Adventures


A while ago when I did my 101 places to see before you die post, the lovely Nathan from Blog-of-Nathan asked me to write a list of places I have actually been to. It’s been a long time coming *cough10monthscough* but here it is Nathan! I don’t think I’ll get to 100 but I’ll try and come up with 50 interesting places I’ve been to!

The Daintree Rainforest – Australia (I got married there)
Sentosa Island – Singapore
Ubud – Bali
The Great Barrier Reef – Australia (Scuba Diving – Amazing!)

Bintan Island – Indonesia
Sihanoukville Beaches – Cambodia
Fairy Dell Rainforest – Australia (Our favourite camping destination)
The Plain of Jars – Laos


The Mekong River – Laos, Thailand, Cambodia AND Vietnam – lots of kayaking!
The Buddha Cave Lam Pa Fa – Laos
The Killing Fields – Cambodia
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Milford Sound – New Zealand
The Fireball Festival – Thailand
Cancun – Mexico
Malolo Island – Fiji
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The Nullarbor Desert – Australia (our car broke down here)
The Great Ocean Road – Australia
Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets –  Thailand
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The Big Banana (haha) – Australia
Blue Mountains – Australia
Krabi – Thailand (great Kayaking)
Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand
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Luang Prabang – Laos (Mekong River Tubing Pub Crawl!)
Saigon – Vietnam
Waiheke Island – New Zealand
Hill Tribe Villages in Chaing Mai – Thailand
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Janolan Caves – Australia
Nadi (stranded during a flood/cyclone!) – Fiji
Stinky Rotarua – New Zealand
Angkor Wat – Cambodia
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Fremantle Markets – Australia
Wonderland Theme Park – Australia (doesn’t exist anymore so it’s worth a mention!)
Adventureland Perth – Australia
Whale Watching in Hervey Bay – Australia
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Sunrise in Dunedin – New Zealand
Temora – Australia (not a town worth mentioning except I skydived there)
Umphang Mountains – Thailand (we volunteered at a school there)
Khao Sok National Park – Thailand
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Jutajuk Markets Bangkok – Thailand
Cradle Mountain Tasmania – Australia
Orchard Road – Singapore
Sydney Harbor Bridge – Australia
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An outward bound course on a strange island I can’t remember the name of – Singapore
The freaky ‘Edge’ platform in the Eureka Tower in Melbourne – Australia
S21 Prisoner Camp – Cambodia
Hopetoun Falls – Australia
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Easy Riders Motorcycle tour through Rural Vietnam
Floated down the Murrumbidgee River in a Houseboat – Australia
Linh Phuoc Pagoda – Vietnam
The Great Australia Bight – Australia

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Not nearly as interesting as the 101 places to see before you die since I haven’t been to all that many places but hopefully interesting enough!
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I have lived in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore so it makes sense that there are a lot of places from those countries. My husband and I also backpacked through South East Asia and spent over 6 months exploring Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in 2005/2006 so we’ve covered a lot of ground there too. I hope to see MANY more places in my time though, if I dream of anything it is spending my life living out of a backpack and exploring the world, now if only I could figure out a way to fund it!
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One of the things I love about travelling is being able to cross things off my lists of places to see, and one way that I do that (since EVERYWHERE is on my list) is by adding virtual ‘pins’ to my trip advisor travel map.. here is what my map looks like at the moment.
..

Not nearly as ‘pinned’ as I would like, that’s for sure!
What cities are pinned on your map? What places are on your ‘must see’ list?

I’m on holidays at the moment, in Brisbane. I’m sunburnt and trying to decide what to order from the breakfast menu that you stick on the door handle.. I love hotels, don’t you? Anyway, I saw this on another blog and thought I’d play:

Just copy and paste these 99 things onto your blog and bold the things you HAVE done… here are mine:

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to DisneyWorld

8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched a lightning storm

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise (not an overnight one though)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theatre

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a cheque

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

 (depends on how famous they have to be!)

92. Joined a book club

93. Got a tattoo

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

How many have you done out of the 99?

I haven’t been very good at keeping up with this blog over the last few months. I considered scrapping the whole thing all together and focusing on my Vegan Blog instead but decided at the last minute to keep it up and running. I’ve broken up with so many online journals over the years and have always regretted not keeping them going so I’m going to work through the lack of motivation and see where we end up.

