Tag Archives: backpacking

Thai islands, part 1

Hello dear reader,

Welcome to what is probably the penultimate travel blog entry, because we fly home in nine days!! I can hear you all breathing a sigh of relief. Thank you to all of you have stuck with me from the very beginning. I’ve loved having the blog as a diary, and also a way to tell the stories of our trips to my friends and family.

Through the blog I’ve discovered a new love for writing, and as I’m almost a hundred posts in, it seems a shame to throw in the towel now. I’m going to keep the blog going even when I’m at home. Sure, I probably won’t have anything that interesting to write about (except wedding planning… Cough) but I’ve really enjoyed having a new hobby that I can do anywhere (hello international airports) and anytime (hello insomnia!)

So, the past week has been spent having a look around the south of Thailand.
It was really nice to return to Thailand. It’s been the first time we’ve “returned” anywhere on the trip, but it’s a relief to arrive somewhere and understand how it all works, and how to say “hello” and “thank you.”

Unfortunately on the way out of Cambodia I developed tonsillitis. I’d like to take a moment to share with you, and anyone who may or may not have had tonsillitis in the past, one of my favourite ever pieces of journalism: Charlie Brooker on the horrors of tonsillitis.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/jul/28/healthandwellbeing.health

It’s worse, far worse, than international terrorism and child abuse combined.”

Although the above quote is a slight over statement, I love to return to this piece every time I get tonsillitis and share it with anyone who doesn’t understand how FUCKING TERRIBLE IT IS.

So our flight to from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Phuket, Thailand wasn’t a fun one for me.

I went hot cold hot cold hot cold and I couldn’t wear my hoodie because it’s currently in quarantine after I slept in it in a bed full of bedbugs in Siem Reap. (But that’s a song I shall sing another day.)

We changed flights in Bangkok where we were delayed, but I was semi conscious so I didn’t really know or care that much about it.

FINALLY we got to Phuket and had some food (an ice cream for me) and fell asleep.

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(Above is the only photo I took in Phuket! See, told you I was ill! Haha. Our room was really cool, it felt like we were staying in a church and I had a nice new dress on.)

The next day was a slow plod to an English-speaking pharmacy where I demanded antibiotics and then went back to bed with a nice little spittoon next to me. Special shout out to Thomas Copley (aka Nurse Copley) who is basically a SAINT. I seriously don’t understand how people can travel alone. There have been far to many occasions where I’ve been bedridden on this trip (hello Vietnam!) and I’ve relied on Tom to get food for me otherwise I would have died.

Anyway, nothing was achieved for 48 hours other than walking around the corner to visit that cat cafe. I love cats!!!

Then we moved to another side of Phuket, closer to Kata beach. We found our hostel, and as I got there I saw a little dog sat on the bar stool by reception. As I walked towards it to say hello (“sawadee ka!”) it stuck its paw out and gave me a high five! This was one of the best moments ever as it felt like an achievement to even make it there in my sweaty and delirious state!
The hostel was okay but the bathroom was grim and full of cockroaches so we had to knock loudly on the door and turn the lights on and off a few times before we could enter. (To scare them off into their holes) It was a bit hysterical really but I’ve got to the point where I’ll put up with anything!

We chilled by the beach for two days which was nice, and I began to feel better. What would we do without antibiotics?

After Phuket we went to Koh Phi Phi, which was really nice, more filled with backpackers so we felt a bit more at home and I was beginning to feel more human.

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We basically lazed and wandered around for two days. Our hostel was really grim and the toilet was in the shower, but it was okay. We had a crazy thunderstorm one night. The thunder was so loud that it was like someone banging a drum in your chest.

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(our lovely toilet in the shower, for your viewing pleasure.)

The next day we went for a very slow plod up to a viewpoint above Ko Phi Phi. To get there, we followed the tsunami evacuation route. It’s good to see that these have all been put into place after the 2004 tragedy.

We had a nice walk. It was very sweaty, but we met some nice kittens and the view was cool. On the way back down the hill, my foot slipped from underneath me and I completely stacked it. My knee was bleeding so badly that it was running all the way down to my ankles but I just laughed because it ALWAYS HAPPENS TO ME. Tom said “you’ve taken to travelling like a duck with bricks in its pockets,” and then a German man shouted at me for wearing the wrong shoes. No rest for the wicked eh?

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That evening we watched a fire show on the beach which was nice.

