Phuket to Siem Reap in 39hrs - November 21 & 22 2007

Day 1

07:00 Waiting at pickup point for minibus

07:45 Minibus shows up

12:00 After several hrs of stops every damn hour to graciously let us buy drinks and food from his mates (who I’m sure pay him to give us breaks there) we finally get to the mini bus depot in Surat Thani.  But me being the only person NOT going to one of the islands for full moon festival I have to wait until all the others have been taken to their respective boats.

13:30 Mini bus guy drops me off in Surat Thani town with instructions on how to get to train station

14:00 Local bus picks me up. I am feeling a bit like a fish out of water when Thais point to me and exclaim ‘farang?!’, they don’t seem to get too many tourists in this town riding the local bus.  Trip is made much more fun by the two Thai girls I sit next to in the back who invite me to play their “shuffle away from the sun when the bus turns corners game”.  After a lot of giggling between the two of them and shy looks they have a game of scissors/paper/rock.  Seems it was to see who had to talk to the farang as the loser then (with much more giggling) asks me in halting English where I am from and what my name is.  A difficult but fun basic conversation keeps us all amused for the remaining 15mins or so to the train station.

16:30 After a couple hrs of reading, eating ice cream and wandering around and nearby the train station the train turns up - ON TIME! Wow, last couple Thai trains I’ve caught have been 3 & 1 hrs late respectively.

Day 2

05:00 After a cold night in the (over) air conditioned carriage (from now on I’m going fan) I awake to find myself in Bangkok.  I’m guessing we are more or less on time…either way it’s bloody early.

07:00 After a couple coffees and some time reading the lonely planet I decide on the spur of the moment not to stay in Bangkok for the couple days I had planned, so I head out to a tourism place to find out how to get to Cambodia.

07:30 Ticket to Cambodia is booked for 8:30am

09:00 Bus turns up, oh shit, it’s a VIP bus *sigh*

12:00 Arrive at border.

16:00 After the slowest, most boring and flat out shittiest border crossing ever I am in Cambodia.  Now I really know I am in a developing country, there is a distinct lack of road rules, clean clothes and paved roads to be seen.  To those who may ask whether the Cambodians drive on the left or the right side of the road the answer is “Yes”.  There are half finished buildings everywhere and an inconceivable amount of piles of bricks and rubble.  Every road is a bumpy dirt track, even the main ‘highway’.  Front doors are curtains, cows are wandering the streets eating out of rubbish bins and mostly naked children are playing in the street.  First thing that springs to mind is that this must be what a war zone is like.  My bus (and almost everyone that was on it) are nowhere to be seen, it’s just me and one other bloke, we aren’t even sure we came on the same bus but we think we did.  We get herded onto a new bus headed for Seam Reap.  This one has no air conditioning and no suspension but I’m not sorry at all to see the arse end of the VIP bus, too many bad memories there.  Surprisingly enough here they actually ARE worried about our comfort.  After the bus is less than half full they don’t allow anyone else on, even the girl that wants to get on to travel with her friends.  They tell her the bus is full when everyone has two seats to themselves with some other seats even set aside for all our packs.  This bit really surprised me, normally in Thailand they pack the busses as full as they can and then they pack on some more.

19:00 We have a food and toilet break and voila - there are the Dutch dudes from the vanished VIP bus on the Thai side of the trip.  Seems they got past the border a bit quicker than me and caught an earlier bus.

22:00 After the bumpiest ride of my life I am finally in Siem Reap.  The road all the way here lacks pavement and is just a wide dirt path, it is rumored that the only reason it has yet to see tarmac is that one of the airlines is paying off the government to delay work on it.  After all the harder it is to get into Cambodia by land the more people will fly.  I don’t mind, trip from Bangkok cost me less than $25, next to a $100 or more flight I am ok with a slightly bruised behind.  Bus pulls into the guesthouse they want us to stay at, I am not planning to but figure I may as well check out the rooms.  3$ here buys a big room with private bathroom, I am sold, my Cambodian adventure begins…


Phuket Boat Trip - November 18th 2007

Last Sunday saw me on one of the semi-regular boat trips organised by the couple who run the guest house I stay at in Phuket.  It was a day somewhat like the island tour around Krabi only with slightly more spectacular surrounds but a dozen or so assorted folks (mostly those staying at the guesthouse) rather than Celine.  All in all it was a top day, the highlight being the first island we saw which had an amazing amount of tropical fish hovering around the shallows.  They didn’t even stir when you waded into them, they would completely surround you, even nibble at you.  The parrot fish went a bit further than nibbling with the occasional sharp bite - little buggers.  Once again I rued my decision not to purchase that underwater housing before I left home.  First shot shows the fish, last shows the sunset and in between are a couple random travel stock shots I took through the day:




















Blogging hiatus - September to November 2007

Ok, time to stop being (quite) so slack.  Had a bunch of people tell me to pull the finger out and get some more posts in here, so I’ll try to get back to updating it regularly.  Aside from general laziness the main reason I’ve stopped posting is because I haven’t been travelling about too much.  Really just settling into ‘living’ rather than ‘visiting’ here.  ‘Here’ being bouncing between Phuket and Penang (Malaysia). 




It was never even meant to be a stop on the tour at all as I figured it’d be too touristy for me.

