Posts Tagged 'accommodation'

Six Months of Travel: Final Trip Stats and Costs

Here we go! The final trip stats post along with information on costs. All costs are in Australian dollars.

– Number of countries visited: 10 (counting the hour in Myanmar and half an hour in Luxembourg!)
– Days traveling: 184
– Days in Asia: 130
– Days in UK/Europe: 54

Accommodation Stats and Costs
– Places stayed overnight: 35
– Average number of nights in each place: 5.2
– Longest in one place: 32 nights (Homestay and volunteering in Sisaket)
– Nights in UK/Europe with free accommodation (thanks to friends and family): 27

– Total cost of accommodation for the whole trip: $10,331
– Total cost of accommodation in Asia: $6,833
– Total cost of accommodation in UK/Europe: $3,498
– Average cost of accommodation per night overall: $56
– Average cost of accommodation in Asia per night: $53
– Average cost of accommodation in UK/Europe per night (minus free nights): $125

Our Amsterdam apartment

Our most expensive accommodation

– Most expensive accommodation: Amsterdam apartment at $191/night
– Least expensive accommodation: Little Home Guesthouse in Mae Salong at $20/night

Little Home Bungalow

Our least expensive accommodation

Transport Stats and Costs
– Total hours actually travelling between places: 142
– Hours on planes: 45.5
– Number of plane trips: 8
– Total cost of flights: $9,621

looking out on Afghanistan

Flying over Afghanistan

– Hours on trains: 33.5
– Number of (intercity) train trips: 10
– Hours on buses: 27
– Number of (intercity) bus trips: 11
– Hours on minibuses: 11.5
– Number of minibus trips: 3
– Hours on boats: 21
– Number of ferry trips: 4
– Hours on sangthaew: 3.5
– Number of (inter-town) sangthaew trips: 3

coming into Bangkok

Train to Bangkok

– Longest single journey: Koh Samui to Bangkok.
– Longest on one mode of transport: Overnight ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam at 14 hours.

Miscellaneous Stats and Costs
– Visits from the tooth fairy: 3
– Mail received at home (thanks Dad!): 2.3kg
– Photos taken: 4,771 or 32.9GB
– Total cost of trip: $36,000. Minus accommodation and flights as above leaves about $16,000 spent on pre-trip costs (passports, vaccinations, luggage, computer etc.), food, all other transport, activities, entry fees and spending.

One Last Stop In Bangkok

We broke up our journey home from London to Australia with three nights in Bangkok. It was our fourth time in Bangkok this trip but unfortunately the apartment we had stayed in the last two times was already booked out. I spent days trawling accommodation sites searching for the perfect spot to end our trip. I wanted to enjoy our last few nights, I wanted somewhere comfortable to recover from the flight and jet lag, I wanted a swimming pool to keep the kids happy, and I wanted to be close to the skytrain for easy access to shopping but away from the main areas where protests were happening. Finally we settled on the Adelphi Grande. It ended up being a great choice and I would have no hesitation staying there again.

kitchenette

Kitchenette in our studio room

For $AUD136 a night we got a room with one king size bed and one extra single bed, full buffet breakfast for 4, a kitchenette, a washer/dryer, a huge bathroom, two complimentary beers, early check-in and late check-out (perfect for our flight times), and wifi (not the best in the room but good everywhere else). The hotel is an easy walk from Phrom Phong BTS station and also the Emporium shopping centre. We ate dinner every night at a place on the street (the sign just said Good Cheap Thai Food) which was great. It was also walking distance to Benjasiri Park which has two good playgrounds, one for older kids and one for younger.

Hotel review by Lillian.

Hotel review by Lillian.

sunset from hotel

Sunset view from our room. You can see the skytrain track.

It's good to be back in Thailand! Dinner here tonight: spring rolls, two mains, three serves of rice, one big beer and one water = $12AUD. (Or €8 or £6.) And with that special roadside ambience.

Dinner here: spring rolls, two mains, three serves of rice, one big beer and one water = $12AUD. (Or €8 or £6.)

