Two cabs, two planes and a boat – next stop.

Day 147, Wednesday 30 May 2012, Phuket to Perhentian Kecil

Well, I am sure some of you are wondering where on earth Perhentian Kecil (PK) is, so I may as well deal with it now. PK is the smaller of two inhabited islands in the Perhentians, a small group of islands about ten kilometres off the north eastern coast of Malaysia.

You would think, given its proximity to southern Thailand that I would have dropped down from Koh Tao rather than take twelve hours travelling across Thailand to Phuket and then taken two flights, and an hour long drive to get here. However, the south east of Thailand is deemed too risky for travellers at the moment, due to terror acts by Muslim separatists – so we are advised to avoid it. When I was in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago it was reported that seven people were killed in grenade attacks, so I followed the advice and took a very long way around.

Before I get on to the day, I am going to say I did not enjoy Phuket – OK I was way out of the main area, but that wasn’t the issue, what I did not like was being charged outrageous prices for everything, beer was minimum three times the price of Bangkok – or even Koh Tao, food was expensive and the cab to airport, which was 5km from the hotel was only slightly less than my share of the cab on the 75km journey from Kota Bharu to Kuala Besut later in the day. A bit like Koh Tao, some of the people were just not friendly – for instance, when you pay them they just take the money, no thanks – in either language. For a tourist destination, that is just balls, and don’t even get me started on immigration at the airport !

On to the day !

Slept Ok, more weird dreams and the best bit of sleeping was from 4:10 till the alarm went off at 5:45. I packed and was out at reception for 6:00 and into the daylight robbery cab company cab for the five minute $8.40 NZD to the airport.

Checking in was relatively painless, and then it was a one hour wait in the queue for immigration control, 22 counters -4 open. Ludicrous. This was just the queue to get through the doors into the immigration hall….


Once through finally brought a coffee and a roll, but through the roll in the bin as the ham tasted off, a good start to the day. I did buy myself a magazine – first paper based reading material I have bought since I left NZ. I found an English photography mag with a section on the RRP for cameras and lenses, a good thing to take with me to Kuala Lumpur to compare prices as I am thinking of buying at least one lens in KL. It also had a good review of the new Canon 5d Mk3, which I drooled over for a while – I have a MK1, which I am looking forward to reuniting with when I get to England – though the MKII’s are now a reasonable price ! The mag entertained me for both flights today, so a good purchase.


The flight to KL – and a one hour shift in time zone was good for the main, but about twenty minutes from KL we hit the roughest turbulence I think I have experienced – outside of flying to Wellington of course. If it wasn’t for the little calmer I had I would have left nail marks in the upholstery – I have to use my 10 valium sometime, I mean they cost me a whole $4. I am not a great flyer so will pop one when I fly.

[bugger the power has just gone off ] I had Macca’s for brunch at KL airport and then a Starbucks coffee (and free wifi) till boarding for the one hour flight to Kota Bahru – which I will say was smooth as, compared to the first flight anyway. [back on, whew]

The recommended way of getting the 75km from Kota Bahru to Kuala Besut to the ferries is via taxi, public transport is slow and unreliable, apparently. The airport sell tickets for a cab/boat combo to the islands so I took a shared cab with a young German couple for a pretty good price.

It was good to be back in the land of mosques, back to front wearing jacket scooter riders, girls in head scarves and the mighty Proton, Malaysia’s home brand car. Malaysia has been one of my favourite countries.


We had an hour long wait in Kuala Besut for the high speed boat out to PK, and it was a fast ride ! Not a high speed boat, a fishing boat taken from the high speed boat.


First view of PK.



I found my way up to the Tropicana Inn, it is a hundred metres up the hill from the beach and is, um, basic. I do have a shower and loo in my room (D3), but that is about it, white walls, bed – no adornments, and there is internet too, only in the main area, but that is better than I anticipated. The place appears to be going through some renovations. No expense was spared on the room numberings !


Once checked in I wandered back down to the beach and booked myself a dive for tomorrow with Spice Divers – recommended to me by my friends from Inle Lake in Myanmar, who were here a few weeks ago. And very cool, they are diving a wreck tomorrow !

I had dinner on the beach, so nice to have Malay food again, plus this awesome banana shake.



