10.12.2009 - 15.12.2009
[sorry this is old now] - **** see previous blog for most up to date info***
We’re back on land! We spent the last three days on a liveaboard dive boat on the Similan islands completing the PADI advanced diver course, a week after finishing the open water one on Phu Quoc island in Southern Vietnam. The Similan islands were absolutely beautiful, and we’re both glad we did it, although it did feel v much like we were ‘out of our depth’ at first. The islands are up near the Myanmar coast, so to get there from Phuket you have an early start, long coach, then over an hour in a bumpy speedboat. About 15minutes later you’re in the sea and going down. The islands are beautiful and we were spoilt underwater too – lots of sea turtles, a leopard shark, nudibranches, coral garden, boulders walls and swim-throughs.
Now we’re trying to plan our route south to Penang in Malaysia, and it looks like we can go all the way by ferries – more white sand beaches, and hopefully progressively less touristy islands. Phuket is like an asian Malaga – full of farangs (foreigners) and prices and food just like home.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been away for three and a half months. We both really miss family and friends now, We’ve met some great people along the way, but it’s not the same. It’s so nice to hear news from back home – please write to us lots!
As I never get time to finish writing a proper account of what we’ve been doing, here’s a speed update to hopefully fill in some blanks.
Chaing Mai finished massage school, did a day hilltribe tour – better than anticipated... Many ‘new’ hilltribes refugee from Burma. Overnight bus back to Bangkok – worse than I anticipated. Feeling older and not so good at overnight buses any more. Sleeper train up was more fun!
Did some Wat hopping then took early bus to Siem Reap. Up early to make the most of highly anticipated Angkor Wat, cycled around the ruins for ten hours. Sore bum cycling back in the dark (with our headtorches on to keep stray motorbikes away!).
Bussed on Phnom Penh & found the most cheap (& horrid) accommodation yet – followed LP advice to stay in backpacker area/ghetto at lakeside before it’s razed. At $3 with internet access and a lake view we did well! Spent a great morning lounging with sister-in-law Gayle’s best friend Georgie, who is packing up now to move back to the UK after 5 yrs away. Really nice to stop, relax, and enjoy a home made cheese sandwich!
Bussed on to Kep on the South coast near the border with Vietnam. Beautiful unspoilt little place with great restaurants by the crab market, a little beach and a very relaxed vibe. Enjoyed cycling around to see the local sights, admiring some incredible villas abandoned during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, swinging in the hammock & also exploring nearby Kampot old colonial town, and limestone caves. Arranged onward travel to Vietnam through a local agent and set off in trepidation for our journey to Phu Quoc.
After a dusty bumpy journey to the border and on to the port town of Ha Tien we were delivered to a ferry office and told that the ferry was at 8am not 1pm, then we were told that the ferry was broken. We were taken to another office, where they had a ferry at 1pm, but there was no reservation made for us and the ferry was full.
Everyone but us thought it would be a great idea to stay in Ha Tien overnight and take the ferry the next day. We thought that it would be a great idea to travel as we planned so we could start our dive course the next day. After some fraught conversations and calls back to our travel agent we were no closer to a solution. They’d said we’d be able to take a taxi to the next port town along, then they tried to leave us on a bus which we knew would arrive after that ferry’s departure time. Eventually they deposited us and our bags at the ferry office we’d first arrived at, with the fare and no definite outcome. The staff spoke no English. and, no French. After hanging around and looking very upset for more than an hour some sympathy was roused and they allocated us some ‘seats’ on the ‘full’ ferry. Both of us in seat 00 – actually a tiny plastic stool. Then they found some more sympathy and allocated us real seats. Hooray! Not so great a journey in the end, although the hydrofoil was definitely more modern and safe than the slow ferry, which we’d heard was barely seaworthy, it was what you could call a bijou boat. Our allocated seats were of SE Asian not Western proportions, and unfortunately the lady sat next to us was not of Asian proportions either. And she elbowed and shouted a lot. I glowered at her with all my might after she poured water down my leg and laughed. Paul then laughed inwardly as I fell as sleep with my head practically on her shoulder.
Finally the ferry arrived at the island, and we transferred to the main town - Duong Dong. It’s a beautiful island, which sadly they intend to turn into the next Phuket. We travelled the hard way though!