After being on the go for so long, I was ready to stay in one place for more than a couple of nights, so I decided to stay a week in Byron Bay and even that wasn't long enough. If it hadn't been for the temptation of the fireworks in Sydney I would have quite possibly stayed there until I left for New Zealand!
I arrived in Byron on the 20th and had 3 nights booked at the Arts Factory Lodge (it was fully booked over Christmas after the 23rd) and when I got the the hostel I knew I was going to like it. It was such a hive of activity and so very different to anywhere I'd been before. As I was waiting to check in a guy with a Cockatoo on his shoulder, who I later discovered was Cockatoo Paul, was walking round inviting people on his bush tucker walk, but as it started in about 5 minutes I passed that evening. After putting my bags in my room I went and met up with Craig who I'd met on Fraser Island.
The Arts Factory is huge - lots of dorms like a conventional hostel, but also several Ti-pees, smaller outdoor huts and a campsite. There's a swimming pool, volley ball court, and outdoor picnic area, and people of all ages seem to stay there. As its an "Arts Factory" they encourage different forms of art with free workshops every day from drumming & digeridoo to poi & yoga and much more inbetween. Each night there's usually some form of entertainment going on as well. On my first night there was a talent show and everyone who performed was just amazing. Lots of people stay there for several months at a time and get little bands together, others performed poetry or just played on their own, but needless to say it was very impressive.
We got back to the hostel at about 7 and slept in one of the hammocks for about an hour. I had to check out that morning so I went to my room and packed. A little later I ran into Charlotte who hadn't slept either... It turned out her and another guy had ended up getting a taxi to the lighthouse to try and find us but to no avail! We chilled out by the pool for the rest of the morning, trying but failing to sleep! Eventually she went to bed, but as I had no place to sleep until that evening when I was moving into the house share I decided to go to the beach and sleep there for a while. I got about another hour before I started to walk back. On the way back I ran into Tia and Eoghan who I was going to the house with so they took me to the house and showed me round. It was about 3 minutes from the AF which was handy and was a really cool house. I met Inge off the bus that afternoon and took her to the house before moving all my stuff from the hostel. We met some of the others who we were staying with: Gardner, Henry, Ben, Holly, Maj, Kara and Damo. They had all worked together in Cairns.
The next day was Christmas Eve and it didn't feel like it at all! Inge and I had decided to hire a couple of boards but when we got there and checked the surf, no where was hiring because it was too rough and dangerous.To my disappointment, we were told that it was going to carry on getting bigger over the next few days. Instead we walked to the Lighthouse so I got the see it in broad day light this time. The views were fantastic and we also saw a group of dolphins playing by the coast line. By the time we got back to the house, the food shopping for Christmas dinner had been done, so we went and help get the alcohol in.
That evening there was a Christmas Eve Party at the Arts Factory, so Inge and I went and met up with Charlotte and Ro so a pre Christmas meal. We helped set the tables up inside as the rain had ruined the initial set up. The food was really good and Champagne kept appearing on the table each time we finished a bottle. After the meal, they made it open mic again so a few of the guys got up and performed. Inge, Charlotte and Ro headed into town but I stayed a little longer at the hostel with some other friends and then headed to the beach for a bit of a party for the rest of the night.
On Boxing day Inge, Gardner, Maj and I went to the beach. The swell was beginning to get smaller but it was still rough conditions. Gardner and I kept going in the sea but the current was unbelievable! I was disappointed that the conditions weren't any good for me to go surfing especially as my time there was running out. Later that day we went and said bye to Charlotte and Ro as they were leaving for Sydney that night.
I was pretty sad to say bye to everyone there, I met some of the coolest people on my whole trip just in that hostel. I've already decided I want to go back there for a couple of months at some point but not sure when that may happen! That night was my first night in in a long time! I stayed in the house and watched a couple of films with the guys before falling asleep on the couch. We were leaving on the night bus so on Wednesday I just did some washing and got everything organised for leaving for Sydney!
Byron Bay is by far my favourite place along the East Coast: I can't wait to go back!
