroll on by with your eyes focused on the horizon.

2. Fans make better hairdryers than air con
Air con is great for cooling a room, but fans are the best for your barnet!

video

3. Asia loves boy bands
Correction, boy bands and power ballads. Backstreet Boys were the favourite, but we also spent a few evenings being serenaded by The Carpenters, N*Sync and Whitney Houston! Bob Marley was also everywhere.

4. There is such a thing as too hot
Before leaving the UK I think I boasted a little about loving the heat, but the reality is its only good when coupled with a pool or cold cocktail. I now see that living, working, sleeping and travelling in such heat is not always so fun or tolerable.

Hot monkey in Bali cooling off


5. I should be open with Mark about my feelings, chances are he is feeling the same
I've lost count of the number of times we've walked down the street silently thinking the same thoughts before confessing them to one another. Be it 'I'm sick of hawkers' or 'I want an ice cream', I've learnt the sooner I open up, the quicker I'll know I'm not alone, and get an ice cream!

6. I miss my friends and family much more than I expected
I knew my pictures from paradise would generate a little envy, but I wasn't prepared to feel it myself when I was the one struggling being away from home. The first few weeks away were so difficult and it didn't help knowing everyone else was having a great time.

Can't wait to see my two BFFs in Milan


7. The comforts of a cozy bed and a movie cannot be underestimated
The nights are long here as the sun sets around 6pm everyday, and I'm not exactly a night owl! After all the evenings reading or researching it's sometimes lovely to cuddle up with a movie and Mark. It proves to me that home or away, this is my favourite past time.

8. Mr Bean is loved all over the world
Mugs in Vietnam, art in Indonesia, movies in Thailand. Mr Bean was as popular as a beer brand T-shirt, but I secretly loved having this slice of quirky British culture with me!

Mr Bean on the beach

9. Always carry your own toilet roll
Trains, bus stations and even some hotel toilets are often poorly maintained in Asia, I'm talking soaked floors, lack of flush and some truly terrible conditions. Make the experience a little better by knowing you have one essential in your pocket. Antibacterial gel is also comforting, as is a peg for your nose.

10. Sometimes it really is best to cut your losses and move on to better things
It was a big decisions of ours to cut the working bit out and go straight to travelling with a severely reduced budget and diminished enthusiasm, but it was definitely the best decision we could have made. In the future I think it will be easier to go with my gut and trust myself that I'll be OK even when one of my safety nets has disappeared.

11. I had a pretty good life at home
This has been the most important lesson so far. My friends, my family, the towns I call home; I had it pretty good there, and I can't wait to get it all back after spending what will surely be a memorable summer in Italy.

Bournemouth and Poole Bay, Dorset

Monday, 5 May 2014

Blissed out in Bali part 1: Ubud

28 April - 5 May

The journey was over, not only the journey from the Thailand to Indonesia, but my personal journey from home to Bali. I was praying that it was going to be everything I dreamt of!

Arriving at night is never good though, and we were driven into the hilltop town of Ubud at speed, only capturing glances of what awaited us the next morning, including to my surprise an Accessorize store! The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car though was the stars. Thousands and in patterns I'd never seen before.

The following day we visited the market, which was filled with enough trinkets to fill a house, and at some very tempting prices. The town was beautiful and filled with arty shops and cute caf├ęs, each working hard to create an atmosphere of paradise, right down to the flowers in the waiters and waitresses hair. After a siesta, pre dinner cocktails turned into dinner in a garden which overlooks a stream and valley of palms.

The next day we followed the road to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. I had been expecting something like Monkey World back home, but the second we arrived I knew this would be different. The little rascals happily jumped on your shoulders, picked through your pockets and grabbed at the bananas we'd bought. So many of the visitors were scared or nervous, but I loved getting up close and personal with these cuties! The rains came over in the afternoon so we spent the rest of the day reading and relaxing at our home stay whilst watching it pour.



I was eager to see some of the countryside so we hired bicycles for the next two days. After packing some lunch we headed in no real direction at all in search of a good view and some beautiful scenery. We weren't disappointed, and found luscious views of rice terraces and fields before getting well and truly soaked in the rain. I can't say I didn't feel a little like Liz in Eat Pray Love as we cycled past endless fields; my bike even had a basket and a bell! They must have cut the scene of her heaving her bike up the hills in the pouring rain though!



After so much exercise we are in need of some pampering, so the next day after trading in some of our books at an independent shop, we got massages! It was honestly the most comfortable I'd been since getting out of my own bed 2 months ago, and I can feel the strain of carrying and heaving my backpack to and fro melting away.

As each day passes now, I feel more and more that I have quenched some of the wanderlust that is within me. I was desperate to get out of the UK and into the unknown, and I feel that I've accomplished that. Whilst I know I will always want to travel and see new places, I know I'll be happy to do so within the safety and stability of a regular life at home.



On our last day we decided its time to pick up some souvenirs. I'd been coveting something since the first day we arrived but the guy in the shop isn't budging on price. Luckily I found something very similar at the price I wanted soon after and left happy! At dinner we headed down one of the quieter roads and found a nice looking place that turned out to be one of the best meals we've had yet! Only when we are back at the home stay do we realise its the 2nd best reviewed restaurant in Ubud! No wonder they asked if we had a reservation.

Before we knew it we were packing our bags again and checking out of what has been the most lovely of weeks. Next we are off to Kuta where hopefully we will find some cheap cocktails and an opportunity to ride some waves!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Ko Phangnan and the journey to Indonesia

19-28 April

After a somewhat irritating wait and ferry, we arrived on Ko Phangnan around lunchtime and against all odds found a man from the hotel waiting with a transfer for us and anyone else checking in that day. It was a good start!

The heavens opened as we meandered through the island to our hotel in Haad Yeo,  but it didn't detract from the cosy and neighbourly feeling I got.



Our beach was quiet and relaxed. No one is playing music and even the water melted silently into the sand. It looked like the perfect way to spend a week.

After relaxing for the afternoon and going for a short walk we ate dinner and watch the sunset. Not long after the sun had disappeared we noticed loads of crabs were jumping, sparing and moving about beneath us. It wasa bit like something from a nightmare but I was happy to be safely perched on the decking!



We spent the next few days working hard... on our tans. We were in a nice and comfortable hotel and it feelt like a holiday (though we avoided spending like it was a holiday by eating lots of cheap microwave pizza from 7/11 and Pad Thai for dinner). Other than snorkelling and scuba trips, and very wild parties, there isn't a lot to do on the island so we were happy to keep the week really cheap by making our own fun, mostly by jumping in the pool!



One day we walked to neighbouring Haad Salad beach to go goggling (snorkelling, without a snorkel). It was a steep climb over the hill but the beach was gorgeous. Unlike ours the sea was full of some kind of sea cucumber and lots of small fish. Whilst it was shallower than Weymouth we had a good time and got to recreate a picture of my brother who stayed there some years ago. This was also the moistest day on record for us. As we led on the beach my whole body was soon covered in beads even though the heat was more tolerable today.



Towards the end of the week, feeling a bit like we'd been lazy, Mark decided to go for a run on the beach. I've missed running whilst we've been away, but the thought of even trying it in this heat makes me feel dizzy. Even so, I feet very jealous as he bid me fair well!

We spent our last day of Thailand island hopping by the pool, eating magnums and having dinner at our favourite spot before we packed and spent a sleepless night worrying about the journey ahead of us.



Ultimately, our next destination was Bali, but to get there we had a long journey that involved ferries, trains and planes through 3 countries and a time zone.

On 26 April we caught the Raja ferry to Surat Thani and spent the night in a hotel made from brightly coloured container units whose interior resembled an aeroplane toilet complete with blinding white lights.

I still couldn't quite see that we were on our way to Bali, the place I'd been looking forward to most. In my mind all I could see what a hellish journey.

After a bad nights sleep we were up and on our way to Surat Thani train station at 7am, only to find the train would be delayed. At 9am we boarded the train to Hat Yai not far from the border with Malaysia. We entertained ourselves by playing 20 questions and a game where you have to link 2 movies based on the actors who stared in them. I was a little too scared for my health to use the toilet, so by the time we roll in to Hat Yai around 1.30 I was tired, and bursting!

After a KFC lunch in the shopping centre we were back on a train by 4 and on our way to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. We stopped for a short while at the border to pass through customs, immigration and the loneliest looking duty free you've ever seen. From here on it was non stop to KL for us and after another pretty sleepless night we arrived at 6am and stumbled wearily into Mc Donalds for pancakes. This was our base for a few hours before the coach to the airport, more McDonald's and our flight to Bali.

Its not until we were flying over the island as the sun was setting that I finally realised I'd made it to the other side of the world. I'd crossed the equator and was about to land in paradise! It may have been the journey from hell, but hopefully it was all about to be worth it!