The start of the end

A dramatic title with so many questions – the end of what? Am I finished with travelling? Am I going home? Well, no, not quite, but then I’m settling down for a while and this has been a long time coming.

Riding the Bamboo train in Battambang

Many years ago I came across something that seemed archaic – a train made out of bamboo which was dismantled and re-made as it rumbled along the track. It seemed otherworldly and quaint. When someone mentioned it was in Cambodia, I knew I was making a detour!

Angkor

Ten years ago Angkor wasn’t really on the tourist map but nowadays it’s the doozie here in Cambodia. It’s listed as one of the “must see” things and everyone raves about the beauty and spectacular’ness of it all. Just outside Angkor, Siem Reap, is a tourist haven with it’s cheap beds and great food, just a shame there isn’t much to do other than Angkor…

Returning to my biking ways

I always liked riding bikes as a kid but in recent years started to ride a Mountain Bike with vengeance pushing myself hard both physically and technically. I’ve ridden bikes a few times as I travelled but never felt fully fulfilled – In Siem Reap I tried again and boy did it turn out well.

A little bit of Cambodian History – S21 and The Killing Fields

I’m not usually that emotional a guy and don’t tend to be affected by the typical “upsetting” things. However, in Phnom Penh, Security Prison 21 (S21) and The Killing Fields got to me, I was choked up and close to tears walking around. It’s just plain horrible and tugged on my heart strings like nothing else before.

Kampot and Kep

In the south of Cambodia, two hours from Sihanoukville is a sleepy little town called Kampot. It was initially a bad choice as I needed some excitement but once we found it, Kampot became a great place to be.

Sihanoukville or is it Shagaluff?

Welcome to Cambodia, first stop Sihanoukville. My first impression was one of a over-bearing party-town, why then did I end up staying there for a week? What is the draw?

Vietnam has a tourism problem

Vietnam is an odd ball. Part of me highly recommends some places, but overall I can’t say I enjoyed traveling there nor would suggest others come here. I’m still trying to work out what is wrong though!

The Vietnamese beach haunt of Vung Tau

If Nha Trang and Mui Ne are the beach resort of choice for the Western Tourist, then Vung Tau is the place the Vietnamese go. It’s not the nicest beach, nor does it have great food, but it’s awesome all the same.

Today, I’m hating travelling

Everyone always talks about how great travelling is, how you meet so many people you are never alone and how you see loads of interesting things. It’s not all like that. There are days when you get sick of travelling and you just want to give it all up…

Cu Chi Tunnels

A lot of tourism in Vietnam focuses on the Vietnam war, it’s hard to get away from and you are constantly reminded of it. Here, in Cu Chi, you get to see a little more of the VietCong lifestyle and be subjected to the propaganda machine in full flow.

Mui Ne – just a kite surfing beach

Mui Ne was next after Nha Trang and it was meant to be a better beach town, slightly less night-life, lots of things to see including amazing sand dunes. For me though it didn’t work out that way though.

Nha Trang Mud baths

Nha Trang is a party place on the Vietnamese coast, most of it’s draw is the sunny weather and the party atmosphere but this is lacking in the constant rain of the Winter – there is still fun to be had though!

Another Party Cruise, Nha Trang

This was a second attempt at the “party cruise”, the first having ended in disaster in Halong Bay. I have to say it was a complete success and everywhere the Halong Bay Cruise failed, the one in Nha Trang succeeded.

Hoi An – Its all about the Cakes and Coffee

After the horrendous stay in Hue, Hoi An was a breath of fresh air. The tourist lined streets, the respectful locals, the nice buildings, the relaxing atmosphere and the company of two great people. Hoi An was perfect.

Huế is a terrible place to be

Hue is a fairly historically important city in Vietnam acting as the capital at one point but also given it’s proximity to the North, South DMZ was home to one of the more important battles in the Vietnam War so it should be interesting. The problem is, it’s a horrid place and in my experience should be avoided at all costs.

Phong Nha Cave

Back on New Years Eve I posted a blog about visiting Paradise Cave in the Phong Nha National Park, this is the companion post about the other cave I visited – Phong Nha Cave and the bicycle journey we took to get there.

