Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas Photos

Erick's Guesthouse - Our Christmas lodgings (complete with a much needed mosquito net!)

Ann checks out a snowman built on the beach.

25th December 2008 - A very different kind of Christmas

Hamock swing at the first guesthouse we stayed at. Thanks to the lizards and the goats and the mosquitos, we didn't stay more than one night.

Jeff relaxes at Gapang beach as our time on Pulau Weh comes to an end,

Monday, 22 December 2008

God Jul / Merry Christmas !

We fly this morning to Banda Aceh and then onto a ferry to get to the 'paradise island' of Pulau Weh where our Christmases shall be spent.

There will be no snow, no hams, no turkey and not too many presents, but we think we'll get by just fine walking on a sunny, warm beach watching the sea turtles waddling on by.

Hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas!

(We'll be back in the land of civilization from the 28th. In Georgetown, Malaysia to be exact)

Sunday, 21 December 2008

New Photos from Indonesia

1. Picture Perfect Bali!

2. The Volcano Gunung Bromo

3. Where Ann was drawn into the party with the hyper indonesian tourists

4. Night of arrival at the beautiful, relaxing lake Toba

5. Jeff cools down after the jungle hike up to the waterfall outside Tuk Tuk in Lake Toba

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

the great escape from Padang and other stories from Indonesia

Indonesia has left us with very mixed impressions and the last town we visited we might refer to as Indonesias version of hell - but only if we're having an especially bad day. But let's not jump ahead but go back to the beginning...

We started our Indonesia travels on the picture perfect island of Bali. We we're surrounded by happy holidayers and the waves were truly splendid. The hotel had a pool and the restaurants were plentiful and served good food. Balis only downside was the rubbish that littered the beach (and the water) and the policemen who stopped us and made us pay the, what we refer to as "tourist charge" when we rented vespas. No, Bali was a little peace of paradise and we were excited to see what else Indonesia had in store for us.

The next stop was the volcano Bromo on Java. We stayed in a sleepy mountain village which was absolutely freezing and with our flip-flops we were ill prepared but still welcomed the freshness of the air which felt surprisingly good after all the humidity and warmth the last six weeks of our travels. We only stayed in Bromo for 12 hours but made the most out of it by getting up at 3.30 in the morning to go by Jeep to a viewpoint to see the sunrise. We got to the viewpoint when it was still dark and the place had a silent, magical feel to it. However, the silence was very fast shattered when the Indonesian tourists arrived in groups of ten to fifteen. Suddenly all the western tourists were seen as stars and were shouted over to be a part of group photos. We now felt more like being at a party with all the screaming, pointing and laughter that now surrounded us. It was a very good experience!

After a twelve hour bus journey we arrived in the town Yogjakarta or Yogja as they themselves call it. And after the long journey and the constant battle against the hordes of people surrounding you, trying to sell you something or offering the so called "free information" which always ends in them asking for money in one way or another we were beginning to feel very tired. Yogja didn't leave that much of an impression, it was quite a small city and nothing much to see unless you traveled to the villages around it to see temples now almost completely destroyed by earthquakes.

Since we were tired of traveling by bus we chose to go by train to Jakarta from where we had flights(!) going up to Padang. We had the choice of business or economy and we went for the more expensive business tickets. Jeffs expectations were high and there was the dreams of big leather seats, food service and ac. The reality was a little bit different. The journey took about nine hours and we sat opposite from a man smoking away most of it. The ac didn't exist and as the day grew hotter the small window wasn't quite enough to cool us down. The leather seats were replaced by worn out plastic ones. But this wasn't so bad, after all we both had good books to keep us occupied. No, the thing that threw us the most was the constant flow of people walking up and down the aisle selling everything you could ever imagine. In the beginning we thought it a rather nice experience - after all we got to see the real Indonesia, but after four, five, six hours the novelty wore of and you just wished they would stop throwing the products in you lap. Because that was how they tried to make you buy it. Place it in your lap and then you might be more tempted by the handbag/wallet/napkin/cigarettes/raincover/t-shirt/prayer or whatever it was they were selling.

We didn't go for any of the food options that passed us during the train so in Jakarta we reached the decision that we deserved a really good meal. And so we went across the city by a train with no doors (finally we got the feeling of an air-con!) to a very, very nice restaurant where we had a really nice dinner even though we had some regret when we received the bill, let's just say that it cost us more then the train tickets!

Jakarta was a concrete filled city and really didn't have a center so we didn't feel all to bad for only spending one night there. We still felt very tired of the constant traveling but looked forward to seeing Sumatra and our guidebook had some really good things to say about the coastal town of Padang so we stepped on the air asia airplane with good spirits.

As soon as we arrived in Padang the good spirits slowly left us. We've never been that much stared at, shouted at or simply just watched before. It was a nightmare in the making. Everything went wrong. The hotel we had our mind set on was full (even though the town seemed deserted), the map in the guidebook didn't make sense and it was impossible to find a restaurant. We wandered around the town that and got completely lost. Men on motorbikes came up and asked if where we wanted to go - we told them but then realised they didn't actually know any english so they just laughed and drove away. In the end we found our way to a pub where they showed football and we had a sad excuse for a curry. Ann went back to the hotel to finally get away from all the stares and Jeff went out to try and find Internet - he was back after only ten minutes.

The next morning didn't help our impression of Padang. We went down to see the "beautiful beach side promenade" but it felt more like walking through a dump so we decided to go straight to the bus and get out of there sooner rather then later. We had an address and a map for a bus station that had express buses to our next destination, Bukittingi, but after two hours of walking we gave up the search that was taking us nowhere and jumped in a taxi. He explained in broken english that the bus to Bukittingi was no more but he knew where to go. So in the end we managed to get out of Padang and go up into the mountains to the town of Bukittingi.

