A Travellerspoint blog

Island-Hopping

(700 Sea Gypsies, 52 Islands, & 1 Bad-Ass Angry Langur!) A right Boomeranga-rama Drama!

sunny 40 °C

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Farang be afraid, very afraid... (Temple, Koh Lipe)

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Voila! Our newly knocked up lo-fi route map. Travellerspoint, you know your Flash app. can't touch this!

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Location presently the island of Koh Lipe, Thailand. 5 degrees north of Equator, a stones throw from Malaysian border, and home to a 700 strong community of Chao Leh villagers (and a crazed Langur monkey, see below). No more than 6 square km's of tropical amazingness, and just too...Too. Damn. Hot!

EDIT: South Thai/Malaysian internet censorship barred Travellerspoint log-in from Koh Lipe. Real pain in the ass, due to large amounts of blood sweated at the time crafting this fine blog post (Couldn't believe it - net access and mobile network out here. Is it now officially game over for the "traveller", in S.E.Asia at least? Sounds it. Just met a guy from Devon who was the only caucasian here 20 years ago. Ta for the bifters Les.) . Post has been uploaded from Bangkok, where we are now for 'Songkran' (read on).

So March has been and gone (congratulations Gavin & Glenda on the birth of Jake Doherty), and for us it certainly has been as mad as the ol' hare. Sarah had to temporarily return home because of serious family illness, (quite the mad dash: Sydney - London (via Singapore) - Belfast, London - Bangkok, and a lesson on the importance of sourcing quality insurance - John, our thoughts are with you) whilst I rendezvoused with the Viking (yo Oyvind!) in Bangkok, before hitting the island of Koh Samed to await the Missus' return (where I got to witness the hilarious spectacle of Oyv 'turning' a lesbian! I hope your leg has recovered from that brutal dry-humping hombre Ha Ha!).

Consequently the Australian leg of this R.T.W. shenanigans has been somewhat truncated, but c'est la vie. Urulu, we will meet another day (though we do now have a few days to kill in Sydney around April 24th, on route to Auckland, New Zealand).

But now we're fully balls-deep back into the serious business of hunting down that perfect beach. Tough we know, but somebody has to do it. Pretty damn close too where we are right now - azure skies, white powder sand and crystal water, plus a little gem of a reef chucked in for good measure. (Why only this very day on said reef, I enjoyed the company of an inquisitive ray whilst snorkelling. Ace.)

Looks like this is far as we go south now. Was a toss-up between shooting on down into Malaysia (really wanted to try a 'real' Laksa), or back up the Peninsula towards Bangkok. We settled on the latter, as Thai New Year ('Songkran' - in Sangskrit, 'Move Into') is 12-15th April'ish (absolutely love the non-specific date. Though 15th is the 'official' first day of the new year). Sounds quite the week of partying too, with everybody hitting the streets for what is possibly the worlds biggest water fight (really am going to regret not asking Sarah to bring out some kick-ass water pistols!). Although the water element does actually have a very real religious significance - most importantly purification. (Need to put some serious strategic thinking into place regarding how to capture the madness, considering the amount of water that will be slung around...maybe the third camera purchase imminent?)

Unbelievably Songkran will also mark 7 months on the hoof for us, and mean we've been back and forth through S.E.Asia from around the end of, to almost the start again of the Thai Monsoon. The mullet development goes on! We must thank Rufus (see you in Sydney on the 24th comrade - again!) for hooking us up with Alain De Botton's 'The Art Of Travel', very auspicious, considering the development of our own philosophical thinking about just what exactly the hell we are doing! He He! (Note to self, must research these Baudelaire & Flaubert cats.) Anthropological field trip? No. Honeymoon? Yes. Still. 'Gastronomical beach odyssey'... damn right!

Okay, now the (hopefully) short and succinct introduction is drawing to a close on this latest post, it's time for the pics. Not exactly in chronological order, but hey, sue us! Let 'em roll...

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Just had to kick off with this. Couldn't help thinking of 'Dusk 'til Dawn'. Patpong, Bangkok - on a session with the Viking. (Did we mention in the last post we wouldn't see the 'City of Angels' again? How wrong we were...)

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Island-Hopping. Having a bad run with hats (see previous post), minutes after this was taken it blew off my head. Last spotted bobbing around in the Andaman ocean. Have put out an A.P.B. for any Sea-Gypsies rocking out a red Quiksilver cap...

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Good to see the ol' faithful again.

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Just some of the 52 islands comprising Tarutao National Marine Park. Koh Tarutao itself used to be a prison island, until everybody (screws included) decided the pirates life was more agreeable. Free reign on plundering the straights of Malacca until the British Navy came along and shut the partay down. Bastardos.

