I will never forget my fabulous Christmas of 2013!

A few weeks ago Christmas was just an inconvience making my travels complicated and expensive. I had always planned to be on a beach on Christmas day, regardless of the weather and whether I was alone with a good book or with new friends, but I can now say I had the best Christmas!

I booked back into Base Hostel in St Kilda for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so that I could be by the beach. I met up with Julia, the Brazilian girl I had met on my first day in Melbourne and we sat on a grass area opposite the beach drinking in the sun and chatting with the many others doing the same.

As the sun was setting we got ready to go into the city to spend the evening with a group of French girls Julia had met. They lived in an apartment in the city and put on a buffet and we sat chatting and drinking for hours. We then went to a bar in the city where we finished the night.

Waking up Christmas morning did not feel strange at all. I think I am that content in hostels they must feel like home! I woke up, cheerily wished my room mates merry Christmas and tried to facetime friends and family. I was only able to get through to 2 of my friends as they had just got home from a night out, it was so nice speaking and laughing with them and once I had spoken with them
I was even more cheerful. I went downstairs to have breakfast and started speaking with a guy and 10 minutes later we were arranging the day at the beach. By 12pm I was sat in 34 degree heat on the sand surrounded by hundreds of people in swimwear and Santa hats, sat with a great bunch of people with the music blaring and the alcohol flowing! It is amazing how a “good morning, merry Christmas, what’s your name?” can lead to when you are backpacking!

At 3pm it was time for Christmas dinner. I had paid the hostel $20 and myself and 40 (plus) backpackers sat together enjoying turkey with all the trimmings and pulling crackers with new friends. It was not long before I was back at the beach partying with a new bunch of great people until an amazing sunset. We enjoyed the sunset together and as they began to disperse I was invited over to party with another great bunch of people. By midnight there was 3 of us left standing and so we made our way to a club to see in Boxing Day morning.

My alarm was set for 8am Boxing Day as I had booked myself onto a tour to visit the set of Neighbours. Neighbours is an Austrslian TV programme which is very popular in England. It was extremely popular back in the 80’s and as a child I was a huge fan. I have not seen the show for about 15 years but I wanted to visit the set as it was a big part of my childhood. Admittedly I did not recognise much but I did recognise the houses and the street and that was enough to make me happy. I spent the rest of Boxing Day window shooping at City Docklands, watching some of the Ashes (cricket) on the big outdoor TV screen in Federation Square and walking around the city.

I met some wonderful people and I will never forget my fabulous Christmas of 2013.

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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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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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