A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: James R

Ko Phangan - Thailand

get yer moooon on..

sunny

We left Phi-Phi on a smaller boat than the one we arrived on. It was full of people all basking in the sun out on the top deck nearly all of which were headed for the Islands on the East coast. The trip from phi phi to Phangan took a little longer than we originally estimated. In the tour shop it said “arrive Phangan 5:30pm” this however turned out to be “arrive Phangan 10:30pm” grrr. After the first boat trip we had to wait around for about 45 min to get on a bus to bring us to a bigger bus that proceeded to drive at a top speed of 40km per hour. The roads are excellent and there isnt that much traffic on them at all, but the buses still drive very very slow (Everyone drives slower than Vietnamese drivers).

So from the big bus to a lunch stop for some tasty noodle soup and an hour wait, then another bus to the port - another hour wait. Finally we boarded a car Ferry at dusk and headed off on the 4 hour 2 knots an hour journey to Phangan. We kept our spirits up with a nice cold chang beer and the backpacker’s trusty friend… Mr Super Noodle.

Since we were arriving kinda late, we didn’t want to have to go looking around for accommodation. So we booked a bungalow near the port area for the night. The place was new and quite nice, but WAY to far away from all the full moon party action the far eastern side - “Had Rin” Beach. We got up early the next morning, checked out and left our bags in the overnight place to go searching for some accommodation near Had Rin.

We jumped in the back of a local taxi and headed for had rin, keeping our eyes pealed for names of resorts we (Lisa) had been looking at online. All the places we had read about were a few miles away from Had Rin and up REALLY steep hills. We rented a moped in Had Rin and drove about the place looking for a bungalow with a nice beach view and not to far away from the centre. This proved to be very difficult, and after a lot of looking on the southern part of the island we decided Had Rins beach (sunrise beach, on the East side) was the one for us. With lots of nice white sand and being right beside everything, we would put up with the loud party town reputation it has and stay there.

On the quiet end of the beach we noticed some bungalows on the small hillside overlooking the beach and the sea. Ten minutes later we had paid the (so-so interested
) lady of Moutiainside Bungalows for our first night of many we would stay in our little tropical bungalow. It reminded us a lot of the one in Koh Tao, but with less places for woogies to crawl in at night. Plus it had a great view of the whole beach, all the bars and importantly the sea. It was also only 350baht a night and meant we wouldn’t have to rent a moped to get anywhere. It took us two runs, some sunburnt arms and all the petrol we had put in the bike that morning to get our bags over to our new bungalow.

We spent the next week exploring Had Rins shops and restaurants and lazing about on the beach during the day. It’s a nice little town with lots of restaurants showing movies all day and a couple of cafes (which we became fond of) exclusively playing friends episodes every minute of the day and night. The weather was gorgeous most days with the occasional shower that lasts for a few minutes and then out comes the sun again. We even bought a big yellow hammock for our balcony to lie in and read Jeffrey Deaver books in. After Wordsworth (AKA Lisa) seen the secondhand bookstore, shes been going through Jeffrey Deaver novels like a fat kid goes through cake. Now she has me obsessed with them, they are a good read tho. Like CSI on the TV, but without all the slow motion boob shots. Anyway what else we get up to, I got my phone fixed for a tenner so we could finally get some texts again. We drank more lovely Thai Whiskey and beer, bought some pirated DVD’s and bummed about til the full moon party.

Everynight running up to the party we contemplated whhyyy did we pick this beach to stay in as we tried to get some sleep. At about 12am each night, all the beach bars/clubs lash up the volume of their speakers trying to outdo eah other. We kinda got used to it tho and some tissue in the ears worked a treat.

The day before the full moon party I felt like shit, must have gotten a bug or the flu… but I was not in good form. Luckily the evening of the party I felt better and was able to help Lisa drink some buckets!!! The party was well organised with about 6 areas playing music. One place near us, a big place on the beach erected especially for the party, the usual bars on the beach further down and finally at the end of the beach the original party organisers at paradise bungalows also playing music.

Come 11pm the place was packed with loads of drunken people all over the beach with lots of fleurecsent paint on them. Their was a good atmosphere about the place and occasionally we heard one of two good tracks in diff places but all in all the music as we much expected left a lot to be desired. Then again I suppose we are a copule of music snobs, whereas everyone else there just wanted to get out of it and dance to something familiar, or just really fast and loud and maybe jump through the odd hoop of fire. The party went on until about 8am the next morning with speedboats constantly picking up and dropping off partygoers from Ko Samui nearby. I think we stumbled home around 3ish Lisa donning some lilluminous glasses and a half drunk bucket of whiskey.

The next morning our water wasn’t working and the Aussie girl next door told us they had seen some guy out of it on a mushroom shake climbing around the back of our hut and ontop of their roof trying to find the party. They told him he was in a bush and not the beach. Then he told them he was trying to get to Devon LOL.. so they brought him down to the beach and let him swim to the English channel. Unfortunatley for us tho, this was not before the twat had climbed over our water pipe, breaking it and sending water everywhere. One of the guys next door tried to fix it and turned off the tap to stop the flow til it was fixed. Which wasn’t til about a stinky 5pm the next
day haha.

