Tag Archives: Thailand

My 2010 Travels

My. 2010 went by bloody quickly, didn’t it? I can’t believe it’s already a year ago that I was waking up on New Year’s Day on the lovely peaceful island of Gili Air in Indonesia after a rather large night of dancing on the beach with my mates Simon & Katie from back home.

2010 wasn’t a bad year at all as far as travelling concerned, as I got to see more countries than any year apart from 2009 (which made up the bulk of my round the world trip). So here’s what I got up to…

Indonesia
Me & Jackie the Orang Utan
After spending the new year in Gili Air, I made a quick stop back in Bali (where annoyingly I had both an iPod and my new shorts stolen) before flying off to the other end of the archipelago to the huge island of Sumatra to spend a couple of days chilling out on the shores of Lake Toba and then trekking through the jungle to see Orang Utans in Bukit Lawang – which was an absolutely incredible experience, getting to see such beautiful creatures close up.

Malaysia
Petronas Towers
I had a quick stop off in Kuala Lumpur, giving me enough time to see the Petronas Towers, watch Avatar in 3D (and wish I hadn’t bothered), do a bit of shopping and stuff myself full of amazing Malaysian food. I had planned to spend more time there in February, but my planned visit coincided with Chinese New Year and everything was booked up. So I shall have to return another time to see all the things I want to see.

The Philippines
Malapascua Philippines beach acrobatics
The Philippines were never on my original travel itinerary but thanks to an amazingly cheap sale over at Air Asia I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss, and I am so glad I did – it was my favourite country of all the ones I visited in 2010. So many incredible experiences, from trekking through the stunning rice terraces of Batad, seeing the hanging coffins and incredible cave system of Sagada, seeing the best beaches of my life in Palawan, seeing the adorable little Tarsiers in Bohol, diving with Thresher Sharks in Malapascua, and best of all, swimming with whale sharks in Donsol, the absolute highlight of my entire round the world trip. Words cannot describe quite how incredible the experience of swimming just inches away from those beautiful creatures.

Singapore
Little India Singapore
February saw me spending a week in Singapore, eating more great food, doing a fair bit of shopping, catching up with my best mate from school, and taking a well-earned break from hectic travelling by watching lots of the winter Olympics. If I’m honest, I’d have to say Singapore was my least favourite country of all the ones I visited in my round the world trip, but it was worth visiting to see an old friend and to chill out.

Thailand
Injured in Thailand
I had planned to spend a bit longer in Thailand enjoying the beaches and doing some diving…but walking through a plate-glass window on my second day put paid to that, and I still have the scars to remind me. But I did get two separate visits to Bangkok, which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite cities in the world.

Burma / Myanmar
Bagan
The plus side of my accident was it meant I had to make new travel plans – and gave me time to fit in an extra country. The two weeks I spent in Burma were incredible – it was a real adventure from start to finish, I saw some amazing sights (the temples of Bagan are probably the most impressive ruins I have seen anywhere – I reckon even better than Angkor, Machu Picchu or Tikal), and spent time with the best group of fellow travellers I met all year.

Cambodia
Bayon, Angkor, Cambodia
March saw one final stop before heading home to England, but I had just enough time to see Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Angkor, before chilling out on an incredible private island off the coast of Sihanoukville.

Back Home
Glastonbury
I flew back to a bitterly cold and wet London on March 29th but was soon rewarded with three months off enjoying a beautiful spring of unemployment and plenty of time to explore bits of London I’d never seen before, and quickly remembered why I love this city so much. Elsewhere during the year I managed visits to Newcastle for a mate’s birthday, Edinburgh for the festival, Somerset for my sunniest and best ever Glastonbury festival, and Lyme Regis in Dorset for a wedding. But there was no way I was going to spend the rest of the year just in the UK…

Croatia
Dubrovnik panorama
I celebrated the end of my year of travels and unemployment with a week in Croatia in June, travelling down the gorgeous Dalmatian coastline, gorging myself on Italian food, narrowly avoiding being speared by sea urchins, and trying to escape the constant drone of vuvuzelas blasting out of all the football bars.