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Land Ahoy Cap'n! Coming up on Dong (see below), sorry Lipe Island.

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Sarah. Navigating.

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Wild beach. Koh Tarutao.

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Koh Lipe, immigration office. Seriously.

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Looking out over this beach right now as I type (Koh Lipe).

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Steve Zissou, suck on ma' ball sack!

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Piss-poor reef shot, I know - really managed to make it look devoid of life, ha ha, but the point is to show the water clarity here. That pic was taken from above water, at a depth of around 13 feet. Hang on, there's a fish in that shot, Woo-Hoo, and some black spikey things, get in! (Honestly, I swear it's chocka down there with an expansive gamut of life, and colour. Nearly wrote the camera off too trying to prove it. Low-rent underwater photography = clear ziplock bag from airport security + mucho praying. Bloody lcd screen shagged now!

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Any ideas why we refer to this place as Dong Island?

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Main street, leading from the Chao Leh village. Rush hour... (Mind your ankles. A lot of aggressive cocks about. Not a joke.)

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Major road junction. Said cocks straight ahead. Again, rush hour...

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The best pancakes in Thailand. Worth the 900km jaunt to find 'em too. Lipe.

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'Riskee'. Lipe. Birthplace of the most divine curry yet tasted on this trip. Like the pancakes, worth the camel hike to find. And here she is...

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Ohh yess. The fruit of Irena's labours. Notice the lack of Thai staples (this is a Muslim restaurant), no coconut milk or lemongrass for example. The tomato influence putting us in mind of a rogan josh. Irena's secret curry paste/chilli oil combo being brought to life by the lime. Will miss this soo much.

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Rock temple. 'Hantalay'.

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What a name. Just had to stay here.

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Apologies for poor quality. This time it's the camera's fault. Honestly. (Really maxing out the capabilities of this cheapo thang.) Eagle hunting off Koh Tarutao, taken from Tae Boo cliff.

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Yeah, you might look all cute for the camera you furry sack of rabies, but believe us there was much changing of underwear after this encounter. (Or 'under-daks' if your an Aussie I suppose, you voracious corrupters of the Queens English!) The angry mofo bum-rushed us big time. Couldn't get past it on way down from Tae Boo (only one jungle path) - discovered later it was protecting it's young, so fair enough. Though next time you better run, 'cause I'm gettin' me a big ol' rifle offa these here sea-gypsies. We'll see who's the daddy then, when I'm rocking out a pair of purty Langur slippers! (Obviously I'm no David Bellamy (though actually the beard development is getting close), but I'm sure this is a Langur.)

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Majestic sunset. Koh Tarutao.

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Sarah. Getting rapidly reacquainted with B.E.A.C.H.L.I.F.E. (...it's the only life I know. Sorry.)

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The 'real' beach soundtrack. No idea who this Thai dude is, but he got the F.U.N.K - have to purchase this on return to the mainland.

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Better than pharmaceuticals, allegedly. The infamous Sang-Som rum. Perfect companion to the above.

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Our latest abode. Hi San! Hi Asia! And Yo, thank you soo much for Sarah's perfume.

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Sun down, after another strenuous day... (This is Sarah's pic, and she won't let me forget it.)

Reet proper big Christopher Lee, Hammer House of Horror style lightning storm that night too, forks spreading all out over the sky, like Jacko's mitts at a kids party. Trying to describe it's magnificence is pointless (especially with our retarded grasp of the English language), but probably the most sublime experience of this trip, and that's saying something after the Mongolian steppe/Gobi desert. (You'll have to trust us on that obviously, as (per bloody usual) the camera just was not capable of capturing any of it.)

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Old-skool tuk-tuk (can't help loving their frog-like form, personally prefer them to the Bangkok version), plus traditional Thai style wooden house, Trang, Mainland.

Tangible difference in the Thai experience from here southwards, deeper into Satun province. Trang felt more like China (mmm, due to, eh, the heavy Chinese population), and the Muslim influence of Malaysia becomes quickly apparent - Bhurkas and Mosques abundant.

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Random Mosque, poking it's golden onion dome through the jungle on route to Hat-Yai. Which Consulate advice states as bandito country, and not to visit. Sure a heavy police/military presence, roadblocks etc. but nothing unusual for a few Belfast ex-pats. (Seriously, the Thai government has killed more separatists down here over the last decade, than died in our own 'Troubles', spanning 30 odd years.)

Spent an afternoon hanging on Ao Pante Malacca beach with my homeboy Mohammed, cheers for the snouts big man.

EDIT: just found out the 'overnighter' train from Trang to Bangkok is full until after Songkran. Merde! Means the budget gonna get screwed again...

