Overland Out

Accommodation location

We set out to travel from England to Asia without flying. A slower, more sedate approach, in a time when time flies and life is gone in a flash, we wanted to slow time and see things properly. We also wanted to see how we would cope with life on the road. So after 190 days rocking and rolling the final transport count from Kenilworth to Kuala Lumpur is:-

Trains – 30
Buses – 25
Tube/metro – 20
Taxis – 14
Tuk Tuks/Songthaews – 8
Minivans – 8
Ferries/Speedboats/dinghies – 11

If anyone is considering doing it, do it.

Is there anything I would do differently? At my age, I’d bring nasal hair trimmers.

Have we learnt anything? Well, we already suspected but now we know that your average person is kind and helpful and stereotypes are not always true. Russian and Chinese train conductors, grannies, shopkeepers, dinnerladies, waiters, hoteliers, policemen, security guards and people on the street have all helped us when we have been lost or in need of something. We thank them all.

27.2.2017 Ko Mok to Ko Lipe, Koh Lipi, Koh Lipeh… whatever…. To Langkawi 

The problem with reality is it just isn’t as good as fantasy.

We had paid a small fortune (£120) to travel by speed boat from Koh Mok to Langkawi, this involved 2 speed boats with a 3 hour break in between boats which gave us time for the international border crossing and for that we gain an extra hour in our lives. As we had paid a lot we had visions of James Bond type boats quickly and efficiently getting us to where we wanted and arriving in Malaysia after a days travelling with flashpacker freshness. 

We ordered breakfast (which was also going to be lunch) of one last Pad Thai and iced coffee. There were no noodles in the kitchen so we had stir fried rice, bland until we doused it in chilli, which had the unfortunate effect of reminding our stomachs of last night’s spicy yellow curry. Still we had a couple of hours to clear our stomachs before speed boat relay started.

We waited near the beach for the boat to arrive. It was supposed to arrive at 11.20. 11.20 came and went, 11.45 too, by 12.00 we were concerned. A few phone calls later and it was confirmed it would be here at 12.20. It arrived at 12.30. We still had a 2 hour turnaround so were unpurturbed at this slight delay.

Getting on the boat everyone seemed quite quiet and sober. Wierd, but then I though they are probably all on their way home so I could understand that. Not many backpackers would pay this price for the journey.

We had 30 mins to go to the next island to pick up more passengers, the speed boat bounced along the waves, lurching in that irregular fashion they do. Hummmm……I remembered the afternoon rains the past couple of days, that were accompanied by a slight breeze, which had been cooling on the beach. Maybe we would avoid them?

Pick up done and we were settled in seats across the aisle near the back of the boat. Bags piled up at the back of the boat. Plenty more tourists at the back of the boat.

The speedboat bounced along the waves, still juddering in its usual fashion. Clouds were gathering, blue skies were replaced by plump, grey clouds. People were looking around nervously, the boat started to bounce more, we were both thinking this is ok, nothing is as bad as the ferry to Taiwan. No Chinese are on board so we should avoid copious vomiting and over flowing sick bags.

Then the wind picked up and the waves started to lash through the back half of the boat, within 10 mins we were drenched right through our skimpy outfits, having dressed for 35 degree heat, not a water park ride. Salt water stung our eyes, hands and feet wrinkled like we had been in a hot bath for an hour. 

Our fellow passengers in the front half, or shall we call it the dry half of the boat, all looked on amused and took photos whilst we at the back end of the boat, got a through brining. It was funny, you put on a brave face and laughed, we only had another hour and we should be there.

Looking to the back of the boat, the bags were drenched in sea water, which if you have a fancy Dry Sac like Guy is fine. If you have a 18 year old canvas bag with everything in plastic bags you begin to wonder if the bags are big enough to ensure nothing gets wet. Nothing you can do about it now though. Just soak up the spray and keep smiling at the cameras.

The boat bounced along, buffered by the increasing winds, the crew had the look of Thai drug runners, all about 18 years old and laughing at the farang getting scared and soaked. 

About 2 hours into the journey it was clear we were no where near our destination. We did a mid sea transfer of more farang on and off the boat, the clean, dry Russian and Chinese tourist came on and sat at the back of the boat.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, the heavens opened, the rain intensified and the thunder and lightning began. The temperature dropped, I was shaking, and just a fleeting thought of a warm, centrally heated office in Redditch passed through my head. 

