Sunday, February 27, 2011


It has been 3 weeks since we have arrived here and we have been partying nonstop with my aunt and uncle. They have graciously introduced us to all of their friends here and we have literally been at a party 4 nights out of the week. The rest of the time we have spent exploring Sydney as well as looking for a job. We have registered with various agencies and I have even done some reception relief jobs. Andrew had found a 2 week job at a construction site restoring parts of the University of Sydney while I’m still looking for a job. The plan is to work as much as we can here in Sydney and then purchase a car and drive around Australia.

So far our impression of Australia has been that it’s very similar to Canada. Less the palm trees, the ocean and the heat of course. The architecture and city planning is what really reminds us of home. Of course there are differences as well and I’m reminded I’m not home each time I see the Opera House (I still get goose bumps when I see it). The prices still shock us every time we go into a store but it’s something we are slowly getting used to. We have spent some time at the beach as well as the pool just lounging around, but we really dread the weekends because that’s when my aunt and uncle take us to all the parties. I swear they have more energy than me and Andrew and they’re 20 years older! I won’t be posting as frequently as before until we hit the road again and start exploring more of Australia. I’ll try to advise everyone via facebook when a new post is ready.

We are heading into fall here so I hope all of you on the other side of the world are heading into spring. Enjoy the warm weather! In the meantime, wish us luck finding a job quickly so we can start travelling again.

Landing in Australia

We landed in Gold Coast Australia but before we did the flight attendants started “spraying down” the cabins. I had no idea what this was but it turned out they were disinfecting the cabin. Apparently Australia is very particular about what you bring in with you. Not just food but diseases too. We went through customs with no problems but right after we encountered all the signs that say any food or wood products, among other things, you bring into the country must be quarantined. I wasn’t sure what we should do about the gifts of white coffee we brought from Malaysia as well as a picture of a happy Buddha that was in a wooden frame. I didn’t want it to be confiscated. We decided not to say anything and take our chances. Then we saw the dog and I was sure we were done with but somehow he bypassed us and I thought we were clear. But then our bags went through an xray machine and again I though we would be caught, but again they didn’t see anything and we were free to go. I was relieved because we had our things and we didn’t get caught and we didn’t need to pay a fine.

Our flight to Sydney was another 7 hours away but we checked in anyway and went through security. The first thing we noticed were the prices. We went to get something to eat and were shocked at the prices. Food prices weren’t much more than in Canada but after paying $5 for 2 people for huge meals, all of a sudden we were paying $3 for 1 coffee. A pack of gum cost $2.50! So we didn’t each much while waiting for our next flight.

Our flight to Sydney was delayed by 30 minutes but otherwise uneventful. I was thrilled that when landing we flew right by the Sydney Opera House. Obviously it’s an iconic symbol of Sydney and Australia and I had goose bumps looking at it. Once we landed we were met by my aunt and on the way home they stopped by the Opera House for us as well as the Harbour Bridge. It was a surreal feeling to have finally arrived here.

Kuala Lumpur

The plan was to take a long tail boat from Railay to Krabi, and from there we were to take a bus to Hat Yai and from there take another bus to Kuala Lumpur. The plan started off okay, but we had to wade through thigh high water to the long tail with our bags over our heads so they couldn’t get wet. We boarded the long tail and I was expecting at least an hour ride but after 15 minutes we stopped at a dock and were told to get off with no further instructions. There were 10 of us and we were all confused but we started walking. I was cursing all the extra stuff we had and now had to carry. None of us were sure where we were going so we all just stopped and waited until a thai man walking by told us to turn right and wait there. It turned out we were to wait for a bus to take us to Krabi or wherever the rest of us needed to go. After some confusion as to which mini bus we needed to be on, we boarded a minibus thinking we were now going to Hat Yai. But again after 15 minutes we were told to get off and wait in a cafe. Apparently we were in Karbi and the real minibus was not coming to get us for another 30 minutes. Of course the girls in the café were more than willing to take our orders and I was sure this stop was very convenient for them. There was an older French couple who had arrived with us at the café so Andrew had an opportunity to practice his French. He has always been modest and told me that he can’t really speak that well but I was surprised how at how good he was. He carried on a conversation with them for an hour! I would never pretend to speak French but I was surprised at how much I understood.

