Been there Don Det

We woke up and set off early at 8am for Don Det. Our trip was to be much easier and faster than our previous journey from Thailand to Laos and we were quite excited to have a few nights chilling out on the island. After a 3 hour bus ride we arrived to the dock where we had a quick 5 minute boat ride to Don Det. When we arrived I left Charlie with a beer at a restaurant whilst I went on the hunt for a room for us. I found a guesthouse which was clean, quite new and had the option for air conditioning. We ate a quick lunch at the restaurant before checking in, showering and having a little rest. We headed to a place called sunset bungalows for a beer and to watch the sunset over the mekong river. The place was really cool as it had a ledge that you could run off and jump into the water from.17310909_10154239043936176_5735965403108370038_oWe met another group of travellers before heading to dinner. Don Det is a really chilled out, relaxing place and so the restaurant we ate in was playing friends in order on repeat. We ended up having dinner and a couple of drinks there whilst watching TV before heading to bed.

We woke up for our first full day on the island and decided to hire push bikes to ride over to Don Khone, which is a larger island next to Don Det. We set out in the mid day heat, crossed the bridge and headed to a waterfall which was on our map.17039425_10154221701131176_812669537251749391_oThe waterfall was quite disappointing but another group of travellers pointed us in the direction of a beach. We rode to the beach and enjoyed a nice cool drink in one of the restaurants there.17192656_10155234074604994_5761475535091677532_oThe restaurant owners son was very interested in Charlie’s camera so Charlie spent some time with him, letting him take some photos with it. There was a couple on the table next to us who also had some nice camera equipment so the young boy would swap between their table and ours. The beach was really nice but we didn’t wear our bathers so we just had a walk around and admired the views on offer.17097753_10155234072759994_8991147462391634533_oWe then set out to find the waterfall park at the top of the island. After a 10 minute ride we came across the entrance and parked our bikes. The waterfall was more like a huge set of rapids but it was really beautiful.17159097_10154230498941176_8785160065743550740_oWe ran into the other couple from the beach restaurant and the guy, Mike, was flying a drone. Charlie couldn’t resist and ran over to ask him loads of questions and see how it works. Mike is actually a professional photographer back home so he and Charlie had quite a lot to talk about. After an hour meeting Mike and Becki we headed off back to Don Det to get showered and head to our favourite sunset spot.17218482_10154239051306176_6204983716199484640_oAfter another sunset beer and swim in the Mekong we headed to dinner and on the way ran into Mike and Becki. We decided to eat with them at a place they recommended. The food was nice and it was nice to get to know them more. We made plans with them to meet the next day for breakfast.

We woke up wanting to go on a kayaking tour but after realising we needed to book the night before we decided to have a chilled out day on the island. We met Mike and Becki for breakfast at the restaurant that plays friends on repeat. We caught up with them, watched friends and used the wifi to plan our next few weeks in Laos. That evening we all headed to Sunset Bungalows for a drink and a swim where we met a cute little girl called May. She took a real liking to Charlie so the two of them waved and laughed at boats going past, whilst dancing to Katy Perry.17239635_10155252173549994_8188252633632789874_oMike and Becki came to meet us so afterwards we headed out again to grab some dinner together. After dinner we booked onto the kayaking tour for the next day and book our onward travel for the day after.

The kayaking tour started at Green Paradise for breakfast which was included in the tour. We filled up on Pad Thai style noodles and scrambled eggs before climbing down to the Mekong and getting into our Kayaks. We kayaked down stream for about 45 minutes before stopping at another island to go visit another waterfall.The walk there was really nice as we passed through a village where kids kept running out to say hi to us. The waterfall was really nice and much safer than the rapids (although still very powerful) so our guide got some people to go along the rocks and under the fall. Charlie went alone as I am too much of a scaredy cat sometimes but it looked like a lot of fun.17310023_10155252175544994_6300121359914295376_oWe then walked through the island to a beach area where our guide cooked us some bbq skewers and rice for lunch. We then jumped back in our kayaks and continued downstream through some grade 2 rapids which was really fun. The next part of the tour was to see the rare irrawady dolphins. We originally were told at the office there were only 7 left, however our guide believes there are only 3. We were lucky enough to see 2 of them though, albeit from a distance. We then kayaked to another island to visit another waterfall/rapids.17212048_10154239044626176_3302446458893385432_o17240691_10154239040936176_6818827410689191148_oHere we got to watch Mike fly the drone again and have drink at a restaurant before setting off one last time to Kayak back (much to my disappointment – kayaking is hard work!).