Thursday, 29 December 2011
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
nd Eoghan who we had met on the Clipper and who we were going to be spending Christmas with in Byron Bay. It was really cool to see them again and made us really excited for Christmas again! The next couple of days we just chilled out, the temperatures were just so hot that doing stuff in the city was not the most appealing! Brisbane City Backpackers has a pool on the roof which makes it easy to stay at the hostel through the day.
I left Brissy on Tues and headed to Byron Bay without Inge for the first time in almost a month! She was staying a few extra nights in Brisbane and meeting me in Byron on the 23rd , it was kind of odd to be on my own again but also quite good to remind me what it feels like going to new places totally alone.
Friday, 16 December 2011
|Lounge area - Halse Lodge|
In Noosa we stayed in Halse Lodge YHA as it was recommended to us by several people. The Greyhound dropped us off at Noosa Junction and there was a free pick up to take us to Halse Lodge which is at Noosa Head. When we first arrived the reception staff didn't seem very friendly or happy to be there and we were already regretting not just sticking to Nomads. We found our 4 bed dorm clean and comfortable but we didn't seem to see very many other people staying at the Hostel which disappointed us and already we were contemplating changing hostels for the second night. At the same time, we were both aware we were really tired and could be wrong about YHA.
We had headed to Noosa with the plan of doing a canoeing trip in the Everglades, however when we arrived we found out it was fully booked until the weekend and neither of us were intending on staying that long. After the original plan failed we made more effort to find out what there was to do in and Noosa. The hostel run a welcome meeting every evening to give information about the area and the evening staff were so much nicer. By this time the bar was filling up too so we began to warm to the place a bit more. The next day we went for a walk in Noosa's vast national park. We took the coastal path way to Hell's gate and then to Alexandria Bay where, to our surprise, we discovered it was actually a nudist beach! We only stayed on the beach for about 20 mintues – laying on the beach with old men with everything on show wasn't really the most relaxing environment to say the least! We took a different route back to the park entrance this time through the woods. In total around circuit was about 8km which felt a bit more due to the intense heat but it was a nice work out before lunch.
After seeing a poster in Peter Pan's we both decided to get a cheap hair cut by a girl staying in Nomads. I regretted it instantly as I always do with hair cuts but to be fair it was needed. Later we met a few others who hadn't been impressed by her either but it was cheap so we couldn't complain. That evening we had a few drinks in the bar where we met some guys who were from Noosa – one of whom had actually lived in Barrow in Furness for a couple of years as his mam was from Windermere which was extremely random. After Halse Lodge bar closed we headed to the Koala Bar at Nomads to continue the evening. I got talking to a couple of guys from down south and by chance we realised we were waiting for the same person in Noosa – Digby, who I'd met in Cairns but was actually their friend from home. The backpacking community, especially on the East Coast is incredibly small! You forever find yourself running into people you've already met, or people who know people you've met.
On Wednesday we got up relatively early and caught a bus to Eumundi, where we had been had a great market on a Wednesday and Saturday. The market was good, yes, similar to the continental markets we get at home with food from many different countries and lots of handmade goods. It was pretty extensive too – if you had a house in the area the market would be perfect for odd bits and bobs for around the home, and if you didn't mind spending money on food it would be great too. But neither I nor Inge have the capability to carry things for around the house or money to waste on food so it wasn't that long before we caught the bus back to Noosa. That afternoon we just chilled out and went to the beach for a while. Since leaving Cairns we've been on the go non stop: lots of activities, lots of alcohol and very little sleep, so we were both more than happy to spend our time in Noosa relaxing and catching up on some well needed rest.
That evening we met up with Digby and his friends for a few drinks in Nomads but didn't stay long before walking back to our hostel. Neither of us had intended on staying so long in Noosa but there is a really nice, chilled out atmosphere around and its really picturesque. On our last day we attempted and failed miserably to devise a plan for New Year, chilled out on the beach for a bit and had a look down Hastings street, the quite up market shopping street in Noosa Head. The weather wasn't too great that day so I was delighted to find a coffee shop selling Chai Lattes in the food court on Hastings street. I haven't lost my addiction to them at all and the fact that I only manage to get one very occasionally makes me appreciate them a whole lot more. We had an easy night before our Greyhound to Brisbane the next morning.