We had some visitors from Perth here with us this week and it’s been really lovely. It’s really nice to live somewhere that people actually want to come and visit, we are so lucky to live in this glorious holiday destination, it’s so easy to forget. Anyway, Amy and Conrad arrived on Tuesday afternoon in Queenstown and we had dinner and coffees and caught up after over a year of not seeing one another. It was fabulous to sit in my favourite coffee shop with actual people, instead of just sitting with my head in a book like I usually do. They slept in town and explored the city for a couple of nights before heading out to our little house by the lake.

They stayed here two nights, and didn’t once complain about the smorgasbord of vegan food we had organised for them.. which was a relief, it can be a little intimidating inviting omnivores to stay! After two days here we headed off on a little road trip together to explore some parts of the South Island. Last night we stayed at a great little place in Te Anau. We explored Milford Sound by day and by night we ate Italian food and watched dodgy old bond movies on telly. This morning we ate breakfast in a local bakery and then they drove off into the sunset, continuing on their adventure and leaving me here, waving frantically from my deck as they sailed away.

The house feels strangely quiet now that they are gone, but it makes me even more excited for our next set of guests who are arriving in May! Anyone else want to visit us? While I will feed you vegan food, I promise not to attempt a conversion of your meat eating ways (although Amy and Conrad DID depart as new recruits to the vegetarian lifestyle, I promise, I had nothing to do with it!).

Here are some pics of the mini adventure:







Well our trip to India is still a while away (77 days, not that I’m counting) but I’m just about through with all our planning and booking so I thought I’d do a quick update and tell you all about our plans for the trip:

April 7: Fly from Queenstown – Christchurch and spend the night. We have a meeting with a woman who we are hoping to get a puppy from (did I tell you about our prospective puppy? Oh dear, well I best put that on my to blog list!).

April 8: Fly from Christchurch to Sydney, get some dread maintenance at Furr and then we’re meeting our dear friend Kristie and her daughter Tara for lunch at the Green Gourmet (OMG just typing that there is making my mouth water, I miss that place so much! Go Vegan Yum Cha!!!). Then, in the afternoon we’ll head back to the airport and catch our flight to Mumbai (thank goodness we are both the kind of travellers who can fit everything into a carry on sized backpack otherwise we’d be lugging luggage around with us all day long!).

April 9: We arrive in Mumbai at 02:40 AM!! Ugh! That will be fun! So, arrival in Mumbai, mad dash to the hotel and probably sleeeeeep. (hopefully) I’m sure we’ll wake up at some point and we can ease ourselves into the madness that is Mumbai.

April 10: Explore Mumbai during the day and then jump on our first overnight train and spend the night travelling.

April 11: Arrive in Aurangabad at silly oclock in the morning. We have a car picking us up at the station and taking us out to the Ellora caves.

April 12: Head out to the Ajanta caves.

April 13: Catch a bus to Jalgaon in the morning and spend the day sightseeing before jumping on another overnight train for our very long trip to Varanasi (20hrs).

April 14: Arrive in Varanasi. Relax!

April 15: Take a boat tour down the Ganges and do that whole tourist thing.

April 16: More sightseeing during the day and then another overnight train!

April 17: Arrive in Agra. Relax!

April 18: Visit the Taj Mahal!

April 19: Train to Delhi (day time train this time!)

April 20: Sightseeing in Delhi

April 21: Flight to Goa

April 22 – 25: Relaxing in Goa for 5 days after the mayhem of the first part of the trip!

April 26: Nighttime train back to Mumbai

April 27: Last night in India 😦

April 28: Fly Mumbai – Sydney – Auckland – Christchurch

April 30: Fly Christchurch – Queenstown

Phew! I think it’s going to be pretty hectic!

Who wants a postcard?

A few months ago, my friend Nathan, updated her facebook status telling us all that she was bored (or something like that anyway, it was a while ago!), on a whim I suggested to her that she and Jaz and I start a story book, each of us writing a segment of the story and then mailing it onto the next person. I thought it was a wonderful idea at the time, and continued to think so right up until the exact second that the book landed on my desk. And now? Well now I can’t think of a single thing to write so I’ve hid it under my Lonely Planet India guide and my worn copy of The Joy of Vegan Baking because every time I look at it I get heart palpitations.