By 8.00 I was pretty much bored with the beach, there were not many people around so I drifted back to my room and wrote this blog post.

My nearest neighbour


ooooo – A day when I actually did some photography.

Day 146, Tuesday 29 May 2012, Phuket

I had another average sleep and spent half the day feeling tired. I will really aim for a whole day of lying down when I get to the Perhentians tomorrow, I have a few days there. With only a week remaining in SE Asia I feel like I should be fully active every day – but then I get stuck between wanting to do things and being so completely de-motivated I cannot even log on to the computer and just lie there staring at the ceiling. Today was a mix of those days – I blame the weather.

There was a fair chunk of rain last night and again this morning when I headed out to find some breakfast. Unlike most other places I have been Nai Yang had no ‘street’ options for breakfast, I wandered the strip just after 8:00 AM and nothing was open, this left me no choice from the hotel and it was sooooooooooooooooooooooo expensive, even by NZ standards ! Luckily I had Thai baht I was ‘happy’ to get rid of.

Five minutes, is all it took – I have turned into Meliesha ! +


After breakfast and when the rain stopped I took a walk through town. Not a lot happening, me and the dog, but I loved the signs on the bars. Even in the evening it was fairly deserted.




And then up the north side of the beach for an hour or so. The beach at Nai Yang is supposedly 13kms long and apart from some young local guys net fishing I saw no-one on the beach, fantastic!





I also found this deserted and desolate old resort, I was walking up the driveway with the intent of getting some photos when the inevitable dog came out and started barking at me – I made a disappointed retreat, the place looked very cool.



The Bus Bar – maybe a good idea last year…


Not something that is strictly enforced I suspect, I mean this is still Thailand.


The resort has some tortoises in a fenced off area, normally I would mightily disapprove of this, but did enjoy a couple of photo ops they presented me. His/her back feet were a couple of inches off the ground and wiggling away…


Run for it, no one will find us !


After lunch I spent an hour round the pool, soaking up some of the brief sunshine in the day, plus of course a wee dip. Thats my room behind the steps – oh and the sun had come out by now…


I then went wandering around looking for some life and lunch. I ended up at a beach side pizza joint, the only place with customers and had a reasonable pizza and mango shake. Amusingly – a small group, I think they were French, but could have been Italian – they were speaking English, ordered a vegetarian pizza, and then asked the Thai waiter to bring a bottle of red he would recommend went with the pizza – not a decision I personally would make !

I didn’t do a lot after lunch, dozed, read, blog posted yesterday, a bit of email, dozed etc etc.

At 5:00 i went walking again, down to the south side of the beach, I wanted to get to the southern point of the beach but tide and a small river got in the way. I think the big hotel at the south end is also deserted and I was keen to go have a look but gave up in the end. I did get some good photos in the small national park on the way down.


The sky was looking amazing, brooding and heavy on the horizon – so I walked back towards the village and took a LOT of photos of the clouds and sea until the storm arrived and then I had to run for shelter – and just made it before the heavens opened again.





I stopped for dinner and a drink in the same place as last night and then headed back to my room for photo viewing, editing and blog posting over a scotch and coke and some good music (HDU).

Ah, “run fat boy run” has just come on TV, one of my favourite movies, and i can sympathise with Simon Pegg right now.


+ for those readers who do not know me, Meliesha is my daughter, she is A) living in Bristol, England and I am going to stay with her for a few days soon, which I am very excited about, and B) she is the messiest person I know – I am pretty sure not much has changed. Hurricane Mel ๐Ÿ™‚

Two ferries, a van and a bus – Koh Tao to Phuket

Day 145, Monday 28 May 2012, Koh Tao – Phuket

I had a much better sleep last night, best one in Koh Tao, maybe it was because I removed my pack from the side of the bed ! I am not sure when this habit started or even why, probably from laziness, definitely not for security and I don’t snuggle up to it – honest. The bed is big and comfortable and sprawling in it maybe allowed for a good sleep. When I get go Phuket tonight I will do the same.

I was packed and ready for breakie at 7.00 and had my last meal with the miserable bastards over the road, I am pretty sure not one of them smiled once. For the first time since Alex’s place in Kuching, way back in week one, I had muesli and fruit for breakfast- yum!

