Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The thing about traveling

When you leave home you don't look back, you go onwards and you go, you go fast. If you're like many others before you, you don't glance over your shoulder once you walk through the departure gates. You've already lived this point of leaving in your head too many times to recount; now you're doing it, you take a deep breath and you just go, you skip. 

You leave what you've known the moment you pass through those gates of change and suddenly you have a new purpose. The feeling of excitement tinged with a bright fear you haven't experienced before carries you through the motions of leaving your home, your country, your roots, your career, your pets, your dearest friends, your beloved family, your everything ... you jump headfirst into the unknown. 

You immediately realise it isn't just a different way of life you end up being a part of, it's a different existence in a different universe, as a different you. And you like it, you don't just like it! It's a new found love, you travel with a feeling of pride about the fact that you've upped sticks and followed your feet one>foot>after>the>other to board that plane and make the days/ weeks/ months you've spent talking about and organising your trip into reality. The time is now and you're doing it, it's live!

Things happen to you every day that would never have happened before you left home, you get into scrapes and "survive" and it becomes a "I can't believe I got away with that one" story that you re-tell amongst your friends on the road. 
You do things that scare you at first but then they make you understand the word "euphoria" .. any worries become secondary to wanting to do them again, wanting something more extreme. 
You fall in love with places within moments and people at first sight, you find romance and friendships that you can't imagine living without. 
You become more aware of every day being as important as the one before and yet you yearn for the next day to be even better without believing it is possible, then it is again and again ... "I can't believe this is real life".

You get ill or something "bad" happens and you remind yourself "I'd rather be here in this situation than back home safe and well". It's moments like these that it dawns on you how much living the life of the traveler has gripped you. 
Are you a "nomad"? You're not sure about labelling yourself but you know you're like so many people you spend your days with, you want to "travel for as long as possible", as do they, you "just love it".

You visit places you can't recall clearly now, you remember them by how they made you feel for a poignant moment captured with laughter or perhaps a sorrow that you'd rather forget. You just know you've been there and these places will always shine a glimpse of light or perhaps cast a shadow across your heart. These are moments that define your trip. 

You've been away for the the "best month of your life", or maybe "6 months before starting a job in London" or maybe "well over a year, it's my second Christmas away from home now". Wherever you are when you know your trip clock is starting to tick too fast you start to feel differently.

You've got a flight home on the horizon and its somehow an unfamiliar landscape that offers mixed feelings, you firstly begin to note with dread that you'll be on that plane back to your previous life soon. 
The dread turns into acceptance which in turn becomes appreciation for where you are now, who you have your remaining days with and what you can fit in to your "bucket list" before you make your way "back".

As days tick by you count what time you have left on your trip and in turn what time you have left until you see your loved ones again. Priorities become time itself, in the first 3/4 of your trip you didn't have any concept of time, you didn't even know what day it was. To know the time was only told by the light of the sun or moon.

"Time or tide wait for no man" is something my uncle has always said to me and the thought behind the words is something that us travelers get grabbed by as we know our trip is coming to a close. 
Do you go home, return to your old ways and see your travels as the commonly considered "once in a lifetime opportunity" or do you plan to stay home "for a bit, for a while" and save your chips with plans already in place to go away again before you've even set foot back on home turf?

The truth is you don't know, no one ever knows. Family consistently ask "when are you coming home?" while friends guess "you won't be back for long will you?". The thing about traveling is you, you make the choices, you do what you want, you do it for you and you see what happens.

I'm "you" at the moment; me leaving Australia is just over 10 weeks away and it got me thinking, then it got my writing this post as I sat watching yet another surreal sunset in my favourite park in Sydney ... what will happen next? 
I've got plans, many plans, plans I've made with people I'm bursting to see but I can't predict if any of what will happen. It could all change tomorrow. 
The thing about traveling is we love it and we hope it only ends when we're ready for it to, until then we keep jumping headfirst.


