St. George Island

St. George Island State Park

After camping in the beautiful mountains and national forests along the Blue Ridge Park (Blue Ridge Parkway , Great Smoky Mountains National Park) we were in search of some heat and sun. We Looked at the map, in search of our new destination that wouldn’t take us too far off the direction towards New Orleans. We found St. George Island, located off Florida’s gulf coast, perfect! We headed to St. George Island State Park to set up camp, the busiest camping site we had encountered so far on our trip. While it was a little warmer, the sun remained behind the clouds for our trip,but we could still enjoy the beauty of this island, after all, it ranks as one of the top beaches in the US!

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Honolulu

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Oahu

Before reaching continental USA, we took the opportunity to have a seven day stopover in Hawaii. Breaking up the flight from Melbourne to California. And, what a wonderful seven days this was. Oahu ‘the gathering place’ is a beautiful Island, providing amazing sunsets, white sand beaches, culture, the hustle of city life, and the beauty of Island life. Beaches, forests, gardens, scenic views, a nature lovers paradise.

 

Highlights and must sees

  • Diamond head state monument: A Volcanic tuff cone.  This is a great hike, once you reach the top you can witness breathing taking panoramic views!
  • Manoa falls: Hike through a lush green forest to view this beautiful waterfall.
  • Iolani Palace: A beautiful historical landmark. The Palace was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
  • Waikiki: The main touristy area for the Island. Famous beaches with high rise hotels and resorts. Perfect for shopping,  and a range of restaurants  along the beach.
  • Pearl harbour, USS Arizona: A national memorial.
  • National memorial cemetery of the Pacific: 
  • Honolulu museum of art: The largest single collection of Asian and Pan-Pacific art in the US.
  • Waimea bay: Beautiful beach and a popular surfing area.
  • Kailua beach park: Breathtaking turquoise waters. With calm water, this beach is great for swimming.
  • Polynesian cultural center: A Polynesian-themed theme park and museum.
  • Hanauma bay natural preserve: 

 

Oahu is a U.S Island located in the Pacific ocean. The third largest Island of the Hawaiian Island chain. The capital of Hawaii, Honolulu is located on the south shore, and is the main gateway to Hawaii. Temperatures are warm year round, with two main season, wet  (November to March) and dry (April to October). We stayed in a hotel close to Waikiki beach and could easily entertain ourselves walking around and exploring this area. We also rented a car to get around Oahu to see more of the beautiful beaches and sights. The seven days on Oahu was a great introduction to Hawaii, with a mix of relaxation on the beach and exploring the sights and culture of the Island. I would love to see the other Islands and spend more time on exploring the stunning Hawaiian Island chain.

 

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Brunei

Brunei Darussalam

Brunei is a tiny country located on the northern shore of the Island of Borneo. This small nation is surrounded by Malaysia’s Sarawak state and the south China sea. Brunei is one of the smallest nations on earth! It is also one of the richest, due to the countries natural gas and petroleum resources.

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24 hours in Bandar Seri Begawan

We had two months off from University. We made a rough plan to visit Bangkok and then to travel from the North to the South of Vietnam, first arriving in Hanoi. There were four of us going on this backpacking adventure in South East Asia. Next step, we needed flights. Trying to find a good deal with stumbled upon Royal Brunei airways – who were offering a great deal from Melbourne to Bangkok! Perfect. This flight deal came with the option of a stop over in Brunei….I had never heard of this country until this moment. We quickly looked it up and saw that we could also visit other parts of the magical island of Borneo, so we decided to book with this airline, and add Borneo to our travel plans.

We departed Melbourne and flew about six hours to arrive in Brunei. Flying with Royal Brunei airlines was a great experience overall. When we fist arrived, we took a connecting flight to Kota Kinabalu located in the Malaysian part of Borneo. We spent four days in Kota Kinabalu, before heading to Bandar Seri Begawan. We had 24 hours to explore the capital of Brunei before flying to Bangkok.

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We spent the day wandering around the capital of Brunei. We found the Royal Regalia Museum and looked around the museum for a good portion of the morning. A nice relief from the heat. The museum is a tribute to the Sultan, it was an interesting museum to explore.

The afternoon was spent exploring the markets and the pretty water front. The Tamu Kianggeh market was a highlight, so vibrant and filled with energy.  Strolling the promenade was nice,  I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Late afternoon, we were all quite hot and bothered…due to carrying our luggage around all day, and from being hangover. So we tried to find accommodation for the night. Being so late in the afternoon and having no internet access. This didn’t work out so well. In the end we decided to have dinner and then visit the impressive Sultan Abdul Samad building. This is a must see and looks so spectacular during the night with the city lights. After this we heading to the airport and spent the night there before flying to Bangkok early the next morning.

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Kota Kinabalu

Gateway to Borneo

Kota Kinabalu also referred to as KK is located on the northwest coast of Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Kota Kinabalu, which was once formally known as Jesselton is the state capital of Sabah. The location is an ideal base to explore the northern region of Borneo.

Borneo

Borneo is the third largest (non continental) island in the world. Located in South East Asia, and surrounded by the south China sea to the north and northwest. The Island is divided by three separate countries. Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia. Brunei has the smallest portion of the Island. The Malaysian part of the Borneo is split between two different states, Sabah and Sarawak. The Indonesian state of Kalimantan controls the largest portion of Borneo.

Borneo is a nature lovers playground. The majority of the island is covered by dense rainforest, with a great richness of species diversity. This rainforest is one of the oldest rainforests in the world! Estimated to be 140 million years old. Home to a range of unique fauna and flora, and the center of evolution and distribution of many species. It is understandable that a lot of ecological research is conducted here. With this, Borneo is also home to a number of sustainable, conservation and responsible travel projects. The Island of Borneo is a really unique and magical place.

