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The Trans Mongolian
(19/07/2006 12:58)

Russia (Moscow)

So we're back from the trip to this Great White Lake. O, and we also drove about 6500 km as well....

Right now we're in Moscow preparing for the final leg back to the Heimat!

First: Mongolia
As we said we hooked up with 3 English girls (Rebecca, Hannah and Kimberly) well 2 were from Scotland, anyway. Also the driver, Daba, and our lovely guide from the Golden Gobi: Erika.
Well for the people who don't know Mongolia very well, they don't have many paved road, the ones that are, are better to avoid. So we spent many hours bouncing up and down in our Russian Limo Van. First day we set off to Lake Oggi (Ugly) wich turned not so ugly. The first night we stayed at a family ger and played frisbee with their children, which was a lot of fun. In the evening we enjoyed our Vodka and company. Ivo was woken by Daba, just after he went to bed, for a morning run, on bare feet of course, while the sun was dawning. The next destination was the Great White Lake already, which was another 10 hours in the van. Along the way we sometimes got of the dirttracks to just follow the GPS receiver, and went straight over mountains, rivers etc.: off the beaten track indeed!
The Great White Lake was stunning located in a volcanic area. Of course we went for a swim, but the Great White Lake turned out to be more Green than White. Another evening with stunning views, beautiful sunset and lots of vodka. The next day we woke ourselves on the back of a Mongolian horse. They only speak Mongolian, so we had to practise the word Chou, and then, especially Mark's horse, went off! But, it turned out that both Ivo & Mark weren't too bad of a horse drivers...! during the trip, we went to an old volcano and climbed into its crater, and visited some volcanic caves. Finally, after 4 hours or so, we got back to our ger for some r&r and soothing our asses :-D Of course, also some more vodka afterwards... Karakourum, the ancient Mongolian capital... again... after some 6 hours of driving. Unfortunately, the Mongolian cities are not that spectacular, to be honest. It's more like a big cluster of gers surrounded by wooden fences. During the evening we got entertained by an old Mongolian guy who played ancient Mongolian songs on traditional Mongolian instruments... very interesting! The next day we went to visit the Monastery in Karakourum which was enticing, and afterwards we went to look at the 'phalloid rock' that pointed towards the cheekely named 'vaginal slope'... we'll leave that for your own interpretation. After a short drive, we came to a so-called 'semi-dessert' where we camped in a ger and... drove some camels over sanddunes! That evening, we went out with some other fellows (Canadians and an American, was it?) in a neighbouring tourist camp. The last day was merely driving back to UB and along the way we stopped at a National Park where we observed the Wild Horses. That evening back in UB, we went out with the girls for dinner and later to Khan Brau for beers and cakes...

Finally, the next day we said goobye to our ladyfriends who went to Beijing, and spend our time waiting for the train that took us to Irkutsk!!!!! Yes, into Russia....

At around 2 o'clock, Ivo & Mark got on the train and were quite nackered after an intensive, sleepless, week, and thus slept quite a lot. Ivo, even had troubles keeping his eyes open when crossing the border into Russia!!!! He was woken by Russian officials even! Of course, crossing into Russia is always an interesting event. Some hours later we saw our first glimpse of Lake Baikal...

At arrival in Irkutsk, we got picked up and were brought to Listvianka, near Lake Baikal, which was very nice, but quiet and there wasn't a lot to do... just watching the rain clouds hanging over Lake Baikal... if only the weather was a bit better, but hey, we were quite lucky so far! After two nights at the lake, we went back to Irkutsk and visited Tolstoy Museum along the way, and were dropped off at someone's house where we were given a room and two beds. Oh, and two cats :) Most of our time spend in Irkutsk was watching the people go by in a nice, rustic, pizza place................. Of course, we did do SOME sightseeing ;-)

Then, the biggest distance so far: from Irkutsk to Moscow; about 80 hours on a train... Doesn't that sound like fun???? We even crossed the border of a continent, though we almost missed it! Luckily, Ivo was very observative.

Finally, we got to Moscow... but we'll leave those stories for the next time...

See ya!

Posted by: Ivo & Mark
A long story...
(30/06/2006 14:37)

Mongolia (Ulaan Baatar)

Hello all!

So, it has been about 1 month ago since we last posted a message on our website. Outrageous! This doesn't mean this month wasn't worth writing about... the opposite! Many things happened!

So, let's start, shall we?

OK, so we 'left' you guys in Hanoi, where we just arrived and were arranging for our visas. In Hanoi, we actually DID manage to get all our visa's arranged for. The next day, we had some more luck with our Russian friends. Our photocopied official Letter of Invitation was accepted after some complaining about 'original', but we simply said nothing and kept on smiling, hoping our charms would see us through, and at that time, a purple flower Russian lady entered the room and brightened the atmosphere. Under her gratifying smile, the other Russian female official softened, and 'merely' made us pay an additional 25 USD for the inconvenience caused.... Brilliant :) We were told to pick our passports up the next Monday.

So, after that was arranged for, we headed back and started making plans for the weekend. We set off on a trip to Halong Bay together with two Dutch guys, Thijs and another Ivo, whom we met in our bus to Hanoi. That weekend was quite good, with a long boat journey in Halong Bay that is one huge collection of Karst rock formations, primarily made up of limestone. We were treated with a trip into a limestone cave and went swimming and kayaking. We spent the night on the boat which was quite the experience, playing games and drinking with the other two Dutchies long after the sun had set on Halong Bay...
The next day was basically going back by boat with ample time for another swim, and a bus ride back to Hanoi. Due to outstanding bargaining by Ivo, Ivo, and Thijs (Mark's not so much the bargainer, especially when it involves old ladies) the four Dutchies ended up spending a night in a penthouse of a hotel for merely 5 USD/person.

The next day was the day to pick up our Russian visa, which went smoothly. Our 'motor-mice' knew the way and made good business after they also brought us to the Belarus embassy. We thought it was closed already, at 17:30, but... the consul himself was still on the premises and kindly received us to arrange for the visa. We ended up staying for 2 hours 'chatting' to the consul, talking about wifes, kids, jobs, etc. He arranged the visa within 15 minutes...

The evening, like many before, was spent drinking a beer, or, more particular, a Bia Hoi, a 'beer' on the streets for a mere 1500 Dong, i.e. 10 eurocent. We met the Aussie couple at the Bia Hoi corner and went off into the night...

The next day it was time for the Mongolian embassy, and this guy was also pretty helpful. Luckily it was a Tuesday, as the embassy only opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was a hassle-free Mongolian... not very talkative... but effective...

The remainder of the day was spent roaming through Hanoi and the next day we visited the Temple of Literature. Also, it was Ivo's queeste for a Digital Camera which eventually proved fruitful, if not patience-demanding... That night we visited the Water Puppet Show which was interesting. Mark even reckognized some of the Vietnamese stories being told, but the Vietnamese commentary was of little use...

The next day we set off to get our Mongolian visa, which proved simple, after which we spend some more time exploring Hanoi (Mark got... bothered by... gay guys near the lake... bugger, maybe it IS that necklace...!) and eventually we set off for the train to the Chinese bordertown called Long Cai where we arrived next morning... early, i.e. 05:00 AM! We had to wait a couple of hours before the border even opened, so we took a breakfast and later on got two motor-mice to bring us to the border where we saw Vietnamese pushing, elbowing, running in order to be among the first to cross the border that day. We simply waited patiently and eventually (being the only 'whities') strolled our way through the incoming instead of outgoing customs which was way faster than the Vietnamese... :-S Ok, we ended up being allowed out of Vietnam and slowly paced our way over the Friendship Bridge to Chinese territory. Also the Chinese customs were quite helpful guiding the two 'whities' in the right direction and, after relatively little hassle, we both ended up legally in China. The one other 'whity' we saw last getting hassled by customs even after we waited for 20 minutes he still wasn't through... we never saw him again....

So, we took a shower at some guy's sister's place and set about to catch our bus to Kunming. What a ride. Those Chinese are really booming; the first 200 km's was spent driving through one big building site where a brand new highway was being paved through the mountains alongside the river in order to connect China's biggest southernmost city to Vietnam. Some 12 hours later we arrived in Kunming... it was nighttime... and, thinking we were being taken by some woman to her guesthouse, we ended up in a rolling 'guesthouse'; a sleeper-bus to Dali. We had the back-bench/bed which we shared with a Chinese couple. Also, we were quite 'in the spotlight' with people shouting 'hello' and pointing at us, making comments about Ivo's blond hair and Mark's length which prove too much for the Chinese sleeper-bus-bed.

Arriving at Dali New City (instead of OLD City, bugger) at 05:00 AM (again!!!!) while Mark was still sleeping in the bus, but the driver gestured he could sleep on for a while. After two more hours, however, Ivo was signalled to wake Mark up and to get out of the bus :-D We took some kind of weird vehicle to Dali Old Town where we eventually were walking sleepdrunk through the town. The day was spent with chilling around the town, where we kind of moored at a Cafe where we got ourselves a drink and an apple-crumble pie (which turned out to be apples and crumbles, litterally!). Some time later, we acquainted ourselves with two Dutch elderly couples and sat through the day chatting with them. We also ended up watching England play that night (both England and Holland are quite popular in China!) and had a thorough sleep later on!

We met two girls, Bree and Allison. We went on a bike-ride to Dali lake, but we ended up at some local, small Chinese villages surrounded by lush rice fields (and the lake ofcourse!). Once back, we went on a walk with the ladies to the Three Pagodas, and eventually ended up watching Holland play in the same cafe. They won! :-D

Next was the trip to Lijang. It was an interesting busride, though both Ivo and Mark were crammed into the leftover two seats right besides this big bunch of stuff. Lijang turned out to be quite the nice place, though! After having found a guesthouse in the Old Town, we set off to the Black Dragon Pools. On the way there, we purchased two Holland-orange outfits for just a couple of yuan. The pools were amazing. Especially from the top of the Elephant Hill which took quite some energy to get up (only staircases!) We met Bree again at the guesthouse and went for dinner afterwards. The next day we arranged our bustickets to get to the start of the Tiger Leaping Gorge, got ourselves a haircut (quite the experience!) and ended up having dinner at MaMa Naxi's which was THE place to be for backpackers... We acquainted ourselves with some other people over there and had a nice evening.