We spent our first day recovering from the overnight flight and exploring the immediate area around the hotel. The Emporium shopping center had a big Lego display set up which the kids had fun with.

lego bubble Lil

Lego at the Emporium

The next two days were spent shopping. Dave needed new work shirts and running shoes so on the first day we all went in together. The next day Lil and I had a girls day out and did some more shopping (hippy pants for all!) and got our nails painted (toes for me, fingers for her.)

Lil got her nails painted while I had a pedicure.

Sparkly nails

Before we knew it we were heading back to the airport to fly home.

Off to the airport and heading home after an amazing six months! With a few more bags than we started with.

Waiting for the taxi to the airport

More posts to come! Costs, stats, thank yous, being home.

Paris Part 1: The Apartment Drama

We got off to a bit of a rocky start in Paris. I had booked an apartment through a company called Apartments Paris. They had a bit of an annoying check-in process where you have to go to an office to pick up the keys but only after 5pm. We managed that okay by leaving Nancy in the afternoon and filling in time at a cafe once we were in Paris.

Once we had the keys we walked to our apartment which was on Rue Montorgueil. I chose this apartment because our friends used to live in this area and as it was our third visit to Paris we knew we liked it there. On arrival there were a few little things different from the photos online (eg. shower screen totally missing) but overall the apartment looked great. It was set within a building with an internal courtyard so we had no street noise. The apartment had a big bedroom, and a living room, kitchen and bathroom. We were happy and quickly got settled in while Dave went out to buy groceries for dinner. The location was excellent with a supermarket right next door and a boulangerie just across the (mostly pedestrian) street.

Paris apartment number 1

Paris Apartment Number 1

Dave arrived back with frozen quiche for dinner and we started to cook it in the microwave/convection oven thingy. Poof! The lights went out. We flipped the fuse and tried again and the same thing kept happening. Hmmm. No quiche for us. Dave went out again and got sushi. After dinner we noticed there was no hot water. No showers for us. I sent Apartments Paris an email telling them about these issues and asking them to contact me in the morning.

Next morning we hadn’t heard anything so I called them and was told someone would come around to look at things. We were told we could go out and they would let themselves in. So we went out for the morning and came back around 2pm for lunch. There was no sign anyone had been so I called them again. They told me someone would come before 6pm. At 6pm I called again and was told someone would come the next morning. At this point I got a little stern and told them that wasn’t good enough, we had two young kids, we could not use anything in the kitchen (the stove and dishwasher also tripped the fuse) and we could not shower. They sent someone within twenty minutes.

The repair person managed to get the hot water working but the electrical issue could not be fixed. I spoke with the person in the office again and requested to move apartments the next morning. I had looked at their website to see which other apartments were available and requested one nearby that looked suitable for us. They agreed and said that someone would bring us the keys the next day.

Next day I called again to ask when the keys would be brought. The person I spoke to knew nothing about our situation and I had to wait until the person from the night before arrived. She told us someone would bring us the keys and again we could go out, they would leave them on the table and we could leave the apartment when ready. So we went out and returned for lunch and the keys were there. Just the keys, no address or details for the new place. We worked out the address using google streetview and the online photos and we made our way to our second apartment.

The second apartment was not quite as nice as the first but looked fine. The first thing we did was test the hot water and once again it was not working! I called the office again and they were totally surprised we were in the apartment. How did you get the keys? How did you know the address? etc. but they immediately sent three people to investigate and they brought us a bottle of champagne. They told us we would be best off to move to a third apartment and they would help us with our luggage. So they took the bags, we walked, and we met up at apartment number three.

view from Paris apartment number 3

View from Paris apartment number 3

The third apartment was smaller but actually very nice and in a lovely building. It was in the Marais area, close to several metro stops, and we finally had hot water and working appliances!

dining table

Dining corner

Basically we lost two days of our time in Paris chasing the apartment company and moving. As compensation they gave us the bottle of champagne and refunded one night’s accommodation. In six months of travel this was our only major accommodation issue and luckily we had planned to spend a full week in Paris. I would hate to have only been there for two or three nights and for this to have happened.

