A Travellerspoint blog

November 2017



Any trip or place visited is not much without the great people I travel with and meet along the way. And of course, the friends and family who hosted and entertained us during our travels.

Here are just a few selfies I took during the trip.

Near the beginning of our trip
Near the end of our trip

Lyn has been my travel companion for many trips now, and we always manage to have a good time no matter where we end up. We have spent a lot of time together 24/7 during this trip and still manage to make it to the end not only still talking to each other, but talking about the next adventure we may have together in the future.


Dolly joined us in March in Costa Rica. We have travelled with Dolly a few times, and not only is she a lot of fun, but easy to travel with. Dolly was with us through Central America, Cuba, USA, Iceland, Spain & Malta, leaving us at the end of August to return home to start saving for the next trip.


The Lemons, Toni & Shawn joined us in May for our Cuba leg. Cuba is one of my highlights and it was nice to share the experience with friends. Poor Shawn was a bit outnumbered travelling with 4 women, but he’s a big boy and managed just fine.


We invaded the house of friends Renee & Paul in Lansing for a weekend in June. We had not seen them for over 10 years since we met in Vietnam, but we were still given a warm welcome and the best BBQ ever! Thanks Guys, promise we won’t come back too soon. Can’t believe I didn’t get a better photo of you guys, sorry.


Dolly’s niece, Michelle & husband Andy and their 2 sweet little boys in Indianapolis took us in for a week without ever having met Lyn & I. Such a beautiful family, we felt very much at home there, big thank you.


Again, with Dolly’s family, this time in Woodbridge. We stayed with Nanette & Ian for 2 weeks and a more generous and welcoming stay I have never had. Again, people who had never met Lyn or I before, yet we felt at home here as well. And the extended family & friends were all so kind and generous to us, this was a great experience. Big thank you to Nanette & Ian, Barney & Rehan, Lindsay, Noreen, Teresa & Uncle Don, Nino and all the friends we met.


Robyn met us at the airport in Iceland and travelled with us through Iceland, Spain & Malta. Also, a repeat offender as travel partner, us four ladies together are the FAB 4!


Had a great day with Dean & Fran in Madrid. Best way to see a city is to go with a local who knows where to eat and drink!


It was great to see Nicola & Keane and Terri & Milly again in Malta. Nice to meet Karen, Mason & Lauren.

Sorry no photos of you guys.

Thanks to Des for his hospitality in Cyprus, and nice spending time with Audrey & Ray. And of course, great catching up with Sue.


Well, that’s it. My last post for this 2017 trip. If I left anyone off my thank you list, I am truly sorry and of course send you a big thank you.

Stay tuned next year for another adventure.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 01:38 Archived in Australia Comments (2)


THE END – 2017 RUM & BEACHES – The Last Big Trip!


So, here we are at the end, we have made it back in one piece, after….

271 Days

6th February to 3rd November = 9 months

16 Countries

Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, United States of America, Iceland, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia & Singapore.

19 Flights

Brisbane to Sydney, Sydney to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Miami, Miami to Panama City, Guatemala City to Mexico City, Mexico City to Havana, Santa Clara to Miami, Miami to New Orleans, New Orleans to Detroit, Indianapolis to Dulles, Dulles to Reykjavik, Reykjavik to Madrid, Madrid to Malta, Malta to Larnaca, Larnaca to Dubai, Dubai to Bangkok, Phnom Penh to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai & Singapore to Coolangatta.

Numerous forms of transport

Foot, bicycle, motor bike, tuk tuk, buses (chicken buses to coaches) cars (vintage/private/hire/taxi), boats (ferries/motor boats/yachts), funicular, trains (assorted classes) & aeroplanes (assorted airlines).

We have spent 1000’s of dollars in an array of different currencies.

I have taken many more 1000’s of photos along the way.

People often ask after a long trip, what was the best bit. This is so hard to answer when we visit so many different locations, as every place has its good, bad and indifferent parts.

