A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

Final Thoughts on South East Asia

sunny 28 °C

Well, it started off slowly but the last few weeks have just flown in. Where have the past two months gone?? Looking back on my blog I feel like I’ve done so much since I arrived at the start of January. Summing up travelling around South East Asia is too difficult to do in a simple blog post. There have been many highs and lows along the way. It was a real experience and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been thinking about my top five highlights for the past week now but I’ve finally made up my mind:

1: Halong Bay (Vietnam)
2: Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
3: Tubing in Vang Vieng (Laos)
4: Lunar New Years Eve at Hoi An (Vietnam)
5: Chilling out in Koh Phangan (Thailand)

You couldn't call it a highlight given the nature of it but the Killing Fields and Prison Museum in Phnom Penh are a must see if you're in Cambodia. Laos as a country was just such a pleasent surprise - I'm already looking forward to going back and seeing more of it.

Two memorable low points worth adding include the overnight bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An. I’ll never forget the look on Carly’s face as she got into her ‘bed’ for the night as the locals were shouting at her to climb up a dodgy make-shift ladder. It was too funny. Another was that awful first day in Ho Chi Minh city. After getting ripped off by a dodgy taxi driver on the way and discovering our hotel was in the most anti-tourist friendly location, we spent over an hour walking the streets for something decent to eat. Eventually we found an Italian restaurant and thought we were saved. We were both starving so when a horrible four inch pizza arrived followed by seven chips on a plate to share between us, it was the final straw. I’ll never forget the tears of laughter by us both and the confused look on the poor waiter’s face!

I would recommend travelling South East Asia to anyone. It’s not easy and there are times you’ll be seriously pissed off but believe me it is worthwhile – if you look back on the previous entries you can see some of the amazing things we’ve experienced. I just want to say a big thank you and shout out to Carly my Asian travel buddy. I’d like to wish her the very best of luck with everything in life and I know we’ll keep in touch as we shared this adventure together. I wouldn’t have been able to do all this without her. Carly, before we both forget her name… Dilly Morgan!!

Posted by mattld 08:56 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Tao & Bangkok II

sunny 28 °C

The boat ride to Koh Tao only took two hours. I slept for one so it felt like we were there in no time. It was a bit bumpy towards the end though. Carly and I didn’t feel too well getting off. It wasn’t helped by the blazing heat when we arrived or the 20+ people trying to get us into a cab or sell us a scuba dive tour. Luckily our hotel was only a five minute walk away from the dock so it was fairly straightforward.

Koh Tao is north of both Samui and Phangan – it’s the smallest of the islands and despite its beauty I must say I wasn’t overly impressed with it. There just isn’t an awful lot to do here – a lot of the island is inaccessible due to poor road conditions. It also wasn't as nice to hang out as Phangan or Samui. Our hotel lacked a pool so after the luxury of our place in Phangan it was a bit disappointing. Thursday was pretty much spent having a walk around the main town area and dinner before chilling out in the room that night.

The next day I hired a scooter (best way to travel on the islands but you need to be really careful you don’t crash – I fell off in Samui and had a few cuts and a nasty fine at the end of it). I travelled over to the North East of the island near Mango Bay. There was a great look out point where you can see most of the island including the main beach at Sairee. The view was great but it was touch and go getting in and out safely as some of the roads were quite dodgy. At one point I got off the bike and pushed it uphill for fear of it skidding. I then headed back towards where I was staying and stopped off at Sairee for some lunch and a look around. I've seen better but the beach was quite nice.

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On Saturday Carly and I split up for the final time as she was heading back to Samui for a few days. She didn’t spend as much time there as me so it made sense for her to go and do that and fly directly into Bangkok for her last night. She is off to Singapore, Bali, Perth and Sydney before flying home for good to London so I’m now officially on my own again! I took the opportunity to do a day scuba diving as it’s the best place in South East Asia. We were taken out to Mango Bay. It’s not one of the best dive sites here but in comparison with Alma Bay where I did my Padi Cert in Australia it was great. The water was 28 degrees and the visibility was very clear. I saw some really cool fish during the two dives… e.g. giant puffer fish, stingray, long fin banner fish and a school of yellow tailed barracuda. The best one though was the trigger fish – these bastards are quite large and have huge teeth. If you get anywhere near them they will see it as a sign of entering their territory. If you’re not careful they’ll fly at you and try to bite. Most of the time it’s only the flippers they go for but we didn’t want to risk it so when we saw one we stayed as far away as possible.

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The next morning I was up early for a boat over to Chumphon on the mainland. From there it was an eight hour bus trip (including a stop for dinner) to Bangkok. It was a long day – about ten hours travel in total. I had a bit of extra drama then on the Tuk Tuk to my hotel. I managed to get a great price (about 25% of what they were all asking for and cheaper than the quotes I had gotten from taxis). The only problem was my driver had no clue where the hotel was so we spent over an hour on what was essentially a free tour of Bangkok’s city centre! I could see the driver was getting more stressed out as time went on. His fee wasn’t all that much at 150 baht (less than 4 Euro) so I was relieved when we finally found the place!

The last three days have been spent chilling out and with a DVD player in the room I was able to catch up on some films that I hadn’t got a chance to watch. This was my third visit to Bangkok so the main reason for spending three nights here was to see friends. On Sunday night I met up with my mate Leon and two of his friends. It started off at about 11pm. After a few drinks in the bar we had a karaoke session for an hour before heading to a nightclub. We then headed to an outdoor street party in Koh San which was a lot of fun but by 5.30am I was drunk as a skunk and ready for bed. Leon kindly got me into a Tuk Tuk and I conked out pretty soon after getting home.

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Last night I met up with Will and Suze two friends from college. They’ve been travelling Asia since September last year so it was great to meet up and compare our experiences. They brought me to a cool little bar called Saxophone near Victory Monument. There was a live band too so a good night was had. After 8 drinks I ran out of money (I'm trying to watch it now as ATM charges are ridiculous – about 3 Euro per withdrawal) so we headed home just after 1am.

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Tonight I met up with Leon again for dinner and went for a drink. He’s moving to Australia for a few years (isn’t everyone these days!) so it was a good chance to say goodbye before he heads off after touring Asia for a month. Tomorrow I check out at 12pm, have a couple of hours to kill and then head to the airport. My flight is at 5.35pm and I should get into Sydney at 6am on Thursday local time. I’m really excited about it. I have friends from Ireland to catch up with and a group of Australians from my time here last year. Mardi Gras is taking place at the weekend so it’s going to be a lot of fun! Next update in a week just before I head to New Zealand.

Posted by mattld 08:52 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

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