Sorry story book buddies, I promise I’ll get to it soon!

Yesterday morning I woke up to find an email from my friend Phi (Phi, when are you going to get a blog so I can hyperlink your name???). In the email was a link to a TED talk – this isn’t unusual, Phi is a TED talk addict and is usually trying to convince me to watch all the talks he comes across that inspire him or excite him, anyway his email was subject lined “this could ruin your day, or really inspire you”, it probably wasn’t the best idea to watch it while I was still in my pyjamas and half asleep, but I decided to give it a whirl.

So, it is because of Phi, and THIS video that, before I had even had breakfast yesterday morning I had decided to travel to India to try and change the world.

Okay, okay, I know that I’m not ACTUALLY going to change the world, but every little bit counts right?

So, after I watched the video I did lots of research and then I rushed into the bedroom where Luke was sleeping and shook him awake so that I could tell him all about my exciting plan. I don’t think he was nearly as excited I was, since I was going to be the one off saving the world and having adventures and he was the one who was going to be staying home and working and conveniently depositing money into my bank account every week while I was gone. But he took it all as well as could be expected, considering he was half asleep and he had absolutely no forewarning. “Three months?” he asked groggily, “India?” he muttered, confused, “What about an orphanage?” he asked, squinting at his mobile phone to figure out what the time was. So I rambled through the whole plan one more time. “It’s okay right?” I asked him and Luke, wonderful husband that he is, said “of course!” (though in his head he was probably saying “Of course! Of course you can leave me for three months to travel to a strange country where you probably won’t be safe and I have no way of protecting you! Of course you can leave me here in this strange little town in this strange little country that YOU convinced us to move to in the first place! Of course this is happening to me! This is what I get for marrying this crazy, impulsive, ridiculously nomadic girl in the first place!!!”).

So, now it looks like I will be looking forward to not ONE but TWO trips to India in 2010! How wonderful is that??

I still have a lot more research to do but at this stage I’m looking at flying over in late October (I was thinking December but now I’m not so sure), doing a 6 week volunteer program with a Women Empowerment organisation in Delhi, and a 6 week program with an orphanage in the Himalayas. And maybe while I’m there I’ll tack on a stint in an Ashram too, just for the fun of it!

Here’s to more adventures!

I really enjoyed compiling this list, it took a long time, but it was actually much easier than I was expecting, in fact, before I knew it I had written a list of 131 places to see before I die and I had to go back and cull a bunch of things to get it back down to 101. I only wish that this was a list of 101 places I had already been.. Oh how I would love to have travelled to all of these places! But then again, that wouldn’t give me much to look forward to would it?

I wanted to put a photo of every single thing on the list – just because they are all so beautiful – but I figured that would be picture overload, so instead I’ve just put a pictures for every 5th thing on the list.

Anyway that’s one more thing I can cross off my 101/100 list:

#41. Write a list of 101 places to see before you die.

