A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

Siem Reap, Angkor Wat (photos to follow)

overcast
View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

From Bangkok we started off our mission to get to Cambodia. According to all the literature this is one of the most complicated border crossings that you can encounter anywhere in the world, mainly because everyone and anyone is trying to scam you along the way. We were warned off taking tourist buses which can take 20 hours, deliberately so, in order that you arrive at Siem Reap at 5 am and go for whatever overpriced accommodation they drop you at. So in order to avoid this we did it all oursleves. We had a few adventures on the way as expected. We took a local bus to the border town of Aranyaprathet on the Thai side.

calum_2_196.jpg

From there we took a tuk tuk to the border, and had to stop the driver taking us to a travel agent instead of the border. In fact he didn't take us right to the border. He dropped us short of it at a group of touts who offered to do our Visa's for us, and told us that we wouldn't be able to get a Cambodian Visa at the border. Bollocks. We managed to avoid them and headed to the border control. Departing Thailand was all very straightforward. We then walked across nomans land - which is a case of dodging all of the begging children before going to the Cambodian Visa office. I lost the rag a bit here.

calum_2_197.jpg

We filled out our applications and took them to the counter - above which there is a large sign requesting $20 for a tourist visa. We were served by a very officious looking character in a military uniform. I had calculated $20 as being about 800 baht each so passed this over to him with the applications. He flatly refused the 1600 baht, saying that it would be 2000 baht. I in turn refused and told him that it was 1600 baht. He sat down and read his paper and ignored me, which got me a bit angry. He kept saying it was 1000 baht. I kept telling him he was a liar and that I knew it was only 800. After a bit of more of that, I then went into my rucksack and produced $20 each for the visa. His response to this was that it was $25 each, despite the clear sign above his head stating $20. I did a bit of pointing at the sign and shouting at him, but he wouldn't budge. Then he shouted at me that it was only $20 if you prearranged the Visa in Bangkok, and if I wanted to do that then it would take 24hours! I was apoplectic by this stage and pulled out my mobile and shouted at him that I was going to phone my embassy, the British embassy, to find out what they had to say about that.......and he accepted the 800 baht each and gave us the Visas. Absolute joker. But I won. Just before I get criticised for being tight (as the difference between 1600 and 2000 baht is about 6 quid) it's the principal that really annoys me, that some fat twat who sits drinking coffee, reading the paper and smoking fags in his uniform can demand extra money (and get it most of the time), just because he's wearing a uniform, is just wrong. Especially when there are children begging in the streets outside his office. So corrupt it made me want to strangle the guy. Anyway, we then went to the next office to get a stamp and we were in Cambodia. No sooner had we stepped into the country than we were escorted to a free bus to the "bus station''. Turned out the ''bus station'' was 100 yards up the road and was a travel agent. We agreed with another couple who we met on the bus to share a taxi to Siem Reap. We went into the ''bus station'' and there was a guy with a piece of paper with various pricings for buses and taxis to Siem Reap. At the top of the paper, which was clearly something he had typed up himself was "Ministery of Transportation of Cambodia''. The prices were ridiculously overinflated and so we went outide into the street and got a guy off the street to drive us there for half the price.

The difference between Cambodia and Thailand is immediate. The tarmac road stops at the Thai side, and continues as a very dusty, pot-holed, dirt track all the way 160km to Siem Reap. The journey took us around 3.5 hours. The countryside is so beautiful though.

calum_1_048.jpgcalum_1_049.jpg

We drove past loads of little rural towns, with children playing in the paddies at the side of the road, animals roaming about the place, people living in little thatched houses on stilts, people fishing in the ponds beside the road. Very reminiscent of Central America. Unfortunately Siem Reap is a bit different. It's a bit of a sprawling mess of Massive Super Hotels for the wealthy. We got dropped on the outskirts of town and picked up by a tuk tuk. Turned out the reason for this is that they want to secure a fare for the day after to the Temples at Angkor, which are just outside the town. We went with our guy and arranged for him to collect us at 9 am the next morning. He dropped us at our hotel and we checked in. Crashing back to reality after our time in Bangkok. Nobody greeting us with jasmine garnets, no lifts for anyone to be waiting to press the button. Our room was sparse to say the least, and the warning on the back of the door was a bit of a shock.

calum_2_198.jpg

Cambodia is clearly very poor. Everywhere we've been there are very young children begging, or selling books or trinkets. It's all a bit sad. There are also a lot of people begging missing limbs, presumably as a result of coming into contact with one of the hundreds of landmines that are still present in the countryside. We succumbed to one little boy, who couldn't have been older than about 8, who asked where we were from? We replied ''Scotland'' to which he immediately reeled off "Scotland. Capital Edinburgh. Population 5 million people. Minus two. You know why? Because you 2 are here''.

