Posts Tagged ‘Resources’

Top 10 websites we use whilst travelling

Friday, December 16th, 2011

There are times when we wonder what it must have been like to travel 100 years ago… no mobiles, no internet, no digital camera, no cheap airlines, no email, just the occasional postcard or letter home. How different it would have been, and even in our lifetime we can can remember a time before sony cybershots, iphones and facebook. However the average traveller you meet now, has an mp3 player, a mobile, digital camera and probably a small laptop, maybe even an ipad or kindle. We stay connected more than ever and every third person seems to be writing a blog about their trip or tweeting about the local grasshopper delicacies at the night market.

Sometimes we feel as if we would love to escape all of it, ditch the mobile and laptops, disconnect and just travel without being in constant contact with the world, be free. Yet if we are honest, most of the time we are in awe of how marvelous ‘technology’ is and how amazing it is to be able to blog from the Gobi Desert or tweet from a mountain top.

So we have complied a list of the top 10 websites we use the most, as a celebration of how the interweb can be a useful tool for a travelling cyclist and how being connected can be helpful and inspiring to others.

1. XE Universal Currency Converter

Currency Knowing what your hard saved pennies will buy you is most important. This site is particularly useful when you first arrive in a new country and we often scribble down the value of 1, 10, 20, 50 and 100 or 1000 on a scrap of paper to refer to, until we get used to it. This will give you the exchange rate, although what you get on the ground may not be as good!

Top tip: rather than checking in pounds or dollars, we like to convert the currency of the previous country to the new one, for example 100 Chinese Yuan into Mongolian Tugrik, that way you can compare the local cost of food and accommodation, and make a comparison on value for money.

2. Google maps

6212839177_cd47fac6eb_mPaper maps are great, but Google maps comes into its own when you are travelling away from the main tourists hubs or when your paper map lacks detail. We use google maps on our mobile, allowing us to pinpoint our location using GPS, great for checking you are going the right way, especially in countries with few road signs!

It is also great for route planning as you can calculate distance and save routes, as well as zooming in to the satellite view to see the roads, forests and other details.

Top tip: take screen grabs of maps when you have an internet connection, that way you can view them offline when you are away from those free wifi areas!

3. WordPress

blog2 We’re sure many of you are familiar with blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger. We use WordPress to run our blog and it allows us to share our travelling stories with friends, family, schools and anyone else who might be interested in our adventures. It’s also a way for people to comment and respond to what you are doing, which is great for us on the road as we love hearing from people.

Top tip: WordPress allows you to fully customise your blog to look like your website (if you have one), that way users have a seamless experience.

4. Lonely Planet Thorn Tree

train Most cyclists you meet will tell you that a big brick of guidebook is simply too heavy to lug round, when you have limited space and weight to worry about. Not only that but  it can be expensive if you are visiting many countries, and in the developing world the pace of change means that books quickly become out of date. However much of the information is now online and the most valuable resource we found on Lonely Planet is the forum, where other travellers post up to date, specific, first-hand information. Everything from the latest visa requirements, border crossings to new hostels and bus routes, a fantastic use of the web in our opinion.

Top tip: make sure you say which country you are from when you post about visas, as different rules apply to different passport holders.

5. Warm Showers

6504943899_70d800fa0f_m You’ve heard of Couchsurfing, well Warmshowers is like that but specifically for cycle tourers. Sometimes turning up places with your grubby bikes and loads of bags can be an issue, but with Warnshower hosts they know what it is like and will accommodate you and your bike without any fuss, in fact usually with great enthusiasm! We’ve had some wonderful times staying with Warmshower hosts and shared stories over a beer and a lovely homemade meal. So add it to your list: Warmshowers – Cyclists offering other cyclists a place to stay, all over the world.

Top tip: Email hosts well in advance. Some hosts want to show you around, take you on a tour and cook for you, others will leave you to your own devices. You either need to manage their expectations or simply go with the flow.

6. Wikitravel 

5464466984_b1eda42b93_m Like the main wikipedia site, but specifically for travel edited and written by the wiki community. This site can provide info on places that would never make it into a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide book, or places that LP will say ”there is no reason to go to this town”. As a cycle tourer you are often passing through places that tourists wouldn’t make a beeline for, yet you may be in need of a hot shower or post office. Wikitravel is great as it will give you that kind of info as well as historical or cultural information about the place. Lately we’ve found small hotels listed in tiny towns, that don’t exist elsewhere on the web.

Top tip: Consider stopping at these smaller towns and villages as they can be really welcoming and interesting. Some of our most memorable and real experiences of local culture, have been in these smaller places, with people offering us places to stay, helping us and refusing to let us pay for meals and generally being excited to see us in their town.

