I couldn´t resist naming this blog post what I did, after seeing a huge glittering, lit up sign inside a bar there with these words written on. Kind of rolls right off the tongue.

Now to all the geographers out there, your probably already thinking what a strange route to go, up into Peru and then come back through Bolivia “again” to get to Argentina. Well this might make you have a meltdown. As we had heard so many bad things about Lima, we literally couldn´t be arsed to make the 25hour bus journey to get there and realise it was everything, eveybody had told us. We were however willing to spend 18hours on a bus, which would take us 7 hours away from Lima to Ica, to then travel back the way we have came to Arequipa, back to Puno, La Paz and end up in Salta, where we first set off for Sucre!!. In Ica there is a desert oasis to be found, called Huacachina, which is nestled inbetween monstrous sand dunes and sits at the gateway to the sandy badlands of endless dunes. 1375636_838399121512_1203644311_n 994927_838398722312_1474223361_n

Some clever dicky came along to Huaca and decided that taking a dune buggy, loading on a few sandboards and driving out into the huge dunes, could turn out to be an exciting adventure. This person wasn´t wrong. Its pretty much the only draw to Huaca, as the lake is not exactly Oasis like, thanks to its influx of swan boat peddling tourists and no doubt the residents sewage running straight into the lake!!! (just a theory, but where else would it go?).

The town consists of one street, which curves around the lake and every building is either a restaraunt, hotel, hotel/restaraunt/tour agent or restaraunt/bar/hotel/tour agent. Essentially its a nothingy town which can be explored in all of 15minutes. Having said that, after being in Sucre, La Paz and then Cusco, the peace and quiet (apart from the occasional buggies until 6pm) do make this the oasis it is. A typical day involves eating breakfast around the poolside bar at your hostel, sunbathing by the pool until lunch, strolling around the lake to stretch your legs and get some cheap lunch at the only cheap restaraunt and then fall asleep back at the pool until the sun goes down. Quite similar to a beach resort routine, which to be honest, with everything completely covered in sand, your only a fish and chips away from the full package.

The biggest highlight of Huaca, is ofcourse the dune buggying and sandboarding. Which essentially is the exact same principle as snowboarding (you can even use snowboarding gear), the only difference is that before each slope you need to wax your board, else the friction just brings you to a hault. Before you can reach the sandboarding dunes though, you obviously need to get out to them first, which is where the buggying comes in handy. Depending on your group size, the buggy will have enough seats to accomodate everybody and you all get your own bucket seat, complete with made shift 5 point harness (two seat belts tied together!). 625546_838399640472_1860411690_n

Once everybodys arms and legs are inside the ride, its time to tear-off into the dunes, where the driver isn´t to shy to slam the pedal to the floor. The only thing I can liken the experience is to a roller coaster, as you tear up the really steap dunes, perch on the top and then slowly creep over the other side and (sometimes) go as close as you can to vertical, where you can feel the back end kick up. These dunes aren´t the ones you find at south shields either, were talking 80foot high dunes where instead of breaking the driver just trusts the sand! 988741_838399805142_633705549_n 1375806_838399410932_1799041853_n 1383114_838399720312_832980970_n

Then once you reach the drivers “best spot” for sandboarding, everybody hops out, waxes down the board and waves bye to the driver, as he tears down the dunes to meet us at the bottom. Then the shit hits the fan and you realise that these things are really steap and really huge, but one by one everyone straps up and throws themself down. Which can also be done lying flat on your belly, which I only discovered on the last hill, is actually the way to go, as unless your Shaun White of the sandboarding world, you aint going fast, friction will not allow it when you stand up. Lie down and distribute your weight right, go dagger straight and your off like a rocket. I don´t mean this in a “I couldn´t even get fast, because I´m really good”, I say this because I tried, kept falling over and thought it was just me being shit, until two canadian snowboarders, who had hired snowboards, told me it was nothing like snow and you can´t get the same speed up. Which is weird because all of the people on their bellies where saying they couldn´t slow down!! So the obvious choice was belly down, face first and feet up in the air. The result is like shit off a stick, much better than standing up, apart from the fact that at the bottom, the footprints of previously people, become landmines and destroy your man parts. 1381331_838398487782_1533474285_n 1385663_838399301152_615838194_n

If your also as crazy as we are, you can climb up the huge dune, which incases the oasis and you can do this by two options. The sensible but longer route up the gradual incline, which is slightly more solid thanks to lots of people walking up it or the stupid tiresome route straight up the steapest part of the dune, which is soft, crumbles under your every footstep, but is a much shorter route……yeahhh. So obviously as were both dumb as, we chose the straight up approach and literally went straight up the steepest part of the dune! After what felt like hours, when we made it upto the top, we were met with awesome panoramic views of the surrounding area and a great view of the distant sun setting. We aso met a really nice guy from the US and his dog, who were about to hitchike all the way back to California!! Epic roadtrip and very much so, since he had very, very little spanish!