After breakie I checked out of Ananda Villa and on to the ferry that was the start of my journey to Phuket. Since I have been on Koh Tao I have seen a number of people, mainly girls, with injuries – slings, bandages and plastered legs (due to getting plastered ?) and this morning in the boat queue it was no different. Mae Haad main drag, people get up late here.


I ended up on two fast catamaran ferries, the first took us to Koh Pha Ngan, where we waited for an hour for the second boat to Donsak on the mainland, via Koh Samui. The first leg was the longest and by far the roughest with lots of vomit bags being handed out, not to me of course! On Koh Pha Ngan I bought a roll from one of the street vendors, the lettuce was a bit sad looking and no gloves were used like in the west. Ferry 1 at Koh Tao.


I spent the hour waiting for the ferry wondering if this was a wise decision or not ! Ferry two.


The ferry/bus company have this awesome (and yet so simple) system of using coloured stickers on both passenger and large bags to identify where you are going. For Donsak we had yellow stickers with the final destination written on in pen. This means the boat crew can easily point you in the right direction without having any language issues and all the bags can get stacked accordingly. It was pretty cool and I have not seen anywhere else. Well done !





From the ferry all the passengers were loaded onto vans or busses depending on final destinations, it appears there was myself and a German couple going to Phuket, though we were in a full van that headed into Surat Thani, the main local town.


After a half hour wait the three of us got onto a bus heading for Phuket, with an estimated travel time of six hours – oh joy. The bus at least was pretty empty, though we spent the first hour driving around the back streets of Surat Thani picking up passengers which was a wee bit frustrating, but it utterly the norm for all of SE Asia.

My Sony MP3 player that I have had for three years started to play up today, it looks like it has been badly impacted by humidity, which has not happened before, as the screen has a lot of moisture inside. All the controls are working really randomly so it is unusable, hopefully it will dry out and work OK, if not I guess KL is a better place than many to replace it. Thankfully I had loaded a couple of gig of music on my phone or I would have gone insane on the bus ride.

We passed through the town of Phang Nga on the way, the karsts are amazing around here, sadly it was quite late in the day so photography was not really that good. If I had more time I would come back here as the scenery is stunning – a Ha Long Bay on land.


The three of us were dropped off at the highway junction with the airport road, I had booked a cheap room at the Nai Yang Beach Resort (37 NZD a night) and the Germans decided to check it out as well, it is close to the airport which was why I chose it over Phuket town which is 30km away. We were ripped off with the taxi ride, but had no choice as there was only one – and apparently that is the price – things are expensive on Phuket!

I had a very nice masman chicken curry at a beach restaurant, Nai Yang is a bit like Koh Tao except more deserted, lots of restaurants and bars on a beach strip. I was finishing my beer after dinner when the rain came. You can easily tell those who have only just arrived in Asia from those who have been here for at least a few days. As the first one or two drops of rain hit, I grabbed my beer and stuff and moved quickly under the shelter, the experienced people around me did likewise as the staff started rushing out. There was a group of four Spanish guys who were bemusedly wondering why everyone was rushing in side over a couple of drops of rain – when the heavens just opened and dumped a few hundred litres of water on them in a matter of seconds, they were soaked – I was laughing…

After dinner I spent the rest of the night in my room, trying to choose between the eighty five TV channels – most of course in Thai. The internet doesn’t work in my room unfortunately.

There was quite a bit of rain in the night.

A stroll in the hills

Day 144, Sunday 27 May 2012, Koh Tao.

Bloody neighbours, what is it with people and playing loud music at 2.00 am – jeez I am getting old, but I always hated Dark side of the moon.

But…… I had the weirdest dream last night, after I finally managed to get to sleep and Dark side of the moon featured in it. When the dreams weirdness woke and all was silent I wasn’t sure if the whole thing had been a dream. Pretty sure it was both though – a weird dream and bloody neighbours.

As with every other morning, the ferry blasted its horn at 5.00 am, normally I doze for an hour or so, but this morning, even though I was incredibly tired I could not get back to sleep – one of those nights.

I booked my accommodation in Phuket this morning, as i have no desire to party or shop or doing anything Phuket like I am staying way the hell out of town at a beach near the airport. I only have two nights there – I arrive by bus late tomorrow and leave by plane early two days later, so am not planning on a lot of sight seeing anyway. Hopefully it will be quieter there than here. I am counting down the days now, damnit.

