Two great dives – T3 and Sugar wreck

Day 150, Saturday 2 June 2012, Perhentian Kecil

Unsurprisingly after seven beers last night I slept like a baby and woke at 6.50 which seems to be the prime crowing time for the local rooster. This  suits me well. I woke feeling a wee bit dodgy, not hungover, just jaded I guess. I followed yesterdays example and lazed around till 8.00 then had quick internet catch up then off for breakfast and on to the dive shop for 9.00.

Today we are diving T3 (Awesome), I’ve heard good things about this site from lots of people and it was on my to do list for the Perhentians. One of things I’ve really liked about Spice Divers is they actually listen to the requests of their customers, they ask what we want to dive and how many days we have to do dive the sites, then try to fit the dives in around customer needs. This was cool, especially as I got to do all the dives I wanted – it pays to be a repeat customer as well 🙂 The schedule was changed a bit so I could do T3 in the morning and re-visit Sugar Wreck on the mid-day dive; that the other divers I had befriended were keen on doing the same helped I am sure, but I know they bumped some new customers to fit in what I asked to do.

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T3 (three reefs) is about twenty five minutes away by boat, as there was only five of us (Daniel, Jimmy, Catherine, myself and Mike the dive master) diving we took a small boat and had a pretty good run out. The swell is a lot smaller early in the mornings. From the surface T3 is just a couple of rocks sticking out of the water about a hundred metres off shore.

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There are some areas down to 24 metres but as only half of the group were able to dive past 18, the dive plan was to stick around the 16 metre mark – which means a longer dive time anyway. As it turned out, and something that is true of most of the sites here, the visibility is fabbo to around 16-18 metres and then deteriorates quickly, so the good stuff mostly happens at the higher depths anyway. What was really cool here was the thermo clime (difference in temperature – and usually visibility as well) was really marked here, I was able to float in warm water and lower my arms into water that was significantly colder, there was almost no gradient between, cool.

There was not a huge amount of stunningly interesting life at T3, the site is interesting as it is a mass of huge boulders lying on top of each other, there was plenty of fish and some great nudi branches but the fun thing at T3 is the swim throughs. We did four short tunnel dives, a couple were complex in that they were narrow and had turns, so when you entered the tunnel you could not see the exit. On one of the tunnels I got a bit stuck and had to think about how to twist my body to get myself and the tank through.  In a cave on the surface I would freak out, but under water I was quite calm and able to make logical decisions, – it was only a matter of a couple of seconds, there was no threat of harm, but it did interest me that I didn’t get scared – faith in the dive master? but logically I could see I could get through, it was just working out the puzzle. It was fun 🙂 it was one of my favourite dives.

To maximise dive times for all of us the DM took those who got to the low limit on air (50bar) to the surface without taking the whole group through the decompression stops, which meant I was up before the Catherine and Mike, though not the first. So I had Jimmy take a picture of Daniel and I in the water and then I snorkelled down and took some shots of Catherine and Mike below.

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As we got close to the island we were dive bombed by some terns !

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This is how tight some of the swim throughs are – Mike exiting one, shot from the surface.

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After the dive I hung around the shop chatting with the other divers and staff. This seems to be one of the features of the shop, an encouragement to socialise with the other divers, whihc is great for us solo travellers. Richard and Blathnaid, my friends from Myanmar, recommended the shop because of this aspect. After the break we were diving Sugar Wreck again, I dived this on my first day but had really bad mask issues so didn’t get to see a lot. I was dead keen to go back as I love a wreck dive !

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We had a larger group for this dive so split into two, I got to dive with Jimmy, Daniel and Mike again along with a new diver. It was a good dive, again, visibility was best above 14 metres, but the ship had lots of places to explore – though of course we were not allowed to enter at all. The ship went down in 2001 and was carrying sugar – obviously. There were a lot of scorpion and dragon fish so care was needed. We did see some awesome little coral cat sharks – these are about a foot long and hide in the smallest spots, just lovely creatures.

And that was it, diving in SE Asia is over; but I did do thirty two dives in four countries – so I cannot complain !

After the dive I went back to my room and chilled for a while before heading back down to the shop at 7:00 where I hung around chatting till almost 9:00 – when the evening storm passed.  I went for dinner with Daniel and Jimmy and then stopped for a couple of drinks with some of the dive shop guys. I could see they were going to kick on for a biggie so I left at 10:30 and went to bed.

