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Ok, so we managed to change our bus ticket to go to railay.

The whole reason I came back to Thailand, instead of going on to Laos, was to meet up with people and spend christmas or new years eve with friends from the road. When we heard that Tom and Lloyd, the Welsh boys I met in Vietnam, had decided not to go to koh pangnan for NYEbut had decided to stay in Tonsai instead, we knew there must have been something special about that place.

Tom and Lloyd had already been in Tonsai for about a month. As soon as we got there, we understood why.

Tonsai is a tiny little bay to the north of Railay. even from Railay, you can only reach Tonsai by boat, or by climbing through some rocky jungle between the two beaches. It attracts the cool, beach bum, budget travellers, and also a lot of pretty chilled out climbers. the beach is lined by bars and cafes, with some guesthouses. Overall, it is just a super-chilled place to be, with beautiful scenery, and nice people to be around.

Tom and Lloyd had already become best friends with the staff at one of the bars - freedom bar - so we spent most of our time there, reading books, playing pool, and generally wasting time. Freedom bar is at the southernmost end of the beach, with a huge rock overhang above it, which gets lit up at night. The light sparkles off the huge drops of water that fall from the cliff after filtering through the limestone, and after a few beers it is quite fun to lie on your back on the decking and try to catch them as they fall towards your face.

When we arrived, we couldn't find a room anywhere. Luckily, the boys gave us their bungalow, while they slept with the staff from freedom bar. Tom, Lloyd, Haka, Milan, and Jip (the 3 thai lads from the bar) all shared one mattress on the floor of the stock room, waking up each morning with monkeys in the room - sometimes sitting on Jip's belly! I slept in there one night, and it was pretty fun.

New Year's eve came and went in its usual fashion, with only a few photos to remind us of the night. Unfortunately I lost my balance, and fell in the sea, breaking my camera. I lost a good 3 months worth of photos at that point :(

After a couple of weeks chilling at tonsai, we needed to move on because I only had 15 days visa exemption due to the fact we entered Thailand by land. Justin and Tom went to the full moon party on koh pangnan, I went to Penang to do a visa run, and Lloyd stayed at Tonsai.

Posted by joe_leviente 20:42 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

siem reap, angkor wat, my birthday, Christmas!

after spending a few days in sinville, me and justin said goodbye to dan and jono and all our other friends we'd met there, and moved on to Siem Reap.

It's a small town, with one street called pub street where everyone goes out. The actual town is pretty boring, and everyone just goes there because its the closest town to the temple ruins at Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat is a breath taking place. You need at least two days to see it all (or at least an early start, late night, and a lot of cafeine) but most people take three. We paid a tuk-tuk driver to take us there and around the temples for one day, then needed the day off after that!

after our day rest, the next day was my birthday! Seeing as I wasn't going to be with my friends and family, I wanted to make it a special experience. We woke up at 4am to go and watch the sun rise at angkor wat, then spent the day going round the temples we missed the first time round. After that we went back to the hotel, and had a nap. I had decided a while ago that I wanted to get a new tattoo, so I thought it would be nice to get it as a birthday present for myself.

After getting the tattoo, I went back to the hotel where Justin, our tuk-tuk driver, and a few of our other friends were waiting for me. We had a nice meal, and went to pub street to celebrate...

Justin and our two german friends all celebrate christmas on christmas eve, so that night we went out for another posh meal, and again to pub street to celebrate! Myself and Justin had missed our bus to bangkok that morning, so we got transferred to the night bus that night. We were on the move from 1am (we went straight from pub street) untill 3pm on christmas day. Collapsed at our hotel, then went out and celebrated christmas with a friend we'd made in sinville.

Currently, we're sitting in a net-cafe in bangkok thinking about changing our ticket to koh tao for one to railay, where some of our friends are. If all goes well, we leave tonight

Posted by joe_leviente 23:08 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

phnom penh, kampot, sihanoukville, Koh Rong

Phnom penh is another nice town to walk around. there are a lot of temples and museums, but all of them were built recently because of Pol Pott's regime ripping them down. I can't believe he won britain's got talent.

I went to see the killing fields, where thousands of innocent prisoners were killed and thrown into mass graves. I went to see S-21, where the prisoners were tortured and forced to confess to crimes they didnt commit, before being taken away to the killing fields. I met one of 11 people who survived s-21, few of whom are still alive today.

Cambodia has a lot of beggars, and a lot of people who are obviously affected by agent orange. There are a lot of children on the streets at night trying to sell bracelets, flowers, fireworks... anything to pay their way through school (or, their father's whisky problem).

After phnom penh, myself, Justin, and two guys called Jono and Daniel went on to Kampot. We kept bumping into daniel all the way down through vietnam, so eventually we decided to just travel together. We met Jono at the guesthouse in phnom penh and decided to talk him outof volunteering with a charity, like he was supposed to be doing, and come travelling with us.

After all the partying in Phnom penh, kampot was just what we needed. We stayed at Bodhi villa, which is right on the river. Some of the rooms even float on the river! Not much to see or do in Kampot, its more of a lifestyle city. So we movedon after a couple of nights to Sihanoukville!

Sihanoukville (A.K.A. Sinville) is another messy party town on the beach. Again, we got sucked into the party lifestyle and stayed there for about a week. We went on a couple of booze cruises, and chilled on the beaches. When we needed to recover, there is a "cinema" called top cat where you can rent out a room and watch films, play computer games, and generally just chill. Its a cool place, and we became regulars!

