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Trans Siberian and beyond with the Sandos

Welcome to Brett's and Kim's Travel Page. Here is where we will be keeping a record of our adventures for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment for us. If we have time in between discovering new places, beers and meeting new people we will reply to them!

Diary Entries

Monday, 15 October 2007

Location: Bristol, UK

Yes, somewhat surprisingly we are all the way back in the UK again. I think the last update I wrote was in Bangkok when we were about to jet off to the islands, so any avid readers may have wondered what the hell happened to us.

We had a call from my brother to let us know my dad was terminally ill which came as a massive shock after seeing him only in July seemingly fighting fit and his usual cheerful self. So we headed onto Perth earlier than planned, packed a suitcase full of winter clothes (all our stuff had been shipped over there) and headed back again to London.

This is a painfully short story rather than a long one but we ended up at my dad's funeral on Thursday. This must be the ultimate fear when you go travelling that something will happen to your loved ones while you're away but somehow you don't feel like it can really, it doesn't feel quite real, drifting along from place to place meeting new people and trying new food and staying in a different place every 2 days, you just expect to end up back where you started and nothing will have changed.

Anyway we're staying here in Bristol until December for a friend's wedding in London, might as well as can't afford these airfares, all this jetting about is eating into our house deposit! Then straight to Perth via Dubai to have another crack at the new life down under.

We'll be doing bar jobs to tide us over until we leave. I'll update from Perth when we finally arrive there, what a journey the last few months have been, I tell you what, I feel totally battered. Brett meanwhile has adjusted well back to British TV although the pounds are piling on now he is back on normal food rations!!

Back where we started and signing off for now...

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Hello from Thailand and just to reassure everyone we are not being identified by our dental records down in Phuket - very scary though as are due on a very similar flight in about 2 days time, with Air Asia and not One Two Go though. There but for the grace of God though... really makes you think.

We got on a small propellor plane from Luang Phabang to Bangkok, no more killer bus journeys or trains for us thank God. We had such a lovely time in Luang Phabang we didn't want to leave, especially not our lovely travelling companion Ally, we got so used to having her around I think we will actually have to move her into our house in Perth as a full time installment. The bagels in Jo Ma Bakery are out of this world if anyone is thinking of going there you must, it's the best place we've been yet. Our last day we went to an elephant park, one recommended by Lonely Planet as it's part of Fair Trek eco tourism so elephants aren't bashed over the head with nails etc. We got to ride on one and feed the baby elephant, so sweet! Then they took us on a trek (I know trekking again, we keep getting railroaded into it) to a local primary school with all the little kids rushed out with their exercise books to show us their drawings. I took a little video of them our on our camera to show them and they were screaming in excitement, they'd never seen anything like it!

Then after the elephants we went to the best waterfall yet, the water was clear blue and they had a roped off section for swimming in the middle of a suntrap in a tree clearing, it was fantastic! If anyone is wondering where to go on their next holiday, come to Luang Phabang, it's only an hour flight from Bangkok and it's so much fun and really cheap, we bought loads of stuff and posted it home as well.

So back to Bangkok... bit of a change from Laos. Everyone is out to rip you off for starters, even the ladies with clipboards at the airport trying to get you to take one of their taxis for 1000 baht!!! Luckily we bumped into a German guy who wanted to share a taxi and had been here 40 times already so knew you should go upstairs to where the other taxis wait who aren't on meters, agree 300 baht with them and off you go. He was a bit of an oddball though, told us his life story - after the 45 min cab ride I felt his ex wife and I were old friends.

The shopping here is brilliant, more bargaining, fortunately I am an old hand at this after 3 months of it, the clothes here are fantastic and so cheap. Pushy and rude stall owners though mostly, the people aren't as nice as in lovely Laos.

And then Patpong - I'm sure a few of you have seen it, so you know all about it, how depressing, went there last night and bored looking girls bouncing ping pongs around or just shuffling from side to side on a stage, hoping to get picked. It's not quite Las Vegas, the look on their faces they look so blank, as if they were slumped in front of Eastenders with a takeaway. And the sleazy Western men, 60 year old men or big fat sweaty blokes with a young Thai girl on each knee! Even Brett wanted to go home after about an hour! Yes, really!!

