Fuerteventura

"Where the Sun always shines"

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After the long winter months it is always nice to get away for some winter sun. One of the best places to enjoy winter sun in Europe is the Spanish Canary Islands. We decided to visit the less touristy and quieter Island of Fuerteventura.

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When doing our research we were sold on the many beautiful beaches, turquiose water and dramatic volcanic landscape.

We planned to stay in the south of the Island as we felt we would have better access to the more remote areas that we wanted to explore. 

Iberostar Hotels were kind enough to host us during our stay on the island. They have 3 hotels and we were lucky enough to experience two of those hotels.

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After we arrived on the island and collected our bags we went to pick up our rental car. The rental car of choice on the island was the small Fiat Panda. It wasn’t very fast and was terrible climbing the mountain roads but we ended up really liking it. It was also very economical which we really liked.

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We were up extremely early in the morning and by the time we had arrived at the hotel we were very tired. We checked in and headed straight to lunch. The buffet was amazing and the choice of food was incredible. We spent the rest of afternoon strolling along the beach and relaxing by the pool. We had a reservation booked at the hotels Japanese restaurant that evening which we were really excited for.

The food at the restaurant was incredible and the best sushi we’ve ever had. It was fun watching the chef prepare and cook everything. He also experimented with catching games, he would fire cooked pieces of egg at us which we had to try catch in our mouths. Our first day on the island was incredibly fun and we couldn’t wait for our first full day. 

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The next day we were excited to get up and explore the many different options of breakfast. We could have spent hours there, after rolling away from breakfast we decided that we would walk along the beach all the way to a town called Morro Jable. It was a windy day and we thought it would be the best day to walk along the beach see the Morro Jable lighthouse before coming back for some lunch.

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We explored the streets of Morro Jable which were very quiet as everyone else was on the beach front.  The views from the top of town above the cliffs over looking the harbour were beautiful.

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The next day the wind had died down and and it felt really warm. We spent the day exploring many of the beautiful beaches nearby before having lunch. The beaches that we explored in the morning were all fairly accessible and had lots of people enjoying them.

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We knew of a beach under the Jandia mountains on the other side of the island that was harder to get to because of the winding mountain road to get there. This is where we planned to spend the afternoon and early evening. This beach was also one of the reasons we were on the island as it looked absolutely breathtaking.

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The drive along the dusty mountain road was spectacular and at times had Hannah gasping as a 4x4 tried to squeeze past us, it was adrenaline fuelling. Our first site of the mountains rolling into the beach didn’t let us down either, it was everything that we had expected and the weather was absolutely perfect for it.

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It is one of the best beaches that we have ever been to. It is not a beach for paddling in the water though as the waves off of the Atlantic bring big crashing waves in, there are also strong rip currents and so swimming is strongly discouraged. It is one of the most dramatic beaches we have ever seen and combined with the drive to get there makes it spectacular. 

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It was such an amazing end to an incredible day and I would highly recommend this beautiful island and incredible beach.

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After dinner we watched a little tv before sleeping like babies after our busy day. 

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When we woke up we packed our bags as we would be checking out of the Iberostar Fuerteventura Palace and then check into the Iberostar Playa Gaviotas. After we had packed and had breakfast we dropped our bags off at reception and headed to the pool in the Star Prestige area. We had several hours before we could check into the hotel. The weather was beautiful and we spent most of the day relaxing by the pool and sipping pina coladas before finally checking in next door.

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The entire Iberostar complex is made up of 3 hotels the Fuerteventura Palace where we had spent 3 nights was their recently renovated 5 star adults only hotel and was incredibly beautiful. For the next 2 nights we were checking into the 4 star Playa Gaviotas which was just across from the Palace reception. This was a family hotel which meant that it would obviously be more busy. However Iberostar had given us Star Prestige access for the duration of our stay across the two hotels. Star Prestige gave us access to adult only pools and other benefits like restricted seating in the food halls etc. It made the entire experience just that extra bit special.

After spending most of the day lounging and relaxing by the pools on offer at the hotel we decided to head out for the late afternoon before coming back for dinner.

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We went for a walk along one of the beaches a short drive from where we were staying.  We watched the kite surfers and walked across shallow parts of the water to raised sand bar type areas. The wind picked up and after flying the drone over the beach and struggling to get it back because of the increasing wind we decided to call it a day.

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Our final full day we headed off into the mountains. We wanted to explore the inner parts of the island. It quickly became apparent that it was very barren, dry and beautiful. We were also looking for great new places to run. Most of the roads on this part of the island were new and had to weave their way up and around the mountains. It was perfect to get out and explore from foot. We found some incredible roads and viewpoints looking over the old volcanic landscape. 

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After exploring the mountains we headed to some traditional little towns, they were so beautiful and looked as though they hadn’t changed for a very long time. We had lunch in a beautiful little place that felt very rustic.

Fuerteventura is an incredible place to explore and we loved the endless hot summer days that the island had to offer, mix that with beautiful mountains and incredible golden beaches with turquoise water and its a winner!

The Lake District with Another Place, The Lake Hotel

"You may leave the Lake District, but once you’ve been, it’ll never leave you…”- Anonymous

We were invited to come and stay at Another Place the Lake hotel perfectly placed on the bank of Ullswater which is England’s second largest lake in the Lake District National Park. Another place had organised a weekend full of activities for us and we couldn’t wait to get up there and see what was in store.

The drive to Another Place The Lake was just under 5 hours from where we live which is just North of London. We arrived in the evening and carried our bags through the beautiful doors of the Georgian main building. The staff were extremely friendly and and our first impressions was that we felt right at home.

We were shown to our room on the top floor of the new contemporary wing. It was beautifully secluded and peaceful. The double glazed doors backed out onto the gorgeous gardens and views out onto Ullswater and the hills surrounding it on the horizon. We had one of only two beautiful rooms on the top floor and the design details of the room were beautiful, functional and most importantly comfortable.

The next morning we had the best start to the day having breakfast with a choice of fresh waffles, fruit, yoghurt, cereal or even a full English if you felt like treating yourself! After breakfast, we went to explore the beautiful grounds and found some rabbits along the lakes edge. We then headed off full steam ahead on the Ullswater Steamers boat to take us to Howtown, as we were steaming along the water we watched the birds gliding low to the water just as the rain started to come down. On our way to the top of Hallin Fell we passed many sweet little lambs and we found an epic viewpoint over looking Ullswater. We got soaked to the bone (check out Hannah’s 6 pack in the photos below), but it was well worth it and we managed to get down and run to the pier just as the return boat was about to moor! We did a quick pit stop at the hotel and changed into dry clothes before heading back to Pooley Bridge town for lunch. We had seen a little cafe called ‘Granny Dowbekins Tearooms’ there which served fresh food and was a reasonable price. We needed a hot dish to warm us up and had tomato soup with some oven baked bread which was perfection and to top it all off they also made their own gingerbread so we had to give that a go.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool and the outdoor hot tub. It was the perfect place to relax after a busy morning. Time for dinner and and we both chose the shepherds pie and it was honestly one of the best meals we’ve ever had. The flavour was perfection and the mash on top had a gorgeous crispy layer we couldn’t fault it! I could have easily eaten another dish of it but we had an appointment with the RSPB Haweswater to watch their Badgers; Beatrix, Porridge and Gremlin. The hide was dug into the ground so that you could see them much better and looking through the hole they got so close you could hear them munching, what an experience that will stick with us for a long time.

After another tasty breakfast, we ventured to Lowther Castle to hire some bikes. A hail storm hit just as we arrived at the Castle and for the first hour of our ride we were rained on by heavy showers. We were almost about to give up when we decided to follow another route. As we cycled along a river the sun came out and we explored the most beautiful paths which looked right out of a fairytale and made our way to Askham fell with dramatic skies and a fantastic ride downhill! We were very lucky with the weather and the riding was fantastic.

We were having so much fun on our bikes we’d almost forgotten the time and raced back to get ready for our paddle boarding lesson with Adrian at the Sheep Shed. They provide you with everything you need including wetsuits, life jackets and of course a paddle board and paddle. Adrian was awesome, laid back, the sun came out whilst we learnt to keep our balance and do a couple of tricks it was an amazing experience paddle boarding on the Ullswater with him - definitely recommend doing this even if you’re unsure which Hannah was!

