Bodiam Castle

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Another long weekend, another staycation. I know most of you would have used your long weekend to hope somewhere more tropical, or just another country in general; I know that is the beauty of living in Europe. However for me at the moment I am taking the chance to explore England, if you have seen my social media, you would definitely have picked up on the fact that I am a big castle fan. I get that some people find castles boring, after a while they all start to “look the same”; but for me it is pure enjoyment every time I visit one. I have fond memories from my late teens heading around Germany looking at some amazing castles and my poor uncle ending up being like “oh not another bloody castle”… Well my Waywards I hate to break it to you, but this post is going to be a “Castle” post. If this is not your cup of tea, click on one of my categories to your right and pick another post to read or better yet message me and let me know if there is something you want me to write about?!

So lets get down to the facts: Bodiam Castle “is a 14th-century moated castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, England. It was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, with the permission of Richard II, ostensibly to defend the area against French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War”.

Unlike other castles such as Windsor, Bodiam Castle is a ruin. So don’t expect much when you walk inside; the staff have signposted areas where you can imagine what the castle would have looked when it was in its prime. What I loved about this castle is that it was in a middle of a moat, with massive koi swimming around and ducks fighting with the koi for the bread, as the tourists were feeding them.

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While we were at the top of one of the towers, we happened to see a steam train! You never know what you are going to discover on top of a castle?! There was also a few traditional market stalls and a small stall where you could do archery, a lot of these stall were dedicated to families, but it was just as much fun browsing.

I really loved my little day adventure, I packed a small lunch and had an ice cream on the lawn outside the castle; not a typical day for anyone really. Even though autumn is descending upon us, I am excited to go see a few more castles before winter fully sets in! So don’t be surprised if my next few posts might be castle reviews…

To chasing castles,

Zoe

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A small little island called Paxos

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In June I took a little vacation with my boyfriend’s family to Paxos (Paxi) a little island of the coast of Corfu, Greece. I confess I did not really know anything about the island, or let alone where it was geography…but nevertheless I packed my back Friday night and was on the plane Saturday afternoon.

It was a 4 hour plane ride, which I confess I was quite surprised by; for some reason I got it in my head that Greece was only a couple of hours away #needtogetagrip

We landed in Corfu quite late in the evening, and proceed to take taxis to our hotel; all I could tell about Corfu was that it looked really pretty at night. We ended up staying in the old town rather than the new one, I was told that there is a lot more history and quite accents that shows Corfu’s true personality.

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Corfu Township

The old town of Corfu is a UNESCO World Heritage site, “The three forts of the town, designed by renowned Venetian engineers, were used for four centuries to defend the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice against the Ottoman Empire. In the course of time, the forts were repaired and partly rebuilt several times, more recently under British rule in the 19th century.” 

I really loved the mixture of the architecture, there was a feeling of old meets new with a Mediterranean feel. The small side streets filled with stall, and the waiters trying to get you to dine at their restaurants, all added to the charm of the old town. What made the town for me was the food! Moussaka, Tzatziki and Village Sausage, were part of my daily meals. I do confess though the service in Greece was below par, we had one sever take our order (a full order of food and drinks), only for her manager to come back and say “Sorry, we don’t do coffee at the moment”…also some restaurants took over and hour just to get our food; each time we ask where it was, we got told that it was “being made fresh”. But really in the end the food was so good I got over the wait pretty quickly!

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After an hour and a half ferry ride, we landed in Paxos! Our accommodation was just around the corner which was brilliant, it was just a quick stroll up to up lovely villa. The views were spectacular, and it had a pool!

The population of Paxos is roughly 2,500…very tiny in the scheme of things, I have to confess it did take me a while realise how small the island was. However that wasn’t a concern for me, the few people the better! The best thing I discovered on the island was that there was a lot of Cats, and I mean a LOT OF CATS…All different shapes and sizes, some quite fat an others very skinny, they sat and watched while you ate. The funny things is that people were allowed to feed them (to an extent of course), there was one point where I had about 10 cats sitting patiently around waiting for scraps; I know a sight like that could be overwhelming for some, but it was pure magic for me!

