A Travellerspoint blog

USA! LA to Houston

We are now two weeks into our US adventure, and Asia already feels like a million miles away. We have covered five states, well over 1000 miles and gone through two cars!

We arrived in LA on Monday 8th but headed straight for a night in Palm Springs, as we will be staying in LA at the end of the trip in July. After an In and Out burger (really good) and our first US airbnb experience with two very lovely stoners (who were just about to work Coachella), we went on into Arizona for a night in RimRock - the middle of nowhere. The driving then started to get really amazing as we headed up towards the Utah border and Monument Valley. It's hard to explain in words, but hopefully some of the pics on Facebook (Rob has uploaded) will show just how awesome it is. We stayed in a tiny town called Mexican Hat in a lodge with wagon wheels leaning outside and ran by a cowboy. There was another cowboy who cooked you steaks on a big grill swinging over an open fire - totally wild west!

From Utah we drove down to New Mexico and spent two nights in Albuquerque on a self made Breaking Bad tour. After visiting the chicken shop, Walt's house and Saul Goodman's office we had our car cleaned at the car wash! It was then onto Roswell to check out the aliens and a one night stopover before it was time to hit Texas.

We changed plans last minute and opted for two nights in Fort Worth, next to Dallas. We headed straight for Coopers BBQ as recommend by Aussie Dan (and George Bush apparently) and the BBQ eating was off to a good start - thanks Dan! The area around Coopers is the old Stockyards and we went back the next morning to watch a cattle drive before stopping off for more BBQ and a tour of the Dallas Cowboy's Stadium - very impressive.

Dallas itself wasn't as cool as Fort Worth but it was really interesting to go to the Sixth Floor museum in the depositary overlooking the grassy knoll, and learn more about JFK and what happened that day. It was also a nice surprise to find Stef, Colleen and the Reward Style team in town for a few cheeky cocktails!

It was then southbound to Austin. SouthXSouthWest has helped put this town on the map, and we had very high expectations that weren't disappointed. It's really, really cool and we spent four days drinking in old residential houses turned into bars, and eating tex mex from food trucks. We broke this routine on our final day where we swapped East 6th and Rainey streets for a pool side cabana at the W with the Vouchercodes gang :)

The only downside of Austin was the day we went to set off on our BBQ tour (to Lockheart, world capital of BBQ) and found someone had backed into our beautiful mustang crushing the passenger side front wheel arch. Alamo sorted us out, towing it and letting us swap it in, however all the Austin branch had was a white Chrysler; still convertible but no way as cool :(

After Rob had got over his disappointment we were back on the road and had one night in Houston where we squeezed in a trip to NASA. It was then time to say goodbye to Texas and move on to our next stop, Louisiana and New Orleans! 

In Summary:
States - California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas.
Food - we have eaten our body weight in BBQ
Accommodation - we have used airbnb for every night bar one so far.  Definitely recommended 
Weather - the desert can be cold! But it is warming up now we are further south

Posted by RozandRob 06:41 Comments (0)

Turning Japanese

rain 10 °C
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Two weeks in Japan and it's been interesting; Rob loves it but I'm missing the sun, and its just a bit too like England! I thought it would be crazy and very futuristic, but its just a bit too normal and a bit too cold. However, we have had good two weeks here but just with tubes, umbrellas and queues as opposed to bikinis and beaches.

We spent the first five days in Tokyo, and the first two of those trying to see the cherry blossom as we were told if we didn't then the bad weather would blow them all away. Turns out it didn't, but by the time the sun did come out we had seen enough for a life time! The same thing happened with temples, as by the time we got to Kyoto earlier this week we were done with them (even though all the best ones are supposed to be there).

However, in between me complaining about the cold and being dragged around to places, we did manage to have a bit of fun. It turns out Tokyo doesn't really have a centre, but Shinjuku is one of the coolest areas with lots of restaurants and bars. We spent two nights frequenting the Golden Gai area (about 1000 five seater bars all crammed into a few roads) and in particular a friendly karaoke place where they seemed to specialise in songs half in Japanese and and half in English (which you then can't get out of your head no matter how hard you try). Lee Griffin even turned up one night to join in!

