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Around the world in 180 days...

a travel blog by Sean, Karl & Dan

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Week 1 (and it's already mental!)

Bangkok, Thailand

Arrived at the hostel to find Karl had booked us into the smallest room available in ladyboy central. We decided to start the night at a few bars near our hotel and in the first bar we went into Karl decided to swipe the table smashing all 3 full pint glasses on the floor and ensuring we had the full attention of everyone in the bar! Once the embarrassment was over we decided to hit the town and got a tuk-tuk to the main backpacker area (Khao San Road). Thai girls are mental and jump on any westerner they see. We managed to pretty much avoid them but made the mistake of talking to a couple of them on the first night who proceeded to stalk Dan and Sean for the rest of the week! At about 3am, in true Backpacker style, Dan and Sean went to a club and got a bottle of Bacardi and a table!

Woke up on the second day at 3:30pm! Went into town and managed to find a hotel that was half the price and twice as nice as the ghetto that Karl booked us into (and also right next to the bars instead of a 45 minute taxi ride away).

On the third day someone suggested we should just 'pamper ourselves' to recover. So we all got Thai and Swedish massages and had an 8 step facial!(sounds a bit girly we know, but was pretty relaxing.)

Over the next few days highlights included The Grand Palace, random temples, lots of walking up and down Khao San Road and front row seats for Thai boxing (which was awesome).

During our first week we also managed to befriend some of the locals - one of the 'frog ladies' (women that walk around making funny sounds with wooden frogs that they are trying to sell) shouts 'Danny, Danny!!' every time she sees Dan. This is despite us refusing to buy her baby for 200 Baht (about 3 quid) - but Dan did kindly let the 1 year old drink some of his bucket of Long Island Iced Tea!

On our last night (in theory) we went out and watched the rugby. Karl's quote of 'The first few days were a bit strange but over the last two days we've really got into travelling mode' was wearing a bit thin after the 37th time he said it... Anyway, we ended up getting pretty hammered, made lots of friends, went to an awesome Irish bar playing live music and eventually all made it back to the hotel without any injuries.

Given that Karl felt horrific (possibly because he had a curry at 5am, went to sleep then got up and had another at 7am, then had a third for lunch at 1pm) he made the executive decision that we'd not bother getting the train to Cambodia today and instead stay an extra night in Bangkok.

Anyway, tomorrow we'll definitely get the train to Cambodia. Should be an experience - we're travelling with the locals, third class for a cost of 60 pence each! (SM)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on October 15, 2007 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Around the world in 180 days...
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Temple Exploration

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Despite deciding to take the train to Cambodia, the 11th hour decision was made to take a local bus to the Thai border. Four Hours later we arrived in the middle of nowhere and, as the only westerners within 50 Miles, checked into a local hotel with disbelief and laughter from the locals. The fear of venturing too far from this hotel precipitated a gym session in the hotel room. The next morning we embarked on the strangest journey of our lives through the unpaved roads of Cambodia. After four hours in the back of a Toyota (with a family of three Cambodians in the front passenger seat), we arrived in Siem Reap.

In Siem Reap we spent a few days exploring the temples in the area: the large Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, the tomb raider temple; and the awesome Angkor Wat temple. We also visited the temple on the local hill to watch the sunset over the Cambodian jungle. The local area is pretty touristy with a mix of travellers and holidaymakers. A few nights out there were more than enough before setting off to the capital Phnom Penh. (KC)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on October 21, 2007 from Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Cambodian Capital

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The journey to Phnom Penh was on board a river boat through the large Cambodian Tonle Sap lake and the river into the city. The boat was really a barge with no side rails so everyone on board risked flying off the boat at 40 mph everytime you wanted to go below deck. Fortunately, we survived the trip without losing anyone but Dan and Karl got pretty bad sunburn along the way - a result of the cooling winds on the roof of the barge (and we might also be able to blame the malaria drugs).

