Sunday, July 30, 2006

Okay - i'm getting a bit tired of the day by day account now so i'm going to try to do it in chunks. Hope you don't mind?

18th July - 27th July

During this time i have been on Koh Tao, the weather has been generally hot with a nice sea breeze. Saw a big red cock.
Koh Tao (Turtle island) is a very nice place, the beaches and the sea are beautiful. It's a very small island and almost everything here is geared to tourism, especially diving - lots of dive schools with lots of boats coming and going. The food is always good. I share a room with Liz which keeps the costs down and before you even think it, there's no funny business! Liz is also my dive buddy and during our stay we have done our open water course and our advanced open water course involving a fair amount of reading and 9 dives.
We have seen loads of fish but i managed to miss a distant grey reef shark that most of the others claim to have seen. The best dive was the last one which was a night dive with torches - there was no moonlight, pitch black and massive waves, the boat was all over the place but my travel sickness pill did the trick. We turned off the lights and waved our hands about while standing on the ocean floor - these weird green phospherous specks fly everywhere. I've seen rays, angel fish, clown fish (like Nemo), boxfish(pretty weird), batfish, barracudas, scorpion fish, trigger fish (that was scary because we had to swim slowly past - they can be aggresively territorial), cleaner wras (they nibble at you if you stay still for long enough) and loads of other stuff. Had really bad pain in my ear from the pressure on my first 2 dives but seemed to improve after that. One of the advanced dives went down to 28m which is the sort of depth that can bring on Nitrogen Narcosis which can make you feel giggly and drunk - the dive guide did some mental tests on us but we were fine - quite dissapointed really after we had heard and read so much about it. Craving ribena quite a lot. In between diving i've been mostly reading and lazing around in the sun and sometimes forcing down a beer - it's not been easy!!! Read 'Vernon God Little' strange but good. Eventually left Liz on the island with her dutch friend, and took a 1 hour boat ride to Koh Phanang...

27th July - 29th July (present)

Chose a bungalow resort called Cookies on the south west of the island because they advertise windsurfing (sounds like a challenge!) - my bungalow (a hut on stilts, made from mostly wood and wicker) is about 10m from the sea with my own little bathroom and a hammock on the porch. It feels like sleeping outside, sort of an adventure like when Carly and I used to camp in the back garden! This is the view from my hammock outside my bungalow

I can hear the crickets chirping and the waves washing against the beach. The resort is run by some nice Thai people, a lady called Bee is always very friendly. 250B per night for this paradise - fantastic.

The windsurfing is only on in the evenings and only when the conditions are right - eventually i have a lesson and can be seen falling off every 30 seconds as people eat in the restaurant watching the sun set - i am rubbish and the poor bloke with his tiny amount of English doesn't know how to tell me what I am doing wrong - he just shows me what to do - then i fail miserably. Oh well can't be good at every thing (or anything come to think of it!) I've spoken to several people while i've been here and took a taxi with Malachi to Haad Rin for an evening of drinking some evil stuff through straws from a bucket (regretting that today!)

That's all for now. Bye.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Explored Bangkok on foot for a few hours, found it very difficult to find my way around due to crap maps and crap street signs. Found little of any interest. Contacted Jon who lives in Bangkok (my brother in law's cousin) but he works in the week so i'll see him on Saturday. Feeling bored and a bit miserable. Looked at a couple of cheaper hotels as 650B is quite expensive for the area, they were around 300B but nowhere near as nice and i couldn't bring myself to take a drop in comfort while i am already a bit low. One thing that always cheers me up is good food and i'm eating plenty of that for about 75B a time - tonight was Thai red beef curry - fantastic! Got quite drunk and ended up talking to a nice german girl in Gullivers but she was leaving early the next morning (she probably just said that to get rid of me!) She was spending only 150B per night for her room so i am feeling far too extravagent now.


DO NOT DRINK CHANG BEER! I have the hangover from hell. Managed to go out about midday, saw Wat Phra Kaew, the royal palace and Wat Pho. I got drenched in a rainstorm then took a tuk tuk. I saw a huge reclining buddah, a bigger standing buddah and more smaller buddahs than you could shake a monk at. Now quite bored with Bangkok, temples and buddahs! I felt rough all day. Had some excellent spicey pork and even treated myself to ice cream, plus a coke for 135B. Can't drink tonight so sat in my expensive room and watched 'Cable Guy' and the middle east conflict on the news. I am planning on getting away from Bangkok straight after i meet Jon, don't know where.