Anyway we bumped into that couple we met in Yangshuo and Hanoi, Josh and Ildi, completely by chance in the same hotel we're staying at. This seems to happen a lot to travellers going round South East Asia, it's a small world I guess! Lots of hippy travellers with beards here so for once Brett doesn't stand out a mile with his big grizzly he's grown again.

We had planned on going down to Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta but apparently it's monsoon rain down there so we might change our plans and go east to Ko Samui and Ko Tao instead. Not long to go now so we really are looking forward to some beach time. It's a full moon party down on Ko Phan Ngan in the next couple of days, but I'm thinking we're too old for that malarkey, met a few young travellers in their early 20's who'd been and were so excited about it - "yeah I met this girl called Dove and it was so weird, we really connected, it was amazing man, and everyone was just so into it". I think him and Dove shared more than a coconut shake together.

Anyway will upload photos later of elephants and try and take some more photos here and in the islands when we get there.

Must go and check weather forecast now!

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Location: Luang Phabang, Laos

The cockroaches and wooden huts of southern Laos are a long distant memory it seems as we hit the northern bit of Laos and really started to have fun. We left surely the quietest capital city in the world, Vientiane and travelled by bus 3 hours north to Vang Viang.

Vang Viang reminds me a bit of Yangshuo, it's a sweet little town nestled between big moss green coloured mountains, with umpteen guesthouses on offer, restaurants and bars and internet cafes. How they all make a living I don't know, probably about 50 new backpackers a day arrive but the same amount move on per day as well so there's nowhere near enough to fill all the guesthouses. We got a room in a place called Nanas which was utterly fab - a huge room with polished wood floors and furniture, big thick pillows, fluffy towels, a big marble bathtub and a copper sink. $15 a night - bit much as you can get a room for $6 but after the 2 nights in Vientiane with cockroaches in the first hotel and the room with no windows and aircon that spat dirty water on us all night - needed a bit of luxury!

We hired bikes and went on a ride out to some local caves which were supposed to be great. Unfortunately we never actually made it to the caves, the heavens opened and we got caught in a huge thunderstorm and had to find shelter in the middle of all this forest under some trees. If we were in a movie it would have been romantic - however with the amount of bugs that come out in the rain and mosquitos nipping at your ankles it's anything but romantic. We have seen some enormous geckos and spiders here!

Although we're travelling in the rainy season it's still sunny about 90% of the time, but when it rains - it really rains and each drop that falls on you feels like a slap. We then bumped into some other sorry looking wet bikers and ended up riding back into town with them and going for drinks and dinner. Later that night, after discovering what a whisky bucket is at a local bar, Brett got too drunk and lost his flip flops for the second time that week. Met up with Phil and Roxy and Ally the next day for dinner and ended up travelling on to Luang Phabang with Ally, a girl from Sydney and Rowan, a guy from Melbourne.

We're in Luang Phabang now and it is definitely my idea of a holiday town, it is fantastic!! They are now selling flights from Paris to Luang Phabang or other places, you should come here, it's so pretty and so much to do and the shopping - oh my God the shopping is fantastic, silks and cottons and silver all at a fraction of the price back home. It's land locked but there are waterfalls nearby you can swim in. Yesterday we went to the Kuang Si waterfalls and went for a dip in them, beautiful. Some Lao locals appeared to have brought their shampoo with them and were washing their hair, mainly men in tight jeans - I think they were showing off as they were the ones swinging hell for leather on the rope swing into the waterfall. It's quite a strong current once you're in and we watched in horror as a little boy jumped in and got swept towards the rapids, luckily he managed to grab a tree and Rowan reached out to help him back across. The Western men were having a go at the rope swing as well but were pretty rubbish, one large German chap kept trying again and again but would just end up belly flopping straight into the water clutching the rope and squinting and coughing, a far cry from the local boys in their tight jeans who swung back and forth like monkeys before plunging into the current and swimming back to shore.

And...tomorrow we are going elephant riding, I can't wait, it's with an eco tourism company, all this responsible tourism very much on offer here! Will put details of that and photos on later.