There were some cool fire dancers on the beach !

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I leave the Island in the morning. I really regret not skipping Koh Tao and coming here earlier, once I got into the groove with the shop this has been one of the more enjoyable places to hang out, and the diving has been exceptional. A highlight of the trip.

Diving, photography, beer – almost a perfect day

Day 149, Friday 1 June 2012, Perhentian Kecil

Wow, the year is disappearing so quickly, its June already. A good day today, one average dive, one awesome dive and I am going to catch up with some of the divers I met today for a drink tonight. Not too much as one more diving day tomorrow – and the last dives of the trip. On the way back from the dive today I was wondering how I could extend for one more day, but not possible, I should have come here sooner I think. If you are planning diving in SE Asia, you have to put the Perhentians on your list!

Not as good a sleep as the night before, but still woke at 7.00 and was feeling OK, I think once I get to the UK I will take a couple of days of doing nothing much – if I can, oh apart from getting some running in every day to drop a couple of KG’s before I have to join Mal in Cornwall on the 15th. Heck that is only two weeks away now !

Lessons were learnt from yesterday so did a bit of washing, caught up on FB and some email and then meandered down to breakfast for 8.30, and things were open. There is a lot of mess on the beach this morning, there was a big party last night – which I of course did not go to, so lots of cans and fag ends all over the place. At least an effort is made to clean it early and it will be spotless again soon I imagine.

The first dive of the day was another wreck – Vietnamese – named as the vessel was sunk during the war, it is a deeper dive so only advanced divers can do it, this meant a smaller group which was good.

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What was surprising was there was already four other dive boats when we got to the site !

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We were hoping for clear calm waters but the ride out was a bit choppy and we found from one of the divers who were surfacing when we arrived that there was a strong current and visibility was down to four or five metres at the wreck, bugger !

The descent to the top of the wreck at eighteen metres was awesome though, a warm warm, crystal clear sea. However it all turned to crap at eighteen, I was not wearing a wetsuit and the water was quite cold (not NZ cold of course – Malaysia cold !) and visibility was terrible. Could barely see the wreck even up close, seeing fish was next to impossible. We did do a very cool swim through, the entrance was tight and pitch black, and as I was last diver through there was a lot of sediment in the water, It was quite scary going in and then it is totally dark until you look up a bit to see the torch light, and then suddenly you are in the hull and you could easily stand up. Definitely the high point of that dive. After the swim through we ascended up the mooring line, did the safety stop in the stunning crystal blue and then jumped back into the boat. It was a bummer about the conditions, but at least my mask was good and I could see clearly – just not much to see !

I hung around the dive shop over lunch chatting to some of the other divers as we waited for the second dive of the day to Temple.

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I had been told by Richard and Blathnaid, who I have kept in contact with since we met at Inle Lake in Myanmar, that Temple was AWESOME, one of their two favourite dives. So I was looking forward to this one.

The ride out in the full dive boat was “choppy”.

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And the site had a small swell going but not too bad.

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What can I say about Temple: my gear was good – I could see everything, the visibility down to about 14 metres was awesome, the water was warm, I saw bamboo sharks, eels, porcupine fish plus all the usual suspects. A fantastic site, and a great dive – I loved it, best dive for weeks – way better than anything at Koh Tao or Nha Trang. The only thing wrong with it, was it was too short ! The bamboo sharks are tiny and bottom dwell in small caves, in one tiny opening we saw a school of about five or six sharks, all under a metre long. We also got to swim in, through and with a huge school of trevaly and I got up close and personal with a nice sized snapper as well. Great dive !

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The ride back was fun, bouncing around the swells, luckily no one on the boat had any dry gear as it would not have been that way by the time we got to shore. I booked myself in for two more dives tomorrow and the guys will get me to a site called T3 which R and B also highly recommended – as did everyone who has dived there. These will be last two dives for a while, though I have completed thirty since I left New Zealand, so will not complain a bit ! The day after I leave Perhentians and soon after that SE Asia.

[edit] The rest of the post is written two days later : ) [/edit]

After the dive, a shower, a lie down and some internet time I wandered over the hill to Coral Bay on the other side of the island for the sunset. The path to Coral Bay was a good snap shot of the negative side of island Malaysia, though of course there are some beautiful bits too !