On the island there were a range of activities you could do, we took a boat out to Anti Paxos, an island about 10-15mins ride from the main island.  The beaches we went to were pebble, which wasn’t the greatest especially when you had to hop, skip and basically jump to the ocean. However the water was crystal clear, not too cold, plus it didn’t get too deep too quickly (which I think is essential for a good floating session).

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It was breath taking, clear blue water and such a lovely temperature that you could lie in it all day. The lounge chairs were for hire, but for 5 euros it really doesn’t matter as you have it all day!

My week really consisted of lying by the pool, going into the township and having amazing stuffed peppers and tzatziki; the shops I confess weren’t anything special. The clothing stores imported a lot of there stock from Italy, which kind of surprised me; what you really need to go for is the food stores.

Overall I had a wonderful time in Corfu and Paxos, I would recommend going there for a cheap holiday. Food is not expensive and you can get some really nice accommodation at a good price, what you really need cash for is the activities like hiring a boat and doing a tour; but that is really to be expected.

To summer holidays on small islands,

Zoe

Easter Weekend in Bath, England

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Over the Easter Weekend my boyfriend and I treated ourselves to 3 days in Bath, England. It was pre planned which I love to do because I am a big bargain hunter! Also a note to anyone who do long weekend trips, if there a public holidays included in the long weekend then you are going to be paying inflated prices. The weather was meant to be horrible, but hell its Spring! best thing you can do is just dress for the season…but funny enough we go lucky, raining in the evening and sunshine in the day.

Now enough about the weather. Bath is located an hour and a half (via train) west of London, we took a train from Paddington station; the return ticket I believe was £50 each. It was our intention to go on the motorbike, but severe wind warnings made us take public transport instead. I was surprised at how quick it took for us to get there, looking on the map you think it would be at least over 2 hours. Everything went smoothly getting to Paddington, took the district line there, picked up our tickets and BAM we board the train and off to Bath we went!

We what can I say, I loved visiting Bath! The Bath Abbey was spectacular, I cannot believe this is the 3rd version of the abbey. We took a walking tour of the city, which is a free service provided by the Mayor Bath. What is fantastic about this tour is not only do you learning about the general history of Bath, you learn about architecture, important events and also about the people who used to live there; like one gentleman who donated his weather to America in the name of science! In which you find out that is how the smithsonian was created…and it all start in Bath?! (my mind was blown on that fact).

The tour last around 2 1/2 hours, by then I was starving! The selection of restaurants in Bath was good, you can get 2 course meals for £14.50; we opted for this the first night and it was a pleasant meal (nothing rave about really). The other nights we had a pub meal, which you can never go wrong with and the last night we visited a Mexican rotisserie place; our focus in Bath wasn’t really on the food.

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So on the last day we decided to do the Roman Baths, this was a really popular attraction so we went first thing and even then there were still swarms of people; but a bit more manageable I guess. The Roman Baths are hot springs, the first baths were original discovered by the British king Bladud who built the first Moorish baths, later when the Roman’s invaded the redesigned the baths to host Temples and a selection of hot and cold baths.

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Price wise the baths only cost £15, I thought I would literally be seeing ruins and some general information about the site; however I was pleasantly surprised. You got audio tours, a complete museum with the breakdown of the history of the temples and bath itself, plus there were some snazzy artefacts to look at. Overall I would recommend that the Roman Baths should be a must do on your visit to Bath.

It was a fun weekend, taking a step back in time and seeing some stunning sites. I definitely want to go back as there was the Jane Austen museum and a few other shops that I wanted to wander into.

To the waters at Bath,

Zoe

San Diego – Home of the best Burritos

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If you didn’t already know, the first six months of 2015 I was travelling the world! One of my destinations was San Diego, it ended up being one of my favourite destinations in America. In collaboration with Go San Diego I have compiled my favourite places within San Diego.

What I should really do is tell you what I got up to and why you should visit San Diego (not bias at all).. I spent a whole week in San Diego with my boyfriend, bare in mind we were on a budget so we kept our selection of activities to a respectable amount. It was such an amazing time, even though we were told it was one of the coldest weeks they have had in summer! But hey it was super special and when people ask about where to visit in America, San Diego is our top 3. I thought I would give a few descriptions about some of the places we visited, but really its up to you and go see.

