Singapore

18th May – Kuching – Singapore

We left Kuching at 9.40am arriving in Singapore airport at 11am. Of course as soon as we arrived, we knew Singapore was different. It just feels different. The plush carpet, the large arrival area and trees inside the buildings. All is just done so well! We found immigration and tried to work our which immigration guard would be okay to talk to so Nicole could explain that she’s running out of pages and needs the stamp to go on a page already used. Well, we chose well..her guard was smiley, friendly and stamped it on a used page; mine didn’t say anything or smile!

We had 3 transport options for the hostel..MRT train, taxi or shuttle. I wasn’t sure about the shuttle or taxi as thought it wold be too expensive but when we got to the counter the shuttle was $9 and took you straight to the hostel – no walking with the bags!!

We got a ticket from a machine and just 5 minutes later, the shuttle turned up. It was just us and 1 other guy in the minivan and off we went. We had a great view of the city which already filled us with awe. The buildings are just beautiful and there’s so much green!

he shuttle driver was an interesting driver! He just kept putting pressure on and off the accelerator irratically! Nearly enough to make me sick! But just 30 minutes later, we arrived at our hostel.

Botique chic hostel – the hostel cost $35 a night!! Welcome to Singapore!

We checked in and also paid for a couple of attractions (skypark, forest dome and flower dome) as the hostel had discount. We where then taken across the road to the sister hostel as that was where we would be staying. We grabbed a few things for the day and then left our bags and headed out…

Our first stop was China town which was just around the corner from the hostel. It was busy and bustling with stalls and a large food street which we wandered along.

I

actually ended up having an Indian Biriyani which was spicy and yummy! Then we enjoyed browsing the shops before heading to the MRT to head to little India.

S

ingapore first language is English which makes life very easy for getting tickets and this time we didn’t make any mistakes and just 20 minutes later we were in the Indian area of Singapore.

We wandered around taking in the new sights of the area before heading towards the ‘selfie cafe’ we had been told about.

Our walk took us past the canal and sky scrapers. Singapore is just beautiful to look at and so clean that it was a lovely walk.

O

In one corner, we found some artists spray painting graffiti art onto one of the buildings. It turned out the artist was there and had done most of it himself and had two helpers for the last section.

We then walked into a really cool street which was full of art covered walls and quirky interiors.

T

This is where we found the ‘selfie cafe’. You can have your face put on any coffee or most other drinks so we chose iced chocolate. We were then passed a phone to take our selfie with and that was it. A few minutes later our drinks arrived with our faces printed onto thick cream on the top. They were expensive (8 Singaporean dollars) but it was for the novelty factor we went!

After our drinks, it was time to head towards the skypark and gardens in the bay. It was just a quick MRT ride although we couldn’t find the station entrance for ages!

This area of Singapore is right near the central business distract and just radiates money! The shopping mall is full of designer shops and everything is shiny and new! They even have a little river inside complete with boats!

After looking across the river towards the city, we headed to the skypark and rode up the elevator to the top floor and onto the viewing area.

In the distance, we could see the rain forming and it was beginning to get dark so we went back to ground level and towards the gardens in the bay.

I hadn’t realised that the trees were actually generating electricity which is cool! They just look beautiful and as it was getting dark, they soon began to be lit with lights. Unfortunately, the tree tip walk wasn’t open as they were predicting rain so as we were both getting hungry, we ate at one of the restaurants by the trees – cheesy fried and spaghetti carbonara! Yum!

That’s when the rain began! We had bought tickets for the flower dome and cloud dome at our hostel so made our way there which was saved us really as once we were inside the rain began to really come down!!

The flower dome was cool with plants from all over the world. It was little paradise in the middle of the city and pretty cool as it was a huge glass dome so we could see the city but also be amongst the plants.

We then headed to the cloud dome which is a rainforest environment. They turn on a water mist every few hours giving it the cloud name. This one was truly beautiful and we followed the paths next to the waterfall which gave us great views of the rainforest fauna and flora.

It was still raining outside which we thought was going to stop our plans to see the tree’s light show which they do every night at 7.45 and 8.45pm. But we actually found a spot inside the dome where we could see the trees from and watched it there.

Luckily, when that finished and by the time we left the dome, the rain had stopped and we had about 30 minutes until the water and light show overlooking the city by the shopping mall which was perfect for a leisurely walk back through the gardens. It really is beautiful at night!

We arrived at the the viewing area and managed to find a seat on the steps using a plastic bag to protect us a bit from the now wet ground.

It got really busy but we all coukd see fine which was great and then it began…

Wow it was amazing! Such a cool show!

They protected images and lights onto different fountains which accompained amazing music..it was actually quite emotional!

It was just a spectacular show and everyone was in awe by the end. And it was free!! Every night at 8 and 9pm!

After the show we wandered around a little more before beginning our journey back to our hostel and to actually check in and find our beds!

The MRT was a little busier on the way back but it’s still a great experience. You’re not allowed food or drink on it or in the stations (big fines if you do) so everything is lovely and clean and it’s all air conned which is so nice after a hot day outside!

Back at our hostel we were taken to our pod beds. These ones were posh and had our own TVS in them along with headphones attached already!

After a shower, we settled into our pods and I managed to find ‘The greatest showman’ movie on the TV so finished watching where I’d had to end on our flight to Sri Lanka.

19th May 2018 – Singapore – Denpassor

We had decided the night before to head out it the morning to go to the art and science museum and see the city scape one last time before our flight.

Our hostel provided a breakfast of sandwiches, fruit, cereal and tea and coffee.

As we were eating, we met a lovely 9 year old girl who was in singapore for the weekend with her parents from Hong Kong. We all ate together before we packed up again, left our bags at the hostel reception and off we went again.

We headed straight to the shopping mall and skypark and arrived at 10am just as the museum opened.

The science area of it was all about lights and interactive displays.

It’s hard to explain but there was a wave room with waves being projected across the walls.

A slide to go down where flowers burst as you slid over them.

A projected waterfall.

A room which came alive in lights flashing around as if you were a bird flying around. It actually made you feel like you were losing your balance. Quite crazy.

Huge lit up balls which played different music when you moved them.

And our favourite room the space crystal room. This was just beautiful.

We also went upstairs to the art gallery. I thught it would be more interactive but it was just a gallery. Still pretty cool exhibitions!

After the museum, we had some lunch at one of the places nearby. Then took a final wander around before heading back to China town.

As we came up from the MRT, we were hit by the rain! Of course, we didn’t have any rain coats with us!

We managed okay though by dipping into the many stalls there and bought a few souvenirs.

Then it was time to say goodbye to the hostel and catch a Grab taxi to the airport. We had been in Singapore 24 hours but it has been great! We loved it and would definitely return as it just seems an amazing city which is doing everything right!

One quick note about the airport:

Of course it was the best airport we had been to. Everything was done electronically.

Air Asia has started using self check in and self bag drop services at alot of the airports we’ve been to so we were getting pretty good at it by now.

Then we went to immigration and this was also a self/computerised system.

e had to show our passports, redo our finger prints and they took a picture or us and that was it. We were done! This was an added bonus for Nicole with her passport issues!! No unecessary stamp!

The terminal was huge..think it was terminal 4 and although we’d heard in another terminal there is a slide and other activities, we were sat in some comfy sofas when what we thought was just a decorated wall looking like houses, suddenly came to life! There was a whole drama occurring above us! It was great! They also had great WiFi and charging areas next to the comfy seats!! “Say yes to the dress” was also playing further down the departure lounge! Our airports are so boring in comparison!

Our next stop – Denpassor Bali! And the final leg of our adventure!

Had a whole row to myself woop!!
Advertisements

Malaysia and Borneo 3

Colombo — Kuala Lumpur

Our flight was at 10.30am so we grabbed so breakfast from our hostel (Hangover hostel) in Colombo. It had been a good night with just the two of us in the room! And I say room – the rooms were made from containers!

The hostel did 24 hour transfers to the airport and we could decide when to leave whenever we wanted so about 8am we left. Arriving at the airport, 10 minutes later we grabbed a trolley and off we went towards check in. Before we got anywhere near check in though, we had to go through security.

When we’d been passed, we got to the desk and were then asked lots of questions about our onward travels. Luckily, we had our ticket booked for leaving Malaysia to Borneo so could show it!

Finally, we could head towards departures but not until we’d need through another security check.

We grabbed a drink from one of the cafes and water then headed to the gate. Where again, we had security. As I was going through the guard saw my water bottle and told me I couldn’t have it. Now this was sealed bottle which I had literally just bought 10 minutes before in departures!! I wasn’t super happy about having to give it up so drank the whole thing there and then!

We were soon boarding onto our Air Asia flight. Just like Ryanair in the UK, it’s cheap and small! But we soon settled in, read, tried to nap and the 4 hour flight went pretty quickly. We arrived 30 minutes ahead of scedule which was cool but due to the time difference it was now 4.50pm rather than 2!

We collected our bags, went through another security and immigration. Then it was time to find a taxi to our hostel. We saw a booth so asked how much it was going to be and they quoted over 100 Ringit when we had been quoted by the hostel 10-15! We were a bit confused and then realised we were in the executive taxi line! The budget taxi cost us 13 MYR but we had to queue for about 40 minutes outside the airport until a taxi became available.

The journey to our hostel took about 30 minutes. We had booked ‘Back home hostel’ for the night and it had a good vibe to it when we arrived.

We quickly dropped our bags off, had 10 minutes of chilled time then it was time to explore Kuala Lumpur as we would be leaving the next day for the Cameron Highlands.

Just 3 minutes walk from the hostel was the train station and underground and the ticket machine was really easy to use so we purchased a ticket and headed for the platform. A train was just pulling in so we hopped on, only to realise as we pulled away we were going the wrong direction! Oh well, we got off at the next stop, walked round to the other side and soon we heading the correct way!!

We arrived at the KLCC junction and soon just around the corner were the petroleum towers. They are pretty spectacular lit up and soon we were joining the other tourists trying to get the perfect angle for a picture!

After a while, we wandered around the streets taking in the lit up trees and buildings which surrounded us. Then we pub a shopping centre and enjoyed a little browse!

By this time it was nearly 10 – the day had just gone! So we began the journey home which was incredibly easy (no wrong trains this time) and soon were settling into bed for the night.

8th May – KL – Cameron highlands

We got up early and had breakfast. Thankfully no eggs today. After 3 weeks of eggs and toast for breakfast everyday we needed a break! Porridge and peanut butter on toast was a welcome treat!