I believe Apartments Paris could have handled everything much more efficiently, especially their internal communication, but in the end we were happy with the compensation and the apartment provided. I would suggest however, that they change their recorded answering music from a song that says “making every possible mistake“. I had to listen to it every time I called and although fitting it was not really encouraging!

living room

Living room

We paid 104 euros a night for the apartment ($AUD157) which, when everything works, is great value for the centre of Paris. This included wifi, a washing machine, and a dishwasher. In Paris, as in the other European cities we visited, we ate in every night to save money and also self catered breakfast (croissants! mmmmm!) and most lunches.

Next up, what we got up to in Paris when we weren’t phoning apartment companies.

Beautiful Brussels

From The Hague we hopped on a train to Brussels which only took a couple of hours. Our first task was to find our way from the train station to the apartment rental office where we had to pick up our keys. This involved finding the right tram, working out the tickets and getting us all on and off again at the right stops. Mission accomplished!

We booked our apartment for three nights through Apartments Apart and stayed in Juste-A-Côté 1. We got a great low season deal and payed only 220 euros for the whole three nights. The apartment was enormous, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and was right in the centre of town between the Grand Place and the Maneken Pis statue.

climber

Maneken Pis dressed up in one of his many costumes.

We were able to walk to the apartment from the office, through the Grand Place. It was late afternoon on a beautiful clear day and the old buildings looked amazing in the afternoon light. Everywhere we looked there was a chocolate shop or  waffle place and Lil was in heaven. She loudly exclaimed, “I love this city! There’s so much to see and do!!” much to the amusement of other nearby tourists.

enormous apartment

Our huge apartment living room

enormous kitchen

Huge kitchen

Once we had dumped our stuff in the apartment we headed straight out again to get a waffle and buy some groceries. Yum!

waffles are good

One euro waffle!

We timed the shopping so we were back in the Grand Place at 5pm when the nightly sound and light show started. It was just beautiful. The show goes for 15 minutes and tells the history of the Grand Place through music and lights.

dark blue sky

Sound and light show in the Grand Place

The next two days the great weather continued and we spent most of our time walking around the city. We’d leave the apartment in the morning and not get back until dinner time (with Ed falling asleep in the stroller at some point each day.)

one slept

Stroller nap

We visited the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate and learned about the process of harvesting cocoa and turning it into chocolate, and then got to sample some too.

We happened to walk by the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula so popped in there for a visit and found an exhibition of nativity scenes from all different countries.

Brussels Cathedral

Brussels Cathedral

We visited the fabulous Musical Instrument Museum which has over 7000 instruments on display. An audio tour is included in the entrance fee and the audio plays automatically when you stand near an instrument and is music featuring that instrument. Great fun, but unfortunately our visit was a little rushed as Ed went on museum strike.

Musical Instrument Museum

Musical Instrument Museum

We ended up searching out food instead and found a nice cosy cafe serving Belgian beer (of course), burgers and frites.

good beer and burgers

Good beer and burgers

The next day we set off on the long walk to the Museum of Natural Sciences. The weather was freezing that day but still clear and the walk took us past the palace. The museum has the largest display of dinosaurs in Europe and was entertaining for all of us. Lots of interactive exhibits and things to touch. There was also a temporary exhibition there about Baby Animals which was specifically designed for kids aged 3 to 8. Perfect! They didn’t want to leave.

natural science museum

Natural Sciences Museum

On our way back into the city Ed fell asleep (see photo further up) and we came across a playground so stopped for a quick play while Dave walked laps with Ed.

we found a playground

Playground!

Our three nights in Brussels flew by and we all really enjoyed the city. I had been there once before, in 2005, with my cousin and a friend, but I think we did more eating/drinking and less site seeing back then!

Many more photos from Brussels here. We went a little photo crazy because it was all so lovely.

A Ferry to Amsterdam

Big ferry

Ferry to Amsterdam

After the stress and drama of getting to the ferry it was all smooth sailing once we were on the boat. The ferry cost about GBP 90 for all of us in a cabin with a window. We left Newcastle at 5pm and arrived in The Netherlands at 9:30 the next morning.

Ed in our cabin on the ferry to The Netherlands

Excited Edward in the cabin

The kids were very excited to be on a boat and after checking out our cabin and dumping the bags we went exploring. Dave and I were in good need of a drink and so we found the kids’ play area which was conveniently located right next to a cafe/bar. The kids were soon immersed in a ball pit and having fun with the only other child on the boat, while Dave and I drank our beers. We ate dinner from the cafe while the kids ate in front of a movie in the kids’ zone.

