Monday, June 28, 2010

LAOS - Monday 21 June to Sunday 27 June

Monday 21 June - Chiang Mai
Very sore muscles - a day of recuperation, computer work and trudging to the bus station to buy a ticket for tomorrow. You should always buy your tickets from the source. One of the guys had a lower bunk on the train and paid 881 baht - going rate - but the lady in the top bunk which should have been cheaper booked through an agent and paid 1400 baht!!! Back at the guesthouse Tawan gave us a sour mango which you dip in salt. We asked Noi to prepare us three dishes of her choice and we had the most beautiful meal - it was a wonderful evening.

Tuesday 22 June - Chiang Mai to Huay Xia, Laos
We got up at 4.35 and headed about 4km to the bus station - we got there at 6.15 and the bus left at 6.30. It took 6 1/2 hours and was quite a comfortable ride - second class bus with aircon and it was 211 baht each ($7). The scenery was mountainous at first and so green then it went into a valley full of rice paddies and most of the buildings were made of wood. Very picturesque! We arrived at Chiang Khong on the Thai border and walked the 1 1/2 km to Immigration and got stamped out of Thailand, walked down to the river bank and clambered aboard a long skinny boat and crossed the Mekong River to Laos. For our Thailand leg we spent on transport/accommodation/trekking $200/$59/$93 respectively. How much you spend after that is up to you!
The long skinny boat rammed into the mud bank to stop and we clambered off onto a grassy bank. As we headed up to immigration we were called over by a man who sat us down to fill in our visa appliction and etry form. He then proceeded to tell us if we wanted to take the slow boat tomorrow we should put our names on the list to book so they would know whether to put on a big boat or a little boat or maybe we would end up sitting on plastic chairs. Of course you had to pay him the money up front. We declined and proceeded up and there was the real visa and Immigration offices. We couldnt help but think this chap couldnt be operating without collusion from Immigration. Our 30 day visa was US$30 and we were stamped in for a month. We walked along the main drag and found one of the guesthouses we had got of travelfish but fortunately for us it was booked out so we walked further up the road and came to our second choice - the Aramid Guesthouse which comprised lots of rattan bungalows with a lovely garden and verandah at the front of each one. Mr Sing, who has travelled in Australia, was extremely welcoming and very informative. He told us to go directly to the boat tomorrow to buy the ticket, the price of which is set at 200,000 kip by the Government ($29 each that is for 2 days of travel). We looked around the small town. The wat would have been interesting but there were so many steps - I might have been able to get up but I would never have made it down again - muscles in the tops of the legs are painful! We had dinner at Mr Sings and had a beer on our verandah and went to bed. The room was ok - clean, lino a bit shabby but shuttered, netted windows to let the breeze through and a fan. What more could you want - 300 baht ($10).

Wednesday 23 June - Huay Zia to Pak Beng by slow boat
We are a little confused as to which currency to use. They accept US$, baht and their own kip. There is 6,800 kip to AUS$1 or 1 baht = 255 kip. So we changed some more baht into kip as we had to pay for the boat in kip - 400,000! Mrs Sing cooked our breadfast and prepared baquettes for our lunch. We got to the boat early to get a good seat. We had our cushions we had bought at the market in Chiang Mai. We paid, got our tickets and there was only one other couple on the boat at 8.45. The middle of the boat had wooden benches with backs and a table so we grabbed one of these. Up the back they had benches and up the front soft seats but they were internal facing. People started to straggle on and 10am came when the boat was supposed to leave and people were still staggering on at 10.50! Have no idea when they thought it was leaving but it finally left at 11 and we still had both sides of the table to ourselves! The Mekong is a very muddy river - appears to be quite shallow - lots of rocks and sandbanks and rapids. The boats are around 110 ft long and 12 ft wide - steel outer. The river flows fast and there are whirlpools and eddies and rapids around the rocks and the sandbanks. the scenery is so green. We have seen people fishing with nets like huge butterfly nets with two bamboo rods and people sifting in the river - possibly for gems. The boat pulled in to a few villages to drop people off - they fend this huge boat off the rocks with a bamboo pole. One chap had to leap off on to the rocks and the boat reversed straight out. There are not a lot of villages and it is very isolated, the rocks are very slatey. We arrived at Pak Beng around 5pm. We pulled in between other long boats and Peter and Ben jumped off and headed up into the village to secure our accommodation. Mr Sing had recommeded we stay at Mosnsavhan with Mr. Tip. I got Peter's and my bag. We had to jump off onto rocks and up a steep rock slope to the road. It was pretty dicey. The town was spread out along one long road and our lovely, spacious clean modern room was just up from the boats and across from the restaurants (200 baht - $7). did I mention that they drive on the right in Laos. There was no footpath. We dumped our bags and went for a walk along the road. The people were very friendly and one family had a tiny baby monkey and let us take photos of it. Back to our room for a shower - didnt know how to turn the hot water off so had a hot shower! Went across the road to the Indian restaurant with a lovely view of the Mekong but the food was a bit bland. Lovely night's sleep.

