A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: BlackNels

Okay My Friend - Tuk Tuk?

Day 101

sunny 40 °C

So we’ve come to the time for our final blog post, it’s sad but true. We have had quite the journey on this adventure of ours and we are so grateful to have family and friends who have kept up with us along the way. So we’re going to jump right in where we left off…

Our bus ride from Saigon to Phnom Penh went smoothly and we had no issues getting our Cambodian Visa’s (this was a relief considering all of the horror stories we had heard). As soon as we crossed the border from Vietnam into Cambodia we immediately noticed the increased level of poverty and the aroma of garbage that had been left on the street for days. Upon our arrival in the capital city we were told that it was the beginning of the three-day celebration of the Cambodian New Year. Initially we were excited for the festivities but we soon realized that this was more of a locals-only event and all but a few tourist destinations were shut down. After dropping our bags in our room we headed out for a drink and to plan our short and sweet five days in Cambodia. The next day we set out for the S-21 Prison which was were Pol Pot had ordered hundreds of men, women and children to be sent before they were murdered during the Cambodian genocide. It was an eerie feeling to walk around the prison grounds and imagine what it must have been like for the innocent people who were tortured. We decided to lighten things up with Sarah getting a massage while Jess enjoyed a beer on a patio. While walking around the city we met an older American man who had been living in Cambodia for the last decade. He helped us with directions and then invited us to a local pub for a pint. He was a really friendly guy and he was genuinely interested in meeting two young North Americans who were travelling. After hearing some of his war stories and taking note of his advice we left to get some pub food for dinner. The next day we took a tuk-tuk to the outskirts of town to the Killing Fields. The Killing Fields was where prisoners from the S-21 Prison were sent to be murdered under the direct orders of Pol Pot. Entering the Killing Fields we were reminded of when we visited a concentration camp in Berlin. It was an eye opening experience and we learned a lot about the impact of these atrocities on Cambodian culture.

The following morning we took a six-hour bus ride to the small town of Siem Reap. The major draw to this area is Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples that make this attraction one of the Unesco World Heritage Centres. After checking in to our guest house and walking around the town we reunited with our friends Mike and Celia. We had dinner out on a Patio on Pub Street and then went our separate ways so that we could get a good sleep before our 4:30 am wake-up call for our sunrise tour of the Temples of Angkor. The next morning we slowly rolled out of bed and met up with our friends for our Angkor Wat tour. Despite the early hour there were already many tourists milling about the temple. We spent the morning and afternoon roaming through the various temples and ruins while our tour guide “Bunny” gave us the history of the monuments. The afternoon heat was really starting to get to us so at around 2 pm we wrapped things up at the temples and headed to a roof-top pool to cool down from the near 40 degree weather. Once we had cooled off and relaxed a little we hit the night market in town and then went to dinner.
On the morning of April 18th we took a bus from Siem Reap to the Thai/Cambodian border. At this last border crossing we waited for 3 hours in the blistering heat with hundreds of other gringos while Thai’s continually strolled by us and right on through immigration. The wait was the ultimate test of our patience and resiliency, more than once we thought Jess was going to pass out due to heat stroke. Once we were finally in Thailand we took a 4-hour minibus ride to Bangkok. We were dropped off right on the infamous Ko San Road where we sadly said goodbye to Mike and Celia, who we had been travelling on and off with for the last three weeks. We were so exhausted after our long day on the road that we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at McDonald’s, where we enjoyed the air-conditioning and yummy fried food. After regaining our strength we set out to find accommodation on the backpacker filled party street. We settled on a mediocre place and planned to move to a new area the next morning. After a good sleep-in we grabbed some coffees and some breakfast and started looking up luxury hotels for our last two nights. After finding exactly what we were looking for we happily set out for our new fancy digs. That afternoon we checked out a couple of Bangkok’s largest malls. Our remaining money was burning holes through our pockets so we treated ourselves to some shopping. The high-class living continued that night when we ordered room service for diner. Needless to say it was one great day in Bangkok! The following two days were similar, and we spent our last few dollars indulging ourselves and creating a perfect end to an awesome trip. Our final day in Bangkok was spent lounging by the pool and sipping on iced teas while before packing up our bags for a final plain ride home. We went out for a delicious Thai dinner followed by some rich desserts and tea and then grabbed a cab to the airport.

We boarded our flight at around 3am on the morning of the 21st and tried to catch some shuteye before landing in Seoul for our 8-hour stop over. Once we arrived in Seoul we met up with our friends Maria and Catney, who were living in South Korea to teach English. They took us in to the city and we had traditional Korean BBQ for lunch. We had a great time catching up with them and before we knew it we were back on our way to the airport for our flight to Vancouver. Finally we were back in Canada! Sarah’s family met us at the Vancouver airport and after hugs and kisses were passed around we got the feeling that we never left.

We had an absolutely amazing adventure together throughout our four months of travelling. We saw and experienced things that we will never forget and we made some great friends along the way. Now it’s back to reality and we are looking forward to the next chapter in our lives – jobs and an apartment! Thanks again to everyone who read our posts, we hope we kept you entertained!

S & J xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 16:26 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Southern Hospitality

Day 93

sunny 35 °C

We last left you off with an update of our travels through northern Vietnam, now we'll catch you up on southern Vietnam where we found the people to be much friendlier than their northern counterparts.

We arrived in Hoi An after a long bus journey and at first we were underwhelmed by the small city. After settling ourselves in our rather luxurious hotel we went into town and quickly fell in love with the city's charm. We walked the narrow cobblestone streets and watched the thousands of floating candles, purchased by tourists, that were set out along the river. We were craving some more western food so we went to an Italian restaurant and indulged in a large pizza topped with lots of veggies. After dinner we met up with our friends Mike and Celia for a drink that soon turned into multiple drinks and many games of pool. We ended up shutting down the bar and most of the city and we were lucky to find a cab to take us back to our hotel. The next morning we ate the buffet breakfast provided by our hotel, the food ranged to include everything from classic Vietnamese to continental to pasta and stir-fry. It was delicious! Afterwards we rented bikes and rode into town to find one of the hundreds of tailors to get some custom-made clothes designed. This was quite the experience for both of us. We browsed the many catalogs to figure out what we both might like, and to our surprise we came out with way too many options to choose from. We took a break to meet up with our friends and to talk over which two pieces of clothing we wanted. Jess decided on a custom made button-down shirt and a pair of casual pants, while Sarah chose a fitted tweed skirt and a silk blouse. Back at the tailors we spent about half an hour going over the exact specifications with the tailor and then we were sized and measured. Once the total amount of fabric was decided the price was quoted at only $140 USD - a pretty good deal for custom fitted clothing. We left the shop both excited and a little bit anxious with only a few hours until our first fitting. That afternoon we relaxed by the hotel pool with Mike and Celia and played a few rounds of cards. Before dinner we stopped by the tailor for our first fitting to iron out any flaws and design changes. Jess's clothes were more or less right on, with only a few adjustments, and Sarah's skirt needed only a few tweaks as well. The blouse however, was a different story. It was a complete re-do as the tailors had added random stitches in weird places with an overall look somewhere between hotel bell-boy and Japanese geisha. The tailor was quick to realize the mistakes and we scheduled a second fitting for the following morning. We went to a small Vietnamese restaurant for dinner and Sarah had some of the local specialties - White Rose, which consists of prawns and vegetables wrapped in rice paper and Wonton Salad, which is a mixed green salad served over deep fried wontons. The next morning we woke early to get to the tailor's for our second fitting and grabbed a delicious coffee from Cargo along the way. When we go there we both tried on our clothes with the new adjustments made. Jess's were perfect and fit like... a shirt and pants and Sarah's were great as well with the shirt having been completely redone. We left the shop with our new clothes and headed back to our hotel to finish packing. That night we took an overnight bus to the beach side town of Nah Trang.