  1. The Leshan Giant Buddha – China
  2. Sunset at Uluru – Australia
  3. Machu Picchu – Peru
  4. The Great Wall of China
  5. The Plitvice Lakes – Croatia
  6. The Great Pyramid of Giza – Egypt
  7. The Nile – Egypt
  8. Ponte dei Sospiri – Venice Italy
  9. Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe
  10. Taj Mahal – India
  11. Chichen Itza – Mexico
  12. Antarctica
  13. Colluseum – Italy
  14. The Ganges – India
  15. Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
  16. A cherry blossom viewing in Japan
  17. The Ring Road – Iceland
  18. French Quarter, New Orleans – USA
  19. Emam Mosque – Iran
  20. Hohenzollern Castle & The Black Forest – Germany
  21. Stonehenge – England
  22. The Himalayas – Nepal
  23. Isle of Skye – Scotland
  24. Cueva del Fantasma (Cave of the Ghost) – Venezuela
  25. Hagia Sophia – Turkey
  26. Pompeii – Italy
  27. Niagara Falls – USA
  28. The Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) – Bolivia
  29. Marquesas Islands – French Polynesia
  30. Doubtful Sound – New Zealand
  31. Dingle Peninsula – Ireland
  32. The Louvre/Notre Dame/Eiffel Tower – Paris
  33. Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon road trip – USA
  34. Crac Des Chevaliers – Syria
  35. The Amalfi Coast – Italy
  36. The Monasteries of the Metéora – Greece
  37. Clingstone house – USA
  38. The Ponte Vecchio – Italy
  39. Dalmation Coast – Croatia
  40. St Michel D’Aiguilhe Chapel – France
  41. La Mezquita – Spain
  42. Forks (just seeing if you’re paying attention haha)
  43. Volterra – Italy (lol)
  44. Petra – Jordan
  45. Santorini – Greece
  46. The Amazon Rainforest – Brazil
  47. The Wuhua Hai (Five-Flower Lake) – China
  48. Petrodvorets – Russia
  49. Loch Ness – Scotland
  50. Festival of Colors – India
  51. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation – Scotland
  52. Bimini road – The Bahamas
  53. The Berlin Wall (what’s left of it anyway!) – Germany
  54. Pyramids of the Sun and Moon – Mexico
  55. Potala Palace, Lhasa – Tibet
  56. Mesa Verde – USA
  57. Knife Castle – Ukraine
  58. Crater Lake – USA
  59. The plains of the Serengeti – Tanzania
  60. Easter Island – Chile
  61. The Sogne Fjord – Norway
  62. Iguazu Falls – Argentina
  63. Zen Gardens of Kyoto – Japan
  64. Khaju Bridge – Iran
  65. Pagan – Myanmar
  66. Uffizi Gallery – Italy
  67. Carnival Festival – Brazil
  68. Mount Kilimanjaro – Tanzania
  69. The Hallgrímskirkja – Iceland
  70. Eleuthera – Bahamas
  71. Lake Titicaca – Peru
  72. Majlis al Jinn Cave – Oman
  73. The Parthenon – Greece
  74. The Waitomo Glowworm Cave – New Zealand
  75. Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves – Austria
  76. Ephesus – Turkey
  77. Galápagos Islands – Ecuador
  78. Lake Baikal – Russia
  79. Rome – Italy
  80. Sunrise at Mount Nemrut – Turkey
  81. The Maldives
  82. Cape Town – South Africa
  83. Sunset at Ipanema Beach – Brazil
  84. The Guggenheim – Spain
  85. Las Lajas Cathedral – Colombia
  86. St. Basil’s Cathedral – Russia
  87. Prague – Czech Republic
  88. Golden Gate Bridge San Fransisco – USA
  89. Helsingborg – Sweden
  90. The Sahara Desert – Africa
  91. Granada – Spain
  92. London – England
  93. The Boiling Lake – Dominica
  94. The Royal Chitwan National Park – Nepal
  95. Yosemite Valley – USA
  96. Cave of Crystals – Mexico
  97. Drive from Cairo to Kharga – Egypt
  98. The Dead Sea – Israel
  99. Orkhon Khurkhree – Mongolia
  100. St. Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City
  101. Pamukkale – Turkey

Isn’t the world a beautiful place???

I’ve been feeling a little uninspired the last week or so when it comes to thinking of things to blog about so I thought that – in honor of our upcoming trip to India – I would share with you an old blog post from when we were backpacking through Asia in 2005/2006:

October 17, 2005: Nong Khai, Serpents & Fire balls:

We can actually SEE Laos! We are still in Thailand but we could swim there if we wanted to, which means no more stressing about our visas – what a relief! The trip here was.. LONG! We left Chiang Mai at 8pm, arrived at Udon Thani at 8:30am and then got straight on another bus (the tin can variety) to Nong Khai. By the time we finally got a room at a guesthouse it was 11:30am (phew!). Our overnight bus was nice and comfy and big and there was lots of leg room for everyone which was nice and SUCH a change from our other travel adventures – anyone remember Death Highway?? Although at around 2am we passed another ‘VIP’ bus which had broken down on the side of the road so all the passengers then piled into our bus and had to STAND for the rest of the journey (around 6 more hours!). Poor guys!

We are staying at a place called the Mutmee Guesthouse. The rooms are ok but they have a BEAUTIFUL garden area right on the banks of the Mekong River where you can sit and read. and the people who own it are great! It seems that the delay in Chiang Mai must have been destined because after arriving here we have realised that we are smack bang in the middle of the serpents fire festival! Luke and I read about this festival a while back and REALLY wanted to go, we especially wanted to see the ACTUAL serpents fire, but the Lonely Planet didnt say when it was, just that it was on the 15th day of the 11th Lunar month, which was no help to us! Well it turns out that the 15th day of the 11th Lunar month is TOMORROW!

