Inle Lake and Our Trip to Mr Min’s Cookery School, Myanmar.

Well that was an interesting flight!

Yangon to Heho…


After a few hours delay in a lovelydomestic airport lounge, we were finally airborne on what can only be described as a rather shoddy 1970 propeller plane and stuck together with bits of tape and carpeted walls as soundproofing.


So we think we have seats together, C & D but as it turns out there was no B or E. Instead Steve gets to sit next to a very skinny white person who says nothing the whole flight and just nibbles the ham off the top of a strange tasting bread bun that is our free in flight meal. Deb on the other hand gets a rather portly older bloke who spends his time ogling scantily clad women on his phone, invading her space bubble and making the worst chewing, grunting and coughing sounds whilst eating until he’s asleep then he’s snoring. Oh, I didn’t mention that he takes a call on his mobile as we taxi down the runway.. AND not forgetting reads a paper that takes both seats.


Then we land, PHEW. Where’s our lift? Due to the delays the hotel rearranged the taxi for later. 3 hours later than after we arrive? Luckily the airport staff help us and call the hotel and within 10 minutes we are on route.


Steve had concerns over the 2 star hotel Debs had booked but we arrive to a super little place about 15 mins walk from town. Hotel Brillant was appropriately named and a brilliant place to stay. It was valentines days on the day we arrived, a lovely start to our stay.


You could even borrow free bicycles to cycle to town and a bus would drive you down to the village in the evening and collect you later. Much much better than the photos on the website and there was a small traditional shan restaurant just over the road where we had a couple of good meals.


Next day we spend walking to town and going to a cool local market where we pick up some traditional masks and Deb grabs some amazingly priced silk fabric. Myanmar local markets are nothing like the others we have been too. Real hand made tools, reed products, betel leaves and fish so fresh it is still wiggling whilst being chopped up!


We find a local cafe and go super safe with cans of coke and straws. So many tourists get ill here that we are on constant safety watch wiping everything as we go, super hand washing as the money is so so dirty. Right down to hand sanitising the phone and camera every so often with cotton buds.


Off out tonight to watch a film made by an ex monk all about how the monks of the area live. If you find yourself in Lake Inle, the film shown at a restaurant/art gallery called French Touch is free and a great way to learn about a local monks life. We get the lift down by the hotel and after the film finishes our car doesn’t arrive so we have to wander back whilst trying to evade the wild dogs and just as we get close to the hotel a car stops and says hotel brilliant? Better late than never?

Time to head to bed and be up bright and early for our cooking class at Mr Min’s.


Our lift arrives on time and it’s off to the market to go buy the ingredients. Fresh food in abundance due to the banks of the lake. We ask loads of questions about the foods we don’t recognise.

Then off on a boat to speed along to our class in one of the floating villages. AMAZING!!


The setting was fabulous and we even go and ride around the local village. No tourists here!


May and Yin help us produce 10 local shan dishes. Everything from

Sticky rice crackers
Tufo crackers
Spring onion tempura
Vegetable soup
Chicken curry
Fish curry
Tealeaf salad.. Just the best!
Green tomatoe salad
Potatoe rice
Fried broccoli
Shan tofu curry
Snow pea salad
Avocado salad

It’s such a shame that in just two years the water has become unusable and many boats now have engines. Where they used to run on solar power they now have electricity. Who knows how this will look in 5 years time. Hopefully not like Cambodia and Bangkok.


The guys did a great job and we cooked up a treat to eat on the amazing decking and chatted about everything from floating garden construction to real life living in Myanmar as a local. Once we were all finished we got a floating village tour through the local village in a little wooden canoe. Trying to watch Deb wobble her way in was quite a site to behold and Steve really loved his new hat!


Eventually we had to return to the main land but not until we had managed to secure a day out on the lake with May’s brother in law in his boat.


No dinner tonight as we were well and truly stuffed full and had to have an early night ready for the boat in the morning. Deb had made her own itinerary to ensure we got to do what we wanted and not the usual tourist/boatman commission stops and again do things in the opposite order to all the standard tour operators so we get more time by ourselves.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve


Hue and What to Do

We choose to take a car and drive on route to Hue and make a day of it. You can get there various ways.