We had been up since 7am and tiredness had started to kick in, which was perfect timing for our scheduled massages. The treatment rooms at Another Place were calm and very relaxing. We have had a fair few massages and once you have a great one it’s really hard to top it or compare but we can honestly can say that these were the best massages we have ever experienced, even the lady before us said the same thing! We both kept drifting in and out of sleep and we were so relaxed we sleep walked back to our room. It was such a great way to end a long day full of activities.

Our last evening was spent eating in the Rampsbeck restaurant for a 3 course meal. Hannah had lamb and I had venison, the quality and flavours of the food were fantastic. After dinner we went back to our room and reluctantly packed as we would be getting up early again in the morning. 

The morning light was soft and the water was calm and had a glass like reflection, it was so peaceful watching the birds dancing above the water. After capturing some video and photos we headed back for our last breakfast. For our last day we planned to hike Helvellyn and meet up with my mum and Derek for the hike as the weather was perfect. We met at the carpark (basecamp) in Glenridding and started out at 10 am and walked upwards towards Stridding Edge. As soon as we got up and over the first section we could see Helvellyn and Striding Edge. The walk had breathtaking views and walking over Striding Edge definitely got the adrenaline pumping. The views from the top carried on for miles with rolling hills, trees and lakes. The Lake District stole our hearts, it reminded us what we loved about Scotland and we will be planning our trip back soon!

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Iceland Expedition

"The Land of Fire and Ice"

Midnight sun in 2015

Midnight sun in 2015

In 2015, we had a 24 hour stopover in Iceland on our way to Canada. We rented a 4x4 and headed off to explore the golden circle under the midnight sun. It was a photographers dream, constant sunset colours for hours on end. We first stopped off at the blue lagoon which cost 30 euros each. Prices since then have more than doubled (the cheapest price I could find was 60 euros after 8 pm). A day slot would set you back 75 euros which includes the use of a towel and a premium option of 100 euros per person where you get the option to book a table at their restaurant. Iceland’s tourism has boomed over the last couple of years, creating a massive demand for it’s iconic attractions whilst trying to preserve this dramatic and beautiful landscape that we all came for in the first place. The increased pressure this has put on limiting tourists and restrictions in some areas comes as a reminder of the challenges from tourism that come at a cost and that we should always remember to leave the environment as we found it.

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Midnight sun 2015

Midnight sun 2015

After smothering ourselves in pure white silica mud, well-known for it’s skin care qualities including skin renewal and deep cleansing properties we explored the lagoon for the hot-spots of warm water. We were blown away by the beauty of the midnight sun and we vowed to return someday and make it a longer trip!

Blue Lagoon 2015

Blue Lagoon 2015

Fast forward 3 years to when that vow was kept to return to the island of Fire and Ice. It was our dream to explore the island by a camper van and CampEasy Iceland made it a dream come true. We took the Easy Big camper on an adventure of a lifetime and it was epic.

Day 1

Our flight was delayed by a day, which pushed our plans back giving us less time than planned and we couldn’t pick up the camper till the next day. We now only had 4 and a half days to explore this country as much as we could. When we arrived at Keflavik airport we travelled to the BMI bus terminal in the capital Reykavik where we stayed the night.

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Day 2

CampEasy were awesome enough to send a driver to pick us up from our hotel. We then waited in their very comfortable office watching videos of previous travellers on the TV which really got us excited to get going before a team member helped us get everything ready for the van and handed us the keys. CampEasy have this amazing idea in their office, it is a corner where on returning people can leave any food and other items (spices, washing up liquid etc) that they no longer need and new campers can pick these up. It saved us a fair bit of money because we were able to get all the pasta, rice and other essentials that we needed for free! It was such a fantastic idea, we loved it and also a great way to reduce waste.

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Our first stop was the Bonus supermarket  (drunk looking pig) to get the other items of food that we needed. We had brought some dry foods with us from the UK as it was cheaper. These were things like soup sachets, noodles, hot chocolate sachets, porridge sachets etc. Bonus seemed to be the best value for money.

The weather was beautiful and sunny and we were heading to the first of two waterfalls, Selijalandfoss. In comparison to 2015, the were so many more tourists, we aren’t fans of big crowds and only made a quick stop. Most car parks you have to pay and for this one we had to pay 700 Icelandic Krona. The sheer size and volume of water was incredible, we got a bit wet from waterfall spray!!

Skogafoss was the next waterfall and is famously featured in the movie Walter Mitty (one of our favourites). Flying the drone over the top of the waterfall was insane experience. The sheer volume of water coming over into the pool kept fogging up my lense. I must have wiped my lens so many times before the wind changed direction slightly to capture the moment. Being mesmorised by Skogafoss we had lost track of time and had one more stop before calling it a day. After making some dinner in the camper, we hiked to the Solheimasandure plane wreck before sunset (you used to be able to drive but there are concrete blocks in the track). We power walked and managed to do it in about 40-45 mins getting there just as the sun had dipped below the horizon. On the walk back the sky taunted us with a glimmer of the Northern Lights but the moon was almost full and bright which stopped a special show that night.

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Day 3

After being teased by a glimpse of the northern lights and full of excitement, I woke a couple of times in the night to see if they were there but the moon was just too bright. I set my alarm for sunrise to trek to the plane crash before the crowds. When my alarm went off I jumped out of bed and looked out of the window to see several groups of people already getting ready to hike to the crash. I switched tactics and decided to fly my drone from the carpark to the plane. It was a couple of miles away but fairly flat. I managed to get there safely and capture some footage of the plane with no one around and as I flew back to the car park I could see the groups of people on the trail with a fair way to go still, whilst I slipped back into bed.

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We made breakfast and cleaned up before heading off to a couple of black sand beaches and the small town of Vik. We made a pitstop at the local supermarket to grab a few snacks before hitting the road again and heading off to find some glaciers.

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We first aimed for one of the smaller looking glaciers on the map. We had to turn down a fairly rocky bumpy road but were eventually rewarded with the most magnificent glacier with crevasses running all the way through it, it was like a huge monster had dragged its claws along the ice creating massive beautiful scars. I was even tempted at one point to try and fly into one of the deep crevasses but Hannah was there to stop me loosing the drone. The light was falling quickly and we made our way into the national park to find a campsite and have a lovely warm shower and get into our comfy pjs.

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Day 4

We woke to heavy heavy rain and had to sprint to the camp site showers and back. Luckily we could leave the heating on in our van and so it was nice and cosy once we got back inside. That was the great thing having the camper that it was our refuge from the storms outside when the bad weather hit. After some breakfast we filled our water tank up and were on our way.

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We drove to the Ice fields where the glaciers would carve into the lake. We braved the wind and rain and watched the icebergs float by and also spotted some seals! I picked up a smaller lump of ice near the shore of what was probably a very old piece of ice. We then ran back to the van as we were now being battered by the weather. Hannah then drove the 10 minutes or so up the road to a larger ice field with huge icebergs which could make their way under a bridge and out into the ocean.

After about 10 minutes of being there the weather broke, the clouds blew over and blue sky appeared. We had lunch and then decided that we wanted to drive to a beautiful looking beach near the small fishing town of Höfn. However, we were a little bit annoyed at finding that we would have to pay to see this beach when we arrived. The weather was too windy to drone so we decided to head back west. That evening we made it back to the glaciers where we found an off road parking area with no signs saying we couldn’t camp. We closed the curtains, made dinner and jumped into bed.

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Day 5

I was always very wary of the new strict rules about no wild camping in Iceland that came into force in 2016 or 2017. This always led to a broken sleep as I imagined a police man knocking on our van door and slapping us with a big fine. This luckily never happened and after looking online and seeing plenty of people saying that in parking areas where there wasn’t any restrictions tended to be ok. I was lying there awake though and every now and then thought I heard another vehicle pulling in. Eventually one did pull in and I noticed it was a park ranger. We were right on the edge of the national park and I thought '“here we go!” I quickly got up and opened the curtains and made it look as though we hadn’t been sleeping there. After about 5 minutes they left and we quickly pulled away to escape.