Incidently the 15th day of the 11th lunar month is also the day that our Thai visa expires BUT we have spoken with the immigration people and they have said that we can stay an extra day but there will be a 200B fine for each of us when we go over the border crossing (200B is about $8). SO! we are going to see the serpents fire tomorrow (yay yay yay) and then we are going to cross the bridge over to Laos on the 19th instead.

So about this serpents fire thing.. I dont know how well I can explain it but I will try.. basically there is a particular part of the Mekong where this happens and it only happens on the 15th day of the 11th lunar month each year (which is obviously a different day each year) the end day of the buddhist lent. Anyway.. every year on this particular day natural red, pink and orange fireballs shoot out of the mekong river just at this one point and hover above the river. It was only known about around this area until a few years ago when a thai man made a movie about it (its called ‘The Mekhong Full Moon Party’ for anyone who is interested) the movie was huge in Thailand and some other countries picked it up as well and now every year THOUSANDS of people come to look at the lights.. noone knows what it is or why it happens but skeptics have been trying to prove it as a fraud ever since the movie was released and they can’t explain it either! There are two stories that are popular.. one of them is the traditional story about the Naga Serpent and the other is that at this time of year there is so much plant and animal life decomposing at the bottom of the river, that it begins to emit flammable gases. Apparently these gases are only released by the gravitational pull of the moon, at its strongest when the moon is full, and ignite when they reach the oxygen at the surface. Sounds odd to me! Surely if this was true then there would be fireballs coming out of every river! Or if not then this one EVERY moon and not just this one.. Who knows! anyway we are going to see it tomorrow! I’m excited..

There is also an actual festival that accompanies this fire ball thing and goes for a week so we are heading into town tonight to have a look at that as well! What good timing huh?

We don’t have any other news. Yesterday was spent recovering from the bus trip and today we have been organsing money and things for Laos and Cambodia (who have no atms!).

We will update from the other side of the mekong in a couple of days!

N+L

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October 20th, 2005: Nong Khai to Vientiane

Well, what has been happening here? After our last update Luke and I headed into town for the festival. It was pretty amazing, there was a huge stage show with Thai dancers and a performance of the legend behind the Naga fireballs. There were food stalls galore, but silly us, we’d eaten before we went so we were too full to try any of the local food. We didn’t stay too long, the stage show was interesting but was continuously interrupted by long stretches of commentary that were (of course) in Thai so we quickly got tired of standing there pretending not to be bored! It worked out well for us though because when we got back to the Mutmee guesthouse, the owner, Julian, was setting up a showing of the Mekhong Full Moon Party at his house so we were able to watch the film that got the fireballs all the attention they have these days. It was a really interesting movie, and although it didn’t give an explanation for the phenomenon it went into quite a few of the different theories behind it.

The day of the Naga fireball festival was incredible! From start to finish it was an amazing day! Julian had organised transport for everyone at the guesthouse and at 1pm we all piled into the back of two songleaws and made the one hour trip to the village of Phonphisai. The amount of traffic on the roads was incredible. Luke and I were sitting in the front with the driver and we had a great time watching the reactions of all the thais overtaking us in their cars! Barely a car went by without at least a smile or a wave but most often there was cheering and shouting or laughing and pointing. What a sight we must have been.. two bus loads of farang! The cars that went by were packed to the brim, it seems EVERYONE wants to see the fireballs! In the back of one ute I counted 12 adults and four children!!

The road on the way to the village was absolutely breathtaking! Along the sides of the road were a few houses but mainly it was jungle area, about fifteen minutes into the drive I started noticing trees that had been shaped into animals. They were hiding within the normal trees of the jungle so you couldn’t always see them clearly but they were just fantastic! Now you have to understand I am not talking about the little shrub animals you see in Australia, these were actual trees transformed into animals.. some were almost TWO STORIES high! For miles and miles and miles there were elephants as tall as four men, horses with actual riders holding onto reigns, circles of children dancing and holding hands – each child in a different position, dogs, cats, birds, even dinosaurs!!! It was just incredible to see and sometimes you would go a kilometre or so without seeing anything and then out of nowhere you would see another giant tyranosaurus rex or a elephant on his hind legs.. spectacular!!