We then hauled on all our bags and walked to the train station. The easy 3 minute walk last night was a little harder with the bags!! We arrived, grabbed our tickets and headed to the train only to realise once on it that again we were going the wrong way! A quick u-turn at the next junction and we found our track. The journey took about 30 minutes with one train switch (luckily the same platform we got off again! ) and soon we arrived at the central bus station. It was huge! We had booked online so just had to go to a counter to get a boarding ticket. Then we went downstairs to wait.

It was like an airport. There were gates with waiting areas and announcements over speakers telling us when the buses were leaving. Some of the announcers seemed to be singing the information as it had such a rhythm to it!

Unfortunately, our bus was a bit late but soon enough we were on our way. I’d booked sears at the front as I knew the roads would be pretty windy and sire enough we were soon twisting our way through the mountains, narrowly missing the edge and other cars! Amazingly, our driver somehow managed to even overtake other cars and lorries on these tiny roads! Nicole and I were holding on for our lives! Maybe being ay the front wasn’t the best idea as we could see our deaths coming!!

5 hours later, after one stop off for food , we arrived in the little town Tana Rata. We were dropped at the bus terminal and it was just a 5 minute walk to the hostel (still nearly killed us with our bags!). This was our first ‘pod’ hostel. We were in a 36 bed room! But each bed was in a wooden box with a curtain at one end. Each had a light and a fan inside so it was pretty cosy!

We chilled for a bit then went to explore the town. It was mainly just one street with a few restuarants and shops. Found a 2 Ringit shop (less than 50p) which was great for the little supplies we needed!

We had dinner at the curry house and I enjoyed a tikka masala – haven’t had one in months!

It was a lot cooler in the highlands which was a welcome change and I even got my jeans out to wear (they’ve been in the bottom of my bag for a month!)

After mooching for a bit longer, and stopping for tea and cake, we headed back to the hostel just as the rain began!

9th May – Cameron Highlands

We booked onto a half day tour which bean at 8.30am so we were up early. The hostel didn’t do breakfast so we headed back to the curry house for some beans on toast and tea!

There were 8 of us on the tour and one of the group was a girl teaching in Thailand just like we had done!

Our first stop on the tour was the tea planantion hills. They looked different to Sri Lanka and equally beautiful! Our guide informed us of how they had come to be here and how the pickers had been brought over mainly from India and Pakistan which was why there was so much Indian influence here in the cooking.

After that, we headed to the mossy forest which is and ancient forest in the highlands. Our guide was great as he explained how fragile the moss is (it grows 1cm every 3 years) and showed us different plants in the area. It was rhe first time I’d seen a carnivorous plant in the wild which was cool and the orchids were everywhere and beautiful.

We then had a chance to walk along a board walk to see more of the forest and view although the view was covered in cloud at first before it cleared a little.

After the forest, we stopped at a tea shop where we could try the local tea. It was delicious without milk but with just added the extra element I like although I was told several times the milk ruins the flavour!

Our final stop was to a strawberry farm. They can grow them all year round and they looked and tasted delicious. They were playing music over the speakers which we couldn’t decide if it was for us or the strawberries!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally, after endulging in some strawberries and yogurt, we headed back to town for lunch.

We ended up at a restaurant next to our hostel which was were lots of locals go and had stuffed rotti/bread things. They were delicious with a mix of chicken, potato, veg and spices.

Hattie (the girl teaching in Thailand on our tour) joined Nicole and I on a jungle walk in the afternoon. I’d asked the hotel which routes were easyish and were told track 5,6,4 (in a loop) was okay and took about 2 hours. So off we went to find the he beginning of the route. Easier said then done! We wandered around, couldn’t find any signs, got told different directions by people and then finally having back tracked our steps and walked for about 30 minutes we found the entrance.

That’s when the fun started as we began to walk through the jungle and it was really jungle path.

We scrambled over roots and wound our way deeper into the jungle. After about 30 minutes we met some people coming the other way who, when we told them our route, just said good luck! Hmm, maybe it wasn’t going to be so easy!

It was hot, humid and difficult terrain but I loved it! At one point we could here trees rustling and looking up there were wild monkeys swinging through the trees above!

Finally 1 hr 30 min later, we found the cross roads between track 5 and 6 which was our next track. Here we met another couple going the opposite way..again they informed us it was quite hard ahead. But we were invested then..no going back!

We began track 6 and it was immediate that we’d uped a level of challenge. We had to climb down near a large valley side before going striaght back up the other side.

Sometimes even having to use our hands to keep balance and climb. I’d found some sticks for us to use for support earlier on and these became very useful as we wound our way up, up and up! Eventually we seems to reach the top and then it was time to duck under trees and vines and search for the paths through. There weren’t signs for ages and just in some places tape which I took as no entry. As I was leading the others, I was very aware that if I somehow took the wrong path, we would be lost very quickly as the jungle was so dense! Luckily, as we kept gping on track 6, we could just about hear some cars and the local mosque so knew civilisation wasn’t too far away! But it was another hour before we can across a sign pointing to track 4 – the final stretch!

This track was how we had imagined the whole thing to be. Quite large cleared paths with few obstacles or hills to climb!

Finally 30 minutes later, we arrived on a concrete path next to the river and knew the town wasn’t too far away. But we still had to walk along the road back to the centre.

We tried hitching a lift from cars going past but when I waved they just waved back or put their thumbs up to match me! Slowly, we made it back to town a little more tired then we thought we would be when we started but it was great!

We were also covered in mud and plant if bites from the dreaded mozzies! So it was straight to the showers to clean up.

After a rest, we went for dinner and ended up all having pizzas! So good! Then it was back to bed as we were shattered!

10th May – Cameron Highlands – George Town

And we were off again! This time to Penang and George town which was another 4 hours by bus and 20 minute ferry ride. Me being me, I hadn’t even realised Penang was an island – we just go where we’ve been told is good and hadn’t really researched that much!

Anyway, we walked back to the bus terminal down the town and off we went. Again the ticket was 35 Ringit which is (£7) – pretty good for 4 hours!

This ride again took us through windy roads and mountains and by the time we stopped at a service station, I actually thought I was going to be sick but luckily I wasn’t and after that it was just straight highways which was great!

At the ferry, we unloaded and then tried to work out where we actually went. A local directed us to the end of the bus station where there was a free shuttle bus. We all piled on along with a lot of other people and drove 5 minutes around to the ferry port. We then had to walk up a slope, buy a ticket (1.90 Ringit -less than 50p) and queue up. By this time Nicole and I were dying from the weight of our bags! After 30 minutes, the gate opened and we walked onto the ferry. There weren’t chairs just a platform where the cars were parked and people around the edge. It took just 20 minutes across (a welcome rest for our backs) and then we went in search of a taxi. We found one which was driven by a lovely old man which chatted to us about us life – 72 years old!!

10 minutes later, we arrived at ‘Ryokan Boutique Hostel’. Back to bunk beds here but we were in a room of just 4 which was nice.

We went for a walk around the town and it was incredibly quiet. We tried to work out why and then remembered today was the day of the general election! All over the roads were the flags of the different parties and we’d heard it the result tonight could mean by changes to the Malaysian government!

Me being asked by Chinese tourists if I can have a photo with them – individually!

We ended up at a mexican restuarant called ‘Holy Guacamole’ for dinner and enjoyed a burrito, nachos and strawberry daquri! Yum!

We also bumped into people we’d met on the tour in the Cameron Highlands which was cool! The streets were still pretty quiet so we headed back to the hostel to chill and sleep.

11th May – George Town

After a nice lie in, we headed down for breakfast which was great – buffet style! There were sausages, boiled eggs, toast, baked beans and noodles! We filled up and headed out into the streets in search of street art.

To help us get round we hired bikes for just £2 for the day!

They were a little to drive but the roads in Malaysia seem much more organised and calm then other Asian countries we’re visited!

Some of the art was quite hard to find as it was down alleys but we stumbled across many by chance and the others were highlighted because they had a crowd of tourists infront of them wielding their selfie sticks!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After exploring for most of the morning, we enjoyed some aircon and a drink in a local cafe to cool off! It was sweltering!

We explored more then headed to a restaurant for lunch who sold turkish food! All delicious!

After a rest back at the hostel, we met Hattie, who was also in george town, and wandered along Love lane before finding a bar to have a drink in. It was happy hour so we enjoyed a few drinks there for the evening as well as people watching and chatting to the locals.

When we finally got hungry and tired, we walked just around the corner which had come alive with street food stalls. It was much busier than the previous evening and we soon filled up on some of the stall’s delights!

12th May – George Town

The three of us met up again in the morning to go on a free walking tour which had been advertised at our hostel. It was run by the tourist information and was really professional!

Our guide was great and we learnt a huge amount:

George Town is a city full of diversity. People have come from all over the world with the majorty being from India or China and there are many religious groups all living in harmony together. As we walked round, we’d pass through a china town and into India town! Then we’d see a Chinese Cantonese temple and just across the road a hindu temple! It was really intertwine to hear that children are taught 3 languages in school, English, Malaysian and whatever their mother tongue is!

Termuric is thrown on the floor outside shops as good luck

We walked all around for a couple of hours before leaving the guide and heading to a dessert shop I’d been told about!

The shop was called Merryme and did a ‘freak’ shake! It was a a mile shake with cream, mashmallow, chocolate brownie and little chocolates on it! We each ordered one and they were amazing!!!

Later on we headed out for food and found a local noodle and rice restaurant before heading back to the hostel to sleep as we had to be up at 4am to get our flight to Borneo!! It had been a quick visit but we’d really liked just wandering around Georgetown and although it was quite quiet whilst we were there it had a cool vibe.

13th May – George Town – Kuching, Borneo

The alarm went off and up we got! We’d arranged a taxi (60 Ringit as so early) and by 4.30 it was there ready to take us to the airport. Sleepily, we got in and 30 minutes later arrived to check in. Air Asia is using selfservice machines for check in now so we tagged our own bags and even at the luggage drop it was all done by machine!

After checking in, we headed towards departures with a quick stop at McDonald’s for breakfast!

It was hard not to fall asleep when we were waiting but it wasn’t long until we boarded. The flight was only 2 hours and I got a few little naps in but I was in the middle seat with strangers either side so I was a little conscious of not falling on them as I slept!

We arrived at 9am and headed for immigration. Both mine and Nicole’s passports are getting pretty full (Nicole’s especially) and so we were hoping we wouldn’t be stamped in but we were! They just tend to stamp it right in the middle of the page using uo so much space! Anyway, we were in and our bags were there waiting for us.

I’d bought a sim card in George town which was so useful as I could just order a grab striaght away. And within 20 minutes from landing, we were on our way to the hostel.