Sunday, 4 January 2015

''We nearly drowned'', Laos part 1, Vientiane & Vang Vieng

A regret of 2014 ''I didn't blog enough, I'm so behind, need to catch up with myself''. Last year pretty much sucked me up whole and my blog suffered through my willingness to 'live' what I was doing more than writing about it.
This year I'm planning to post every 2 weeks, ''I'm doing it, I need to make the time''.
This is the first post that takes us back to my months in South East Asia, I'd already done two months in Thailand by this point, now we're on to Laos (March 3rd 2014)

The Scene
After spending a final afternoon in Bangkok splashing money like it was water ''I need all of these things plus I might 'never' come back to Thailand so ..'' I soaked up my last bit of Khao San Road by entrusting a 'Yogi' with telling my fortune. We swapped his words of potential wisdom for 2500tb (£50!!). He talked me out of that money, I couldn't say no! ..
He wrote down my Mum's name and my D.O.B on a piece of paper and I was sold, some of the things he went on to say I'm still waiting on happening, some of them are happening for me right now ..  I left Bangkok on a high, with the promise of great things to come and set off on the night train to Nong Khai, where I would then cross the river border into the unknown of Laos.

The Story
Vientiane Arriving in the capital of Laos didn't grip me like Bangkok had when I first landed in Thailand two months previously, it just felt like a 'place' with not as much character as I had hoped. The overnight train had been great, I'd slept well considering my excitement and spent the last part of my journey in the morning with a cute couple of kids who loved taking selfies on my Ipad. Watching the sunrise from the train window as we neared Laos was a special moment. Crossing the border was easy, don't listen to people who tell you border crossings are a nightmare, they're not! You just need your passport, spare passport photos and the required fee and Ta Da! You're in the country.

I'd booked Sihome Backpackers Garden Hostel for the night with no idea of what would happen the next day but as I walked to the hostel I passed the Sihome Backpackers Hostel (their other hostel, apparently with no garden) .. it was packed with people, had a bazillion flips flops outside, a pool table in reception and a bar behind the desk ''Can I change my booking to stay here please?''. It was fate I ended up there, as soon as I walked into my dorm, the ''Ninjas'' room I felt at ease, everyone in the room just clicked and we made a quick plan to go for lunch together.
We traipsed around Vientiane for what felt like ''about 3 days'' then we settled for ''this place, its the only one open'' ''what the one that looks like someones garage without the car?'' ''yep, lets eat here''. We must have been in the wrong part of the city to eat here but it was an experience and we all sat around laughing about it.

The night in the hostel brought drinking games, getting to know each other and plotting plans, the ''Ninjas'' then left together in the morning for Vang Vieng. I probably didn't give Vientiane a fair chance in just staying pretty much in the hostel the whole time but that was the place to be! Friendships were sealed that night, people had told me so many good things about Vang Vieng I couldn't wait to get there with everyone.

Vang Vieng The hairy scary few hours bus trip onwards to Vang Vieng got increasingly prettier the closer we got. Vang Vieng hit me hard enough to make up for what I thought Vientiane lacked, it was amazing, I'd never seen anywhere like it before ''it looks like Jurassic Park''! My friend Bas had chosen us some lush ''Other Side'' bungalows nestled in front of the mountains and near the river. I had my own little pad, it was fab but it did feel weird being stuck out the back of the field, I kept thinking someone was going to come and kill me and no one would ever find me!

Vang Vieng is a bit of a blur (!!) but here's The Highlights

- Tubing ''it's a backpackers right of passage'' and oh yes indeed it was, what a day! You get driven up to the top of the river, given a free shot on arrival then you hop in what is basically an adult size rubber ring and proceed to very ungracefully and not soberily at all make your way down the river in said rubber ring.
We stopped at 5 bars on route and got a free shot at each, oh and a wristband ''don't forget your wristbands!''. I wore them for the rest of my time in SE Asia. One bar had a pet monkey, every bar had loads of smashed fellow backpackers, it was a hoot! We had a lovely time until the bar with the basketball court, our mate Sina sunk a hoop in style then immediately slipped over in spectacular form, we danced the day away with some nutty Irish boys then hopped back in our tubes to then nearly drown. ''I'm going back for Sina'', ''we've lost Disney Princess, Disney hurry up, get off that rock'' ... the day deteriorated as quickly as we drank. We made it out alive of course, all was well.

