Category Archives: 2019

The End Summary

March 01, 2019

Travel money and IT.

If I were reading someone else’s travel blog I would be interested in listening (well reading actually!)..about the best way to pay bills and the most efficient way to stay online. Well…we have no idea of the best or cheapest but can only explain what worked (or not) for us. 

Getting online was occasionally tricky across the countries we visited. The important element to this was the purchase for about £40 of a HUAWEI E5573 mobile WiFi box before leaving home. (Other makes are available!)

Small and fits in your pocket. You just put a data SIM card inside and use it in that country. So..on arrival in a new country buy a SIM card either at the airport or in shops/malls etc. Pop the card in and either allow the supplier to activate it online or sometimes it just works (don’t understand the detail..). The benefit of this mobile WiFi (MiFi) is that it can be used for several devices. On many occasions we had three mobile phones and three iPads all working from this box being used a WiFi .. AND our mobile phones still contained our original home SIM cards. Useful in the event of someone trying to contact you in an emergency etc. Coverage was pretty impressive. 

We struggled for several days in NZ as we initially paid for a reasonable package SIM card with Vodafone only to have to pay loads to top up (£10 for 1GB..!) when this ran out. Bearing in mind three of us were surfing the net several times a day, searching for hotels/flights and blogging it was not a surprise we sometimes ran out. 

Prices varied from the above mentioned Vodafone rip-off to an amazing unlimited data for £5 (150000 Dong) a month in Vietnam. Overall coverage was extremely good and we are even considering if we can use it at home instead of our WiFi router…..! Who knows..???

Alternatively you could put the SIM card into your own mobile phone and then switch on the ‘Personal Hotspot’ in ‘Settings’ so your mates can ‘piggy back’ on that. We much preferred the HUAWEI option which worked really well for us. 

To be honest we also used public WiFi at airports/restaurants/bars/hotels regularly without problem on numerous occasions. The quality varied a lot as it does at home. 


The mainstay of our finance was the incredible Revolute Card. (Other banks are available!).

This is Michelle’s area of expertise but once you have the card it works really easy. We Mrs BB)  Googled – Revolute! Application dead easy – have a real card sent in the post and an app to download. On the Revolute App you link this to your home bank account. You can transfer money electronically anytime, anywhere, when online into this account. You are then able to transfer this pot of £ pounds into any one of several currencies. NZ$… Aus$…Thai Baht… (24 currencies in all) but not Vietnam Dong and several others. There is no transaction fee to transfer this money and it’s instant. We have amused ourselves on many occasions as you can watch the exchange rate change ‘live’ as you are setting it up. We try to hit the transfer button at the right time to improve our exchanged amount by as much as 15 pence..! 

This card can then be used as a cash card in all areas where one would normally pay by card. We used it extensively, every day in every country even for small amounts. Corner shops in Thailand and Vietnam take cards. Again, there is no fee to use it AND the exchange rate is always much better than you may get in that supermarket/Grab taxi/hotel bill. Provided the account is charged up when online, it will pay the bill, (even when offline). 

You can also visit any ATM and withdraw cash. If, for instance, you only have NZ$200 in that pot you can still pay a bill exceeding this providing you have £ in the £ pot.

You can freeze the card or lock certain elements whilst online too. Several times we messed up initially by locking the ‘use online’ element and having the transaction blocked until we ticked the right box. Probably our (Michelle’s) best decision prior to leaving. We did the whole trip, even in the remotest of areas using Revolute and cash (withdrawn from Revolute).. Highly recommended. 

Soooo…How much did it all cost? Not normally the kind of information shared but I would be curious as an outsider… We are not going to scare ourselves by counting in detail…but we think that it was a little over £10,000 (wish that was Dong not ££..! ). But when you think the motorhome hire was approx £4500 for 18 days alone that makes it seem more reasonable.    Worth every penny we say. The memory will last much longer than our overdraft….! 

Incidentally diesel cost about 80p a litre in NZ. Petrol cost about 57p a litre in Vietnam…

Now it’s about time to get back to earning £££. Photography jobs start tomorrow and police stuff on the 10th. Bring it on..

Thank you for watching…It’s a goodnight from me and a goodnight from Mich.. 

Did you know…the distance from 

Portishead to Bangkok is..6030 miles

Bangkok to Phuket is..430

Phuket to Koala Jumper (!) is…400

Kuala Lumpur to Singapore is…200

Singapore to Perth is..2430

Perth to Fiji is..4000

Home Sweet Home..

