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Perhentian Island

Panorama Chalets, Monkey Bar

sunny 33 °C

We had heard marvellous tales of this Island "it's a must", "so beautiful" etc. It leaves a mental note to ensure you go there at some point and being on the west side of Malaysia it would be foolish not to take the 7 ish hour bus journey and 1/2 hr boat trip there. Ok so if we were at home that would be like saying " we're just popping upto Scotland for a few days." You can't go anywhere here without some lengthy bus ride but it's always worth it.

It sounded easy and to be fair it was pretty straight forward in comparison to other trips. The only snag was waiting to get on the plentiful boats, they wouldn't accept our tour operator ticket but eventually we made it. One overnight bus and a short boat cruise.

Docking upto the beach you swap onto a water taxi for a few ringgit then you're on the shore. A beautiful beach with an abundance of chalets and according to the internet you can't book online so we decided to ditch the bags for one of us to do the accommodation hunt in the blazing heat. I offered to go as I can never turn down a mission plus loaded with the Lonely Planet tips of where to stay I thought it would be simple. Unfortunately one of the tips in the book is to get there early to get accommodation but because we had the last morning boat everywhere that was a reasonable price was booked aside one place called Chempacka so 'beggars can't be choosers' we ended up there for two nights. What a dive! I'm not talking sea diving, I'm talking very run down chalets with a pipe for a shower, stinking toilet, pillows you wouldn't let your dog lie on etc. We had to make do and endeavoured to find a decent place asap. Outside of our door was a huge dead monitor lizard, reckon it was as tall as me! We saw live ones too, but you don't want to get close to the live ones as they have quick response to lashing out with their tails plus if they bite they won't let go. So a dead one gave me the chance to get some photos. Grim eh! They also have the biggest geckos here I've seen any where! Big buggers!

The island itself, you can't complain, it's got what you need but for basic stuff like snacks and drinks with seaside gifts of bangles and sarongs. There are plenty of cafes with exactly the same menu and some good beach bars for when the sun goes down. You can watch the sun set and rise sitting on the beach, even go for a moonlit dip....it's that safe. Also there's something about plastic doors with plastic locks???.....

We were very fortunate that Dan knew Bart the owner of Monkey Bar, with a buzzing atmosphere and fantastic staff making you feel welcome. Here they play live music everynight with Anaz singing and playing the guitar.....a brilliant musician capable of belting out all your favourites. They have an open mic too and we were lucky to hear some very talented tourists make use of the stage. One night we found a couple from our town....turns out the wife was in the same school as me but the year below! Small world and all that.

It's a very friendly place and nearby are better chalets in Panorama where we ended up moving to.

Bart took us out on his boat and showed us the best snorkling sites where we saw massive turtles and all sorts of colourful fish. I saw more here than I did in Koh Tao scuba diving...it was brilliant and all thanks to Bart.

After a few days I caught some sort of bug and suffered for a few days which was a pain feeling miserable, being miserable and not being able to do anything but eventually I shook it off.

In a nut shell the island is so relaxed and chilled out you can't ask for much more if you want to escape the rat race or city life. Initially you might find it too chilled if that's so, you need to be there! Listen out for the firework bangers being let off or you might jump abit.

So people were right and now I'm telling you..... put it on your list.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 23:27 Archived in Malaysia Tagged sea accommodation beach travel island perhentian journey mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing monitor_lizard gekos monkey_bar how_to_get_to_perhentian_island Comments (0)

Kaikoura

Whale watching, dolphins and seals.

semi-overcast 17 °C

We drove along the coast toward Blenhiem and stumbled across a layby in the early evening which was right next to a quiet beach. There were not many homes and hardly any vehicles on the road either. I decided that this could be a good spot to park up, cook some dinner and get some sleep. We didn't see any signs to say we were not allowed to stay there, even though we had a prime spot of next to the sea.....unlike in the UK where a hefty parking fee would be insistent before you take the key out of the car! We fell asleep to the sea lapping onto the shore, a familiar sound. In the mourning we found we were in Koikoura a small town which boasted Whale watching tours and their own seal colony just up the road.

We set off to see the seals and another freebee....park up and there they were just off the road plenty of seals just soaking up the sun.....stinking of fish...but they were there and we saw them in their natural environment......amazing!

We decided to check out the Whale watching tour and it comprised a short boat trip for the afternoon and a guarantee of 80% of your money back if you didn't see one. So I paid up for us to go on the tour. We had a very nice boat (compared to the Thai boat journeys) abit of luxury taking us out to see and I was dubious of what we would see....in the sea! After a while and plenty of possible sightings, getting in and out of our seats there was an announcement "on the left side you can see a sperm whale" I looked out and yes there it was blowing water up into the air. A clear view of this creature ....a long shiney grey rubbery looking thing. It was unreal, you couldn't see the eyes just its back until we were warned that it was going to dive down. They stay on the surface for apx 10 mins then dive down for 40 mins. I got the camera ready for the famous tail in the water picture but when I saw the tail in the air against the empty sea I didn't press the button because it was the first time I had seen this and before I had got over the wow factor and was ready to take the photo he had gone.