Next day it was off to The Tiger Leaping Gorge which turned out to be one of - if not the best - experiences of China. Bree and ourselves were herded to the start of the trail where we first got some food in our tummies, after which we set off on the trail... being followed by Chinese guys with horses, in case one of us would succumb to the altitude or a sunstroke, if not merely fatigue; it was quite a walk! Along the path we came across another group which we got stuck to, also because we had met some of these people the day before (more or less...). Walking at altitudes of above 2500 m we made our way together to the Halfway Lodge, enjoying the amazing scenery of the gorge and the Jade Mountain that was like a wall of rock right beside it! Splendidly beautiful! The stay at Halfway Lodge was grand, enjoying beers and good food with about 10 people or so.

After a restful sleep, we took off to walk the next part of the track to Tina's Guesthouse which turned out not to be so far. Once more the views were amazing. From Tina's we did a sidetrack all the way down to the bottom of the gorge where the Yangtze river ploughs its way through the rocks with enormous power. That was also quite an exhousting walk (along the SkyLadder)! Finally, on a bus back to Lijang...

Unfortunately, Mama Naxi's was full and a large part of the city was without water, so we took quite some time looking for a guesthouse WITH water, which eventually kind of worked. Bree, who had suffered a lot from the walk had one foot full of blisters and was most happy to chill, though the shower was most welcome to most of us smelly people ;-) Mark ended up watching soccer with some Chinese youngsters and afterwards with the ladies who were still awake. Tiredness creeped in though...!

The next day we relocated to Mama Naxi's number 2. Melanie, an American, celebrated her birthday that morning and Ivo and Mark supplied the birthday cake. The rest of the day was spent going to the old Naxi Capital near Lijang where we ended up being dressed in traditional Naxi (female!) clothing. That evening Holland was playing again and we arranged a big supporting group in China for them, although it was a partial birthday party as well. And, we won again!!!!! :-D

Slightly hungover, everyone kind of chilled that day, going to cafes, going on some walks, doing some shopping and such.

Due to some mixup with our traintickets to Ulan Bator, our time in China was reduced by a couple of days.

That evening, we planned on going to Kunming, but during dinner Mark wasn't completely happy with going to Kunming already and so hurriedly. Also, Ivo always would've liked to do some traveling on his own, albeit a couple of days, so apparantly this was the (more or less only) time to do that. So, Ivo and Mark said their goodbyes and planned to meet each other 5 days later on Tianemen Square at 8 PM :-D

As Mark was quite in the hiking mood, he decided to hook up with Melanie to go do a 3 day hike into a Nature Conservancy area called 'Lake Wenhai', properly 'off-the-beaten-track'. It was quite the challenge, being charged by a group of wild dogs, hiking without a proper trail and the best map we could find (which did not prove very helpful...). But, the scenery was all worth it! Lake Wenhai is a lake that fills up during the rainy season, and drains during the dry season due to the limestone underground. It yields a sparkling green grassland meadow at 3100 m. Another day was spent walking to a remote Yi village where the two of us were treated on a delicious meal of heated potatoes and green tea. But, the biggest surprise was to find a pooltable in this shabby little hut of the people that welcomed us, and Mark was faced with some challenges to play pool. It was quite the scene and apparantly good for our host to win from the tall white guy (though I made up for it the next round ;-)). The third day was hiking out of the large meadow, once more with beautiful scenery and quite the tough hike, leading up to peaks of about 3400 meters or so. On the way down we passed another Chinese 'can-do' entrepeneurship of building a water reservoir/powerplant. Finally, a fond farewell with Melanie and off to Beijing to meet Ivo!

Ivo, Marion, Bree, and Nicola got into the sleeperbus to Kunming again. We had to share the bus with some Chinese guy that was quite agressive and it took another 45 minutes to bring the guy to his senses in order for the bus to leave. He ended up lying in the bed right behind us, which was quite scary, to be honest, especially to the girls! After some time everything was OK and we enjoyed some beers and soon we started talking about the more enjoyable 'pleasures' of life :-) Once in Kunming Ivo followed the girls to the Camilla Hotel which turned out to be quite a fancy and good hotel. Fancy enough that Ivo decided to also stay at the hotel. The rest of day the we swapped some pictures, enjoyed some tea and coffee in some cafes, and were simply chatting about the things in life. So much, that Ivo litteraly lost all sense of time and space as he does every now and then... For dinner we had some 'Across The Bridge' which is a big bowl of noodles and they prepare it right in front of you and is a famous dish in Kunming. After that, Marion and Bree set off to the North and Nicola, two Israeli's, Sasha, and myself stayed in Camilla and had some drinks. Afterwards we went out and had really good fun. The next morning, after a fond farewell, Nicola left to HongKong and Ivo set off on an 18-hour trainride to Chengdu where he met up with Marion again for a tour to the Panda's. After some cycling through Chengdu Ivo was quite lucky to get himself on an overnight train to Xi'An where he arrived the next afternoon. The only ticket he could get in Xi'An was 5 hours later already, which meant Ivo had about 1 hour at the Terracotta Warriors. The next morning Ivo arrived in Beijing; searching for accomodation in this huge city. And doing nothing much afterwards until....

8 PM
Tian'Amen Square. Two Dutch guys. Two Boslullen. Two orange Holland shirts. One big, big, big square in a big, big, big country... One really exciting and nice reunion! Hugs, fun, and many more good stuff. We sat down on the square and were a proper tourist attraction for the Chinese themselves, dressed up like we were, acting like we did... But, after most of the Chinese left us alone, we celebrated this important milestone of our trip... And it was quite the celebration!

We spend the next day chilling out and chatting, walking around the square and back to the hotel again. After another restful night, we set off to the Forbidden City which was just beyond Tian'Amen Square and ... is not really Forbidden anymore. We shared this location with many others... a proper 'tourist trap'!

The next day, we went to our other milestone; The Great Wall!!!! We walked 10 km through 30 towers over renovated and untouched parts of this World Wonder. It was awesome to simply be there. During that night (at 3 AM!!!!!) we watched our fellow Dutchies litterally 'fighting' off the insidious Portugese... unfortunately, to no prevail. There we were, in Beijing, sitting in our Holland outfits, dealing with the 1-0 loss we so not wanted to witness... We lost :-(

Our last day we spend on a bicycle on Beijing, where we cycled to The Temple of Heaven where we had a very nice time! Not because this temple is so good, but we are sooooo funny!

Then... it was time for the next chapter; The Trans-Mongolian railway. At 07:40 AM down to the minute!, this Mongolian train left Beijing Main Train Station destined for Ulan Bator. During this 30 hour train ride, we mainly saw the sand of the ubiquitious Gobi-dessert, but had a good time 'en general'. Especially the border-crossing was nice, where we were allowed to witness the change of wheels of the carriages (watch ye, trainophiliac!) (ja, pap, we hebben het gezien, staat allemaal op film voor je ;-) ) after which we walked back over the tracks to the train station. Ivo, got left outside during the strict Passport check, but, fortunately, after some negotiating by himself and his big brother Mark, was let back on the train :-D

At around 3PM we finally arrived in Ulaan Baator (UB) where we once again were surrounded by all the guesthouse-owners of the city, though, for a change, they were NOT aggressive and stayed nice all the time! But the were insistent :) The last two days in UB we tried to get ourselves on a group to see something of the country (which is hard to get to). Unlucky with finding a group, we ended up deciding to get ourselves some camping gear and just head off into the country, but, this morning, we were happy to meet up with 3 English/Scottish lasses that were also on the look-out for people to go on a tour with. So, starting tomorrow, we are scheduled to go on a 6-day tour to the Great White Lake, to do horse-riding, camel-riding, trekking, swimming, and... loads of driving! (oh, and perhaps some Vodka-drinking...)

So... pfieuw! That was quite a long one! We'll do better next time ;-)

See you guys perhaps in Irkutsk?

Posted by: Evil & Mike
Still going
(01/06/2006 17:57)

Vietnam (Hanoi)

In Saigon one of the things we visited was the War museum. This museum reminded us of what the Western world sometimes does in order to create "freedom and peace", dropping "Agent Orange" bombs which injures thousands of innocent people who still are suffering from it after 30 years.

We also explored Saigon madness, with it's crowds. There is even some kind of tourist police wich helps you to cross the street!

Later this evening suddenly Anja (one of the three girls we met in Chiang Mai) called me on the hotel room. I was quite suprised, not only because she called me, but Mark just told me 10 minutes ago they would arrive the next day. Apparantly Mark also just made an appointment with Rienk. So we spent the rest of the evening with chatting up and drinking some screwdrivers.

The next morning we had to get up early again for some "fairytale relegion" (we already forgot the name of this religion :-s ) and the Chu Chi tunnels, which were quite impressive.
The evening we had dinner in a fancy Vietnamese restaurant with Rienk and his Vietnamese girlfriend "Two".

The next evening we were invited in Rienk s appartment on the 17th floor for some Dutch gourmet with a nice Vietnamese accent... After this meal Rienk took the two of us on the back of his 110cc Honda to a real Dutch cabaret organized by the Dutch society in Ho Chi Minh City. This was like you turned the world in just a click of a finger. All Dutch, dutch beer, dutch humor... You'll even find us on a picture hanging on a wall of the Dutch consulate in Ho Chi Minh City now!
Rienk dropped us at the bar where the German girls were and we spent the last chords of this evening with them and too many bottles of wine...
And yes.... again we had to get up at 6 to catch a bus... To Nha Trang. This was actually to hard to handle for us, but we were quite lucky the bus was pretty empty so we could use a number of chairs to make ourselves a kind of bed...

Nha Trang was the place we were waiting for since we were sick.... Coconot tree's, a blue South China Sea and a nice white beach with even nicer relax chairs on it. We stayed here for three days, doing not really much but being at the beach or on the internet.
The third day our train would depart at 17:28. We arrived at the railway station, sweating like a pig, at 17:31, three minutes to late! But fortunately, the train had a delay of three hours.... So a real saleswoman of one of the shops at railway station used this three hours to try to sale her products at least one an hour..
In the train we had to share our cabin (6 beds) with 7 others. One of them, a lady with the age around 80, tried to get Mark's beer..... But we thought she probably had enough already that day....