Monday, 12 December 2011
Alarms were set for 6:30 in order to get up, have breakfast, pack, check out of the hostel and assemble by the land-rovers by 7:45. We then had to go through all the camping and cooking equipment that was supplied to check we had anything, then after a quick run through how to drive in 4WD we set off. First to Inskip point where we got on the car ferry across to Fraser. We were really lucky with bright blue skies and scorching hot weather which had not been predicted so first we headed to Lake MacKenzie. All the cars met up here and so it was good to get to know people from the other groups. The lake was really nice; clear fresh water made a nice change from the sea and it was so refreshing in the heat. The beach was almost white and there was lots of greenery around making it even more picturesque. From the lake we drove along the beach to the place where we were to set up camp and it was my turn to drive. It was so much fun! I'd been a little apprehensive at first but as soon as I’d driven 100m I loved it! It felt a little odd driving on sand but it was easy to get used to. We pitched our tents, cooked food and chilled out on the beach for the rest of the night.
Back at Rainbow we cleaned out our cars and gave back our camping stuff. We were so lucky to have such a good group of people and none of us really seemed to want to leave Fraser. That night was actually Shane's birthday so we met up in the bar at Dingo's for a few drinks minus the goon! It was a really cool night and nice way to say bye to everyone before we caught the bus to Noosa the next morning.
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
We left Cairns early in the morning on the Greyhound down to Townsville. After very little sleep that night the journey flew by as I slept the whole way. The drop off point in Townsville is actually at the ferry port so we didn't have a long walk or that much of a wait either before our crossing to Magnetic Island. The ferry takes about 20 minutes then we caught a bus down to Base Backpackers, our hostel for the following two nights.
After following the directions to our dorm, Inge and I were delighted by our luck! We had a balcony that was right on the sea front, over looking the water and the cliffs to the side. It was unbelievably warm so we just stayed by the pool for a few hours before dinner. When we booked we received a free dinner and breakfast – the food was incredible! Best hostel food I've had hands down. I got the veggie lasagne and could have happily ate it several times over. That night they had “Boozy Bingo” in the bar. We'd met a couple of people by this point so 5 of us sat round drinking and playing bingo which was a bit of a laugh – none of us won of course.
By the afternoon we had sailed north to our first snorkelling/diving location. I chose not to dive as after my 3 amazing dives in Cairns I could not justify sending any more money on diving! Still managed to see tonnes of different fish just by snorkelling around though so it was still cool. The Clipper also has a dive board and slide so after a bit of snorkelling we passed the time jumping in until the divers returned. That night more games came out. Firstly the guys dressed up as girls (including the crew which was hilarious) then we had a series of games after that. Everyone got involved and made it good fun – through the day a lot of people seemed to be pretty subdued probably because of the weather. We'd all heard stories of the Clipper being a bit mental so most people that I spoke to were surprised at how tame it was. I think it depends a lot on the group on the boat but to be honest the balance worked out pretty well.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
|View from Captin Cook Highway|
I flew from Singapore to Darwin, and then to Cairns. When I arrived in Cairns, along with the immigration sheet, I had to fill in a declaration form where you declare any foreign goods or foods etc. As I'd done some trekking, my shoes were pretty muddy and that was actually one of the options! So after collecting my bag, I had to go to this other section of the airport where a guy took my shoes and washed them before allowing me to leave. Consequently I had soaking wet shoes for the following week as I forgot to dry them out....
By the time I arrived in Cairns I was feeling pretty much 100% better and the sun was blazing, happy days ! I got the free shuttle from the airport and headed to my hostel, Nomads Serpent which is about a 25 minute walk from the centre of Cairns. It was pretty cheap $15 per night including free breakfast (if you could make it out of bed in time!) They also had an offer where if you bought a drink – could literally be anything – for $3 + you could get a free evening meal, really basic food but so cheap it was hard to say no.
The amount of trips advertised in Cairns is pretty overwhelming and it would be so easy to spend thousands in a matter of minutes. I'd been looking into the various tours but there was so much choice that Inge and I decided to go to Peter Pan's (probably the most widely used travel agency along the east coast) Before we knew it we'd booked to go to Magnetic Island, the Whitsundays and Fraser Island. It cost quite a bit but we did actually get some good deals and we were both stupidly excited!