- Fat Monkeys ''we start every night here'' was the bar that everyone went to for beer pong, cheap shots, sweating and getting drinks spilt all over you, it was a daily delight!

- Temple Party ''I've just been dancing with a Monk, is that allowed?''. The Temple Party was nuts! I don't know how we got there or who's idea it was but it was crazy. It was full of locals and backpackers and loads of Monks ''Am I allowed to talk to you?'', of course they didn't talk to me. We were popping balloons with darts and danced the night away in the unforgettable venue.

- Jungle Party ''One minute I was dancing on my own stage next minute it was the morning''. The Jungle Party was more like a garden party, it was small but intense with a great crowd and wicked DJ's ''they're from Bristol'', it was brilliant.

- Room 101 ''let's dance!'' a small club on one of the main streets; hot, sticky and rammed with backpackers, most of whom we'd been tubing with all day.

- Street Food ''this is amazing, how is it this cheap?'' VV has French inspired baguettes on its street corners, damn they were good.

- Banana Bar and Other Side Restaurant ... ''What?! They play back to back Friends all day?!'' yes, this was a daily dose of heaven when we were hungover (every day).

VV bits I missed and wish I hadn't

- Hot air balloon ride ''shame we never made it'', it looked amazing but the Jungle Party hungover beat us.

- Easy Go Hostel ''it's the best hostel I stayed in'' to quote my best friend Nyall.

- The Blue Lagoon ''it was so beautiful'', tubing hangover beat me on this one.

All in all the first two places I visited in Laos were fab, so different from each other yet they provided with me so much to be happy about. Vientiane gave me great new friends, many of whom I still speak to to this day. Then Vang Vieng gave me beauty and unlimited fun.

We left Vang Vieng and hit the death roads towards Luang Prabang, we'd heard so many bad things about the winding journey through the mountains, we dreaded it. We regretted leaving as soon as we got to the first lot of endless bad bends at what felt like 200mph ''take us back to paradise'' we moaned as we laughed at each other pretending to enjoy the journey. ''Please be worth it Luang Prabang''..


One of my little mates on the train
The garage/ front room where we shared our first meal
Sihome crew!
Best hostel in Vientiane
My beloved bungalow in Vang Vieng
Ponies on the run!
The hot air balloon we never made ..
Other Side Bungalow crew
Sober times tubing ..
Saving Sina!
Jungle party, my little stage
Friends, constantly!
Saying bye with Hairy Harry and Collin Farrell
Saying bye to paradise

Thursday, 27 November 2014

A travel tip worth taking

As a blogger and all round "social media whore" I'm always on the lookout for interesting content, something that catches my eye and makes me want to take 5 minutes out of living my own day to the fullest .. to take in someone else's life, their stories, their advice. 

Since leaving home nearly a year ago most of my online interest has turned from what I was familiar with (fashion, celebrities, excelling in my exciting job in the city and being a part of the 'London scene') to what has a grip on me now; traveling, chasing my dreams and making every day out of the UK count. 

Much of what I read online comes from Facebook - if my friends share something I'm more than likely going to want to take a second glance too. Nearly every day my feed has links/ statuses/ photos shared about travel; where we've been, where we're going, where we dream of and very often the blues, the "I'm back home now, how am I going to cope without life living out my backpack?".

Many friends I've met have been home a long time already or their trip has just finished - not everyone leaves home intent on "never going back". Many travel for a month or two, set from the off to go back home and make a life splattered with great holidays, a solid job and a happiness for life as they expected it to be before they had even hit the road to travel. 

So, the topic I really wanted to discuss is; "beating post-travel depression" (yes, such a thing certainly exists:/) .. most days a blog post appears on my feed giving advice on "how to beat the post-travel blues", "X tips for living normal life after traveling", "adjusting to real life after months on the road" etc. 

Most of them include these ideas; "enjoy home", "plan another trip", "focus on a new challenge", "make the most of the things you missed" etc. Often posts are same same but not much different, I agree with these points of course but, to me, something vital is always missing .. 

