A Travellerspoint blog

21 hours in Lucca

I stayed on the second floor... DOWN, that is!

sunny 35 °C
View I have been to here on on PennyJelly's travel map.

once again, Wifi and Internet defeats me, so I have resorted to tapping things out in note form in my iPhone, and then TRY and hunt down a wifi place as Internet is generally 1/4 price of a hostel for the night... Eek!
Luckily I was pointed to a placed called Freni E Frizioni where they have a password protected site - but it's lovely here! And the best news yet, I thought I was buying a €6 glass of Pinot Grigio (when in Rome, eh?! - which is actually where I am right now) - but they also put on a fantastic and bountiful vegetarian buffet banquet feast- so I am sated in almost all areas of my wanting!!
Anyhoo... This is my thought series from the other day!!

I arrived in Lucca after falling asleep on the train. I know, I know, but it wasn't my fault! I was really tired after getting no sleep at the hostel the night before as the bunk bed I was on was the only sleeping arrangement in the room that had springs instead of slats, and squeaky ones at that! Any movement resulted in a gawdawful noise that would make a teenage frat boy blush. So, sleep resulted only from a half a bottle of red and some very shallow breathing so as not to make my body mass any smaller or larger. I felt like an anxious bag pipe all night!
Anyway, so I was tired from that and tired from deciding to leave Firenze and the comfort of knowing a city without a one and a half metre map. So by the time I reached the train station - bags packed and a plan in mind, I was tired. But the adventures that day could only continue to mount.

I had purchased a ticket to get on the train after many failed attempts to use the electronic ticket dispenser (where has my use of English gone?! Why am I speaking broken, how you say, sentences?!). Anyhoo, I watched my perfect timetabled train leave - without me on it - and tried again. This time from a magazine and cigarette vendor. So - €5.20 later, I found the station platform, tried to validate my little ticket in the big slot, watched others fail before me, and then thought I'd board the train and hope for the best. The back of the ticket did say that if the machine didn't work to alert the station or train attendant, and as neither was about, thought I'd once again hope for the best. What's the worst that can happen?! Never answer that.
But luckily, all was fine, in fact, there was NO fine, and the train lulled me into a gentle sleep. Once I awoke and looked about at the mostly empty train, and the countryside I did not recognise (why would I?!), and my mostly usesless map - and then lastly my watch, I began to calmly panic and wondered if i should get off the train and catch the next one going in the other direction - surely an hour and twenty minutes was too long for a journey such as this? But then, I saw the apparent stop before me.
At this point i must point out that my normally next to useless navigation skills are reduced, in Italy, to trying to remember the places, towns and street names by relating them to food. Italian food, naturally...or at the very least. Therefore, I should get off at the town after Anti-pasto and then walk along Agnolitti street, ignoring signs to Baci.

It works, but not relaiably in all situations. Perhaps I should limit my travels to Bologna, or San Remo at a pinch.
Anyhoo, I managed to look at the not very helpful electronic display in the train (apparently we were travelling at 90 km per hour and it was 20 degrees on board and 4 degrees outside) and the time was 5:30 but there was a word that looked like Retardo 11 minutes, so I assumed Lucca was yet to come. Thankfully it was not just me that was retarded in this situation.
So I walked the 20 minutes in the (pasta) baking heat after taking my life in my hands in trying to cross the road (frogger style) at a neverending roundabout of torture, and arrived at a very nice looking guesthouse. Needless to say, I found myself staying In the cellar in the basement of this fancy guesthouse. We, the unclean and backpacking scruffs, are kept below stairs... And I was in the dungeon section by myself. But for one night, I didn't mind... It's normal to recall such films as Silence of the Lambs, right?!
They have bikes and Segways for hire and the nice shirted owner passed me on one of these ridiculous people movers - just like Gob - which I found hilarious as he sped off, leaving me giggling for apparently no visible reason, he vanished that quickly!!

Besides all of this natter, Lucca is a lovely little town. A maze of streets and piazzas nestled within the old city walls. I think Napolean gave it to one of his endless relatives to rule until they misplaced it one day... And I think it missed the war atrocities - so it is still a lovely little village boasting one of the best apples I think I have ever eaten, and some nice small raw green beans to soak up some of the cheese on my pizza square for lunch. Mmm.

I rode around the walls of the city, atop the actual height of the structure, and then meandered the streets until I thought it was time to cash up and leave for La Spezia and Cinque Terre...

More of that and more adventures to come!