Fiji to Auckland is..1300

Auckland to Christchurch is..475

Christchurch to Ho Chi Minh is..4900

Ho Chi Minh to Da Nang is..1120

Surprisingly Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh is..1120

Ho Chi Minh to Dubai is..3560

Dubai to Portishead is…3510

And who knows…..Portishead to Montreal is….3140…  !

See ya. 


February 28, 2019

Thursday 28th February 

On the National Express coach from Gatwick to Bristol. 

It really is done now. We had two straightforward flights with Emirates. 7 hours from Ho Chi Minh to Dubai, a 2 hour wait then an 8 hour from Dubai on an A380 which had lots of spare seats. Makes life much more pleasant. Really impressed us with the planes, food and smiles. First thing I had to do at Gatwick was find my jeans. They have nestled in the bottom of my rucksack for two months without a second glance. We are delighted that the weather has chosen to improve here at home to help us recover. 

So…we have had a most amazing holiday. 14 flights, 7 countries and lots of hotels and many different beds. Surprisingly not a bad one amongst them. We really have loved it all and it managed to surpass our highest expectations. The weather has been on our side the whole time with only about three days rain out of 56.  And only one of them days stopped play. We have done lots of things that we planned and many things we didn’t plan (like jumping off a platform high above Queenstown…!). We have certainly learned lots about the countries and the people. Don’t think we managed to get as ‘down and dirty’ as we planned but instead fell into some higher end accommodation rather than backpack hostels but we did alright. Amazingly we did not need the mosquito nets we bought. In fact hardly met any of the critters at all. Have more of them at home..! Sand flies were a pain in the ass (and the ankles, arms and neck!) in some NZ areas but very rare. Surprisingly too was the lack of unusual animals in our travels. Some Quokkas in Australia, Kiwi’s in New Zealand and Macaques on monkey beach in Fiji. We have seen several different types of gecko, slinky and chameleons. The most common bird across all those countries was the little house sparrow..! Exactly the same as the ones at home. … aaaaw. 

And, of course, we got to spend some quality time with the Kelly’s in Oz. 

We confirmed that we really do have motorhome mentality (and we do, in fact, like each other) makes us more determined than ever to indulge ….(as soon as our bank manager re-opens his purse!).

Think Trina enjoyed herself and was often found digging into a plate of Vietnamese fare with her chopsticks surprisingly. 

There will be one more blog after this one outlining some of the finance and IT on our trip, so you have not got rid of me just yet…. 

Did you know…Michelle has six toes on each foot…. ? 

She may tell you the story one day but it was pretty hilarious….

The End

Good Bye Vietnam. Homeward Bound

February 27, 2019

Cheers. Home beckons. Damn it.

Sad day… we are at Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) airport ready for our flight home. Gloomy…..

We have had the most awesome holiday and facing the reality of heading back is difficult. Normally after a two week holiday we are keen to get back home to normality but strangely we are not looking forward to it at all. Of course it will be great to catch up with family and friends (you know who you are…..) but things have been so relaxed for two months that…..

Anyway…Monday, the weather was glorious beach weather. The wind had dropped and the temp was …hot. Walked the 200 metres to Da Nang beach for a swim, play with the waves and spend time with our fun ‘skimming’ ball (that Michelle called Bobby..!).

Then a quick shower and off to the market. We wanted more cheap clothes and two new suitcases. The trouble is the cases in the street market were cheap in quality as well as price so abandoned it and we had a couple of beers instead…! More people and traffic watching alongside the river. We then ‘Grab taxied’ to the mall and bought a bright yellow suitcase for Michelle and a bright orange one for me. (£40 each). We really look the business now.! 

Nice addition to the travel family..!

Then, of course, as it was still not dark we went back to the beach for our last South China Sea swim. Getting sadder by the minute. 

Yesterday we had a brilliant send-off by the staff at the Haka hotel. As it is a small boutique hotel they are much more personable and we got to know them quite well in the 5 days. Really helpful and friendly. Couple of them stood at the door waving us off in yet another Grab taxi…to Da Nang airport. There was a delay of 2 hours, (the first of our entire trip) but we coped and enjoyed a good flight to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Incidentally this flight cost us 3 times more than the flight from Ho Chi Minh. We did get caught out … we kinda forgot to book it until the day before (!) and seats were pretty full. £350 for 3 of us (including our shiny new orange and banana flavoured suitcases….)