Thursday 24 June - Pak Beng to Luang Prabang
Had breakfast on the verandah watching the village wake and people coming back from the morning market. Mr Tip prepared a baguette for our lunch and we went to the boat early to get a good seat. But it was a different boat and it was bench seats with a plank back - bit of a difference from yesterday but up the back were four sets of padded seats like arline seats so we snaffled those. Ben and Joanna got one and the next two lots of people then the rest had the benches. Quite a few people went forward and sat on the floor and others found comfort on the large bags of rice! The jungle passing by was very thick. There were a few villages - rattan walls. Then we passed a backhoe up the side of a mountain and he waved the arm of the backhoe wwas waving at us!! Such a kak! We couldnt believe we were going down the Mekong - who would have thought it!! Steep mountains where crops are planted. We saw three elephants just getting out of the river and goats and buffalo and cows. The buffalo are either dark or a kind of pinky white. Didnt see any other wildlife or birdlife. We arrived at 5.30 and walked across a gangplank and up a road behind the King's Palace. We didnt find the guesthouse we were looking for but found one mentioned in the Lonely Planet so went there. We walked up the alleyway through the market and had a meal there and then went to the walking street where all sorts of ethnic and other things were on sale. Hard to resist but we did.

Friday 25 June - Luang Prabang
Did a walking tour of the town which has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. I'm not sure it deserves the tag but it was a nice enough town. We walked up to the top of Pu Si via steps. it was a lovely walk though it cost 20,000 kip ($2.90) each to go. There were lots of buddhas and even Buddha's footprint (going on the footprint he was rather huge). Then we went to the Palace and that cost 30,000 kip each ($4.41). By Australian standards that is cheap - the cost of a meat pie but by Lao standards it is expensive - two meat pies equals a night's accommodation!! The King and his family in 19777 were sent to labour in the fields and it is believed they probably died of malaria and malnutrition. In the palace there were lots of gifts from countries around the world including Australia dating around 1968. Laos it turns out was the most bombed country in the whole Vietnam war. The Ho Chi Minh trail whence Vietnam's supplies came ran down Laos so the US totally bombed it and many villages and towns were apparently wiped off the map. There's also interesting reading about the US and the 'Secret Army' but I will leave you to research that if you are interested. We walked all around the town then ate at the market and walked the street market again.

Saturday 26 June - Luang Prabang
We decided to hire push bikes to go a bit further afield and when we got them I thought my brakes were a bit dodgy and took a while to grip but foolishly I thought it would be ok. we rode out to the bus station and booked our seats on the express bus, not the VIP bus and the ticket seller assured us we had good seats - we were seats 1 and 2 as no one else had booked. We rode around, went up to what we thought was a wat but turned out be be their crematorium so we made a hasty exit, rode out of town and through a village on rough dirt roads trying to find the river, then rode back the way we came. Saw a cement fence which was made with donations from Australia and the US. We went in and the hill was quite steep so walked up and came to a gold Stupa which apparently is the only one of its kind in the world as you can go in it and it has seven stories. We didnt get in as it was closed for lunch but we did sit and talk to the young monk (he was 25) and his younger novice (15). It was very interesting and we talked for about half an hour. then we went to ride down the hill which as I said was very steep. My brakes immediately failed and the bike was increasing in speed alarmingly. The split second decision was get off so I tried to drop the bike and next thing I knew I was upside down flat on my back on the cement with a very anxious Peter kneeling over me. Managed to hold my head up so I didnt crack my skull - yep no helmets!! Anyway, I had a few bits of skin off and am a bit sore but ok. Fortunately I had my western shorts and trekking shirt on (not the thin stuff from here). Given the terrain and circumstances I was extremely lucky (I thought of you at the time Jean!!). We went back to the guesthouse had a quiet lay down then swapped the bike and went off again to finish our ride. There is another small river which runs through town and it is extremely picturesque. The French influence is evident in a lot of the buildings and they make very good baguettes!

