Sunday, 30 October 2011

Berastagi

I'm blogging and uploading photos as frequently as I can now that I've got cheap, relatively fast internet access. After Bukit Lawang, Alex and I got a minibus to Berastagi, a town located near two large volcanoes.

Berastagi - Mt. Sibayak

Today we hiked up one of the volcanoes, Mt. Sibayak, which has a peak at 2012m. After a two hour climb we arrived at the crater, met by a welcoming and slightly overpowering scent of sulphur.

Berastagi - Mt. Sibayak

The trek down was rather more arduous: we took the more exciting 'jungle path' option, which was very steep and slippery. At one point I slipped, slid, and landed with my left foot on a protruding nail which pierced my shoe and the sole of my foot. Luckily it didn't go in too deeply though, and I could still walk on it. Thank god for tetanus jabs.

Berastagi - Mt. Sibayak

I spent the rest of the day reading The Selfish Gene, which I'm really enjoying. Off to Samosir on Lake Toba tomorrow, an island on a lake on an island.

Berastagi - Mt. Sibayak

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Bukit Lawang

After a flight from Penang to Medan I arrived in Sumatra. I met a guy called Alex at at the airport, and we've been travelling together for the past few days.

Bukit Lawang - Nasi Goreng Ayam Special

We got a minibus to Bukit Lawang, on which I had the misfortune of having to listen to a few seconds of Sean Kingston's Album 'Tomorrow' before I managed to get my headphones in and turn my iPod all the way up.

Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek - Orang Utan

We went on a two day trek through the jungle with a guide and four other tourists and saw gibbons, macaques, orang utans, lizards and more. We stayed in a little hut in the jungle and had our very own river to wash in.

Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek

On the second day we walked to a waterfall, and then rafted back on a little raft made of tubes.

Bukit Lawang Jungle Trek

Listening to: Boys Like Girls by Boys Like Girls

Friday, 28 October 2011

Penang

I got a ferry from Koh Phi Phi, followed by a 9 hour minibus journey, and arrived in Penang ready to go to bed. The owner of the hostel, Azlan, told me that 'everyone' was going out though, so in a desperate attempt to make some new friends I went out with them as well. Maybe people are friendlier when they are travelling, or maybe it was the tequila, but I made new friends pretty quickly. We all went to Sixty9ine, a club just down the road which had a swimming pool. After some more drinks and a dip in the pool we got bored, and headed back to the hostel. Azlan bought some candles, we both took our guitars and we headed to the beach for the rest of the night.



Azlan went to great lengths to make everyone's stay as fun as possible. There was a small recording studio/guitar room in the hostel, and he let me play his beautiful Slash signature Gibson Les Paul. He also arranged a few jam sessions with some of his friends, which were really fun.

Penang - Azlan's guitar

Over the next few days I went jetskiing, played guitar with a lot of Azlan's friends, went into Georgetown, Azlan painted my guitar and I booked a flight to Medan (Sumatra, Indonesia). 

Finished Reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Now Reading: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Listening To: Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin, Aqualung by Jethro Tull

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Koh Phi Phi

I found Charlotte (whom I met in Koh Tao) on Koh Phi Phi and joined her and two other girls, Fedra and Cathleen, in a dorm. Charlotte and Fedra told me about a 'job' they had managed to get at the Banana bar. They were to stand outside the bar from 6pm until 11pm, telling people about the rooftop bar and cinema. For this they would be paid the princely sum of 300 baht, or just over £1/hour in real money. I made fun of them for signing up to that for a while, until Fedra got food poisoning and I somehow agreed to take her place. Charlotte and I, along with another guy, spent all night handing out flyers and going up to people in the street telling them about the bar. I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would, and ended up meeting loads of people and having one of the best nights I've had so far, with all the free drinks we got, as well as a free Mexican dinner provided by the restaurant.

Koh Phi Phi - View Point

On day two I got up early to go snorkelling on Long Beach, and on day three Charlotte and I hiked up to the viewpoint to get an incredible view of the entire island. We walked through a bit of jungle to the beaches on the other side of the island, where we sat down and witnessed a storm approaching over the water.

Koh Phi Phi

After the storm we headed back, got changed and went out to a few of the beach bars to see the fire shows. Next stop: Penang, Malaysia.

Koh Phi Phi - Fire Show

Now Reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Now listening to: Led Zeppelin III by Led Zeppelin

Friday, 21 October 2011

Lovely, Lonely Lanta

From Krabi Shaneel went to Penang, Malaysia, and I went to Koh Lanta. I decided to go to Koh Lanta instead of Koh Phi Phi because I heard it was cheaper, less touristy, and still beautiful. I found it to be beautiful, but slightly deserted.

Koh Lanta - Long Beach

After a long journey from Krabi to Koh Lanta, I set out to find some accommodation. I´d read about a hostel on Long Beach, so I set out to find it. With no success. I checked out a few expensive resorts, but during a thunderstorm I found shelter in a construction site where I got talking to some of the workers, who told me about the resort they were working on. It was currently under construction, but there was one bungalow which was finished. I talked to the manager and managed to get a cheap rate for this one bungalow, which left me feeling rather more lonely when night came around. I went to a bar after dinner but it was pretty dead, so headed back to my little cabin of loneliness, complete with open air bathroom, to play guitar for a while.

