Tag Archives: Travel

Yogyakarta – Asia’s Hidden Gem

20th August 2015

banner When we were planning our Indonesian route Lee stumbled on a little city in Java that peaked his interest. As a History buff Lee saw the words ‘largest Hindu temple in Southeast Asia’ and his eyes lit up.

yogya09 yogya13 The most important thing to know about Yogyakarta is how to pronounce the darn place. I was calling it yogi-o-karta until I arrived at the airport. Indonesians  pronounce it ‘Jog-ja-karta’ but the locals call it ‘Jog-ja’. This is what everyone calls it and it’s much easier to get by once you know that.

We were only in the town for 3 days and we spoiled ourselves with a nice place. There was a roof top pool and large comfy beds. Unfortunately the hotel is also where local school kids stay over night on school trips. Our room was surrounded all night by loud teenagers running up and down the halls. Its safe to say, as two ex-middle school teachers ……we weren’t impressed.

yogya06 yogya08 The kids weren’t the only down side of our first day on the trip. I also received some horrible news from home and spent my night curled up with Lee feeling horrible and very very far from home. Luckily I didn’t have time to think about everything too much since we had already planned a trip that started at 4am. I didn’t have time to think. I just had time to try and close my eyes before the alarm went off and we were on our way to Yogyakarta’s famous temples – Prambanan and Borobudur.

yogya02 yogya03 yogya07 yogya10 We took a tour to Prambanan organised by our hotel. We had a lovely driver and arrived at the temple complex just as the sun was rising. When you arrive at the temples you are given some water, a snack and a stylish sarong to wear. We leisurely wandered around the temple. Taking in the intricate carvings depicting Buddha’s pilgrimage and lifeline, beautiful surroundings and miles of jungle all around us.

The only thing to disturb the peaceful surroundings was the hundreds of kids that are taken there on trips. Schools take kids there to practice their English. We found it quite endearing because they were so cute and lovely shouting ‘mister , Mrs picture, picture’. We must have posed for at least 12 photos and managed to grab a few of our own.  It did take away from the beautiful sights a little especially since the concentration of kids was on the iconic roof of Borobudur where we wanted to take the most photos but couldn’t. But it was another welcome distraction on a sad day.

My favourite part of the day was when Lee and I went off the beaten track and climbed the hill over looking the Borobudur complex. We sat and watched the mist roll over the mountains in the distance and literally had time to smell the roses…and frangipans (at least that’s what I’m told they are called). Being so far up above the clouds was beautiful and I just wanted to stay there forever with Lee.

yogya04 yogya05 Since it was a tour , we didn’t have time to stop for too long. Our next stop was Prambanan. It was built in the 9th century and has a number of temples, each dedicated to different gods, The Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). There was also a temple for Ganesha which is one of my favourite of the gods since it is half Elephant and half god. He is the god known for removing obstacles. He is seen as a patron of the arts and Hindus ask him for help during writing sessions almost like a godly muse. I’m not Hindu but I love the idea of a god that inspires imagination. It seems very fitting for a blogger to like him I suppose. He is also the god of beginnings. I had just discovered I had lost someone extremely important to me and it was nice to think of it as a beginning rather than a sad end. I am lucky to have known my aunty well enough to feel she was with me at every step of our journey.

yogya01 yogya12 yogya15 yogya16 Lots of things end but sometimes its nicer to think of them as changing. Maybe not always for the better but change opens us all up for new experiences and we also carry with us the things we learnt in the past. These temples were hidden from the world for so long and now they are there for everyone to see, even before that , in another life time they were strong central pillars to a community and a civilisation . People came to these stones for hope. It’s a wonder to be able to travel and see these sights that have been viewed by so many others.

A lot of people hate the idea of tourists or other people discovering something before them but I like it. I find it kind of satisfying to share these sights and incredible places with people I would never meet or even live in the same century as. It’s a privilege that I hope I never take for granted.