Sunday 27 June - Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
We caught a tuk tuk to the bus station at 7am. The bus turned out to be both express (95,000 kip ($14 each) and VIP (125,000 kip with a lunch and a water bottle). We had the front seat upstairs above the driver with the huge window in front of us - fantastic view!! It is drive on the right here so we were sitting on the left - middle of the road - we did dodge the trucks a couple of times!! The countryside is amazing - total mountains, green jungle, a few villages perched along the road but not too many. The fronts of the houses are on the flat and the backs on stilts. We were all given barf bags and quite a few of the locals used them. It was a very windy road - lots of hair pin bends so it was quite a slow trip. It took seven hours. At one point when we came to a bit of straight road the bus stopped and everyone got off the bus and disappeared into the bushes to go to the loo! Aftter a few hours the terrain turned to valleys with lots of rice paddies - very labour intensive. Everything is so beautifully green and the countryside is amazing. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip. We took a tuk tuk to town and walked around to find a guest house. Ended up at a room which overlooks the river - about 6m up and has a lovely verandah. The room is very ordinary and there is an island just across the river which wasnt there five years ago - it was made by the build up of silt plus a little help from the locals and now it is the nightclub island. so the beat and noise from the bars was pretty loud!! Apparently there is also a pizza place here which serves up happy mushrooms - heard a young welsh lad last night saying he was high for six hours!! to each their own! The photo in the Lonely Planet shows our view without the island so its pretty incredible. Had a pretty crappy dinner - apart from the baguettes we havent found any good Lao food.

Monday 28 June - Vang Vieng
Happy Anniversary to us - 35 years!! Charlie is two weeks old
Well we didnt sleep too badly despite the noise from the island. It poured rain all night. Watched a fisherman upstream with a net at the end of some bamboo poles standing in the river fishing. We were going to do the tubing today but the river is so brown and dirty that we didnt do it. We are currently considering a change in our plans but will let you know more next week.

Take care all and happy trails


Dell and Peter

Monday, June 21, 2010

OVERLAND TRIP 12 June- 21 June - Rebak Marina to Chiang Mai

Saturday 12 June - Rebak - Alor Setar Malaysia
We left extremely early - caught the 7.30am ferry from Rebak to Langkawi Island. The sea otters put on a little display before we left. We had prebooked a taxi and it was waiting for us to take us the 20 mins to Kuah Jetty. We arrived at 8.05am and the ferry to Kuala Kedah left at 8.30. We managed to catch it and had seats right up the back but at least they were on the aisle. It is quite claustrophobic to sit near the windows as they are at eye level and in this case were painted so you couldnt see out. We snuck out the back door where the smokers stand and found some stairs up to the top. There were no cushions on the stainless steel bar seats and it was windy up there but it was a beautiful day and we could see everything so we stayed up there for the 1 1/4 hr journey. At Kuala Kedah we caught a local bus about 20 mins to Alor Setar where we located the train station and collected our tickets which I had booked on the internet a few days previous. We wandered around the town - a man there told me he didnt like Brisbane as it was too hot (we were melting!) - had lunch at a local eatery and went back to the station around 2.30 when there was a rainfall which cooled the incessant heat. The train came in at 4.50pm. We wondered if it was the right one as we were in carriage 10 but there were only two carriages - the second carriage was number 10! There were 3 girls sitting on my side and two lads on Peter's side and I wondered how we were all goint to fit in the beds! The 3 girls moved - they had just been looking for unoccupied space and the lads got off a few stations down the track. The train stopped at the border and we all got off to check out of Malaysia and into Thailand. We learnt that you dont leave any blanks on the entry form! We had to put an address in Thailand and as we hadnt booked anywhere we left it blank - No! In the end we wrote guesthouses and that kept Immigration happy enough to give us a 15 day visa. They came round and put the beds down around 9pm. Peter had one bottom bed and I had the other across the aisle. The bottom bunks are wider than the top ones and obviously easier to get into and have a beautiful big window with curtains. Each bunk has its own curtain so it is pretty private Slept quite well and the train is rather soothing.

Sunday 13 June - Alor Setar - Kanchanaburi
Awoke at 6.30 to some wonderful views going past. The bed was really comfortable and the whole train is extremely clean, plenty of space and an all round lovely experience. This is a second class train. Had a text from Amy that contractions had started and it is the 13th. Jessie was born on the 13th (July).

ITS A GIRL!!! - Charlie Ruby Black was born at 11.06am weighing in at 8 lb 9 oz and is as fair as Jessie was dark. She is absolutely beautiful. Family all well. Congratulations Amy, Pete and Jessie!