We arrived too early in the morning but luckily we were able to catch a few hours of sleep in our guesthouse. We went for lunch and then hit the beach for a relaxing afternoon complete with Vietnamese beach massages. That evening we headed to a classic Vietnamese BBQ restaurant where we were able to cook our own food over a table side BBQ. Our order came with Vietnamese beef, local calamari, and a plate of mixed vegetables as well as a bowl of rice. It was definitely an awesome experience and the food was exceptionally tasty. After dinner we met up with another friend that we had met in Laos for a drink at one of the local bars. We chatted about our travels through Vietnam and she gave us some good tips about Cambodia. The following day started off very relaxed with some more beach time and naps as well as some book time. That afternoon we met up once again with Mike and Celia at a local pub serving beer they brewed in house, which was some of the best beer we had in a long time. While we drank we planned a boat trip the following day and then we went for a tasty cheap dinner and a few more drinks. The morning of April 8th we woke up early for our scuba diving day trip just off the coast of Nah Trang. This was a much better experience than our scuba diving in Australia as we each had a 45 minute one-on-one session with a dive master, and the scenery was just as nice. Jess opted for a second dive while Sarah and Celia chose to snorkel at the next location. Overall we had an awesome day and it was a great diving experience. We left that evening on another night bus to Saigon.

We arrived in Saigon early the next morning and we were guided to our guest house through a narrow alley off of the main road.We went for an early breakfast and then we visited the War Museum, where we gained a new appreciation for the atrocities inflicted in the Vietnamese people during the war. By this time we were pretty tired so we went back to catch up on a couple of hours of sleep. That night we visited the local night market and then went for dinner at small Vietnamese restaurant. The next day we left for our day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an imperative piece of land just outside the main city used by the Cu Chi Guerrillas during the Vietnam War. During our visit we were able to crawl through some of the tunnels and walk around the land that was used by the Viet Cong in order to successfully exercise their mental warfare tactics. We saw examples of the traps that were made by the guerrillas as well as how they reused American bombs to create their own land mines and tank explosives. Our guide was a Vietnamese man who fought with the Americans against the Communist VC and he explained to us the differing perspectives the Vietnamese had on the war and America's involvement. We finished the tour by watching a ridiculously one-sided propaganda film that was both interesting and amusing. The rest of the evening was quiet with a delicious lunch at a local cafe and some time spent in our air conditioned room.

We head out tomorrow on a six hour bus ride over the border into Phnom Penh, Cambodia where we will spend three nights before making our way west through the country to our final destination - Bangkok, Thailand. We're looking forward to a new country and some new experiences before coming home. We plan on posting some new pictures in a few days so keep an eye out and as always continue to comment!

We love and miss you all and we'll see you soon!

S & J xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 03:51 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Goooooooood Morning Vietnam!!!

Day 85

overcast 20 °C

Our last blog post ended off with our time spent in Luang Prabang, since then we have seen a lot and met some great friends. Lets bring you up to speed...

From Luang Prabang we took a mini bus to Vang Vieng, it was a long slow car ride on winding gravel roads. By the time we had arrived at our new destination we had met some new travel buddies. Mike, Celia, Jessica, Jecka, Robin and Derek were all great companions for the small westernized backpaker town of Vang Vieng. Our hostel was plain but clean and had a fantastic river front view over looking the Mekong. That night we met up with our new friends for dinner and prepared ourselves for the following day's activity. Vang Vieng is well known to young travellers as the place to tube down the river while stopping at waterfront bars. We met up with our crew and headed out for a day of tubing and drinking. At each new bar we stopped at we usually started off with a shot of Tiger Whiskey as a new bracelet was tied on to our wrists (the bracelets were good indicators of how drunk people were). We spent the day drinking buckets, dancing, tubing and jumping from great heights into the dangerously shallow water. Luckily we all made it out alive and without any bodily harm. The scariest water attraction was a massive slide with a slick tiled base that launched you high into the air before you sailed into the river. Surprisingly, Jess was the first to throw herself down the slide and she made it out with only having bit her cheek upon impact. She's recovering nicely. We all soon followed suit and a couple of us managed to rip our shorts due to the force of hitting the water. After the day of dangerous water sports we all met up for dinner and then hit one of the local bars for a Vang Vieng "wedding". The bride and groom walked down the aisle to techno beats and then shot-gunned a beer each in celebration, it was a bit strange. The next day Jess headed out on a day trip with Jecka and Jessica, unfortunately Sarah couldn't make it as the Laos food had caught up to her stomach. Jess had an awesome time on the trip that included kayaking, caving, tubing and a yummy BBQ lunch. That night we met up with Jecka and Jessica for a quiet dinner and a movie.

The following morning we took a mini bus to Vientiene, Laos' capital city. It was there that we decided to get Jess to a clinic as she had been fighting a sore throat for the last few days. We were able to get an appointment at the French Embassy clinic and the friendly doctor there prescribed Jess some antibiotics. We spent the rest of the day trying to get healthy again.

On March 27th we flew to Hanoi to begin our Vietnam adventure. Upon arrival we met up with our friends Mike and Celia to plan our Halong Bay boat trip. We had a lot of help from Tony, our hostel's manager, and booked a two night, three day boat trip. That evening the four of us went out for some yummy authentic Vietnamese Pho and packed our bags for the early morning pickup to begin our trip. We were shuttled the next morning to Halong Bay harbour, approximately 4 hours drive from Hanoi, and boarded the ship. We had a thoroughly annoying tour guide for the three days, so we all did our best to ignore his strange comments and tidbits of useless information. Other than him, the trip was great! The bay was covered in a thick cloud of fog for the majority of the trip, which is common during this time of the year, but the large rock formations and inlets made up for it. The food on the boat was also great, consisting always of rice and wok fried meat and veggie dishes. We were able to get a closer look at some of the jutting ocean rocks during a kayak around the bay and we had a great mountain top view during a hike through Cat Ba National Park. The second night we spent in a small village on Cat Ba island and had a sleepy night of movies and ice cream. We left the next morning to return back to Hanoi for a few hours before leaving for our next trip.