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It was nice to have an inland beach holiday for a few days, but paradise certainly came with a price and it was not a cheap place to eat and drink. Great for recharging the batteries though, after spending so long in the cold of Bolivia and Cusco. Also great to try our hands at something different, although its safe to say, next time I will try and just hire the buggy and leave the sandboarding to the pros.


Langkawi to Penang (Georgetown)

Since our last KL blog post ( through a mix of rubbish internet and lack of spare time (surprising i know, but we have been busy bees from dusk till dawn!) its been a while since we have posted and we have already been and seen lots of Malaysia.

When we left KL we met up with my mam in KL airport and all traveled together up to Langkawi. Now I know anybody with a slight orientation of SEA would think this was madness, to travel from Thailand down through Malaysia, to only head back towards Thailand again, a kind of 4 steps forward, 6 steps back approach. Well it is madness and not something we originally planned in, but these are the things you do for your loved ones and especially your mammy. Plus the flights were cheap and very, very short.

We stayed in Langkawi for only 3 days as there wasn’t a great deal to do there apart from soak up the sand and sea and dine in the various restaurants along the ‘strip’. We were led to believe that Langkawi was a duty free haven, full of cheap ass beer and even cheaper food. Now coming from Thailand this would be a hard act to follow, however coming from KL, this should be childs play. Well unless we went to the wrong bars and ate at the wrong restaurants, Langkawi was no cheaper, if not more expensive than KL, however you do  have a beach to sit on and fresh seafood to eat! So i guess it all evens out in the end. Aside from the duty free shopping area and main beach strip, Langkawi also has some beautiful scenery, which is best seen by taking a cable car to the highest point on the island, were you are met with panoramic views of the whole island and glimpses of Thailand if you are lucky enough.

It was a great place to introduce my mam to Asian cuisine and gently, as there were no hawker centres, no plastic bag drinks or spicy spicy cuisine. Everything was catered towards the western tongue and was a good intro. She also got to experience what being a backpacker was all about, as our lovely accommodation (that isn’t sarcasm) was without air con and three people in a room without air con in 40degrees is not cool!! (pardon the pun). Even after i moved into the dorm (which was open to the elements and had only fans too, the room was still walm enough to be able to boil water. So a great intro into what roughing it can look like, just we happened to have nice beds, linen, decent toilets, no roaches or rats and no thumping music till 5am. Baby steps though, maybe next time she comes to join us!!

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We then headed back down to Georgetown, to explore areas that we haven’t seen on the first visit and take my mam to some of the sights we got to see in the company of our Malaysian friend Alan who lived in Georgetown. One of the biggest draws to Penang/Georgetown is the food and it does not disappoint. If you want to really submerse yourself in Malay, Chinese, Hokkien and Indian cuisine, then look no further. I personally became a BIG fan of the Laksa, which is a spicy coconut based soup (its a fact, I am addicted to coconut like a druggy, its going to be missed in South America!) that is made in a fish broth and usually served with chicken and squid, sometimes dried anchovies, tofu, shrimp, noodles and fresh herbs and veg………mmmmmm you might want to wipe that dribble off your chin now!10072

The time spent in between chewing down on sensational food, we visited Penang’s biggest chinese temple Ke Lok Si, Penang Hill, Penang Botanical gardens (where we saw lots of monkeys!), Fishing village, searching for street art, walking tour of the colonial buildings, Japanese temples, Chinese temples, Hindu temples, walked along the beach, walked around night markets and drank lots and lots of coffee out of plastic bags!!! Now you can see what i mean by being very busy! This was all done in under 5 days and we touristed (yeah not a word but you get its meaning) from dawn till dusk. Obviously the only way to wind down after a full day of sightseeing in 35+ degree heat is to fill up your belly with more food, wash it all down with fine Asian beer and have a good old chin wag with my Mam. 198816_792972377072_511313963_n 264552_792969557722_819905831_n 432140_792971079672_872638842_n 941160_792970875082_1630636138_n 969455_792967312222_1260859552_n 970764_792971833162_824621388_n 984180_792968170502_984130151_n 984277_792971947932_565090724_n

The last picture is a little glimpse of the lifestyle of Georgetown residents and as Alan admitted ‘we are very lazy and like to sleep’. Which was a welcome surprise from the hectic 5am awakening in Thailand every morning from people going about there everyday business and starting their business day. In Malaysia it is more like the day starts about 10am, maybe 10:30 just depends. Love it.

Georgetown is definately somewhere I would return and if i was going to, i would definitely fast before arriving so i could tuck away at least 4 meals a day and get the most out of the amazing food that is on offer, which aside from the chic colonial buildings and various other sights, has to be Penang’s biggest draw and reason for visiting.