On our first night we went out for an amazing meal at a crazy little restaurant in town called the Dead Fish Tower. Not the most appealing name, but it is so unique. It is laid out on various different levels and has a really cool atmosphere. Coolest of all though is the pond and the crocodile pit that they have right down at the bottom. The food was really tasty and the beer really cheap (Cambodia is so cheap mug of draught beer for 40p). After our meal we ventured downstairs to see the crocodiles. First we stopped off at the pond.

calum_2_200.jpg

There was a huge fish about a couple of feet long lurking about in there. I decided it would be funny to try and tease it by hanging my finger over the water above its face.

calum_2_199.jpg

It looked like it was recoiling away, but it turned out to be readying itself to attack, as a second after this photo was taken it lunged right out of the water at me. I was just quick enough to get away, but screamed like a little girl, much to the amusement of all the staff who had gathered to watch. Jenny just about wet herself. After I'd calmed down we went to have a look at the crocodiles.

calum_2_208.jpgcalum_2_203.jpgcalum_2_205.jpgcalum_2_207.jpg

Turned out you could feed them dead fish which was good fun. Jenny enjoyed this a lot. There were loads of them all living under the floorboards. They all looked in pretty good nick as well.

The next morning we were rudely awoken at 7.30 by drilling and banging right outside our room, so we upped and left to go to a better place. We then hooked up with our driver - riding a motor bike pulling a carriage that we sat in. We negotiated $12 for the day and set off to Angkor. Angkor is a massive site of temples built during the Khmer empire that controlled Cambodia. The Khmers built a vast array of temples to worship their Gods and bury their kings. They were clearly an amazing bunch given how intricate the temples are.

calum_2_212.jpgcalum_2_216.jpg

The first temple we came to was Angkor Wat. This place is sijmply incredible. As far as temples go this one is mindblowing. The sheer scale of it is as impressive as the ornateness of its design. It was built in the 12th century which makes it even more special.

calum_1_004.jpgcalum_2_221.jpgcalum_2_222.jpgcalum_1_005.jpgcalum_2_230.jpg

I'm not really that fussed by temples but this place is just magnificent. It has a moat all the way round it and ponds with pink and white lotus flowers floating on them. It's just an awesome sight. Jenny's perhaps not quite as enthusiastic as I am about it she said ''if it had been built by a monkey then I'd be impressed''. I think she was quite impressed though, and there were some monkeys stealing stuff from tourists, and some elephants roaming about the roads to keep her baredom levels down.

calum_1_018.jpg

The next temple that we visited, Bayon, was really impressive too.

calum_1_022.jpgcalum_1_025.jpgcalum_1_026.jpgcalum_1_027.jpgcalum_1_029.jpg

It has lots of faces carved into the rocks towering up the sides and the centre of the inner temple. Jenny was a bit more enthusiastic about this one, however that was tempered a bit by the fact that she had her bottom pinched by a Japanese tourist (of which there must have been several million in the entire complex). We went to see another couple of temples, one which you could climb right up to the very top of, on very narrow, shaky stairs.

calum_1_031.jpgcalum_1_034.jpg

There is another temple that has been made famous by the film Tomb Raider that was filmed there, and a final one where they have made no effort to protect the structure from nature, resulting in huge octopus-like tree roots strangling and warping the stone walls.

calum_1_038.jpgcalum_1_039.jpgcalum_1_002.jpgcalum_1_004.jpg

Both of these were pretty amazing also, however we ran out of camera battery unfortunately. We were supposed to hang around for a couple of hours longer to watch the sunset, but it was clouding over, and both of us were shattered, wo we gave that a miss and got our delighted driver to take us back.

We've just been taking it easy for today and are probably going to venture south to Phnom Phen.......