We went back to our seats and I thought it was all over but was so content from what I had seen I couldn't believe it when they announced a second whale this time on the right. Again I saw and tried to take the photo but wasn't quick enough. Back to the seats for a few more minutes before I heard "theres a pod of dolphins now" I rushed out and I couldn't believe what I saw......pod....apx 100 dolphins leaping and spinning clear out of the water. I couldn't help think of the dolphin watching in Goa where I saw two jump out, these ones were a lot smaller but they certainly put on a show for us weaving around each other, around and under the boat now that was absolutey amazing and I will never forget. I could have watched them all day they were beautiful! On the return back to shore another announcement.....a humped back whale!!!!! How lucky were we!! What a day.....seals, whales and dolphins! We left with big smiles about New Zealand and how fantastic it was and we were only on day two!!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 22:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches sea whales dolphins kaikoura penguins journey campervan mother_daughter seals blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

Koh Lanta

Mopeds and beaches

sunny 30 °C

Koh Lanta.....suggested by Asheigh we met in Goa....a quiet place with plenty of beaches. Easy enough to get to being just another ferry ride away from us for just over an hour. The journey wasnt too bad and now we were travelling with Christine and Gee. It's interesting to see what sort of luggage people bring, we have seen men with the biggest ruck sacks in them world, the men's knees buckling under them with the strain on their backs whilst their wife/girlfriend wanders bagless besides them. What do these people put int these bags? Honestly some of them a so big and it is nearly always the men. I would have thought all they would need would be a few pairs of shorts and a couple of tshirts...i think they carry ironing boards....computers, sinks etc! We have only small bags literally 11kg and that's bad enoughh lugging that around especially when you have to pick it up and put it on. So Christine and Gee had their luggage....two big suitcases and hand bags, now to be fair they didn't intend on moving around so much and theirs were not the biggest of cases by along shot. We had a lot of practise getting ready for the trip in packing and unpacking, knowing what we needed to take and what we didn't. I left so much stuff at home that I wanted to bring but wouldn't be able simply because it would make the ruck sack too heavy.....I still regret not packing my white dress though :/

Christine and Gee said they soon found out what they actually needed to bring but a lot of the time when there were awkward moments getting the cases on and off ferries, or up and down stairs....a young muscley bare chested Thai boy would just pick up the case as if it were a bag of sugar and throw it on is shoulder heading off towards our rooms "Cor....you're strong!" you would hear Gee say. But there were times when you cold cringe as they launch cases and rucksacks from the boat to the dock. Anyway well done girls on moving around with your bags!

Koh Lanta is a long thin island about 6 km wide and 30 km long with a decent road going right the way round....you can't get lost apparently but we managed it.....this time thanks to Chloe. We hired mopeds each from our resort....yes a resort....lovely little beach bungalows right next to the beach with its own beach bar and restaurant. The mopeds were about £3 for 24 hrs so we got on and decided to explore and single file on the road with our helmets and shades on off we went. Our own little bikers club poodling along at apx 25mph...ok...maybe max was 35. Its a lovely island very quiet with the potential to be a really busy island. There are soo man beaches which are practically empty, one each called long beach.....you can work out why it's called that, was like our own private sands...no one was there!

We zoomed round for a while and decided to head back, now as I've said before my internal sat nav can be it bit dodgy at times but today it was working (how can you get lost on a ring road?). I said to Chloe "is this the turning" meaning that I really thought it was the one we needed to get back to the resort "no" was the reply so being the leader of bike club I carried on and everyone followed me.....for miles! We got to a bit junction and had to admit we had missed the turning so back we went. We were nearly at the resort 5 more minutes and we would have been and my bike ran out of petrol. Not a problem I doubled up with Chloe and we got back.....in the dark now and it was dark because there's not been an investment in street lighting there. I told the manager about the bike being tired the last thing I wanted to do was sort that bike out "I'll get it tomorrow". I told him. This didn't seem to placent him....he wanted it now.....I did think well it's not going to get stolen....we're on island with only one ferry out a day! But still I got on the back of his bike and off we went to find it....miles and miles later "I think we may have gone past it" I said sheepishly "sorry". He was very good and probably though stupid English woman....I can't help it if my sat nav doesnt work! Eventually we found it ...five mins from the resort where I had left it funnily enough!

Our time on Lanta was mainly out on the mopeds zooming around looking at all the beaches. It is a beautiful place and I really hope it doesn't get dragged into the commercialised holiday spot that cn be around. Lanta is basic and relaxed.....keep it that way.