Koh Samui

Now this one is going to be kept very short and sweet, essentially just how a visit to Koh Samui should be kept. Personally it was not our cup of tea at all, although we ended up staying in one of e busiest parts of the island, Chaweng, overall the whole island was still quite disappointing. The first night we stayed near Bophut in the North of the island and we thought it would be a peaceful retreat from the busy streets of Chaweng and Lamai, instead we were in a remote area where finding quality street/Thai food was as easy as spotting a ladyboy in Soi Cowboy. Everything was french this, patisserie that and heavily overpriced, not to mention we had to get a scooter to get supplies otherwise within the gruelling walk to get to any shop we would have drank all the water anyway! There were one or two Thai ‘resteraunts’ around but all shut, no doubt because the big western eateries were too louring to tourists.

We therefore moved to Chaweng for convenience and price. Then the island showed its real colours. Chaweng was like a bad mix between Bangkok and Blackpool, full of indian blokes shouting ‘brother, brother’ either touting you to buy a suit or come into the Thai/Indian resteraunt. We knew it would be like this, but didn’t realise how bad. There wasn’t another backpacker insight and everybody was here to ‘holiday’, leaving us feeling slightly out of place. The beach itself was average, at first sight beautiful white sands and crystal clear blue waters. On closer inspection, the sand was brimming with litter and there was touts galore, even to the point where a small boat went back and forward all day, churning out advertisements on the loud speaker for the local nightlife! When we went for a dip, we had the strangest experience, aside from the water being very murky, our skin literally tingled when we went in! We have read about sea louse, but we had no stings, so god only knows why.

There is also very, very little to do here other than sunbathe, drink beer, sunbathe, drink beer, sunbathe and occasionally go listen to a horrific live performance from the local essex boy (old man) who can cover every song thrown at him, by playing the same chords again and again in ‘his own version of’ and totally killing any classic that comes around.

Overall we certainly won’t be rushing back here and Na trang now has strong competition for tackiest beach destination, the Vietnamese need to step their game up. At least the sun was shining though and we had air con in our room, trust me at the moment in 38+ degree heat, this makes a HUGE difference to your mental state.

We came, we saw and now we have left. Onto the Western side of the peninsula now and after Koh Samui’s performance, i think its fair to assume Phuket will be avoided like the plague.

Sorry this was more of rant then a ‘what we have been doing’, but we really, physically couldn’t do anything worth blogging about on Samui.

—ACastling—Stay Classy World—

Nha Trang (Mini Moscow)

After Hoi An we jumped on another sleeper bus down to Nha Trang, which was one of the smelliest (we were next to the toilets) and bumpiest rides we have had so far. Although on the plus side i had loads of leg room, because we got the back seats, which are huge, more like beds.

We met a dutch couple in Dong Hoi, which we met again in Hoi An and planned to meet up in Nha Trang, so decided to stay at their hotel. After realising is was quite pricey, we set about hunting a cheap sleep and landed the mother load when we came across a 5 storey guesthouse which was more like a home stay than a hotel. The family spoke little english but were so friendly and welcoming, to put it in perspective the wife cooked us breakfast on our first day and we sat in her kitchen watching her prepare lunch. Above all else, the room had two beds ie big room, air con, TV, big private bathroom, spotless, small balcony and cost us £4, which the cheapest place we have managed to find so far!

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They really made our Nha Trang stay bearable and i say this because Nha Trang is a beach resort full of russian shops, cafes, restaurants and tourist. As well as many backpackers from all over the world, however we are very much outnumbered. It therefore creates an aggressive sales mentality among touts/hawkers who will literally pester you on the toilet if there was no door. As well as people including british people, flyering you every 5 yards and offering a cheap drink or food! We didn’t eat a single meal or sip a drink in peace. The beaches are nice, but again packed full of tourists and touts, who if u fall asleep, will kick you awake to look at their wears!! All in all not very relaxing.

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We therefore when in search of solace, by hiring a motorbike and getting the hell outta town. Once again (like in Hoi An) we found some absolute gems of peace and serenity that emphasised the beauty that Vietnam has locked away from Google and the Lonley Planet posse. We also found an alternative mud baths, as in town only one is touted and sold tours for. We therefore arranged with our Dutch friends to hire mopeds for the next day and ride out to the secluded mud baths. Which was a fun and relaxing way to get away from the constant mind rape of touts, whilst also experiencing something new.

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We also helped ourselves to some amazing sea food, which is what Nha Trang is very well known for, however every other restaurant sells the same thing and it takes some time and knowing about seafood, to see which ones are good, i would like to think we struck good with our choice, getting a seafood platter along with a full snapper for £10 isn’t bad going if you ask me.

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Nha Trang is a nice place, however the overhaul of russian tourists, touts, hawkers and generally littered beaches doesn’t lend itself well when comparing it to other beach destinations. I think without our fantastic choice of accommodation and Dutch company, we may have moved on much sooner.

—Stay Classy World—ACastling—