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Remember kids, never cross the road without Mr. Dong (is he related to Mr. Hanky?)

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Me and Oyv on-route to Samed, to party like it's 1999! Sorry, mope around until Sarah's return.

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More beach porn. Koh Lanta, Nin beach.

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Managed to secure this two-level palace on Kata beach, for the princely some of 500Baht per night (about 8 quid!). They threw in the bed bugs for free too - thank you team 'Coastline', it's still join-the-dots down the back, crack & sack for me! (Sarah just returning with a few groceries there, surprisingly not several Chang's)

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Full moon view, from open air shower.

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Sarah. Working on her back-stroke. (I later helped her with a few other strokes too, following our 2 week separation...)

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Cultural shot alert. Thai football, or 'Takraw'. Played with or without net, using a rattan ball. Absolutely awe inspiring to watch. Points for style encourages some serious shape throwing. (Thanks Mr. Minsaas for the money shot.) Watched this game on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Lumphini park, Bangkok. And got caught out by the playing of National Anthem at 6pm (5/6th visit to this city and it's a new one on me) - armed security personnel are good visual reminder to get on your feet, and fix up look sharp (was on mobile at the time).

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Wat Arun. Thonburi side of the Chao Praya river, Bangkok. Finally got to scale it (as mentioned, on only our 5/6th bloody visit).

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Maybe mentioned in previous posts? Chatuchak market, Bangkok. The biggest, baddest market we've so far layed eyes on. Just some of the wares.

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No, Sarah has not started tagging the walls of Bangkok. But it looks like the Rea clan might have some gangsta Thai relatives out here though ha ha!

Starting to really get hooked on this city (like you probably can't tell), and the Bangkok Post is recruiting right now too...mmm...

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So, Australia then. As if we need to state it. You know what this place is.

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Fairground, under Sydney Harbour bridge.

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Bondi beach, Sydney. Rufus and Sarah. Where we encountered some scary rip-tides, and some bad attitude life-guards (stay away from the rocks? I'm drowning here mate! Bloody idiot!).

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Random didgeridoo shot. Melbourne. Much like the god-awful human statues, you couldn't move for tripping over these muppets.

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The nastiest looking gimp mask we've ever clapped our peepers on. Sydney.

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Lot's of Dongs (is there a theme developing within this post?). Back of a van. Sydney. Competition time people - count all the dongs & first correct answer gets a pint (well, on yourself obviously). Just realised there's a double dong on there, does this count as one, two, or one and a half? Mmm... (can you draw analysis from this work of art, and the culture that it was created in?) By the way, has anyone watched Superbad? Deja Vu?

Speaking of pints, just spoke with a Finnish guy who pointed out the reason Chang (the virtues of which we may have went into in a previous post) isn't sold in the E.U. is due to it being deemed not suitable for consumption (E.U. pussies!) - mainly due to 'heavy metal' content (not sure if something was lost in translation there). Uh oh... Not exactly good news, when it's been about the only fluid intake for around 5 months straight. (Found out it's Everton F.C. that Chang sponsor - being doing my head in for ages that one. And they love the Premiership out here. Another avenue for the national pastime - gambling.)

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Sarah insisted this photo went up! Sent this home in February to cheer her up. I mean, who wouldn't be cheered up by that Irish Beefcake dropping into your inbox? Eh? And yes, the T-Shirt is super cheese, I know.

One more thing before I forget (Fao. Mr. McComish and Mr. Maze), you guys heard anything from Gary 'the one handed hypnotist' Mitchell? Because I swear he's working at Healesville Sanctuary in Melbourne, chucking boomerangs, under the name of Murrundindi (of the Yurrundjeri Aboriginal people). Absolute doppelganger. Said he was half Aboriginal, half Scottish. Claimed he don't know no pot noodle either. I smell a wombat...

Well, it's almost time to split. Do a Michael (Bolton, not Jackson). This coral reef not 50 yards from where I'm sat right now needs further exploration I'd say. Again, somebody has to do it. After I order just one more Chang you understand...

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Trying to work our way through this. Thai marine life poster. The Holy Grail is the turtle though (any species accepted!). Nesting season very soon (Tarutao) - still no sign of 'em, and we leave for Bangkok in a few days. Goddamn!

So before we depart, we warn you all now, only those of a Ray Winstone'esque disposition should proceed any further with this post. In keeping with the intellectual tone of our scribbling, and the Flaubertian thinking on life's duality, ladies and gentlemen, we present you with a very character building asian squat toilet (just don't say we didn't warn you!):

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The End. Fin. Until next time, until after Songkran,

All our love,

Steve and Sarah
XOX

PS- Gav, you have any pics you can email on of the little 'un? And ta very much (as always) to everyone else for the text's/emails etc. It really means a lot (as always). Au revoir!