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La Jolla

On a whim, we headed out to La Jolla. Alex had read up on the place and really wanted to go see the sea lions, I also wanted to look at the fabulous boutique shops. As I got off the bus in La Jolla I instantly felt the beachy vibe, it was fantastic! After being in San Francisco, LA and Vegas it was nice to get this vibe. The weather was a bit overcast but I loved being there, plus I also found me some really cool purple shades (of course). La Jolla is a great place to visit with your friends or family, it has so much to offer in regards to activities i.e. snorkeling in which a sea lion might just swim past you?! Sadly I didn’t bring my swimming gear with me.

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Ralphs Supermarket/Gas Lamp Quarter

I know you might think I am made for mentioning a Supermarket, but if you are on a budget like I was then you want to know about the best ways to save you cash. Ralphs was the local supermarket we inhabited, we brought hot chicken and made some spicy rice when we didn’t want to dine out.  I also brought a 4th of July themed cupcake and it was pretty yummy! It was well price and we even got a discount card just to save that little bit extra, it was close to a mall and the gym so we would get our lunch ingredients from there after a workout. The staff were friendly and the place had great value and variety.

Now the Gas Lamp Quarter, I enjoyed the walks through the area reading the little signs about who or what the building use to be about. It is also the home to some amazing restaurants, I went to the Escape Fish Bar the food was amazing and the people were really friendly. It is not as fancy as some of the restaurants but that is the charm of the place, good food, good company and a great price. It is definitely a great place to go for the budget conscious traveller and you get the most amazing array of fish to choose from, plus some flavorsome tapas.

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HMS Midway

My Boyfriend loves anything to do with boats, airplanes and motorbikes, so of course we ended up visiting the HMS Midway Aircraft Carrier. As I am not the most knowledgeable person on this ship here is an extract about the history of it, “For 47 years the USS Midway served in military and rescue operations around the globe, and was one of the main aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War. Active in every war from World War II to Desert Storm, jets could be deployed two at a time from the hangar to the flight deck in ten seconds.” From a tourist point of view, I loved how you got to interact with the ship via walking through the mess hall, talking to people that actually served on the ship while it was active. I also got a audio tour so that I could listen to stories, I felt like I was being teleported back in time.

Overall what really appealed to me about San Diego was how friendly everyone was, we always ended up having little chit chats with people everyday. I can understand why people like to live here, I would live there! Also I love Mexican food and since San Diego is so close to the border, I definitely ate the best tasting Mexican food in all of America.

To stuffing your face with burritos,

Zoe

This post was in collaboration with Go San Diego. All pictures and opinions are mine.

Stage Six: Visas and Vaccinations

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I confess I was one of these really organised people who fretted about making sure I had all my visas and vaccinations sorted. However I look back now and realised that this was a slight overkill, the vaccinations and medicine I got in the end worked out perfectly. Now before I continue I want to state that I am not a doctor or health professional so please seek their advice before getting vaccinations! 

So here is how you go about vaccinations:

Firstly be aware that vaccinations are needed for countries that are third world or are suffering from a pandemic and require you to have booster shots before arriving in the country. For me I was visting South East Asia (S.E.A), therefore I used my lonely planet guide book to establish what shots I needed for where. Then I headed down to my local GP and discussed what shots were absolutely neccessary. Bare in mind shots are not cheap and if you are going to places like S.E.A the starting rate for all you vaccines would be $100 NZ (us the exchange rate website or app to see your countries rate). So for me my total was $380 worth of vaccine shots and $50 for medication that I would carry with me, it can catch you by surprise.

My shots covered, Hepititas A, Varicella plus a booster shot for Typhoid and something else which I cannot remember. The medicine included a pill for Malaria which I took every single day, electrolytes for a possible chance of severe dehydration and pills for vomitting and diarrhea. You need to consider having a small medicine pack because you might end up in a country that does not have decent health care or that it might cost you an arm or leg in fees. Something else to include is Panadol, a cream or spray for cuts, plasters and antihistamines if you suffer from allergies.

Yes this can seem quite overwhelming, but if you are anything like me you have started reading up months before you leave. Some shot you need to talk a few weeks out because you might suffer from side effects. By doing this you ensure that if you have a minior accident you can patch yourself up no problem, additionally make sure you have health insurance before you leave.