Obviously, there are definite stand out places for good and bad reasons or experiences. We like to not dwell on the bad experiences and remember the places we enjoyed the most. Like I said, on such a long trip it’s hard to pick out the best bits, it’s difficult to compare each place to each other.

However, there are 3 places that really stand out for me in this long trip. Here they are in chronological order.


We went into the jungle for a couple of days, up a river off Lake Nicaragua to a village called Papaturro. Our hosts Armando & wife Eileen were wonderful. There was no animal in the wild that Armando did not spot and point out to us, he had the eyes of a hawk. And Eileen kept us well fed and comfortable in our clean, basic hut. We saw an amazing array of animals our 3 days here and this is one of the most memorable places I have ever visited in all my travels over the years.


===Los Guatuzos Nature Reserve & Rio Papaturro===

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge is located in the south of Lake Nicaragua, within the municipality of San Carlos, Rio San Juan. This natural site is a strip of wetland bordering the nearby country of Costa Rica. “Los Guatuzos” has an extension of 438 square kilometres consisting of tropical wetlands, rainforest and wildlife refuge. Adventurous travellers can take pleasure in its luxuriant flora and fauna through the magnificent Paputurro River. Here avid nature lovers have unique opportunities to spot all different kind of birds such as northern jacanas, purple gallinules, fasciated-tiger herons, great egrets, green herons, neo-tropic cormorants, anhingas, great kiskadees, and other colourful interesting birds.

The site has been recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve and belongs to the list of wetlands of international importance of the Ramsar Convention, which is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Both “Los Guatuzos and Papaturro River” also provides the opportunity for nature enthusiasts to observe mammals in wildlife like white-faced monkeys, spider monkeys and howler monkeys, actually the loudest monkey in the world. In addition caimans are also seen sunbathing along the river. Reptiles like “green iguanas” are also spotted in lush trees.


Cuba, wow, I really had no idea what this country was going to be like, but it sure did not disappoint. It’s still a, what I would call, unique country to visit. The people were super friendly and helpful (especially since we spoke no Spanish at all), it worked out easy to get around using the old vintage cars. We didn’t actually experience any public transport, so have no idea what that was like. With the 5 of us traveling using cars to get from town to town worked out fine. At no time did we ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable. This is a country I would like to visit again, there are lots of beaches we didn’t see.




Our week in Iceland was a real treat. This is a track we would never usually follow but due to a flight route it was slotted into our itinerary. Lots of breathtaking scenery in this little country but definite biggest wow for me was the iceberg lagoon.


So, there are the 3 big highlights of this trip for me, funnily enough when I asked Lyn what her 3 highlights were, she named the same 3 places!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 18:43 Archived in Australia Comments (1)




Breakfast next door at the same place as we had dinner last night. Lyn had a repeat of roti & dahl and I had a very sweet roti with banana & condensed milk (the favourite ingredient added to just about everything in Malaysia). Washed down with a couple of ice coffees with said condensed milk.


We managed to get all our stuff into bags and made our way via taxi 10myr to the bus station. Turns out our bus was running last and we had to sit around for an hour until it finally showed up.


The drive through southern Malaysia is much like the rest of the country, both sides of the road palm tree plantations as far as the eye could see. The sort of palm trees they use to harvest palm oil.

We reached the border in less than 2 hours and the exit out of Malaysia was easy. Bus driver advised us to get out of bus with only passports and go through the immigration building, he would be waiting on the other side. True to his word, less than 5 minutes we were back on the bus and it was like a 3-minute drive to the Singapore immigration building. This stop was a little more complicated as we needed to drag all our luggage through customs, with consisted of an x-ray machine via the ‘nothing to declare’ line. Immigration was a little lengthier, especially because I got stuck in a row that had suspects trying to get into the country and were being questioned at length. Not to worry the bus was still waiting on the other side when I came out, loaded by bags under the bus and off we took into the Singapore traffic.