AMAZING PLACES how sweet these finds that saved a wretch like me... Wish I could upload some photos...

All the best, Pen xx

Posted by PennyJelly 12:06 Archived in Italy Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

I was over there, behind that post, the entire time!

Or rather; things that I've been doing and seeing and wanting to write about - have ironically prevented me from writing!!

sunny 25 °C
View I have been to here on on PennyJelly's travel map.

Righto. So - because I would like to be a writer or something or other when I grow up, this actually gives me licence, nay, the need! to ignore all types of keyboards, pens, paper basically anything that can accept and store the written word. You may have noticed I have been absent from this site for quite some time... Well, that's just it actually, the pressure has been too great!! Don't you people realize what you are doing to me?! Demanding my verse, my travel adventures, my soul?! This living vicariously through me may have been my suggestion, sure, but the pressure!!! I feel guilty about not writing - I save things up to write a missive of revolutionary thoughts and accolade deserving tales of adventure and inspiration - and then I think "but I should be writing this in a linear fashion. When last I wrote, I was in Vietnam. Now I am in London, baby, and there have been many andventures in between that I can't possibly just jump ahead and tell you about the sumptuous cereal (sidenote1: how delicious is muesli wih flame raisins and grated apple and chopped banana?!) that I had this morning in my halfway house (sidenote 2: halfway as in halfway throuh my journey and I'm staying at my friend Lisa and her new husband, James' flat - but they are both away at the moment in the USA so I have had the place to myself for the last 2 weeks) in Isleworth... Can I?"  Oh, damn, well... The cereal was amazing. Good base. Good additions. Good sugar free soy. Is there anything better? 
Well-luckily, there is, has been and will continue to be on this journey of this particular part of my lifetime!

Yup, here I am halfway through my journey. As stated, I have landed in London and have been fighting off further bacterial infections and lying low, so although I have been seeing the sights and sites, I have also been seeing a lot of the inside of my eyelids, a lot of pottering about on my own in a lovely terrace flat about 40 minutes away from London on the overland, making myself cups of tea, tired from watching SKY tv and sick on delicious chocolate and salty snacks which somehow seem a lot more quaint when they have names like Wotsits and HulaHoops, Wispa and Minstrels - but suprisingly they still pack the not so quaint calorific punch that has me walking up the very long escalators in the tube rather than hanging off the moving rail like a resus monkey.
But what of he rest of my SE Asia adventure?! Well, for that you'll have to wait, as tonight I am packing my bag for Italy, and I just needed to touch base and write something to break the drought... I shall be writing more very soon, when I shan't have the very pleasant distraction of gathering my thoughts after a hectic and inspiring journey through Indochina whilst delighting in the simplicity of doing my own washing, shopping at a supermarket, having a bath, cooking my own food and getting up late with nowhere to be, and in my own time.
When next I write I might be filling in time from looking at the Leaning Tower and waiting for my pasta to digest before going off to sleep with 5 others in a dorm room the size of a broom cupboard.

So - I shall leave it there for now. 
Coming up: retro fitting Asian experiences into this blog (as I have been secretly writing a bit of a journal)
Why drinking snake's blood in home distilled rice whisky from a street vendor might not have been the best idea I ever had.
What happens when you store muesli (seriously what is it with me and my breakfast food obsession?!) in your backpack in a beach hut that may or may not contain wildlife?
And why is it that wherever you go in the world, a broken petrol guage will always get the better of you and your moped?
Then after that (and more) you'll be loving me living languidly in London.

More soon!
Hope you are all well and warm! xx

Un-needed P.S. I have also wanted to attach photos - not because they tell a thousand words and will bulk up my word count - because they are pretty or funny or both: pretty funny, but it seems that that is the thing that has been stopping me from writing. So. Stay tuned - more words and pictures coming your way.

Needed P.S. To all the birthdays I have missed or tried to SMS but failed or just plain forgot (unlikely) or got distracted by all this history, well a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!   And to other emails that I have yet to reply to - a big HELLO coming at you soon. 
Thanks for reading. Pen xx 

Posted by PennyJelly 13:46 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

I forgot to mention how much fun I am having

... especially that I can now seem to stomach things for longer than 13 minutes.

sunny 36 °C
View I have been to here on on PennyJelly's travel map.