We found out there was a waterfall and decided to cut out the middle man, go there on our mopeds and have a look. New made it and there were elephants available to trek on and were told a 20 min walk to the waterfall. Actually the man we asked how far it was to go refused to tell us because we didnt park our bikes in his car park! We decided to do the walk how bad could it be? When we got to the river more like a stream we carried on for a bit longer but gave up in the end and turned back....I mean we all had on flip flops and had to wade through water, climb over trees, climb up steep mud mounds and down them ....it was a right old obstacle course!

It was an early morning start for the next leg......and we were going to regret this one!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 23:20 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea koh journey mother_daughter blog lanta world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

Phnom Penh from Siem Reap

By boat!

We decided to go to Phnom Penh by Speed boat, which infact was more like a fast long boat but what a journey it was fantastic! It wasn't cheap in relation to other modes of transport but if you've got a 6hr journey ahead would you do boat or bus?

We got picked up from our hotel at 6am by a mini bus for 9 people and there were two seats left in the front and two in the back, perfect for the four of us, I joked to the guy next to me that we could fit two more in....famous last words!! We trugged along the dusty pothole road for five minutes and stopped where we saw two huge stocky guys with bags to match waiting......for our bus. We wondered who was going to sit on the roof or if we had to sit on each others laps. I think the guys were Polish and they were not impressed at squeezing into the bus with no seat to sit on only the metal floor.....seriously - this happened. After a few more minutes and some moaning from everyone inside we stopped 'ok you get food now' we were told and a girl came to the bus asking what we would like to buy. The Polish guy started to shout at the driver "WHY ARE WE HERE?" With no response he shouted again. Nothing happened we were left at the cafe for 15 minutes.....until a Chinese guy arrived who had also booked a ticket. He had to get in as well, talk about sardines in a can- it was really cramped and the driver knew it - he kept getting out and checking his tyres! We arrived for the boat at 830 when we should have caught the 7am!

We arrived safely though and the journey was soon forgotten when the boat started. We sat on the roof and the boat picked up speed - I have to say it was brilliant - the wind in your hair and the hot sun dampened down by the breeze - I thought this will give me a good tan!

We passed lots of water houses and locals fishing in their boats with their children who waved with enthusiasm as we passed. I can't say enough that this was the best way to get to Phnom Penh despite one muppet who blogged it was too expensive and boring! Rubbish!

When we arrived we all looked like we had just been frazzelled .....major sun burn! Maggie had a burnt face and knees, Chloe had a burnt face and Ellen was like a lobstar! I moaned at Maggie 'you should have worn suncream' I told her but I hadn't put any on myself. I put on a brave face but to be honest my knees were burning and so was my face! By the evening we all, except Ellen, had swollen faces from the burn. So it was an early night with lots of after sun and Maggie had a wet towel on her head like a turban.

In the morning I went to reception to make a phone call, I managed to get through to the guy to organise a trip with Blazing Trails a Quad Bike firm but couldn't focus as a fat old London English guy was shouting to the receptionist "THE GIRL I HAD IN MY ROOM LAST NIGHT THAT I SLEPT WITH - ROOM 202 - HAS TAKEN MY PHONE!' Due to the language barrier he had to repeat this again and again with hand signals.....hands together by the ears for sleep -- not hands by hips girating-- and finger and thumb for phone. Girl was a gesture of long hair....but I had the man on the phone trying to talk to me so he had to keep repeating what he said. Anyway it turns out the London guy had booked a prostitue for 7pm to 8pm - one hour - no love you long time - and she nicked his phone while he was alseep. Hilarious! Now I saw the girl the night before and she was young! I can't say how young because the girls look young here anyway, but there is a lot of child exploitation. So I figured - in Cambodia - not with an English Law head on - maybe this guy deserved what happened. There was no shame of shouting about the prostitute he had, more upset that his phone contacts were gone. How is this - so its common knowledge about the sex trade in Cambodia, there are signs in the hotels not to exploit but this guy is upset he can't call .....god knows! Another thing is the staff knew who she was but kept their mouths shut. It was quite funny really and went on for a long time.

We made our way to Tuol Sleng Museum where 17000 people were tortured between 1975 and 1979 and an estimated 3 billion murdered at the Killing Fields. I couldn't take any photos there it was so sobering and didn't seem right. There were photos of each person taken to there and pictures of them after they were tortured. I won't go into detail but it was really shocking and sad that this happened not so long ago.

Tomorrow we are going to the Killing Fields.

Sunburn has gone down now and so has the swelling. However, I have to mention that Chloe and Maggie have the best goggle marks I have seen for a long time! Mind you if Chloe reads this, which she will, she will put on here that I have a Homer Simpson vest now so I have put it on for honesty. If you don't know what that is - im not explaining it!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 09:15 Tagged sea boat sunburn tuol_sleng_museum Comments (0)

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