Ho Chi Minh…what can I say… we thought the roads in Da Nang were ‘exciting’.. gawd… Ho Chi Minh is mental, absolutely crazy mad, hilariously funny, impossible to believe…. bonkers. There are cars and mopeds/scooters crammed in so tightly that door handles, are inches from handlebars, 4,5,6 deep across the road. I cannot overstate the chaos. However, somehow it works. We saw loads of near misses but not one collision in the two days we were there. Photos don’t do it justice and hopefully I can squeeze a bit of video footage onto the blog but it must be seen to be believed. We constantly giggled and gasped on every trip. Crossing the road is easy for us now. We even enjoy the challenge…..! Just take one look first…step out and walk confidently across the four lanes. We didn’t get hit once.! Gotta be a bit wary of the scooters coming the wrong way along the road or even along the footpath ..! but they are all aware of their surroundings and seem quite relaxed. Do they have driving tests here?…

And..this is the first time in all the countries we have visited that they drive on the right. Surprisingly…

So…Michelle had triumphed again with a superb Lotus Central hotel in the centre. Two nice rooms for just 3.8 million Dong..(£125)including breakfast. AND they upgraded us to two suites. Thank you very much. 

Straight out into the lively bar/restaurant part of town and found a place that was good after initially abandoning another dump. In balmy 30 degree temperatures we enjoyed a nice Vietnamese dinner washed down with cocktails. Was our last night after all. 

Today…As our flights are 23.55 depart we had time to spare so visited the fascinating War Remnants museum after breakfast. Three hours of in-depth education (if slightly biased) about the Vietnam war. The museum was originally called ‘The Exhibition House for US and Puppet Regime Crime’ which gives some idea of the anger at the time. The museum has helicopters, war planes and tanks etc and shows some pretty horrific images of the torment. It was far more meaningful to us as we now knew Vietnamese people and had a tiny understanding of the geography. To see the aircraft shelters and control tower in the old part of Da Nang made the war very real. It didn’t end till 1975. ….

Crazy funny mad roads..

Our last meal and drink was dinner in a street market near the city centre then back to the hotel to collect our bags. Yet another beloved Grab taxi to the airport and here we are… three backpacks, one rucksack and two brightly coloured suitcases (with 4 wheels each mind you! ) headed back onto the road..home…. ☹️

Did you know…there are about 8.5 million population in Ho Chi Minh…about the same as London. (Most of them ride scooters round all day…!!)

Da Nang and Hoi An

Sunday 24th February 

Da Nang, Vietnam. Only 4 days left…

So….Friday evening we ate a nice Vietnamese dinner in our hotel. All the staff are really attentive and helpful. One of them even showed us how to eat one of our courses Banh Xeo (crepe stuffed with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts rolled in rice paper). We were all pretty adventurous and managed shared meals. A good start. We then walked next door to the posh Four Points hotel’s 36th floor for nightcap cocktails by the rooftop pools. Nice. 

Yesterday was a trip straight down to the beach after a noodle breakfast (other choices were available). Rather windy straight off the sea again but we managed to hold on and got well and truly ‘fan burnt’. Enjoyed a freshly opened coconut for 80p which presumably recently fell off the tree above us. !

How An

We are not big on guided tours (following some guide through a crowd holding a flag in the air (the guide was holding the flag, not the crowd!)). However we had to visit Hoi An some 15 miles away and this proved to be a good choice. We stopped at Marble Mountain first. This was a mountain from where historically people extracted…marble for statues and carvings. Very interesting. Of more interest was the drive into Hoi An. Impossibly the driving is even more mental. Small streets with all flavours of mopeds, scooters, cycles, cars, trucks, coaches..horns…manic and soooo entertaining. We passed rice paddy fields with water buffalo working alongside. Your typical oriental image. Shame we didn’t get chance to get a closer look but we can’t quite manage everything.

Hoi An is an ancient town with hundreds of years of Chinese and Vietnamese buildings. After dark the town is covered with thousands of lanterns across the river. A great view, very busy and to be honest, too commercial. Damn tourists..! 

Great Chinese company who talked us through our eight course dinner..