The mini bus finally picked us up and we were off to Hat Yai. There were now a few more people on the bus so Andrew and I sat in the back. The trip to Hat Yai was to last about 6 hours. As in Laos, the mini bus kept stopping and packing locals into the bus. I guess that’s their way of making some extra cash. A couple of hours into the trip I started to feel really queasy and my stomach was feeling really weak and I felt like I would throw up at any minute. At first I started thinking about what I had eaten that could make me feel that bad but I couldn’t think of anything. Then I realized I was getting car sick. The shocks in the van were completely shot and since we were sitting in the back we were bouncing up and down. Once I realized what it was I couldn’t wait until we stopped. Luckily we had Gravol with us so I took one hoping it would make me feel better but before it had a chance to kick in we stopped and the French couple (who were sitting at the very front) got out as it was their stop. I quickly took their spot and made Andrew come with me. Immediately I started to feel better. A few hours later we arrived in Hat Yai. We were dropped off at a travel agency and told our bus to Kuala Lumpur (KL) would pick us up at 7pm, 3 hours from now. So we went looking for food.

Hat Yai is not a big town so it didn’t take long to find food. After we ate we walked around a little bit and headed back to the travel agency. We still had an hour until the bus would pick us up but we didn’t feel like walking around. While waiting we were informed our bus would be late and that it wasn’t going to pick us up until 8pm. So we had a lot of time on our hands but there wasn’t much to do so we just hung out at the travel agency. Finally at 8pm the bus came to pick us up. We were very close to the border so within an hour we had crossed into Malaysia. As soon as we crossed the border, we stopped at the first intersection at a restaurant. It actually looked more like a school cafeteria but the food was unbelievable. We had naan bread with chicken curry and lentils. And we only paid $0.25 per dish. The food was by far the best food we had had up until this point and the best we would have in Malaysia. Andrew loved the food so much he ordered 2 more dishes. We got back on the bus and arrived in KL at 5am. We went to a hostel we found in the Lonely Planet book but it turned out they were full so Andrew went looking for a place to stay. He ended up finding a hotel in the China town for $20 per night. A bit out of our price range but the hostel was $15 per night so we didn’t feel too bad. Plus, we were only staying for 2 nights. We checked in and went straight to sleep. We woke up and grabbed some food and wandered around KL. We had been here 3 years before so everything was very familiar and it was fun visiting the city again. The weather left a little something to be desired as it was raining but it was warm so it wasn’t too bad. We basically did the same thing the following day, exploring the sights.

On Monday January 31st we grabbed the Air Asia bus to the airport as we were leaving to Australia that day. I was lucky enough to sit next to an Air Asia pilot and let me tell you I grilled him. It was an hour long ride to the airport and I grilled him with questions (ex. Is turbulence dangerous? Did you always know you wanted to be a pilot? Which seat is more comfortable…the captain’s chair or a first class seat? (depends on the plane), so are you sure turbulence is not dangerous?) Andrew later told me he thought I was annoying the pilot but it’s not every day I get a chance to sit next to a commercial pilot. I was hoping he would be our pilot but no such luck. Once we boarded the plane a guy I was sitting next to said there was a cyclone (hurricane) coming into the North East coast of Australia but they weren’t sure when. We were flying over that part so I was sure there would be a lot of turbulence but it turned out Cyclone Yasi didn’t hit until a few days after we landed.


The ferry ride at first was uneventful (which is how I like it) but about half way through the sea started to get very rough and the spray from the waves was spraying the whole boat. I went inside just in time because by the time everyone else came in they were soaked. Then it started to rain. Pouring rain. The boat was rocking side to side. The bags on the deck were getting soaked (including ours) and the crew was trying to cover them with a tarp. Unfortunately the waves were so large the tarp just kept getting swept off. I didn’t hold much hope that our bags would remain dry through all of this. Then all of a sudden the engine stopped. I of course was already freaked out and this did not help matters much. The boat was rocking even more heavily now that we were stopped and we were in the middle of the ocean. It turned out the captain was just trying to help the guys put the tarps on. I was again thinking “why me???? Seriously!” Eventually we arrived in Railey (sooner than I anticipated) but it turned out they don’t have a dock so we had to wait for smaller boats to come and get us. It was still pouring rain so that by the time we were dropped off on the beach we were soaked. Andrew left me to go look for a place to stay. Railay is also an expensive place to stay. Although it’s on the mainland, there are no roads and you can only get there by boat. When Andrew came back I was glad to hear he had found a place for 500 BHT a night. The downfall was that it was again another 10 minute walk and this time it was up hill. The upside was that it was far away from the sea and up a hill so even if there was a Tsunami (you never know with my luck) we wouldn’t have to run far. The bungalow we rented was very basic but it was set in a very beautiful place. We were in a small valley surrounded by large beautiful karsts. Even though it was raining the view was still spectacular as the clouds were low and they were gathering around the karsts.