On the evening of March 30th we arrived back in Hanoi for a quick dinner and re-packed our bags before catching a 9 hour sleeper train up to Sapa. We settled ourselves on the train and caught some restless shut eye before arriving early on March 31st. When we woke up it was pouring rain and around 7 degrees, needless to say we were not prepared for the cold weather. We arrived at our hotel and sat down for breakfast, then headed down the street to pick up some knock-off North Face pants before heading out for a day of hiking and sight seeing. The rain past and the rest of the morning was great, with easy walking routes and some beautiful view points for pictures of the villages and rice fields below. Our guide, a 4 foot tall young Vietnamese woman named Pan, led us to one of the mountain-side villages for our night at a homestay. Our group was accompanied by some local tribe women who helped us down the steeper and muddier areas of the hike, we later found that this was to persuade us to buy hand made crafts and fabrics from them...lesson learned. We stopped for lunch and got to know some of the people we would be camping out with for the night. We continued on our journey for another couple of hours and arrived around at our homestay in the early afternoon. We visited Pan's home where she lived with her two children, husband and parents, and where her and her family grew vegetables and farmed pigs and chickens. The afternoon was quiet, spent sipping tea and playing cards. That evening got very cold and we bundled up in almost every layer we had available (it'll be a shock coming back to Canada). We ate dinner and then sat around some burning coals to stay warm. Everyone went to bed early, mainly to get some more warmth from the blankets provided with our beds. We woke the next morning to a rooster who began his work early, around 5 am. We packed up, sat down for a yummy breakfast of banana crepes and tea and then set out again for our walk back into town. We walked through the rice fields, balancing on each slim edge, and trudged through the mud left over from the previous day. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall where we soaked up some sun and relaxed. We had lunch in another village and then got a motor bike ride back into town, a highlight of our time in Sapa. That night we slept at the hotel and had a much needed warm shower. The next day was very low key, with a short walk to another local waterfall and then a walk through a market. On the way back from the waterfall we got another motor bike ride into town for an agreed upon price of 80,000 dong (about $4 Canadian), which turned out to be a major hassle. When we pulled out a 500,000 dong note (about $25 Canadian) the driver took off without giving us our change. We were pretty upset and so waited at the top of the hill for him to come back up with another customer. When he did we had a 30 minute argument with him about our change, which ended up involving several locals, another group of travellers and some other motor bike cabbies. Finally, with the help of our guide, we were able to recover all of our rightful change. We were pretty shaken after all of that, so we sat down for a soothing coffee and a breather. We had our last dinner at the hotel with our group members and then hopped on another sleeper train back to Hanoi.

We arrived in Hanoi early this morning and headed over to Little Hanoi Hostel, where they provided us with a room to shower and freshen up, before going out for breakfast and coffee at our favourite cafe, Joma. The rest of the day has been spent walking the streets of Hanoi, sightseeing and book hunting. We leave tonight around 6 pm to get on a sleeper bus down the coast to Hoi An, where we look forward to finally sleeping in a proper bed again.

We have another 8 days in Vietnam before Cambodia, our ninth and final country in South East Asia. We don't know where the next two and a half weeks will take us on this trip, but whatever it is it will be exciting and memorable.

When we have a chance soon we will upload some more pictures and, of course, keep you updated with another post!

Missing you all and getting excited to see everyone,

Love S & J xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 01:26 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

An Elephant Never Forgets

Day 74

semi-overcast 32 °C

We last left off having just arrived on Ko Phi Phi, the last Thai island we visited on this trip. The island, as we said before, had a great vibe, with lots of character and excellent travellers destinations. We oriented ourselves with the small winding streets and walked around visitng all the various shops and vendors. There was a fresh fruit shake stand on every corner, so we usually had one of these in hand while we wandered. We got some food stand lunch on the beach and refreshed ourselves every so often in our air conditioned room. After a relaxing day of wandering and sun bathing, we headed out for a late buffet style thai dinner at a local hotspot. The food was great and the beer was cheap, so we were pretty pleased. After dinner we roamed some more, taking in the livliness of Ko Phi Phi's street entertainers. There were two men with diapered Monkey's trading pictures and a chance to hold them, for a few baht. Before we knew it we each had a monkey on our shoulder and we snapped a few cute pictures, which you should be able to check out in our blog album. We headed down to the beach for a late night fire show and some drinks. The stage was set up in the middle of the beach, just in front of the bar and along either sidfe of the stage were rows of bean bag chairs, which we sat in to drink and enjoy the show. Mistakenly we sat in the front row, where we were later hit by stray fire crackers, and misfired burning torches. All in all it was fun and we made it out with only a few small burns. The next morning we woke up early and headed out on a half day long boat trip around to some of the various small islands. We first set out for Monkey Bay, where the entire island is litterally run by monkeys. They greeted us at the shore, but were quick to guard their beach, charging with bared teeth at people who came too close. Next we headed to a cove nestled between two giant rock faces where we swam in crystal clear water. It was quite shallow, maybe only 7 or 8 feet deep, but you could see right down to the white, sandy bottom, it was beautiful. after that we headed to another cove, this one darker with endless coral hills covering the bottom, and we snorkeled for a while, seeing swarms of sea urchens and multi-coloured fish. We finished the tour off on Maya Bay Beach, where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. We got some sun and shade and relaxed on some hammocks before heading back to Ko Phi Phi. That evening was pretty quiet, with some more street food, a walk along the beach and a fairly early night.

On the morning of March 14th we took a ferry to Phuket where we immediately boarded our flight to Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand. Once we arrived in northern Thailand we immediately felt the cooler temperature difference, which was a nice break from the hummidty we had been experiencing in the Thai islands. Our guest house was clean, comfortable and air conditioned, one of the nicest places we have stayed in during our entire trip. Our first full day in Chiang Mai was spent touring local temples and planning some awesome day trips for the next couple of days. We checked out the local night market that evening and had some great noodle soup. For dessert we picked out some fresh fruit and dried mango and tried roti, fried dough cooked in oil and slathered with chocolate and bananas. The next morning we headed to the Elephant Nature Park, which we chose in light of Jess's love for the humane treatment of animals. We sought out an elephant experience that was both ethical and sustainable and this elephant "heaven" far exceeded our expectations. On our way to the sanctuary we watched a video about the incredible Thai woman who founded the park and has been rescuing elephants all her life. The first thing we say when we arrived was the elephant "kitchen" which housed several thousand tonnes of fruits and vegetables for the 35 elephants. We were able to feed the elephants twice while we were there. This was an amazing experience and quite humbling. Despite the abuse some of these elephants had endured in their past they were always gentle and friendly. Next we walked the grounds among the elephants and we were introduced to the medical centre where the onsite vet cared for some of the more needy ones. While at the medical center we were exposed to just how powerful these animals can be as all 35 elephants were spooked and began to trumpet and charge in every direction. With our backs literally against a wall we were pulled into a small side room until the elephants had calmed down. Once things had settled we headed back to the grounds to meet some of the different elephant groups and hear their background stories. One of the most enjoyable experiences was when we were able to wash the elephants in the river. We all had buckets and scrub brushes and proceeded to bathe the giant animals while they ate bananas and sprayed themselves with water through their trunk. This experience was truly eye-opening and we hope to volunteer at the sanctuary in the futuer. We were sad to leave at the end of the day and we were suprised at the connections we had made with the elephants in such a short time. The evening was quiet as we had another trip planned for the following day. The next morning we were picked up and driven to a local market for the start of our Thai coooking class. We learned about sauces, spices, rice and oils before we were driven to the organice farm where we cooked a six-course feast! We began with Tom Yam Soup, followed curry, stiry-fry, papaya salad and tea. After a brief break we made dessert and a dish to take home. We were absolutley stuffed by the end of the day and full of knowledge on Thai cuisine. We slept in the next morning and boarded our bus to Chiang Khong, a town on the Thai-Laos boarder. Nothing exciting to report on Chiang Khong, but the lady at the guest house was very nice and she made us lunch boxes for the next day's journey.

