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Gili Islands; Gili Air & Gili Meno

We arrived at Bangsal port in Lombok to take the public boat over to Gili Air, the public boats are only about £1 each for the short crossing, the boat is only small, seating about 30, but of course more than that got on, we clambered on from the beach and set off to the legendary Gili Islands.

Gili Air is the Gili closest to Lombok, the medium-sized one about 2km across, Gili Meno is the next island over, a little smaller at 1km across, and Gili Trawangan is the biggest and furthest away, the island for partying. We decided we’d only go to the quieter islands, but Gili Air was still fairly busy.

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Kuta, Lombok

We took an Uber from Ubud back to Padangbai port to take the public ferry to Lombok, we would be going to the south of Lombok, to a town called Kuta (very different from Kuta, Bali) for a few days before going to the famous Gili Islands further north.

All went smoothly, we got to the port, bought our boat tickets for £2.50 each for a four-hour ferry, boarded and went straight up to the top-deck. When I say this boat was a ferry, it was more like a mini-ship, it transported trucks, cars, people, live-stock, petrol, basically anything that needed to go from Bali to Lombok could go on this boat, it was big.

We sat down on the top deck and a couple of the locals gave us some funny looks before one said to us that we might want to go downstairs where there’s more seats, we looked a little confused because we had a seat on a bench up here. But, I went for a walk to see what was in the downstairs section we hadn’t been in.

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Arrival in Bali, Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida

After a fantastic week in Singapore, we flew on Sunday 4th June to Bali, Indonesia. We plan to spend a full month in the area around Bali and Lombok, so should have plenty of time to explore a few areas, a lot of where we are planning to go to is influenced by several friends who have been here before and recommended certain places, but Bali is very well-known tourist spot so we assume it’s where most people will go.

One of the first places we wanted to go was Nusa Lembongan, a small island about 30 minutes from Bali, but because we landed at night, we couldn’t go straight to there, so we headed over to the east side of Bali to Sanur, which is the closest port to get the boat to Nusa Lembongan, it’s more of a holiday destination than a backpacker hub, we just spent a couple of nights there to do some planning for the month ahead and sort out a boat to take us over.

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Singapore

Three and a half months ago, on our first weekend in South East Asia, we were sat at a Bia Hoi stall in Hanoi, on tiny plastic chairs, drinking beer for 5,000 Dong (16 pence) per glass, and we meet a couple of friends who are from Singapore. Fast forward 106 days and here we are, arriving in Singapore, and heading towards their home.

There are lots of reasons why we think the last six months have been the best of our lives, but right at the top of that list is the amazing people we meet everywhere we go. Meeting people in the street, sharing a few drinks and laughs, and those very same people inviting you in to their home, thousands of miles away, is just one of the many things that seems normal to us now but was something we had never experienced before.

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Ipoh & Back to Kuala Lumpur

We had been in Penang for almost a week, in all honesty, we could have stayed a month, but it was time to see somewhere different as we were quite short on time for Malaysia. We got on the free ferry (yes, FREE) from Penang Island to Butterworth, walked to the train station and took the fast train south to Ipoh, it only takes around two hours and takes us back half way towards KL again.

We planned to stay in Ipoh for just two days, we had read it had a very lively food scene and that it was relatively untouched by foreigners, both turned out to be very true. The people here were very friendly and interested to know why we were there, and the food was fantastic, which seems to be true throughout Malaysia.

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Kuala Lumpur & Penang

Kuala Lumpur would be the first time we stayed in a big hotel since we set off, we had accumulated a free night through one of the booking websites we use, worth £50, so be booked a £50 per night hotel for two nights and got one of them free. The result was that we got a club suite in quite a nice hotel, with a room on the 25th floor looking out over the Petronas Towers with access to the club lounge and free wine for two hours on both nights, it was certainly much nicer that than the budget rooms we have been used to so far, although we’re not sure if having that, and then going back to the budget places is worse than not having it at all 🙂

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Saigon & the Mekong Delta

The first thing on the agenda when we got to Saigon, was to go to the War Remnants Museum, this is a museum aimed at educating the world about the atrocities committed during the American / Vietnam War. The first thing you notice when you start looking around this museum is that there is nothing withheld from public view here, there are graphic images and depictions of the horrifying events that occurred throughout this country with many stories and interviews alongside the images to tell of the devastation that occurred.

It’s a really difficult museum to walk around, as the images of death and destruction are on every wall, there is an entire exhibition dedicated to showing the photos that journalists managed to take during the war, unfortunately many of the journalists were killed later on during the war.

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The DMZ, Huế and the Hai Van Pass

We got on a bus from Phong Nha village to Huế which would stop a couple of times along the way in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) in central Vietnam, the area that was used as the border and separation between North and South during the American / Vietnam War. The first stop was at the Vinh Moc Tunnels, this was a village in the DMZ that was famous for building a network of tunnels, in three stages to take the entire village underground away from the bombing by the USA.

This full network of tunnels housed areas for sleeping, eating, working, even a maternity area. The tunnels were a few KM long in total and went down to depths of 23m at the deepest. We walked through the tunnels and came out through one of the exits straight on to a beach on the South China Sea. There was also a small museum here to show all of the tunnels in the region that were built during this time, of which there were dozens.

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Hanoi and Halong Bay

Following two quick days in Hong Kong, we then flew to Hanoi to start the Vietnam adventure. On arriving we plan to spend about five weeks here travelling from north to south by trains and buses, before crossing in to Cambodia overland from the south.

We checked in to quite a nice hotel in Hanoi, nothing too expensive, but we thought we would treat ourselves to a hotel with it being our anniversary while we were there. The staff were so friendly, and after a day of travelling and walking through the manic streets of the old quarter to get to the hotel, it was a welcome relief to see really friendly and happy faces.

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The Great Wall of China and Staci Turns 26

On Stac’s birthday, we had arranged for a driver to take us to the Great Wall Mutianyu section to save taking the multiple buses that are needed in the off-season. It’s a 1.5 hour drive direct so it was definitely a good choice and worth the money. We set off about 6.30am so we were there for 8am and were just about the first people to that section that day. Most people do the cable car up and down to the wall from the base where the bus drops you as it is easier. But we had been suggested on Facebook to look out for the toboggan that can be done down the mountain from the wall.

I’d looked in to this before Stac’s birthday so hadn’t told her about it, but this was why we went to this section of the wall. I didn’t know how to get up to the top but knew the slide back down would be a great experience. So we arrived, I went and bought the tickets, found out it was an open ski-lift style rope-way up to the top and knew immediately Stac was going to want to kill me for doing this.

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