Sunday, 29 April 2012

Day 36 - A hike through some sewage (Thailand)

We are currently on Koh Phi Phi - one of Thailand's many islands inhabited mainly by guesthouses, restaurants, bars, massage parlours, tattoo parlours, fruit smoothie stands, and of course tourists. Today we thought we'd be a bit adventurous and walk up to the highest point (approx 180m) to the view point, and then back down the other side which is apparently a bit more off the beaten track, and find some quiet beaches. Unfortunately though we got to the top of the hill and realised you have to pay a fee, so we decided to head back down and make new plans. On the way we found a lovely restaurant with a great view, so we stopped for lunch, and during our meal we watched the clouds rolling in on each side of the island. The mist descending on the rock peaks and gradually closing in on us before starting to rain is quite a spectacular sight, and there's something very exciting about sitting under cover and watching the rain fall.

Eventually though we decided we couldn't sit there all day - I don't know why we couldn't, it's not like the place was busy or we had anywhere else to be, but it does feel slightly ridiculous to sit in one restaurant for an entire afternoon - so we made a run for it back to our guesthouse. Denner and I were smart and took our flip flops off, which turned out to be a good move; as we were running along the path, we realised we were actually now wading in a river, and it seems the sewage is nearby and must also be overflowing. Both Tunkles and Ben's flip flops came off in the sewage river and had to be rescued, but eventually we made it home - albeit drenched and covered upto our knees in sewage. I very heroically wrapped my camera in a plastic bag and headed out for some photography (photos will be on our facebook page in a couple of days).

Friday, 27 April 2012

Day 34 - Car accident #1 (Thailand)

A few days ago we had a discussion about who was the most likely to have the first accident. It is afterall bound to happen at some point, hopefully just a ding here and there, but surely we will crash considering the amount of time we will spend driving on hectic Asian roads. Well it turns out that person was to be Denner. There we were minding our own business, driving along a quiet side street 50m from our accommodation, when suddenly out of nowhere a scooter flies around the corner behind us and goes for the overtake. Unfortunately we were stopped to make a right hand turn and consequently he clipped the corner of Trevor's front bumper and went skidding 20m down the road.

We of course pulled over to the side of the road and got out to see that the two riders were ok, as any reasonable person does at the scene of an accident. Considering both of the riders were obviously fine (small grazes on elbows and knees), we assumed that we would hang out with them for a bit, make sure they were ok and everyone would be on their way. But of course every tom, dick and harry that realised there was a commotion came over to give their two cents worth, and after someone continually tried to get us to just hand over some (coverup) cash to which we said no, the scooter rider called the police. We were very impressed with the response time of the traffic police, and the fact that a paramedic was soon there aswell to check out the damage.

As it was quite obviously entirely the other driver's fault - he was overtaking a turning car which had an indicator on, he was on the wrong side of the road, we were stopped, he didn't have a helmet on which is compulsory in Thailand, and to top it all off we found out that he didn't even have a driver's licence - we were quite happy for the police to come and sort everything out properly. We're pretty sure the policeman realised that there was no question of who's fault it was, but still apparently we were suppoesd to pay for the damage to his bike and his "hospital bill". Denner of course being of a gentle character, not to mention the fact that he was the individual who was actually at the wheel at the time of the accident, would have prefered to be dismissed from the scene as quickly as possible, by whatever means necessary. Ben however, being the antagonistic, obnoxious, (insert expletive here) member of the team, was not having a bar of this and decided to go with the scare-them-off method. After yet another cop turning up and a whole bunch of sketch drawing of the scene and other such surely unnecessary things, they seemed to get the idea that we (Ben) was not going to give up.  continued to empty the contents of his wallet into Ben's hands, the grand total of which was 320 bhat (approx AU$10) and US$1. It's not exactly enough to pay for the panel beating of a car bumper, but it's certainly enough to claim victory.