Train – Cheap and slow and you miss the views and stopping where you fancy.
Bus – Misses most of the beautiful pass and bay and to be frank,  we had them pass us along some of the route. They drive fast with no care, like they have a death wish. The poor motorbikes get pushed off the road into the dirt all the time and the bus will play with the traffic, not slowing down until you do to let them through. Then 5 mins later they are at the side of the road having broken down or over heated and all the passengers are sweating in the heat.
Motorbike – For the mentally insane westerner who wants the standard right of passage leg scar and knee injury. 😉


After you pass the mass development of jumbo sized new resort hotels being built on the beach front pretty much all the way from Hoi An to Danang the 1st stop is a place called Marble Mountains. It looks just like 5 pieces of rock poking out from the earth and not much to see but as soon as you get on them you see why people like them and also why during the Vietnam war they built a hospital in them. It was right next to the US army base hidden in plain site and never found! The views are great and you could spend half a day here easily, exploring the temples, tunnels and caves inside. We were so glad it wasn’t raining as you would really struggle to get about as the marble is slippy enough in the dry.


Then we took the slow road to Hue to be able to go through the Hải Vân Pass as seen on Top Gear. The views are lovely on the day we drove although it can be extremely foggy sometimes.


Final stop is Lang Co Bay, apparently one of the 30 best bays in the world?

We arrive at our hotel, Hue Villa Hotel which is part of a tourism training college teaching the young how to run hotels and part funded by Luxembourg. Rooms are big and it’s a cheap place to stay as long as you don’t eat there as the food was expensive.

We spend the evening watching the sunset over perfume river and the dragon boats shuffling tourists back and forth.


Next day we bake ourselves in the sun whilst looking around the imperial city. It’s currently being restored as it was, as you can most probably guess, bombed by the Americans in the war!


It’s an impressive place and the restored parts are beautiful. Deb finally runs out of memory cards which gives us a good opportunity to look through our photos and realise just how much we have seen and done and just how quickly it has gone by. Can’t believe we will be on our way home soon.
This starts the whole, what are we going to do conversations again and then on to what destinations we fancy next?


The sun is still shining so we book a car and driver for the afternoon for £15 and head off to the tomb of Khan Dinh. It’s a pretty stunning place but again, if you look at how poor the people were verses the tomb it’s pretty sad. It was know as the place you never return from when it was being built and so many died in it’s making. The imperial king also put the taxes of the village up by 30% just to pay for it!


Then we are off to the abandoned water park down the road to pay a villager 70p who is making himself an extra bit of cash on the side to let you through the gate. This place was opened back in 2004 although not complete and closed in 2006, for a reason no one is quite sure of. Up until 2014 there were plans to turn it into an eco holiday park but this has since failed. The park is now just in decay and a cool place to visit since the crocodiles have been re-homed.


The scariest thing is that you can walk up to the top of the dragons head and look over the edge. Some have even climbed on to the top of the head. The place only has a few people wandering around. Mainly younger bloggers/vloggers trying to be super cool. No health and safety here, sure it won’t be long until some crazy vlogger or blogger falls off and then the access stairs will get smashed up to stop you going up.

The night is spent on the riverbank watching the locals cooking up spurious bowls of stuff on stalls under a bridge and trying to sell some rather tatty souvenirs to the over dreamy tourists.

Then it’s off to have maybe the second best curry Deb has ever had at Shiva-Shakti Indian Restaurant complete with the locally brewed beer.


Over night the rain arrives and the power come and goes, just as well we are packing up and moving on to Bangkok to catch our flight over to Myanmar.

Live Happy
Debs and Steve

P.S. This is what happens when you have a Korean wanting to help take your photos and shows you how to pose!



Hoi An, City of Lanterns.

We arrive in Hoi An in the rain and decide to get the umbrellas out and go for a wander. 5 mins later we are back as it turns into an absolute down pour.