As we hadn’t really planned Borneo, we’d just booked on night at ‘Sunset hostel’. We arrived to find the receptionist asleep on the sofa next to the desk! He was very tired and told us we couldn’t check in yet until 2pm! It wasn’t even 10am! But we could leave our heavy bags so we headed out to find somewhere to chill and get some energy! Lots of places weren’t open yet but we found a coffee shop next to a shopping centre.

After a much needed coffee, I began to become more alive and we started to plan our week.

At first, I’d wanted to do an actual organised jungle trek and overnight trip but the cost was crazy! So we began to work out how to do it but ourselves. We did a lot of researching on trip advisor and Google only to get quite confused by conflicting information but eventually worked out roughly how to get to places and knew that tomorrow we’d head to the Orangutan rehabilitation centre!!

After a while, we were ready to explore so headed towards the river.

We had lunch in a local restaurant and when we came out, all the souvenir shops had opened so we began a little browsing/shopping walk back towards the hostel looking at all the products on sale.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we could check in and settled into our pod beds again! These ones were 3 beds high! But they were more spacious then the Camron Highland’s ones!

Later in the evening, we headed dour for dinner and ended up in a restaurant next to the river. There was a little show happening in the park next to us with a couple of singers and guitarists but they left 10 minutes after we sat down.

After dinner, we walked along the river and enjoyed an incredible sunset!

14th May – Semmongoh Orangutan centre

Another early start today! We had found out that there was a bus to the centre and it left at 7am taking about an hour to get there. When we got back to the hotel, Nicole had met and spoken to a girl names Rose who was going to the centre the next day as well so we decided we’d just get a Grab car there and leave at 7.30am instead.

The Grab was 26 Ringit in total so less that 9 each (£1.90).

We arrived at the main gate and paid the entrance fee of 10 Ringit. We saw some people from our hostel who arrived just after us who had taken the bus! I was glad we’d gone in the car on the way!

We then walked for about 20 minutes to the centre. There was an information room explaining how the Orangutan here were semi-wild and supported only with a little extra food as the rainforest area wasn’t huge and couldn’t support all of them all year round.

Around the area were pitcher plants and an enclosure holding two crocodiles!

We waited for about 30 minutes before just before 9am, we were gathered at one end to be briefed before going to the feeding area.

Apparently, it was fruiting season which meant there was more food for the orangutans so they might not come to the station. We were told to remember this wasn’t a zoo and they would come if they wanted to not because they were trained to!

We then walked 200 metres to the viewing area. There was a ranger calling for the orangutans and we could see a pile of fruit on the platform. So we began to wait…and wait…and wait.

At 9.55, the guide told us we had 5 minutes left and then we would need to shut. I was feeling pretty disppainted eventhough we could come back in the afternoon and try too!

But just at that moment, we heard the trees rustle and move and out she came… a mother orangutan holding a little baby!!

I

t was AMAZING to see and actually bought tears to my eyes as I’d been preparing myself to leave without seeing them!

We then watched her take all the fruit and sit halfway up a tree in full sight to eat. The baby climbed on her and swung from the ropes playing it’s own game!

After the bananas were quickly eaten she began on the coconut and it was incredible to see her remove the husk and then smack the shell against the tree until she coukd drink the coconut water and eat the flesh!

We watched for a good 20 minutes before she began to leave through the trees again! Just amazing.

As we left the park, a bus was waiting and for just 4 Ringit we took a ride back to kiching all raving and excited by what we’d just seen!

*Since then I’ve talked to a few people who went to the centre the day/few days after us and didn’t see any orangutans so we were really lucky!*

When we got off the bus, we wandered around Kuching a bit more and passed shipping centres and market stalls.

Then, having had another early start, we rested in the hostel before heading out for dinner. We ended up at the shopping centres food court which was super cheap and had a massive range of food which was great!

15th May – Kabuh National Park

We gave ourselves a little longer in bed this morning and went off to find breakfast at 9am. Again, hardly any places were open but we found a hotel offering breakfast for 8 Ringit just down the road a bit. We could have any eggs we wanted, toast and a rice porridge thing so we filled up then met rose again at the hostel to read to the national park.

We’d heard about this park from our friends but when reading online the transport options for getting there and back were very confusing. Rose had been told by the tourist information that there was a bus, our hostel said there wasn’t! We nearly hired a car from the hostel and driven it ourselves but we trusted the tourist info so decided to Grab taxi there and bus back!

The Grab taxi cost us 25 Ringit between bus so wasn’t bad and it took about 30 minutes to get there.

We managed to be dropped off at the wrong entrance but after walking up the hill, we found the entrance.

The first thing the lady asked us was how we were getting back! We said bus to which she told us there was no longer a bus service! Great. I had the Grab taxis number so we decided we’d just call him later.

The entrance fee was 10 Ringit and the last showed us a few trails we could do. We decided to head to the waterfall which should be about an hour and a half on way.

Rose had booked to stay the night at the park and we checked out her accommodation which was basic but fine!

Then we set off. The first 30 minutes was along a road but a very steep road! It was exhausting but soon we found a frogs pond and then the entrance to the waterfall trail.

The rest of the journey included climbing down steep steps, over roots, under branches and along windy, uneven paths. It was beautiful with amazing vine trees and some huge flowers and ferns!

By the time we reached the waterfall we were all soaked just from sweat – very attractive!

N

Nicole and I had worn swim clothes under our other so immediately stripped off and enjoyed the coolness of the water as it tumbled over the 10 metre high waterfall. The water was pretty low due to it being dry season but it was still beautiful!

After chilling in the water for a while and having some snacks, we began the journey back.

I always think going back is so much easier than the way as you know where you’re going and always seems much quicker!

We arrived back at the entrance about 3.30 hours after leaving. We then tried to find a Grab taxi to get us back. The app didn’t work so I called our driver from the morning. He said he couldn’t as he was too far away! The staff tried to call someone they knew but their phone wasn’t working! None of the staff coukd take us and so we were a little stuck! After about 20 minutes, one of the staff ladies found a small piecw of paper with a number on it for a taxi that had come to the park before. I called the number and amazingly the guy agreed to come and get us!

We waited another 30 minutes for him to turn up and said farewell and good luck to Rose before returning to Kuching. Thankfully the journey still only cost 35 Ringit (£7)!

That evening I headed to a local restaurant near our hostel and enjoyed a noodle dish with chicken. I was the only foreigner in the place and they seemed surprised I’d gone in but the waitress was great and it was her suggestion on the food! I was glad I enjoyed it as didn’t really have a clue what I was getting!

16th May – Bako National park

7am my alarm went off again and it was a bit harder this morning to get up but we did and soon were ordering a Grab taxi from Kuching to the Bako national park boat jetty which cost 26 Ringit and took 45 minutes.

Reading online , we thought there was a bus but again information wasn’t clear and so Grab was much easier at that time in the morning!

At the jetty we had to sign in. We had booked accommodation via the Sarawak website. They had different options including a hostel room for 15 Ringit (£3) but didnt provide towels or blankets and a variety of other rooms. We booked Lodge 6 which had two twin beds, towels and blankets and an ensuite. It was just 50 Ringit per room so 25 each (£5). We were the first there but about 7 other couples arrived just after, some on a day trip, some staying overnight.

Next to the signing in counter was the boat counter. We’d read that we might have to pay up to 100 Ringit for the boat and find people to split the cost with but it was much more official and was a set price. 20 Ringit per way so 40 for a return per person. The return was open and you choose your return time at the park with the last boat being 3pm giving us plenty of time over the next two days.

We arrived at 8.15am and by 8.30 they were taking us to the boat which they filled to maximum capacity! Luckily noone had massive bags! (We’d left ours at the hostel for the night in their luggage store which was great!)

The boat journey took 20 minutes and we ended up landing on the beach (the tide was too low for the jetty) even though we’d been told once already not to go near the water because of crocodiles!! But we were all soon wading through the water and up the beach to reception with no incident!

We registered ourselves and put our bags in storage as we couldn’t check into our lodge until 2pm.

Then it was time for breakfast – no way I was walking empty stomached! The park had a decent canteen and the food was much better then I thought from previous reviews. It was basic but fill you up food and it was self service so you just chose what you wanted and paid per item. The prices weren’t crazy and you could take a pretty big scoop for the price (I tested it of course!). My meal of rice, egg, chicken nuggets and noodles was 6 Ringit – nice balanced diet I know!! But it prepared me nicely for a day of walking!

Then it was time to head out for the trails. We met a couple at check in so decided we’d go as a 4 on the first trek (no. 3).

This trek took us among trees again over roots and up and down pretty steep paths! It was not 800m but the terrain took us an hour!

T

his was supposed to be the trail to take to see the big nosed probisco monkey but we didn’t see any!

At the end of the trail, we found a beach and it felt like I was part of ‘Lost’ or ‘Bear’s Island’ as it was diserted. At the water edge, we saw a creature which looked like half fish, half lizard! We found out later I think they were mud skippers!

We then began the trek back through the jungle to the cross roads of the other trails.

Nicole and I decided to do the next trail straight away as we cold then rest after that rather then keep coming back.

We were just beginning when we heard the trees rustle and just above us were a group of silver leaf monkeys. The one we could see closest had a baby with bright range fur! We watched for a while then began the walk.

This one was 2.6km and after the step jungle part, we came across a completely different terrain. It was grassland and muddy tracks. There was also a boarded walk for most of it which was much easier than the one before.

Eventually we came to a cliff edge with the beach below where we hoped to catch a boat to see the rock formations along the coast.

We sat down for a rest and snacks and relaxed with the view… and that’s when it happened…..

Stupidly we had put our bags down when resting on the cliff top and hadn’t thught anything of it until we turned around to see a monkey with my bag in her hands!!

She very quickly found the biscuits I had in there and ripped through the foil instantly before stuffing them in her mouth!

Then she began to explore my bag more and my coat throwing everything on the floor and unzipping every zipper.

At first, it was funny and I tried to shoo her away and half throw water at her to get her to move but she wasn’t giving it up. Instead she began to chase us away! We weren’t going to risk being bitten so backed off but I didn’t really want to leave my bag either with my purse and credit cards exposed to her either eating them or taking them off into the trees!

A couple who had been on the beach arrived then and tried to shoo her themselves until she again began to chase them off!

Now all 4 of us were scared and that’s when she decided she’d really chase us off! We started afyer us so we backed off only to find we’d gone down a dead end and had to scramble up a bolder away from her! She continued to follow us as we went back along the trail. We’d stop and look back and then she’d appear after us again!