We arrived at Phonphisai at about 2pm, and even though the fire balls don’t appear until well after dark there were already thousands upon thousands of people. We walked down to the river and all along the river bank, as far as the eye could see, were hundreds of tents and thousands of bamboo mats, all filled with (or covered with) people. Away from the river, every available patch of ground, through the streets and along the footpaths were food and drink stalls or people sitting on the ground selling bamboo mats or fans or hats. The streets were swarming with people! There were news vans and jumping castles and ferris wheels and dodgem cars and merry go rounds and and loud speakers going off all over the place, there were men selling balloons as big as children or carrying stalks as tall as three people covered with fairyfloss.. it was mayhem!!

Luke and I wandered around for an hour or so getting our bearings and taking in the atmosphere of the place and we eventually found ourselves a shady place in the middle of the main market where we sat down and after much sign language and pointing managed to order lunch and two cokes (the coke part was easy – coke, it seems, is universal). We ate our lunch and then went in search of our own little piece of land by the river, we bought two bamboo mats to sit on and two bamboo fans to fan ourselves with and then fought our way through the crowd. Surprisingly we managed to find ourselves a spectacular spot only two metres from the waters edge. By now there were still three hours until sunset so we got comfortable and watched the crowds swell. The amazing thing about the festival was the happiness of the crowd, there were so many people, some of whom had been sitting in the hot sun since it rose just waiting for night fall, there were people drinking huge amounts of alcohol but we didnt see one fight or disagreement. Every single person I saw was smiling or laughing, it was magical!

By sunset there were hundreds of thousands of people there to see the fireballs (some have even said there were over a MILLION people who showed up!) We were squished into a sea of Thais, there was only one other farang in sight (a man who was sitting on – of all things – a banana lounge!).

On one side we had a group of thai men in their thirties who not only had a huge feast set out on the mat but had icebuckets full of beer and (many) large bottles of whisky, they befriended Luke and insisted on trying to get us drunk. We didnt want to offend so after the third offer of a drink we accepted and then no matter how much we protested they kept filling up our glass the second it touched either of our lips, they also gave us a cigarette anytime one of them decided to have one. One guy in particular was very friendly – although he couldnt speak english except to tell us his name was bruce (this took about four minutes to establish) and that he likes soccer and goes for Manchester United, as he got drunker he got chattier and by the end of the night he was enlisting the help of strangers in the crowd to act as translaters!! (at one point he insisted that he could introduce luke to some ‘beautiful thai ladies’, luke respectfully declined and not long after that the man started swaying dangerously and fell asleep.

On the opposite side of the boys was a family of locals (by family I mean Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Parents and Children) who had a bucket of iced water and because we had lent them one of our fans, wanted to share it with us all night. Part of this family was a young woman with a four month old baby boy named flame. Thankfully she could speak english (thankfully because the eldest woman refused to accept that I couldnt understand and babbled at me at a hundred miles an hour every time I made eye contact!)

There were a group of young thai girls who had a crush on Luke and were keen to practise their english with him, except when he introduced us they got confused and though I was luke and he was Nikki so they kept calling him Nikki each time they spoke with him which kind of ruined the seduction…

There was a young thai couple who were celebrating being lost in a crowd by making out. We gave them one of our bamboo mats so they didnt have to sit on the wet ground (one of ours was big enough to fit both of us) and they were so grateful that they too kept offering us whisky.

With all that whisky I guess it was lucky that we were able to walk back to the bus when the time came!!

Amidst the whiskey sharing and the translating and the explaining to people we didnt speak thai we watched fireworks from both the Thai side of the river and the Laos side (from both professional firework companies and those that were being let off in the crowd) we cheered at nothing, just for the fun of it, we stood up a hundred times when someone else cheered for the fun of it and everyone thought something was happening – though nothing was, and we watched beautiful boats float down the river covered with candles and fairy lights.

We had agreed to meet back at the bus at 10pm and when it was time to go back to the meeting place we still hadn’t seen a single fireball! Thats right not a single one! By this time a lot of people had given up (especially those with kids) and the crowd was starting to thin but the strangest thing was that no-one was mad, noone was annoyed that they had waited all day – and you have to remember that some people had travelled hundreds or even thousands of kilometres especially for the fire balls – noone was impatient with the crowds or anything like that.