Our first night in a war zone and yet more problems with OPEC. (Malaysia/Thailand)

Throughout the entire of Malaysia, every time we stopped for petrol it involved a battle. As an OPEC country, the government subsidises petrol, but as a result they don't allow foreign vehicles to fill up with anything less than 97. Obviously we weren't about to grin and bear the 1.30RM/L (approx 35 AUc) difference, so we had to continuously be arguing with the petrol pump men to allow us to get the cheaper 95. It usually involved a mixutre of just shouting and saying lots of words and confusing them, and explaining that because this is an old car it only accepts the lower quality petrol, or in Australia cars only accept 95. It always seemed a bit ridiclous, but we got pretty good at it and managed every time. We're sick of OPEC always screwing us about, so although it may seem small, this is our satisfying victory.

Now, for those of you who are aware of our trip planning, you will realise that on the top of our list of concerns are places such as Pakistan and Iran, where our safety will be somewhat questionable. In all of our planning and researching however, we had completely overlooked the fact that wars and violence are not reserved for Central Asia and the Middle East, and in fact the South of Thailand have their own problems. On our first night in the country, we stayed in what seemed to be a very nice town called Phatthalung (where we had that brilliant dinner mentioned in a previous blog). The fact that is was completely void of any evidence of tourism only added to its charm. It was only when we received an email from a friend in Bangkok warning us to keep driving straight through the area that this town is in the centre of, because of an insurgency, that we realised why there were zero tourists there. We've since done some research - albeit a bit late - and found out that Smart Traveller reccommends not to travel there at all. We also of course used the world's most reliable resource - wikipedia - to find out more. Here's the link for anyone who's interested.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Day 33 - A classy hotel, money trouble and a great meal in Phatthalung. (Malaysia/Thailand)

After our beach mishap we had a good couple of days in Penang, staying at the cheapest guesthouse in town. It turns out their main clientelle aren't so much Western tourists, but more of the "ladies"of the night type. Definitely one of the more culturally diverse experiences we've had so far. Not that we're unfamiliar with the idea of prostitutes, we just usually assume they're actually women and we're not really used to seeing the transactions take place in front of the building we will be sleeping in. As it turns out, Malaysia is not as strict a Muslim country as I was led to believe.

When we left Penang we headed for Thailand. Tunkles was getting pretty itchy, looking forward to beer being under $1 each again. Although Thailand is much cheaper for most things though, we knew petrol was going to be more expensive than it was in Malaysia, so we wanted to fill up before crossing the border. However, we had all budgeted so well that we had just enough money for lunch and nothing else. So Ben was to take some money out of the ATM at the shopping centre we had stopped at for lunch. Unfortunately the ATM switched off during the transaction and Ben's card was not spat back out, which was pretty inconvenient. Luckily the lady at the shop right next to us was incredibly helpful and spent a while on hold, trying to ring the bank for us, before eventually organising that someone would come to help us. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Every person in a uniform that walked past we jumped on, but alas we waited some more. And about two and a half hours later, a SafeGuard van pulled up and the lady from the shop told us that was who we were waiting for. So we waited while they got out the car. Except they didn't. They sat there for a while longer, just staring at us. Then about another half an hour later, two ladies in bank uniform rocked up. And they just stood looking at us for a while too. This was starting to get a bit ridiculous. Apparently we were waiting for one more SafeGuard guy, who eventually arrived and opened the ATM up. How many Malaysians does it take to open an ATM?

The Thai border itself was a non-event and we made it to Phatthalung in Thailand. Not before stopping for a beer at the first convenience store we came across, and marvelling at how good it feels to be rich. This is not a place where tourists come, so when we headed out for dinner we found a restaurant where there was not a single thing in anything other than Thai script and nobody spoke a word of English. We were handed a menu when we sat down, and a notepad and pen to write our order on. Obviously having no idea what any of the dishes were, we took it in turns to copy out random lines of Thai. When we eventually finished, the girl came over and looking at our order, burst into laughter. We weren't sure if it was because we had ordered something ridicuous like a bowl of ice-cream, some chilli flakes and an entire pig, or because our writing must have looked like that of a four year old. I'm not sure if we actually got what we ordered, but it was probably our best meal so far, and I believe we have still avoided eating dog.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Follow the link to facebook for some more photos from Malaysia...

