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I'm the king of the world!


Ok, wrong movie quote but it still had Leonardo De Caprio in it...

Today we went to Phi Phi island (pronounced pee pee) which was used for filming the movie "thee Beach". Phi Phi actually has two islands Phi Phi Don, which is the main island with all the tourist facilities (and was absolutely hammered by the Boxing Day tsunami) and Phi Phi Low, which is an uninhabited, and was where the Beach was filmed.

The day started with the alarm going off at 6am (aagghh!) and we wandered down to breakfast. We were picked up by shuttle bus and driven to the sea terminal on Phuket (can't remember the name of it, even though we landed there during our honeymoon cruise). Then it was on to a high-speed ferry and the 1hr 20min trip to Phi Phi Don. On arrival, we didn't get on to the island, but cross-decked to a smaller tour boat that was going to take us on our bay tour.

The first anchoring was actually still on Phi Phi Don, and at a spot called Monkey Beach, which (subject to weather and their moods) monkeys hang out and can be fed, if you're feeling game. There were monkeys there for us, however it is also a snorkeling spot, so we threw ourselves overboard with the appropriate gear and took in the underwater sights. In contrast to the Great Barrier Reef, the fish seemed to be a lot smaller and more inclined to swim up to you. This meant that there were decent photo opportunities, but nothing like a grouper or a shark. Nevertheless, the underwater camera case got a good workout.

Following the first stop, we were taken to Phi Phi Low (we were not allowed off the boat though) and taken around the island to look at the major features (e.g. Viking Cave, the film spot for the movie, etc). We also stopped at a second spot, where again we got in the water for some more snorkeling and pictures.

Afterwards, we were taken back to Phi Phi Don for lunch and a spot of sun-bathing on the main beach there. As mentioned, Phi Phi took a lot of damage in the tsunami, but they are rapidly rebuilding. Already, there are a number of backpacker hostels and a couple of 4 star hotels open (getting both ends of the tourist spectrum :). It is well worth staying on the island, as from there you can hire a speedboat or a long-tailed boat that will let you land on Phi Phi Low.

Posted by jefranklin 03:39 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

Patong Beach, Phuket

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The resort that we have been staying in is located on Karon Beach in Phuket. This is a quieter area than the most popular destination on Phuket (for backpackers) which is Patong Beach. We decided however, that we were going to need to see some of the island otherwise we would spent the entire time lazing by the pool - nice and relaxing but necessarily a good use of our time.
The hotel where we are staying runs a shuttle bus service twice daily to Patong - one at 10am and one at 3pm (return times being 10:30 and 3:30). As we planned on spending the evening in Patong, we decided to get the 3pm shuttle and make our own way back.

In contrast to the relative quietness of Karon, Patong is a heaving mass of hawkers trying to flog designer knock-offs, cut prices tailors and other souvenirs that the traveler needs. On arrival, we walked the length of the beach front road looking in most of these stalls as Heather was looking to replace the shoes that she broke while Darwin. This managed to take us upto 5pm, and for some reason no shoes were bought. We could have spent that time at the pub/beach. Eventually, I managed to persuade Heather that I was severely dehydrated and needed some Chang (local beer) quick. We found a beach-side pub and watched the sun go down of the ocean, taking a photo of it for posterity.

Once darkness fell, we decided to find somewhere to grab something to eat and then the problems started. As mentioned, Patong is the main backpacker resort, so we thought before we arrived that there would be plenty of cheap noodle bars where we could indulge our taste buds in wonderful Thai food. Bzzzzzz, wrong! We managed to find one small place, as everything was serving Western junk food - at one point we even considered MuckDonalds as an option, as there was nothing else appealing (common sense did prevail though). Again, a real contrast to Karon where you can't swing a stray dog without hitting anything from budget to expensive Thai restaurants. You probably wouldn't want to go near the stray dogs, mind.

After dinner, we explored Patong further and it is at this point we discovered the Lonely Planet was not exaggerating about some of the seedier sides. Having been through Patpong with no problems, we thought nothing could faze us - however we didn't expect Patong to be even more dodgy. It was an experience in itself (we didn't go in to any clubs though). At one point, we were at a bar that had been bought by a 25 year old guy from Manchester for about 43,000 pounds. He had only been in country for 3 weeks, and he was learning that getting the appropriate licensing was going to be a bit of a challenge for him. Still, he seemed happy enough - not too bad a way to spend a few years I imagine.

