Ep.22 – Brazil


We absolutely loved Brazil and it’s definitely high up on our list of top destinations. I think it smashed so many of our misinformed preconceptions about safety and just had so much diversity and a variety of landscapes within the country. And we only scratched the surface as we worked our way up the East coast of Brazil in Florianopolis, Sao Paolo, Paraty, Ilha Grande & Rio de Janeiro!

Thanks for watching (don’t forget to set it to 1080p!)

Sophie & Dave

Ep. 6 – Laos

Here’s our video from our week in Laos. I didn’t take as many photographs in Laos as I normally do (due to our main activities being in/around water) so we are happy to have this little film to capture our memories. Personal highlight was seeing how much water people actually chucked on us in Vientiane during the water festival (you can see why we couldn’t have any camera other than the GoPro)!

Please watch in 1080p and thanks as always for following along.

Sophie & Dave

Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane – Laos

We arrived in Laos for our shortest country trip yet, only 8 days. The one hour flight from Chiang Mai was honestly the worst flight either of us had ever been on. The turbulence was insane, we literally flew off our seats and the poor woman in front was in tears. Laos was the one of the places we were dubious about Visas on arrival. We were told it would be $35 each and to pay in USD. We exchanged our cash in Chiang Mai and I insisted we got a tiny bit extra in case. Thankfully we did as they charge an extra dollar per person for ‘processing’.  They also charge an extra dollar if you don’t have a passport photo, fortunately we’ve got a whole wad of mug shots in our bags. So those extra $2 made all the difference and we arrived smoothly.

We decided to visit the three main cities for our stay, starting in Luang Prabang and ending in the capital, Vientiane. We still only booked 2 nights for when we arrived and left the rest open. We stayed in the most amazing hotel, a welcomed change considering we now think of having hand soap as a luxury. The room (still less than £10pp a night) can only be described as regal; everything was made from beautiful wood and we had a gorgeous wooden balcony overlooking a tributary of the Mekong river. We loved it so much we decided to stay another night.

On our first day, we went to Kuang Si Falls. There’s also a bear sanctuary at the base that you have to walk through. The bears were all rescued from the Laos bile trade. Though we were assured it was a legitimate sanctuary and the bears were happy now, we still couldn’t help but think their enclosures were quite small. I suppose the better of two evils though. Anyway Kuang Si Falls was absolutely beautiful. I was in awe just at the tiny 1 metre falls and pools at the base but if you continue up a bit further you get to see the main waterfall which was spectacular. I was happy with that and just wanted to swim in the pools at the bottom but Dave insisted we hike up to the top instead. I very bitterly agreed and it was actually quite a hard ascent (well for me at least), the fact that it was 39 degrees didn’t help either! But we made it to the top and had a little swim in the icy pools alongside the little fish that inhabited the waters. We had quite an impressive view from the top looking down on the tree canopies and if we peered over the edge we could see the start of the water falling down. We’d had a great day but sadly when we came back down the waterfall, we saw a horrific accident where a man died of a heart attack and people were trying to resuscitate him.

On our final day in Luang Prabang we went to the UXO visitors centre. The UXO (unexploded ordinance) centre was created by a government charity that strives to educate villagers on the dangers of the bombs and to disable as many of them as they can. It was quite an educational trip; I had no idea Laos has more unexploded bombs than anywhere else in the world. One person dies every day from them.

In the afternoon, we just played in the river. From afar, the current didn’t look too strong but when we actually got close, it was a different story. We stayed quite close to the edge and were very wobbly walking through the river to cross over. As always, there was a bunch of local kids who made it look so easy! We were staying right next to the Bamboo bridge, which is self explanatory but interestingly is only there for a few months of the year during dry season and has to be rebuilt every year. You have to pay a small price (50p) to cross over to help fund the rebuilding. We crossed in the evening looking for a restaurant we’d seen on trip advisor but it was shut and instead we stumbled upon another popular local place. It’s speciality was Laos fondue. Your table opens up and you’re basically given a fire and a barbecue/pot combo to cook your own meal. They give you a basket of fresh raw veg and noodles to put in to the broth and raw seasoned chicken to grill on the barbecue part. An interesting concept and was nice to try something different. We also both said if we get food poisoning, we’ve only got ourselves to blame (fortunately we didn’t!).