Halong Bay in the rice paddies–Tam Coc

The first stop after leaving Hanoi was a little town just a few hours south called Ninh Binh. There are day trips running out of Hanoi, but these are expensive and since it’s en-route, why not stop there?

An Englishman loses his cool in Hanoi

I’ve mentioned a few times that Hanoi is full of hustle and bustle and that if you don’t have patience then it can easily drive you insane. I saw it happen a few times, but the best one was easily an Englishman who was on the walking tour.

Hanoi

Hanoi was meant to be a staging point for Halong Bay and Sapa trips but in the end I stayed much longer than anticipated and it was an interesting introduction to South East Asia travel. Most of my time there was spent just walking around or drinking cheap beers!

A Party Cruise & Halong Bay

Just before I left I spent some time reading various blogs and read one account of a boat trip into Halong Bay and thought it would be a personal type of hell. I arrived in Hanoi, booked my tour and re-checked that blog post. You can tell what I did can’t you! Doh!

Arriving in Vietnam

Leaving Singapore at the last minute meant a bit of organisation and quick thinking but it was worth – Vietnam impressed with it’s craziness within the first minutes

Other snippets from Singapore

I spent a month in total in Singapore and I tried to see most parts, some have been worthy of their own posts, but here are some of the other things to do. Sentosa Sentosa is a big theme park island just off the coast and it is there for one thing – to take […]

Walking the Singapore Formula 1 circuit

I’ve always loved Formula1 but have only really watched the races in recent years. On my RTW trip I intended to go to the Japanese Grand Prix but the cost was too prohibitive (I spent the money in the Galapagos instead) so when I hit Singapore I made sure I walked around the track here.

The perfect New Years Eve – Paradise Cave, Phong Nha National Park, Vietnam

The last few years I’ve spent New Years Eve at Al’s house with an Indian takeaway, beers and a few movies and it’s been great. This year I’m many thousands of miles away from my old bah-humbug partner so decided to do something a little different – visit the place I came to Vietnam for. The place I’ve wanted to visit for a year and has been hyped up in my mind more than you can imagine. Did it match the hype though?

A different type of Christmas

As 2011 comes to a close, it brings with it not only an eight month anniversary of travelling but also my first holiday season away from my family. It’s a strange to be surrounded by 63 other travellers and partying all day!

Singapore lights up the night sky

Singapore during the day is lovely, but the colours are slightly dulled and whilst it’s clean, it doesn’t feel “fresh”. At night however, it’s a different ball game – Singapore comes alive and is staggeringly beautiful!

Trying new foods in Singapore

Eating in Singapore is dead easy – there is every menu available from Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, English, French…. Any meal you fancy you’ll be able to find and sometimes you get to experience a completely different way of eating! Hawker Centres In Singapore the main, cheap way of eating is to use any of the […]

12 Days Of Christmas – 1 Happy Traveller

morrow is Christmas Day and thus ends my 12 day countdown. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much I did thinking about them and that Santa brings you something nice. There is only one thing left to say, Merry Christmas everyone.

12 Days Of Christmas – 2 Hemispheres played in

It’s Christmas Eve Eve and Santa is readying the sleigh, feeding up the reindeers, polishing Rudolf’s nose and checking the naughty and nice list one last time. He’ll start his journey in the Southern Hemisphere just East of Australia and finish up in the Northern Hemisphere near Hawaii. I wonder if he has as much […]

12 Days of Christmas – 3 Border Crossings

Border crossing should be routine and easily accomplished but as any traveller knows, this is far from the case. Continuing the 12 Days of Christmas countdown, here are 3 of my more troublesome encounters.

12 Days of Christmas – 6 amazing beaches

We’re halfway through the Christmas Day countdown and today I’m celebrating the beaches I’ve visited. Before I left the UK, my favourite was Bamburgh Beach on the North East Coast – no longer! This post is all about the pictures, so without further ado…

12 Days of Christmas – 12 Hostel stories

It’s 12 days until Christmas Day and Santa shows how a real Round The World trip should be done so I thought I would a little countdown of random stories, experiences or things that have shaped the last 7 months. Today, it’s 12 experiences from hostels and dorms!