Yes, the dreaded SE Asia bug got me for 3 days, and touch wood, I think I am over it. But, you didn't check in to hear about those kind of movements, did you?!
Yesterday we went for a ride in a B52 fuel case along a river. If course, this might seem an odd thing to do, but is the best way to travel to our 50 family homestay village. The day before, we learnt a hell if a lot about how Laos was the most bombed country throughout (one of) the war(s - I was in pain, so the finer points escape me). Anyhoo, America dropped loads and loads and loads of bombs on Loas to interrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and kids are still paying the price. Not only did they kill about a third of the population, but the good, kind and gentle people of Laos see the unexplored bombs as a good use of scrap metal which can bring in some much needed Kip. Or they mistake the cluster bombs for stones or fruit. Either way, it spells trouble with a capital bang. But, I digress. I can put a photo up to show you the good humour these people use to educate tourists - bt the point I wanted to make was about he B-52 fuel casings. Basically they cut them in half, out a basic motor in the back, some makeshift seats and voilà: the ultimate recycling at work. So that's how we got to the homestay where we feasted on amazin and fresh cooked Laos food, and then split into boys v girls where we slept on thin mattresses on the floor, each adorned with a mozzie net -all courtesy of our host family. They consider it an honour to put us up. Nice!! And I strolled around the town and happened on some kids, who learned my name and allowed me very graciously to give them endless whizzy dizzies, shoulder rides and provide a general human clamber frame. It was nice, and I learned their names, too. I felt like I was on a film set, taking part in the local fun as the crew set the next scene. Except in this instance, the crew was our guide, the scene was our dinner and my trailer was not lined with cash or cocktails or comfort. But, strangely enough, it was all great - I had a blast.
Anyhoo, that is enough from me on this weak wifi and my little iPhone. I just wanted to check in and say GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAM!!! We crossed the border at 8:30 this morning, and had a 12 hour bus trip. Tonight we are in Nimh Binh (not the same as Australia's own) and tomorrow we go to Ha Long Bay! Very exciting. And we stay overnight on a junk!!! Dad has advised I don't eat too much junk food (see where I get it from?!) - but I will be dining on fresh king prawns, crab, fish, pork, chicken, tofu and vegetables. And so on. Looks like my valiant effort at losing weight over the past three days was in vain. But, thankfully, I am on holiday!! AND HAVING SO MUCH FUN!!
More soon! Big love to all. Stay off the Lao Lao. I am!!!
Pen. xx  

Posted by PennyJelly 09:14 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

A small taste of Thailand and Laos

this is all the time and technology I can afford at the moment... apologies for the haste and no photos (internet too slow)

Hello ALL!!!!

I am alive, well - a bit crook in the guts at this particular moment in time - but other than that - I am having the time of my LIFE!
I feel like I am living each moment of each and every day.
This trip has been amazing, I feel like I have hit the reset button: goodbye work: hello holiday Penny. I like this girl!

I haven't been able to update this travel blog or email (or even text - and please continue NOT to use my Melbourne mobile number, as it costs me both ways, so I have had my iphone on airplane mode for most of the time, so thanks for accepting my rudeness) as the internet places have been scarce in impoverished villages, or wifi is out of order, or computers are in another language (let alone being a PC) - and we have been on the GO GO GO for the past seven days.

No matter, as I say, I have been living in the moment. I miss writing though... but the 35-45 degree heat has been keeping my mind off anything but rehydrating and opening my brain to the world.

Thailand by myself was fine. I managed to get to Koh Chang by bus and ferry and taxi (open air jumbo/tuk tuks) with 12 other travellers squashed in and bags on top of the car. Before I left, I organised a hut for 3 nights, (Cliff Cottages) but decided to stay for the 4th (for free) as why bother going back to the busy and possibly dangerous BK when I could relax in paradise for another night. Amazing and very basic accomodation, but what else do I need except a hut, a hammock, a bed, a mosquito net and a place to clean my teeth? The mosquito net only came on the second night (who knew I was supposed to have one?!) - so I was a little red and bumpy for a few days - but thankfully, have staved off Malaria. I think. I also believe that someone had been in Thailand before me, as all of the hot water has been used up (thanks guys!).

So, Koh Chang was amazing. I read, ate, slept, rode and swam with elephants (I KNOW!!!), talked to other travellers and the locals, drank Chang Beer, fended off mosquitos, saw wild monkeys (seemingly quite angry), snorkelled with amazing fish in the warmest water, hung out in my hammock and chilled the heck out.

Work - what work?! Stress? What stress?