I am sorry for this reflective and slightly sad post but I don’t mean it to be . It was an uplifting trip and one I think we will both hold dear. Lee actually says he prefers these temples to Angkor Wat. I love them both equally but I also think it’s such a huge shame that Prambanan and Yogykarta itself is so over looked.

I’m really glad we stopped off in this nice little city as our first port of call in Indonesia. It was cheap  and a little grimy but the temples alone were worth the visit.

Our first impressions of Indonesia are high. I can’t wait to see what else we find.

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Angkor Wat – Temples , Temples Everywhere

23rd June 2015

angkorwatsunrise When people say they are going to Cambodia it’s normally an un-said assumption that they are also going to Siem Reap to see the beautiful ruins of Angkor Wat.

We were really excited to go to the ruins but at the same time we were a little worried that we had heard and seen so much of it online and in people photos that it would be a little under whelming.

We had been given the perfect plan of attack for this big complex by our friend (which i’ll post for you guys soon). We decided that because we have been traveling so much that just the one day would be the perfect amount of time for us in the complex…we were also warned from many people that unless you are a History graduate studying the building , you will probably be ok just doing the one day.

angkorwat3 We payed our tuk tuk driver to take us to pick up our tickets the evening before from the Angkor Wat offices. This allowed us to see Angkor Wat while it was quiet (with the added bonus of the beautiful dusk light as the sun set).

The next day we woke up at early o’clock…4am…urrrrr and headed to see the rest of the temples. I am no expert what so ever on the history of the temples but I will say that my favourites were the temple of faces named ‘Bayon’ and the temple made famous from the movies ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Tomb Raider’ called Tah Phrom. Tah Phrom is recognizable because of the tree’s that have been left to grow out and around the buildings making the stone structures more jungle and artifact.

Pictures can’t do this place justice but here are a select few.

bayonwheelpose bayon2 angkorwatsunrise2 angkorwat2 angkorwat1 angkorwat 1 spiderweb tahphrom2 tahphrom3

The town of Siem Reap itself is like an adult Pleasure Island from Pinocchio. We really liked it and it was a shame we didn’t have more time to spend there. I got to have a drink in ‘Angkor WHAT?’ and drink a Costa coffee (the british style starbucks) so I was a happy camper.

I don't care what anyone says...this is a dinosaur carved into tha phrom

I don’t care what anyone says…this is a dinosaur carved into tha phrom

A great lightning storm in the sky's of Siem Reap

A great lightning storm in the sky’s of Siem Reap

Small and Tall do Angkor Wat

Small and Tall do Angkor Wat

Koh Rong Samloem – Our Paradise Found

13th June 2015

b12 Oh Koh Rong Samloem. How I miss you!

As I write this we are in Indonesia and it has been a month since our visit to Cambodia’s Saracen Bay. I don’t think there has been a day that Lee and I haven’t talked about how we miss it. It honestly was our little paradise.

b14 b10 Saracen Bay on Koh Rong Samloem was our home for a week and also the place I was turning 29. Because of this Lee decided to book a slightly nicer place for us , which I wasn’t going to argue about. We choose the delightful Saracen Bay Resort which was 45 dollars a night. I am not exaggerating when I say they should be charging 200 dollars a night. This place was heaven.

dock view b5 We arrived via the fast boat from Sihanoukville (which you can read about here) and suddenly all the travel and pain was worth it. We were taken to our bungalow that was right on the beach and a few meters from the calm and still ocean.

The second we dumped our bangs, we threw on our swimsuits and hit the water. The water was so shallow you could just walk and walk in water warmer than any sea i’ve ever experienced.

There isn’t too much to write here since we spent a serene few days drinking gin and tonics* on the porch, swimming in the sea and star gazing.

no fridge...not a problem.

no fridge…not a problem.

I spent a fantastic birthday the same way we had spent the rest of the week and it was incredible. The main thing to point out to all you techie bloggers out there is that there was no wifi. The first day I was almost strickend that I couldn’t instagram the incredible sea views but I quickly loved the lack of contact with the world and didn’t really want to return.