Our plans for the day were to make it back to the town of Vic for a short pit stop to use the toilets, refuel etc. We’d heard of some hot springs in the river not far from the town of Selfoss. Instead of joining the crowds at the blue lagoon we wanted to find a more traditional way of relaxing. It was a little complicated to find, but after speaking to a few people we were on the right track. We hiked into the mountains for just over an hour and then we were rewarded with the most beautiful hot spring river with an incredible mountain back drop to relax in.

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The hardest part was being brave enough to get out of the water and stripping down in the middle of the mountains to put warm dry clothing on again. We then got caught in a hail storm on the way down the mountain and were totally soaked through and very cold. Our van was so inviting when we came over the hill and saw it waiting for us. We jumped into the back and got changed into some lovely dry clothes.

We found a lovely little campsite not far away for the evening and the owner even let us use the hot tub which we had all to ourselves. The rain picked up and once again we faced the same problem though of not being brave enough to get out because of the icy wind.

Day 6

We had passed by so many beautiful icelandic horses and found a herd on our way back to Reykjavik. Our morning was spent exploring the streets of Reykjavik snd trying out the local grub before heading back to the CampEasy offices to drop off our fellow travel companion.

We love this beautiful country and all it has to offer. It really is a photographers dream, if we return we would love to venture around the west fjords and find some less known treasures. The best thing to do is to hire a camper from a company like CampEasy and head into the wild.

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Scotland

"THE LAND OF LOCHS AND MUNROES"

Ask any traveller and they always have a place that calls to them and for us that place is Scotland. The fresh air and mist against your face, the vast Lochs and endless Munroes (mountains) always keeps us coming back for more. We love how we can drive 20 minutes to our local airport jump on a 55 minute flight and be on our way to the highlands within 30 minutes of landing in Glasgow. It is the perfect escape for us and we’ve often questioned why we just don’t pack up and move to Scotland.

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We have been to Scotland in the Spring and summer and this time we travelled to Scotland in the Autumn and it felt like the perfect time to travel to the Highlands. The weather was still very good and there were no midges at this time of year. On our recent trip we had 1 wet day out of 5, I would take those odds anywhere in the world. The autumn colours and moody skies created a colourful and dramatic backdrop. It really is a unique and wonderful place to explore. The Harry potter filming locations are fun to find and visit and if you have the time to visit Edinburgh it’s a city that has so much to offer.

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We wanted to be more mobile than some of our previous visits to Scotland. After our recent trip to Iceland where we had a campervan we decided that getting a camper for Scotland would also be the best option. We got in contact with Rockin Vans and they were willing to let us use their Midsize Motorhome (Fiat Ducato Swift). Their service was excellent and made the whole rental process a breeze.

The Midsize motorhome was the perfect choice for us being spacious but easy to drive. When we landed in Glasgow we were met by a member of the Rockin Vans team who dropped the van off to us. We then found a 24 hour Asda to stock up on food supplies and a quiet park nearby to pull in and sleep for the night. When we stopped it was super easy to set up for the night. We pulled all the blinds closed, set the bed up and we were all set.

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We woke up to a little wind and rain but as we were leaving Dumbarton, heading through Loch Lomond National Park on our way to Glen Coe it soon cleared up. Glen Coe is one of our favourite places on the entire planet. Nothing welcomes you to the Highlands of Scotland like Glen Coe does. We could spend months hiking and exploring this area as it is vast and feels endless once you get off of the main road. Down a single track we found a heard of deer. One of the Doe’s let me feed her grass while the others watched, the big Stag kept bellowing out a rutting call to another Stag that we could hear just down in the valley.

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We drove further down the road until we couldn’t go any further around the loch. Hannah took a nap for a while and I watched an adventure group finishing off a canoeing trip. Night was approaching and we didn’t really want to spend the night in our current spot. We didn’t really want to be driving our van on the mountain road after dark so we left to find a camp spot with a good view of Glen Coe for the morning.

We loved how easy everything was and after finding a great spot we soon had our dinner cooking on the stove.

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We had some wind and rain through the night and woke up to mist and low clouds over the mountains, it looked very moody and beautiful. We drove further into Glen Coe and hiked around where the 3 rivers meet. Once we hiked down from the road we were pretty much the only ones there. People stop off at the view points but don’t really go much further than than.

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Later that afternoon we drove and found the location where Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter was filmed. It was a beautiful little spot over looking a loch. We managed to get back to the van just before a shower hit. We had beautiful weather for most of the day and didn’t mind the odd little bit of rain. Our van was warning us that our fresh water was low and so our mission became somewhere we could fill up the water tank.

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We found a small petrol station but the man said that their water was going to be turned off till Tuesday. He asked where we were going and we said Fort William. The man said the Morrisons petrol station in Fort William had water. The rain was now coming down pretty hard and then sun had set. We had a pretty fun drive to Fort William and when we arrived at Morrisons the staff at the petrol station were kind and moved their van to allow us to fill up with water. It was a slow process as we had to fill up a 10 liter jug with a small spout and slowly pour it into the storage tank. This would obviously be much quicker and easier with a hose. I decided to cut a hole in the top of the jug to stop gluggling and also the water wasn’t flowing due to suction. The hole made a big difference (sorry morrisons your jug now has a hole!)

We found a little spot just outside of Fort William to stop for the night. We’ve never ate so well on a camping trip. In Iceland we had a tiny single burner and the food there is so expensive that we took a lot of dried things to cook with us from the UK. On this trip we had cooked pies, fajitas, Chilli and other good stuff. It was just so easy in our Rockin Van.

We spent the evenings editing photos and watching season 2 of Making a Murderer (He’s gotta be innocent right?)

As soon as we closed the blinds in the van we forgot that we were in a camper and the world outside disappeared. We were nice and warm with our heating and slept well.

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Our plan for the day after waking up and having breakfast was to see Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Viaduct where they filmed several scenes in the Harry Potter films. The views across Loch Shiel were breathtaking. We love this area of Scotland and the Glenfinnan Viaduct is one of our top rated places to visit.

The sides of the mountains around the viaduct at this time of year are a burnt orange colour and look incredibly beautiful. Despite the good weather there wasn’t many people there which was great for finding clean back grounds in our photos. From walking around in the wet grass Hannah picked up a tick. This is the second time she has had one in Scotland. They are pretty easy to remove but its always worth checking yourself after walking through wet grass especially the longer grass.

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We had been in contact with Robbie from Portavadie resort and spa set on the shore of Loch Fyne. He had invited us to come and experience the facilities that they had. We were very excited as the remote setting looked like the perfect place to relax for a day.

We drove down from the Glenfinnan area during the night and found a mountain side spot to camp not far from Portavadie. The next morning we woke with beautiful views over the Lochs and after we had finished breakfast and packed up we headed to the spa.

We met Robbie and his team who showed us around before leaving us to relax and enjoy the beautiful setting and facilities. The downstairs section of the spa is open free of charge to the local residents which is a really cool idea. There is a large outdoor infinity pool overlooking the Loch and a couple of outdoor jacuzzis. There is also and indoor steam room and pool.

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We were told by Robbie that it would be fine to take some photos for this blog and Instagram. We are always very subtle and careful when taking our photos especially in this setting. As we were there early there was only one group of girls in one of the jacuzzis. We were able to quickly get some photos in the Infinity pool without disturbing anyone. There is a no photo policy at the spa which was not a problem as we had special permission. However, the girls saw us taking a couple of photos and for the next 30 mins they were jumping into the pool and taking photos of each other. They were disturbing a lot of the other guest (who had arrived by this point) and eventually someone complained. Just as we were taking a couple of photos in the jacuzzi one of the managers came and told us off. We tried to explain that we wernt’t causing the disturbance and that we had special permission from Robbie. At that point one of the guests said that “social media was just and excuse to be a peadophile” We were pretty shocked by this and quickly left the down stairs part of the spa for the limited access upper section of the spa (we are sure the guest didn’t understand the word he used as we were taking photos of each other as a married couple).

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The upstair section was beautiful with a steam and sauna room and a hydrotherapy pool. The views overlooking Loch Fyne were beautiful and the perfect place to sit and relax. We also had the entire place all to ourselves all day.