With no diving planned for the day I didn’t do much until late morning when I decided to do a mega walk and go to the two main view points on the island. It was quite sunny and warm when I left and I walked for about an hour, up and down numerous hills, passed a few photo worthy things.






Warning – it gets steep


And even steeper : )



Tanote Rock viewpoint was my first destination and I stopped for a lovely watermelon shake and a bottle of water. It was still hot and sunny.


The view – look how damn high I walked !


My next objective was twin view viewpoint, which was even higher, I made it up to the reservoir and was walking down the dirt track towards the next climb when a dog appeared from one of the few huts by the road side and started going nuts in the middle of the track. No one came out to calm it down soI decided on caution as the best option, which basically meant scrapping Twin View and walking back the way I came. This didn’t really bother me too much as I was primarily doing this for the exercise as well as the view and to kill some time.

And then the rain came down – I saw it coming but there was nothing I could do about it, I was a good forty minute walk to town, so I just walked on until I got back to the top of the main climb where I took my shirt off and jogged all the way back to town. At times the rain was incredibly hard, it stung my chest as it hit, I got absolutely soaked and somehow managed to lose my shirt when it fell out of my bag. It was my last remaining NZ shirt, my Asics shirt I seem to be wearing in all photos of me ! I did get my second run in which was good, a faster pace than the other day and no pain at anywhere either – alright !

Once back in town, I had a shower, lunch and about five litres of water.

I didn’t really achieve much else in the day and the evening was beyond uneventful.

My nephews band “Heroes for sale” passed through round one of the Smokefree Rock Quest (a music competition for school bands) last night, very pleased as they are pretty cool.

Five months !!

Day 143, Saturday 26 May 2012 – Koh Tao

Wow – five months on the road !

I really cannot believe I have lasted this long, though I am definitely losing enthusiasm for the solo travelling thing. There are many good things about travelling on your own but there are downsides as well . For me the biggest has been the periods of loneliness I have experienced pretty much from the start and as this leg of the trip winds down those periods are becoming more prolonged. Though actually the day today was pretty good.

It was a much quieter night last night and I woke too late to run before the day got too warm Instead I opted for plan B and stayed in bed until 8.00 when I got up for breakie.

The day was a little windier than yesterday and the forecast for the next week is not overly flash either – not inspiring when I have flying (which I hate) and diving (which I love) as the key activities for the next ten days, so I was a little concerned we may not go out today. I was down at Easy Divers for 10:00 and found I was the only fun diver going out, luckily there was a dive class as well or the boat would have been cancelled, along with my dive.

I love being the only fun diver as it means I get the dive master to myself and the dive can be focused around my abilities rather than those of the most inexperienced – which sometimes is me of course !

A mass of dive boats, Koh Tao is a dive school factory !


Loading up


The original plan was to dive a site imaginatively named Southwest, but with strong north westerlies blowing in the boat captain changed the plan and we went to Shark Island – not that there are any sharks, but you can guess why it is named that way. It was a bouncy wee ride down to the south side of Koh Tao to Shark Island.


Dive master Stitch and I. He was a good guy, English – so easy to talk crap with.


It was a pretty good dive, we followed a pair of decent size grouper for a while, then hit a patch of quite strong current so had to leave the pair and head back towards the boat, visibility at the shallower depths was great, and diving in clear deep blue water with nothing around or below was quite exhilarating ! it was the best dive of the two days.

The second dive was supposed to be at White Rock, but again due to the swell this was changed and we dived at one of the shallow reefs at Hing Gnam.


It being a shallow dive we managed almost an hour under water and I still had a ton of air left, I really had my buoyancy dialled on this dive, so enjoyed it immensely. Great visibility again and I got to play in a nice school of small barracuda.

The ride back to shore was a bumpy one….


The afternoon was spent pretty much doing sod all, I had planned to walk back up to Sairee beach for the evening, have a drink or two at one of the bars. However, bad weather set in just before sunset and we had quite a period of heavy rain with some thunder, so I didn’t stray beyond the local cafe, with its bad service – again.





Once I got sick of that, I picked up an expensive bottle of cheap Aussie shiraz and went to my room to watch TV, type a blog post and celebrate five months of SE Asian solo travel.