Good Samaritan Orphanage, Klang (Malaysia)

My apologies for using an old link when I was speaking about the David Ong and the Good Samaritan Orphanage in Klang. Thanks to my helpful father, here is the link to the most recent website:

Monday, 23 April 2012

Day 30 - Batu Caves, Cameron Highlands and an Interesting night on a beach. (Malaysia)

                With a compass now to assist with the map of South East Asia, we made it to the Batu Caves on Day 25. It’s quite a bizarre place with the amazing natural rock formations rising out of a suburb full of run-down multi-storey apartment blocks, crash repair shops and dingey Indian restaurants. Other than the caves which were very incredible, other sites nearby include Giant – a supermarket chain of British proportions, but full of Asian stuff. Brilliant.

                From there we went onto the Cameron Highlands, which at over 2,000m high provided us with some much appreciated cooler temperatures in some incredible countryside. We spent a great couple of nights at a campsite in the temperate rainforest near the town of     . Tunkles was pretty excited by the countryside and went a bit “bush” or “troppo”, fashioning a bow and arrow with his bare hands from materials he found naturally in the surrounding habitat. When his weaponry was tailored to perfection, he took off his socks and shoes, rolled up his trouser legs and waded upstream in search of fish. Although unsuccessful (we had chicken nuggets for dinner instead), his effort is to be noted.

We explored the area which is predominantly a tea and strawberry growing region, enjoying a cup of Cameron Highlands tea at a teahouse looking out over the valley, and visiting one of the many markets selling local produce. The highlight though was the challenging drive on a treacherous and windy single track road on our way to Mossy Forest.

Our next stop was Penang where we planned on doing some free camping in the National Park. Well the first hiccup was when we found out that the camping area is either a 90 minute hike through the jungle or a 15 minute boat ride – there is absolutely no car access. So we considered this, did some searching around for some other camping spots and decided we would park our car and catch the boat there with all our camping gear. By this time it was dusk so we were anxious to find a spot and set up camp. Then we find out that none of the boats are operating because the tide is low and they’re all stuck in the sand. However, with enough shall we call it guidance, we were able to convince someone to take us to the designated Monkey Beach.

It was a beautiful boat trip around the coast of the island, the sun setting just behind the jungle, but when we arrived things turned a little sour. This was supposedly the main camping beach, and apparently a paradise, but the only other people on the beach were two guys who apparently live there and were total scumbags. The site they showed us to camp on (it was dark at the time, we have then checked it out in the morning) was the worst spot on the whole beach, in long grass infected with bugs and mossies, next to the smelly toilet and constantly running tap. Then they wanted us to pay them for the campsite (free camping in the National Park) and buy stuff from them. We got ourselves really paranoid when they set off on their scooters, thinking we’d in fact been taken to the wrong beach and these guys were off to get their mates to come and take care of us or something. Coupled with the intense humidity inside our tent, this was enough to ensure that sleep evaded us all night.

We had planned on staying for a couple of nights, but convinced that we weren’t even at the right beach, we decided in the morning to take the jungle trek back to civilisation, thinking it wouldn’t be as far as quoted for Monkey Beach. Considering it took us just over the recommended walking time (we were carrying lots of camping gear and I’m a really slow walker at the best of times), and we could see various signage along the path, we realised in the light of day that it probably actually was Monkey Beach, a bit quieter and a lot dirtier and more rundown than expected, and they were just a couple of weird hippies trying to make a buck.

Day 24 - A very brief visit to the fine country of Singapore. (Border crossing Malaysia to Singapore)

We eventually managed to get our car out of Customs at Port Klang, after attempting to figure out the ridiculous system whereby we are responsible for moving the container our car was shipped in to its next location ie. hiring a truck to freight it to another port. Then one of the officials tried to bribe us for yet more money, but luckily we’re all really smart and don’t let anyone muck around with our finances, so he left us alone and we were on our way.