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We had a massage in the afternoon which was perfect. The heated massage table made us both fall asleep and we felt super relaxed after. It was one of the best massages we have ever had.

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We were invited for dinner at the marine restaurant over looking the harbour. The choices of meals on the menu had our mouths watering and we both ended up choosing the steak. The food was cooked to perfection and the staff were very friendly and made the whole experience enjoyable. We were both so full afterwards we had to be rolled out. We had had the perfect day at Portavadie. We loved our time there and both felt extremely relaxed and ready for our final day in Scotland.

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We woke the next morning to rain and lots of it. We had been very lucky so far that there had only been a couple of light showers over the previous few days. We had to drive back to Glasgow to catch our flight home. We stopped off a couple of times on the way to walk and get some photos. Our boots that Merrell UK had provided us had done very well with the conditions but eventually after one deep boggy puddle too many I felt my right sock starting to get wet. This was Scotland at its best. We stopped on the shore of Loch Lomond for lunch before heading back to the airport at our agreed drop off time.

We had a few hours to kill before boarding our flight and grabbed some food from the Tesco in the airport. We love Scotland, it is so beautifully rugged and it feels so vast. You really feel like you can escape when you head up into the highlands. Combining those feelings with the freedom of our Rockin camper van we truly could get lost and be a part of nature.

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Welcome to the Himalayas

I think this was the country I was most excited about for many reasons...but I think mainly it was the possiblilty of trekking in the Himalayas! We flew from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to then catch our flight to Kathmandu. That day our flight was delayed and we weren't sure why, then I got a message from a friend asking whether we were near Kathmandu airport and that she was scared we had been in the crash that had literally happened a few hours before. My heart sunk and I was completely saddened by what had happened a plane had skidded off the runway and caught fire causing most people on board to die. Thoughts ran through my head like that could've been us and I'm so lucky that I have friends who care about me. All the excitement was forgotten for that moment. 

Arriving in Kathmandu

The airport was so small and there were no ATMs so we got into the taxi and asked him to stop off at an ATM on the way to our guest house. The place we were staying at was in Thamel and was blocked off to cars so we had to walk the rest of the way with our expedition bags, avoiding potholes, piles of stones and anything else we couldn't see in the dark! When morning came, we went out to explore the streets but most importantly get the last couple of items that we need for our hike into the Himalayas. We'd heard that Kathmandu is a great place to find all the bits you need and also at a good price. We rented sleeping bags, water bottles, warm yak wool hats, water tablets etc. Then the tricky part was budgeting how much money we would need for the time we would be trekking as there wouldn't be any banks in the mountains! We also got our permits for our hike and a map and of course we didn't forget some snacks. We would only be taking our smaller rucksacks on our hike for the next week and a half. We were able to leave our bigger bags in a store room at the guest house.

The following day we caught a 10 hour bus to Pokhara which was the bumpiest ride of our lives - no joke. Jonny and I were constantly slipping off our seats and there was no way you could sleep a wink! The bus took us along mountain passes which were conjested with traffic, trucks carrying goods from India and Nepal decorated in colourful paints and musical horns. We then got a taxi who took us to the wrong place which we didn't realise till we got to the reception and they were like you don't have a booking, so we had to walk to our place which was a tad annoying but hey we eventually found it.

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The town of Pokhara was huge and busy but also somewhat beautiful surrounded by mountains and a lake. This place has been made popular due to it's position as the gateway to the Himalayas and some of the most beautiful peaks and valleys in the region. We spent the rest of the day exploring the town and found a little pizza restaurant on the lake which served amazing pizzas. We got an early night as the next day we would be starting our trek.

Hiking to Annapurna Base Camp

Day 1

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 We got a local bus to Phedi, vendors would jump on and sell fruits and vegetables. One lady bought a large bag of oranges and shared them around. We were the only ones to get off the bus at Phedi, where there was road construction going on and it wasn't very clear where to find the path. A local taxi guide showed us where to go and we were then followed by our first beautiful Himalayan mountain dog.

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We carried on up some very steep steps which took my breath away and there was a lady at the top selling chocolate. The views from up here were out of a painting, rice terraces on the side of mountains outshines those we'd seen in Bali, farms were perched on these hills with views reaching over the valleys. Our first stop for the night was Dhampus, kids were walking home from school smiling and laughing. 

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The place we decided to stay had a small Himalayan pup who couldn't help but nibble at my legs, and made a hole in my leggings. We ordered some lovely hot Nepalese potatoes and then watched the storm roll in, it was fierce!! We wrapped up into our sleeping bags to warm up and the lighting flashes were so bright and the thunder echoed in the valley below. Our sleep was broken every now and then from a clap of thunder but the last two days had been busy and we soon feel asleep.

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Day 2

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We woke up in the morning to the most incredible sunrise and the panoramic mountain views before us were just wow. It was overwhelming at how big they were compared to the Alps.

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Then we set off for our first day of proper hiking as it had only taken a couple of hours the day before. We passed our first permit check point and had pancakes as a snack with a picture perfect view.

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Then we wondered through Rhodendron blooms and passed mountain monkeys playing in the trees which led us to a beautiful village on the edge of a hill. We stopped at one house and asked to look at the rooms most of the them are all fairly basic and looked good so we sat down on the bed and then realised there were no plugs which we needed to charge our camera batteries, we explained that we couldn't stay and the lady then blocked the door and said you will have to pay 500 anyway, we said sorry no we cannot pay that and she said you must pay as you have messed the bed, we had just sat on the bed not rubbed our dirty feet or anything else on the bed. We then told her we would be back for food which she smiled and let us out. She really scared us and we ran as quickly as we could to the next place which was so much nicer and the people much friendlier. We understood that this lady was perhaps desperate for business but her reaction only put us off more than being willing to help her.

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We spent that evening watching the local guides playing cards, playing with more Himalayan mountain dogs and watching an incredible sunset. 

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Day 3

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We were the first ones to get up and watched the sunrise as a table was set up for breakfast. We had wonderful warm cups of hot chocolate and porridge to keep us going. We set off and the walk was really pleasant, we crossed suspension bridges and beautiful waterfalls and followed the river down the valley. Prayer flags were drapped over the suspension bridge and the wind swooshing down the valley made them dance. 

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The distance wasn’t as great as the previous day. But the steep decent and the previous day had tired our knees out and made the hike feel just as long. By the end of the day though we both felt that we were getting into the rhythm of the trek and the views that we faced all day made the miles and hours tick along.

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We had heard about the famous sugar momma who cooked delicious chocolate cake and pizza. She had one of the last tea houses in Chomrong. We stopped at most of the to ask about prices and some of the rooms had fantastic views. However we pushed onto Sugar Mommas and she offered the cheapest room with plugs and the best food. We were happy thats he also threw in a hot shower for us. It really was just boiling water pouring out of the shower. We placed ourselves with it and quickly got dry as the weather was creeping below freezing. The buildings were not insulated and it quickly got very cold. We wrapped up warm ate our dinner and then jumped into our thick sleeping bags for another early night and another 6am start the next day.

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Day 4

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We woke to our alarm at 5:30 and did the usual check on the sunrise before finally crawling our of our sleeping bags. Our morning routine consisted of packing, eating breakfast and photographing/filimg the sunrise. We were usually the first hikers up and ready to leave as we wanted to avoid any potential of an afternoon rain storm. We also had the clearest views in the mornings before the afternoon clouds rolled in. Our average pace over a mile was now slightly slower than our first full day in the mountains and it was a much better pace for us. We were covering less miles a day but felt like our knees and legs could sustain this type of trekking for a lot longer than the fast pace.

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Today was a day of steps though. We left our guest house climbing all the way dow hundreds of steps to the river, across a bridge and then right back up the other side and higher up hundreds of more steps. We knew on the way back down the mountains this was going to be very punishing.