The next day we explored Railay and the different beaches it offered. There was one particular beach which had a huge karst sticking right out of it and during low tide you could just walk over and explore a small cave. It also had a bunch of monkeys but again they were evil. They would try to grab everyone’s bag and if you tried to shoo them away they would hiss at you. We spent a good part of the day just walking around and then relaxing on our porch when it would rain. In the afternoon we found a cute little coffee shop where we spent a few hours just reading and relaxing while a huge rainstorm came. It was a very nice peaceful day and I really didn’t mind the rain. However by the evening Andrew started getting restless and he wanted to see the other side of Railay. It was supposed to be a 20 minute walk through some forest as the other beach was supposed to be 800m on a trail. I honestly don’t know who calculated the distance but it’s more like 3km and it took us 45 minutes. Not only was this not a trail but most of it was uphill over some very slippery rocks (someone had at least attached some climbing ropes to it) through the jungle. At least we reached the other side and it was a lot cheaper than our side. The vibe was completely different too, as it had more of a hobo vibe. We wanted to stay and eat at a restaurant that was serving grilled chicken but by the time we ordered they were out of chicken, and then it started to rain and it got dark so we decided to head back. It was twice as exciting walking back because now it was dark. Thank god we had 1 small head lamp between the two of us. The walk wasn’t too bad and neither one of us got hurt but obviously Andrew thought it was “kind of cool” to trek through the jungle at night. We ended up eating at a resort restaurant that had grilled fish with a salad buffet that served bruschetta (among other things) and baked potatoes with our meal (which we hadn’t had for 3 months at this point). The meal was delicious.

The next day Andrew decided to try rock climbing. Although he didn’t forget it was my birthday he didn’t exactly make a big deal of it either. A fact I did not let him live down easily. So the first 4 hours of my birthday were spent watching Andrew learn how to rock climb. The two other people in his group were a couple who had been rock climbing for 10 years so they were obviously pretty good and it turned out the instructor wasn’t instructing them at all but just belaying them up and down. No one was really sure why Andrew had been placed in that group but apparently he was doing really well because he was climbing at their level, a level even the instructor didn’t climb anymore. I don’t know much about rock climbing but apparently each section is rated just like a ski hill. So it was no wonder by the end Andrew’s hands didn’t have any more strength to hold on anymore. But even I was impressed with his endurance.

After the rock climbing session I made it clear to Andrew that it was my birthday and we would do whatever I pleased. So we went to the beach. The beautiful one with the karsts sticking out and the crazy monkeys. After swimming we went to the coffee shop and spent a few hours reading the newspaper and drinking some coffee. Then we changed for dinner and headed back to the same place as the night before. On the way there we met up with the couple from rock climbing and arranged to meet up later at a bar for drinks.

After dinner we headed over to the bar near our guesthouse and I ordered some red wine…which was a special treat for me since wine costs 5x as much as beer. It turned out to be nothing more than grape juice with some alcohol in it but I drank it anyway and was more than just a little drunk by the end of the night. I woke up the next day with a hangover but I didn’t have time to dwell since we were leaving for Kuala Lumpur.

Koh Phi Phi

We took a ferry from Phuket to Phi Phi the next day. Travelling had become a lot more difficult since we picked up that extra bag from Bobby in Bangkok. We were now travelling with 2 big back packs, 2 days packs and a duffel bag. We had way too much stuff but there was nothing we could do about it. We need most of it for Australia and New Zealand. We packed all our bags onto the ferry and were off. A couple of hours later we arrived in Koh Phi Phi. It was hot and the water was amazing, but still not as beautiful as the Similan Islands.