Exhausted after all the traveling we finally got a break and ended up in a very nice, clean hotel that had hot water and a promise of a continental breakfast (toast with egg or jam if you're lucky). Jeff went to the panorama point to view the sunset while Ann curled up in bed and watched pride and prejudice. We were both very happy with our choices!

Now we're waiting to take a 14-16 hour bus to Lake Toba. The bus ride is filling us with some dread but we've heard that Lake Toba is truly amazing so now we're only hoping the place will live up to our expectations!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Photos from Thailand's islands

Photos from the beautiful islands of Ko Phi Phi and Ko Pha Ngan, (KPP) where The Beach was filmed and, more importantly, where we did some snorkelling:

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Do you remember back in those days when you were studying and you created a version-controlled study timetable?  Yes?  Well, we have had a timetable for where we will be visiting between now and New Year but it is definitely time to change to version 2.

Upon arrival at Kuala Lumpur we were very excited to go to Banda Aceh, one of the northernmost parts of Sumatra and the scene of the worst damage of the 2004 tsunami.

The flights were all booked but it turns out that the Banda Aceh airport does not issue visas so we had some quick thinking to do.

To cut the story short, we are now sitting in the departure lounge waiting to go to Bali!

As for Kuala Lumpur, we really enjoyed it. The Petronas Towers are massive (no surprise there since they are one of the tallest buildings in the world) but they are also strangely beautiful. Shimmering white in the night sky like a pair of tall, thin guardian angels looking over the city.

The city itself is actually rather small, only 1.5million people and it takes an hour to walk the length of any part that could be called the centre. There is Little India which was very quiet (probably as Haj has started) and Chinatown which was the usual mix of food stalls and market traders baying for your attention. The Golden Triangle is home to shopping malls and the business area. That's where we stayed (we are flashpackers after all).

The hostel we stayed in was also very nice, a lot like a home for travellers rather than a business. We arrived there at 4am in the pouring rain, expecting the place to be full which it was. But they kindly let us sleep in the dvd lounge area until the morning before checking in for the next night. We were even forced into a free breakfast despite our polite refusals.

Boarding now, more later!!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Right, where were we...

I know photos can only tell so much of a story so we have come online here in Krabi to finally update the blog properly. Well, I say properly but it's mostly just a quick list of things that have happened in the past week since we left Bangkok:

Hired a Vespa and took turns driving around the lazy island of Ko Phangan off the East coast of Thailand.

Stayed in a very nice resort in Ko Tao, a mountainous island just north of Ko Phangan.

Visited yet another island, Ko Phi Phi which is unofficially one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Not that I would disagree for a second.

On this island (off the west coast of Thailand) we did a snorkelling tour taking in Monkey Beach (with wild monkeys), Bamboo Island, Maya (where The Beach was filmed) and Shark Point. The snorkelling was amazing. Clear blue waters and a fabulous array of fish to look at.

Now, as I say, we are in Krabi and tomorrow we leave for Kuala Lumpur at 6:30am. Entering Malaysia will mark our 6th stamp in the passport. However, we will stay for only a few days as we will fly to Banda Aceh on Tuesday.

Energy levels are still high and our enthusiasm for new sights has not been dimmed. The only problem is we just keep forgetting its Christmas soon given our tan (Ann) and our sunburn (Jeff).

Monday, 1 December 2008

Ok, this is the last batch!

Photo 1  Jeff with a fantastic, if a little ginger, moustache. (Looking a lot like his Dad circa 1989)

Photo 2  Relaxing by the beach and the pool at Ko Tao (south Thailand)

Photo 3  Walking the plank out to the Catamaran, a boat that had almost every passenger feeling sick. Most of all Jeff - least of all Ann!  (Lets remember that Ann was sick for a week after eating mushrooms!!) (lets also remember that the staff on the boat only offered Ann a bag to be sick in but not Jeff)

Photo 4  The biggest indoor Buddha statue in the world.

Photo 5  Buying some cheap noodles on Ko Shan Road (central Bangkok)

Last batch of photos

Photo 1  James Bond Night. In bangkok wearing our new Hoi An clothes and both with hair-cuts.

Photo 2 Waching the sun set at the hotel roof top pool.

Photo 3 In the citadel in Hue - one of the few rainy days.

Photo 4 On the Junk in Halong Bay enjoying the sunshine.

Photo 5 One of the many islands in Halong Bay.

Even more photos...

Photos 1-3  Enjoying the amazing views and boat at Halong Bay, North Vietnam

Photos 4-5  Outside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, North Vietnam

More Photos...

Photo 1 Ann and Jeff on Hoan Siem Lake in the centre of Hanoi

Photo 2 Jeff on the crazy night streets of Hanoi. 

Photo 3 Ann cycles past an elephant. A remarkably normal thing out here in Thailand!

Photo 4 Good photo of us at Angkor Thom, a temple complex close to Angkor Wat

Photo 5 A wild monkey attacks a Japanese tourist inside Angkor Wat while Ann and Jeff happily take holiday photos.


We\re safely out of Bangkok and now beach-hopping from Ko Tao to Ko Pha Ngan but we thought we\d upload a lot of photos to share some of the sights from the past couple of weeks.

Photo 1 and 2  Exploring Angkor Wat, eighth wonder of the world.

Photo 3  Ann on a rickety wooden bridge at the Mekong Delta (South Vietnam)

Photo 4   Jeff at Angkor Wat

Photo 5  Houses (and aerials) at the Mekong Delta