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

Milford Sound – New Zealand
The Fireball Festival – Thailand
Cancun – Mexico
Malolo Island – Fiji

The Nullarbor Desert – Australia (our car broke down here)
The Great Ocean Road – Australia
Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets –  Thailand

The Big Banana (haha) – Australia
Blue Mountains – Australia
Krabi – Thailand (great Kayaking)
Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Luang Prabang – Laos (Mekong River Tubing Pub Crawl!)
Saigon – Vietnam
Waiheke Island – New Zealand
Hill Tribe Villages in Chaing Mai – Thailand

Janolan Caves – Australia
Nadi (stranded during a flood/cyclone!) – Fiji
Stinky Rotarua – New Zealand
Angkor Wat – Cambodia

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

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

Jutajuk Markets Bangkok – Thailand
Cradle Mountain Tasmania – Australia
Orchard Road – Singapore
Sydney Harbor Bridge – Australia

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

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

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!
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!
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 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:

You know your life is pretty boring when the most exciting thing you can think to blog about all week is the fact that you got to pee standing up but as sad and strange as that makes me, I’m excited!

A couple of months ago I was doing some research on female urination devices and after looking at just about every website for these products (who knew there were so many options!) I decided that the one I liked best was the go-girl. I was very excited but then I realised that they didn’t ship to New Zealand from the website, or from Amazon (how frustrating!). I scoured the internet trying to find a way to get the thing delivered to me and in the end decided to contact the company directly and ask them to send me out some samples, preferably in time for our trip to India. And they agreed.

My parcel arrived today! Wahoo!

I was especially happy to see that they included an alternative to the pink packs. I know it’s silly but the whole pink for girls thing really bugs me sometimes, so it’s nice to see they have another color available! Anyway I won’t go into graphic details but I used the go-girl today for the first time and it was great! Who knew peeing standing up would be so much fun! I was a little worried I would end up with pee on my shoes until I got used to the thing but it was really easy to use. The only thing that wasn’t easy was rolling the thing back up to fit back into its little plastic cylinder again. I got there in the end though and I figure with some practice that part will be easy too. Now all I need to do is master using it while on a shaky Indian train and I’ll be set!

LOL. I sound like I’m writing an ad! Just for the record, I didn’t get paid to write this, and the blog entry wasn’t part of the deal for sending the freebies or anything like that! This blog remains an advertisement free zone!

So, any of my readers had the pleasure of peeing standing up? Which device do you use? Any recommendations?

PS: I really wish I had put “peeing standing up” on my 101/1001 list!

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?

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!



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
#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!



I was thinking yesterday about my 101/1001 list and how unmotivated I’ve been lately with crossing things off. Admittedly I have been working pretty hard on my NaNoWrimo – which is number 48 – and that definitely counts for something, but I thought it was about time that I took a stab at something else on the list. So, early this morning, just before 2am, which is about the time that Luke and I are starting to think about going to bed, we decided to take a drive to Dunedin and watch the sunrise at the beach.

Watching a sunrise was one of the things on the list but I also had to visit the beach one more time before I could cross number 42 (visit the ocean at least four times) so we decided we may as well cross both of them off in one go. I frantically made up some roadtrip CDs, grabbed T’s work in progress CD, a picnic blanket, some water, and my book, and off we went.

For those of you who don’t know New Zealand, I’ve attached a map so you can see just how much of the country we covered. We got home about an hour ago, so we actually covered this distance twice today:

Picture 1

The sunrise itself was pretty disappointing, after driving all through the night, chugging down Red-bulls and singing (badly) to keep ourselves awake we arrived at the beach to discover POURING rain and freezing cold gale force winds. It was so cold that my feet are STILL thawing out 10 hours later. So, we snapped some photos to prove we were there and watched the sunrise from the warmth of the car. We explored the city for a couple of hours, then had some breakfast at a local vegan cafe (Why don’t we have one of those in Queenstown?) did some op shopping, and then drove home again. We had beautiful weather on the way home which was nice after the freezing rain in the morning. It was a really great day, but now I am exhausted, so instead of telling you about it, I’m just going to post some pictures!





















This one’s for you Sharni!!


And home sweet home


So, that is two more things crossed off my 101/1001 list, even though technically we didn’t see the sun actually rise, because it was behind clouds, I’m still counting it, because we did watch the night turn into day, so I think that counts!

I’ve also crossed off number 13 on the list, which was to have 101 vegan meals, because as of three days ago I’m officially 100% vegan. I’ve been vegetarian for a few years now, but I have been eating vegan 95% of the time, it got to the point last week where I realised that I was hanging onto cheese and chocolate as a bit of a crutch, so I’ve eliminated them from my diet completely (except dark vegan chocolate!) and from here on in I won’t be eating any animal products whatsoever. It’s quite a feat! You never really realise how many things have animal products in them, today on the way home I picked up a packet of Salt and Vinegar chips only to realise they had milk in them! I looked through every single chip flavour in the place, and in the end the only one that was vegan was the plain salt.. very strange!

Anyway, that’s news from me. I haven’t slept in 30 hours so I’m going to bed!!

We’re here! We’re finally here!! After what seems like at least a year of planning – though in reality it has only been 12 weeks! – we are officially expats! We have handed in our keys to our Matson flat and we are here! Our flight landed at 3pm local time yesterday afternoon, so we have officially been New Zealand residents for just over 24 hours. Getting through customs was a bit of fun, the look on the guys face when hubby’s backpack was scanned was pretty priceless. They made him open up his pack and show them everything in it, but the chef pants and jackets helped to explain the 16 razor sharp knives in there. All in all it was pretty painless, that is one of the great things about flying into Queenstown, it’s such a small international airport that we had gone through customs and picked up our bags in less than 30 minutes!

On the way to our hotel we were pretty thrilled to discover that the driver of our shuttle bus from the airport was a fellow ‘Kingstoner’, the village we are moving to is called Kingston, and has a total population of about 200 so having the first person we speak to be one of them was pretty great. He was very friendly and it made us feel very excited about finally getting settled in town. For now though, we are camped out in a hotel in the ‘city’. Hubby had an interview this afternoon and is heading in for a trial tomorrow afternoon/evening. He is pretty nervous but hopefully it all goes smoothly. It doesn’t matter either way at this point, we have enough savings that he doesn’t need to be worrying about finding a job within the first few days, but he is a bit of a workaholic so it’s to be expected that he would be organised already.

As of about 20 minutes ago we even have a car! A green, second hand, Subaru.. she is yet to be named but I expect that to be remedied by this time tomorrow. The plan is to take her (and all our luggage) out to the house tomorrow, along with any initial supplies. We won’t be moving in until the rest of our stuff arrives, which probably isn’t going to be for at least another week, but it will be nice to be at least part way into the house. It will make this whole bizarre experience a little less surreal!

Anyway, moving to New Zealand was number one on my 101/1001 list so I’m happy to be able to cross that off. I’ve also crossed off two other things:

#50: Get rid of my TV (we left it in Sydney!)
#69: Get rid of 101 things that I don’t use or need (the final number was well over 101 things!)

I have partly crossed off #88 (Save and keep $1000 in an ‘emergency’ savings account). I have the $1000 (and then some) sitting in my account at the moment. I would like to keep it in there until at least the new year before I can officially call that one completed.

Anyway, that is the update from me today. Until my next update, here is a photo of the view from our hotel room.. this is what we woke up to this morning, and what a great way to wake up!


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