Remember, 'no money no honey', and everything is always, always, always the 'same same...but different'. You just can't help loving this place!

Posted by rea-neill 21:56 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

xxxx

...couldnae give a xxxx about thinkin' of a post title pal!

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'Ocean Drive' - Southern Ocean, Victoria Australia.

G'day cobbers! (Please excuse that.) Yes, we're in Australia. Been in and around Melbourne last few weeks. Racked up a few hundred miles along the above pictured 'Ocean Drive'. Kind of like the Antrim/North Coast & Donegal...well, on steroids and with 30c degrees fekkin' heat! (Water was bloody freezin' though.)

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'12 Apostles'

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'Arty' Seagull shot...

Best we could do with a 50quid digi cam. Apologies. Real visual-fest though, only marred by single lane roads, and tree-huggers from all over the woyld driving those bloody wickedcampers.com.au hired vee-dubs! What part of the signs instructing 'slow vehicles' to pull in, did you lot not understand! Jaysus! (Thanks Irene for the use of your car. Subaru Impreza I may add. Carbon emissions rawk!)

So, off to Sydney in a few days. Itinerary unknown from there. You could say it has been reverse 'culture-shock' arriving here. We're already missing the crazed hawkers, tuk-tuk drivers & Health/Safety defying food stalls! Waaay too westernised. Seeing so many obese people after the last 4 months in Asia has been an afront to the eyes too...

Since the last post:

We've been to a Gospel meeting (No raking, the things you gotta do for a free bed, eh?). This was good though as we found out that 1/ the Earth is only a few thousand years old (Dinosaurs anyone?) 2/ Women and Aborigines (I swear the preacher said 'Abbo's') are responsible for all the troubles of mankind. Fekkin' literal Bible freaks, who'd have 'em eh? (Rapture was mentioned too, though unfortunately not the N.Y. band...strewth!)

We've been up close and personal with Koala's (Alistair Campbell gotta be behind their P.R. team...these things are UGLY!), Duck-Billed Platypus's (eh?), Wombat's, and the Roo's? They're vermin. Everywhere! Almost like they're trained to pop up when the bloody foreigners drive by!

HIt Melbourne City for Chinese New Year and the St. Kilda Festival. Explored the infamous Brunswick St. Found some amazing Indie shops - vinyl, threads etc. (as in independent, douchebags), in and around there and Chapel St. Dodged the tram fares (Amsterdam Deja-Vu), Whipped a few Ozzy punks asses on Virtual Tennis 3, down China Town in the arcades - one up for wee Norn-Iron! (Though the city does feel quite small after the last few months, only a population of 3 million I think.) Been hitting the courts in the real world too quite a bit actually (Tennis mental out here.) - Sarah still owning me though, and on Friday night we checked out an Ozzy rules 'Footy' game. IT ISN'T FOOTBALL PEOPLE! 18 players on each team (on field), 4 refs, several team strategy 'relays', & randoms keeping players hydrated (as the pitch is vast), meant at one count there was around 45 people on field during play! What. The. Fek?! 'Poetry In Motion' this is not...

So - where we are right now is pure 'Sideways' country. Yarra valley to be specific. Prime wine growing region, Victoria. I swear Moet & Chandon have a vineyard not 10 minutes from here. Bootiful! But, as always, it must come to an end. More to follow from us then as per the usual - when we can be arsed. Until then, Au Revoir! (And we promise to not be so lazy with the camera from now on.)

Mucho Love,

Steve.

Some randomness:

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'Brunswick Street', Melbourne City - heart of the live scene. Regarded as 'Bohemian' by Satan's Guidebook. So it's not (probably.)

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This one's for you Bubba! You didn't happen to mention the pizza franchise you have out here...

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Sarah. 'Federation Square', Melbourne City. Too. Cool. To. Even. Look. At. Camera.

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Me on our last big 'Hurrah' in Bangkok. Taken in 'Tapas' club. Havin' it large, so it is (and any other cnut cliches...) Though if I don't mind saying so myself (though probably no-one other than J 'Red-Elvis' will be interested), that hat was a complete result of a find. Under a tenner, genuine Puma 'Guillermo Vilas - the Bull of Pampas' 1977 Fedora! Get in! (Only to get farked up later that night - blew off my head, whilst on the back of a tuk-tuk, then got ran over by a car. Couldnae believe it!).

Google 'Ping-Pong' show, Bangkok. Though not if your in work.

