Kuala Lumpur our old friend (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

We sit watching the runway at the Gold Coast Airport. A crewing issue has delayed our flight by an hour but it doesn’t bother us. We have a two night stopover in Kuala Lumpur so there’s no rush. Budget airlines call this small domestic and interns airport home: Air Asia X, Scoot and Jetstar planes stand on the tarmac waiting for passengers. Just one of each.
 photo Screenshot_20170620-085611_zpsh6osn2uv.jpg
The flight is full. Watching the other passengers is always fascinating. Some complain about everything from the leg room (surely everyone knows by now that leg room is non-existent when flying) to the change for purchases being paid in Malaysian Ringgit. The latter works in our favour because I found some Korean Won when I was packing our house. Not enough to exhange but too much to ignore. I use these to buy a cup of tea: the Ringgit I received as change are more useful to me than the Won. Paul passes the flight sleeping and listening to music while I sleep and watch movies. Oh how I love the convenience of smart phone technology and Netflix.
 photo IMG_20170619_203810_347_zpsjupivgrt.jpg

 photo IMG_20170619_204030_027_zpszc79z3yb.jpg
The airport bus drops us at Kuala Lumpur Sentral.  We could easily take the monorail to Bukit Bintang but have been sitting all day. The 4km (1.5 mile) walk not only allows us to stretch our legs but also gives us more time “in” KL. Places now evoke memories for us: the shop where we bought sunglasses, the roundabout where we dices with death to get across, the corner where we ate a delicious meal and that spot where I threw a hunger tantrum. And new sights open up before our eyes: the gorgeous Church of the Holy Rosary and the Bukit Bintang food street.
 photo IMG_20170619_204244_940_zpspjhf5ysz.jpg
It’s hot and humid so we take a shower before heading out for dinner at 9pm. The market is an assault on the senses. The heady stench of durian fills the air around the many vendors selling this local delicacy. As much as I hate durian, the scent centres me here in Malaysia. Touts push menus in our faces, proclaiming their restaurant as the best, oldest or cheapest. Small stalls sell the knick knacks typical of any market in the world. Table to table vendors try to push figet spinners and wooden baskets onto the captive audience of diners. And local buskers sing for ringgit. The crowd is mainly a mix of Chinese locals and foreign tourists. But not exclusively. We eat fried rice with sticky sesame pork and spicy stir fried vegetables. What a way to reimmerse ourselves into South East Asia.

A one hour foot massage for RM50 ($AU15) rounds out the first day of our adventure. Paul suggests adding on a back massage but I’m exhausted. It’s only 11pm but my body us still on Brisbane time and it feels like 1am. Besides, we have a full day here tomorrow.

Ready for Vietnam 

It seems like a lifetime since our last trip to Asia but, finally, we are within a week of our next foray into the Orient.  It’s just six more until we board our Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur then on to Ho Chi Minh City a few days later.  

Our trip to Vietnam is unlikely to be a traditional tourist expedition. We fly into HCMC and will be there two nights before heading inland. Our entire trip is based on a Couch Surfing host’s invitation for us to stay with him in Pleiku. It’s a town well off the HCMC-Hoi An-Hanoi tourist race. And along the way we will stay in some other quite random places well inland from the coast. 

We will travel from HCMC to Hoi An and Hue via this random countryside route on scary bus rides before flying home from Danang. 

We have our letter of invitation for visa on arrival, some clean US dollars, passports and flights. We’ve booked some cheap but well reviewed accommodation so just have to pack and get ourselves to the airport. 

Our final day in New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand)

 photo IMG_20170423_150101_155_zpsd0kmhqnm.jpg

It’s our final day in New Zealand and I wake with mixed emotions. While I’m ready to go home and prepare for the next adventure, I would dearly love to stay in New Zealand and keep exploring. After packing our gear into the car we set off for one final drive. We randomly select Bethell’s Beach as our destination. Bethell’s Beach is one of Auckland’s Western Beaches and we think we found a bit of a marvel.

 photo IMG_20170423_150340_769_zpssgvjv80g.jpg

We spot the massive cave from the far end of the beach. It draws us like a magnet; as it does the other people visiting the beach. We walk across the black sands to the huge opening. The tide is slowly coming in and we can see exactly how this cave has been created. The incoming water pushes strongly up the beach through the barricade of rocks towards the cave entrance. It might still take an hour or two to reach into the cave and that’s why we can enter.

 photo IMG_20170423_150535_512_zpsgcmk5na0.jpg

 photo IMG_20170423_150724_548_zpsidhmnfqf.jpg

 photo IMG_20170423_151236_239_zpsayeeo0zj.jpg

Now that we’ve explored the cave, we find ourselves noticing the small things that make this beach so amazing. There’s long ribbons of bright yellow sea weed. Green moss tumbles from rock pools like soft waterfalls. And muscles cling to rocks in their hundreds.

 photo IMG_20170423_151013_402_zpsc57eeuut.jpg

 photo IMG_20170423_150920_936_zpsfkaphsfs.jpg

The beach looks like it has been influenced by New Zealand’s volcanic past with large boulders balancing on big rocks. Black sand is becoming familiar to us now. I still don’t feel drawn to the water on this black sand beach but am not sure whether that’s the season or the sand. But I do love to walk on this black sand beach and like the way it frames the other colours.

 photo IMG_20170423_170041_434_zpstnhzzwjo.jpg

We had intended to see a few more beaches but spend so much time enjoying Bethell’s Beach that we already have to head to the airport. We watch our final Kiwi sunset as our plane is prepared for the flight. As usual, Air Asia fly us home in comfort.