Next stop: Koh Lanta. We’d heard Koh Lanta was a nice chilled island to visit. We got a tuk tuk to our hotel which was literally just on a road in the middle of nowhere. Because it’s low season, “quiet” means “totally dead.” Also, we had overlooked that we were visiting a Muslim island during Ramadan. Most travellers rent motorbikes or scooters but because we’re both too clumsy (see above) and we’ve seen too many people covered in bandages we’ve decided against using them. This meant that we were in the middle of nowhere for 48 hours. Because it’s rainy season the weather has been pretty pants so we just basically did nothing! I didn’t take a single photo because it was literally just a dirt road in the rain.

Onwards! Krabi! This was one that I was really excited about because we’d booked somewhere faaaaaancy as a treat for Tom’s birthday. By fancy, I mean £50 a night, but it really goes a long way in Thailand! We checked into the Krabi resort, and Tom said “it’s my birthday tomorrow, is it possible to get an upgrade?” And it worked! Amazing. I need to be more assertive. “Britain needs serts!”

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We were taken to our suite in a little golf buggy and the novelties didn’t wear off for the next 48 hours. Our room was stunning, and huge, and octagonal. We had a lovely bathroom bigger than many rooms we’ve stayed in with a sunken bath. The resort had two massive pools, all you can eat buffet breakfast…. Oh it was just paradise! I’ve never appreciated luxury so much! Tom’s birthday was great, we just spent the day eating and drinking and lying by the pool ordering drinks and charging them to our room which just felt amazing until we checked out and paid the ransom the next day haha!

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(The birthday boy)

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I leave you with the above photo to distract from my despair that the next time I write here we will be GOING HOME!!!😭😭😭

Okay time for happy thoughts, here are some things that have made me laugh so far in the Thai islands:

  • During our time at the Krabi Resort (posh hotel) there was a monkey on the loose who kept emptying the bin at the bottom of the stairs, looting all over the place, and generally causing chaos. The staff laid out a big trap filled with bananas but he wasn’t interested.
  • Also at the Krabi Resort there was a gigantic lizard who was about four foot long and was doing laps around a little posh moat area, making everyone who spotted him scream. Clearly the animals at the resort didn’t get the memo about it being a swanky place!
  • When boarding one of the boats between the islands there was a very official man in an official uniform making an official announcement…. By shouting through a traffic cone.

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Good morning Vietnam!!

Good morning Vietnam!

I’m so sorry for the radio silence here on the blog. I seem to be getting more and more behind with the blog due to lack of wifi… Plus we’ve been doing a lot this past week!

So we took a horribly bouncy flight through a thunderstorm from Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam. Luckily it was only an hour in duration.
Tom had pre-booked us an airport transfer to our hotel, and we were delighted to be met by a man holding a sign with our names on. We were then led to an enormous mini van with air conditioning and we had the whole thing to ourselves. Bloody luxury compared to what we’re used to!

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(The above photo is a celebration of being millionaires once again. Tom’s holding about sixty quid haha)

The hotel was fine, apart from the worlds smallest bathroom. We had to stand over the toilet to have a shower and then exit the bathroom to dry ourselves because there simply wasn’t enough room haha! We ventured out into the craziness of Hanoi. I have never seen so many people in the tiny streets. Entire families were sat on miniature stools on the pavements. There were scooters EVERYWHERE and they don’t necessarily stay on the correct side of the road. Or on the road. Quite often they’ll drive onto the pavement and cut you up, giving you a dirty look!
We found a sandwich shop, ate a bit and went to bed.

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DISCLAIMER
Apologies in advance for being a bit moany about Hanoi. I didn’t like it. I was very ill and feeling pretty shit, so sorry I’m not more upbeat about it.

The next day we got up and ventured out for some food. I was feeling like death thanks to the anti-malaria tablets. I had excruciating stomach cramps and no appetite whatsoever and had barely eaten over the previous few days. Plus I’ve been having totally bonkers dreams and night terrors where I can’t breath and panic, so I’m knackered too. Stepping outside was a massive assault on the senses. Smells of people cooking God knows what, traffic everywhere, no giveway system just
TOOOOOOOT and go! Crossing the road was near damn impossible as the traffic is constant. You just have to find a small gap and run.

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We couldn’t find anywhere to eat for ages, and I was feeling exhausted and frustrated. We eventually found a sandwich shop and ordered two of the “specials.” As we sat to wait for the food on miniature stools inches from the pavement, we saw a woman across the road wearing shorts and wellies, crouched over a huge fish she had laid on some plastic on the pavement and she then proceeded to hack into pieces, blood spurting everywhere and running all over the floor. The sandwich arrived. Turns out the “special” was lumps of unidentifiable fatty meat on top of some grim tasting pate. I ate one mouthful, looked at the fish woman and nearly threw up. I’m steadily going off meat!