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OUR PLEDGE:
Following the recent (hilarious, and deserved I may add) savaging of Max Grogarty (Guardian dropped the ball there big time), and sage advice via Maddox, we promise to:
1/ Stop using 'web speak' a la 'LOL/LMAO/FFS' etc. etc. in our posts. Because it reads like arse.
2/ Stop pretending we're backpacking, and face the fact we're two 'professional loafer' thirty-somethings, on a year's holiday (Honeymoon?) exploiting every cheap-ass developing country we can get a Visa for.
3/ Start trying to speak proper in our posts. And not CAPITILISE for EMPHASIS. Because it reads like ARSE!

Please excuse any slippage in this transitional period. And please, please do not let us get away with any douche-baggery!

Thank you, and Good-Night!

Posted by rea-neill 04:52 Comments (1)

M.I.A. (Into the Heart of Darkness...or not)

FROM OLD SIAM, VIA LAN XANG...NOW WITH VIDEO CONTENT!

sunny 31 °C

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(The ubiquitous 'no guns, explosives, narcotics' sign. Our guesthouse room, Siam Reap. Boy they really know how to ruin a party here...)

>>> AS STATED ABOVE, WE NOW HAVE EMBEDDED VIDEO. BOO-YAA! CHECK US OUT! (flash application for route map still goosed though...)

Whoaa... no real idea what day it is anymore! All seemlessly merging into one, our catatonic state punctuated only by moments of blind panic (err...like trying to memorize an entire Lonely Planet city map 5 minutes before we bail out of the bus - never learn ffs!). Btw from now on if we refer to those particular published works (Lonely Planet) it will be as Satan's Guidebook (S.G.). Mainly as information continually has no relation to reality, but also because of the amount of COMPLETE TOOLS now tearing around the globe, sporting 'the blue wreathed book of evil'! (Tony and Maureen you have a lot to answer for! Seriously, S.G. preaches 'responsible' travel, yet has a fundamental need to shift units . Reminiscent of BP adverts stating their business these days is saving the planet.) Obviously this does not apply to us btw, as we are now fully tie-died wearing lentil munchers, lovers of dolphins and top notch offenders of any and all religious sensibilities, via inappropriate dress/behaviour. Yes people, we are now...TRAVELLERS! (lmao*)

  • honestly, we DO try! (utilising services provided by charities (eg. 'Seeing Hands' - Cambodia, massage by BLIND masseurs - profits helping sight-disabled), saving recyclables for the street kids, buying produce from amputees (outcasts in Buddhist countries, wtf?! Vast areas of Cambodia are still a no-go due to land mine usage, and Laos has the unenviable position of being the most bombed country in the world - still large amounts of random unexploded ordnance lying around...thank the good ol' U.S. of A for that one)...and so on... (God we hope we don't sound like some of the sanctimonious twats we've met so far - see below for appropriate example!)

Ok, back on track. We leave for Oz in a few days. That marks the end of the Asian dream (and an end to our 'relationship' with the mighty Mekong river), and between 4/5 months on 'the road' (still trying to get our heads around that!). Last 'serious' (serious..yeah right!) blog post almost 2 months ago - so we'll attempt to redress that situation right now.

So, where exactly have we been over the last 6-7 weeks? Here's not really a definitive list, and in probably not the correct order. Breathe in...

THAILAND
Ayathaya - old capital, old Siam. Ruined Buddhist architecture in abundance. Hired bikes. Cycled. Yes, we are mental.

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Kanchanaburi, near Burmese/Myanmar border - site of the REAL 'Bridge over the River Kwai' (attention nerds, the film was shot in Cambodia.)

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Got bitten by lethal amount of mozzies (see below).

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Chang Mai - northern Thai city. Massively important cultural centre. Also home of the Chang Mai sausage (blew the wheels reet 'aff, thon did!) Oh yeah, and spent 3 tortuous days in bed with the Dengue! (Steve: cried like a girl too for most of 'em...) Seriously, we were both like death. So bad in fact that neither of us could neck a cold one for over a WEEK! Damn you to hell, you pre-historic flying death merchants!

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(Child. Monk)

Chiang Kong/Huay Xai, border crossing into Laos (Lan Xang, land of a million elephants), straddling the Mekong river, skirting the infamous 'Golden Triangle'. Population 9,000 - and there was only a fekkin' indian restaurant! eh? Popadum paradise! (where we spent Xmas night pulling crackers btw, to many a bemused stare. We kid you not, paper hats an' all! Thanks Mom for the 'package'! ha ha...)

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LAOS (silent 's'. the French added that just to show off), THE PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF.
('mon the reds! Good though to be back on Commie turf...)

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(Old Laos money - 'Kip'. Check out the Guerrilla activity in the pic. Thanks Max for getting this.)

Bokeo nature reserve, northeast Laos jungle.