7. Wunderground

5689959725_a3962222ff Wunderground gives you reliable weather reports from anywhere in the world, even in far flung places like outer Mongolia.  We are all at the mercy of the weather and mostly we just get on with it, however if you are cycling out in more remote places it is worth checking the forecast. We’ve been caught in snow storms, freak hail storms, sand storms that last for hours, heat waves and gale force winds on our bikes. If you know what you are going into you can make sure you have enough food and water, not to mention mental stamina!

Top tip: The forecasts are quite detailed, so again, you may want to take a screen grab so you can look later when you are offline. Check the spelling of the place name carefully as it is quite sensitive and won’t return results for misspelt place names.

8. Spot Tracker

If you are planning on going off the beaten track in a serious way (ie no hospitals, no real roads, no mobile signal) then a GPS Spot Tracker is a gadget to consider before heading into the wilderness. You can press a button which send an email to specific addresses (ie your mum) to say you are ok and give your exact location. Or you can press an emergency SOS button if you get into big trouble which will scramble help to rescue you in an emergency. The website allows you to manage the messages sent and edit email addresses and contact details, as you travel.

6180231726_b0a354c979_mWhilst the debate may rumble on about the freedom to roam without anyone knowing where you are and having an epic adventure, for us the point of our adventure and exploration is not to cause worry and anxiety for loved ones at home. The Spot Tracker gives us and them peace of mind. And as great as our wilderness first aid skills might be, we’d like to know help would come if we had a serious injury whilst biking across a remote area.

Top tip: Your location is also plotted on a map which you can embed into your website or blog, which is great if you have people following you or schools wanting to track your journey.

9. Hostel World

5353592905_48e9b7fd5d_m Wild camping rocks, but in cities it can be tricky and let’s be honest who doesn’t want a hot shower and a soft bed after several days on the road? Finding cheap accommodation is priority for most travellers, if you want your money to last. Hostel world lists all the hostels in an area, with reviews and live availability and booking. There are also map and photos which can save time when trying to find a place.

Top tip: Booking online sometimes gives you 10% discount, free breakfast and generally seems to be cheaper than arriving in person and booking. We also use the website to help negotiate a better price in person ( ie “It’s says 50 RMB per night on can you match that price?”).

10. Flickr

5353341541_6f120e8631_m Great site for organizing and uploading the gazillion photos you’ll end up taking on your travels. Not only that but you can use it as a way to back up all of the photos, so if your laptop or hard drive go missing you still have copies.

Top tip: If you’re expecting (or hoping for!) media coverage, or have sponsors, it’s allow a great way to promote them with shots of your tent in wild remote locations, as well as showcasing your own photography skills – one of our photos made it into the 2012 Hilleberg catalogue!




There are many more we could include in this list of course…Seat61, BBC News, Twitter to name a few more, but what are your top websites?

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Roti Mataba

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Roti Mataba SignIf you are staying near Khao San Rd in Bangkok, you may want to try Roti Mataba for breakfast, brunch or any time of the day really! It is one of my favourite places and I went there twice during the short time we were in Bangkok.

They basically serve every type of Roti you can imagine (it’s like Indian bread or a thin savoury pancake) , all cooked fresh on a hot griddle about 1 metre from where you are sat. We had roti with chicken and potato served with a sweet sauce; roti with egg, served with a sweet custard sauce; and a mataba, which is like a vegetable patty wrapped in dough (roti). All really really good!

The place was packed when we got there, all with locals, and people were queuing to get in. There are only 3 tables inside and two outside on the pavement, so many people take-away. I did this the second time I visited, on my own, and sat in the park opposite instead. You can’t help feeling that they could easily fill a place 5 times bigger, but somehow I think the atmosphere would be different. Service is pretty fast and furious, and the place is tightly packed so it might seem a little hectic, but it’s great for people watching, especially the lady who does the cooking…

To find Roti Mataba, go to Thanon Phra Athit (Banglamphu), same road at the Ferry pier N13. It’s on the corner , opposite the park and the  Phra Sumen Fort. The road turns into Thanon Phra Sumen once you go around the corner.

Phra Sumen Fort

Don’t hang back, just go in and order – they’ll find you a place to sit, or you can take-away and eat in the lovely park opposite, next to the river. Rotis start at about 40 baht, order a few things if you are hungry. They also have a great selection of curries.

Roti Mataba


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Travelling with kids section launches!

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

We travel as a couple, with no-one to worry about except except ourselves. However we are increasingly discussing and exploring possibilities for the future. One re-occurring theme is, could we do all this with kids? Does life suddenly have to stop when little ones arrive?

