Kuala Lumpur, Koh Tao and then……. back home!

Well after we left the Philippines we flew into KL and first thing you notice here is the civilisation of the place. Queue’s for bus tickets and everything. We hopped on a brilliant coach that dropped us at the train station shortly after and then we soared into KL city in relative luxury! In true Malaysia style it was sweltering and bright when we landed at the airport, but things changed quickly! Sunny Peeing down... We spent a night at a lovely 4* in KL called the Vivatel. But they weren’t fully open and after 1 night they moved all guests to the Ibis Styles down the road which thankfully was just as nice! We technically didn’t do a lot besides walk around shopping centers and visit a brilliant indoor climbing place called “camp5” which is the best indoor climbing facility that I’ve ever been to (www.camp5.com) as it was too wet to climb at the Batu Caves as planned.

Out and about in KL…

Brightly clothed Malaysian women

Petronas Towers

Airasia

Sarah is my best friend from home, since high school and came to visit on our trip to Thailand 4 years ago. This time Sarah came again and brought her lovely cousin Laura too. I have only met Laura once previously and it was nice to get to know her properly over the next week. Sarah and Laura had spent a couple of nights in Bangkok, Koh Lanta and Phi Phi before we met up for a week starting in Ao Nang. We got the bus straight to Ao Nang from Krabi airport after the flight from KL, and met the girls for a laze and a Chang (or 2) on the beach! We had a crazy night out dancing at a live band place and playing connect 4 (sarah beat everybody, everytime).

Everybody else Vs Sarah (and everybody else loses!!)

We spent the next day on Pranang beach and apart from walking to a moored longtail for a BBQ we stayed til sunset doing nothing. It’s possibly the most relaxing day of the trip so far…

Me and Sarah in the sea

Boat food

Beautiful views on Pranang beach

Moneys like bbq corn too!

Sunset kicks in and everything gets even more beautiful

Strange looking shrine!

Sarah and Laura

Pranang Bay

Famous limestone

Sunset Pranang Beach

Going away travelling just wouldn’t be the same without a trip to a tattoo shop for Sarah!

Sarah gets a tattoo

Sarah gets a tattoo

We moved on to Koh Tao after 2 nights in Ao Nang, we set off at 8am, 2/3 buses and a ferry and we arrived on the island at around 7pm, checked into the hotel and went out to the Castle party with Craig and Doerthe. Samsong buckets all round, free shots etc and things get messy!

DSC09213There were some adventures to be had on Koh Tao. With 2 rented scooters, Taz, Sarah, Laura and myself explored many beaches. The roads were mostly concrete but around the edges as you approached most beaches they were dirt and steep. VERY steep… A bike’s the best way to get around in our opinion, beats haggling a taxi every time you want to go anywhere. 4 quid per bike per day and the island’s your own! I saw approximately 10 people with motorbike accident related injuries though whilst I was there. Many people rent bikes that don’t have much or any experience (like me) and crash on the dirt roads, steep hills or fall off when going really slow through crowded narrow streets where really, bikes shouldn’t be going! Met people that think it’s funny that they can rent a bike here with no experience. But they keep your passport as a deposit, and their charges for damage are extreme.

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Taz and Laura

There was the best night out I’ve had in a long time on this Island. It was random and unplanned. It involved two for one Vodka red bull buckets, limbo’ing a fire pole on the beach, Sarah doing herself some injuries trying to do handstands, Sarah abusing someone’s swimming pool and then the 4 of us walking about 3-4 miles back to the hotel but stopping at every shop along the way for various things including more alcohol, sausages with mustard on and dishes of pork noodle soup.

The night after was a little bit more gentle but an eye opener for Laura who’d never been to a lady boy show before. Click here for a short video of it. We headed down to Queen’s lady boy place, had a drink and have a relatively early one, after a couple more from the 7/11 on the deserted beach near our hotel. 