We drove out of the port and with only a map of South East Asia as a navigation tool, headed towards Singapore. The compass was buried somewhere deep in the boot, but fortunately the Malaysian roads are pretty well signposted and made quite a bit of sense. On the freeway they actually don’t drive much unlike Australians – other than the odd undertake and use of the hard edge as a third lane – so it was an easy start to the driving leg of our trip. We stopped at a brilliant truck stop for lunch where we found some funny cheap versions of various liquors. I bought a bottle of something similar to Baileys, Ben got some type of gin and Denner found something claiming to be whiskey.

We had our second experience of the Carnet process at the Malaysian side of the Singapore/Malaysia border, which was much more rewarding than our first experience in Port Klang. The ladies in the Customs office were super duper and we had lots of fun chatting to them while they sorted out our paperwork.

When we eventually arrived at the Singapore side of things –there was a huge bank up and the weather was still shocking - we pulled over at Customs to go and sort out our Carnet, at which point we were asked if we had anything to declare such as alcohol or tobacco. So out came our newly purchased bottles and suddenly they’re all over us asking what belongs to who and if we’ve got anything else (we don’t). Tunkles being the only one who didn’t own any illicit substances, waited with the car while we sat in a dingy waiting room wondering about our fate. After about five years they called us into the next room where we were ushered by a Customs Officer into what I can only describe as a holding cell. The room was about 1m x 1m with no windows and the sliding door was closed on us from the outside. It was at this point that we started to worry.

The same Officer who had shown us into the room returned after a few minutes and began with “The reason you’re here is that you failed to declare taxable substances”. We almost spewed – we had declared it! That’s why we were there in the first place! But as it turns out, by pulling over to sort out our Carnet we had unwittingly driven into the Nothing to Declare queue and therefore, technically, we had failed to declare it. He went on to inform us that we were now liable for a fine of upto $10,000 each or jail. Surely not! But because none of us had been to Singapore since being over 18, they would let us off with a warning. We did however have to choose whether to pay the $200 of tax that was due on the three items, or have them all destroyed. Considering we could make the purchases again more than tenfold for that amount of money the decision was simple, but by this point we were a bit fed up and wanted to know whether we could just do a U-turn and return to Malaysia instead. Apparently this was Immigration’s call, not Customs where we were, so Ben ran off to ask Immigration and returned with the good news that we could. In the meantime Tunkles had been off organising the Carnet in a separate building, so we were all running around frantically trying to let Customs know not to proceed with the already started paperwork for destroying the items, looking for the Carnet to have that process stopped or as it turned out voided, and find each other so that we could communicate all these things.

Eventually we got it all sorted out and our precious items were returned to us. We got back in Trevor and with a very friendly policeman named Rahmon on a bicycle for a police escort, we were able to cut all the way through the Singapore border crossing to do a U-turn back to Malaysia. We had fair few bizarre looks at this point – I don’t imagine it’s often that whilst waiting to drive through the Singapore border, one sees a policeman on a bicycle being followed by an Australian 4x4 cutting across all the queues and driving up one way lanes, eventually passing through all the bollards to enter the other side of the border.

We were very happy to find the same shift on duty at the Malaysian Customs office so we could hang out with them again, and they were very helpful in drawing us a map of Jahor to help us find some sort of accommodation.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Day 24 - Beaurocracy at Port Klang (Malaysia)

Ben and I woke up excruciatingly early - 8 am - to get to the port, which is an hour away, and start the ball rolling on the paperwork front. It was just as well we did too, because by the time we caught the train, found the closest customs building to find out where we even had to go - not a simple process in itself - and then found a taxi that knew where "North Port" is, it was closing in on midday. As it turns out, the taxis in Port Klang don't stop at every white person and call out "taxi?" and sit waiting on the corners for business.