We also went up to the New York bar at the Park Hyatt (of Lost in Translation fame) and had a few cheeky cocktails. The view was awesome. Another favourite Shinjuku spot was 'piss alley' which is an entirely inappropriate name for a narrow street that sells yakatori (meat skewers).

When it came to food in general then once again Rob and I were split. My favourite was the wagu beef which we had in burger form in Tokyo (definitely my favourite meal there even if Rob does say it's cheating) and in its pure steak form in Kobe itself. Amazing.

The sushi has its moments and the best was probably at the Tsukiji fish market. We had to queue for about an hour to get it, but it was pretty good. The market itself was also really good. We have also eaten a lot of Raman (fatty pork noodle soup) which again can be good, but I don't get quite as excited about it as Rob seems too. We are off to Ramen World on the way to the airport tomorrow and he is practically giddy with excitement!

Other Tokyo highlights included seeing the Honda Assimo robot, shopping in Harajuku and the science museum. We then left Tokyo last Saturday and took the bullet train (pretty cool) to Hiroshima. The sun was out and we had a really good couple of days there. The blossoms were out all along the river and the banks were filled with people having picnics so we thought we'd better join in. The peace museum is pretty harrowing as expected, but it was really interesting to find out more about how the city recovered and rebuilt.

We then headed to the Osaka region and spent a day each in Osaka (shopping) Kyoto (Giesha spotting) and Kobe (eating steak), and are now on a peninsula south of Tokyo for a few days relaxing by the sea before all the driving starts! There are amazing views of mount Fuji but literally nothing to do but watch movies on the owner's massive projector screen, so that is exactly what we are doing.

So that's it for Asia. Three months, seven countries and we are now officially half way through the trip! We have started to book up the first few days of the States and can't wait. Nights two and three are up in Monument Valley and we are staying in a steak house in a town called Mexican Hat - you couldn't make it up. Bring on USA!

In summary:

Weather: it's currently blowing a gale
Food: average apart from the steak
Craziness: below expectations
Cherry blossoms: seen them all
Best bit: Shinjuku in Tokyo
Rob's best bit: the electric toilets!

No pics as dropbox is being slow, but will post some on fb soon.

Posted by RozandRob 04:11 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

North Vietnam

Sapa, Hanoi and Halong Bay

sunny 30 °C
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Its been nearly 3 weeks since the last update, and it's been busy! To start with we are now in a new country, Japan, and so far it's no way as crazy as we expected and a lot colder! I'm dressed up like a German tourist using my running trainers as actual shoes as they are the only thing stopping my feet from freezing off!! 35 to 5 degree temperature jumps are therefore not recommended, although I am getting use out of my Northface jacket Xmas present as its also pouring with rain - thanks Mum!

So before we hit winter in Japan and since I last updated the blog, we had two weeks left in Vietnam. The last few days in Hoi An were great and included a trip out to a local village with our new mate Mr Trung. He took us fishing and got us to try pottery making before giving us a cooking lesson back at his house. We also decided it would be fun to take the bikes out again and try and find the hostel that Rob had stayed in 12 years earlier. A mere 20k later and we finally found it. The owner Hoa recognised Rob and dug out the guest book from 2001 to find his entry; full of swearing as you can imagine ;). We spent the afternoon there with a mixture of current guests and extrovert locals and after a fair few beers each attempted the 20k back to the hotel.

We had considered doing an 'Easy Rider' motorbike tour for a few days but were also keen to head to Sapa and didn't have time for both. Speaking to a couple we met a few times in Vietnam (as we were both on the same route North), they recommended going over the Ha Van Pass by motorbike, which is beautiful and featured on Top Gear as one of the best roads ever. We therefore scouted out drivers that would take us over the pass and up to our next stop Hue with all our luggage. It was a great day and the views from the pass are stunning. However after 6 or so hours on the bikes our backsides had definitely had enough, and were pleased we didn't have to get up the next day and do it all again.

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Hue was OK. The old citadel was pretty but overall it was just a good stopover point and not a place we would really recommend to stay for more than a day. From there we flew to Hanoi for the afternoon before picking up our overnight train to Sapa. We managed to find a place to leave the luggage so were able to properly explore for a few hours before heading back to the station - but more on Hanoi later.