We arrived at Nakhon Pathom at around 9.30am - the conductor came to tell us it was our stop - just one stop short of Bangkok. We went to look at the huge pagoda in the middle of the town and walked through the grounds and came out the other side to wait for the bus. The lady at the stall there was very helpful and told us we had to catch a No. 81. It was a two hour trip to Kanchanaburi and the bus was quite pleasant - local bus with open windows. We arrived about 1.15 and found the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) and got a coloured map then we humped our packs a couple of kms to where all the guest houses are. We had kind of chosen one on so went to check out the Green View Guest House. It was off the main drag about 250m up a lane with lovely gardens - a lovely bar/restaurant - not really used. We found a lady there named Glam who didnt speak English and asked to see the room. We chose a fan room as we like to have fresh air. The room was basic - holes in the lino but the toilet and bathroom were clean so we took it. The bed was like a brick - no give whatsoever but very good for Peter's back - not so great for Dell but the room was 250 baht a night ($9). We walked down the lane and went to a lovely little restaurant and had the best meal!

Monday 14 June - Kanchanaburi
Had a bit of a late start and wentto the Bridge over the River Kwai and walked across it. Apparently the River wasnt always called Kwai but when the movie came out and people wanted to see the Bridge over the River Kwai they just changed the name of the river!! Then we went to the War Museum and then to the War Cemetery which as always is so very well kept by the Cwlth War Graves Commission. Its all too sad to walk all the way through so made it a quick visit and headed to the train and bus stations to get info for travelling on. The day wore on and we didnt make it to the two other places we wanted to go to. In retrospect we should have hired a scooter but it is a learning experience. We ate at our little restaurant again and learnt that Australia had been womped by Germany in the soccer. We thought of you Brett!!! Had a couple of beers with Glam then had an early night.

Tuesday 15 June - Kanchanaburi
We wanted to catch the 5.57am train to Nam Tok so we got up at 4.20am and were at the station by 5.20. We were the only ones there. There were three carriages on a track further over with no engine. A huge family came running in at 6am and got on to the three carriages. So we got on too. About 6.20 the train came in and then backed up and picked up our carriages and off we went. The seats were wooden and all the windows were wide open and hardly anyone else in the carriage so we were able to run from side to side to see the view. This part of the track is part of the Thai-Burma railway (Death railway) built at great human cost during the second world war. It ran along the river for a bit and over a viaduct and the view was lovely. Just as we were coming in to Nam Tok we saw an elephant. We then jumped into the back of a troop carrier ute and were taken to the main road. There was an a/c bus there so we tried to buy a ticket but were told that we would have to catch an orange one so the lady sold us a ticket for 100 baht and we went across the road to see the waterfall and when we came back the lady said we were supposed to be on the a/c bus and gave us our money back and sent us off to find a red bus. We had to stop on the way where the bus went through a checkpoint and all the Asians had to show ID - this is the road to Burma. This is a local fan bus which has all the windows open and cost 50 baht! The conductress told us where to get off and we walked through a military gate towards the Hellfire Pass museum at 10.30am. This was set up by the Australian Government and consists of the museum and the 4km walk. The railway between Nam Tok and Burma was ripped up but they have made 4km of it into a walking track. The viaducts are gone so it was a bit uppy and downy and rough in places and we only saw one snake!! A bit about the railway. It was 415km long and took 20 mths to build through jungle and mountains. The Bridge over the River Kwai was just one of over 400 wooden/steel bridges/viaducts built along this track. Every part of it was built by hand - 60,000 allies and 270,000 Asian labourers. Every rock carried up 7m in some cases to form an embankment was carried by hand. Passes had to be dynamited out. The men worked in extreme heat and in the monsoon rain all day and everything mud. We walked the 4km track (8km return) and the stones were very sharp - the men working on this railway had no shoes - they had rotted. We had excellent audio headphones to walk the track which explained events etc and they gave us a walkie talkie so they could make sure we were ok! It was all free. 12,399 allies and around 90,000 Asians died in the making of this railroad. It is hard to believe any of them survived given the conditions, lack of food, illness - every tropical disease you could think of, mosquitoes, lice, bedbugs and the absolute cruelty they were subjected to. It was a very humbling experience to walk in their footsteps. It is an excellent memorial. It would be a very moving place to spend Anzac Day. We walked back to the road and just missed a bus at 2pm. Caught the next one at 3.15 (they run half hourly!)

Wednesday 16 June - Kanchanaburi - on the train
Happy Birthday Suzanne
Caught the 7.30 local train to Bangkok. Local people jump on the buses and trains to sell food. They had chicken and curry in little bowls made of plaited banana leaves. Railway men have little red and green flags on the platform and all wear very military looking uniforms. We arrived at Thonburi station around 10.30 and caught a taxi to the main railway station. We had no trouble getting our sleeper train ticket - 881 baht each ($30). A girl took us to what was purported to be the TAT and wanted to sell us all sorts of 'good deals' We knew she was on the take but found out later that she was not the TAT. Walked around but could only find ironmongery shops so sat in the station for a while. Found a restaurant across the road that sold a litre of beer for 120 baht ($4) so whiled the time away till the train left at 6.10pm.