We thought the Customs booth at the entry gate to the port was a good place to start, and they told us we have to go and pay our port charges and then come back to them and they'll take us to our car. That sounded great, and we got hopeful that we might actually get our car the same day. So we followed the Customs Official's directions to the Document Centre, and kept following them, walking through dingy unoccupied streets with empty containers and smashed cars lining the streets. We realised this probably wasn't where Customs had their Document Centre, so we went back to the Official who had given us the directions and he kindly but very begrudgingly took Ben on the back of his scooter. Being Ben's first time on a motorised two-wheel vehicle of any type, he wasn't really sure what to do. The Customs Official wasn't very happy when Ben wrapped his arms around him and rested his feet underneath where he was supposed to rest his, but we weren't very happy with him when he drove Ben in exactly the opposite direction from the directions he himself had given us.

Unfortunately the Document Centre was closed for lunch, so Ben walked back to where I was waiting and we went to another building to verify what Customs had told us. They weren't much help, mainly just making phone calls and speaking to each other and not really telling us anything. So we proceeded to the Document Centre, where we spent the next hour and two things happened. 1. We realised there was no way we were going to get our car that day, and possibly not for a few days. 2. We met our guardian angel, by the name of David Ong.

We had spent the previous hour becoming increasingly frustrated with the officers at the Document Centre who kept telling us we needed a DO, but couldn't tell us what that was or how to get it. They wanted us to appoint a shipping agent, which we knew was only necessary for permanent import and costs hundreds of dollars for the service of them doing all the paperwork - a lot of which we had already organised ourselves. Then they'd make a few phone calls, look through our myriads of documents, speak among themselves and come back to us with "you need DO". We were losing all sanity and were just about getting ready to either burst into tears or punch someone in the face out of sheer frustration, when we heard a voice from a few meters away ask us what point in the process we're upto and offer his help.

We immediately trusted David and a huge weight was lifted from our shoulders when, after we had explained everything we had been through up until this point, he jumped on the phone and organised us a DO. He then got his car and drove us to where we needed to pick up the DO, which as it turns out is from a shipping agency - we just didn't need the full services. He filled in all our forms for us and even leant us some cash when in our ignorance we had assumed that Customs and shipping companies dealing with thousands of RMB a day would accept credit cards, and they didn't.

David then took us to Customs so we could get our Carnet signed and stamped. He doesn't any more, but he worked in shipping for many years, so he had a much better understanding of what had to be done than we did, and did all the negotiating on our behalf. Plus we speaks more languages than just English. We were told to go to about five offices, all over this huge building, up the stairs, back down the stairs, through somebody's office, until eventually we found someone who knew what a Carnet was and got someone to sign and stamp it.

Then we had to go to where the car was located inside the port - which David of course knows his way around. The man in that office told us our container wasn't actually unloaded yet so we had to go back to the Document Centre to pay some charges so that it could be ready for us in the morning. We had to go to an ATM on the way to get cash for this new payment, and of course the first one was out of order and the second one didn't accept our cards. None of these things are located anywhere near each other so David also had to stop for petrol aswell. We got to the Document Centre at 6.30pm (it closes at 7pm) to find out that the man at the port who had filled in the paper saying what we had to pay hadn't signed the sheet. So some more phonecalls were made, but we were fairly confident they'd sort it out before 7pm so they could all go home - and sure enough they did.

After going back to the man in the port so he could sign the document, there was nothing else we could do until business hours the next day. David drove us to the train station and could finally go home to his wife and children.

We hadn't been sure how we could repay him for his kindness, knowing that no money could show how grateful we really were. So when he told us about the Good Samaritan Home Orphanage in Klang that he helps to run, we thought donating money to them would be the best thing to do. They have children from babies up until 18 years old, of all racial backgrounds. If anyone is interested in their work or would like to help, whether it be financially or otherwise, their website is and I'd be happy to put anyone in touch with David directly.

Watch this space for the completion of retrieving Trevor and our adventures in Singapore on Day 25.

Monday, 16 April 2012


 If anybody would like to see some photos of the past 23 days, take a squiz at our facebook page...