Now that I have covered Vaccinations, it is time to talk about Visas! Again I fretted about border crossings and making sure I had flights in and out of certain countries. But what I found is that as long as you have the first visa sorted for the first country you fly to then you can organise visas for other countries from there.

Let me give you an example: My first stop was Malaysia and I knew from my research that it was visa on arrival, meaning they issue you it to you at the airport when you land. It was the same for my next stop in Thailand, however for my next country Myanmar I needed to have a visa before I landed. So while I was in Thailand I went to a booking office and they organise my visa from there. I could have done it from the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, but I kind of got side tracked and did it from Chiang Mai. So since then I have been checking online through google, its so easy to write visa for … and it will bring up the country’s government website and the list of countries for visas on arrival and  a list for countries the need to apply internationally.

As long as your organise your visa 4-7 working days before you leave for the country you should not have a problem. But and I mean but! you really need to put aside money for visas they are not always cheap. The cheapest I had was $5 US for Cambodia and the most expensive was $60 US for Vietnam. By having extra cash set aside for visas it saves the heart breaking feeling of handing over money when you wanted to use it for something else!

So now you are prepared my fellow waywards, go forth and conquer!

Zoe

Cambodia

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Amazing architecture at the main roundabout

Phnom Penh

We took a plane from Myanmar (Yangon) to Bangkok then got a transfer flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. This saved us over $100NZ so I recommend that when you are looking at flights and time is not your enemy consider making pit stops along them way.

Now back to Phnom Penh, what a surprise it was for us to come to savy sort of a city. It reminded us of the baby version on Bangkok, it is still a city behind in a technological sense, but we discovered shopping centre and plenty of convenience stores. I got lucky and picked a place called Feel at Home Guesthouse which, was a french colonial style building! Very pretty we were on the top floor, it had a beautiful balcony and a bamboo bathroom which I thought was pretty neat.

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Place Pagoda and Grounds

We stayed four nights in Phnom Penh, I think it is a good amount of time. There are plenty things to do in the city like the night markets on the weekend and central markets in the week, but we did the Royal Palace and the killing fields; along with a gun range. The one thing you need to take into consideration, some of these activities are not cheap and if you get a tuk tuk driver like we did they will try and rip you off. So a tour of the city should be no more than $20US for the day, talk about price at the beginning and say no to things you do not want to do. It will save you a lot of hassle, believe me.

Otherwise we spent the rest of our time walking around the town and trying out the food and looking at monuments scattered through the city. It was a great place for us to unwind after the full on adventures in Myanmar.

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Sunrise at Ankor Wat

Siem Reap

The land of the ancient temples, some are fully functional temples and some are just ruins for tourists to walk through. Siem Reap was suprising as even though its a tourist destination you don’t feel too overwhelmed by tourists.

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Aki Ra, Founder of the Landmine Museum

We did a sunrise at Ankor Wat which was pretty cool and we also went to a temple where Tomb Raider was filled (fan girl moment). I am not sure what to write, only to say that I really loved the temples and the people here were friendly. Also you should checkout Cambodia Landmine Museum, it is quite astounding how many landmin were planted in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge period. It is a not for profit organisation in which you entry fee helps the victims of landmines and also help fund the commisioning of active landmines.

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Then there is Pub street a main street you go to check out pubs and club, plus also some pretty tasty food. Tuk Tuks are everywhere so be prepared to get harassed slighty with the madam, sir would you like a tuk tuk?!

Sihanoukville

We came to this place for a few nights, this is where we caught our boat to Lazy Beach on Koh Rong Island. Snooky (what the locals call it) is a young backpackers dream, cheap boozes parties on the beach. It came across to us a little scummy and too much of a party area, there was one person we saw walking around at 8am cover in scratches and blood; in which we could only assume he got into a fight. The place is littered with casinos, so we were definitely happy not to have stayed more than 2 nights. However on one of the days we went to a beach called Otres Beach, its further down from the main beach. It has less hawkers, less theif and nicer people; if you end up here you sound at least go to this place.

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Koh Rong

Before I talk about this I would like to point out that there are two Koh Rong Islands, one is Koh Rong and the other is Koh Rong Sanloem. I never figured out why they are both called Koh Rong, but I am sure you can google about it.

