So, it's been a while - but considering i am a) on holiday & b) in countries where the internet is not so readily available & expensive, think yourself lucky that i'm writing anything at all :)
Anyway, here's the diary of what we've been doing up till now...
Day 9 - Saturday 19th September
K took a day off between diving courses, so we rented a bike & toured the island of Koh Tao. That took us all of 3 hours (with drink breaks...) The roads on Koh Tao are really bad, so K gave up the idea of teaching me how to ride a motorbike. Instead i just held on really tight, hoping we wouldn't hit a dog, coconut or some random person riding on the wrong side of the road. No worries though - we ended our tour uninjured.
Day 10 - Sunday 20th September
K started his Advanced Open Water Diving course & started off with two dives: advanced buoyancy & navigation. Not really sure what advanced buoyancy is - something to do with floating properly, or not drowning. The navigation part involved compasses, and that's about all i know...
I just relaxed on the beach, wrote postcards & read. Nice.
Day 11 - Monday 21st September
K had a really early start & did his deep dive, which involved going down to 30m. He really enjoyed this dive; said it was amazing looking up & seeing another group of divers 10m above. Also did his multi-level dive which involves working out remaining air & bottom time & other technical things like that (which i don't fully understand but K the Engineer loved)
In the evening, K went out on his night dive, which was by far his favourite dive so far. He said it was like being in some spy movie or being an astronaut. While he was doing that, i read up on the symptoms of decompression sickness, just in case. No, nothing happened - K was perfectly fine & thoroughly enjoyed a stupid night out on the beach afterwards.
Yup, bucket cocktails. Woohoo!
Day 12 - Tuesday 22nd September
Had a mellow day. We decided where to go next & booked our tickets (keep reading, you'll find out where i am now..)
Then we just hung out on the beach most of the day.
Day 13 - Wednesday 23rd September
Bit of a long day, this one.
We'd booked ourselves on the night boat out of Koh Tao (9pm) but had to check out of Big Blue at 10. This meant a lot of hanging out time. Also meant no swim time, because we didn't have the use of a shower.
So, we ate, drank coffee, had a massage (damn good), played poker, played billiards & enjoyed an all day happy hour.
Headed down to the port at 7pm (when our taxi came - have NO idea why they book the taxi TWO HOURS before the ferry - to only takes 10 minutes to drive there, but hey)
But our bags onto the boat - a ramshackle wooden scary looking thing. This kind of freaked me out (those of you who know me, know that i have a severe aversion to water and boats, so seeing this thing was not good for me)
Anyway, the boat left on time, and was surprisingly OK. Felt a tad like a refugee ship as the deck (inside) was completely open with numbered floor spaces for everyone to sleep. Surprised myself by sleeping really well. We arrived 7 hours later in Suratthani (4:30am)
Day 14 - Thursday 24th September)
On arriving in Suratthani, a driver picked us up. There wasn't enough space for all the travellers AND their luggage, so he threw all the bags on the roof. There was no roof rack, so i spent the whole journey checking the road behind us making sure i bags hadn't fallen off...
He left us at a travel agent, and here we killed an hour waiting for our next bus. A mini-van came to pick us up & this one drove us to Hat Yai, a Thai "border town" which ius actually about an hour away from the border. Here, we were dumped at another travel agency to await our next mini-van.
30 minutes later, our van arrived and took us first to the border. Here, we had to get out of the van at the Thai border, walk through the passport control, get back on the bus, drive another kilometre, get off the bus AGAIN, walk through Malaysian immigration & get back in the van again.
BUT, it wasn't that simple, two vans drivers had decided that it was better for their drive that K & me change vans. So once again we changed vans. I have no idea why, but the drivers' negotiations took a lot of arm waving & sighs until they finally agreed.
4 hours later we arrived at that day's destination of Butterworth (North West Malaysia, just across from Penang) Here, we booked our bus tickets for the next leg of the journey (keep reading...)
Then we set off on a hotel/guest house hunt. First place we came across was truly horrible (for me). It reminded me of a modern day opium den & for some paranoid reason i was sure that if i stayed there, i'd either end up with fleas or being sold into white slavery. A tad of an over-reaction on my part, perhaps, but i refused to stay there. We ended up finding a slightly better place, with a less opium-den feel.
I really wasnb't impressed with Butterworth. All it has going for it is the bus station out of it & the bridge to Penang. It felt like Penang's poor downtrodden relative. It's hard to believe that only a bridge separates them. I will never EVER recommend visiting there. Don't even stay the night there - go across to Georgetown. Much nicer.
Day 15 - Friday 25th September
Headed back to the bus station for our 10am bus. Had breakfast in the food court nearby - and i have to say that the people there were really friendly. And the bus station people too. It's just the town that's depressing.
Got on the bus, and embarked on our (supposed) 5 hour bus ride. Was a really nice bus ride through the mountains & jungle. Beautiful scenery & a smoker friendly bus driver who stopped every 90 minutes or so for a smoke & a leg stretch.
Maybe that's why our 5 hour journey took 7 hours!
Anyway, we finally arrived in Kota Bahru (East Malaysia) in the early evening.
Found a nice guest house with both friendly guests (lots of Germans - they're EVERYWHERE!) and kind owners.
Now, you may be wondering why we went all the way over to the East of Malaysia from West Thailand, only to come back to West Malaysia. Well, apparently, South East Thailand is a bit dangerous with Muslim gangs running around causing chaos. I thought it would be safer to go the long way round & avoid the dodgy bit. In our guesthouse, we met a guy who'd come from Koh Tao the 'dangerous way'. It took him about 10 hours. It took us 2 days...
Day 16 - Saturday 26th September)
Another day of travel.
Took a taxi to Kuala Besut, the main port for our final destination - The Perhentian Islands. Taxi was a complete nutter, but he got us to the port in time for our 9:30 boat to the islands. Was pretty on the way though - lots of greenery & it seemed pretty prosperous round there.
Then it was boat time again (yippee!) This boat was a small speed boat. Oh My God. For me, it was like being on a roller coaster wtih no reassurance that it wouldn't crash. Kevin The Sailor, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed every scream & bounce & splash.
Finally, after what seemed like ages (was only 30 minutes!) we arrived.
Had a look at what was available & decided on Panorama Chalets - close to the beach & with their own diving school)
We're currently staying on the Small Island (called Kecil) & it's nice & quiet. It kind of feels/looks like the island from Lost. Except with chalets, dive schools & no monsters. No cars though. No bucket cocktails either. In fact, beer is pretty hard to come buy AND bloody expensive (10 ringgit for a small can; about 2 Euros)
Don't think we'll be staying here too long - especially as there are no ATMs here either...
Day 17 - Sunday 27th September (TODAY)
Today i tried snorkelling for the first time. I wanted to try for the first time with K, just in case i had a freak out in the water. But i didn't! I loved it too. Saw Nemos, Barracudas, Zebra fish, sea cucumbers, coral & loads of other fishes that i don't know. It was like swimming round in an aquarium. It was SO cool!
And so there we are, up to date again.
K is out on a night dive now, and the Singapore Grand Prix is about to start, so i'll sign off here.
Hope you're enjoying about our adventures as much as i am being on them.