Welcome to my Travel Blog, where you can find my blog, photos and travel guides.

Sandstorm on Barcelona beach

By Darren - Posted on 14 June 2012

Barcelona typically has great weather in June, but beach goers where caught out when an unusual sandstorm hit the beach on 12th June 2012.  

The storm lasted 5 minutes and brought 35mph (55kmph) winds.

British Summer

By Darren - Posted on 25 April 2012

This British spring/summer is currently wet and cold, exactly what I hate.  Grrr...

But I am here to get things done.  To grow my business.  So I just focus on that.  The sunshine of southern Europe, Asia and South America will be there in the future.

Not travelling is an important part of travelling.  

  • I have rediscovered old hobbies, not possible when travelling.
  • I have got good at cooking again
  • I have streamlined my lifestyle
  • I am building my business, which will allow better travelling in the future.

I do have a few trips planned

  • A quick trip to Bradford - not very exciting, but it is to see the UK premiere of the amazing Samsara
  • A long weekend in Cornwall for a wedding
  • The Belgian F1 GP
  • And hopefully a few campervan tips this summer too

Kadinchey - Bhutan

By Darren - Posted on 12 April 2012

Kadinchey is a lovely short film made with sights and sounds from Bhutan.

Definitely worth spending a few minutes to watch.

I Know Why I Travel

By Darren - Posted on 14 February 2012

I've had a bit of a moment of clarity.  I know why I long to travel so much:

I haven't found anywhere I like enough to spend the rest of my life there.

So this had lead me to constantly roam, looking for something new, looking for somewhere to explore and live.

I've recently moved to Brighton.  I'm enjoying it here, and I'm bound to enjoy it more as the summer sets in.  There is a big problem though, the weather.  It's cold.  Much colder than Cornwall, a few hundred miles away, where I grew up.  

I think about my chances of buying a property in Brighton, and using it as a base whilst I continue to explore the earth.  But it's the weather that makes me think, no way, too cold. 

So weather is a major factor.... That's all for now....

Moving to Brighton

By Darren - Posted on 03 February 2012

After 6 years of travel, I have decided to take a little break.

I run an online business, and that is not so easy to run out of a backpack or from my campervan.

So, Abby and I are moving to Brighton for a while.  Maybe a few years.  There will be travelling in that time.

Stay tuned..... and happy travels....

Portugal, again

By Darren - Posted on 25 November 2011

We're currently travelling around Portugal again. We've come away on a 6 week trip in the camper van. Down to Portugal, and probably into Spain for a few weeks.


The weather is great. We've come down to get away from the bad weather in England. We'll go home a week or so before Christmas.

We've had great weather. We did have a cloudy and showery week, with a massive thunder storm. But it's like summer again now.

Nomadic lifestyle makes life easy

By Darren - Posted on 15 October 2011

I have moved 5 times this year

1. From house in Truro to house in Redruth - January 2011.
2. From house in Redruth into camper van - February 2011.
3. From camper van into house in Redruth - July 2011.
4. From house in Redruth into house in Blackwater - August 2011.
5. From house in Blackwater into house in Truro - October 2011.

And one more will happen. In November I will pack my belongings into my camper van and head south towards Europe.

Having a nomadic lifestyle, with no house of my own means I can go where I like when I like.

Of course there are big downsides. I have few places to store my things, and nowhere to really call my own.

But, whilst I have travel in my veins, the scarifies are worth it for the life of easy travel.

Cycled 20 miles today

By Darren - Posted on 15 October 2011

Abs and I have been slowly cycling more and more miles. Most days we about 6 miles. Some days only 4, and some days as much as 12 miles.

Tonight we are staying at a lovely free aire (French camping spot) next to a lake. We decided to go for a little bike ride. We found ourselves close to 10 miles, and decided to go all of the way to 10 miles, and then back again to the van.

It wasn't hard. We've become fit and strong. We see lots of French people cycling here, including many retired people. Their cycle paths are fantastic.

JFK vs Heathrow

By Darren - Posted on 15 October 2011

No contents, hands down Heathrow is the winner.

I used to think that London Heathrow airport was a bit shabby. I was a bit embarrassed that the UK's biggest airport was this way.

However, having just flown JFK to Heathrow, my option has changed.