In Danang two motorbike drivers were waiting us up.. They first brought us to the Russian Consulate, from wich we got some good information about the Russian visa. After that the two drivers started bargaining about a trip from Danang all the way up to Hanoi (700 km). Unfortunalty we had to be in Hanoi within three days already. So that would mean: leaving today and driving almost with no sightseeing at all. We decided to just take the train again... After all, they did take us to the Marble mountains, China beach and further on to Hoian.

In Hoian, besides walking between the countless tailorshops almost got ourselves a suit made, we didn't do much. We booked a bus ticket (is stead of a train) to Hanoi with a 5 hour stopover in Hué. The bus would pick us up at 8AM the next morning and would arrive in Hanoi the next morning at 6. So a pretty heavy ride again....

After no sleep in the bus at all, we had to share the back seat with some children who slept on our lap, we arrived in Hanoi this morning.
Today we spent on searching for and internetcafé who could print colour prints for our Russian Government invitation (1 hour), Searching for the Russian Embassy (2 hours on a motorbike) but it was closed till 4PM, waiting till our hotel room was ready (2 hours sitting), a quick shower, going back to the Russian Embassy (20 min on motorbike), hearing: there will no visa applications today (1 min).

So we'll try this tomorrow again... :-s

Posted by: Ivo and Mark
Goodmorning Vietnam!
(21/05/2006 18:23)

Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh / Saigon)

Dear all,

After having enjoyed some 'Phnom Phen maddness' and - right on the other extreme of the scale - some 'Phnom Phen relaxedness', Ivo and I have succesfully entered Vietnam; the country, high up on the worlds list of most densly populated nations, definitely has the highest in-your-face-ratio so far. With streets clogged up by hundreds and hundreds of motorcycles & bicycles, hunking cars, trucks, and busses forcing their way through it, and street stalls covering whatever remains of the roads and pavement... One walks the streets of some remote towns being stared at (I always knew I looked funny, but THAT funny... ;-) ) and followed by a chant of 'hello'-s from small kids that smile very cheekily. Ah, and they have a very business-minded attitude, those little ones! Proper salesmen at the age of 10 :-)

Anywho; it was good and fun. We basically did a short two-day tour from Phnom Phen to Ho Chi Minh where we crossed the border by talking a boat to Cambodia's border, getting off the boat and having our passports stamped, then back on the boat just to be dropped off 500 meters further on the shores of 'no-man's land' just to walk the last 100 meters into Vietnam... where we were greeted by a woman who kindly took our passports to get them stamped while we were kindly relocated into someone's living room that also functioned as a restaurant... 10 exciting minutes later the woman returned as did our passports, magically being stamped somewhere in between! Right, back onto another boat for the 3-hour remaining trip to Chau Doc, a bustling 100.000+ population counting city. The rivers of the Delta were covered by floating houses and 1000s of fishfarms were dotted along the way. We spent the night in this place which was pretty decent, to be taken on a tour this very morning. We started off strolling the local markets with their indigenous products, after which we were taken on a trip to have a look at one of the fish farms. Later on we made one more brief stop after which we arrived in Saigon somewhere around 6 in the afternoon; upon entering Ho Chi Minh the skies were decorated by hundreds of kites!

Now, Ivo and I are pretty tired... still recovering from our last night in Phnom Phen (those student alcohol-resistance-levels have dropped significantly, believe it or not!).

We both are very much looking forward to the 'remainder' of our trip; Vietnam, China, and then the Trans Mongolian home. We simply do not have enough time to even get close to properly cover these countries, but the positive side of that is that it is like a jar of candy that is just too big so one can never eat all the candies: we can be picky and only enjoy the ones we think we like best! :-P

Also, we hope to meet up with a friend of Mark's in Saigon, Rienk from 'De Knipe' in 'Friesland'. Jawis!

Anyhow, hope you guys are well!
Grut'n & tut'n

Posted by: Mark
Cambodja's all too recent History.,..
(17/05/2006 16:57)

Cambodja (Phnom Phen)

Hello all!

Ivo and I are feeling increasingly well again! Well enough to have a good look at one of the World's Wonders; Angkor Wat, and to travel the 5/6 hours to Phnom Phen, Cambodja's capital. Upon arrival we were almost manhandled out of the bus by tens of over-eager guesthouse owners and tuk=tuk drivers, all highly motivated to take us to the cheapest and best place around! :-) Of course, Ivo and I have grown some thicker skin by now... but... we still ended up with a tuk-tuk driver that took us to a cheap Guesthouse... Oh well... It is admittedly also beautifully located near the lake. And only 4 USD.

Straight after that 'adventure' we took a tuk-tuk to go to the infamous 'Killing Fields' 15 km outside of the city. There we weren't only confronted by hundreds of human skulls and the mass graves where they were inhumanely dumped into, but also with tens of kids begging for money... Even more exciting (or should I say anxious) was the drive back into town; the Cambodjan traffic is by far the most... euhm... 'interesting' we have encountered yet. Obviously, there should be some system to the traffic, but so far - apart from the fact that people have a tendency to drive on the right side of the road - that is about as much of the rules we were able to discern.

For a little flashback; two days ago, Ivo and I rented a tuk-tuk to explore the vast cites of the World Wonder Angkor Wat. En dat was me wat! With ease it justifies its fame. But there are actually hundreds of other religious and non-religous buildings in the vast area around Angkor Wat that are also more than worthy of a visit. Especially the one Wat that is slowly being consumed by the jungle was pretty impressive... Though not impressive enough to make me remember the name...! Anyhow, we ended up witnissing a nice sunset on top of some other Wat and it was definitely worth it. We've got one more day of exploring Phnom Phen planned and then one day to relax before we embark on our trip into Vietnam...!


Posted by: Mark
From Laos into Cambodja... and being sick...
(14/05/2006 13:16)

Cambodja (Siem Reap (Angkor Wat))

Sa ba dii!

Admittedly, this part of our little trip is the fastest one. We only planned to stay a couple of days in Laos and now some more in Cambodja. We arrived this morning by airplane (French AVR72 turboprop) which was pretty fast and impressive (though it sometimes seemed the pilot flew like a tuk-tuk driver drives :))

Unfortunately, Mark got pretty sick after the 10-hour busride (which was quite amazing!) upon arrival in Vientiane. A very interesting night... We concluded the = almost unavoidable = travellers diarrhoea and after two days of being 'nurtured' by Ivo, Mark's recovering well enough. Admittedly, today was quite demanding; getting up at 4.30AM to take a tuk-tuk to Vientiane airport where we left at 6.30AM. Though the flight was pretty good, apparently it took a bit too much from Ivo as right now he's feeling sick! Time for Mark to return the favour...

Siem Reap is the portal to the world's famous Angkor Wat. Though we haven't seen it yet, we hope to be well enough soon to at least spend one day exploring this vast religious building (though Angkor Wat is 'only' 1 of the many, many religious artefacts lying around).

Now, if our memory serves us well, today is also Mother's Day; of course Ivo and myself would like to send our mums a kiss and a hug!

Cheers from Cambodja!

Posted by: Mark
Into Laos via the Mekong River... A beauty of a journey!
(10/05/2006 16:12)

Laos (Luang Prabang)

Hello all!

After leaving the relaxed atmosphere of Chang Mai, we now find ourselves in an even more relaxed atmosphere; Luang Prabang in Laos; nestled between two rivers and surrounded by soaring hilltops covered with lush forests, a natural beaty augmented by a chilled mix of Asia's best and the finest leftover's of France's colonialism. Waking up with `croissaints` and `baguettes`, having a fabulous dinner on the streets for a mere 5.000 chickens, enjoying a Beer Lao in the evening... Need I say more? Laos, so far, is simply brilliant.

Getting here, as brilliant, even though it took 3 days... Come to think of it, maybe that's what made it even more special! We left Chang Mai for a daytrip by minibus to the bordertown of Chiang Khong. Just after arriving we were rewarded with our first glimpse of one of Asia's 'veins'; the Mekong River. In this part of the country, it is also a very definite border between Thailand and Laos. After peeking at Laos for some time, we set off with some people from the bus to drink a beer... one of many to come! The next day we woke up early to be brought to the rivercrossing by pickup, where we got our Thai stamp. Some girl was commissioned to take care of our passports and arrange for a visa at the other side, so... we simply followed her :-) A short boat trip across the river, and perhaps 20 minutes waiting for our visa and its corresponding stamp, we were directed to a slowboat for the two day trip to Luang Prabang.

The boat trip itself - though essentially being a public transport vehicle - was an excursion by itself. The first glimpses of Laoan mountains with the curving Mekong cutting throught it and the crowded slow long boat struggling its way through rapids is simply beautiful. Every now and then a short stop was made to resupply the happy campers with a new dose of Beer Lao.

Just before dark we arrived at Pakbeng; a little village basically consisting of guesthouses to accomodate the river traffic's travelers. Also a very curious place; after having walked not even 500 metres we had already been offered weed, opium, AND women.... sometimes even by kids that looked half our age. Interesting indeed... Not to forget about the generator-powered electricity (imagine hearing it on the background) which was switched off at 10 PM, and the watersupply that was hauled in by the owner in his pickup from the river... or at least we think it was something like that :) It worked the next morning though! And then, yet again, another day on the boat, this time even more cramped! And it was pretty interesting to have a unwilling engine, but very willing skippers that tried kickstarting the old beast by tying a rope to the flywheel... it did not work; replacing the battery did, though :) This day was once again very nice, even though the beer price was raised with 50% to an incredulous 15.000 kip... 1,20 euro or so...

Anyhow, we arrived in Luang Prabang at around 5 PM and made our way to a very decent guesthouse. The last couple of days we did some exploring, went to see some beautiful waterfalls, Ivo went for a massage, Mark went for some drinking games (and won!) and now, after some very fullfilling days, we're set to ride the long and winding road to Vientiane, Laos capital city. Sunday we'll fly to Siem Reap in Cambodja... with Air Laos... oh my ;-)

Anywho, the best from the two of us, or should I say: "Au revoir"?

Posted by: Mark & Ivo
(03/05/2006 16:08)

Thailand (Chang Mai)

Hi all!

So, today Ivo and myself returned from the jungle outside of Chang Mai. We spend 3 days and 2 nights surrounded by the lovely sounds of nature and a bright star-shimmering night sky.