Finally, we’d put some distance between us and could stop for a breather! If I’m honest I was terrified! My heart was racing and I knew I’d have to go back and get my stuff which was really scary! You just don’t want to risk being bitten by a wild monkey!!

The couple had to leave as they needed to catch a boat so Nicole and I were alone! We really hoped some other people would turn up but they didn’t!

After about 30 minutes, we decided it was time to try to go back and retrieve whatever was left!

Because were so brave and fierce, we armed ourselves with sticks and began to creep back as silently as possible! We were searching the trees for the mole and kept stopping to listen but didn’t see or hear anything.

Where the bag was meant I had to climb down some steps which lined an overhand bolder, walk arouhd the corner and retieve the bag frok rhe rock edge. Then run back! Nicole kept a look our from the rock above and I ran to the bag. My stuff was everywhere! Receipts and money on the floor, the whole bag contents scattered around but luckily no monkeys!! I grabbed everything, shuving it all in the bag and raced back. We then retreated FAST!

It was rediculous but it had scared us so we just wanted to get back to the main head quarters as quick as possible so quick marched back along the trail! We were so out of breathe by the end!!

When we returned to the main building, we saw the couple from the first trek who were just heading off on that trail! They told us two guys had also been caught by a monkey! And another couple said a monkey had jumped up the front of a girl to get her coke can! We were glad it hadn’t actually touched us!

Time for a shower! We checked in and found our lodge. Luckily, the room was again better than I expected. It wasn’t 5* but had the necessities. The fan above the beds was great and although the shower was cold, it was nice after a long trek!!

After a rest, we went for dinner at the canteen where I was surprised by actually having quite decent sized menu to choose from with most dishes being 10-15 Ringit. We’d read online that prices were high for food but this was fine! We enjoyed our meal and a cold beer watching bearded pigs wander by!

Nicoles knees were playing up so she stayed in the lodge for the evening whilst I did the night trek!

It cost 10 Ringit and was worth it as our guide could spot the smallest of creatures we would never see!

As we walked he spotted and pointed out many spiders, stick insect, grasshoppers frogs and showed us birds sleeping on the tree branches!

As we walked back, he spotted a sleeping fly lemar just above our lodge! And then next to the canteen was a sleeping proboscis monkey!! He didn’t look impressed when the torches found him!

Finally, he showed us a snake in the buches! I’m not sure how poisonous ot was as the guides kept saying different times until death but basically you’d need to get to hospital quick! I stepped back a bit then!

It was great to have a guide in the night!

We hadn’t had a guide in the day as you don’t need one to follow the trails but we knew we’d never spot everything that’s there. But as we didn’t come with a tour conpany that’s what we sacrificed but we still saw monkeys (with up close encounters!) on our own so not too bad!

We slept well and enjoyed a lie in until 9am. Now we’re not tekkers so we both ached in the morning so decided we’d jsur enjoy another breakfast at the canteen over looking the jungle before checking out.

Whilst we ate breakfast, the bearded pigs were roaming. Last night the guide had told us that they called them 7/11s as they’re available 24/7!!

Then in the trees just by the beach a couple of proboscis money arrived! They were just climbing and walking along the beach! It was great as we’d only seen a couple from afar the day before!!

Once we’d checked out we headed to the boat counter and booked or boat back at 11. The boat arrived and again we had to board from the beach but this time there were only 4 of us.

When we got to the jetty, I asked the couple if they were going to Kuching and they were so rather than wait for a bus, we shared a taxi for 40 Ringit each.

It was a great end to our Borneo/Malaysia adventure. We’d jungle trekked, seen lots of weird and wonderful creatures and plants, learnt some valuable lessons (don’t underestimate monkeys!) and were ready to see what Singapore had to offer tomorrow!!

Sri Lanka

26th April – Male — Colombo

Leaving the Maldives was quite an emotional experience. We’d had the best holiday of our lives and despite knowing we were going to another amazing destination, it was still hard. Made harder by being told at 7pm when we checked in that the 9.55pm flight was delayed until 12.30am!!

We spent the rest of the evening waiting around before finally boarding. One positive thing was that the plane was a large one and we all had TVs which meant for the next hour and 10 minutes we could relax with a film! (I’ll have to finish ‘The greatest Showman’ on my way home in June!)

Finally we landed at 2.45am and thankfully we’d arrange a hostel pickup. The poor guy had been waiting in the airport for hours. Then it was another hour to the hostel so we finally arrived at 4am!

Exhausted, we just dropped out bags in the room and all crawled straight into bed!

Of course, I was awake by 9am and hungry so we got up and enjoyed a free breakfast of pancakes as well as so much tea! I’m going to love Sri Lanka with all the availability of good tea!

We hung out at the hostel enjoying the good WiFi for the morning before heading out for lunch.

Just 5 minutes from the hostel was the beach which we wandered down before stopping at a restaurant for food.

I’d been warned in the hostel that service in Sri Lanka could be quite slow and yep it was. When our meals did come, we realised we hadn’t ordered rice (naively we thought the chicken and pork sauce dished would come with rice!) Another 10 minutes went by before we got some rice and then tucked in. Although we’d ask for little spice, it still made our mouths burn! Time to build up the spice tolerance again!

After lunch we headed back to the hostel and just spent out time planning the Sri Lanka trip (well the next two days) and booking flights for our other destinations (Malaysia/Borneo and Indonesia).

Finally, around 8pm, we headed out for dinner and also found a supermarket for sun cream supplies and other essentials. Dinner was great and we all shared so enough some mash and sausages, chips and chicken kieves and pasta with chicken and cheese sauce- Yum!

When we arrived back, we paid for the hostel ready for departing the next day. Yes we hadn’t really explored Colombo but we’d had a productive day getting things booked and just recovering from a very busy few days!

Tomorrow the new adventure truly begins!

28th April – Colombo – Kandy

We woke early (8am) and packed up our bags for our journey to Kandy.

Breakfast took a while to come but today’s option was omelette with toast and of course lots of tea! It was a great omelette and as soon as we were done we booked a Uber to the train station.

The journey took about 35 minutes and we arrived at 10.10am. We wanted to catch the 10.35am train to Kandy so I queued up but when I asked for 1st class ticket, I got sent to another counter. Then at the other counter, I was told to go back to the orginal counter! Confused, I asked some other foreigners in the the queue who also had a sri lanka man with them. He explained 1st class were somewhere else but 2nd class tickets could be bought here. I checked we’d get a seat in 2nd class and bought our 3 tickets – 190 each ($1.30).

We then headed to the platform which was very crowded. Another friendly Sri Lanka man told us we were in the right place for 2nd class and about 10 minutes later the train began to pull up.

That’s where it got crazy. As people were trying to get off the train, others were barging through pushing snd running to get on the train. Luckily, we had be stood near a door so woth our big bags we pushed through too (I nearly fell backwards off the train as my bag was so heavy!) and quickly dropped our bags on 3 seats. The carriage filled up immediately and we realised how lucky we were to get seats as the corridors filled up. Together we managed to push our bug bags onto the overhead luggage shelf and then settled into the journey.

Although there were fans and the windows were open, the carriage was hot but I can’t complain as I had a seat and so many others didn’t!

It was a bumpy 3 1/2 hours with little incidents other than a little boy touching Sinead’s bare leg as he walked past! Think he was checking it felt the same as his and he might not have seen white bare legs before – super cute!

Arriving was not as stressful as leaving and we were able to disembark with no pushing or jostling. We walked out the entrance and immediately found a man with a car. He quoted 300 rupees which probably was a bit expensive but when you convert it and it’s only $2, it seems okay!

In we got and 15 minutes later, arrived at our hostel ‘Clock Inn’. It wasn’t quite the same welcome we had experienced in the Maldives as more business like and no welcome drink but soon we were lugging our bags upstairs. We found our room on the 3rd floor and entered. Apparently this hostel has the most beds in Kandy. This apparently means put as many beds as possible into a tiny room. There were 3 bunk beds in our room which left a tiny corridor between them which was so small you have to take turns to pass each other! Welcome back to hostel life!

Thankfully there were towels and lockers! We went downstairs to grab the WiFi and plan our next few days but found the WiFi was so slow it was pointless so we found a phone shop, bought sims and some data.

Then it was time to explore Kandy. We found a local cafe for lunch. Nicole and I ordered Kothu which is chopped up chipatti, chicken and veg. The guy making it was stationed in the rest rush and used huge knives to chop it up – great to see but very loud!

After lunch, we began to make a plan for the next few days then walked down to the river.

Found the shopping centre then headed to ‘The Pub’ for a drink. In the end we stayed there all evening enjoying a few beers and listening to Frank Sinatra on the screen on the wall.

Finally, we headed back to the hostel accompanied by street dogs and a little kitten!

Back at the hostel, we found the electricity was off which made getting ready and using the bathroom a little tricker!

29th April – Sigriya

We had contacted Neel (taxi driver from yesterday ) about taking us to the Sigiriya to the rock there so we were up at 8, grabbing breakfast – more eggs on toast – and being picked up at 9am.

The drive was long and very windy as we travelled through mountains and past small villages. Luckily I was in the front of the car or I’d been very sick! Can’t imagine what the buses would have been like!!

About halfway, we stopped at an organic spice farm. Here they use all plant based and organic ingredients to make herbal remedies. We were taken around by a guide, allowed to try different plants and received a little head massage.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the information, we were taken to a hut where we were given a head, shoulders, back and arm massage using the products from the place. It was a little random but a lovely massage! Of course, it was a donation which I always find awkward – how much to give? We decided on 1500 which is $10. It was probably a bit much but it was a good massage! After that, we had the chance to buy anything we wanted and then we’re taken to see the doctor on sight who was the 12th generation of doctors in his family using natural remedies.He took our pulses and asked some questions about us and actually could identify things which we each knew were true. He prescribed some herbal remedies and we just ended up chatting for ages!

e had spent nearly two hours at the spice farm by the time we got back in the car!

Another 2 hours later, we arrived at a restaurant for lunch.

Then we were 10 km from the rock. We had decided not to climb the big rock (Lion rock) as it was $35 to climb it and as it was Sri Lanka’s 3 day Buddhist festival, it would have been really busy. So we heard to the slightly smaller Pidrungala rock. This one only cost 500 rupees! We walked through a temple first, having to cover our shoulders and knees, then we began the climb.

First it was steps, then it turned into just climbing over rocks and boulders. At the top, we really had to scramble and rock climb to get onto top. We wet with sweat but once at the top, the view and breeze were amazing!

We had 360 degree views over the surround lands and could see the other rock really well.

