Since we were going to be in Rome for a whole week, we thought a day trip to Naples to visit Mount Vesuvius and the Ancient Roman town of Herculaneum would be doable, and worth the travel.
If you remember from my blog post on Rome (previous post), our Rome apartment was very near the Termini train station and therefore it was rather easy for us to catch the 7:30 trains to Naples.
There are significant fare differences between the various categories of trains and there is an opportunity to save money for people on a tight budget, but for us, it was more about saving time rather than money. So we chose the fast train (Alta Velocita or AV) called Frecciarossa, to Naples and we paid about 45 euros for a one-way ticket. This train is fast and sleek and you do also get a reserved seat. It takes about 70 minutes from Rome to Naples (Napoli Centrale).
This trip to Rome was more than 30 years overdue, as we planned to travel together in Europe and particularly in Italy, way back when we were still teenagers in Brazil.
We travelled to Rome at the end of September/2013 for 8 nights in the Italian capital.
We are 3 sisters (Gilda, Virginia and Angelita) and our best friend (Sinara), who is like the 4th sister. I first met Sinara at a pre-university course called ” cursinho pre-vestibular” (Brazilians know what I am talking about…), where we hit it off immediately and became best friends. I later introduced Sinara to Virginia and also to my youngest sister Angelita and so the 4th sister entered the family.
We could probably have done a better job of recording all the incidental costs which we have just captured here under Misc…. things like food and drink, taxis, tours, haircuts, massages, ice creams etc etc etc, but that will have to be an improvement for future blogs as we just didn’t really record these as we went along. All the major travel and accommodation costs are in here though, and the total is about right.
We could have saved on this amount and cut corners, or we could have spent a lot more… but looking back we got the blend just about right with a mix of luxury and basic on the accommodation front and the travel front. Getting out there was clearly the biggest expense – so the longer you stay, the better value you get from the flight.
DAy 9, Sunday 02/02/2014 – We were not sad to leave Patong as a mini bus pulled up to our hotel to take us to the Ferry Port where we boarded the Ferry Cruiser boat to Ko Phi Phi Island ( we purchased our Ferry ticket to Ko Phi Phi Don a day before in one of the many tour agencies in Patong, it also included the minibus pick up from our hotel). We boarded the Ferry boat after queueing for a little while to collect a stamp like a ticket that we then attach (glue) to our clothes.
Day 7 ( Friday, 31/01/14) – Our 2 weeks backpacking adventure continued, now to the South of Thailand on the Andaman Sea. We flew from Chiang Mai to the large Island of Phuket.
From the Airport in Phuket we took a minibus to Patong Beach, arriving at our hotel tired and hungry at about 4 pm. Also annoyed with the mini bus driver, for stopping randomly at a place where they were clearly keen to sell excursions etc. to all of us when all we wanted was to be taken to our hotels with no hassle. But in Thailand, you have to learn that this kind of thing is not unusual and entrepreneurial schemes designed to get you parted with your hard earned cash is a common theme and perhaps something we should just accept and go along with it, without stressing out, since we all need to earn a living. Looking back I think it was just bad timing, we were not in the mood to buy anything at that point.
Day 6 (30/01/2014) – Our last full day in Chiang Mai. I told my sister Angelita, before our trip to Thailand, that I would love any opportunity to spend time with elephants at an elephant sanctuary. We had not pre-booked anywhere to see elephants, so it was hard to find a place that was not already full. Luckily, however, we managed to get a morning at the Ran-Ton Elephant Camp, not our first choice, but I had read good reviews of this place, where they look after their elephants well and are helping to combat the declining numbers of elephants in Thailand through a breeding program, as well as practising a safe and humane tourism model for their elephants that have in the past often suffered from abusive situations. We were picked up from our hotel at 7 am, to be driven on a pickup truck about 1 hour out of Chiang Mai. On the way, we stopped to pick up 2 Canadian girls and another couple from Kent (England), although he was English and she was Polish. It was quite chilly in the cool morning air as we sped along, but everyone was very friendly and the chatter and exchange of travel stories and tips kept our minds off the chill. After quite a bumpy, but not unpleasant, ride through the North of Thailand’s countryside via lovely green farmland and rice paddies, we arrived at the elephant park (about 1 hour out of Chiang Mai). It was a very humble place with some facilities such as a toilet, changing room and a little stall selling small gifts. The gift crafts were mostly made by Burmese women. I bought some beautiful colourful bracelets from them. We were given trousers to change into since the elephant skins are hard and scratchy and can hurt your legs if you are not wearing trousers. We were also given a very colourful top to wear. Later we were glad to have had these clothes on since we got soaked at the river and it was nice to change back into our own dry clothes. We felt like honorary Mahouts for few hours. We started off by being introduced to a 3-year-old baby elephant, incredibly cute and we fed him more bananas than seemed possible, he could not have enough bananas, and we got hugs and sloppy kisses from him in return.
As we waited for our sleeper train to Chiang Mai, at Bangkok Station, we felt for the first time like we were real backpackers!
We heard that train travel in Thailand is easy, comfortable, inexpensive, and is the best way to see some of the Thai countryside. We booked a first class ticket. There are various combinations that can be made with shared cabins etc, but we decided to go for the single berth compartment, that although more expensive (about 1, 953 Baht, £40 per person, per compartment ), we felt that would give us more privacy and also a better sleep.
My husband Brian and I travelled to Thailand on the 24/02/2014 for a 2 weeks backpacking holiday, that would start in Bangkok and on to Chiang Mai, Phuket and Ko Phi Phi and then back again to Bangkok for a day before our flight home.
This was our first ever backpacking holiday and also our first time in Asia (my chance to start dusting off my backpack).
Our flight was with EVA airline and it was a direct flight from London Gatwick to Bangkok ( a breakdown of our holiday costs will be at later post). We arrived in Bangkok in the afternoon on 25/01/14. This was our first time flying with EVA and would certainly do so again, we found the flight to be very comfortable with good leg room and the cabin crew were very friendly and efficient .
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending” – Carl Bard
The last weekend of August/2013, I travelled to London to visit my friend Charlotte, who has recently started a “new life” in the English capital.
She has recently ended a relationship of 18 years. She moved out of the cottage in the country side, into her new apartment in North London.
For many people to start a new life would be to change jobs or to move house or to end a relationship.
In October 2013 we spent a week with our friends Mark and Marion at their apartment in Side, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Mark and Marion have a lovely, comfortable, 4 bedrooms apartment with sea views. We enjoyed some beautiful sunsets from the balcony and the mountains behind the sea were the perfect frame to this gorgeous view. The enormous Turkish flag which flew as a giant landmark over the centre of town was also a constant reminder that we were in a foreign country. Our hosts made us Turkish breakfast on the balcony and we spent some lovely lazy mornings enjoying the sun as it warmed up through the morning. The coast in Side is very beautiful, with sand and a turquoise blue sea, but also rugged rocks in places. We visited the old town of Side, where the Roman influence is very clear, there are ruins everywhere in Old Side, a very obvious reminder of what an important Roman city this was a couple of millennia ago.