Koh Phi Phi is actually part of a national park and there are 2 islands there called Koh Phi Phi. The larger, and the populated one is called Koh Phi Phi Don (that is where we were staying) and the smaller one (the once containing Maya Beach from the movie “The Beach”) is called Koh Phi Phi Leh. Koh Phi Phi Leh is not populated at all and all developments are banned on that island. It’s a good thing too because if we didn’t have Koh Phi Phi Leh to go visit for day trips, there wouldn’t be too much to do on Koh Phi Phi.

The first thing I noticed as soon as we got off the boat was how densely populated Phi Phi is. There are not cars allowed on the island and all roads are pedestrian only and any space imaginable is occupied by either some sort of store (typically dive shop, café, restaurant or souvenir shop) or a hotel/hostel/guest house. I just couldn’t believe how tight and crowded it was. Since we had the 5 bags we had to carry, we dropped 3 of the off at a local dive shop and went in search of a guest house. We were worried about the prices we would find as anything we had found online or in the lonely planet guide book said it would be impossible to get anything under 1000 Baht per night (around $30). We managed to find a small cute guest house for 750 Baht per night ($25). Maaybe not a huge difference but it was still cheaper than anywhere else we were able to find. In addition to the price, we were also happy with the location. It was right in between the two beaches but far enough from each that you didn’t hear the loud music pumping all night long. The only downfall was that it was about a 15 minute walk from where we left our bags. We had to return to the dive shop, get our bags and bring them to the guest house. It was so hot outside and by the time we returned to the guest house we needed a shower! Of course a cold one because we didn’t have hot water.

We took a walk to the beach to explore the island a little bit, and then grabbed some food at a place that had wi-fi so we were able to synch our ipods. After that we went for a hike to the top of the mountain and had an amazing view of the island, and we were able to see both beaches. Unfortunately it was getting dark so the photos were not as great as we would have liked and the mosquitoes were out with a vengeance. We quickly went back down. We booked an all day snorkeling trip for the following day.

We left for snorkeling around 9am on a long tail boat and the first stop was shark point, and it was just at the end of the bay. We got in the water but were immediately disappointed because the visibility left a lot to be desired. We had 20 minutes to snorkel this site so we were swimming around but very quickly Andrew and I noticed the current and how quickly it was taking us away from the boat. We both decided it was best to start swimming back. It was a hard swim and we were quite tired after it but we made it back. Some people must have noticed the same thing because they were swimming back but one guy started calling for help. He had been taken out quite far. Our boat was collecting other swimmers but luckily another boat was nearby and they picked him up and brought him back to us. So our first snorkeling site ended up being just 10 minutes instead of 20. After the first site we went to another small island which was about a 30 minute boat ride away, called Bamboo Island. The boat dropped us off on the island and we had an hour and a half to relax. The water was stunning. It crystal clear and it was complemented by a soft powdery beach. It was true paradise. The island was small and uninhabited so the only people on the beach were visitors like us. There were plenty of visitors but it didn’t feel crowded at any time. We swam and tanned on the beach and then we were served our lunch. Fried rice. After Bamboo Island our next stop was Mosquito Island. On our way there however all of a sudden the engine made a funny noise and all of a sudden the boat stopped. The engine kept running but the boat was not moving. It turned out that the rotor had fallen off. We were in the middle of the ocean between two islands. All I kept thinking was, “why does this happen to me?” I don’t like boats to begin and you would think 1 adventure on a boat would be enough for our trip but it seems like fate is out to get me. Thankfully our “captains” cell phone still had reception so he called one of his boat buddies to come and get us. But we had at least 30 minutes to kill so our captain said “Snorkel!” So we all jumped in the water and went snorkeling. Since we were in between two islands and nowhere near any coral, there wasn’t much to see but it was better than sitting on the boat. After 30 minutes the other boat came and got us but it was full of other tourists so we had to squeeze in. They were not happy to share their boat with us. We received so many dirty looks, but there wasn’t much we could do. The other boat took us back to another part of Phi Phi, a beach called Monkey beach. You can probably guess why it’s called that but I’ll tell you anyway…it had monkeys on it. We spent about 40 minutes on this beach, but since we had been in Malaysia a few years back and had had our fill of monkeys we weren’t that excited. One things was the same though, the monkey were just as vicious as they were in Malaysia. From here we were separated into different boats. I’m not sure if it was because the other passengers complained or because the boat was too full. Either way Andrew and I were transferred to another boat while the others were also transferred to other boat.