Nicaragua
Volcan Telica, Leon, Nicaragua
My final trip of the year took me to Nicaragua, which was the perfect two-week holiday spot – I spent a bit of time on both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, climbed up four volcanoes, explored the stunning cities of Leon & Granada, and drank far too much delicious Flor de Caña rum.

You can see my favourite photos from my 2010 travels here. And here’s a map showing all the places I went to:

Not a bad year at all. Nine countries, Nine world heritage sites, nineteen islands, five national parks, and nearly four months of travel in total.

So what does 2011 have in store for travels? Hopefully I’ll be skiing in Switzerland in February, and I’m currently considering my first ever trip to Africa with a possible trip to Madagascar in April. I’m also thinking of spending next Christmas doing a bit of hiking in Patagonia. Other than that I’m sure I’ll find time to fit in some mini breaks in Europe too. I might even finally get round to blogging about Nicaragua and the rest of Croatia.

Happy New Year to anyone still reading, and I hope you all have lots of exciting travels in 2011.

My luck runs out

Being mugged. Being in a bus crash. Getting kidnapped. Catching a horrible tropical disease. Earthquakes.

These are some of the many things that I worried about before heading off for a year of travel. Of course I should have realised that when the time came for my luck to run out that it would be my own stupidity that caused it – and end up sending me to hospital.

The day started pretty well – after an earlyish start, we had a beautiful boat ride across the Andaman sea to Ko Phi Phi. I was with my friend Jo from back home,and who’s working as a volunteer English teacher in Krabi at the moment, and we were on our way to meet another friend Nick, who was on holiday from England in Phuket.

Ko Phi Phi Don

Ko Phi Phi


The journey was lovely, as we passed a series of dramatic, limestone islands along the way. Soon enough we were at our destination, and met up with Nick at the harbour. We were picked up by someone from our hotel, and walked across to the other end of the town and up a long flight of stairs to our hotel. It was a bit of an effort getting up the hill in the midday heat – but at least I had the prospect of a lovely view to keep me motivated. That would turn out to be my undoing.

It only took a minute or two to check in, and we walked across to the room. I was really excited about seeing the view, so walked straight across the room and through the open glass door onto the balcony.

Except of course it wasn’t open. Looking back on it now, I don’t even remember the impact really, it happened so quickly. One minute I was walking across the room, the next I was standing on the balcony surrounded by shattered glass. That first moment of realisation seemed to last an eternity (that’ll be the shock then) before I gradually became aware of lots of shouting, people all around me, and then, finally, began to see blood everywhere.

It turns out the glass was very, very thin non-safety glass, and it had shattered into sharp shards that had sliced into my skin in various places. Before I really knew what was going on, a guy from the hotel had hoisted me onto his back, carried me down the stairs and popped me into a luggage trolley to wheel me back across the island to the hospital.

Wounds

The two biggest wounds

I’m so glad my friend Nick was with me (especially being someone I’ve known for so long), as he accompanied me the whole way, chatting away to keep my spirits up (and distract me) from the fact I was now aware that there was a fair amount of blood pouring down my arms and legs.

It must have been quite a sight – the streets of Ko Phi Phi are pretty narrow, and very crowded, so of course everyone was staring at me as we trundled past (bloody typical that the hospital turned out to be right at the other end of the island).

I was a bit concerned about what the hospital was going to be like – but I really needn’t have been. The place was pretty new, built since the tsunami, and within seconds of walking in I was already lying on a bed with five people around me cleaning my wounds. Within no time at all I was being dosed up with local anaesthetic, and stitched up in various places simultaneously (all the while with Nick joking away in the background), and best of all the room was right on the beach so I could distract myself by looking out onto a stunning view. You wouldn’t get that back home.

Being stitched up

Being stitched up

In no time at all I was back up and out on the beach – all in all I’d been on the island for not much more than an hour in total and I’d calmed down enough to take stock of the situation:

In total, I had 38 stitches (14 on the left forearm, 6 on the left hand, 8 on the right elbow, and 5 each on right knee and shin), plus a few butterfly stitched on my forehead and right leg, and a big bandage around a smaller wound on my left heel. With bandages over each wound I was doing quite a passable impression of a mummy on holiday.

