11. Exploring the caves in Phong Nha
Another awesome highlight to this trip was when we were in Phong Nha in Vietnam and discovered Dark Cave. Firstly we zip lined into a lagoon area, then got our helmets with lights on and explored the cave. Our two friends Natalie and Fliss were just ahead of us so it was great to explore the caves with them as well. Climbing through the cave we then came to a really cool mud pool, where you could float in a massive pile of clay. We also swam to one side of the cave, and our guide asked us to turn out all lights so we could appreciate just how dark Dark Cave really was. Such a great day and one we will remember.
12. Snorkelling and scuba diving in Malaysia Borneo
Jordan was keen to get his Open Water PADI Scuba Diving qualification on this trip. And we’d heard that Malaysia Borneo was an amazing place to do it. So we stayed on Mabul Island for a few days whilst Jordan did his qualification and Natalie sat in the sun and snorkelled. Both diving and snorkelling was amazing. Natalie saw roughly 15 turtles in one snorkelling trip, and the amount of amazing marine life that Jordan saw on his several dives was incredible. Definitely another best part of this trip.
13. Sunset snorkel boat trip with friends at Gili T
One day on Gili T we decided to take a sunset boat trip with friends. The boat was a little run down, and the “glass bottom” was a very small cloudy area of glass which you could hardly see through. The driver took us to the best spots and the guide lead the snorkelling, pointing out turtles and other amazing sea life. The fish and coral were stunning, and not what you would expect for a “party island” that had an awful lot of boats coming in and out of the bay. After the snorkelling it was time to relax with a beer and watch the sunset, chatting with the guys we had met and getting to know them better - Three of which we now feel are good friends. We remember thinking how lucky we were to be looking around at paradise and be surrounded by great friends who all shared our passion for travel.
14. Cooking class on Gili Air
Gili Air was quite a quiet island with not much to do but chill on the beach and eat. But there was an Indonesian cooking class that looked great, and as we have never done one before, we were keen to give it a go. We made pretty much everything from scratch - satay sauce and fried tempeh, fried vegetable noodles, yellow chicken curry and strawberry coconut balls. The yellow chicken curry was by far the best we have ever tasted. EVER. Another best bit to this trip.
15. Sunrise at Mount Bromo
We had heard many people talk about Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen on Java and how it is a must do if you ever go over to Java. We had been in Bali and the surrounding islands for a while and fancied a change of scenery. Sadly we couldn’t go up Mount Ijen as it had been active a few days before, but we did the Mount Bromo trip. We caught a keep up to the top of a hill at about 3:30am - it was freezing by the way! - then watched the sunrise with Mount Bromo in the foreground in silhouette. It was beautiful. After the sun had risen we got the jeep back down the mountain and trekked up the volcano, through the ashy terrain and up to the edge of the volcano edge. It was a very surreal experience being up that high and looking into molten lava. Somehow it felt like we were standing on the edge of the world.
16. Road trip to the north of Bali
Although we had been to Bali before, we had never ventured up to the north of the island. So we rented a scooter for a few days and drove from Ubud to Lovina and then Ahmed. We stayed a few nights in each place but it wasn’t that which is one of our best bits. It was the driving in between. It was so lovely to drive through the small local towns and villages, watching children playing, mothers and fathers working, and getting a feel for the real, authentic Bali. Many places we stayed in Bali were used to tourists so there was certain Westernised aspects to them - such as Starbucks, McDonalds and chains of clothing brands like Rip Curl. So it was really nice to watch the locals in their everyday lives, without the Westernised aspects distorting true Bali life.
17. Jordan’s best ever scuba dive on Menjangan Island
During our time in the north of Bali, Jordan did a scuba dive on Menjangan Island. He said it was like no other dive he had done before. Some areas reminded him of the film Avatar, where everything is brightly coloured and so pretty. The second dive site was a wall of coral with every single piece in tact and jumping out at him with colour and energy while he swam.
18. Climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge
Climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge was never something that we budgeted for or even looked into doing as we knew it would be far too much money. But as Natalie’s parents had done it three years prior, they really wanted us to experience it as well whilst we were there. So we were very, very grateful to them for paying for us to do the climb. The experience was so much fun, and not a scary as we first thought. Our guide was really nice and friendly, and made our group feel calm about walking half was over the world's largest steel arch bridge. Sadly the view was hindered by it being a cloudy and miserable day, but we still felt a huge sense of achievement after climbing it, and it was incredible to see Sydney from that angle.
19. Moving to Melbourne
One of the biggest decision we’ve had to make so far on this trip was where to live in Australia and start earning some money again. Ideally we wanted to live in a great city with amazing beaches and good weather. That’s why we always thought we would be drawn to Sydney. And maybe we would have been if we had gone there first. But something about Melbourne stole our hearts in the first 5 days of being here. And after 5 days in Sydney, we had made up our mind that we wanted to continue our time in Australia by living in Melbourne. We really connected with the city - it a beautiful modern looking city with great restaurants, lovely walks along Yarra River and all the different gardens and parks, and the people are really friendly. There’s no question why it is the world’s most livable city. We’ve been living here now for nearly 7 months and we couldn’t be happier. We’ve both got great jobs that we love in our careers that we were pursuing back at home, and we live in the city centre in an amazing flat. What more could we want!?
20. Seeing the penguins at Phillip Island
During our parents trip to Melbourne, we were lucky enough to drive down to Phillip Island and watch the penguin parade as they return to shore after a day of exploring. The return home around sunset and waddle up the beach in groups, walking with each other back to their own homes. Apparently penguins have a really good memory so they remember which home is theirs. It was incredible to watch them swim to the shore line then struggle to get onto the beach due to the waves crashing them about. They were so tiny, and so loyal to each other, never moving up the beach until they had their whole group together. One penguin came first, quite a bit earlier than the others - obviously to check out the situation and make sure it was safe for the others to arrive. It was so cool watching him get onto the shore, waddle to his home, then waddle back down and call out to his fellow penguins. Definitely a highlight of this year.