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Blogging from South Africa

In theory yes...

sunny 37 °C

So I'm going on this 18-day safari in South Africa. The original plan was to blog continually through the trip, telling about what I'm experiensing either using internet cafes or through my phone. That was the plan.

In reality things went a bit different. I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with me when I'm saying SA is a difficult country to blog from, but in my case it's been all but impossible. First of all; any form of GPRS, 3G and WAP does not work with my Norwegian phone company at least. That leaves internet cafes. We've been visiting them once a week. A bit long between each time, but it's ok. I'm on a vacation so I'll live without 2/7 access. The problem in SA these days is that they have acute power shortage and they keep turning off the power in different areas of the countrey at different times so it's impossible to know when there is power or not. Because of that this is the first time I'm able to blog, in the last week of the trip, hence this rant.

Anyway; yesterday me and Asta and Christofe from the group went bungy jumping from the highest bunjy in the world - or so they claim. 216m at Bloukrans; awesome :D This was the first time for all of us and we had a blast!

IMG_1557.jpg

Posted by atle 23:45 Archived in South Africa Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Summary

The rest of the trip

Well, I took my time didn't I? Since I'm leaving for South Africa in less than a week I might as well sum up the rest of my last trip which were one and a half year ago. As I said... it took some time ;)

After the train trip down to the border we had to cross the last bit on foot. Clearing customs didn't take too long, however, finding a taxi we could trust wasn't the easiest thing - and I must say - we failed miserably. Both rough-guides and lonely planet warned us of this bit, but still. The plan was to go to the Perenthian Islands north-east of Malaysia and the only way to get there is by boat. Unfortunately there's two harbors to leave from, one being cheaper and most taxi-drivers taking you to the other one so do you research!

Anyway; after grudgingly deciding that buying a ticket with the more expensive boat still would be cheaper than taking a taxi to the other pier we were on our way in a small speedboat filled to the rim with other back-packers. I don't think you could have squeezed one more person onto the boat and laying dangerously low in the water... interesting.

We managed to get safely to the smaller island called Perenthian Kecil. We discovered that all the accomodations on that side of the island was taken so we walked across to the other side and were rewarded with one free cabin. Good for us :) In spite of a lot of frogs chirping away every night and one account of poisonous snake on our porch we stayed in this tropical paradise for five days relaxing and enjoying the beach. M even managed to do the Padi Advanced Open Water course. Me on the other hand had enough with my book, beach, palm trees and swimming in the crystal clear water. I can really recommend this place and I think there's a real good chance of returning some day :) Just remember; there's no cash machines there so make sure you bring enough money. Power is a scarcity too so it's mostly generators during the nights. You will actually get a cel-signal, but there's like 4 lines out from the island so it may take you some time to get through. You really shouldn't be using your phone in a place like this anyway; just relax and kick back instead :)

Getting back to the main land we took the night bus down to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. We arrived insanely early in the morning, something like four a clock. We then walked the short distance from the bus-station to the nearest subway-station. There I had one of the more bizarre experiences of deja-vu in my life. We were at a totally empty subway station, not a sole in sight, and I had a feeling I had been there before. Had it been in the middle of the day I probably wouldn't have noticed at all, but since the conditions were exact alike I suddenly realized this was the station from the movie Entrapment. Very cool :)

We ended up at a hostel in China town, and I don't know why but we did that in every town we visited that had a China Town... Anyway, we ended up staying in Kuala Lumpur for a while since we were both tired of being on the road and M got a cold so she needed to take it easy for a couple of days. We got to discover the city a bit during that time and visited the Petronas Towers amongst other things.

The original plan was to travel down to Singapore and then go by boat to Indonesia and then go by land until we got to Bali. There had however been a small tsunami hitting the south-west side of Indonesia and that combined with our prolonged stay in Perenthian Kecil and Kuala Lumpur we instead took a day-trip down to Singapore where we stayed the whole day at Sentosa Island which is an artificial island created as an amusement park with beaches and other activities and it's also the southern most point of mainland Asia.

We used the official malaysian bus-company to get both to and from Singapore and while they have both comfortable seats and very reasonable rates I can't understand why they always have to run the air-condition on 110%. Bringing a sleeping bag is highly advisable and make sure you have it stowed in the overhead compartment and not with the rest of your luggage in the trunk ;)

Back in Kuala Lumpur we had plane tickets to Bali booked the same day we came back. Using the internet and booking your own tickets with local air companies is much cheaper than booking through an agency before you leave. Also, we found out the tickets from KL was much cheaper than similar tickets from Singapore.
We took the subway out to the airport, but, of course, ended up at the wrong terminal. After a few hectic moments we found a very helpful taxi driver that got us to the correct terminal in time and at a reasonable fee.