The highlight of the trip was to be Maya Bay. I couldn’t wait to get there because it looked so amazing in the movie. But before we could go there we stopped at another bay which was surrounded by karsts and we could go swimming. Unfortunately it was getting late in the day and it wasn’t as warm in the shade created by the karsts as it was in the sun so we didn’t stay there too long. From there we went to Maya bay and I was utterly disappointed to see it was all in shade. Although the sun hadn’t set yet, the karsts surrounding the beach cast a big shadow so the magical effect I was waiting for did not happen. The 1 million other boats and tourists also killed the moment. We walked around the beach and sat around waiting for the hour of sightseeing to be over. During this time we were entertained by an obviously rich guy who was photographing his girlfriend. I say obviously rich because he had a top of the line camera which apparently costs $40,000 (source: Andrew) but I’m not sure what type of camera it was. The entertaining part however were the poses she was making. It was almost as if she was posing for an 80’s photo shoot. It’s almost as if no one had told her the 80’s were over. Add to this another young guy who obviously had a brand new camera (again I say obviously because it was the same camera that I bought for Andrew with the same lens that comes as part of a kit) and he was trying to make his girlfriend pose for his photos too but she just wasn’t as into it as he was, but he kept running around trying to find the “perfect” spot. It was especially entertaining for me because it was like I was seeing Andrew 5 years ago: completely engrossed in his camera and completely oblivious to everything else around him.

We left Maya bay and parked the boat in between the two islands to watch the sun set. It was beautiful but not as romantic as you would think since there were 10 other people on the boat with us. We returned to the island after sunset, grabbed some food and headed for the beach. Although the party scene is strong on Phi Phi we were watching our budget so we bought some beers at the 7/11 and sat on the beach. We received the same entertainment watching the fire shows as those in the bars but at a ¼ of the price.

The next day we went for the diving trip we had booked the night before. We booked only 2 dives as I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to dive or not. This time I wasn’t leaving anything to chance and took 1 decongestant pill as soon as I woke up and then 2 more right before the dive. When I went under I felt fantastic. I finally felt as if I was back to normal. We were swimming around and we saw a leopard shark (it swam right by us!) and near the end of the dive we also saw a few black tip sharks. It was probably the best dive I had ever had (in terms of the different marine life we had seen). Unfortunately I started having problems with equalizing near the middle of the dive. At first I didn’t think too much of it but by the end of the dive I had a pounding headache. I thought it would go away once I surface but it didn’t. It was so bad that I had sit with my eyes closed and I didn’t want to talk to anyone or eat anything. There was no way I was going for the next dive. Andrew went by himself. As soon as they left I lay down and went to sleep. By the time they surfaced I was feeling a little better but not much. As soon as we got back to our guest house I just went right to sleep. When I woke up a few hours later I was feeling much better but still woozy. By the next morning I was completely fine. I have to admit that it did scare me a little because I hadn’t experienced anything like that before.

Since I didn’t dive one of the dives the day before, the dive shop offered Andrew a discount to dive with them again so he went for another 2 dives. I was thrilled because I had a few hours to myself. I actually spent most of it in a café with an internet connection updating the blog. Once Andrew came back we went swimming at the beach but found the water to be very murky and a bunch of things (algae? Waste from the “waste garden”?) so we went to the other side where the water was clean but we were surrounded by boats. We just couldn’t win. I would say that although Phi Phi is beautiful, because it’s so commercialized and the party scene is so strong, it’s not really a good spot to relax. One side of the island is almost like a large boat yard, while the other side is full of beach bars and the beach is not maintained as well as it could be.

The following day we were catching a ferry to Railay but because the ferry didn’t leave until 3:30pm and we had to check out of our guest house by 11am we again left our bags at the dive shop and spent the day at the café with the wi-fi connection updating our blog. We then grabbed some food and hopped on to the ferry.


