Saturday, November 6, 2010

Updates from Koh Samui to Penang!

We ended up leaving Home Bay resort in Koh Samui, just about on time at 9am. It was a short 20 minute drive back to the ferry port and on the way we saw some signs of the flooding that has blighted the Island since we arrived. On both sides of the road were houses and shops with the retreating water still covering the outside areas. Sometimes though when we looked to our right, we could see the now calm ocean gently lapping up to the small beaches, no more than 10 metres from the road.

Once at the ferry port we hung around till the ferry came in, the passengers disembarked and we all clambered aboard, putting all our bags in the centre aisle of the seating areas and then we split up into smaller groups. Some sat inside, whilst others sat under cover outside, chatting. Me, Lisa, Liv, Mark, Martje, Mills, Michele and Teya ended up on the top deck, where the wind cooled us all from the hot humid day. Michele gave me a beer left over fro last night and Lisa joined me with a fresh one from the on board shop, whilst we sat on the barriers and watched as we left the Island.

The sea was quite calm gentle and it didn’t seem long till we saw the shadows of land appearing through the mist and then a big Buddha statue, which we knew was just around the corner from the port.

Once we docked we left the ferry and headed out to the car park, following Teya,to see our new bus. We were all delighted to a double decker, pimped up party bus waiting for us!! It is the funkiest bus I have ever seen, with disco lights and a DJ’s mixing booth just by the driver!! There are plenty of seats so not many people have to share and even those that do can recline their seats to almost flat beds (Although anyone sitting behind will lose their legs!!)

After I had ran back to the toilets to get Michele, who was still recovering from his bikini clad, firework enhanced birthday celebrations, we left and headed towards the City of Hat Yai.

Hat Yai, is a large city but has been flooded for the last few days. We didn’t know until late yesterday if we would be able to go there, but according to the guides, the flood water has receded and the hotel is habitable. There may be a problem with shops being open though and so we will be stopping on the way for supplies. There may also be nowhere to cook, so we are expecting a cold breakfast on the bus tomorrow. I hope they have electricity though, because than at least there will be cold fridges containing beer and that is fine for my dinner!!

After a couple of stops for food, we are now sitting quietly in the bus and just approaching the outskirts of Hat Yai itself. We seem to have made good progress as we were told it would take 6 hours and its only been 5 and a half (We are well used to being told 4-5 hours and a trip then taking 7-8 hours, so when we arrive on time or even early it is a lovely surprise.

After tonight we head out of Thailand and in to Malaysia, to Penang and Melaka. We have lunch under the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur, before heading out of Malaysia and into Indonesia. Nobody really knows what to expect over the next week as even Lana hasn’t been given details of hotels and locations. It will be a long week though as we have 8 days including tonight, where we are moving every day. Lets hope tonight’s hotel is OK!!

Well we are here and the Hotel is fine!! There is a lot of debris lying around in he streets around the Hotel. The foyer, when we arrived had been cleared of all furniture, which was now in the corridors on the first floor. But, the hotel staff seemed glad to see us and when we reached the room we were pleasantly surprised to see air-con, TV and a fridge with cold beer!! Even a day after the floods this is better than most hotels in India!!

A few of us decided to venture out for food and wandered once around the block. There was debris everywhere from the floods, but you could see that the clear up was well under-way. Some shops were open but others like the internet café on the corner near the hotel was full of mud and needed a good clean up. On the outside of our hotel, we could see a line about 5feet high where the flood water had been just a couple of hours ago. We continued to look for a café but the only things we could see were soup kitchens which we thought had been set up for the aftermath of the floods. However, when we ran into Lana and Kenneth, she explained that they were always there and pretty good! So me and Jennifer Parsonage wandered back up the road and tried some fish, crab and chicken sausage on a stick! We weren’t disappointed as it was bloody lovely and the fish was some of the nicest fish I have ever had. Just a few minutes later and I was stuffed, so we decided to try and find somewhere selling wine. It took us nearly a minute to find a bottle of red Australian Penfold wine and after getting the shop owner to open it for us, we headed back to the hotel with our prize and sat in the room trying to get onto the internet. Unfortunately, although the router was working OK, the actual link to the net was down so we couldn’t get any access. So we decided to spend the night flicking through the channels on TV and maybe watching a movie. W even found ITV, and watched a dating programme where some soft lad got a no answer of a nice looking girl he wanted to date. You could see he was gutted, but as it was the first proper UK programme I have seen in a few weeks, it made me happy anyway!!

After a few flicks through all the channels we decided to put a movie on and watched 'Cemetery Junction, on my net-book. It was a really nice relaxing night – Comfortable room, cold beer, wine and a good film!! We completely forgot that just a few days ago this city was completely flooded. After the movie Jennifer Parsonage went to bed and I flicked through the channels again, until I found the Tom Hanks Movie – 'Castaway'. It reminded me of our few days in Koh Samui and I watched it till the end, with Michele who came back in later.

We were due to leave at 8am, so I was out of bed at 7.30 and ready to go by 10 to 8. However, Bev, who is feeling poorly, wanted to go and see a doct0r this morning, so we are now sat around waiting for her to come back. Its horrible seeing Bev being Ill, because she is such a good laugh normally and we all hope she comes back soon all better and with a big smile! Get better soon Bev'o!!