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(No kidding, that's the view from our tree-house toilet. Around 7am. Looking out over about 6-7 mist shrouded valleys)

Where we didn't see any gibbons on the (now renamed) Non-Gibbon Experience! Seriously over-rated, criminally over-priced, we fail to see (and we mean not just the two of us, but EVERYBODY in our group) how anybody could get excited about paying 132Euro just to get abandoned in a tree-house (with exceptionally bad food) for 3 days (THIS was the major problem btw, not lack of wildlife. Let's face it the wildlife 'did one' as soon as it got the slightest whiff of the White Devil). And don't get us started on the self-righteous, sanctimonious douche-bag that runs the show, Molly. For all you people (which seemed to be EVERYBODY us (and our group) met) who described this whole thing as some sort of cathartic, profound experience...get some fekkin' perspective!

But hey, zip-lining 50-60 metres above the forest floor was cool...

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(jump. do it. join us michael...)

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(view back at the 'house', taken whilst mid 'zip')

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(Sarah coming in hard 'n fast!)

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>>> check this zip vid out:

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(Some of team GibbonX- excuse the deranged faces, photographer malfunction. No names...cough...Phillipe...cough)

Luang Prabang (where we managed to find an internet connection for the quick salutation in previous post). As mentioned, a UNESCO world heritage city. Quite simply beautiful!

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(Palace bottom right, below Mekong river)

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(The sort of sign we like to see...)

Spent New Years eve soaking in the turquoise pools of Tad Sae waterfall...superlatives redundant.

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>>> another vid!

And the massages, oh yessss the massages! 4dollars an hour at the spa in town! (Gonna be a ball-breaker stumping up 40quid now for that 'swedish' back home!) Oh, and thank the good lord for the French - leaving behind a legacy of (quite) good coffee, and fresh pastries! Bizarre to eat fresh baguettes everyday in Asia, and partly the reason why we are still now packing even more pounds than a "back-packer" (ahem...) should be!
EDIT: Just remembered, this is where we celebrated New Years! Cheers Ellie and Max.

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(airport. quality.)

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(So just why can't you saunter around the runways of 'Geordie Best's' as planes land?)

CAMBODIA** (location of the 'International Loser'. See 'rant' post below)

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(Apsara dance. Carved in Ancient Angkor ruins...)

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(...and for real.)

Siem Reap, Cambodia (...and we thought Cambodge was a typo! lol...) Home of the famous Angkor sites (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom etc. etc...and THAT scene from 'Tombraider'

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- hard to believe this place had a population of over 1 million, at a time when London was a relative village of only 50,000. (Just dawned on us that we will seeing most of the so called 'Wonders of the World' on this rtw malarkey...woo-hoo!)).
Caught a cheap flight, AMAZING view over Mekong valley and the Tonle Sap lake. Definitely ex-military pilot. Last possible second maneuvers, coming in fast and low over Tonle Sap swampland...palms sweating? Affirmative! (over our dead bodies were we taking the slow-boat everyone bangs on about! why, why, why, why, WHY? 2 days of arse paralysis, against 45 minutes airtime? come on...ok, so no airlines out in these parts make public anything in the way of a safety record, and western governments do advise against flying on them, but hey, flippin' Ol' Nick the bird once in a while builds character, eh?!).

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(Wtf is this? Outside our room, Siem Reap.)

Passed through Phnom Penh, though we weren't really interested (this is a mad, bad place. Weed as a pizza topping? No problem, just visit Happy Herbs pizza shop...and you'll probably need it to cope too. A place where a fistful of greenbacks gets you ANYTHING, or AWAY with anything. Guns, narcotics, child prostitution...just the tip of a VERY dark iceberg. Where the local tourist free-sheet actually prints, I quote "...now in stock at least 10 new Phillipino girls who are lively..." referring to a local hotel, and warning that one has recently stabbed her 'boyfriend', so "be careful". You just don't get that in the Belfast News now do you? ). As we didn't actually want to voyage into the 'Heart of Darkness' (neither a metaphorical one, or the hateful nightclub of same name in the centre of town) we jumped on the next bus south to Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville. Ahh...breathe out. Where we are typing this right now (laptop on the road with us), and the reason we are hurtling backwards down the evolutionary scale ha ha! Brain functionality dangerously close to amoeba-like... Ending up down here was, well serendipitous (You like that? Clever eh? This horse aint glue yet...check us out! And there is a beach here called Serendipity too. Yeah, we rawk!). Thank gawd we did. It's true what they say, eh? The things you don't plan usually turn out best...speaks for itself that this is the longest we have stayed in one place yet. 2 weeks and counting. Back to the one thing we do best. B.E.A.C.H.L.I.F.E. ("...it's the only life I know" we can't stop singing this to the tune of 'Streetlife').