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(Here’s Tom modelling a mini stool for your viewing pleasure)

We then plodded to the prison. This took ages with the whole pedestrian nightmare thing. At on point, we checked both ways several times when crossing and suddenly a scooter appeared out of nowhere and Tom walked right into it. The driver nearly toppled over and Tom received a nasty bruise to the shin. I started getting more and more jumpy….

The prison was a really interesting place to visit. It was built by the French colonialists and used to imprison anyone who opposed their regime. The conditions were absolutely horrific. During the American war, the Vietnamese used it to hold the American POWs and they were treated really well. The Americans even referred to it as the “Hanoi Hilton.” I’m glad we went, but in all honesty, I spent most of the time on the toilet haha.

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(This is how the Vietnamese prisoners were held. Shocking isn’t it?!)

We then walked to the lake. I was really tired and we flopped down on a bench where we were hounded by some local students who wanted to practise their English. I was more than happy to chat to them, but more and more groups kept turning up and in the end we were stuck there for TWO HOURS before we could politely excuse ourselves and stagger back to the hotel.

On the way back I was terrified after Tom got hit, and I personally nearly got hit by a scooter on about five separate occasions until I cried and had a complete meltdown. I’m not good when I’m ill and stressed! We went back to the hotel and spent a few hours bonding with the toilet whilst Tom went to buy me a sandwich. God I love him. Plus it was a cheese sandwich this time.

The next day we got up very early for our trip to Sapa. I was eager to leave Hanoi behind, plus the photos of Sapa I’ve seen looked stunningly beautiful. We waited in the hotel lobby for an hour before someone came to “pick us up.” What this meant was a bloke on a scooter drove ahead of us, shouting directions, whilst we traipsed behind with our backpacks. Not exactly the pick up I was imagining! Eventually we got to the bus, and discovered it was in fact one of the infamous Vietnamese “sleeper buses.”

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I have no idea why it was a sleeper bus because it was the daytime but oh well. We got a bunk each. I hate bunkbeds. However, being horizontal on a bus is oddly soporific so I spent most of the six hour journey unconscious.
We arrived in Sapa and had a bit of a walk to our hotel. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The entire town was being dug up, with huge abandoned holes in the pavement everywhere, and enormous trucks filled with gravel creating a dust storm in their wake. It felt like we were in a war zone! We felt really disappointed, but it turns out we were just in the grotty end of town, and Sapa itself is really lovely.

The hotel was great, we booked a trip to the Bac Ha market the following day, and had a walk down to the rice paddies. Beautiful.

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The next day was another early start and we took a two hour mini bus ride to the small town of Bac Ha. The market is only there on Sundays. It was full of locals and we got a tour round which was really interesting. Again, the food section was alarming, with unidentifiable offal and stews. The meat section was a “hold your breath” job. I’m so glad Tom told me to put my walking boots on because at one point we had to jump over a big stream of blood.

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There was a really harrowing bit where dehydrated puppies were being sold and they were just so sad and some of them were shoved in tiny cages whilst they whined. I wanted to buy every single one. Live pigs were being rammed into plastic bags whilst they squealed until they found a small hole where there snouts could stick out and they just breathed silently, resigned to their fate. Sometimes it’s really difficult not to be upset. But I was upset. I am upset!! I felt really helpless.

There was nothing I could do. I have to remind myself that I’m here to observe and to learn about how people live. I’m a meat eater, so I have no place to get on my high horse about animal rights because God knows what the animals I’ve eaten have been through. I saw a photo on the outside of restaurant with a dead turtle on top of a salad with his shell all cracked open, and it made me SO sad. And a photo of a goat curled up, eyes closed with some grapes shoved in its mouth. But then I just think, why am I sad about this turtle, and this goat, but not about that chicken that I ate for lunch. Well, it turns out I am sad about that chicken too. I don’t want to eat meat anymore. There. Writing that made me cry.

Wow. Sorry. I’ve just had an epiphany.

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I think of this blog as my diary. I’m sorry if that was a bit personal, and perhaps I’m being oversensitive, but it’s just how I feel at the moment and I want to be honest.

Moving on…. For the rest of the trip we explored the market, saw the border to China, and enjoyed the view of the rice paddies.