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Posted by James R 07:19 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Koh Tao - Thailand

like you Know hao

sunny

Back to the port and the fast boat to Koh Tao at 7am. We made sure we were first in line to board so we could get a prime position on the open upper deck with a table and chair. The journey flew by and in no time we were arriving at Mae Nam port on the east side of the Island. Knowing we were in for the big sale from all the scuba dive centre reps as soon as we docked, we decided to pick the beach we wanted to stay in and pick a scuba centre near there. After giving all the beaches info a quite once over we decided not to stay at busiest beach but one nearby called Cheong Lok or somink. So bags into the back of a 4X4 taxi and off we zoomed. Ten bumpy minutes later we where there, after checking out a room in one place and getting some scuba course info we figured it didn’t really matter where u stayed once you were doing a scuba course. The dive centre would pay 5 euro off your accommodation for each night u stayed there during the course, so it was just a matter of picking a nice dive centre.

I took a wander down the road and came across this fancy new dive centre building called “Big Bubble 5 star PADI Dive Centre” while Lisa minded the bags up the road. When I went in everyone was so friendly and I knew straight away this was the place we were gonna dive with. The guy said he had accommodation available down the road and he would take me to look at a room. Off I popped on the back of a little moped up the road over some very steep hills and eventually to this lovely secluded beach called “Freedom Beach”. The best was yet to come, all the rooms were little wooden huts on stilts facing out to an amazing view of the rocks to our left, coconut trees below and further below the small sandy beach. The hut was pretty basic with a bed a fan facing it and a tiled bathroom attached to it. The only thing that had me thinking hmm will Lisa like this or not was the fact that all the floor boards had gaps in them so you could basically see the ground below the hut which at night could be a potential woogiefest in our room.
Although it had the gaps it had so much more character than the sterile brick room with tiles and not near the beach I had viewed earlier. So I told the guy we would take it then drove back to Lisa to pick up the bags and sort out our course that would start in a couple of days time with our soon to be instructor Klaus.

Lisa loved the place and we soon threw our stuff everywhere and settled in. But not before we went to the supermarket to pick up some masking tape to seal up those floorboards and gaps here and there. We also decided in order to get about the island without having to get taxi’s everywhere we would need a moped. So we got a nice new flashy Honda hairdryer jobby hehe and whizzed into the main beach, bar and shop area of the island called Sairee beach. This area has some lovely bars with mats on the beach surrounded by oil lamps and palms stuck into the sand. We stayed here having drinks until the sunset and the sea had come to lap against our legs. It was sooo relaxing we couldn’t help think that John and Karen would have loved it if they were still with us.

We spent the next couple of days eating great food and drinking by the beach. As our time in the hut went by we had a new big cockroach to greet us each evening when we would come home and occasionally during the day we would see a big lizard peeping his head into our loo. Luckily there were no mosquitos in our room and I don’t think we got bitten inside the hut once.

Our first day of diving was a feckin long one. We were given our open water course book to look through before starting the course and on the first day we had to watch about 4 hours of videos on the first 5 chapters of the book… booorriiinnggg. After the vids we had to do tests which Lisa and I aced (they weren’t that hard, plus the instructor leaves the room with the books still lying there) We finished at about 7pm that evening and the six of us went out for some dinner and drinks. There was one nice English girl, one German girl from Berlin, one Dutch guy and a loud yank from San Fran with a big US ARMY – IRAQ 2001-2002 tat. They were all very nice and good fun to hang out with (in small doses).

Day 2 involved us sailing to that amazing island off the north west coast we had been the week previous with John and Karen snorkelling. Before we learned to set up our equipment and do buddy checks we were told to jump into the water and swim to a boat about 20 meteres away, then back to our boat and thread water for 5 minutes. This was unexpected and was fecking tiring. This was to obviously make sure we could actually swim and therefore be allowed learn to scuba dive in open water. Klaus told us a few years ago a Korean girl drown at this part.. grim. Lisa was starting to feel nervous about doing the underwater skills. The main thing getting her all nervous was the taking out of the regulator and replacing it whilst underwater. We eventually all got into the water and swam to a shallow area (the same place with all the fishes we were in the week before) and started to do our skills. Lisa was getting very nervous under the water and didn’t want to do the skills just yet. So Klaus encouraged her to stay and just concentrate on breathing calmly underwater and watch us do our skills then maybe try herself.

The skills flew by.. regulator recovery, half mask clear, full mask clear, take off mask put on arm open eyes and replace and clear, swim around with mask off then return to same original place and replace mask, breath off your buddies alternate air supply and remove BCD and replace it. It was a lot to do but I found it a lot of fun. Unfortunately this was not the case for Lisa. She didn’t enjoy it at all and decided not to continue with the course. She felt to complete all the skills she would need a few days and maybe individual instructor attention. Klaus incoraged her to join the next group tomorrow there and do them again but she just felt too uncomfortable so decided to leave it :o(

Klaus said that he would be my buddy for the remainder of the course so I wouldn’t be buddyless scuba jim haha. The next day was great, after a buddy check we went for a 12 meter dive around a sandy / coral area for about 40mins. Doing a few more skills and checking out lots off cool sea creatures like sea slugs, sea cucumber, yellow and blue stingray a sea snake and a massive school of barracuda plus loads of other colourful fishes. We did another dive an hour later at a different dive sight again seeing some nice fishies.

The forth and final day consisted of two deeper dives at two more different dive sites. The weather was quite choppy and my ear (Full of water for the past few days) was wrecking my head, plus I didn’t have any breakfast…. So after a while I started to feel sick so in the water asap to help clam it down. We had to swim with a compass on our wrists and show we could navigate on the top of the water and later at the bottom of the sea about 20 meters deep. Then again we had to practise of fin pivoting. Scuba diving is not so much about swimming under water but more about getting your breathing and buoyancy perfect so by breathing in a certain way you float up a little and by breathing out a lil you sink a little and by breathing in and out steadily u remain neutrally buoyant and its like you are flying effortless over coral (never touching it). Its like riding a bike, you cant really teach anyone to do it, you just kind of pick it up. The feeling is truly amazing when you finally get it and are 20 meters deep just gliding over all this amazing colourful coral and surrounded by amazing sea life. On the last dive after a nearly puked a few times under the water lol and when we had performed our final task, Klaus took out an underwater board and pen and wrote “Some new divers are born” and shook all our hands as we all beamed with smiles. Before we ascended and got back on the boat we got to see a little family of clown fish (Nemos). They were so cute looking and apparently never move away from the little noodley sea coral creature they live off.

