Hello from Bangkok!
We arrived 2 days ago after something like a 30 hour journey from Johannesburg. It was long - but well worth the trip. We love Thailand already -- but more on that later.
We spent an amazing 2 weeks in South Africa, which began with a 4 day stay with Lawrence's Dad on his farm. While we were there, we met up with Lawrence's sister and her fiance and their group of friends who were in town for their wedding (more on that later...) We all went for lunch at a cafe in town and ate boboti pancakes, a local favorite. Mmmmm. We then took a drive to a place called Mac Mac Falls and then went swimming in Mac Mac Pools - a series of outdoor pools and falls with gorgeous scenery in the background. Did we mention the weather yet??? Doesn't get much hotter than this -- 33 degrees on a good day, which is about 100 degrees F - so the pools were a refreshing break.
We had a great day but then left the group to go off on our own. The next day we took a drive to the Kruger National Park to go on our own safari. We were taking bets as to the first animal we would see -- it was a toss up between monkeys and impalas. We were both wrong. The first sighting was a white rhino -- outside of the park gate -- just grazing near the cars! We thought that was a great omen of what was to follow. But unfortunately, in 7 hours of driving slowly, straining our eyes looking for wildlife, we did indeed see the impalas and monkeys but not much else. We saw hippos in the water, a couple elephants, flirted with baboons and a wildebeest. The car in front of us told us we missed a leopard by 30 seconds. Bummer. But can't win them all -- still a fab day.
Spent the rest of the time relaxing on the farm, enjoying the thunderstorm on the porch, drinking castle beer and watching cricket - bit more fun watching Lawrence and his father argue over the better cricket team - England or S Africa...(believe it or not, I'm now a fan but refuse to take sides...)
We took a couple days off to fly to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe (country 2). We discovered this is the only country in the world that doesn't accept its own currency! Fortunately we had some USD to pay for entry (thanks to wedding gifts) because that was all they accepted to get into the country!
We arrived at our apartment, which was clean but didn't offer much along the lines of extras. So we decided to head to the Kingdom Casino down the road and use their pool. Only you have to sign towels out there. So, I had heard a couple leave the pool earlier and give their room number -- I just told the dude that they were our parents and they already signed our towels out. Yep, it's started already. Next thing we know, we're relaxing by the pool and we are surrounded by baboons and monkeys! Many with babies holding onto them! Couldn't believe they would get so close to us but they weren't afraid. Made for a great photo op as well.
Though our apt wasn't so special, there was a special pub just downstairs where we spent the next 3 nights drinking Castle and getting to know the locals, who were super friendly and even bough us beer!! Lawrence spent most of the nights hogging the pool table. He seemed to think it was talent, I think they let him win...
Best part of the trip by far, though was the whitewater rafting on the Mighty Zambezi River. Took a risk it would be an adventure and it definitely was, down to the hike down and up the gorge (about 45 mins each way) to get to the River.
Then we flew to Capetown to join up with the group again for Sarah-Jane and Richard's wedding. Capetown is one of those cities you can look at and say within minutes that you would live there. Highlights of those couple days were driving along the south African coast to the southern most tip of Africa, lunch with penguins on the beach - hundreds of them! And taking a very steep cable car ride up Table Mountain with some pretty spectacular views from the top.
Then it was a 45 min drive to Grand Roche, the location of the wedding. Lawrence was lucky he didn't get a DUI (DD) as he was out drinking with his brother til 8:00 that morning!!!!
Grand Roche is a gorgeous old wine estate which won Hotel of the Year last year in South Africa and it was obvious why. Probably the most beautiful room we had ever stayed in and impeccable service, food, scenery, etc.
The wedding took place in a tiny chapel (former slave chapel) on the hotel grounds. Short, beautiful ceremony then onto cocktails on the front lawn. Perfect weather, perfect day. We didn't think anything could top New Orleans, but we must admit, it was a fairy tale location for a wedding. Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Taylor who are now exploring more of South Africa on their honeymoon!
We were only there for 2 nights -- but then had to get on a plane to Johannesburg, quick night there and early flight to Bangkok. This is where we learned that's it's great to be gold on BA. We didn't get upgraded for the long-haul flight -- but they did call us by name every time they served us food or brought along drinks. When we got off the plane in HK, we learned that we had been upgraded for the next flight to Bangkok! Woo hoo! And of course we were able to go to the Cathay Pacific First Class lounge to relax before the next flight. Just hoping all flights going forward will be as smooth...
So now we are in Bangkok (country 3) -- staying on points at the luxurious Royal Orchid Sheraton. Highlights here have been eating street food, seeing every Buddha in the city, watching a live pingpong show and water bottle-opener added bonus! (though not as much evident talent as displayed in Priscilla Queen of the Desert...), riding around the city in tuk tuks (like vespas with a carriage on the back), a 2 hour Thai massage today - in which they remove every muscle from you body and then put it back again all for 10 USD each!
We leave tomorrow to begin our true backpacking adventures (booked our first stay in the Jolly Frog Backpakers hostile located near the Bridge over River Kwai) Up until now its been a brilliant holiday staying with family and in luxury hotels.