Well 2 more nights left in Laos then off to Bangkok. We've had such a lovely time here, it's much like Thailand was 20 years ago apparently, and the people in Laos are far less pushy than their Chinese or Vietnamese counterparts and friendlier I think, less out to rip you off. They are larger as well and darker skinned. There is also the Laos version of the infamous Thai lady-boy, we saw a few last night with some Western men in a bowling alley. Poor things always end up with the big fat baldies though, what a way to make a living!

Bye for now


Monday, 10 September 2007

Location: Vientiane, Laos

We are in Vientiane after 4 nights in Si Phan don, the 4000 islands in the far south of Laos, right on the border of Cambodia. Well they say islands but some of them I think are just trees buried underwater with just the tips sticking out the top through the brown muddy water of the Mekong.

Apparently these islands remained unaffected by both the French and the American wars so are an authentic slice of Laos life. After a day or so, we didnt' even bat an eyelid at having to navigate around water buffalo to get to the bathoom or waking up at dawn with the roosters crowing outside or pigs and ducks running in front of our bikes. However... cockroaches are a different matter. Dirty little bastards!!! They're not so little either, they are probably about 3 or 4 inches long with brown shiny backs and long creepy feelers coming out of their heads, they crap all over the place. Apparently if you decapitate one, they can still survive but they don't last long as they can't see their way around to find food or their way around. We haven't put this to the test but several have met their fate under a size 10 rubber flip flop in the last few days.

New flip flops I might add as Brett had an afternoon trying out the local firewater, Lao Lao, a sort of whisky and came home later that evening minus his shoes and sunglasses, crashed straight into the mosquito net and ripped a big hole in it and passed out facedown, later apparently unable to find his way to the bathroom. Lucky for him he made it back at all as he stupidly got on a motorbike with 2 English blokes in the pitch dark along the local muddy paths, some of which are big ditches only covered over with bamboo. He had a stiff neck and a bloody nose the next day and no recollection of it, we think he must have crashed into a tree or something! He is not allowed out unsupervised any more.

The islands down there have no electricity except between 6 and 10pm so no fans at night let alone aircon and everything shuts down, no street lights or restaurants open. Then you're woken up at the crack of dawn by pigs and roosters or local builders playing Laos reggae music. Although not as bad as when we were on the cruise on the Yangtze River and were woken up at 5.30am by Oh Come All Ye Faithful and a series of Christmas carols on the loudspeaker in the room.

I have been forced to have a series of dirt cheap beauty treatments here in Vientiane to recover from the cockroach encounters, pedicure, facial and manicure for only $10. Brett meanwhile has turned to his old reliable friend Beer Laos. We are still travelling with the Aussie from the Gold coast, Rob and he took us out to a local bar last night to meet his girlfriend, a local girl he had met while travelling through Vientiane a couple of weeks ago. Jai (the girlfriend) and her mates all dolled up in little dresses, sat at the bar or played pool all evening and at the end of the evening all went home with Western men, mostly middle aged and unattractive. Jai is a beautiful girl but give her credit for being honest, she has already informed Rob she likes to sleep with married men and have foreign boyfriends. Meanwhile Rob who has been working in Korea for the last couple of years is clearly besotted and keeps mentioning how he'd like to live here. Not the sharpest tool in the shed as Brett would say.

Not much else happening here in Vientiane - it's a very quiet capital city with a few cars around, which we haven't really seen since China, and a few old colonial style buildings, now looking in severe need of a paint job and a refurb, a few trendy cocktail bars and some nice restaurants.

We are moving on by bus tomorrow morning to Vang Viang, a river town about 5 hours north where we will update on the cockroach situation and Brett's swollen nose.