I joined the Intrepid tour on the 28th of April, but didn't get to meet up with the group until the 29th as my bus was late due to massive amounts of traffic, which I later realised was due to the Red Shirts causing more havoc in BK (Bangkok). I haven't seen anything on the ground at all, but we were actually really lucky to get out of BK to go on an overnight train to Chang Mai when we did, as the following night the red shirts took over the station and the Australian Government has declared BK a no go zone. Talk about being LUCKY! I think it is due to the Year Of the Tiger!

I think that Intrepid tours after mine have been cancelled due to safety reasons, so, I am counting my blessings (of which there have been actual blessings at temples by monks) and enjoying every moment.

So, I joined the tour. A really nice bunch of people of 7 others and a leader, not without their foibles, but then neither am I. The Intrepid Leader is great. A UK guy, Jessie, now living in Cambodia, so he is in touch and out of touch at the same time. All the other people are my age and a little less (or lots in some cases) and a few a little older.

Since leaving BK I have been to Changmai and then across the border to Laos (where we had to wake up the official to check our passports and visas etc - it is VERY laid back in Laos) travelled on the Mekong for 2 days by riverboat, had the almost lethal (yet suprisingly hangover free) lao lao (homemade rice whiskey). Been through caves adrned with Buddha's image in paint and statue form. I have seen monks, been to temples and Wats, given bread to hungry and lucky catfish, had my photo taken with some locals (for some reason, they asked for a picture with their 80 year old mother - I think she wanted to take my soul), visited Hill Tribes, some with gold rings around thier necks, CUDDLED TIGERS (it just gets better and better, I tell you), ridden on many a bus and tuk tuk and walked loads. I have attempted to give alms to the monks at 6am (but they kept escaping down back alleys), been to night markets, had many a Laos beer. I have seen water buffalo, eaten water buffalo and taken photos of Moon Bears that have been rescued from poachers wanting to get their bile from their gall bladders. Can you believe the gall of some people?!
I have swum in natural pools near cascading waterfalls, avoided insistent leeches, eaten street meat and flown on a very small (and somewhat turbelent) plane. I have neen on a mountain bike, seen more elphants, seen more temples and Wats, bought a fake (but very nice chunky silver) Rolex. I have eaten mango pancakes and drunk Laos coffee. I have had little sleep but lots of rest.
I have also taken lots of photos which I may or may not be able to upload here, so I might just be able to show some highlights. Don't worry, I have lots and lots... and lots.

It was also my birthday - and I was treated to a special meal at a fancy restaurant in Laos - Luang Prabang. (I love LP) where Jessie organised a special Happy Birthday song and traditional dance by the nearby entertainment (over a pond lay a stage with tradtional flutes and xylophone arrangements) AND a birthday cake with my name (and birthdate on it - so I know it was for me) and we all had a mighty big night out. Christy, one of the girls, also bought me a cloth book with a tiger on the front. Nice. I have been spoiled and blessed.

Thanks to everyone for sending emails (which I have read but am now being kicked off the computer, so I cannot reply individually - next stop I'm sure), birthday messages (which I may or may not get due to sim cards and the like) and good thoughts.

I am getting the hang of where to find sim cards and change them (ala Jason Bourne - I also have 2 passports and am still sporting my massive guns!) into my old Nokia (one again, Penny's overplanning of wanting to take a small alarm clock away and hence a back up phone has stood me in good stead - as my iphone could not be unlocked in time (even though I asked a week before and they (provider) told me the wrong info) - so I hope to text when I can. If you get something from a weird number - it might be me. Or a weird stalker. Either way - please feel free to reply.

The heat is incredible. Can anyone say HHHOOOOOOOTTTTTT!!! I mean yell it so that you are hoarse - and need a drink. Like 5 litres a day of bottled water. It is super hot. So I have been thinking I shall lose weight, but I am also keen on trying all the food and drink (1. because I am greedy. 2. because it is CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP 3. because I want to experience as much as I can 4. I know this is the cheap part of my holiday. I know that Europe shall be cheap pastas at hostels and sandwiches from Sainsburys to last the whole day 5. why not? I am on holiday 6. I know that when I get crook it shall all come off again). But the food is delicious and nutritious.

So, that's enough of a taster from me at the moment. I need to go and pack for tomorrow. Here I sit in Vientiane (which I don't actually really like) after leaving Luang Prabang and tomorrow we leave here and go to a homestay further north in Laos in order to get closer to the border to Vietnam. Can't wait for the next exciting chapter!!

I shall try and write when I can. As I say - I WANT to, but technology, time and fun gets in the way.

Love to all!!!