On the morning of March 19th we left Thailand and crossed the Mekong River into Laos, only a short 30 second boat ride away. Going through customs and immigration was quite a process, having us spend two hours filling out paper work and paying visa fees. We must have had a big red tourist stamp on our foreheads because we were duped into taking the boat back across the Mekong to Thailand instead of down the river towards Luang Prabang. We soon recovered from this beginners mistake and found our way to the slow-boat that would take us on a two-day journey down the river. The boat had minimal facilities and was furnished with old minivan car seats that were loosley placed throughout the boat. It was a long, hot and slow two-day journey. We passed the time by drinking Laos beer, playing cards, reading and staring endlessly at the river.

We arrived in Luang Prabang a couple of nights ago and we have really taken to the city's charm. We have found a great cafe that serves yummy lattes and delicious food. We've followed the relaxed Laos culture and taken it easy the last two days. We've rented bikes, visited a temple, checked out the markets and picked up a few gifts along the way. Tonight we found a great bar called Utopia where we looked over the Mekong as the sun set and enjoyed some drinks and appy's. Tonight we will head off for our last dinner in Luang Prabang before moving south. Tomorrow we take a bus to Vang Vieng where we will continue through Laos, taking in all it has to offer. Soon after we will be taking a short flight across the boarder into Vietnam, entering the eighth country of our tour.

Please take a look at all of the new pictures as they correspond well with this updated post, and as always we love your comments so keep them coming. That's all for now, we'll update again soon.

Love and miss you all!

S & J xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 05:27 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

Its Gunna Be a Full Moon Tonight

Day 63

sunny 35 °C

We made it out alive, and with all our memories intact!

On the day we left for Thailand we packed up, had a final meal at our favourite Indian restaurant, Gem, and did some walking around before hopping into a small van for the boarder. It was a 16 hour journey from Malaysia to Ko Phangang and included a mini van, an overnight bus, a ferry and finally a taxi to our new home for the next five nights. The longest portion of the journey was the overnight bus, being 8 hours and over capacity. We were smart enough to get to the front of the line and snag two of the last seats available, but others weren't so lucky, having to stand for the entire 8 hour overnight trip. We arrived at the Ferry terminal at around 5 am that morning and had a three hour wait until the next ferry arrived to take us to the island of beautiful Ko Phangan. Once we were on the island we were quickly swept up by a taxi and driven about half an hour to the southeast side where we had our five night bungalow booked. The place was simple and clean, but had only a small fan to keep us cool, so we remained endlessly sticky for our stay. We had our own small porch with a hammock and it was only a few steps to the beach front from our place, altogether it was pleasant.

The days leading up to the Full Moon Party were quiet and spent relaxing in our room or on the porch, walking through the colourful shops, eating some mediocre food, and trying to stay cool. On the second day we treated ourselves to an hour long Thai massage...this was interesting. We were poked and prodded, stretched and pulled, walked on and sat on. It was unlike anything either of us had experienced, and it was wonderful. The third day we headed out for a day long boat trip around the local islands and to visit some beaches. We snorkeled off the boat and visited a natural lagoon surrounded by jutting rocks and lush forests. We then headed to an island resort for some lunch and then relaxed under some coconut trees to read for the afternoon. The limestone rocks that shoot out randomly all over the ocean are truly a sight.

March 8th was the day of the Full Moon Party, and also the morning of Sarah's phone interview with SFU. In short, the interview went well and Sarah received some positive feedback regarding her application and research topic. Once that was over we spent the rest of the day lounging and preparing ourselves for the evenings events. We picked out our florescent clothing and accessories, body paint, and, of course, our buckets. We had a late dinner and didn't start to really get ready and drink until late, so we would have the energy to stay out as long as we wanted. We painted each other with the bright body paint and drank our buckets on the front porch. When we were done we made our way down the street to the party, where thousands of partiers were roaming the streets, all in their bright colours and paint. The streets we lined with vendors and make shift store fronts selling everything from buckets, to glow sticks and hats, to masks and clothing. When we finally pushed our way down to the beach the 3 kilometer long beach front was completely covered with thousands of people and vendors. This was the Full Moon Party. We walked the shore line sipping our buckets and taking in the sights and sounds all around us. There were dozens of stages set up along the beach with party goers dancing and singing the night away. There were DJ's and bars set up along the beach front and small Thai women selling glow sticks and masks. The ocean was being liberally used as a toilet, and the sandy shore a soft bed for the night. We sat for a while people watching and then made our way back up to the streets to walk and observe. We found some great bars to dance and some excellent street food. We watched people pass out in the middle of the streets and others, being encouraged by their friends, getting tattoos they would surely regret. We pretty much saw it all, and it was awesome. We were definitely glad to have enough sense to find our way back, as some were not so lucky. In the early hours of the morning we headed for bed, but not before stopping to get some fried chicken and doughnuts...yum!

The next morning we woke up late for a full breakfast and another day of relaxing. We checked in at home to let the parents know we had made it out unscathed and to catch up on some trip info. The last two nights on Ko Phangan were pretty uneventful, mostly filled with books, walks and some cheap shopping.

On the morning of the 10th we took a morning ferry to the mainland and then got on a bus direct to Krabi where we would spend 2 nights. We arrived into the bus station that evening and booked a taxi into town, which turned out to be quite eventful. The cab was more than overloaded, with 25 passengers filling the back and 5 of those people having to sit on the floor. The driver was clearly overwhelmed, refusing to take some people to their accommodation and getting into fights with others about where they were staying. Luckily we made it to our hostel and made a quick turn around to get back into town for a late dinner. We went out and found a good looking Indian place and then toured around the busy tourist streets. We happened upon an awesome local art studio where they had dozens of beautiful hand painted pieces on display. The artists painted as we walked around, and we set our eyes on a particular painting that we later bought, our first major art investment. The picture will be travelling with us for the next 40 days in a plastic tube, so that should be interesting. The next morning we hired a long tail boat to Railay Beach, an area off the mainland accessible only by boat. Its was a beautiful view and captured Thai scenery perfectly.

This morning we took a ferry from Krabi to Ko Phi Phi where we will be for the next two nights. The island seems to have a really cool vibe and a great beach front bar scene that we plan on checking out tonight.