We slept pretty well on the boat that night and were woken at 8am by the ship’s wake-up call over the PA system. We had breakfast in the cabin with food we’d brought with us and then I took the kids back to the ball pit while Dave packed up the bags. We watched from deck as the boat entered the port and then…we were in The Netherlands!

Arriving in The Netherlands this morning. We're cosy in our apartment now after getting lost and very wet on the way here. Junior Eurovision is on TV. It's going to be an effort to go out again but we do need food.

Arriving in The Netherlands

We had pre-booked a bus transfer into Amsterdam through the ferry company and it took us right to Central Station. From there we walked to our apartment but got a little lost on the way when I followed the wrong canal. Easily done! It was raining and we all were a little cold and wet by the time we found the apartment which was thankfully lovely and cosy.

Our Amsterdam apartment

Our Amsterdam apartment

The apartment cost 250 euros for two nights and was in a great location in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam. An easy walk from Central once you follow the right canal. It was a studio on the first floor of a traditional tall and skinny Dutch house. The stairs were so steep they were almost a ladder!

We only had two nights in Amsterdam and were unlucky with bad weather most of the time but we did manage to see some things. Lillian and I visited the Anne Frank House museum on our first afternoon. She asked a lot of questions and I tried to explain things as simply as possible, but it’s a lot for a six year old to take in. She enjoyed the house tour and imagining people living there and I like the thought that when she does read the book she might remember being in those rooms.

Anne Frank's House

Anne Frank’s House

On our only full day in Amsterdam there was a storm brewing so we decided the best way to view the city was from the protection of a canal cruise boat. The boat left from in front of the Anne Frank House and did an hour long loop through the city with commentary. An hour was about the perfect length of time for our kids who got a bit antsy towards the end.

here's the boat

Canal boat

boat view

A view from the boat tour

That afternoon Dave ventured out to visit the Rijksmuesum and had a glorious hour or so browsing alone. The kids and I stayed in the apartment and huddled in bed together when the thunder got too loud.

Two nights in Amsterdam was barely enough time to scratch the surface and I would love to return to this city and explore more one day.

Glasgow to Dundee to Newcastle

Our second week in Scotland was spent in Dundee, specifically Broughty Ferry, the little seaside village where we lived when Lillian was born.

Lil in front of the flat (top windows) we lived in when she was born

Lil in front of the flat (top windows) we lived in when she was born.

We decided to hire a car for the week and drive up from Glasgow. Rhino Car Hire were by far the cheapest and we paid 110 pounds for the whole week with a one way car hire picked up in Glasgow and dropped off in Newcastle. When I made the booking I also requested two car seats for the kids. They were going to charge GBP 77 for Edward’s and GBP 42 for Lil’s seat for the week but we worked out we could buy two new car seats from Argos for GBP 45 total so I cancelled the seat request. When we dropped the car off (a story to come below) we just left the seats in the car.

view from the top

View from the top of the Wallace Monument

It was strange but fun to be in a car again and under our own steam after almost five months of taxis, tuk tuks, trains and buses. On the way to Dundee we stopped off at the Wallace Monument just outside Stirling. It was a windy day but the views were amazing from up the top.

going back down

Spiral staircase in the Wallace Monument

In Broughty Ferry we stayed at The Ferry Flat which was in a great location and very cosy. It actually reminded us a lot of our old flat in Broughty Ferry which was of the same era and even had the same colour carpet. It was also a bit of a bargain at GBP 250 for the whole six nights.

Cosy Broughty Ferry Flat

Cosy Broughty Ferry Flat

fiery sunset

Sunset view from our bedroom

We didn’t do many touristy things here at all, aside from a drive up to the Law lookout and a visit to the (free) Broughty Castle. The castle is actually a great place to warm up and has a room set up for kids with activities, colouring pages and soft animal toys.

Dundee

View from the Law over Dundee and the River Tay

The rest of our days were spent catching up with old friends, playing in the great (but freezing) park by the castle, and revisiting old favourite eateries such as The Ship Inn and Visocchi’s for lunch.