We arrived in Phuket late in the afternoon, and we decided to stay in Phuket Town, rather than one of the beaches. Mainly because of budget. All the beaches in Phuket are beautiful but also very expensive. Phuket receives 5.8 million visitors a year and they are not afraid to spend money. We didn’t want to spend money on a taxi to get to the hotel so we decided to walk. It looked close on the map. The walk wasn’t that far but since we had picked up our bag from Bobby in Bangkok we had 1 more bag to carry and it was very annoying. When we arrived at the hotel we found out it was full so we had to walk to a different hotel. It was so humid outside that we were sweating. At least the second hotel we went to had vacancies and had a reasonable price, for Phuket. And it had free Wi-Fi so we were able to skype with friends and family straight from our room.
The next day we rented a scooter and went to explore the island. The island of Phuket is quite large and there are a lot of different parts and beaches and we spent the whole day riding around. Our first stop was Patong beach and we were a little disappointed because although the beach is big and beautiful and the water is crystal clear, it is filled with beach chairs which you can rent for $3 a day, and the water is full of seados and boats. It’s like wasaga on steroids. After coming back from “The Island” where we had the beach almost to ourselves it was a shock. We left very quickly. A lot of the island has mountains so when you’re driving around you get some magnificent views. In addition to the views you also see some very beautiful villas and condos. It’s really a playground for the rich or for people who come here just for a 2 week holiday. That’s really the only way it would be affordable. We rode around the whole day exploring the island and talking with different dive shops to see what kind of diving options we had. We hadn’t been diving in a while and were eager to go again. Unfortunately that evening I found out my grandmother passed away in Poland and I was shocked. My father was very upset and kept saying he wished I was home. It was a hard time and it made me feel guilty for not being at home and for being in this beautiful place while he mourned. I was upset that my grandmother had died of course but I was really more worried for him. We spent the night calling and skyping back and forth with my parents and my brother and helping my parents book tickets to fly to Poland. It was a long night and I was emotionally drained.

We had booked a trip the day before to go kayaking and see the “James Bond Island”. I felt terrible continuing my trip while my parents were home dealing with the death of my grandma. But after talking to my parents (multiple times) they absolutely did not want me flying back home or to Poland. I still felt low on our day trip but I also figured nothing could be gained by sulking around during a trip we had paid for. Plus there wasn’t much more I could do to help my parents.

We were picked up at 7:30am to be taken to the boat we would be on for the day. Usually we are picked up in a large minibus but this time we were picked up in a souped up Honda that was rebranded as a Lexus. It was the drivers personal car and he was obviously really proud of it. He had a large radio/tv in the front and kept playing different reggae music videos. The funny thing is he had a head full of dreads tied back with a bandana and actually looked Jamaican, even though he was Thai. I was sitting in the front with him and he was telling me about the band that was playing and that it was his friend’s band and that he used to be in the band but then moved to Phuket. He drove us to the pier and told us all about the Tsunami of 2004 and how people mistakenly thought Phuket was affected most because of the media coverage, when in reality it was Koh Phi Phi.

We arrived at the pier and had to wait for another hour before we could board the boat. For a while we were the only ones there waiting but then all the minibuses started arriving and I’m not kidding, the only people who were dropped off were Russians. There were at least 1000 people and almost all were Russian. I guess Phuket is popular with the Russians. We boarded the boat and were off. After an hour we arrived at the first spot where we would be kayaking. I say we but we actually had a person kayaking us. The plan was to kayak through a cave, but the first glitch came as soon as we arrived at the cave entrance, which was only 20ft from the boat. That’s when our guide told us to get out, he parked our kayak and started leading us through the cave, since the tide was too low to kayak. It was pitch black and in some parts we were thigh high in water. I was not too thrilled to be walking in a pitch black cave not knowing where we are going but the tour guide was holding on to my arm and kept pushing me forward. After a few minutes we turned a corner and I saw the light! We walked out into a lagoon surrounded by mountains and with lots of mangrove trees. The tide was out so we were able to walk around. I guess if we had arrived while the tide was high we would have been able to kayak inside. It was nice place but then we had to head back, through the cave, then into the kayak and back on the boat. We were then taken to another set of carsts 15minutes away where our guide would kayak us around. This time we spent 20 minutes in the kayak and it was beautiful. We kayaked through karsts into beautiful lagoons surrounded by turquoise water. Unfortunately we got stuck in a traffic jam with other kayakers coming in and out of the lagoon, as other tours had arrived before us, and it killed a bit of the isolated experience. We stopped to take some pictures and were taken back to the boat. Of course before we went on this part of the tour we were told this would be the last time our tour guide would be taking us out so if wanted to tip him, now was the time to do it. Andrew and I didn’t have a lot of money on us and once we arrived back at the boat I gave him 20 Baht (which is not very much but considering we didn’t spend a lot of time in the kayak as promised I didn’t feel too bad). As soon as he saw coins and not paper money, he said no no no. At first I thought he was just being modest and didn’t want to take the money but then I realized what the problem was but I played dumb, handed him the money and left. I was so pissed off that he would refuse our tip. I wasn’t trying to tell him he didn’t perform a good service but at the same time we’re backpackers and don’t have a lot of money to start with. We even debated whether we should be going on this tour, because of money. I spent the lunch hour brooding over him refusing our tip but I got over it pretty quickly. If he was used to getting better tips then he can’t be too badly off. After lunch we took a speedboat to James Bond Island, which was the whole highlight of the trip. When booking we were told we would have 1hour to spend on the island so we can swim, relax and take pictures. Once we arrived we were told we had 30 minutes. At first I was going to argue but then I saw how commercialized the island was and how many tourists were there and I knew we wouldn’t do very much relaxing there. I was still looking forward to some swimming but as soon as we went in the water I realized it was a very muddy bottom and swimming would not be enjoyable at all so we spent the 30 minutes taking lots of pictures. We headed back to the boat and were then dropped off at the pier. Our rasta driver was waiting to take us back to Phuket Town.