.. One thing I've spotted that I'd like to add when I read these sorts of posts (sorry if you've seen them, I am yet to!) is the oh so crucial "keep in touch with the people you met" tip .. such a simple idea but I think it's something so many of us forget when "real life" and "life after" a certain place takes over. So here's my idea of a plan for keeping your travels alive .. 

If you travel alone or in company I guarantee you've met people who've changed your life, maybe you spent just a day with them (this happened to me at the Killing Fields in Phnomh Penh, Cambodia), maybe you spent weeks exploring different countries together, maybe it was something someone said that will always make you smile ("enjoy the journey"), maybe a look you held as something amazing happened to you both at a particular moment ("we hit the exact same point during that song, will never forget it!"), maybe a new friend looked after you in a time of need ("my leg is in a cast, can you just push me around Brazil in a trolley?"), maybe someone gave you advice on a place that you "have to go to" ("do the Castaway tour in Vietnam, it'll change your life") ..
To me, these are the things that we need to cherish once a chapter has closed on our travels.

What moments made your trip? Who did what and why did you feel THAT happy? Cling on to that "bottle it up, seal it, keep it forever". 

You might have had a fortnight partying in Ibiza that you've only just about recovered from (even though that was back in September) or maybe you're just about to close your door on a year long trip you've just done around the globe on your own - whatever you've done, wherever you've been, however long for ... the best way to start the next phase of your life on a high is it to treasure the best parts and best people of your past adventures ..

Keep in touch through meet ups and events that will bring you together (Stereosonic anyone?;), make firm plans to see those great ones, calls, texts, messengers, post photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, write a blog, write a journal for your eyes only... doing some or even all of these will keep what you've loved living alive! 

Whether you plan to go away again, or not, or maybe you've just had to get over a small part of your big trip (me and Lucy are still smarting after Gili T "why aren't we back on that paradise island?") the trick of any potential 'travel blues' is to keep the dream alive. 

No wonder our grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents like telling us stories of their youth and 'glory days' - you should never let go of times that made you happiest, the good stories, those ones that made you feel that feeling will never get old .. sharing them again and again with the people you were with will always cling on to that magic, that special place once visited is never lost. 


Don Det, Dream Team

Melbourne madness 

Bondi babes 

Waterfall wonders

Boat partying island hopping, Brazil 

Lain down! Brazil

Great ones! Gili T

High flyers, Bangkok 

Monday, 24 November 2014

"Heaven is a place on earth", Gili T

If falling in love with a place, letting it grip your soul and leave you with memories you wish you could bottle sounds like the kind of feeling you want in your life, look no further than Gili Trawangan (Gilli T to its friends). 

Lucy, my partner in crimes of loving life, and I had grand plans to do and see so much of Bali "we'll climb the volcano", "we'll visit the monkey temple", "we'll check out the floating temple in the sea" ... 10 days later we've sacrificed all of these beautiful plans for Gili T "we're stuck, we'll leave but not today!" 

If my passion for this slice of paradise hasn't quite shone through just yet, read on for my 11 tips on the "perfect Gili T experience" .. 

1. Stay at the infamous Gili Backpackers hostel for a guaranteed meeting of legends of your holiday/ your travels / your life. 
The dorms are hotter than what I imagine hell to be like "we're melting" but stuff it, it's worth the discomfort for the f u n! 
I spent one of the best nights of my life in one of the private rooms too, if you've got extra money to cover it then go for a private room .. room 15 will welcome you with open arms, see if you can have as much fun as we did (pretty sure that's not possible but you can give it a go, good luck!)

2. Spend a night at a Surf Bar party, ask the barman who looks like Simba from the Lion King to give you the "strongest shake" he has and then proceed to enjoy the journey that follows .. with any luck you'll be transported clean off the Gili's in the highest sense of euphoria .. we visited another world at the Dark Moon party on Thursday night, I can't put into words what happened - it was unreal. "That little Buddha DJ is an absolute weapon! Is he for real? Is he taking the piss? What a man!" 

3. Spend a day "professionally lounging" at Horizontal Bar on the beach front. Those "comfiest bean bags in the world" won't lay on themselves! Get your treasured ones and new friends around you for numerous Bintangs and endless laughs. 