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Day 5

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Today was the day that we were going to reach our first base camp. We would be aiming for Machapuchare base camp today before our final hike the next day to Annapurna base camp. Machapuchare had become our favourite mountain on this trek, it had been visable after the first nights storm and its unique shape made it stand out. We got away fairly early after breakfast and packing and pushed on up the valley which felt like it was now closing in around us as the mountains got taller and we climbed higher. We had heard a couple of days before that a British hiker had fallen off the trail only to be rescued at the last moment by his guide. We knew that there had been storms at night and guessed that there might have been a heavy dumping of snow. We had been told that we might possibly want to hire some micro spikes for when we got up too the base camps. With the mixed reviews that were coming from hikers we decided to get the spikes just incase.

Mid way through the day we reached where the snow was. It wasn’t thick at all on the trail but we were still a little way from the base camp and knew that Annapurna could be coated. We were cautious of avalanches and knew that our early morning starts would get us past any chutes before the sun started to melt the snow.

The views back down the valley were incredible and all morning the helicopters thundered up to base camp echoing off the walls of the mountains.

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The cloud moved in quickly in the afternoon and at around 2pm not far from MBC we were walking in thick cloud. We couldn’t see very far ahead of us and there were now a couple of different trails to choose from. Initially we chose the wrong one and spent some time checking our maps and making sure we got it right. The altitude and tiredness was now taking effect and we wanted to get to base camp for a warm drink and food before our final push the next day.

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We arrived at MBC at around 2:30pm and dropped our stuff of in one of the rooms before filming some of the clouds rolling past the mountains which looked amazing sped up. We ate some good food but both had a slight headache from the altitude. We drank plenty of water before bed. A couple of the girls who had walked periodically with us were really suffering with headaches and we gave them a little advise on what to do and if it got worse then they should defend the mountain.

After a hard day we were very ready for bed and the prospect of being at Annapurna sanctuary the next day.

Day 6

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For the first time in a week we didnt get up at 5:30am and had a little bit of a lie in and easy morning. We were woken by the roar of a helicopter landing on the pad right outside of our front door. It was a great start to the day. The hike from MBC to ABC was only a couple of miles but we spent a lot of time stopping to film and photograph the helicopters as they were not very close and also a group of mountain skiers who were on the sides of the slopes between MBC and ABC.

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After finally arriving at ABC we went straight past the que of people wanting to get photos next to the base camp signs and dropped our gear off in one of the rooms before heading back to the signs which was now much quieter to get our photos and videos. We then went and grabbed some lunch. For the rest of the day we either relaxed and read our books or were a little bit further up than base camp making sure we got all of our photos and videos that we wanted and needed.

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It was absolutely freezing and now that the sun was setting it was getting colder and colder. We got the last few sunset photos before calling it a day and heading to bed. We wanted to get up early enough to watch sunrise over Annapurna one which is a 8000m mountain.

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Day 7

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After watching the sunrise hit the tops of the mountains and then gradually fill base camp with warm light we had breakfast and then we spent some time watching the helicopters land and takeoff before finally packing and getting ready to defend the mountain.

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We decided that we were going to skip a couple of days on the way back and try to reach Chhomrong (Sugar mommas) by the end of today We knew it was a long way but it would leave a final short day after that and seemed like a good plan.

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We were on the go for almost 10 hours with breaks and short rests. It was pretty much down all day and by the time we reached the steps leading to Chhomrong our legs were almost broken. We knew when we left Chhomrong on our way to ABC that this section would be tough at the end of any day. We didn’t expect it to be at the end of a 14 mile/10 hour day. It very almost broke us and each step made our knees feel like they were about to break.

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We had told Sugar Momma that it would be Jonny’s birthday when we next passed through and she remembered and had even baked some of her delicious cake. It felt even better after this mammoth day.

We were so happy with what we had accomplished and the time in which we had achieved it. We expected that by the end of the next day we would be back in town getting a leg massage to recover from the last few days.

Day 8

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 This was our final day in the mountains and the original plan was to hike all the way back down to the highway where we would be able to get a bus back to Pokhara. Hannah and I were walking with a couples of friends that we had met along the way and after about 4 miles into the day they were asking if there was a sport coming up to get drinks and have a break. I checked the map and said there would be a place soon. When we reached it they had ice cold coke and water which was perfect as it was much hotter this far down the mountain and we had been walking for the last few miles along a ridge baked by the sun.

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When we sat down to drink our drinks we could see just a few hundred meters away that there were some jeeps gathered. We soon released that this was the first point where you could catch a jeep back into town. At this point we bumped into an older guide who was also on his way back down the mountain. The jeep drivers would squeeze these guys in for free when they had a jeep full of paying hikers. We were the only hikers around for miles and we persuaded the guide to help us get a jeep down the mountain. The drivers all wanted the 4 of us to pay the price for 6 people. We declined and then the girls spent some time trying to negotiate. The drivers were a little frustrated and didn’t seem to like talking to the girls. After a bout an hour of different offers flying around Jonny eventually went up to the guide and the drivers and managed to persuade them to take us back for the cost of 4 people.

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The journey was super scary all of the jeeps had bald tyres and the roads were rocky and at times deep gravel sections with drops off the road of hundreds of feet. We were surprised that the jeep didn’t just skid going around the hairpins. Even now and then we would have to let a bus squeeze past us on the tiny road (more like a horse track) Once we got back down to the first town where the buses gathered we started picking up other local guides who need a ride back to Pokhara. We still had and hour or so to Pokhara and we arrived just before dark. We found a very cheap but comfortable place for the night which cost 1000 Nepalese rupees (around £7) It might have felt better than it was because of the beds we had been used to up in the mountains. Overall though we were very impressed with the tea houses and places to stay in Nepal. They were generally all very clean and comfortable.

It was Jonny’s birthday and he wanted to head back to the lake side pizza restaurant for dinner which was so tasty and incredible. We both had warm showers and feel asleep ready to properly explore Pokhara and have a massage the next day.

Exploring Pokhara

After a little bit of a lie in we got up and headed down the street to find somewhere for breakfast. We found a quiet little upstairs caffe and had some pancakes over looking the lake. On the way to breakfast we had stopped by a spa to book ourselves in for a massage after breakfast. The prices were fairly cheap for a full body massage and the spa itself had a western feel. We were both sore and tight in some areas and the massage was the perfect way to tell our bodies that they could now recover after a long few days hiking.

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We booked our bus tickets back to Kathmandu for the next morning and explored the many different little shops that made up the lake side of Pokhara. We probably needed up doing just as many miles as one of the days in the mountains with all the walking we did around town.

Heading back to Kathmandu  

We weren’t really looking forward to the bus ride as it was so bumpy on the way to Pokhara that it was almost impossible to sleep without slipping from your seat.

The journey was warm and once again we were delayed by the single mountain pass heading to Kathmandu. We did eventually arrive and headed to the guest house we had previously stayed at to collect our bags and book a room for the night.

The guesthouse had the typical very hard wooden beds with a very thin blanket between you and the wood. We decided as a bit of luxury that we would check into a nicer hotel for the next few nights before leaving for India.

We found a hotel that was a 20-30 min walk from the Thamel area and checked in. The rooms were spacious and comfy. Our first room though non of the plugs worked so we couldn’t get any work done. The hot water for the shower was also temperamental. We asked what was going on and we got up graded to a bigger room with the comfiest bed and plugs that worked. We were happy and relaxed and watched movies on the massive TV. This room would have been pretty expensive in the UK but was a great price in Nepal and a nice way to recover from the mammoth hike we had just completed.

We had finished our Annapurna base camp hike in less days that we had originally planned. We had planned on adding Poon Hill into the route but we were pretty tired on the way back and knew that we perhaps should have done Poon Hill on the way to ABC as nothing would be the panoramic views of ABC.

One of the things we had been warned about before arriving in Kathmandu was the dust on the streets. Most of the streets around the Thamel area are still dirt roads and the motorbikes and cars zipping past kick up loads of dust and dirt. We could feel it in our throats at the end of just a couple of days of being there. It was nothing like the beautifully fresh air of being in the mountains.

 

On Running

https://www.on-running.com/en-gb/articles/how-to-trek-to-annapurna-base-camp

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What we learned whilst travelling Asia

 

We all learn something different when exploring new places. Some things are good and some things are bad they are all lessons learned though. Here are 20 things that Hannah and I learned while exploring South East Asia for 6 months.