A toast to Five Months – cheers !

Koh Tao – first run in 2012 and more diving

Day 142, Friday 25 May 2012 – Koh Tao

One noisy neighbour kept me awake for half the night, I think it was the people from the room below playing the Sex Pistols “great rock and roll swindle” over and over. Normally I would not disapprove of people playing the Sex Pistol, but come on – R n R swindle was an awful album and not to be played loudly – ever.

I had semi-planned on getting up early and getting out for a run this morning and as I was awake at 6.00 I did! I have been talking about going running for a while but have just been able to motivate myself, and to be honest – I was never going to run in Bangkok anyway.

Koh Tao is not that big and there are not too many roads to run, it is also “undulating” as my friend Vicki would say. I ran along the main road to the nth end of Sairee beach and back, probably about 5km at a slow 6 minute km pace. I passed a few stumbling young people walking back from the various all night parties that go on here – not a pretty sight and the stink of alcohol was overpowering in some places. Apart from a sore hip, I felt pretty good, I was sucking a lot of air on the ups, but once I got the hang of it I was running reasonably smoothly. I will plan on a new route tomorrow and try to get a run in each morning before diving.

Even at 6.00 it was still warm enough to make running a sweaty affair so everything was washed as soon as I got back to my room.

After a leisurely breakfast I headed down to the dive shop for the 10.00 Am boat and my first experience of Thailand diving. There was a small group diving today so we were on the boat and out on the water pretty quickly. The ride out to the first dive site Chumpon Pinnacle took about forty minutes in probably the biggest swell I have been in on the way to a site, getting the gear ready was challenging at times – not that it was a huge swell !

The dive was pretty good, shortish as we had a couple of fairly new divers in the group who used a lot quicker than the more experienced of us. The visibility was good and there was no current below the surface. Saw a couple of quite reasonable size groupers, but no whale sharks – they very occasionally frequent the area.

Dive two was at Twins Pinnacle, a slightly shallower (and therefore longer) dive. When we arrived at the site there was a small swell but the weather was pretty good.


The second dive was about fifty minutes, again- great vis. but didn’t see anything spectacular – lots of life, some nice schools of small fish though. As we were ascending I could see the weather had turned, the swell had increased and as I approached the surface I could see the rain drops hitting the sea. Though the current wasn’t strong staying near the boat was interesting.



I enjoyed the dives and have booked in for two more tomorrow – weather dependant !

I did bugger all for the rest of the day, mooched and watched TV in my room, dinner at the local cafe, with the most ‘relaxed’ service I have seen since I left Sepilok in Malaysian Borneo in Februrary.

I rang both Dom and Aiden this afternoon (my sons), but neither answered so will give em another go tomorrow !

Koh Tao…

Days, 140/141 Wednesday/Thursday, 23/24 May 2012, Bangkok

Happy Birthday Meliesha ! ๐Ÿ™‚

Weird Japanese guy and the snorer really screwed up my sleep, ย so tired yet again and with another overnight train ride tonight it will be another loooooong day coming. I hung around the hostel until I got tossed out at 11.30, half an hour after check out – OK not really tossed out, but I left then. I did watch the final episode in season two of Sherlock. Awesome – has it been fully shown in NZ – I almost gave away a spoiler !

Scott, is an Aussie guy, my age, staying in the hostel, he wanted to know how to get to the main station so we went together.


As my train wasn’t leaving till 7.30 PM we decided to hang out for the day and went and checked out Wat Traimit as it was near the station.



The Buddha figure is 3 metres high, weighs 5.5 tonnes and is solid gold ! Awesome.


Me wishing for world peace (well not really, but I am not going to say what I wished for : ) )



A coffin maker, doing a final polish on the footpath.


It was another stinking hot day, it had been raining on the way to the station was quite humid and in this is part of town the sewers were stinking. Scott and i decided to catch the train to the malls as he wanted to grab a few things I had time to kill and wanted to kill it in relative coolness.

I made it back to the station for 5.00 PM and hung around in the station until it was time to get onto the train. At 6.00 PM the national anthem was played and everyone in the station- westerners and all stood up for the minute, i haven’t experienced that since I was a kid in England. I also got a message from Danny, the girl who had boiling water burns in Pakse, saying she was recovering well and been allowed to go to Myanmar to continue her travels – great news indeed.