After a while, we all went over to Koh Rong island to dive. Justin did his open water and advanced, me and daniel did our advanced, and Jono did some fun-dives. The diving wasn't spectacular - I saw some cool fish but the visibility was so poor you spent most of the time watching out so you didn't lose your group! The highlight was the night dive. The area has phosphorescent plankton, meaning that when we turned off our torches and waved our hands around, all you could see was clouds of sparks, which looked like under water electricity, it was beautiful!

What was the highlight of Koh rong was the island itself. It was an untouched paradise. The town the boat left from was just a tiny fishing village. On the last day,me and justin trekked across the mountain, to the other side. We lost the track on the way there, and got lost in the jungle for about half an hour, but we knew that if we kept trekking downhill we would eventually hit the beach. it was worth all the sweat, blood, and drinking water. It was a 7km stretch of white sand, emerald green water, and lush forest on the land-side. There was no development along the beach except a small set of bungalows at the near end. There weren't even foot prints on the beach! unfortunately we couldn't stay long, we had togo back to catch our boat. Getting lost again on the way back meant we got there just as it was about to leave, so we headed back to sinville.

Posted by joe_leviente 02:22 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Central Highlands, Mui ne + Saigon

I spent four days sitting on the luggage rack of Justin's 250cc dirtbike while we rode up and down mountains, around an infinate number of bends, and over so many pot holes we actually cherished every minute of flat road. And that was when there WERE roads!

despite feeling very sore afterwards, I think that it was one of the best things I've ever done. It opened up an entire new side of vietnam that I had never experienced before. It was absolutely beautiful, the people were so friendly, and we had a great time with our guide Thuan (nicknamed Jackie because of his resemblance to Jackie Chan).

Thuan took us to various silk factories, coffee plantations, and restaurants along the way. He showed us tapioca plants, and a huge jungle which is still occupied by the military and booby-trapped incase another war breaks out. we learnt a lot as well as soaking up some of the vietnamese atmosphere, and seeing places far from the tourist trail.

at the end of the fourth day, we arrived in Mui Ne, a long stretch of road which goes along a beach. the whole thing is lined by huge, expensive resorts full of fat russians. It was a pretty shitty town but the beach was really nice, and we went on a scooter trip to the most beautiful sand dunes ever!

After chilling here for a week or so, we decided it was time to head on to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Wow. Saigon was amazing! A really cool city, great to walk around and check things out. Also a very lively party scene and countless places to eat! We went and saw the Cu Chi tunnels, used by the viet cong and the guerillas to fight against the americans and their puppet government. Lots of anti-american propaganda. Also, the war museum which was really great. Photo exhibitions from the war, old aircraft and tanks, a section of pictures drawn by children trying to instigate peace...

Whilst Justin tried to sell his motorbike, I got on a bus to phnom penh. After 2 and a half months, it was time to say goodbye to Vietnam!

Posted by joe_leviente 01:37 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

nha trang+Dalat

its been along time since then, so memories are a little hazy!

we didn't make it to the my son ruins, because despite the fact I went to bed early, none of the others woke up in time!

by the time we left hoi an, it was raining so hard the roads were already starting to flood. Justin was riding his motorbike anyway, so Lev decided to go with him. they returned to the guesthouse about an hour later, apparently the floods got so deep people were wading through them up to their armpits! Justin stuck his bike in the luggage compartment of the bus, and they came with us.

the bus took a different route, and we all got their fine, luggage completely dry (we had been shown a video taken that day in hoi an of a bus's luggage compartment getting flooded and all the luggage washed away). we found a guesthouse and decided to check out the famous water park in nha trang!

the water park was a disappointment. most of the rides were closed and the ones that were open were far from amazing. however, the attached arcade and fun fair more than made up for it.

It was around this time that all of the others decided they had to get a move on, because our visas were running out. Myself and Justin, however, decided to extend our visas and waited in nha trang for a few days.While we waited, we hadour fun on a booze cruise and generally chilled on the beach and went out on the town.

After riding on Justin's bike up through the mountains to dalat, we arrived in the rain and spent an hour looking for the guesthouse the others were staying in. They told us the name, but helpfully didn't give us any directions. And there were 3 with the same name. We were taken to a ballroom dancing / kareoke bar by the owner of our guesthouse, which was... interesting.

the owner of our guesthouse was a very effeminate man named, fittingly, "Mr. Gentle". He constantly attempted to get us to believe that the waitress was his girlfriend, and that she was going to come round and cook him dinner etc, despite his continuous flirting with us and trying to grab our arses!

the next day, the others left Dalat, so we said our good-byes.

Justin and I found a really good restaurant called peace cafe. The woman who owns it is completely bonkers and is highly entertaining. She runs around the restaurant taking orders, making orders, giving suggestions, and offering special recipes, which aren't on the menu, to people - before running off and cooking them. She got everyone in the restaurant talking to each other and we had a good night.

The next day, we went on a day of canyoning - abseiling and white water rapids etc. We decided that the two of us, and two girls we met, were going to do a motorbike tour of the central highlands of vietnam with our guides from the canyoning trip.

Posted by joe_leviente 01:18 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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