Posted by calumfife 23:09 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Khao Lak, Bangkok

(photos to follow Cambodian Internet is clockwork)

sunny
View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

calum_2_008.jpg
Stayed in Phuket for a couple of days. Phuket is crap. Full of fat families and Burger joints. From there we moved to Khao Lak a few hours up the coast. This place was a lot better. We stayed in the only cheap place, surrounded by big plush resorts, run by a giant weird Dutch guy. He was really helpful though. So far as the plush resorts go, our time would come in Bangkok anyway, so we were happy enough slumming it for a couple of nights more. Didn't do much whilst in Khao Lak other than lie on the beach. We did hire a moped so that we could get to beaches further afield which was good fun. The roads are mental in Thailand though. It's as though there's an unwritten rule that scooters aren't allowed to actually drive on the road, because everyone drives on the hard shoulder. Was pretty exciting stuff. Especially when Jenny decided she wanted a shot. That went fine. Then a shot with me on the back. That ended with us heading for a bush and Jenny gashing her toe quite badly. All good fun though. Refuelling the scooter was pretty unusual as there weren't any petrol stations, rather we found an old woman selling bottles of gasoline at the side of the road. 20baht (30p) for a litre, which she poured direct into the tank.

calum_2_009.jpg

We also treated ourselves to a massage on the beach whilst we were staying here. This started off well, but it all got a bit violent and sore for me, especially on the legs. Left feeling a bit sore and with a slight limp. Not sure I'll be rushing to have another one anytime soon. When we left to get the bus to Bangkok, we got a lift up to the main road from our Dutch host who told us a bit about the Tsunami which raized his, and all of the other properties around his, to the ground. He said that he and his family had to clamber onto the roof of their place to survive, and that half of his residents didn't survive. His car had been washed 3 km inland, along with a police boat, which he pointed out, standing in a bit of waste land 3km inland at the mainroad. All very sobering.

calum_2_010.jpg

We endured a 12 hour bus North to Bangkok, arriving there at 4.30am. We sat about for a few hours before heading to the Oriental hotel where we would be living it up for the next week, with the folks. The Oriental is mental. Fanciest hotel either of us have ever stayed at. We were greeted with somebody helping us with our bags and handing us a garnet of jasmine.

calum_2_012.jpgcalum_2_043.jpgcalum_2_011.jpgcalum_2_107.jpg

For the whole week we were treated like royalty. Was amazing. They have something ridiculous like 2 staff member for every guest, so everything is taken care of for you, almost as far as wiping your arse after using the toilet. They even had a guy whose sole job was to press the button to call the lift. Very oppulent. The rooms were unbelievable as well. Just having a room with running hot water and pillows that weren't made of wood was a bonus for us, but they provide you with fresh fruit every day, little posh snacks at night, and everytime you leave the room they sneak in and fold your clothes and tidy everything up. Superb. I ordered room service for the first time ever, turkey sandwich, which was brought in on a trolley and seved on a silver salver which was pretty cool.

calum_2_046.jpgcalum_2_172.jpg

Was good to meet up with the parents as well, and not to have to stress about anything for a whole week. We did quite a lot of different activities whilst we were in Bangkok.

Our first outing - me, mum and dad - wasn't quite as successful as it could have been. We attempted to go and see the grand palace, which is a series of temples and the previous royal residence, in the centre of Bangkok. We had been warned about people telling us that the place was closed, and not to listen to them. Unfortunately we couldn't find the entrance to the palace and wandered round the outside of it for a while eventually having to ask a few people where the entrance was. We were told 3 times that it was closed by different people. The last of whom was at what looked like an entrance, and was wearing what looked like a uniform. We were told it was closed til 1pm and gave us a map with a couple of other tourist attractions marked on it. Then from nowhere a tuk tuk driver appeared and told us he would take us around the sites for 30 baht (50p). This seemed to good to be true and was. Although he did take uas to the places that we wanted to go to, he also took us to a gem shop and a suit shop. After these two excursons we got fed up, and so did he, so he took us to some crappy temple that was like a building site and dumped us. We did eventually get to the grand palace after a lesson learned. The temples at the palace were pretty amazing. Really ornate and dripping in shiny things and gold. Unfortunately the Jade buddah - the most sacred Buddah in Thailand - was involved in a ceremony when we got there so we didn't get to see it.

calum_2_018.jpgcalum_2_020.jpgcalum_2_022.jpg

I managed to get the three of us booted out of a taxi on our way back to the oriental from our meal on the second night. Taxi driver didn't put on his meter and I pointed this out and told him to put it on. He threw a figure at me, and I again ordered him to put the meter on. He pulled over and told us to get out. All a bit embarrassing, but we got a free fare near enough as the taxi that we flagged down literally took us round the corner and we were at the hotel.