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Hannah

1. To not worry about things out of your control.

2. There are always good people who give random acts of kindness, if you let them.

3. Manage your money wisely and it will go further.

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4. You'll meet lots of people with a similar outlook on life as you and a passion for travel!

5. How to manage and deal with stress.

6. Getting up early to the sunrise is not always worth it. This was changed in the Himalayas. 

7. Travel gives you perspective and time to think. Reflect on what you really want out of life. 

8. Emotions run high - whether it's sleep deprivation, a whole day of travel, looking for food, a place to stay cut each other slack! 

9. Appreciation for good, locally sourced/grown fresh food. 

10. The media makes out the world is far worse place that it actually is. Fear is not the answer.

 

Jonny

1. Each place is different and has its own beauty.

2. A daily budget is easier to manage than a monthly budget.

3. Everything works out in the end.

4. Take photos even when you don't feel like taking photos. In a few years you will wish you had taken more.

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5. The Himalayas are bigger and more beautiful than I ever imagined.

6. Less clothes is more. Your back will appreciate it. I had 4 different shorts, one pair had zip pockets and were more fitted and stretchy I ended up wearing these for most of the 6 months. I could have left the other 3 at home.

7. I found if an ATM doesn't work ask the guy standing behind you. They are local and understand it better than you do.

8. The Philippines has the best beaches.

9. Bali has the best smoothie bowls and choice of food in general.

10 Java has the best volcanoes.

 We have been working very hard over the last couple of months to create content for this website. We have many countries still to write about and we will be positing them very soon, so keep checking here and on our Instagram page to see when the latest posts are live.

Egypt

"STEPPING BACK 4500 YEARS IN THE LAND PHARAOHS"

At the end of a trip to Norway our flight was delayed by around 5 hours. We had been sitting waiting for our flight and talking about how cool it would be to go and see the Pyramids in Egypt. A few weeks after our delayed flight I managed to claim around 500 euros compensation from the airline for the delay and straight away we decided to book our flights to Cairo.

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We had a stopover in Rome and made the most of it to go see the colosseum, eat pizza and gelato before hurrying back to the airport to catch our flight to Cairo.

We arrived late in Cairo and had to fight our way through all of the taxi drivers desperate for our business. We managed to haggle a taxi driver down to what we thought was a reasonable price to drive us all the way from the airport to our hotel in Giza.

We decided to stay in Giza because our hotel had views of the Pyramids in the distance. On our way to our hotel it felt as though we were driving through a ghost town and it all looked a bit eerie at that time of night. The blocks of flats along the highway looked as though they were abandoned and some even looked as though there had been fires.

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As soon as we had checked in we went to our room and straight to bed as we were both pretty exhausted. The next morning we woke after a little lie in and then relaxed by the pool for a few hours. It was nice to be in the sun after a long cold winter in England.

The hotel was virtually empty and we appeared to be the only guests staying. Tourism had taken a massive hit over the last couple of years because of various terrorist attacks etc. There was a couple of bombings in northern Egypt a few days before we flew out. I always felt that after an attack when the security of a country has been strengthened is a safe time to visit, whereas for most people this would put them off. We definitely noticed the extra security when coming and going from the airport. We had never been checked or scanned as much as we had been in Egypt at every opportunity you were scanned.

In the afternoon we got ready and grabbed a taxi to visit the pyramids of Giza. We were hoping that the heat would be less intense and to try and stay as long as we could to catch the sunset behind the pyramids (closing time is just before sunset).

Luckily I had done some research beforehand about taxi drivers taking you to the wrong entrance for the pyramids because they have friends who are trying to sell you their guide packages etc. Our taxi drive did exactly that despite being asked to take us to the official government entrance. He turned off the main road which should be a straight drive to the pyramids and to a guys house who sat us down and started trying to sell us camel/horseback rides and all sorts of other things. He even said that we wouldn’t be able to enter the pyramids complex without a guide. I said to Hannah lets just say no, stand up and walk away. They didn’t seem too happy about it and I kept saying we just want to go to the government entrance which luckily for us was less than a 5 min walk away. Eventually the guy in a grumpy way waved his hand and left us alone as we approached the official ticket office which was just a small booth.

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The pyramids really took our breath away. They were colossal, massive and each carefully cut piece of rock for the construction was as big as a family car. We can see why scientists struggle to understand how the Egyptians built these amazing monuments 4,500 years ago.

We were hassled a fair bit as we explored the complex. One of the negative effects of the locals being desperate for customers after a lean few years. We had been told that if we just ignored them and didn’t say anything then we would be left alone. However, if you said no to their offer, they would follow you asking the same question over and over. The ignoring tactic felt rude but worked.

We found a nice local and his young assistant who had a couple of well looked after camels. They were polite and not pushy so we decided to book them for our camel tour of the pyramids. We were taken to the iconic pyramid view point where all three pyramids looked similar sizes. The third pyramid is in fact a lot smaller than the other two. Our guide tried to take some photos of us at the view point (most were overexposed). I really liked that if you turned around at the viewpoint you could see the Bent Pyramid in the distance as well as others.

When we finished the camel ride some Egyptians called out to Hannah and were crude towards her. This always makes me really angry and I don’t care what country or culture I am in as it has no place anywhere. I shouted back at these guys, but they quickly rode away on their horses. I was a bit shocked as most of the time in Arabic countries the men will ignore Hannah and only talk to me. For the rest of the trip I gave Hannah all the money and made the men speak to Hannah when we needed to pay for something or ask for help instead of totally ignoring her and only speaking to me.

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We then managed to sneak into the Sphinx complex with another tour group that the security guard thought we were a part of it. It was nice to be able to see it up close although we felt a bit bad for not paying the overpriced entry fee.

We then lingered around the front of the Sphinx with one of the pyramids in the back ground taking photos and doing our best to stay till sunset. A guard was now shouting at people to leave and clearing the complex. We kept moving around and did our best to delay our exit for as long as possible.

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When we finally left the pyramid complex we discovered that all the other tourists had long gone as well as all the taxis and other transportation. We then spent the next 40 minutes trying to find a taxi. We found one with a couple of girls in the back who tried to charge us a ridiculous amount of money for a couple of miles. The driver then laughed at us and drove off. We eventually found an old man who didn’t speak English but offered to drive us to our hotel. This was a bad move as he kept saying Ramassess hotel, that was not our hotel! I noticed that we were driving across the river Nile which was totally the wrong direction. We kept trying to get him to turn around but he wouldn’t listen to us. Eventually Hannah shouted stop and he pulled over, we quickly scrambled out of his car. He got angry and demanded money. Lucky for us there were a couple of police men on the side of the road, we walked towards them and the old man quickly drove off. We then started walking back across the nile and realised it would take forever to get back to our hotel. We did eventually find an official taxi and he managed to get us back to our hotel which we were grateful for.

Entrance to the Sphinx

Entrance to the Sphinx

When we originally planned our trip we were going to be having a guide with us the whole time as we thought it would be a safer option. I am personally not a fan of having a guide as I don’t like to feel rushed or dragged around. The guide had booked us flights to Luxor the morning after visiting the pyramids. So despite not using the guide in the end we still had and paid for our flights to Luxor. It ended up being our favourite day in Egypt.

We left our hotel before sunrise to get to the airport and arrived in Luxor early. We were met by a friendly man who helped to arrange a local taxi driver to take us to the sights in Luxor for the day. We agreed on a price and our first stop was the Valley of the Kings.

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When you pay for your entrance ticket you get to choose three tombs that you would like to visit. You can visit more at an extra cost. Tutankhamuns tomb is also an extra fee. We were told that we would have to leave any cameras at the main desk which we didn’t do as we didn’t trust where you had to leave them (literally an open shelf). We were told that we wouldn’t be able to photograph in the tombs (although I have seen plenty of videos on Youtube recently of people being able to film and photograph). Many places in Egypt made you pay extra to photograph at sites, not here though we were told it was a big no.

Despite being told this I was stupid and tried to sneak a phone photo of one of the tombs. A local guard saw this and quickly snatched my phone, he threatened to take me to the police and despite my protests and trying to get my phone back, he was having none of it. I eventually asked how much money he wanted just as another local started walking into the tomb. He then quickly gave me my phone back and said delete it which I did and that was the end of that. We then went to another tomb and the local asked if we wanted to talk a photo?? We declined as we thought it was a trap and felt like we couldn’t trust anyone. It was all very confusing and we didn’t know what the rules were by the end of our visit to the Valley of the Kings. The detail inside the tombs though was amazing and well worth a visit to see such ancient writing and artwork preserved so well.