After I think 3 nights, Sarah and Laura caught the ferry to Chumphon and bussed it up to Bangkok for their flight to Dubai for a couple of nights of luxury before flying home.

Pimped tuk tuk

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Me and Taz

Taz and Adam (from London) snorkelling

We had a great time being with a big group of other people. Meeting groups of other travellers doesn’t always happen, all the time, so it was nice to have new company and also be with friends we knew from back home!

Our scoot for the week

Craig and Doerthe behind Adam and Isabelle

Ha ha

I think we spent 7 nights on Koh Tao and everyday was ridiculously relaxing. The vibe is so different to the South of Thailand. Nice. Koh Tao is exactly the way a trip should end.

When your sat on your ass all day not doing a lot you start to get a bit stiff!!

Taz and... me!

Koh Tao is one of those places that restores faith in you that you don’t hate Thailand, after the crap that happens to you in Southern Thailand. There’s such a big difference in the way people treat you. The south is saturated with tourists and the service is shit. On Koh Tao it was nice, Chiang Mai was nice and Ranong is still just a lovely hideaway. And I think we’ll always love Bangkok. We’ll be avoiding the South as and when we return to this part of the world (as I’ve mentioned many times!)

We said our good bye’s to Craig and Doerthe and hopped on the ferry to Chumphon 10.30 Thursday morning. We got on a bus to Hua Hin and arrived there, checked in and got seafood noodle soup. It was just as amazing as last time and I hope I can make soup like this at home because I’m going to miss it! We went briefly down the night market, to a few bars and had a relatively early night, 2am?

The following day we headed around to the minibus place that we used last time, hopped on the 12.30 bus to Bangkok and were at monument square in the centre by 3.30pm! Smooth.

When we were travelling in 2009 and Taz got a tattoo I didn’t get on because I thought I’d regret it. So after nearly 4 years I had firmly made up my mind that I wanted a tattoo from this trip. I chose something that describes me well so it’s ok that it’s stuck on my foot forever…

The tattoo shop's pet stole the show!

“Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world”

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And then of course what would your last night on Koh San Road be like without eating scorpions, drinking Chang by the jug, watching men with no legs shuffle past, playing thumb war, eating great food and getting on the shishas…

Hey mum, I got a tattoo!!

Thumb war

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Ooooh no!

Ooooh no!

Video of Taz eating the scorpion, with a lovely message for my sister: http://youtu.be/3QKNYpnlHyM

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Front loaded bike used for carting about boxes of drinks

The women I can't always say no to with all their great bracelets!

And then we do a bit of shopping the morning after, gifts, and check out late from the hotel. At 4pm we hop in a taxi and that’s that. 80 days. Over…   😦

But it’s amazing to be home. My super organised wonderful sister in law makes sure the house is beautifully clean for our return so all we have to do is get home and hop in the bath with a brew 🙂 Thanks Sueanne! There’s even milk, bacon and eggs in the fridge. Eek, yummy!

It’s lovely to be home. Last night my sister and baby niece Lily was round, and my brother Harry. Taz’s brother Tom came round too for a catchup and a beer in our local pub (nothings changed) and today Taz’s friend Rick’s round with his 2 kids. It’s so nice to have the people around you that you’ve missed. And I’ve already knocked up a roast chicken dinner, a lambs liver lunch and a fish pie. I’ve missed my kitchen! It’s nice to be home 🙂

This morning I woke up and it was silent and peaceful. No thai high pitched voices or slamming doors or cockerels or realising their’s no electric and it’s boiling. Just silence. And it was ace. And what’s even better – it’s snowing and it actually feels like the Christmas that didn’t really happen in the Philippines.

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I hope you enjoyed the blog of our 80 day adventures.

Back to work on Monday, so until next time, goodbye 🙂

Jem and Taz x

Photograph’s of Cebu City, the Philippines

A quick blog…

Tomorrow we leave the Philippines. We’re going to Kuala Lumpur for just 4 nights before returning to Krabi in Thailand for the last leg of this trip. We whizzed around Cebu city today with the camera, to give you an idea of what this city is like…

Rubbish, grafiti and barbed wire.

