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Ko Lipe

Island hopping 3: Crystal clear waters and white sand beaches

sunny 40 °C

We finally arrived on Ko Lipe at about 5pm and the music was already blaring for New Year's Eve. We were dropped off on the beach and were surprised at how easily we located our accommodation; it was a little more challenging accessing it. We walked the entire length of the beach, and fortunately the tide was out, leaving nice compressed flat sand to walk on. After about 15 minutes, we came to some seemingly impassable rocks with our accommodation on the next bay the other side of the rocks. We noticed the most rickety walkway over across the rocks and so we clambered up some of the boulders on to the wooden path. All this in the 35 degree blazing sun with our packs on our backs. Our walk around the rocks looked far more precarious than it actually was and 5 minutes later we were at our bungalow.

We have had some pretty interesting rooms over the past six months with us getting ever closer to our hundredth place. Bearing that in mind, we have generally done very well and not had to rough it too much. This bungalow definitely had to grow on you with its walls covered in plastic laminate boards printed with green palm and bamboo trees. The bed was a matress on a raised section of floor with a pink flower bed sheet which would not have looked out of place in a 5 year old girl's bedroom. The curtains were a pink satin like material with frills along the edge and the mosquito net was florescent pink. The bathroom had a matching pink sink, shelf and mirror with a pale blue toilet, which was no more than a foot off of the ground. The toilet was a dipper toilet, meaning it did not flush and required you to pour a bowl of water down after you had used it. Obviously, despite not managing to plumb the toilet in, their was still a bum cleaning hose. The shower was cold. At least we had an uninterrupted view of the sea from our balcony.

That evening, we went out for dinner and although the bars were all playing loud music, none of them seemed particularly inviting for new year. We decided to buy some drinks and ice and use a dry bag as an ice bag and saw in the new year from our balcony. From 11 o'clock onwards, there were constant fireworks from the bay. As we walked along the sea front, we saw people lighting fireworks from their child's outstretched arms!

The following day was spent on the beach. We did the ten minute walk across the island to Sunset beach, which was quieter and less touristy. We saw some children going out and catching fish with a rod to spear them. They managed to get quite a large lilac and green one, some small ones and also a puffer fish. We decided to go snorkeling sooner rather than later in case the children killed all the good fish.

We had to swim quite a way out to see any decent fish but saw plenty of sea urchins, some large blue coloured fish and plenty of black and yellow striped fish. I wish we had had a waterproof camera for this part of the trip as we have seen some pretty cool fish and coral on all our trips. Maybe next time.....

We headed back round to the main beach, Pattaya beach, where we hired a glass canoe for an hour. This was clearly just a novelty as it was very hard to control. The water is so clear here, it was actually a little scary passing over the sea urchins and being able to see them brushing up against the boat. We also saw a couple of blue starfish on some of the rocks.

The following day we had a speedboat booked to Langkawi in Malaysia.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:19 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches islands beer boat beach island sand Comments (1)

Koh Lanta Yai

Island hop 2!

overcast 28 °C

After waiting in the middle of the sea for about twenty minutes, the ferry boat appeared on the horizon and the party amongst the long tail boat men dispersed quickly as we did the final few hundred metres over to where the boat stops. In the boat next to ours was the owner of our accommodation who clearly cannot swim, and looked hilarious in his life jacket and checkered boxer shorts.

We arrived on Ko Lanta 90 minutes later and managed to get a room at the first place we went past outside the port for only 400 baht/£8. So what if it appeared to be the former kitchen with worktops and sink? Unfortunately it turned out to have a major problem with its drains and stunk more than our first one in Bangkok and Bangkok is bad for smells anyway. Thankfully it would only be for 2 nights.

The following day, we took a boat trip to Koh Mook, which we had planned to stay at, but probably couldn't have picked a worse time of year to go island hopping without prebooking accommodation. The attraction on Koh Mook is its hidden Emerald Cave set amongst the mountainous karsts in beautiful green seas.

Our long tail boat was driven by what looked like two Thai popstars from the 80s, both with thin moustaches and one with a short mullet and pink shell suit style jacket. It took a good hour and a half bouncing around in the spray from the boat to get to Koh Mook. We were drenched and annoyed that we had picked the coldest overcast day to do this trip. In the wind and waves, it was a little chilly. We stopped on the way for some snorkeling and saw plenty of black and yellow striped fish and a few other larger fish.