For our flatmates of old, we were true 'bos-lullen', or, maybe more appropriate, 'jungle-lullen' :-) We had a lot of fun simply enjoying the sceneries and sounds as well was socializing with our group. The sleeping in bamboo-huts was actually quite nice, but, as with many 'alien' things, takes some getting-used-to. Ivo in particular is quite the 'jungle-man', especially because he adopts a certain Hakuna Matata jungle-walk which probably no-one ever thought of. It doesn't even rise my eyebrows anymore after Japan & NZ, but the gecko's were definitely staring open-eyed at it ;-)

Today we finished with a short walk followed by true elephant-riding. And ofcourse, Ivo & I were placed right on top of the largest elephant around and Ivo actually got to sit on its head, supposedly steering the big, old fella. Unfortunately - no matter how many bananas we gave it - it had a mind of its own completely! After the elephant ride it was time for bamboo-rafting, and, as Ivo and I were placed on two different rafts, we were battling each other until the end... ending up soaking wet and making sure everyone around us was as wet!

Right now, we're both quite nackered, after enjoying life some more by simply having a great evening meal accompanied by some life music, a Thai singing the Western classics!

Within a couple of days we'll start making our way to Laos...

See ya!

Posted by: Mark
Into the Jungle... Chai Chang Mai
(30/04/2006 16:58)

Thailand (Chang Mai)

Dear all...!

This time we REALLY only have time for a short message. First of all, we would like to congratulate Judith & Hugo with their marriage; we heard it was a fabulous day and we wish you all the best on your 'dreamtrip'. For everyone else: Judith & Hugo were the first of our 'Bosol-generation' to get married! Ivo & I keep wondering... who will be next? :-P

In the mean time, Ivo and I have moved from crowdy Bangkok to the charming quite of hilly Chang Mai, where the temperature is slightly more bearable :-)

In Bangkok we had quite some interesting moments. We went on trips to Kanchanaburi and the Floating Markets. The first one we did on an arrangened tour, whereas the latter one we did on our own account... and, that ended up being quite the experience! After having visited the Death Railway along the River Kwai (Where the famous movie takes place), we asked to be dropped off at some busstation along the way back to Bangkok. And so they did. We ended up taking some very lively and colourful local bus to the neighbouring province which only took us some two hours... then we were subject to the local Thai's beligerence... and, like a cattle of sheep, the regional bus drivers and accompanying touts, drove us into a local bus... that was equally colourful and, to be honest, quite an interesting event... it is good the bus was so big as the driver was... looking and talking to his cohorts all the way through 4 gear shifts! :-) Anyhow, at some point, the 'guys' told us to get off, as we were close to the Floating Markets. They were right. It was only another 25 km :-D So... Ivo and I decided to trod along the highway for a while to figure out what we were going to do next... Just at the moment when we wanted to raise our thumb to hitch a ride, two highway policemen drove up to us... Oh dear... Luckily, we were treated on the best Thailand has to offer; the Thai Smile. They told us there were buses going along the highway and we could just catch one of those. Not only that! They were going to drive us to the next busstop! How about that? So, Ivo and I popped on the back of each of the motors and headed towards the Floating Markets. At some point, Mark's policeman spotted a bus, overtook it and cut it's way off so we could get on. Ofcourse, no one on the bus noticed the entire event happening. Wrong! These two 'farang' were most prominently in view! Well... to cut things short, the day was good, we actually ended up in a great place to stay and the next day we took a boat to visit the Floating Markets which were nice.

Fast forward.

Today we arrived in Chang Mai after a night train from Bangkok. In between we stopped over in Ayutraya, where we visited a number of ancient 'wat's on bycicle.

Tomorrow we'll head off into the jungle for a couple of days. We'll be doing trekking, swimming, elephantriding, bamboorafting and who knows what!

More when we get back!
Cheers from Thailand!

Posted by: Ivo & Mark
From the sandy beaches of Koh Pha Ngan to the masses of Bangkok
(25/04/2006 14:26)

Thailand (Bangkok)

Hi all!

So, as you can read from the title, Ivo and myself have swapped the hammock-heaven of Koh Pha Ngan for the crowded, sweaty, polluted, in-your-face surroundings of Bangkok, Thailand's capital city.

We spend a couple of days on the island of Koh Pha Ngan where the (in)famous backpacker-scene 'Full Moon Party' is held ever - you might guess this already - full moon. However, we just missed the last one... But, as the Thai's know how to make money out of... well... almost nothing, there's also 'Half Moon' parties as well as 'Black Moon' parties. There are three main islands, namely Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Tao. The first one is famous for its family-oriented beach-bumming, the last one for its cheap diving courses, and, the middle one for its glorious parties. Ivo and myself weren't into the family-thing, and the diving-course, though fun, is not particularly Ivo's thing, which made us end up on party-island. And so we did...! Basically, the Thai's are very - let me stress that: very! - enthousiastic of selling their buckets (yes, litteraly buckets of acohol, you know, the ones you use to build sand castles on the beach) with Thai whiskey. And they do a good job. So do the buckets. All in all, a very interesting experience!

However, Ivo and myself - though we enjoy a good party every now and then - did not completely fit in with that particular backpacker (or maybe 'flashpacker) crowd. So, after a couple of days we headed to Bangkok.

It took us the better part of a day and night to get there. We took a taxi to the jetty, a ferry to the mainland (Surathani) where we were shuttled to the train station. Upon arrival, a big rainstorm was unleashed, soaking the two of us when we ran for our train which we almost missed! Almost :) Once we settled in, it headed off North. Traveling by train is one of my personal types of transport, and therefore it was a good ride, with dinner served at our table for a mere 150 Bath (say 3 euro something).

We arrived in Bangkok this morning at 6 AM, quite early!, where we took a river boat to the backpacker region that is located around Th Kaosam Road. After we found a nice enough guesthouse (with a room that fits two beds, barely! :-D) and we slept for some more hours, we set off into town. But... after about 300 metres we were already approached by a friendly couple that told us exactly where to go and what to do... too tired to put up any form of resistance we ended up being shuttled around town the remainder of the day in a 'tuk-tuk' for only 50 Bath... though we had to suffer being driven to two tailorshops that wanted to sell us some 'cheap cheap' suits in between the Thai Tourist Agency and some 'Wat's (i.e. a Buddhist shrine). So, the typical 'new-in-town' tourist treatment :-D

Nevertheless, it was fun and we sorted out the next week and a half! We'll be going on a tour to the Bridge over the River Kwai, yes, the one from the movie. At some point we'll head off North up to Chang Mai, where we'll do a jungle trip of three days. But.... I'm sure we'll write something on the website by then!

For now, take care!

Posted by: Mark
This is Thailand.... :-s
(19/04/2006 10:10)

Thailand (Koh Pah Ngan)

Our first experiences with Thailand, Hat Yai, were interesting to say the least. We took the train from Butterworth to the border where we had to get another ticket which they just wrote down on some carbon paper...

In Hat Yai we spent the night in the Cathay Hotel, for this we paid an outrageous sum of 200 Bath (4 euro)for both of us!!
But for this we got some extra wildlife experiences in our room.
Ivo went to a bar in town. Let me just sum some of the things
I saw: girls in an aquarium with numbers on their shirts were on the menu, nice female looking singers with a very low voice, some curious Malaysian tourists and just after all this was too much for me and I just wanted to find Mark again, they offered me an elephant ride back to the Hotel....
We both needed one, because we both got lost in this town....

Next day we fled out of this city to find some relaxing on the island of Koh Pha Ngan. It took us almost 12 hours to get here by: minibus, taxi, bus, boat and in the back of a truck.

We'll wait here for the half moon party, 21st, and probably go to Samui to do some Kitesurfing or so.

Posted by: Mark & Ivo
(17/04/2006 05:17)

Malaysia (Georgetown (Penang))

Wow! That was pretty weird! Landing on an island in the middle of nowhere, meeting Mark again! And going to an island, some random airport, meeting Ivo again! It's the weirdest thing ever, but also a really good one! So much has happened, but, with at least half of the trip left, there's way more to go on!

For the people that know us best, one can imagine how our reunion might have looked like. It was followed with a trip back to Georgetown while a thunderrain was hammering down on the taxi, but it couldn't spoil the fun...! After having chatted each other up about almost everything that happened, we went out for some food and drinks. Now, we're all set to go and cross the border with Thailand. Penang was not so nice as we expected it to be, so, with all these other places yet to go to, we decided to get out of here!

For all the people back home, we're OK and going strong!

Posted by: Ivo & Mark once again!
Taman Negara
(13/04/2006 15:40)

Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)

Hi all!

Well, today I got back from the jungle of Taman Negara. Having spend two days in Nusa Village along the river and using two days to travel to TN and back to KL, I am getting ready to travel onward to Butterworth, where I'll take the ferry to Penang. Ivo has booked a transfer flight from Bangkok to Penang and, thus, in three days, we'll meet up once more! The 'boslullen' reunited!

Taman Negara was quite the adventure. My first 'proper' experience with the lesser accessible areas of SE Asia. It took three hours by bus and two and a half hours by longboat to arrive at the park headquarters. Like everything during these travels, it takes some time to get used to new circumstances. The huge insects in my dormroom were a good example! And the high humidity. But then again, the scenery and experience are more than worth it! First there was a jungle trek to a peak of slightly below 400 meters, climbing over trees and skidding up and down slippery, rainforest slopes took us to a magnificent view, though! Later on, a canpoy walk tested my footing in between the treetops. A night jungle trek exposed some of nature's less easily visible highlights; fluorescent and bio-luminescent creatures, fairytale fireflies, huge spiders (and, being 2m tall sometimes a slightly too close an encounter!). The next day brough a trek along a river to a remote waterfall. Having forgotten my swimming trousers didn't keep me from diving in with our guide, Hashier, and Paul. Later that day we braved a cave exploration which proved to be quite a challenge! Clawing and crawling through guano (? i.e. bat-shit), pushing my non-agile body through narrow crevisses, sticking my head in between bats, seeing an albino snake...

After having enjoyed this last activity the last hours were spend talking with Deepa, a London-grown with whom I spent most of the time in TN.

And today the longboat took us back to Kuala Tembeling, and the bus brough me back to the hostel in KL.

Ivo: I'm looking forward to seeing you again! We'll post the next story together, OK? With renewed energy we'll start a new chapter of this little 'dreamtrip' of ours!