A restless night with a bizarre midgit dream. I phoned Jon and got a cab to his house which was an adventure as the driver spoke no English and i didn't know where I was going. We chatted, i met his wife and daughter, we went to the mall and had food, then Jon and i left for Sukhumvit to meet some of his mates, then on to Nana where we saw some of Bangkoks characters - ladyboys, prossies, that sort of thing! Somehow managed to get back onto Chang and ended up a little tipsy!


Hungover again! Checked out at last and got a tuk tuk to one of Bangkoks two train stations. After several visits to tourist information i was yet to get any info on buses or trains as they don't speak much english (stupid bloody foreigners!) but i was hoping that i might get to Chantanaburi to see the bridge over the bridge over the river kwai. I found out i had picked the wrong station for that and the staff just laughed when i told them i just had to get out of Bangkok and asked where the next train was going to. One was going through Chumpon which is a ferry ride from Koh Tao island. I hadn't planned on heading south yet but then i hadn't planned anything much and i liked the sound of it despite the 8.5 hour train journey. The train was clean and comfy and pretty cheap. All the windows were open so the wind blew through as we went but it was still warm. The scenery was green an beautiful and i spotted some westerners further up the carriage. 4 young English kids got out at my stop so i asked them if they too were getting the early morning ferry which i had booked with my train ticket, unfortunately they had booked an overnight crossing but the bloke that came to pick them up took me as well and we all went back to his small travel agency. I chatted with the 4 young 'uns while we ate at a nearby restaurant (tom yum soup) and they were very nice. They left for their ferry and i hoped to meet them on the other side. I stayed the night in a very basic room above the shop for 150B. Feeling glad to have left Bangkok.


The ferry took 3 hours and the crossing was very calm (thank god). There were about 60 people on the boat and i spoke to an English girl named Liz most of the way - she had done some travelling and some volunteer work in Laos. When we docked there were several dive companies wanting us to come and see there accomodation, Liz had booked when she was in Chumpon so i went with her to Dive Buddah situated right on the beautiful south coast of the island. Liz and I ended up sharing a room which is basic but we have a private bathroom and a fan. I read and slept on the beach for a while and then we had a one hour dvd with another 14 people who were all to start a four day PADI diving course. Yet again i had fantastic food at lunch and some lovely steamed fish in the evening. I spent about 2 hours reading my new PADI text book then tried to phone Nan but she was engaged. I am loving it here already and it is nice to have someone to talk to.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Michael, Nicola and I took a tuk tuk back to the old city again (well there is not much else to do here!) Went to the main gaht again, fended off the hawkers with ease and looked in a few shops. Had a nice lunch at the hotel and spent most of the afternoon on the computer. On the advice of a lad i was chatting to earlier, i booked my 3 nights accomodation in Hong Kong online for 22 pounds a night. At 18.45 we boarded the sleeper for Delhi. The group were a lot more split up this time; Manu and I were in a compartment with an Indian family. I couldn't get comfortable in my bed - if my feet hung off the end they would get hit when the door opened, so I had a pretty bad nights sleep. The toilet was a lot better this time. Again we were delayed by about 2 hours and the train seems to spend as much time stationary as it does moving. I figured that we did 450 miles in 15 hours, so 30 miles an hour.


Not much happened. The tour is winding down now. In the evening we all went out for food and drinks at the upmarket DV8. Michael did a speech for Manu and gave him all of our tips in envelopes. I had a few to drink and got to bed at 0030.


