India| Vietnam | Cambodia | Laos | Thailand | Malaysia | Indonesia | NZ | Fiji | Cook Islands | USA

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Over. And. Out.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Returning home and wanting to stay, is this normal?

So, yes, after suggesting (clearly stating) that the last post was going to be our last post, here I find myself again - posting this time as a blogger, rather than a traveller.

We have been home for a few weeks now and the reality of stationary life has well and truly sunk in. The joy of not having to worry about where we are sleeping each night, the disappearance of that constant where-is-my-passport-I-must-know-it's-exact-whereabouts-at-all-times feeling is a relief. And, most of all, once again being surrounded by people who we know and love and are happy to pick our broke asses up and drive us to the pub and buy us a beer just because they geographically now CAN is a massive bonus (some even bake us cakes! yum!)

But what of the down-sides? Are we feeling bored now that every experience is not a new sensory overload? Do we miss meeting weird and wonderful people from all over the world on a day-to-day basis? Is it strange not to be spending as much time with eachother? Well, yes and no.
I walked from my sisters place in Angel to a friends place in Camden along the Camden Canal the other day - a walk I've never done before - and it was beautiful. Posh redevelopments merged into grimy and disused building sites and all the while barge boats floated by with families and friends aboard, merry in the sunshine. Yes, there was a dead swan bobbing upside-down in the murky waters, a homeless and clearly drunk man was shouting incoherently at everyone who passed and the closer my proximity to Camden locks the stronger the smell of spliffs. But it was a joy. I loved feeling like a tourist again - looking through the eyes of a traveller in a city I call home. Our friends and family certainly fill up the 'weird and wonderful' quota and as for eachother, actually it's been nice to have our personal space back and luckily we live near eachother so it's still easy to meet up.

And so we look to the future; I have began a job hunt in a less-than friendly climate ("the economy will be better when we get back from our trip" - or not) and Rob is busy geeking up on his IT things before embarking on a similar employment mission. The plan is to job-up, settle-down and begin our life in one place together. But why do we not want to travel more?

This is a question that has kind of been bugging me...we had a great year, we loved travelling, there were no major disasters and plenty of plans for future trips so why would we rather stay in London (image: london met Is that normal? Shouldn't we have been bitten by the travel bug? Isn't it proper that we have itchy feet now? Maybe so, but that's just not us...what we're looking forward to now is stability, building exciting and challenging careers and - dare I say it - an income to enjoy spending after a year of strict budgeting.

I'm interested in what other readers and travel bloggers think about this...when you return home do you ever think 'I'd like to stay'? What drives you on? And - most importantly - are we normal?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

So long, farewell, auf wiedersen, goodbye

It's been almost a week now since we took our homeward flight and since then - apart from plenty of eating and drinking and hugging (other people, not just each other) - we have done all the cleaning and counting and list-making that two people might after 365 days away.
A lot of people have asked how much our trip has cost and so, in the hope that it'll serve to demonstrate how do-able something like a trip around the world really is to others who are contemplating it; here it is ...drum roll please...rounded to the nearest ten; a 1-year RTW trip including flights, insurance, vaccinations and spending was £9,540 per person

I'm not sure if we could have spent much less - we always opted for the cheapest transport, sleeping and eating options (usually much more fun and authentic anyway) and only splurged on once-in-a-lifetime things like tours of the Grand Canyon, scuba diving and - in New Zealand - repeatedly throwing ourselves at the ground from great heights.

Another quested we've been asked is what was your favourite place? This is an impossible one to answer. Or at least impossible to answer in one sentence - there are places that were beautiful but no fun, there were places that were cheap but the food was awful, there are placed we loved but would never want to go to again and places we wouldn't want to return to but we'd recommend that others go. The permeations are endless and so to simplify matters and as a kind of grand finale round-up here is our list of recommendations for 10 Top Travel To-do's

Best places to party
Vang Vieng (tubing, below)

Best places to spend lots of money
Best places to save lots of money
Best beaches & seas
Gili T
Rarotonga (below)
Koh Tao

Best for scuba diving
Gili T
Koh Tao
Best man-made landmark
Taj Mahal
Golden Gate Bridge
Angkor Wat (below)

Best places to motorbike
Best holiday destinations
Koh Tao

Thanks again to everyone that has followed our international escapades for this past year - hopefully this blog will continue to be some sort of helpful resource to fellow travellers and travel-bloggers, being part of this community has been an absolute pleasure.

