January 15th - We were up and made use of the free breakfast in the hotel. We then caught the Sky train to Siam Square in the centre of Bangkok and you could straight away sense the buzz of the city with hundreds of people on the streets selling food, clothes etc and lots of taxis and tuk tuk flying around. There is also a definate stench to Bangkok! We had a walk around taking in the completely different culture after being in NZ and Oz for the past 5 months and went to a tourist information booth to get a map and also a travel agent to ask about flights down to the islands for when Laura & Jonathan arrived. We went into a massive new shopping centre in Siam Square and used the internet and again looked at flight prices.
We caught a taxi to the airport about 3.30pm and waited for an hour or so before Laura & Jonathan came through about 5pm. While waiting we found cheaper flights down to the islands so once they came through we went and booked a flight to Phuket
for the next day. It was really good to see them. We caught a taxi to the hotel and gave them a bit of time to sort themselves out. We then walked down to the river to catch a boat to near China Town but the boat we got on just crossed the river to the other side and everyone got off! We walked through a street lined with market stalls and got in a taxi to China Town but although it was buzzing there weren't any bars around so we got another taxi (they are so cheap!) to Koah San Road which is the famous street in Bangkok for nightlife and bars etc and wehere most backpackers stay.
It was buzzing and we quickly found a bar for our first drink in Thailand and had a few beers. We then got something to eat and the night passed by with lots of drinking and catching up. They have basic bars everywhere so you just sit on plastic seats on the side of the road and drink cheap booze. We got talking to a guy who called himself 'Mr Thailand' and had some fun with him before walking across the road to another bar where we stayed for the rest of the night. Neil & Jonathan were loving the native beer, Chang (Jonathan was happy as its Everton's sponsor as well) and ordered a tower of Chang which holds 3 litres and is iced in the centre to keep the beer cold, they got through two towers by the end of the night. Emma & Laura were on the buckets which are simply sandcastle buckets filled with cocktails with a straw.
We had a great night and found our way home in a taxi!
January 16th - We all woke up feeling a bit fragile, Neil didn't even make it to breakfast. We checked out and left our bags at the hotel. We caught the river taxi along the river to the Grand Palace but when we arrived we remembered that we should have been wearing something to cover our legs as you cannot enter if wearing shorts or a skirt due to their religion so we had to buy from a local stall. Neil & Jonathan got very colouful trousers and Emma & Laura got colouful sarongs and it was about 10 pounds for the lot. The Grand Palace was amazing and we spent a couple of hours looking around before catching the river boat back. We used the internet to book some accommodation in Phuket for that night before getting some food in a random cafe and we're still not sure exactly what we ate but it was some kind of soup with lots of different things floating in it! We caught a taxi to the airport and got our 6.
50pm flight to Phuket. We caught a taxi from the airport in Phuket to our hotel, Absolute Villa Patong, which was on Patong beach. We were all knackered so had drinks from the mini bar and pringles in the room.
January 17th - We all felt much better after 10 hours sleep and had breakfast by the pool at the hotel. We then caught the hotel shuttle down to the pier to catch the 1.30pm boat to Koh Phi Phi island. We tried to book rooms on the internet before we left the hotel but didnt receive a confirmation. We were taken to the hotel anyway when we got off the boat, there were no vehicles so a guy with a trolley took all the bags and we walked along a path by the beach.
They dodnt have our booking but we managed to sort it out in the end, we had a basic room for the 2 nights and L & J had the same for the first night and moved into a superior room the next day. We went straight down to the beach for a couple of hours and had a swim in the sea and then went to a bar on the beach. We had some dinner and sat on the beach drinking for the evening on padded seats watching a fire show and just chilling out.
January 18th - We got up and al realised that we had been bitten a lot on the beach the night before and all had lots of bites on our feet and ankles. We had breakfast and got some sun loungers around the pool and spent the day just chilling out. We had a walk around in the afternoon and had a look in lots of shops at all the very cheap clothes etc.
Phi Phi is the most expensive island though and the accommodation was the most we paid anywhere in Thailand. We had showers later and we out for dinner by the beachfront with lots of insect repellant on. We then had a chilled night playing cards in L & J room.
January 19th - We caught the 9am boat which was a 1.5 hour crossing to Krabi. We then had to wait for about an hour before catching a coach for a couple of hours before stopping for lunch. We then were back on the coach for another hour to Don Sak where we caught another boat from the pier for about 1.5 hours across to Koh Samui island.