As soon as we got back to our hotel room Andrew hopped on our scooter and went to book a trip to the Similan Islands for the following day, and I went to take a shower. As soon as I got out of the shower I saw a HUGE puddle in the middle of our room! And one of our bags was right in the middle of it. While I was taking a shower the drain wasn’t working properly. I didn’t think much of it but it had all drained into our room! Very quickly I picked up the bag and anything else that was lying on the floor and put it away from the water. I then got dressed and went downstairs to tell front desk. I’m not sure how much she understood but she followed me upstairs and then understood very quickly. She said “You take shower…you put water in room”. I said “Yes I take shower, but shower broken and water go inside room”. There was no way I was taking the blame for the flood. She said she would get someone to come up and fix it. While I waited I took everything out of the bag and thankfully only a few pieces of clothes were wet, and no electronics were affected. I hung up the wet stuff to dry and then a guy came. He checked the bathroom and saw the drain was clogged and proceeded to unclog it. After he was done he used a towel to wipe up the floor. He wanted to leave but there was still water on the floor so I made him stay and finish cleaning it up. Once he left I went to check on the bathroom and noticed that he left the drain cover in my sink. It was disgustingly dirty and there was no way I was going to touch it. I was waiting for Andrew to come home and clean it up  By the time Andrew got back I had cleaned up most of the mess and all he had to do was throw out the drain cover.

The following morning we were picked up at 5:30am as we were going to the Similan Islands, which are about 1.5 hours north of Phuket by car, and then another 1.5 hours by speed boat. We had booked a 2 day 1 night diving trip, with a total of 7 dives over 2 days. We would be spending the night on the boat. After the long trip out to the island we arrived in one of the most beautiful spots I had ever been to in the world. The water was crystal clear and the islands were stunning. The Similan Islands are comprised of 9 Islands, 3 of which are a protected park and no one is allowed to go there. Not even to dive. We boarded the boat and within a few minutes we were getting ready for our first dive. We geared up and went under. The visibility was amazing! And there were a lot of smaller fish around us. Unfortunately as soon as I went under I noticed a problem equalizing. That was weird because I had never had a problem before. I had had a cold a few weeks back but I thought I was fine. Apparently not. I felt so much pressure in my head and I had to keep trying to equalize. I had never experienced so many problems. I lasted through the dive and came up but I was feeling as if I had a very bad cold. We had an hour and a half before the next dive so I was just going to see how I felt. We had lunch and chilled out on the top deck. I started to feel better so I decided to go for the next dive. Again as soon as I got into the water again I started having problems. It seemed like this time it was worse because my tooth started hurting too. I struggled through the whole dive. I came up after the dive and again I was feeling sick. I decided not to go for the final dive of the day, which was a night dive. Andrew ended up going for the night dive by himself with just the dive master. I was disappointed because I hadn’t really seen any amazing things yet and I thought I was missing out big time, but apparently Andrew didn’t see anything spectacular on the night dive either so I wasn’t too upset. I was a little surprised however, since the Similan Islands are supposed to be the #1 dive spot in Thailand. During dinner I raised this with our dive masters and instructors and they said “Yeah, you should have been here last year. It was a lot better. The water was really warm this year so a lot of the fish have stayed away.” I found this to be a very negative comment and was a little annoyed that they would be this negative. They could have put this a little more eloquently and made me feel better about the $700 (for both of us) we just spent to go diving with them. But we had only done 3 dives that day and I still had hope we would see something the next day. That night we climbed up to the top deck and laid down to look at the stars. It was amazing. The weather was warm, the boat was gently rocking in the water and we were looking up at a cloudless sky and a full moon. It was so peaceful.