On Saturday I really pushed the boat out and booked a diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef carrying out 3 dives and hiring a camera. As with most things it was horribly expensive but it's something I had to do and it was so worth it! I went with Silver Swift: we travelled about 1 and a half hours out to Flynn Reef, the boat was really comfy and we got tea/coffee and cakes when we got on for breakfast. My first dive was really cool: I immediately noticed how brighter the coral was and how much better the visibility was than on Koh Tao. I saw a huge variety of fish and coral and enjoyed every second of it. The second dive was even better. We saw a green turtle, some sharks, several trigger fish, nemos, giant clams and more. I couldn't get enough. After the second dive we got lunch – help yourself buffet with rice, curry, a selection of salads, and fruit. It was all pretty awesome food. The third dive was really cool too; we moved to a slightly different location where there was a lot of boulder coral which made it slightly different and interesting. I was happy that I'd got the camera as I got some really cool shots – much better than Koh Tao. We got tea, cake and fruit on the return journey too. The dive masters and all the crew were really friendly and fun and I had an awesome day out, well worth the money!
As we were in the Daintree Rainforest region, on the way back to Cairns the next day we went on a small river cruise to see if we could spot any crocodiles – naturally we didn't but the guy did show us around the mangroves and pointed out their nesting areas and other spots of wildlife which was actually quite interesting. As it was high tide and there was some extra flood water our chances of seeing crocodiles were largely diminished so it was no surprise really that we didn't see any. There are some nice beaches in between Port Douglas and Cairns so we stopped off at a couple before taking the car back. You can't really swim in the sea at the minute due to it being stinger season and the fact that there can be crocodiles and sharks in the waters, but we stopped at Palm Cove which has a swimming enclosure which is deemed safe enough so we went for a dip and did some sun bathing.
It's been quite odd to spend so much time with a group of girls but it was a nice change. When we returned to Cairns, despite the fact we had to get up at 6am for the Greyhound the following morning, we decided to go out as it was going to be our last night with Stacey. Inge Stacey and I went for one last night out using some of the vouchers we had left from the Pub Crawl and had a pretty good night.
Monday, 21 November 2011
I was in a 10 bed, relatively spacious dorm, and when I arrived I was the only person there! Less people in your dorm makes it a bit harder to meet people but does mean less disturbances. I slept for a few hours (the beds were really comfy by the way and had duvets which always makes me happy) and then went to check in properly. The hostel is relatively new, but the staff are very friendly and helpful, and the facilities are great. There is a roof top garden where you can sit out and look across the city - its partially covered which is helpful due to the amount of rain I've experienced since I arrived, and has comfy wicker chairs all around. There are 3 computers in the reception which you can use for free and free wi-fi as well. The toilets and showers are really clean and there is an overall chilled out atmosphere. They often have music playing through the day too which is a nice touch.
When I tried to return to my hostel I got quite lost so ended up jumping on the underground to the station closest to where I was staying, Boon Keng. I'm not a city person in all fairness, and up until now undergrounds have always confused me. Over the last couple of days I've used the underground so many times that I've become a bit of a expert! I even had to help some Asian tourists to use the ticket machine, and direct some others to the correct line. The underground is immaculate - not surprising really considering there is a $500 fine for eating/drinking and $1000 fine for smoking on the premises! I was really impressed with how quick, easy and efficient the system was. Obviously we don't have this sort of transport in Carlisle but I have used the underground in London and a couple of other cities, and I found the transport in Singapore one of the best and relatively inexpensive.
Singapore itself is incredibly clean, as I'm not a smoker, I hadn't been aware of the fact you had to pay taxes on cigarettes brought into the country. A couple in my dorm told me they were asked to pay a total over $160 just to bring their cigarettes into the country, however they were allowed to leave them at the airport and collect them in a few days time when they were flying home to Holland. In addition to this, chewing gum is illegal! I can understand fines for putting it on the street etc but making it totally illegal seems a bit steep. Having said that, the streets are spotless so I guess it pays off.
|The Merlion - Half Lion, half fish|
If you're a fan of cities, and have plenty of money to spend, Singapore is a great place to be. I've only spent two and a half days here, and there's not an awful lot more I can take. It clean, friendly and easy to get around but its so big and busy. Compared to Kuala Lumpur I much prefer it but at the end of the day, its another big city so I'm looking forward to leaving. Tonight I fly to Cairns, Australia: I'm feeling almost back to normal now and I cannot wait. So for now its Goodbye Asia, but I can almost guarantee I'll be back!
