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Archive for May 2009

After nearly two weeks on Gili T we returned back to Bali as it was finally about to become the end of our Mui Ne crew.  Carolina, Rowland and Dave were all heading home and Chri and Nik were off to NZ leaving me on my lonesome for the last two and a half weeks of my trip.

Our last few nights together were spent in Kuta which is a crazy place made up of loads of intertwined lanes with loads of shops on a gorgeous beach with loads of surfers.

Once the others had left I decided to see some more of Bali before heading across to Java as I started moving backs towards Bangkok where my flight back to London was from.

I first headed north to Ubud which I had been told from the others was lovely. On the bus there I met an Austrian girl who I ended up sharing a room with once we got to Ubud. It was quickly lucky that there was some one to take control as I was feeling terrible the whole bus journey and was in no state to be making decisions, but she found us an amazing little bungalows set in these pretty gardens with a pool – stunning.

I did initially have a slight worry about her intentions as she’d got us a room with a double bed and was very forward but it was ok and there was no complicated lesbian issues to deal with. Theres not much to do in Ubud itself but where we were staying down the lower end of monkey forest road it was the perfect place to get some R & R and was completely chilled.

One of the things that is in Ubud in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary which unsurprinsingly enough is a forest full of monkeys and they were gorgeous if a little intimidating, but the babies were so cute.

Monkey Forest

The next day I headed further north to the beach to a little place called Lovina which was meant to be one of the nicest beaches on the north of Bali, although the southern beaches are what Bali is most famous for as they are picture perfect.

Arriving in Lovina I quickly found that it wasn’t what I’d expected as the village is sparsely spread out along the main road with a small market area with a few restaurants as the kind of central area and thats it. The beach is a mixture of black and white sand as this area of the island is more volcanic which makes the water look almost black instead of blue.

As I was starting to run out of time on the last bit of my travels and Lovina was quite dead and lacking much atmosphere I booked a shuttle bus for the next morning for a mammoth trip to Java.

Although Lovina was pretty quiet the people were amazingly friendly and I managed to book in an early morning boat trip to see the dolphins that come around the beach at sunrise. It meant getting up at 5am but it was so worth it. The dolphins came up so close and there were so many of them. Even if we hadn’t seen any dolphins the sun rise its self was gorgeous – a perfect way to start the day!

Dolphins in Lovina

sunrise in Lovina

I’ve been a bit slack with updating my blog these last few weeks as the internet connection, well the electricity in general isn’t great on Gili T as one of the transformers is broken.

The day after we all arrived in Bali we stopped over for the night in Padangbai as the boat we were meant to get to Gili was broken and so passed the time on the beach and with a bit of poker. Leaving the next day we had to take the ferry to Lombok, then a bus and another boat before we arrived on Gili T that the evening where the rest of the guys from Mui Ne had been staying for the past week.

The Gili Isles are probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited and are literally paradise with gorgeous beaches, crystal clear waters, amazing people, and to top it ff no motor bikes or care as the only way to get around the island is by bike or horse and cart.

The day after we arrived was Carolina’s birthday and the boys had arranged a snorkling trip on a glass bottom boat which was amazing despite feeling a bit worse for wear from the night before.

Gili boat trip

Beer Snorkle

Jorma and the girls had to leave the next day which left just the six of us for the remaining week or so. That day we moved into these amazing little two story houses with open air showers and were only $7 a night but most importantly had a generator as the power normally goes off mid afternoon till midnight every day.

Our days were spent snorkeling which involved walking up one end of the beach and letting the ridiculously strong current take you down to the other end like an underwater escalator. As the coral reefs were quite shallow we saw all the fish up close that I had seen while diving in Koh Tao, but the best part was when we saw and swam up close with a turtle and watched it swim round us while going up and down for air.

The rest of our time was spent working on our tan’s, watching the amazing sunsets with a couple of beers on the beach, obviously more poker, killer frisbee, and many turbo vodka shots among other things – all while you were all at work!

Good times on Gili T

Sunset on Gili

Tan marks

While doing my diving I was starting to get itching feet for something new and exciting and at the same time heard from Chris and Nik who were feeling the same and just wanted the beach. We decided to have a Mui Ne reunion and head to Bali to meet up with a load of people we had also met in Mui Ne who were already out there.

The journey from Koh Tao to Bali was pretty extreme, I was prepared for it to be a long one but nearly 3 days without sleep was something else.

The first stage of my trip was getting the night boat to the mainland the day my PADI course finished, which meant that couldn’t stay and celebrate with my diving buddies, but Bali was calling and we’d all managed to get on the same flight from Kuala Lumpa to Bali on Saturday.

The day had already been a long one as we’d been up since six for our final dives, so by the time the boat left at 9 and with some help from some gravel Dustin had given me ages ago I was up for sleeping through the journey.

The night boat itself wasnt what I had expected and had just an upper deck with rows of skinny mattresses running down either side with your ‘bed’ number above them.

Night boat

Luckily the boat wasnt full and neither was I next to a couple of fatties as otherwise the journey would have been pretty intense.  Despite this my paranoia about drowning in confined spaces meant that I didnt get much sleep, waking up every half an hour to check we weren’t sinking.

Arriving at 4.30am we had to wait around for an hour or so for the bus, while the women at the travel agent tried to convince us that we needed to change about $300 into Malaysian Ringgit as otherwise you wouldn’t be allowed across the border. As I had been through Malaysia before I was pretty sure this was a lie and said I’d take my chances with immigration, but I met people later on who’d believed her and been badly ripped off over the exchange rate – one guy nearly cried when he found out how much he’d lost.