Jelly xxx

Posted by PennyJelly 06:52 Comments (5)

One Night in Bangkok...

except it is the second night, but poetic license prevails...

semi-overcast 35 °C

SO - after months of planning and getting everything ready amidst volcano explosions and all out war in Bangkok, fighting off never ending work and packing up boxes, after travelling 2 and a half hours in a car to get to the airport - I am here!
I made it! And it is great. Arrived last night to a hotel just outside the airport. And today left for the big smoke.

My bag is dead heavy, so all I could think about today was getting to a place to stay tonight and shedding the 65 litre monster on my back... ouch. I think it's the books (and the clothes, and the toiletries - I thought I was doing very well - I even wrote about it in a previous entry!) , so I might have to ditch some things already. Thankfully I know where to get more of them. The packing and repacking shall get better with time, I am sure... I know it's only the first day, but I am thinking that I could just live in 2 swaps of clothes and wash every night, as that's what I did last night as the room was spinning and my eyes were drooping. I only had a couple of hours sleep before the trip (nervous excitement prevented me from slumber) - and then several hours on a plane watching the likes of New Moon (WHY? WHY DID I DO THAT? I mean, I knew it would be bad... but in my slight hallucinogenic state, it was EVEN WORSE than I imagined) and eating and watching the Orion constellation appear and disappear from my window seat.. I arrived in the wall of liquid they call the Bangkok temperature.

But, I slept, showered, ate, caught a funny ol' taxi ride into the city today (I don't speak Thai, and he didn't speak English OR know where I wanted to go - so was looking at phrase books and maps as we hurtled along the highway - which all seems entirely reasonable in another country), then got dropped off at Kaoh San Road, and was then coerced into a tuk tuk to take me the Tourist Agency, where I booked a hostel for tonight, and a bus and ferry round trip to Koh Chang for tomorrow morning. It'll take pretty much a day to get there, and I went against the guy trying to book me accom on the island, and a good thing, too, as I was probably ripped off (once bitten, twice shy) so - I have sorted my own accommodation for the island. And I think I am onto a winner. Or not. But we'll see. The adventure begins! Well and truly.

I saw the news about the grenades and what not near the parliament buildings, but I am so far from there, I really don't think it is an issue at all. No one is too perturbed, and there are lots of whiteys where I am, so I think I am more than okay sticking with the other traveller types. This is despite what was sent to me by the Australian government and what I have heard being said by K.Rudd. If I had heard all this fear mongering and panic I would probably be more of a scaredy cat - but on the ground, it all seems pretty cool.

Pad Thai and Chang beer was the order of the night, and American breakfast today, for those interested, was black coffee with whitener on the side, fresh pineapple (tempting, but - thanks to my hyper alertness about the water, I didn't dive in) something that tasted like Tang (one sip told me it wasn't fresh juice) a fried egg and ham on white toast, with butter and strawberry jam pats, and lettuce and tomato. Of course! Same again tomorrow at the hostel, I think, but with an 8am start, I don't know how I shall find the time!

Interesting toilets over here, too. I feel like Mick Dundee from Crocodile Dundee (the original, and the best) when we sees the 'extra toilet'. Let it be said, that it may have looked like I had a nasty accident in my shorts, but it was just wayward water from the bidet like instrument... which thankfully dried in about 3 minutes due to the heat.

I am currently drinking a 1.5 litre bottle of water, which I think I will knock off in about 15 minutes... Which will probably double my body weight... as I seem to be dripping all the time. Very pleasant. It is VERY hot and humid, as you may have guessed. I didn't really want to do too much today, so just wandered about, getting my Thai feet - and winding down... and writing this. I hope you have enjoyed reading this scattered mess of thoughts.

I have already had so many wonderful experiences and met some nice people, even if I never see them again, they seem to be genuinely friendly... and return my smile. Or want to sell me bits of useless plastic that light up and change colour. Interesting stuff, but no. No thanks.

I still feel like the odd one out a bit, as I am still carrying my little black shoulder bag full of all my worldly possessions that I don't want to get nicked, and everyone else seems to be in shorts and a t-shirt - and a wry smile of having been here for a couple of weeks and know their metaphoric and literal way around.

Anyhoo - here is a photo.

Kaoh San Road

Kaoh San Road

I shall write more soon from the Elephant Island - I may even get to see how the rich live (as there are a fair few resorts - but I shall be reporting from my $12 a night bungalow).

Pen. x

Posted by PennyJelly 07:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

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