The next couple of days we spent lying on the beach during the day, going to nice restaurants during the evening and boozing it up. One of the nights we went to this amazing Italian restaurant and after dinner we were getting on our bike and driving off when we spotted a familiar face from back home…. Rob Hatchell and his motley crew of familier Dublin faces and one from Bayside (Claire Young). So off we went to have a load of drinks with Rob and his mates then onto some bar/club thingy down the beach and drank until I decided it was time to leave and I should fetch the bike from about 2 miles away and whisk us home, which I done ever so gracefully. It was good fun seeing Rob seeing as we thought he was in OZ, but it turns out he was only on his way there with some stop offs in asia. Two weeks earlier he was on the nearby island Kohphanyang for the full moon party where the eejit was jumping through hoops of fire and on one jump fell and seriously burned his arm putting him in hospital for a week.

The next week we spent laying in the sun by day and exploring the islands bars and restaurants by night. Koh Tao was so nice, a little slice of paradise. Somewhere we would defo love to revisit. The last few days the weather started to get very stormy and wet (see pics) so it was time to move on before our visa ran out.

We were sad to say goodbye to our little hut although on the last morning we removed the masking tape and a lot of the paint from the floor so we made a hasty exit before they noticed it and maybe decided to charge us for it haha.

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Posted by James R 23:38 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chiang Mai - Thailand

Welcome to the china club...a cha cha cha chang

overcast 28 °C

After sleeping through an alarm clock we forgot to set and awaking to John’s phone call to Lisa, we woke up with banging hangovers and very very late for our flight to Chiang Mai. After a heated taxi ride to the airport we finally made it just in time to meet John and Karen and check-in for our flight. The flight went grand as we all began to get over the hangover or fall asleep. John and Karen were whisked away by their travel rep as soon as they grabbed their bags. We were informed there was not enough room in the car for us to backpacking hobos, so we jumped in a cab to the DangWangDingWongTongDingALingLong hotel.

The hotel was very fancy, a lot nicer than anywhere we had stayed so far on our travels. There was some confusion with the hobos check-in and the nice Thai lady informed us that if we would take a twin room she would upgrade us to the “winners suite”, lol, cant remember what it was called but it was on the same floor as J & K so that suited us juuuuuuuust fine.

We relaxed by the pool for the morning and afternoon. Afterwards we had a walk about the market area that was located a block away from the hotel and a look around for a restaurant recommended to us by the travel rep earlier. We eventually found the restaurant and just our feckin luck the kitchen had just closed. After deciding we would leave it for the following evening, we rambled into a small restaurant place nearby. The food, as all food in Thailand was very nice and fecking dirt-cheap.

After the eats it was onto a trusty Irish bar where we consumed some Thai whiskey and beer and laughed our way back to the hotel and into bed as the next day was Elephant Trekking day.

After scoffing down as much free breakfast buffet as we could we went downstairs to meet our rep who would drive us about for the day. He was a nice guy who had very good English and could fecking talk for Thailand while we all tried to keep our eyes open in the back seat of the van. After about a 2 hour drive we reached the Elephant area. To get to the Elephants we had to cross a wooden “Indiana Jones” stylee bridge. Oh and no dogs are allowed over as the Elephants are scared of them hehe.

Our guide first brought us to buy some banana’s or sugar canes to feed the nearby elephants with. That was great fun, as soon as you hold the bananas near them their long trunk comes over and starts sniffing your hand, curling round and scoops them into their mouth. Before the Elephant bathing show begun our guy walked us over to a giant mother and her ickle baby Elephant. The baby was sooooooooooooo cute. It had big hairy eyelashes and loads of hair on its head. When we held out our arms his snotty little trunk would wrap it around your wrist and get it all sticky haha (see pics).

The bathing show was pretty cool (see pics) the Elephant riders and their Elephants all lined up and demonstrated how they bath their elephants by making them lie down in the water and splash their own rider with their trunks. Each Elephant has one rider for life. They sit behind the elephants head and use voice commands (up to 50 words), physical movements and a small metal prick on a stick to control their movements. Apparently Elephants have a very short attention span, so to make them concentrate and focus on the task at hand the rider rakes the elephant behind the ear with the metal prick thingy. It doesn’t hurt them at all it just makes them concentrate. Oh and the old saying “an elephant never forgets” is true. They remember people who have struck them when young and aren’t very friendly towards them.

The next show was to demonstrate how the Elephants were traditionally used. Typically they were either trained from birth as fighting Elephants that would ram/charge and perform aggressive movements for combat, or trained as logging Elephants that would push, pull, drag, and lift logs along the jungle floor alongside the loggers cutting down and move them long distances. Nowadays since the logging industry has stopped in Northern Thailand, Elephants are mainly used for trekking and performing for tourists. This is much less work then they would have previously done logging, so they lead a much easier and happier life. The logging show was impressive, seeing them effortlessly follow their riders instructions to lift and move massive logs. At the end they had one of the small young elephants named Jasmine PAINT!! for us (see pic) John bought the picture she painted and later Lisa and I bought another she had painted that day.