My boyfriend (Alex) really wanted to have a proper small island experience and he made it his mission to find it in Cambodia. So when he found Lazy Beach, it was all he could talk about?! It took me a little while to get on board, but I am glad I did! Lazy Beach is situated on the Koh Rong Sanloem island. This island has only a few resorts and small accommodation compared to its counter part. To get there we took a 2 1/2 hour boat ride to get to the island, the boat was pretty old and a lady on our boat look extremely green.

Once we got there it was to find a really stunning beachfront about 1 mile long and dotted just off shore were bungalows, all designed to blend in with scenary. Lazy Beach was the only resort on their side of the island, it had between 10-15 bungalows and if you want to go to the otherside of the island it would be a short 20min walk.

There was under 50 people at our place, we got a bungalow on the waterfront. It was stunning! There was only electricity for the evening and it could vary and there was no wifi whatsoever, it was quite refreshing. We stayed three nights, got super brown tans, walked to the otherside of the isalnd and along the way saw quite a few monkeys. I also polished off Tom Clancys Patriot Games booked that I found in the supplied bookcase in the restaurant. We had such a relaxing time we did not want to leave, but sadly our budget couldn’t let us stay there forever sigh…

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Kampot & Kep

Kampot and Kep are little sleepy towns along the southern coast of Cambodia, we really enjoyed our stay in Kampit and we went to Kep for the day. Kampot still look quite French as in the buildings and the statues scattered around the town, it also has a Durian statue in there big round about. If you don’t know what Durian is, it is one of Thailand and I believe Cambodia’s national fruit, it got a shell that looks like a pineapple but the inside smell quite putrid to me and the taste reminds me of soggy potatoes. Yeah…wasn’t really a fan.

One of the highlights in Kampot for me was Epic Arts Cafe, a cafe that employs people with disabilities; quite a few people are deaf but they have made a system which makes it fun to interact. It also hosts an art centre where locals with disabilities come to create amazing pieces. They have a gallery above the cafe in which you can view and purchase local art and crafts, it was a real inspring place to go, plus the food and coffee there is AMAZING!

Kep is a popular place the rich Cambodians like to go for their vactions, there are some very large and I mean large homes around there. We stopped at a little shop/cafe run by a wonderful lady (sadly we didn’t ask for name, bad us) she made all her products herself and cooked some amazing food. She was fluent in Khmer and French plus she spoke English pretty well, we had a great chat with her and man she is an entreprenuer! Not only does she own this shop/cafe, she also lease scooter (in which she owns 20 scooters) she also teaches children at the local school French and plans to make her a guesthouse a cafe in the future. I was just blown away by her drive to succeed and make a business for herself. So if you are in the area please head to Can Thau Design and check it out, I think anyone would enjoy this lady’s company and products.

So there you have my review of Cambodia, next stop Vietnam!

Zoe

Myanmar

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Mandalay

What can I say about Mandalay, I was a very unique city. Of all the places I have been, this was the first country that felt 3rd world.

There was no road rules, cars, buses, scooters and horses filled the streets; also some streets were paved and others turned into dirt roads. From the places I had selected we ended up not being in the heart of the city, but after some reasearch I knew the hotel I selected in Mandalay was in the heart. But boy, I got us in a very unique spot, we had a nice hotel in the heart of the market. Which means dirt roads around us and chaos everywhere, the first day was quite overwhelming!

We adjusted quite quickly walking the streets to get to taxis but we definitely struggled with the heat, Thailand averaged between 32-35 degrees daily; but Mandalay was an average of 38-40 degrees daily. Ugh, lets just say I was a very unpleasant person when temperatures reached their peak in the day. Another thing we had to adjust to was the lack of translated signs/photos, you don’t realise how lucky you get it in other countries when you step into a restaurant with no pictures and no English substitles.

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Bagan

If I hadn’t had the chance to see a few temples in Mandalay then it wouldn’t have mattered because Bagan is full of them! and I mean a casual 2000+ temples/pagodas. What I also discovered is mixing the popular pagodas with ones that are not, is the best way to have your own little adventure.