Thursday 17 June - on train - Chiang Mai
Slept quite well on the train and the terrain has gotten hilly though it is very dry. Arrived at Chiang Mai at 7.45am and walked 2km to town. Thought we were in the old town and were looking for a guest house we saw on the internet when we turned up a little laneway that looked promising. There were a few guest houses including the Tawan which had gorgeous gardens and advertised 100 - 250 baht. We asked what 250 baht would buy and Mai showed us a lovely little room with fan, bathroom and tv done up like a bamboo cabin on the outside and it was certainly full of character so we were sold. A 100 baht room would buy a single bedroom, with no facilities. Walked all around thinking we were in the old town and Peter was having trouble working out where we were on the map. Stopped at a few Wats then went for lunch at a lovely Chinese man's eatery - he had greeted us earlier in the day. They put the hose on the roof to cool the place down and all the water had gathered in a plastic awning which suddenly gave way and soaked us! The Chinaman though it was extremely funny and it did cool us down - in fact I think I will wet my hat in future as it cools the body! Anyway he felt bad so ran next door and grabbed us a decent map and we finally worked out where we were. Went to the TAT and got good info. Peter lost a second filling! We walked to the old town and found the guest house we had been heading for and we were so pleased we stayed where we did. Came back to our guesthouse and the owner - Tawan - was watering the gardens. I cant describe to you what an oasis it is in a busy city! Its just beautiful. Had dinner here - three lovely courses between us for $4.30 then Peter went to the dentist just down the end of the lane and had a tooth pulled and a temporary filling put in all for around $65. I sat in the garden enjoying the ambience!

Friday 18 June - Chiang Mai
Walked to the local market and bought a shirt and what we thought was a sausage on a stick but it was a rice sausage - very tasty! We walked halfway around the old town which has a moat all the way around and then cut through and looked at a lot of Wats. Met a young Thai who said he lives in Sydney and works in the ANZ bank. He wanted to take us for a drive to meet his paretns but we declined. Saw the ruins of the oldest Wat. Generally just a day of sight seeing and preparing for our trek tomorrow. We have chosen the two day, one night one for 1,400 baht pp ($47 each).

Saturday 19 June - Chiang Mai - Lahu Hill Tribe
We were picked up at 9.30am and got in a troop carrier with five people already in and then we collected another five people so we were packed in like sardines. We drove to a local market where the guide purchased food for our meals and then we were off to the one hour elephant ride. There were seats for two people with a mahout on each elephant. It was a fantastic experience once we realised that they actually are very sure footed and not likely to roll down the slope with us attached! We went up and down some steep slopes and down to the river so they could have a drink. When we got back our lunch was awaiting us and then we started on our trek. The trek was to the Lahu Hill tribe - hill being the operative word but as the day progressed it became abundently clear that these people did not live on a hill but on a very high mountain!!! Our guide was very informative and showed us a leaf which is used in the dying of clothes. Our group comprised two Danish girls, one English girl (working in Aus), one Italian bloke, a young Canadian couple, two German girls, a Mexican bloke and a slightly older Thai man. The walk commenced pleasantly enough and we were all enjoying the countryside and a small waterfall. Then it started going up and up and up relentlessly. It was the hardest walk I have ever been on. I had walking poles but we decided we probably wouldnt need them - big mistake. Peter reminded me of our inspirational couple Lou and Ann off Serannity who are in their 70's. That helped for a little while but my legs had turned to jelly. One of the German girls declared herself an asthmatic (she wasnt), one asked me if child birth was this bad (I actually had to think about that one!) and the English girl was also struggling. Peter had to give me a shove a couple of times as my legs just wouldnt carry me. We finally made it to the 1,100m to our bamboo thatched hut where we all collapsed on the verandah - I wasnt the last one up by the way! The ridiculous thing about it was that all the way up we were walking past planted wild rice and maize. These people work these incredibly steep slopes and go up and down all day! After a little bit of recovery time we all had a cold shower and started to meld as a group. Terrible experiences do bring you closer together!!! Our hut comprised a sleeping room - dormitary - with mattresses on the floor, another room with a fire in the middle of the floor which was where we sat on the floor and had the most lovely meal prepared by our guide. To the other side of this room was a small bedroom and kitchen. The view up there was totally amazing and we began to appreciate our surroundings. Had a wonderful evening with one of the guides entertaining us with his guitar and singing. Slept really well till early morning when the Thai and the Italian's snoring woke me up!!