4. Drag yourself away from the island itself and go on a glass bottom boat trip for the day (100,000 IDR / $10 / £5). Our boat saw an 8ft shark, turtles, loads of fish and a shipwreck. 
We went for lunch on Gili Air, lovely little island that is !! (Try not to choose a stormy day like we did ... a little wooden boat in the eye of the storm is scary, especially when you're hungover, which you're bound to be).

5. Eat at Scallywags on the beachfront, Lucy had Mahi Mahi fish and I had Butterfish. For once we both ate really slowly to savour it, it was Sam Divine! One of the best meals of my life and that's saying something .. it was a steal at 300,000 IDR / $30 / £15 "the view is amazing, I can't get over it!".

6. Rent a push bike and explore the island, check out the swing in the ocean and head for the Sunset Bar as evening draws in. Keep a look out for the "seahorses" too .. one of our friends did a night ride and came back with a tattoo of a bike on his side, he had such a good time he wanted to save the memory forever! 

7. Get a full body massage (160,000 IDR/ $16 / £8) at a spa on the beach front, there are loads of luxury places to choose from .. take your pick, lay down, relax, listen to the sea while your body gets a well deserved pamper after your nights out. 

8. Eat the street food at the night market, the range of choice put on by the friendly staff at the Green Cafe is amazing !! Dirt cheap too, we loved it (20,000 IDR / $2/ £1)

9. Skip a night on the strip and stargaze from the Gili Backpackers "watch tower/ sky tower/ skyer tower/ treehouse/ David Attenborough's spy place" yes friends we spied on you all trying to pull each other when you got in at 5am, sorry - not! Ha ha.
.. anywayyyy, call the tower what you will, climb the "tricky steps" to the top, lie back and watch the world tick by the for the night with your music on (Glen Horsborough podcasts are the perfect soundtrack). Shooting stars aplenty to be seen over Gili T, as the stars fade the sun comes up, every sunrise is as special as the last. 

10. If you've got cash to splash go shopping in the boutiques, so many things I wanted but couldn't justify "we'll get it cheaper in Seminyak" 

11. Saving one of the best tips 'til last here .. go on a Drunken Monkeyz boat party, with a reputation as "the best boat party in the world" it didn't disappoint! As soon as we stepped foot on that massive wooden "pirate ship" I knew it was going to be one of the best days of my life "I've got goosebumps all over". 
If you like house music and love dancing you're in for a treat, we missed sunset we were so lost in the party. So damn good we did it twice! "We can't afford it, whatever!"

Gili T has most definitely stolen a big piece of my passionate heart, I'll never forget the people who have made it so special, the many many laugh-crys I've shared with them, the being unable to breath for laughing, the golden moments of clarity, the pure happiness, "I love my life, I love it so much I almost can't believe it"

Gili Trawangan, you absolute beauty, you've over-delivered 1000% .. the only thing I don't like about you is having to leave .. 


Sunday, 9 November 2014

She's only gone and done it ladies and gents !! 2nd year visa farming, regional work in Australia

My beloved blog hasn't been updated in so long, too long! I moved to Bundaberg in Queensland on 21st July and since then life has been a whirlwind of farming, fun, friends for life, more farming, lack of sleep, trying to save money, farming, great people, laughter, best times, farming, a few lows, many highs, farming, treasured moments and more farming ..

Today I finished my job and waved goodbye to life as I've known it and to Slim, the farm dog. After working 89 of the last 111 days ... it's fair to say I'm understandably shattered both mentally and physically (also hungover too, of course) but above all I'm happy, so happy!

Farm work is h a r d, 4.30am starts and 7pm finishes killed me. When I arrived it felt like I'd never reach the golden ''88th day'' but it has happened and my 2nd year visa for this amazing country has been safely secured.

I worked on 5 different farms in total, picking and packing zuchhinis (known as courguettes back home!), capsicums (aka peppers!), citrus fruits (oranges!), $3 million dollar Kellog's Corn Flakes corn (yes, 3 MIL!) and most recently (for the past 3 months!) cherry tomatoes !!