I was fortunate enough to not have to share my seat again and had a nice couple from Melbourne, Kay and Colin over the aisle from me, great to have people to chat to over a beer or two until the beds were pulled down around 9.30.

I didn’t sleep much until the train arrived in Chumphon over an hour late at 5.30 am (we were due at 4.15). this was actually a good thing as the bus from the station to the ferry to the islands doesn’t leave until 6.00, so time for a quick Nescafe before boarding the bus.


The ferry ride was just under two hours, the ferry was pretty full and most people dozed the trip away, I plugged myself into some music and closed my eyes, but didn’t really nod off.

I am staying at the Ananda Inn on Mae Haad beach, which is pretty much where the ferry docks, the beach isn’t stunning and the village reminds me a bit of El Nido in the Philippines, but not as quaint. After breakfast and a lie down I went for a walk around the town and over to the main tourist are of Sai ree beach. I am pretty glad I chose not to stay there as it is a busy spot with a lot of late night bucket bars+ and I would imagine noisy as heck.





I also booked my diving for tomorrow – 2 dives from 10.00 AM – will see how good it is. At this stage I am not overly enthused with Koh Tao, so hoping for some awesome diving or it could be a long four days.

+ Buckets are really common, especially in Thailand, they are a (I guess) a litre plastic bucket that serves as a glass for cheap cocktails or more commonly spirit mixes, like whisky and coke. The alcohol content is high, the quality low and they are cheap and aimed at getting the young uns drunk as skunks.

The “sleeper” train

Days 138/139, Monday/Tuesday 21/22 May 2012, Vientiane to Bangkok

Happy birthday mum !

It was a much quieter night last night thankfully so I managed some sleep ahead of the overnight sleeper train ride tonight, though given my poor record I am sure there will not be a lot of sleep happening. I slept in till 8.00 again and mooched around in the coolness of my room after breakfast for the rest of the morning, but I am up to date on emails, blogs and plans are all done – I even glanced at a few jobs sites. And then the internet died again, before I could actually upload the blog post I completed.

I had to check out of the guesthouse by 12.00 mid-day, but the bus to the Thai border and the train station was not until 3.00. I had planned on visiting the last of the key temples in Vientiane and then moving on to the national museum when it re-opened after lunch at 1.00. However with a massive flash and a loud bang the rain came down so I decided to hang out in a cafe instead – and the wifi didn’t work there either. Oh well.

Once the rain passed I wandered up to Sisaket, which houses the oldest remaining temple in Vientiane, the Siamese sacked all the temples with the exception of Sisaket in the late 1800’s
Sisaket had some quite nice frescoes but in a terrible state of repair, though we were not allowed to take photos.


What it did have that I really liked was a massive collection of buddhas going back to the 15th century in the cloisters, some recovered from other sites and stupas around Vientiane. The bulk of these are small and contained in small niches around the walls, but there are a large number of bigger Buddha figures, some made of wood and some from stone.










I took a lot of photos…. possibly the last you will see of Buddha figures for a while, maybe ever – who knows.

After Sisaket I went up to the national museum, I had read was largely disappointing and in that I was not disappointed, as it was – largely disappointing. Not a great museum for non Laos tourists – and not even a huge amount of information for the Laos people either. I will say, given the poverty in Laos, a museum is not their foremost priority.

I hung around the GH for a while waiting for my ride to the bus station, to get the VIP bus to the border. This turned out to be van that arrived forty minutes late and took me and some other confused tourists to Thana Leng train station, just inside the Laos border where we joined a large bunch of other tourists and caught a small train across the Mekong and into Thailand.



Laos – I liked the way the train tracks were in the middle of a road bridge, and they just stop all the cars.




The ride arrived in Nong Khai before it officially left Thana Leng, where we had an hour long wait for the train to depart for Bangkok.



I was in a second class sleeper carriage, car no 3. This comprised of two rows of seats that faced each other, that folded down into a single bed, with another bunk that folded down from the wall above. Fortunately – and selfishly, I did not have to share my two seats with anyone so could sprawl in the air conditioning until the train left, which it did nicely on time as well at 6.20 PM.