Phnom Penh was an interesting albeit polluted and busy city. We spent some time checking out the quite gruesome killing fields and the S21 genocide prison.

A highlight was going to a shooting range on the way back - we decided to share the ammo between us so got the chance to shoot each other's guns: Sean, the Russian Kolashnikov AK47; Karl, the American M16 assault rifle; and Dan, the 1920s Al Capone Tommy Gun. It was pretty scary holding and firing loaded guns but well worth the experience.

We had a few sessions in the city that manages to cater for all types: the backpackers district provides cheap beer and plenty of 'Happy' pizzas - a good start to a night; the ex-pat district with many hostess bars and the legendary Heart of Darkness club - the favourate end of night haunt; and the more posh Riverside. One night we managed to break down twice in a tuk tuk when the rain was lashing down - drunk, soaking and slipping all over in flip-flops is not a good mix (Karl took a big hit by falling over in a huge puddle of water - although, it didn't prevent the night from continuing). (KC)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on October 25, 2007 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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Cambodian Beach Time

Sihanokville, Cambodia

In Siem Reap and then in Phnom Penh, we were advised to check out Sihanoukville on the coast before leaving Cambodia. We decided to do this and have not regretted the decision. This relatively new coastal resort provided some well earned beach time after all the cultural experiences we have had. We found our little spot on the beach to rest up for the next six days; a treehouse outside the Sessions Bar. Mafia style, we didn't need to move all day - even beers at 35p were winched up on a bucket. On one occasion we spent 8 hours up there without leaving, even for the toilet in Dan's case.

On the 31st we went to an awesome Halloween party at a local bar. It seemed everyone in the resort turned up and made it a great night. In the day, we went shopping in the local market in the hope of finding an outfit and eventually went for a Rambo costume using combat trousers, a black vest (Sean opted for one with the grim reaper on it so looked like he had just left a rock concert), and arm/headbands made from torn curtain. The effort paid off as we managed to win the fancy dress competition - securing three free t-shirts (for Sean to shake off the rock concert look) and a $20 bar tab that easily covered that night's drinks.

We are heading off to Vietnam tomorrow on a 10 hour bus journey so lets see how that goes. Until next time, take it easy. (KC)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on October 29, 2007 from Sihanokville, Cambodia
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The rain in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

After 13 hours stuck on the coach listening to Cambodian karaoke and sweating like mad due to sitting under the air-con engine, we arrived at the bright lights of the city of Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City in official lingo). In desperate need of a mug of ale, we quickly found a hotel and set off to hit the town hard. Despite the disappointment of the local nightlife, we still made the most of it and arrived back home at 4am pretty leathered. Although, the reception shut at midnight so we needed to knock up the receptionist to get in (he didn't look pleased).

Eventually we awoke the next day and decided to visit the War Remnants Museum which was surprisingly interesting. However, on the way back the heavens opened requiring us to take shelter in the nearest cafe, presumably for half an hour. Four hours later and the streets we now like rivers - we were going nowhere for a long time.

On Dan's birthday (5 Nov) we went on an amazing boat trip around the Mekong Delta, visiting the floating market and watching locals trying to make a living selling rubbish and making coconut candy. When our boat stopped for lunch Dan and Karl ventured out and had the delicious, although crazy looking and sounding, elephant ear fish. We had an hour to spare so went for a bike ride on the dodgiest bikes ever. What a laugh - Karl almost got us lost but we make it back with minutes to spare.

During our short stay in "Nam" we crammed a lot in. We went to the Cu Chi Tunnels that were used by the Vietcong in the war - these were about 4ft high and 2ft wide and go on forever. Dan lead the whole group through the tunnels in the darkness scaring them by shouting it's full of scorpions and spiders. Still hungover from the supposedly quiet night the night before that turned into a mad sesh, we could think of better places to be than a never ending mud hole.

