From Hoi An to Bangkok

It came time to depart Hoi An and head to Bangkok. We would be flying there from Da Nang via Ho Chi Minh City. It was more eventful than we’d expected.

A few days prior the resort manager approached me to offer his thanks to our group for being such great guests, and kindly offered us a free airport transfer for our departure. Maybe he felt it was the least he could do after spending so much money at his resort’s bar day after day. As our flight left at 9:45am and check-in began at 8:45am, he suggested leaving at 7:45am. I made it 7:30am – never hurts to have an extra 15 minutes up your sleeve at an airport, especially with a group.

After an early breakfast, we finished packing the last of our gear, all wrote on a card that Matt and Michael would give to Tin later in the day, and took some group photos out the front of the resort. We piled in to our van and got underway as the resort staff waved us off.


We made good time to the airport and waited to check-in. When we got to the front we were told we were in the wrong line. Fortunately no-one was in the other queue yet so we went straight to the front. Unfortunately when we got there we were told our flight had left an hour ago, and we’d been advised of the time change by email two days prior.

We hadn’t thought to check the flight’s status, and throughout our nine months of travel a few years ago, none of our flights ever got changed. We quickly purchased tickets through another airline but then had to scramble through check-in and security, having to jump straight to the front of both queues, just to make the flight on time. If we’d left 15 minutes later, we may not have all made it on the flight.

After arriving in Ho Chi Minh City we had some time to kill before our next flight. Quite a bit of time, as it turns out, as nearly all the flights out of that airport had been delayed due to some kind of system error. Our two hour layover turned in to four hours, and we later heard some people had been delayed even longer than that.

I found this article regarding the delays in the paper the next day.

After another quick flight, we finally touched down in Bangkok. We found our driver (who filled us in on how bad the delays had been getting throughout the day) and got underway. For most people in our group, it was the first time they’d been in Bangkok, and it’s always an impressive city to drive through at night with its myriad of huge advertising billboards and well-lit buildings.

We arrived at Lebua at State Tower and started the check-in process. While we waited we enjoyed the lobby’s piano player, who was belting out a medley of random songs. I wish I’d got some footage of this guy, he was really getting in to it! We all tried to figure out each song as it came up. Certainly helped pass the time quickly.

Once we were checked in, we went to take a look at our suite. Kupp greeted us as we walked through the door, as he’d arrived a few hours before us. The place was massive. A huge lounge and kitchen area was flanked on either side by three bedrooms, with two on one side, and one on the other, that one alone being as big as the suite we’d stayed in the last time Amanda and I were there.

The living room! Kitchen to the left, and those doors lead to two of the bedrooms.

After kicking Kupp out of that room and taking it for ourselves (sorry mate! I promise that when it’s your birthday you can have whichever room you want!) we went downstairs to catch up with the others. It just so happens that they had managed to score the Hangover Suite. It is ostensibly the same as every other suite, but it has photos from the movie up on the walls, and other decor that references the film. For those not in the know, several scenes from The Hangover 2 were filmed at Lebua, and they’ve capitalised on this in their marketing. Nikki and Leigh surprised Amanda with an expensive bottle of champagne to kick off the celebrations!

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After spending some time catching up, we all decided to spend our first night up on Lebua’s roof at the Sky Bar. Just as we remembered, the views were as incredible as the price of the drinks ($15 AUD for a glass of beer). Still, it was a great way to kick off the Bangkok Birthday Bash!

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Here Comes The Planet 51 to 53 – Amanda’s Victorian Roadtrip

We break from our 2013 travel videos to bring you something closer to home.

As you may have read on the blog, recently Amanda and her mother Jen went on a “classic Australian road trip” around Victoria. Now that the exclusivity contract I had with the video’s producer has expired (“Don’t put it online before we show it to mum at Christmas!”) we are pleased to present this epic journey to you at last.

