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Clare’s Travel Diary

Monday, 23 Jun 2008

Location: Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

MapWell, we rolled out of Siem Reap in a downpour the next morning having had an hour long argument with the 'bus' company who told us a succession of lies about how we each needed to pay more money to go to the Thai border in a taxi because 'there was no bus'. Well of course there was no bus, they didn't come and get us from our guesthouse until an hour after the bus had left!

Anyway we stood our ground and got to the border without paying any more money, but it really marred the whole departure from Cambodia. Laos was laid back and calm, Vietnam was industrious and hardworking, Cambodia is desperate and will say anything for more dollars. The road to the border was a potholed, dirt track and we canonned along with no suspension in clapped out Toyota Camry (all the cars are Toyota Camrys in various stages of dis-repair) at a ridiculous speed being flung about and clutching, white-knuckled at the door handle for about three hours. We finally reached the border and despite my now complete lack of confidence in our 'ticket from Siem Reap to Bangkok' we were met by a guide who showed us through the border and put us on an air-con minibus to Bangkok.

As we walked through the border the change was like day to night. The roads on the Cambodian side were muddy, messy, churned dirt tracks with cars, bikes, motorcycles, lorries and pedestrians jostling for position and people picking through the mud fighting to porter your bag to the immigration office. The Thai side was clean, paved and mud-free, calm, ordered and there was no hassle. We hopped in the minibus and started motoring to Bangkok. After an hour or two we stopped at a service station and Amy and I almost laughed out loud with joy! A 7-Eleven with all the things we love (iced coffee, snacks etc) plus an array of street food stands (satay chicken on sticks, tropical fruit, noodle soup, BBQ meat, fruit juice & Shakes, mango sticky rice, Pad Thai etc. This is the stuff we love about Thailand - all this food is available everywhere and is cheap and good - we had been missing this through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and were mightily happy to be getting back to it.

A couple hours later we motored in Bangkok again and we both sat there looking out of the window with big silly grins on our faces, planning all the things we were going to do on our 2 day visit. We know where things are and Bangkok and what's available and how much it all costs etc so its a nice easy place to be. However I did feel a bit of a twinge. Leaving Cambodia was the end of my 'difficult' travelling - its all quite westernised countries from now on and though I was excited to be back in the thick of the Khao San Rd, I did mourn the fact that there are no more Zimbabwes or Hyderabads or Laos' on the rest of my trip and though its easy and predictable it won't be as extreme from now on.

Bangkok delivered all we thought it would, we got some delicious food, sorted travel plans, got laundry, picked up some essentials from Starbucks & Boots, did internet (finally a fast connection) and watched a pirate copy of the new Indiana Jones movie in a bar while it rained (what did anyone else think? - I was sorely disappointed). While there I also heard from one of the Paragliders from Nepal who was heading to the Full Moon party with some friends and decided to go join them for a day or two rather than go to the rainforest at Khao Sok with Amy and meet her in Krabi later. So we both headed off on night buses south down the Isthmus to the islands and went our separate ways at Surat Thani. I headed west to Ko Pha-Ngan with the crowds of Full Moon revellers and Amy went east to the national park and some jungle trekking.

I expected the party island to be a bit of a mess seeing as how it hosts 10,000 - 30,000 people at each full moon party, but it was actually really nice and quiet and calm with loads of beautiful beaches which can only be reached by boat and was actually really ell set up to deal with all the party-goers. We all got a bungalow near the party beach and headed out into the night glow paint applied and buckets in hand! The party was great, full people having a good time, and there was no trouble at all that I could see. The setting on the white sand beach with the sun rise behind us over the sea was just perfect - it was only a small party as its off-season so there were only about 10,000 people there! We rolled home in the early hours after a morning swim and slept it all off.

The following day I headed over to Krabi to meet Amy where we spent another couple days wandering about, visiting Railay and Ao Nang beaches and a brilliant morning Sea Kayaking around the mangrove swamps paying visits to troupes of Long-tailed Macaques who variously ignored us, tried to nick stuff from the boats and swung out of the trees (babies still attached) to sit on our Kayaks and eat Watermelon!

Today we did the 2 hour crossing from Krabi to Ko Phi Phi - the beaches seem to get better and better and Ko Phi Phi surely must be the best of the lot. I am here for a week and Amy for a few days and then we part again as I fly to Kuala Lumpur and she overlands down through Malaysia. Sadly the weather is not that great with intermittent downpours and not much sun. Its still about 28 degrees though and we are going diving tomorrow so we are keeping busy. Apparently as we go south we should get out of the rains and more into the better weather.

I am feeling good because I was beginning to not really look forward to the remainder of my travelling as far as Bali. I think I have reached the limit of my overlanding patience, but yesterday I booked some flights and will be going direct from here to Kuala Lumpur and then on to Bali a few days later - I feel much better about that prospect and am looking forward to being on Bali again. Its high season there so perfect beach weather and great diving again.

So - that gets me up to date, internet is expensive here on the islands though so I'm not sure if I'll be uploading more photos or not this week. Watch this space!