It was about 4pm by then so it was a bit cooler and we sat out in the sun with a couple of Changs. We had arranged with a guy at the restaurant where we had lunch for a minibus which picked us up at the pier in Koh Samui and took us to our hotel at Chaweng
beach. The hotel was called First Residence and was really nice and only about 25 pounds per couple per night. We showered and walked into town in the evening, Chaweng beach is the busiest place in Koh Samui and the street is lined with hundreds of restaurants, bars, shops etc. We found a really nice restaurant and decided to eat there, it was a bit more expensive than we would have normally paid as backpackers but still very cheap and the food was amazing.
We all ate a lot and were very stuffed so called it a night afterwards.
January 20th - Neil had a quick swim in the pool after breakfast before we all walked the 5 minutes down to the beach. We spent the day on the beach, which was really quiet where we were right at the end of the beach, and sunbathed, played frisbee, football and ate pineapple & corn on the cob for lunch from a lady selling on the beach. Neil & Jonathan went for a walk along the beach and to the town in the afternoon to get some more suncream and both had their shirts off for a couple of hous and came back very red! We all met back up at the hotel and had a swim in the pool and a drink as it was happy hour! In the evening we ate at a big open plan canteen type place but the food was very good and so cheap.
We did a bit of a bar crawl afterwards and went to a bar on the street which was a VW combi van parked up that had been turned into a bar and then onto an Irish bar to play pool. We decided to catch a taxi back to the hotel and got in a open back van with bench seats which are common on Koh Samui.
January 21st - We decided to have another lazy day on the beach but the boys kept their T shirts on. We were all quite tired so enjoyed just chilling out for the day and played cards on the beach. We went to the hotel pool in the afternoon and then back to the same place as the night before for dinner. We then had a quiet night with a few beers and a game of cards in the hotel room although the girls decided to have a night off the booze.
January 22nd - We were up and had brekkie at 9am and were picked up about 9.
45am and driven to the pier for the 10.30am boat across to Koh Phangnan. We arrived there about 11.15am in Haadrin and had a walk around for an hour by the pir looking in the shops and had a drink. We then walked about 15 minutes around the bay to Sunset beach which is where they hold the 'famous' full moon parties. We walked right to the end of the beach where is was very quiet and plotted up under a couple of palm trees, it was beautiful. We spent about 4 hours on the beach just chilling out, playing frisbee and going in and out of the sea as it was a hot day. We had lunch in a place right on the beachfront and the afternoon went really quick. We caught the boat back to Koh Samui at 5.30pm and were picked up at the other side and taken back to the hotel. The trip for the whole day only cost us 450 bht each.
We all had quick showers and were out in about 30 mins. We walked to the main street and stopped us at a bar called Open Mind Bar which had a custom made round pool table. We stayed in there for a while as it was quiet and we had the place to ourselves before going for dinner in a place along the road which was still cheap but a bit more like a restaurant than the place we had been the previous couple of nights - Laura and Jonathan treated us. We then went back to the same bar as they had live music from 'Mr Coconut' who turned out to be funnily bad! The girls ended up smashing the boys at pool before we ended the night back at the hotel with a couple more drinks and a game of 'golf' (cards).
January 23rd - We had brekkie at 10am and finished packing and were checked out by 11am.
We first went shopping to get the stuff we wanted and had been bargaining for for the previous few days. We ended up doing lots of bargaing and getting some good deals on T Shirts, gifts etc... We had been shopping for over an hour and had been in so many shops that all look virtually the same and had started heading back to the hotel when Neil realised that he did not have the bag he had brought out with our two passports, camera, memory stick with all our backed up photos and his Ipod. We ended up all splitting up uite quickly and trying to retrace our steps. Luckily Neil managd to find the shop where we had first tried on T Shirts and they had the bag so we were VERY relieved! He quickly checked it and everything was there. (It turned out that when checking out of a hotel two days later that the memeory stick with all of our photos from the whole trip was missing so they must have stolen that in the shop thinking as it was small we wouldn't notice, but thankfully we hadn't deleted any photos from the cameras memory card so we haven't lost anything and as soon as we got to Cambodia we bought a memory stick again and they are all now backed up again)After that bit of fun we finished shopping and then all went for a Thai massage which was a full body massge that lasted an hour, we were all in the same room in a line.
It cost 4 pounds each! Laura also had foot treatment. We then had some lunch in the restaurant in our hotel before getting a taxi to the airport. Koh Samui airport is amazing, it is very new and is a typical island airport. It is small and you check in under thatched huts before walking along a street outside with lovely shops and restaurants along it and they are playing music over speakers, it reminded us of Disney World or something. You then sit in armchairs and comfy seats in the departure land before catching a little trolley bus out to the plane. We landed in Bangkok about 7.15pm. We got a taxi and the driver turned out to be crazy! He was singing, shouting and generally driving a bit crazily so we were ll glad when we arrived and checked in to the hotel.