Saturday, 19 November 2011
I left the guys in the Cameron Highlands and caught the bus down to Kuala Lumpur. I'd been pleasantly surprised by large comfortable seats and as I sat down I noticed a sign above me saying "plastic bag for vomit". Sure enough in the back pocket of the chair infront was a small carrier bag for anyone unfortunate enough to get sick. I was almost amused by the idea until 20 minutes into the journey the guy who was sat behind me started to throw up! It was awful. I'd noticed how windy the roads were on the way to Tanah Ranta but it hadn't even crossed my mind that someone would get so ill! After putting in my headphones and turning the volume up full blast I still couldn't drown out the sound. What made it even worse was the fact that he was a local and all I could smell for the entire 4 hours was curry... I wasn't impressed and I was still feeling ill myself.
I managed to get some sleep and did begin to feel a bit better. I met up with Andy who had travelled down to KL that morning and we went in search for something to eat. After the way I'd been feeling I was so grateful to see a familiar face. Instead of finding food we ended up going to the Petronas Towers, for me the second time that day! It was worth it though, they looked amazing lit up in the dark. Other than a quick look and a few snaps of the camera there's really not a lot to do there, so we continued our search for food only to end up back at Reggae Bar where we gave up and ate there instead. Kuala Lumpur is easily the most developed place I've been since I started travelling. Whilst I don't suppose the fact I really didn't have much of an appetite helped, I really struggled to see many places to eat other than fancy restaurants, and the food places in Chinatown looked a lot less clean than any of the food stalls I'd seen in other places.
My bus left Kuala Lumpur at midnight and I arrive in Singapore at about 6am this morning. A 6 hour journey probably isn't worth a night bus but I saved on accommodation and as I don't have much time left it was quite handy not to waste a day.
I wasn't overly phased by KL. It was a nice city, but very busy with traffic and few systems in place to help you cross the road. I didn't find there was an awful lot to do there either, if I'd been feeling better I'm sure I could have found a few more things to do, but even from conversations with people I met, they didn't seem particularly enthused either. Its obviously an impressive area for shopping, but other than that, I failed to see what was there.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
On arriving in Malaysia, I had been quite surprised as to how dramatically more developed it was in comparison to Thailand. Yes, there are large areas of Thailand that seem well on their way, however the parts of Malaysia I saw showed little signs of lack of development. Skyscrapers and other impressive buildings gave this impression, along with fully operational roads on which people even seemed to stay in lane - a rare occurrence in Thailand! On Penang, whilst some areas were a little shabby, I thought the same applied. However I noticed a lot of differences in the landscape throughout the journey to the Cameron Highlands. Especially in the more rural places
The temperature was a lot cooler than anywhere I'd been since leaving the UK so it wasn't long before I'd changed into my jeans and a hoody. We headed into town for a look around and some food - I got vegetable fried noodles which I think, aside from the samosas, was probably the best food I'd had since arriving in Malaysia. None of us had much enthusiasm to do much for the rest of the day so we chilled out in the dorm. I would definitely recommend staying in Father's, however, other than for breakfast, I would not advise anyone to eat there. Our meal was awful! It had been pouring down with rain so instead of going back into town we took advantage of the "restaurant" on site which we soon regretted.
It was around mid afternoon when we returned to the hostel and again I really wasn't feeling well. I didn't do much other than book my bus to Kuala Lumpur until the guys were going for food. I went with them but only ended up getting a plain chappati as it was about all I could stomach! It was my last night with the lads so I was a bit gutted I felt so rough. They proceeded to play drinking games so I sat and laughed at their misfortune. I did eventually begin to feel more human again so I did have a bit of a laugh with them later on.
This morning I left them and headed down to Kuala Lumpur (KL) ... Lets see what the city has to offer!