The bus took us to Hat Yin where we had a bit of lunch (probably the hottest vegetable curry ever) and changed buses to a mini van that was to take us over the border to NW Malaysia. Crossing the border was the first time I’d heard of swine flu as we were just given a bit of paper with the symptoms on at the border, but it was all a bit vague and I wasnt sure if I was coming from an infected area or going into one. I also managed to accidentally miss the medical area where everyone had to have their temperature taken before they crossed into Malaysia but felt fine so decided to worry about it if I started to feel ill.

There was only me and one other guy that were continuing down from NW Malaysia down to Kuala Lumpa which meant waiting around for the night bus after our new and very confused mini van driver eventually found the bus station. By this stage I’d had about 2-3 hours sleep in the last 36 hours but was doing ok and hadnt yet started to get delirious.

The night bus we got on was amazing – probably the best I have ever and will ever go on. It was the equivalent of the business class section of a plane with huge sofa like seats that had a range of different buttons that moved the chair in every direction you could want.

Best night bus ever

After leaving about 10.30pm  we got into K.L  at 2.30am with only an hour or so’s sleep due to the over enthusiastic air con system creating sub zero temperatures. Neither of us had booked some where to stay and I knew Nik and Chris were some where in the area but as there were no Internet places open to check my emails I couldnt go and hunt them down. Considering K.L is a capital city the place was dead with no where open apart from a 24hr McDonald’s and KFC.

After wandering about for an hour we realised that we were unlikely to get anywhere to stay and our options were to either bunk down with the homeless people in the bus shelter or eat our way through McDonald’s night menu until dawn. As we begun to resentfully sit down and begin our fast food marathon, two of the girls we’d met on the street said they’d found a place that although was full had a communal living area we could stay in till morning when there may be rooms.

Figuring this was a better deal than consuming our body weight in grease under fluorescent lights we went back with the girls to wait it out till morning.

The living room area was a cross between a squat and one of the student houses I’d lived in at uni. But could have been worse and had a couple of sofas, a small kitchen, and a TV with a DVD player. Despite that by this stage it was 5.30am there were a number of people hanging around from other hostels drinking and playing music. After a bit of chat some one put on a DVD and people gradually started to leave or fall asleep.

By this stage I’d notched up about 4/5 hours sleep in two days but as there was only an hour before I had to leave for the airport once the movie had finished I decided to dose a bit on the floor before attempting to make my way to the airport.

Leaving the hostel lighted headed from lack of sleep, I started to try and figure our how to get to the airport which was 75km away without spending a fortune, knowing that once I got there I could put my self in the hands of Nik and Chris to get me to Bali.

Luckily I think someone was looking down on me as I got on the first bus I saw which took me to the main bus station and magically dropped me off in front of the Air Asia airport transfer bus which then dropped me off just as check in opened – couldn’t have bee more perfect if I planned it.

Checking in my bag I settled on the floor working my way through 5 double shot cappuccinos and a box of After Eights while waiting for Nik and Chris to arrive. When the boarding started and they still hadnt arrived I thought I must of missed them and made my way to the gate. It wasnt until they started closing the plane doors for take off I’d realised they’d missed the flight.

Despite being slightly worried about what had happened to them I passed out for the whole flight feeling immediately better when we arrived in Bali. Checking my emails Nik and Chris were fine but had forgotten to put their clocks forward an hour and so were getting a later flight, although it was twice the price of the original one.

I went on to meet up with Carolina and Rowland while we waited for the guys to arrive and start our Mui Ne reunion.

After the crazyness of Hanoi Bangkok felt realtivly quite and peaceful which was pretty werid. As my visa was running out as I didnt fancy a 26 hr bus journey to Laos I jumped on a plane (which I nearly missed because I’m an idiot) down to Bangkok.

After my trip to Thailand two or so years ago I’d always wanted to go back to Koh Tao and learn to dive so the next morning booked my ticket out of there on the night bus to catch the first ferry across to the islands – incidently left at 7.30am where our bus got to the port at 4.20am – it was a long night.

Koh Tao was as beautiful and laid back as I remembered and gong on recommendations of people I’d met previously and some guys on the boat I headed down to Crystal dive school to book up my open water. Despite my lack of sleep the course started that day with 6 hours in the classroom, where I was startng to have doubts.

I never realised how much there is to learn – its like being back at uni, we’ve got textbooks, charts, tests, exams….. after a few months of traveling my brains not used to having to think like this so it was a bit of a shock to the system. Although I say all this is is actually interesting to learn all the theory stuff albeit quite hard to take it all in.

The open water course i was doing included accomodation  and I managed to some how get the nicest, cleanest bungalow right on the beach:

Koh Tao beach hut

Koh Tao sunset

First time in the pool I was a bit freraked out with all the diving gear and so much to remember but once we started going out in the sea it was amazing, although I didnt get the same sort of buzz I got from kite surfing. It was amazingswmming around the coral reefs and seeing all these amazing fish, even though some of them kept trying to bit me and get in my mouth – apparently they were being helpful.

One of my favourite parts was swimming underneath this massive school of about 4000 fish which when you looked up you couldnt see the surface.  The people I learnt to dive with were a really nice group although one of them who happened to also be my ‘buddy’ was quite annoying like young boys can be – nearly drowned him but it was all good.

Diving

Diving groupOur open water course took 4 days in total whch went so quickly, but we all passed with flying colours and no one died, got lost, or was ‘accidently’ drowned for irritating me so we had a great time.

One thing I had started to notice however is that where in other countries that I’ve travelled there’s been a mix of people and ages Thailand seems to have a larger number of very young groups of 18 years olds – most of which I met were really nice but slightly too excitable and well young so I dont know how long I will stay on the islands.


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