The incredible sunrise was worth waking up for

The incredible sunrise was worth waking up for

I did debate not talking about this place just to see if I could keep it a secret a little bit longer but I loved it so much that I want you all to instantly run there and soak up the sunshine. If you are looking for the real desert island experience then this is the place for you.

There were other bars to explore but everything closed at about 8:30 for food and 10 pm for drinks so if you are after a bit more of a party feel then Cambodia’s other island Koh Rong, is more for you. We really liked the quiet few days we had there. In fact we liked it so much that when someone compared Koh Rong Samloem to Gili Meno in Indonesia we instantly changed all our plans to add it to our list. We’ll arrive there in a few days so we’ll let you know how they compare.

beach1 b13 dog b8 We loved our little bungalow on Saracen Bay and we definitely will be back as soon as possible.

*We stocked up on snacks and alcohol before heading to the island because we heard it was expensive. It was actually quite affordable there but I’m glad we brought our own supplies.

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Sihanoukville – An Unavoidable Stop Over pt2

11th June 2015

The second day in Sihanoukville was a lot better than the first.

We were quite far away from the main area so went for a walk along the beach. The beach front took a long time to resemble anything we were use to. It just seemed to be Cambodian people sat around in areas that were full of plastic chairs but with no bars or restaurants. And a lot of litter. We were starting to get a little worried until we came to the very end of the beach and found some real bars.

rubbishbeach3 rubbishbeach We took a seat in a comfy looking beach bar and were told by the staff that they were on the break and wouldn’t be serving anyone for a few hours. So we got up and headed as far as we could until children stopped hassling us and arrived at ‘above us only sky’.

bluebird

Does anyone know what this lovely bird is?

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The Cambodian 'morning glory' vegetable

The Cambodian ‘morning glory’ vegetable

IMG_1939 IMG_1947 This bar was our little savior in the town. We loved it here. Nice music, nice service and a great view. We sat here for about 3 hours because we didn’t want to head into they main area again. We organised our boat to Koh Rong Samloem in a local tourist building (as adviced by our hotel) and headed back to our hotel. We had a nap and woke up in time for dinner. We started to get ready to head out when Lee and I caught each others eye…looked at our laptop containing all of our unwatched Game of Thrones episodes…and ordered a pizza.

It was the best night we could have hoped for. We did also make a quick stop at a local In supermarket to stock up on supplies for our island trip since we had heard there was only one shop in Saracen Bay that only occasionally opened .. we bought the important supplies of gin, tonic, chocolate and soju. Very adult of us.

Do we like Sihanoukville? No. Is it as bad as you read online? It depends where you are since we did have glimpses of really pretty places and very nice people but I would view it more as a stop off before you head to one of the islands surrounding it. Then again this may have something to do with pooping my insides out, being attacked by ants and backed up toilets….who knows? signature

 

When the beach is so deserted you set a self timer , but accidentally leave the camera in manual

Turning 29

13th May 2015

not looking like I enjoy travelling much in this picture (that's also Rugby the tiger)

not looking like I enjoy travelling much in this picture (that’s also Rugby the tiger)

I can’t believe that it’s already my birthday. When we planned this trip my birthday was a far distant dot among the hotels and flights we had booked. Now it’s here and it’s so strange to be entering the last year of my twenties.

11 I realise that everyone must feel exactly the same way but how the hell can I be 29! I’m not too scared of turning 30 since they look like the ‘together years’. Still young enough to wear cartoon character t-shirts but responsible enough to be able to travel the world and people assume you know what you’re doing (we don’t by the way) there is also the added benefit of wine being appropriate at any occasion in your 30’s.