Koh Lanta - Pearl Beach Resort

My one full day on Lanta was quite productive: I got a Thai massage (as painful as people have described it being), finished reading some books, went for a run on the beach around sunset, and went for a swim in the sea. Long Beach is beautiful, but I decided maybe Koh Phi Phi would´ve been better. So I booked a ferry ticket to Phi Phi for the day after.

Koh Lanta - Long Beach

Finished Reading: Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
Listening To: Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Koh Phangan and Krabi

From Koh Tao we travelled to Koh Phangan, where the legendary Full Moon Party takes place. The party itself was obviously quite good, with plenty of glow paint, Sang Som (Thai Rum) buckets, slides and fire skipping ropes. Unfortunately I won't be able to upload any of the photos until they've been developed, since we bought a disposable camera for the night. We managed to keep ourselves busy the few days we were there before the full moon party: we went for a few dives off Sail Rock with our diving buddies from Koh Tao, where we managed to see some of the fish that had evaded us on Koh Tao, and lots more barracuda. On one of the dives my mask started leaking so I had to change masks at 22m, which was a first for me. Next stop, Krabi.

Krabi - Snorkelling

Our evenings in Krabi so far have been spent at the night market, trying as many of the different foods on offer as possible. There's an abundance of fruit shakes, chicken skewers, and rice/noodles dishes which are all delicious and extremely cheap (you can get fried rice, some chicken skewers, a fruit shake and a pancake for about £2), so that we're only limited by how much we can actually eat.

Krabi - Last meal together

I spent our first day in Krabi kayaking, while Shaneel stayed at the hostel to watch the rugby or football or something. Krabi has some of the most beautiful scenery we've seen in Thailand so far, with limestone islands and pristine beaches all around. On the kayaking trip I managed to see a large lizard, a hermit crab, and a few monkeys in a mangrove forest.

Krabi - Kayaking

We booked a Four Island snorkelling trip for our second day, where we got a longtail boat around a few of the islands around Krabi, and went snorkelling off some of the more fish-rich beaches.

Krabi - Snorkelling

The eye candy wasn't all underwater though, as the surrounding cliffs surrounded by the transparent waters demanded their own set of photos.

Krabi - Snorkelling

Tomorrow Shaneel will travel to Malaysia, as I go to Koh Lanta for a final couple of days of Thai beaches before I head to Sumatra. We're about to set off for our last supper together (at the night market, no less), as after tomorrow the next time we see each other will be in rainy, cold, boring England.

Finished Reading: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Now Reading: Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Koh Tao

Shaneel and I have joined forces again, and we're now on Koh Tao. I finished my Advanced Open Water course yesterday. Shaneel got food poisoning so didn't managed to do his Advanced course, but did finish the Open Water course. I did 6 dives over three days; saw barracuda, jellyfish, trigger fish; went down to 33m and did a night dive. I rented a camera for a day.

Koh Tao - Diving

Even above the water, this island is beautiful. There's lots of nice beaches, palm trees, and because it's low season it's not too busy. This is the beach we're staying on:

Koh Tao

Today I walked to Shark Bay, the next bay over from ours, with a girl called Charlotte whom I met at the dive resort's daily bbq yesterday. We took a bit of a detour and climbed through a load of bungalows and huge rocks to find a completely deserted part of the beach, where we spent the afternoon. She went snorkelling, and I joined her after hearing her shout "Harald! You have to see this!" to see hundreds of parrot fish feeding off the coral on the bottom.

Shark Bay

I spent a few hours playing guitar and swimming around in the water, and I managed to get a good photo I could use in case I ever release an album of acoustic beach songs.

Koh Tao - Shark Bay

We left Shark Bay and hiked up to a view point just in time to see the sun set.

Koh Tao - Sunset

Monday, 3 October 2011

Chiang Mai (outside the hostel)

Since I got better we've been making the most of Chiang Mai and trying to stay away from our hostel's amazing huge TV with a collection of hundreds of films. Our first day out was spent on a jungle trek where we got to ride elephants and bamboo rafts. Feeding the elephants was so much more fun than I expected, as their little alien-looking trunks pop up to stare you in the face only seconds after you gave them their last banana. We walked around the Jungle for a while, visiting some villages and getting to shoot crossbows.

Chiang Mai trek - Elephant

We were then punted Oxford-style (where the boatman stands at the front of the punt, as opposed to proper punting where they stand at the back and use the pole as a rudder) along the river on a small bamboo raft which managed to do its job of keeping us above the water most of the time.

Chiang Mai trek - Rafting

Shaneel left Chiang Mai the next day to go to Koh Tao, which left me with the difficult task of making some new friends. I managed to force some people to visit a temple with me, and in the evening I dragged some girls along to the night market for endless clothes shopping. Or I think that's what happened.

Chiang Mai - Night market

We went to the Reggae bar in town for the night, where they had a great live reggae band playing some very groovy tunes indeed. After a bit of sleep Bakul, Alice and I boarded a minibus which would take us in to the jungle where we could attach ourselves to some ropes and fly from tree to tree. The longest zip line was just over 100m, and there was also a heart-stopping 40m abseil, which was like Thorpe Park's detonator, but with a single rope in the place of a huge metal tower.

Chiang Mai - Jungle Flight

For more photos, check out my Flickr account, and for even more photos I've uploaded some albums on Facebook.

Finished reading: Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson
Listening to: Factory of Faith by Red Hot Chili Peppers