With regards to long Cambodian bus journeys, I learned my lesson the hard way. Having endured 10 hours of Cambodian karaoke love songs blaring through the speaker system connected to the TV, I was ready to kill someone. Or cry. Whichever came first. I’d like to think that I am a quick learner, and so on the next bus journey we had booked – 5 hours this time between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh – I made sure that I had packed my ear plugs in my hand luggage. This made for the perfect journey as I was able to read my book quietly in peace.
We arrived in Sihanoukville on the south coast after a long bus ride from Siem Reap in the north. It was getting late so we checked into temporary accommodation and then headed down to the beach the following morning. Arriving on Serendipity beach was a bit like walking into a Cambodian beach area of Glastonbury festival in the sense that it felt relaxed, make-shift, and with a mixed crowd.
The primary reason that we had come to Siem Reap was to visit the Angkor temples, and most famously Angkor Wat itself. It seemed that every other traveller, tourist, student and holiday-maker had come to Siem Reap too. The town was overrun with tourists. Normally we would have been put off by this, but within hours of arriving in Siem Reap we had fallen under it’s spell and were really enjoying our new Cambodian experience.
Our Thailand tourist visa was fast approaching it’s expiry date by now (nearly 60 days in Thailand!), so once we had the all clear that Mark’s leg had healed, we quickly set off to Bangkok to continue our travels.
Chumphon will be remembered for many things...Benny, my friends dad who lives there; the local people who were really friendly, and a real Thai experience (away from Bangkok and the tourist resorts). Primarily though, it will be remembered because we had to spend 3 weeks there after I had a nasty insect bite cut out of my leg!
We got up early one morning, checked out of our accommodation, and headed to the beach. One coconut shake later, we were on our first Thai longtail taxi-boat cutting through the waves from Hat Sai Ree on Koh Tao, to Koh Nang Yuan.
After Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, our next island stop was Koh Tao. This was by far our favourite island out of the three. It had a more laid back and friendly feel about the place, and was not as commercialised as the other two.
We stayed in a lovely quiet resort on an almost isolated beach in the south of the island. Our bungalow in the hillside had a lovely view over Haad Sai Daeng bay and Shark Island. It was peaceful and bliss.
Thankfully, the ferry journey to Koh Pha Ngan was similar to boating on a park lake; nothing like the horrendous speedboat journey back from the remote islands of the Marine Park to Koh Samui. The uneventful journey could probably have been undertaken on a Thai longtail boat.
We flew into Bangkok and thus began the next leg of our trip - South East Asia On A Shoestring (to quote the Lonely Planet Guide). We spent a few nights in Bangkok, and took the opportunity to take a much needed rest after the last two months intensive travelling. The plan had always been to head down to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand for some rest and relaxation, and we assumed we would take the overnight train in true travellers style.
Jaipur was day 4 of our 'Intrepid' India Tour of the Golden Triangle, with our tour guide Bhawani.
In the morning we visited the Amber Fort, and in the afternoon we visited the Pink City. We also made a quick stop at the Jantar Manter observatory, which was very impressive, and drive-by photo shoots of the 'Floating Palace' the 'Palace of the Winds'.