The rain doesn’t stop so it’s dinner in the hotel and an early night with the hope for a better day tomorrow.


Next day the rain has subsided but the clouds still look dark, so we go to explore and find a place to sit and people watch.

We have arrived in the middle of the lunar new year celebrations so the 2017 light festival is in full flow. The river is lit by big dragons and other creatures and there is a stage with a singer, who sounded a bit like Asian Lulu and seemed to be stuck on a continuous loop. You could also find stalls with games like coconut shies and target shooting.


Hoi An is well known for it’s lanterns. We missed the one night a month that they turn the lights off and everything is lit by lanterns, but we’d imagine this must be so nice.


For the price of about 30p you can buy a little floating lantern  with a candle in it from the old ladies then you can float it down the river. As it floats off be prepared for the eco friendly recycling as the women collect them down stream put fresh candles in and then off to market they go for resell.

It’s a pretty village just full of colourful lanterns, more coffee shops than you will ever need, some lovely local markets and so many places to eat. Then the rain comes again and an umbrella isn’t going to save us this time so we duck into the clothes market. The stall holders are happy to have a captive audience. There are also many tailors here but most are not real tailors.


They all sell similar designs and are just windows to the same factory who makes them. If you really want to get clothes made here you will need to check out tripadvisor for reviews. Deb liked the idea of having something made but being a seamstress, looking at quality and price soon put her off. Fabric is very very over priced and costs of making it just too expensive for what you get. The shop keepers get 10/10 for persistence. One guy was particularly persuasive and had about 4 sets of people on the go. Unfortunately it seems to be the younger set that get suckered in and end up not being able to say no. The chatter on the street is full of people comparing what they paid and people concerned they have wasted money buying something they will never wear. Meanwhile Deb and Steve were content with the $1 t-shirts from Cambodia that surprisingly washed up really well.
Rain stopped and we make a swift escape, back to the hotel ready for a spruce up and to discover Hoi An at night.


Hoi An at night is really pretty. All the bars and streets light up with lanterns and reflect on the water, it’s a beautiful site. We can now see why it seems to be everyone’s favourite place in Vietnam. We did the usual, wandered up and down looking to choose a place to have a cheap drink and then wander around again unable to decide.


We walk to the end of the bars and find a nice stop on a roof terrace called Purple Rain. This place is NOT recommended! Yes, we have been watching ourselves in Vietnam to avoid scams only to nearly get done but a western run bar! Everywhere you go everyone is working hard to provide a good clean service, open kitchen so you can see your food being cooked and until now we hadn’t even given it a thought that they always open your beer bottles at the table, until that day that they don’t! Our beer came not only already open but in a beer cooler, nice touch we thought. Steve has a taste and said this is not Saigon beer? We pull the bottle out and it has no labels. When challenged the waiter laughs with one of those, yes you caught us moments, the owner does the, I told you not to take beer from there and we don’t pay for the beer and wave goodbye.


Next day, time to go find a Banh Mi. Everyone raves about them and there is a shop in Hoi An that are supposed to do the best one ever! Off we trott, you won’t miss it they said, you will see the queue. We find the queue, see that it’s only 70p if you sit in to eat it, find a table and beat the queues. Not sure what was in the baguettes but they tasted ok.


Finally on the last day in Hoi An the sun comes out and we get to see the place looking beautiful. Amazing just how different it looks.


Time to pack and off we go again. This time by car to Hue.

Live Happy
Debs and Steve


Where’s the Traffic Gone? Ho Chi Minh City During Vietnam New Year.

Careful in Ho Chi Minh everyone said.

It’s so busy, hang on to your stuff. Everyone you meet has had something stolen there. So we are ready for this place that even the Vietnamese seem to be afraid of this big sprawling metropolis.


We get on the very empty Qatar flight. Steve looks like billy no mates again and off we go. We couldn’t go by land as we didn’t have a visa to cross the border.


There are so few people on the flight that when we go to collect our luggage we can’t find the carousel until we realise they didn’t bother and had just chucked the luggage on the floor. Good Morning Vietnam!!

