29.03.2012 - 25.04.2012
Yes! We did it! Swhite and I completed our year-long teaching contracts in Seoul, Korea (last month) and have rewarded ourselves with … another epic backpacking trip around South East Asia! Our 2010 adventure with our third musketeer, Melanie was such a roaring success we used the dream of one day returning to the beaches, smiles and noodles of Thailand as motivation to persevere through our less than desirable job conditions in Korea. This time around we plan to hit Northern Thailand, Vietnam and Laos; all places we wanted to visit on our last trip but chose to cut out so they wouldn’t be so rushed. We will of course spend a couple of weeks back on the islands in southern Thailand because it was just so darn fun last time. Added bonus: Jillian, one of our dear friends we met while teaching in Korea will be joining us just in time for the Full Moon party on Koh Panghan… ahhhsahhh!
As some may know Swhite went to college in England and hasn’t been back since she graduated in the summer of 2010. Since we are both constantly on the hunt for great flight deals and opportunities to add extra stops and excursions on the cheap, we discovered we could afford to make a pit stop in London on the way to Bangkok to visit her friends. Swhite arrived in Londontown in late March and was there about 2 weeks before I arrived giving her a good amount of time to catch up with everyone before I showed up.
Our hostess, Laura:
Since we have both been to London before and were attempting to travel Europe on a budget we took a lot of self –guided bus tours during the day while her friends were all working. And by self-guided I mean we would think of places we had heard of like Chelsea, Nottinghill/Portobello Road, Westminster etc look up the nearest bus stop to the desired location, hop on a double-decker bus and sit in the front seats of the top level and jump on and off as we pleased. Even though the busses were considerably slower than the underground subway system, we totally preferred to be above ground and seeing stuff as we went from place to place, especially considering the fact that it rained and rained and rained. Like this:
I was really impressed with this ad. Perfectly worded. I hope other major cities follow suit. The bus says, "Some people are gay. Get over it."
Other sites on our "tour"
I was pretty set on taking in a professional soccer (football) match while in England. Swhite has a friend who lives in Brighton, a coastal town about an hour from London so we headed there for the day to meet her for lunch and see the game. We wandered through “The Lanes” or cute, narrow cobblestone streets, ate a delicious pasta lunch then killed some time near the pier with a bottle of wine before the game. As we headed back to catch the train to the stadium we got a few more cans of cider for the ride. The special price was for a four pack so we got all four and I put the extra two in my oversized coat pockets. We met two friendly older lads in the rowdy line of fans ready to get on the train who were able to snag a few seats for us on the crowded train. Our accents are a dead giveaway of course so they asked us a few questions and were able to fill us in on their beloved Brighton Seagulls team. I remembered I had those two extra cans of cider in my pockets and offered them up to our new friends old-west-quick-draw style. To say they were impressed would be an understatement! They kept saying, “She’s a proper fan! The American is a proper fan!!” and had a good laugh about it. English people say “proper” in place of “real, actual or legitimate” and I kind of love it! People describe someone as a “proper girlfriend” or say they need to find a “proper job” , I even saw one birthday card that said, “OMG, you’re like, proper old!” I don’t think the phrase will ever take off in the US but I dig it.
The Brighton FC Seagulls fell 1-4 to Watford FC but we met another fun friend at the game, Adam, had decent seats right behind the goal and watched some impressive soccer. Here are some pics:
And we went and saw "Shrek: The Musical" on the West End. It was quite fun!
Did I mention that the trade off for cheaply adding London to our itinerary was a 22 hour layover in Kiev, Ukraine on the way to Thailand? Yeah well, that was the deal! Since the layover was sooo long we decided to take advantage of this stop we would never choose to make, booked a hostel for the night and set off to check out Kiev. Let’s just say we have never been so unprepared to visit a place! First of all, the Ukranian accent was so thick the only words we understood in the first passenger announcement (in English) were “captian” and “celcius” and the only thing we thought we heard in the landing announcement was, “mesquite chicken.” Hmmm… Once we landed we went to exchange the last of our British pounds to Euros only to find out the currency was “uah” which we later found out is called Grivna… turns out we know absolutely NOTHING about the Ukraine. Our journey to “city center” took about 2 hours and consisted of a long bus ride and 3 stops on the subway. We pretty much stared out the window of our extremely dirty bus in awe of the lack of updated anything. There were countless rundown buildings, closed/abandoned businesses and really outdated billboards with clothing and fashion styles from the 80s and 90s.
Once we were in city center the scenery completely changed and we were surrounded by the big beautiful Russian influenced architecture style we were expecting. We tried Ukrainian food at a place recommended by our hostel lady and really enjoyed it! We didn’t know what anything was and it was set up sort of buffet style so we tried a bit of everything!
We didn’t have too much time to explore next day so we got up at 7 am to walk around the city before making the trek back to the airport. Of course we found a few more scenic spots to PowerKick! Our visit was brief but I’m glad we went into the city. I just might do a little research about the Ukraine now, better late than never!
Next stop, BANGKOK… stay tuned!