Vivid Festival – Sydney

To say that I was excited about visiting Sydney is an understatement. Somehow I felt like a local from day one – I think the fact that I had a whole flat thorugh AirBnb made it feel like I actually live there. I did groceries and cooked, got used to public transport, I picked up the pace of the city very quickly.

Sydney is bubbly, lively, unique as it is, but Vivid festival was on, which made it that much more incredible. It was quite annoying at times as it was very very busy, but still totally worth it. It was simply magical.

Rottnest Island – Western Australia

The minute I booked my flight from Budapest to Perth in Western Australia, I started researching Perth must-see attractions. Honestly, I was not that excited about Perth itself, I was mainly flying to the West coast for the roadtrip up to Exmouth. I liked King’s Park and I was embarrassingly happy to have Nando’s again as I missed its sauces a lot. I was sad to realise they do not serve chicken livers – but the chicken was still lovely. Maybe if I had a bit more time I’d have liked Perth more. I loved the 8 km walk from City beach to Scarborough beach, but I think Perth is a place to visit during Spring or Summer as weather was crazy in May. It changed in seconds from beach weather to cold, windy and stormy.

But Rottnest was the highlight of those first 3-4 days of arriving in Australia. I was very happy walking to the ferry at 8 in the morning. The weather was a lot nicer on the island, warmer than on the mainland. The vegetation reminded me of Zakynthos, but the scenery, the waves everything was just more dramatic. And of course the QUOKKAS were insanely cute.

I was planning on seeing a lot more of the island but we had to slow down because while cycling up a hill I lost my balance, flew over the bike and fell flat on my face. It was painful. So we had to look for a beach quickly to chill for a bit, have lunch, clean my wounds. Which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened as the beach we chose to chill on – was exactly the same one a QUOKKA chose that afternoon. Of course the he/she did not stay with us purely because of our company, but it really wanted my apple. Also started to crawl into my purse at some point… We ended up staying there until it was time to cycle back to catch the ferry.

Thailand In September – Phi Phi Second Part

The following couple of days we decided to take trips to beaches further away from the village. Long Beach, Loh Ba Gao, Loh Moo Dee. They took about 20 maximum 45 minutes walk. We took a boat (70-80 baht) on the way back.

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IMG_0731You can see the sinister sky – monsoon arrived 2 days later.

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TIP about Bomaboo Island (Koh Phai): another uninhabited island that you can take day-trips to. Greg enjoyed the corals very much, but I didn’t like the fact they were everywhere around the shallow waters and you couldn’t swim or walk to the beach properly. I kept hurting my legs and feet kicking into them. Not to mention after 30 minutes a yellow fish bit me. Greg of course didn’t believe me, told me off to stop whining already. Until he got bitten too. Perfect.
Based on reviews, Bamboo island is lovely if you walk a 10-15 mins away from the crowds (especially families). I personally didn’t like it, but I’m sure it was because of the upcoming stormy weather.
We paid 1000 baht for the long tail boat or 3 hours. Do try to bargain as we started off with 2000, slowly going down. Next time we’ll go there with a tent, and staying the night. 

Unfortunately no photos, we didn’t take camera with us.

Our last night, and the bungalow we stayed in on Long Beach:

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We were pretty much chased away from the island by the monsoon – decided to go to Koh Lanta next which was quite a few hours of ferry ride. Terrifying experience as we got into a huge storm, I was a 100% sure we won’t make it. The waves were enormous, the captain was sweating trying to navigate the boat. Greg – the calmest person in the world – slept through whole journey. Lucky him.

We didn’t get to climb up to the viewpoint, or hire a sea kayak to search for truly hidden beaches. Or ate lobster. Next time I’ll make sure to cross everything off my list.

Thailand In September – Phi Phi First Part

After beautiful and empty Phuket, we were looking forward to Koh Phi Phi, as heard such mixed reviews from friends and family. Some swear it’s the ultimate paradise island, some find it commercialised, touristy, and would never go near it again. Honestly… You can always find hidden beaches, gems where you can be alone. Just gotta make an effort to find it.

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We were very inexperienced travellers back then (I was 19!) and I admit, now I would do a lot of things differently. I might get the chance to correct silly mistakes – soon planning a big family trip with parents, nephew, siblings, all the family jazz. I’ll be a pro then.

I’d probably spend less time hopping around and stick to a place for longer, this would allow funds to be spent on accommodation AWAY from people. We were young and restless (I know I sound like a 60-year-old) and would rather save money on accommodation. 3-4 nights we spent in the village which meant 350 baht a night (£6.50). There was no problem, I am not too fussy as long as we are saving money, but I felt the village (Tonsai Bay & Village) had the atmosphere of a party island, rather than a romantic dream island. So if you wanna party stick to Tonsai Bay/Village. Restaurants are the cheapest there, they’ve got thai boxing shows, fire dancers, clubs and countless bars.

The 5th night we slept in a quiet resort, but more on that in the next post.

So what we did to resolve the ‘I don’t like the atmosphere’ issue: on day 1 we did the trip everyone does on Phi Phi, the Maya Bay Boat Trip. There are two small islands next to each other, Koh (means island) Phi Phi Don which is the populated one, and Koh Phi Phi Leh, which is where the movie The Beach was shot with Leonardo Dicaprio and is uninhabited. You can do a full day or half day trip I think, ours was about 6 hours, from 3pm to 8-9pm, until sunset basically.

