Goodbye Australia

With my flight back to England fast approaching, I had to make the most of my time in Australia. Melbourne is a fantastic city and I had met some lovely people but I had also seen and done so much already in Melbourne and I wasn’t quite sure what else I
could do to fill my time.  Money was running very low and so I very easily came to the decision that I would like to spend my last full week relaxing in the sun, back up north in Airlie
Beach
. I really enjoyed the few days I had previously spent in Airlie Beach and knew this is where I wanted to be. After a lot of internet time, I found a very cheap return flight and set off for Airlie Beach.

I flew into Hamilton Island Airport which meant an hour’s ferry crossing over to Airlie Beach and as soon as
I stepped off the ferry I could feel the lovely Australian heat. Wearing black jeans and black t-shirt (the weather in Melbourne at 5am is not very warm) and backpack on back I took the 20 minute walk to Nomads Hostel, where I had pre-booked 2 nights, due to the
fact that it had a swimming pool. By the time I arrived, I was soaked in sweat but had a huge smile on my face as I knew instantly I had made the right decision.

I spent the week just as planned, jogging every morning, swimming in the lagoon and sunbathing by the hostel pool. Being on a very tight budget I went shopping with $30 and bought a supply of food for the week. It is amazing what dishes a backpacker on a budget can come up with. I met so many more lovely friends and spent my last precious nights partying with
them. I spent my last night with Alice from England and Jimmy from Sweden and not wanting my time in Airlie Beach to be over, we partied through the night until it was time to get my ferry. No sleep and a quick shower I set off on the 20 minute walk in the
morning heat back to the ferry. I was sad to leave Airlie Beach but I still had 3 days in Melbourne before the dreaded flight home.

And what a lovely 3 days in Melbourne
I had. I was lucky enough to be able to stay with Dan and his housemates again which meant I was able to accept an invite to The Australian Open with Alan (Dan’s housemate) and his friends. The Australian Open is a major tennis tournament held annually in January in Melbourne. It was the first day of the Open and I was fortunate enough to see some big tennis names playing or practicing. We were at the match where Ana Ivanovic won her first game and we saw R.Nadal and Hewitt practice. It was also the first day of the start of a heat wave for Melbourne. You can imagine my delight! I spent my last day in Australia on the beach of St Kilda in the 43 degree heat and watched the beautiful sunset over
Melbourne city.

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Bucket List: Skydive ✔️ The Best Stupid Idea I’ve Had

I don’t think anything will top the experience I had today! Bucket List item ‘do a skydive’ – check! By far, the best, stupid idea I have ever had.

I nervously giggled my way to the airfield but was mainly filled with anticipation and excitement. After signing in we put on our trousers and harnesses and were given a quick simple talk on positioning. Then I met the guy who would have my life in his hands. We walked over to the plane and surprisingly I still wasn’t scared, just excited. We got on the plane and I was sat in front of my tandem partner who began strapping us together as we started flying up above Byron Bay. The view was amazing thanks to a lovely clear day. I sat there in disbelief at what I was about to do. Although this item was on my bucket list the realisation that I was actually about to jump out of a plane was a very strange feeling. I just couldn’t believe I was actually going to do it. We flew for about 30 minutes and then the door opened…

A gust of air hit us all and this was the moment the fright kicked in. I didn’t have long to dwell on this, I tried to smile at the girl I had been speaking with leading up to the jump, but before she knew it she was being thrown out of the plane. I watched her tumbling around 14,000ft in the air and as I went to take a breath I was suddenly hanging out the door of the plane.

With no time to think about what was about to happen I was jumping out of a plane. The freefall lasted for 1 minute but it felt longer, which was not a bad thing. Although I was experiencing the scariest thing I have ever done I was also experiencing the most exciting and thrilling thing I have ever done. As I was falling 14,000ft through the air at who knows what speed, it felt as though I couldn’t breath. I kept trying to close my mouth so I could breath through my nose but I couldn’t help but laugh, smile and scream. I was having the time of my life freefalling and admiring the beach, mountains and villages below me.

I saw the instructors signal and it was time for the parachute to be let out. With a pull of a string and a strong jolt, we slowed down instantly, started spinning and then there I was, just hanging around in the sky!

Floating above the world is the most amazing feeling, I held out my arms like I was flying and tried to savour the moment as much as I could.

As we came into land I didn’t want it to be over. I was so disappointed that I was no longer falling through the sky! Once I was unattached from the parachute I was buzzing with excitement. I was so proud of myself and overwhelmed at what a fantastic time I had just experienced.

My tandem buddy was amazing and took a great, but not flattering, video of my jump. I also got a free t.shirt and a certificate. I will most certainly jump again. Who knows, maybe next time will be in New Zealand or South America!

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Sailing the Tropical Waters of Whitsundays

Sometimes I surprise even myself. 2 nights and 3 days onboard the S V Whitehaven, a 17.5 metre yacht, is not something I ever saw myself doing. But the offer of cruising tropical waters of the Whitsundays, (the Whitsunday Islands are a collection of continental islands off the central coast of Queensland, north of Brisbane), sunbathing on the open deck, snorkelling coral bays and stepping on the beautiful sand of Whitehaven Beach was an opportunity I could not miss out on.