We got ready and went out and caught a Tuk Tuk to Koahsan Road, our first experience of a tuk tuk and the driver was mad and even stopped at one point and bought his 18 mth old son and 3 year old daughter in with us. We had a very boozy night and got on the buckets and Chang Towers again and ate some really good street food and bought a few gifts etc on the street. We caught a taxi home and were all ready for bed.
January 24th - After breakfast we said goodbye to Laura & Jonathan and they caught a cab to the airport at 10.30am. We went back to bed and slept in til 2pm as we were very tired. We then went out and caught the Sky Train to Siam Square to use the internet and Skype the parents back home. We went to a department store and bought some needle and thread as Neil's backpack with in need of some repair! We then went back to the hotel and spent the night in the room fixing Neil's backpack and we had room service which was very very cheap!
January 25th - We were up early and caught a taxi at 6.
30am to the bus station. We bought our tickets and were on the 7.30am bus to Arun Prathet on the Thai-Camobodian border. We (mostly Emma) had researched this trip thoroughly as it is renowned for tourists getting scammed at various points along the way. The first bus journey takes 4 hours nd when you get off the bus at a bus station you have to catch a Tuk Tuk to the border. This is the first scam, the driver takes you first to a shop here he says you have to get your visa as they no longer supply them at the border, we were ready and refused and said e wanted to go to the border, he then drives about 20 metres away and stops outside the 'Consulate' and says that we must get them there as that will be the last chance. We refused again so he finally agreed to drive us the short distance to the border and dropped us about a 200 metre walk away and refused to go any further.
We walked to the border crossing and had met a couple on the bus (English guy and German girlfriend) and we all went through the Thai side with no problem. We then had to get our Cambodian visa and this seemed to go very smoothly as we paid the right price and had it within 5 minutes. We then had to join the immigration queue to actually enter Cambodia which was fine although took about 45 mins. Then is the next scam to be aware of, there is a free government bus which takes you to the bus/taxi station, and we were very careful in making sure we got on the right bus. Whether it was or wasn't the right bus (we're not totally sure) we ended up at a brand new building about 10 minutes away from the border. This was the next scam to be aware of, the Lonely Planet says a taxi should be about $35 - $40.
They tried it on with us and as it was Chinese New Year said that a taxi would be $60, we haggled for a while and ended up getting one for about $42 which we were happy with. The two of us and the other couple shared the taxi which is about a 3 hour journey and we arrived in Siem Reap for the final scam to be tried where they stop and a guy says that the taxi driver cannot take you straight to the hotel as he doesn't know where it is and you have to get a Tuk Tuk (if they manage to convince you that they then tell you that the hotel you have booked is full and they take you to the hotel of your choice!) but we stayed in the cab and insisted he took us and after some convincing we were taken to our Guest House and we checked in. The guesthouse was nice and only cost about 3 pounds each.
We then went out for dinner and found a 'street kitchen' which is a lady cooking on the side of the road where you eat on plastic tables and chairs, the food was great and a main dish was $1! So we both ate with a drink each for $3!!!
January 26th - We had a lay in and went out and bought a memory stick and uploaded all the photos. We then had a look around some of the markets before going back to our room for a chill out. We then went back to the same place as the night before for dinner and spent lots of money again! We met Dan and Britta (the couple we had shared the taxi with the day before) for a drink before going and having a look round the night market. We then got a tuk tuk back to the guesthouse.
January 27th - We had breakfast at 7.
30am and left the guesthouse at 8am. We had hired a Tuk Tuk for the whole day to take us to the temples of Angkor Wat, they are famous temples that were rediscovered after being lost in the jungle for over 1000 years. The driver took us to about 10 different temples throughout the day and they are very impressive and fanstastic to see. It was also good fun driving in the Tuk Tuk between each one. Each temple has its own different points, some have trees growing through the walls that are actually keeping them standing, they are the most famous landmark of Cambodia and the main beer of the country is called Angkor! We were back at the guesthouse by about 3.30pm and paid only $15 for the driver for the whole day. We were knackered so had a 'siesta'until about 7pm before going out for dinner and a few drinks.