This will be the last blog post from Three Six Five - with no upcoming travels scheduled and Day 365 reached we're hanging up our blogging boots, but thank you again everyone - it's been fun :)

Safe travels and all the best, love Three Six Five xx

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Day 365: Honey! We're ho-ome!

So we made it! 365 days have passed and we are now back, a little more learned and a little more tanned, where we started this whole crazy trip; home sweet green-and-pleasant home.

For now there is family and friends to embrace and bizarre sleeping-patterns to fight before some kind of 'normal' might descend on camp Three Six Five so this is just a little post to say thank you for sharing our adventures with us here and - for those reading from England - hopefully see you soon!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Day 361 – 364: Viva Las Vegas

Hello from the buffet hall in Circus Circus where Three Six Five are enjoying the final meal of this incredible adventure. Yes we've come a long way since we departed, pale and considerably wealthier, 364 days ago – but this is not the time for reflection (big plans for that post are afoot though) this is a time to tell you all about our last few days.

Las Vegas is, as it's reputation would have you believe, loud and bright and garish and thoroughly fabulous. We cannot think of a place that is less like the dark and dusty streets of Delhi where we began our trip. Everything here is geared towards spending and everything is being sold by sex, in one form or another. You can't walk around without a guy in a 'girls girls girls' t-shirt snapping a calling card into you hand and a troop of vans with some suitably saucy ladies pictured and the slogan 'hot girls direct to your room in 20 mins' patrols the strip with alarming regularity.

Huge video billboards show adverts for resorts and shows in incredible audio and visual quality at every corner. Some roads cannot be crossed without taking a series of escalators up, over and through a resort's mall or casino – only the most dedicated of pedestrians could possibly pass through all these obstacles without parting with a penny.

Inside the gigantic resort complexes, though some sort of theme prevails (the Venetian has Sistine Chapel-style painting and gondolas, Paris has replicated the Eiffel tower and Circus Circus is full of clowns) basically all the casinos are the same. Once inside the sound of coins falling and slot machines beeping is overwhelming, people perch on stools hunched at their fruit machine or sit with a calm sense of panic at the high rolling tables.

Maybe this post is sounding a bit negative so far? That really wasn't my intention – all of the above is fact, it's true, it's what makes Vegas, Vegas and we were here because we wanted to be part of that, and – believe me – they make it as easy for you to fall into it as they can. We had to pass through two casinos to get to our room and when we did go in for a bit of gambling – we loved it.

Needless to say we were not playing for big money, and after a few gos on the slots (still don't really know how they work) we settled down at a roulette machine. Here we could play for 25c/spin and we didn't have to wait for other people to play – it was great. And it turns out the rumour of free drinks as long as your betting is true too, we were down a few Long Island Iced Teas and up a few dollars when we upped the bets. In the end, as you can see from the overjoyed expression on my face here, we turned $5 into $38.75 – that's a 700% ROI! Surely that never happens in Vegas?! Maybe we should have bet more in the first place..? (no, no, that's how they get you) But these winnings meant we could have a night out, all winning, loosing, drinking, eating and tipping included for a profit of $5. Magic.

Partially to save ourselves from the draw of the next big win and partially because it is one of the things to do here we decided to get tickets to a show & buffet for our last night. We were hoping to go to a variety show but in the end saw a comedy/burlesque show called Sin City which was really pretty good – lots of ass, lots of laughs; what more could two world-weary travellers ask for? How about 70 different dishes (desserts pictured) in a room the size of 3 football pitches that were all-you-could-eat? Yeah – we had that too.

Our walk home took us past the scarily over-sexed Call of the Sirens show at the front of Treasure Island and the infamous dancing fountains at the Bellagio. If we had been burnt before by dancing fountains (see Mysore) the thoughtful choreography and lighting of these fountains dancing to the sweet sound of Celine Dion's My heart will go on (surely the greatest show tune, like, ever?) smoothed them away. This was Vegas – of course it was going to be bigger and better than anything we'd seen before.

And now here we are, a few plates have been cleared since I began typing and there is a sort of quiet mood at the Three Six Five table. This may be because we've reached new levels of full (two buffets in as many days...that basically makes us locals, right?) or because, as Rob just asked me “Can you believe we're getting on a plane to go home today?” Honestly, no. I've regressed back into denial on this one, but believe it or not in four hours we'll be on our way to Gatwick.