We love and miss you all so much! We'll update again soon,

S & J xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 03:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

From Cameron Highlands to Orangeville... I mean Georgetown

Day 54

overcast 35 °C

Since the last post we have done and seen a lot, and it's only been a few days!

We arrived in Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands on a cool and rainy evening. We walked a short distance to our hostel, only about 2 minutes from the main street, and settled our things into our room. We walked into town for dinner and sat down at a Chinese restaurant for a traditional Chinese style fondue. This meal is very popular with the locals and is known as The Steamboat. The broth is brought to the table hot and placed over a single burner to keep it hot and to help cook the raw ingredients. The broth is flavoured with vegetables and spices and from there you are able to create your own soup. Along with the broth you are served four plates overloaded with ingredients. The first plate includes vegetables such as bok choy, mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, green beans and snow peas. The next two plates are made up of the proteins such as tofu, chicken and beef. The last plate has two varieties of noodles and two raw eggs. We were both a little too excited for such a feast and decided that the best way to handle it was to throw everything in at once. After a slight overflow and having to re-light the burner we were on our way to an awesome meal! The dinner was fabulous and we were both full to the brim, by far one of the best fondues either of us ever had. The following day started early at 7:30am with a strange fried egg sandwich and instant coffee. We set out for our full day Cameron Highlands tour that began with a visit to one of the largest tea farms in Southeast Asia. We learned about tea harvesting, which leaves to pick, and how long to steep the perfect cup of tea (3 minutes). We then made our way up to the highest point in the Cameron Highlands accessible by car for a beautiful view over the tea fields and some amazing pictures. We made our way down to the factory for a brief tour of the tea processing and then sat down for a perfect cup of tea. Next we headed out for a jungle trek through the Cameron Highland's forests and learned about various plants and trees native to the area, and how they were once used by locals for medicinal and health purposes. Next we drove to a local butterfly conservatory, home to hundreds of local insects, reptiles and animals. We saw massive beetles, huge snakes, stick bugs, king grasshoppers, leaf frogs, turtles, butterflies, tarantulas, and scorpion, which Jess was brave enough to hold! The last half of the afternoon was quiet with a visit to the local museum known as "The Time Tunnel", a strawberry farm and a local fruit and flower market. The museum was by far the weirdest place either of us has been. This place was like a warped view back on the history of consumerism and was eerily similar to an episode of Hoarders: City Edition. Not much else to say about that, other than we are glad it was free. The strawberry farm was small and cute. We looked around and then bought some fresh strawberries before heading to the market. We headed back to the main city street that night for a quick bite to eat and then a good night sleep.

The next morning we grabbed a five hour bus to Butterworth and then got on the ferry to Georgetown where we are currently staying. We made our way to our hostel and relaxed for a bit before showering and heading for dinner. Today we spent our time wandering the streets of Georgetown taking in the sites and checking out the markets. We had an amazing Indian lunch at Gem Restaurant just inside Little India. The meal reminded us both of Bollywood Bistro in Guelph, with excellent flavours and friendly tons of variety. We each got a tomato based curry rice with a refreshing lemon iced tea to drink. After the meal we rolled ourselves across to the waterfront where we hired a trishaw (this is a two person cart on the front of a bicycle that is operated by a local for a tour of the city). The trishaw driver took us to several different areas of the city including the Clan Jetties, a collection of houses built on wooden docks on the water's edge. The houses are long and narrow allowing for extended families to live together for generations. It was a fascinating place and difficult to describe...we will upload pictures of the area soon. We walked back to our hostel and rested for a while out of the humidity and sun. We are about to head out for dinner and a few drinks and then rest for our 16 hour bus ride tomorrow. We are heading to Ko Phangan, an island off of the southeast coast of Thailand where we will be for the infamous Full Moon Party and five days of much needed beach time.

We will be uploading some more pictures soon so keep an eye out for those!

Missing and loving you all lots,

S & J xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 04:13 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Ni Hao, Selamat Tengahari, and Hello...From South East Asia

Day 51

sunny 27 °C

Well here we are on the second half of our journey. We can hardly believe that its been 51 days already and what's even harder to believe is that we only have 53 more days until we are back on our home turf! This trip is flying by so fast, and we are enjoying every minute of it!

Before we get started we should mention that Sarah has been short-listed for the Master program at SFU for next fall and we are so excited! Congrats Sarah! She interviews on March 7th at 3pm (which on our time is March 8th at 6am) it will be tough, but she's ready :D

We left off at the end of our Australian travels where we said goodbye to new and old friends, and farewell to any type of western comfort. We flew out of Australia on February 25th on the 8 hour luxury flight (it was the United Arab Emirates version of Pan Am) to Singapore and landed that evening to start the next leg of our journey. The exchange rate is once again in our favour, and it feels so good!

We arrived at our hostel in Singapore, only a short walk from Little India and Chinatown. We walked over to an outdoor food market on the water front for a look around and some dinner. The next morning we walked into Little India and took in all the exotic sights and smells, which took some getting used to. We headed towards some food stalls for a taste of the local fare for lunch and then headed back to the hostel for some refreshing AC. That evening we walked into a small pedestrian village for dinner and took a look at the shops and store fronts. After a quiet night we went to bed with plans of renting bikes for the following morning. We awoke to rain and clouds, so we decided a walk around the city would be a better idea. Singapore is a very small city, so it wasn't long before we had more or less seen it from every angle. We walked through the Asian History Museum and learned a lot about Singapore's short history and development. The city is orderly and clean with modern buildings and beautiful parks. We strolled around the waterfront and city streets before hoping on our bus for our new destination and next country.

After a 5 hour bus ride and a short stop at the Singapore-Malaysia boarder we arrived in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia. We got in late so we took a cab to our hostel and headed down the road to a backpacker pub for dinner. The morning of the 28th we set out for a fully packed day of tours, sight seeing and exploring! The day started with a free walking tour around the city and learned about some of the oldest buildings in Malaysia and their significance. We visited a mosque in the heart of the city and a Chinese temple used for prayer and well being. After the tour we headed to the KL tower and took a short ride to the top where we got a great 360 degree view of the city. We walked into a business district for lunch and had amazing food and iced coffee! Next we walked to the train station and hoped on a train for the famous Batu Caves. When we arrived we were greeted by large statues of Hindu Gods and wild monkeys. the monkeys roamed free and were definitely the highlight of the caves. They climbed around everywhere, roaming for food and playing. At one point we made the mistake of taking a granola bar out of our back-pack. We were quickly swarmed and forced to throw it to the monkeys...terrible decision all around. The caves themselves were amazing, but there beauty was overshadowed by the volume of tacky lights and tourist shops. We hopped back on the train and made our way back to our hostel for a short rest and to change for dinner. We headed back out that evening to the backpacker's bar for a tasty dinner, some drinks and shisha. We met some friendly locals and had a few drinks with them before heading back to our hostel for the night.

Today we are taking a bus to Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Word on the street is that its pretty quiet, so we plan on doing some tours of local fruit and tea farms before heading further north to Georgetown.

That's all for now! We love reading comments so keep them coming and we will update again in a few days when we reach Thailand.