To be honest, I was incredibly lucky – no glass went into my eyes, no ligaments were sliced through, no major marks on my face, and nothing on my back or sides that would have made sitting down or sleeping difficult. The staff at the hospital were incredibly efficient, friendly and professional, they really were superb. And luckily enough, while the wounds were big, they were all very very shallow, meaning they didn’t even really hurt (which is great as I am the biggest wimp in the world when it comes to pain).

Bandaged Geoff

Modelling my new beach wear

In the end it was pretty easy to laugh about soon afterwards (I really felt like a complete muppet, to be honest), and it soon became yet another great way to talk to new people (shame I’m not straight really as every girl in town wanted to stop and talk to me for the next few days to ask about what happened).

In the end it turned out to be inconvenient more than anything – I’d just arrived on one of the most stunning coastlines in the world, and I was now unable to swim, or snorkel, or dive. That pretty much put paid to my plans, so I had no choice but to cancel them and head up to Bangkok.

There was one thing that did really piss me off though – after having my brand new boardshorts nicked after two hours of wear in Bali, I bought another new pair in Singapore. I was wearing them for the first time that day, and of course the glass did a pretty good job of shredding those too. Typical.

Top 5 Favourite Islands

I’ve got no more travels planned for a few weeks, so time to return to a few more lists of my favourite places. This one’s a bit short – because I really haven’t been to that many islands*. This is therefore the one I expect to change most over next year, as I’m planning to visit the Bay Islands of Honduras, Easter Island, and lots of islands in Indonesia and the Philippines, and probably in mainland South-East Asia too.

1. Ibiza / Eivissa

Ibiza Town by night

Ibiza Town by night

First place will be no surprise to anyone who knows me, or even people who only know me through this blog. No other place I know has such a great mixture of natural beauty, fantastic beaches, insane nightlife, fascinating history and mouthwatering restaurants (actually, it’s almost worth its first place for the allioli alone). It’s one place I’ll never get bored of.

2. Formentera

Platja de ses Illetes, Formentera

Platja de ses Illetes, Formentera

It’s a straight one-two for the Illes Pitiüses (Pine Islands): I love Formentera nearly as much as it’s much more famous northern neighbour. Formentera scores so highly for two things: it has some of the finest beaches I’ve ever been to (and certainly the best in Europe), and it’s incredibly quiet and unspoilt, not to mention beuatiful. The perfect place to relax.

3. Don Det & Don Khon

Lao kids at a school on Don Khon

Lao kids at a school on Don Khon

Two of the (so-called) 4,000 islands in the Mekong, just before it crosses the border from Laos into Cambodia. They’re linked together by an old French railway bridge that was used to bypass the spectacular waterfalls on either side of the islands. Aside from the hostels and bars looking after travellers, the rest of the islands are taken up by paddy fields, forest and Lao villages. It’s an incredibly laid-back and peaceful way of life, and was the perfect spot to bring in 2008 for me.

4. Koh Samui

The only one of Thailand’s islands I’ve been to, and my first trip to Asia back in 1998. Staying in shack right on the beach was an awesome experience. I’ve heard Chaweng beach (where I stayed) has changed an awful lot since then, to the extent I’d barely recognise it. I’m happy to let it stay as it is in my memories.

5. Mykonos

Windmill in Mykonos

Windmill in Mykonos

The only one of the Greek islands I’ve been to so far – but it hopefully won’t be the last. The stereotype of white-walled villages was as beautiful as I could have hoped for, and the confusingly maze-like warren of streets that make up Mykonos town are charming, and full of fantastic little restaurants and bars.

*I’m not counting Hong Kong or Manhattan – because I think of them both more as cities than islands. And sadly, Thanet doesn’t really count. I may have many happy childhood memories of Birchington & Margate, but it’s not really an island any more.