It was quite busy with lots of groups of sri lanka locals especially groups of boys with their motorbike helmets in their hands! As we walked around, we were suddenly the centre of attention from these groups and soon each group were asking for selfies with us!! It was hilarious. We’d see them look, talk, laugh, then one ‘brave’ person would come to ask. When we said yes, the rest would join! We must have been asked by over 10 groups of people!! They were all here because it was their holiday.

After enjoying the views, we decided we’d head down. It was about 5pm and the sun was beginning to set but there would be about an hour of light left. That’s when we found the crowds!

The rock you have to climb up to get to the top had become a bottle neck with people trying to get down and up. There were babies being carried in their father’s arms, old, young, local and foreigners all trying to scramble up ot down! Quite mental! Somehow we managed to squeeze down and get out!

Then it was the climb down. When we had climbed up, it had been quite quiet but it seems everyone was now trying to go up! And with only an hour of sun left! I wouldn’t have wanted to do that climb in pitch black!

We found Neel again at the bottom and began the journey back. Just like on the way traffic was awful and it took us 3 1/2 hours to get back!

In total a journey which should have taken 2-2 1/2 hours took nearly 4! This was all due to the 3 day buddist festival but it meant we were out 9am – 9pm!!

During the ride back, we had tried to plan the rest of our time in sri lanka and Neel had suggested him driving us around, arranging hotels and taking us to all the places we wanted to go. After experiencing the train and seeing the buses on the roads, we agreed as the thought of having to carry our bags everywhere and on public transport field us with dread! So that was sorted Neel would accompany us on a 5 day, 4 night tour taking us from Kandy to Adams peak. Then to Hatton where we would take the scenic train to Ella where he’d meet us with our bags. We’d have 2 nights in Ella to explore and climb Little Adams peak. Then he’d take us to Yala national park for a safari trip. Then drop us at Mirissa beach. From there we would decide what to do.

Yes it isn’t really back packing but it took away all the hassle of trains, buses and taxis! Espcially with 3 of us, it works out the best and it pretty common we found out when talking to others in our hotels.

So the next few days were set. We climbed into bed relived and ready for the next few days adventures.

30th April – Kandy – Adam’s peak

Neel picked us up at 10am from the hostel and we began our journey to Adams peak.

On the way we stopped several times:

First to a wood carving shop which had the most amazing wooden elephants! The guy showing us around explained how the natural paints were made all from rainbow wood and the colours were created using different techniques: adding boiling water for yellowy orange, adding an iron rod turned it purple, lemon juice turned it orange, and a chalk turned it back to a purple pink. We explored around the shop trying not to buy everything!! The guy was lovely and Sinead even sat on one of the huge elephant sculptures! In the end Nicole bought a mask which meant happiness, peace and prosperity.

Our second stop was to a souvenir shop which had lively paintings, cards, clothes and more.

Finally we stopped at a batik shop where we saw the women creating the batiks which was very impressive. It’s a long process and the batiks were beautiful. Of course we bought some!

Then it was back on our way but not before we each were given a cup of juice from a family on the street who were giving our free juice to everyone passing. Tuk tuks, taxis and passersby were all having a drink. It was all part of the 3 day buddist festival and we’d seen it on the drive the day before. Such a lovely idea!

Then we were off to Adam’s peak. It was about 2 hours of driving through tea plantations and mountains.

We made another stop at a tea shop where we were shown around rhe factory where they grind the tea. It was interesting to learn about the different blends and why some are stronger (more brown fibre) then others. After the tour, we were given 8 teas to try. There was a special white tea which is only found in sri lanka which was very light and sweet. Sinead and I loved the teas espcially the English breakfast and afternoon blends! After trying them black, we asked for some milk and then we were truly in tea heaven!

Into the car we jumped again and off we went past tea covered mountains and steep valleys! Apparently the buses would also come this way which scared us all as it’s very windy and thin! Sri Lanka driving also involved braking with no warning or break lights and overtaking on bends, hills or anywhere really!

Finally we arrived at the hotel near Adams peak called Punsisis. We checked in and then followed the porter (who was carrying mine and Nicole’s massive bags) up to our room. The room was on the 6th floor which was 6 sets of stairs! We were dying by the top and we hadn’t even been carrying our big bags! How the porter did it I don’t know!

The room was a double and a single bed and ensuite. It had a lovely balcony over looking the valley and hills which was great. It was nearly 5pm when we arrived and we hadn’t had lunch so we ordered dinner for 6.

At dinner, we had a great view of Adams peak which filled me with dread! I am not a hiker, I don’t really do exercise and that it a mountain!! I also was conscious that I would have to be up at 2am! Another thing I hate – lack of sleep! So I was a little anxious! After dinner, I headed to the room, showered and tried to sleep. Surprisingly, although it was only 7.30pm, I slept and when the alarm went off at 1.45am, I actually felt like I’d had a decent nights sleep.

1st May – Adam’s Peak – The climb

It was pitch black as we made our way out of the hotel. It was cooler but not freezing and we had leggings and t-shirts on. As we arrived at the street, we saw a couple with a guide on their way so we joined them for the beginning as we didn’t actually know where we were going! The lady at the hotel had just said go right past the black rock!! Everything looks black at 2am!

After about 20 minutes along slipped ground, we arrived at the entrance were there were some monks to bless our journey (for a donation) and then we were off.

At first it was slopes with 3 steps every so often. This was the warm up!

40 minutes in I saw a tea shop so I grabbed a strong cup of tea (I knew I’d need some tea strength to survive this)and on we went.

Soon though, the slopes stopped and steep stairs began! This was it..up was the only way we could go and up meant step after step!

Despite it being the middle of the night, we were already drenched in swear but we kept going. A few steps, stop, a few more, stop. Nicole listened to music, Sinead just marched on and I had the BBC drama ‘The archers’ in my ears. Many people would say music would be better but I knew the two omnibuses were 1 hour 15 each so if I could just keep walking until they finished, I would surely be near the top! And I soon got into the drama which helped to ignore the pains and exhaustion I felt!

Luckily for us the path and steps were lit by lights but we were told that yesterday had been the last day of the season so today was the last day of the lights! Climbing it without them would have been much harder! But this did explain why as we climbed only the one tea shop was open!

I kept looking up to see the lights ahead of me. It felt never ending but soon we could see we were close. Of course, this was when the steps became even stepper! But suddenly, there we were at the top – 2 hours 45 minutes after leaving the hotel! It was quite rhe miracle as I didn’t think I was going to get up half of it.

The top wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. There were 2 buildings surrounded by steps and a fence covering one side. People were sat on the steps, some were sleeping next to the buildings. The temple where Buddha’s or Adams footprint was suppose to be was closed (again end of season) so it meant lots of people being in quite a small space. We’d arrived earlier then we thought so the sun wasn’t near rising yet. This meant after 5 minutes of waiting we were freezing. We had brought jackets and jumpers but still we had to huddle together to keep warm!

Slowly, the sun began to rise and people moved around the buildings trying to find a good spot for photos. It was more crowded then I would have liked but the views over the mountains were amazing and it was cool to see the clouds flowing like water over the mountain edges and into the valley.

The sky was a little hazy but we saw the colours of the sunrise chnage and glow before deciding it was time to try to head down.

To be honest, my legs hadn’t been too bad on the way up pain wise and as I began the decent I thought I was going to be okay. Well after 20 minutes, that all changed, my legs were like jelly and my calves were beginning to hurt.

The views down were great but somehow it seemed to feel like it was taking even longer then going up! Espcially the track between the tea shop and the monks blessing. It felt like double the distance and by that time I was nearly limping!

Finally after nearly 2 hours, we arrived back at the hotel only to have to climb another 4 flights to breakfast! But we’d done it! Looking up at the peak from breakfast I did feel a great sense of accomplishment amongst the pain and exhaustion.

We climbed the stairs very slowly back to our room and had time to shower and have a quick nap before we were back in the car and heading on to Hatton!

The drive there took about an hour. We had arranged with Neel that we would get the train from Hatton to Ella as this was supposed to be a really beautiful journey. He took our bags and we just kept our essentials. When we arrived ay the station, we were told there were no tickets but we could wait until 12.30 and get an open ticket for 2nd class. The ticket would mean we could get on and just look for a seat in 2nd or 3rd class. If we were lucky, there might be a seat. So we said goodbye to Neel and waited for 12.30 to come around to get a ticket. Nicole and I quickly ran into the town to grab some takeaway food and water for the journey. When we got back, Sinead had purchased the tickets for just 160 rupees each ($1.10). We still had a while to wait so ended up chatting to other forgers who were doing the same journey as use. Lots of them had been at Adam’s peak that morning as well and you could tell by the limps many had including myself! The train was due at 1.30pm but didn’t turn up until 2. As soon as it arrived, we arranged ourselves close to the doors and immediate jumped on board as soon as it stopped. Amazingly, we found a carriage with 3 seats free and each got one! Our eagerness had paid off!

We settled in for the ride and over the next 4 hours journeyed through some amazing scenery: vast valleys, lush green tea plantations and mountainous terrains. Lots of people hung out from the door (I say door but there aren’t actual doors there just open spaces) and sat on the ground with their feet dangling out – Sinead joined them most of the way! They just had to pull their heads in when we went through the various tunnels.

Finally, we arrived at Ella and were suddenly surrounded by a lot of tourists! Ella has become the place to go and has a very chilled almost hippie feel. As we searched through the crowd, we spotted Neel and soon were heading to our hotel. The hotel was called Rawanna and guess what?! It had lots of steps up to the restaurant and room! By this time my legs had started seizing up but I just about managed the stairs! We had dinner in the hotels restaurant before falling into bed exhausted! What a long day!!

2nd May – Ella

The next morning mine and Nicole’s legs were broken. I could hardly put any weight on them! Of course, Miss Energy e.g Sinead, was fine so she went off at 7.30am for another hike up to Ella’s Rock. This was an hour and half climb through tea plantations and forests. Altogether it was about a 15km round trip. She arranged a guide from the hotel so she had someone to show her where to go. Whilst she was gone, Nicole and I caught up on sleep, tried to massage our aching legs and had breakfast!

Sinead returned around 12 and we went for lunch in a local restaurant called 360. We had rotti wraps which were delicious and then enjoyed a few tea samples from the tea shop next door before heading back to the hotel to meet Neel.

Neel took us to th entrance of Little Adams Peak and off we went. This peak was much smaller but with legs not really working it got a little harder nearer the top. At first it was just a sloped road past tea plants and views of Ella’s rock and surrounding hills.

Nearer the top it turned into stairs – our nemesis but we coped and only 30 minutes after being dropped off we were at the top.