Unfinished construction

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Rubber trees in place of natives,

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and trash.

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When I arrived I could see the storm clouds gathering so raced out to the jetty to grab a few shots before heading back to find the nearest cafe where I had dinner and waited out the downpour.

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Luckily the rain finished and the sky cleared before the sunset so I headed back to the wharf to snap a few shots (quite a few in fact).

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And then down to the beach for some final photos.

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When it was too dark to take photos I headed back over to Long Beach and had a couple of beers with Jimmy who I was diving with today, and then hooked up with some English guys from the first day and had a few more. I wobbled back to my room at 12.30, a bit late considering I was diving the next day. The Tiger beer here is not as good on the head as other places…

A damn good day though ! diving, photography, companionship and beer !

A blurry old day

Day 148, Thursday 31 May 2012, Perhentian Kecil

Diving day today – double yay !

I have heard good things about the diving here and from what I saw from the boat coming in yesterday I am really looking forward to getting into the water – plus the first dive is on a wreck so even better.

You, my faithful reader(s), will be pleased to know I slept well last night and even the cock crowing from underneath my room didn’t really wake me from my slumber until after 6.30. A great start to the day. What was not so great is I could not find anywhere to eat breakfast at 7.00 – nothing was open, even worse the Nai Yang ! I walked back up to room, grabbed my phone and went and Facebooked for a while in the “reception area” of my “hostel” – not quite the words I would use to describe the accommodation, I will take a photo on my day off. It is comfy and quiet though – well last night it was any way.

I went back down to Long Beach at 8.00 and it was raining a little bit and mildly overcast, things were open so I did get to have poached eggs on toast for breakfast – I wanted fried egg and rice, and have not been able to get it for weeks – very disappointing as it is a great pre-dive feed.

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After breakfast I was off to the dive shop – “Spice Divers” to kit up and be briefed on the dive. There was ten of us diving, two groups of four with a dive master. The ride out to the “Sugar Wreck” site took about twenty five minutes. The wreck sits on the bottom at just over 18 metres so it is a good all round dive, with the top of the wreck at 5 metres, after the dive I jumped back in with a mask and snapped a quick shot.

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Sadly I had really bad problems with mask fogging and i could not clear it permanently even though I flushed the mask a dozen times, this really made the dive less enjoyable than it should have been, visibility was great and the water was so warm we did not use wet suits ! I enjoyed it, but I should have LOVED it. I will dive it again if it comes up over the next few days. The dive site – shooting into the sun.

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Through a miscommunication I missed the lunch time dive so remarkably spent a whole hour and a half on the beach under a shade – I never do beach, just not in my nature ! Long beach is beyond gorgeous, the sand is white and water crystal clear.

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The second, and late afternoon dive, was at Curtain Rock and again I had mask issues – different mask and different issue. This time things were blurry and I could not fix it all, it was like diving with my reading glasses on. Again a great dive made merely enjoyable by a dodgy mask. The first time it was my fault, but this time I am blaming the mask, though of course once you are under it is too late to fix.

The dive site.

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After filling in log books and chatting with the other divers for a while I wandered back up to le mansion for a shower, change and a rest. I met my new neighbour too.

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Like every night it is party night on PK tonight. I went down to the beach, where all the cafes are for dinner at 7:30, a lot later than last night and there was a few more people around. I had a mee noodle dish and another one of those awesome banana shakes, the cafes do not serve alcohol and neither do the mini-marts. The only place to buy beer is from one of the few bars, i grabbed a couple of cans and had one on the beach while I watched party night preparations take place. Not being either young or beautiful I decided not to stay.

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And just to rub it in some more !

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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First view of PK.

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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 !

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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.

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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

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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 ! +

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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.

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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!

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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.

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The Bus Bar – maybe a good idea last year…

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

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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…

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Run for it, no one will find us !

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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.

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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.

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

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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 !

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Donsak

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Warning – it gets steep

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And even steeper : )

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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.

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The view – look how damn high I walked !

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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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzs-6l54r7k

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 !

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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.

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

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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.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ! 🙂

Weird Japanese guy and the snorer really screwed up my sleep,  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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.