From the shows it was onto the trek. We had to climb up a ladder into a little tower that allowed us to get onto our Elephant. The Trek was a lot of fun, about an hour of riding into the jungle past little streams up and down little steap hills. The elephants never stopped pooing all the way, apparently they eat so much, a lot just comes back out as a pulp that the locals use to make photo frames and cardboard with. We were brought to a little village in the jungle to see how the jungle people lived.. LOL well that’s where we thought we were going. We were brought to a little village alright, a village full of stalls selling trinkets for tourists make by the villagers…. Pffttt. Back onto the Elephant and onto the return trek thought the river back to the Elephant place for some fecking great Thai food lunch. Sufficiently stuffed we were brought down by the river for a relaxing ride down the river on a bamboo canoe. With some Thai guy pushing us along with a long stick. It was all going swimmingly until big dark clouds decided to appear overhead and let rip with a shed load of rain!!!! See pics, we were drowned by the time we reached our destination where out rep was waiting in the van. Heading home we had a small stop off at the Orchard & Butterfly farm… it was such a gay place.

Elated by our Epelump adventures we went out that evening for some foot massages and then delicious food in the restaurant we were too late for the night before. After the fewd we went back to the Orish bar to get outofit on jugs of Sang Som whiskey and redbull. Although there were all these young Irish backpackers there playing killer pool and singing “Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Weh hey hey, Goodbye” so after the 10th time it was pissing us off. Eventually it stopped and we got drunker. John then proceeded to smash a saucer off the ground by accident which got a big wooohoooo off the others followed by another verse of that oh so catchy number we were subjected to earlier.. but it was pretty funny. After that we went to the hotel we were staying in’s disco. It was quite a big venue and when we went in they had these Thai girl band singing covers. It was pretty funny and after much confusion at the bar with our English orders we had lots of drinks. John befriended some gay Thai guy and we eventually called it a night.

The following day John rented a 4X4 jeep and we eventually made our way about 15km outside town and up to the winner’s temple lol I cant remember the name of it but the story goes…. Elephants that are born white in colour are given to the king and hundreds of years ago the King at the time attached a holy gold thingy on top of a white elephant and let it roam free up the mountainside. Wherever the elephant stopped was the point where they would build this big temple. Well the poor thing feckin stopped alright, dropped dead from fatigue at a very high point. So that’s where the built the temple. It has some amazing views of the city below and some nice 'feed the pony' buddha statues to admire within it.

We had some eats in the car park at the base of the steps up to the temple. The food was again fecking great and costing us swf. A short drive back down the mountain and we visited a nice waterfall along the way. We went on a lost cause drive to find this adventure park but eventually gave in as we were getting lost and had no directions hehe. We dropped back the 4X4 relaxed & showered then made our way to the riverside restaurant. This place was recommended by a friend of Karens I think, and the rep guy we had the day before. The food was lovely and the portions were large. The place was packed upstairs where a Thai band were playing covers to a big Thai crowd who were loving every minute of their performace. We grabbed a tuk tuk to an Irish bar about 3km into the town, it was pretty quite apart from two English lads with guitars doing crappy covers. We got all the drinks in until they were closing and kicked us out.

One of the girls working in the Irish bar told us the place to go after dark was called rush or trush or some shite lol so we tuk tuked our way there. It was jam packed full of foreigners and local girls looking for business. We grabbed a table and some buckets of Thai whiskey and redbull….. Well Lisa and Karen got HAMMERED! lol it was pretty funny Karen kept running off to dance and lisa kept trying to get me and John to drink as much as we could while she counted “One potato, two potato, three potato” etc. Shortly afterwards, John and I made the executive decision to get the girls ooouutoffthere we did and made our way home to hotel Tropicana.

Once again the next morning required us to get our shit together, pack up bags, get to reception, check out and get the ride with the rep to the airport to catch our flight to Ko Samui. LOL well it defo did not go as smoothly as it should have. We got downstairs hung over and tired. I had to run to the jacks as the whiskey wanted to say hello, so John checked out our room. Lisa came down and went with John an Karen to the car to wait for me. THEN the lady at reception told me we forgot something in the room (Lisa’s wallet) so I had to go all the way back up to floor 23 on the SLOWEST lifts in the world! It took ages and an irate rep told me to make my own way to the airport as she was bringing the others and we might miss the flight…. GROAN. So after about ten minutes of lift drama I got the wallet and met my darling Lisa, who had waited for me, :p in the reception area and we jumped a cab to the airport.

When we pulled up to the curb their was a 5 min security check before getting into the place, further stressing us out as the check in time was now well and truly over. But well done to John and Karen, they checked us in without our passports (lol only in Thailand) and we rushed to the airplane in a little car. They took my backpack and put it onboard and we jumped on the PROPELLOR engined plane for the journey to Ko Samui.

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Posted by James R 02:02 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Sydney Week twoooooo!

Goodbye Beran hello Ritz!

rain

So it was back to the Ritz, for one week before we were to leave Sydney. After settling back into our lil crappy room as with all the little crappy rooms after a few hours and scattering our bits n bobs around the place, they become home. Living next door to a dominos pizza and about a 5 minute walk from Chinatown, we were sorted for cheap backpacker eats. This week was to be our touristy week, luckily we had the weather for it… MOONSOON weather! It pished down rain for nearly every fecking day that week bar one, the day we decided to go and see something outside of the city, the Blue Mountains tour. For that we had perfect sunny weather.
We set off in a little tour bus from our hostel at like 7amish. On the bus were a couple of fat English girls think “Tracey and Sharon” types. Who munched the day away in the seat infront of us. One English guy who was a bit of a talker and a young family who turned out to be den den deeen.. Oirish! From Kerry or Cork god love them, although the dad was originally from up norfh England and the mum was very chatty and good craic. Our tour guide was a jolly Aussie girl with south American blood in her somewhere along the family tree.