January 28th - We were again up early, about 6.30am and checked out and were picked up in a minibus to be taken to the main bus station for our 8.30am bus to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. We paid $10 each for the 'VIP' bus which was comfortable and had a toliet on baord for the 6 hour journey. We arrived in Phnom Penh about 2.30pm and as soon as we stepped off the bus it was manic, with tuk tuk drivers everywhere trying to get you to their guesthouse etc. We hadn't booked any accommodation but had picked somewhere in the Lonely Planet to go to so got a Tuk Tuk there, but unfortunately it was fully booked, which in the end turned out to be a good thing as we really liked the area we ended up staying in. We then got another Tuk Tuk to the Lakeside area of town which is where most backpackers head as it has lots of guesthouses along the side of the lake and it is quite enclosed so the area has a really nice feel about it.
We again chose a guesthouse from Lonely Planet called the Floating Island guesthouse and when we walked in we were not sure as it was not very clean and was built on stilts right out over the lake, but they took us upstairs to an area with seats and couches looking out over the lake that was really nice. We decided to go for the cheaper of the 2 rooms we were shown, which had a fan but no air con which was fine. The room was very basic, not that clean and with a very small toilet/bathroom but only cost $5 per night for both of us! It turned out to be fine and was perfect for us, the only thing was the floor boards were very loose as cou stepped out of the toliet and we were very wary of falling through to the lake below so avoided that part of the floor! We just chilled out there for a while, it was run by Cambodian students and was funded by Western people so it was a great place to stay.
We went out in the evening for a drink in 'The Wanderer' bar and had some food, Emma was very excited when she saw a Cheese & Baked bean toastie on the menu which she had as it reminded her of Uni.
January 29th - We got up about 10am and found a Tuk Tuk driver and hired him for $10 for the day. Our first stop were 'the Killing Fields' which are about 15 km out of the city. Between 1975 - 1979 in Cambodia there was a regime trying to take over the country and forced the whole population out of the city to farm the land. Those that were against or thought to be were killed and so thousands of innocent people lost their lives. These killing fields were some of many but the biggest that have been found and it was a very sad place to visit although it was very quiet and calm there.
In the middle of the area of land that have built a tower where they have on show 8000 human skulls that were found at that site which is a chilling thing to see, they also have a massive pile of the clothes that have been founds as well. They still have areas that haven't been dug up and as you walk around they are fragments of human bone everywhere as well as clothing etc... From there we went to the S21 Genocide museum which is the prsion where many of these people were kept in tiny calls and tortured etc. Again this was a very sad place to visit but one that shows you so much about the history of the country. After spending about an hour there we asked the Tuk Tuk driver to drop us at the main shopping centree which is fairly new and was had to buy some toiletries and things.
We then had a look around the market before going back to the guesthouse. We chilled out there in the afternoon, reading and playing pool. There are so many street children there that go around the bars and gueshouses selling books, they are all obviously very poor but speak good english and aeem so happy. Neil played pool with one of them for a while. You feel that you should help them but are told not to as it encourages child labour when they should be at school. We had dinner in an Indian restaurant which was great food, all you could eat Thali for $2 each. We shared a table with an Scottish bloke and Israeli girl and ended up going out for drinks with them later in the Wanderer bar where we met a couple of english girls as well and it turned into a session until 2.
January 30th - We had arranged with a guy that worked at our hostel to take us to an orphanage that morning in his tuk tuk. We met him at 9am and he only had a moped and we had both wanted the experience of a 'moto' taxi, basically sitting on the back of a moped, they are cheaper than tuk tuks, and so both got on the back of his moped. It took us a minute to get our balance and find out where to put our feet but we were soon speeding through the city, weaving in and out of traffic, it was a great experience and we both felt safer than we thought we would. We turned up at the Orphanage and there seemed to be nobody around until 2 young children appeared. It turned out that out of the 19 children who lived there, most were at public school that day but we soon met some more and met about 7 children in the end.
We were taken to their classroom where they learn when not at school and there were two western girls working there, it was basically a classroom out in the open with very old desks. All the children we met were so happy and it was great to spend some time with them. We took with us lots of exercise books, pencils, crayons etc which we left for them. We stayed for about an hour before getting back on the moped back to our gueshouse. It was still only 10.30am so we had some breakfast and spent the day chilling out and using the internet etc. We went back to the same place for the $2 Thali again for dinner and then met an aussie guy with two german girls and spent the night playing pool with them.
January 31st - We were picked up on a minibus at 8am to be taken to the bus station where we got the 8.
30am bus to Sihanoukville. There were about 12 of us in the minibus and we seemed to be the last people to arrive at the bus station, the bus was already packed and after putting our luggage on, having it taken off, being told we had to get on another bus, they finally put us on the same bus and we got the last two seats but not together. A group of 4 other backpackers had to sit on the floor in the aisle with their backpacks. We arrived at the bus station in Sihanoukville at about half 12 and shared a taxi with a German girl to find accommodation. Lots of guesthouses were full but we finally got a double room with a nice ensuite bathroom in a brand new guesthouse (more like a hotel) for $12 for the first night and $10 a night after that which was cheap for this place.