Love and miss you all,

Sarah & Jess xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 19:30 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

The Final Headrush... It's Getting Tiring Being Upside Down!

Day 46

overcast 25 °C

By now you have all had a chance to check out our pictures so hopefully they have illustrated the adventures we have had in the land down under. The last week of Australia was fairly quiet in comparison but it gave us a chance to recoup, meet up with friends and prepare for Southeast Asia.

From Hervey Bay we took a bus to Noosa where we met up with our friend Roald. From there we took a bus and a train further down to Brisbane where we spent two nights with him at his new apartment. The first two nights were quiet and consisted of walking to the mall to pick up dinner supplies and relaxing by watching some movies. The third morning we took a train back to Noosa where Roald showed us a quary only a handful of locals know about. The water was turquoise blue and a refreshing temperature, swimming was the perfect way to cool off. That night we set off in to town and met some of Roald's friends for a night of drinking and bar-hopping. On the way to the bar we saw our first and only snake, it was no bigger than a worm but it was still awesome and terrifying. The next day was Sarah's birthday and Jess made a nice breakfast before we set out to Noosa National Park. We walked along the beach eyeing all of the posh waterfront houses before we arrived at Alexandria Bay, a nudist beach full of older naked men. It was lovely. We relaxed in the shade and had our peanutbutter and jam sandwiches for lunch and then went back to our hostel to catch a shuttle in to town. When we arrived at the bus depot we ran into our friends Ruth and Andrew, who we had originally met on our Whitsunday trip. While waiting for the bus we experienced our first bout of bad Australian weather, Jess compared it to an Ontario summer storm. There wasn't much cover from the rain so we spent half and hour trying to keep our bags dry and protecting our legs from the hail. On top of that the bus was late so by the time it pulled in we were soaked and so was our stuff. It wasn't smooth sailing after that, about half way through our bus journey the bus broke down and we had to wait on the side of the road for another bus to pick us up. We arrived in Brisbane late and we were more than ready for a warm shower and some birthday dinner. Our spirits soon lifted and we enjoyed a nice dinner out and then some of Sarah's favourite cake, red-velvet. It didn't quite match up to the Bubble Room but it was good enough! Our Australian mates Tate and Tim picked us up and gave us a night-time tour of Brisbane followed by a drink at South Bank. It turned to be a great birthday for Sarah afterall.

On the 22nd we took the bus south to Byron Bay, a small beachside town known for its surfing. We had an easy going night with a nice dinner and a walk around through the shops. The next morning we woke up early to pouring rain and headed out for our surf lesson. Despite the rain we loved our private lesson and embraced our inner surfer-chick. We both were able to stand up and ride multiple waves in to the shoreline, it was an awesome feeling. It proved to be a good work out as we were fighting the waves to get back out to our instructor and the next morning our arms were killing us! After the lesson we headed back to our hostel for warm showers until the rain cleared up. In the evening we went to the waterfront for a cider and watched the sunset. After dinner we went back out for ice cream and had an early night. The following day it was back to Brisbane for one final night. We got ready for the evenings festivities and headed to a friend's for predrinks before togaing up to help set a world record for the largest toga party! We tramped through the rain in our toga's to the park that was croweded with almost 4000 fellow toga goers. We downed some drinks and headed straight in to the middle of the chaos... front row of the live concert, surrounded by thousands of partiers. When the toga party shut down we walked along in the rain to catch a cab back to Roald's apartment. It was awesome to be apart of a world record, even if it was in Australia. We said our final goodbye's to Tate and headed to bed for a short sleep before our plane to Singapore the next morning.

That's the end of our down under adventures, next we're on to Southeast Asia for the last 56 days of our trip. We're both definitely nervous and don't quite know what to expect but we are also really excited.

That's all for now but we will update you soon enough on Southeast Asia and how we're adjusting.

Keep the comments coming and remember that we love you all.

xoxox Sarah & Jess

Posted by BlackNels 00:45 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Southbound from Cairns to Hervey Bay

Day 39

sunny 30 °C

Hey guys

Remember us... it's been a little while since we last updated the blog!

We'll start with our arrival in Cairns, Australia. We arrived early in the morning on February 5th and we were immediately hit by the northern humidity and heat (a much different climate than that of New Zealand!). We spent our time in Cairns trying to stay cool while adjusting to the heat. We had a low-key couple of days while we planned out our 20 days in Australia. We celebrated Jessie's birthday on February 6th with a yummy breakfast made by Sarah, consisting of toast with jam, coffee and lots of refreshing and delicious local watermelon. It was certainly a different kind of birthday and we were missing Jess's family and Momma N's chocolate birthday cake, but we managed to make it special and fun. Apart from time spent in our hostel reading and trip planning we occasionally walked around the air-conditioned mall to escape the heat. We also walked up and down the streets of Cairns popping into various markets along the way to the waterfront (which due to box jellyfish was closed off). On our third day in Cairns we set out for a day of snorkelling and scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. We each did an intro-beginners dive and were able to swim with the fish about 12 meters down on the reef floor, it was truly amazing. After our dive we spent a couple of hours in the water snorkelling and viewing the shallow coral and the endless schools of colourful fish and sea life. We finished off the boat trip with a yummy lunch and a couple of hours later we were back on the mainland. We hung out at our hostel that night and stayed awake until we left for our over-night bus to Airlie Beach.

We arrived in Airlie Beach, south from Cairns, just before noon and walked to our hostel on the main street. Jess experienced major dejavu when she realized that she had not only been to the area before but had walked along the exact same street seven years ago with her best friend Keri by her side. Needless to say it brought many fond memories back to mind. The next morning we woke up early and walked down to the marina and boarded the SV Whitehaven, a 72 foot sailboat, for our two night, three day Whitsunday sailing excursion. We quickly got to know our 18 fellow passengers, some of whom were from Vancouver and many others from all around Europe. On that day we enjoyed lunch and snorkelling, followed by beautiful passing views from the sailboat and an awesome sunset. The night began with getting to know our new friends Ruth, Andrew, Abi, Katie, Jono, Kate, Christian, Robin, Dan, Susan and some Germans who kept to themselves. We had an awesome curry dinner and way too much Goon (cheap and disgusting boxed wine popular with backpackers). The next day we woke up early and set out to Whitehaven beach for a walk up to a lookout that gave a 180 degree view of the 98% silicone sands covering the island. From the lookout we could clearly see lemon sharks and manta rays through the crystal clear shallow waters. During our walk Kate, our guide, pointed out an ant native to the island that had an unusual characteristic - when you licked the ants bum your taste buds were immediately met by an intense citrus flavour and for a few minutes numbed both your lips and tongue. Naturally, Jess was the first of the group to voluntarily lick the ants rear-end, upon seeing the smile on her face Sarah soon followed suite... we both loved it! Down on the beach we put on our stinger suits and hung out in the water cooling off and viewing the manta rays and lemon sharks up close. Later that day after lunch we did some more snorkelling and some kayaking and Jess swam with a green-back sea turtle. We finished off that night with another round of Goon and dinner. We woke up after only a few hours of sleep and got back into the water for one last snorkel before sailing back to shore. That night we had another overnight bus to catch to Hervey Bay but managed to get in a few good hours of drinks and partying with our new friends before we left. We tore up the dance floor and ordered lots of cheap drinks before stumbling to the bus depot at 11 pm.

