Vanessa's FotoPage

By: Vanessa Simmonds

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Sunday, 2-Jan-2005 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark

no time, will upload once in oz!

Wednesday, 15-Dec-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Chiang Mai...

Not sleeping on the floor of the train - this is great!
Bit blurry, but you get the picture...
View from the train window
View all 12 photos...
Mal and I made it to Chiang Mai, which is north of Bangkok, after a 14 hour train journey. Sounds yuckier than it was - we booked an overnighter, so we ended up with seats in second-class but the great thing was that they folded into two beds! Great idea. So even though the trip was long and noisy, at least we didn't have to sleep on the floor or sitting up or anything. We got picked up at the station (these Thai's think of everything!) so that was a little relief that we didn't have to wander round trying to figure out how to get there. Once at the hotel, we had just enough time to look around, do a spot of shopping and get back just in time for our meeting about the trek we were booked to do in the hills of Chiang Mai. From there we went to another pre-arranged meeting for a 'Thai dinner and dance'. I must admit, I didn't really know what to expect, but it was really good. There was about ten of us and we were all trundled off to a restaurant where you sit outside on mats on the ground and cushions. The restaurant itself was amazing - it looked like a temple and it had the most amazing looking Thai women wearing costumes who greeted us all at the door. After being shown to our seats, (all in completely separate places from the others) we managed to get another two of our group moved next to us (hi Kirsty and Sean) and we got along really well. The waitress served us a meal of rice (of course!) and lots of different types of Thai cuisine in small bowls so you get the opportunity to try loads, just in case one meal turned out to be too spicy (happens often here...). We were also treated to traditional Thai dancing and even had all the meanings translated for us by the narrator on the loudspeakers. And of course, right at the end, the dancers come into the crowd and pick peaple to come and dance with them...I was targeted after Kirsty refused and I think I'd had too much wine, because I even surprised myself how fast I got up there! Fun though. Overall, it was pretty good, but it was really, really cold being outside. I'd been out earlier and had my jacket, but I was the only lucky one! After a good meal, great company and (ok) wine we headed back for a good night's rest and prepare for our trek the next day. Oh, and the hotel was really nice - much better than their website pics!

Monday, 22-Nov-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark

Can't believe it's been two weeks since I updated this thing! It's been majorly expensive to upload pics through a website, so not much luck there. However, we're now good to go! Where were we? Ah, back in Rome...
On the Sunday that we were there, we were told, by one of our roomates, that the Pope was gving Mass at 12 noon. We had woken up late, so it was a rush to get out of bed, showered and off to see the Pope. We got to the Metro station and spent 10 mins following the signs to buy tickets, then realised that was for the overground trains. Walked into a shop and asked about Metro tickets and the woman there sold them. Hooray! Off we went towards the Metro, and the signs got us really confused (not hard). But really, if you were there, you would be frustrated too. We were running late anyways and were going around in circles! Finally found our way, missed a train and got to St Peters 40 mins late! Everyone was leaving so, you guessed it - we missed Mass... Took some pics and wandered around for bit and headed off to the Pantheon. I never studied up on anything about Rome before we got there, so I had no idea what to expect. It's huge and old and amazing. There is a circle in the ceiling which isn't covered over, so it rains inside. However, there are 22 drainholes in the floor so at least that's some smart thinking! The walls all have statues and frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible and other religious deities. Unfortunately for us, about a quarter of the Pantheon inside was covered by scaffolding for renovation. Good excuse to come back when its all been finished so I can see what it looks like when restored. Next stop was the Trevi Fountain. It's hidden away in the middle of a group of buildings so we walked around a corner expecting to find another sign saying 'keep walking' and, lo and behold, it was right in front of us! we couldn't get a good picture of the whole fountain because there were so many people sitting on, around and in front of it. Mal and I both did the whole 'throwing a coin over the shoulder into the Trevi fountain' thing and then moved on pretty quickly. After going back and changing hostels, we went out for dinner again, but we had found a flyer for a place that did dinner (3 courses and wine) for 10 Euros. Well of course as our luck had been - the place was shut! Found another place for dinner and went back to the hostel to chill out. Met up with one of our other friends we'd met in Amalfi, Bridget, in the morning for a trip to the Sistine Chapel. Got there in good time and spent ages in the Sistine Chapel looking at the ceiling until I got a sore neck! There were so many amazing things to see and so much detail, it was hard not to get stuck in one spot for while. It's a shame we had to rush through the rest of the rooms, because there was so much to see. From the chapel, we came out down the famous spiral staircase and stopped to take pics. We made our way around to see St Peters Basilica. Now I am not religious at all, but as soon as we walked in the door, I had to stop and take a breath. It felt like all the hairs on my body stood up! The Basilica is so much more HUGE than the Pantheon, or so it looked to me, and because each church is made in the shape of a crucifix, each part had it's own atmosphere about it. Mal, Bridget and I must've spent a good half to three-quarters of an hour wandering around taking it all in. We thought we better get up to the top of the dome before the sun set so we made our way up the stairs. We could've cheated and got the lift up for 1more Euro, (it was 4Euro anyway) but we decided we'd walk up so we could say we had. The staircse just keeps going round and round and round! Mal said it was like being in a funhouse. We got to the top and the reward was worth it - the view was fantastic. We could even see the Colosseum from there, although it was hard to make out against all the other buildings. We came out just as the sun was starting to go down and got the last few pics we could squeeze onto the camera. We all went back to the hostel and cooked up a storm. Oh it felt good to sit down! After chilling out for a while, we had to catch our train to Venice. We said goodby to Bridget and made our way to the Metro station...
Wait for it... we missed the last tube by about 5 mins! It was a last-minute panic, but Mal managed to convince a taxi-driver to take us to the station we needed. We had NO cash on us except for a few euros. We were really lucky, but we managed to make our train on time (this time!) and had to share a cabin with 3 other people, so it was a cramped trip for 6 hours. We tried to sleep but wasn't really happening. Got off at our destination - Venice - and was welcomed by the morning sunrise into a beautiful day. We made our way to the hostel which was very hard to find, and showered and got straight back out again for some more sightseeing. We only had the one day to look around because we had a flight booked out of Treviso for 12.00 the next day. So we strolled around Venice, which is smaller than I thought it would be, and took more pics. The city is like the pictures that you see, but at the same time it's not. Maybe it was because we were there as the seasons were changing.

