Monday, 30 March 2009

Happy Birthday Malcolm Luckhurst

Internet was down here yesterday so apologiese for delay. Hope you have a nice day with nothing too strenuous on the cards (i.e. selling houses). I enjoy reading your (and Christine's) comments on the blog and im glad someone out there is enjoying my waffle about the world.

Today im off to a group of Wats called the Roluos group, about 12km from Siem Reap. Tomorrow I get to see the majesty of the Ankor Wat and Ankor Thom with (hopefully) some sort of sunset - last night was very overcast.

Ok well goodbye for now and if I knew happy birthday in Cambodian i'd be ending this post with it. See yall later. X

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Siem Reap

Arrived here 2 days ago and im staying at a $1 a night guesthouse called Garden Village. It's weird that aswell as their own currency - the Riel - they've adopted the American dollar so buying things is in both. Very confusing to work out what you're paying, especially after 10 weeks of the Thai Baht, but never a hassle. Cambodians' speak amazing English, much better than Thailand and they're amazingly friendly and helpful - seems what people said is true.

Siem Reap is the hub for seeing all the famous Ankor temples so im off tomorrow to see one of the nine wonders. Im buying a 3 day pass and hiring a bicycle to explore the ruins (which in it's entirity is over 300 square Km) with guys I met on my bus here. It was funny because of the 9 people on my bus, only I had any idea about where to stay (through recommendation of other travellers) so they all just came with me. We now have a sort of gang and I think 6 of us are doing the tour on bikes. Tres excitement.

And, just to say - family this is for you - that this is Cambodia, a very poor (yet growing) country so internet access might not be too frequent. My guesthouse here does have it but that might not case at every stop, so a short pause in posts is in no way a sign of my death (despite what the subtitle of the blog says). Panic alarms at zero yes? No news is good news.

A fascinating country awaits and I think i've fallen in love in 2 days. I spoke alot (ha) about spirit in Thailand - some places with less, some places with more. Well here it is very different, a very honest spirit. One which visually (so far), hasn't shown it's head above water but im sure tomorrow i'll have a different story after Ankor. Whatever happens, I think the best way to describe Cambodia at the moment is in it's people; happy, friendly, helpful and full of respect. X

P.s. As hard as I tried in Bangkok to upload pictures for Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui, Krabi, Phi Phi, Phuket and Khao Sok - it just wouldn't happen. And they're good pictures too. Now unfortunately you might have to wait till my return - worth it though, promise :)


(In big prominent letters). New country, new map.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A Pickle.

So, it seems my camera is indestructable - they dont make 'em like they did 6 years ago. Either that or I have good camera karma. Yesterday, I switched it on and it's working like it always did, no moisture or nothing, pictures like they should be. Guess it just needed a few extra days to dry. Good news yes? Well... this is 2 days after buying a new one for an amount (although cheaper than in the UK) I didn't really want to spend. So return it I hear you say (?), well they only offer exchanges, upgrades or repairs - no cash refunds (!). So alas, I now have 2 working cameras. But I do actually quite like my new one (once i've charged it anyway), it's got 10 million pixels, 5x zoom... plus a hundred other features my old one doesn't have - including a massive screen - so ultimately I think it was time for a replacement, I just hate replacing things that already work.

And an amusing note, on Khao San Road, if you sit and wait long enough (Pad Thai in hand usually), someone you've met on your travels will eventually wander by. It is the way of the street. X

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Phuket, Khao Sok & Back to Bangkok

Apologies for the delay (I dont know if I need to apologise), even with free internet you can still find more appealing things to do. So Phuket, what to say, I think to describe it as 'the comedown' island would be appropriate - but that might be because I'd just come from Phi Phi. It was in no way Thailand, it seemed to have been engulfed by fat, middle-aged white men parading around with their Thai brides - very seedy, especially on Pa Thong beach which is the hotspot for these people to flock to. I however just passed through on my motorbike. Apart from that everything was just meh - the beaches (major parosols), the shops, the markets, the scenery... Same same but different.

Luckily I met some really nice people so we formed a "Slaughterhouse 3" biking gang (kudos goes to Katheryn for that) and did a tour of the island. Phuket doesn't have like "a thing" which the island is famous for - well, apart from the aformentioned seediness. So a self-navigated tour was our only option. So yeah, it was me, Katheryn (an Aussie who'd been in England for 6 years) and Jeff (a pilot from America) that were our gang, and apart from the on/off rain, we had a good day (and by rain I mean storm).