We had a fairly chilled evening after Kayaking. We headed to sunset bar with Mike and Becki, as well as another couple from Kayaking, Dan and Beth. We all enjoyed a drink and a swim before heading for an early dinner and then back to the room to packed our bags. We really enjoyed out time in Don Det, it was the perfect combination of relaxing and exploring.

Exploring national parks in Kampot and Kep

We left Phnom Penh and made what should have been the 3 hour bus journey to Kampot. 2 minibus changes, 2 car washes to cool the engine down and 4 hours later we arrived. We checked into Borey Vatanac Guesthouse which would be our home for the next 4 nights, it was really well priced and had aircon! We found a place for dinner called Ecran noodle and dumpling house where they make home made noodles and dumplings right in front of you. The dumplings were pretty nice however the noodle soup was quite bland and lacking flavour.

The next day we woke up and headed to a place called Epic Arts Cafe for breakfast. It’s a charity run cafe where all the staff are either deaf or have a disability. The menu had tips on how to order in sign language and when the food came it was great! The rest of the day we spent walking along the river and exploring some of Kampot. It’s quite a small sleepy river town however there is a large expect scene. 15994905_10154081551291176_6847359293199854991_oThe old architecture from the French is spread all over the town and there’s plenty of nice little cafes to have a coffee in. We spent our afternoon drinking a beer by the river so we could watch the sunset.
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After the sunset we went to a place called Captain Chim’s for dinner. The food was really cheap and pretty good. We got chatting to a couple next to us from England. Paul and Hannah are also travelling for a long period of time so we exchanged travel stories over a beer and swapped contact details with the hope to catch up again.

We woke up, hired a scooter from our hotel and drove to Bokor National Park about 40kms away from Kampot. The drive was really nice but it was a very windy day making the road up the mountain feel quite long. We eventually made it to the viewpoint and were so happy the long drive was worth it. The view was amazing!
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After the viewpoint we explored some of the abandoned buildings within the national park. The French had built a casino, a church and a few other buildings back in the 1920’s before abandoning the builds and leaving them unoccupied. Walking around and inside made us feel like we were in a horror movie.
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Around 2pm we realised we hadn’t eaten yet so we left the national park and headed to Ecran again for some more tasty dumplings. That evening we met up with Paul and Hannah again for dinner and a few drinks before heading home for an early night.

For our last full day we decided to make the drive down to Kep.
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The drive was pretty easy and just one long road the whole way there. When we got to Kep we decided to explore the National Park first. The guy at the gate said we could drive through it so we jumped on the bike and headed down the dirt track. The drive wasn’t easy or comfortable as there aren’t any proper roads.
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About half a km into the park a long snake slithered out in front of us, it disappeared pretty quickly too but we were then a little on edge about stopping for too long in certain places. We had gone to see the waterfall which we could see on the map, when Charlie asked the ticket office how far it was the guy said there was no waterfall. We thought it was strange as on entry there was a sign for the waterfall so we thought surely there must be one, he must be new or just doesn’t know. Turns out there is a waterfall but only in the rainy season, so when we showed up to the waterfall and admired the dry rocks we knew what he was trying to tell us.
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We drove out of the national park and explored the main shoreline of Kep. The beach was nicer than we were expecting but it still wasn’t much to write home about. We also visited the crab market where you can go and buy fresh crab caught off the back of the pier that the market sits on.
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On our way home we decided to stop at a cave that we could see on our map. On arrival we were greeted by a young boy, maybe in his teens. Once we realised¬†that he wanted to be our guide, it was a bit too late to tell him we didn’t want one so we just went with it.
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We tipped him $1.50 for his service which he was extremely happy with. He wasn’t a very good guide and if anything rushed us around the cave but we both figured that he probably needs that money much more than we do.¬†15937121_10154084063811176_7926549764338347048_o
That evening we booked our bus for the next day to Sihanoukville, got some take away dumplings and watched TV in bed.

