Arriving in the small city of Sandakan early evening we grabbed a taxi to our hostel and got checked in, ready to plan the next couple of days. We stayed at the Sandakan Sea View Backpacker Hostel and while there are a few hostels on this road I’d wholeheartedly recommend this one.
Money and time… wouldn’t we all love it if we had more of both. Sadly though, after ten months travelling we have only a few weeks until we need to think about heading home and our bank account has definitely seen better days. We’re not letting this hold us back too much though and our recent Borneo itinerary been a massive highlight of our trip.
We were lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in Bolivia on our travels and were surprised by just how much we enjoyed it. Like many of the destinations we visit we hadn’t done a huge amount of research in advance, and had heard mixed reviews from other travellers on our journey through South America. There are loads of awesome reasons to visit Bolivia and it’s a beautiful, amazing and fascinating country to explore.
As it turned out, not only did my mum decide to come and visit us while we were spending two weeks travelling Japan, but her visit happened to fall on Mother’s Day. Anyone would think she’d planned it that way! Of course, having not seen her in the best part of a year, we wanted to plan something pretty special, and decided we’d treat her to dinner.
This post has been a long time coming but I’m so glad I made time to sit down and write about the hiking in South Island. It’s no secret that we both loved our time in New Zealand and looking over old pictures for this post has made me so keen to go back some day! Just like North Island, there are plenty of epic South Island hikes, and it’s so worth squeezing in at least a couple of them on your trip.
Japan is well known for its interesting and sometimes unusual culture and our visit didn’t disappoint. From a live action robot show to making sushi, and from exploring the ancient temples of Kyoto to hand feeding tame deer in Nara, there are so many things to do it can be hard to work out what to prioritise fitting into your trip. If you have a couple of weeks to explore these are our all time top 10 things to do in Japan, that will mean you make the most of your time in this amazing country.
Much to our surprise, Bolivia turned out to be one of our favourite countries. We didn’t know a lot about it before our visit except for understanding that it’s a very poor country, has some social and infrastructural challenges and tends to be a bit like marmite with travellers. As we’d journeyed through South America some people regaled us with stories of terrible food poisoning, scary experiences of theft and plenty of difficulties in travelling around Bolivia.
We absolutely loved the Galapagos. Even now, many months and adventures later, we love looking back on our photos of the Galapagos Islands and remembering what an incredible time we had. Whilst it’s pretty expensive as backpacking destinations go, and not exactly the easiest place to reach, I’d recommend it to any travellers who love nature and wildlife.
We only had 24 hours in San Pedro De Atacama, as the tiny desert town was just a short stop off on our way from Salta, Argentina to the Bolivian salt flats. Turns out that it was one of the busiest – and best – days of our trip and that San Pedro is absolutely packed with amazing things to do. We’ve been meaning to write about it for ages but have only just got round to it, so here goes!
We’d decided it was essential to block out a day for visiting Nara from Osaka as we knew we wouldn’t have enough to occupy us in the city for the 3 days we had booked there. Not to mention we were desperate to see the thousands of adorable deer that roam free around huge areas of the city! Luckily we weren’t disappointed and had an amazing day exploring one of Japan’s ancient capitals – one of our first glimpses into this history after spending the initial few days of our two weeks in Japan in Tokyo and Osaka.
So many people who visit Taiwan never make it out of Taipei, which I think is a huge mistake when there are so many other awesome cities to see! Despite a somewhat dodgy start, we found loads of awesome things to do in Taichung, and it turned out to be our favourite city in Taiwan. Deciding to save money by walking the 30 minutes from the station to our hostel we found ourselves walking through some pretty sketchy looking areas. Tower blocks, concrete high rises and busy roads made the whole place feel pretty bleak and soulless and we thought we may have made a bit of an error. We figured that we only had a one day in Taichung anyway so perhaps it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had to stay in our apartment and get some work done…
For most people the images that come to mind when they think of sakura (cherry blossom) season in Japan are probably of blue skies and sunshine, beautiful trees in full bloom and people chilling out in parks enjoying spring picnics. Whilst I’m not here to dash all of your hopes and dreams and we definitely had some incredible days admiring the blossoms, visiting Japan in sakura season isn’t necessarily the experience you might expect.
Happy Friday! I’m actually writing this blog straight from our cooking class in Hoi An despite the fact it won’t be published for several weeks. Why you ask? Well, because this was up there with the very best foodie experiences we’ve had while travelling and I wanted to get it all down for you while it’s fresh in my mind.
We decided to take our cooking class for Vietnam in Hoi An due to some great recommendations on Twitter and we’re very glad we did so thank you for those.
Sadly we weren’t able to take our usual cooking class in Taiwan as it was surprisingly expensive and we simply couldn’t justify it given that we’re fairly broke these days. After doing some research the cheapest class I could find was 100USD per person which was so far out of our budget we may as well have been flying to the moon to learn how to cook. I mean, it’s not cheap here by South East Asian standards but it’s hardly the most expensive place we’ve visited so we were kind of shocked at the prices and sad that our cooking class challenge seemed to be coming to an untimely end.
If there’s one place you add to your travels in Vietnam – make it Phong Nha National Park. It was actually more of an accidental step in our itinerary through Vietnam than anywhere we’d harboured a desire to include. After buying a copy of the Lonely Planet from a street seller in Hanoi we saw the park was located conveniently between Hanoi and Hue and decided to spend a day there. Way back when we’d been planning our trip Rob had mentioned some caves he’d like to see in Vietnam and it turned out this was where they were located so it seemed the perfect addition to our trip through Vietnam.
We never really go shopping while travelling so this was a bit of a turn up for the books. Occasionally we might replace some of our grotty worn out clothes at a market or head to the food hall in a fancy shopping mall, but generally speaking we’re not big on wandering round the shops. In Taiwan though, we stumbled across some of the coolest department stores we’ve ever seen.
Despite having studied History to A Level and coming from a family of history graduates and enthusiasts, my knowledge of Asian history was poor to none existent prior to travelling this continent. The majority of my GCSE and A Level history experience as I remember it was, whilst enjoyable, almost entirely centred around the Tudors, the Russian Revolution and WWs 1 and 2.
There are few things worse than taking the bus from Vientiane to Hanoi. Scooping your own eyes out with a rusty spoon? Drowning in quicksand? Or watching the sequel to 50 Shades of Grey perhaps.
When it comes to our worst ever transport nightmare, nothing compares to our 25 hour, overnight sleeper-bus from Vientiane (Laos) to Hanoi (Vietnam).