Sunday 20 June - Lahu Hill Tribe - Chiang Mai
We awoke at 6 and 6.30 and had one of the four pineapples Tawan insisted we bring. The Thai guy also got up early but the young ones slept till they were woken for breakfast at 8am. Meanwhile we had gone for a walk through the village. One lady came out of the tiniest hut - clothes all clean and tidy looking as though they had just been ironed. There is no electricity and everything is by candlelight. A chang beer can with a candle and the ends cut off a plastic bottle make great candle holders! Four of our group were doing the three day trek so eight of us set off down with a different guide who wasnt quite so aware of the stragglers out the back. One thing about stragglers is that the leaders stop to wait so get a rest but by the time the stragglers catch up they are ready to move on so the stragglers dont actually get a break!!! Peter cut me and the German girl a long bamboo pole which helped immensely in getting down. Of course it was as steep down as it was to get up (different path) so down down down we went till we came to a waterfall. The others all had a dip under the waterfall, Peter had a paddle and I dipped my feet till I got stung by two bees - one on each arm at the same spot - talk about collusion!!! We set off again on quite a pleasant walk (much like we had all imagined the trek would be!) until we came to the river. The water wasnt very high but we got in the big blow up boats with the two Danish girls and a guide out the back and off we went. It was so much fun. We were going over rocks and bumping into rocks - all diving to the left and jumping up and down to get it off and then the command 'on the job' and off we go again. Went down backwards over a few rapids. Then the other boat caught up with us and there was a bit of splashing etc. Came to the bamboo rafts so the three of us girls piled on. They are about 8m long and 1 1/2m wide and Peter was at the front poling us down the placid part of the river. Only problem was the raft didnt exactly float and we were sitting in 6 - 8 inches of water! It was so funny. We had a bit of a shower, changed and had lunch then they piled 14 of us into a slightly bigger troop carrier - sardines again and drove about two hours back to our guest house where we were given our old room back. We had left our stuff in a storeroom here. All in all it was a fantastic experience. Peter absolutely loved it. I think I would have been better on a one day trek but I am so pleased I did it. Would I do it again - at this stage no, but the mind is a funny thing and we will look back and think what a wonderful time we had!! No it was a fantastic experience! At 6pm we headed for the walking street (only half a block from our guest house) for the Sunday night markets. They close off the entire street (and others) in the old part of town. Everything was half price and less than the prices we paid in Phuket (especially the gypsy village Debbie) so if you are into shopping it is worth coming here just for the market. Unfortunately, we are on a budget and weight limit but I would definitely come back just for the market.

Monday 21 June - Chiang Mai
Very sore muscles!!! A day of recuperation, computer work and working out the bus to take towards Laos tomorrow. The border crossing is in the golden triangle. We have had a fantastic time so far. We have walked more in the last few days than we have in the last twelve months! I think a nice massage this evening will go down a treat.

Hope you are all in good health. Miss you all. To Rosie, we will be home to see you soon. And we really really look forward to seeing our two granchildren.

Much love

Happy wandering

Dell and Peter

Friday, June 11, 2010

WEEK 18: 5 June – 11 June - Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia

Congratulations to Patrick and Dianne on the birth of their first grandchild!

Got the word that our nephew Jeremy was stuck in Kuala Lumpar with passport problems and were hopeful that he might make it to visit us but unfortunately Immigration had other plans and he was unable to come. Peter started antifouling the boat as soon as it dried off. We antifouled, ate at the restaurant, had a few storms and on Sunday it was pretty windy but at 9.30 up we went in the travel lift and in we went. Wasn’t too bad as we went in frontwards and Dell released the lines and off we went. A staff member and Peter off Two Up helped with our lines. Saw the otters just before we put the boat back in the water. One actually jumped out and stood on a wall right in front of us – didn’t have the camera!! By 11am it was blowing like mad and raining and a huge storm came in that evening so we were pleased to be back in the water. Two Up got hit by lightning in Telaga the day after Anzac day. They had 6 small holes in the hull and it destroyed all their electrics and electronics. So they are working on fixing it. Had a couple of rainy days and a couple of days when we went to the lovely resort pool. Kristie and Cilantro came into the marina for two days. Last night, coming back from dinner, we saw a long skinny tree snake on the path.

Well our backpacks are packed and we are booked on the sleeper train for tomorrow. We catch the resort ferry, then a taxi, then a big ferry to Kuala Kedah on the Malaysian mainland, then local bus to Alor Star then the train to Thailand.

Future blogs will be done from internet cafes so may be a while in coming but we will try really hard to stay in touch. Still anxiously awaiting second grandchild!!!!!

Best wishes and may you always have a foot under your keel! (thats good Fritz!!!)