Vegas has been a suitably memorable ending to a truly unforgettable year but, really, there's no place like home.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Day 361: The Grandest Canyon tour

I have to begin this post with a massive, brightly-lit, way over the top, Vegas-style thank you to Rob's parents, Mac & Trish, for kindly and cleverly suggesting that our birthday presents this year come in the form of a donation towards doing something extra special in Nevada's party city. Fighting the temptation to cash this in for a 7-day buffet pass (what a way to go) we opted for the Grand Voyager pass to the Grand Canyon. And extra special it was.

After our first night out “on the strip” the day began with a bus ride to Boulder City airport at a very reasonable 11AM. After a short wait we were flying in a light aircraft over the desert and above the Hoover Dam. This huge structure, so the in-flight commentary informed us, is still the heaviest man-made structure on earth – to withstand all that water pressure it's almost as wide at it's base as it is tall (200m) - and contains more steel than the Eiffel Tower.

It was a bit of a bumpy ride but there was plenty more flying to come because now that we were on the edge of the Grand Canyon, we were taking a helicopter down into it. I was even lucky enough to get the front seat and sit next to the pilot. From this incredible vantage point the greys and reds of the sheer rock face were visible through a window that stretched from the ceiling all the way down to the base of the helicopter, just past my feet. The moment that we flew over the rim and the deep canyon fell out below me is one that I will never forget.

It was a short but breath-taking ride, everywhere we looked looked like nothing we had ever seen before, and deep inside the canyon – thanks to the Colorado River – it was actually much greener than you might expect of a massive crack in a desert landscape.

Here, within millions of years of mother nature's finest handiwork, our incredible list of modes of transportation for the day, then extended to boat. And not just any boat, a small carpeted boat with plush leather seats and (lucky for us) only one other wonderful couple to share it with. With a guide from a local tribe we cruised slowly upstream, able to marvel at the vastness of this natural wonder that reached up to the sky all around us, as he told us of old tribal traditions and the history of this sacred land.

Back in the 'copter (can one be so casual about a helicopter ride after just one trip? Probably not...) we were taken up and out of the Grand Canyon and back to a small base built wonderfully close to the edge for a late lunch. By this time the heat of the sun had been diminished by a thin layer of cloud cover and outcrops were casting long shadows across the canyon walls. After a good feed there was time only for a small bit of clambering over rocks, a final few snaps of a sight there was no way we could possibly forget, and then a flight back to Boulder City.

We were eventually returned to our hotel at just before 9PM – a long but beautiful, awe-inspiring and absolutely unforgettable day. This tour was with Scenic Airlines, who ran the trip like clock work and would come highly recommended from us if you ever find yourself in Nevada.

Huge thank you hugs to Mac & Trish again – not long now until we can do that in person :)

What we've lost (so far)

1. Kat's bikini – to the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools' changing rooms

2. 1 compass – found broken after being dutifully carried around unused for 8 months (sorry Mac)

3. $300 (USD) - to Vietnamese “officials” in visa fiasco #1

4. 3 Stone in combined weight – thank you India

5. 1 of Kat's flip flops – somewhere in the Mount Cook region

6. Both of Rob's flip flops – at a camp ground outside Wanaka, this may or may not have all been Kat's fault

7. Both of Rob's walking boots – in a similar drive-away-while-footwear-is-outside-the-van incident to his flip flops, but following a 200km recovery round-trip they were returned to their owner

8. 1hr 30mins of our lives – watching The American in a cinema on Gili T

9. Rob's bank card – in Bangkok, this may or may not have been all Kat's fault

10. 1 bread roll (Te Anau) & 2 tomatoes (Franz Josef) – we definitely bought these but mysteriously they never made it to Emilio, or our stomachs

11. Kat's new digital camera – to a monsoon in India (sorry girls)

12. The will to continue on this trip – only momentarily, quickly recovered

13. Our way – multiple times while on motorbikes, everywhere

14. Rob's ipod usb & charger and game boy charger – left on our flight into Christchurch, returned to us 4 days later, thank you Singapore Air!

15. Multiple pairs of knickers & a t-shirt – to a monsoon in Hampi, India – some knickers returned

16. 1 of Kat's rings – to the bottom of a swimming pool at about 2AM in Hoi An

17. The desire to ever return to England – in Koh Tao with a Dive Masters course calling, also recovered...eventually

18. Any reservation we might have had about discussing bowel movements with someone we've known for only 5 minutes – thank you India

19. Rob's ipod cable - again, for good this time though

20. Kat's sarong - I have no idea where this one went, but it's with us no more