JFK is slow, the staff are most unhelpful and plain awkward. USA the land of customer service? Maybe in a diner, but not at JFK.

The USA security staff take their jobs very seriously. OK, they should, but it's frustrating when they don't give you all of the information, then treat you like a terrorist for not following the rules they haven't given you.

Also, USA immigration is OK. Canada is terrible. They just assume everyone is a horrible terrorist. But at Heathrow, we were through in minutes.

Good job UK :)

Landmark 435 Guest House, Harlem, NYC - Review

By Darren - Posted on 24 September 2011

The Landmark 435 guest house was one of the cheapest places in Manhattan that I could find to stay. The cost was £79 per night, for 2 people including breakfast.

The guesthouse is old, and whilst it has lots of charm is in need of desperate refurbishment. The facilities did work, but only just. The bathroom is shared and a bit funky.

The guesthouse comprises of two brownstone houses, right next to each other. They are run by a nice lady, and her small staff. The staff could have been more friendly.

The bedroom had tired and random furniture. The bedclothes were old, but did seem clean. Our bedroom had an air cooler, sticking out the window, just like in the movies. However, it was so loud we had to turn it off at night. It was fine before going to sleep though.

The breakfast was very basic, just bagels with suspicious butter.

Getting to the hotel is easy using an A Subway train, then a simple 2 block walk to the guesthouse.

The area is a little edgy. Some people might feel uncomfortable. The guesthouse owner told us too not hang around outside after 10pm. This is as the police like to keep the streets free of people, which goes to ensure that there is less crime.

In summary, whilst this is a cheap place to stay, it’s not in good condition, and does feel a dirty. It’s a quick ride downtown, and so not a bad place to stay when you consider everything. Worth staying at if you can’t find something better. If you don’t care about staying downtown stay at the Comfort Inn on Staten Island for nearly half the price. 

Travel Tips

Where to buy a guitar in Kuta, Bali

By Darren - Posted on 14 September 2009

If you're looking to buy a guitar in Kuta, Bali there are a few options.

1. Matahari Department Store
Matahari sell acoustic guitars from around IRP500,000.
They are called Sky Lark and are resonable good. Fine for everyday playing. The strings are reasonably good, not rusty, superlight about 10 gauge.

I also bought a immitation leather carry bag for the guitar for IRP 58,000. It offers fair protection, is easy to carry, and has some pockets.

Matahari also sell classical guitars from about IRP300,000. I didn't try one, but they seemed OK.

2. On Poppies I lane

Near the top of Poppies I lane there is a shop with a few guitars in. They are priced from IRP 600,000. I didn't try them, but they looked OK. I think they are Sky Lark guitars, just like the Matahari store above. So take a walk to save a few quid.

Whilst walking back from buying my guitar at the Matahari a western guy stopped me and asked where I bought it from. So, if ever you want to sell a guitar you should be able to do it easily. Just walk around with a for sale sign on it, or sit on the beach with a for sale sign.

The local guys will definitely buy it from you, but you'll get less from them.

I bought an acoustic guitar in Yogjakarta in 2008 for IRP 175,000. It was ok, and slim, but not very well made. When I changed the strings, they were a heavier gauge, and after a little while the weight of the strings pulled the saddle off the body. I left it with a guy in Vietnam to fix and keep.

The Sky Lark guitar I bought in 2009 in Kuta was much better made. The action is maybe a little high for advanced players, but I play slide guitar so it suited me fine.

If you buy a cheap acoustic guitar, keep the strings superlight gauge.

Have you bought a guitar in Kuta? Let us know in the comments below.

Mobile Internet Access in Bali - 3G, EDGE, GPRS Tips and Information

By Darren - Posted on 14 September 2009

Bali has a good selection of reasonably priced 3G providers. If you need regular high-speed access from your laptop it's a great option.

There are a few different providers to choose from. Here are my experience of them.


Click the link below for a translated version of XL 3G's service page. It is worth reading, as it contains important information.

XL 3G Coverage

  • Kuta - I got good 3G signal around most of Kuta and it's surroundings. Even with 1 of 5 bars of signal I got reasonable data rates.
  • Legian - No 3G signal, just GPRS
  • Ubud - 3G across most of the town, even on the edges near the rice paddies
  • Sanur - Excellent 3G signal
  • Nusa Lembongan - 3G signal on the beach at Pondok Baruna (near Permana boat), but only GPRS further inland.