Before coming to Bundy I had grand plans of updating my blog ''I'll have loads of time to write'' and getting it back up to speed. As noted on my previous post, I had written about my months in SE Asia but sadly since then my phone died and I think I've lost them all, I will need to really dig deep to remember everything I wanted to cover now but I'll manage it !

Basically Bundy swallowed me up, when we weren't farming we were partying and when we weren't farming or partying we were sleeping ... there has been no time to write!

I leave here on Tuesday to go to Brisbane for two nights, then it's off to Bali and the Gili islands to celebrate life again and enjoy some of these hard earned dollars!

I plan to write while I'm lounging around over the next couple of weeks in paradise, so much to share! Farming has undoubtedly been one of the best things I've ever done, I've loved it. I cried when I left my farm today, as people who know me know I have been known to shed a tear or two in life . .my passion for life takes over me sometimes.

I hope you will continue to enjoy reading my blog when I get my content back on track .. it's all possible now I have my life back!

I'll have to cover the ''real'' side of farming to give people thinking about doing it the honest account of what really goes on and I need to do a ''Bundy best bits'' or similar kind of post too.

To all you fellow backpacking farmers out there, I salute you! If I can do it anyone can, freedom beckons! Go for ya life!!!


Thursday, 24 July 2014

"It's my favourite place, we have to go back", Koh Phangan, 2nd visit

5 months of seeing, doing and traveling have passed since I last visited my memory bank and posted about my 'story', this Thailand post took place across 2 weeks from February 19th ..
With this in mind, a few things are bound to be missing but it was a great time that I just couldn't miss out!
The times that follow this in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have pretty much been written up already - I had a surge on inspo on a long haul flight from Brazil to Australia a couple of weeks ago so let's just take this one for what it is for now and then I can crack on with the rest of them (which somehow I remember much more clearly!) 
Here goes .. 

The scene
Jen and I left James behind in glorious Pai and spent a steady 12 hours (bus, 2 flights, boat) going South then East across Thailand to Koh Phangan. The final two weeks of my 60 day Thai visa would be spent here, the place I'd loved best so far, with my still relatively new friend Jen "girls only, woo!", 19th February.

The story
Leaving Pai at dawn, hungover but feeling frisky we made our journey to the island. Koh Phangan had treated me so well on my first visit back in early January that I couldn't wait to set foot on its white sands again. We arrived as a pair and ended up with a new friend, Jake (Shakey;), a solo traveler from New Zealand. We also randomly reunited with Bert again too - I'd met him during that first January Phangan trip and then traveled on to Koh Toa, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi with him and his other two friends Bas and Richard. 

The highlights;
- Jen kicked off in Chiang Mai airport because cafe staff gave her hot milk for her tea "why do they do that?! They just don't get how to make tea over here!!". We agreed from that moment that if we wanted "proper tea, a proper builders cup" we'd have to make it ourselves.
- Having a "pamper" session in the bungalow with 100 baht facemasks that felt like they were made from paper mâché and singing "we're going Tinderrrr' before a beach/ buckets night out "don't take photos of me!" Sorry mate, photos of us looking great appear to be seen below..
- Jen putting a Welsh flag up in the window much to my delight "Wowww! A Welsh flag! Now our jungalow bungalow feels like home!" Little ties with family really do become so important on the road!
- Shania our resident Gecko whom I've previously mentioned in earlier posts brought a boyfriend back to the "bungalow of love" one night. Fat Frank the toad appeared through the bathroom drain hole, luckily he survived us not seeing him at first "we nearly washed him away, Shania would have been devastated!".
- Hiring scooters "they're both called Ben" and exploring the island "there's so much more to Phangan than the Full Moon Party!" Jen was nifty on a scooter and burnt me off at every chance "I'll succeed and finally lose you one day!".
- Going to a Coral Pool Party and being told party tales by staff "people aren't allowed to jump off the roof anymore but they keep doing it".

- Chatting to Jake on the beach on our way to the Half Moon Party and ending up going as a three to check out the event we'd heard so much of. We'd already been on the buckets on route and I remember paying 600 baht to get in then later thinking "swear I was only in there for 10 minutes..". Annoyed to report that Jake told me the next day "you were only in there 10 minutes, I saw you leave". Jen shouted "one of the best nights of my life" when she got back at 10am .. Yes, I'd bailed early, passed out and missed the fun! Too many buckets is good for no one!! 