After a rough 14 hour bus ride we arrived in Hervey Bay. We got to our hostel and went straight to our Fraser Island orientation meeting. We quickly made friends with Glen and Becca, who we grouped up with for grocery shopping for our two night, three day 4X4 off-roading Fraser Island tour. It was an early night in preparation for the next three days' exciting adventures. Jess started out in the driver seat of the seven passenger manually driven 4X4. After stalling right away trying to get out of the driveway she got the hang of it and we were on our way. Our entire group consisted of 25 people and our car held us and five Danes, including one very vocal backseat driver. The wild driving began as soon as we disembarked from the ferry on Fraser Island. Our guide Ian was a diamond in the rough. He claimed to hate people and love nature and was also a walking, talking Fraser Island encyclopedia. He drank like a fish and smoked like a chimney and called us all his "possums". He was a red-neck through and through and proved to be the best guide we could have ever hoped for. The driving conditions are hard to explain, driving through soft sand on narrow steep and bumpy roads is absolutely NOTHING like driving through snow. It was a unique feeling to be bouncing around and finding a balance between control and complete disaster. We safely made it to our first stop, Lake Birrabeen. This lake was full of silicone sand, similar to the sand found on the beach of Whitehaven, tea tree oil from the surrounding trees and fresh rain water. Ian instructed his to wash our entire bodies, including our hair and teeth, with the sand and water, claiming it was the best hair and body product. This proved to be absolutely true, our hair, bodies and teeth had never felt better! We stopped at our beach front campsite for the night. We made a bbq dinner with Becca and Glen and began socializing and getting into the Goon with the rest of our new friends. We soon realized that Kings Cup was a universal drinking sport and played a big game with the group. In the morning we woke up and had breakfast and prepared out lunches before setting out in the 4X4's. We drove along the beach for an hour or so and made our way to the Champagne Pools for some relaxing and sun tanning. On our way to Eli Creek we experienced a true Fraser Island traffic jam when six vehicles simultaneously became stuck in the soft sand. Ian had to help out both our drivers and another tour group before we could get going again. We finally got to Eli Creek which hosts some of the most fresh water on the planet, being filtered for 190 years through the sand before surfacing. We floated down the creek alongside fresh water eels and other fish to a large opening where we hung out cooled off. While we were there we saw a young Dingo pup searching for food, the pup came within five feet of our group before some people scared it off. Our second day ended with another night of bbq’ing, Goon and drinking games. We woke up on our third morning ready to escape our sand-filled tent and clothing. We make our way to one of the most famous fresh water lakes on Fraser Island, Lake Mackenzie. We spent a couple hours in and around the crystal clear water washing our hair and teeth with the sand and participating in hand-stand competitions and human pyramid making, an awesome way to end our trip. We had our toughest drive through soft sand on our way back to the ferry but it made for the most fun and scary driving experience of the trip! Once back on the mainland we did some much needed laundry and showering before going to bed in a real bed.

Today we enjoyed our bonus day at Kingfisher Bay Resort back on Fraser Island. We relaxed pool-side and read our books and slept before catching the ferry back to Hervey Bay. Tomorrow we head to Noosa to spend a couple of nights with our friend Roald. Hopefully we can take advantaged of some free internet time and a free tour guide around the city. We'll try to keep you posted and update the blog again soon. In the meantime check out the pictures we have added, they should give you some good visuals for this update.

Love you all and miss you lots,

Sarah & Jess xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 00:00 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

The North Island and Beyond

Day 24

semi-overcast 23 °C

Hello again!

Here we are prepared to update you on what we have been up to on the North Island. We hope you all enjoyed yesterday's post on our South Island tours and that you are keeping updated with our pics!

We'll start from where we left off last, Wellington...

We arrived early on the 28th in Wellington, around 2 am and managed to find a free spot to sleep for the rest of the night. After only about 4 and a half hours of sleep we got back on the road into the city center to find cheap day parking and enjoy all that the city of Wellington had to offer. The drive in was reminiscent of a small scale Vancouver with busy city streets, shops and cafe's on every corner. We parked for the day and headed over to the famous Te Papa Museum for a guided audio tour of New Zealand's history and foundation. After a few hours at the museum we walked around the city for some more window shopping and to plan our next destination.

That evening we set out about an hour north of Wellington to spend the night at a cheap campsite, turns out it was not at all worth it. This took us down a windy, narrow gravel road about 14 KM off the main highway, it reminded me of the bumpy road to the cottage except longer and so much worse. When we arrived we paid $6 each to park in an open field with no running water and stinky toilets. We made the best of it however with our luxury lamb meal. This dinner wasn't exactly rack of lamb, but wow do New Zealanders know how to make a mean lamb sausage!

The morning of the 29th we got the hell out of there and started our drive inland to Taupo. Taupo is beautiful, with a large lake and surfer like atmosphere, it was a great place to spend the day and night. The next day we relaxed for the morning and drove about an hour north to Rotorua where we walked through "Craters of the Moon", an area where naturally occurring steam from bellow the earths surface breaks through the ground and is evaporated into the air. To finish off the day we tried our hand at Zorbing. Zorbing is where two people get inside a large plastic ball surrounded by another, larger plastic ball and get rolled down a steep grass hill. This is a truly hilarious activity, we suggest you YouTube it to get a better idea. We spent the evening in Rotorua and ran into some guys we had sat across from in the Vancouver Airport...small world! We went out with them that night to the local backpacker bar and joined forces with some other fellow Canadians for some trivia,a few games of pool, and 2 for 1 drinks!

The morning of the 30th we packed up and started a long 8 hour drive to Wenderholm Regional Park, about 30 minutes north of Auckland. Not much to say about that, but after such a long drive it was nice to stop for a hot dinner made over our Coleman stove and an early bed time!

The following day we made our way to Whangarei (pronounced Fangeray) and tried to take a look inside a glow worm cave. We were more than unsuccessful at this as we did not have the proper equipment or footwear, but we did get a few pictures outside of it... We continued north to The Bay of Islands where we are currently staying. We have spent the day relaxing in town and tonight we head out on a twilight kayak tour where we can swim in and out of a beautiful waterfall. We will keep you posted on how that goes, it should be amazing!

We head a little further north tomorrow to our final destination, Doubtless Bay where we will have our second meal out in New Zealand - "Mangonui World Famous Fish and Chips".

That's all for now, but we will update again soon! Keep all the great comments and posts coming, we love to read them whenever we get on the computer!

Love and miss you all,

Sarah & Jess xoxox

Posted by BlackNels 16:58 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

The South Island and Beyond

Day 23

semi-overcast 20 °C


so its been a while since we have updated you all. We are now at day 23 and we really don't know where to begin with updates. Since our last post we have seen and done a lot and its been very exciting!