I was up at 3.10 feeling bright and breezy (yeah right!) My taxi was at 03.30 and check in was at 04.00 even though the flight wasn't until 07.00. Landed in Hong Kong at 15.00 after putting the clock forward two and a half hours ( i am now 7 hours ahead of GMT). The airport is ultra clean and modern, all steel, glass and white. The tourist information girl gave me loads of info, her English was good but very quick so it was hard to follow - still, i walked away with a map with circles drawn all over it and a leaflet on things to see and do. My hotel area in Mongkok, Kowloon is very lively with flashing chinese signs everywhere. I eventually find my hotel - my room (on the 13th floor) is tiny but air conditioned, the bathroom is the size of a bath with a shower but no cubicle - the water just runs over the floor to a drain. I went into the first 'restaurant' i found and had chicken (skinny bits of thigh i think!) in blackbean sauce. All local transport and street signs have an English translation, other than that there seems to be very little English - trying to find my hotel was a struggle as everyone i asked didn't have a clue what i was saying. I remebered that the tourist information girl had written my hotel name down in chinese, showed that to a man and he pointed the way - why didn't i think of that earlier?


The weather was very overcast. There are plenty of McDonalds in Hong Kong so i had a mcmuffin for breakfast. I found out that Italy won the world cup so i won the green watch sweepstake. I got on the Metro which again was very clean and modern, there are steel seats with no cushions. Getting around is pretty easy either by metro, bus, ferry or taxi - there are very few cars about probably because everything is close together and the public transport is so good - the buses run exactly to the timetable. The ferry is fantastic and only costs about 2 quid. I went to Stanley market, Repulse Bay (a short sandy beach), Ocean Park, the zoological and botanical gardens and finally went on the peak tram on Hong Kong island, I stayed at the peak until it got dark so i could see all the lights on both sides of the river - the weather was still very cloudy so the view wasn't as good as it could have been and i think my photos were rubbish. Apart from all the travelling around i did a lot of walking so it's been a long day. I finished the day with a reasonable beef in chile sauce for 32 HKD. (14HKD to 1UKP)


Pissing down. This was to be my first use of the Johnny 'Extreme' Moulder monsoon proof, hurricane proof, earthquake proof and bomb proof jacket. I took the Metro to Tung Chung on Lantau island. From here on there are just a few light showers and i am left to carry this bloody jacket around all day - still, shouldn't moan. I use the buses to cover all the sights of this tiny island. The island is mountainous and covered in forest. There is a monastry with a giant outdoor Buddah (the head alone weighs 5 metric tonnes!), the wisdom path which has something to do with infinite spleadour, here i read 'Understanding the relativity of all standpoints will prevent one from becoming irrationally attached to things. In this way one will become free of all mental obstruction' - DEEP!

Went to a fishing village where the people live in tin houses on stilts. Found Hollywood road and Manmo temple but they were rubbish.

Finally got to the avenue of stars on the south bank of Kowloon to witness the symphony of lights - all the sky scrapers on the opposite bank lights and lasers dancing to music - very clever.

I went to a more upmarket pizza restaurant and had peking duck pizza (a small amount of duck peeking out from under the mushrooms, peeking - get it!) and a beer for 116 HKD. The bigest adventure today was on my walk to the wisdom path, i turned back half way and did one of those runs where you keep your knees together until i got to the toilet - this was to be my first number 2 in a squat toilet - after some precision bombing, some awkward wiping (the bin was too far away), i was just glad that this one had toilet paper as many of them don't, i was back on the path to wisdom. Hope i'm not going into too much detail for you but this was a momentous occaision!


Awoke at 09.00 with a case of the 2 bobs (sorry to get back to this subject). My plans to visit a Hong Kong history museum were scuppered as i stayed in my room. The episode passed fairly quickly and i checked out at 11.00 and took the metro to the airport. On the plane I was sat next to a young chinese couple who kept kissing, just glad i wasn't in the middle seat! If Grant had been there he would have shouted 'GET A ROOM!' It was pissing down when i arrived in Bangkok but after a 2 hour crawl by bus through the rush hour traffic to Khaosan road the rain had stopped. I was sat under a drip! I found the Hotel Sawadsee Banglumpoo without much problem. Nice room with air con, double bed, shower (with cubicle) and free breakfast for 8 quid (i had pre booked for one night on the internet but will stay at least for one more night). Went straight out. Khaosan road was not at all what i expected - not much atmosphere in the bars. I had a nice chicken green curry for 50Baht (65B to 1UKP) and after searching high and low for some atmosphere found Gullivers where i met Scottish Ed and Dan from North London - i chatted to them over several beers and found out that any Thai girl who shows any interest is a prossie which is a shame because there was a pretty one across the bar and there were several of them plying their trade in the pub. Drinks were 75B here.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