And on the subject, rain. It's been thunderstorming everyday for over a week here. Mostly in the evenings or late afternoon, but weird things are going on with the climate here. It's still really nice and hot, but when the clouds start a-forming, you start a-moving (or pulling over if you're on a bike) because the drops are the size of your hands and face. I however avoided it all during the stuff I did so I dont mind if it rains now, I was spared when it mattered :)

So on the 21st of March I went from Phuket to Khao Sok National Park, back to the huts im so fond of but this time in the jungle, surrounded by greens I have only seen on a HD t.v, the trees brought alive by the rain I suspect. The day after I arrived I went on a trip to the Rajjaphapa Dam which envolved a boat tour, 3 hour jungle trek and 1 hour cave exploration. The path was relatively straight forward, it winded up through the jungle going in and out of rivers and mud towards the highlight of Namtaloo Cave. Inside it was pitch black, and a river (probably the same river we'd been traversing) ran throughout the cave - which basically formed our path. The entrance was something straight out of Lord of The Rings and inside were hundreds of bats clinging to the ceiling and huge 'Hunter Spiders' lurking on the rocks, all of which you'd find by torchlight. Our group of 7 or so people had to paddle, wade and swim through with obvious attention needed when navigating the slippery rocks and plunges. But it was f***ing-great(parental guidance, I know I have many young fans).

BUT, and it's a big but. After navigating the cave, and managing to keep my camera dry throughout the whole thing - all that frickin' water! I exited and decided to take a picture of the 'exit hole' and somehow dropped my fucking camera in a fucking pool of water. Seriously, I value my camera over my passport or money, if it got stolen or lost, I think i'd spontaneously vomit. So the camera spazzed out for a minute and I removed the battery and memory card (the important bit) and once back at basecamp I let it dry in the sun. Then when I got back to my hut I put everything back and it seemed to work - the occasional blip but that's it. Now however, although it's back to normal, there still seems to be moisture in the lense?... so there's a clouded mist over any pictures I take. I divided now about what to do, im back in Bangkok so a camera would be easy (and relatively cheap compared to home) to pick up. But I have feeling if my camera could just de-moisturise (?) then it would be ok (?). I might investigate borrowing a hairdryer... Does anyone have any ideas? A guy also recommended a rice streamer but I dont want to cook it :-/

Apart from that I sent another package home today, also put in my order for my Cambodian Visa and booked a bus from Bangkok to Siam Reap for Friday. Im also about to go to a district in Bangkok called "Pantip" which is like the electronics heart of the city, just to have a look at the cameras. If mine hasn't sorted itself out by Thursday then I'll know where to go to get another.

This post has been epic. I hope it makes up for the promised photos which never turned up. I'll post again before Friday and then it's off to Cambodia for me! - camera or no camera. X

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Ko Phi Phi

The most beautiful place in Thailand and not because Hollywood says so either. Did a boat tour around the islands and beaches for a day, which also included snorkeling. The water and scenery was unreal, something like "super paradise" would probably suffice. The snorkeling was in water that was crystal clear with so many tropical fish and coral and marine life, literally swimming past your face not bothered by your pressence. Some guys also saw sharks - Black Tip I think they're called - but I didn't unfortunately, they're quite small and not aggressive or anything. The best part for was coming into a school of fish that morphed and changed direction when I reached out to touch them. The tour culminated in a visit to "The Beach" beach - see film mum & dad because you own it - and it was nice. I say nice because the actualy beach is same same, but the view out is incredibly, it's completely incased in cliffs with a sinlge opening looking out over the open ocean (basically a big letter C). It's also stupidly busy most of the time due to the movie but we got there just before sunset so was less so. I say again, Thailand is awesome.

Ko Phi Phi though, for the record, was badly hit by the tsunami in 2004 so most of the main town is still a construction site with building work everywhere - lots of concrete understandibly so feels very touristy. You dont see or hear it but over 2000 people died there, yet you can walk the island in a day probably so that's an incedible amount of people on such a small piece of land. Despite it all though Phi Phi has some of the nicest people and a great spirit, St. Patrick's day & the Half Moon Party were a blast.

So I arrived via ferry in Phuket today (poo-ket, not phuck-it) and Im staying at Phuket Backpackers Hostel which I think is the cleanest place I have ever seen, with 4 bed 'cubicles', a great cinema room and more free internet to abuse. I think im gonna relax for my time here, the early mornings and late nights and Half-Moon parties and extreme sports leave ol' Havell tired. I will however upload some pictures at some point today. X

Monday, 16 March 2009


Firstly, these daily posts are purley because the place where im staying; KR Mansion - a really good guesthouse - offers free internet to guests. Thailand, the land of contrasts.