Day 23 - A Successful Day at the Automobile Association of Malaysia (Australia)

We adventured to the CBD of KL today to find the AAM (Automobile Association of Malaysia), which turns out to be located in a haphazard shopping centre, full of stalls and kiosks, which seemed like quite a bizarre location for the central branch of the equivalent of our VicRoads (equivalent road transport authority in Victoria). When we found the shop which was no bigger than my living room, hidden around a few corners, up some stairs and behind some stalls, we were greeted by a staff member who kindly gave us a numbered ticket from the machine and asked us to take a seat. This seems like a fairly standard system, except there were three staff and only one other customer and our number was 1003. So we sat down and waited while one of them pressed the button, and 1002 came up on the screen. She looked around the tiny room and waited a few seconds before pressing it again for 1003 to come up. We handed in our ticket and no other customers entered for about an hour. If only it was that simple to be served at the VicRoads in Burwood. They all ended up to be incredibly helpful, even letting me go around the desk to use their internet to find some documents, and in just over an hour we were able to get our insurance and International Circulation Permit approved and issued (both compulsory documents in order to drive in Malaysia).

We rewarded our great work by having lunch at McDonald's in the shopping centre at the Petronus Towers. It seems Malaysia knows how to do fast food - there were about 40 other people in the queue, and yet we were served in 2 minutes, and waited another 1 or so for our meals. None of this "wait while we prepare and cook your food to order" nonsense that seems to be taking over in Australia. This is exactly what I want from fast food.

While we were sitting in the food court enjoying our McDonald's, I enjoyed observing all the different types of people that around and about. We consider Melbourne to be multi-cultural, but this is just something else. There's such an abundance of different types of headscarfs and hijabs and saris, alongside what we consider to be regular business attire and everything in between. There seems to be people from every possible background and culture - Muslim, Arab, Chinese, Western, Indian, plus many more and everything in between. I'm very glad I don't have to wear a headscarf, but some of the colours and styles that we see around are incredible. I wonder for how many women it is an extra accessory and how much it is used as a sign of identity more than anything else.

We have news from our shipping company that Trevor has safely arrived in Malaysia. It's too late today to head out to the port, but that's what we'll be getting up to tomorrow. Luckily we were able to sort out all our paperwork at the AAM today, so hopefully we'll be able to pick him up and do Petaling laps tomorrow (Petaling is the mainstreet in Chinatown, KL - certainly a challenge for most drivers).

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Day 22 - Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

So as it turns out there is a much better link to our article in the Progress Leader... .

We were pretty sad to say farewell to Boracay and Priscillia yesterday morning. Our few fun days in Boracay were filled with lots of adventures. Denner spent an entire day looking for board shorts that would fit anyone other than fat American tourists - turns out skinny Philippinos don't shop at the markets on tourist beaches; we were involved in an accident between the jeepney we were riding in and another jeepney - fortunately we were driving at about 0 km/h (0 m/h), and I don't think anyone except us even noticed; we continued to enjoy our spontaneous present giving that began in Darwin, including Ben gratefully receiving from Tunkles a small jar of lobster and salmon paste, and Tunkles ungratefully receiving from Denner a pretty pink "I love Boracay" sunhat that Ben is now enjoying. I won first injury status by piggy-backing Ben all the way from in the sea to where we were sitting 20m up the sand, but everyone was really impressed so the fact that I now can't really walk properly (back injury) doesn't matter too much. It's also a great way to get our of carrying my own bag. We managed to get ourselves quite a nice room in Boracay, and in it was a television. There were a surprising amount of channels, including an Australian one playing AFL, one that seemed to have around-the-clock cock fighting, and our favourite - the karaoke channel, playing everything from K-pop to J-pop.

We flew Philippine Air back to Manila and enjoyed the luxury of the non-budget airline - it's been a while since I was poured a complimentary cup of coffee and served a biscuit and a bag of peanuts on a flight. Then from Manila we flew to KL on Cebu Pacific, who instead of wishing you a safe or smooth flight, wish you a fun flight. And that it was, with a quiz taking place before take-off. Luckily - and not surprisingly - Ben had done his research and was able to answer a question, winning himself a Cebu Pacific toilet bag. We now know that the best way to make any purchase in the Philippines is with a Cebu Pacific Visa, and are contractually obliged to say so. (Persons must be over 21 to apply.)