The most rewarding part of our trip so far had to be visiting the orphanage. Fetching gifts and sports equipment really put a smile on their faces - and ours too. We were only there for about an hour, playing games with the kids, handing out fruit and sweets, but we had to let them go back to class. A few of the kids cried but overall it was good to do something different and helpful. Unlike getting hammered and remembering nothing, these memories will last a lifetime.

We finally decided to leave and flew back to Bangkok for a few nights out drinking buckets of long island iced tea on the streets. After three days it was time to take the 12 hour train to Koh Tao to do some diving (and give our livers a rest). (DD)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on November 7, 2007 from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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Diving, bikes and two close calls!

Ko Tao, Thailand

We arrived at the Thai island of Koh Tau and caught a pick-up truck straight to the Crystal Dive Resort. First impressions were good: A nice resort right on the beach close to all the nightlife.

At this point we need to make one thing clear: Richie Hallam (Diamond's mate) is a legend! He used to work at the resort as a dive instructor and had sorted everything out for us - we got our dive courses cheap and we were upgraded to a VIP room, which included a waterwall in the bathroom!

We signed up for the dive courses (PADI open water for Sean and Dan and PADI advanced for Chappell) and then hit the bars.

The next day Dan and Sean started their open water course (in the classroom) and Karl did a quick scuba refresher course in the hotel pool. For the next few days we took it pretty easy at night and dived in the day. The diving all went pretty smoothly - notable points being swimming with sharks, Sean's puppet style swimming, Dan's inability to clear his mask in anything less than 10 attempts and Dan going down to 21m even though we are only qualified to go down to 18m...

So everything was great, until Dan suggested we hire some motorbikes/quads...

Dan and Karl went for the Honda CRM 250 motocross bike and Sean opted for the safer (in theory) 250CC quad bike. For the first 30 minutes everything was fine, but Karl was getting a little bored of the normal roads and wanted to go 'off-road'. By this point it had started raining - no problem we thought. We spotted a nice little hill with a gentle incline with a slight bend off to the left. Karl took the lead and bombed it up the hill, followed closely by Dan on his bike and Sean on the quad. As Sean turned the bend he saw Karl lying on the floor with the bike on top of him. Sean slowly came to a stop and whilst he was in the middle of taking the mick out of Chappell for falling off his bike the Quad started sliding backwards down the slope (with Sean still on it!). After a few seconds it picked up quite a bit of speed and unfortunately there was a big rock face behind him so he made a quick decision to jump off the quad! Luckily the quad and him went in slightly different directions as the quad flipped several times down the hill and Sean slid about 20m down the (concrete) hill on his eblows and knees!!
In hindsight, the hill was near impossible to climb (although Dan somehow managed to not fall off his bike). Although it started as a fairly gentle slope, once around the bend it became ridiculously steep, the concrete was covered in moss and there was practically a river of water gushing down it. In fact, when Dan and Karl went back to the slope the next day to recover Sean's mobile phone they tried walking up the slope and slipped over twice!

So, what was the damage?

Karl: scraped back
Sean: Scraped everything (hands, elbows, knees, ankles, back, arse, etc.)
Karl's bike: snapped clutch lever (50 quid to fix)
Sean's Quad: Front bodywork, rear bodywork, handlebars, rear bumper, brake lever, wheels (250 quid to fix!)

Although Dan escaped that incident he didn't get off totally scott free as he managed to get his bike stuck in a river / quick-sand. Between Karl and Dan they managed to eventually free the bike.

Once we'd passed our diving courses we went out to celebrate with the rest of our diving group and the instructors. The night started fairly calmly but ended with us all absolutely hammered dancing like loons on the stage at a club called 'The Castle' - we blame the Samsong & redbull buckets! During the night Dan was sick on Chappell's flip-flops then fell asleep in the corner...

