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Joel and Helen's Trans-Asian Sojourn

As promised to you all, here is our travel blog! We'll will keep this updated with stories and photos of our travels.

We are arriving in Bangkok on 13th March 2007 and will be spending the next three months touring at a leisurely pace through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. After which we will spend a lazy 4 days in Dubai before heading on to London to commence our two year UK working visas.

In addition to email contact, you can also post a message on this site and we'll reply when we can.

Diary Entries

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Location: Ko Phayam, Thailand

Hi, Helen again.

Ko Phayam is on the west coast, right by the Myanmar (Burma) boarder. To get to it we had to take a 5 hr bus trip to Ranong (a not so pleasant port town where we had to stay the night in a dodgy hotel) and then take a 2 hour boat ride. But it was worth it!

Ko Phayam was exactly what we had been looking for. It was quiet, rustic and beautiful. It only has limited electricity (between 10am - 1pm and 6pm - 10pm) and very limited water supplies therefore it has not been overrun by development. We stayed at a fabulous little placed called Bamboo Bungalows in a thatched bamboo bungalow right on the beach. Every morning I woke at 6.30am to the sound of the waves (yes they have small waves there) and the cicadas which were phenomenally loud! We loved everything about the place, our little bungalow - no fan, no hot water, squat toilet (actually I didn't love that part), the food - definitely was the best we have had so far in Thailand, the other travelers - well traveled and very knowledgeable, the beach - whist the water is not as clear as Phi Phi or Phuket it is as warm as a tepid bath and the 3km stretch of sand has no sun lounges covering it (like Phuket) and more often than not we were the only people on the beach! Also we loved it as we were able to live on half of our daily budget, 1000bt ($40aus) this was possible as we only paid 350bt ($13aus) per night for accommodation!

On our second day I woke with a nasty stomach ache and spent the day vomiting and had excruciating stomach cramps. Joel was a fabulous nurse, I really think he missed his calling. At one stage I was in a bd was so he went out in seach of a doctor. Luckly there was a lovely frech doc staying at Bamboo Bungalows so she made a house call to our little bungalow. Thankfully I woke the next day feeling remarkably better.

We were sharing our room with geckos, cockroaches and one night a frog! The snake we saw was outside our bungalow thanks goodness!

We did very little during our 5 night stay on Ko Phayam. Our days consisted of: breakfast, reading, lunch, reading, pre dinner Chang Beer, dinner. Some nights we played chess (I am winning our little tournament by the way. This is disturbing Joel no end, he has a wicked competitive streak!) It was very relaxing.

As much as we were enjoying ourselves we had to move on, so much to see, so little time. We had decided to head north to Bangkok and then up to Chang Mai but we first needed to extend our Thai visas (we only got 30 days days on arrival) so we got the boat back to Ranong and did a visa run to Myanmar (Burma). The whole process was really easy. We went to Thai immigration to stamp out of Thailand then hired a long tail boat to take us to Myanmar to stamp in and then promptly out again (we did not stay for a look around as we had our packs with us and I guess we were a little worried about how safe we were in this rather notoriously unstable country) so we turned right around and went back to Thailand immigration to stamp back in again to get us another 30 day visa. The whole thing only took about one and a half hours.

That night we got an overnight bus to Bangkok, 10 hours.



Thursday, 22 March 2007

Location: Phi Phi Island and Phuket, Thailand

Hi everyone, this is Helen.

PHI PHI ISLAND

So we went to Phi Phi expecting big things but for us it was a bit of a let down. The accommodation (in our budget) was appalling, the food was disappointing and it was over run by package tourists. Not our scene. I was keen to see Maya Bay, the main location in the film "The Beach", so we stayed in Phi Phi only 2 nights, just long enough to do a sunset tour of Maya Bay. Unfortunately we picked a really crappy afternoon when it was raining so our photos really don't show how beautiful it actually is. On our trip we were able to do some snorking again and we saw some Nemos (clown fish).

Don't get me wrong Phi Phi Island is stunning, the clearest water I have ever seen but the development has been left to run wild without (it appears) any council regulations. As we were heading north our next stop was Phuket.

PHUKET

Phuket was also very touristy, unlike Ko Lanta which was a little more laid back, but we were happy enough there. We rented a motorbike and spent a couple of days crusing the coast and checking out the numerous bays. Joel had been sick with the flu in Phi Phi and this came with us to Phuket so we decided to stay for a few days so he could get better. One night we came across a locals night market, we were the only Farang (westerners) there. It was fantastic, we 'dined' on some of the best food we had had so far in Thailand, must say I was not into the deep fried fish eggs!