In between cycling we’ve been working hard on our website and we’re now ready to launch our Travelling with kids section. Join us as we investigate what it is like to travel with kids and what the reality of being on the road or ocean with children is really like.  We are interviewing families who travel with their kids; parents who home-school and cycle touring families, and will be publishing their thoughts and stories in the resources section of our website.

Read the first of our interviews with the Parker Family, from Glenbrook, Blue Mountains, Australia.

Chris and Nicole made the decision to homeschool their two children Brae and Bronte, two and a half years ago and haven’t looked back…

“We all get to spend so much more time together and don’t feel like life is whizzing by too fast.”

Nicole also tells us about their 7 week road trip through the heart of Austalia, and the impact it had on them as a family.

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Java, Jakarta to Singapore by ferry via Batam

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Links and useful information about this route at the bottom of the post.

We arrived at the ferry port and  to the mass of passengers, food and drink sellers.  We had some food and watched life go by trying to get a sense of the order in what to us, seemed like chaos.  We wanted to keep the bikes loaded till the last possible moment as ferrying the 5 bags that are attached to the bikes is a much harder than just pushing the bikes.  The ferry was huge but only took cargo and people no cars.  We entered the departure lounge and greeted the usual stairs of amazement with smiles and confidence.  Sometimes looking lost can be helpful as often people will come and help you, at other times looking lost can attract unwanted attention from people keen to sell you or help you at an inflated price.  This was a time for confidence.


The departure gates opened and there was a surge of people through the tiny double doors to go on to the boat.  Quite what the rush was I don’t know, we had two hours till scheduled departure and allocated beds on the boat.  After the rush we wheeled our bikes to the end of the queue that was forming to get on to the boat.  Hoping by some miracle that there would be an easy way to get the heavy bikes up the stairs to the boat.  We decided that no miracle was going to happen and it was time unload the bikes.  We had prepared for this as we carry specially designed bags that fit all of our pannier bags.  It only takes a few minutes to load up the bike and means we only have two big bags, our small days sacks and the bikes to contend with.  As we unloaded the bikes some keen porters came over to start helping us.  As appreciative as i was of the help i was concerned at the cost.  Waiting till we got to our cabin to find out the price was not an option.  The porters were keen to keep helping and trying to fend off questions of price.  Stopping everyone in their tracks, I forcefully but politely said we needed to negotiate a price before we continued.  After a few minutes of haggling we agreed on a price for two porters.  They would carry the big red bags and we would take the bikes.  It is difficult to know what a fair price is as wages vary dramatically in Indonesia and as tourists we are seen to have endless sources of money.

As we rejoined the queue another set of stairs was lowered for us, at the time i was not sure why but there was no reason to question this as these stairs looked much easier to negotiate with the bikes.  As we boarded, our tickets were checked and everyone was surprised that we were in economy class.  The special stairs had come down for us so that we could get directly to first class on the top decks.  Economy class was on the bottom deck.  We carried the bikes down the steps this time with the aid of Eyan an English traveller who we had met on the special stairs.  Eyan was kind enough to take Liz’s bikes as she is not quite strong enough to lift it down the stairs. 

We arrived at our communal cabin and I was happy with everything, we had no idea what to expect before booking but the large cabin that accommodated about 60 people had lines of beds with plenty of storage under the beds.  We paid the porters who conveniently did not have enough change, i had forgot to get some the night before.  We got settled in and chatted with our new friend Eyan and our fellow passengers who spoke some English.


‘How come you are in economy class why don’t you pay for first class’ this was the question that our fellow passengers were most interested in.  We explained that although we were western tourists we still had a daily budget.  We often explain that we worked hard, saved up enough money to travel the world  for 15 months, but to travel for such a long period of time meant us living of a small amount of money each day.  This is often a difficult concept for some people to grasp.  To many people they can not comprehend that we could every have a little money.  The perception of our lives back home can be of endless wealth.  Later in the voyage Liz was talking to some people about our visit to the Prambanan temple.  She was asked if we had been to the Borobudur temple as well.  Liz explained that we only had enough money to see one of the temples.  This statement was again met with much confusion.  ‘Can’t you get your parents to send you some money if you have run out?’  Its not that we have run our of money, its that we have a certain amount of money to live on each week and if we spend more than that we will not have enough money to make it home. ‘Ok I understand’ said the person Liz was talking to with a blank expression on her face.  The same girl was keen to travel to England to work as a housekeeper as all English people have house keepers.  Again Liz explained that while some people do have house keepers or cleaners this was not the norm.


This has given us an idea of how we are perceived and the perception of our wealth and lifestyle by some people.  It is a travellers conundrum rich vs. poor, but wealth and riches are not always in the form of money. 