The bus drove about 40 minutes through the traffic before depositing us at the back of the Park Royal Hotel. Seemed like an odd place for the bus to stop, but that was the end of the line. We flagged a taxi and S$9 later we were struggling with our luggage up the steps of our hostel.
We always stay at the Betel Box Hostel in Joo Chiat Road. Not sure how we found this place the first time, but it’s now an area we sort of know and like to stay in. Also, last time we passed through here on the way home from a trip, Lyn left a big straw hat here and they have been safe keeping it until our return.

Singapore is expensive, especially for accommodation and we are paying S$70 & S$80 per night for a ‘family’ private room. This includes a tea and toast breakfast. Pretty expensive for a hostel I think, but the cheapest option available here.

We settled in and then went out after dark to find some food. There are a lot of places to eat around this street and we opted for a food court that we had been to before. Lyn soupy noodle meal was S$4.50 and mine was S$3.00. To tell the truth am a little over Asian food and my appetite is just not there anymore. I’m eating so I don’t feel hungry later, but really…

We have a share bathroom but luckily the dorm on our floor is not too full, so we did not have to wait to have a shower. Our room is big with a choice of 3 beds, so we are comfortable and will sleep ok tonight.


Today we have a free day in Singapore! Breakfast of toast & tea/coffee is free at the hostel, so we go downstairs before 9 to have something. Not very exciting, but it’s real bread and it saves having to go look for something first up.

The night receptionist last night gave me 2 transport cards that we can use for the next 2 days. Saves us having to purchase a non-refundable card, we just need to top it up with some travelling money. We manage to get out the door just after 9.30 and walk a couple of doors down to the 711 where we can get the cards topped up. Minimum is S$5, so we ask for that amount on each card, we can always add more later. There is a 50c transaction fee. One card works fine, but the 2nd card does not top up and the lady behind the counter says the system is down. We will have to try another place, and she is not able to advise where the next closest place is. Great!

We start walking toward the MRT station, hoping to find another shop along the way. We did, Cheers, which is similar to 711 are able to top up cards also. After putting S$5 on the 2nd card, we continue the walk to the closest MRT station which is about a 15minute walk away.
We swipe into the station and get aboard the next green line train heading towards the city. Our first destination today is, yep you guessed it, Decathlon! Again, Singapore is a place we have been to several times so have seen all the touristy things, so what better way to use the day then exploring on the public transport and making a visit to my favourite store. Actually, we had good reason as we had requests from a few friends at home for the full-face snorkel masks.

We rode the green line train until the stop called Lavender, from there we had to walk a few blocks to the City Mall shopping centre. The Decathlon store ended up being inside the shopping mall, so we thought it might be just a small micro store. But no it was a fully big store, we browsed around and bought a few things.


Back out on the street it was time to stop for a drink, so we picked a street side food court and sat while we drank an ice coffee.

Onto our next destination, we were on a roll so why not go to Ikea for lunch. Short walk to another MRT station, this time getting on the purple line until it crossed the green line where we had to change to get the train take took us to Queenstown stop. This is the MRT stop closest to Ikea as advised by Mr Google. Not sure which direction to walk from the station as we could not see a big yellow & blue sign, I went into the 711 and asked the guy behind the counter. Yes, he said, go down the steps and catch the #195 bus. Easy, we found the bus stop at the foot of the steps (the MRT is an above the road train) and we waited for the next bus #195. This did not take long, and the bus route map advised it was just 2 stops away.
I saw the big yellow & blue sign before the bus stop came into view, we swiped the card on the way out and the bus fare was 4c. We headed for the restaurant and had lunch – meatballs & chicken wings. Didn’t bother browsing the store as they are all the same and quite frankly our luggage is at bursting point. Surprisingly, they did not have an AS IS section at the end near the checkout like every other Ikea store we have ever visited. And this one did sell beer and cider in the restaurant!

Returning to the bus stop to get back on the #195, we decided to let it take us for a ride to see where it would take us. So easy with the swipe in and out card, you don’t need to advise your destination, just make sure you have enough money on the card and away you go.