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We really wanted to hire a private long-tail boat, but one can dream of course… Was way too expensive, so had to join a group. It was 1200 baht this way, per person, water and fruit was provided. It is actually a lot if you think about it (£22).

First stop is Monkey Beach – I absolutely despise monkeys, they are irritating, mean, sly and sassy. They steal stuff and just get fed all the time – so what do we get back in return when they aren’t even cute and cuddly?! Anyway, we stayed clear of the crowd feeding them with watermelons. The beach was small, beautiful, bit crowded though. Just gotta chuck the monkeys out. I’m a cruel person.

IMG_0634Next came the Viking Caves and Pileh Bay where we stopped for quite a while to snorkel (must have been 1,5 hours):

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IMG_0668The trip had 3 stops until Maya Bay, with plenty of time to enjoy snorkelling (Greg) and jumping (me). We spent the day together but I remember barely speaking to him, as in the boat I was mesmerised… all the fish, the colour of the water, the vegetation. Once we stopped, Greg put his head under the water and he was gone. I don’t think I have seen him be so occupied with something that much – other than when he’s gaming and has to save the world from a zombie apocalypse 🙂

IMG_0658A quick video to get an idea what it looked like (change the quality to 720p)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmfMyKWZzTM&w=560&h=315]

And then finally Maya Bay.

TIP: if your budget allows you, hire a private long-tail boat, and go either early morning or after 6pm when most people are gone already. This way, you avoid crowds which is the only thing that ruins this gem.

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Had 3 hours to chill there, but we got bored after 20 minutes. So walked to the other side of the island through a tiny forest (and tsunami evacuation signs, scary) where I think we basically got back to Pileh Bay – the snorkelling bay.

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IMG_0698There were no stairs or ladder, only rocks, a rope (seen on the photo) and big waves (at least for me they seemed big) so I was a bit hesitant at first to follow Greg in. I did hurt my hip as a wave threw me against a rock. Was well worth it though, we snorkelled and swam to a beach which was 100% secluded and there was no one else just us. If you descend into the water and the island is to your back – start swimming left for about 15-20 minutes (guessing) to reach it. No photos as couldn’t bring our phones.

Back to the beach for a bit of a rest and then head back to Phi Phi Don. For more Phi Phi, check following post. IMG_0702

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“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

Being quite used to taking smaller trips between our major holidays – I found myself craving everything that is even a little bit different to the environment we tend to spend our days in, manoeuvring between the office, lab, uni, local shops and home. I am actually lying, the past month have been exceptionally colourful for me. Having friends and parents visiting us meant we could discover the sights of our beloved Cambridge and London, over and over again. And not to forget my spontaneous surprise holiday to the jewel of Eastern Europe – Budapest. Still, all these places are familiar to me – and I have been missing the adventure and the excitement of discovering new places.

This year is the first one when we neither had the time nor the funds to take a refreshing getaway during the Autumn/Winter months. Well into May now, I am desperate for a change of scenery, the obsessed research prior to the holiday, impressing my wonderful fiancé with the hidden gems I found at 3 in the morning, during one of my slightly over-the-top ‘I am just way too excited to sleep, what if we travel there and miss something?’ nights.

Don’t take it the wrong way, travelling has not become a stressing experience for me, BUT it is certainly not for relaxing. We try to fit in more chilling days, but after a day, boredom knocks on the door. And the fear, what if there is the loveliest little chapel a mile away from us, and we are just sitting on the beach not being aware of it? The urge, to soak up all the unique and unfamiliar in a new setting is something I neither can nor want to suppress.

Finally getting to the point, my impatience resulting in high levels of enthusiasm was proven to be a good lawyer (once again…) and the fiancé finally gave in – not that he is going to suffer because I am forcing him to go on a holiday… But his work situation is a bit different as I am still a student.

Surviving the longest and most excruciating Winter ever, I just can’t help but realize how much time we spent inside the house, visiting the gym a few times a week – but still not feeling quite healthy. We both decided we need an active holiday, even more active than our usual ones. No sightseeing – which could be almost just as tiring though – but actual walking and hiking. The original dream was to fly over to Belfast and do a 4-5 day car trip (with daily hikes inserted) on the Causeway Coastal Route. One of our friends is from Banbridge (very close to Belfast) so we figured it could be a perfect holiday for the four of us, one that we have been planning on for years, and as her fiancé has never been to that part of Northern Ireland, they were in straight away. BUT – the rather ‘evil’ then still boyfriend decided to propose to me… (the bastard! :)) meaning he spent hundreds and hundreds of pounds on the perfect ring. So we figured let’s see, what we can find in the UK.

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Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland (Game of Thrones fans – a great amount of scenes are filmed here)

Scotland – even though I’ve had dreams about the Scottish Highlands and Islands ever since I moved to the UK – was ruled out as it is too far. Two options – Lake District or Snowdonia. Conducted my research properly – and decided on Snowdonia, as Wales is still closer than let’s say Windermere. We have only been to Cardiff before, but we grew interest in the Welsh language (they have some seriously unpronounceable words over there, even worse than Hungarian the language), culture and – of course – cuisine.

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Lake District

In a little over a week, we will be driving up to Beddgelert near Snowdon mountain, that we will climb the following day. We will be doing some wild camping, which I am a bit concerned about, but only because of the cold. Every 100 meters (328 ft) the temperature drops a Celsius (33F), and even though it will be almost June, I don’t have high hopes for good weather (deep inside hoping for a nice surprise) as the top of the mountains tend to be still covered with snow well into May. In two weeks time I will have my own photos to show you after the trip I’m impatiently waiting for!