The top was more like what I thought Adams peak would be like – open flat ground.

We grabbed some pics, walked along the edge a bit then began the climb down.

Down was definitely worse on my legs but we made it.

Neel then dropped us up the road so we could walk a few km to the 9 arch bridge . Again this was hills up and down and some slippy mud paths!

It was a lovely view though of the railway track even though the train wasn’t due for a couple of hours.

We reached the tracks just as it began to rain. After taking a few pics, the rain really began to pour so we retreated halfway up the hill where there was a small shop to shelter in and before the mud paths became treacherous!

The rain really came down then! It was still beautiful to watch but we were drenched.

After waiting for about 20 minutes, we decided we’d try to get up the next slope to where we’d seen some tuk tuks parked who could take us back to the main road. Somehow we made it without incident and all pilled into a tuk tuk. The tuk tuk took off at break neck speed of course and was slipping and sliding up the hills. On one hill though the engine just couldn’t make it so Nicole and I had to get out and meet the tuk tuk at the top of the hill!!

We arrived on the main road and began to look for Neel’s car. We were covered in mud and soaking wet so all felt a bit bad as we climbed into the car as Neel has literally just spent 4 hours that morning cleaning it!

Back at the hotel, we showered, rested and waited for the rain to stop before heading into the town for dinner. We found a nice restaurant called ‘Chill’. It had 3 floors including a roof top bar area but it was FULL of foreigners! We could only find a seat at the bar but that wasn’t too bad. I ordered a chicken schitzell which was huge when it arrived ; I couldn’t even finish it which is saying something!! After enjoin the atmosphere of the place, we took a leisurely walk back stopping at the souvenir shops on the way.

3rd May – Ella – Tissamaharama

We woke around 8 and headed down for breakfast before meeting Neel at 10.30 to begin the journey towards Yala National park. The journey was much less windy once we were out the mountains and we just had one quick stop to see a waterfall where locals were bathing in! We were also asked several times by sellers if we had any little coins from our countries. They tried to ‘give’ us stones for free but we didn’t accept as we’d never have been able to get away without paying anything!

After about 2 hours, we arrived in Tissamaharama which is about 10 km from Yala National park. Neel took us striaght to a guy to buy our safari tickets. We had wanted to do it in the morning the next day but we were persuaded to do it that afternoon at 2pm. The cost was $50 each which afyer more research I think was a bit expensive but there wasn’t much we could do as Neel took us there! We did try for a discount but he said he didn’t understand! Hmm

Anyway, after securing the safari, we headed to a local restaurant for lunch. I had lasagne which was my first for months!! Very rich though so I couldn’t eat it all which was a shame!

We then dropped out bags at the hotel. This hotel was called ‘Peacock Feather’ and it was very fancy! We were welcomed with a welcome smoothie and our room was huge! 2 single beds and a double and so much space!

There was also a pool which we could use later after the safari. All of the hotels were organised by Neel so it was much fancier then we would ever have had being backpackers!

At 2pm, we were picked up in the safari jeep which has seats on different levels above the drivers seat so we had a great view. Then began a very bumpy, crazy drive to Yala park! It was great having the wind in our hair as we drive but the driver was quite irratic.

He’d speed up then break suddenly to go over a speech bump then speed up again before another bump! 20 minutes after leaving the hotel, we were in the park and could observe the many water buffalo roaming around as well as warthog and various birds.

We drove on and soon saw a group of jeeps stopped. We pulled up and there were about 10 female elephants with their babies. It was lovely to see them pulling up the turf, rolling it and eating it and to see so many babies!

We drove on spotting samba deer, a monitor lizard, mongoose and amazing birds.

Our guide explained to use when we stopped at the edge of the park which meets the sea that a few years ago a tsunami hit. When it got, it wiped out several drivers and their foreigner passengers. Our driver lost his brother to the tsunami and only escaped because his client had wanted to leave early as wasn’t feeling well!! It was so sad to hear and we saw the tsunami memorial which has been erected there.

I went to the loo and as we were getting back into the jeep, a huge male elephant came wandering into the clearing literally outside the toilet entrance! I was glad I’d gotten out before he was there or I’d have been stuck!

Back in the jeep we continued our tour. Suddenly, our jeep sped up and we seemed to be racing several other jeeps. It was like wacky races! Jeeps overtaking each other, reversing suddenly and taking all the different paths. We then saw a collection of jeeps which we headed towards and squeezed between. When the engine and jeep final stopped , we asked what it was and told there was a leopard in the bush to out right. Craning out necks, we could just make out the spots of the leopards skin. It was just chilling under the tree! There must have been over 20 jeeps though in the area all trying to get close enough to see it! Obviously it didn’t like the noise of all the jeeps so it moved after about 10 minutes which caused another mad dash as jeeps tried to work out which way it went! It was both ridiculous and hilarious but also pretty dangerous as these jeeps were missing each other by inches as they manoeuvred around.

We told our driver we were okay to go elsewhere rather than wait to try and spot it again so off we went along the endless tracks. As we drove, we spotted a crocodile basking in the sun and then without warning our driver braked suddenly, reversed and there in the undergrowth were two bears! A mother and cub! He explained they were super rare to see so we were very lucky! As we began to exit the park, he took us up to a dried up waterfall complete with skulls from the animals who have entered the water when it was full and not escaped! We also saw another male elephant just as we were leaving which was great! They are such majestic creatures!

Once back at the hotel, we relaxed, had dinner and used the pool which I had thought would help my sore legs but no, it was very painful to swim! Then it was time to enjoy our huge room before we moved on again the next day!

4th May – Tissamaharama -Mirissa

We left the hotel at 10.30 to drive to Mirissa the beach town. We arrived around 12.30 and it was time to bid farewell to Neel.

We were back to reality as we checked into ‘Space Garden hostel’ for 2 nights. But it actually wasn’t too bad as we ended up having a 4 bed room to ourselves as it was low season. That afternoon, we were back in our swim wear and heading to the beach. It was a great beach, not too busy and with soft sand but wow the waves were huge. We knew sri lanka was known for surfing and could see why with the waves! So different to the Maldives!

After sun bathing and relaxing, we headed to the hostel for dinner. A lot of places were shut in Mirissa due to it being low season which made dinner choices limited but the hostel did a wrap type thing called a pindala which was great!

After food, we returned to the beach which was now set up with candle lit tables and enjoyed a beer to the sounds of the waves.

5th May – Mirissa

We had a very lazy morning and only left the hostel at 11! We ended up at local café where we enjoyed a rotti breakfast. I had a chicken one and chocolate and banana! It was delicious and only $1 each was super cheap!

Then we headed to the beach for a day fo reading, sun bathing and swimming.

The reading and sunbathing went well but the swimming ended up a bit of a fail. Nicole and I had watched many others enter the water and the waves did look huge but manageable so we headed in. At first we were fine and we managed to get beyond the breaking point – we thought! Suddenly there was a massive wave coming so we ducked down under it and came up fine. But then another came and it was even bigger. We both swam down but this one caught us both. I was spun around underwater like a washing machine and was very conscious of having to hold my breathe before I thought it was okay to surface! It was pretty scary but my first thought was where was Nicole. She had had the same thing happen and we immediately began to return to the beach!!

Of course this was easier said then done and we kept being battered by the waves! Bikinis are definetly not suitable for such waves! I nearly lost it all on several occasions! But we scrambled back to the shore and got out. We were covered in sand and panting. That was the end of our swimming adventures in Sri lanka! This is probably why they have season as the waves would be too big and strong even for some surfers!

Later on I climbed the rock at the end of the beach which have beautiful views over the bay and into the waves beyond – forgot my camera though!

Then we headed back to the hotel to try to de-sand! Even after a shower there was sand EVERYWHERE!! Nicole managed to remove a whole pile of sand from her swimsuit in the morning!!

We headed to the beach to watch the sunset and then had dinner in the hostel.

It was a slightly sad evening as the next day we had to say goodbye to Sinead as she was staying in sri lanka for a week of surfing and Nicole and I were heading to Malaysia. It has been quite an adventure the last few weeks as the three of us travelled together so it would be different again!

We enjoyed an evening of listening to music and chilling in our room.

6th May – Mirissa – Colombo

Today we split up. We waved Sinead away to her surf camp before Nicole and I headed to the train station. We had to get two tuk tuks as we have so much stuff!! The mirissa station was tiny so it wasn’t difficult to get a ticket (220 rupees – $1.50) and when the train arrived it was pretty empty so we could get a group of 4 seats for our bags and us and then we sat back and enjoyed rhe 4 hour ride, up the coast, to Colombo Fort.

The journey was great. Nicole stood by the door most of the time waving at the locals as we passed. It was great to see so many people going about their daily lives as well as passing the various houses and businesses which line the track! It was great!

Things I’ve noticed about sri lanka:

1. Most middle aged men and above wear a type of wrap around skirt and shirt rather than trousers

2. Women of all ages have really long hair which they weave down their backs.

3. Unlike Thailand and Vientam, hardly anyone wears hats or cover their bodies from the sun – a lot of men walk around top less

4. People walk along the train tracks as if they are normal paths

5. The tuk tuks are actually 3 wheeled vehicles and all have a covered roof

6. Tax and service charge are added on to your bill at the end – makes everything that little but more expensive

7. The people are lovely but they expect a tip for all services

At 6pm, we arrived in Colombo. We had journeyed up the coast with the waves just metres from the tracks. Lining the track were also rows of houses. It looked like a shanty town as the quality of houses was low. People sat less than a metre from the train’s path and as we hung out the door we had to jeep pulling our heads in as we thought we’d hit something.

At the station, I went to find out when the next train to Negombo was as we were staying near the airport. It wasn’t until 8.20pm so we decided we’d grab a tuk tuk instead. Amazingly we fitted in one with all our bags and zoomed off for an hours drive weaving through traffic and near misses!

We arrived at ‘The Hangover hostel’ and found our beds. We had a room to ourselves as the hostel was really quiet. The rooms were made from containers like those found on the back of lorries which was cool. The bed was comfy and there were loads of showers. We felt disgusting after a day on the trains so it was great to get washed and just chill. I ended up watching ‘Forest Gump’ as I’ve never seen it (shocking I know!). Then it was off to sleep ready for our flight to Kuala Lumpur the next morning. The hostel arranged tuk tuks to the airport so we had nothing to worry about which was great.

11 days in Sri Lanka done. A county full of colour, amazing tea covered mountains, jungles, windy roads and friendly people! It had been great and now we were ready for what was to come in Malaysia!