All six of us went to the bridge on the Kwai, which was quite interesting, although we were only allowed 5 minutes there, due to tight time restrictions. Was quite impressive despite what I'd been lead to believe about it. It's not massive but it's some structure to have been built given the circumstances.

calum_2_074.jpgcalum_2_072.jpg

We took a walk across it which was pretty hairy, given that it's only really wide enough for single file and we met plenty of people coming the other way. There are several large gaps to the side of the railway that had to be carefully negotiated to let anyone past. There was a bit of a panic when we were heading back across when a train appeared, but it stopped to pickup tourists before getting onto the bridge so we survived.

Next stop on this combo tour was a trip to the tiger temple. This is a tiger sanctuary run by monks. Was pretty amazing to be able to interact with the tigers in the way that we did.

calum_2_086.jpgcalum_2_104.jpg

We all got a shot of touching their backs whilst they wnadered down to the canyon where there were more photo opportunities. Jenny got well involved (obviously) going for the head shot and pulling their tails etc.

calum_2_094.jpgcalum_2_095.jpg

It became apparent pretty early on that the tigers had been given some sort of sedative to calm them down enought to have sweaty tourists poke and prod them, as the first big one to appear was zigzagging its way down to the canyon as if it had had one too many. It was all good though, and at the same time amazing to be able to get so close to them. There was one very annoying greasy twat who wouldn't listen to any of the warnings that were being issued by the guide (eg keep away from the tiger's mouth) and kept straying off towards the tigers trying to get the perfect shot. I think I can speak for everyone else in that we all would have clubbed together to made a hefty donation to the monks if they'd fed him to the tigers. He was so annoying.

calum_2_031.jpgcalum_2_041.jpg

We went and had a scope about chinatown on another day which was interesting. Lots of weird things being sold on the streets. Lots of gold shops to catch my eye. These pailed into insignificance when we (eventually) got to the Golden Buddah which is a 13 foot high solid gold buddah.

calum_2_035.jpg

Very shiny and impressive. We almost didn't make it to this site, as again we were helpfully told that it was closed that day by a taxi driver who was more interested in taking us on a canal tour. After the grand palace experience we'd wised up to this line though and did eventually find it.

calum_2_108.jpg

We ended up on a canal tour a couple of days later which was interesting. Not least for the fact that the smaller tributary canals seemed to be teaming with massive water dragons. Wouldn't have wanted to have fallen in. We cruised along lookingat all the ramshackle houses built right over the edge of the Chao Phraya, the river running through Bangkok. We stopped briefly to feed the fish which was good fun.

calum_2_112.jpgcalum_2_116.jpg

The fish were massive (presumably the reason there were dnosaur sized water lizards in there too) and we were encouraged to throw whole rolls in for them which they gobbled up no problem. We stopped off at a "snake farm'' next. This turned out to be a very run down and pretty depressing zoo.

calum_2_122.jpgcalum_2_128.jpg

The star attractions were the snakes which took part in a show hosted by a creepy guy on a microphone, and involved various snakes being tormented for 10-15 minutes, culminating in them milking one of them. All quite entertaining, but not very educational or fair on the snakes it seemed. The other animals were all pretty unhappy looking in their tiny cages. Jenny and Wendy were particularly taken by a cute baby gibbon that was out and about. Just a shame that it'll ended up in one of the tiny cages that the others were kept in.

calum_2_136.jpgcalum_2_139.jpg

Whilst we were staying in Bangkok we went to some very smart restaurants. For Roddy's birthday we went to the Banyan Tree, which is a restaurant on the 61st floor of a skyscraper on the top and open to the elements. Was an amazing view and food.