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Recent Messages

From jasoncooke
hey Hi brett. hope your well mate and enjoying yourself.....
sounds great....

i thought you would like Lao's awesome eh, great coffee and chololate eclairs.. mmmmmmmm

i shall be taking a 4 to 6 month break from mott macdonald the middle of next month to go and spend some time with my dad in bangkok so im really looking forward to that, patpong sucks.
the weather has turned shitty here mate. bloody cold.

air asia is a good flight, never go with one to go, fly with them in feb this year and it scared the shit out of me mate, wires hanging out, never again.....

where to next ..... take care jase
koh tao is awesome, really chilled
Response: Nice work geez,

Yeh mate will be flying down to Krabi tomoz and make it up from there, will be meeting some friend so nothing is set in stone. If your moving on drop us an email and if your ever down in Perth look us up.
From bungs kel
hi kim and brett ive been reading up on all your stories and its bloody humerous you should write a book anyway cant wait to see you both and catch up and listen to all your stories from your journey im so jelous se you both soon
Response: Kel,

Cant wait to get back and see you both plus Bung Jr.
Hope all's good in Perth speeak to yas soon.
From Colin
Hi Chaps.
Heard this story today and thought you might like it.
A chap was having a drink in a North London pub and got chating to a bloke with scars all over his face.
" What happened to your face"? asked the chap.
"Oh I got these in Nam" said the bloke.
"Vietnam"? said the chap.
"No TotteNAM" Said the bloke.
Hope you can make it to North London in Dec. Look forward to a few Fosters and we will give Tottenham a miss.
Response: Was an Arsenal fan no doubt and probably deserved it. Congrats on the derby at the weekend as well.
From Colin
Hello Chaps
Thought I would let you know all is fine here. Looking forward to seeing your Dad on 16th Sept at Ruby's Christening. Going to miss you both but will have a drink for you in your absents. Glad to hear you are both having such a great time. Your log is so good I feel like I'm there with you. My Mum has asked if I can print it off so she can have a good read.
Enjoy the rest of it.
Lots of love.
Response: hello grandad!! hope christening goes well. Thanks for message. Likely to be back in London in Dec for my best mate's wedding for about a week pit stop so will try and head up to north London for a beer then.
From Jane Sanderson
Hi Kim & Brett, So glad your enjoying Vietnam, its a great place to travel through. Changing money is always difficult there - they seem reluctant to let you have any. Boxes have arrived and safely stored. Take care. Luv Mum
Response: Sando,
Was not that impressed with nam, am enjoying laos much better.
You haven't stored all the boxes in the same place as my school photos have you. Rememberwhat happened to them?
From P + J + Moss
so exciting reading your various ups and downs. at least you managed China without the lingo, quite a feat. tourist groups with us last time. hope you both are using deet for the mossies, I ususally give a prescription for travellers to Vietnam. Be careful with your history of allegies. had dinner with Dan and Sarah but forget to ask to see the pro wedding pictures. assume the album is sent back to OZ. Both of you looking fantastic, enjoy Angkor Wat, etc
Love +++, xxx
Response: Mum I am not on a school trip, we are fully doxcyclined and deeted up don't you worry!! The mossies are pretty bad here by the river though, they managed to get Brett on the bum last night, ha ha. We're not going to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, we did see a smaller version up in Champasak, Wat Phou which was fantastic though.
From Si and Ang
Blimey save us a cold one. Be out to see u soon - well however long it takes to do London-Perth in a RIB

Be alright I'll just get Ang to pack light

Response: Hey Bowden whats an RIB?
From Sindre
Fun reading.
Nice Pictures.
Thanks for good times in Datong and Pingyao
"Mine's a pint, mate"
Response: Good to hear from ya geezer. Stay out of trouble.
From Jane Sanderson
Hi Brett & Kim,
Enjoying the travelog and all your adventures and looking forward to the stories when you finally get here. Brett did you call Dad on his mobile Sunday? We tried texting back and left a message - hope all is OK. Luv M & D
Response: Yeh nah didn't try texting as I dont have a phone anymore.
From bung and bob
hey poofta lips wozzzzzzz up hows the wingspan when u cumin home champ we need a date so we can flog your as in golf.bob says its your shout u lout and he likes planes get a dog up ya go the eagles dogga butche nyaaaaaa were on our 2nd carton so go stick it up ur blurter talk soon river beds
From bung and bob
hey poofta lips wozzzzzzz up hows the wingspan when u cumin home champ we need a date so we can flog your as in golf.bob says its your shout u lout and he likes planes get a dog up ya go the eagles dogga butche nyaaaaaa were on our 2nd carton so go stick it up ur blurter talk soon river beds
Response: Aye oop pan lickers,
Yeh mate the wingspan is all good, me's flying into Perth on the 4th of Oct. so ya can book me down for a game on the w/end following.
From db
kimo! a very happy belated birthday - can't believe i friggin missed it!!!!
love your entries - roaring with laughter as i can soo see the two of you - feel like i'm travelling on your wonderful journey with you! thank you!x
rupes and i are heading down to the south of france in 2 weeks - can't wait to get some serious sun!!! then leaving on nov 10th for the states!!!
keep up the laughter - miss you both loads - rossie just isn't the same without you! much luv db x
Response: DB - you wouldn't last 5 minutes over here - does travel insurance cover champagne deficiency? France and wine and french food - sounds heaven. give our love to rupert bear. xx
From Maria
Hi Brett/Kim