20170203_144613The free hotel transfer was waiting and off we went through the empty streets. We knew that some things would be closed and some people leave the city for Vietnamese New Year or as it’s called here Tet but really weren’t expecting it to be so quite?


The hotel is in a good location in District 1 and the things we came to see are within easy reach. After a bit of a “negotiation” with the hotel we get an up grade. We had made double sure that we had a room with a window as Deb and her hotel claustrophobia would not have coped without a window out. This is where we learnt our next lesson. Don’t think just because you have double checked your room has a window, as many hotels in Asia don’t, that this “window” may just be a pane of glass that looks into the hotel air vent!

From now on it’s another special request on the booking form. Special requests followed by emailing the hotel to confirm go something like this.

  • Window with view to the outside.
  • Whether you want a city, beach, mountain or garden view. Quiet room, not near stairs, lifts, next to fire doors or near the hotel entrance/exit or over conference/ballrooms.
  • High floor, especially if in a city.
  • Something else we have found handy in Asia is to make sure that on arrival you have a screen shot of the photo of the room you booked online. This is how we got our upgrade as the room was not the room in the description. Naughty Naughty!

Our new room even has a jacuzzi bath, or as it later became known as, the washing machine!

We enjoy the evening on the roof top bar of the hotel we had booked as we were concerned about just how busy it was going to be down on the street. The hotel was better than we expected for the price we paid.


Next day after a very asian breakfast of chicken and chips? We go off to find the war museum and find it closed until 13:30, luckily for us we decided to do it today as the next day is a bank holiday and all goverment buildings are closed but the Cu Chi Tunnels will still be open. It’s an interesting place, a lot of words and some very graphic photos. Bit of an information overload on agent orange and after so many upsetting graphic pictures and some very upset locals it’s time to leave and go wander.


As it’s Tet, the streets are full of bright lights and as it’s the year of the rooster, a lot of large rooster statues. We even come across some chinese dragon performances in the streets and find a flower festival that we will visit next day. As not much was open we wander through the huge mall near our hotel to find something to eat before heading back up to the bar in the hotel to watch the city lights.


Bright and early we hop into the minibus to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels with a bunch of middle aged Lithuanians, one who just can’t seem to live without a beer in his hand! We are with Kim travel on a small tour of only 8 people and our guide for the day is a war veteran who can tell you 1st hand as he was there and at 69 years old you can still see the emotion in his eyes. He was by far the best guide so far, funny, interesting, engaging and not to forget rather cheeky! And yes, Deb did want to climb in the hole but would the butt fit? Nope!


Whilst at the tunnels you realise that although we paid about 10% over the average tour price, what we got was so much better service. Our guide knew everyone, understood when to hang back and wait for the big coach tours and young tour guides to rush past. He would then give us a really personal account of the area we were in, unlike the young guides who just repeated the daily words to a group of about 30.


Worth every extra penny. He even managed to get Steve trying the local snake rice wine.

After we return it’s off to the flower festival that stays open until 23:00. It was a beautiful display of orchids, dragons made from vegetables, the most amazing bonsai trees we had ever seen and more people taking selfies than you can imagine.


Soon we have had enough of flowers and fighting off selfie sticks in our path and we head back to get ready for our next flight to Hoi An. If there’s a time to go to Ho Chi Minh City it must be Tet as we found the city completely comfortable, no crowds and no traffic and it appeared the pickpockets had gone home to the countryside to show off their new found wealth.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

Poor Old Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Time to hop in our taxi transfer from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. You can go various ways and prices, from flying, taxi or the Giant ibis which looks surprisingly good for $10.20170126_115436

We are taking one of the staff with us too, so she can visit her family for the day or should we say a few hours, as the journey is 6hrs there and another 6hrs back but about the only time she can visit due to work. Generally the staff all work away from home and only get back to see family once a year.