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We are on Otres beach, the south 1km of which you can have to yourself most days. Squeaky sand, majestic sunsets...beautiful! 8dollars a night for a room, not 10m from the water! Get in!!! (Though it's not going to stay like this. From talking to local business owners, this place has got 2 years tops left before the 'big players' (read, russian mafia) 'resort-ify' the place (read go-go bars and hotels resembling the worst of communist architecture). This situation does however obviously provide full bragging rights for the future...)

Most strenuous decision each day? Toss-up between the BBQ (seafood? again?), or the bar (Steve: should I betray my long term partner, the Angkor ale, for a cheap one-night stand with the slutty Mekong whiskey?). This place a healthy 1-2 hour walk from 'town', dirt track, no electricity. Dodgy generators all the way baby! (Gets a poor rap in the S.G. though, we think because of the damage the fishing industry has done to the coral (obviously no-one realised fishing with DYNAMITE would damage the reef...lol)). But hey, screw you coral, we aint here to dive, we're here to L.O.A.F.! And if you want coral all marine freaks, do what we did, why only yesterday in fact. Hire a boat for 35dollars (greenbacks out here, another little quirk - U.S. dollars really are comedy money he he!) and hit the islands.

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Found a nice stretch that was deserted enough to bathe 'sans keks'! Only us and some other dude letting it all hang out to dry (didn't get around to introductions unfortunately (Sarah: he was rather a 'large' fellow. Intimidated you know...cough!)) Debating now whether to put those pics up... Oh, and we celebrated Sarah's birthday down here on the 11th too, so cheers: Mr and Mrs. 'T', Scott and Christine, plus Bruno and Martine. Bruno, you are missed around here mon amie. We can only hope to have half of your energy when we're 65! Maybe see you in Paris? we hope so...)

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  • *some of you will notice we have made no reference at all to the recent 'history' of this country. Is there any need? We read Loung Ung's account of growing up through the whole 'Khmer Rouge' revolution, and it's downfall. This was harrowing, illuminating and moving, but we felt absolutely no compunction to then go and actually traipse around those very killing fields (btw, a very sore point for Cambodians as key sites are now ran FOR PROFIT by private companies! Can you believe that?!) And the age imbalance here truely is startling. 40percent of the population is under 15!

(Steve: finally got around to reading 1984 (I know, don't start...) beforehand. Damn strange reading a work of fiction scarily depicting seemingly a lot of what Luang Ung experienced for real in very recent history here.)

Ok, so what have we learned so far? Anything? Why only the night before last we worked out that 95percent deet anti-mosquito spray (that melts plastic btw), doesn't cause permanent blindness upon being sprayed directly into the eyes (Sarah: Steve sorted that one out lmao!). That living in the West makes you a big Girlie-Man (a la Schwarzenegger...jesus, just how do you spell that idiots name?), it dampens the senses, weakens the resolve. Now we don't bat an eyelid when a rat legs it across the bed. Roaches? Childs play. And now we're taking the anti-malarial drugs, come on you mozzies! Give it all you got! (Fyi, we're taking Doxycycline. Antbiotic, 100mg daily. Covers S.E.Asia and S.America. Cheap as chips. Side effects? Brief nausea, and photosensitivity. Debatable whether the latter is a problem though, if your objective is to get a David Dickinson/Bob Monkhouse style tan with minimal effort (well, obviously the colour Bob was BEFORE he croaked it...). Alison, we have way too much of the fekkin' stuff, we could airlift ya a few crates, no joking!) Though we still needed undergarment refreshment after the 'scorpion' incident!

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(scorpion? check. bathroom? check. britches filled? check. 'Til the day we die, we're gonna be checkin' under that seat...)

The West could also learn a massive amount from Asia in terms of 'face' (lack of aggression, not losing it, saving 'face') and family ties. You just CANNOT get uptight out here.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, the biggest thing so far? PATIENCE. Forget what your watch says, the driver tells you, or even what is printed on your ticket. You're now officially on S.E.Asia time biatch! (Manyana, but Manyana with a bad weed habit.) And it's not like the driver aint gonna try and get wherever on time...the driving here is an approximation of an extreme sport! Blind. Faith. Necessary! (joking aside, Translink (cue sound of spitting on the ground) would get trounced by these guys (eg. Mekong Express) in terms of value and efficiency! Shame on you Translink - the words 'brewery', 'piss' and 'up' spring to mind). Btw, from now on 'here' refers to S.E.Asia. Anything else? We have realised too that you maybe need to travel halfway around the world to appreciate what's been right under your nose all along, (Steve: I have still not witnessed, not Mongolia, not deep out in any rainforest yet, a star filled night as clear and as beautiful as I did from Malin Point, up north on our own wee island, a few years back (Paul, J-rock, you remember? Orla's caravan?). The beaches of Donegal? They could easily hold their own against a lot of what we've seen so far (yeah we know, if the weather was 30degrees c warmer! lol...), and that people aren't really all that different. Still amuses us that everybody out here wants to be white, while we try and get our pasty asses something beyond a translucent blue! Just try and find a sunscreen/moisturiser out here without whitener in it...

