Ko Samui and Ko Phangan

July 2nd – July 16th, 2016

Perhaps I was a bit ambitious trying to get all the way from Berlin to Phuket, and then Phuket to Ko Samui (by land/boat) all in one continuous trip. It ended up being a VERY long trip.

  1. metro and bus to the airport (0.75 hr)
  2. fly to Cologne (1 hr)
  3. fly to Phuket (12 hr)
  4. go through immigrations (2 hr)
  5. airport bus to bus station #1 (1.5 hr)
  6. truck to bus station #2 (0.25 hr)
  7. bus to Surat Thani (4 hr)
  8. bus to ferry terminal (1 hr)
  9. ferry to Ko Samui (2 hr)
  10. taxi to hotel (0.75 hr)

Total: 25.25 hours. Yeah… a bit much with all those steps. At least it was cheap?!

But we made it to the fancy boutique hotel in Lamai in time for my 30th birthday the next day. Birthday morning I got woken up by Scott grabbing my foot from the door and yelling “THERE’S ONLY 15 MINUTES OF BREAKFAST LEFT!!”. What a wakeup.

The breakfast was amazing. Breakfast each day started with fresh juice and a platter of fruit (mango, watermelon, dragon fruit etc.), then pastries and pancakes with amazing homemade jams (passionfruit, raspberry, lemon etc.) and ham and cheese slices. Then they would make you an omelette or plain eggs with bacon or potatoes.

We got a much needed post-Camino foot scrub, and then I went for a fancy birthday massage on the hotel rooftop. We lazed around in the pool/beach/AC all day, with Scott making me a new cocktail he invented: The Belt Buckle (passionfruit nectar and champagne).

We had dinner at the hotel. We shared papaya salad, and Scott had satay (which we later realized has quite a bit of coconut milk in it and is therefore on the banned list) and I had a chicken and cashew dish. It was all nice but the best part was that Scott had organized an amazing chocolate birthday cake for dessert. It was SO GOOD. Then after dinner the hotel people surprised us with one of those giant paper lanterns to set off. Pretty sure it’s still flying to this day.

After a few days at the fancy hotel we moved on to Chaweng. We went to the beach every day to swim and read. There was a lady on the beach selling chilled mango and teeny tiny bananas. The mangoes were SOOOOO good, I never used to like them that much but now I can’t get enough.

Scott got a foot massage that made his baby toe turn purple and swell up. Bahaha. We took a break from massages for a bit after that.

One of the highlights of Ko Samui was taking a cooking course. It was so well organized, and we learned a lot about the ingredients. The actual cooking part took about 1 minute per dish in the super hot woks. We made shrimp salad, panang curry paste, panang curry, and pad see ew with pork. I liked the panang the most.

Ko Samui was a bit too city for my liking so the next day we took the ferry to Haad Rin on Ko Phangan. We purposely avoided going during full moon, so there weren’t many people around, and the beach was lovely.

One day we went on a snorkelling trip around the north part of Ko Phangan. It was cloudy and windy, so the snorkelling wasn’t life changing, but it was still nice to get out. There were lots of different types of colourful fish. And we saw monkeys on the drive back! They were sitting up on the power lines. V cool.

Haad Rin was nice but it got a bit noisy at night, so we moved onwards to Ban Tai. We found an awesome shack restaurant that was super cheap and delicious, and our hotel had a very nice pool, so we were set for a few more days.

Favourite foods at the moment:

  • Mango shakes. Pretty much daily.
  • Mango crepe. With nutella and condensed milk.
  • Papaya salad. This was one of the only foods that Scott could eat in Thailand, since almost everything else was fried, or made with coconut milk. Good thing it’s a delicious dish.
  • Spicy fruit salad. This was the other thing that Scott could eat. It had dragon fruit, pineapple, apple, tomato, green beans, shredded carrot and peanuts in a chili fish sauce sauce.

There was also a night market that we could walk to that had all sorts of cheap food stands. Scott was able to eat bbq chicken skewers and I had things like curry puffs, samosas and spring rolls.

After a few days of relaxation in Ban Thai we continued on to Bangkok via ferry and bus.