XL List 2 APN settings

XL list 2 APN's. The accelerator version reduces the resolution of images to make them load quicker. HOWEVER, I found the accelerator APN to be slow and congested. I found it better to use the Without Accelerator APN. Speeds were twice as quick, and much better response times. If you want to keep costs down (bandwith) and don't care about speed then go with the With Accelerator APN.

Without Accelerator
APN: www.xlgprs.net
Username: xlgprs
Password: proxl

With Accelerator
APN: www.xlspeed.net
Username: xlspeed
Password: xlspeed

Modem, Dongle, Phone advice

To use the 3G networks you will need a 3G compatible modem, dongle or phone.
Many modern mobile phones have 3G network capabilities. If so, you can use your phone as a modem.

To make life simpler you can also buy a 3G dongle, which is like a flashdrive, just a bit bigger. They cost around IRP 1,000,000 from phone shops in Denpasar. Or get one from home before you leave. Always make sure it is SIM unlocked, so that you can use it anywhere.

I bought a 3G phone whilst in Bali. I bought a Sony Ericsson G502i phone. It was the cheapest 3G phone available, and is actually quite a good handset (MP3 player, 2MB camera, radio, 3G). I paid IRP 1,200,000 from the Electrical City store in the Discovery Mall in Kuta. I also saw the same phone for IRP 1,450,000 in the Carrefour supermarket on Sunset Road in Kuta.

Ultimately a 3G phone is more useful than just a 3G dongle.

iPhone experience in Bali

I have a 2G iPhone, which has EDGE capabilties only, not 3G. This phone is unlocked, so that I can use it with any SIM card. I have happily used this as my modem (using the PDA Net modem software) in many countries. EGDE only runs at around 25KB/s maximum, but this is OK for me. Faster would be nice, but hey...

In Bali (and probably the rest of Indonesia) the phone operators run only 3G technologies, and not 2G. Therefore my iPhone 2G could not use the EDGE networks. This meant I had to buy another phone to use anything other than GPRS speeds. This was fine in the end.

If you have an unlocked 3G iPhone (or 3GS) you should be fine using the 3G networks in Bali, and probably the rest of Indonesia. However, I don't have first hand experience of this.

Other Internet options in Bali

If you only need occasionally internet access 3G is probably overkill for you.

There are loads of internet cafes around. They vary a bit, but all charge around IRP 150 per minute.

If you have your own laptop I think the best options are the mini-marts that line the main roads. Most have seating areas inside and out, and provide free WiFi, as long as you buy something in the shop. You can always just buy a cheap bottle of water and make it last a few hours. They are not going to move you on.

Cafes and restaurants often also offer Wifi. It often doesn't work well, and can be expensive. But it's a good option if you want to eat and check your emails at the same time.

Let us know about your Bali 3G experiences in the comments below

Dealing with Ants in Your House in Thailand

By Darren - Posted on 31 July 2009

Thailand, like anywhere warm or troipical, has a lot of ants.  If you live in a house in Thailand you will almost certainly have a problem with ants at some point.  Here are my top tips for dealing with ants, and keeping them away.


  • Ants live in colonies.  Some stay in the nest and look after the young, others go looking for food (scout ants).
  • Once scout ants have found a food source, they make a scent trail back to the nest, so that the other ants can follow the trail to the food source.  These are the lines of ants you see taking the same path.  The trail can last for days, even after the food source is gone.
  • Ants love food.  They will find any crumbs or traces of food you have left in your kitchen.  Once they have found them the rest of the colony will turn up to take a share.
  • The ant colony lives around the queen ant, the leader of their colony.

How to get rid of ants

  • For ants in the kitchen, use a old cloth or tissue paper, spray with surface cleaner, and wipe the ants up.  Once you have got all of the ants, thouroughly clean the whole area.  You need to remove the traces of food, and any scent trails they have left.  Follow the trails up the walls, floors, etc and clean these too.
  • If you have big ants elsewhere in the house (e.g. bathroom) you most likely have a queen ant in there somewhere.  You MUST find the queen ant and get rid of it. The queen ant is much bigger than the others. The other ants are coming to work for the queen, and they are settling a colony.  You do not want it in your house.  If you have a wet bathroom, hose all of the ants down the drain.  Ensure you get all of the ants, especially the queen.