On route along the only main road, you see so many sites. A man on a motorbike with two live pigs tied on, various people going the wrong way up the road, lorries over flowing with people and last but not least kids of about 6 to 8 years old riding motorbikes along the main carriage ways. It’s an interesting ride and we choose to stop for lunch at Skuon, aka Spider town. We have a good look around but can’t bring ourselves to buy spiders or any of the other insect snacks and instead buy pineapple and sweet potato crisps. Little do we know that someone in the car has……. So once on route we get to try Tarantulas, Steve manages a leg and Deb eats legs and a bit of body but can’t manage any more!

We say goodbye to the guys and settle into our hotel. Phnom Penh is hot, sticky and rather smelly.. Our reason for coming is to visit S21 and the Killing Fields and learn what went on 1st hand during the Khmer Rouge Rule.


You soon notice how poor Cambodia is, if you stop and take a look around. 70% of the population are under 36 and hardly any wear glasses as they can’t afford them. Deb noticed this early on as drivers seem to drive slow and over careful, thankfully our 6hr taxi driver did wear glasses.

Something that very much surprised us in Phnom Penh was the amount of older white men and young Cambodian women, far far higher than we have seen anywhere in our travels, along with a huge red light area. Get your accommodation wrong here and you will know about it! We spend a few nights feeling like odd ones out in restaurants, the only couple amongst a load of old fat single guys with big ears!


Everyone else has these romantic dreams of sitting by the Mekong or going on a cruise along it.. In Phnom Penh you can pay the $18 each and do just that through the rubbish and dirty water whilst sucking in fumes from the boat engine. The people are busy fishing, foraging and using the water to make a living.


Advice is to do the museum 1st, we hire a tuk tuk for the afternoon and go off to the museum called S21, previously a school, where the Khmer Rouge over took and used as a secret prison and torture centre. The story of the Khmer Rouge is truly horrific. Make sure you buy the audio tour as it will enhance your visit.


The museum has real photos of real people who never made it through the camp and some photographs of the horrid torture they went through. During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, over 3 million died, this equates to 1 in 4 people and anyone with an education were the 1st to die. Of the 20,000 people that are recorded as going through S21 only 7 survived.


As we walked out to the exit there were two of the survivors selling their stories in a paperback and art work. This was such a hard thing to see, really puts a lump in your throat.
Next up was the killing fields, an execution centre and mass grave site was found. After seeing S21 then going to here to see the final destination of the poor people and hearing further awful stories that we won’t go into.


Time in Phnom Penh was short as we only stayed 3 days, luckily for us we had a nice small hotel to disappear back to 5 mins walk from the noise and mucky river but also close enough to everything. We struggled to find it on arrival as it was up an alley but once inside it really was a little oasis of calm and had only been open 3 months.

You have to watch yourself in Phnom Penh, there are so many little barefoot dirty kids running around smiling with big eyes asking everyone for 1 dollar. Don’t give in to it, here is a thought to leave you with, everytime you part with a dollar it’s another day that the kids parents don’t wash or cloth these children. The average hospitality worker who brings you your meal and beer earns on average $3 a day, a modern new build one bedroom apartment in the very best part of town costs $6300 to buy. If you have money to give away, make sure you give it to the right places.

Cambodia has a long journey ahead and so much help is needed there, the aftermath of war and genocide really has taken a toll on the country. If you are in the area, put it on the list to really understand what we mean.

As we walk back to our hotel to pack up, Steve spots a UK plated van and we start to wonder how it managed to get here? Lo and behold the owners arrive and we start chatting. Turns out these guys retired early, sold their home and bought the van to drive around the world but were currently unable to get into Thailand as the rules had changed again meaning the van was not allowed to cross the border.


Also time for Steve to say bye bye to the Cambodian Crocodiles and move on to our next stop, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve


“What” to Do in a Week at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We arrive at the airport in Siem Reap, Cambodia and are picked up free of charge by some more smiley people as part of the hotel package.

It’s not far from the airport and slightly outside of the town but close enough to be in town in 10 minutes by the hotel free shuttle.