Historic Hampi

Our first overnight bus experience went surprisingly well and we arrived into Hampi at 7am.img_1156The first thing you notice are the big giant boulders that surround the village and the huge main temple.img_1287We couldn’t check in for another hour so the man at our guesthouse told us about the temples elephant that goes down to the river to bath every morning so we went there to take a look. Not only was the elephant bathing but so was about 20 locals, all at the same time.

We needed to exchange some money and try to get our hands on the new currency so we spent most of the day rushing around to the banks in Hosapete. Finally being successful we only had the afternoon left once we got back to Hampi. We did make it back in time for the sunset though which was beautiful!img_1285The views were breathtaking and I decided that Hampi was maybe one of the most scenic places we have been so far on our whole trip. It’s a mix of giant red/orange boulders, green plantations, palm trees and green and yellow crops.img_1286img_1293On our second day in Hampi we hired push bikes and rode around to different ruins, stopping whenever we liked to check out different spots along the way. img_1217Some of the ruins were really cool to check out, however some of them seemed almost too ruined and were slightly disappointing. The history is there but there’s little to no information and most of them are well maintained. It was fun to ride around and check them all out, even if I did need to push the bike up every hill.img_1219I had to cut my ride short as there were no toilets around and I needed to go but Charlie stayed to check out a few more ruins before he returned. His exploring lead him right into a school trip where once discovered the poor history teacher had no chance of controlling his class who all swarmed around Charlie desperate for him to get their picture!img_1290We decided that due to the money situation in Hampi we could only stay two nights. It is a complete cash run village and there’s no ATMs.

On our last day we took a boat across the river to the island which is home to more guest houses and restaurants. We hired a motorbike and rode around the island for a few hours, taking in the scenery and getting pretty lost.img_1269img_1279 The scenery on this side of the river was just as beautiful.img_1292We visited another monkey temple and due to my dislike for monkeys and stairs, I left charlie to explore while I had a little sit down in the shop downstairs. He said the views were good but there was no monkeys.

We headed back across the river and got ready for our overnight sleeper bus back to Goa. This one didn’t go as well as the last with us hardly getting any sleep. The driver drove like a lunatic and we ended up being thrashed around in our beds and dropped off in Goa hours earlier than we should have been. Luckily we found a 24 hour bar on the beach and parked ourselves there for 4 hours until everything opened.

Whilst we found some of the ruins in Hampi a little disappointing, the scenery and landscape more than make up for it!

Viewpoint Voyage

Today we thought it would be nice to walk up to one of the viewpoints on Koh Tao. We had heard there was a few around so I got my trusty maps.me app out and found one just over 3kms away.

Being the silly couple we are we decided to set off just before midday when the sun was at its hottest (why?!).

image.jpegThe first 2kms weren’t too bad and we were discussing how much we were enjoying our walk and that it wasn’t as bad as we thought… Well an hour later and a very steep incline for the last kilometre we were suffering. The sun was beating down on us and I thought we were never going to get there. Arriving at the viewpoint was interesting to say the least. It wasn’t an actual viewpoint. Instead it was the islands main power station which if you shuffled around the ledge and wired fence (almost like James Bond but way more clumsy) it had a beautiful view.

imageI thought it would be a great idea to suggest walking down the hill to the complete south of the island and then walking around the coast as it would surely have a cool ocean breeze and be easier than our journey there… WRONG! There were no proper roads once we got to the bottom which resulted in a guessing game of thin narrow dirt paths that were usually uneven and quite taxing on the body. We were absolutely drenched in sweat from waking up and down these hilly paths all the way back to the area we were staying in. Although it took us a total of 3 hours from when we left before we managed to get back to the main part of Koh Tao we had seen some beautiful parts of the island that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen!

We finished our last night here having dinner with everyone at A.C. Two again so Kira could have her favourite massaman curry one last time. Oh and the sunset view from this restaurant was particularly special.

image.jpegOff to Koh Samui tomorrow when the rest of the family start arriving for Jaimee and Lolly’s wedding!