- Discovering the garlic mayonnaise at The Lazy House! If you're ever on the island, you must go there to watch a film and eat chips with that! "Can we get some more mayo please?" "More than that, more than that .. thanks ;)".
- This deffo isn't considered a 'highlight' but we saw a man nearly drown in Haad Rin, 6 men went in to save him then they got stuck out in the current and he managed to get back to shore. Everyone got in safely in the end and the original drowner was carted off (literally!!..) in a tractor to the island doctors. Don't swim if you can't swim folks!! That sea looks pretty but the locals told us it's got a bad rip "this happens all the time".

- Starting a big night at Mushroom Mountain, we decided to all "hop on the fun bus" and "never get off". Handily the bus "drove us" up to the highest point of the island, all the way into the Black Moon Party. 
It was a night filled with neon, laughs, weird trance music and an unusual crowd; "that guy looks like Gandalf","I'm the only person to go to India and not go to the Taj Mahal", "that guy just tried to lick my face, I had to lose him in the crowd".
We spotted a group of boys (Hi Alex and Darryn;) in matching kimonos and recognised them from the beach a previous night when they'd all been wearing matching shirts, neon glasses and had been running under the fire limbo "they always wear matching outfits, love it!". We made friends and danced the night away "this place is nuts, look at the view out over the whole of Phangan" "Ahhhh! I never wanna leave this island!". 

- We decided to go by long tail boat to The Sanctuary on nearby Haad Tien beach for a "break" and ended up having one of the wildest nights of the fortnight. It all started with cocktails in the bar then feeling energetic/ tipsy we raced up the dodgy steep steps and ran across the mountain in the dark moaning at each other the whole way "are we there yet?!" "I can't breathe". Our destination was Eden, a night we'd heard so much about ..
You can buy anything over the counter in Eden, a wooden shack/ bar/ crazy dance floor on the mountain. Jen, Jake and I exchanged baht for a good time with the bar man and got in the mix. 
Eden dance floor is not for dancing, it's for stomping! Bare foot stomping, wriggling your body and shaking your mane like there's no tomorrow stomping! It was a sweat fuelled night full of laughter that we couldn't piece together the next day "Lar, you look like you've been in the shower" "Whatever! Time of my life! Jake take a photo!". 
Eden is an absolute must do, you can get directly there and back by boat from Haad Rin for just 150 baht each way. It starts around midnight and goes on into the morning. The music and atmosphere can't be compared to other Phangan parties, it's just different! Many people visit Phangan and never go there - don't be one to miss out! 

- Bert joined us at The Sanctuary for a night then we all hot footed it back to Haad Rin "we've had enough of a 'break', we wanna party more!". It was so good to see him "yayyyy! I'm so happy you're here!" after what felt like years apart when really it was only a matter of weeks since I'd left him on Koh Phi Phi, the beautiful crazy island at the South end of Thailand. We all swapped stories that night in the bar with Bert telling us how some place in Krabi had got him "closer to nature" (free hugs from "bed rats" anyone?). Having Bert bring our little group to an even 2 girls / 2 boys was fab, we spent a lot of our time together winding each other up, eating ace food and watching movies when we weren't out "driving the fun bus" on the beach.

Those two weeks were filled with sun, massages, cups of teas, green curries to die for, endless laughs and famous island parties. Jen and I decided to part ways with plans to "meet up in Cambodia if we can, we should be able to, we'll work it out". 
Jen went on to Koh Toa then Phuket and Koh Phi Phi but I'd "already done them all, can't go again, plus my visas out - I need to leave Thailand!". I made plans to travel on to Laos alone. 

The minibus picked us up to transfer us to the ferry port and I remember thinking "this music is making me feel emotional!". I looked round at Jen "are you crying?!!" She nodded. Then I started crying and we started laughing "ah, can't wait to leave you! Hate you so much!". 
Think we realised right then how close a friends we'd really become, we'd only traveled for a month together by that point but as any traveler will agree, a month is a long time to spend enjoying loads of unforgettable experiences together. We waved each other off "why we crying? Pair of divs!", "don't drink tea without me!".