Castle Green Park

Broughty Castle and Castle Green Park

On the day we were leaving our alarm went off at 7:30am and…we stayed in bed for another hour. Then we got ready and packed and finally got away at 11:20. We got in the car and I fired up google maps which told me it would take 3.5 hours to drive to Newcastle. For some reason I had had it in my head that it only took 2.5 hours so suddenly we lost another hour in the schedule and would now be arriving right on car drop-off time. There was no time to get lunch on the way besides a quick toilet stop at McDonalds and eating in the car. The kids got their first ever happy meals.

Finally we arrived in Newcastle, only a little after car drop-off time. We just had to fill up with petrol and find the car place which I thought was right near central train station where we would get the bus to our ferry to The Netherlands. All good in theory except we could not find a petrol station. Or the car place. We ended up on the wrong side of the river. Then back again. Then google told us it was back over the bridge. Argh! Time was ticking, my phone died. Back over the bridge we went and finally found the car hire place who told us they do have an office by the train station after all.

We ended up having to pay the crazy car hire prices for a tank of petrol AND get a taxi to the ferry port. Check-in for the ferry closed at 4:15pm and our taxi pulled in at 4:25. We raced in to the totally empty terminal and up to the counters where they thankfully let us through. I think we were last on the boat but we made it! That was the most stressful travel day of the whole trip and I’m quite happy to be back to modes of transport where any delays are not my fault.

More on the ferry trip and Amsterdam next post.

Glasgow and a Day Trip to Edinburgh

Dave and I lived in Glasgow for a year back in 2005 and fell in love with the city and Scotland as a whole. We were so excited to return and Lillian was also very excited to come back to the country where she was born (in Dundee.)

We had a fantastic apartment for a week in the Kelvingrove area of Glasgow that made our stay even more special. This place won all our awards for best accommodation of the trip (minus friends’ and family homes!)

One of these is our home for the week in Glasgow.

Our apartment was on the corner.

The apartment had amazing big windows and was the most fully equipped rental we’ve had.

Glasgow apartment

Living and dining room

On our first night we couldn’t work out how to get the oven to turn on but that just meant we got to have take away from our favourite Indian place Mother India’s Cafe. It was as delicious as always. (And we did eventually work out the oven.)

The good thing about visiting a place where you have spent a lot of time before is that you don’t feel a great need to rush about and see everything. We had a leisurely week but we did still visit a few places and caught up with some old friends.

Dave explaining the Kelvin Scale

Dave explaining the Kelvin Scale to the kids

The Scotland Street School Museum was a great place to visit with the kids and we got to ride Glasgow’s awesome orange subway to get there.

subway

On the clockwork orange

The museum is in a Charles Rennie Mackintosh building and was actually an operating school for many years. There are classrooms set up as they were in various eras. We were there on a school day and shared the place with some students on an excursion. This was great as we got to see them dress up and be ‘taught’ by an old style teacher. She was a bit scary!

writing with chalk

Lil writes on a chalk board.

On other days we visited the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and the People’s Palace. The Kelvingrove Museum is an old fashioned wonder house. It’s been there since 1901 (it was being renovated when we lived in Glasgow) and has all sorts of exhibits including a stuffed elephant over 100 years old. We were explaining the concept of taxidermy to Edward for days after our visit. He thinks it’s a bit rude.

Kelvingrove Museum

Kelvingrove Museum

The People’s Palace is another good sized museum for kids. It has exhibits showing what life was like in Glasgow in the ‘olden days’ as well as more recent times. I particularly enjoyed the exhibit about the demolition of the Red Road Flats.

You can’t visit Scotland without visiting Edinburgh and it’s an easy day trip from Glasgow. We caught the train which takes about an hour each way. The city looked gorgeous, seen from the castle, all set up for Christmas with the markets, ferris wheel and giant swing ride. I would have loved to go on that swing but the crowds were crazy.

sea view

Edinburgh view from the castle

smile!

Ed at the castle

Our week in Glasgow was over all too soon but we weren’t leaving Scotland just yet – it was on to Dundee!