calum_2_145.jpgcalum_2_168.jpg

Was pretty windy though. After that and as a treat for him we went to Patpong - the red light district. We had a couple of drinks in a dodgy little bar and spotted ladyboys going past and watched all the seedy old men with their thai prizes. Was interesting. Not quite as in-your-face as I'd thought it might be, although Roddy was given an impromptu, unwanted neck massage whilst he was in the toilet which is pretty in-your-face I suppose. We didn't go to see a ''ping-pong show" which all the bars were advertising as I don't think either me or Jenny could cope with the embarrassment of seeing something like that with mother/father respectively in tow.

calum_2_064.jpgcalum_2_050.jpg

We also ventured across the Chao Phraya on one of the complimentary Oriental boats to have a traditional Thai meal sitting on the floor at lowered tables. They put on some traditional Thai entertainment whilst we ate. They had traditional dance which was interesting.

calum_2_051.jpgcalum_2_053.jpg

Especially the girls' fingers which were all hyper extended which looked pretty uncomfortable. That was followed by quite an odd mini-play with people wearing masks, and then a mock fight.

calum_2_159.jpgcalum_2_158.jpg

We took a trip to the famous chatuchak market. The biggest market in the world. It was massive. Sold nearly everything you could imagine. We spent a good half day wandering about here looking at all the weird and wonderful things on sale. We probably spent half of that time in the pet section as Wnedy and Jenny got all doey eyed about the puppies on sale there. The market wasn't quite what I was expecting, and I was a little disappointed that it wasn't a bit more in your face, ramshackle. In actual fact it was very civilised, neat and clean! It was interesting all the same though.

calum_2_175.jpgcalum_2_177.jpgcalum_2_174.jpgcalum_2_191.jpgcalum_2_163.jpg

In between all of our sightseeing we all did a bit of relaxing by the pool, and eating and drinking well. Was a really amazing setting with the hotel right on the edge of the Chao Phraya so you could watch the cargo boats and tourist boats chugging up and down all day. All in all we had a great time relaxing for the week. Was good to re-charge the batteries, fatten up on good food, before heading off to Cambodia. We were very grateful to our parents for putting us up in a hotel round the corner from the Oriental the night that they left, to ease us back into traveller mode. We said goodbye to them on Sunday night and got up early on Monday morning to catcha bus to Cambodia........

Posted by calumfife 12:28 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Thai beaches and Islands

Railay, Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi, Phuket

overcast
View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

We headed off in search of sun on a longtail to Railay, which is a beach just the next bay round from where we were in Ao Nang.

calum_003.jpgcalum_002.jpg

Was a bit choppy and rainy so we got soaked both on the boat and attempting to get our rucksacks into the thing in the first place. The sun did finally decide to start playing along just as we scrambled off the longtail onto the beach at Railay.

calum_004.jpgcalum_014.jpgcalum_013.jpg

Railay puts Ao Nang to shame. Such a beautiful beach and no tacky little shops. It has the sheer limestone cliffs rising out of the sea at each end of the beach which was pretty cool. There were quite a few plush resorts that the beach backed onto, but pretty well hidden in the undergrowth. Unfortunately for us we had to trudge past the resorts, wishing we could afford to stay there, right through the undergrowth into the forest to find the cheap places. We ended up getting our own little wooden, thatched, bunglaow/forest hut effort with veranda and cushions to lie and relax on which turned out to be really nice. We'd gone to see another place that was a lot simpler and cheaper further into the bushes but I spotted a spider in a tree that was the size of my hand, so we decided against staying there.

calum_007.jpgcalum_009.jpgcalum_006.jpgcalum_008.jpg

The weather turned from thereon, and we've had glorious sunshine pretty much everyday for the past couple of weeks, which has been great. We spent most of our time just lounging on the beach and swimming in the bath temperature waters which was good. The Thai's know what they're doing when it comes to cocktails, either serving them in hollowed out fruits.....
calum_036.jpg
or in buckets......
calum_011.jpg
or the bars just sell you the ingredients and leave the rest up to you........
calum_038.jpg
all that cost less than 3 quid which was pretty good.