The main mode of transport between places in Laos seemed to be minivans and my God, do they get their money’s worth! There would be 15 people packed in to these little mini vans, including 2 sitting next to the driver! Even though the roads were very bumpy and at one point my glasses literally flew off my face as we soared over a pot hole, the journeys were shorter than what we’ve been doing, so only 4 hours was bearable.

Even in Luang Prabang, our first impression of Laos was that it was the Magaluf of South East Asia. When we arrived in Vang Vieng, this impression was immediately solidified. It definitely has the biggest drinking culture (I’m still going well with my alcohol ban) and was full of rowdy tourists, and locals alike. On our first day we decided to get a tuk-tuk to the Blue Lagoon, which was apparently a top destination. I have to say it was not at all the idyllic haven we’d imagined. It was essentially a glorified out-door swimming pool with lots of drunk people partying. The best part of the Lagoon wasn’t the Lagoon at all but rather the half hour ride to get there. The landscape of Laos is truly beautiful. I grew up in Switzerland so I’m used to mountains, but these mountains were like nothing I’d ever seen, they were so tropical. They are what I call David Attenborough mountains.

Vang Vieng is a place for outdoorsy activities so we booked an adventure day (only £7 all in with food) where we went Kayaking and Tubing in a cave. Spoiler alert, I hated the cave! Dave and I have only ever Kayaked on a flat body of water, never on a river with a current so that was quite fun.  Loads of people in our group capsized. We tried to help one pair by grabbing their lost oars except we weren’t paying attention and went straight in to a tree hanging over from the bank. We tried to duck but failed miserably and both got smacked in the face by the tree but fortunately we still didn’t capsize!

The cave. Oh the dreadful cave. We had naively assumed that cave tubing would be in a lit cave but we were given head torches as we prepared to get on our rubber tubes. As it got darker in the cave I realised my head torch was crap so Dave kindly swapped. There was a rope through the cave that you pulled yourself through floating on the tube; that was fine and quite enjoyable. The horrific part was when we got inside the cave and were told to dismount and that we were going to walk through. It was pitch black (apart from the shite head torches) and so unbelievably slippy. Absolutely zero health and safety standards. We were also in flip flops which made it so much worse. I ended up having a panic attack and still had to get out the cave whilst in a terrible state. You had to climb through jagged rock holes and I whacked my shoulder (which is now still bruised). Fortunately the walk in the cave wasn’t too long and I managed to get out okay. After I’d stopped hyperventilating, shaking and crying we rejoined the rest of our group for lunch and lazing in a hammock until it was time to kayak back to the town.

Our last city in Laos was Vientiane. We arrived for Lao New Year (Pi Mai)/ the water festival. New year basically means that most of the city shuts down for a three day bender with lots of water fights. There were loads of outdoor clubs blaring drum and bass with sprinklers and hoses everywhere. The streets were lined with people armed with water guns, hose pipes and buckets of water. It was impossible not to go out and get absolutely soaked. Fortunately we bought a water proof bag for wallets/phones.

Thanks for reading, quite a long one, sorry!