Obviously I still have one year left in my twenties and I’m quite excited about that. I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many ‘blow my socks off’ great people in my time on this little globe. All the things I’ve had the good fortune to experience in my 28 years have left me very touched. I think I’ve made the most of my years so far and it’s exciting to have one last year in my twenties to pack in as much as I can. How many bottles of champagne can I squeeze into a year?

This year’s birthday is being spent on the beautiful island of Kohn Rong Samloem in the stunning resort of Saracen bay. We have completed two months of our trip and it was the best decision we have ever made. Retiring at 28 is quite fun… Even if I have to jump out of retirement in a few months.

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'Selfie' wasn't even a word when I was born

‘Selfie’ wasn’t even a word when I was born

This year will be spent in sunny Australia and I can’t wait. I’m hoping to learn to drive and meet a Quokka, if you don’t know what that is then you must immediately rectify this by looking at this picture…

I want to say a huge thank you to all my friends and family for making this last year so special. My old friends back home have really made an effort to keep me in the loop even if I’m gallivanting around the place. I miss them all every day. I also had the chance to make three of the best friends a girl could ask for in Korea this year. I’ve had to say ‘see you soon’ to them for a while but I’m lucky to have found them as well as all the people I was already lucky enough to call ‘my people’ in Korea. girlskorea

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My family have put up with my wanderlusting ways fantastically and there’s not a week that goes by that I’m not chatting to them about some such nonsense or making puns.

An amazing collage made by my sister for my birthday

An amazing collage made by my sister for my birthday

Then of course there is Lee. My partner in crime who made all this traveling possible…mainly by sneaking into travel agents when we were teenagers , taking piles of leaflets home and sitting for hours leafing through them. Now we are doing it and it’s all a bit of a shock to the system. My arms bruised from pinching myself so much. This is a soppy post but I’m old now so it’s allowed, surely?

When the beach is so deserted you set a self timer , but accidentally leave the camera in manual

When the beach is so deserted you set a self timer , but accidentally leave the camera in manual

I not a big fan of my birthday… I LOVE birthdays for other people but hate the pressure of the day for myself but I’m a fan of aging, in as much that I love living and experiencing things but mainly I love the chance to eat and dance as much as possible.

Life is full of moments. Beautiful, lovely and delicious moments and I hope to have a ton more this year.

So thank you for your birthday wishes. Now let’s party like its 1986.

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The Longji Rice Terraces of Guilin – China.

18th April 2015

banner If I had a bucket list of things to see on our trip in Asia then a trip to an incredible rice terrace would be high on the list. We looked at our options and the place that jumped to the top of the list every time was of course Vietnam, Sapa. We researched it a lot and since we were going to Vietnam it was do-able but it seemed to be becoming quite touristy and we would only be able to visit during a big national holiday that would see all of Vietnam and China descend on the hills so we did a little more digging and discovered a rice terrace just outside Guilin. The Longji Rice Terraces.

2 Longji translates as ‘The Dragon’s Back’ and it’s easy to see how it got it’s name. This ribbons of rice paddies were built back in the 13th century and spread out for as long as the eye can see.

The trip was, like all other excursions in Guilin, expensive. It came to 22 pound. We could have done it using public transport ourselves but it would have taken over 11 hours with buses and treking. This wouldn’t have been too bad but due to our break due to food poisoning we didn’t have the time to stay there so our one day excursion would have to do.

We were put on one of the only trips which was only Chinese tourists. This meant we only understood about 2 percent of what was happening but there were so many kind and lovely Chinese people on the tour that used their English skills to help us. It was great to meet so many funny and kind people in China.

The rice paddies were spectacular. The bus to get there was …ummm windy and bumpy. By the time we got to the top half the bus was being sick into bags but it really was worth it for this view.

8 10 We spent hours wandering to the top. Taking in the sights and listening to the locals setting off their ceremonial fire crackers for the national holiday that was happening the next day. The sound of the fire crackers echoed around the hills and filled the air with the smell of a British bonfire night. My friend from Hong Kong explained why they use the firecrackers. Apparently incense is ghost food. The ancestors eat the incense people burn but demons try to take it. To stop this they set off the fire crackers to scare away the demons.

