Back in time for tea

Travelling the world, hopefully with a cuppa in hand

Fingers crossed…

We have a house!!!!!

Well almost.

After a long weekend of house hunting we finally found a house to rent near Louisa’s work to the south of Cambridge. We saw quite a wide range of places and we could have lived in any of them really but this was the only one that had something special. One of the things we’d decided while travelling was that we’d like to try some country living and the cottage is in a small village with two pubs, a post office, a village shop, a yarn shop and not much else. It’s close enough for Lou to cycle to work and hopefully well placed for lots of country walks. We’re already really excited about living there but we have to wait until the end of the week to know for sure. The landlord has to agree to have us as tenants and then there are the usual credit and reference checks that take five days. Once we know for sure we’ll add a photo and more details.

 

 

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A very scottish wedding

Kirsty and her dad

Hello everyone,  we’re back in the UK and have had a busy few days since flying back from Borneo.  After getting back into Heathrow on Thursday morning we took the train to Northallerton, and then drove up to the Kyle of Lochalsh, near Skye in Scotland for James and Kirsty’s wedding. It was all a bit of a challenge, getting Lou’s car on the road again (thanks Lou’s dad) and finding all our smart clothes for the wedding which had been carefully boxed away a long time ago. We decided to wear some of the clothes we’d acquired on our travels – Jon a suit and shirt from Vietnam and shoes from Bolivia, and Lou with a dress from Thailand and shawl from Malaysia but unfortunately we forgot to take a photo of us both to show you all.

The drive up was amazing with beautiful scenery. From Northallerton, we went over the Penine hills via the A66, and then up the West coast via the M6, past Carlisle and Gretna Green, Lockerbie, Glasgow, Loch Lomond where we stopped for a flask of tea, Fort William and Ben Nevis, the Glen Coe ski region and through the Highlands. We came back down via the East coast, finding time to fit in a quick whisky tour and tasting at the Dalwhinnie distillery. Our route took us past Perth, over the Forth Road bridge, through Edinburgh, and then down the A1 past Berwick to Newcastle.

Eilean Donan castle

To describe the main event; the wedding itself was lovely. Held in the grand Eilean Donan castle on the shores of the Loch Duich, the Groom and Bride looked really happy together and we’d like to wish them a wonderful honeymoon in Greece, and every happiness in their future together. As befitting a scottish wedding there was piper and a céilidh with folk music and we ended up dancing late into the night, finishing with Auld Lang Syne before stumbling back to our B&B down the road.

We were planning on making a short break of it in Skye but were put off by the rainy weather and forecasts of hurricane-like conditions. The previous day we had managed to fit in our first Munro (a Scottish hill), but it hadn’t been the best hike ever. It was very wet and boggy all the way around and we got soaked. We still have some very soggy and smelly hiking shoes in the boot of Lou’s car to show for it.

For those of you starting to suffer from Blog Loss Syndrome, you’ll be glad to hear we plan on continuing to blog for at least the next four weeks or so as we settle back into real life. Before work starts again at the start of October we still have to find a place to live, move all our stuff back in and Jon’s also got a job interview. We’re really looking forward to this next part of our lives and being able to do things we haven’t been able to do in a long time: catching up with all our friends and families, having our own house, cooking for ourselves, enjoying autumn walks, running and other sports, dancing tango, unpacking our music and books, playing the piano, gardening and yes, even getting back into work.

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Photos of our Borneo adventures now online

All our Malaysia photos are online now

We’ve actually got ahead of ourselves and have prepared our Borneo photos for the blog before we’ve even left! They cover Kota Kinabalu night market, climbing Mount Kinabalu, Sepilok orang utan sanctuary, jungle safaris at Uncle Tans and snorkeling in Sipadan. They’re listed on the photos page under Malaysia.

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Going gadget crazy

Lou's new bento box

After a couple of epic blog posts, we’ll keep this one short (who of you breathed a big sigh of relief?). We’ve been indulging ourselves in the guilty pleasures of bargain-basement shopping during our last few days in Kota Kinabalu. The shops have all these amazing asian kitchenware items such as clip boxes in any colour, size or shape, very high-tech food flasks, fried egg moulds, bag sealers etc etc. We particularly fell in love with these pocket-sized clip boxes that unfold in a multi-dimensional sort of way to reveal lots of handy little compartments. We just had to have them although as yet we have no idea what to use them for! It hasn’t all been low-end browsing as we’ve been enjoying the air-conditioned delights of the newest shopping mall. While there, we found Lou’s favourite purchase – a very neat bento box system which comes complete with chopsticks and a cute little bag. It also happens to be in hot pink.

Since learning to make sticky rice in Thailand, we’ve been thinking about buying a rice cooker. We’ve been heavily researching makes and models since we got here and finally decided to splurge on a Zojirushi after reading all the reviews. It already feels like part of the family with its cute little carrying handle and merry little ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ tune and we can’t wait to give it a go once we’re back.

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Part three: snorkeling in Sipadan

Snorkeling playground in paradise

After our sweaty jungle adventures we needed to find somewhere cooler. Defying Foreign Office advice we decided to risk pirate kidnappings and head to the Semporna archipelago, a set of small reef islands off the north-east side of Borneo. We organised our trip with Uncle Changs, a friendly dive operator with accommodation on Mabul island. As luck would have it we were able to get a day trip going that the next day to the northern islands of Sibuan and Mantabuan, and there was a cancellation meaning that two permits were available for Sipadan island a few days later. Sipadan is rated as one of the best dive sites in the world and although a lot more expensive than the other islands we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Give us a kiss

The minute we jumped into the water we were blown away, it was difficult to know where to look. There were so many different fish to watch and the sea bed was covered with all different shapes and colours of coral.  It was easily the best snorkeling we’ve ever done. Sibuan and Mantabuan are perfect paradise islands fringed with white sands and shaded by palm trees. After lunch on Sibuan we saw our first turtles, they were huge green turtles  about a metre in length slowly swimming by underneath us. We dived to get a closer look at their beautiful shells before they swam away.

Life on Mabul at Uncle Changs was great and over the next two days we just relaxed, partly due to Lou suffering from a bit of sunburn and the wind picked up so the waves were too strong for safe snorkeling. There was a big party while we were there to celebrate Malaysia’s independence day and the end of Ramadan. The house band played a lot of cheesy classics and we especially enjoyed renditions of Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi and The Proclaimers. We had a great time and even joined in with the conga at one point in the evening.

On the fourth day we were back to full strength and had two dives in Mabul and one off the nearby island of Kapalai. We saw more turtles, angel and butterfly fish, a huge flat bat fish who freaked Lou out a bit by following us, a box-shaped fish we think might have been a puffer fish and something we thought was a lobster but turned out to be a peacock mantis shrimp. There were lots of other fish but too many for us to identify.

Look no hands!

The highlight of our trip was Sipadan. We were unsure whether it was going to be worth the extra money but on jumping in the very first thing we saw was a white-tipped reef shark. On our second and third sessions we also saw a giant clam, over a metre across, big shoals of swirling jack fish, barracudas, the very cool napoleon fish, unicorn fish and oodles of turtles. Unfortunately we didn’t have an underwater camera to capture it so you’ll have make do with this shot of us being silly on the beach!

 

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