Sophie & Dave

Inle Lake – Myanmar

We arrived on the overnight bus at Nyaung Shwe, the main village near Inle lake, at 6am so the sun was just rising as we walked to our hostel shaped like a giant boom box – gentrification at its finest? Despite not getting much sleep on the bus and the fact that the hostel had a travellers room for early arrivers, we decided to power on through the day. Bicycles were available to borrow for free so we cycled to the lake. Note to self; check the brakes first when choosing a bike. My brakes were tragically poor and made an ear-splitting squeak as they grinded non-responsively to a halt. It was actually a lot further than we thought (or Dave conveniently failed to divulge this to me) and we ended up cycling around 30km, taking regular “shade breaks” from the scorching sun. Fortunately, the roads were fairly flat. As we were cycling along, a local young lad started chatting to us and offered to show us his village up ahead. He pointed out his bamboo hut house where he lived with all his family. It made us laugh that despite the tiny size of this rural village, one of his first questions to us was whether we’d watched the final of the Myanmar Idol singing contest last night. He took us to the rice paddy where we stood right next to the farmers as they planted little clumps in straight lines with impressive speed and accuracy. We then carried on and arrived at the Maing Thauk bridge, a 450 year old wooden bridge spanning 500 metres. Though you can get a motorised canoe to cross the lake with your bike, we decided we’d just have a walk around the bridge, get a drink from a neighbouring floating bamboo hut cafe and then head back the way we came. We planned to cross the lake the next day anyway. We had a relaxed evening at the hostel, only venturing out for some Dim Sum.

We had an early start the next day getting up at 5am. We booked on to join the hostel’s day tour (only about £7 all in for the full day each). We were taken in a tuk-tuk (so crammed that two guys just stood on the back and clung on) to a canal where our 4 seater, motorised canoe was waiting for us. The boat went quite fast so it was surprisingly cold with the morning air stinging us but they gave us blankets which made the ride more enjoyable. We hadn’t realised how vast the lake was the day before; it’s actually 116km squared. We stopped in the middle of the lake, parking I suppose, in a thick patch of water plants to watch the sun rise over the surrounding mountains. As we were speeding along, it seemed the people on boats were the only life inhabiting the lake, but once we stopped and looked over the edge of the canoe, we saw the water was alive with water snails, dancing dragonflies and more. The sunrise was truly beautiful and everyone in the group was silent. We were also given breakfast whilst we watched; an interesting cheese and jam sandwich.

We headed to Maing Thauk bridge where we were the day before, only at this time in the early hours of the morning, it was much quieter and we were able to take in the surrounding rice paddies and admire all of these crazy bamboo stilts supporting the huts. We got back in the boat and went to another village to a market. Though we didn’t buy anything, it was interesting to meander through all of the little stalls selling both produce to locals and souvenirs to tourists. I noticed quite a few stalls selling necklaces which I said to Dave – “They look like teeth..”, then the vendor chimed in happily: “Yes! Yes! Traditional necklace. Buffalo teeth. You want?” I politely declined…

We drove on to another little village for lunch in someone’s house. Again, a little hut perched on fragile bamboo stilts. Lunch was what can only be described as a fish carcass with veggies and rice. One of the women in the house was applying the Thanaka (wood suncream). This was the first time we got to see it in action; a little log being ground and mixed with water. She then offered to apply it to everyone in our group, I went first!  I’m judging the effectiveness based on the fact that Dave didn’t get burnt that day. After lunch, the women of the house took us for a little paddle on actual wooden canoes. We were each given a little oar, though we were basically redundant compared to their foot paddling. There’s a rowing technique unique to Myanmar where they sort of wrap their leg around the oar and rotate it as they paddle; it was quite a sight.

We then carried on to visit a hut where Myanmar cigars were made. The cigar rolling was really impressive as the women did it with such speed and precision. Apparently each person rolls around 700 cigars per day! They make 2 types; plain tobacco and a sweet version. We tried the sweet one where the main ingredient is star anise, it tasted like liquorice and I wasn’t a fan. Our next stop was a weaving factory, I say factory but it was just a larger bamboo stilt house. We saw women at work on traditional weaving mills and the highlight was seeing Lotus weaving. If you crack the stem of a lotus flower, there’s a sort of fine string that’s inside. This is extracted to make thread and then used to weave garments. A tiny scarf made from 100% lotus retails for $170 USD! Apparently they make robes for monks out of lotus as well and each robe takes about three months to make! Our final stop before returning to the hostel was a blacksmiths where we watched the four men it took to make a single blade.