On our first day in KL we have covered a fair chunk of the city by foot, and for the first time on this trip had three meals at approximately breakfast, lunch and dinner time. We haven't qiute got to eating cats or frogs or eyes of anything yet (although I'm sure the time will come, and probably soon), but we did sample the famous Century Egg at lunch. We all had a can of soft drink on stand-by, but other than being black in colour and gelatinous in texture, it was actually quite non-eventful.

Tomorrow we have two very important tasks to take care of. 1. Find a laundry to take care of our very smelly clothes. 2. Find the Automobile Association of Malysia and figure out what needs to be done in order to collect Trevor. What a relief it will be to get in our car and do whatever we want, without having to wait for shuttle buses, decipher bus routes, negotiate taxi fares and walk everywhere.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Progress Leader

Well the time has come that we are actually famous - published in a form of media other than our own blog. This week's edition of the Progress Leader has a great article about us and our trip. For all our followers that don't reside in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, you can check it out on the website byt going to this link and then selecting Camberwell as the area. Incase of any confusion though, we are actually picking up our car in Malaysia, not Manila.

We arrived in Boracay yesterday, a small island in the middle of the Phillipines which seems to be tourist land. We left Priscillia in Maila and flew to Roxas, where we landed at the smallest and most non-eventful airport I've ever come across. Then we squeezed all four of us into/onto a tricycle - Ben and I sitting ontop of each other and all four backpacks inside the sidecar, Tunkles perched ontop of the wheel of the sidecar, and Denner standing up at the back. After this exciting form of transport, we had a 40 minute and then a 4 hour bus trip on air-conditioned coaches (the Philipines seems to have quite a comfortable public bus service), eventually arriving at Caticlan where we caught a ferry across to Boracay. We arrived at around 6pm (our first flight was at 10am), and found ourselves some very nice and affordable accommodation in close proximity to the beach. Today's missions are Denner to buy board shorts and going for a swim in the sea.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Day 16 - Manila (Philippines)

Well we have successfully made it to Manila. As it turns out, finding one's way from the airport to the actual city isn't simple, but whilst we were endeavouring to piece together the tiny bits of information we could collect from various pamphlets and people at the airport, we met our new and first travel companion. Priscillia from Amsterdam is the most recent and possibly coolest member of our group. Together, the five of us picked our way across town, first in a coach-like bus, then in a "jeepney" (a converted and often elaborately painted army jeep), and eventually on foot, gathering bits and pieces of contradicting directions and instructions from street vendors, hotel concierges, convenience store patrons and other miscellaneous beings we bumped into. Unfortunately it happens to be Easter Monday today, so no travel agency type places were open all day.

As we really had no plan as to what we would do in the Philipines, we wandered around a bit, checked out a couple of hostels (when we eventually managed to find them - Philipino signage leaves a lot to be desired), hummed and hawed a bit, and ended up booking flights to Boracay for tomorrow, where Priscillia will meet us the following day.

In the mean time we checked into Friendlys Guesthouse in Malate, for a grand total of 400peso (approx AU$8) each, and set off to explore the city. The contrast between the classes is incredible, and in many ways devastating. From our hostel we can walk along the street and see children covered in dirt lying in the gutter, men urinating on their own feet and living areas on the pavement made of soggy cardboard. However, a few hundred meters along this street we arrived at the Robinson Centre. This is a shopping centre that puts any that I have ever been into before to shame in terms of size and flashiness, not to mention security. There were enough shiny things to keep Ben occupied for months, and we all enjoyed a thorough frisking on our way in. After walking a little further we entered the old town, which is made up of run down but still beautiful old buildings. The poverty wasn't quite as striking here, but things such as sleeping or peeing on the pavement or in the gutter seem to be regular socially acceptible acitivites. And just next to the old town is a perfectly maintained exclusive golf course. The divide between rich and poor is just so shockingly evident.

We have now reached a juncture in the early part of the evening where we have to decide what to do with our one night in this city. We probably won't be following in the footsteps of the embarrassingly obvious sex tourists. We were recommended a local restaurant for dinner, but unfortunately we accidentally had a huge lunch at 5.30pm so that seems somewhat redundant at this point. Apparently karaoke is a thing to do, so getting our 80's on might be what's on the agenda. That is if we can tear ourselves from the less-than-a-dollar-a-pop beer we're currently enjoying on the rooftop decking of our hostel, from where we can watch all the happenings of the street, without actually having to move.

In other news, our thoughts are withTrevor who should be in Dili by now. We really can't wait to hear all about his adventures when we meet up again in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Day 15 - The Top End (Austrlia)

According to a survey completed by the NT News to dismiss a previous survey showing that Darwin, as voted by its own residents, is Australia's least liveable city, the things that make Darwinites so happy to be such are: fishing, no snobs, laid back lifestyle, sunsets and markets. Well after ten days in the Top End, we have successfully completed all tasks and can see exactly why people would love to live here.

Having spent a fulfilling week experiencing Darwin life at its best, we decided to take a trip to Kakadu National Park. Instead of booking an expensive bus tour, we hired a car for two days, packed our fishing rods in the boot and stayed in a Bush Bungalow (as seen on Getaway) at a caravan park in Jabiru. The reason we chose this form of accommodation was because it was by far the cheapest, but in fact we realised that it was a great way to experience the flora and fauna of Kakadu. The walls were in fact not walls, but sheets of mesh, and the roof was a canopy, surrounded in trees and shrubs and all sorts of greenery.

We took a river cruise on the beautiful Yellow Water at sunset, where we had the opportunity to experience the unique wetlands on the Northern Territory. We climbed Nourlangie Rock where we had superb views of the surrounding rock formations, billabongs and rainforests. This so far is the most spectacular location at which we have eaten our packed lunches. All the locals seemed to be using the bridges of the 110kmh main highway as finshing spots, so we followed suit, parked our car at the edge of the highway and fished from the edge of the road.

On our way back to Darwin, we decided to drive via Litchfield National Park as we were really longing for a swim in a natural pool of some sort, and all the ones in Kakadu are either croc-infested, flooded, or unable to be accessed during the wet season. We found a beautiful spot where we swam away the afternoon, before returning to the big smoke.

This is now the last day we will spend in Australia until our trip is completed. We have until 1am to get to the airport, and by this time tomorrow we should be in Manila - one country down, sixty or so to go.

If anyone would like a really interesting read on many current and pressing issues, have a look at the NT News. We have found it both informative and invigorating during our time in the Northern Territory.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Day 10 - The desert, the outback and the tropics (Australia)

So we didn't quite make it to Alice Springs on Day 3 (Tuesday) as planned, but as we were stopping for dinner in the delightful town of Coober Pedy, we received concerning news from Ben's mum who had been checking shipping times on the internet for us. Apparently now we had to be in Darwin not by Friday but in fact by Thursday in order to get our car on the ship. This left us about 36 hours to drive 2100km. Over our emu pizza we discussed just getting the next ship and taking our time through Australia, but ended up deciding just to go for this ship.

We drove from 7am until 2am on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and eventually arrived in Darwin hot, sticky and exhausted early on Thursday morning. After having our Carnet checked by Customs, filling in all the paperwork and finding out the myriad of hidden costs, we went to the carwash to get rid of the 3000km of dessert and insects. While we were enjoying the spray of the hoses, we were approached by a couple of men who as it turns out are other overlanders driving from Sydney to France, in Darwin to get their vehicle on the same ship to Malaysia as us. For anyone who's interested, their blog is .

Since the challenge of getting to Darwin in such a short period of time, and then the success of managing it, we have been enjoying travelling at "Darwin speed". We have done a lot of swimming and showering and sitting, with a bit of wandering and looking. We did visit a few markets over the weekend which Darwin seems to be known for, and went to the tunnels that were built during World War II to store oil in. We're loving hanging out up here, and are sort of getting used to the humidity after a few days.