Posted by: Mark
And so it begins...!
(08/04/2006 12:01)

Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)

Hi all!

Wow! Currently I'm sitting in an Internet facility on the 4th floor of some building in the Golden Triangle district of Kuala Lumpur (or KL as most people here refer to it). Yesterday, I took the train from Singapore into Malaysia and that was pretty exciting, not to mention warm at first! Walking with my stuff through Singapore especially, wheehee! Hot hot hot! I was quite excited about the first land-border crossing with several customs checks, but it ended up being a breeze... No worries there. Unfortunately, the traintrip was not so good as I hoped it would be. A lot of jungle. A lot of cut down jungle. And that's about it. Apparently, the train company also thinks that people are perishable goods or something, because it was almost freezing in the train!!! Nevertheless, a smooth enough ride into Malaysia. Somewhere during the evening, I arrived in a very modern KL Sentral, where I spend my first hour 'jamming' with some train company employees, all of which were better guitarists than myself...! Next was a slightly surrealistic ride into town by using the newly made Monorail. For a while there, I thought I was in some kind of Manga movie. There's this flashy, futurustic monorail gliding above the city's roads, all brightly lighted and crowded with people and cars. Billboards and modern buildings rise left and right with the Petronas Towers topping it off... and all the while there are these different smells and people all around me. Chinese, Indian, Malay, you name it, they're there. And no, it is not from bumping my head against... well... almost everything in the public transport vehicles that I felt like that :)

After I found a grand place to stay which reminds me of the grandest of movies 'Lost In Translation', though expensive, as I pay 8 euro's a night, I headed off into town to find some food and experience the crowd. Well... I hadn't even walked a 100 meters and I'd been offered a 'genuine' Rolex, 'real' leather wallets and a 'nice young girl' for the 'lonely man', and after politely declining the offers of groups of 4 or 5 persons who 'suggested' I could really use a massage, I found refuge in a small Hawker stand where I ate something that tasted quite good :)

Ofcourse, what did I expect? At first I was merrily surprised by this myriad of people all wanting to sell me stuff, it didn't take long, though, before that turned into a certain annoyance, especially with these guys that all thought I needed a 'young girl'. It is greatly entertaining to experience the upsides, but slightly depressing to see the downsides... Walking alone makes it slightly worse as well. But then again, these people want to make money, and, although I do NOT condone these things, I do also see why they try, as there is enough money to be made from the other single, often white, males wandering about I guess.

Then again, once you see past those things, there is much beauty to enjoy as well. Today I went to see a performance of dances representing all the different cultures that make up Malaysia, and, though a tacky touristic attraction, still very entertaining.

Tomorrow I want to go and see the Batu Caves, and on Monday I'll disappear into the jungle for 4 more days. The plan is to go to Taman Negara, one of the oldest Primal Forests of this world still intact, and do some trekking, abseiling, etc. The plan is to be back on Thursday, after which I'll take the train to Butterworth, to chill on the island of Penang (which I can probably use at that point :-D!)

For now, greetz from KL!

p.s. for the people who want to read old journal entries, click on 'journal' and then follow the link 'all journal entries'!
p.p.s. I tried to upload pictures, but this Win98 machine does not wanna be friends with Ivo's camera.
p.p.p.s Ivo! See you soon!
p.p.p.p.s. For all the people that send me messages, e-mails, and so forth, many thanks!

Posted by: Mark
A New Chapter...
(06/04/2006 04:43)

Singapore (Singapore)

It is just past 10 AM in the morning, and I'm sitting in the basement of a slightly dodgy hostel. The temperature and humidity are already high enough to break a comfortable sweat which the fans aren't able to succumb. At least, not yet. From the guidebooks I understand it takes up to two weeks for the body to get accustomed to a new climate, so I guess I'll be sweating my ass off for the next couple of days. Ivo, be ready for that! Still, it is such a colourful place to be in, with the fragrances of 'Little India' just around the corner, and the burstling energy of Chinatown also not far from here. Singapore is quite a green city. Clean as well, with a highly efficient public transport system. So far, I also was glad to encounter quite friendly people, including a nice Malaysian guy who showed me around Little India, Vijay, who is a manager in one of the - if not the most - prominent hotels in Singapore. He asked me to come by and look at the grand Forrester hotel, but I was so grossly underdressed that I felt too out of place to brave the front entrance, already being scrutinezedly looked upon by security personnel!

Honestly, it still feels a bit weird writing these posts on the website, as my family back home buried my grandmother last Monday. I understood it was a nice ceremony and a good farewell and that a lot of people attended. As well, I was glad to receive some nice e-mails and messages from my family and relatives. Especially from my mum, who has learned how to use the Internet and write and receive e-mails during the past months which I find very good of her!

Today I am planning on exploring more of the city inners trying to find some of the less touristy places. Then, with a bit of luck, I will board the interstate train to Kuala Lumpur - in Malaysia - tomorrow. Getting into Singapore posed no problem at all, with a grumpy Customs officer that didn't even glimpse at me! I hope that Malaysia and Thailand will be a similar breeze.

For the people that didn't know this yet: Sarah's doing fine again and Ivo decided to fly to Bangkok on the 14th and we'll be meeting up somewhere in between to continue the remainder of our trip together! They are on a trip to Italy now and I hope you guys are having a good time.

p.s. I would love to upload some more pictures, but it proves to be quite hard and timeconsuming...

Posted by: Mark
A farewell...
(03/04/2006 10:01)

Australia (Perth)

Dear all,

It saddened me to hear from my parents that last week, my grandmother passed away after becoming very ill. Only a couple of days away from her birthday... I was close to booking a ticket back home but decided to continue onward to Asia.

I want to convey my support to my mumīs family and of course my mum, all of them either losing a mother or grandmother...

I am reluctant to write too much, but I was glad to hear that I'm not to be prosecuted by the Australian government. Though they destroyed my medication I am scheduled to pick up the personal items tomorrow, before I fly off to Singapore, that were send with them.

Also, Merle, thanks a lot for letting me stay at your place for all the time I was held up in Australia. I grossly overstayed my welcome... but appreciate it very much!

Mum, dad, family,
the best of luck for the time to come...

Posted by: Mark
Great Ocean Road, The Grampians, Adelaide, The Indian Pacific, Perth & medicine...
(27/03/2006 10:16)

Australia (Perth)

Dear all,

Itīs been some time since the last post. In the meantime Iīve traversed several thousand kilometers! I feel a bit selfish traveling on with the situation back home, but think that there is near to nothing that I can do about it... and, though it is the harshest of cliches, life moanders on... Also for me.

During the last couple of days I have been quite ībusyī traveling. In Canberra I was happy to meat an Austrian girl, called Tina. She is from Bad Iszl, which is quite funny, as my parents used to take me and my sister there on holidays when we were small children. Anyway, we both wanted to drive the Great Ocean Road and I suggested we go rent a car and do it together... So, we were both happy to do that and ended up renting a cool Toyota Corolla with only 15.000 km on its counter. Iīm happy to announce that we added a thousand and a half to that ,-)

Before we left for the GOR I spend one full day in Melbourne, which is quite a pleasant city. Itīs got a nice atmosphere and vibrant city centre. I wouldīve liked to stay just a while longer, but as Tina and I both had appointments with a plane and a train respectively, we headed for the beauty of the vast land of Australia.

We slowly drove from Melbourne to Port Campbell, stopping for a swim and enjoyment of the incredible views every half hour or so! The GOR is definitely worth a trip! On arrival in Port Campbell, we were lucky enough to see the sunset on the ocean at the Twelve Apostles, but... thereīs just 7 or so of them left! (There was some discussion over how many Apostels EXACTLY there are left, but it doesnīt really matter... thereīs just not 12 anymore!). After having spend the night in Port Campbellīs YHA, we got up VERY early to witness the sunrise at the Apostles as well... though early, once more definitely worth it! Afterwards, we drove on and stopped at most sights along the way, until we reached Warnambool where we turned inland to reach Hallīs Gap in The Grampians. When we arrived there near the end of the day we witnessed the devastating effects of bushfires. Apparently, some three weeks earlier, several bushfires wreaked heavoc in the area. Luckily, though, no houses were damaged and road and track recovery was on its way. Though we were curious about the damage to the environment, we soon found out that bushfires arenīt so bad at all... The contrary even, bushfires control the growth of the vegetation and soil fertility, certain plants and trees even rely on bushfires to spread their seedlings. One of the most amazing sights then was seeing scorthed treetrunks yielding bright green small saplings... The cycle of life continues... We just managed to catch another sunset at one of the viewpoints of the National Park where one could clearly distinguish between untouched parts of the bush and parts that had succumbed to bushfires. Oh yes, and there were Kangeroos! :-D

The next day we had another not too early morning, where we went for a hike up Mt. Sturgeon. Tina being Austrian and having recently enjoyed a 2-week trek in the Austrian mountains made sure I had to work up a sweat... The 30+ degrees environment assisted in that as well. Once we reached the summit, however, it was quite worth the effort; the view was just stunning and quite alien to me! After almost running back (for a while there, it felt like I was following Ivo back down the mountains... he always runs down, skimming around corners, whereas I carefully place my feet and still manage to almost tumble down :-D) to the carpark, we set off to the remainder of the GOR again. After a quick swim in Port Fairy and later on a glimpse at Cape Bridgewater near Portland we drove all the way through to Mt. Gambier. Mt. Gambier is quite a touristy spot, though not particularly for backpackers. There was only one hostel for all we knew... but it was quite a special one: a decomissioned prison. We actually spent the night in an old cell... and they used to execute prisoners there as well... quite an interesting place :) Mt. Gambier is located right beside an old inactive volcano in which water has accumulated. The water is the biggest source of fresh drinking water in the vicinity and the crater lake is called `Blue Lake`. Interstingly, the color of the water changes from blue to grey at certain points in time, and you know what? No one has ever been able to explain it! Great when some mysteries remain in this world of ours, isnīt it?

So, after an interesting night in jail where we met quite... strange... persons... One of which had been shot by his wife twice, runover by his wife, was in a īproperī jail for 4 years, blew up his neighboursīdriveway, was captured by drugsbarons in Marocco and forced to work on a drugsfarm for months, and, and, ... we set off for Adelaide. The remainder of the road was not nearly so special as the GOR and only when we entered the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide was it that things got interesting again. We spend the night in near Victor Harbour where we walked along the jetty to Granite Island where we saw seals and pinguins and another beautfiul sunset.