9 We reached the top and had a traditional lunch in a tiny village among the Zhoung people. Rice steamed in bamboo and smoked ‘meat’ . I couldn’t get any more information than ‘meat’ but some of it was hairy so it’s probably best not to know.

7 We meandered back down the hill side chatting to the locals and taking a silly amount of pictures.

It was a long day but something i’m really glad we did. It felt like being back at home in Wales. Stood in a huge Welsh valley while at the same time it felt a million worlds away.

11 On the way back to Guilin the 4 hour bus trip was broken up with a stop off in a Zhoung village. We were introduced to the locals who only cut their hair once in their lives when they turn 16. They unwrapped their hair for us which trailed far behind them. Effortlessly they span it up onto their heads. They only wash it once every two weeks in special oils and it is said that they never go grey. We saw some pretty old ladies and I definitely want what they were having because that hair was silky smooth.

3 4 5 6 The traditional village did lose a lot of its splendor when after the traditional singing we were brought to the ‘traditional’ zip line. I can’t imagine it was a feature of the ancient Zhoung people but it was great fun.

Seeing the Longji rice fields was great and It was something off our Asia bucket list. A wonderful way to spend a day in China. I will now appreciate the rice on my plate a hell of a lot more. signature

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Two Days in Guangzhou

7th April 2015

banner China is somewhere that is so alluring. Surrounded in the myths and legends of the orient. It is the first country as a child that I thought of as a far away and unreachable place. I also love the food. These reasons are probably why Lee and I decided right away that we were going to add China to our itinerary. We had already been lucky enough to visit Beijing and Shanghai last year but we felt there was more exploring to do. We got our visas in advance before we left Korea (through this company) and started planning.

We knew we wanted to visit Hong Kong and we knew we wanted to visit Guilin, famous for it’s mountainous landscapes. Since we knew that we wanted to hit these two locations it made logical sense that we should start at the mid point between the two, Guangzhou.

I knew nothing about Guangzhou before I started researching it and unfortunately I still didn’t know much about the place after I researched it. It seems that Guangzhou isn’t the bloggers main destination. Instead of being disappointed by this , it peaked my interest.

When we arrived in Guangzhou it was 1am so we headed to the taxi rank. This should have been an easy task but the angry, shouting taxi drivers trying to convince us aggressively to ride in their illegal , un-metered taxi’s made it quite difficult. I steered Lee away from their zombie-like grasps and found the taxi rank. Illegal and rude taxi drivers are such a problem in Guangzhou that the government has set up an English helpline. If a driver refuses to take you somewhere, is rude to you or won’t use the meter you can phone this number ‘96900’ and report them by giving their license number. I thought this may just be an excessive precaution until we stepped off the taxi rank and were directed to a driver who started hurling abuse at us because he didn’t want to drive to foreigners. To say we were a little shocked was an understatement. Luckily we navigated our way to another taxi who took us to our hotel. It is good to know that taxi’s only take cash here (in case you are coming from Korea) and also that if you go through a toll you will get an additional receipt when you pay since it isn’t automatically added onto the the meter fee. Our toll only cost up 15p so don’t worry they aren’t extortionate or anything. It cost us 120 yuan to get to the city centre (about 12 pound).

We found our hotel which was a bit dodgy on the outside but had a large and comfy room. We rested our heads and dreamed of all the exciting things we would be getting up to the next day…that was until 6am when building work on the room next to ours started. A power drill a few inches from your head at 6am is not the welcome most guests hope for.

Guangzhou had not started on our good side.

We got dressed and headed out to the city. The first stop on almost all our visits to new countries is weirdly the seven-eleven. Lee and I always rush to see what exciting chocolate bars they have and what weird drink flavours we can find. This is an odd tradition but it is a great insight into the country.