The next day we rested and then went for a couple of 'fun dives'. This is where Sean had his second 'run-in'. Part way through the second dive he took a breath and instead of air, it was water. Oh well, not to worry, just blow out and take another breath - except this breath was water too! He pressed the purge button and took a third breath (noticing that his diving 'buddy' and the rest of the group were now dissapearing into the distance) - again, water! So his regulator was basically knackered - he now tried switching to his alternate air source and took a massive breath hoping that it would be air - luckily it was! He had survived, but given that things usually come in threes Sean's vowed not to do anything even remotely dangerous for the next few weeks...

Other highlights from the Koh Tau experience included Dan cutting Karl's hair (Mohawk with almost a skinhead on the sides) and an awesome Monsoon party on our last night.

After Koh Tau, we caught a boat to Koh Phangan for the full moon party! (SM)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on November 19, 2007 from Ko Tao, Thailand
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Full Moon Party

Ko Phangan, Thailand

Having survived the dangers of Ko Tao, it was finally time to get some proper beach time so we headed to Ko Pha Ngan on the morning boat. Upon arrival we were harassed by the usual taxi touts before heading to Haad Rin beach in the back of a pickup. Amazingly we were greeted by four Irish lads bombing past on motorbikes whom Dan spotted were Noodles, Features and Lionsey from Sihanoukville. This happened to be a real stroke of luck as they directed us to probably the best hotel on the beach with pool and bar right on the beach front.

The next few days were spent building up to the Full Moon Party on 24 Nov. Each day we awoke to a beach getting busier, and later the nightlife filling up with more and more dedicated mooners.

In the four days prior to the Full Moon Party we joined forces with the Irish lads (who had now increased in numbers to eight) and entered a team into the beach football tournament. Four group matches, a quarter-final and a semi-final later we were in the final against a Skandi team. In what seemed to have been a final NOT for the neutral, the final score finished 0-0 after extra time. Unfortunately, the penalties did not go our way and we ended up as respectable runners-up with the prize money providing enough for a bucket of Samsong and Redbull each.

Finally the full moon was upon us so we went out to prepare ourselves for the event. Minimal clothing was key due to the risk of drunkenness and theft so we donned our shorts and t-shirts and took a small amount of cash for drinks. Karl took on the job of chief florescent painter and spent most of the night painting people with green and red paint (even getting paid to do so by a number of people). Dan, however, has to get the award for dedication (and title of 'dedicated mooner') by staying out throughout the night and even through most of the next day until 4pm. Some amusing sights included people that had decided it was a good idea to go to Mushroom Mountain or even taking slimming pills for their caffeine effects.

The day after the Party was truly a rest and recovery day. We then headed to catch the boat to Ko Samui and then the short flight to Singapore. (KC)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on November 26, 2007 from Ko Phangan, Thailand
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Singapore Sling

Singapore, Singapore

The trip to Singapore gave us a chance to have a bit of city time, having been on beaches for the last few weeks. Immediately after stepping off the plain the cleanliness of the city became apparent - fines of S$5,000 for littering really does make a difference.

We realised straight away that Singapore really isn't backpacker central and after searching for hostels for a few hours we ended up in a small hostel in Little India. We ended up in a room with some real characters: a Nigerian student who slept every minute of the day, and a Singaporian called Jeff who can no longer afford rent so lives in the hostel.

At night we ventured to the Clarkes Quay complex, a newly built covered area of bars - a bit like Butlins in Skegness actually. The bars were pretty cool and we ended up in Ministry of Sound for a mad Wednesday night - the revolving dance podium makes things interesting after a few drinks.

We had a quick look around the colonial district and, probably the highlight of the trip, we headed to Singapore Zoo. We felt Singapore didn't have a great deal to offer in general but if one thing is worth seeing it is the zoo. All manner of creatures live there: tigers, giraffes, monkeys, snakes, hippos, kangaroos, bats, and even an area dedicated to sheep, cows and goats (for anyone who hasn't been to the UK I guess).