Split over three parts, we start just across the Victorian/New South Wales border in Albury, with its “iconic” Hume Dam. Also in this episode, a cruise up the Murray River on the Emmylou paddlesteamer in Echuca.

Also, you’ll all be happy to know we’ve started writing* a new horror film based on this episode: “Cry of the Cockatoo”.

* We haven’t.

Continuing the road trip, Amanda and Jen visit a pheasant farm in Swan Hill, as well as a deserted winery.

Also, we learn some fun facts about birds!

Concluding the road trip, Amanda and Jen travel from Swan Hill through to Castlemaine and back home to Melbourne, stopping at gardens and historical houses along the way.

Also, there’s a big fish.

What did you think of their road trip adventure? Have you been on any epic family road trips yourself? Let us know in the comments. 😉

Here Comes The Planet 50 – Tanzania 06

On this episode we spend a full day on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater. African animals aplenty! (Pretty much all animals in this one, so just watch it if you like wildlife!)

Also, we manage to spot a caracal, which apparently is quite rare! Unfortunately it decided to leave just as we showed up.

Echuca

I don’t really have a great deal to write about Echuca. It was nice enough. For those unfamiliar with it, Echuca is an historical town that was founded around a crossing place on the Murray River. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true since we didn’t bother going to the history place but I saw some old rope nailed to a tree with a bit of information under it about a ferry so I’m going to go with that. It’s known for being a holiday spot and has a bunch of old paddlesteamers that take tourists out for various lengths of time.

This is probably as good a time as any to explain that the Murray-Darling river system is Australia’s longest and largest. It collects water throughout southern Queensland, most of NSW and part of Victoria and runs westward, with the Murray River forming the border between NSW and Victoria and ending in Adelaide, in South Australia. I was curious about it so I looked it up and the catchment area for the two rivers is about five times the size of the entire United Kingdom. That would be impressive if the river itself were impressive. Which it’s not. It’s brown and murky, so don’t go picturing a mighty Amazon or anything.

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For a town of about 13,000 people there seemed to be an awful lot of pubs and restaurants in Echuca. There was almost a pub on every corner in the middle of town. We stayed at the Nirebo Motel, which backed onto a pub called The American, where we had dinner. I had mac and cheese, which was enormous and delicious.

We didn’t really do a whole lot in Echuca. We had lunch on a steam-powered paddleboat (the Emmylou) and the view was mildly interesting and a little bit sad. There was so much erosion – according to the captain of the ship it occurred during a storm a few years ago, but I have heard that such situations are worsened by people driving powered craft along the rivers – the waves wear down the banks faster. The red gums along the banks were quite dead looking and a man I spoke to on the boat said the view was pretty much the same the whole way along.

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Apart from the boat trip we looked through the shops and walked around. Despite the fact that country towns have become sadly homogenised  by chain stores, there were still a few amusing sights, such as this book store. The lady working behind the counter said the owner loved every single dog statue and would know if even one went missing. There were definitely hundreds of statues. It was quite mind-boggling that someone might know every single one.

dog statues bookshopYou can always count on at least one amusingly-named store. Or two.

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Next stop: Swan Hill and the PHEASANT FARM!

Here Comes The Planet 49 – Tanzania 05

In this episode Team Toto soar above the Serengeti in a hot air balloon and drink champagne like the rock stars they wish they were! An unforgettable experience that we shared with many of our travel companions.

Also, I deliver on a promise I made to amp up the excitement of a balloon coming in to land… 😉

Thanks again to Pete and Deb for letting us use some of their footage!

Here Comes The Planet 48 – Tanzania 04

On this episode of Here Comes The Planet we head out to the Serengeti for our first safari, and spot a good number of animals! As exciting as it was, to get there we had to drive many hours over what was by far the worst “road” many of us have ever had the displeasure to experience. Worth it in the end, but only just!

Also, we take a sneak peak at the location of what will be the location of our next safari, the Ngorongoro crater.

Special thanks to our travel companions Pete and Deb for loaning us their footage to use in our video!