Page 2 of MikeandHelen Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Japan » Tokyo February 20th 2011

Note - Our visit took place prior to the enormous earthquake that struck Japan on 10th March. It's Tokyo don't you know! OK, 72 hours to explore and get to know Tokyo - loads of time we thought, as we flew in from Bangkok. Right, but let's think about this, if we knock off the time to transfer to and from the airport, time spent sleeping, time spent looking at a guidebook and trying to plan what to do (something that probably took longer for us than the other things combined) and time spent on the super efficient but super complicated underground transferring between places, that leaves us with about 30 waking, active hours in which to explore the city. Umm. Surely that's not nearly enough time to even start to get to know this amazing ... read more
A Kabukicho street at night
Every function the regular toilet user could ever need
Japanese T Birds practice their moves

Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand February 14th 2011

Chiang Mai We had intended to cross from Laos to northern Thailand by means of a cramped 2 day boat crossing. Still tender wounds, and dressings that needed changing daily ruled that out, and so we took a short flight from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai. Our initial fears of flying with Lao Airlines (an airline which once had one of the worst safety records in the industry) were quickly dispelled when we got on the plane, which was so new it still had new plane smell, went on to have great in-flight service and flew bang on time. Considering Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, it feels like a world apart from the busy roads and constant hassling that goes on in Bangkok. There is a much slower pace to life, crossing ... read more
Bling handrail to a staircase
Dinner selection at a roadside street stall
Cooking with fire

Asia » Laos February 3rd 2011

What to make of little Laos, the country that runs the length of the greatest part of the Mekong River, but is sandwiched between and dominated by the SE Asian giants of Vietnam and Thailand? Without the drawcard attractions of its neighbours, like the ruins which attract so many people directly to Cambodia, or the funds to promote itself to the outside world, it is one place that many people seem to either skip completely, or dash through quickly on their way to better publicised and grander attractions. In fact we didn't really give it a lot of thought at all in planning our route through this part of the world, all we knew in advance was that we didn't want to miss it completely. Think of it like a sympathy vote in the Eurovision song ... read more
Li Phi Waterfall at 4000 islands
Helen relaxes on our terrace
Travelling between islands by canoe, 4000 islands

Asia » Cambodia January 20th 2011

What a Difference 40 miles can make It may only be a 40 mile hop upstream on the boat from the Vietnamese border to Phnom Penh, the compact capital of Cambodia, but it feels like a world of difference from the chaos of Vietnam that we had just left behind. Whereas in Vietnam the roads would be clogged with motorbikes accompanied by the constant hum of horns, the streets of Cambodia's capital are relatively traffic free and are actually calming to walk along. There are the ubiquitous tuk tuk drivers touting for business on each street corner, but a simple no from us is enough to send them back to their relaxed conversations with fellow drivers. No continued hassling - this is a novelty for us! Phnom Penh is set on the left bank of the ... read more
The sun slowly rises behind Angkor Wat
A tree partially engulfs an outer temple wall
Lady along the roadside selling coconut sticky rice in bamboo

Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi January 3rd 2011

Hue - Vietnam's Ancient Capital We made the short journey north from Hoi An to the town of Hue and instantly upon arrival, our impressions of the Vietnamese were significantly restored from the slightly soured version we had on leaving Hoi An. Hue is a bustling workaday city, where tourism has minimal impact; people are incredibly friendly and smiling and would spend lots of time chatting to us, interested to hear about us and what we were up to. This kind nature even seems to extend onto the roads (quite an achievement in Vietnam), where people don't drive motorbikes like maniacs. Courtesy is even extended to the large number of cyclists in Hue - we took to two wheels without actually fearing for our lives! Hue is the ancient capital of the kingdom of Vietnam prior ... read more
Mandarins guard the tomb of Khai Dinh
Thien Mu Pagoda near Hue
Carvings on the roof of the Imperial City in Hue