We met three lovely guys from DC (our last stop on the trip); Andy, Eddy and Benny and went for dinner with them in the evening. It was a small restaurant run by an amazing woman called Zizi who strove to empower marginalised women in remote villages. She had a big poster of Aung San Suu Kyi saying “Freedom to Lead, Support Human Rights, Democracy in Burma”. It was only her doing the cooking/serving so the guys stepped in to help; chopping veg, serving customers. We had such a lovely evening with delicious home-made food. Unfortunately as we headed back to our hostel on our bikes, stopping at a restaurant to see if they had ice cream, 2 young boys on a motorbike (driving without lights and helmets whilst speeding) hit Eddy. Fortunately everyone was okay, though the 2 boys on the motorbike had to go to hospital.

On our last day, we went with the guys to the 5 day market which is predominantly where locals shop but with a few stalls with trinkets for tourists. There was the cutest little boy and Benny gave him a menthos mint and he was just laughing hysterically. I normally don’t take photographs of any kids on principle but I couldn’t resist taking one of this little one!

In Inle lake, if it’s possible, the people were even kinder and friendlier and reaffirmed how much we love Myanmar!

Thanks for reading!

Sophie & Dave

Bangkok – Thailand

As with perhaps every single place we’ve been so far, Bangkok was not at all what I expected. I’ve realised that I have so many (mostly wrong) pre-conceptions about places and countries that I must have accumulated from other people, the media, tv and film. It’s one of the few things that I’m happy to be proved wrong about. Bangkok is modern, civilised, clean, high-tech and not as overcrowded as other cities we’ve visited so far. Their public transport infrastructure is very impressive too. When we arrived at the airport we hopped on the train directly from the airport in to the centre of Bangkok. It was so surreal because it felt like we were on the DLR in East London going through Canary Wharf (if you’re from London then you know what that’s like). After a minor mishap with the taxis (now we know always use the meter, don’t agree a price up front), we arrived at our hostel, a very small private room where we basically had to exist in single file for 3 days. Walking back to our hostel after dinner on the first evening (Pad Thai, obviously) we had a really surreal experience. The street was lined with police offers and the road closed to any other vehicle other than a convoy of black cars and mini vans. The police officers even made us (and all pedestrians) stop walking whilst it all happened. Turns it out, it was the Prime Minister of Malaysia?!

On our first full day in Bangkok, we went to visit The Grand Palace and Wat Pho. We caught the public ferry along the river (Chao Phraya), a really cheap, efficient way to travel that I wasn’t even aware was an option! The boat was absolutely rammed and it pulls up to a floating pier and when you see the boat swing close enough, you jump quickly on board. We arrived at the Grand palace to discover we had turned up with approximately 97 billion other people (accurate, I swear). The King of Thailand’s body is still there so many Thais were there to pay their respects along with all the tourists. The Grand Palace is beautiful, intricate and huge! Dave has already been to Thailand before and said when he came here last, it was near empty and quite a lot had since been cornered off. We took our time looking around, with loads of breaks, partly because it was so unbelievably boiling hot, and partly because my ankle was still swollen from last week’s face plant. We then walked on to Wat Pho, a temple infamous for its’ 150ft reclining Budha. I much preferred this temple as there were fewer tourists and I actually preferred the decor and designs.

On the next day, we spent the morning in a lovely coffee shop planning our South East Asia route and booking a couple of extra internal flights. We’ve also decided to do a week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Cambodia and a day tour in Thailand. This is quite pricey but its the one thing we’d happily blow a budget for. It’s our Birthday and Christmas presents to each other (let’s see how many times we say that this trip haha). Elephant Nature Park was founded in Thailand and is one of the few legitimate elephant sanctuaries. More info when we actually go…