We set off for first stop Wildlife park, where we got to see lots of native animals like Wombats, Kangaroos, Koalas (which, translated from Abo means; “I don’t know.”) We also saw a giant croc, lots of birds and some cool snakes and spiders that kill. Australia contains the most dangerous animals in the world. After the zoo we made a brief stop at a pretty amazing view of all the mountains and bush sprawling out beneath us as far as the eye could see. Then it was onto some really amazing views of the blue mountains at a place I cant remember the name of lol. We went on a bush walk down into the dense bush where our guide showed us lots of cool things like waterfalls that looked like Witches Faces & Sydney funnel web spider holes (luckily they were in hibernation. They can kill with one bite). When we reached the ground level of the bush we had to get a cable car train thingy all the way back up. Now as stated many a time in this blog JAMES DOES NOT LIKE H E I G H T S! this thing was pretty scary. It was like a little roller coaster that came down to pick us up and then simply just gets pulled up the mountain side nearly fecking VERTICAL and at speed. I think it’s the longest vertical train ride in the world or some silly fact. So after a few heart booming minutes we reached the top without the cable breaking and us plummeting to our death as the movie in my head was replaying during the ride. At the top by the gift shop we got to hold and feed some friendly wild birds (see pics). Then it was onto a winery where we got a nice buzz from drinking as many wines as possible in the allocated time. Then it was a whiz through visit of the Olympic village and a boat ride back to Sydney harbour. That was nice as we got to ride directly under the harbour bridge and by the opera house. We ditched the English guy on the walk home when he started to mention he was travelling with his guitar!! Guitar + backpack = hippy. Go hug some trees somewhere else.

For the rest of the week we spent it checking out some nice restaurants in the evenings (“Spice I am” five minutes from us being the best Thai food we ate in Oz) and shopping during the day and checking out various sights in Sydney such as the old part near the bridge and watching silly amounts of family guy and American dad before bed.

Sydney was approaching world cup boiling point as it was their first time in the comp for 34 years. We went out to watch the Japan game, which they won and all went loolaa. The Saturday night Beran and his mate Juggy took me to watch a Sydney swans game which was great fun as we were sitting right behind the goal where Beran and Juggy shouted endless abuse at the mullet on the opposing teams’ (St Kilda) full forward. Also there were shouts of encouragement at a guy playing for Sydney that they went to school with. Then they noticed another guy from their class was an umpire… poor guy got so much abuse from them. After a kebab and more beers we watched the England game and eventually called it a night.

The Sunday was the Winter Sounds festival!! Woohoo we were really looking forward to it. Camp-scarf-wearing Beran and Juggy collected us from the Ritz and we made our way to a pub next to the complex. After a few drinks one of their mates a resident dj about Sydney joined us for the evening. We checked out the end of Luke Fair’s set, then the beginning of DJ Sneak’s set. (he started off with Alan Braxe – Running an old favorite from clubbing days gone by for Trigger and I :o) ) The highlight as expected were Tiefschwarz!!! They rocked it for about 2/3 hours where we bumped into an Irish girl from Clontarf who new Lisa lol.

Then we all ended back in the city for the afterparty, playing again were the Schwarz brothers followed by James Zabiela who was keeping things on a minimal tip..nice! After a few funny faces were being pulled due to excessive drink it was time to call it a night, and that was the last we seen of Beran and Juggy. With the usual onward travel hangover to contend with we battled on to our flight up north to CAAIIRRRNNNNSSSS!.

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Posted by James R 07:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Fox Glacier

Just like the mints!!!

sunny

We got the bus to Fox Glacier after the cold nights sleep, it was only about 30minutes down the road. The half day hike was booked for 1:45pm and we were in FG at 8:30 with no room ready in the hostel until 12:30, we scratched our heads and thought “hmmm I wonder if we could get on the earlier hike at 9:15am” We went into the Hike center and they said no problem. Lisa pointed out a warning card on to me regarding people who suffer from vertigo, it said the hike involved some points along the hike where u are walking along holding a chain with a 300 foot vertical drop beside you and to inform your guide before setting off. Now more than two pairs of socks on (as my day would say) and I’m starting to get scared, needless to say I was getting quite anxious. Although Lisa was reassuring me it was ok and I knew it was ok as I have gotten quite used to pushing myself to face my fear of heights quite regularly it still plays on my mind. Anyway we went through to the boot room at 9:15 and met with our gnome-like mountaineer guide. He talked us through what we would be doing, what we should be wearing and to use as many pairs of socks as we liked to get comfy in their hiking boots. We set off in an old bus thingy up to the car park of the Fox Glacier. Apparently the car park is over a massive piece of ice and recently they had to re make it with a huge steel base to stop it becoming submerged. FG is much easier to access than FJG and equally if not more impressive, as your very near the terminal face of it. We set off in two groups of 13. Our group had the gnome guy Chris and the others had some younger lad. Chris was quite funny cracking jokes about the Irish here and there along the way. When we were telling Chris where we were from a guy beside us said “Ireland? No way I’m from Dublin”. His name was Ger and from Rathmines, we waffled our way up to the Glacier with Ger and the guide. It wasn’t as physically demanding as we imagined. Eventually we got up to the scary height bit, where we had to climb up a ladder then grab a chain and ease our way along the rockface slowly, always keeping one hand on the chain. This was no where near as bad as I thought it was gonna be. I had told him I was scared of some heights so he moved me to the front with the two old biddies who were also scared lol.