The rest of the day was filled with us desperately trying to find the shrines and markets we had read about online. We weren’t very successful. All we seemed to find were run down shops and a million Mc Donald’s. At one point there were three separate Mc establishments in my field of view. It was a little excessive. Even for fast food lovers like ourselves.

We headed back to the hotel room disheartened and missing Japan with its efficient, clean roads and kind people …..BUT we were determined to not let Guangzhou beat us. The next day we hit the town with a renewed vigor.

We started the day by accidentally wandering to a local park that had old Chinese ladies practicing their fan dancing by the lake and the large centre point compass of Guangzhou at the heart of the gardens. After this we took in the Comic City shopping mall by Gongyuanqian (on lines 1 and 3) subway station full of kitschy teenager clothes and accessories. I had to be wrestled away from a few clothes bargains. Then we headed to Shangxiajiu street, a pedestrianized market area which had some nice small shops and delicious smelling markets.

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Lastly to finish off our day we went to the infamous Canton tower to take in the renowned rainbow lights. This was by far the best part of Guangzhou. The skyscrapers filled the air above us and Chinese traditional music filled the air. We walked along happily for hours until it turned dark and we were craving some deliciousness. This is when I forced Lee to experience something i’ve been trying to do for a while….we went to the Hello Kitty Cafe. I realise this is Japanese but we had one in Daegu , Korea that shut down the day I tried to visit. I vowed I’d enter it’s door somewhere. This pink powder puff of a place served lovely coffees and let Lee get in touch with his feminine side.

1 2 3 4 7 8 We headed back to the hotel happy and content, feeling we had made the most of our very short time in Guangzhou. It isn’t my favourite city by any means but it feels as though it’s ready to explode and become the second Shanghai. I’d be excited to return in 10 years and see what has been done with the place….but for now it’s not some where I’d be racing back to. 9 10

Bohol – Chocolate Hills and Tarsiers

28th March 2015

banner When Lee and I were planning our route through Asia all I had to do was mention ‘Chocolate Hills’ and Lee was on board. It was a few months later that I had to break the news to him that Bohol’s Chocolate Hills aren’t actually made of chocolate. But don’t worry too much because I cushioned the blow by telling him we could see these incredible creatures. 17

This Yoda looking creature is a Tarsier and it is native to the Philippines. Bohol has many places to view them but only one place is known as a sanctuary that looks after them the way they should be cared for so we knew exactly where to head.

We hopped on a boat in Boracay and after two planes with a mini stop in Manila in-between we were soon on Bohol and heading to the tiny island attached to it called Panglao. We hadn’t heard anything good about the beaches but since we had a few days in Bohol we thought we’d go and have a look anyway. We weren’t disappointed. The island was so interesting and animal’s definitely ruled the roost. Everywhere you looked there were cows, goats, roosters, piglets and so many puppies. We loved it. The houses were small and hand built. People were friendly with kids running up to us just to say hello. There were motorised tricycles stopping every few yards asking if we wanted lifts into town but nowhere near the amount we were harassed in Boracay.

7 8 We stayed in a great hotel called Hope Homes. It was about a twenty minute walk from Alona beach and only took cash but the people were friendly, there were lots of puppies and the rooms were big and clean.

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Lee what is your favourite thing about the trip so far? “Puppies”

5 9 Once we were settled in we headed to the beach. We hadn’t expected anything but Alona beach was lovely. Not very deep until the end of the beach but beautiful. I’d also recommend Bohol peanut kisses ice cream. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

2 3 4 6 The rest of our time on the island was allocated to hills and tarsiers so we set about finding the best way to view them. At this point I need to send you to this incredibly smart and funny blog post over at Globetrotter Girls that details how to get around Bohol better than I ever could. We were completely set on following these instructions to the letter that was until poor Lee had food poisoning. We still aren’t 100% sure what caused it but we are almost sure it was from a Filipino beef dish Lee ate that evening. The poor man was stuck in bed for 12 hours. Luckily we had thought ahead and bought lots of Imodium and paracetamol on the trip. I don’t know what we would have done without them because we were miles from a hospital. It took about 12 hours to feel human again which left us one last day to see the wonders Bohol had to offer. We ended up taking the hotels car to both the Tarsiers and the hills for a total cost of 2000 pesos since I didn’t want Lee bumping around on Bohol roads.