The Maldives as a backpacker

“We’re going to the Maldives,”

*Face of disbelief* “Wow that’s expensive and off the backpacker route!”

Yep it is but we’re going! Of course we had our own questions and worries…could we do the Maldives justice on a budget? Could we even afford a night there? Would it be the same if we didn’t stay in a 5* resort?

So a bit of background info:

We’re 3 girls from Ireland (Sinead), England (Me- Mim) and America (Nicole) who met in Thailand where we were teaching English together in a Primary school. Before we met, we’d all planned to travel after teaching so as we discussed these plans,  more and more ideas were added and suddenly we were planning to met in Kuala Lumpur a month and a half after finishing our term to head to the Maldives!

We are just 3 ordinary girls having the most extraordinary holiday!! Read below for our adventures over the next 10 days as well as the costs of doing it…Yes the Maldives isn’t a backpacking destination but it isn’t just a pipe dream…We’re here and you could be too!

Flight day

We were coming from Cambodia so we took a flight from Siem Reap – Kuala Lumpur (2 hours – $90)

We then waited for the day in the airport until our evening flight to Male the capital of the Maldives ( Flight time – 4 hours – $76.50)

We arrived at the airport at 9.30pm and off we went to see if we could find a taxi. After walking past the numerous resort stands, it became apparent there were no taxi ranks. We were staying in Hulhumale rather than Male so we walked past the ferry port and ended up at the bus stop, waiting for a local bus into the town.  How we stood out with our bags but it felt exciting to be going into the city using the public transport rather than by a resort pickup!

After about 20 minutes, a bus arrived but we were not as ready or as quick as the locals and so by the time we got to the doors it was full! Time to wait for the next one.

Another 30 minutes past and this time we were prepared and on we traipsed. “Stop 5 please,” we asked as we’d looked it up on the map. “We only stop twice! ” was the reply. Okay, stop 2 it is! We didn’t know where that would drop us but it was an adventure so off we went. And the bus ticket – 20 Maldivian Ruffyaa (just $1.10)

When we stopped, we managed to find our bearings by heading towards the sea about 10 minutes  we arrived at our hotel (Fern Botique Hotel). We definitely got a look of surprise when we entered the hotel with all our bags (not the usual crowd) but soon we were checking in, receiving a welcome drink and dumping our bags in our room –  our Maldives adventure had truly begun!

3 in a room was a little tight but we were given a proper 3rd single bed on the floor and having control of the air con and fan, our own bathroom and even a hair dryer was amazing – after weeks in hostels, it’s the small things! We were exhausted so soon were sleeping soundly in a super comfy bed!

Day 1 Hulamale

Despite being tired, we woke early around 6am which meant we caught the sunrise and wow what a sunrise! Just beautiful! What a way to start the holiday.

received_2119750601635946.jpgAfter a bit more sleep, we got up and enjoyed our free breakfast at the hotel. It was an interesting mix of curry, traditional Maldivian food as well as baked beans and sausages with toast. We filled up and then we were off to find the bikini beach.

*The Maldives is a Muslim country so unless you’re on the designated beaches or resorts, you need shoulders and knees covered. At first we were a little worried about this but it was easy in the end to make sure we were covered and it’s just about being sensitive to the culture you are in.*

About 15 minutes from the hotel we found the beach which is for tourists only and even had a guard who drove up and down on his motorbike and checked up on us throughout the day.

So we read, dipped in the sea and sun bathed. It was hot, had very few people on it and was a great start. All was well until we began to realise that we were all burning even with suncream on so it was time to find shelter, food and water.

received_2042109375816937.jpg

This proved a little harder as the side of the island where we were had a lot of construction happening and very few shops. Eventually we found a cafe and a shop for water. We stood out a mile as the only 3 foreigners in the area but the people were friendly and lots said hello.

After lunch, it was nearly 3pm, we began our journey back with as quick stop at a cake shop! We also found a booth selling day trips so decided we’d do an excursion the next day which was very exciting.

We relaxed at the hotel and tended to our very red bodies before heading to the roof to see the sunset! It was spectacular even though we were on the opposite side of the island from it. Then we headed downstairs and onto the beach for dinner with the sea just metres away! A great end to the first day!

Costs day 1

Breakfast – free

Lunch – $5

Dinner $5

Total day 1 – $10

Day 2 Hulhumale

Unfortunately, today we woke to rain…not really what we wanted in paradise and we’d booked a boat trip all day..what to do? We decided we’d still go for it and hoped for the best.

We were taken in a car to the ferry port and greeted by our guide Issa_by who told us that it would just be the 3 of us on the boat for the trip and we would just be dropping a family off at one of the resorts on the way! A private boat – YES we’ll take that!

As we began to drive out of the bay, the rain stopped and off we went out into the crystal blue ocean. After about 40 minutes, we arrived at Paradise resort to drop off the family who would be spending the fay enjoying the resort’s facilities, beach and pool.

*Resorts can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousands of pounds a night! But you can go as as a day guest to enjoy the facilities for around $150 – some with just buffet lunch, some all inclusive*

 

Then we were off to the sandbank. The sun came out and as we cruised along at the front of the boat taking in the views, a huge pod of dolphins suddenly appeared! They were jumping, diving and swimming next to the boat – it was incredible!20180418_162517

After watching them in awe for a while, we continued to the sandbank only to find it a little submerged but in we jumped anyway! What a feeling to be stood in knee height turquoise blue water in the middle of the ocean!

received_2043393889021819.jpgThen it was on to Snorkeling. We geared up and soon were leaping into the water and wow what an experience.

received_2119742934970046.jpgI have never swum in such clear water before. Instantly, we   were hit with the wonder of the ocean. Everywhere we looked there were fish and just 10 minutes in, we spotted an eel, then a minute later white and black tipped sharks came into view!!  The array of fish was breathtaking and just as we thought it couldn’t get better two eagle rays came out of the depths into view and even a sea turtle swam past! It was just magical!

After a good hour or so, we headed back to the boat with huge smiles on our faces!

We then drove to a local island called Himmafushi where we had a lunch of chicken fried rice and visited a little stop to the souvenir shop.

received_2043431245684750.jpgBack on the boat, we journeyed on past other resort islands and bungalows over the sea to the 2nd snorkel area – sting ray point. In we jumped and within minutes were face to face with numerous sting rays! The fish factory just next to the point, throws left over tuna carcasses back into the water which attracts and feeds the rays and fish in the area. Unfortunately, they had also pumped in some other food for the fish so it was a little murky but still amazing to see so many rays in one place!

Finally, we got out of the water and began the journey home but not before more dolphin spotting!

All in all, the day was just fantastic and to see so much wildlife in one place was incredible.

We were exhausted by the time we got back and the rain began again whilst we were changing so dinner was taken downstairs inside the hotel.

Day 2 costs

Breakfast – free

Lunch – included on trip

Dinner – $6

Souvenirs – $4

Excursion $75

Total Day 2 = $85

Day 3 Hulhumale – Gulhi

We enjoyed our final breakfast at the hotel before heading out to find a post office for our post cards. We walked the opposite direction from the tourist beach and found a much more lively hub of shops, cafes and people going about their days. This was the centre of Hulhumale and if we’d had more time, we would have explored here further.

But soon it was time to check out and pay.

*All hotels have additional fees on top of the room rate. Including 12%  VAT, environmental fees of $3 per person per person night, 10% Service charge and $4 per person per stay for a transfer fee – make sure to add these to the room costs before coming so it is not a surprise*

We knew this beforehand so had tried to budget for it. In total we paid $80 each for 3 nights at the ‘Fern Boquete Hotel’ – not too bad really!

We then grabbed a taxi (the boot not closing because of our bags) and headed to the ferry port. The ferry to Male leaves every 15 minutes so we didn’t wait long before we were boarding. The ticket cost just 5.5 MR or 36 cents and the journey was about 20 minutes. Male is the capital and a lot busier then Hulhumale. We grabbed another taxi there and headed to the Villingulhi ferry terminal passing lots of motorbikes ( which reminded me of Thailand) and passing through very narrow lanes. When we arrived we got our ticket to Gulhi for  just 22 MR ($1.40). Our ferry was due to leave arrived 3pm so we had time to walk around a bit and grab some food.

Luckily for us, a man asked if we were heading to Gulhi around 2.40pm and signaled the boat in front of us which had begun boarding 10 minutes before was ours. We hadn’t realised even when others began to board as we’d heard that it was  going to Maafushi which is the stop after Gulhi -woops!

On we struggled with out ridiculous bags, much to the amusement of those on the boat and settled in for the 80 minute journey.

Of course, I had a nap whilst the others grabbed selfies with the locals!

Finally, we arrived and were greeted by the Yann ( a hotel clerk from ‘Tropic Tree Hotel’) who placed our bags on a cart and led us to the hotel. It was a wonderful welcome with drinks and an information briefing about the island.

We also met another couple from Borneo and together decided we’d head out the next day on a snorkel and sandbank trip.

After dropping off our bags in our deluxe triple room, we headed out to explore.

*Gulhi has around 90 dwelling and about 300 people living on the island.*

As we walked, we were greeted by the locals (everyone was so friendly and just so chilled – it was great!) and within 5 minutes we found the bikini beach. The water against the sky was incredible and soon we were in the water as the sun began to set.

Finally, we headed back to the hotel where the dining area was set up for us and enjoyed our first dinner on this amazing island.

20180419_165822

Day 3 costs

Breakfast – free

Lunch – 72 RM – $4.80

Dinner – $16

Taxi to the ferry – 12 RM each – $1

Ferry to Male – 5.5RM – 36 cents

Taxi on Male – 50 RM $3.40

Ferry to Gulhi – 22 RM – $1.30

Total day 3 = $26.86

Day 4 Gulhi

We woke early and headed down for breakfast. Tea and coffee was offered immediately then the fruit came out and juice. We were then able to order anything off an extensive menu including cheese omelettes, toast and we even shared some pancakes with heaps of Nutella – delicious!

 

After our breakfast, we headed out for our snorkel trip and climbed aboard a small speed boat (owned by the brother of the hotel clerk). Off we sped through the waves – an exhilarating experience.

received_2120179848259688.jpg

Then out of the blue, we spotted the yellow sand and crystal waters of the sandbank! The captain expertly maneuvered the boat through the shallow water and then out we jumped for sandbank photos shoot no.2!

received_2045657852128756.jpgreceived_2045653578795850.jpgreceived_2045640345463840.jpg

received_2045643038796904.jpgreceived_2045650992129442.jpgAfter a while, we headed off to the snorkel point and again were awestruck by the array of fish and corals. We went to 3 sights in total including the reef just off of Gulhi!