I woke up the next day and I felt like someone punched me in the face. My sinuses were completely stuffed up and we only had a half hour before the first dive. As soon as my dive master heard me talking he told me I shouldn’t be diving because I could damage my sinuses. I was so disappointed but I didn’t want to risk it and I thought I would get better throughout the day. So while Andrew went diving I went up to the top deck and warmed myself in the rising sun. Andrew came back from his dive and although he enjoyed it as there were some very large boulders in the water, again he didn’t see too much marine life. Andrew completed two more dives but I still wasn’t feeling better. I was so disappointed because I definitely wasn’t getting my money’s worth. This was a trip we had splurged on and I couldn’t dive. I decided that for the next dive I would try anyway. I told the dive master my decision but he said if I would have to surface we would all have to surface, and ultimately I didn’t want to keep everyone from diving, so I didn’t go. Seeing them all go in the water was so disappointing for me. I really wanted to go too but I couldn’t. It was so hot outside that I went down to the dive deck and just sat on the ladder while the boat bobbed in and out of the water. Once everyone came back from the dive, the speed boat came and picked us up and took us back to Phuket.

The next day we rented a scooter again and went to a small beach we had found a few days before, called Leam Sing Beach. You had to walk down these steep stairs to get to it, but it was small and cozy. It was not deserted by any means, but at least it wasn’t as packed as the rest of the beaches. We refused to pay the $3 for a beach chair rental but we found a nice spot in the shade on the rocks for free. We hung out there relaxing for the rest of the day.

"The Island"

The bus was scheduled to arrive at 6am in Ranang but of course it arrived early…an hour and a half early. Of course a tuk tuk was waiting to take us to the ferry terminal. Once at the ferry terminal we had to wait until 9:30am for the ferry. We have been debating about whether we should name the island we went to or not and have decided to leave it at just “the island”. Mainly because this island is not developed, doesn’t have electricity and not a lot of tourists. This might not appeal to some but for us it was paradise and we don’t want to encourage too many people to go there and spoil it for the rest of us. Sorry. But if you really are interested in going somewhere good, contact me individually and I might help you out…for a price.  We arrived on the island around noon. There is no ferry terminal on the island so the boat pulls up to the beach as close as possible and you jump out and they pass you your bags. Everyone gets dropped off individually and since our guest house was the last one on the island, we were the last to get dropped off. Once we finally arrived, we were not disappointed. Our part of the island was a small cove with only 3 guest houses on it, and ours was the best one. We had called ahead and made reservations, which turned out to be a good thing because another couple that got off with us wanted to stay there too but they couldn’t, because they didn’t have reservations. Our bungalow was ocean front, about 20ft up on the cliff. The view was amazing and the sound of the waves would lull us to sleep every night. The beach was big and beautiful but not in the traditional sense. It’s a marble beach which means it’s a mix of black and white sand, and the black sand weighs less than the white sand and it leaves a beautiful marble effect when the waves roll in and out. The water looked cloudy due to the black sand, but in fact it was crystal clear. The sun was shining and it was hot! The first thing after checking in we headed to the beach of course. We spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing in the hammocks on the porch in our bungalow. It was very peaceful and quiet. As I mentioned there is no electricity on the island but they do have generators that run between 6pm – 10pm, but after that again it’s lights out. This meant an early night for us every day but that’s okay as we were very tired from not doing anything.

The next day I spent some time on the beach while Andrew went to explore the rest of the island. He found a bakery which bakes fresh goodies every day. The next day we went there for breakfast and had a wonderful breakfast of homemade fresh bread, homemade jam and fresh coffee. It was delicious. Again, we spent the rest of the day swimming and on the beach. We stayed on the island for 4 days but it really flew by. The past few months had been fairly hectic and it was nice just to hang out and enjoy the sun and the beach. This is definitely a place we want to go back to. From there we took a ferry back and booked a bus to Phuket.