Singapore – wakeboarding

It’s fair to say I like the more extreme outdoor pursuits with my crashing of cross country mountain bikes, face-planting power kites, falling off mountain boards… I’m going to pretend I’m any good, but I like them and therefore I thought I’d give wakeboarding a go. Suffice to say it was “plain sailing”. Splash Back […]

Time to leave the USA

In 1991 my parents took my sister and I for a month long tour of the Western States, I was too young at the time to really remember that much but tried recreating it here to see if any memories were jogged. I didn’t really re-remember anything but I discovered something else entirely…

San Diego

The last stop on my tour of the USA, it’s a shame I only had one day there as the city seems to have the vibrancy of San Francisco but the edge of Los Angeles. I liked it!

Phoenix offers a Halloween Special

The back end of my time in the United States was all about the people. I’d travelled with some amazing people but the final person I stayed with wasn’t new. I’d met her in Bolivia right at the start of my trip.

Sedona destroys my memories

Sedona was one of the few things in the United States that I remember – Bell Rock and Chapel Of The Holy Cross specifically. Unfortunately, my memories are just that, memories – Sedona has changed from a sleepy little town to a tourist mecca. Handy then that I had great company for the day.

Tomfoolery in Wirepass and Buckskin Canyon

Whilst travelling you meet loads of great people but sometimes you meet someone with a similar sense of humour, you instantly get along and the pranks / jokes fly. This was one of those times.

Coyote Buttes, Wirepass and Bucks Canyon

If I’d planned better this post would be about hiking out to Coyote Buttes – I’d told everyone about it as I travelled but neglected to realise you needed to enter a lottery system for permits and had to get lucky. I wasn’t “lucky” with the permit, instead, I stayed on a ranch, ate great steak and hiked through one of the prettiest canyon’s I’d ever seen. Maybe I did get lucky!

Natural Bridges and Monument Valley

Leaving Moab we popped into Natural Bridges National Monument headed for Page. There was no-one there and the bridges are more impressive than Arches National Park. The road into Monument Valley is truly extraordinary too!

Moab–Canyonlands and Arches National Park

When I got my new laptop with Windows 7 I tinkered around and activated the different, hidden, themes – my favourite for the colour scheme is The USA. One picture shows a lovely stone arch in front of snow capped mountains which it transpires is in The Arches National Park just north of Moab. As pretty as the arch is, Canyonlands is overshadows it completely!

Mountain biking in Moab

This is the doozie. The big one. The week before I arrived Twitter was awash with comments of people riding the trails in Moab and here I was. Mountain bike between my legs, sun overhead and legs tensing and pumping up and down as I rode the trails.

Zion National Park is simply amazing

Driving into Zion from the East is a special thing. You crawl along a road with its tight twists, drops and climbs as it avoids boulders and traverses little valleys. It feels somewhat unreal with the red rocks and the small trees fighting for survival. There is a dark, forbidding, 1mile tunnel to drive through and at the end you are left with an impressive view as Zion Canyon is displayed in all it’s glory. If the Grand Canyon could be described as “Grand”, Zion is magnificent.

Grand Canyon is just too Grand

As a gentleman said in the public toilets said, “the Grand Canyon is, well Grand”. Ignoring the fact he didn’t follow the man rules (no talking at the urinals) and that it’s a corny joke worthy of my repeating, he’s right. As Wallace, from Wallace And Gromit, would say – it’s simply “Grand”.

Las Vegas-To sin or not to sin

The money is obvious, the casino’s are all tacky, the beer is expensive if you’re not gambling, the women are all after one thing (money), the strip is full of annoying leaflet giver-outer-reh’s but everything outside of the casino’s is cheap!

Hire Car Problems

Originally I planned to be in the United States for two weeks so when the time came to stay longer than that, I just extended the hire car. It was a big and costly mistake…

Yosemite, in the snow?

I only spent two nights in Yosemite but can’t really say I saw that much – the first day it rained heavily and there was a heavy mist, the second, well, it snowed!

San Francisco and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

I had high hopes for San Francisco, not only did I remember bits of it but the city itself is iconic staring in some of my favourite movies. As I travelled I met loads of people from SF and they all seemed really nice and truly loved their city. It all started out auspiciously when I couldn’t find the carpark, it was dull and overcast, the streets were filled with aggressive homeless people and the hostel was way over-priced ($70 a night!). First impressions count and San Francisco never really changed my opinion or won my affection.