Asia » Vietnam » Central Highlands December 15th 2010

Good Morning Vietnam! OK, so we did in fact arrive late afternoon, but that doesn't sound as good and Robin Williams never said it! Anyway, we got in to Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City these days if you are a Vietnamese official or a particularly proud communist) really looking forward to discovering Vietnam, after hearing so many good things from everybody we know who has travelled here (although admitedly we didn't talk to any American war vets). We settled in to an area of the city that is swamped with guesthouses and headed straight out for what seems to be a Vietnamese tradition, sitting on kiddie sized plastic chairs, having a beer on the side of the road (40p a bottle, sweet!), watching the chaos unfold in front of us. It is actually quite calming ... read more
Cocoa pods collected for harvesting
Images of of the Vietnam War
Hoi An waterfront

Asia » Hong Kong December 3rd 2010

Hong Kong After spending nearly 3 months in India and Nepal, it was time for us to return to South East Asia and take in the areas we had not had a chance to take in last time. Our first stop was a fairly big culture shock, moving from the mountainous small capital of Nepal to the gleaming metropolis of Hong Kong. All of a sudden we were back among towering glass skyscrapers, chopsticks and Starbucks, oh and of course London-equivalent prices. It was a little hard for us to take in at first, although it became easier after a gingerbread latte! Just 24 hours earlier we had been in a capital city with an intermittent power supply, to all of a sudden arrive at a luxurious oasis that seemed to have everything. It was jaw-dropping ... read more
The night time skyline of Hong Kong island from The Peak
Incense burners at a temple in Hong Kong
A ferry port on Hong Kong Island

Asia » Nepal » Himalayas November 15th 2010

We have to warn you - we tried really hard to keep this entry from getting too long and boring you - but we loved this part of our trip so much it's been a tall order ;-) Kathmandu We arrived in to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and the backpacker enclave of Thamel, with a few days to spare before our departure North into the Himalayas for our much anticipated trekking. This provided a little time to see some of the main sights of the city, along with time to accumulate the pieces of gear we would need for our foray into high altitudes and cold temperatures. Already, being at 1,800m, the temperature was much cooler than in India, which made a pleasant change from the high daytime temperatures of Rajasthan. Kathmandu old town, where ... read more
The Tenzig Chorten with Everest Panorama behind
Gokyo and Dudh Pokhari Lake
Helen takes in the view from the 5th lake at Gokyo

Asia » India » Uttarakhand » Joshimath October 20th 2010

Rishikesh We spent a couple of days together in the chilled out and very hippy atmosphere of Swarg Ashram, part of Rishikesh. This was a pretty relaxing time, often spent in cafes overlooking the river Ganges, or watching some of the many Hindus performing holy rituals in and around the river. We also managed to catch up with some of our friends from our time in China, Tik and Emilie. Since we went our separate ways in Chengdu back in July, their travels have taken them through northern China, Mongolia and Nepal, so we had a lot of catching up to do over several dinners - it was lovely to see them again. The (very bumpy) road north to Joshimath After a few days relaxing in town, we hopped on a bus for the journey to ... read more
View towards Tapovan and the Rishi Ganga river valley
Nanda Devi early in the morning forms a mighty backdrop
Ajay and his bride give the cue for the rush to the buffet to commence

Asia » India » Rajasthan October 10th 2010

Delhi - Part 2 Helen and I have gone our separate ways for a couple of weeks to see different areas of India, before meeting up again to hopefully finally manage some trekking. So this is Mike's bit first. I have decided to move south to explore Delhi a little more, before moving on to check out a couple of areas of Rajasthan. An overnight bus from Manali down to Delhi was not really a very pleasant experience. The bus, described as "Super Deluxe Volvo", was indeed a comfortable bus with semi reclining seats. However, what the bus can't possibly hope to make up for are the horrendous Indian roads. Suspension has not been designed to withstand the number of potholes encountered on the roads here. Sitting towards the back of the bus certainly didn't help. ... read more
Sunset over the Jama Masjid mosque and Red Fort - Old Delhi
Kite flying at sunset over Delhi
A typical street scene in India

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