The Flourishing Spa is our base for the week to explore the temples of Angkor Wat and have a relaxing bit of down time from the constant moving around from place to place.The hotel is perfect and the room lovely. How did we end up here? Having spent much time googling places to stay we have come to realise that although Trip Advisor is a good guide to look at hotel reviews, it is far from the best at supporting the new and up and coming businesses due to the way it seems to work out the scores and ranking.


You can be a great new hotel but fall very low on the rankings as you don’t have enough reviews, so we have started to look at accommodation differently to ensure something good doesn’t get missed just because it’s new. The room was beautiful and so well designed, we even have a private little garden and our bathroom looks on to it. The pool was gorgeous too and just lovely to come back to after a dusty day in temples and town, we can thoroughly recommend it.


Deb starts by planning our days out to ensure Steve doesn’t get completely bored looking at temple after temple. There are more than 1000 temples, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, so where do you start? Deb starts by reading a lot of blogs on the subject and starts a list to see what comes out the most appealing and comes out with a plan.
You can pick up lots of tours of the temples but end up doing certain circuits and with herds of people meaning you miss so much and see just the usual stuff.


We opt for a 3 day pass, valid over a week. Our tickets cost $40 each but we didn’t realise just how lucky we were as the private company has just been taken over by the government and ticket prices rise in Feb 2017.
Starting February 1, 2017, the cost of the one day pass will increase to $37, from the current $20 and a three day pass to $62, from the current $40.
That’s a lot of cash when you think that in 2016 2.2 million visitors came through the gates and in 1993 only 7650 were recorded.
Our hotel arranged us a tuk tuk for the day or half day and we chose the “Bespoke Millies Tour” as below. We may not have seen all 1000 temples but it’s a cross section of different types and styles without getting bored.


Day 1 Tuk Tuk
04.30am pickup, go and buy your 3 day pass.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat, it was OK, but it is so busy with people. Soon as you have seen enough, head to the back of the temple and go backwards to everyone else, it’s then much quieter and you get photos without people in them and the monkeys haven’t woken up yet. If you’re not an early morning person you could skip it and see it later in the morning once the wave of sunrisers have left.


Then straight to a couple of temples with a jungle book feel, Prah Kha and Ta Prohm, roots of trees growing through them, as it’s still early and you are ahead of the bus groups you get a better look around then back to your hotel early afternoon.


Day 2 Tuk Tuk
12.00pm pick up from hotel and go straight to Banteay Srei, it’s a way out from the rest of the temples but worth seeing, the carvings are amazing and so detailed and the journey there is interesting as you get to see a bit of real life. Sad that many of the people out here are just so poor when you think of the amount of money flowing into Angkor Wat.


Transfer to Ta Som, a nice place to take a photo of a tree through a gateway and super quite. You won’t spot it at 1st just keeping walking and turn around.


Then off to Pre Rup, good views from up high but get your head for heights on. The stone steps are very steep, Deb is not one for heights so didn’t look back or go close to the unbarried edges up top and couldn’t go back down the same way as she got a bit stuck looking downwards but don’t worry, there is a set of wooden steps with hand rails at the back of the temple..Much better. Then it’s time to return for the evening and off on the free shuttle to town for dinner in Pub Street with beer at just 50 cents.


Day 3 Tuk Tuk
If you fancy another early morning you can see sunrise at Prasat Kravan, we were going to do this but forecast was not so good so had a lay in instead in our super cosy bed.


14:30 off to Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of the Leper king, take your time here. So many people skip through with a quick look, make sure you go into the terrace as inside are some amazing well preserved carvings. As you keep walking you arrive at Banyon, you should get there just as the sun casts some lovely light on the many faces of the towers, in fact there are over 2000 large faces carved on the 54 towers and also some superb carvings too.


If the weather is good then take yourself to Bakheng for sunset before return to hotel.

Steve’s favourite temple was Banyon for the faces and Debs was the amazing carvings of Banteay Srei.


The rest of the days are spent chilling, eating and people watching in town. Our biggest surprise was the amount of middle aged travellers over here.

Time to now head off to Phnom Penh to visit S21 and the Killing Fields.

Live Happy
Debs and Steve