It started in November 2006, when we quit our jobs, rented out our house, sold our belongings and set off in search of adventure in South East Asia.
Backpacking around SE Asia followed, along with working with elephants in Pattaya, a TEFL course in Thailand, teaching in Bangkok, Madrid, Bournemouth....
"Where next?" you might ask.
Well, the pull of the East was too great, so we hot-footed back to Thailand, and then onto Vietnam.
We spent a year teaching in a language centre in Haiphong in the North of Vietnam. Then we went searching for the bright lights of the big city and taught academic English in Ho Chi Minh City. Six months became three and a half years (as they do) when we decided it was time for a different experience.
We're off to teach academic English in Shanghai, China. Hope you enjoy the ride!
January 23rd 2014
The title of this blog will probably only make sense to anyone who went to school with Kris. Qibao (chibow) is another old water town, similar to Suzhou but much smaller. It has the advantage of being on Line 9 of the metro, so no high speed yet complicated train journey needed. It's now part of Shanghai, and seems to have been preserved purely for tourists so people advice not to go as it can be incredibly busy. However, as we said in the Suzhou blog, if you are going to explore China, you have to work around the tourists. We went on a cold Saturday in December and although the main food street was absolutely packed, the side streets were very quiet. The 'town' itself is a couple of main streets next to and crossing ... read more
January 14th 2014
After a mere four months living in Shanghai, it's time to move on again. The reasons for our departure are not going to be publicised on the internet but for any of you who gave us advice on moving here, it isn't because we don't like Shanghai or China. However, a new job awaits us in a whole new country and it's time to say goodbye to Shanghai. Here are your best bits...... motorbikes held together with sellotape..... brown furry dogs (are they poodles?)....... *hurrrrockkk......* (the noise and pregnant pause before someone spits in the street)....... several small toffee apples on sticks....... babies in split crotch trousers so they can pee on the floor...... brown furry dogs in clothes...... old people shoving you out of the way on the metro...... electric bikes silently appearing behind you ... read more
January 9th 2014
One of the surprising benefits of Shanghai is its efficient transport links. In Vietnam, the roads and railways are so poor that it takes an age to get anywhere. It's less than 80km from Saigon to Mui Ne, the nearest 'nice' beach resort, yet it takes over 5 hours by bus and a similar time by train to the nearest station - Phan Thiet. It's even about 3 hours by private car/taxi. Shanghai has a metro running in the city - now the biggest in the world apparently, and to many places in the suburbs and high speed rail links to the surrounding towns and cities. You can even travel the 1,500 km journey to Beijing in five hours. Can you imagine how long that would take on Vietnamese rail? Our first sightseeing trip out of ... read more
January 8th 2014
Having spent the last 4 months in Shanghai, it seems an appropriate time to write a general blog on the city and how we found it. This isn't a chronological 'and then we went here and did this' blog. It's just a look at some characteristics of the city of Shanghai, both positive and negative, from the perspective of 2 English people who like wandering around cities in various countries. Look below and marvel at some of Shanghai's standout features. According to us.... 1. There are lots of people (and models of people) Shanghai is a big city. Like, really big. See the title of this blog for one estimate of the population - though these numbers vary depending on how you measure it, it gives you some idea as to the sheer numbers of people ... read more
December 12th 2013
This is quite a belated blog, as we've been in China for three months now. You know how things are when you are starting a new job and moving to a new country, and then getting addicted to games like Candy Crush Saga and reading The Daily Mash?..... No? .....Just us then? Hitting the Chinese ground running We landed at Pudong airport in Shanghai early on a Tuesday morning back in September and were picked up by the very efficient and chirpy English assistant from our university department. She drove us to Shanghai Ocean University and dropped us at the campus hotel, where we were to stay for the first three nights. "You must be tired, so you should have a rest" she said perceptively. Noone looks good after an 11 hour flight, especially on top ... read more
August 8th 2013
If you've been paying a attention, you'll remember that one of the bucket list reasons for coming to South Africa was to go on safari. I'm pretty sure it's the dream of anyone who's studied zoology or ecology and I spent many years drooling over photos and presentations by fellow PhDers and academics who studied baboons in Ethiopia or merecats in the Kalahari while I spent cold winter months watching goats in Scotland. Since I studied ungulates (mammals with hooves for those of you not in the know) I had stacks of papers on kudu and impala and other strange named species, and while I knew a lot about their mating behaviour and who they liked to hang out with, I couldn't have recognised one if it had wandered across the road. We had a taster ... read more
August 1st 2013
We arrived at the gate to Addo Elephant Park in the afternoon and signed in. We had a room booked at the guest enclosure at the other end of the park and after registering with the main gate we were directed to drive through the park and be sure to get to the other side by 6 because that's when they close the other gate. When we laughingly asked what would happen if we didn't make it in time, the woman at the desk told us some elephants would probably destroy our car overnight. Nice. So we set off into the park. Our first safari experience unfolded on the sandy tracks of Addo surrounded on either side by scrub and bushes...where anything could be lurking. Indeed, according to the website , there are.. 'over 550 elephants, ... read more
July 30th 2013
Cage diving with sharks - check Whale watching - check = two bucket list items ticked off. Now what else was there.... Ah yes, the road trip. Hire car - check Kate's parents with us - check Let's go..... On Kris' 34th birthday, we set off on our road trip along the Garden Route. This stretch of road goes along the south coast of South Africa and is a very popular trip. It's about 600km long, and you can do it in a couple of days, or a couple of weeks. We chose five days - which wasn't long enough in the end, but you live and learn. While my mum and I were planning this part of the holiday, we used all kinds of websites and guidebooks to try and find the best routes and ... read more
July 27th 2013
So then, Hermanus. A small seaside town on clifftops overlooking the ocean. Sunny and windy and quite reminiscent of any number of towns in northern Scotland. Except... it's very popular with southern right whales and great white sharks. Hermanus is actually one of the reasons we chose South Africa to visit. When we wrote that bucket list over beer and wine on our kitchen table in Saigon one thing that bobbed right to the top was 'cage dive with sharks'. That was me. Kate had something about whales. So, Hermanus became the place to go. So here we were on a blustery day at Hermanus Backpackers considering the next few days. Hermanus V Scotland (plus whales) As I said above, Hermanus does have a passing resemblance to a coastal Scottish fishing town. In the summer, obviously, ... read more
July 23rd 2013
Bucket List A while ago, inspired by a forum post on here, Kris and I wrote a bucket list. Not in a morbid ‘I’m going to die soon’ Morgan Freedman and that other bloke movie-sense, but in the sense of ‘these are things we’d like to do in our hopefully long lives’. We travel a lot and have what we believe to be interesting lives, but recently we had been traveling to places in and around Asia that were easily accessible and which people recommended to us. That’s great, but we still had a long list of places we’ve always wanted to see. Now, admittedly, we were consuming alcohol at the time of writing, and the next morning when we woke up, those items near to the bottom of the list were pretty unintelligible (although I’m ... read more