Chinese tourists filled sick bags, Russians braved it and laughed along, even the lasses false eyelashes didn’t bat an eyelid. Stereotypes are created for a reason.

Another hour of this and we eventually arrive in Koh Lipi a full 10 mins before we our next ferry leaves. The Thai drug runners shout ‘Langkawi, Langkawi’ and us and another couple are bundled off the boat, through the thigh high warm waters (bliss) dragging my salt water drenched rucksack and hand luggage up the sandy beach to immigration. My passport is drenched, I am drenched, I have never been through passport control looking like a drowned rat, but we get through, only partially able to fill out the departure cards as we are shaking from the cold so much.  

Next boat takes us and our passports, separately, to the ferry, which has waited for us to arrive. We have a brief bit of heat before getting shepherded into a cold, air conditioned cabin. Just what I needed when soaked to the skin.

Immigration is the oddest yet, an elderly Malaysian is clutching about 30 passports. He shouts out the nationality of the passport and somehow this matches the owner, usually. We get ours near the end of this lottery, the last one isn’t even announced, it is given to the person remaining. He does check ‘Has everyone got a passport?’. I am not sure if it matters if it is the right one…… he has done his job and retires.

My teeth are chattering, body shaking, Guy lends me his shirt, I pull it on, it is soaking in seconds. We watch a Steven Siegal movie. It is a long trip, not bouncy, just long and air conditioned.

Finally, at 18.45 Malaysian time, we are in Langkawi, the sun is still out, just and we emerge into the sun shine. Bliss. Then onto the air conditioned immigration hall. Cold. The customs woman is bemused at both my passport and my appearance. I explain it was soaked on the ferry. 

The customs guy is checking everyone’s rucksacks, I put mine on the desk with a loud squelch. He touches it, prods it, says it wet, I concur. He says he doesn’t want to check it. Result!

Guys Dry Sac is checked. Ha ha!

We finally get to the outside warmth of the ferry terminal and an ATM. We have been offered 40 Ringitt for our taxi to Cenang Tengang (£8), seems steep. Move on and the next guy says 38 Ringitt (50p) saving, not quite what I was expecting. Once he realises we are not going to hire a car or scooter from him (why would we, do we have a death wish???) he lets us go to the taxi queue and get a taxi for 30 Ringitt. Odd procedure, but we get the price we wanted.

Taxi driver asks if we want air con, we shiver and gasp No, and he opens the windows to the warm, evening breeze and we try not to drip or soak our salt water into his spotless upholstery. 

We have an enthusiastic welcome from our French host at The Crowded House guesthouse, get our room, I unceremoniously dump everything out of my back onto the clean, new white tiled floor. Each corner of each plastic bag failed to prevent sogginess. I get some soggy trousers and a matching soggy top out of the bag, hope they dry as we step out for something to eat.

Just as we step out the heavens opened, again!!! I am thinking, if I get wet, at least it is rain that can wash off the sea water. Guy who is dry, is not keen on a rain shower. 

Our host waves 2 umbrellas at us, bless him, and we trudge off to Fat Mums for a huge bowl of delicous, soothing laksa, and a less exciting beef rendang.

Obviously this is all my view of the day, to report back from Guy the best part of today was realising Malaysia had same plugs as UK….. English colonialistion has its advantages. He was so thrilled he made the comment ‘it is just as Phil Collins nearly sang, No Adapter Required’ …..(one for Di there xx)

22 – 27.2.17 Koh Muk – Zen Paradise

The problem with paradise is the difference between the fantasy in your imagination and the reality you are faced with. The bigger the difference, the greater the upset. Of course, there may be no difference, in which case you are in a happy place.

Koh Muk is a beautiful island in the Anderman sea on the south west coast of Thailand. On the west side is the small but perfectly formed Had Farang beach, a small crescent of white sand which slips gently into clear, warm turquoise waters. Its surrounded by karst cliffs, covered in tropical vegetation of spiky palms and classic coconut palm trees. A feast for the eyes.

Our sunset facing bungalow had a view between some shady trees across the sea to Koh Kradan. It was the last one free when we arrived and although it was more than we wanted to pay, it was large with an ensuite and our new hammock fitted perfectly on the wooden balcony. Unfortunately it was also home to rats which would scratch around in the ceiling after dark. We were used to this after our time in China and a bang on the wall would quiet them down. However, we weren’t used to small presents of rat waste falling through a loose roof board into the room. The dad of the family who ran the accommodation came round and nailed up the loose board to solve that issue but the environment further tested our Dr Doolittle credentials. 