Dell and Peter

Saturday, June 5, 2010

WEEK 17: 29 May – 4 June – Singa Besar to Rebak Marina

DAY 113 – Saturday 29 May – Singa Besar, Langkawi, Malaysia
Happy Birthday Bill – sorry we missed it – hope you had a wonderful day
It was such a lovely place we decided to stay a day. Went to shore in the afternoon. There was an awful lot of rubbish on the beach and there obviously used to be facilities but they were all in ruin. We could see some monkeys and there was supposed to be a walk right across the island. We went through some muddy bits in our thongs – got stuck a few times! Walked along a bush track till we came to a gate and a wall and there was a billabong and saw a huge water monitor. Peter saw another one crashing through the bush. Apparently there are supposed to be deer and pigs there as well but we didn’t see any. The track didn’t seem to go anywhere after that so we went back to the boat for a lovely sunset.

DAY 115 – Sunday 30 May – Singa Besar to Kuah
We left at 8am and motored to Kuah dodging a few nets. We arrived about 10 and there was Kristie so we anchored beside them. We went to shore to check into Malaysia. We then did some shopping and back to the boat. Kristie called by about 3 and came aboard and at 6 we went ashore to the Indian restaurant and had a lovely meal.
Miles: 9 Total: 6,837

DAY 115 – Monday 31 May – Kuah
Went to shore to buy some backpacks. Started to pour rain about 11 and even though we had umbrellas we got soaked and our shoes got soaked. Took ages to find a backpack each. Each one seemed to have one thing missing so it was a bit of a compromise in the end. We bought the antifoul for the boat and took it all back. Got a text that Cilantro was on the way down. Dell went for a haircut and Peter went to buy some fresh fruit and then Cilantro came in so we adjourned to Kristie for a chatchup and sundowners and then we and Cilantro went ashore for dinner. We went to the Asian restaurant across the road which we had heard good things about and the meal was lovely.

DAY 116 – Tuesday 1 June – Kuah to Rebak Marina
Left at 7.30 and motored to Telaga to get some diesel. We could see storms threatening all around and rain was heading towards Telaga. We were there at 11.30 with a slight sprinkle of rain. When we left at 12.30 and looked back it was raining quite heavily. Had a bit of a sail on the way to Rebak. Called in and were allocated a berth and by 2pm we were in and tied up. Greg from Wind Chimes came to help with our lines and there is always a marina worker to help as well so it is not so stressful! We had a real shower then went to the restaurant for dinner. But the menu had changed. We were informed by another yachtie that it was a huge improvement but we didn’t thinks so. It is more expensive and mostly western meals – only a few Malaysian dishes
Miles: 25 Total: 6,842

We will be here now for three months at least so there will be no more sailing news for a while.

DAY 117 – Wednesday 2 June – Rebak Marina
Happy Birthday Judy
A day of catching up with chores – heaps of washing, accepting quote from Mr Samaran, getting electricity put on at home, cleaning and stowing Zed. Peter saw five large otters when he came back from the shower. We have heaps of food in the fridge and freezer we have to use up so we ate on board.

DAY 118 – Thursday 3 June – on the hard - Rebak Marina
Saw a boat hauled out of the water yesterday and the woman was so stressed and shaking and Dell though that’s how I get so told Peter to get someone else to do it! We were supposed to get hauled out at 9.30 but at 9 it poured down rain so they called us on the radio and said 10am. Greg from Wind Chimes came round to help so Dell stayed on shore to hold the line to keep the bow in then off they went. Peter had to reverse in then they threw them lines to hold the boat steady. They send a diver down to make sure that the straps are in the right place. He just has goggles and flippers. They washed off the bottom of the boat and removed the barnacles and had us on the hard by 12.30. We spent the afternoon scraping and cleaning and chatting to other people on the hard. The monkeys came down in the late afternoon and we watched two climb the ladder on to a boat and have a look around and climb down again. For the first time we closed our boat down against intruders – not people – monkeys!!! Ate at the restaurant with beach House and it was a lovely night.

DAY 119 – Friday 4 June – on the hard - Rebak Marina
Happy Birthday Jean E
We got up reasonably early and commenced cleaning the boat and scraping and washing etc in preparation for painting. One of the chaps in a boat on the side near the jungle awoke to a monkey tail hanging through the hatch above his bed! Luckily we are on the water side of the hard. We ate at the restaurant with a few other cruisers and met Rick off Hard Yakka. Dell actually has printed stuff off his blog on land travel so its interesting to meet people who have given us helpful information. During the day Dell watched the monkeys come down at lunch time into the bin and one big one went into the workmen’s place and got on top of the cupboard trying to open it and then got down in front of it and tried to open it but luckily it was padlocked. A storm came up through the night and it rained solidly all night.

Finally up to date with this!! Hope you are all well. Still anxiously awaiting baby news!!