The last part of our trip we spent in Bali shopping cheap knock-offs, relaxing on the beach (or trying to at least) and partying the nights away. I've heard they have banned street vendors at the beach now, but when we were there we were constantly hassled by people trying to sell us stuff we didn't need or want. That said, getting rid of them or trying to say no was interesting enough and if you make a little game of it it's entertaining enough :)

Although Bali is a bit touristy for my taste it was relieving to be able to have week of "western" vacation where we knew what the dishes on the menu amongst other things ;) Next time I'm there I'm probably going to take the time to learn to surf since the conditions for that are excellent.

Leaving Bali we flew to Hong Kong where we had a nine hour stop-over and after some trouble with the plane that made the stop over 6 hours longer we were on our way back to London. Heathrow were a bit of a mess when we arrived. We were told there fire-alarm had been tripped, but it later turned out it had been a bomb-threat and as a result two thirds of the luggage that should have been loaded on our next plane back to Norway didn't make it in time. Thankfully all the passengers made it and the bomb-threat were nothing more than a threat.

We were served real bread as part of the break-fast on the plane back and I must say it were fantastic! I have nothing against Asian food, I'm quite fond of it actually, but I really missed proper bread during this trip. I can't say I've missed anything else at all. All said; an incredible journey and one I have no problem recommending!

Next up; safari in South Africa. Cant wait :)

Posted by atle 06.01.2008 11:25 Archived in Malaysia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Day 32

Myanmar back and forth

all seasons in one day 28 °C

Day 32 - July 15.: The slowboat took us to the mainland without insident and the sea was really calm so we got a good nights sleep.

What we was told afterwards was not so calming though. Apparently this particular ferry sinks one or two times a year. They (the owners I guess) get it to the surface agaian and fix the damage before they put it back to service. I guess I'll stick to the catamaran next time ;)

Since we were taking a VISA-trip to Myanmar (Burma) we were picked up at the docks in Chumpon. The bus-ride crossing Thailand from the east coast to the west coast took us two hours and during the ride the weather changed from sunny to monsoon.

In the little town of Rangoon we got our passports stamped before a 20 minute (or so) boat ride across the river to Myanmar. There we stayed for another 15 miutes while we got our passports stamped again. We didn't even have to leave the boat. In one way that was a bit sad because we originally wanted to stay in Myanmar for a day or two, but that far south it's nothing to see anyway so at least now we can say that we have been there ;) The rain was pouring heavily anyway so we probably wouldn't have seen too much anyway.

There was nothing to be said about the entertainment while we were waiting anyway. A group of local youth's (wow, that makes me feel old ;)) came down to the boat to sell cigarettes and liquor and they kept us well entertained :)

Back in Rangon we got new stamps from the immigration office and then crammed back into the bus for the ride back to Chumpon. We had already baught train-tickets from Chumpon down to Butterworth in Malaysia. That left us to pass the rest of the day exploring the city. We ended up renting a room at a local guest-house so we could take a shower and rest up a bit since the train we were taking didn't leave until 11 in the evening (sleeper train).

Our plan was to go to the Perenthian Island, two small islands on the north-east coast of Malaysia. The only way to get there, our travel agent on Koh Tao told us, was to take the train down to Butterworth (on the west coast) and then bus from there on to Kota Baharu.

At the train station we waited and waited. The train was delayed - no surprise there. We talked to a couple of other back-packers and found out that the best way to get to where we were going was not by Butterworth. Actually the train-tracks splits some distance before you reach the Malaysian border and from there we could take a train going to the east side of Malaysia. The east-going train-line were little known it seems since they too had trouble getting the correct ticket.

When we got on the train we talked to the conductor and double-checked the information about the trains and he also told us that we would arrive at the train-station were the railway split at 7 in the morning.

