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Nicola and Christopher's Grand Adventure! This is a little story of our 3 month journey through, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. We hope that you (our friends and family) enjoy reading about our trip!

What a dive...

THAILAND | Tuesday, 7 September 2010 | Views [490]

Well folks we are coming close to wrapping up this amazing tour of SE Asia and we are trying to go out almost the same way we started, with a few quiet days on the beach, with a wee scuba diving course thrown in for good measure. After almost two days of traveling we have made it to the small island of Koh Tao, about 75 kms from the East coast of Thailand. We wish that we could say that the two days of travel were rather uneventful, but alas that would be a lie.

First our trip from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville went pretty much according to plan. It was a little annoying to have to back track via Phnom Penh, but on entering the city we knew the place and were practically Khmer. We splurged on the bus, paying an extra $8 USD each for the trip, it was worth it! The whole trip took about 12 hours door to door. Sihanoukville is a relatively small coastal town with a v. long beach, and container port (almost Port Chalmers!!). We wanted to see a little more of Cambodia and thought a spell here for three nights would be interesting and a little more relaxing than Angkor/Phnom Penh. We opted for a small guest house away from the main tourist strip and were rewarded with quiet nights, however the weather failed to cooperate and two rain filled days later we were on the move again.

One thing of particular note about our stay in Sihanoukville was that we were staying practically next door to one of the prime minister Hun Sen's houses. Yes we know you know who we are talking about, yes, the Hun Sen, former Khmer Rouge member done good. The house is used about three times a year and is a huge, rather modern affair, with several separate buildings for staff etc. As the chap in one of the restaurants we went to said, maybe the PM could swap his place for the little house/restaurant he lived in with five others.

Finally, we should probably mention, as I don't think we have already, that the booze in Cambodia is ridiculously cheap ($1 USD for cocktails). Needless to say, in order to perform much needed market research we found out that it is equally good to that found in both NZ and the UK.

We knew the trip from Sihanoukville to Bangkok would be long, but 14 hours long was a bit much for us. We booked a ticket from the 'never to be trusted travel agent' who said we would be switching buses at the border with Thailand. To his credit he didn't actually lie, what he omitted was the switch would be to a mini-bus, and that the trip from the border would actually entail a switch to four more minibuses before we were in Bangkok. The trip to the border went without incident, it was nice to see some more of the country, a truly stunning country. The border crossing went without incident, they didn't even take out photographs, as they had when we entered Thailand via Malaysia. And then the fun started...

We were shepherded into a minibus along with several other foreigners by several guys who wouldn't tell us what was going on. The minibus driver obviously went to the same driving school as our psycho taxi driver who we encountered on arrival in Bangkok. We were pretty sure that they had lost their driving licenses (if they ever possessed) them, many moons ago, driving with utter abandon. Ignoring the speed limit and other road rules, such as solid no overtaking lines etc. etc. we all noted how he was cruising at between 120-150km/hr. After 30 mins of this white knuckled ride we stopped and moved into a near identical mini-bus for the next leg... more white knuckleness ensued. The after progressed in a similar fashion until Nicola and I were dumped at a petrol station with one other chap, none the wiser as to what was going on...

30 mins later another mini-bus showed up, half filled with foreigners, including a trio of elderly gentlemen complaining about the situtaion. They were en-route Pattaya, which is renowned for sex tourism, you can imagine how thrilled we were to be travelling with them. It has been interesting to observe throughout our travels the co-mingling of nationalities, we know that people must be aghast at the age gap between us, but it is hard not to think the worst when you see some of the western gentlemen with much younger Thai/Laos/Khmer/Vietnamese partners. We try not to judge, but it is tough...

Several hours later, and one of the scariest drives of our lives later and we were in Bangkok. The only plus on the final leg was that we found seat belts (lap belts) and our dirty old man trio were dropped off about two hours before we got to Bangkok, freeing up some space in the van and reducing the volume quite considerably. We had booked a hotel in Bangkok as we new we would be arriving late (9.30ish) and didn't want the hassle of trying to find a room. We were glad we had, after a few cross words with each other (it had been a heck of a long day, it was hot and Bangkok is unforgiving) we were settling in to a v. small a/c room for the night.

We were facing another long day to Chumphon, the jumping off point for Koh Tao. We opted for a train ride, as we had heard bad things about the buses going south (i.e. people get into the storage compartment and go through the baggage for any valuables). The train was relatively uneventful, although we travelling 2nd class, fan. Which essentially means sauna like conditions until late afternoon. If you can imagine a regular train carriage with all the windows dropped open, that is how we travelled. It was quite toasty, but with the windows down it meant we had unobstructed views of the scenery. The stretch south from Bangkok to Champhon is stunning in places. We arrived in Chumphon around 10:30, by the time we had sorted dinner from a street vendor and organized our 5.50a.m. pickup for the high speed ferry from Chumphon to Koh Tao it was almost midnight. No cross words on this leg.

Suda, the guesthouse owner was really cool and accomodating, which was relieving, and nice! We picked up the high speed catamaran with about 100 others and two hours later were supping coffee and eating pastries in Mae Haad, the second largest town on Koh Tao. It is a resort island that caters for westerners... yes, we are now officially on holiday. We are booked in to one of the big dive resorts and have signed up to a 3.5 day dive training course. We start tomorrow, so spent the day lounging around the pool of a 5* resort that we get access to, it is a v. v. hard life. It is currently 8.15 and feels like it is about 2 a.m., we will be having an early night tonight.

We envisage more of the same over the coming days, lounging by the pool that is. Please don't think we are complaining about our traveling shenanigans, it has added a great deal of flavor to our trip so far and from the safety of hindsight give us some amazing tales/memories.

By the next time we type we hope to be certified divers... or drowned (in which case we won't be typing much)

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