Monthly Archives: October 2011

Day 37 Kuala Lumpur

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Looks good in the dark. Hard to navigate. Obviously wealthy. World’s highest concentration of Mercedes S-Class. Shopping malls the size of small countries. Chinatown, little India, Menara tower, etc. Good food, good bars, amazing shopping if you’re loaded.

Done. Airport, home, work, plan next year’s pan-American bike trip.

Day 36 Kuala Lumpur

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A short flight to Phuket, limestone karst islands looking spectacular in the turquoise Andaman sea, like Halong Bay from a different angle.

Equally short flight to KL. It takes as long to fly to KL from Phuket as it does to get to the front of the queue at immigration, which takes as long as getting from the airport to downtown.

Mandarin Oriental hotel. So good I haven’t left it yet. Relaxing with amazing city views. Great work out in a gym that is better than any in Newcastle. Swimming in an infinity pool with a view of the KL skyline and city park. With swimming being so new for me, it’s utterly brilliant to be able to enjoy such an amazing pool, especially as there are waiters to bring me cocktails when I finish.

Only have to decide whether to enjoy one of the 9 hotel restaurants and bars or head into town. Last day of this trip tomorrow, but what a way to end!

Day 34 Ko Tao

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I decide not to do any more scuba when I don’t feel safe or confident, so instead I circumnavigate the island by boat, stopping to snorkel in all the best bays.

We see all sorts of fish that swim right up to you and swarm around you. Eventually I’ll upload all the photos I took underwater with my waterproof camera, but for now can only post one taken on my mobile.

Between bays we spot a load of whales swimming and jumping and within minutes there’s a convoy of tourist boats chasing them. Very impressive to see them, hard to photo.

We finish the day at Ko Nangyuan, a gorgeous little trim of islands connected by a thin strip of beach and great for snorkelling, which I’m very pleased to be able to do without assistance of a lifevest. Very satisfying for a complete novice swimmer.

Day 33 Ko Tao

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Still no medical clearance from gp, so I visit the local clinic. The first says don’t even ask us, we’ll just say no. The second says, yeah ok whatever, I’ll sign you off.

So I get to spend the afternoon doing the confined water session in the pool, swimming around under water and doing all the exercises for swapping to the alternate regulator, emptying water from your mask and all the other stuff you have to be able to do under water and on the surface. Swimming under water is very weird.

Disappointingly, at the end of the session I have absolutely no confidence in myself or the instructor and don’t feel at all safe, so I probably won’t do any open water dives here.

Also disappointingly no photos cos I was kind of busy figuring out what the hell I was meant to be doing. So here’s a rubbish one of other people training in the pool.

Day 31 Ko Tao

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Last night’s rain has gone, so with blue skies and white sands I swim in the warm waters with a view of Ko Phangan, before heading to the ferry pier.

The ferry is a modern, high-speed catamaran, filled to the brim with backpackers. Luggage is heaped in a big pile, leaving my bag crushed under the weight of a hundred others.

Ban’s diving resort is an enormous place, my hilltop suite has a stunning view, but sadly no WiFi, and when I say I’m a very bad swimmer they give me my own personal instructor, Camilla from Denmark.

Camilla asks how I got the scar on my head, so I tell her. Unfortunately that now means I have to get my GP to day through a letter saying it’s ok for me to dive, and until I get it I can’t have my diving lessons. GP is closed today, being Sunday, and won’t be open until it’s about 3pm here.

If I can’t go diving, I’ll have to do something else, like swimming, sitting around on a great beach, maybe kayaking around the island, snorkelling, jet-skiing….

Day 30 Ko Samui

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French twin turbo-prop aircraft surrenders on the runway when engine number 2 goes on strike.

Disembark.

Watch for several hours as 8 men sit around the plane, looking at it, 3 more walk around the plane, looking at each other, and 2 men climb up a ladder to look at the engine. One man produces a laptop, but it looks like they’re using it to play angry birds or something, not diagnose the engine fault.

Announcement says we’ll be off at 2pm. At 1:45, staff hand out delayed flight meal vouchers for use at the adjacent restaurant. So we’re not going at 2 then? Yes, yes, going at 2…

Restaurant staff reveal that voucher is worth 18000 kip. Cheapest item on menu, 30000. Bangkok airways, you’re too kind.

4 other flights come and go, and then a flurry of activity. The 37 strong aircraft repair team and hangers-on exchange high fives and thumbs-up and laugh hard as if they’ve just discovered that the pilot had simply forgotten to press the on switch.

We’re away, and soon arrive in Bangkok, which looks nice from the air at night but not in a way that can be captured on a mobile phone camera.

I’ve missed my connection, but there’s a later flight so I make it to Samui a couple of hours late, and haven’t missed much because it’s raining. I’ll still be able to catch the ferry to Ko Tao tomorrow as planned, and an engine problem on the ground is much better than one in the air.

The hotel is a total dump, nothing like the pictures online. It is right on the beach as promised, but it’s too dark to see anything, as you can see in the attached photo of my sea view.

The darkness extends inside the room when the power fails, leaving nothing much to do but listen to the rain and the ocean and drink the rapidly warning contents of the mini-bar, most having expiry dates sometime in the last century…

Day 29 Luang Prabang

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Extensive breakfast of eggs Benedict, enjoyed in the luxurious surroundings of the hotel gardens.

Exhilarating ride on a rented Honda XR250 with dodgy brakes, wobbly steering, no protective gear, and roads full of free-range pigs, chickens, buffalo and children.

Swimming practice in the luscious pool, then reading, drinking and sun bathing by the pool.

Dinner with the two German girls for the 5th night in a row. They were riding elephants today.

Day 28 Luang Prabang

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Easing into the LP way of life: relaxing calmness lubricated with Lao coffee, punctuated with the occasional cake. The official name for the country is the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, but the locals say that the initials PDR really stand for Please Don’t Rush.

The ride in the back of a small truck (closest thing to a taxi around here) is not so relaxing, but it gets us to the waterfalls. The description in the guide book is completely over-egged, but it’s quite amusing watching Chinese tourists in their pants diving in from the upper tier and attempting, but failing, to launch themselves in from the rope swing.