The hour trip back to Nong Khai took three hours (one and a half of which was spent on one 50m stretch of road) but even that was great fun.. all the farang (still the subject of much amusement) jumped out of the back of the songleaw and stood by the side of the road smoking and chatting or running to nearby stores to buy drinks or icecream taking a few steps each time the bus started inching down the road so that we were within jumping distance in case it decided to go anywhere. When we finally did start rolling Luke and I were already on the bus but there was a mad rush as everyone else jumped into the back of the moving bus! Luckily we didnt leave anyone behind! The driver certainly wasn’t checking!

The next day we checked out of Mutmee Guesthouse and crossed the border into Laos. (we caught a tuk tuk to the bus station, a bus to the thai border, another bus across the Mekhong to the laos border and then the dodgiest taxi in the world – an old datsun – to a hotel that we didnt ask to be taken to – but thats another story)… We didnt even get fined for overstaying our visa!

Laos is beautiful. It is strange that two countries so close together can be so similar and so different at the same time. Laos is calmer somehow, less tacky, more genuine. I am looking forward to spending the next month getting to know the place!

Ok enough Nikki babble. we are off to explore!

I’m very excited today, I am IN FLOW, totally focussed on researching and planning my upcoming trip to India. My very wonderful friend Phi has once again astounded us with his generosity and, as an early 30th birthday present for the two of us, has funded (with his frequent flyer points) a very fabulous trip to India in April of next year. I think everyone needs a friend like Phi.. and not just because he’ll fly you to India for your 30th birthday!

I’m very very super excited about it, especially since I have had an imaginary India itinerary in my head since 2005 when our backpacking trip came to shuttering halt in Vietnam when we realised that we had run out of money and had to come home (I am way too much of a sucker to have ever learned how to successfully barter, and I kept giving all our money away to grubby children and poverty stricken schools!).

I am also excited because it means I will be able to cross two very big things off my list:

#29. Visit at least one new country
and
#65. Celebrate my 30th birthday by doing something fabulous

Technically my birthday is at the end of March, and we aren’t flying out until April 7th, but I’m still going to count it because it IS a birthday present, and we would have been in India for my actual birthday, except Luke has to work over the Easter long weekend.

So, now I am in the zone planning and researching and getting all excited about all the things we will see. I think I actually enjoy the planning of our holidays as much as I enjoy the actual holidays, I’m strange like that I guess. I’m very excited to be dusting off our backpacks and money wallets and heading back out into the big bad world. I only wish it could be longer than 3 weeks!

So, who among my beloved readers has been to India? Any?
If so, tell me all about it! Where should I go? What should I avoid? What did you love? Tell me everything!

 

PHOTO CREDITS TO LONELY PLANET

Earlier this week, Luke and I decided to take a little road trip down to Invercargill, one of the great things about living in such a beautiful country is the joy of the road trip. When we lived in Sydney a road trip would be an entirely different experience, first of all we would spend the first hour struggling through freeways and fighting the traffic before we even got to see a single beautiful thing, these days we are already inundated with beauty before we leave the driveway.

Invercargill itself was kind of boring, aside from being one of the southern-most cities in the world it was really just like any other country town. We had coffee at (the worlds most southern) Starbucks – after unsuccessfully attempting to get soy lattes in a few other cafes and failing miserably – and then spent about 2 hours trying to find a cafe that would serve us vegan food, and then I dragged Luke to the cinema to watch New Moon (for the 2nd time). After the movie ended I tried to get him to watch it with me again before we drove home but he remained adamant that watching New Moon 3 times in the space of a week was NOT part of our marriage contract, and threatened to divorce me if I made him sit through it again, so I reluctantly got into the car and we drove home.

Luckily I am a big believer in that ‘the journey is as important as the destination’ proverb because I really had a great time even though Invercargill itself wasn’t anything to write home about. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get more photos especially of the stranger animals that we saw. In one and a half hours from our house we saw the following animals:

Sheep
Cows
Deer
Elk
Moose
Turkey
Goats
Eagles
Hedgehogs
Possums
An Ostrich!
and various other birds

Pretty amazing huh?? Anyway here are some photos of the day:

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