The day after we arrived in Adelaide where we dropped of the car and I checked into a hostel. We explored Adelaide for the remainder of the (very hot) day, and, after enjoying a final farewell beer, said our goodbies.

The next day I spent exploring Adelaide some more. I did the necessary stuff, like washing my clothes and basically repacking everything for the next stage of the trip: The Indian Pacific!

Yes, so at around 5 PM I set off to the trainstation where I was scheduled to travel the long span of traintracks from Adelaide to Perth, all across the Nullarbor (Latin: No Trees) Plain. The Indian Pacific is one of the Great Train Journeys. Another big span of track goes from Adelaide all the way up to Darwin via Alice Springs, and is called The Ghan, but Iīll have to do that another time :) Anyway, it didnīt start of well, as the train was 1 1/2 hours late! But then, on almost two days of traveling, that isnīt a lot. Once settled into the train I got acquainted with a very nice, but talkative!, elderly Canadian woman that goes by the name of īPearlī. The two of us barely fitted in the seats, but that didnīt matter a lot. She was quite fanatical about Astrology and told me all kinds of stuff about myself;very interesting. Later on, I was very surprised to have someone talk Dutch to me all of a sudden... It was a Dutch girl called Marjolein who was also carrying a small guitar along: Crazy Dutch! All in all the train trip was quite fun, but tiring. I ended up sleeping in the Lounge wagon the second night because I couldnīt sleep in my chair. We made a brief stop in īCookī, a town with population 4. Afterwards, we made a longer stop in Kalgoorlie, where Marjolein and myself went for dinner and a drink, after we said our gooedbies; Marjolein would stay in Kalgoorlie for a couple of days. The next day I arrived in Perth, my final stop in Australia before setting off for Asia... at least, thatīs what I thought!!!!!

It was nice to meet up with Merle again, whom we met in NZ and kindly offered me to stay at her place for the time I was in Perth... little did she know I would be staying so long! At this time of writing, Iīve been in Perth for almost three weeks... You may wonder why? Well, basically, I had 1 1/2 weeks planned here, with some time to go up north and south, but things have been happening that prevented me from doing so... I found myself working on the website of the Pjuktoernooi tournament (have a look at it and subscribe, korfballend Nederland!) after it got damaged for some reason. One weekend we were supposed to go down South to Bunburry and beyond, but it was also the time I took my first Malaria pill... and, although I did not get sick of it when I tried it in Netherlands, it made me sick now, effectively not being able to travel for a couple of days. Right now, I already took the third one and am feeling a lot better, but... why am I still not in Asia??? Well, things havenīt been going according to plan once more... My parents kindly shipped to me my medicine that I need for the remaining 4 months of travel... but... they have been mixed up with another package and effectively lost for a couple of days until I found out they were contained by Customs as it is illegal to send someone his medicine, apparantly. I found that out just now, and either my parcel has been destroyed or it may be returned to The Netherlands... but I wonīt be getting my medicine! Iīll try and get it from a doctor here, but it does not bode well for the rest of the trip, if they disallow it to me in other countries!

I did thoroughly explore Fremantle and Perth by now, however, and took a windsurfing lesson up in Lancelin where we also went to have a look at the Pinnacles. Merle and her German&Canadian&Norwegian&Austrian friends also do some fun stuff together and I was happy to be able to join them on some occasions, going out to open air cinemas, ice coffees, beaches, and parties!

By now, I have more than overstayed my welcome at Merleīs (though she says I havenīt) and Iīm itching to travel on... but, alas, nothing to be done for it but wait and go and see a doctor :-(

Right, there should be some pictures uploaded some time soon, so stay tuned!

Oh! How can I also forget! With all the above stuff to tell, I almost missed out on the most important parts!!!!!!!
Sarah has been declared īcuredī as far as I have understood, which was the best news so far! Sarah & family & Ivo, I share in your joy! Even more, Ivo, who has been itching to do some more traveling as well, has decided to come back and join up with me in Thailand (if I ever make it that far ;-)) which is grand!
Ivo! Itīll be great meeting up with you, my friend!

So, for now, it is goodbye and Iīll let you guys know when Iīve got things arranged and finally leave for Asia before my Visa expires!!!!!!!

Greetings from myself,

Posted by: Mark

(28/02/2006 00:31)

Australia (Melbourne)

Hello everyone,

So, after Canberra I find myself in Melbourne 'the great city of Australia', according to a local, 'and nevermind Sydney'. It is quite a nice city and the atmosphere is good. The weather is also a lot more bearable (no humid rainforest temperatures).

However, from my parents I received news from home. News that wasn't good. My grandmother has become very ill. She has always been a relatively silent person, never talked a lot about herself and not the first to complain. Therefore it came as quite a shock to my grandmother and the family to find out that she is ill and will not recover from her illness.

There is many things I'd like to say, but foremost of all I want to let my family know that, although I'm on the other side of the world, I am thinking of them and would like to convey my support to all, especially my aunts and uncles, the brothers and sisters of my mother, who are the foremost and closest relatives...

With the warmest regards from Australia...

Posted by: Mark
In the Political Heart of Australia
(26/02/2006 00:57)

Australia (Canberra)

Hello everyone!

This time I write from the political heart of Australia, it's capital Canberra. But, before I continue I need to apologize for not remembering some names, Alan & Una were kind enough to remind me of them (though I already remembered Farrah's)! So, Sarah & Farrah, sorry! :-)

Also, everyone that's e-mailing and writing the guestbook, thanks for that, it's really nice to read!

Well, since my last post I took the train back to Sydney where I spend an hour. On the way there I met an Englishman who is basically travelling my route, only the other way around! So we had a nice chat, me about NZ and Japan and he about SouthEast Asia. Afterwards I took the train to Canberra.

Canberra, as some of you might know, is the capital of Australia, whereas most people often assume that it is Sydney (until a couple of months ago, I was amongst those!). At the founding of the Commonwealth of Australia, it was decided that a new city was needed to function as a capital, instead of using either Sydney, or Melbourne, or etc. This is clearly visible. Since 1901 this city has been in constant construction, but, as its purpose was known on beforehand, the city is laid out very well. There are large, wide and straight... and long! What I couldn't figure out, though, is that the train station is a long way from the city center. It took me the better part of an hour to walk to the hostel! Good exercise, yes, but they could have designed the city with the train station relatively near its centre... oh well... The Parliament House and War Memorial are the main attraction of the city, but there are many, many more places to visit. I spend a couple of hours in the Museum of Australia that was quite nice. But, as I was too stubborn to take a bus, I spend most of my time walking from one place to another. I toured the Parliament Houses (old and new) and spend some hours in the War Memorial. The city is not near as lively (which might be due to its design) as Sydney or Brisbane, but it's got its own charm. Organized, tidy, strict, clean...

In an hour I'll take the train again and head for Melbourne. I met a girl from Austria here and we both wanted to drive along the Great Ocean Road. We agreed to hire a car together and I'll meet up with her in Melbourne... though the train ride takes about 8 and a half hours!

Right! Off to the station!

p.s. Wietse, alles goed met je? Ik zou je graag een emailtje sturen, maar heb je emailadres niet? Misschien kun je mij dat eens mailen op

Posted by: Mark
The Blue Mountains
(21/02/2006 07:17)

Australia (Katoomba / Blue Mountains)

Dear all!

After having refrained from writing bits and pieces on the website, it is about time something new is posted on this. Also hearing from Ivo & Sarah that there is a good reason to be optimistic about Sarah's condition has renew my vigor!

So, where am I and where have I been!?!?!? Right now, I'm in a place called Katoomba, some 100 km's from Sydney. Katoomba is the major touristic town near the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are called like that, because the large number of Eucalyptus trees in the surrounding (rain)forest give of some oily substance that causes the light to break in somewhat of a queer way, which results in an eerie blueish haze when you look into the distance. Also, after a shower, the air is thick of the smell... quite envigorating! This is also a good time for me to thank Arjan for his suggestion to spend some nights in the Blue Mountains YHA. I have been here for 4 nights now and absolutely love it. Basically, I've done some tramping around the area but spend some time... well... basically doing nothing but reading (the latest edition of Jordan's Wheel of Time...!!!!), lazing in the lounge, listening to music as well as playing some on the hostel's guitar, and... eating choclate :-D

Since the last time I wrote in Airlie Beach, also the time when Ivo went back to Netherlands, I haven't been sitting still. We had one activity planned at Hervey Bay, namely a 4WD Self Drive on Fraser Island, world's biggest(?) sand island. I took a night bus from Airlie Beach to Hervey Bay and spend a day lazing arount the town. At that time I also got acquainted with Ed & Sam, two young crazy Englishmen with whom I was to be in the 4WD the next day. In total, we were 10 people in every single 4WD and there were 3 4WD's amongst our group. There was an Irish couple (Alan & Una), English couple (Ryan & Pam), furthermore two Swedish girls (Katia and... ehm... oh shit! forgot!) and another English girl (Argh, my mind is a blank!) and... myself! You will be happy to know that I was adopted by Una as little Brother and nicknamed 'Moggy', which stands for Mark O'Grady... I liked that better than the nickname Ed & Same gave me, 'The Crazy Frisian'. No time really to explain all that, but basically it involved my weird accent (strengthend by an airconditioning cold) and the plan to take a train back to Frisia :-D

The days on Fraser were quite good. Cruising over the beaches in a 4WD, swimming in sweet water lakes, barbecueing on the camp grounds, spotting sharks, camping at the beach sides, having fun, etc. etc. etc. After 3 days and 2 nights of Fraser we got back to Hervey Bay.

The next day I left for Brisbane, where I spend 2 nights. Although I walked around quite a lot, it was basically the view from the south river bank and the Botanic Gardens in which I found myself strumming the little guitar, that attracted me the most.

At some point I met up with Merle, the German girl we met earlier in New Zealand. She also just got back from Fraser Island and together we went on a 5 day surf camp from Byron Bay to Sydney.... However, before that, we (obviously) first went to Byron Bay, where we walked around for a bit, enjoyed the buskers and the beach!