Monday, 8-Nov-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Greece is over....

Well, we miss Zakynthos for it's lovely beaches (and that Mal knows how to speak the language!!!) but we've had some little adventures since then. We left Zante on Sunday 31st and hopped on a ferry to Italy. Well, when I say 'hopped on', it seemed to be a little more difficult than that... We had sorted out the timetable for the ferry from Zante to Pireaus (near Athens) port the day before, but there never seems to be correct info anywhere in Greece. The clocks went back an hour, so that wasn't a good start. We waited for the 1.15pm bus until 1.30pm, and it still hadn't come so we had to catch a cab to the bus station, which wasn't too far from the port itself. The catch was that as soon as we arrived, we were told that the bus to the port had already left and we would have to race for the ferry. So we jumped back in the cab, and it was a race for time. Would we make it??? Yes! Would the taxi driver charge us more?? No!. Thank god for small mercies. The ferry that was supposed to leave at 2.30pm was now leaving at 3.00pm, so we were VERY lucky, but a bit pee'd off that we hadn't been told the timetable change the day before. Anyhow, we caught the boat and made it to our port in Patras, where we were to leave from for Bari at 6pm. Because our ferry was late from Zante, we would have missed the one to Bari - BUT, as luck would have it, the only day there had been a delay with the big ferry, was this day!!! Thank god for that! So eventually, our ferry to Bari left at 7pm. We ran to buy those tickets!!! No mean feat with a full backpack on your back...
The ferry to Bari was the most comfortable ferry trip we've had so far - the seats were spongy and we could lie on them, so no more floor for us that night, yay! We even befriended one of the staff who said he would've given us a cabin but they were all full. Never mind, we got free coffee, so I was happy with that. We arrived in Bari, Italy the next morning at about 6am, and as we were disembarking, we ran into a couple of girls we had seen in Santorini. Small world! We hung out with them in Bari playing cards until our train arrived. Mal and I were separated for our train trip as it was really full and no one really seemed to know what was going on. We had fun trying to communicate to the Italians, that's for sure! We managed to muck up about 2 or 3 trains in a row, but we finally got to our destination - Amalfi Coast. We stayed for the first night in a pokey hostel with rooms that smelt like pee, so just the one night for us, thanks! We were about to leave town, but we got stopped on the way out by a guy from Manchester who ran a pub there. He offered us a hostel type bed or a tentsite under some lemon trees on his grounds. Turns out his nan had left him and his brother a charming little farmhouse on a hill in Amalfi with the most amazing views. The catch? You had to walk up about 300+ stairs to get there!!! Mal and I fell in love with the place and ended up staying there longer than we had planned. The place had a real family atmosphere and the others staying there were really cool. And the hostel even has it's own duck (and cat - they have a certain respect for each other...) So we camped out under the lemon trees and ate well - cooking freshly caught fish on the BBQ and fresh pasta and sauce. During the few days we were there, the little town called us down into it to sit in the sun and drink coffee and watch the world go by. The beach there was small but very charming as well...could've sat there for days!
We left Amalfi on Friday 5th November and sadly packed off first thing in the morning. Because we hadn't done any day trips from there, we decided to visit Pompeii on the way to Rome. Wow, what an amazing place! The ruins are absolutely huge, and I wanted to take pics of everything. (Another little story to that one - we had gotten there as early as possible for opening time but the staff decided to have a strike that day - we were 2 hours late getting in, which didn't help). So we didn't quite get to see it all, but I would recommend it if you have a good imagination for what life must have been like back in the Roman days. Such a great little city, it must have been....
We arrived in Rome at about 9.30pm and we were both exhausted. Being a Friday night, there was hardly any accommodation, so we ran around between a few til we found a place to crash - never again will we not book before we get there!!! Not what you need to be doing after a full day's travel, too exhausted! The place we stayed at for the first two nights wasn't far from the place we wanted to stay in, and we managed to catch up with a few people from our hostel in Amalfi, as well as making some new friends. Rome is absolutely mindblowing - there are amazing churches everywhere - as you would expect. We spent the first whole day just walking around and getting a feel for the city. Mal and I walked past the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, numerous churches, and ended up going out for dinner with the guys from Amalfi (hi Bridget, Chris and Jane!) We were late, but were lucky to meet up and had a really tasty dinner (although the portions were small, but apparently Italians eat three course meals all the time). After that, we stopped at a wine bar (complete with it's own menus - like a normal restaurant but with no food) and got a little drunk. Chris knew of a club, which we tried to find, but it seems like there's no taxis in Italy, anywhere!!! We never quite made it, and made our way back to our hostel. Still had a good night though!!! More updates soon...