We arrived up by the Chinese border early the next morning and were immediately conned into paying about £20 for a £3 bus journey, but at 5am its hard to think straight! However, when we arrived in the town things got a lot better as Sapa is probably the most beautiful place we have been to, and we had an amazing view from our hotel room. The locals all wear local tribal outfits and guide you around and we spent three days wandering around the mountains and local villages, and sun bathing by rivers. Despite being so high up it was still 30 degrees. One night the heavens opened and the hotel owner invited us to eat with him and his family to avoid us having to go out. It was a great night having actual local food as opposed to the tourist stuff, and sampling Vietnamese red wine- not bad!

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We then took another overnight train back to Hanoi, which is probably the coolest city in Asia. Tiny plastic chairs crammed onto street corners where you buy fresh beer for 15p a glass, motorbikes everywhere, loads of street sellers selling tasty snacks, a good mix of locals and travellers and some of the best food of our trip. Rob even managed to cram in another haircut! On the second day Coppin joined us after what sounds like a crazy few days in Hong Kong.

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After a night getting him acquainted with the local beer (and a fair few games of beer pong) we headed out to Halong bay. The weather wasn't perfect but the bay is pretty stunning and we had an interesting 2 days cruising around with a Russian couple, an American couple and about 20 middle aged Indonesian women. They even showed the Top Gear Vietnam special as the evening entertainment!

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It was then back to Hanoi for our last days in Vietnam. Rob wasn't feeling great but Max and I went out and had a 3am finisher - well at those beer prices it's rude not to!

In summary:
Tan - pretty much gone and with this Japanese weather I can't see it coming back anytime soon!
Food - Bahn mi, bun cha and bahn xeo; try them!
North or South - North Vietnam definitely wins

Posted by RozandRob 18:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Cambodia and Vietnam

Ankor Wat, Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang and Hoi An

sunny 30 °C
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Two months into the trip, and even though its been two weeks since our weekend in Singapore we still aren't quite back to full-on traveller budget style life. We are now in Vietman and are currently staying in a beautiful hotel in Hoi An, about half way up the coast. Luckily it's pretty cheap, but with fresh flowers decorating the pillows, amazing buffet breakfasts and a private courtyard it's more like a luxury holiday at the moment!

Hotel in Hoi An

Hotel in Hoi An

We are here for a week and are glad we decided to stay that long as it's already one of our favourite places of the trip. So far we have done a food tour (which was pretty good but slightly ruined by the 15 other tourists and the old Australian with a headset running it, who insisted on telling quite long dull stories), cycled to the beach, drank a lot of beer and eaten a lot of Banh Mi (spicy pork sandwiches) - Rob had two yesterday alone.

We arrived here on Thursday after two nights in Nah Trang which is the Vietnamese version of Tenerife. The main attraction is a themepark called Vinpearl which is on an island off the coast that you reach by what they claim is the worlds longest cable car. Its a themepark/ waterpark in one, but there wasn't very many rides or waterslides so seemed to miss the mark on both fronts!

The second activity of our two days there was a trip to the mud baths. It was raining and with Rob refusing to go to more than one temple per country we were short on things to do. For some reason Nha Trang is full of very large Russians, and we spent the afternoon moving from mud bath, to jacuzzi to hot pools with about 100 of them all wearing very little; scary stuff.

Before Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh was our first stop in Vietnam and its much prettier than I expected it to be. Lots of French colonial buildings and parks, and at 36 degrees pretty warm! It turns out I develop a highly attractive sweat mustache in such weather, so I was particularly glad when we could once again hit the beach and cool off further up the coast.

We also went on a food tour in Ho Chi Minh which was a 'back of the bike' tour. We were driven around to some local food places that we would never have found oursleves and got to try some of the best food of the trip - we decided that it probabaly even beat some of the best stuff we had in Malaysia! Fresh spring rolls you make up yourself with hot crispy pork pancakes inside, and chicken dripping in butter with a salty lime and chilli dip were the main highlights.