Best wishes

Dell and Peter

WEEK 16: 22 May – 28 May –Phi Phi Don to Singa Besar, Langkawi

DAY 106 Saturday 22 May –Phi Phi Don to Ko Ngai
07°24.561N 99°12.927E
Departed Phi Phi Don at 8.15 in the rain. Noticed Whitby Lass nearby so motored over to say hullo. They were just heading up to Thailand. We had a little bit of wind at first and then of course on the nose! The swell was 1 – 1 ½ metres and we had forgotten what those conditions are like and we reflected on how lucky we all were with the weather when Debbie and Phil were here. It was overcast all day and because of the swell Koh Lanta wasn’t an option so kept going. Ko Muk would not have been any good either – that’s where we went for the Emerald Cave with Debbie and Phil so we pulled around behind Koh Ngai and anchored quite a distance from the beach in 11m. It is a beautiful beach with a few discrete resorts and lots of palm trees – very pretty and more importantly – no swell! Still a bit overcast but a lovely evening. Watched a longtail put out a net which went for at least a mile. Quiet evening watching the lights on the shore.
Miles: 34 Total: 6,765

DAY 107 – Sunday 23 May – Koh Ngai
Woke to a beautiful day so decided to stay. Went to shore and went on a long walk along the beach and Peter cleaned the barnacles off Zed. There are a few resorts along the beach. The two furtherst ones were closed and under repair. One good looking one looked as though it just had caretakers and the pool was green. Three of the resorts were open. We went for a swim – the sand was really white and it was a gorgeous spot. Watched the lights again in the evening. We decided the view was better from the boat than it would be from the shore. Another lovely calm night.

DAY 108 – Monday 24 May – Koh Ngai – Tarutao
06°42.520N 99°40.156E
Left at 7am for a very long day of motoring. It was very hot – the sea just a touch swelly but otherwise a lovely day. Peter read and did watch and Dell did logistics puzzles (a little bit hooked!). We came into an anchorage that Peter had chosen at 5.15 at the northern end of Tarutao. There were a lot of small fishing boats on the shore and a big cave where they stored their gear and crabpots. A really lovely calm spot.
Miles: 51 Total: 6,816

DAY 109 – Tuesday 25 May - Tarutao to Ko Lippe
06°29.634N 99°17.743E
We left at 8.15 and grabbed a large buoy off Koh Lippe in the Butangs at 2.20. It was a beautiful day and we could see the beautiful aqua water over the lovely white sand. We went up the channel and I phoned Margaret to see where the little bar they visited was then Henry off the other boat came by and invited us into the bar but we were quite comfortable and stayed on the boat. He told us we had to follow a channel through the reef to get in but as it was getting late we elected not to go. It got quite windy through the night.
Miles: 31 Total: 6,796

DAY 110 – Wednesday 26 May – Ko Lippe
There was a huge swell coming through and it was windy so we couldn’t get off the boat. Thought of leaving but haven’t visited the bar yet!!

DAY 111 – Thursday 27 May – Ko Lippe
Went for a snorkel at 10.30 – the coral was quite good – beautiful yellow and blue hard coral. We snorkelled to the beach and went ashore. There were a lot of people there and it was a bit embarrassing but then a lovely young lady named Emily came down and welcomed us and got us a plate and told us to help ourselves to food. Emily is American and her partner Tom is Thai and they had built four cabins and a bar and were having an end of season party to celebrate their first season of being open. We had green curry and noodles and barbequed wild boar. Emily’s friend Fawny (American) and another American backpacker named Bjorn were there and all the rest were Thais. We left after a couple of hours and had another snorkel though visibility wasn’t great. At 4.30 we went back in and Henry did too and had another free meal. Sat and talked to Emily and the lovely Thai ladies who were related to Tom and had come over from the mainland to prepare the food. Had a lovely evening, then back to the boat.

DAY 112 – Friday – 28 May – Ko Lippe to Singa Besar, Langkawi
06°13.725N 99°44.743E
Went to shore at 9am as we were supposed to meet Henry but he was late so we went for a walk around the island. The vegetation reminded us of New Guinea. Then we came to the walking road which is where all the little tourist shops, restaurants and resorts are – laid back resorts, not flash. It seems to be pretty much closed down for the low season but we would like to come back in the high season. We think it would be a lot of fun and a pretty swinging place! Got back and said farewell to Emily and Fawny and headed off at 10.30. We had been hoping to catch up with Cilantro and Kristie but wouldn’t have made it in time so headed towards Kuah. Motored all the way. The sea was swelly and we pulled in behind an island about 2 hours short of Kuah. It was a lovely spot.
Miles: 32 Total: 6,828

Love and Cheers

Dell and Peter