Friday, 29-Oct-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Greece rocks...!

The Parthenon
Mal at Parliament in Athens
Donkey in Athens
Well we saw the Acropolis alright! Spent about 4 hours up there just looking around taking pictures and breathing in the history. The main building - the Parthenon - is absolutely huge. It's so amazing to think that people lived a normal life in the villages at the foot of the Acropolis, right in all the places we stood, but thousands of years before! I was also amazed at the artefacts in the museums, some of which are very well-preserved, but it still gives you the impression of how society lived back then. Also, Mal met up with one of his friend's brother, Terry, and he gave us a bit of an insight as to how the Athenians live now, as he is living there himself. We went out for dinner twice with him - once under the watchful eye of the Acropolis at night, which was stunningly lit up. The food was fantastic. Although in the first area we stayed in, the food wasnt so great - it just seemd everyone was out to make a buck. Overall, I found Athens to be very smoggy and the people in the city weren't as nice as I had expected them to be, but I guess you get that in the big cities anywhere in the world. And the only cheap thing we found was the transport... The metro stations in Athens are very clean and there are artefacts from what they found underneath each station while building them. One station was even abandoned because a grave was found so they just left it alone. I like the fact they respected that. But, three nights was enough for us and we got away after seeing the main sights.
Our next trip was unplanned - we ended up on a ferry to Santorini! And yes, it is as amazing as it looks on the calendars you see promoting the island. We got some lovely pictures of the sunsets and it was easy to decide to stay there for longer than we had planned. Mal and I were even keen enough to do the walk down 600 steps to the bottom of the cliffside and then we caught some public transport back up. Mine was called Marco, and yep, he is a donkey! Was quite a giggle and a more enjoyable way up than a boring old cable car. Bit smelly though, and you had to watch your step (donkey-doo). We have been really lucky with the weather - the water at the beaches is cool, but much easier to enjoy when the weather is 25 degrees and upwards every day! The beaches are made up of black/red sand or rocks because the whole island is a leftover of a volcanic eruption. It makes an interesting contrast to the turquoise-blue of the waters. The water surrounding these islands is so clear, you don't even really need to wear goggles to be able to see the bottom, but the salt water kind of kicks in after a while so maybe not so good for the eyes!
Mal and I then did another overnight trip (read: slept on the floor of another ferry) to Zakynthos which is where we are now. The people here are so much friendlier and the island is very lush and green - not like the rest of Greece that we have seen. It is very near the end of the season (two days off, in fact) so there aren't many excursions left to do. Doesnt matter, we're happy to chill out at the beaches (normal sand) and read books - ahh, such a hard life! We've found this island to be the best out of all we've seen so far, although I know we've barely touched on how many there are. The people are friendly, the prices are good, and the waether fantastic. Mental note to oneself; will get butt back here in future years...
We also have a mascot who will pop up in some of our pics, he doesn't have a name yet. You will get familiar with him, i'm sure. All in all, we're having a relaxed time at the mo, spending far too much money, and wishing we had portable email - it's SOOOOO expensive out here! So apologies for not emailing personally, as this is easier for us and a little less time consuming. Love to all, see you soon. xxx

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