4/7 continued

Didn't do much in the afternoon as i still didn't feel quite right and the heat outside wasn't helping. We boarded a sleeper train at 21.30 and my stomach was doing somersaults so i was really dreading it. India has an excellent rail network and the sleeper carriage we were in was quite new and clean. The toilet smelled of curried shit and was just a hole in the ground with a pipe set an angle down to the track - the fact that the pipe was at an angle was to allow peoples shit to stick to the side rather than go straight through! I was dreading having to go. Sue gave me a couple of tablets for stomach cramps and they did the trick. The carriage slept 8 altogether and was very cramped while we were all seated because we all had so much luggage. When we went to bed (which was quite early because some indian chap was trying to sleep and was annoyed at how much noise we were making) the beds were very narrow but i slept ok. The carriage has 2 lots of three bunks opposite eachother (the middle bunk folds up when you are using the bottom one as a seat) and another two opposite the open corridor at a right angle to the 6 (i hope that makes sense!). It was a bit of a come down from the luxury we had become used to but perhaps this will help me prepare for the rest of my travels, I am well aware that my time in India has been all too easy with nice hotels and Manu helping us every step of the way. I am quite glad that i did it this way though because there is no way i could have seen so much of india in such a short period otherwise, and i would probably only have seen the main tourist spots and not the real india in places like Karauli.


Awoke about 06.00 and sat by a window to watch india going by. Apparently 70% of india's population lives outside of the cities which is hard to believe when you see how crowded the cities are, but now i believe it; there was just miles and miles of farmland and small villages. I saw lots of men coming to the side of the railway line to do their morning shit which was a bit disturbing (Simon Prior would love it here!) We arrived at a nice hotel in Varanassi after a 13 hour journey - i went to bed. In the afternoon we visited Sarnath which is an important pilgrimage for buddhists but for some reason I wasn't all that interested. Went to bed after a nice cheap meal and a beer at the hotel.


Awoke by 04.00 alarm call and took a bus at 04.30 to old city of Varanassi. There was life on the steets but not too busy at this time. We took a short walk to the Ganges for a boat ride but unfortunately it was too overcast to see the sunrise. The Ganges was not quite what i had expected and i think the rest of the group felt the same - there were a few people washing in the 'holy waters', a couple of bodies covered with cloth on the banks waiting to be cremated and one burning pyre. We all expected the banks to be crowded with people. We were all given a burning candle which we were to set onto the river and make a wish, i don't hold a great deal of faith in such rituals but even so i wished good luck to Carly for the safe birth of baby Rodney. Walking around the narrow streets of the old city was a bit nasty - the streets are very narrow and you rarely catch a glimpse of sky, not that you want to look up as the streets are paved with diarroreah from the cows that roam around eating whatever litter they can find (so much for the holy cow!) In the afternoon some of us went to see a silk weaving demonstration.
In the evening it was back to the ganges by tuk tuk for the daily Aarti ceromony where 7 priests stand on platforms at the waters edge and summon the spirit of Gange using music, chanting, incense, flames and synchronised movements (sort of like a boy band). This lasts for about 30 minutes and again we were expecting more of a crowd and lots of chanting and praying but were a little dissapointed. The tuk tuk journey back was a high speed dash down some narrow, bumpy pedestrian streets. Beers and bed.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Went via tuk tuk to some shops - think i got ripped off for some deodorant at 400R but haggled down an indian style shirt from 400R to 250R. We have been told to haggle over just about everything and we have even been known to haggle with tuk tuk drivers over 10 or 20 rupees between 3 of us which is nothing but it's all part of the game. Having said that, i had to tip the cycle rickshaw man as it looked like such hard work in the heat. Also bought a nice little shirt for Elliot which some friends from the group are going to take back and post for me. Had chinese food for lunch (lots of the restaurants sell indian, chinese and western food).