The Tarsier sanctuary you need to go to if you want to see them treated well is the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. You pay 50 pesos for a ticket and then drive up to the sanctuary. The floors inside are muddy so if its rained recently it would be a good idea to wear shoes instead of flip flops. The guide took us around the area asking us to be as quiet as possible. She answered all our questions and more about these incredible creatures. She also warned us that we may not see many tarsiers today. I know this sounds weird but this made me so happy because it meant the sanctuary was caring for them, letting them wander free and not doing this just for tourists. As it was we were very very lucky and saw three. Their huge sleepy eyes and tiny hands melted our hearts. 16 17 18 20

Facts about Tarsiers:

.They can live up to 30 years in the wild but live an average of 6 months in captivity. The ones in the Corella sanctuary that we saw were 10 and 20. One was about to give birth which is also un-heard of if they aren’t happy in their environment.

.The girls are lighter in Colour.

.They only have one baby at a time.

.They jump from tree to tree and have a extremely long tail to help them fly

.They eat insects

.They are very territorial and need a ache of space each. The baby will only be with the mother 6 months after its born then it must find it’s own space.

.Each of their eyes is heavier than their brain. They have the largest eye size (compared to their body) of all mammals.

There are also so many more that you can read here

 

We were both on a high when we left. It was only a 20minute tour if that to stop the animals being too disturbed but it was thrilling. Our next stop was those mysteries Chocolate Hills. It took us about two hours to get to the hills and once we arrived we decided to get the full experience and have a tour guide show us around the hills. We rode on a ATV while following the guide on a bike. It was 900 pesos which is expensive on our budget but we did travel a long way just to see the hills so wanted a little more than just the viewing platform. We didn’t regret http://smallandtalltravel.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpthe decision. It was thrilling riding around the hills and local area, waving at kids that ran along the road to greet us and seeing chickens crossing the road in front of is (the irony of this never got old in Bohol, no matter how many times I saw it) 19 21 22 24

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Chocolate Hills or ‘Booby Hills’ as Lee liked to call them

After our ride we paid the 50 pesos and headed to the top. It is a steep staircase and some older people were struggling with the walk so if you aren’t use to walking up hills make sure you take your time and some water. Lee and I aren’t exactly fitness fans and we still did ok. It isn’t a long walk and only takes a few minutes of stairs to get to the top. 12 14 23

At the top you could see the majestic hills as far as the eyes could see. We poses for photos and were in awe at the damaged surrounding the hills caused by an earthquake two years earlier. It was terrifying to see the power of nature but humbling to also see the beauty it creates. There are lots of myths and legends surrounding the hills such as:

“a giant named Arogo who was extremely powerful and youthful lived in Bohol. Arogo fell in love with Aloya, who was a simple mortal. Aloya’s death caused Arogo much pain and misery, and in his sorrow he could not stop crying. When his tears dried, the Chocolate Hills were formed.”

Really they are made of limestone and sit on a hard clay base. Many fossils of coral and small marine animals have been discovered within them leading scientists to believe they were once under water. They are named the chocolate hills because in the summer the grass disappears to reveal the brown mud. Whatever the origin, they were great to see and worth the trip for us.

10 25 Overall we loved Bohol, despite the food poisoning, it was beautiful, humble, friendly and interesting. I can see it becoming more and more touristy though which is a shame. I hope it can hold onto its charm for as long as possible.