The beds started coming down almost immediately, it was far too early for me to even consider considering going to sleep so I drank the two cans of beer I bought at the station and watched the view until the sunset and it was too dark too see any more. The windows were way too dirty to consider pictures – and to be honest it wasn’t all that exciting !


Once there was nothing to see out the window I popped my current favourite travelling music on my walkman, Japanese post-rockers – Mono and spent the next hour and a half knocking off the last few pages of Haruki Murakami’s IQ84 trilogy. I really enjoyed the books – though cannot explain why, not my normal reading, it was different !

I then spent the next eight hours not sleeping in a train….

We arrived in the outskirts of Bangkok soon after sun up and I was foolishly thinking we would therefore arrive on time at 6.25 AM, but no, ridiculous thought Phil. We arrived in the station at 7.45, having spent most of the preceding hour stopped at various points in suburban Bangkok. I am going to say it is not like the suburban Auckland I lived in.
I decided to stay one night in Bangkok as two sleeper trains in a row is too much for this old man, so before leaving the station I booked my ticket to Chumphon for tomorrow night and then went in search of lodgings. I couldn’t see anything immediately around the station so ended up jumping on the Metro and going to my old haunt the Hostelling International hostel in Sukhumvit. Sadly they are renovating at the moment so I ended up in a dorm room, one night cannot be too bad and at least it is cheap and easy.

As I am in Bangkok and have some nice cheap shopping handy I have decided to ditch a few of my more ‘used’ possessions. I spent the afternoon in MBK mall looking for bright shiny things to buy. My lovely Keen sandals have pretty much given up the ghost, though I am still tempted to get them repaired, though I did grab a pair of $40 Converse sneakers as my new day shoes – when I am not wearing jandals/flip flops/thongs (for the Aussies). I will decide on the Keens tomorrow – they have been faithful friends and I feel bad even thinking about leaving them in the dorm hallway. I am not going to do any more trekking type walking so the day pack I picked up in Miri (Sarawak, Borneo) is goneburgers , it is pretty stuffed and utterly feral even though I have washed it a few times. I picked up another messenger type camera bag that I can use when I am Europe as well as a new wallet.

I loved these shoes in a shop in Siam Centre, reminded me of my days in London in the 80’s.



I snapped some sticker art as I went.





I got back to the dorm to find it fairly full, so had a feed and chatted to a young English guy for a while and then went to bed. In the dorm room there is this really weird older (I think) Japanese guy. He was asleep most of the afternoon and kept coming and going for most of the night, when he leaves the room he turns his video camera on – i kept covering it with a flannel. I am not sure what the hell he is doing – but he is one weird dude.

Goodby old friends, hopefully someone will find you useful.



Days 136/137, Saturday/Sunday 19/20 May 2012, Vientiane

I had a wee sleep in this morning, by my standards anyway and wasn’t up till 8.00. it is pouring down outside which is just perfect as it means I can have a good session of lying down, reading and catching up on emails etc. I was planning on spending the whole day doing nothing except organising the remaining two weeks in SE Asia, but the internet died soon after breakfast – and didn’t get going until late afternoon, bugger.

The rain stopped around mid-day and I ventured out for a stroll under what started out to be cloudy skies, it was quite humid and once the clouds cleared after a couple of hours got quite hot as well. Foolishly I brought neither sunglasses nor sun screen and regretted both of them ,especially the glasses, as the sun got brighter and brighter.

Vientiane has quite an historical relationship with France, the street names, use Rue and Avenue and the main thoroughfares are wide open and shady.


Vientiane even has its own Arc De Triumphe replica – Patuxai and was built in 1969.





From there I walked up to Pha That Luangis, a large golden stuppa and the most important monument in Laos.




The site was started in the 1500’s and there were four wat surrounding it, of which only two remain.


I loved these small family plots inside one of the wats.



There must be two lonely people.


One of the great things in Vientiane, and soe rare in SE Asisa, so many places – including one of the parks are smoke free.


I walked back to the GH and after a wee cool down then went to a local hair dresser for a light trim – I was not filed with confidence, so didn’t get a full haircut or let her loose on my face with a razor. So I went back to the GH and attacked my facial hair with a razor myself. It took 45 minutes !