Driving Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco

I left Los Angeles headed for San Francisco and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. I was excited – not only was the open road calling but I was getting to go to the festival I’d been hearing about for some months from locals! I wasn’t quite prepared for just how amazing the drive would be though!

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, the City of Angels. The town of scary gangs, a horrendous airport, heavy traffic and not much in the way of entertainment. Why then did I love it? My secret weapon is a girl called Sloan and her boyfriend Jason…

The USA

A long time ago, shortly after the USA increased security, I declared that I would never visit the country. I didn’t like the idea that they treat me as a criminal-to-be. I didn’t like the idea that I had to apply for my Visa ahead of time. I didn’t like the idea of the queues […]

Life after Utila – Rio Dulce

After enjoying life in Utila for much longer than I had previously envisaged I needed to be making tracks if I was to have any time to spend in Guatemala. So, still drunk from the night before and lacking any sleep I boarded the 6am ferry aiming for the mainland with a destination in mind […]

Learning to Scuba dive in Utila with Parrots Dive Center

This post is about possibly the finest week of my trip so far. It’s about finding a new love. It’s about meeting some amazing people. It’s about getting seduced by a way of life. It’s about potentially finding a new direction of career. It’s about nine days of near perfection. It’s also nigh on to be impossible to write about and convey just how great my time in Utila was but I’ll try anyway!

Estelli and Somoto

I wanted to visit the two working towns of Nicaragua, Montagalpa and Estelli in Nicaragua but a change of plans meant I moved quickly through from Leon to Estelli and then into Somoto canyon. Estelli seemed nice enough for the evening I was there as there was a party in the street and a impromptu […]

Volcano Boarding, Leon

Many moons ago I was desperate to go Sand boarding in Ica, Peru but the protests at the border and the necessity of a flight from La Paz to Lima meant I missed the opportunity so I ensured I didn’t miss out on Volcano Boarding in Leon! I’d known about Volcano boarding for years as […]

Random happenings in Leon

I was told that Leon was meant to be a really pretty city but I found it to be a bit of a dump. I arrived and started walking down to the hostel and managed to get half-way before the heavens opened and I had to called it a day and hail a taxi. After […]

Masaya market

On my last day in San Juan Del Sur I fell in the sea and hit my left foot against some rocks badly scrapping the top. It was fine at the time but after the humidity and dampness of Volcano climbing in Isla De Omtempe, it had become infected and was weeping constantly, I thus […]

Hiking my first volcano – Madera, Isla De Ometepe

I’ve always wanted to hike and play on a Volcano and on Isla De Ometepe I had my first chance. A group was going the following day so we decided to climb Madera as it’s the easier climb but it’s still quite brutal! We started at lake level (which is pretty much sea level) and […]

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur is just like Bocas Del Toro, except a bit cheaper and nastier. The sand is Volcanic so is a dirty grey rather than a crisp white and the whole town feels, well, cheap. I arrived with Chance and Alexandra and we took a cheap hostel towards the back of town, had […]

Getting through Costa Rica

After leaving Bocas Del Toro, Nick and I were both headed to San Jose so took the ferry back off the islands and onto the mainland. A bus later we arrived in Changuinola and waited for our bus to San Jose. It was a doddle to do – we just jumped on board it took […]

Bocas Del Toro

Bocas Del Toro is the place where the Survivor TV series was filmed. It was used because everything looks idyllic with the white sand beaches, crashing blue surf and a loads of little islands dotted around the area. It’s a shame then that to get there you pass through a grotty little dive of a […]

David and The Purple House

I only stayed in David for one night, but the hostel I stayed in “The Purple House” deserves a special mention. It’s strange. It’s very, very strange. To get to Bocas Del Toro you can either go straight there or stop overnight in David, I chose the later as I didn’t want a long bus […]

The Alphabet game

There is a game been played by travellers – have you visited a county beginning with every letter of the alphabet? I’m not even close yet! A – Australia B – Bolivia, Belize C – Costa Rica, Cambodia D – E – Egypt, Ecuador F – Finland, France G – Guatemala H – Honduras I […]