The best part of this element was dinner. This came as part of the tour package. Bearing in mind we were in Vietnam and we were the only non-oriental folk in our group of 10 we were a little worried (and excited) about what we may have to eat. To add to our concerns we were seated at a table with two older Vietnamese ladies and we started to worry about our table manners and our chopstick skills…..!   We all knew how to use them but not without spinning pork balls across the table or using them as harpoons. There was only one way to deal with this.. head on. We asked them for assistance up front and they were brilliant. Explained the dishes from the (8..!) courses and how (and when) to eat them. Turns out we were pretty chopstick savvy already..  It was a terrific meal and experience (apart from cabbage soup…yuk!)…

Our return road experience was just as exciting but now add the fact it was dark….wahey..

Whole trip. 4 hours. Entrance to 3 sites. Hoi An market. Dinner. Cost 3/4 million each. (About 25 quid..!)

Another nightcap at the Four Points Hotel and a good day complete.

Today…an interesting day for once…. It was cloudy but bloody warm again. Nice. We (I) decided to persevere with the snorkelling attempt. Haven’t managed to sort one yet over here. All the tours want to take you to an island for the day but we could not find an alternative despite all the research saying there was lots in the area. The staff here at the hotel are not only nice but very helpful and despite having no snorkelling knowledge between us we formed a plan to visit a ‘locals’ beach on the Son Tra peninsula about 5 miles away. The hotel arranged a taxi as the ‘Grab’ option failed. (There are loads of ‘Grab’ cabs in this location. I am sure I have mentioned them before as we used them in Australia. )

The taxi driver caused us some concern as he forgot to take the handbrake off and struggled with clutch control..! Had no idea where we were headed and at one time just stopped (in fifth gear) half way up a hill..! Gawd. He was actually very funny and we struggled to not burst out laughing as he was tooted tirelessly whilst being passed on both sides. We were glad to get out…..until we realised he had dropped us in the wrong place..!  We were not entirely sure where we were or, for that matter, where we wanted to go. So… once again…just do it. Follow the path down to this beach and see what happens. Turns out this was a wedding party going on and the beach was real small. In addition a poison witch of a Vietnamese woman basically told us to get the hell of HER beach as we didn’t want to purchase an 8 hour trip in a ropey old speedboat to an island to snorkel. She was ‘orrible…..and ugly..! 

‘Get off my beach .!’
Snorkel Spot surprisingly tucked away here.

So….. we left her beach, back up the hill and along the road. Flip flopping our way. Short while later came upon The Son Tra Beach resort and snook onto their private beach and swam in their private South China Sea. Flat calm, quite warm, but no coral, no fish, no snorkelling. Not willing to give up we walked around the headland on the beach to Bai Rang beach. Nice beach, not many folk and no sign of any snorkelling options. About to abandon the idea and return to base when we saw two people in the water 100 metres out. ‘Can’t be snorkelling as there is nothing there’ says I, the snorkel guru …. but I decided to have a little look anyway. Mask and snorkel attached, waltzed down the sand. Look down…and there it was… yup. Coral. Loads of coral… Not deep. Not bright coloured. Loads of it across the bay and covered in fish. Proper tropical fish with fins and everything. Small yellow things, bright blue stuff and a rather aggressive black bugga. (You may recall our poor fish recognition skills..). 

Well that was an hour or so spent with the three of us enjoying our last snorkel trip of the holiday. It was a lot of work to get there but satisfying to have coped. 

We eventually found our way off the beach and onto the road. Bearing in mind now that we really had no idea where we were, we had no transport and the few locals in this area had never seen a white boy before never mind a white boy with two white girls wandering the country roads…. they cannot speak English and our Vietnamese had not improved beyond ‘Thank You’  (Cam Ôn). And what didn’t help was…my Grab app says ‘no drivers available’….. ooops. Now what. .?

No worries. A short while later we found the main road and managed to hail a passing taxi. We scare ourselves sometimes.  Phew. Back to the hotel for a shower and beer.(not in that  order). 

So….this evening we have just walked into the Da Nang centre. We always arouse interest as most people don’t walk, they use scooters, or mopeds etc. And most people are NOT European. Quite fun really. I think a lot of people have a good look at Michelle and Trina in particular as they don’t have straight black hair like 99% of the rest of the population. 

We had dinner in Al Fresco Grill in the posh mall and got a ‘Grab’ for the two miles back to the hotel.  Cost……. 3000 Dong. I will let you google that to see how crazy cheap that was! Wow.

Anyway. Enough for today. 

Great to visit but glad our hotel is not there. Too commercial and manic.

Did you know…Hoi An means ‘meeting place’. It was originally a trading port active from the 15th to the 19th century.