Your travels are sounding great so far. Kim, how did your birthday go? Not much news from here other than have come back from my holiday with mosquito bites, which are now getting worse by the day, what a surprise! How are your backs doing btw, are your backpacks easier to carry now, or still a nightmare?

Response: Birthday was good apart from losing all feeling in legs after climbing Hua Shan. Backpack heavier now that have discovered Watsons, local equivalent to Boots, have to walk at 90 degrees every time I put it on. I am covered in bites as well, they ignore Brett and go straight for me!! Where was your holiday Spain or Portugal?
From Lou
Hi Kim & Brett

Can't believe you only paid £8 for 6 hours in rickshaw - didn't we pay about £10 to go round the corner when we went to see Mama Mia - we were ripped off!!!! :o)

Glad to hear you are still having a fantastic time - maybe you should start charging the locals to have their photo with brett - you'd make a fortune!!!!!

take care x
Response: 8 quid yep, what a waste as then had to run the entire way back again in high heels as had dropped the theatre tickets on the floor in Wagamamas!!! And then run back again !!! happy days! haven't lost anything yet. Brett meanwhile lost my debit card we were drawing money out with, he left it in the cashpoint in Xian!!!
From Jane Sanderson
Enjoying all the photos and your travel adventures, keep up the great work. A very happy birthday Kim - even though a little belated! I bet it's the one you will always remember. Good to hear your absorbing all the eastern culture and drainage construction Brett. So glad all your travel adventures have been good so far - even coping with "Eastern Time". Wait till you get to Thailand and cope with "Thai Time" - nothing moves fast!
Keep safe, lots of luv Mum & Dad.
Response: Jane, you'll be pleased to hear Brett has a whole host of Chinese mums on hand who tend to his every need, the other day he coughed and they came up with tissues and cold and flu tablets, then insisted on him eating a giant pot noodle. He is twice the size of most of the men out here!
From J + P + Moss
Lots of very happy birthday wishes to and be thinking of you extra today. go mad and try something different! Feeling better after the virus? You both managed to continue to carry on, enjoying the attention of the locals. That Brett has the knack, maybe you should get a blond wig. What a laugh with the saga at the airport at Bejing. he knows to tart himself up before flying again.
heard the floods are pretty bad , so be careful. you cab catch up with the news of UK on timesonline, with the floods in Gloucestershire but we are nearly getting the proper temperatures now, still the interrupted showers.
Have a wonderful day.
love mumxxx
Response: Thanks Mum, how nice to get happy birthday wishes, the only person who's wished me happies is Brett so far. Brett continuing to hog the limelight, even on top of a mountain this morning at 5am he was getting photo opportunity requests, never mind the sunrise, they wants pics of him. All good here, tired after climbing all night (never again!) but about to go and celebrate with a beer or two. No sign of the floods yet just baking heat but I hear Sichuan province has been flooded and we're off there tomorrow. speak soon K x
From Pauline
HAPPY BIRHTDAY KIM! Hope you enjoy your day, I'm sure it will be one of the most memorable ones! Your page is so funny, you have me sitting in my office roaring laughing!
take care, speak soon
Response: Hello Dor, thanks my dear! Memorable in that climbed a mountain last night and now feel like legs are made of cardboard, the sunrise was amazing but the toilets on the way were just as memorable for different reasons, afraid to go in the bushes in case was airlifted down the mountain with snakebite on the bum. All good here, speak soon K x
From MC
D1C still operating. No tickets purchased as yet, demand won't be as massive as the ashes so we have time to sort it out. Day one will be 8th Nov at da Gabba for your diary sons!!!
P.S Winter over on Sunny coast 27 deg today. Lovin these 6 week winters!!!
Response: as per email geez
From Leah
Knew you guys would love China!...I was caught out by the 'hike' to the Great Wall too, not heat though, minus 14 on that occasion. Bretlee, Tsing Tao DOES kill germs, but Kim, unfortunately vodka causes me. Love the tales, lovlies...Bretto - International Man of Mystery hahahaha! L.xx
Response: B still getting photo opp requests, feel like chopped liver in comparison! We do like it here but it is very tiring moving around so much, off to Chengdu, Sichan province tomorrow, which takes a relatively speedy 16 hours by train (supposedly, taking no chances and stocking up on provisions this time). Hope all's well with you, good luck on the w/e with the Derby, carn the Eagles (says your brother).
From RM
D1C still happening champ. I'll inform the President - MC.
Response: Bosh
From RM
Hey guys,
Loving the blog - more snaps would be good though......