After about ten more minutes we reached the Glacier – It was so impressive. Huge in size and beautiful in colors, from white ice with bits of rock to deep blue crevices. We attached our crampons to our boots, grabbed a walking stick and proceeded onto the Glacier. On the Glacier its considerably more cold and you have to walk flat footed stamping your feet into the ice to make sure u don’t slip down a crevice or something. The views from on top the Glacier were amazing. We hiked around the top for about an hour with the guides explaining various things about the Glacier, how it’s formed, how fast its moving (about 1 meter a week) and in what direction (depending on snowfall / melt). It was much easier getting down from the Glaciar and the mountain side. We even got to hear a big piece of ice falling off the front – it sounded like thunder. We were on a high after the trip and went with Ger in his spaceship (rental car u can sleep in and contains a dvd player, cooker etc) to get a nice big unhealthy breakfast/lunch. I had the al day breakfast, which was soooooooooooooooooooo nice!! Lisa had eggs on toast, that looked yum and Ger had a bacon butty. Ger dropped us back to town after swapping email addresses and arranging to meet the following night in Queenstown. We spent the rest of the day checking our mail, cooking and relaxing in the hostel.

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Posted by James R 13:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Franz Joseph - Glacier!

sunny

Still half asleep we managed to get to our hostel and fall straight asleep for a few hours until our bellies awoke us to inform us it was feeding time.
After cooking up some foood we watched a movie that was playing in the TV room – “The sum of all fears” with a nice cup of tea. We awoke the next morning and went outside – WOW! All around us were mountains and the reason we had made the trip here The Franz Joseph Glacier. Since we got up late we decided to just do some walks in Franz Joseph and do the half day Glacier trek the following day in Fox’s Glacier (it was cheaper). We got the Glacier shuttle to the car park where all the walks start from Although the track was closed due to river conditions we jumped the rope and headed towards the retreated Glacier front. It took about 30 minutes and was pretty cool walking through the area where the Glacier once passed through. We could only go so far unaccompanied by a guide but it was certainly far enough to get an idea of the immense size and power of the Glacier. We done a couple of more walks around the Glacier area and eventually headed back to town. After a nice hostel cooked dinner we watched some TV with tea and headed to bed. It was a FREEZING nights sleep; the temperature must have dropped considerably as we kept waking up all night.

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Posted by James R 13:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Christchurch

Poooooley!

sunny

After a lengthy bus ride we finally made it to Christchurch around 4pm. The hostel was only a short walk from the bus stop in the center of town. After we got checked in we went a rambling round the city center on the never ending quest for our next meal. After about two hours of indecision and wandering about the place, we finally went back to the Irish bar we first passed by and that we had two free pints vouchers for :o)
I ordered this massive burger and chips and Lisa went for the Seafood Chowder soup and brown bread. After our food and few pints we rambled back to the hostel to use the free internet. After seeing a poster in town for the comedian Ross Nobel playing the following night we tried to book two tickets to see him. We expected it to be sold out already but we were in luck!! As we finished up on the internet, a local whats on news paper headline caught Lisa’s eye. It was a small article on German house dj Ian Pooley. We had seen posters around Auckland and Christchurch for his NZ tour but we thought it was surely a different “ian pooley” and after we googled “ian pooley” + New Zealand” back in Auckland when we first arrived, to find some blurb about “Ian Pooley, New Zealands most important hard house dj” so we took it, it was some local guy with the same name and a bad taste in music :op But after we read the article we realized it was indeed the Ian Pooley we knew and loved and had seen a few times in Dublin. After about two seconds thought of “ouu should we do Ross Nobel AND Pooley in the one night?” the answer was a resounding “feck it, lets do it!”

The next day we had a nice sleep-in in preparation for the hectic evening ahead. We walked about Christchurch looking about shops for a few bits n bobs i.e. Lisa bought a handbag and we done a big shop in a massive budget supermarket. I also teased myself by looking at the new edition of Mixmag in a big magazine shop for the crazy priced 30 NZ dollars!
On the way home we stumbled across an Asian food court – woohoo cheap tasty eats! I had the hottest Thai Green Curry of my life and lisa went for the extra spicy Pad Thai which wasn’t hot at all!!!! They must have mixed the orders spiciness up. Much to our happiness Nobel was as hilarious as the first time we seen him in Dublin (the second time he wasn’t that good). The laughter and Steinlager set us up lovely for “The Concrete Club” Which wasn’t too busy when we first arrived but after about 3 drinks the place was getting very busy and the warm up dj Shannon Aston was rocking the place with this wicked new track on Dubsided by Jesse Rose (which I will search for)… anyway we drank ourselves silly, befriended the warm up dj, who bought us shots and introduced us to Ian Pooley (see funny pics) and stayed there till about 6am when we HAD to leave as our Trans Alpine train was leaving at 7:30am.
Oh the pain, straight home to pack our bags and head out for the free shuttle bus to bring us to the train station which NEVER APPEARED!! So we had to try and find a taxi and eventually get to the station in time to join the big backpacker queue still hanging from all the drink and serious lack of sleep. The train journey is supposed to be fantastic with amazing scenery all the way to Greymouth on the West coast. Apparently it was, but I wouldn’t know anything about that, coz all I did was snoooooooooze. Lisa did nudge me every now and again to show me a mountain or lake or something but I was out for the count.
After the train arrived in Greymouth we had to wait around for a bus and then travel a further 3 hours south to Franz Joseph, another journey we spent in a semi sleep state.

