Monday, 2 February 2009

Out through Asia. Again.

After very brief stops in Dublin, Frankfurt, Munich and Singapore, I arrived in Malaysia to meet up with some friends. I hadn't been to Kuala Lumpur before, and it's a surprisingly modern city. Not cheap, but good nightlife, food and some fairly interesting old meets new, east meets west architecture.

After a couple of days the lure of Thailand was too great and I found myself in Krabi, via an overnight bus to Surat Thani (eveyone's least favourite Thai town) and a minibus. On said bus I bumped into Nick, the manager of the Nunnery in Melbourne where I'd stayed a few months back. Small world. I was on my way to meet Pat and Sarah, who are nearing the end of 2 years traveling. We stayed in Ao Nang, the ritzier side of Krabi. Personally, I prefer the more down at heal places, but the sunsets are still pretty nice.

After a couple of days we decided to head to Phi Phi, as both Pat and I fancied some scuba. It was even busier than Krabi and tough finding any sort of reasonably priced digs, but after a few days we had devised a schedule to offset the high rent by timing our wanderings to coincide with all the free food and drink going in different bars. And we found a nice quiet area of beach for daytime relaxation far from the madding and often maddening crowd. Passing on a trip to the Similian islands for cost and weather reasons, we settled for a local day's diving, which was pretty good and worth waiting for the improved conditions.

Enough beach pampering. Next up was Mae Sot, a Burmese refugee camp north west of Bangkok, and the place where Mike Cariaso from my Genelogic days was calling home for a few months. He's on his 3rd stint there helping with the kids computer education. Its a really nice setup, a lot more organised and less impoverished than I expected.

And I must admit the kids are adorable. We also did get to see some of the darker sides of the area, including a ward where amputees craft their replacement limbs, as well as the local "sport" of cockfighting. Although not near as gory as I imagined (about on a par to a boxing ring), I still think anything involving needless cruelty to animals isn't really kosher. We also got to see some of the local expat characters, who are always interesting (and usually a little odd) in these kind of locations.

All too soon my Thai visa was up (again) and it was time to move on. Tickets to Melbourne through Vietnam were cheap and allowed me to catch up with Tim and his Vietnamese girlfriend, who I had traveled with last year, as well as Sean (and his - do I sense a theme here...) who I met in Japan. Mostly we just drank lots of bia hoi in Saigon, but we did get away for a couple of days to the busy beach resort of Vung Tao. With hardly a western in site, it's certainly a different beach vibe than Ko Phi Phi!