Turns out I quite like it.  I’m staying in a quiet little alleyway about 100m walk to the beach and within walking distance to everything I could need.  I have a large room with in room wireless internet, king size bed, private balcony, daily maid service, fridge, kettle, large private bathroom, nice hosts etc, all for about $20 a day.  Motorcycle hire is $5 a day and a short (fun) ride is all it takes to find an empty beach if the hoards of tourists on the main beach here get under the skin too much.  Between excellent street magicians, outrageous prancing lady boys, bar girls who are almost impossible to beat at pool, guys with huge lizards or monkeys walking down the street, parasailing, jetski-ing, or watching us kick ass at cricket on cable tv (in all the bars and even my own room) there is always something to see and do.  And when I don’t feel like seeing or doing then the place I’m staying can be remarkably quiet.  There are annoyances here sure, but all told it’s an excellent spot to lose a couple months.




This is a bit of a creeper of a town. 


At first it is just another grimy SE Asian city with open sewers, motorcycle petrol fumes and general chaos.  But after you spend a few days there it has a habit of growing on you.  And it isn’t just me, there are a lot of return/long term travellers in Penang and when you talk to them almost all have the same story:  “I was only supposed to come here for a couple days to get a new visa for Thailand but I just never got around to going”  This city does that to you, my couple days turned into a month before I knew it.  It is just a great place to chill, the old Chinese shop houses have a allure and charm all their own and getting lost in the twisting alleyways can be a pure delight.  The people there are absolutely the friendliest of anywhere I have ever been.  I’d regularly get folks on the street just wander up and strike up a good natured conversation.  At first I was quite wary as (coming from Thailand) I would wonder what there were going to try to sell me, but it isn’t like that.  In Penang “Hello, where are you from?” means just that, as opposed to what I’ve seen so far of Thailand where it means “Give me a sec to walk over to you, pretend to shake your hand so that I can grip tightly and pull you physically into my store”





Over the next couple of posts I’ll probably delve a little deeper into things I’ve been up to over here but for now I’ll just share a leaflet I got handed here the other day walking down the street.  It’s the first time I’ve seen one of my shots in print without expecting it, sure, I’ve seen my work in magazines before but I’ve bought the magazine knowing it.  Here I was just walking down the street and from a complete stranger handed one of my photos (of Celine too at that).  It was a very cool moment.

The original shot can be seen here.



Jungle Trek Days 2&3 - 14th & 15th September 2007

After the first day’s trekking I was ready for almost anything.  Well at least I was trying to prepare myself for almost anything, I won’t quite say I was definitely READY for it.  As it turned out though all was pretty cruisey after that first day.

Seems the first day was such a killer because we had to trek UP the mountain.  After that is was mostly some traversing about with a little up and down thrown in, but nothing like that first day.  Which is good because if it had of been I might have been even more incapacitated than I was on returning to Chang Mai, but more on that later.

Second day was some trekking about to another (much smaller) village, a couple waterfalls and that was about it really.  Piece of piss.  That night we stayed in a jungle camp next to a swift flowing creek just a short way from a nice big waterfall.  Match stick games and groan worthy attempts to play the guitar were off the menu that afternoon and night when first off all the hill tribe folks broke out the sling shots and later on the decks of cards appeared.  After a few dabbles in different card games we settled into round after round of the fore-mentioned asshole, many beers were consumed by all, the asshole hat grew and grew (don’t ask) and a good time was enjoyed by all.

One thing that I thought was pretty cool in this camp was their plumbing setup.  They had a couple constantly running showers that were created by strategically placed bamboo pipes that fed from the river further upstream.  Here’s a lesson though: strategically placed they may be, firmly placed though is another story.  Jake decided to throw some clothes over the last section of the ‘pipes’ feeding one of the showers and managed to take the whole thing out.  A bunch of us then jumped to the rescue in trying to repair the section but after some failed attempts, worried looks and shoos away from the hill tribe ladies in residence we decided to leave it to the professionals.  I think if anything our attempts to fix it were only making matters worse.  In any case here’s a few shots of the setup (before Jake got to it):


The next day it was another late start (which was probably a good thing considering the amount of empty beer bottles in the trash that morning) and after a leisurely stroll and a very cool river crossing on a very long log we were at the last section of the journey.  The white water rafting.  Bags went into the truck that was waiting, we split up into two groups got about 5 mins of instruction and into the rafts we went.  For those that know about this sort of thing I was told it was level 4 rapids.  For those to whom that means nothing, well, it was fun.  There was some very cool sections where we got thrown about quite a bit & we all got totally drenched.  On the whole though I did think the fun sections could have been a little longer.  Still I wont complain as it was about 10000% more fun than the last “white water rafting” trip I went on a few years back in Aus, back then about the one white water I saw that day was when I took a piss that morning…

Anyways I don’t have any shots of the white water rafting or the bamboo rafting that followed, as the camera gear was off in the truck so I’ll leave you with a shot of that awesome river crossing on the long fallen over log.  Let me add that a slip here was a drop of several meters into a stream strewn with boulders - it wouldn’t have been pretty…




Hill tribe kids - 14th September 2007

Despite being the last up the hill and possibly the sorest of the bunch, I was also the first one up the next morning.  We were only due to leave at 11am but I got up with the roosters in the hopes of some nice sunrise pics (or close to sunrise).  There wasn’t much happening pictorially though - it was rather overcast.  Still I was up and so I took the opportunity to wander around the village a bit.  After a while I headed back to our hut and spied JB up and about.  We were still the only two up so we went for a wander to try to find the school that JB had discovered with one or two of the other guys the afternoon before.  A half hr of walking and JB’s direction sense being about as good as it usually is and we canned that idea.  Decided instead to pay a visit to the ‘corner store’ (yes they have actually have a coner store in this mountain village, when JB first mentioned it I honestly thought he was taking the piss) for a pre-breakfast munch.


There were a couple local kids there which attached themselves to us, the little girl in particular was particularly cute.  First pic here credit goes to JB, one of the few shots you’ll see on here with me in front of the lens rather than behind:










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