It felt like it has been a  whole day and it had only been 4 hours – we had the rest of the day for more activities!

We headed straight to the bikini beach and enjoyed relaxing in the free sun loungers and taking dips in the water.

We had lunch at the restaurant on the beach which was really well priced and just the perfect location for spending as much time as possible on the beach.

received_2044549522239589.jpg

On the beach there was one water sports shop offering jet skis, wake boarding , kayaking and more. They also had an inflatable unicorn float which of course I wanted a go on! Well. ..it looks easier than it is to get on! But we entertained the beach!

 

Eventually, we headed back to the the hotel for showers and dinner.

As we had had a bit of time before dinner, we watched the sunset from the roof terrace as well as the other activities around the island: football, volleyball and people just hanging out on the various hanging chairs around the island. Sinead and I decided to go for a walk and ended up being invited into into a wedding party by some of the locals! They pilled food on our plates and brought over all 3 drink options of water, chocolate milk and ice tea! We sat and chatted with the family and friends of the bride and groom, many who live in their capital male, about life on the islands. They were incredibly welcoming and again just so relaxed about everything.

 

Finally, we headed back for dinner where we received a complimentary fruit smoothie just because it was our last night!

Another amazing day in paradise.

Day 4 costs

Breakfast – free

Lunch – $6

Dinner – $6

Snorkel trip -$30

Total -$42

Day 5 Gulhi – Maafushi

Today we were heading for Maafushi island but not until 4.20pm when the ferry arrived (the same on the we got from Male to Gulhi) so we had the whole day to relax and enjoy the beach. Yann said we could keep the room until we needed to leave which was amazing as we could enjoy the day and have time to shower and sort our bags before we left.

We headed to the beach equipped with oars for kayaking. (Tropic Tree have their own kayak which they let let us use for free!)

We swam and kayaked around the reef taking in the incredible blues of the water and the vast amounts of fish.

I only had one incident in the water…

I’d been told in Thailand about giant or Titan Trigger fish being quite aggressive during mating season and during my dives in Thailand I’d been quite wary of them. Well they are everywhere in the Maldives but usually far enough away not to be a bother – I keep a distance when I spot them anyway! So when I was snorkeling the water was really shallow which was okay but you are close to a lot! I spotted a triggerfish on my right and immediately turned my back on it to swim away. That’s when I felt a tug on my fin and when I looked back the trigger was definitely staring right at me! I freaked out and swam as fast as I could away! Glad I wasn’t diving as my breathing was all over the place!! Whether it did bite my fin, I won’t know but they still scare me and are the main hazard I look for in the sea – never mind the sharks and rays!

After pushing our time in the water to the absolute limit, we headed back to the hotel and had a quick lunch at a local restaurant. Of course, we were ready in good time and waiting at the desk to checkout earlier then needed (we hadn’t quite got into the relaxed chilled way of life of the Maldivians yet). After 10 minutes, Yann strolled in super chilled and told us just to relax we had ages and he was coming to the ferry anyway as new guests were arriving!

received_2048655111829030.jpg

We paid for our stay -$80 each for the room +$30 for snorkeling. When we went to pay for our meals, Yann informed us our meal last night was complimentary – a treat from them! Just amazing! So we only paid for our first nights meal which was great!

Then it was time to load up the cart with our bags and head to the ferry. We even had time to relax in the hanging chairs before boarding and say goodbye to Yann and the staff which was hard as we had just had the best time!

received_2046355598725648received_2046346032059938received_2053529194674955

 

The ferry arrived and on we got. The ticket was 22 MR ($1.42) and took about 30 minutes.

When we arrived, we were greeted by an attendant from Kuredhi Beach Inn and off we went to hotel number 3. Again we had a triple room which was even bigger than Tropic Tree and even comfier beds!20180421_174107

*Maafushi is a slightly larger island to Gulhi and much more tourist based. There are numerous water sports shops and several dive centers. It also has a bank and ATM.*

We headed out to explore and ended up at Maafushi Dive centre where I was able to book dives in for the next day. The girls also booked a package deal with the centre which included para-sailing, jet skis, paddle boarding or kayaking and a discovery scuba diving dive – very exciting!

 

We then headed for dinner and ended up at a table for 3 on the beach front! Perfect end to the day.

20180422_181054

Day 5 – Costs

Breakfast – free

Lunch – $5

Dinner – $7

Ferry – 22 MR – $1.42

Total – $13.42

Kuredhi Hotel – two nights = $60 paid when we arrived.

Day 6 Maafushi

I was up early, having dreamt of Trigger fish all night, and headed down for breakfast. It was buffet style of local dishes and some baked beans and toast. It was an okay breakfast but nothing compared to Tropic Tree. But I filled up and headed to the dive centre.

Once I had squeezed myself into my wet suit, we headed to the boat. It was a spacious boat and there were just 9 of us diving plus several instructors. Off we went and just 20 minutes later, we were getting ready to jump.

DCIM105GOPRO

Just like everywhere we have snorkled, the water was incredibly clear and soon we were descending to the reef. It’s hard to describe diving as it was just amazing! During this dive we saw whole schools of reef sharks, rays, a huge variety of fish and several sea turtles.

DCIM105GOPRO

The turtles were amazing as they were just chilled out on the bottom, eating and observing! Incredible creatures!

DCIM105GOPRODCIM105GOPRO

 

It was quite quite a challenging dive for me as there was quite a current and it was only my 5th dive ever but completing it felt incredible!

GOPR2994.jpgGOPR2998.jpgGOPR3000.jpgGOPR2984.jpgGOPR2986.jpgGOPR2961.jpg

The crew and instructors were so chilled out and just great fun to be around! Between dives, I swam a bit and joined the others jumping from from the boat – resulting in a nose full of water – but great fun!

20180422_115634

Then it was on to the second dive site. After being a little nervous on the first dive, this one felt much more normal and I could relax and enjoy it. Currents were quite strong again but we just drifted with them taking in the views.

received_2048651481829393.jpgreceived_2048649158496292.jpg

After the dive, it was time to head to shore for lunch accompanied by a very inquisitive cat!

 

Maafushi has several restaurants at reasonable prices so I was soon tucking into a chicken sandwich and chips. Then it was back to the dive centre to meet the girls and go off for the 3rd dive. They had had a fabulous morning jet skiing and para-sailing and although they were both nervous about the dive, the excitement was building and the crew all helped keep the mood light and make them feel at ease.

received_2121498011461205.jpgreceived_2121498144794525.jpgreceived_2048650268496181.jpgreceived_2048647795163095.jpg

received_2121498478127825.jpg

20180422_144049

DCIM105GOPRO

Nicole had never scuba dived before and Sinead had only done it once so it was great to be able to go with them and see then get kitted up in all the gear.

It was just me, an Italian guy called Nik and our instructor who were diving with the girls so after getting ready, we jumped in and off we went.

This dive was a wall reef dive! We descended around 15 metres and slowly swam along taking in all of the fish and corals. I really felt like little mermaid on this one and was just in awe of everything I could see above and below me! The first and second dives were great for the big creatures but this one was just amazing for variety!!

 

When we surfaced, we picked up the girls who were both beaming from the experience! They had had a great dive as well and all the nerves which had been present were gone!

20180422_144238received_2048647815163093

 

Back on the boat, the instructors were in high spirits and at one point, we just heard Sinead’s laugh as she was being taken to the edge of the boat and dangled off the back! We were then all dropped in and spent the rest of the journey hanging there in fits of laughter!

FB_IMG_1524544049091.jpg

 

Eventually we arrived back and went to the dive shop so I could get the pics off the Gopro I’d hired. Whilst we were just chilling in the shop, the boys suggested a night snorkel so we said yes and within an hour ,having not showered or eaten, we were back in the water.

None of us had snorkeled at night before and it was quite an experience. There are less fish around but we saw eels, lion fish, a bioluminous squid and an octopus! Having just a torch to show us where to go was also a bit scary but not as bad as I first thought! We snorkel for about 2 hours under the stars until eventually it was time to head back.

By this time is was 8pm and I’d done 3 dives and a snorkel in one day! Starving, we headed for food at one of the restaurants down the road along with our instructors and the Nik from the dive.

As we ate, we heard about a boat off the shore where you can go for a bit of a party and dance. So even though we were tired and unshowered, off we went! The boat was great fun and we danced the night away before returning to shore just after midnight!

FB_IMG_1524544096082FB_IMG_1524544116827

 

It was an incredibly long and exhausting day but I was buzzing from all of the activities and experiences we had done during the day! It was another day of laughter, fun and adventure!

Costs day 6

Breakfast – free

Lunch – $7

Dinner – (paid for our guide) -$20

Diving – $40 x 3 – $120

Snorkeling – free

Boat drinks – $12

Total – $159

Day 7 Maafushi to Fulidhoo

During the planning of this trip, I had looked up all the local ferries and had made sure we were on the islands on the right days for when the ferry ran. This was quite complicated as there are next to no ferries on Fridays and others run on alternate days. Up until now all the ferry had run as planned but moving from Maafushi to Fulidhoo was the first time we hit a problem. It was monday and no ferries go to Fulidhoo on Mondays.

I had figured this out a few days before and with all the hotels, I began messaging them either by email or most by whatsapp about the best ways to get to the island and to confirm I was getting the correct ferry! Therefore, the hotel in Fulidhoo had already told me that the ferry wouldn’t be running so gave us the option of a speedboat transfer.

We had read online that speedboat transfers can range from $30-$300 per person so I was a little worried about getting the speed boat! But they said it would be $50 each and as we had no other option other than to chnage hotel bookings we agreed! Looking back now, it was a great idea as it was just the 3 of us and Sinead ended up driving the boat most of the way – wouldn’t have happened on a ferry!!

A

After about 40 minutes we arrived at Fulidhoo and wow what a view to arrive at. The water was all the different blues and turquoise and the island sat in the middle of it covered in trees and very few houses could be seen.

This was quite a contrast to the other islands which were more developed and had less vegetation. The boat pulled up on the sand and we hopped out. We were then guided across the island (about 5 minutes) to the guest house.

The guest house was called ‘Le Perla’ and had 3 rooms. We had a triple bed room which was probably our most basic room but it was adequate, had aircon and comfy beds so we were all good!

Majid (our boat driver) was also the local guide to the guest house and informed us (didn’t really ask, just told us to come!) that in 20 minutes he would take us for a walk around the island.

So after dropping off our bags, off we went.

The island was even smaller than Gulhi and had only one main road through it.

There were a few restaurants and cafes and a mosque and that was about it. But the shop sold quite a bit including ma