We’ve loved our time in New Zealand. It’s been the perfect blend of nature and culture. We found Kiwis to be a friendly folk. It’s an expensive country to travel but we managed to keep costs manageable by renting places where we could cook instead of having to dine out. We also avoided all the tourist traps (the New Zealand tourist industry is expert at extracting money from foreigners) but still had an amazing experience in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

The tuk tuk driver rouses himself from his slumber. It’s the slightly rude man who took us to the market last night. He’s probably just worn down from his labours in a hot and hectic city. To him we’re probably rich foreigners who sleep in a bed rather than a hammock strung across a tuk tuk. We’re not a prospect for repeat business so he doesn’t have to care. It’s understandable but still unpleasant. I resent having to pay him at the end of my ride. If he’d been friendly I would have given him the last of my Riel as a tip (about $US1.50 on top of a $US7 fare). But I don’t. I take them home because I cannot bring myself to encourage his approach. 

The streets of Phnom Penh are now less alien than when we arrived. I no longer feel as anxious as I did just twelve days ago. I had read so much bad press about Cambodia and its people. So much that turned out to be so untrue. Our bag was not snatched. Our pockets were not picked. Our belongings were not stolen from our guesthouse rooms (we didn’t stay in dives though – we paid $12-$25 per night for places with excellent reviews). I don’t know why I read up so much. Usually I don’t. Perhaps I’d lost my touch being back on our large island continent for ten months. I wish I hadn’t and I won’t in future. 

We experience the last of our Cambodian snow. That’s what Tony called the dust kicked up by traffic on the gravel roads outside Battambang. Next time I see snow I hope it’s the real stuff in Belgium or Holland at Christmas.

Airport officials make us reprint our boarding passes. Ours have bar codes but don’t look like the airline ones. Flexibility will take a little while to ease into officialdom here. 

It’s a short flight to Kuala Lumpur. Forty minutes over Cambodia, forty minutes over the sea and forty minutes over Peninsular Malaysia. Our captain plays tour guide. He clearly loves his job and it passes the time for us. 

We’re both quite tired and have both picked up stomach bugs in Kampong Chhnang. So we have a lazy afternoon in our room then catch a movie.

We eat at a local restaurant.

And have a short walk around our hotel before calling it a night. 

Vietnam in 2017

I woke at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep so I randomly opened Facebook. What did I see but an advertisement for an Air Asia Mega Sale. Logging onto the Air Asia website I saw there was also a 0 points sale. 

A patient search found return seats from Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for MYR304 ($AU95) for two people (that is, seats were free and we just need to pay airport taxes). Then I found return sale fares from the Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur for $AU575.44 for two people. So we just booked. 

The dates were critical because we are studying at university to be primary school teachers so are limited to university holidays (and to now selecting subjects with no exams because I couldn’t find fares after the exam period ended). 

We came to Cambodia due to a similar free seat sale and look how great this is turning out. So no doubt Vietnam will be similarly great. 

And we’re off – Cambodia trip 2016

Paul and I tied the knot on Monday night at our Halloween themed, non-government-sanctioned wedding ceremony. I don’t play the divisive and demeaning “commitment ceremony” game. While marriage equality is yet to occur in Australia (not for lack of public support), we don’t need some official government suit to recognise our relationship because 100 of our closest family and friends have (including their own certificate to recognise our union). 

Our wedding was amazing and an incredibly happy event. And I am blessed to have a kindred spirit as my husband. 

So now we’re off on our honeymoon to Cambodia. It’s the first trip where I can leave my laptop at home because I no longer work online. Sure, I now don’t get paid when I travel (I work casually) but boy will it be fantastic to just relax, explore, read and laugh without needing to make time to think. And this also means my 32L pack is half empty 🙂 .

Tonight we fly to Kuala Lumpur, arriving at 4am tomorrow morning. We have two days in magnificent KL before we continue on to Phnom Penh. Stay tuned for some stories from the road.

It’s been 10 months since we traveled together and we’ve both missed it. This will change moving forward, starting right now. 

Cambodia in November 2016

Paul is worse than me. We’re only just home from Europe but he found a fantastic return airfare to Kuala Lumpur for November and free seats to Phnom Penh so he booked us return flights. We’ll either have a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur then a fortnight in Cambodia. Ironically, I made the same booking for almost the same dates in November 2015 but cancelled to be with Paul. But this time I am going with Paul so it will be amazing.

We’re getting married on 31 October so this will be our honeymoon.

Someone said that it wouldn’t take long for us to book our next trip … they weren’t wrong. Haha.