To keep the baby theme going from the message below - Kel is now carting around a 14 week old mini me. Baby due 31st Jan. Looking forward to seeing you both when you return and downing some Bundy.

Rob and Kel
Response: Quiet everyone, I would like a minute silence for our fallen comrad..........
Another bloody Milligan to eat kilos of raw meat and drink gallons of Bundy, and what if its a boy?

In all seriousness thasts great news guys. We are both really happy for ya's.

On a separate note geez are ya still doin the day one club, if so count me in.
From Dan & Sarah
Hey you guys,
Only just found out about this from Colin!?! Absolutely love it though and are madly jealous of you both (except the plank loo - even worse than going al fresco up the mountain in Thailand). Sounds like you're having a ball.
love D & S.xx
ps. You have to try the local delicacies, even if they are rat and dog!
pps. Are we going to see Brett in Chinese "Heat?
Response: We are not going to be trying rat or dog or bugs on a stick (have some photos of that will upload - heave). Brett continues to be local celeb, with more cheesy photos doing the thumbs up with Chinese tourists. In Beijing, one woman even got out a video camera and filmed us eating our food. The plank loo will live on in my memory for a LONG time, I remember saying to Sarah how I couldn't cope with the loos at Glastonbury!!!!!!!!!!!
From Kath
Hello adventurers hope the flu has left and you are back on track - sounds amazing can't wait to see the latest photos - just bacvk from Portugal where I drunk far too much super bock but back to work tomorow and then off to the Big chill on Friday so as long as the Big Rains stop then it should be a top buzz. Had a brilliant holiday but gutted to be home - enjoy every second of your advdentures - I'm very jealous...will be back soon
Take care and lots of love, Kath xx
Response: Hello my dear, lovely Portugal, at least a break from the rain in London!! Glad you had good break. The beer in the last place we were was so cheap 2 Yuan for a massive bottle, literally about 10p. I am missing my vino though Great Wall wine is not the best.
From Lou
i have got to stop reading your blog at work - everytime I read the update I want to burst out laughing - sounds like you are having a fabulous time!!!! Kim seeing as Brett is now so famous - does this make you a WAG/Groupie!?!??! can't believe you haven't worn heels all this time!!!! your poor feet having to cope in flip flops!!!!! you look lovely and brown though - very jealous - first day of sun today in London and i'm stuck in office!!!!! take care & speak soon, Lou xx
Response: don't be too jealous it's pouring down with rain here in Pingyao at the moment, i have the flu and think we may have eaten rat by mistake the other night - urgh!!
From pete&kel
good to hear you guys having great time..well kel finally dropped the bub little boy named ryan on 17 7 07 he loks like me but with bigger tackle.hes a freak.....anyway have a great time and will speak soon

Response: Congratulations geezer, are you sure it wasn't your babys arm holding an apple? however saying that it wouldn't be hard to have a bigger tackle than yours. Send our love to Kel.