The next day was another early start. We were off trekking through the rice paddies. A load of the local women, members of the Black Hmong tribe came along for the walk. It was really interesting to ask them questions and learn about their way of life. I loved imagining myself as one of them. I’d have been married aged 16-18, I’d live with my husbands family, all generations under one roof, and I’d have a few sprogs by now! The children in this part of the world grow up so quickly. You’ll see five year olds carrying their baby siblings on their backs, and babies feeding themselves rice.

I’ll let the photos do the talking. Sapa is a truly breath-takingly beautiful place!

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Until next time,

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“Another day, another dollar.”

Well hello there,

You find us entering our eighth and final week of fruit thinning. There’s a lot of people muttering “another day, another dollar” around here. Catchy.  I’m just amazed that we’ve A) come this far and I haven’t yet fallen off the ladder and died (there’s still time…) B) I haven’t lost my temper and been sacked.

Nothing new to report over here. On a sunny day last week, our Kiwi friend Rochelle took us to the river, and we took some “flagoons” (takeaway beer) with us, so that was a nice change of scenery. We discussed how the supervisors are always yelling “check your tree before you leave!!” And how this might be, in fact some kind of philosophical life motto. Check your tree before you leave. Check your tree before you leave… Mind blowing!

We cycled to the supermarket and discovered that Whitakers chocolate was on offer!

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I also found this banana that was so big that I couldn’t leave it there.

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(I’ve added my passport for scale.) We later discovered that it was a plantain, not a banana. A bit disappointed, but eating plantain was one of my new tasks to try before my birthday, so it’s good to tick one off!!

I’m so delighted that next time I post on here we won’t be in Hastings!!!!!!!!!! Yes!!! It’s been a long week. So long, that Tom invented the “biscuit salad” in order to get us through.

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We’ve bought a laptop, so we should be able to start posting some decent photos for your to see soon. It also means that tom has been able to do some sound stuff, and he’s made a post of all the music we heard in Central Park! Takes me right back. Www.samplingtheglobe.wordpress.com

The majority of our evenings this weekhave been taken up with a Star Wars marathon. I have not watched a single of the six films all the way through without falling asleep. So tired. But very excited for the new film, which we plan to see in Wellington next week!

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So yes, as I said, not much to report, so I’ve decided to compile a list of things I’ve learnt over eight weeks of fruit thinning:

1) I can’t eat apples anymore.

2) The apples we are thinning are exported around the world, and sold in the UK in…. Wait for it…. HARRODS. Harrods daaaaarling! Only the best apples for us, oh yeah!

3) I HATE LADDERS.

4) If there is a god, he/she is responsible for creating audiobooks, the Women’s Hour and Serial podcast, Buffs (for holding your speaker and phone to your neck whilst you work, like a poor man’s hands free device) The Beatles, Newton Faulkner, and rubber palmed gloves. Speaking of audiobooks, I have never felt more British than when a weird sex scene happens on the book I’m listening to, and I have to cough loudly and shuffle around on my ladder so my colleagues won’t hear! Ha!

5) The cure for insomnia is a stress-free, physically tiring job.

6) Yoga is the answer to sore backs.

7) Wear Sunscreen. (Thanks Baz Lurmann.)

8) You will develop a comedy tan involving white hands and feet, which is really useful if you want to be some kind of weird mime artist in a bikini.

9) Pesticides are revolting, and make you sneeze constantly. And if you’re pregnant, you can’t work in the orchards – so it must be pretty harmful…. Which makes me even more glad to be leaving soon!

10) I can complain and whinge as much as I want, but in the end, I’m a lucky lucky person to be able to travel, and leave the job when I want. There’s plenty of people working here who have a family to support.

11) Shit jobs give you a drinking/chocolate consumption problem.

As a final note, here is a selfie that I accidentally took on my phone. I think it’s hilarious!!!!! HA

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When people discover that we’ve been working here for seven weeks, they are really surprised that we’ve survived this long. I like to respond with “yeah I used to look like Kate Moss before we started working here.”

Now I’m like this version of Mossy:

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Lately

Oh hello there,

I’ve been a bit naughty lately with trying to keep this updated but it’s mainly due to there being little to tell…

Basically we’re working away like good little worker bees.

Last weekend we walked along the coastline to Cape Kidnappers – a cove nicknamed due to a member of Captain Cooks motley crew being kidnapped by the Maoris when they landed there.

