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Jungle Love

Surely it should rain in the rainforest??


View Discovering South East Asia on cblanc102's travel map.

This is a post I meant to write a week ago, but with everything going on I just didn't get around to it, but Bangkok is pretty much closed down now and I'm heading up to Chiang Mai at 6pm and the kind girl running the hostel today said that it was fine for me to sit up on the roof deck until I have to leave. So I have some time.

So two weeks ago I was staying in a bamboo hut, nursing my sunburnt back and dreading my journey to Khao Sok. Don't get me wrong, I was very much looking forward to being there, I felt I'd spent too much time on the island, but I just wasn't looking forward to the travel. Carrying my pack with a burnt back was not going to be fun!

It was actually worse than I'd expected.

The pack carrying part was ok. My backpack is bloody marvelous, with lots of ways to carry it, and as I'd thrown some bits away was now both a tad lighter and a lot easier to pack. It was the journey itself that was annoying. The journey out had been fine, well organised with easy follow-able instructions about how to do each part of the journey. Not so this time, as I stood around wondering where the hell I was supposed to be and what boat I was supposed to take. As it turned out, there was only one boat, but who knew?? I eventually saw someone with a similar sticker to me. We were all given stickers and luggage tags with our final destination written on, so it was fairly easy to find someone with the same sticker and hope to hell they knew what they were doing!

I knew the journey was going to take 8 or so hours, but thought that it would be two hours by boat and the rest by minibus, but it was actually two boat trips of two hours, a good 90 mins wait in between and the rest by minibus. Both boat rides were pretty horrendous, very bumpy with people being sick and falling over you as they attempted to traverse the isles. The minibus was then hot and stuffy, with a random change in the middle and I couldn't sit back and rest as my back was covered in blisters...

However. The scenery on the minibus ride went from being lovely to breathtaking. Generally as you travel outside the cities in Thailand it looks great. Palm trees and the like everywhere, interesting little shrines in the unlikeliest of places, wildlife, people going about their days with interesting looking cargo. But when I was about half an hour away from my hotel, the landscape changed into huge limestone cliffs everywhere surrounded by jungle. It was incredible. Even the dirty bus station I arrived at looked amazing because of the scenery. I got a cab to my hotel.

In 2013 I did my first proper solo trip, to Nepal. It was pretty cheap I thought at the time. A 10 day guided tour of the country including 3 days hiking in the Himalayas, 3 days full board at another place, then three days in Mumbai, India all for under £1000. I had been in a very nice hotel in a town called Pokhara, then up into the mountains and was heading south to Chitwan National Park in the Jungle. I had been driven there by a guy who obviously didn't know where the hotel was at the other end. We drove to a couple of places, before ending up at the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. Surely this couldn't be my hotel on the amount I'd paid? But of course it

That was how I felt when I arrived at Nung House in Khao Sok. The place was stunning, surrounded by trees in the shadow of giant limestone cliffs with a beautiful garden and lovely little cottages around the border. This place had cost me £6 a night for my own room! I was then told that someone was still in my room so they were bumping me up to deluxe for a couple of nights, even better! Over the next week or so I actually stayed in three different rooms there, the least of which was great. Also the staff there couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. I was very lucky to have found the place. Well, not lucky I guess. I do a lot of work on finding the right places!

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The village itself is just really one long road with a load of hotels and restaurants along it or shooting off it, but it had everything I needed, including a little shop about 30 meters away that sold most bits and did fruit smoothies. This is where I discovered passion fruits. Where have you been all my life? (Answer: I have actively avoided all but the most basic of fruits for most of my life)

After a few days of relaxing, I booked a tour out to Cheow Lan Lake. This is a man made reservoir built a little over 30 years ago that has a dam used to power most of Southern Thailand, but also used as a tourist destination. Again nestled in the middle of hundreds of towering limestone cliffs, I was to stay in a floating bungalow, explore caves, go hiking, kayaking, swimming and go on river safaris which ended up being mostly pointless. It turns out as you noisily charge your boat around a lake, most of the wildlife sods off. The same is true for the jungle where all we saw was a few glimpses of monkeys and loads of wild boar droppings (not really droppings, they were pretty big!).