How to keep ants away

  • Keep everything very clean.  Ants are only coming for food
  • Empty the bin everyday.  Keep the waste outside.
  • Ants don't like talcum powder.  Try sprinkling around areas where ants are coming into the home.
  • Ant killer trays are available from shops.  These trays contain posined food that the ants take back to their nests.  The ants in the nest also die.
  • Ant chalk bars are available. Draw chalk anywhere where ants are entering the home.  It will turn them back, and kill any who come into contact with it.

Hopefully these tips will help keep ants our of your home.  If you know of any other tips, please leave them in the comments below.

Cheap Flip-flops and the Best Flip-flops in Thailand

By Darren - Posted on 18 July 2009

In Thailand, and many other Southeast Asian countries, you will find many fake products, particularly major brands and labels that visiting tourists are keen to buy.

Flip-flops, being the national footwear of Thailand, are everywhere.  Fake copies are very popular. Havanaias are the most popular and the most copied.

I have been through many pairs of flip-flops during my travels in Asia, so I thought I'd give you some tips, so that you can save some money, and get the most comfortable footwear.

Fakes are not worth it

Fake flip-flops

In my opinion, fake copes of major brand flip-flops are not worth buying.  Whilst they look nice, they will  not last, and they are not the comfiest option.

On Kh San Road in Bangkok, and many other places, you see endless sellers selling very good looking copies.  They generally starts from 150 Baht. 

I've been through many pairs of these, generally lasting between 1 and 3 months, before the deck wears out, and the thong pulls through, also known as a 'blow out'.  On the island of Ko Samui I did buy a pair for 50 Baht.  But within a few weeks the deck was squashed flat and they had become too uncomfortable to wear.

Buy real flip-flops

Whilst real Havanias will cost a lot (US$20), good quality Thai flip-flops will cost from 200 Baht.  Head to a Thai shoe shop, or sports shop, and you'll find a great choice of high quality, and ultra comfy flip-flops.

Good flip flops

These flip-flops (above) cost me 250 Baht from a sports shop at the Big C near Chaweng in Ko Samui.  They had so many to choose from, it was a tough choice.  These flip-flops are by far the most comfortable I have ever worn, and they will last so much longer than the cheap copies.  And they only cost 100 Baht more.

Spending the little bit more, but on the right product, will save you money in the long run, and keep you feet happy.

Visa Extensions at Samui Immigration Office, Ko Samui, Ko Phangan, Ko Tao

By Darren - Posted on 15 July 2009

Samui Immigration Office

It is possible to extend a 60 day tourist visa in Thailand for another 30 days.  This is available to almost everyone, unless you have some bad history with Thai immigration.  The process is quick and easy, and takes about 1 hour.

The Ko Samui immigration office is an easy place to get this visa extension.  The staff are friendly, and the service prompt.

From Ko Phangan or Ko Tao take a ferry to the Nathon ferry terminal on Samui.  Make sure it's the Nathon terminal, is it's very close to here.  You can walk from the ferry to the immigration office, but it will take 30 minutes, so maybe better to take a pickup.

Types of visa service available

30 day extension to 60 day tourist visa - Costs 1,920 Baht.  Takes about 1 hour.

Finding the office

The Ko Samui immigration office is 1 - 2 km south of Nathon, the main town on the Northwest corner of the island.  Local pickups and taxis will drop you there, or you can easily find it on a scooter, as it is signposted about 2kms before the office, and again at the actual office.

There is parking for scooters and bigger vehicles.

They sell refreshments at normal shop prices.  There is a nice seating area outside the office.

What you need

To extend a visa you will need the following:

  • Your passport (with 6 months validity remaining)
  • 1,920 Baht fee
  • 2 passport sized photos
  • 1 x photocopy of your passport photo page
  • 1 x photocopy of your visa & entry stamp page (these are almost always on the same page in your passport)
  • 1 x photocopy of your TM.6 immigration card (the one they staple into your passport)
  • 1 x TM.7 visa extension form (get this at the immigration office.  You can download from their website, but better to get it there).

Note:  Right outside the immigration office is a small shop that will photocopy your passport.  So you can get everything there.

Opening Hours

Monday - Friday

08:30 - 16:30