We went straight out and walked along the beach which was packed with locals and tourists, it is not a clean beach as there is a lot of rubbish, but it is nice with loads and loads of bars and restaurants. There were loads of people in the sea but we didn't fancy it after the clear blue water in Thailand. After a 'siesta' we went out for dinner and a few drinks in bars along the beach. We ended up watching Premiership football in a bar near our guesthouse talking to a fat old bald bloke from Gillingham, Kent who moved here two years ago and told us in graphic details about the fun he has with young Asian women!!!
February 1st - We stayed in bed until after midday enjoying having Sky TV in our room. We were out by 2pm and went down the beach for a while and a walk around to look at the place.
We went back to the room in the late afternoon and chilled out before going out about 9pm to watch the Newcastle v Sunderland match on TV and had some dinner. We were then back to the room to watch the Liverpool v Chelsea match, Neil was loving it having not seen hardly any football in the last 5 months in NZ and Oz.
February 2nd - We again had a lay in before going down to the beach. We spent the day on the bach before using the internet in the late afternoon. The beach is buzzing with loads of local people walking up and down selling fruit, sunglasses, books, jewellery, massages, pedicures...... Emma phoned her Grandma as it was her birthday and she told us about the snow back at home. That night we went out to a few bars, as on the beach during the day we had been given flyers about when all the happy hours were.
We went to 3 different bars from 9pm - 12pm and the draught beer was 25c, about 17p!!!
February 3rd - We were really enjoying having a lazy time so got up late again and headed to the beach for the day. We found a really nice beach front bar that did good breakfasts/brunch (hash browns, baked potatoes etc as a change from rice & noodles!) and we ate there which meant we could you the sunloungers on the beach in front for free for the day. It was a really nice day so we stayed there and read our books. (Emma finished one in a day and a half!) That night we just chilled out in our room and watched some films.
February 4th - The same routine again! We spent the day on the beach and headed back to the guesthouse about 5pm. We were starting to get to know a lot of the sellers on the beach quite well! Before we had arrived in Sihanoukville Neil's mate who travelled here last year told us we must visit the cinema so that night after dinner we went to the 10pm showing of 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'.
It was good but a bit too long. The cinema was similar to the one we loved in Wanaka, NZ with lots of comfy seats and just one screen.
February 5th - We hit the beach about midday and played some pool in the bar, every bar in Cambodia has a pool table which is free to play. We spent the afternoon on the beach, it's good as there are umbrellas everywhere so plenty of shade. We decided to have a chilled night so went out for dinner, main course and a drink each all for $7! We then watched a couple of films on the movie channels back in our room.
February 6th - We got up a little earlier about 10am and headed out. We first went to buy our bus tickets to go back to Phnom Penh the next day, was $6 each with a free pick up from our guesthouse to the bus station.
We then got a tuk tuk as we wanted to see one of the other main areas of Sihanoukville so went to Victory Hill where there is also another beach. On the way there in the Tuk Tuk it started absolutely pouring of rain, we both got pretty wet although the guy did stop and pull covers down over the sides for us. We got there and had some breakfast in a cafe and then had a walk around but we didn't really like the place and were glad we had stayed at Ocheteural beach instead. There seemed to be lots of old western men with young asian women there. As it was so wet we didn't go to the beach but instead got a Tuk Tuk back to our Guesthouse and the weather had really brightened up so after using the internet we hit the beach for the afternoon. We decided to have another quiet night as had to be up early the next morning so we went out for a BBQ dinner on the beach which was $3 each and was really good, Emma had Tuna and Neil had chicken and it was cooked in front of you.
We then went back to our room.
February 7th - We were up and waiting outside our guesthouse at 7am for our pick up to the bus station that we had paid for with our ticket. The pick up never arrived! We therefore had to get a tuk tuk to the bus station ourselves and speak to the company who finally agreed to put us on another bus at 8.15am and after a lot of persuading they finally refunded the $3 we had paid for the tuk tuk to the bus station. The bus took about 4 hours and we arrived after lots of traffic at the bus station in Phnom Penh at 1pm. We took a Tuk Tuk to the lakeside area where we stayed last time and found a guesthouse house (Number 9 Guesthouse) straight away which again was right on the lake but the room was cleaner than the place we had stayed in before but was still only $5.
We put our bags in the room and both got on the back of a scooter (moto taxi) to the markets to buy a couple of things we wanted. We then came back to the guesthouse and had a little 'siesta' before going out in the evening for the $2 Thali!