 

 

 

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Nara – oh Deer oh Deer

17th March 2015

banner Oh Nara, you beautiful little place you. I’m not going to lie to you all, we went to Nara for one reason and one reason only….Deer. We love animals and any excuse to be close to them – when they are treated fairly – is a good with us. 19
Nara is a small city on the outskirts of both Kyoto and Osaka. Many hundreds of years ago it was the old capital of Japan. Deer are a sacred and lucky animal so this area of Japan has never hurt or hunted them, subsequently the deer roam free around this beautiful small place. 9 18
We hopped on a train and after only a few minutes we had our first deer sighting.
At first we thought it was a statue since it was so still but we soon realised that this creature just inches from us was real. Our eyes adjusted to see all the deer littering the path ahead. People were selling food at 150yen per 5 rice cakes and we bought quite a few. The deer were friendly but not above giving you a little ‘butt’ for attention. 1 2 3
The most impressive thing about the deer was their bowing skills. Yes, they bow! They have learnt that bobbin their head gets you to feed them. It’s stupidly impressive and we were suckers for it. 12 13 16 50
We didn’t just see deer in Nara. We also saw the largest sitting bronze Buddha in the world which was incredible . It was a little pricey to get in but well worth it (I think it was 600 yen) . The most bizarre part of the day (yes, more bizarre than frolicking with deer) was queuing up to crawl through a hole. In one of the pillars of the shrine is a small hole that can barely fit a human. It is said that crawling through this pillar will being you luck and love for life. Since I am the small one in this team I decided it was my job to have a go. I was sure I wouldn’t fit but I huffed and puffed my way and within seconds I was through. It was a weird way to spend an afternoon but a fun one. 5 6 8 15
We strolled the parks of Nara and the alleys full of shops and headed back to Osaka.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trip but I really enjoyed the place and would recommend this day trip to anyone. It was a quiet area so I’m not sure we could have found things to do for more than a day but if you want some peace and quiet this is the place to go. 14 11 signature

5

Osaka – Running men and Rainy Days

16th March 2015

banner So today Lee and I flew out of japan…and then flew back an hour later. Our flight to Manilla was turned around after a faulty windscreen wiper of all things. It is better to be safe than sorry of course but a missed connection flight and a hotel we have to pay for that we won’t use is annoying on a tight budget like ours. Jetstar don’t have a great reputation for paying people compensation but we can only wait and hope they will help us, if we ever get to Manilla that is.
On the plus side,I get to type to you lovely people.
So what have we been up to for the last few days? Osaka and Nara is what we’ve been up to.
I was very excited to find Lee did to know much about Osaka so I got to show him the bright lights of Dotonbori that I’d heard so much about. Including of course the Osaka ‘running man’. Dotonbori is the restaurant, shopping and bar hub of Osaka. Streets and streets of the weird and the wonderful.

sorry...had to do it

sorry…had to do it

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We accidentally stumbled upon Kurmon Ichiba market where we filled up on Tempura and Takoyaki (octopus balls) and we had a few drinks in Minami (very very near Dotonbori) in a bar called ‘Bar Moon Walk’ where after you pay the 400 yen cover charge all drinks are 210 yen ,which in Osaka is a great deal.My favourite was a Sake concoction called ‘Welcome to Japan’…very fitting.

1 We took in some culture on a rainy day and saw the legendary Osaka castle and wandered the museum inside. It was impressive and a little bit scary to imagine the battles that had taken place on that very ground. It was a horrible day but the castle did cheer it up a bit. On the bright side it also meant every shrine and temples were empty.
If Kyoto is the quiet , refined part of Japan then Osaka is the loud local who lives to run around and get things done. Compared to Tokyo Osaka feels lived in.
If I was to come to Japan again I think I may give Osaka a miss, not because it’s not beautiful but it is a functional city and we did a lot in 2 and a half days. We did also got to squeeze in a half day trip to Nara but the sheer loveliness of that place requires a whole post to itself.
As I write this we are still no clearer if we will ever leave Japan, but as much as I hate this airport right now (where are the cheap fast food places??? ) I loved Japan and we are already planning our return.

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