So i've had two amazing days, the kayaking in Ang Thong National Marine Park off the coast of Ko Samui was a blast, met some nice people on the boat and spent most of the day paddling through caves and around picture perfect islands. It seems this sort of thing still amazes despite how many "picture perfect" visuals i've seen. I didn't explore much of Samui so I dont really know what it had to offer, I settled in a place called Na Thon, near the pier from where all the ferries left. Decent food market but post 8:00, it went dead. I didn't mind, had a few good books and there was a nice resturant. My 200B room even had a TV (which I haven't seen in a while) so settled down to watch The Devil Wears Prada :-/ plus BBC Worldnews. How i've missed the economic downturn.

Sea kayaking was my new favourite sport.... until today. Rock climbing in Krabi was Awe-some. Very challenging, with adrenalin pumping like I cant remember, like your life was on a knife edge - and this was only 5 metres up. I had a great tutor (I say "I" because it seems nobody books climbing on a Monday morning so had me some 1 on 1 tuition for 4 hours) called Ip and he taught me all about handling the rope, specifically knots and how to supervise whilst he climbed up to set the route via pegs. After lunch we were joined by 4 other guys and we moved to another location which culminated in a 20m climb that was super intense, but I made it, the shakes in your heart running through your arms & legs. And you never look down, eyes always on the rock for your next hand hold and next foot hold. I did 7 climbs and conquered 5. Feeling this alive never felt so close to death.

Krabi itself seems a humble sort of town, but all the good places are spread out over lots of bays which are only accessible via longtail boats (the climbing was in Laem Phra Nang surrounded by huge cliffs) but because of the whole 2 day stay policy I haven't seen it all. I think climbing and snorkeling are the 2 big draws but other than that it's just expensive resorts on so-so beaches. Tomorrow I leave for Ko Phi Phi which I understand is crazy expensive but im willing and able because it's too good to miss. Think I need to rest a few days though. Oh my arms. X

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Happy (Belated) Birthday Chris Elphick.

Christopher Alexandra Eleanor Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio Elphick. Im sorry this is late. Im sorry there is no picture. This is either because im in the 3rd world and the internet is sparse, or it is because I dont actually care. I hope your "party" - i.e. you and Kate - was really good. I'll bring you back a wife as my gift to you. What would you prefer; Thai, Cambody or Vietnamese?

I cant believe you're nearly 30. X

Friday, 13 March 2009

Ko Samui

So the Visa run just seemed to keep on running. And running and running and running. Left here at 4:30am and arrived at the Malaysian border at 11:00am. Then arrived back in Samui at 6:00pm. Yeah, definitely one of those write home moments :-/ I did however go 80 metres into Malaysia so can I now say "i've been there"? Meh.

I have however got an extra 15 days on my Visa to do a million things, namely Krabi, Ko Phi Phi, Phucket, Khao Sok and Phetchaburi. I've decided to try and do something good on each, spending a bit more than I normally would because i'll only be staying a few days (make sense?). So starting tomorrow in Ko Samui im doing sea kyaking to the Angthong National Marine Park which my guide book describes as something like "scarily beautiful". Then in Krabi I hope to do a days rock climbing, Phi Phi a boat tour of the islands with a visit to THE Beach etc etc.

So im sorted for the next 15 days and I leave for Cambodia on Friday 27th of March. This is my life right now. X

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Ko Pha Ngan

So firstly that last post was supposed to say how the internet was very expensive on Ko Pha Ngan and thusly (that's a word?) was not using it. Unfortunately when I did cough up & post something it came out all Thai so that explains that.

Ko Pha Ngan was ok, but ok is all. There was a lot of price fixing and it was generally very expensive in every area (except maybe accommodation weirdly) and it felt a bit Wickerman, like they're all out to get ya. The beach and the island were what i've come to expect - same same - but in the build up to the Full Moon Party it got very busy, and not the good busy either. I dont know, there's people on holiday and there's people travelling, I think there's a big difference. Ko Pha Ngan was full of people on holiday - think Ibiza, Spain, Turkey... so it felt a bit soulless with a lot of dickheads (trilbys' and the common crop of shit tattoos). But I did meet a few nice people, 2 English guys (from Croydon) and 3 Swedes who I spent most of my evenings with. Also ran into some boys - I say boys becase they were like 18 - from Cambridge and they were also cool.