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We hired electronic bikes (e-bikes) and did the circuit between New Bagan and Nyaung U, its was great just stopping when we felt like it. This help us discover small pagodas that were even sometime more interesting than the big ones! For example there was this one pagoda heading out of New Bagan (south bound) that you could climb inside and explore. These two little girls took my boyfriend Alex through a hole/window in the side of this pagoda. (Sadly I am a bit to scared of small places). He said it was such a fantastic adventure and happy that he got the chance to do it. I loved how the grounds were well kept and I had a chance to play with a kitty (love, love, love cats!)

 

Kalaw

It was one windy ride to Kalaw! We took a bus from Bagan, it was suppose to be a 15 seater bus but we ended up on a 12 seater, with a 13th person sitting on top (Myanmar styles). We made friend with people at the back of the bus, as you know the naughty fun people are at the back of the bus.

I had my theories why we didn’t end up with a bigger bus, our driver was half an hour late to getting us to the depot and I reckon the company was like “well you can drive them all the way”. So we got into Kalaw half an hour later than estimated which was pretty sweet! But then our next problem was our bus driver didn’t speak any English, so hand gestures got us to the first groups hotel. After that we decided to walk to our new friends hotel, their hotel was very helpful and pointed us in the direction of our hotel. They said it was an half an hour walk which freaked me out, but using the map they gave us we got there between 20-25mins.

Though we trudged with our backpacks through the streets (I have reduced my backpack weight from 15kgs to 13kgs winning!) when finally got to our place, thanks to some helpful locals, it was AMAZING! Thitaw Lay Guesthouse was magical for me, hot showers, yummy breakfast and rooms naturally designed to keep the room cool. Since I hadn’t had a hot shower in close to 2 weeks, I basically jumped straight into the shower and started singing!

We only stayed 2 nights, it was such a lovely place that we wished we stayed longer. This little town is well known for its trekking, our new friends went on one of the treks and said it was about 40kms of walking which seemed a bit too much for me! But they would recommend it to people who like to do light trekkking. Me and Alex did our own little excursion which turned out to be crazy (yip you get it we got lost). But this town also is a great place to get r & r if you are travelling for a long period of time, there are some great places to eat.

Also we found out this is the place were rich Burmese come to for a break, a lot of them have holiday homes here that now reach the 1million mark!

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Inle Lake

So after we had such a lovely time in Kalaw, we decided to be a bit adventurous and take the train to Inle. If you know anything about Myanmar transport you shouldn’t take the trains because they are unreliable; but we did it and yip the train is absolute crap, though it was a fantastic experience. 4hour and 40kms laters we got into the township at the top of Inle Lake (Nyangshwe), our taxi driver took us to a hotel called the Gypsy Inn which was fine, comfy room and good price. We gave up on efforts to get accommodation after 2 places were fully booked, so the taxi driver pulled through.

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We hired bicycles and biked around the like, went to very nice vineyard and took a boat across the lake and rode back up. Alex tried to tell me that it was around 10kms, but when we meet up with our friends from Bagan to Kalaw ride. They had tracked their route which was the same as ours roughly and it turned out to be 38kms including the lake crossing. No wonder my backside didn’t like me!

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Yangon

So to save some coin we took an overnight bus to Yangon f.y.i this was a 12 hour bus ride. A few people we knew flew Yangon but to do that was in the reigon of $120 US and over bus ride was only $22 US. So you can see what the budget conscious people like myself selected, yes it is a 12 hour bus ride compared to a 1 hour flight; but hey I wasn’t in a hurry!

To be brutally honest, Yangon was just another city similar to other places we have visited. Except this city was still stuck in a time zone, we found a few nice cafes and restaurants to eat at; but sadly everything in this city is quite expensive. This is not a backpacker city, cheap accommodation is horrible and we managed to get a pretty horrible place. It was $37 a night, there was no shower or toliet in the room, plus the breakfast was so saturated in oil we just went out for breakfast.

One thing that was nice to visit was the Shwedagong Temple, you can see from the picture above it was a pretty impressive place to visit. Just watch out for the 16,000 Kyat entry free when you get to the top, we definitely were not expecting that!

Overall Myanmar was an amazing experience, for me I might come back in 10 years to see how the economy is doing and to see the difference of tourism from when I last visited. But now that I have done beautiful Bagan, Kalaw and Inle Lake there is no dire need to return.

Now Cambodia!

Zoe