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Four days in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu was our first introduction to this amazingly unique island. Spending four days in this city was truly wonderful, the only negative was that it was not enough time! We stayed at a backpackers hostel, close to the center of the city. As we arrived in the afternoon, our first day was spent walking around and taking in the atmosphere of the city. Our first evening was spent at the night market, then on to an all you can eat buffet – and buckets of beers, the price was ridiculously cheap. The next morning, we woke up and started to explore more of the city. In addition to visiting the  sights and attractions of KK, the majority of our stay was spent island hopping, which included snorkeling and hiking adventures.

City highlights and attractions

KK water font and times square

With crystal clear waters and sunny skies the waterfront is gorgeous to walk along. Times square represents the commercial downtown area of Kota Kinabalu.

Sabah state mosque

Located close to the city center, the mosque is worth a viewing. The architectural design is very impressive.

Signal hill observatory tower

Provides gorgeous views of the city at the highest point.

Atkinson clock tower

This is the oldest standing structure in Kota Kinabalu. The towers sits on a hill overlooking the city.

Central market

A vibrant and busy market located on the waterfront. A great place to explore and take in the atmosphere of the city.

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Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

The Tunku Abdul Rahman park is a marine park with a cluster of five islands (Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik) located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. These islands are easily accessible. The distance ranges from three to eight kilometers off the coast, and you can take a 15-20 minute speedboat ride from the Jesselton point ferry terminal.  Plus, all of the islands are a short boat ride from each other. Island hopping was the highlight of our time in Kota Kinabalu.  We were able to visit many stunning beaches, go snorkeling, hike through jungle trails and see some pretty impressive animal and plant species.

Kota Kinabalu, with its tropical islands and stunning landscape is a nature lovers playground, and is rapidly becoming a more popular tourist destination, due to the city being a cultural hub with natural beauty. Kota Kinabalu was the perfect introduction to the island of Borneo. I am so eager to return and explore even more of the Island. I would love to experience a wilderness trip, absorbing the true remoteness and adventure that Borneo can offer.

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Phuket

Sunshine and smiles

Phuket, my first introduction to Thailand and to Southeast Asia. It was a wonderful introduction, such beautiful and friendly people and very helpful. Smiles, great scenery and amazing food. Culture and history, perfect. A great week in Phuket and it is on the list to visit again! Hot weather, sunshine and beaches, a perfect combination. Tasty and cheap Thai food was a definite winner, one of my favourite cuisines and easy to find healthy and vegetarian options. Walking around the streets, chatting to the locals, exploring the markets, spending time on the beach and drinking Thai cocktails whilst enjoying the Phuket vibrant nightlife, is a perfect way to explore the beauty of Phuket.

Highlights and must-sees of Phuket

  • Patong: Beach resort town. It is the center for Phuket’s shopping and nightlife. Beach by day and explore the many beer bars, go go bars and nightclubs during the night.
  • Old Phuket town: Historical part of Phuket with shrines and temples.
  • Bangla road: The heart of Phuket nightlife, music, cheap beer, street performances  and more. An interesting and must do experience.
  • Wat Chalong: A stunning Buddhist temple and considered to be one of the most important in Phuket.
  • Simon Cabaret show: An entertaining and beautiful musical performance, performed by ladyboys.
  • Thai boxing: Exciting to watch live.
  • Phuket weekend market: A maze of stalls to get lost in.

Phuket is located in Southern Thailand, it is a rain-forested and mountainous Island. It is also the largest Island in Thailand! The climate is hot and humid year round. There is a monsoon season from May – October to be aware of. The official language is Thai and Baht is the currency. It is easy to get around Phuket. Most places are walkable, and a great way to explore the streets and markets. Tuk Tuks, and buses are readily available. Plenty of accommodation options. We stayed in a guest house in the Patong region. The local people are very friendly and willing to help. Can’t wait to go back!

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Phi Phi Island

Day trip to Phi Phi Don, Thailand.

A Tropical Getaway

Breathtaking scenery, turquoise waters and stunning limestone formations. Phi Phi island is the perfect tropical getaway. I love hot weather, beaches and remote locations, Phi Phi Island is the perfect place to enjoy nature, relax in the sunshine and to immerse yourself in the water. A time for reflection and relaxation. Whilst I was staying in Phuket, this was a great day trip to explore more of the amazing Thailand.

I made the trip to Phi Phi Don the largest and main Phi Phi Island. The Phi Phi view point was the highlight of my visit, a scenic 20-30 minute hike to the top, located 186 meters above sea level. It is well worth the hike, as the view is absolutely stunning and provides a great overview of the Island. After the hike, Exploring and relaxing on the beautiful beaches is a great way to spend your afternoon. To finish, eating the amazing local Thai food and drinking cheap beers or cocktails at an outdoor restaurant tops off the visit before heading back to Phuket! I would love the opportunity to go back and explore more of the surrounding Islands. Next time I would  take advantage of and enjoy the snorkeling and kayaking experiences.

Phi Phi Island is only a 90 minute ferry ride from Phuket, or a 45 minute speed boat ride! The Phi Phi Islands are a small archipelago consisting of six Island groups. The Islands are apart of the Krabi providence in Southern Thailand. The region of these Islands are a part of a marine national park  The largest Island Phi Phi Don (where I visited) is the ‘main’ Island, it is the only inhabited Island. The peak season to visit is from December to March (dry season). Be weary if you visit during April-November, as this is wet season, where monsoons are likely to occur. These are some of the most beautiful Islands in the world, however they are at risk from tourist leaving their mark. When visiting the Island, do so in an eco-friendly way to ensure the preservation for future generations. Be a responsible guest and don’t leave your mark.

 

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