So the main reason anyone goes to Ko Pha Ngan is for the Full Moon Party (10th of every month) and I got there 5 days prior so got to enjoy the nightly build up of parties. The actual Full Moon Party when it arrived was just ok, been to better parties. It was cool to see a whole beach of people having a party and the atmosphere was great, but music wise it wasn't so diverse. Just Google 'Full Moon Party Ko Pha Ngan' for all other info. I will say I dont remember how I got home, I know I walked but I have no memory. And I had no shoes. When I woke up the next day (more evening) I was a bit bemused that I was in my bed because I always remember things (right Kate?).

I also managed to meet a friend who insisted on sleeping in my bathroom under the sink, he didn't talk much but I named him Sidney. I didn't see him that much either but was ALWAYS checking and when I did he made me run for the hills. Yeah... Imagine a spider the size of a hand. This was my room mate. It was like sleeping next door to a murderer. And dont even ask about using the toilet... Too many nightmare scenarios going on.

So right now i've just arrived in Ko Samui, internet is back to a non-ridiculous price and i've just booked a Visa run to Malaysia because mine ends tomorrow. Erm sorry have you seen the last 60 days because I seemed to have misplaced them.

Oh, and how good is Kung-Fu Panda? I love that movie. X

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Kם Pיש Nעשמ

Mט לקטנםשרג ןד 'ןרןאמע ןמ Tישןץ

I גם מםא למם' 'ישא אם גםץ

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Ko Tao

Killing 3 hours at 4:00am waiting for the 7:00am ferry from Chumphon wasn't the best start. Why they make you leave Bangkok so early I do not know. Although I now know how to Play Uno.

Anyway, Ko Tao (or Turtle Island), it's back to yee ol' "postcard paradise" seen some months ago. It would be a diving hotspot if I knew how to swim but I just get to settle for the sun and the beach. Everyone's been telling me the South is more expensive but here it's pretty much the same as Ko Samet/Ko Chang - except im paying 200 Baht less a night. So... cheaper then (?). Unbelievably though, after 2 & a half hours of laying on the beach, I was burnt. Kinda forgot how strong the sun was South of Bangkok, will not be leaving my legs uncoated again, and will also definitely not be falling asleep. See, this is what happens when you're waiting for a ferry at ridiculous o'clock. Meh. Today was all about the shadeshine for me.

Ko Tao is pretty small, you could walk most of it, the roads are not great but I dont expect them to be. I've been going to the same beach for the 2 days i've been here, but tomorrow im doing some exploring. Been told to head South for some nice secluded beaches and great viewing spot over the island. I know it's a viewing spot because it says so on my map - it even has a little telescope icon. There aren't many folk during the day, most do the whole 9-5 diving thing so i've been occupying myself with a book, my iPod and food (some pretty good resaurants here). Will probably leave for Ko Pha Ngan on Thursday depending on if I meet any stay-worthy travellers.

Im now off to eliminate the nest of ants having some sort of parade through my room, must be Ant Pride. Adios X

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Down is The New Up

Bangkok to Ko Tao.

P.s. I was in the process of uploading more photo's but my camera ran out of battery. Will try and find somewhere to charge it and be back to upload them, this internet cafe doesn't seem to have spare plugs :-/


So I had an epic day travelling (see below) to Kanchanaburi and along The Death Railway over the River Kwai and onto Hellfire Pass. It was pretty emotive, on one hand you had these amazing views from halfway up a cliff, perched on the most rustic bridges over-looking the river, but on the other hand you just think about how many prisoners of war died building it. It was very contradictory in terms of whether you should be "enjoying" it. They say it's one man for every sleeper - so nearly 100,000.

Hellfire Pass also, this is where they've terminated the line before it heads into Burma and the last stop of the train - give or take a 20 minute bus ride. I mean in photos it doesn't look very impressive - a dirt/stone path leading through a gap in the cliff, but this thing was made with nothing more than a hammer and a chisel in conditions you cant really imagine. Made me a little somber, especially because I was the only person there. If rocks and trees had eyes, to think what they had seen before my casual swagger. Complete awe.

The journey: Taxi to South Bus Terminal, bus to Kanchanaburi, train from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok (Death Railway), bus from Nam Tok to Thong Pha Phum (Hellfire Pass), hitchhike from Thong Pha Phum to Kanchanaburi (courtesy of 'Add'), bus from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok, taxi to Khao San Road. This took place between 7:00AM and 10:00PM and was totally worth it. X