In the afternoon, we needed to do a bit of shopping as we were pretty much out of the essentials (shower gel, contact solution etc). You wouldn’t believe what a mission it was to find shower gel in India and now Bangkok too, that doesn’t have whitening agents in it. It seems there’s nowhere in the world where people are happy with their skin tone. We tied in our shopping plans with our evening plans. As I said before, Dave’s already been to Bangkok and has been to Khoa San Road (a popular tourist destination which is basically a busy strip of bars). This is of zero interest to me (hate crowds, currently not drinking alcohol). So instead, we opted for a Thai cinema experience (in other words, I basically just really wanted to see Beauty & the Beast). We took the Sky Train, which is actually rated number 2 on trip advisor, to the massive MBK shopping centre; a true American-sized mall. We managed to find everything on our shopping list, even hand sanatizer. We had an amazing dinner of basically fried chicken but with soy and garlic soaked batter. We went to watch the film and to be fair it kind of was an experience in itself; the ads were in Thai and they were just so different to what we’d have in the UK and then just before the film started, the current Thai King’s national song started playing and everyone (including us) stood up in silence whilst the anthem played. Side note – I loved Beauty & the Beast and so did Dave haha, definitely recommend.

Next stop, Myanmar! Where the currency is 1700 Burmese Kyat to one Pound. Thank god I’m travelling with an accountant…

Sophie & Dave

Kollam & Kovalam – India

We arrived in Kollam by bus after doing a stop off in Alleppey for the night. Alleppey is mainly where people get houseboats from; if we were on holiday rather than travelling then we definitely would have done it, but unfortunately staying on a house boat was a little out of our budget.

We had also planned to get the ferry between Alleppey and Kollam, but unfortunately it wasn’t running (you basically just have to rock up and they say yes or no). They said no. So instead, we hopped on another bus to Kollam.

The lack of boating so far actually worked in our favour as we had a brilliant backwater canoe tour around Monroe Island. We did this tour through a random tuk-tuk driver we met who insisted on showing us his testimonial diary that he pulled from under his seat. He had hundreds of reviews in all different languages so we took a risk and said yes for a tour the next day.

He picked us up from our hotel and drove us to the island, we had to get a very unstable mini ferry boat (with the tuk-tuk on board) across to the island. We were met by an island local who warmly invited us in to his slightly rotting, wooden canoe. We went round for about three hours down the narrowest of canals, taking in the sights of tropical village life all around. We sailed past many tiger prawn farms, including one being drained where there were hundreds (genuinely!) of eagles circling. They were diving down and catching fish, we’d never seen anything like it, insanely cool. We also saw some beautiful electric blue Kingfishers along the way. Through the backwaters, there are loads of little makeshift bridges where our boat rower would shout “Sophie, Dave – duck!” and we’d get on to our knees in the canoe or limbo lying backwards.

We then got the bus to Trivandrum and a tuk-tuk to the near by beach area: Kovalam where we stayed for our final couple of days in India. Our tuk-tuk driver was awful and claimed we had said the wrong beach name and wanted to charge extra which we refused so he dropped us off about 1km away. Kovalam was an amazing, relaxing break. We stayed in a hotel right next to the Lighthouse beach. The waves were actually pretty big and powerful and we (well I) definitely got knocked down quite a lot. Dave ended up fairly sunburnt (shocker) and I too got slightly red arms. Kovallam was the first place since we’ve left the UK where I was able to wear shorts rather than full-length trousers!

Next stop is Bangkok for a few days, then we go back on ourselves to Myanmar!

Thanks for reading!

Sophie & Dave


Munnar & Thekkady – India


We are back to normal after our little episode of gastroenteritis, yay! We left Kochi on a A/C bus we booked through the owner of our homestay (limited hostels in the South). The coach was lovely and I even managed to get some sleep on the insanely bendy roads leading up to Munnar.

Munnar is further inland, 1,700 metres above sea level and it’s where all the tea plantations are. Our homestay was outside of the town and on the edge of the tea plantations. On the afternoon we arrived, we did our own little walk to explore. We’d originally intended to only stay one night but in the end we opted for an extra night and full day of exploring.

In the morning we did a 2 hour hike through the plantations with the guy who ran our homestay. It was amazing! He pointed out so many little things that we would have otherwise missed; beehives, all the different fruit trees, black pepper plants, tamarind, coffee flowers, the different types of tea leaves etc. We walked to the agricultural parts too where he seemed to be mates with all the farmers and just took us up to their private houses to show us their fruit trees.