We we walked along the beach for 2.5 hours before finding the gannet colony with the help of this lovely welly. Classic New Zealand.

imageThe scenery was absolutely stunning, so although it was a much longer walk than expected, we had a great day out.

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When we reached the end of the peninsula we came to a big gannet colony. I’ve never seen a gannet before so it was quite interesting. Did you know that it takes them eight days of straight flying to migrate to Australia in the winter? Many of them don’t make the journey, sadly.

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The quality of the photos are annoying the hell out of me. Sorry about that – still can’t get the photos off our big camera. I’ll have to bore you all to death with them when we get back haha!

In other news, our housemates Philene and Kerry’s camper van has finally been fixed!

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There’s Simson sat on our drive, isn’t he handsome?!

We now start work at 7.30am most days, and I like to use this photo to describe my feelings about this:

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We were in need of a night out to blow off steam so we hit Hastings for a night out on Saturday. For pre-drinks we had a chicken/box party (please see below photos for an explanation.)

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Absolutely ridiculous. I love these guys so much.

We went to a bar and I asked “is it cheaper to have a white wine, or a pale ale?” The answer was wine…..which instantly made me dubious. It was the most disgusting wine I’ve ever tasted in my life. If I were to describe it in a wine-tasting situation I would have described it as “offensive, with aromas of a vinegar salad dressing and revulsion.”

Anyway, to remedy the situation, Philine decided to steal a candle.

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She’s a bad influence on me…

I feel the above three photos sum up the night quite well.

After an unproductive hangover day, we were back to work this morning. At 11.30 Tom and I were asked to house sit for some of John and Wendy’s friends who were attending a funeral that afternoon.

It turns out that in NZ there’s a risk of being burgled whilst out at a funeral because low lifes look at the obituaries and target people whilst their houses are empty. How awful is that?! Anyway, the result was a slightly awkward afternoon of staying in a lovely house. Much easier money than kiwi thinning haha.

imageThe houses here are so cool! Mainly modern wooden bungalows.

Things that have been keeping me occupied:

Watching the series “Scream” on Netflix. A murder mystery based on the nineties horror movies. I love trying to figure out who dun it with the added layers of head nods to the cheesy horror genre that I adore.

Reading “Instrumental” by James Rhodes – one of my favourite classical musicians who plays without the silly suit on and actually talks to his audiences. Reading about his childhood abuse was really harrowing, but I couldn’t put the book down. I have so much respect for him.

Listening to the new book in the Millenium series – “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” by David Lagercrantz. Lisbeth Salander is one of my favourite literary characters and Lagercrantz is doing her justice.

Baking many many variations on pear recipes – flapjack – bad, pear cake – good. (Mainly good because we now have weighing scales.

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I will talk and Hollywood will listen.

Well hi there, I’m coming at you through the cornflakes of Los Angeles!

LA has been our first AirBnB experience and it’s been great! We found the apartment no problem, and weren’t sure which room was ours so picked one and dumped our bags. Turned out the room belonged to Ben, who when we apologised, said “don’t worry, you’re in California now, we’re all friends here!” Ben is actually from Melbourne, Australia, and kindly gave us a lift to the beach true Aussie style – barefoot and with his surfboard in the front seat. It was lovely to get some info from someone who lives locally so we followed his reccomendations and went to check out the canal and Venice Beach. image

The lifeguard stations on Venice Beach are true baywatch style!

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Feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time…

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It was a super duper sunny day. In the evening we walked along the pier to watch the surfers and the fishermen as the sun set. It was so lovely!

Today we got up early to get to the Hollywood walk of fame and sign. I must admit I did a lot of squeeling when we first spotted the Hollywood sign, so bloody excited!

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I knew I’d make it to Hollywood one day, haha!

The walk of fame was pretty cool too, and as we were there fairly early, it wasn’t too busy.

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We then decided to spend the rest of the day at Universal Studios. I really enjoyed the studio tour where you could see loads of sets and facades of buildings that they use in films.

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I was super excited by the Bates Motel and house haha!

Overall, it was a really fun, jam-packed and expensive day. Off to Hawaii tomorrow!

Things that made me laugh:

-Eating our tea in a Mexican fast food place sat next to a Charlie Chaplin impersonator.

– Tom knocking over an enormous stack of trays in said restaurant.

– A dog dressed as a lady in the animals from the movies show at Universal.

Things that surprised me:

– There are vast amounts of homeless people in LA.

– The public transport is absolutely appalling so we’ve had to use Uber cabs to get around.

– For the three taxi rides so far, all the drivers have been women.

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