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Posted by James R 13:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Kaikoura

Whaletown..

sunny 14 °C

Kia-Ora Kaikoura = (Hello eat cray fish)

After stuffing our little hobo bellies with as much free toast with peanut butter and jam as we could manage, we jumped aboard the bus to Kaikoura. The journey south along the coast was pretty spectacular, lots of trees and hills with clouds wrapped around them and to our left the beautiful ocean with more sea lions, seaweed and the odd surfer to keep us amused.

We eventually found our hostel “The Lazy Shag” (where I’m writing this at the mo) it’s a lovely new place with clean ensuite rooms and a massive kitchen and bonus free internet.. :)Lisa foolishly entrusted me with the budget for the next while, so we tried to make our 30 nz dollar food allowance stretch as far as it could, which wasn’t very far at all, and once we saw an Irish pub with an open fireplace it was curtains! I couldn’t resist the lure of Guinness on Draught. We splashed out on a couple of pints each then retreated to the hostel to cook our dinner and drink some red wine and watch another family guy before bed.

Anticipation levels when we awoke this morning were at a high, its Whale Watching Day!! Woohoo.. the reason we decided to visit this town. A km and a half off the coast of Kaikoura, there is an underwater canyon that is over 1000 meters deep. It contains both cold and warm sea currents that are perfect feeding conditions for Dolphins, Giant Squid, Sharks and most importantly… WHALES!!! Its prob the only place in the world you can see whales so close to land. They get whales here all year round Orcas (Killer whales), Humpback, pilot, south right, giant Blue whale and the Sperm whale.

After watching a short video on whales in the whalewatcher centre we set off to the boat (see pics), which was pretty cool and very modern. They had a big screen that constantly displayed details like; where the boat was and how deep the sea below us was. It was manned by a maori whale guy underneath it. It also showed us what speed we were doing. As we shifted over the canyon the depth meter went crazy going from about 30 meters to over 1000 in about 2 minutes. The guy was excellent giving us loads of information about whales and how big the canyon is below us, using some pretty impressive computer graphics and getting our excitement levels pretty high.

After some sonar listening and help from a whale watch plane above a whale had surfaced to breathe about 1km south of us. Full speed ahead skipper lol we charged towards the spray of water from the Sperm whales blowhole in the distance, as once they surface, they breathe for about 5 to 10 minutes before diving to feed for about 40 minutes. Two minutes later the engines were killed and we were floating right beside the whale, so everyone was instructed to get outside fast!! We ran out and there he was - a massive Sperm whale, the second loudest creature on earth (Blue whale is louder, think 747 engines at take off) and the third biggest type of whale.

After about 5 minutes of watching and photographing the giant creature, the guy got on the mic and said
“Ok get ready guys he’s about to dive, here he goes, one last breath and hes going down”.
With one last gust of air from his blowhole he started to submerge and out it came, the moment all the cameras had been waiting for, haha his massive tailfin!! (the guy said it was waving us good bye lol.) Then it was under, leaving only his “footprint” behind - a calm circular area of water on the surface.
Everyone was well happy, the whale guy told us that that whale, was a residential whale, and lives around the sea trench. Its name is Noodle after 2-minute noodles, as that’s all the time he usually stays at the surface. So after that we rushed to another sighting to see another sperm whale, the biggest one feeding in the area and nearly as big as they get. We think his name is Taoi or somink. He gave us a wave goodbye and off we went in search of another, but while waiting on the turd whale to surface, Noodle had resurfaced just a short distance away, so we went back to see him again.

It was a pretty amazing experience seeing a creature so big so close to us. On the way back we went by some sea lion colonies but Lisa and I were not that interested, we had our fair share of sea lions in the Galapagos. (ooh look at us showing off!!) So all that was left to do after that thrilling morning whale watching, was have a pint of Guinness and some ‘Traveller’
Friend’ - Subway for lunch :op

Posted by James R 20:58 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Galapagos

What will we do with the drunken sailor etc..

sunny

The Galapagos Islands!

Well seeing as I’m only getting round to typing this yonks after we were actually there, I’ll keep it short and sweet (like Lisa lol).
We arrived from Quito with the Swedish couple (we bumped into again in the airport) to Isla Santa Cruz in the Galapagos, to sweltering heat and not a cloud in the sky.
The Swedish couple had a cruise booked on The Rumba “yacht” starting the day they arrived. Unlike me & Kenny who spent four days bumming around the Island, searching for a cruise on a nice boat, whilst also lording it up on one of the most gorgeous unspoilt beaches I’ve ever seen, which was a bit of a trek to get to each day, but well worth the effort. We had little lava lizards escorting us along the pathway to the beach.
Oops I should have mentioned a bit about the animals. We read before we left for the GI’s that all the animals are big and fearless, but it doesn’t sink in until you actually come face to face with a few. Our first encounter was with a MASSIVE pelican! The thing was huge and you think to yourself,
“As I move closer to this small aircraft-sized bird, it’s going to take off scared”…
But they don’t. They just kind of look at you as if to say, “Yeah? Can I help you? Out of my beakin way, I’m fishing here!”
Everywhere we went we saw Land and/or Sea Iguanas that could and would spit at you. There were also lots of Land and Sea turtles on the islands that were so big, it was amazing, the land ones especially were absolutely HUGE (see pics below). We stumbled upon a couple giant ones bonking in the forest one day, which was pretty funny coz the guy lets out a big moan with each bonk.
Oh and Sea lions are everywhere!! They are very playful and inquisitive, but they are also smelly bastards pooing and peeing all over the place. Also there was a whole host of birds like blue/red footed boobies, lava herons, pelicans, albatrosses (he he), and lots more that I can’t remember.
Emm what else we see.. There were Sally light foot crabs, which were aptly named, as they could jump about two feat from side to side. On the last day we saw small Galapagos penguins, which were so cool and jumped into the water beside us. I should mention that every day we were woken up at half six, fed a ginormous brekfast and then put into snorkel gear. We were then led off on snorkel expeditions by our 68 year old guide! Whilst on our many many snorkeling trips, we saw and swam beside sharks, big rays and many colourful, massive fish, that looked like they had all been at the steroids.