It was getting close to sundown so I went for a walk along the bank of Mekong, long with hundreds of the local people and not a small number of tourists. I found a perfect spot to capture some of the people passing by on their bicycles. And again, unusual for SE Asia – motorbikes were banned along this strip – so nice !





I had dinner on my own in a local cafe and then went back to my room and watched another episode of Sherlock – it is great. It was a very noisy night in town tonight, mainly tourists drunkenly yelling on the street. I didn’t get a huge amount of sleep.

Sunday morning was as slow a start as yesterday. Today the internet was going and I resolved to stay in my room and complete my plan for the next two weeks. With guide book, laptop and smart phone often all being used at once, I spent almost eight frustrating hours trying to come up with a workable plan. At every turn I was frustrated with time tables that did not get me to where I wanted to be when I wanted to be there, so decided to give up on road/rail transport for some legs and fly -which meant then trying to find combinations of airports that worked…. grrrrrrr !

But I finally got there. It was not the plan I started with, I am not going to any more historical sites, just two weeks of beeches and diving, with two overnight train rides to get to my first location – Koh Tao on Thailand’s east coast. Now the planning is done I believe I have made the right choice. Two weeks of mainly relaxation, with some diving – and some healthy living thrown in, should get me ready for my trip to England.

I ran into David and Debbie in the GH reception and they invited me along with them to go bowling, what an awesome idea. And a whole load of fun !!




and Debbie.


Bowling shoes – the person who invented them must have had a sense of humour. I mean what self respecting person wears green and gold ?


You have to love that poise, so graceful ๐Ÿ™‚


And I did kick some ass – it was my lucky night – two strikes !


This was followed with a very nice Indian meal at a local restaurant and, for me, one more episode of Sherlock in bed.

It was with a sense of relief I closed my eyes – the remainder of my time in SE Asia is all planned and accommodation in most places is booked. All I need to do is turn up.

I have updated “the plan” page with the new plan.

12 hours on a bus, well – make that one and a bit buses

Day 135, Friday 18 May 2012, Savannakhet to Vientiane

Frustratingly I was still awake at midnight so I popped half a pill in the end so I could some sleep. The room was too warm to sleep with the fan off and too noisy with the fan on. I was awake at five and spent the next hour pondering on whether to go direct to Vientiane, which was my intention yesterday or go to Tha Kaek – which was the plan the day before. I want to go to Kock Lo cave which is about half way between both places, and it sounded like a hassle getting from Kock Lo to Vientiane so I will go to Vietiane and hope they have day tours there – which will be fine by me.

With that in mind I was up at 6.00, on a tuk tuk to the bus station by 6.30, and the bus to Vientane by 6.45. Sadly the bus made it about 100 metres out of the bus station before breaking down ! it is now over half an hour later and I am typing this as we wait. The bus has four human passengers and a seemingly endless supply of mosquitoes.


The King of Bus never moved another inch !


Though not through lack of effort from the man in the hole.


And now it is the following day….

After an hour of waiting we were bundled onto another bus which was not quite the standard of the one we left – but at least it was moving. It was pretty much the same as the one I was on yesterday – with a wee bit less leg room and a whole load more passengers, though for the first four hours to Tha Kaek I did have both seats to myself.

We stopped for a break at Tha Kaek and I grabbed a wee, a snack and some water and jumped back on the bus to ensure my window seat for the long leg to Vientiane. As I was waiting for the bus to leave I spotted my Dutch friends from Don Det – David and Debbie, getting out of a tuk tuk and on to the bus, awesome – some much needed company. The journey from Tha Kaek took almost seven hours and the bus was packed, with people sitting in the aisles for most of the way, but I had a seat and a window, which was better than some. I also noticed that even though some were sitting on a plastic stool in the aisle they paid the same price as me.

If you can put it on a stick, its for sale !




It was a long slow journey, but at least I had people to talk to. We arrived in Vientiane at 6.30 PM – just under a twelve hour trip and my back was killing me.

We found a guesthouse and booked in for the night, and arranged to meet for dinner. The first thing I did when I got to my room was wash my hands and splash some water on my face. The amount of dirt that came out was just amazing – the joys of a long open window bus ride. Debbie had a yearning for pizza and there was no way I was going to argue with that, especially as I had only eaten a bag of crisps all day.


An early night followed, exhausted.