I remember sitting on top of the ferry looking back at the beautiful island and its surrounding turquoise waters as if it were right now. It felt really weird leaving Jen but I was excited for the next stage of my trip, what would Laos hold for me? I couldn't wait to explore it and meet the new friends I knew would surely be there. 

Leaving Thailand ticked off the first 2 months of my solo travels. It had been amazing, unreal, the best, more than I could have wished for. I'd been ill a few times, lost endless pairs of flip flops, met people I loved "I love him" and had an all round unbelievably happy time. It was pure magic, I left knowing I would be back soon "best two months of my life, love that place, love the people, love the feeling of being constantly free". But for now it was time for the night train to Laos!!

Monday, 19 May 2014

"Never forget the power you hold in your finger tips"

Writing this post with a little bit of a heavy heart, it dawned on me a couple of days ago that I won't be able to blog while I'm on the next two chapters of my life, of '#Larasstory' ..


I've just written about Pai in North Thailand, early February 


Thailand (2nd visit to Koh Phangan) 

Laos (Vientienne > Vang Vieng > Luang Prabang > Don Det)

Cambodia (Siem Reap > Koh Rong > Phnom Penh)

Vietnam (Ho Chin Minh > Hoi An > Hanoi plus Halong Bay for the Castaway Tour)

Thailand (Koh Phangan, 3rd and final visit! > Bangkok final visit pre Australia)


I've been in Melbourne for nearly a month and absolutely LOVED it. If you follow me on twitter/ insta/ bookface you'll see how many great times I've experienced here (many thanks to my amazing friend Rhia for showing me so much in a short time;).

Tomorrow I fly on to Sydney for 8 nights, can't wait to explore the new city .. after I've been to Sydney I'll make my mind up as to where I potentially want to be based in Australia (when I'm done traveling around and exploring it - no planned time scale on this at the moment!).

Melbourne has stolen my heart; Sydney has a lot to live up to, we'll see!

After Sydney I fly (for 35 hours!) to Brazil on May 29th to volunteer on World Cup campsites. Based primarily in Salvador we'll be on the Rio and Natal sites too. 
The whole 'Brazil thing' came about through Jen, the girl I met in Bangkok in the first week of February and then ended up spending most of my time traveling SE Asia with. 
She was already going and I jumped on the bandwagon - we traveled Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam together - I still can't believe we'll be sharing South America times now too!! 
Meeting Jen changed my life, a chance friendship formed while watching the Wales vs Ireland rugby game in a grotty travelers pub on Koh San road has led to us crossing the world together for 2 "once in a life time" months.


I didn't have a phone during my 4 months traveling SE Asia and lived things through my iPad, blogging when I could. Not having a phone meant many missed opportunities for amazing photos and captured special moments but the times I did have it made for 5000 photos and 400 videos across those 4 months (Jan to April).

Now I have a phone I've decided not to bring my iPad on the next bit of my journey. I'll be reunited with it in August when I get back to Melbourne. I feel like it's too precious to risk getting stolen and it's one less thing to worry about, safety alerts will be on high in South America!! 

So, I wanted to thank YOU for reading my 'story' to date. I've been so happy with the amount of readers and amazing feedback I've received so far. 
Come August I'll be back in Australia and having missed writing, I'll be raring to pick up where I left off. 

I've got a new notepad (complete with Steve the unicorn) on the cover to record notes on posts to come next, it will all make the blog one day not too far away!

I'm going to publish my 4 months in SE Asia into an ebook and hopefully a paperback too. I go back to the UK to visit home for a month in late October so will have my blog updated and my book in process then. 
I hope my stories will inspire others to travel and make girls realise that with guts, a bit of planning, savings in your back pocket and a willingness to embrace life you really can go out there and explore our world alone. 

Can't wait to get my blog going again, I have sooooo many unreal times and truly fantastic people yet to be introduced, some of the very best times are yet to come ;)

Ciao for now !! I will be tweeting and Instagram'ing @LaraLain while I'm gone. 
Look forward to hearing from you on there.


**** "Whatever you do be playful with it" ****