So, the surf camp! That was really cool!!!! Basically, every day we went surfing for... say... 4-6 hours or so. It was quite interesting to be inveloped in the 'surfer's culture'. Being a 'surferdude' for a couple of days, trying to 'catch a wave' and hopefully 'ride the wave' afterwards! But... it was not as easy as I initially thought... and I already thought it quite hard...! Nevertheless, at the end of the 5 days Merle and myself were standing up 80% of the times in the 'white water' and... 1 out of 10 times in the 'unbroken waves'...

But for several reasons (one of which is falling on my head in undeep water the first day which caused me severe headaches all the time during the camp) I was completely exhausted after the camp. We stayed in Sydney for two days, after which Merle went back to Perth and I ended up in the Blue Mountains...

Chilling out! Now, I feel refreshed and will go to Canberra!
Cheers guys!

Posted by: Mark
Reality's Grip
(02/02/2006 08:53)

Australia (Airlie Beach)

Dear all,

As you may have noticed the name of our website - DREAMTRIP - you may also have gotten the -correct- notion that, for Ivo & myself, going travelling is something we have been dreaming about for a veryt long time. Making preparations and plans for a couple of months... and dreaming of far away places we'd go and see, meeting all kinds of people, and gain all kinds of experiences. Dreams, however, come in many differen forms... there are a child's dreams of becoming an astronaut or dancer, a modest guy's dream of having a car of his own, the dream shared by many of encountering a person worth sharing your life with...

Though some dreams are -realistically- more likely to come true than others, at some point the dream DOES become real. For Ivo and myself, since setting foot in the airplane to Tokyo, the dream of travelling joined hands with reality, resulting in the grandest of times...

But reality's hand, as you might now by now, has a firm grip, easily capable of altering the course you had originally taken. I'm sorry to say that this is the case now as well...

Sarah, whom most of you know to be Ivo's girlfriend, has become ill... and as Ivo mentioned earlier, the illness is serious enough for Ivo to -rightly so- decide to go back to the Netherlands. Obviously, none of us considered a situation like this to occur. Even more sour is the fact that Sarah had planned to study in Australia for half a year and we were supposed to meet up in a couple of weeks. Alas... reality's grip, every now and then, is painfully strong...

BUT, though Sarah can't go to Australia for now and Ivo can't travel for now and me being an optimistic realist, there is no doubt in my mind that you guys, Sarah & Ivo, will arm-wrestle with reality for a little while and win and you will find that the same dreams are still there, waiting for you to make them real.

Dear Sarah, when I went to England you wrote me a very sweet letter. Though I have not returned that favour, I do still have the letter. Make sure you hold on to the philosophies and feelings you conveyed to me back then, will you? They were a good help to me, and, as you wrote them, will be a good help for you too! :-)
Get well soon! Also, to Sarah's family, all the best..!

Dear Ivo, unfortunately we had a very quick and abrupt goodbye; sailing the Whitsundays at one moment, driving to the airport to say goodbye in the other. Definitely not what we had planned for! For sure, there are way more 'Heidi's' to try and find as well as 'Whakapapa's' to roar! Just remember that those 'Heidi's' are bloody hard to find and aren't going anywhere. So when the time's there, we'll continue that search, as I can't do that on my own! :-)

As you already told what we did, there's nothing more for me to say but we'll keep in touch! For now, all the best, hope you land safely in Amsterdam and make sure you guys act as a proper 'beffie & kleffie'! ;-)

I'm going for a proper dinner now and am scheduled on the night bus to Hervey Bay... Talk soon!


Posted by: Mark
splitted up already :-(
(01/02/2006 21:52)

Singapore (Singapore)

Hi Mark, How are you going? Yep, Mark and I splitted up already... And we weren't even in Brisbane yet....
After some nice sightseeing in Sydney, we walked through Chinatown, the harbour bridge, Botanical Gardens and more, we booked ourselves a "Just Enough" package at the Backpackers World. This package included a Barrier reef exploring in Cairns, a 2 days Whitsunday sailing trip, 3 days on Fraser Island and some accomodation along the way. I arranged a fligt from Brisbane to Melbourne for myself and from Melbourne I planned to take the Indian Paccific to Perth. After that we took a ferry to chill on the nice Manly beach.
The day after we left Sydney to change it for the more tropical and wet city Cairns. In Cairns we stayed four days. The first of these days we did the great Barrier Reef snorkling. The other days we spent without doing almost anything.... It seemed that the monsoon was just visiting Cairns and it was pretty warm and wet:-( If we were walking into town, and it wasn't raining, we got wet of our own sweat anyway..
After Cairn we headed to Townsville to take the ferry to Magnetic Island. Stayed there for two nights. Wasn't really much to do than partying. Both we weren't in a party mood that much so again we didn't do pretty much besides a mountainbike tour to Horseshoe Bay which was quite heavy because of the steep roads we had to cycle. But good excersice after all the relaxe days though.
Whitsundays was the next thing on our program. We took a coach to Airlie Beach, stayed in the Koala Backpackers, which just had a power down. The only thing we noticed in our room when we entered it the evening was the smell of dirty socks and some cockroaches.
The next day we boarded the Apollo. The Apollo is one of Australias fasted sailing boats and won severall races worldwide. We were with 20 nice people, 4 crew members, on the boat. We did some snorkling that day and visited some aboriginal paintings on one of the islands of the whitsundays.
The next day we did some more snorkling and lay down on the white heaven beach. Wow, I've never seen a beach like that. That's like the paradise beaches of you fantasies!
In the evening we went to Long Island. Had some cocktails at a bar in a pool, played some volleybal.
Then I got some bad news from back home..... I had to go back. The same night my mum arranged a flight for the next day. Twelve hours later I already had to say goodbye to Mark. I hope I can catch up with Mark again later, but it all depends on how the situation back home will establish...

So for now.... Mark have a great time with the Aussies! Have fun on Fraser and your surfing lessons. And good luck with the ..... ;-)

Posted by: Ivo
Entered OZ territory...!
(20/01/2006 03:46)

Australia (Sydney)

Hi guys!

So, after a sentimental farewell to NZ Ivo and I took the Virgin Blue Boeing 737-800 from Christchurch International Airport to arrive in Sydney, Australia, at 07:19 local time... yes, another sleep-deprived night but waking up in yet another paradise!!!!

We booked into some hostel in King's Cross, Sydney's red light district which provides an interesting setting to start our sightseeing activities. Yesterday evening we let ourselves be impressed by the night view of Sydney's harbour with glimpses of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and skyline whilst enjoying an Italian ice cream...

Today is another day of exploring... by foot! Need to get used to traveling without the luxury of a car ;-) No worries, though, the tramping in NZ provided more than enough exercise. In two days we'll take the air again to set off to Cairns where we'll be heading South down the East Coast, likely to stop at Whitsundays, Frasier Island, Magnetic Islands and several bays and beaches before arriving in Brisbane where we'll say our temporary farewells.......

Plans for after Brisbane are still a bit unclear and fuzzy, but it is likely to involve traveling by train (finally! :-)), learning how to surf........

So for now - mates! - it's goodbye!

Posted by: Mark & Ivo
A last message from NZ!
(18/01/2006 10:10)

New Zealand (Christchurch)

Dear all,
The last couple of days Ivo and I have been roaming through the NZ landscape, enjoying our 'last days' in this maginificent country. We enjoyed the maginificent sceneries around lake Wanaka and got dizzy in its fun Puzzling World, after which we tested our limits in courage and fear-handling by doing NZ highest bungee jump: the Nevis, 134m, in Queenstown. We met up with most of our newly made friends and went for a big party; Christian, Folke, Merle, Ellen, Andy and Mark where there to enjoy the NZ beer...!!! Good, good, good... also, the Milford Sound experience was maginificent...

Ok, gotta run to catch a plane!

Final remark; thanks for all the congrats; I REALLY appreciated those!

Mark And Ivo

Posted by: Mark
From North to South
(08/01/2006 08:45)

New Zealand (Franz Jozef)

Hi people!!
Well here's an update after a long time, sorry for that....
Let's start with Christmas Eve at the Maori's: a big commercial event there at the maori's. But it was worth it certainly. Had a meal with sweet potatoes, lamb ea. Well the first bit was OK but after a while it tasted like: I'm not really hungry anymore.... But the show was really good, learned a lot about how the Maori's lived those days.
The next morning we were woken with a real orange juice champagne breakfast, made by the owners of the Funcky Green Voyager. Well after some 8 glasses and 2 hours later of this orange juice champagne we already felt like you'd normally feel in the evening after some drinks. So we didn't do much the rest of the day. Just made some food for the Pot Luck, which means that everybody makes a dish for the meal. We made some appelflappen and potato salad, learned from Grandma Elizabeth.
Well, on Boxing day we did White water rafting. Went off the highest commercial waterfall (7m!). That was awesome! But the trip went quite fast....
That evening Merle (German girl) texted us that we should do the Tongariro Crossing the next day. Which was about 100 km from Rotorua. The trip started at 5:40 AM. So we got up at 3:40 AM and drove these k's in the early morning. But it was really worth it! Had a beautiful day and walked for 8 and a half hours. ps. for the Lord of the Rings fans, this was the setting for mount Doom.
The next day was a really bad day, lots of rain. So we did it right!
The day after this (29th) we jumped out of a plane at 12.000 ft!!!!! Fell down for 45 seconds and then the parachute opened and had a great view over lake Taupo and its surroundings!
The 30th we drove further down to Wellington taking Ellen and Merle with us. On Sylvester we went to Te Papa museum. Was nice, but just spent 2 hours there.
We counted the last seconds of 2005 at the Civic square near the Harbour of Wellington. Waiting for the Fireworks..... Which never came.... As the risk for fire is too high in New Zealand during this time of the year.
So we spent the first hours of 2006 in some pubs and a karaoke bar where Ivo had a duet with a German girl: Summer Nights.
After the party we had to sleep in our car because there wasn't any bed left in town as a mentioned earlier.
The first we hung a bit around, trying to get back to earth. We chilled out in the botanical gardens. During the night we catched the ferry to the South Island, so we hadn't much sleep again!
Fortunately we got our car at 10 already. Drove up to Nelson, while Ivo and Merle were sleeping in the Car :-)
In Nelson we didn't do that much actually. Just hung a bit around. The next day we drove further to Abel Tasman National Park. But we couldn't do anything anymore that day because we were too late already and all the hostel were fully booked. So we had to drive a bit further to Takaka where we stayed in a cool hostel called Kiwiana. The rest of the day we spent on driving through the rain seeing the Golden Bay and Farewell spit.
The next day we had to get up early again. We had to be in Marahau again at 8:30 to catch the water taxi (on the road) to sail to Tonga Bay. We hiked back for 7 hours. Well Ivo runned a bit more on his bare feet because he lost his jacked almost at the beginning.
The day after we left Merle and Ellen in Marahau and drove down the West coast to end in Hokitika. We've seen the Pancake Rocks which were amazing!! And the West coast is just beautiful and wild wild wild!!! We picked up a young German couple, but they didn't say that much during the trip...
Arthurs Pass was on the programme for the next day. We did a little hike for 5 hours. Up the mountain we made a little Heidi movie, but it only last for 3 shots because our little Polish girl from the last hostel was Heidi she said and coincidentally on the same mountain only with us.
Afterwards we drove down to Franz Jozef. The day after we just spent the day by arranging a glacier walk, laundry and that kind of stuff. Though, there was a little suprise for us.....
Merle and Ellen were sitting at the dining table.... Waiting for us????? Apparantly they follow us at the West coast in stead of the East coast which they should do. But we liked the surprise.
Today we did the Franz Jozef glacier walk. The weather was kind of wet, but it was still beautiful and exciting! Just before we started to walk on the ice, a big chunk of ice fell off!!!!! This chunk weighs about 1000 fridges!!! But we survived.... the whole trip by the way, which took 7 hours on the ice.