The whole group went to the Indiana restaurant in the evening which was more expensive but included music and dancing. Later we had drinks on the roof of the hotel, we couldn't get the usual kingfisher so had to settle for the kingfisher strong (8%).


On the coach journey to Karauli, we saw a lorry on its side in the ditch and another overloaded with it's rear axle snapped, abandoned in the middle of the road. All vehicles are overloaded in India; i've seen a family of 5 on a moped, jeeps with 12 people on top and at least 15 inside and there ate illegal people lorries powered by well pumps (i kid you not). A 2 vehicle collision over here would be a major incident. We arrived at the maharaja's residence which is a little run down now but pretty grand all the same. My room is fairly small but has a large ornate wooden bed at waist height so i decide not to drink too much that night.

I walked along a nearby street and got a haircut for 15R - i wanted it short but i think he misunderstood and thought i said i only wanted a little bit off, oh well, it's tidied me up until i get it shaved in Thailand.

We all sat on 2 camel carts and took a ride through the local farming community to a nearby lake - all the people are really friendly, the kids are fantastic, cute and smiley;

they come running out, waving and shouting 'ta ta' which was a bit confusing but we all just shouted it back. The good thing about this place is that there aren't many tourists, there is no begging, no hawking (people trying to sell you crap), just friendly people.

The kids are happy for you to photograph them and love to see themselves on the digital display. The children are playing in the street, kite fighting, hoops and sticks etc. I guess they are fairly poor but they seem really happy and probably have as much as they need.

There are very few tvs around but Manu pulls out all the stops; a few of us spend the evening watching England lose in the hotel guards hut, a dissapointing result but we'll never forget where we saw it.


Early morning peacock wake up call followed by a walking tour of Karauli old town, this is within the city walls in the opposite direction to where we went yesterday. The lod town is much busier and people are selling stuff from waist high shacks where a man sits in the middle of the floor and can reach all the items from there. The conditions here are a bit more squalid but not too bad and still no begging or hawking. We went to the old city palace which wasn't particularly exciting, it was very hot (about 42 degrees) and quite a lot of walking. After that a few of us split up from the rest of the group and got lost, we ended up miles from the hotel and got a tuk tuk back. I managed an hour in the sun before i jumped into the dirty pool. I dressed up smart for supper as i thought the maharaja might join us but he didn't show up.


Took a coach to Keoladeo bird sanctuary and ate vegi pizza and fries at a service station cafe on the way for 78R, bargain. The bird sanctuary was not too exciting as they are waiting for the monsoon which could arrive any day soon and bring the wildlife with it. We saw a few deer, monkeys, herons and other resident birds which i can't remember but i guess we were just unlucky with our timing. On to Fatehpur Sikri, a ghost town with forts, mosques and palaces perfectly preserved. Our guide, Mr Khan is perhaps the most unusual man i have ever seen and his way of talking had us in stitches but also listening intently as he kept testing us on the things he had said. The architecture encompasses loads of symbolgy from the 4 main religions in order to keep Akbar's 3 wives and 49 girlfriends happy - Mr Kahn made this a very interesting visit. Picked up 9 bites from something (6 of them under my t-shirt) as a momento. We arrived at Mansingh palace in Agra which is a normal hotel but very grand with all mod cons and a pool. Just finished getting ready for our evening meal when it hit me, i thought i just needed the toilet but i had really bad pains in my stomach, felt a bit sick and feint, so i stayed in my room, and never went too far from the toilet! Went to sleep hoping to feel better for our early morning Taj Mahal visit - surely i can't miss that!


0515 woke up feeling better but still not 100% so took toilet paper and plastic bags just in case (thanks Kim!). Luckily my pants remained unscathed as i took in the majestic Taj.

It really is as magnificent as people say and our guide told us a few facts that i never knew; it was built as a tomb for the mughal emporors third wife and took from 1632 to 1654 to build. Where we had been unlucky with our timing for the bird sanctuary we were very lucky here; with it being early in the morning and not yet tourist season there were very few people here. Manu said he had never seen it this quiet. I took loads of photos. We went back to the hotel for a hearty breakfast and my stomach is starting to feel better. We have the rest of the day free so after i finish this i might check out the pool (hope i don't turn the water brown).