We arrived in Queenstown ( the Whistler of New Zealand) after our 6 hour "Naked Bus" journey and climbed the largest hill with our packs on to "Hippo Lodge" where we had an awesome view of the city...I guess the walk was worth it. Then we went into town to get a taste of the local favourite...The Ferg Burger. We waited in a hefty line for about 15 minutes before we even got to order and then waited another 25 minutes for our number to be called. We experienced the magic of the "The Big Al" and " The Southern Classic" (refer to pictures). We rolled ourselves down to the waterfront after dinner to take in some of the awesome views. The following day we woke up early and went for an hour hike up to Bob's Peak lookout where we had lunch. We took the gondola down to the village where we did some window shopping and touring. Later that afternoon we took a bus ride out to Skipper's Canyon that involved a super sketchy road that most rental car companies do not provide insurance for. We went jet boating through the canyon and had a chance to see where early settlers panned for gold all while maxing out at around 80 KMP and felling the rush of full 360 degree spins.

Next we took the bus to Franz Josef where we hiked to the base of the famous Glacier and relaxed for the evening while watching some of the Australian Open. The next day was kind of a bust becuase we spent the day waiting for the weather to clear for Sky Diving...this never happened.

We then took the bus up to Greymouth to take the scenic Tranz Alpine across to Christchurch where we would pick up our rental car the following day. The train ride was beautiful, taking us through rolling hills and across bridges overlooking steep canyons. You could even stand outside in the lookout carriage which was awesome.

The morning of the 23rd we picked up our "Spaceship" known as OP and hit the road running with lots still to do and see. We headed first to Kaikoura for lunch where we walked along the stony beach and viewed the seal colony from a distance. The we headed in land to Hamner Springs for the night.

From Hamner we made our way up to the top of the South Island to Abel Tasman where we took an impromptu 13,000 foot jump out of a plane with men we hardly knew strapped to our backs. This is more widely known as SKYDVING!!!!!!! From this height we had a 45 second free fall high above the clouds where we fell at 200 KPH. Once the chute was open we sailed the rest of the way back down to earth at an easy 20 to 30 KPH glide. This was by far the craziest thing either of us have done...and we both hope to do it again.

The next day we took a water taxi to Anchorage in Abel Tasman National Park where we took a 4 hour scenic hike back into town. On the walk we saw some amazing blue water and white beaches, it was beautiful.

On the evening of the 27th we took the Ferry from Picton to Wellington, where our North Island journey began.

Stay tuned for our updates on our North Island adventures.

Love and miss you all and thinking about you tons!

Sarah & Jess xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 18:35 Archived in New Zealand Tagged island south Comments (4)

Kiwi Town

Day 9

sunny 23 °C

Wow, New Zealand....here we are!

Sorry it has been so long since our last update, we have been busy with moving from place to place, catching flights and planning like crazy to make our Kiwi experience great!

Just to catch you all up on the past few days...

We made our way down to Nadi on the evening of the 16th and spent the night in a hostel close to the airport. Attatched to the hostel was a restaurant, which was country themed...very unusual and not at all comforting. We stayed in a dorm room where we met two awesome German boys, and chatted with them about their experiences travelling Canada and picked up some tips about couch surfing.

We were up early the morning of the 17th to catch our flight from Fiji to New Zealand and while we were at the airport we ran into some friends (Helena and James), who we had met in LA. While we waited for our flight they gave us some great ideas for South East Asia and some tips for New Zealand and Astralia. We parted ways with Helena and James in Aukland as they were headed by car down to Wellington and we were grabbing a connecting flight down to Christchurch. Before we said our goodbyes we exchanged contact information with them, so hopefully we will see them again soon when we head through Wellington.

Later that evening we landed in Christchurch and got to our hostel, "Around The World Backpackers" to settle down for two nights. Due to a recent earthquake the majority of Christchurch's city center is closed down, so there has not been much to do here for the past two days. This worked out for us as we were in desperate need of some down time to plan plan plan!

Kirsty, one of the hostel employees came to our rescue and layed out a very packed and exciting 16 day Kiwi adventure for us that includes touring both the South and North islands. After about 4 hours of computer time, research, date planning and several hundred dollars we have on our hands quite the calendar of events.

The real Kiwi experience starts tomorrow morning on "The Naked Bus" for a 6 hour ride down to Queenstown...wish us luck!

We will try to update more frequently over the next two and a half weeks as there will be lots to share, and we will also be posting pictures as soon as we get to a computer with access to a USB outlet.

Love you all lots and sending you tons of love,

S & J xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 01:55 Archived in New Zealand Tagged christchurch Comments (6)

Beachcomber Island, Fiji

Day 4


Hey all!

We left early Thursday morning from The Beach House and took the bus into Nadi Town where we caught a boat over to one of the many islands off the coast of Fiji. We arrived at Beachcomber island a little after 1pm and spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach, catching some rays and swimmimg in the blue water. It is truly amazing here. We are on our own little deserted island and it couldn't be better!

After a dinner overlooking the water and sun set we met up with some Aussie friends and partied till the early morning. We shared two 4 litre beer towers and a few games of cards...needless to say our morning was slow.

After breakfast we went out snorkelling and saw some amazing coral, but the excitement was short lived due to the schools of small jelly fish (sea lice) that continued to sting us!

The rest of the day will be spent relaxing and preparing for tonights party!

We head back to the main land tomorrow for our last two days at The Beach House before taking off for New Zealand! We will post more pictures soon so keep an eye out!


S & J xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 17:47 Archived in Fiji Comments (2)

"The Beach House" Coral Coast, Fiji

Day 1

sunny 30 °C

After 16 long hours of travel, which included two plane rides and a two hour journey by bus we have landed in paradise! This place is so amazing. Palm trees everywhere, a beautiful cloudless blue sky, friendly new companions and afternoon tea...it just doesn't get any better!

We arrived here at The Beach House around 9:30am Fiji time and have spent the rest of our day relaxing on the sandy beach. The water is crystal clear and luke warm, such a great way to start the trip!

I don't think it has quite hit us yet that this is just the beginning of our four month journey, but I am sure it will soon. Tomorrow we plan to explore the island on a 4 hour jungle hike and finish the day off with some coconut jewllery making!

So far everyone here has been so welcoming and we already know most of the staff by first name! We have also met some couples from the UK who have given us some great suggestions for the rest of our trip including how to barter our way through South East Asia.

We would write more, but we should really get to stretching for our 4pm beach vollyball game ;)

Check for some new pics we have uploaded of our trip so far!

Love and miss you all...talk soon,

J & S xoxo

Posted by BlackNels 18:30 Archived in Fiji Comments (4)

Our Bags Are Packed, We're On Our Way!

So we're here in North Van at Sarah's house getting ready to set off on our big adventure! We are so excited to get going on this trip and can't wait to share the excitement with all of you!

Thank you for following us on the journey and for all of your support and advice. We look forward to keeping you all updated over the next four months and hope to see lots of action on your end through comments and posts!

Here's to the first of many posts and to lots of excitement and adventure.

Love you all and see you soon,

J & S xo

Posted by BlackNels 16:09 Archived in Canada Comments (6)

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