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Rostock and Berlin

June 28th – July 1st, 2016

For some reason every single hotel, hostel and AirBnb in Berlin was booked for 2 out of 3 nights we wanted to stay, so we had to come up with a new plan. Instead we decided to kill a couple nights in Rostock, Germany.

There wasn’t a whole lot to do there but at least our AirBnb was nice and the internet strong. It rained a lot. We had a nice dinner in the big square, at a restaurant that actually had stuff that Scott could eat. I played a lot of Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, and we watched the one DVD the host had in her flat… Shrek.

In an attempt to maximize what we could see in Berlin in one day, we decided to finally take one of those hop-on-hop-off tourist buses that we had seen in every single other city in Europe.

It ended up being a terrible idea because the bus moved so slowly, stopped all the time for very long periods, and the commentary was pretty awful. Plus you couldn’t even see stuff that well since you’re so far away. Sigh. It ended up taking almost 4 hours to do the circuit that was supposed to take 2. Won’t be doing that again!

Once we finally got off the bus we went to Checkpoint Charlie and the Holocaust Memorial. It’s such a unique monument. At least we got to see that close up.

And then after that we met up with Daniel (Erb), who I used to work with at the Queen Vic Market. We had Turkish food, then went to a humongous beer garden that was showing the Euro. It was great catching up with him again. He loves living in Berlin!

And that was that for Europe! The next morning we started the journey to Thailand, our last country of the trip.

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Lund and Copenhagen

June 24th – June 28th, 2016

It was a bit of an ordeal getting to Lund, Sweden, due to a broken train track combined with a holiday weekend. We waited 5ever in Malmö for the replacement bus that never showed. Finally a very nice Swedish girl offered to let us share her cab, since she was going to be getting reimbursed anyway, so we finally made it to Lund, many hours late.

We found Sarah, and then got ready to go to a Midsummer party at her friends’ place. Lund is a university town, so there are a lot of students, from all over the world. We ate, drank, played games, jumped on the trampoline until the sun finally started going down (2 AMish?) and then caught the bus (yay public services!) back to Sarah’s dorm. It wasn’t long until the sun was already starting to come up again (4 AMish)!

Sarah took us around on a walking tour of Lund. I especially liked the fancy clock in the cathedral. It gives all sorts of information about dates and astrological signs, and other things that we couldn’t figure out. It does a cuckoo clock thingy too but we weren’t there at the right time.

I couldn’t visit Sweden without having a smørrebrød!

It was fun hanging out with Sarah. We marathoned the entire latest season of Game of Thrones so Scott could catch up and Sarah could watch the last episode. We cooked weird meals with all the things she had left in her food supply since she was leaving in a week. We went to sweet Swedish parks with hammocks and outdoor gym equipment and parkour structures. I tried Kalles Kaviar, new types of candy and ciders. We did NOT try surströmming, sorry.

We did a day trip to Copenhagen one day.

We went to a very hip street food market that I had seen on TV. I had a salad wrap where the wrap was made out of egg. We went to the Danish National Museum which was really cool (and free!) but only had time to look at the viking and medieval stuff before it closed. I would want to go back some day because I think there is a whole floor dedicated to Lego!

We took the bus (free with intercity bus ticket!) to the mermaid statue because we are tourists. There were a lot of people there. It reminds me of the girl in a wetsuit statue in Vancouver, although apparently that artist doesn’t think they are similar.

Copenhagen was cool but everything was SO EXPENSIVE! I tried to get over it, because YOLO, but it wasn’t easy! I liked the very photogenic canals, and that there is an amusement park right in the city. They also have the healthiest 7-11 I have ever seen, so many salads!!

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Holland and Neumünster

Our last couple weeks in Europe were a whirlwind of visiting people we hadn’t seen in ages. It was tiring going from place to place so quickly but I’m glad we got to see so many friends and family.

June 18th – June 24th, 2016

We took the bus to Zwijndrect, Holland to visit Mirjam and Kees. Mirjam was my mom’s penpal for a long long time. I visited her 10 years before when I was on exchange in Maastricht too.

We did a big tourist day around their area. We went to Rotterdam and walked around a lot. We looked at the cube houses, ate raw herring at the new market building, had warm stroopwafels, took a boat cruise around the harbour, and more.

After dinner we went for another nice walk around Kinderdijk. It was nice to chat and get some pretty pictures.