After three days it was time to head to Australia (bring it on!) (KC)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on November 29, 2007 from Singapore, Singapore
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Australia Arrival

Cairns, Australia

We arrived in Cairns after the strictest of all customs checks. After stopping off at Darwin, we were greeted by sniffer dogs and questions from customs, then we got the same treatment in Cairns. We got to our hostel at about 9am ready for some well earned sleep after our overnight flight only to be told we couldn't check in until 2pm. So with all of our bags we looked around and luckily found some comfy sofas to crash on. We eventually checked in and were pleased to hear we had been upgraded to a suite (yes, in a hostel).

During our stay, our nights were spent drinking and laughing at the ridiculously large bouncer (possibly the biggest and widest man on Earth). He was seen to sit on a bonnet outside and make the front bumper touch the road. We spent most days chilling by the pool or the lagoon sleeping off our hangovers. Karl and Sean went on a day trip to dive on the barrier reef that proved to be a great experience. However, Dan was gutted to still have an ear infection keeping him from going.

On the last night we headed out for a quiet few but couldn't resist the $10 all you can drink in an hour. As we are experts at this, we duly drank many drinks and ended up dancing on the tables in the Woolshed until the early hours. The next day we needed to be knocked up by reception to catch our 10 hour coach to Airlie Beach. (DD)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on December 5, 2007 from Cairns, Australia
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We are sailing...

Airlie Beach, Austria

We booked ourselves onto a maxi sailing boat aptly named 'Spank Me' for a 3 day and 3 night trip around the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands near Airlie Beach. Obviously we didn't want to miss the Hatton vs. Mayweather fight so we decided to spend five nights in Airlee Beach before setting sail.

For the first time since we've been travelling we had a decent dorm with some people that wanted to have a laugh (rather than just sleep all day). This is where we were introduced to two of the most important things in Australia - Goon and 'Ring of Fire'.

Goon is basically cheap wine in a silver bag and Ring of Fire is one of the most lethal drinking games I've ever come across, combining several traditional drinking games (thumb master, i have never, rhyming game, etc.).

On the first night we started playing Ring of Fire and within two hours Dan was fast asleep. The rest of us continued getting hammered and then headed out, but we only managed to make it to a bar about 20 yards away from the hostel, had a few drinks and then all staggered home half an hour later. Although we somehow managed to take about 600 photos in the half-hour that we were out! Dan finally woke up at 5am not knowing whether or not he'd managed to make it out of the hostel (he hadn't...).

The rest of our time in Airlee Beach was spent sunning ourselves by the lagoon in the day and drinking bags of goon at night.

The sailing was awesome. We all helped winch up the sails and Dan and Sean even sailed the boat for an hour or so each (the other passengers looked a little worried when I was sailing it along at a 45 degree angle!). Aside from having to have 30 second showers, everything on the boat (most importantly food) was pretty good. While on the boat we did three more scuba dives on the Great Barrier Reef and saw sharks, stingrays and turtles. One of the dive sites (called 'The Cathedral') was awesome - it was basically a cave and a narrow tunnel 15m under water. Small cracks in the ceiling of the tunnel allowed rays of sunlight to shine through.

The next three days were spent chilling out on the boat, stopping off at little deserted islands (like Whitehaven, which is amazing), snorkelling, scuba diving, rock climbing and drinking. We had to end a game of Ring of Fire prematurely because the boat ran out of alcohol!

Once back on shore (Sean minus his sunglasses, which still haven't been recovered) we all met up for drinks at the hostel bar. This is where chaos ensued! We managed to get everyone (26 passengers + 3 crew) standing on the table singing 'Spank Me Barmy Army' at the top of their voices. Everyone in the bar was looking at us like we were a bunch of nutters (understandable I suppose) and the night got pretty messy...

All in all, the sailing was brilliant, but it was nice to get back to dry land...

Next stop, Fraser Island for a four wheel drive safari on the largest sand island in the world! (SM)

permalink written by  Sean, Karl & Dan on December 16, 2007 from Airlie Beach, Austria
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