We ended up saving a fortune by going directly to the islands and booking a boat from a tour guy there, rather than booking in Quito. Plus we got a lovely yacht with a great crew and air conditioning. Unlike the Swedes, who we bumped into a couple of days after we first got there. They SHOULD have still been on their boat, but lol the crappy boat they were booked on had no air conditioning in the cabins.
Their boat had a small fire in the engine room on the first night and they all had to abandon ship at about 5am in their underwear! They spent the next few days hassling the owner for their money back, and trying to book another boat for the remainder of their holiday! Bummer!
So anyway we got the Darwin Yacht, which had air con, a great crew and guide and a nice bunch of other passengers. One of the first girls we were talking to was a nurse from Newcastle but living in Bermuda. She asked if we knew any Irish living in Bermuda. But I couldn’t think of any.. Then we thought hold on…. lol Triggers brother lives there so we asked did she know any Bacons! Surprise surprise, she knew the Bacon in question! She referred to him as Andrew “ theatrical” Bacon. It had to be him… all the Bacons I know like a bit of drama ;o)

So the rest of the crew were mostly all geeks and a few our own age that were sound, like a Dutch guy called Uri who spoke like an American until he said words like “coool” or “smoke an a bagel” or (for Trigg) “You like your bagels REEAALLLY HAWT”

The cruise went really well. We were traveling at night and exploring islands by day seeing all these amazing animals and crazy volcanic landscapes with lots of snorkeling in between, which I have to say was the highlight of the trip. Coming face to face with a two meter long shark and watching him swim beneath your legs is pants soiling fantastic, or swimming / playing with sea loins and penguins so their little legs are flapping away right in front your mask. Lisa was a little apprehensive about the snorkeling at first as was I but after a few times out she took to it well like a fish to water :op she even went out and seen some sharks J

Lisa says - (Let me add that the first time I put on the mask, it leaked, the water went down my breathing tube and I couldn’t control my flippers. I did not like snorkellling one bit. However , everything revolved around the fecking snorkeling so I had to just get on with it. There would have been no point being on the boat without going snorkeling. I went on all the snorkeling trips (except the bug day) and gradually began to enjoy it. I even jumped in when I knew there were sharks there – my ultimate fear. And I’m really glad I did, I was so proud of myself and it was tres scary and exciting. J - LISA )

Everything was going swimmingly (pardon the pun) until the seasickness kicked in. A d then a bug went around the ship as everyone was sick at some stage throughout the 8-day cruise. I did my Exorcist impression, with an impressive display of projectile vomiting one evening in our cabin, where my lunch made its second appearance of the day. Not wanting to feel outdone, the following day Lisa did her own exorcist impression which was equally impressive as mine. Perhaps a little more impressive as it came with a strong stench of lunch – CAULIFLOWER soup!!! Now think of that nights sleep.. rocking back and forth in a tiny cabin then rocking side to side with the slight smell of diesel from the engine and STRONG smell of cauliflower from the bathroom… cozy!

We were happy to get back on dry land after the cruise and during the next few nights sleep, it still felt like we were back in the rocky cabins of the Darwin. It was such an amazing trip and we saw some fantastic things. I’d defo recommend it to everyone, but maybe just the five day cruise and make sure u stock up on sea sick tablets. J

Jimbob Seapants.

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Posted by James R 08:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Quito – Ecuador

rain

In the words of an old pantsy trancer – ECUADOR! (pfftt)
Up and atom for our VERY EXPENSIVE FREE Breakfast then off to the airport – where we were mega early (thanks to me ;) ). We bought some trinkets, ate some donuts, and it wasn’t long before we were landing in Quito, Ecuador. Ecuador has incurred dollarization, which means it’s a lil more expensive than Peru.
Our taxi driver from the airport was blind we reckon as he nearly killed us once and barely avoided tonnes of other small collisions. It was lashing rain all day here in Quito, so we hunkered down in our crusty hostel room (which has a poster of Mickey mouse on one wall and a barely comprehensible message for “Mr & Mrs User” on the other wall – see pic) for a couple of hours and did our laundry. Then headed out onto the streets for some Thai Food. There was trunty loads of people out there, just hanging around on street corners. We unwittingly had our backs turned on an open off licence and off we trotted down the road in the other direction in search of some cheap hooch. He he. We stumbled across some cheap hoochies alright on the way back for the cheap hooch. Then we wrote this. wowzers – the excitement of the day has no end!

Quito – Day 2
After a humoungous breakfast of milkshakes, coffees, eggs, toast, chips, and whatever the hell else we got for 2 dollars each, we bungled off in the rain to book our jungle tour with rainforest turs. It was 160 dollars each and afterwards we spend the rest of the day in Papaya.net doing our blog – putting up pictures and writing enough info to bore the socks off a monk. Later we got cheap pizzas and some wine and watched some wine and watched some Family Guy on our laptop.

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Posted by James R 12:22 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

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