Posted by jefranklin 01:31 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

James Franklin is resting

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We have been travelling none-stop pretty much since 2 February, with only a couple of days respite here and there. When planning this trip, we figured that after 2 months of backpacker accommodation, we would need something to make us feel a bit chilled so I had booked us in to the Thavorn Beach Resort, in Karon Beach, Phuket for 14 nights. As such, since arriving here nearly a week ago, our only activities have been lazing by the pool, lazing on the beach and lazing in the room.
Karon Beach is a family-friendly part of Phuket, so walking down the main street does not require you to fend off touts trying to sell dodgy merchandise or advertise their bars. It also means that there are decent amount of restaurants to choose from, offering everything from Western (steak and pizzas) and Chinese (sweet and sour) t0 Indian, Malay and Thai (curry and curry). We have tried out a couple and generally have been impressed (a Panang curry that we tried was very similar to the recipe at Curry Frenzy).
Tonight, we are heading to Patong which is more backpacker-oriented and later in the week we're off to Phi Phi island (the island on the movie the Beach) for some snorkeling and Heather keeps bugging me to play golf, so I am sure we will be doing that at some point. If I can find an Internet cafe that we read CF memory sticks, you may even get some pictures :)
We're also planning on doing a cookery course where we learn to cook 3 traditional Thai dishes. I'll show that Jamie Oliver who's boss.

Posted by jefranklin 00:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

Port Douglas and surrounds

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Not made any updates since arriving in Port Douglas, so thought I would do a quick wrap up:

We arrived at the Port O'Call lodge, which would be our home for the next 4 nights and realised we had made a good choice. Friendly staff and good facilities (although no Internet) can do a lot to make a stay more pleasant. Our first major activity was to visit a crocodile farm. This was pretty interesting, and had a number of other attractions: a crocodile show where some guy imitated Steve Irwin, a snake show (entertaining for all the wrong reasons :) and a flock of cassowaries (one for the spell checker), which are related to emus but heavier. Not too bad a time, really.

We also visited the Daintree forest and Cape Tribulation. These are world heritage listed tropical rainforests, teaming with all forms of life (including crocodiles :). The day before it had been throwing it down, so humidity in the forest was high. It also meant most creeks were flooded, offering a good spot for crocodiles to catch prey (wallabies, birds, tourists,etc.) Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find any, the closest we got being a warning sign alerting us of their presence, which we took a picture of.

The final major activity, was another snorkeling session on the Great Barrier Reef. The previous time, we had traveled to the outer reef where the water is deeper, making it more suitable for SCUBA diving. This time we went to the lower part of the reef and in particular an island formed of corals. While here, we saw around a dozen or so turtles (dude!) and hundreds of types of fish, including the Clown fish, recognisable to all as Nemo. We also managed to see a couple of sharks attack a shoal of fish. They may have only been black-tip reef sharks about 2 feet long, and the fish smaller than my finger, but we saw sharks! IMG_0879.jpg
Unlike last time at the reef, my camera had full batteries and another set spare. We did only have a couple of hundred shots remaining on the memory card, but fortunately that never became an issue.

Posted by jefranklin 08:39 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

I'd like to be...

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Today started with the alarm going off at 6am (so in need of a lie in after a 4am start yesterday). After we were ready, we stumbled to the car for the 5 minute drive to the docks where the high speed catamaran would to take us to the 70km to the Great Barrier Reef (outer suburbs). During this journey, we changed in to our swimwear and liberally applied sun-repellent, as it was forecast to be a hot one today.
On arrival at the Reef, we climbed into our SCUBA gear and made our descent in to the water. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded in all directions by water and hundreds of fish in different sizes, types and hues. It's something we will be doing again, and we'll definitely be doing our PADI course when in Phuket.
After the 20 minute SCUBA dive, we got back in the water but this time with snorkels. Although not being able to dive deep this time, it was still a great experience and this time I took my digital camera in it's underwater case, with the intention of taking a couple hundred pictures :)
Stumbling around tiredly this morning (not a hangover, honest) meant that I had forgotten to pack spare batteries, so it should come as no suprise that the batteries ran out. Instead of my planned hundreds, I managed a pitiful 3. We will be snorkeling again from Port Douglas, so hopefully I will not make the same mistake twice!
We managed to get in a couple of snorkeling sessions before it was time to head back to the mainland. It was then that I noticed a slight problem: I hadn't accounted for 3 hours or so of lying face-down in the sea. More specifically, I had not properly applied mosquito-repellent to the backs of my legs; there are white streaks where my fingers smeared it on, but generally my calves are a shade coming somewhat close to what can only be described as Ferrari red.
We had a quiet evening watching a couple of movies (the YHA has cable and a large TV - just needed a bar and it would be perfect) as neither of us had the energy to go out. Apparently, Sunday is the day what things get a little more active around Cairns, anway. Hopefully our energy levels will be back to full strength tomorrow :)

Posted by jefranklin 23:01 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

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