Welcome, Haere Mai
Here’s the story so far from our last
escapade in which we saw Borobudur in Yogyakarta. The biggest Buddhist temple in the world (before Angkor wat as that has had many religious affiliations) this was a big tick off the box for me and I’ve always wanted to see it. Having such a huge Buddhist monument (and tourist attraction) in a majority Muslim country lead to some interesting conversations and questions for our (Muslim) tour guide and a few locals that were around serving fly ridden soup at 7am. From here we continued to traverse across Java west to a beach peninsula called
An at the time empty, beautiful, semi cheap Indian Ocean retreat. Being nowhere as hedonistic as our time in the Thai Islands has been it still certainly had its small underlying niches. Here we enjoyed nightly fires on the beach, huge waves to attempt to surf on and cave exploring after we broke into a national park with some local kids. In between myself getting lost in the jungle and the rest of our flock calling out to me in rescue we managed to meet at the beach and see wild deer walking towards the sea. Very, very bizarre for someone who has only ever seen these when hunting through the mountains in NZ. Needless to say but ill still say it, we loved this place. I saw the best cloud formations (at both day and night), offshore storms and single best sunrise I have every seen. Got to share them with some pretty rad people too. Unfortunate news of a ferry not being available from Northern Sumatra to mainland Panang (Malaysia) anymore made us change course to a destination we were trying to avoid at all available costs,
– this is where I insert that we found the soul of the city, found the optimistic side of it, that it actually turned out to be quite nice and not as bad as we expected – well, it was none of the first 2 and a lot worse that the third statement. After arriving from an over packed, squishy, 12 hour bus ride we got off the bus and went on a mission. We were now having to catch a boat from Jakarta to a satellite island off the Malay Coast and from there find a (not so guaranteed) local boat onward to Singapore.
‘One boat a week leaves this day, Saturday’ we were told- it departs Friday.
‘Goto this travel agent they will get you on a boat tomorrow’-there’s no boat tomorrow (apparently).
‘My friend, you must goto the passenger terminal’ – nope. Wrong place.
‘To the ticket office, they print tickets’ – lies, all lies my friend.
‘Go down to the left, pass the toll, look for Sime travel. There is a boat to a neighbouring island and you can get speed boat to Singapore from there’ – fucking legend. Get this man a DB. To you, kind poor street vendor, I owe you part of my sanity- thank you.
We then travelled back into the belly of the beast and stayed in the embassy district of Jakarta for some well deserved recuperation. We found a craft beer place where I (had to) sink my gullet into a Belgium dark wheat beer and ask the manager why such a booming, 250pax craft beer venue, that brewed their own beer in bali and was pumping 2 months ago, now stood as a small stall for only 15 people. The (now disused) dance floor had tanks, chairs, kitchen equipment scattered and half packaged across it, no lights on, not even using the rest of the lease to gain anyone new in the door. Weird, but everyone in Jakarta was. It all hid behind a closed wooden door. The only reason we got chatting was my own curiosity (and the trespassing discussion we had to have). So then starts our lovely boat trip across the Java sea.
Our 20 hour boat to Singapore.
This ’20 hour’ ‘passenger’ ‘boat’ turned out to be a 30 hour 2 day cattle class hell hole below the deck-cargo/ferry/floating coffin that only went to a satellite island off the Singaporean coast only to then find another 3 hour van ride and boat awaited us at 3am. The only white people on the boat, 6/400 spoke english, no one would serve us food in the restaurants (even though people were eating right infront of us; they were ‘closed’). All we had were peanuts, instant coffee, cards and rice (fishheads optional). This boat was a grinding journey for ourselves as individuals and as a group. A few testing times but we made it (to Nandos in Singapore). Hadn’t had much want or need to goto
Turns out Singapore, unlike Jakarta, was a lot better than expectation. Although we were there for only 8 hours we still managed to squeeze in a Nandos session (first meal after fish heads-yes i feel the need to justify this), walk around the best mall ive been to, swim at a government-subsidised water park for a $1 and admire the cleanliness of the utopia that is Singapore. To say the least we left with a smile and the everlasting motto of ‘Singapore made me poor’. A quick nip over the border to Muslim Malaysia came with it a complete polar opposite to the last 8 hours we just had of cultured, hygienic, western bliss. A run down border crossing, a disorganised run & jump for the plethora of buses heading north to the central cog of this trading power house,