A very expensive $400 paid for 3 days and 2 nights and food on the boat, use of kayaks and snorkel gear and also 3 nights accommodation at Airlie Beach Waterfront Backpackers.

We set sail on Friday morning after meeting the 3 crew members and the other 24 passengers I was to spend my time with onboard, all of whom where really nice. We were given a safety talk and then it was 3 hours of sailing to reach Whitehaven Beach. The weather was perfect and we spent the 3 hours sunbathing and getting to know eachother.

Arriving at Whitehaven Beach, the largest of the 74 islands, the boat moored up and we jumped into the speed boat to take us over to the island. After a short walk through a wooded area we stepped onto a beautiful beach with miles of pure white sand and beautiful blue water. We spent a few hours here taking photos, sunbathing and playing frisbee and then we took a walk up to a viewpoint to witness a beautiful scene. The tide had started to go out and the clear blue sea gave way to swirls of white sand and in the shallow waters you could see Stingrays gliding through the water. Beautiful.

The next 2 days were spent sailing and stopping off at various coral bays for snorkelling and kayaking, with each coral bay getting more colourful and a wider range of marine life swimming around.

The food on the boat was amazing, lots of it and also snacks inbetween meals meaning I never went hungry. The crew were very knowledgeable and each evening they would sit with us and talk through the islands, coral bays and marine life we had seen.

My main concern about sailing was suffering with sea sickness. It isn’t something I normally suffer with but I had never been on a boat overnight, but luckily I was fine and loved every minute of it. The cabins were very hot and the beds rather slim but all in all very comfortable and opening your eyes in the morning looking through the porthole to see the sun and sea is a picture I will never forget. At night we would all sit around drinking and chatting under the bright stars. I was lucky to have a lovely bunch of people onboard and met some great personalities.

After the sailing trip I stayed in Airlie Beach for 3 more days. It is a beautiful beachside town popular with backpackers. The sea is inhabited by jellyfish from November to May. But there is a big swimming lagoon on the shore similar to the lagoon in Cairns. There is also an area of the sea sectioned off by nets. I spent my days in Airlie running, swimming, bush walking and meeting more great people. But once again, lots of goodbyes as I set off further down the east coast on a 14 hour overnight bus. Next stop Rainbow Beach.

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Where Rainforest meets Great Barrier Reef

“Asia is all about culture & history, Australia is more about nature and beauty”. These were the words of a fellow traveller I met in Indonesia and in my first week in Australia I was able to witness the beauty of nature myself.

Daintree Rainforest is the oldest known rainforest in the world and the edge of the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef, so whilst standing on the golden sandy beaches of Cape Tribulation I was able to marvel at 2 of the worlds natural wonders at the same time. Pretty amazing.

I had already snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef and so it was time to explore the rainforest. Our guide led us into the rainforest following a guided path until we came to a stream. We were told we could swim in it as it was perfectly safe but we weren’t warned about the strong current! I got into the cold but refreshing water and started swimming about, then I spotted a big rock which the sun was shining on so thought I woud swim over to it to warm up. As I put my hand on the rock the strong current suddenly pushed me away and was pulling me along down stream. I was really struggling to fight against the current but finally found a calm spot and used all my strength to swim and pull myself out. I was pretty worried for a while but now all I can do is laugh at the thought of me bobbing down stream in the worlds oldest rainforest! That’s not something that happens every day!

After our swim we were ushered back to the minivan after what was about just a 10 minute walk in the rainforest! I was not impressed. Luckily, the tour we was on could be done in one day or split over 2 days so you could spend the night in the rainforest. We opted for staying over and so we had the opportunity of experiencing more of the rainforest. We stayed in a hostel which was made up of little huts in the forrest and we had booked a night walk. Although the night walk cost us an extra 40AUD (about £22) it was worth it. Our guide took us into the forrest following only natural paths, once we were deep in the forrest he asked us all to turn off our torches. I was waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark so I could start to see objects but it was so extremely dark it was impossible to see anything and because the trees tower higher than the eye can see I couldn’t even see the stars! We stood in the rainforest in pitch black for about 5 minutes just listening to all the different sounds. At first I was really scared but then I was just mesmorised. After a few minutes I began to see fire flies flitting about and then I noticed the luminous fungi! It was all around us, sparkling. It reminded me of the sea plankton in Cambodia. It was quite a magical sight. When the torches went back on we continued our walk and along the way we spotted a Forrest Dragon, (only found in the Daintree Rainforest), a yellow and red frog, many Huntsman spiders, a huge Brown Tree Snake and lots of other weird and wonderful creatures.

The following day we cruised along the Daintree River and was fortunate enough to spot a few crocodiles along the riverbank. It really was amazing seeing all these animals in their natural habitats and not behind a glass at the zoo.

I spent a week in total in Cairns, I met some lovely girls from England and Canada and had a great last night at the Woolshed which is a popular backpackers club.

After more goodbyes I set off on my own again for the next part of my trip.

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A small section of beautiful Asia but a big part of my life.