Panama City and the Panama Canal

After I got my rucksack back I went out and walked to Casa Viejo for a look around the “old” town. It’s a nice looking place with old buildings and nice architecture but I can see why it has a reputation of been a bit dodgy. It has an odd feeling about it and a […]

That Rhod Gilbert Sketch of lost luggage

Rhod Gilbert has a sketch on Youtube which is all about turning up to Australia and his luggage not making it. He stands watching a handle go around and around and around laughing at the poor sap who owns the handle. Then he realises it’s his handle and has to try and get the airline […]

My last days in South America

When travelling you always hear stories about places that are dangerous and where to be careful. Plenty of people make things sound much worse than they actually are but one such place is Quito. i heard so many stories of people getting robbed I decided to avoid it and stay two hours away in a […]

Hiking to Quilotoa crater

I arrived in Latacunga and wasn’t that impressed – as usual you arrive in the bad area of town which doesn’t really look that nice and then jumping in a taxi whose driver didn’t know where my hostel was didn’t really help either! Still, we got there and I chatted to the owner for a […]

On Baños

After Cuenca Julia and I headed to Baños via Riobamba. Riobamba was the first place I’ve actually been scared. The people were intimidating, nosey and would come up to me, push me about… The bus company wouldn’t sell us a ticket. It was so horrible and I was so nervous that I tied my big […]

On Cuenca

After leaving the Galapagos I had two options, head up the coast to visit a whale watching area (the only water national park in Ecuador) or head inland to Cuenca. Julia proffered some advice pointing out that the coast would be similar to Guayaquil (horrible) and that her experience of the whale watching wasn’t any better than we had seen from the boat in the Galapagos. I decided to head inland to Cuenca.

Galapagos – The Ugly Side

This is the first half on my Galapagos blog post, explaining why the tour was a complete disaster and why I was in tears at one point.

When I started my RTW trip I had no intentions of heading to the Galapagos as the costs were too high for my budget, but after deciding to abandon the Japanese Grand Prix (and possibly Japan altogether) and hearing all the wonderful stories of travellers who had come from the islands I decided to rejig finances and make the trip.

Three months can change a man

The last three months have flown by. It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in the hostel in Cusco scared and trying hard to “get it”. After phone calls, emails, blog posts, talking to people in the hostel over breakfast and then finally leaving for Puno, I did “get it” and I’m extremely […]

On Northern Peru

After leaving Lima, I motored through Northern Peru staying at most one day in each location, it seemed daft therefore to dedicate a post to each place. Here is a round-up of my travels through Northern Peru… Huaraz My first stop after leaving Lima was the trekker’s haven in the Cordillera’s for a spot of […]

Mountain biking in Huaraz

One of the things I’m missing here is my mountain bike and exercise. Throughout Peru and Bolivia I’ve found it hard to do anything other than relax due to the altitude, but since I was coping better I decided to try my hand again in Huaraz. Since I’d missed the first day by arriving late, […]

On Lima

Getting out of Bolivia was a swine. I waited, waited, and then waited some more for the border to open before eventually deciding to simply fly out. Turns out even flying out was a nightmare as the LAN.com website refused to work for me refusing to dispense a ticket but happily charging me three times. […]

Paths that cross, and then diverge

Before I left the UK lots of people gave me advice, from my grandmothers “don’t get married”, the more basic “don’t trust anyone” to the straight forward “things will go wrong but approach them with your best foot forward”. Potentially the best advice however came from one person – he said “Never say no” and […]

Tiwanaku Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice (21st July) is a big thing in Latin America, for them it represents the change in season and thus the time to reap or sow the crop. As a result, many of the ancient temples are designed so that elements light up with the sunrise on the specific days (think Stonehenge in the […]

Rurrenbaque Pampas tour

The saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. Travelling is helping confirm this to be true. In Sucre I met a lovely Dutch couple whom I planned to meet in La Paz for a trip into Rurrenbaque, we conversed via Facebook and I was going to get myself onto the same tour as them […]