That's about it for now.. Tomorrow we're heading to Wanaka, see what happens next!

Posted by: Mark and Ivo
(01/01/2006 11:01)

New Zealand (Wellington)

Happy 2006 to everybody from Wellington!

We were the first in the world who may celebrate the new year! Had a great time here in Wellington with some different nationalities. But after this we had to sleep in our car because there wasn't any bed left in town, wich was kind a weird. We haven't slept that much. Tonight at 3 AM we'll have the ferry to Picton wich arrives at 6 in the morning. So we won't sleep that much tonight again I think.
We'll write a new journall soon when we've arrived on the South Island and we're more human again

Posted by: Ivo
Smelly place
(24/12/2005 04:41)

New Zealand (Rotorua (North Island))

Well, here we are in this smelly city. After leaving the Northland behind us, so we're going only south now, though here in NZ of course...
So, after we got our car we drove out of the crowded city up to the northland. First stop was Waipoua Kauri forest where we slept in a cabin in the middle of the forest. The day after we saw the "God of the Forest" and many more of these huge huge trees. We went up more to Kaitaia and onward to Waitiki landing, the last human place in the north of NZ. We stayed in a cabin with lots of musquito friends around us. But didn't spoil the fun. We talked to some Swiss people.
The day after we drove the last km's up to Cape Reinga on a gravel road. The view was just amazing! Afterwards we drove a little back to the sanddunes. We climbed up there and had another great view also jumping off these things :-) which was fun!
We drove further to the doubtless bay, where we smashed in the ocean and got a suntan. Final stop this day: Bay of Islands!
Checked in in the Salt Water lodge, really nice place!
The next day we arranged our selves a nice sailing cruise for a whole day. The rest of the day we just chilled out and layed on Long beach near Russell on the other side of the bay.
The sailing trip the next day was great, amazing, gorgeous!!!
Met some nice Germans, Americans, and lots of other people. We went snorkling, and did a hike on one of the islands in the Bay. Unfortunately no dolphins..
Well, in the evening we went back to Auckland again just for some sleeping and drove this morning to here, Rotorua. We scheduled for a Maori traditional Christmas Eve and have a Christmas dinner with them. Tomorrow we'll make some Dutch dishes for our Hostel mates in the Funky Green Voyager :-)

So that's about it.. Talk to you later.....

Posted by: Mark en Ivo
New Zealand!!! :-)
(18/12/2005 11:23)

New Zealand (Auckland)

Wow, what a view... sitting in the sun at mount Victoria, an old volcano, Auckland central city stretches out before us. A wind is blowing and the first real view of NZ is complete... It's beautiful... and that's just the start!!!!

Anyhow, getting out of Japan was slightly more difficult than initially anticipated. Figures if you put the likes of Ivo and myself together. Short story: After Kyoto, Osaka was the next stop. Though we only had a day in this city, it was primarily sleeping in a Capsule Hotel that will be in my memory... at least, that was the initial thought. But when we got to the airport, it seemed we were a day too early!!!!!! But, the Air NZ guy was so friendly to arrange a free Hotel night for us... in ANA Tower Gate Hotel Osaka... a 4 star hotel!!! Yeah, baby! :-D So, though we had to sit out the Japanese cold a while longer, we did it in a luxurious hotel room with everything in it.

The day after Air NZ did actually fly to NZ. So, after a smooth ride with just a bit of turbulence, we set foot on the NZ North Island. Personally, this was one of the countries I was really looking forward to getting to... so... it's kind of a dream come true! The rain didn't bother us the least. And as we heard and now also encountered; it changes quickly. Today was a beautiful sunny day!

We managed to get a great deal on a hire-car and starting tomorrow we'll be cruising the North Island right up to New Year!

Anyhow, talk to ya all later!

P.S. everyone, we really like reading the messages in the guestbook! Thanks!

Posted by: Mark
vanuit Kyoto
(13/12/2005 14:40)

Japan (Kyoto)

jaja, weer een update, dit keer uit Kyoto. We zijn gisteravond hier in Kyoto met Shinkansen trein (Bullet train) aangekomen. Het was even zoeken naar het hostel, we wisten niet meer precies waar het was en ook niet meer helemaal zeker hoe het heette. Maar met de hulp van 2 leuke Japanse studentes hebben we het toch kunnen vinden.
We kwamen van Kawaguchiko, een dorp in het 5 lake gebied bij de Mt Fuji. We hebben daar gister een hike gemaakt hebben. We hebben alleen lang niet de hele route kunnen hiken omdat het toch langer duurde dan dat we gehoopt hadden. We zijn dus na 2 uur al omgedraaid en via de weg terug gelopen. We hebben wel erg mooie uitzichten gehad. De Mt Fuji was helaas wel bedenkt onder een wolkendeken.
Maar net voordat we om 5 uur vertrokken met de bus naar het Shinkansen station in Mishima verdween de wolkendeken even....

Kyoto is erg mooi, koud, niet erg groot en vooral tempels, tempels en nog meer tempels. Maar wel erg mooi! Ik heb nu niet even alle namen van de tempels die we vandaag bezocht hebben bij de hand. Morgen gaan we in ieder geval o.a. nog naar het Golden Pavilion. En dan aan later gaan we alweer naar Osaka in een Capsual hotel slapen om de volgende dag vanuit Osaka naar het warmere Auckland te vliegen.

Tot de volgende keer....

Als het goed is zijn er nieuwe fotos op de site.

Posted by: Ivo
Second day
(10/12/2005 17:30)

Japan (Tokyo)

So, we fell in sleep very soon yesterday, but awake very soon too. After some thinking of what the hack we`re doing? We fell asleep again. Mark set the alarm of his watch at 9 o`clock. But we woke again at almost one in the afternoon.
So we quickly dressed us and grabbed the bikes.
Cycling trough Tokyo is great! First we went to the Ueno park to have our `breakfast` and then went to Tokyo station to look what the best option is to go to Kyoto. After that we quickly went to the Tokyo tower. It already began to get dark. On the top of it we had a great view over Tokyo which was very romantic.
Now we`re back in the hostel watching a movie and go to sleep.

Speak to you later!

ps. I`ve tried to upload some pics, this computer doesn`t recognise our camera, I will try this later on an other machine.

Posted by: Ivo
(09/12/2005 11:06)

Japan (Tokyo)

So!That was quite a trip! After a nice farewell from parents, brothers, sisters, lovers, and a christmas woman, we entered the gates and set off to Japan, our first stop on this journey. Right now it is 11:07 Dutch time, i.e. 19:07 Japanese time and Ivo and I are quite beat. We already did some exploring, of the local city surroundings and the inner of the hostel. In a half hour or so we'll give in to our tiredness and sleep the dreams of two guys that just set off on a 7 month journey.

For tomorrow we rented two bikes to cruise Tokyo. If that isn't the proper Dutch way to explore a city! ;-P

Anywho, enough for today... Ivo's eyes look sleepy enough already staring at this screen... and mine aren't a lot better. Oh, as a final note, we'd like to thank our very charming and nice stewardess on the flight!

Catch you all later!

Posted by: Ivo & Mark
nog 5 uur....
(08/12/2005 08:40)

Netherlands (Arnhem)

Zo, net opgestaan.... Vandaag moet het dan allemaal gaan gebeuren... De laatste paar maanden zijn we veel bezig geweest om alles voor te bereiden. Mark is 2 weken geleden nog net op tijd afgestudeerd. En niet zomaar. Met een 9!!! Mark, KLASSE!

Nog steeds heb ik niet het besef dat ik over iets meer dan 5 uur in het vliegtuig naar Tokyo zit, en dan vooral niet dat we pas over ongeveer 7 maanden weer terug zijn... 7 MAANDEN....??? Shit, dat is toch wel lang... Nou ik hoop dat dat goed komt Mark... jij en ik....7 maanden...

Nou ik wens iedereen een prettig verblijf in Nederland toe en tot later.

Posted by: Ivo
The time has come...!
(07/12/2005 11:13)

The Netherlands (Jubbega)

So, the bags are packed, most goodbyes said, documents readied, insurances taken... Ivo and I are in frequent contact to arrange for the last details, one of which is to work as much as possible on the website. A special thanks therefore goes out to Ivo's mum, who did a lot of work!

In roughly 27 hours Ivo and I will have boarded the plane and set off to our first destination: Japan! Although it does not yet seem as this trip will actually take place, it is getting more real as I write this...

Well, that's it for now. As a final note: thanks to all parents/family/friends/etc. who supported us all the time. This is greatly appreciated!

Right, for now: Au Revoir! Speak soon ;-)

Posted by: Mark
Đ 2005 Ivo den Haan & Mark Bijl