The sleeper wagons in Thailand are not bad at all, but the trains are not quite as good as those in China. The lower berths are spacious enough for two even thoug I had to lie diagonally since they werent long enough ;) I suspect they ran the train a bit faster than it or the railway were designed for too since it rocked quite hard. A lot of noise too. It still beats taking the bus ;)

Posted by atle 11:49 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Day 31

Last day on Koh Tao

semi-overcast 32 °C

Day 31 - July 14.: A day of mixed feelings. Our last two dives on the course and our last day on Koh Tao before venturing on.

We had to get up real early since we had to be at the dive centre at 6 in the morning. To have a memory of our two last dives a videographer joined us and filmed everything. I prefer being behind a camera instead of the other way around, but still, it was fairly painless ;)

The boat left at seven and it didn't take long before we were in the water at our first dive-site: Hin Peewee. The waves were quite big, but we didn't stay at the surface long and as soon as you get under everything is calm :)

This was our deepes dive to date; 18 meters and the maximum you are allowed to go witha a PADI Open Water Certificate. To be able to go deeper (30m) you have to do "deep dive" which is part of the Advaced Open Water. On this dive we saw trigger fish, angel fish, butterfly fish and rabbit fish amongst others.

Back on the surface the sea was still rough and with the height of the waves I couldn't see the horizon. Without a stable reference point I quickly became really seasick and promptly puked my guts out no less than three times before it was my turn to get up the ladder and into the boat. It took me a bit by surprise since I haven't become seasick before at all.

Having fed the fishes with my breakfast I felt a little better as long as I didn't look down ;) Getting out of the equipment and setting up for another dive without looking down isn't exactly easy so it took it's time and I ended up needing a bit of help in the end.

Our next dive-site was Potteries and fortunately the sea here was a bit calmer. I didn't help much thoug and I puked a couple of times more before it was my turn to try out the compass skills on the surface. Back down on 10 meters things calmed down and we got to see a lot of different fish :)

The visibility was 15 meters, better than the first dive and we saw giant puffer, moray eel, blue spotted stingray as well as titan triggerfish. We even saw a Hawksbill turtle thanks to our videographer. They haven't spotted turtles around Koh Tao for several weeks so we were really lucky! We got really close too since it was hiding behind a rock when we rounded on it :)

After that we joked around in front of the camera doing backflips and such. I kind of new on the forehand, but I didn't care to much so I learned a new skill: puking under water. Not something I had planned to do, but not as bad as one would think either. As long as you take a deep breath first and keep the second stage in the mouth you'll be ok. Don't take out the second stage since the body sucks in air in reflex right after you puke!

Back up on the surface I had to go at it again a couple of times before I got up into the boat. By then there wasn't much left ;)

First stop back on land was a pharmasy to buy seasickness tablets. Then we got something to eat before we joined up with a norewgian couple we med at the dive-boat. They had been diving there for a couple of days and would be staying there a couple more days before travelling home.

We ate our dinner at an excellent italian restaurant. Here they server the best bread yet: home-made. I may have mentioned it earlier, but you just can't get good bread in Asia. Not the way we like it anyway.

At 7 we met up with our dive instructor for a beer, filling out our dive log and most important our temporary dive-licenses :) We also got to see the 20 minute long movie (along with everyone else in the bar ;)) from earlier that morning. Really fun to watch :)

The slowboat (ferry) to the mainland left at 11 in the evening and we got there early enough to find two bunks right next to the captains cabin. We even got to put our luggage in there :)

We also met this old danish guy who lives in Chompon. He were quite drunk I think; talking danish to english speaking people and english to us who understand danish ;)

Posted by atle 12:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Day 30

Koh Tao: Open water

sunny 25 °C

Day 30 - July 13.: This day we had two dives planned. Open Water dive one and two.

The first dive was at "Japanese Gardens" and we didn't practise any new skills here. The whole point with the dive was to get acquainted diving in deeper water and to enjoy ourselves. We went down to 11 meters and stayed there for 43 minutes.

Between the dives we spent the time on the roof of the refitted fishing boat. Sitting on the roof of the boat, relaxing in the sun is really quite nice. We even saw flying fish a couple of times.

Second dive was also at "Japanese Gardens" and this time we spent much of the time praktising different skills like regulator recovery, partial and fully flooded mask, alternate air source etc. We steyed under for 42 minutes and maksimum depth was 9 meters.

Well back on the island we spent the time exploring the little city and we also tried out this excellent Mexican food restaurant. Here we ate Chimichangas (deep fried burritos). Strange that you have to go to Thailand to try out new tex-mex ;)

Posted by atle 11:09 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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