The voyage was smooth with not much to do other than read and relax and talk.  There were some arcades and a cinema on board but not something we considered due to the cost.  We bought into the four meals for 10,000 RP about 0.70p and I enjoyed the forced relaxation time.  It is wonderful to just read and rest knowing that there is nothing else that you need or can do.


We did take some time out to explore the rest of the ship, it was very similar and easy to get lost in the maze of passages and stairwells.  On one of the adventures around the ship we got locked into another cabin.  They had announced on the tannoy that all passengers must return to their cabins for ticket inspection, only we did not understand this so only found out about it once all the doors around the ship has been closed and locked.  Somehow we managed to find a few open doors and reappeared at the cinema that was next to our cabin.  We had our tickets inspected and got back to our beds without anyone noticing that we were missing.  Whether this was a normal procedure or if there was a stow away on board had sparked my imagination, and i spent some time creating an adventure story about a stow away on a ship.

We arrived in Batam a little later than scheduled 28 hours since we left Jakarta and decided that we could ferry the bags and bikes ourselves with Eyans help.  The porters that had appeared were a little taken back at this but when they saw me lugging the big red bags i think they were secretly pleased.  We got all the kit off without any dramas and set off to find out which port we had landed at on Batam and how to get to Singapore, i could not find out this before or during the passage.  We wheeled out to the main road and quickly discovered that telling the taxi drivers eager for business that we were going to Singapore was a good thing, as they would point to the terminal that was only a few hundred meters away and stopped trying to persuade us we needed a taxi ride.


We got to the departure terminal and bought our tickets for the 45 minute fast boat ride to Singapore.  The terminal was new and clean and a stark contract to the rest of Indonesia that we had experienced.  I left the air conditioned departure lounge and went out into the afternoon heat.  I stood there for a while and said good bye to Indonesia, a country i had grown to love and wondered if i would return to explore more one day.  As i left, the heavens opened and it poured with rain, a fitting end as we had cycled in these downpours every afternoon in Java. 

Our passports were stamped and we boarded the small ferry to Singapore.  We did not say much on the passage, it seemed to go quickly, both of us lost in our thoughts and books.


Clearing immigration and customs we were now in Singapore.  We loaded up the bikes said good bye to Eyan and cycled off to find our warm showers host and to explore Singapore. 


 17042010337_3      17042010335_2 

Practical Information Prices April 2010

Ferry to Batam

Economy Class 252,000 RP p/p – 27 hours

Java Jakarta Tanjung Priok ferry terminal  to Batam Sekupang ferry terminal

Pelni website – prices and timetable

Pelni route map 2006

Porter to cabin 30,000 RP for two porters and two bags carried, starting prices 100,000 RP – carry smaller notes the porters are unlikely to have change. 

Food is available on board, each class has its own restaurant, in economy class we had four meals for 10,000 RP.  Very simple fish and rice each meal.  Bring snacks and water as it’s cheaper than buying it on or near the ferry. 

Economy class is fine, no bedding is provided, although sleeping  mats are comfy. Cabin is air conditioned, but smoky despite the no smoking signs. Showers and toilets are dotted throughout.

We were not charged any extra for taking the bikes but there is a weight limit of 50 kg per person slightly more in first class.

Ferry Batam Singapore

181,000 RP p/p.  Some people may have to pay departure tax about $13 SGD 45mins – 1 hour

Options are Batam Fast or Penguin ferry companies


Ferry Ports

View Jakarta to Singapore by Ferry in a larger map

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Accommodation, Dolphins and trekking in Lovina

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Lovina is situated in the north of Bali, close to the beach and forests.  Here you can take a boat trip to see dolphins in the sea, a trek in the jungle to quiet swimming holes, beautiful waterfalls or a gentle walk taking in the surrounding countryside and rice terraces.

IMG_5065IMG_5067The Indonesian language podcast available on our site was produced with the help of Dodi Komang, who we can’t thank enough for his patience and kindness. Dodi works in a local homestay/hotel and restaurant and as a local trekking guide.

If you would like to see the dolphins or go trekking then Dodi Komang can organise group or private tours that can be tailor made to suit individuals needs, budget and time.

Dodi Komang can be found at the Mandhara Puri homestay and hotel.  Mandhara Puri is a friendly relaxed place with cheap clean rooms starting from 70,000 Rp (low season) including breakfast.  Madhara Puri can be found in Tukadmungga Kbu Gembong, Lovina on Anturan road.  Close by there are many warungs, a health centre and internet cafes, Madhara Puri even has its on restaurant on site, with the beach 1 mins walk away.

Dodi Komang can also be contacted via email- Please contact him for uptodate prices.

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