This was a much longer bus ride, but we had seats, so it was not a problem. I was looking at the map and a gentleman on the bus asked where we were going. No idea we answered him. Ok then, he advised if we got off 2 stops after his we would be on the Riverside walk so this sounded like a plan. We exited the bus near the Supreme Court building and it was only a block away from the riverside. We had been here before, but it’s always a nice walk.


We stopped off at the very flash Fullerton Hotel to use their toilets, like we always do when walking past this 5-star hotel. Went and had our photo with the Merlion, another must when visiting Singapore. Then we just kept walking, following the pathway along the waterfront until it took us to the 3 towers of the Marina Sands Hotel. This is one of the most expensive hotels in Singapore and has a magnificent infinity pool and bar on its rooftop. I have only read about this as it costs S$25 to just go up to the rooftop and drinks are priced much the same. So, a bit out of our budget to blow S$100 on one drink with a great view.


So, we continued to walk around the back of the towers to the Marina Gardens. We had a walk around there, and it took some photos of beautiful coloured frangipani flowers. They have a flower dome and another plant dome, but again the entry price was a little over our budget, so we decided to just enjoy the flowers we could see for free in the garden.


Feet and legs were starting to feel the effort of all todays walking and I suggest we start to make our way back towards a MRT station and back to the hostel. We had intended on staying to watch the light show that is played in the gardens each night, but that was still another 2 hours away and I was pooped. Something for next time.

The MRT was starting to get busy as it was now after six, and Singapore workers were on their way home. Our scanned cards would not allow us into the MRT as if said insufficient funds, so we topped them up at the station, knowing we will use again tomorrow. Lucky enough to get a seat on the MRT, even if they were for the old and infirm, that’s how my feet felt so it was justified. I thought if someone looked older and in more pain than me I would stand up. Luckily I had a seat for the whole journey back to our station.

Of course, we still had the 15-minute walk back to the hostel. We had a quick noodle meal in a place across the road from Betel Box as we knew if we went inside, we would not have the energy to go back out again. Staggering up the steps, the night receptionist greeted us with – you not see the light show. I laughed and said, we walked too much today already! The light show can wait until our next visit to Singapore.


Hot shower and my feet are cursing me that we are not still in Thailand where they would be getting a fabulous foot massage right now.

We both walked over 20,000 steps today, and that was in addition to all the buses and trains we travelled in. Just under 15km in total, good effort I think.


An easy day today, we had to be out of our room by 11am, but its ok for us to hang out at the hostel for the day. After breakfast we packed the 3 check-in bags up, I quickly purchased extra baggage online for our flight as I am afraid we are somewhat over our allowance and don’t want to be caught at the airport having to pay excess baggage.

Another reason we chose this hostel as they are fine for us to store luggage under the pool table and just hang in the common room all day, coming and going as we please. We can even take a shower before we head out to the airport.

We did have to go out today, one more visit to Decathlon to collect some snorkel masks for friends and family who requested we purchase for them. So this was our only excursion today. The bus from just the next block too us right to the front door of the store.


We had lunch in the food court, made our purchases and then caught the MRT back to Joo Chiat. MRT stations are the only place where we could get a refund for any money left on the transport cards and as between us we had S$18 it was worth the walk back from the MRT to the hostel to get this refund.
I’m going to post this blog before we head off to the airport, but hopefully all will go smoothly. We will go have showers soon, then taxi to the airport from the hostel, too much luggage to take the bus or MRT – and taxis are fair price here in Singapore – all metered.

I had a few signs today that it's time to go home, I have sever pain in my back (perhaps from carrying/dragging our luggage around) & the smell of Asian food is not very appealing to me (hence my loss of appetite). Yep, time to go home!

Our flight is scheduled to depart at 22.20 tonight, hopefully we will sleep most of the way and arrive a little refreshed at Coolangatta airport 8am Friday.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 02:47 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

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