I was so sad to leave Asia, the culture, the food and the people. It is extremely easy and cheap to travel Asia which enabled me to experience more than I ever thought I would in such a short space of time. I learned so much of the history and way of life of each and every place I visited and saw so many different sides to each country:

I witnessed the hardship, learned of horrific pasts, I took in the beauty of the natural surroundings from simple rice paddies to active volcanoes. I partied with other travellers and locals in up and coming areas. I lazed on beautiful beaches, swam in waterfalls and trekked through muddy forrests. I tasted the most amazing local dishes and even learned to cook some of them. The list goes on and on and as much as I enjoy writing and sharing this travel blog I could never fit on paper the amount of wonderful memories I have and will cherish forever.

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Lombok, Gilli Tarawangan, Ubud, Kuta and Sanur – a small section of beautiful Asia but a big part of my life.

How fortunate I am that the next part of my adventure is only about to begin. Australia here I come….

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I ❤️ Cambodia

I was so sad to leave Cambodia, I had such an amazing time. I was able to tick an item off my bucket list by seeing the beautiful Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and even got to see its beauty revealed at sunset. I learned of the difficult past suffered by the Cambodian people in Phnom Penh and sunbathed on the beautiful beaches of Sihanoukville and Koh Rong. I shared these memorable moments and also partied with some great people.

I was confused with the currency to begin with but it is quite simple once you know. I took US Dollars which was accepted everywhere. Most things are labelled in dollars. You are given change in dollars but also in Riel, so your purse will contain both currencies and both can be used everywhere. 4000 Riel = 1USD. When it was obvious I was confused the Cambodian people were very helpful and very honest!

I found myself eating quite a lot of western food as it is on offer pretty much everywhere. The Cambodian dishes were very similar to Thailand and so I did taste a few stir-fry dishes. The street stalls sell the best pancakes and other desserts.

Phnom Penh was very dusty and polluted due to the amount of bikes on the road together with a lot of buliding works and some very kind tuk tuk drivers buy masks for their passengers.

I grew very fond of the Cambodians and found them so friendly and helpful. The children are adorable and I truly hope Cambodia continues to develop so that they have a good future.

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Fun in Chiang Mai

4 nights in Bangkok and it was time to head north to Chiang Mai. A group of friends I had met in Bangkok were also heading the same way and so we booked our night bus for £9 from an agents on Koh San Road and set off on the overnight trip. We decided to find a hostel on arrival. With the arrival time being 5.30am, this was not as easy as we thought, but after an hour or so we agreed on a little guesthouse named Darets at a price of 100bht (£2.14). The room was very basic with no common area so we decided to stay for one night only. The following 3 nights we spent in Deejai Backpackers at a price of 175baht (£3 approx.)for aircon and the last night at 80baht (less than £2) for a fan.

On my first day I explored the city and was quick to notice Chiang Mai was so much quieter and cleaner than Bangkok and the local people were so happy and friendly.

To the amusement of friends and family back home, who know I do not like to spend time in the kitchen, I took an evenings Thai cookery class and I really enjoyed it! The chef took us to the local market and did a ‘show and tell’ of some of the ingredients we would be using. Back at the kitchen we chose which dishes we wanted to cook. I chose, spring rolls, chicken in coconut soup, Chiang Mai noodles & chicken curry and stir-fry chicken and cashew nuts. My dishes turned out perfect, (yes, we got to eat everything we made), with the exception of me adding too much lime to my soup. Whoops! The class was carried out by Baanthai Cookery School and cost 700baht. Which included transport and a receipe book.

The following day it was time to work off all that food and I set off on an all day trek which included a stop at a waterfall where we could cool off. The rocks were so smooth we were able to slide down the waterfalls. So much fun. After a 40 minute elephant ride we were taken to the river and this is where it got even more fun – white water rafting! This was my first time and I was really nervous to begin with, but once I hit the first rapid the adrenaline kicked in and it was fantastic.

My last day in Chiang Mai I wanted to visit Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which is one of the most famous temples in Thailand, and is situated high up the mountain. A tuk tuk would charge around 500bht to drive you up there but luckily for me a guy who works at the hostel offered to take me and my friend there. The temple was as lovely as expected, but another spectacular vision was waiting for me further down the mountain – Wat Palad! This temple is not likely to be found in travel books, but I was lucky enough to have my own personal tour guide who had actually spent time there living with the Monks. The temple was built as a rest point for Monks making the journey by foot up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and is hidden away from the main road and built amongst a soothing natural waterfall. This temple is by far, the most authentic, majestic, peaceful, temple I have seen, and I have seen many many temples. I jus wish the pictures did it better justice.

This was a fantastic end to my time in Chiang Mai but I had one more thing I wanted to do – a traditional bamboo tattoo to remind me of my travels. I chose to have a small Lotus flower on my hip; the Lotus is an important flower in Thailand and in the minds of the Buddhists, the flower stands for purity of spirit. Although it is rooted in mud, the plant is able to rise up above the dirty water and yield a flower of such perfect beauty and purity.

And so, after some great experiences and fun nights spent with new friends it was time to head west, to Pai.

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