the long road home (part deux)

So an early morning taxi ride to KL airport by a driver who was drifting across the lanes and sniffing something from a bottle meant that I was on my way East. More precisely, to Kota Bharu, the nearest airport to the Perhentians, two islands off the East coast of Malaysia. This area is much more Muslim such that they had queues for male/female in department stores and areas for different sexes to sit!

I hung around there exploring the market before heading off to the port for a 45 “speedboat” journey to Big Perhentian.

Here I spent 8 days mainly diving with a bit of sunbathing. I completed my PADI Openwater and Advanced PADI. Words can’t really describe how amazing diving was. I saw things I would never have imagined and being underwater is very dreamlike and fantastic. I did night dives, went to a shipwreck site, met lots of cool people and saw some mad fish and coral. We even got caught in a storm where the waves were crashing over the side of the boat and knocking us against the coral. We got back but the back of the boat was starting to sink… Without the internet, radio, TV (apart from getting up at 2.30am to watch England vs France) – I was pretty much away from all the vices of reality (including alcohol which was an under the counter affair for cans of tiger beer)..

But it had to end, so I reluctantly packed up my bags and headed slowly (on a night train) down to Singapore. 15 hours later I was there back to all the traffic, noise, pollution and excitment of city life. My 24 hours here involved walking a lot, seeing some museums and WW2 stuff, and a little shopping. However there were just too many shops and too much choice so I got frustrated and barely bought anything… Little India had the best Vegetarian Thalis and the food overall here was very impressive (though I skipped the frog porridge and the pigs liver meals)..

By 9pm Friday I was knackered so jumped onto the Quantas flight back to the UK.. Arriving at 5.30am Saturday to beautiful blue skies but a cold morning I spent the day recovering in London and then catching the train up to Sheffield.

A few days have past along with a rave in the Peaks (I went from 6am-9am – the price of jet lag) , a few pints watching England “thrashing ;-)” Croatia and lots and lots of jet lag. Think I’ve just about recovered so best head off to the mud fest that Glastonbury promises to be. A full report when I get back.

the long road home (Part 1)

Apologies for the long gap of 2 weeks and 8000 miles from the dodgy road in Laos to the general security of Sheffield! I was staying on “Big” Perhentian, where internet was expensive, slow (satellites) and generally a hastle. Also I was having such an amazing time diving that the net was secondary in my thoughts.

So this will have to be a little summary of the last couple of weeks of my travels.

Laos: Slighjly Dangerous Road Trip – Kids with guns – 20m visibility – Luang Prabang – idllyic setting – fantastic food – waterfalls – boat trips – underground temples – storms and sunsets – cycling on a kids sized bike – airport with 1 gate, no radar and no computers!

Laos was amazing. Despite sort of now being on the tourist trail (over a million visitors last year), it has that untouched feel. The people may be poor in terms of GDP but from what I saw they have a better life than a lot of us. Everyone said hello in the street, at sunset there would be football and badmington matches in the road. Cars were few and far between (in LP) and there was no hastle from anyone. Get there while it’s still like that cos Thailand and the WTO want it to change.

Flew down to Bangkok for 24 hours but I think I’ve been there more than enough times now so was happy to fly straight down to Kuala Lumpur the next day (In an amazing storm!)…

36 hours in KL: Pedestrian Hell – Motorways cutting up the city – Petronas propaganda but amazing towers – Petaling St amazing – Fake goods – Time out for Chinese Tea – Museums – Hindu Temples – Muslim/Colonial architecture clashes – Venus thru a telescope – Bed bugs – no sleep!

I liked KL a lot but it’s a lot different to Bangkok and definitely has a more Western feel. There are lots of UK/US restaurant chains however you still have the Hawkers selling food on the streets outside them which still seems more popular! Chinatown was great. Had some amazing food there washed down with a Tiger Beer. I think another day wouldve been good but I wanted to get to the beach…..

Laos and the End of the World

.. as the bullit struck I felt a millisecond of total relaxation before the pain.

Only kidding. Normal service will be resumed very soon but I find myself in the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia) where the time goes slow, the internet is virtually non-existant and the electricity comes on between 7pm and 7am.
So I havent been able to update and will try to very soon, obviously millions of you are waiting with fervent anticipation for the next proper installment when I’m back to “civilisation”

On the Beaten track of Lao PDR

So Vientiene was a nice place. I spent most of Sunday looking around the Wats and the grand (and some not so grand) monuments scattered around on the city on my trusty chinese made (probably 50 years ago) bike – brakes faulty, seats falling off, handbars loose! Somehow made it a few km along the Mekong river off the main road and chatted to a few people who always want to talk about Football! Then had a herbal sauna in a building by a Wat. Very hot and relaxing and the subsequent massage killed. Not only pulling fingers and toes out of joint but also my neck and back…

Monday got early bus upto Vang Vieng – a bit of a backpackers hangout on the Road upto Luang Prebang. A few pizza restaurants (good for the stomach and surprisingly good – it’s the French bread influences), the river and thats about it. Plus it’s very cheap. I paid $4USD for a room with 3 beds and en-suite. Met a couple of cool Scottish guys and had another pizza and my first Beer Lao. This beer is very nice – goes down well, comes it 660ml bottles, is 6% and 2-3 seems to go to my head very nicely!…

Hence I didn’t get up too early on Tuesday but when I did surface and the monsoon rains disappaited I decided to do some “tubing” (toobing for the americans) – basically you sign a dodgy disclaimer, opt not to have a lifejacket, get taken up stream 4k in a tuk-tuk with a load of people, tubes on the roof and drift back to town. Very nice you say, the best bit are the entrepreneurial Laos who have set up Beer Lao stops, jumps and swings along the way. Makes a 2hr journey into a 4hour drunken escapade but very good fun. Infact it was breathtaking, drifting past these mountains in the sun with a beer in lap in a toob. Couldnt beat it. Again 3 Beer Laos and a host of bites wiped me out by 7pm!.

The next day I had to get up early for the bus to Luang Prabang; a bus journey not wholeheartedly recommended by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office……