From Railay we caught a ferry South to an Island called Ko Lanta. We caught a longtail boat out of Railay bay then had to transfer from that onto a little ferry out in the sea which was interesting. The ferry was overloaded with people all sitting hanging over the edges which was a bit disconcerting at first, but we just squeezed in and survived the 2 hour trip unharmed. There was the usual chaos that has greets you at every bus station and ferry port over here, with people tugging at you and shouting taxi in your face. We opted for a motorcyle and sidecar to take us to the main beach, which was an experience.

calum_015.jpg

We spent our first night in a fancy beach hut at a resort, right on the beach which we thought was a pretty good deal. We later discovered that there was an open sewar running right under it that carried everyone elses filth past which made a very unpleasant smell. We were provided with an air freshener but it only made the smell even worse.

calum_017.jpg

We left the next day. The beach at this place was pretty good though, and we got our first sunset over the Andaman Sea which was pretty spectacular.

calum_019.jpgcalum_021.jpg

Jenny had spent a good hour and a half constructing a big sand sculpture of a turtle in the sand. She was just finnishing off the head, when a pack of dogs caming running along the beach, made a bee-line for the turtle and jumped all over it destroying it.
calum_018.jpg

Very funny.

We caught another sidecar down to the south of the island the next day, and found a much quiter and cheaper place to stay. We made sure to check for the telltale air spray as soon as we got sown round our hut this time. All clear. We stayed at an amazing quiet little family run private beach resort. Really incredible, and we were paying a third of the price we have been most places. The beach was nice, but a little rocky which made it a bit of an expedition to get into the sea, but other than that we both loved it, and stayed 3 nights. We got into a routine of just relaxing on the beach with our own little thatched shade booth calum_026.jpgcalum_027.jpg

then gazing out to sea at the psychedellic sunsets and pirate ships going past,

calum_030.jpgcalum_044.jpgcalum_046.jpgcalum_043.jpg

whilst lying at the low tables of the local bar next door, enjoying a Singha or a cocktail, before heading out for something to eat, before returning to the bar to watch the nightly fire show.

calum_040.jpgcalum_039.jpg

Absolutley great. Could have stayed there a lot longer. The only major decision to be made when we were there was whether it was to be green or red curry.

calum_022.jpgcalum_042.jpg

Both brilliant. Jenny got a bit bored of the sun sometimes but there were plenty of crabs for her to torment, and sticks to do it with, all along the beach, so she was happy too.

calum_028.jpgcalum_029.jpg

From Ko Lanta we caught another ferry North to Ko Phi Phi. Ko Phi Phi is a breathtaking place.

calum_051.jpgcalum_055.jpg

It's a series of islands, most of which are massive limestone cliffs jutting out of the sea. The water is absolutley crystal clear and the beaches are white sand. It was quite touristy, but we expected that. And I don't think that can detract from how spectacular the place is.

calum_054.jpgcalum_052.jpg

We ended up staying in a place right at the top of a hill overlooking the whole bay which was really nice. The accommodation was good - big spacious huts on stilts. An American guy in front of us was mumping and moaning about having to pay for one, describing it as 'a bit ghetto'. We thought it was fine, apart from the 10 flights of rickety rusting stairs that we had to climb every day to get up to the top of the hill.

calum_056.jpg

Ko Phi Phi's water is so clear it was unreal, and it has some of the best diving in the world, so we booked up for 2 dives out at the 2 most southerly limestone islands Bidah Nok, and Bidah Nai. We thought it wise to try a bit of snorkelling the day before doing this seeing as we hadn't done any since my little episode with a shark in Panama. You can snorkel right off the beach at Paradise beach where we were, and saw so many fish......and sharks, which was pretty smart. There were lots of Black Tip sharks patrolling about the water, but they were only about 1 - 1 and half metres long, and probably more scared of us than we of them. They were reasonably inquisitive though. But nothing like the monster in Panama so everything was ok. The next day we went diving. This was different class. We did it with a couple who were doing their last day of the open water course, so we could take it quite easy, and it was nice to have less experienced people there seeing as we hadn't dived since March. I can't rant and rave enough about the diving though. It was just immense.

calum_057.jpgcalum_058.jpgcalum_060.jpg

We did it from a longboat which was very very slow in getting us to the islands and back, but very cool all the same. No sooner had we got down than we saw a stingray, then a Leopard shark about 4 foot long chilling out on the bottom. We saw all sorts of amazing fish, nemo, huge shoals of baby barracuda, lion fish......the list goes on. Our guide was good and pointed out all the interesting stuff, and at one point when we werelooking at lion fish under the coral, another 4 foot long lepoard shark came swimming up behind him and glided up the face of the coral. Leopard sharks are docile by the way, otherwise I would have been hyperventilaing and soiling my wetsuit. Really crazy stuff. We were both absolutely flying after it. Learning to dive is a must for everyone we've concluded.