Road leading to the Valley of the Kings

Road leading to the Valley of the Kings

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

After leaving the valley of the kings we visited Karnak temple which was a vast complex full of gigantic collums. It was our favourite temple that we visited while in Egypt, there was plenty too see and explore there.

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The Valley of the Queens has a beautiful complex to explore and lots of hieroglyphs with their original colours to look at. It is best to do both the valley of the Kings and Queens right after each other as they are on the same side of the river.

Valley of the Queens

Valley of the Queens

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There was so much to do and see while in Luxor that we were totally exhausted at the end of the day. We didn’t even have time to explore Luxor temple, there is a good couple of days worth of sites and we would have preferred to stay in Luxor rather than Cairo as it was a lot calmer and more beautiful.

Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramesses III

Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramesses III

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We spent our final day and a half in Cairo exploring the Egyptian museum and relaxing by the pool. The Egyptian museum is crammed with so many artefacts that they have corners of rooms stacked with wooden crates of items that they just don’t have space for. We purchased a photography pass ticket but that still didn’t allow us to photograph Tutankhamun's exhibit including his death mask which was one of the most beautifully crafted items I have ever seen. It was a childhood dream come true seeing his tomb.

I really enjoyed Egypt because of the sites that we were able to visit. It was incredible to finally see the pyramids. However, the desperate vendors made it hard to enjoy some of the sites. It was worth the trip though and nice to be able to see these historic sites.

Our ride in Luxor

Our ride in Luxor

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Our room at the Barcelo Pyramids Hotel (We called it the ghost hotel because we were the only guests there)

Our room at the Barcelo Pyramids Hotel (We called it the ghost hotel because we were the only guests there)

La Joya II Biu Biu, Bali

"We found paradise"

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Our first stop in Bali couldn't have been better. What can I say about La Joya that doesn’t speak for itself through the photos? 

It must be one of the most relaxing places that we have ever stayed. It is quiet, peaceful and surrounded by nature. La Joya also has its own private beach which was was fun to explore in the morning before the tide came in.

Steps to the private beach

Steps to the private beach

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The resorts two infinity pools were the perfect temperature. they both had incredible views over the ocean and plenty of space to sunbath by them. The main three tiered pool was where most of the guests relaxed (there was only a handful of guest when we were there). The second crescent moon pool had no one by it the whole time we were staying there and was a great place to escape to and feel like you had your own pool over looking the ocean.

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The morning yoga classes overlooked the ocean and there was also a plunge Jacuzzi that sits on the top of the cliff where you can watch the sunset from. You can book it and have it all to yourself. We treated ourselves to a massage in the outdoor spa area. It was extremely peaceful, just us and the waves crashing in the distance. 

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Breakfast made rolling out of bed in the morning so much easier. The menu had a variety of options from more traditional Balinese and Indonesian food to more European breakfasts. We tried the eggs benedict and the American pancakes, but the highlight of the menu was the smoothie dragon bowl for sure. We also had a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate  and a selection of fruit juices and a plate of fresh fruit. 

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The rooms were a peaceful retreat fully equipped with air con, your own bathroom and plenty of space! They were the perfect hideaway from the heat and the perfect place to chill and read a book. The big windows brought the outside in and also so much light! The beds were super comfortable and spacious, we slept so amazingly well. 

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We were impressed by the selection of meals offered by the resorts restaurant and the pizzas we had as well as the green curries were very good, complimented with a fresh coconut to drink from. It was a great place to watch the sunset and have a romantic evening meal. They were local amenities nearby and very close to other nearby attractions such as Balangang beach, Padang Padang beach, Kuta Golf and Uluwatu Temple. We couldn't recommend it more if you need somewhere to go on honeymoon, or just go for a relaxing break in a great location. 

We loved our time at La Joya and we want to say a big thank you to Celine and all her staff who were just incredible. Every single one of them were happy and smiley and were always the first ones to say hello in the morning.  We will be back again to visit this incredible, quiet and peaceful spot of Bali.

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Norway Mountain Adventure

"Northern Europes Tallest Mountains"

There is always something to be learned from planning a trip and this time it was to check which airport you are flying into. It was such a rookie mistake and one that I will never make again. We booked our flights to Oslo Norway with Ryanair, when I booked the flights I searched for Oslo and booked the cheapest flights to Oslo airport. I looked on the map and there was only one Oslo airport. I then booked our car for the four days that we would be in Norway. We then got on with our busy summer of wedding photography and counted down the months till our trip.

A month before the trip I decided to check everything. I noticed on our flight confirmation that the airport code was RYG not OSL (Oslo). I typed in the airport code into Google to find out that the Ryanair flight was flying into Moss-Rygge airport not Oslo International. I was so confused so I searched again thinking how could I have made such a stupid mistake. It turns out Ryanair was calling it Oslo Moss-Rygge. I am sure I am not the first person to get caught out by this (don’t forget to use the airport code guys). I was a bit angry at Ryanair because this was not really an Oslo airport and to add Oslo before Moss-Rygge was a bit misleading.

As the name of the airport suggests it is actually the airport for the towns off Moss and Rygge, it was over an hour away from Oslo. I then called the car rental company and explained the mistake. They let me know that they had no cars available at Moss-Rygge and that I would need to cancel and book with another company. The cancellation cost £50 plus the cars were more expensive at this airport. It was an annoying lesson to learn.

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We planned to visit Jotunheimen national park and hike the epic Besseggen ridge which is the middle section of a 14km trail. It would take between 6-7 hours.

We were going budget on this trip as Norway is already an expensive country to visit. We would take only what we could fit into our carry on bags and check no other bags in. We managed to pack our small two man tent clothing and cooking kit (Trangia) into our carry ons. We would only then need to buy some gas and food for the stay in the mountains. I found a small outdoor shop online that we could stop by after we had arrived. When we got there they actually told us the gas we needed could be purchased from most petrol stations. We also found a nearby supermarket to grab food.

Our drive from the airport to the national park was a 5-6 hour journey. We passed through many tunnels as we skirted around Oslo and other built up areas. As we got further into the mountains we saw all the ski resorts which were quiet as the ski season wouldn’t start until another few months. We had epic storm looking clouds as we drove up which eventually split allowing strong evening sunlight to flood through.

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Me running across the road to capture the scene as Hannah (unknown to me) is photographing me

Me running across the road to capture the scene as Hannah (unknown to me) is photographing me

We were planning to possibly carry our tent on the hike so that we could camp near a lake in the mountains and get some epic early morning photos. We scrapped this plan though as we were woefully underprepared for the night time weather. Neither of us had down jackets before this trip, now I take mine everywhere I go. We had only looked at the day time temperature before leaving the UK. While it was cold at night it wasn’t dangerously cold but there was a Stöng headwind coming from the lake and it was another reminder to be prepared.

Our sleeping bags were designed for 10+ degrees and warmer not the 5+ degrees it was at night and we both felt pretty cold and didn’t sleep very well on our first night in Jotunheimen. We had parked our car and walked 500 meters or so to the edge of a fjord for our first nights camping after the long drive up from southern Norway. We cooked our food sitting in the doorway of the tent as the rain came down.

On the start of the trail just above the carpark on the bottom left

On the start of the trail just above the carpark on the bottom left

The next morning we woke and packed our camping kit away. We stuffed it into the boot of the car and started on the trail. At the end of the hike in 6 hours time we could catch the boat back along the fjord to the car park and set up camp again for that night. However if we missed the last boat we would either have to pay a lot of money to stay in one of the cabins or turn around and hike all the way back.

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The early morning light and views across the fjord were spectacular. There were chains to help hikers up the first few steep sections of climbing. As soon as we got up the mountain it was a reasonably flat hike all the way to Besseggen ridge. When we arrived at Besseggen ridge there was a total bottleneck of people trying to climb down and from people trying to climb up who started the hike that morning from the other direction. It was all a bit mad and some of the hikers found it difficult and scary to climb down meaning things got even slower causing some people to grow impatient. I was worried that there could be a slip or a push and that could end up bringing a lot of people down. When we did finally get down the other side safely we stopped and had our lunch.