The next day it rained so hard. We went to Den Haag so Scott could vote in the Australian election (it’s mandatory!) and watched a lot of English TV, a treat after many weeks of everything dubbed.

We went to the Escher museum the morning morning. I remembered loving it 10 years before. It was still awesome, but the virtual reality thingy wasn’t working!! Noooo, that was the best part!!

Then Scott’s uncle and aunt picked us up and we drove (across the country ;)) to Kampen to see their daughter who just had twins. Scott hadn’t seen his uncle Frank in like 20 years, so they had a lot to talk about! I heard lots of interesting stories, although it’s hard to keep track of who is who since the Jorna family is so large. The twins were mega cute, and it was cool hearing about Rhiannon and Johan’s life in the Caribbean (they were just in Holland for a few weeks to have the babies).

The next day we took the bus and train to Neumünster, Germany to see my aunt and uncle, and my cousin Isabel. The last time I saw Isabel she was 3, and now she is in university!! Everyone was so nice and they organized a very nice couple days for us. They showed us all around the area, including the outlet mall, the lake, an amazing cake cafe, and we went to my uncle’s brother’s house for a delicious German BBQ feast.

My aunt told us lots of stories about my mom, and gave me a bunch of old pictures of mom and all the sisters. It was really nice. We tried our best to convince Isabel to come to Australia on a working holiday visa some day!

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Paris

June 13th – June 18th, 2016

June 13: Very long bus ride from Bayonne to Paris. I was fine, I just played on my iPad the whole time. But Scott was not feeling very well at all. After barely making it to the AirBnb he went straight to bed. I spent the evening figuring out our travel insurance and finding an English-speaking doctor.

June 14: We spent the whole day bringing Scott to the doctors and tests. I have to say… thank goodness he got sick in France and not in Spain because at least I could speak enough French to figure out all the instructions and stuff. Nothing came back too remarkable so the doctor just said not to have any fat or alcohol to avoid anything else happening until our trip was over. Poor Scott, in France and not allowed to have cheese or wine. :(

A brief stroll through the Louvre property in between appointments.

June 15: Scott was already feeling a little better, so we decided to do a bit of walking around the city. What a trooper! We walked along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower, where they had the fan zone for the Euro. There were tons of groups of people everywhere dressed up in their countries colours. (That’s a giant soccer ball dangling off the tower.) We did one of those 1 hr river tours, and then walked up to the Arc de Triomph. I wanted to go up the Arc instead of the Eiffel because I wanted to be able to SEE the Eiffel Tower. The view was amazing! You can see everything!! I really liked how the panoramas turned out, flattening all the street spokes coming off the roundabout into a flat picture, it’s an interesting perspective.

June 16: Perhaps we walked a bit too much the day before, so this day we just stayed near our AirBnb in Montmartre. We took the little tourist train, which was actually great. Lots of info and cool things to look at, and in English!

This is MY favourite picture from the trip, I think. Poor Scott.

June 17: The night before I googled all the best food places in Paris and arranged them all into a big circuit by bus/metro/walking, also stopping by a few more Paris sights that we hadn’t seen yet.

The flakiest butteriest pain au chocolat of my life.

Laduree was doing a pop up shop that sold all white macarons. It was fun trying to figure out the flavours. Mine came with coconut, marshmallow, rose petal, lemon verbena, orange blossom, and tonka. I also got some other macarons from Pierre Hermé: chocolate passion fruit, yogurt lime, yogurt rose lychee raspberry, and passionfruit rhubarb strawberry.

I also got a slice of chocolate log, some chocolate truffle samples, and a really overpriced éclair that had glitter in the icing, for snacks for the next week.

We went to La Grande Épicerie de Paris, which was the fanciest grocery store I have ever seen. It had 1000s of incredible products, like glass jars filled with super thick hot chocolate, every variety of curd, dozens of types of foie gras, so many types of cheese and butter, and everything else you can think of. If only we had infinite money…

I have a lot of regrat for not buying this truffle and grilled hazelnut mustard that came in a super cool geometric jar.

For dinner I had baguette with paté, and a glass of wine in a very traditional brasserie. Great foodie day (for me).

I LOVED Paris. I want to go back so bad, for like… a month. We saw so much cool stuff and we didn’t even go inside any of the museums or anything!

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