Icebreaker – Hand in your passport.

So I have just spent 6 months travelling through South East Asia and Eastern Europe.  I’m a proud kiwi and took a pretty decent supply of Icebreaker clothing with me.  In my 10kg backpack, I had the following merino items…

Icebreaker t shirt x3

Icebreaker dress

Icebreaker socks

Icebreaker outer layer (cardigan type top)

I also took a Macpac long sleeved sweatshirt  and a number of pairs of smart wool socks.

Icebreaker merino wool garments have some great properties… yes they do breathe (even in 48 degree heat in Vietnam) and  no they don’t smell after wearing them for a few days.  These are both admirable properties. They also can be hand washed (the lighter items anyway) and will easily dry over night ready to be worn the next day.  I also used some of the local laundry ladies, some of whom used machines for washing and drying.  None of the items shrunk in these conditions.

So… so far so good!

Unfortunately where they went wrong was durability and service.  Of the items listed above, 3 t-shirts, the dress and the sweatshirt cardigan all got holes in them.

Some holes were larger than others but nevertheless they were holes.  The garments had been worn either not at all or only a couple of times before I left.  I assumed that they would have a decent warranty on them… after all I had tracked my merino sheep back to the farm in the South Island that they had come from.  They seemed like good buggers!

On talking to the Icebreaker team in Canada (where I was next), they said I had to take them back to the store I bought them from (not useful when travelling).  On returning to New Zealand, they said that unless I could produce a receipt then there was no warranty and they would only look at a year old items anyway.  No use to me!  So I had hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of gear with holes  in them.

Sorry Icebreaker not cool!  Love the wicking performance, need the gear to last though.

As an aside if you are looking for the absolute best travel socks (I’ve tried them all), buy Smartwool.  Their socks are better than any other I have tried, dry quickly, are light, don’t perish and have all the good qualities of merino.  I won’t buy anything else now.

Maribor to Novo Mesto

Travelling across Slovenia is easy as the roads are good, the speed limit is reasonable and the distances are short.  It is only a couple of hours drive from Maribor to Novo Mesto so it is worth looking at the sights on the way.

We made our stop off in the lovely town of Celje.  One of it’s claims to fame is a castle on top of a hill just outside the town.  It is one of the nicer castles that hasn’t been over restored.  As we were exploring the rooms, we came upon the castle printers which has a very passionate guy demonstrating how the printing was done in the old days.  For 8 Euro, you can get him to print a castle imprint with your name, the date and the castle seal on your choice of handmade paper.  Maybe a nice souvenir!

The castle also had medieval re-enactment group who are happy to explain life during the times.

Those helmets are heavy!

From Celje, we headed to Novo Mesto where we checked into our hostel.  The guide books talk about falling in love with Novo Mesto, however we struggled!  The Tourist centre was closed when we arrived on Saturday and was still closed on Sunday.  By the time we got to speak to anyone on the Monday, we had spent time in the local thermal pool, walked around the old town and the advice we got from the tourist centre (very abrupt) was that we had seen everything.

Novo Mesto didn’t win us over!

Bangkok in 48 hours

We decided to have a few days in Bangkok before we headed over to Europe.  With such a short time in Bangkok we knew that we weren’t going to see too much so decided to spend our time as follows:

Day 1 Chatuchak Weekend Market

We were lucky that our visit fell in a weekend, which meant that this market was open.  It is apparently the largest market in Asia, so for those that love a good market this is a good one.  The market is organised in sections, for example, clothes, shoes and fabric might be in one section.  Each section is labelled and coded and maps can be found in the entrances. (You need one!). My suggestion would be if you find something you love, buy it as unless the stall is on the main circuit, you will never find it again.  You need at least a half day here; we spent the full day.  If you buy loads of things they have courier and postage services on site so that you can send it all home!

There is lots of street food to be enjoyed to keep your energy up and a number of stalls selling 30 minute foot massages to ensure you can complete your shopping!  We took advantage of this and it was really very good!

Day 2

We decided to do a city tour and the best one that we found was actually a tuk tuk hop on hop off service.  It is a fairly new company and I think in the future it will be outstanding.  We unfortunately hit Bangkok during Buddha day which is a long weekend so it was pretty busy.  The service runs via an app on your phone (if you don’t have a SIM card, they will rent you a wifi box) and you use it a lot like Uber or Grab.  It has GPS maps and your location live and each stop has descriptors about the site where the pick up and drop off is etc.

This is an easy way to see the sites without having to negotiate with individual tuk tuk drivers.  Check the link below to see where they go.

https://hoponhopoffbangkok.wordpress.com/

Bangkok, we will be back to explore you further… but we will check the holiday calendar carefully next time!

Siem Reap: The temples of Angkor.

After spending a few days in Phnom Penh we were pretty excited to head up to Siem Reap.  Siem Reap is a much smaller city and the main reason most people go is for the temples (Think Angelina Jolie). The temples are absolutely stunning and are well worth visiting.  You can get a 1,2 or 3 day pass, with the one day pass being about 37 USD.  If you want to visit Angkor Wat for the sunrise, which I highly recommend, you need to either get your tickets the day before or get up really early and be at the office at 4.45am to get a ticket.  The office opens at 5am but queues start forming from 4.30 am.

Suggestion:  Get there no later than 4.45am and head to the counters on the far right side.  Even if they say closed, line up there (providing there is a person there) as they will open.  Ours opened 5 minutes before all the others.  It takes a few minutes to issue your pass as they must take a photo of you and then print it on to your pass.  You do not need to take a photo of yourself with you.

Even if you follow this suggestion, it is still pretty tight to get to Angkor Wat before sunrise.  The best photos are in front of the two ponds as you can get great shots of the temple reflecting into the water.  Go to the right hand side as the left is really crowded and the pictures are better from the right.

Angkor Wat is really a complex of temples so with your pass, you get to see quite a lot.  You need a couple of hours at Angkor Wat itself.

Most one day itineraries include the following:

  • Angkor Wat
  • Angkor Thom (big complex including Terrace of the Elephants)
  • Bayon.
  • Ta Prohm. (Tomb Raider)

This is about a days worth with a few other minor ones on the way.  If you want to go further afield, you would need a two or three day pass.  We chose a one day pass and were happy with that after the first day however once we had had a break the next day we would have happily gone exploring for another day.  The 3 day pass gives you a free day (cost wise).

Take plenty of water and good walking shoes.  It is very hot and some of the entrance way steps are incredibly steep (almost vertical!)

The temples are truly stunning and well worth the visit.  You will notice that a number of the statues are headless.  This is a very sad result of the Khmer Rouge destroying all symbols of religion.

Yes you can get templed out but they really are breathtaking!