We left Ko Phi Phi this morning on a ferry North to Phuket Island. We are currently in a little beach place called Hat Kata. It's not really very great. Unfortunately it has to compete with all I've just written, which is a hard act to follow, admittedly, but it's REALLY touristy here, and the prices are ridiculous. So don't think we'll spend much time here. Looking into heading North to quieter places before arriving in Bangkok on Sunday to meet the folks.

Posted by calumfife 16:14 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Spiders

storm
View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

We had a bit of an episode last night with some unwanted wildlife trying to share our little hut.

102_0058_1_.pjpeg102_0065_1_.pjpeg

This big badboy came through the roof to shelter from the rain. Not sure if the pictures translate very well exactly how big it was. It was VERY big. So big that you can see the pink of it's eyes reflecting the flash. Horrible. Jenny eventually took control of the situation and got rid of it. We were both doing a lot of checking of the bed before getting under the covers last night.

Posted by calumfife 14:09 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

South East Asia

Singapore, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Pulau Pangkor

overcast
View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

We spent our last few days in Australia back in Sydney kicking about Russel's flat relaxing before catching a plane to Singapore. We went out for a meal with Russel, Nic, James and Sarah, which was a good laugh. Great meal. Nepalese place, really good food. We then flew out on the 1st November to begin the final leg of our round the world jaunt. The flight was a bit traumatic. First couple of hours was constant turbulence, and both of us were gripping onto the arm rests in panic for most of that. The inflight entertainment didn't work which was a bit crap, so I entertained myself with quite a few miniature bottles of wine. We arrived in Singapore at about 10pm both pretty tired. We headed for Little India, an area of the city with loads of hostels. Unfortunately we didn't bank on every hostel in the city being full and were both extremely tired and emotional when we eventually checked into a hotel at about 1am (4am Sydney time) having trapsed about with full backpacks on around the dark, smelly streets. The hotel that we eventually found was fine although we paid well over the odds for it. We had been offered a mattress with some interesting brown stains on it at the end of a corridor, without a door, on a kind of balcony/part of the roof of the place before...so that had been the final straw and we splashed a bit of cash just to get somewhere that resembled a room. Next day we headed back to Little India and managed to check-in to a hostel no bother that morning.

Singapore was alright. It's a pretty amazing mix of Cultures. Little India was interesting because it is Deepavali - Hindu festival of lights - at the moment, so they had all these ridiculously colourful decorations and neon light displays up all over the place.

P1010761_1_.pjpegP1010752_1_.pjpeg

We didn't spend long in Singapore, only one full day. We didn't see much of it as we spent half the day trying to buy a train ticket to Kuala Lumpur. I'm not sure there's an aweful lot to see in any event. We walked down the main street, Orchard Road, which is basically just one continuous stretch of massive shopping centres. Could have been anywhere. Weird walking down the street in the intense humidity and getting blasted by freezing air conditioning every few steps, from all the shops. I'm still struggling to get used to hot outside, cold inside. One thing that was good about Singapore, and has been so far since being in SE Asia, is the food.

P1010766_1_.pjpeg

Amazing selection of stuff to eat. On our day in Singapore we ate curry in Little India in the morning, Thai for lunch, then Chinese for dinner. Great stuff. We stayed in a dorm that night, which was a bit like a prison cell, which we had to share with an American Jesus freak and a girl from Leith. Not sure which is worse.

P1010755_1_.pjpeg

Next day we got up early and caught a train to Kuala Lumpur (KL). I think the line that we were on is part of the Orient Express route.

P1010768_1_.pjpeg

Certainly there was a sign indicating that was the case. The train took about 7 hours and was absolutely freezing. We went 2nd class, and the carriage was literally like sitting in a fridge. Wasn't very comfortable, and the toilet was a hole in the floor that went straight onto the tracks. Wasn't too bad though.

We arrived in KL mid-afternoon, managed to check-in to a hostel at our first attempt, then went and had a look around the city. Again, there wasn't a lot to see, apart from the Petronas Towers.