Rubbish, grafiti and barbed wire.

Murky looking water with tin shacks along the sides.

Murky looking water with tin shacks along the sides.

Roadside going's on.

Roadside going’s on. People hang off the back of overloaded, old taxi’s.

Fruit stalls

Fruit stalls.

Motorbikes have carts welded to the side. I call them "accidents waiting to happen".

Motorbikes have carts welded to the side. I call them “accidents waiting to happen”.

Shabby old buses are standard in the Philippines.

Shabby old buses are standard in the Philippines.

Just out of town there are huge weird piles of coconut shells. I suppose they have to go somewhere!

Just out of town there are huge weird piles of coconut shells. I suppose they have to go somewhere!

Gun are the norm. I tried to get a picture of the massive shiny shot guns they carry outside banks but you're not allowed and I don't want to get caught!!

Gun are the norm. I tried to get a picture of the massive shiny shot guns they carry outside banks but you’re not allowed and I don’t want to get caught!!

Push power.

Push power.

The saddest sights are the children that live here in Cebu City :-(

The saddest sights are the children that live here in Cebu City 😦

I realize that when we first got here in Cebu we were probably a little bit culture shocked. I wrote that we didn’t feel safe here, like we were walking targets for a mugging. And this is probably still true, but we’ve spent a good few nights here and we’ve settled in and got into the swing of doing what you can to enjoy the place without too much worry. We take a taxi everywhere to and from the hotel at night and as long as you take no chances cutting through dark places it’s an ok place to pass through on your travels… but I’d still not come back to the Philippines without my body guard (Taz).

I hope you like the pictures, Taz took them all 🙂

Jemma x

Bantayan Island

Bantayan was described to us in Guide books, reviews and word of mouth to be a “paradise island”. And apart from a pretty scary typhoon during the evening of Christmas Day and throughout Boxing Day where had no power or water pressure it has pretty much been a great place for some heavenly relaxation.

We stayed for 9 nights on Bantayan. Thankfully we came on the last ferry on the 23rd December after arriving on the port just in time on a hair raising jam packed bus along Cebu’s coast. Due to the weather there were no ferries on Christmas Eve, Day or Boxing day.

The last ferry to Bantayan for 3 days

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Once on dry land a tricycle pedalled us around a few hotels before we found a room in the rain at Nordic’s Inn. A Norwegian guy and his Filipino family run the place. The rooms are 800 peso’s a night, around 13 quid. They’re incredibly basic for the price! Nordic’s was full over Christmas so on Christmas Eve we spent another day in the rain wandering about looking for a new room. We settled for the last room that Sea View Aparthotel had available, a nicer, cleaner hotel room with a hotel and… Sea view  This room was a blessing during the Christmas blackout, we flung open the balcony doors and let the wind cool us down whilst most people sweltered in the humidity – what a blessing!

Hibernating in our room during the typhoon

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There were 5 restaurants on the island, all within 5 minutes walking distance, all owned by ex-pats and all selling pretty much the same food. But the food was good. Seafood and meat is the cheapest here that I’ve ever seen it at a high restaurant standard. Sizzling platters of squid, stuffed with all sorts of peppers and herbs for under 3 pounds, big plates of chicken were available and they did some tasty things with fish. The accommodation is pricier for a lower standard, but the food’s cheaper for a higher standard. So it all balances out…

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fish

After the bad weather leading up to the typhoon and the typhoon its self we had 4-5 full days of glorious sunshine. We did some lazing on the beach, walked somebody’s chiwawa and did some snorkeling (Taz forced me…). We saw some great sunsets. The post typhoon sky was beautiful 🙂

kids santiago yooneeks

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The day before new years eve we had a few beers with Scott, who we met on the Island, Scott has a bar in Cebu City after retiring from the US Marine’s a few years ago. A few beers turns into all sorts of concoctions and before you know it, it’s 4am again and you’re steaming. Oops. Scott has a Philippina wife but insists he’s not the typical stereotype! He met his wife while they were both working in another country and she had a better paid job than him, and still does!