Maybe we have went a bit 'bamboo'? Maybe. Rice, chillies...seems fine for brekky to us. Wearing shoes inside...hell NO! (definitely something we're bringing home). White man can't jump? White man can't wash!...smell something dodgy on the bus? That's just the dirty Falang. Out here they are SCRUPULOUSLY clean (So it's 3 showers a day now). And this whole getting up before dawn thing? We wake up now BEFORE the roosters ffs! (if there's one sound we're gonna associate forever now with S.E.Asia, it's the fekkin' rooster! EVERY day for the last 3-4 months the bastardos have been our alarm call...). Also starting now to speak full Pidgin too ffs! Oh, and the left hand thing...ha ha, you knows it!

Ok Ok, enough already! This post starting to take on epic proportions! Blood on the keys et al, full Jessica Fletcher mode on from both of us! (lol...prize for naming that show btw!)

Hold on, one last thing, we met a guy at the Laos/Thai border (big, stocky, more tattoos than Amy Whine-house). Hears our accents and asks where we're from. Tell him Belfast, and he asks again WHERE we're from...you know the score, where IN BELFASTwe're from. WTF?! AT A BORDER CROSSING, ON THE MEKONG RIVER! Was sure he was about to force us to say the alphabet aloud too, before kicking our asses...lmao! (apologies to non-Norn Iron contingent for that little anecdote, plus numerous, probably obscure, other references) Couldnae believe it pal... Turns out 'East' was the right answer. Only worked down the Newtownards road an' all ffs!

:Disclaimer:
Apologies for poor punctuation, spelling and general abuse of english language in above drivel. Also for over-use of 'web' speak a la "lmao" etc. But what do you expect from a couple of professional wasters? Oh, and for capitalising everything in sight for emphasis...

'Til next time, from the 'Land Down Under',

Moshi Moshi,

Neill-san & Rea-san
xox

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Randoms:

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(pic on a cigarette case we found at a market. ""Aint my dad" priceless!)

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(how cool is this painting?)

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(snake pliskin kiss my ass! THIS how you rock a mullet! That's not 'the bird' btw, or even some kinda Jacko finger fashion, just showing you the 'leatherman' damage...seriously! ahem...)

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(these mannequins getting even crazier. stuff of nightmares! need to research the word for mannequin phobia...)
EDIT: 'Pediophobia'

Posted by rea-neill 20:52 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

International Losers

Rant #2

"Cambodia is a dream come true for international losers - a beautiful but badly beaten woman, staked out for every predator in the world to do with what he wishes. Paradise for a guy with no conscience, and no chance of ever knowing the love of an unintoxicated woman. You can behave as badly as you wish..."

(Anthony Bourdain)

Amen...

Posted by rea-neill 20:45 Comments (0)

FROM THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF LAO, HAPPY 2008!

...

-17 °C

A happy New Year, and all our love from the both of us! And thanks to all for checking out our wee blog. I don't know how, but there's already been a few thousand hits (Mum, get off that computer!). Seriously, got no idea who's checking it out, but a happy New Year to y'all too!

So, we're in Laos PDR right now, staying in Luang Prabang, right on the mighty Mekong river (UNESCO world heritage city). Beautiful old French colonial buildings, amazing coffee and baguettes...and taxi drivers trying to sell you opium! Seriously, really is something this place...a photographers paradise, with a real relaxed, chilled atmosphere. Quality.

Can't remember when we last posted (the cheese-dog) xmas card, but in a few days we will have been on the road for 4 months. WTF?!! A lot has happened in the past few weeks though (from strolling around old Siam, to zip lining in the Loas jungle), but we can't post up any pics right now due to poor bandwidth. We will get 'em up as soon as we can though, promise!

Oh yeah, and the mobile 'phone we have with us on the road has packed in too ffs!

Anyway, we head into Cambodia in next few days. Going to sort out what we do next from there...

So, until the next time,

Sayonara,

Steve and Sarah.
XO

BTW, managed to absolutely screw up the flash app that manages route map. Will try and sort it out (for those that care he he!).

Posted by rea-neill 01:18 Comments (2)

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