After showering (we were dripping in sweat and looked like we’d walked off the set of Grease lightning), we opted for a tuk-tuk for the rest of the day to take us around. The main attraction in Munnar is driving up to the Top Station (the highest point for overlooking the tea plantations) but unfortunately by the time we reached it, there was torrential rain and the fog had risen to cover it. It was still a great day, just because Munnar is so incredibly picturesque, I was literally grinning from ear to ear just looking outside. We did other little stop offs to visit various view points and the Mattupetty Dam. We also witnessed all the traffic stopping to let this huge snake cross the road. Our tuk-tuk driver kept saying it was a King Cobra; but after my extensive googling, I’ve decided it definitely wasn’t and was perhaps an Indian Rock Python instead. Our driver appreciated my love of animals and let us get out in the middle of the road to watch the snake (by us, I mean me, Dave doesn’t like snakes and only reluctantly got out after I did). We both agreed our favourite place in India so far has been Munnar. Having said that, in the evening, we went to watch a traditional Kerala dance, which was…interesting. Dave turned to me in the performance and said “I would literally rather watch paint dry” haha. It was basically just the telling of a story through facial movements and excessively loud drumming (to the point where I had my fingers in my ears for most of the performance). We definitely won’t be going to that again in a hurry!

We then headed off on another bus to Thekkady. This time, we caught a local bus. The only way I can describe the drive is if you imagine you were on a roller coaster ride, specifically a Jurrasic park ride (i.e the surrounding vegetation not dinosaurs). We were holding on to the bars on the seat in front of us as we swerved round hairpin bends. It was mental but also very scenic and it only cost £1 for the 6 hour journey.

Thekkady (or Kumily which is the main nearby town) was our next destination. It’s predominantly known for the Periyar tiger reserve where there’s a huge lake and you can do treks/safaris to see animals in the wild. If you know me, then you know this is my absolute dream. We booked our most spendy excursion to date (a full day in the reserve doing a trek and bamboo rafting on the lake). We got up early and were all ready to go… I then proceeded to take one step outside and fell over. I fell badly and knew instantly that I’d sprained my ankle and wouldn’t be able to do the trek. We managed to negotiate postponing our safari one extra day to see if I’d get better. Unfortunately, my ankle swelled up, and is still currently swollen, and I couldn’t walk on it (beautiful photo below for your viewing pleasure). I was so gutted I couldn’t go but it seemed silly for both of us to stay in the room, also we couldn’t get a refund, so Dave went the next day on his own. *Passes Dave the keyboard for the Periyar wildlife reserve*

*Dave: My group set off early on a 5-6km trek and instantly saw lots of beautiful birds, several species of monkeys and a gigantic bison. Slightly further along the path, another tour group walking in the opposite direction said there was a herd of wild elephants ahead. After getting super excited, unfortunately the closet we came all day to seeing the elephants was the remains of their breakfast. After a couple hours trekking through the forest, we came to an opening where our Bamboo raft was stationed. Those that know me well will know it doesn’t take much to make me sweat, so I’m sure you can imagine how sweaty I was after paddling for about an hour in the midday sun. There was nothing I would have liked more than to take a dip in the water. Unfortunately, the guides informed us that there were leaches present therefore I swiftly opted against it. After spotting some wild boar in the distance as we disembarked from our raft, we were luckily enough to cross paths with them shortly into our afternoon trek. While we could see evidence that the tigers were present in the area (scratch marks on the trees and the remains of their kill), I was actually a little thankful we didn’t encounter one during our day!

*back to Sophie*
I actually had closer encounters with wildlife than Dave from our hotel room balcony as a big group of monkeys hung around for most of the day! I was just chilling with my headphones on, having my fruit breakfast, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a massive monkey a metre away strutting across the railings! He and his mate then proceeded to steal my banana and the remnants of my breakfast!

Next stop is Alleppy. By the way, on the next post, any photos of Dave will have him with a super short buzzcut. I gave him a hair cut with his beard trimmer which turned out to be a total disaster and we could only salvage it by basically shaving it all off….my bad…

Thanks for reading!
Sophie & (genuinely this time!) Dave