Hannah at the start of Besseggen ridge you can just make out all the people down below her

Hannah at the start of Besseggen ridge you can just make out all the people down below her

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The madness of Besseggen ridge bottleneck

The madness of Besseggen ridge bottleneck

We were now halfway and the rest of the journey was flat and then downhill on dusty paths which always hurt the knees. We hiked past beautiful mountain top lakes and glaciers and it really was one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever done. Apart from all the other hikers we felt like we were in an untouched wilderness surround by hundreds of mountains close to or over 2000 meters. The highest point of this trail is just over 1,700 meters and any one of reasonable fitness can complete it.

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Luckily we made it down the other side before the final boat of the day and as a bonus the clouds parted and the sun came out strongly for us to lie in the sun as we waited for the boat to arrive. It was a perfect way to rest our feet after a long but beautiful day.

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After our boat ride we went to the car and grabbed our camping kit and this time walked a little way up the side of a hill to get an amazing view of the fjord for dinner time and sunset. It took a while to find a level ledge that we could pitch the tent on so we wouldn’t be sliding down all night.

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The next morning we got up and started the drive back to Oslo We would be spending one night in the city before flying back early the next morning. We would have to get up super early the day of our flight as it was an hours drive from Oslo to the airport.

On the way to Oslo we stopped at scenic places to photograph and found some houses with grass roofs. Norway is such a beautiful country and we would love to come back and explore further north.

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Oslo before flying home - My Walter Mitty inspired photo

Oslo before flying home - My Walter Mitty inspired photo

Micro Adventure with Wiggle.co.uk

 

When Wiggle contacted me to see if I was available for a micro adventure in the Sussex country side I quickly checked my calendar and booked my ticket to London. Wiggle were keen to get a group of influencers together to test out Wiggles new range of outdoor gear and hiking kit. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.

I got the train down to London on the Wednesday afternoon, met the team and collected my gear. We arrived at one of the many London train stations to head to the town of Battle in Sussex. The day was very warm beacuase of the continuing British heatwave. The train was packed with commuters heading back to their homes in the English countryside. It was sweltering, I plugged my earphones in and tried to stay cool but not doing a very good job.

When we arrived in Battle we looked at the map and set off on a 5 mile or so hike to the designated campsite. We had a good time sharing stories of previous trips, expeditions and adventures we had been on. I felt as though my expeditions and adventures were very small compared to those in the team. Particularly Will Renwick who once hiked 1000 miles around the coast of Wales. I soon realised though that everyone there had the same interests and we had all achieved various different challenges that perhaps the others wouldn't have been able to face and accomplish.

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We arrived at a beautiful little campsite surrounded by pine forests. Our support vehicle had arrived and delivered tents, sleeping bags, self inflating sleeping matts and various other items that we would be testing. I was impressed at the wide array of Jack Wolfskin tents that we were trying out. They were generally quick and easy to set up and having a low profile they were discreet and more protected from wind.

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We then planned what time we would get up and we all decided that sunrise would be best. We wanted to do our best to explore a new place and get some great photos.

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We decided that we would get up and explore a nearby lake and go for an early morning swim. With the plan set we ate dinner around the campfire. We had a lovely chilli con care which was perfect after a long day. We then shared stories before heading to bed.

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Its never easy getting up at sunrise and that alarm becomes your most hated thing when it sounds so early. However, if there is a beautiful sunrise with crazy colours in the sky it is always worth it. Today was not that day though. It was overcast and no colours in sight. We still had some exploring to do though. We arrived at the lake to find that the hot British summer had reduced a perfect swimming spot to a smelly muddy swamp. None of us felt any desire at that time in the morning for a mud bath. We did manage to get some photos though as we walked and explored the local woodland. We then ran for a couple of miles back to our transport to get the 7am train back to London. I must point out that I am predominantly a cyclist and hiker. The majority of the others in the group were long distance runners. I was also carrying a 10kg camera bag on my back. Its safe to say that when we got back to the van I was more than sweaty. 

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Arriving back in London was a beautiful sight knowing that all the commuters in their dark dreary suits heading off to sit behind a desk had no idea of the fun we had just had running through a woodland. We still had a full day ahead of us, yet we had already been on an adventure. I love getting up early and making the most of the day. I never want to look back on life and think of all the things I could and should have done. 

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Travelling through Thailand

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Thailand has it all. Sun, sea, beaches, mountains, food and culture - what more could you want?!! We spent our first week in the Krabi area island hopping and going from beach to beach. The first thing I noticed about Thailand was the pure heat that hit my face when walking off the plane, it was just pure humidity and I could feel my hair turn into a thousand curls instantly! Being a British lass, the heat or rather humidity took some getting used to

Our first stop was to the beach to cool down in the sea and it was very important to stay hydrated as I could feel how easy it was to become dehydrated and light headed in the heat.  Ice cream and cold water never tasted so good!! One of the sweet points in this area was watching the rock climbers at Ton Sai beach with the sun setting behind us. It was so relaxing and triggered a new curiosity to give it a go again when we get back to England. I used to rock climb when I was younger with my family as my Dad loved it and we would really enjoy it but somehow as I got older it just never stuck, perhaps because where I live is very flat. We'll keep you posted with how we get on.

Eventually we realised we needed a change of scene from the beautiful beaches as beautiful as they were! So we opted for a hike which I was very excited about but a bit apprehensive about the heat. We love being outdoors and going on an adventure and what better way to do that than go for a hike. We'd heard of a place nearby with incredible views overlooking the Krabi coastline and on a really good day you could even see the surrounding islands. We were extremely hyped by this and it was well worth the effort of getting there. The views were just simply breathtaking, the lime karst hills dotted across the horizon were blanketed with green dense jungle. The 360 panorama views were definitely worth all the tonnes of sweat it took to get to the top. We waited for the sun to set and once we realised we would be hiking down in the dark we started running downhill and we were surrounded by loud creepy animal sounds all around us. We reached the bottom and found we were the last ones to sign out of the national park and the ranger was happy to see we made it out alive (or so he could go home and eat). If you want real adrenaline experience and fantastic views then this would be for you - couldn't recommend it enough!

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Then we we caught the train up north to Bangkok and stayed there one night, well early hours of the morning till we had to catch our next train even further north to Chiang Mai. The landscape changed drastically from low sloping hills, in contrast to the limestone cliffs in Krabi. The train was a great experience and such a good way to travel. It was my first time on a sleeper train and I'll be honest I didn't sleep too well as my curtain didn't block out the light. It was such a comfortable way to travel, the train literally rocks you to sleep and you see so much and don't feel any pot holes or harsh braking that turns your tummy upside down.

Arriving in Chiang Mai was a breath of fresh air. It was the perfect place to relax, unwind and explore the Thai culture. Buddhist temples could be found down almost every street, you'd turn a corner and there would be another magnificent temple. There was plenty to see and explore but one of our most favourite things we did was walking the Monks trail. This is a walk that is adorned with orange monk sashes tied to trees to show you the way up to Wat Pha Lat temple. This spot is a peaceful sanctuary with its own waterfall and spectacular views. You will find people meditating and surrounded by the sounds of nature, it was a little paradise spot. We then carried on up the hill in the intense heat, slowly putting one foot in front of the other. We passed by some groups of monks on their journey from the temples. The views from Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple at the top gave you an incredible panaormaic view over Chiang Mai and you could see how far we'd come. One little perk was that we didn't have to pay an entrance fee to the temple as we had come in the way the monks would so we weren't even questioned by it - bonus!! 

Bangkok station was beautifully adorned with paintings on the walls of scenes from around the country. Walking out of the station and into the city was a stark contrast from the beaches in Krabi. We went to visit the Grand palace and the leaning Buddha statue, which was so much bigger than I expected! Bangkok is also well known for its huge shopping malls, which were floors and floors of shops and you could pretty much find anything there! A couple of days was plenty of time for us to explore the city and we were itching to get back to more nature. 

Next stop Nepal. 

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