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We were also recommended a BBQ restaurant where you cook the meat yourself on the table; we thought it would be a bit novelty but turned out to be full of locals and with absolutely amazing beef and pork ribs.

After we left Singapore and before we arrived in Ho Chi Minh we decided to make a slight alteration to the original itinery and headed to Cambodia to see Ankor Wat. We once again landed on our feet and found a great cheap hotel for our three nights there who offered a free pick up from the airport and then sorted us out a tuktuk driver to show us around the temples. The first day we saw four of the main temples and hiked up a mountian to see some carvings by a waterfall (but as it was so hot there wasnt really any water!). We saved Ankor Wat itself for the second day so we could see it at sunrise. Therefore at 4.30 the next morning we were up and out, and by 5am were sat in the dark with 1000 Japanese tourists. It started to get light around 6 and was pretty spectacular so we got some great shots; not exactly peaceful though with 100s of camera flashes going off for 2 hours!

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In Summary:

Weather: still hot!
Tan: fading as less beach action (grr) but just about still here
Food: getting even better
Budget: getting back on track
Books: Steve Jobs autobiography - would highly recommend
Next stops: Hue, Hanoi and hopefully Sapa

Posted by RozandRob 03:26 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Beach Life

Langkawi, Perinthians and Singapore

sunny 30 °C
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There are a few sore heads this morning after an amazing weekend in Singapore with Sammy and Kat. We arrived on Friday after a 14 hour overnight train down from the Perinthians, and it was pretty clear from the outset we would need to write this weekend out of the budget. Sipping champagne at beach clubs, beer towers, Raffles Singapore slings and lobster brunch at the Fullerton followed and Rob has decided he quite likes this backpacking lark! We loved Singapore and can easily see why so many friends have decided to move here.

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Before this blowout weekend we have enjoyed two back to back beach holidays after spending a week in Langkawi and a week in the Perinthians. Its pretty hard to decide which is the more beautiful! We stayed in a great place in Langkawi called Pondok Keladi which was on the outskirts of Pantai Tengah. Owned by the hilarious Di, it was one of our favourite guest houses; even though it was a 15 minute walk to the beach Di would often drive us and tell us random stories about how he is best friends with a Malaysian princess and an Indonisian rock star! The beaches were absolutely stunning and we got to see quite a bit of the island by hiring a moped. We went up the cable car and ventured to a night market, but most of the week was spent on the beach or in our favourite beach bar. We were there over Chinese New Year, but not a lot was really going on on the island, but we did have a token Chinese meal and saw a lion dance.

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It was then onto the Perinthians and another long overnight journey. We happened to be travelling with a guy that lived on the Perinthians but worked in Langkawi and he was able to fill us in on the best places to stay as we were so early in the season. The monsoons hit the east coast of Malaysia and it was a bit hit and miss at to whether it would be raining all week! We had to stay in Coral Bay as the main area Long Beach wasn't open yet. We walked through the jungle to check it out when we first arrived and it did look post apocalyptic with winds, rough sea, no one in sight but piles of burning rubbish and half built buildings! However Coral Bay was a lot calmer, and after a few stints of heavy rain on the first couple of days, the skies cleared and we were back to the beach life we are now accustomed to! The water there is really clear and we snorkelled most days, and took boat trips/ hired a kayak to other smaller deserted beaches which were beautiful.

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We also got to stay in a beach bungalow about 3 meters from the sea as there was 30% off rates due it being so early in the season - happy days!

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The food in both islands was a million miles away from the amazing hawker stalls in KL and Penang, but the Perinthian restaurants (there were just 3 to chose from!) did some pretty good BBQ fish, even if they did serve it with melon and banana bread.

So now its time to say goodbye Malaysia and take on our next two countries. Today we fly to Cambodia for 3 nights to see Ankor Wat, and then onto Ho Chi Minh for our Vietnamese adventure!

In Summary:

Tan; its official, after a mere 7 weeks of sunshine I actually have one!
Budget; blown
Food; random on the Islands, but pretty sweet in Singapore
Books; just finished the wasp factory, very strange
Bites; not one on either of us - whoop!

Posted by RozandRob 17:41 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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