Monkeys would hang around on the roof and go through the bin after dark. I fed giant mosquitoes and in return they left me huge, itchy lumps. Al was greeted by cockroaches in the bathroom. After sunset each day, swarms of small flies would descend and cover you. One evening a giant cicada decided to spend the night with us, flapping and buzzing around the room. In the shallows of the sea, shoals of translucent green fish would hang around your legs. Hermit crabs were constantly shuffling around the beach, hiding in their mobile homes as you approached. Of course, you have to expect to interact with nature on a tropical island.

The resort was also home to a more familiar type of small creature – children. Either side of our bungalow were families enjoying the beauty of the Thai islands, something we hadn’t experienced before and a change from the backpacker trail.

Our days would be spent topping up the tan. I watched Al go brown as some bits of me went from white to off-white and some bits went from white to red. I would easily win ‘Mr Blotchy Tan 2017’ We’d swim in the warm sea, so clear that at chin depth I could see my toes. We’d watch the sun disappear each day with a cold beer or a cocktail and after savoury, rich, spicy, coconut, Thai curries, would watch electrical storms out to sea bring atmosphere to the night sky. A tropical paradise.

21-22.2.2017 Bangkok to Koh Mook, Koh Muk, Ko Mok…… whatever…

As usual we are leaving Bangkok early evening so have a whole day of wandering, killing time, until the overnight bus takes us to our Thai island paradise.

Rucksacks packed, amazingly there seems to be some space in it again…. damm….. I could have bought one more sarong or maybe some flip-flops, or just one more hair product from Boots…..😁

We find the curry rice stall we looked for yesterday. There are many curries on offer, we are a little flummoxed as to which to choose until a friendly Thai guy from Chang Rai explains the dishes to us and also confirms this is one of the best curry rice restaurants to eat in.

We order the sukothai noodles, green curry with rubbery fish balls and a mango and shredded pork salad. The sukothai noodles are really good, sweeter then we would usually go for, but great, but the pork and mango salad is ace, salty, chilli, and sour. Our Chang Rai friend explains he studied hotel management in Hastings 1969-1973, hence his excellent English.

We wander round the back streets, through a new backpacker area, full of street stalls, laundry shops, suit shops, hostels, and the usual backpacker support systems. It is less full on than our area, so has been ear marked for our next (!) visit.

More wanderings occur, and we find ourselves in a coffee and cake shop down Pra Athit road, how does this happen?  I go overboard on chocolate ordering iced chocolate shake and triple chocolate mouse, Guy has cup of tea, and white chocolate cheesecake. It is sugar heaven…..really good…..we enjoy this luxury and the air con.

Still with time to kill we go back to ours for wi-fi and blogging.

At 6pm we once again find ourselves in the Pied Piper routine, although the guides seem genuinely confused at our destination of Trang. Most people are off to Ko Samui or Krabi. Neither of which are near Trang, or actually near each other. 

A reggae coloured bus pulls up, we all pile on, luggage is stored according to where you are going, seats on the bus are allocated the same way. The bus is old, tired, no air con, no comfy seats. We are getting too old for bus travel.

Guy looses a number of chess games against his phone. I drift in and out of uncomfortable sleep.

We arrive at Surat Thani at 6.30am. We now have to pay more to get a minivan to get to Trang in time for the 1.30 ferry. Other people have done a 4 hour dog leg of a journey to get to Rangong. Thailand used to be well organised in tourist travel, but now the numbers of tourists are so many and the destinations so varied that I feel it doesn’t work to do your trip via a travel agent on Khao San if it isn’t the normal routes, or sometimes even if it it!!

We get this minivan to the next minivan station which will take us to Trang. The lady driving is holding her second child herself, he fidgets and plays with the driving controls. I look away. She leaves us in charge of the kid, he cries, I have to be maternal……..I am not sure who looks most scared……

We get another mini van to the ferry port. It is showing a Hollywood Eric Banna film on catching the Taliban. We are over tired, especially me, and having that in your face at close quarters is quite disturbing. We miss the public ferry by 10mins. We pay 600 THB (£15) for a personal boat to Koh Mok, it actually isn’t completely overpriced, and we arrive about 5 mins after the public ferry. The scenery is stunning and we start to relax, it is 1.30, we have loads of time to look for accommodation.