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We arrived at the lake and had to have a Coronavirus check. This was a first for me and I was worried as they were checking temperatures at a time when it was 38 degrees outside. One of the girls with us was on the cusp and had to sit in the shade and cool down some before she tried again and passed. All through, we took a boat out for about 90 mins to our floating bungalows.

The bamboo hut I stayed in at Koh Tao was pretty basic, just a bed, mosquito net, bedside table, plug socket and large gecko, but this 'bungalow' made that place seem like the Ritz. It was literally just a mattress of the floor and mattress is a very generous term for what was essentially a hard rubber mat covered in a sheet. But I was only there for one night, so didn't really care. Also, it turned out there were no mosquitoes on this lake, so no need for a net. I have no idea why they stayed away, but good news.

We were told that we had 2 hours to do what we like and most of us went swimming, with loads of the group wearing life jackets like diapers to float, it was pretty funny to see. After our swim we went for the aforementioned hike into the jungle, about 2km each way, the first kilometer being uphill all the way followed by a fairly treacherous climb up sharp rocks. There were a fair few cuts and bruises along the way. But the view at the top was incredible.

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We then returned the way we came, back down the jagged rocks, it's a wonder that no one was really hurt, but it was fun overall. Also, I randomly weighed myself before the lake trip and then a week later and I had lost 3 kilos in a week, so it must have been good exercise!

That night I decided to wake up at 4am to see the Milky Way, which has always been on my bucket list. I could barely sleep on the stupidly hard mat, so it seemed like a plan, but when I woke up at 4am there was nothing. I don't know why, we were in the middle of nowhere, there was practically no light and according to my application that tells you these things I was looking in the right direction at the right time. Oh well, there's always Chiang Mai...

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I slept for about an hour on the bamboo floor out front of my hut, just as comfortable (so not really at all) and waited for the sunrise, which was pretty special, before going on a boat safari that was not and then touring a cave, which was also pretty dull apart from seeing a few massive spiders and a load of bats, but all the time surrounded by this spectacular scenery.

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I returned to Khao Sok, looking to leave the next day, but ended up staying another 4 nights as I was unable to book onward travel. This was all pretty tense and I wrote about it here: https://cblanc102.travellerspoint.com/13/ I finally left for what turned out to be a 15 hour journey by minibus and train. It was a pretty good journey as they go, with food and drink given to us throughout the day and the station I arrived at was only 15 mins walk from my hostel. Bonus!

Posted by cblanc102 21:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged landscapes mountains trees animals night boats travel thailand lake hostels island holiday khao sok lan solo_travel cheow Comments (0)

Trapped in Paradise

The walls are starting to close in

Hi all. Time for a catch-up on my travel plans. This isn't the blog entry I was going to write, about my travel to Khao Sok and my experiences here, that'll hopefully come later today or tomorrow, but this is whats's happening to me now.

I wrote the first few paragraphs of this 3 days ago, then it got worse.

It's 36 degrees outside as I sit in the shade drinking a strawberry shake in paradise. There are certainly worse places to be trapped.

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Not a bad view

But I'm not trapped, not yet. I still have options, though these seem to change daily and this travelling adventure that I took on 3 weeks ago is becoming harder and harder to complete.

Rewind back 3 weeks to my original plan. I was to travel to Bangkok, stay there for a few days, then make my way down to the island of Koh Tao to learn to dive then travel down to Khao Sok to experience the rain forest for a few days before leaving Thailand. Check, check and check.

I was then going to fly to Vietnam, travel north through the country for a month, then into Laos, then sail down the Mekong back into Northern Thailand possibly visiting Myanmar time permitting. But now Vietnam has closed it's borders to pretty much everyone, Malaysia has done the same, and now Indonesia. It looks like I'm heading North.

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is still allowing tourists in, although not if you've been to certain countries in the last 14 days (I haven't) and Laos will also let me in. As it stands today.

You can't blame anyone, A lot of these countries have little in the way of Coronavirus cases, Myanmar claim they've had none. And they want to keep it that way. I think my best bet it to get a train back to Bangkok and go visit the Myanmar Embassy, from there I can travel across the Bridge over the River Kwai and make my way overland. Hopefully.