This is the 5th notch in the KL belt for me and i dont care what the critics say, KL always has something to offer. You just have to go looking for it and/or/most likely make your own fun. After arriving at 2am, walking into a hostel and demanding a room due to the booking i had made on hostelbookers only to find i had pulled a ‘Rich’ and booked for a week in advanced. We proceeded to then walk down the stairs with our tail between our legs and our eye balls falling out. A lovely Malaysian hippie was conveniently waiting on motorcycle out the front. ‘My friend. Cheap, clean room with breakfast and rooftop pool’. $6.50 each a night you say mystery man? BOOM we are there. Though we arrived and were very happy we had a place now to consolidate our memories and flush our brains with spinal fluid (sleep) i think the language barrier got the better of us. Box room, no windows, only a cup of coffee for breakfast. We were content. Did i mention the rooftop pool? Oh yeah, the rooftop patio that had a blocked drain. Lucky it was the tail end of monsoon season or someone could have drowned in that knee deep not-quite-water-not-quite-sewage liquid. As i said, content and happy were we, we decided 3am was late enough for dinner. ‘Steele??!’ We heard in an all familiar American accent (with a slightly stoned tweek) that we all missed from the glory days of our mushroom wedding on Lombok. “Jon?!’. Jon giles the one and only. Living in KL again when we all thought (didn’t listen properly) that he was in Chang Mai, never to be seen again. Late night Indian and a mad session of chewing the fat, 4.30am and a stiff pillow had our names on them. Exploring Chinatown looking for street food and my elusive claypots is how spent the next couple of days. Jesse pursued his passion and went skating in Asia’s biggest skate park. He had never been happier since our (un)forgettable boat ride. Jon and i decided to spend half a day collecting beers from around the various 24hour marts and rating them on our own not-yet-uploaded pod cast. Fauxcast. Strongest we found was a killer called ‘Royal Dutch’ a belgium strong ale weighing in at 16% ABV with an acute, but airy, taste of a dark ale mixed with a shot of back-alley strong whisky. Delicious is not an adjective that comes to mind for the Royal Dutch. Moving on, we took the overnight train to the Thai border in
Almost missed Karl and Jesse making it as they took alternative ways to the station after we lost them due to my insatiable lust for finding my claypot woman. And im sure amongst all the stress, Steele was also happy to enjoy KL’s best calypot. We arrived in Thailand early in the morning and with 4 countries & 3 of their capital cities down in 5 days we were both happy we were making tracks on the map and ready for yet another well deserved time relaxing.
The provence is amazing. The Andaman coast and its collection of pristine islands and secluded, coastal beaches made it the perfect stop. Krabi town was a good stop over. Street food, cheap beer -and rice wine, if you’re jesse- and a central backpackers with as much flip-cup and beer-pong as your heart (or liver) can handle. Steele stole a motor bike, Karl was almost taken ransom in exchange, Jesse and I found ourselves in a sticky predicament involved a dark park, a gaggle of well-dressed Thai and a bunch of koosh. It was time, yet again, to find a new place to ‘relax’.
The hidden gem on the peninsula nestled in between Krabi town and the resort styled beach of Ao Nang has become my new favourite destination on this third rock from the sun. Its beaches, landscapes, vibe, isolation, the people who come, go and live there is unlike anything ive ever experienced; unique in its own right. Met a ton of people there and made many connections (and couches to crash on). One even managed to captivate me for quite some time, to this day even. Out of nowhere whilst munching down our $2 Pad thai we hear sounds only familiar to one kind of people. Kiwis. A guitar playing and the melodic sound of a bro from Christchurch singing over it. Enter Te the Maori. A traveller once, like you and i, who landed in Railay to check it out for 3 days whilst adventuring on a strict itinerary. He’s been there for about a year now and in no way do i blame him. A few fire shows, a Muay Thai fight between professionals & ourselves, lots of pool and pool jumping, sunshine, sandy beds, saucy nights and some traditional bamboo tattoos sum up our time at this unforgettable place. Long sunsets, enjoying the laid back vibes and exploring around on scooters kept us occupied for the few days we spent in Koh Lanta. Three long nights of buckets filled with rum & red bull, too many beers and ‘beach-beers-bie’ with chauvinistic Canadians completes our travels to the hedonistic island of Koh Phi-Phi for Jesse’s birthday. We travelled off on a day trip to Maya bay where the famous movie The Beach was filmed. Don’t go. Tax after tax turns a cheap trip into a regrettable one. Especially when you’ve got no where to go when your on a longtail in the middle of the Andaman sea.
We are now in Bangkok on Koh San rd. For those who have been here you need no explanation, for those who haven’t, ask someone who has.
Correspondence is far and few between so keep an eye out