Clambering onto the pier, we sweat our way down the long pier. I get a Sprite and wait for Guy as he goes to check out guesthouses for us. Sometimes feminism needs to be put to one side and I embrace the role of a kept woman.

Despite finding accommodation near the port we decide to go to the other side of the island. The port area has no real beach and what there is is covered in rubbish. It is not the paradise we were looking for. 

We get a ‘taxi’ (motorbike with side cart) to the other side of the island to Had Farang (literally Foreigner Beach) where the big resort has beach bungalows for £40…. Luckily we find cheaper bungalows for £20, which considering their state is expensive, but it is the view we are paying for. 

We dump bags, locate swimmers, throw them on and skip into the warm bathtub temperature, clear Anderman sea. It is beautiful beach and we forget our gripes and tiredness and drift around.

I have a Daniel Craig moment…….😂

 Guy takes many, many sunset photos.

We eat at Mayhow, a small family restaurant off the beach. The massaman and Penang curries are tasty, the Chang is cold.

 

Happy Holidays 😋
 

20.2.2017 Bangkok, one last night

It is our final full day in Bangkok, as always we are sad to be leaving, having had such fun and good times here. Every morning as we pass our reception, invariably there is always someone asking to extend their stay by one more night, the thought of leaving this vibrant city is hard for most people. We do not extend our stay, even though we both want to.

We are heading for a holiday on the Thai islands, travelling is exhausting business (ahem…😂) so some beach time is needed. We have just under a month now until we fly to Australia (for more travelling) so need to make the most of it.

A few Google searches later and our ‘holiday’ destination has changed from Koh Phi Phi to Koh Mook, it is less touristy and more relaxing and still on the way to Kuala Lumpur, our flight departure point.

We book an overnight bus and get on with the important business of eating as much street food as we can. I fail to find a curry and rice restaurant I had researched, but we did find a fried stuff on a stick stand, and purchased a few sticks of unidentifiable stuff which turned out to be crab, chicken, fish balls all slathered in a chilly sauce. Crunchy, tasty and spicy. Perfect breakfast.

A coffee fuelled me, and we had a walk around the block and saw a really tasty looking rice, holy basil and chicken/pork stand. We must have walked past the spot a few times and missed it, or the opening hours were erratic. The wait of 30mins was worth it, we lost about half a stone dehydrating whilst waiting, and put it straight back on with a huge plate of food, drizzled in Thai chillis. Addictive.

We needed to shop…. two sarongs and a hammock later and we are ready for the islands…..

A siesta and a couple of beers later we have dinner in Joy Luck Club, a eclectic little restaurant who do a sour massumum curry with roti and hard fried salmon with mango Som Tam which is spicy and tasty.

Home to pack, trying to fit everything in without splitting the rucksack.

19.2.2017 Bangkok

A slightly dull head greeted us on opening our eyes. 

We met Paula and Dave for a Chinese brunch, noodles, wontons, and more. It was delicious.

Find farewells were made in a bar and they set off to the airport. It was really sad to see them go, we had looked forward to seeing them so much, although they had ruined our traveller kudos points by having trolley bags and a Vietnamese hat.

We need a holiday to get over it all …..😎

The rest of the day was spent slowly drinking cold shandy, with a pepperoni pizza for lunch and trying to find a beer at a reasonable price on Khao San road. 

With Chinese for breakfast and pizza for lunch, evening food had to be Indian Curry and a Bond film (Spectre) was the evenings entertainment.

18.2.2017 Back in Bangkok

We had both got to sleep just before we were supposed to wake up…..4.30am. We were all awoken to get up, get the beds made back into seats and sit for an hour, trying not to be grumpy about having got up so blooming early.

Once at Hualamphong station (not Humpalong station, as was cited in first edition of this post), we waited half an hour for a 53 bus that never showed, our bus info was clearly out of date.

A tuktuk ride later we were in early morning Banglampoo, again just after the street cleaners, and waiting for someone to check out so we could get into a room.

The plan was to catch up on sleep and then meet Paula and Dave at 3pm. We had some chicken on rice, checked in, showered, tried to sleep, couldn’t manage it. We rearranged to met at 1pm and had a great afternoon catching up and drinking beers, cocktails, whatever came our way.