On Sucre

My arrival in Sucre from Tupiza on Wednesday was ominous – the night bus there was a dreadful experience, my stomach was dodgy and the weather was abysmal. Tired, I went straight to a hostel recommended by the Lonely Planet and slept for a short while before venturing out for food and Internet. The first […]

The travel Experience so far, 6 weeks in

My first month has come to an end and on my way I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with some fantastic people: I’ve been to some amazing places and seen some amazing things: I’ve written more prose than ever before (for this blog and emails). I’ve taken thousands of pictures (and rediscovered the joy […]

Learning Spanish in Sucre

Before I had bought tickets for my travels I decided that I needed to learn some Spanish in order to not be completely lost when I arrived in South America. I started my lessons with Esther in Gateshead and studied, one lesson a week, for 90minutes. Given I only had three months available I was […]

Trek to Dinosaur footprints via Maragua

Whilst researching Sucre, there were three things I wanted to do – take a Spanish course, see the dinosaur footprints and pop up to the Meteor crater. Whilst visiting Tarabuco a new fiend, Kelly, mentioned that she was embarking on a trek the following day with some friends to visit the crater and some dinosaur […]

Tarabuco market

On Sunday’s there is a large market in Tarabuco, about 60km outside of Sucre. It’s mostly a tourist trap with many of the stalls selling the traditional chinz that no local would buy, but it’s worth a looksee given that the return bus is B$30 and it leaves directly outside my hostel. In the morning […]

Travelling, it’s all about endurance

I’ve been travelling over a month now and have seen quite a transformation in myself. I always knew the first few days / weeks were to be tough and that there would be periods where I just wanted the security of home, but I wasn’t quite prepared just how tough the first fortnight would be. […]

On Tupiza

I’ve been travelling about a month now and out of all the places I’ve visited (Cusco, Puno, Copacabana, La Paz and Uyini/Southern Circuit) Tupiza has to be my favourite. The scenery is simply stunning and when walking outside of town I can’t help but feel I’m in a Clint Eastwood Western. The mountains are a […]

Two day horse trek, Tupiza

It all started out well with the trip costing B$400 (~£37) with a reputable company and I left at 10am with one other person. The other person on the trip, a Dutch girl called Theresa, spoke Spanish and English so away we went walking to the stables. The horses were well looked after and didn’t […]

Cholitas Wrestling

One of the things that people say you must go see in La Paz is the Cholitas wrestling. Rumours fly around that it is this weird mix of Mexican wrestling with midgets thrown in and that  it’s a brilliant night out. I’m not a fan of wrestling for the most part, but decided that I […]

On Cusco

Is it Cusco or Cuzco? The two seem interchangeable and I’m not quite sure which is right. I’m  going for Cusco. Cusco is a strange place. It’s full of tourists and the main areas are clearly geared up to catering for them with expensive restaurants, Irish bars, Western Cuisine, McDonalds and shortly a Starbucks. Step […]

The ups and the downs continue

A couple of days ago I wrote an entry about how life on the road was proving tougher than imagined. A couple of days later I’ve got a slightly different perspective – it is tough, but there will be a lot fun to be had! At breakfast yesterday I chatted to a couple staying in […]

Sacsayhuamán

After a late start I decided to take the Lonely Planets walking tour of Cusco and whilst going over old ground, I enjoyed sauntering along passing the time. The end of the walk is a trek up to Sacsayhuamán, which I did, but in a different way to that listed. The standard way is to […]

Travelling and the first days

It’s been a strange few days – first of all a very long trip, which whilst with dramas went ok and then arrival in a foreign city. I’m not really sure what to think about it all to be honest. The first two flights were fine – I got to Madrid on the two BA […]

Departures eve, it’s an emotional old time

Hi, I’m Stefan. Tomorrow I leave the UK bound for Cuzco ready to start my Round The World trip. It’ll take 29 hours to get there, via three countries, four airports and two airlines. I’ve got my backs packed, the clothes I’m wearing to one side and a small list of things to check. Ultimately, […]

Every story needs a beginning

I’ve always hankered to see the wider world, but befriending someone who hailed from Egypt at Uni triggered a decade long itch. Whilst the desire to travel further afield was always there, I never thought I could do it. The confidence and desire has been building little by little over the years as I’ve met […]