So we are now all waiting in the Hotel. Lana is trying to keep us all informed on developments about Indonesia too. There is a volcano erupting in Java, quite close to where we are supposed to be travelling in a few days time. Everyone on the bus has different ideas of what we should do:- Some think if we are able to travel, we should continue as normal. Others think we should avoid the island all together, not just for our own safety, but also so we don't become part of the problem. I'm sure that the guys at Oz-bus HQ are doing their best to keep us informed, but there are a few worried people on the bus who are becoming frustrated and a little worried about the situation. The last week we have been in the Thai floods and next week we are due to drive into a volcanic eruption that has already taken lives. I’m sure that the time difference between here and UK means that we will have a better idea of what the future plans are later this afternoon.

We have now left Hat Yai and are on our way to the Thai/Malaysian border, but we are 2 people short. Bev is being looked after by the doctor in Hat Yai and Lisa has stayed behind with her, to keep her company and look after her. I really hope that everything is fine soon and they can re-join us on the bus as we are missing them already.

On the bus, me and Jennifer Parsonage are trying to work out how to use her touch screen on her net-book. A collection has gone around for Teya, who has been our great Thai guide for the last week or so. She has been really great and is highly recommended by everyone on the bus – Oz-bus staff, please take note – Sign her up, she would be a great guide!!!

We are continuing on now and have just stopped for supplies before we hit the border at a 7/11 that has just been re-stocked after the floods. Half of the shelves were empty, but we all spent the remainder of our Thai money on sweets, chocolates and BBQ flavour Potato Spicky!! Its nearly 1130am and its already been a long and stressful day. We are hoping for a quieter afternoon, an easy border crossing and a nice hotel for the night.

The border crossing into Malaysia was fairly simple – After a short queue to leave Thailand we boarded our new bus. It isn't as flash as the Thai disco bus, but has loads of legroom and you can put the seats back quite far and relax nicely. Teya, boarded the bus one final time and said a sad goodbye. She has really been a great tour guide for Thailand and I’m sure some of us when we return, will be in contact with her and at least meet up for a drink, maybe even use her as a guide again one day. She also said some very nice things about the group and about our experiences together in Bangkok and especially with the weather in Koh Samui.

Once we were all on board the new bus, we met our new guide. He is a funny bloke and I think we will enjoy our couple of days here in Malaysia with him. We drove the couple of hundred metres through no mans land and then had to leave the bus with all our bags to pass through Malaysian immigration. The strange thing is that although we had to carry our bags, anything not in a bagm, could be left on the bus and wasn’t checked!! So after we all took out our hard drugs, rhino horn and flick knives, leaving them safe on the bus, we quickly passed through the x-ray machine one at a time, whilst a non existent guard checked the screens – Yep, there was nobody watching!! It was a bit surreal and was made even more so for me, by the fact that my bag had been put in a puddle and my arse and back was now soaked from carrying it.

We settled onto the bus and drove half an hour or so until we reached a service station. The food here was really quite good and everyone who needed it, had some good scoff. Chris even found a stall that did eggy-bread (French toast for all you posh people!) I made do with a can of Kick-a-poo joy juice, which turned out to be nothing more harmless than flavoured lemonade!

The afternoon on the bus passed by reasonably quickly with the only interesting things being the floods that we drove through every now and then. We saw houses 3 or 4 feet deep in water still, surrounded by fields that were completely flooded. The bus drove slowly through them and Jennifer Parsonage pointed out that our bags were in the bottom of the coach – We hope that the doors to the luggage compartment are waterproof, other wise it could be a long night. We did get to take some pictures from the bus as we passed through the floods. There were flooded houses an massive resort and a football pitch where you can only see the goals at either end. You can see them here on the blog or on Picasa.

After an afternoon of napping, watching the floods through the windows and stopping every now and then for toilets, Ice cream and to sample the hot humid Malaysian weather, we are now just an hour away from Penang and our first Malaysian stop. We have been promised that we will be passing over the longest bridge in Asia at 13.5km long, which as a bloke who likes that sort of thing, quite excites me!! The bus has also produced yet another Oz-bus fact – Today’s fact, that could be true or could be complete bollocks is that our Hotel for the night – The Grand Intercontinental, has a 23rd floor swimming pool. So tonight may well see everyone finally wearing the bikinis they bought for Koh Samui – or a lot of red faces when they reach the top floor of the hotel and see that it has only 22 floors!!

It was all true!!! We are now in the Grand Intercontinental and have spent the last hour in the 23rd floor pool!! Now its time to go out and try to find a steak house for dinner!!

Just off to bed now - We didnt find a steakhouse, but me Lana, Kenneth and Jennifer Parsonage found a sushi house for dinner, before we headed seperately through town and all ended up in the same bar about a mile away drinking rum and cokes and watching prem football on the tv.

Its now 10 past 11pm and after another long day, its time to relax, try to catch up on the hrand prix qualifying and then get my head down before a 7am start and a 8am depart tomorrow towards lunch in Kuala Lumpur!

Heres a few piccies....

Floods in Malaysia


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