Another update: I wrote that last bit last night, and since then, both Myanmar and Laos have closed. At this point all I can do is get to Bangkok, extend my visa for a further 30 days and review my options or hope that a country opens. At this point I've looked at going anywhere from Nepal to Malawi.

I don't want to have to come home. I know it's a real possibility at this point and an understandable act, but it still feels like giving up. I could go back to the UK, 'wait for it to all blow over' and try again, but while I have enough money to last at least another 6 months out here, that money would get sucked up in no time back home, and that's besides losing loads of it to flights.

It's times like these that the whole 'solo' bit becomes a pain. If I had someone here with me, they could help plan, make decisions, but then I guess they could also decide that they want to return, so I guess that's a bonus of being alone.

It's strange being here and there still being so little about the virus being talked about. Sure, when I meet people the subject always comes up much the same as Brexit did when I travelled solo around Greece a couple of years back. It's still something that's happening elsewhere for us. But my Mum is self isolating, my Sister is self isolating as she's come down with something. My friends are working from home or the office is closed. I am very aware how real it is back home. It's all that's on the news, social media, Youtube.

All I can do is try to move forward.

Posted by cblanc102 07:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand vietnam visa koh khao sok tao coronavirus Comments (2)

Basically, I'm doing this all wrong

Updates blog #1

So a state of play so to speak.

As I end my 19th day of this trip (it feels a lot longer) and inch ever closer to my sisters' estimates of how long I'd last out here on my own (21 days both, thanks girls! xx) I've already learned some valuable lessons, some painful.

I've been on Koh Tao now for 2 weeks, it's a paradise, filled with backpackers, great food, amazing sunsets and lovely people, but I've been here too long. After a few days here I decided that once a month I should spend a week in one place, and I'm sticking with that. Have a chance to regroup, replan, recharge re other stuff. You need it after travelling a while. But I've been here two weeks now and it's too long.

This isn't a holiday. I told myself this before I left. Some will say I worked hard (they're wrong), so I deserve it (they're right), but staying this long anywhere kinda goes against the whole idea of the trip. I picked two weeks in the first place, because of the scuba diving that would take up 5 days, but it was still too long here on this small island, I've done all I need to do and that with the last 3 days basically being laid up with a blistered back, which brings me to :

Injuries - These are pretty much all self inflicted, but ongoing. I still have 7 or 8 urchin spines in my hand, they look like they're getting close to leaving, but still painful at times. I'm covered with bites and unsure if that's because the repellent I bought was cheap shit or just I keep forgetting to use it. And then my back.

Before I left the UK I spent the last month or so moving boxes of book, bags of crap, bookcases, wardrobes, beds and more to charity shops, my Mum's and the dump. It turns out I'm no longer 25 and it had a pretty disastrous effect on my back. When I was finally ready to leave and i filled my backpack up with a load of stuff that I probably won't end up using, it went as you'd likely imagine, it was painful to stand with it, let alone walk.

I carried it around the airport. I carried it around Bangkok and I carried it here. I am obviously rock hard, but it took it's toll. The first week here I couldn't lay on my left side because if I did I could barely get off the bed. Rock hard maybe. Old and decrepit certainly! After a week of swimming, it was fine when I had to move hotels, I finally felt good again.... Then I went snorkeling.

I snorkeled for an hour, taking videos that turned out to be pretty rubbish because if the currents. It was fine, it didn't feel bad, for about 2 hours. At first my back was just hot, then very hot, then so hot I couldn't seven stand in direct sunlight wearing my t-shirt because it was too painful. The next day it was blistery, but ok, then today the blisters started popping like bubble wrap and it again became a thing. It kinda feels like I've laid in stinging nettles, and tomorrow I have to carry my pack down the road for half an hour to catch a ferry, then a bus. Ode to joy!

Which brings me back to travel planning and the Coronavirus.

It's still my plan to leave Thailand by the end of next week. As far as I know I can still get a one month Visa and enter the country with just a health check. That's today though. People warned me about coming here because of the virus spreading, but now ironically it's the Asians that are worried about catching it from me. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I still have options, which is good. They all seem to be in even hotter countries, which isn't great, but I chose to turn up in South East Asia in the hot season, so screw me.

Meanwhile everywhere else in the world is going to hell in a handcart. Italy is closed, Spain pretty much too. Austria is banning gatherings of more than 5 people, that's a good number for the Dartford Festival but terrible for anywhere else! I have friends travelling to Vegas in two months who don't know if they're still going. The US has banned all flights from the UK and no one is saying how long it will last. It's the same everywhere. Then there's the stockpiling of goods, mostly non essential to the virus, just stuff that the shops have told people they can only buy a few of. There's no need for it. They should tell people that there's a shortage of Rolexes and see how well they sell. Then what happens when we run out of toilet paper? Use kitchen roll? Normal paper? Sod that, just make sure you have a fluffy pet.

Right, I should go to bed. It's 12:30 and I still need to pack ready for the morning. It's made a little easier by the fact I keep throwing stuff away or losing it. So far I've:

Lost my water bottle
Broken my glasses
Thrown away a hoodie, pair of shorts and a compression packing cube (I was able to do this because I threw away the other clothes and can now fit all my clothes into one cube).

It's making packing and carrying a bit easier!

Stay safe everyone, please share and leave a comment

Chris

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I felt bad about having no photos to add as I've been laid out like an invalid for two days, so here's a picture I just took of a lizard running around my light eating insects. Enjoy!

Posted by cblanc102 08:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand vietnam island scuba visa asia koh khao sok tao coronavirus Comments (2)

Spreading the news

travelling the world in the midst of a pandemic

I've been planning this trip a long time, years. I was supposed to leave a year ago if I'd gotten my arse into gear and sold all my stuff.

I had a plan, I'm good at plans and originally I was going to leave I think late Feb 2019 and travel from Northern India down to Thailand through Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I was due to leave Colombo, the Capital of Sri Lanka on April 23rd. They had a series of bombings there on April 21st. The path not taken eh?

We've been going to Florida every two or so years for the last couple of decades, the last time was 2018. We were talking about going this year, but decided against it, which is why I ended up doing this trip now. Had we booked that, we would have been getting pretty excited about it by now, until this morning when we would have found out that all of the Theme Parks in the Orlando area have closed because of the Coronavirus.

Again, the road not taken.

There's not been much here about the Coronavirus. People talk about it, but it's always about other countries, where we come from, how it's affecting the people we know, and Italy. Lot's of people talk about Italy, but no one here really talks about the virus being in Thailand. I overheard a German man today say that it's too hot for it here, I'm not sure that's how it works. I had loads of calls from home about the virus yesterday, I read all the crazy goings on there and all around the world and I worry far more about it back home than I do here.

They have it here, there have been 70 confirmed cases so far, which puts Thailand 37th on the list of highest cases in the world, less even than Iceland. Vietnam, where I'm hoping to travel next, has even fewer cases, they're 48th in the world with just 39 cases so far.

But the countries here are very concerned, and it's making them jumpy about who they let in.

I'm moving on to Khao Sok National Park on Monday, it looks beautiful, I'm playing on being there 4 or 5 days. The plan was then to fly to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, but I'm hearing all sorts of stories about people being put in quarantine straight from the plane or not being allowed in at all. They've stopped all Visa Exemptions from most countries in Europe, but I was going for a full 30 day visa anyway, so I don't know. I also don't know if the fact that I'll have been in Thailand for almost a month will help? Or the fact that I'm flying from Thailand rather than from Europe? I guess a lot of the flights fly through Bangkok anyway..

I have lots of options whatever I do. I can try a different country, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, or extend my visa here and head north. All I can really do is keep checking the news, the official websites and the forums and work out what to do from there.

As I said, I'm very good at planning.

In the meanwhile, stay safe everyone. I'm thinking of you all x

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I thought I should add a nice picture after this somewhat depressing blog entry, so here's where I snorkeled, ate and apparently got sunburn today. I'm not sure what the juggler's deal was lol

Posted by cblanc102 00:31 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand vietnam visa koh khao sok tao coronavirus Comments (2)

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