P1010771_1_.pjpegP1010776_1_.pjpeg

Absolutely amazing building, especially when all lit up at night. More massive shopping centres involved here, making up the bases of the two towers. We wandered about here for a while before going to get some food. The food in Malaysia, so far, has been great. You can eat and drink for next to nothing. We both ate and had a drink in KL for under 2 pounds for both of us. Despite the small shard of glass that I found in my Nasi Goreng, that was pretty good value. Nasi Goreng is great - basically spicy chicken fried rice with seafood, or whatever meat they have lying about. Been eating a lot of it, from dodgy little places that we've stopped at along the way. We only spent the one night in KL before moving North and to the West Coast of Malaysia, in search of good weather, and beaches. The weather so far has been disappointing. Been pissing with rain for the majority of our time here so far. I was getting a bit worried that we might have made a mistake in planning the trip the way that we have, and that we were going to be under a monsoon cloud for the whole SE Asia leg. A Malaysian guy that we spoke to allayed those fears by telling us that the weather has just been pretty shocking for this time of year and that it should be good by next week. So should be ok fingers crossed, as I'm planning on getting very very very very brown.

From KL we got a bus to a little place called Lumut where we caught a ferry to an island off the West Coast of Malaysia, called Pulau Pangkor. When we disembarked we caught a weird little pink taxi/minivan to the other side of the island to a little bay called Teluk Nipah.

P1010794_3_.pjpegP1010785_1_.pjpeg

Was a really pretty little beach town. The beach had rope swings hanging off lots of the trees lining it, which was quite smart.

P1010783_1_.pjpegP1010798_1_.pjpeg

Unfortunately the weather spoiled any quality time on the beach. It was a torrential downpour for nearly our whole time there. However, we did venture into the sea on our second day there. The sea here is really warm so we spent a good couple of hours mucking about in the waves. Other than wandering about the beach and sitting drinking Tiger beer on our little porch, watching the torrential rain and the weird hornbills flying about, we didn't do a lot.

P1010803_1_.pjpegP1010807_1_.pjpegP1010806_1_.pjpegP1010780_1_.pjpegP1010792_1_.pjpeg

Jenny is taking great interest in each and every cat that we come across, which makes getting anywhere quite a slow process as they are all over the place here.

P1010777_1_.pjpeg

I even spotted one down a drain in Singapore. Jenny fed one of the cats in Teluk Nipah a tin of curry tuna, so even the cats like it spicy over here. Was good to relax for a day or so before we hit the road again.

Last couple of days were a bit of a nightmare. Began a marathon two day slog North from the island. First caught a boat back to the mainland. Then caught a 2 hour bus to a town called Ipoh. Ipoh was a bit of a dump, and had proper open sewars running down the sides of the streets, absolutley revolting, the place stank like a toilet. Unfortunately we had to kill a whole day there wandering about in the rain before catching an overnight bus to Hat Yai just over the Thai border. Got absolutely no sleep because the bus was freezing cold. Managed to negotiate the border crossing before catching another 4 hour minivan to Krabi on the West Coast of Thailand. This was a nightmare, not least because we knew it was to be 4 hours, and we spent an hour and a half crawling about the streets looking for people to pick up before leaving. Got no sleep here either because it was so cramped and the driver was driving as fast as he could overtaking on blind corners driving literally inches befhind the vehicle in front at 70mph.

102_0026_2_.pjpeg

Having survived this we then caught another 1/2 hour taxi to our final destination Ao Nang, where we are just now. Slept well last night after all that carry on. Krabi seemed a bit of a dump as well, although we didn't spend long there and I was having a bit of a strop because of sleep deprivation. Ao Nang has niceish beaches, although the view out to the islands is what it's really all about and the longtail boats scooting about from bay to bay.

102_0039_1_.pjpeg102_0036_1_.pjpeg102_0054_1_.pjpeg102_0045_1_.pjpeg

Really pretty. There are several reminders of the devastation that was caused by the Tsunami that hit in 2004, in the shape of evacuation signs, and there still appears to be a lot of rebuilding going on around here.

102_0057_1_.pjpeg

Ao Nang is kind of spoiled by the road that the beach backs onto that is littered with tack shops crawling with tourists. Going to head to better beaches tomorrow probably and try to escape the crowds.

102_0075_1_.pjpeg

Weather is still pretty crap although it's not raining and the sun is making some effort to come through.

Posted by calumfife 15:49 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 52) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »