Bad weather, too much beer and Vietnam

When I travel, I travel with a rough idea of how I want things to go…I’ll spend 2 months in SE Asia, roughly 2 weeks in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  Well, it’s been almost a month and a half and I’ve spent 1 month in Thailand, 5 nights in Cambodia and 1 week in Vietnam.  So pretty much, my lack of planning never goes as planned.

At first, things went somewhat to that time frame.  I spent about 2-3 weeks in Thailand and headed to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  When I got there, I had received an email from someone I had contacted in Thailand about working at some English camps.  Turns out they were still looking for help, so I left Cambodia after a few days and headed back to Thailand for another 2 weeks.  I was then going to head to Laos with some people I had met in Chiang Mai and Pai up in the north, but found out a friend of mine from Slovenia was in Vietnam, so I headed to the Embassy, got my visa, bought a plane ticket and now here I am.

Right now, I find myself tucked under the covers of my bed in Sapa, in northern Vietnam.  It is pretty cold outside and from out my window, I can’t see a thing because it’s so foggy.  So far in Vietnam, I have experienced a lot of rain and cold, overcast weather.  Yet that hasn’t stopped me.   I spent around 4 days in Hanoi and saw a few things.  The weather was pretty crappy, so I didn’t get to get out and experience everything I wanted to.  Yet, I’ve been having a lot of fun.

While in the slowest line ever at the Bangkok Airport to check my luggage, I met a girl from Canada on the same flight as I was.  We ended up at the same hostel in Hanoi and booking the same boat tour of Ha Long Bay as well.

Ha Long Bay is considered one of the most beautiful places in not only Vietnam, but the world as well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the full finality of its beauty because of the weather and the fact that this tour was a party boat.  Our guide did his best to encourage as much beer down our throats as possible.  I had fun, but not too much fun.  Everyone else on the other hand, I can’t say the same for.  At night, we played the craziest game of Kings Cup/Circle of Death ever.  All I know is that any given moment, there were multiple people without any clothes on.  I had fun on the tour, but didn’t like that the focus was about drinking and not about the UNESCO sight we were surrounded by.  Yet, I met some pretty fun people.

When I got back to Hanoi I had an email from my Slovenian friend saying he was going to be in Sapa the next day and since I was planning to head there next, I caught the night train with Sara (the Canadian) and now here I am.  Hopefully today I will get together with Damijan and tomorrow I will head off to somewhere else…Hanoi again, Ninh Binh…who knows…

I only have just over 3 weeks left in SE Asia before I fly back to Perth in April.  Then in May, I will come home…just have to buy that plane ticket…

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March 26, 2012 · 22:06

Goodbye Australia, hello SE Asia…

So I know I haven’t updated anything in over 6 months, mainly because I’ve been having too much fun.  Honest to God truth.  That said, this isn’t going to be more than a blurb, as eventually I’ll get up the posts that should have been put up.

When you last heard from me, I was starting a job in Mingenew, Western Australia.  It was supposed to be a 3-month stint, but I turned it into 5.  I had a blast there and met so many amazing people and had way too many fun nights.  I left there in December and made my way back to Bendigo to spend the holidays with Dana and her family.  God I love them!

After the New Year, I headed back to Sydney and did a bit of the East Coast before heading back to Melbourne to catch the opening day of the Australian Open, where I saw Nadal and Federer play.  Then I headed to Tasmania.

Tasmania is hands down one of the most beautiful places on Earth.   I spent 3 weeks there and never tired of the sights or the people.  I ended my time there by taking a 10-day roadtrip with awesome people.  When I have time I’ll go into more detail about the place, as it deserves way more than a mere mention.

I left Australia on February 14th, 364 days after I arrived.  I flew into Bangkok, Thailand to begin a couple months in SE Asia.  I’m almost finished with 2 weeks in Thailand and soon will head to Cambodia…if I ever get the motivation to leave the beaches.  I’m currently in Ko Phi Phi, where they filmed the movie, The Beach.  I think I’ll stick around one more day and then make my way to the Thailand/Cambodia border to spend time there before hitting up Vietnam and Laos.  Then back to Oz for a bit and finally home sweet home.

Hope everyone is well, see you guys in a couple months!

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Livin’ the country life in Mingenew

So a lot has gone on in the past few months, in which, I’m doing my best to add the back log of blogs that are due, along with some pics.  I should have everything updated by the time I end my stint in my current location, Mingenew, Western Australia.  I got a job working at a country pub for a few months.  I’m actually not far from Morawa, where I worked before.  My plan is to work until October, then make my way up the West Coast back to Darwin.  Then I want to hit up Bali, then over to Cairns, and who knows after that.  I still need to make it to Canberra to see Sam, who is a friend from high school, just one of a few Aussies who came to Wabeno as an exchange student!

Right now, I’m working around 45 hours a week, which is good because it means I’m making really good money to save.  The more the better, because I had been spending in USD for the past month or so and the exchange rate was killing me.  This place only a few hundred people and is as country as you can get.  I’ve already been to a rodeo.  In September they have some big farming expo coming up which brings in a lot of people.  Boy am I excited!

To sum up my life the past month, I stayed exactly 6 days in Darwin before giving up the job search and hopping in a car to head back to the Center of the country.  I missed out on Kings Canyon the last time, so I spent a couple weeks making a round trip back to Darwin.  I did Lichfield, Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Katherine Gorge and a few places in between before getting back to Darwin.  I ended another week there with the Darwin Beer Can Regatta before I flew out to Perth the next day.  I was already offered the job in Mingenew before I left Darwin, but had an interview at a place just outside of Perth for live-in bar position.  I chose Mingenew because it offered the best chance to save, so here I am.

Like I said, I should get some older blogs up over the next couple months.  Internet here is expensive, so I’m going to try to only come once a week, if that!

Hope everyone is doing well!

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Darwin or Cairns? First to respond wins.

I spent a few days in Bendigo by Dana deciding whether to head home or not.  When I concluded I would be staying in Australia, I figured I should find a job since I was down to my last few hundred bucks.  I had hoped to head to Darwin to look for work (and because I wanted to be there for the Beer Can Regatta in July, tops on my list of things to do in Oz), but flights there were expensive, so I chose the warmest, cheapest place to fly, which was Brisbane.

As a heads up:  Whoever thinks Australia is warm year round is on crack.  This place is freezing in winter.  There might not be foot upon foot of snow blanketing everything, but the cold can cut right through you.

I got into Brisbane, checked into the same hostel I had stayed at my first time here and started my job search the next day.  I looked on a few websites and also walked into a few bars to pass out my resume.  I think I lasted about 12 hours in Brisbane before I decided I really didn’t want to live or work there and that I really wanted to be in Darwin or even Cairns.  So I hit Gumtree up again to look for rideshares.  I responded to two ads:  one with two Brits heading to Darwin in campervan relocation and one to a guy heading to Cairns via Laura for the Aboriginal dance festival.  I figured the first yes reply I got would win.  So I headed to Darwin with Tim and James from Leeds.

Since the campervan had to be in Darwin by a set time in 6 days and we had about 3600km to drive, we didn’t have too much time to do anything touristy along the way—small price to pay when you’re only paying $1 a day for a really nice campervan.  We did stop off in Daly Waters, which is nothing more than a block with a famous pub and a campervan park.  Had some time there and headed back on the road. We went via the Outback to get to Darwin, so I hit up some spots I had already been through on my first roadtrip, which included Cloncurry where I finally shelled out money to sleep in the campervan park that we snuck into the first time.  Our time on the road saw us have a run in with a dead kangaroo, resulting in us spending the night in a parking bay with the group that had killed the roo and damaged their campervan pretty heavily in the front.  We also picked up a guy who needed a lift to the next town up for oil for his semi that was carrying sponsorship gear up to Darwin for the upcoming V8’s.  We were hoping to get some passes for the races from him, but it never worked out.  On the brightside, we learned he wasn’t a homicidal killer hitchhiking his way through Australia.  We figured his lack of an axe or chainsaw was a good sign.

We got the van to Darwin in 6 days and on time and I began my search for a job, since I was now out of Aussie money and spending in US dollars, which sucked since the exchange rate was killing me.  I can proudly say I lasted longer on my Darwin job search than I did in Brisbane—about a week to be exact.  Unfortunately, I was about 3 weeks too late to cash in on the job market there, so I ended up taking another roadtrip through the Red Centre before the Darwin Beer Can Regatta on July 10th.

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The Red Centre

Marjan and I made it as far north as Townsville, where sadly we said goodbye to Kat:( She took us out to dinner on our last night, which was a nice end to our time together. The next morning I had to head to a walk-in clinic to get treated for a middle-ear infection, which I got scuba diving in the Whitsundays (totally worth it).  Then I had lunch with Dana’s parents and brother/sister-in-law. (Thanks again for lunch Teri and Kevin!)  When lunch was over, I met up with Marjan, Camilla from Italy and Ainav from Israel, who were going to travel with us through the “Red Centre” and down to Adelaide.   The original plan was to get as close to Mt. Isa as we could the first night, then Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Uluru, Kings Canyon, Coober Pedy and finally Adelaide.

We made it as far as Cloncurry the first night.  In true backpacker fashion, we spent the night in a campervan park, in which we didn’t get into until midnight.  We left by 6:30 am, so as not to have to pay for our night (I know, we’re going to hell, but I would pay a few weeks later to stay in the same park).  We made it to the Stuart Highway and subsequently Tennant Creek early that afternoon.  We had planned to spend the night in Tennant Creek, but the place scared the crap out of us, so we decided to go straight on to Alice Springs.  We made a stop off at Devil’s Marbles and Wycliffe Well, the UFO Capital of Australia.  Our time there was marred by a group of Aboriginals getting into a massive fight near our car, so we stuck around there about as long as we stayed in Tennant Creek.  After a night in Alice Springs, we made our way to Uluru and got there just in time for the sunset.

Now a little bit about Uluru.  It used to be known as Ayers Rock, but has since gone back to its Aboriginal name.   It is a striking red monolith that is roughly 400 yards high.  It is considered sacred to the Aboriginal tribes, and it is asked that you don’t climb the rock out of respect.  You can still choose to climb if you so desire.  It takes about an hour to climb to the summit, but it’s strenuous and roughly a tourist a year dies attempting the climb, mainly from a heart attack.  In the Cultural Center, there is a book of letters from people that have taken a rock from Uluru and then suffered bad luck, so they sent the rocks back.  I had already decided before I left the States that I would not climb Uluru, rather, I would do the 3 hour walk around.  Honestly, Uluru really does impress you when you see it.  It’s surrounded by open land and in the distance you can see Kata Tjuta.  However, about half way to three-quarters away around the rock, you get to a point where you just say to yourself, “It really is just a rock.”  It was probably around that realization that I somehow managed to pull a muscle in my right leg.  I have no idea how; I just know that eventually my left knee started to hurt because it was overcompensating for my right leg.  It would eventually prevent me from doing the full trek at Kata Tjuta and I wouldn’t do Kings Canyon at all (which is ok, because it would lead me on another roadtrip later).

About a half an hour away from Uluru is Kata Tjuta, which used to be known as the Olgas.  Supposedly it is thought that Kata Tjuta was once a monolith 10 times the size of Uluru.  Today though, it is broken down into 36 dome shaped, connected red rock.  There are 3 lookouts you can walk to.  If you opt to do the full trek, it’s about 4.5 miles.  I only walked a couple though and returned back to the car after the 2nd lookout since my leg was killing me.  Overall though, I liked the hike and view of Kata Tjuta moreso than that of Uluru.

We headed to Kings Canyon after 2 days at Uluru and Kata Tjuta.  We had gotten in a sunset and sunrise at Uluru, which is when you’re supposed to be able to see the rock change colors.  Pretty much it went from red to brown, none of the cool purple hues that you get sometimes.  Sunset viewing is definitely better than sunrise.  Of course though, I won’t find anything too interesting when I have to get up at 6am.  Just saying.  At Kings Canyon, you have two walks to choose from:  one is a short walk to a look out at the bottom of the gorge, the other, you walk up the side of canyon and atop the rim.  I managed to make it to the lookout, but there was no way I was making it up the side of the canyon.

We still had 5 days left to get to Warnambool and we made our way to Coober Pedy next after Kings Canyon.  We figured a day or so though and then Adelaide for a couple days before ending our trip.  Coober Pedy is a popular stop off, since it’s about half way between Uluru and Adelaide on the Stuart Highway.  The town is also famous for its opal mines and the fact that a lot of businesses are underground.  By being underground, it keeps temperatures inside cooler in summer and warmer in winter since Coober Pedy experiences Wisconsin-like extremes, temperature-wise, each season.  Even though a lot of businesses are underground, it’s not that you get into town and see nothing, it looks like a normal town, and it’s just that when you walk into some places, you head downstairs.  Our hostel was a couple floors below ground level.  Essentially it was just enough room carved out of the rock to accommodate 2 bunk beds.  No doors, no outlets, just a couple beds in each carved out area.  I found it pretty cool, it did suck though that it cost $32 a night, but when you’re staying in obscure, out of the way places, you just have to understand that basic costs are much more expensive for them, and they have to make ends meet.

It was on our way to Coober Pedy that I found out that my Dad had had a stroke back home.  Katie assured me that he was fine and that I didn’t have to fly home, but I was extremely shaken and upset.  I was anxious to get back to Bendigo by Dana just in case I would have to fly home.  I didn’t like being in the middle of nowhere with limited phone reception.  I just wanted to get to Adelaide as soon as possible in case I decided to fly to Melbourne to get back to Dana’s.  We ended up leaving Coober Pedy after one night and only spent one night in Adelaide.  We said goodbye to Camilla in Adelaide and Ainav and I headed to Warnambool with Marjan to catch a train to Melbourne.  In one day I went from Adelaide, to Warnambool, to Melbourne and then Bendigo.  I spent about 15 hours travelling that day, but was thankful to see Dana that night.  It wasn’t the ideal way to end a month-long road trip and I’m sorry that it was so rushed at the end.  But now that I have had the time to reflect on it, it was a really good start to my travels of Australia and I really enjoyed the girls I had traveled with.  A huge thanks goes out to Marjan for responding to my ad on Gumtree and providing the car:)

UPDATE:  It’s been a few months since my Dad has had his stroke and he is doing well.  After 5 weeks in the hospital he headed home and doing really well.  It’s been tough being a world away, but flying home didn’t make sense while he was still in the hospital.  I have told my family though that if they felt it would be better to have an extra hand at home, let me know and I’d be on the next plane.  Love you Dad!!!

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Whitsunday Magic and heaven on a plate

This entry on the Whitsunday Islands is going to be primarily a pictorial.  As I had previously mentioned in my Airlie Beach blog, as a backpacker, I’m not afforded too many luxuries.  I have eaten a lot of McDonald’s on this trip (mainly in thanks to the free Wi-Fi that comes with it), so please enjoy reading the menu from my 3 days/3 nights on the Whitsunday Magic:

Day 1:
Dinner—Cajun-spiced chicken, mushroom risotto and fresh tomato salsa.
Dessert—white chocolate panacotta with fresh berry sauce.

Day 2:
Breakfast—Fresh fruit, granola, yoghurt, granola, cereal, toast(available every morning), scrambled eggs with ham, bacon and spinach.                                                                                                           Lunch—Salmon rolls, king prawns, Greek-style salad, pasta salad and salami.                                                                                                                                                                                                              Dinner option 1—Eye fillett, rosemary roasted potatoes, fresh green beans topped with brenaise sauce and served over a roasted tomato.                                                                                                     Dinner option 2—Coral Trout with a coconut lime ginger chili broth, topped with a crispy Aisian noodle salad.                                                                                                                                                         Dessert—homemade chocolate mousse topped with an orange glaze sauce and whip cream.

Day 3:
Breakfast—Eggs benedict on a seeded whole grain muffin and bacon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Lunch option 1—Chicken Burger with feta cheese, lettuce, tomato and bacon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Lunch option 2—Cheese burger, bacon and chili sauce.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tea—Rissotto balls (salmon or mushroom).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Dinner option 1—Lamb rump with pillaf rice with spring onion, chili, cream sauce and chic pea ragu/grilled zucchini on the side.                                                                                                                  Dinner option 2—Barramundi with avocado salad, roasted pumpkin and sweet potato chips.
Dessert—homemade chocolate brownies and ice cream.

Day 4:
Breakfast—pancakes with berry sauce.

The chef was a young guy named Pete.  I asked him if he knew how to clean and do laundry, in addition to cooking.  When he answered yes, I asked him to marry me, as he would make the perfect wife while I spent my Saturday and Sundays watching football.

More photos can be found at:

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Chasing the Sun

So a little background info.  Australia has this great website called Gumtree.  You can find anything from jobs (which I have) to rideshares (which I have).  I put up a post just stating that I wanted to take a roadtrip anywhere from Melbourne after a certain date.  So Marjan, a German girl with a car, responded that she wanted to roadtrip up the East Coast, cut over to Alice Springs and then back down the Stuart Highway.  Sounded great, let’s do it…and boy have we.

So right now I’m in Airlie Beach, just south of Townsville in Queensland.  We left Melbourne on May 9th, got halfway to Sydney and opted to spend the night sleeping in the car atop some mountains in freezing weather.  We spent a couple of days in Sydney before we ended up in Port MacQuarie.  Quaint little town, rode some camels on the beach (little known fact:  Australia has 1.7 million wild camels) and explored a koala hospital (my first sighting of the animals).  Then we headed north where we stopped off in Coff’s Harbour.  Met some cool people and took pictures of the famous “Big Banana.”  A quick stop off in Byron Bay, saw us in Brisbane for a couple of days.  I can’t say I really saw the city. Unless a couple of bars with some interesting foreigners counts.  I spent most of that Sunday playing poker for 4 hours.  Made it to the final 2 out of 40.  The other finalist and I opted to split the $50 pot and call it a night, as it was getting ridiculous counting out chips, winning every other hand, blah,blah, blah…

From Brisbane we decided to head to Hervey Bay and get into a tour for a few days in Fraser Island (separate post and pics to come).  After Fraser, we added 3 more girls to our car and headed to Airlie Beach, where I’m currently at.   We made a stop off in Emu Park and went to an awesome Crocodile Farm.  Marjan and I decided it was best to stick around Airlie Beach for a few days rather than head any further north.  We’re going to need some time to relax before we hit up the Outback and make our way back south.  We estimate it should take about 10 days to get from Townsville to Adelaide.  We plan to go from Townsville–Mt. Isa–Tennent Creek–Alice Springs–Uluru–Coober Pedy–Adelaide.  Long story short:  a lot of driving.

Until then, I will be heading out to explore the Whitsunday Islands for the next 3 days/3 nights.  Kat, one of the girls I met on Fraser Island, and I will be boarding the Whitsunday Magic, the most luxurious of boats to go on.  I’m pretty stoked for the free scuba dive, snorkelling and gourmet meals.

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