Another reason we stayed in Phuket so long is that we could not decide where to go next. We had allowed 2 weeks so 'beach time' as a bit of a holiday and as we are leaving the east cost (Ko Samui etc) until the end of our three months we had run out of places on our must do list. So we went back to our trusty Lonely Planet to find out what was between Phuket and Bangkok on the west coast. That is how we found out about Ko Phayam!


Monday, 19 March 2007

Location: Koh Lanta, Thailand

On Railay West, waiting for our boat to Koh Lanta, we struck up a conversation with a Dutch couple. They were also on the same boat as us and it became very clear in our interaction that they knew Thailand very well. Being new to this travel caper they proved to be an invaulable reference over the coming days.

We stumbled off the boat in Koh Lanta and to our surprise, our Dutch companions had already negotiated a tuk tuk to what is known as Long Beach. They picked up a second tuk tuk and were on our way.

We pitched up to the first accomodation we found, and to our delight, the prices were far cheaper than Railay (500 baht, which is roughly 18AUD) and the rooms were a rustic bamboo bugalow with an outdoor bathroom. There was no hot water and no air con, but we found that so long as the fan kept going you were kept pretty cool during the night.

We hired a motorbike and had a good look around the Island. Though in theory I have a motorbike licence, I had never riden a bike with gears. I got a crash course (no pun intended) from a local 8 year old on how the clutch (being that there was none)and gears worked. Helen was a little bit apprehensive about my new found skills and as such opted for the only helmet available and imposed a strict 40kmh speed limit (much to my dissaisfaction)!

We really enjoyed Koh Lanta, it was much more relaxed than Railay, however the downside was that there not too much to keep us occupied. We've not quite yet embraced the idea of total time wasting relaxation! However we were pleased when we found that one of the local cafes put on new release movies every night of the week (Complete with hillariously inaccurate sub titles, and I quote from Dreamgirls "I am a coward and a loner" in a scene where Beyonce is triumphantly claiming her independence from her controlling record company exec husband!)

We again spent some time with our Dutch travelling companions and enjoyed their company and tales of Asia.

After three nights in Koh Lanta we began to get restless and thought we'd embark on a trip to Phi Phi to see what everybody has been talking about. So we packed our bags and booked a boat and were on the move again.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Location: Railay Bay, Thailand

Finally we have arrived in Thailand! Small hiccup in getting here being that our flight was cancelled out of Auckland. So after a bit of extra waiting time, we boarded a Singapore Airlines flight to Bangkok via Singapore rather than the scheduled Emirates flight to Bangkok via Sydney. As such we missed our connecting flight from Bangkok to Krabi, and seeing none of the airlines wanted to take any responsibility for the cancellation (and that the cost of the flights were less than out insurance excess) we rebooked flights stright to Krabi anyway. Interesting start to our three month adventure!

We thanked our lucky stars that we had paid for a transfer from Krabi airport to our accommodation for the first night as there was both a taxi and a boat ride to negotiate in the dark after 32 hours of travelling! not ideal.

During the boat ride from Krabi to Railay, in the fading light, it became clear that we were going somewhere very beautiful.

During the 5 nights we spent in Railay, we got to know the place pretty well. There are two main beaches (creatively named "East" and "West"), plus there is a third beach Phra-Nang which is only a short walk from Railay East. It is very beautiful with clear blue water, towering limestone cliffs and a laid back feel.

There are a number of small islands close to the mainland that a number of operators run snorkelling trips out to. Helen and I booked ourselves in on one of these trips and had a great day out snorkelling, sighseeing, sun baking and relaxing. Unfortunately, Helen took the sun baking element far too literally and wound up with what we suspected was a touch of heat stroke! Notwithstanding, the snorkelling was fantastic with great visibility and planty of fish life to observe.

As with any travel to a new destination, the first few days are full of discoveries, especially about how much things cost. What we found was that our first nights accomodation turned out to be terribly expensive (what came close to two days worth of budget) however as the days progressed we discovered what price to pay for meals, water, accomodation, transport and.... sunblock! Don't believe everything you read in the Lonely Planet, not everything is cheap in Thailand! Sunscreen seems to be the one item that is very expensive (over $AUD20 for what you'd pick up at Coles for under AUD10! Rather tight on a budget of AUD80 per day for the two of us).

So were decided to be stingey backbackers and cover up for a day by the pool in anticipation that we could buy sunscreen at a more reasonable price in our next location, Koh Lanta.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Hi Team
We've arrived safely in Auckland from Christchurch and have spent the day sightseeing with Anna.

Currently setting up the blog and are keen to see how it all works.

Don't worry, all future entries will be far more lively and interesting.

Cheers
J & H


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