Taz and Scott

Our body clocks are pretty messed up – rarely did we go to bed before 2-3am and rarely did we get up until after 12, for a whole 10 days! Good times. But BAD for rock climbing progress 😉 We met some interesting people though. As well as Scott we met a bunch of Swedes on holiday (with Philippina wives) and a group of German men (with Philippina wives). A bit of a theme here… These are all rowdy bar friendships but they provided lots of entertainment. We also met Torr from Norway, who’s a seaman that sails between Aberdeen and oil riggs and visits his (Philippina) wife 5 or 6 times a year. Torr has been on a tour group through North Korea…! He has some cool stories and wears socks pulled up, whatever the weather… We’ve met so many nice men that choose wives from these poor countries that I’m really trying not to judge anymore! But it’s hard sometimes!!

torr

Thinking back, Bantayan was hard work for begging too, like Cebu City, but the highlight of the trip for me was Christmas Eve. The streets were rammed with locals and holiday makers having a ball. We bought the cookie shop out of cookies and handed them out to the kids here that night. Then sat and watched a parade in trees lit up by Christmas lights and listened to fireworks going off all around the island (dynamite?!). Then they all filled the churches and we filled the bars. It was definitely the big celebration, New Year they don’t really make a big deal out of.

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beach

On New Years day, after a relatively timid New Years eve we got the 11.30am ferry back to Cebu Island and opted for a 1500 peso taxi back to Cebu city. The bus was indeed much cheaper at about 140 pesos per person, but takes about 4-5 hours and smells horrendous as kids throw up everywhere on the winding roads. We we back in Cebu City in just over 2 hours. We check back into the Valley Front hotel.

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The morning after we left in a taxi to the CityLink terminal where we got crammed in a minibus to Canatabaco for the rock climbing, an hour away from Cebu City. We find out after an hour that we’re on the wrong minibus, get in another, have a couple of rows with drivers and arrive at a hotel some 3.5 hours after leaving Cebu. Tired and irritated we check into the grossest hotel known to man, also known as the Spring Mountain Resort. Resort my ass. I’d heard the climbing is in an isolated area so there’s no options here but to use this hotel. The pictures say it all, so I’ll say no more!!

Spring Mountain cant1 cant2 cant4

We went up to the see the climbing so we were sorted for the following day. Basically you belay on what is now a 45 degree slope of mud, rocks and plants surrounded by thousands of mosquito’s. That night there was also a storm, so not only were we kept awake most of the night we were also thinking, there’s no way we can climb tomorrow, everything was soaked.

We stayed 1 night. Scott who coincidentally left Bantayan that morning, dropped us an email to say he was passing and would pick us up if we wanted! Scott drove us back to Cebu City where we all got a few beers and then we had an early night in a room that doesn’t smell like toilet! This morning I discover around 40 mosquito bites on the back of my thighs and all down the front of my right shin. I don’t know how this has happened because we slept under a mozzie net while in Canatabaco and was always plastered in repellent because the place was riddled with them. I was pretty much surrounded by plooms of smoke too because we burned loads of mosquito coils. I should have just worn my long trousers, but I didn’t think they stood a chance with all the precautions I’d taken to not let them bloody near me. Maybe we’d have stayed longer if we’d had a nice room to sit in and wait for good weather, but when your pillow smells like mushrooms it’s time to shimmy on outta there.

Anyway, chow for now 🙂

Ps – Have a safe flight Sarah and Laura, coming over to Thailand. We’ll see you there in a weeks time for some cocktails and some (more) sunshine!!! I can’t wait!xxxx