After lunch on the beach, we headed round to the Emerald Cave, which was unfortunately heaving with boats. It was suggested we wore lifejackets to make the swim through the cave, with the guides choosing to wear theirs upside down round their legs like nappies. Despite our boat supposedly being capable of taking 18 people on this trip, we were still a couple of lifejackets short on the 12 we needed. Chris had a ridiculously small child's vest on and I went without. The swim was only about 100m and most people found the ill fitting lifejackets to be more of a hinderance. There were a few entertaining chains of people, clinging onto each other evidently unable to swim, with their guide pulling from the front. I don't think I would have wanted to go through a pitch black cave if I couldn't swim!

Chris and I, perhaps rather sadistically, were highly amused by the number of people who were scared and freaking out from the darkness. We were in the dark for less than a minute, with a rope to follow should you wish and various guides waving torches. Karma got me though as I tripped over a submerged rock while walking out the other end of the cave onto the hidden beach. The darkness had helped build up the suspense of the lagoon, and we were not disappointed; it was beautiful with the karsts rising high, a gorgeous golden powdered sand beach, with the sea looking quite haunting as it flowed out of the dark cave.

We enjoyed the reward at the end of this cave; however preferred visiting the tourist free caves in Vang Vieng, Laos. This cave was also similar to the one we visited in Krabi on Christmas day, but with the added excitment of the darkness opening out on to the secret beach. I think we're beginning to get to the point on our trip where we have done most things, and a lot of what do now is 'same same, but different!'

The following day we have a 5 hour ferry booked to Ko Lipe, an island off the coast of Thailand near the Malaysian border.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 06:27 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea islands beach island cave snorkeling Comments (0)

Koh Jum, Thailand

Island hopping 1: A remote and undeveloped Thai beach island

sunny 30 °C

Koh Jum is a small island about an hour off the coast from Krabi with little else to do than enjoy the beaches. Our transfer to the port was from 10.30am, with the boat leaving at 11.30am. Knowing the port was only 3km, we were not too worried when it still had not arrived by five past as this is Thai time after all. The receptionist rang to double check and said it was on its way, they just had a lot of pick-ups around town first. By half past, we were getting anxious, even though she explained the boat left at 12. She called again, and 10 minutes later a pick up truck arrived and we were hastily packed into the cab in the back. The driver was shouting in Thai down the phone and driving pretty quickly. We were unloaded at the port and told to run the final couple of hundred metres, in the midday heat, with our backpacks.

On the boat we booked some accommodation, which was a bamboo bungalow sat a few metres up the hill just back from the beach. The ferry does not dock for Koh Jum; long tail boats come out to meet you and you make the transfer across the water. The boat takes you the final 5 minutes to the beach where it stops a couple of metres back from the shore. We trudged up the beach to our accommodation dumped our bags and headed for a swim.

Our accommodation seems as though it would remain open until it fell apart. The owner had long given up with his restaurant or even getting dressed for that matter, spending his days in his checkered boxer shorts. We didn't have any bedding and when we asked, he returned with some sheets which truly reeked of antiseptic. When we visited the restaurant next door, they asked where were staying and offered us sheets! There was another guy there who was leaving that day and had also stayed at old lamp, there to return his bedding.

The next 48 hours were spent eating, drinking, swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing (in the shade of course) and reading on the beach.

The beach was empty and had a rustic charm to it with broken tree branches and several large rocks,

By night, the wet sand by the water's edge was covered in crabs, with loads of different hermit crabs. The normal crabs would scurry off quickly but the hermits would give it a while before retracting into their shells. Some of them had a pretty jazzy shell on their backs and they came in various different shapes and sizes.

After two days rest and relaxation, it was time to move on and so we booked a boat on to Koh Lanta. As the boat didn't dock on the island, half an hour before it was due, we headed back out on the long tail boat and waited for it to appear.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 07:26 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches sea islands beach island snorkeling Comments (0)

Lake Titicaca

Peruvian and Bolivian side

overcast 18 °C
View South America 2013 on Roaming Rolts's travel map.

Puno, Peru
Sunday 25th August

We arrived in Puno, which is the main town on Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side of the lake at around 3pm. We hung up our damp and still soaked clothes from the Inca trail and headed out for some lunch in Puno. Afterwards we headed down to the port to find out about trips to the islands.

Monday 26th August

The next day we took a boat at half 7 to las islas Uros, which are the famous floating islands on Lake Titicaca. These islands are built on square feet blocks of roots which float in the water. They put a wooden pole through the middle and then tie each block together to make a platform. On top of these floats, they lay reeds across once a fortnight in opposite directions to build the islands up. The roots last 20-25 years, but the reeds need topping up every 2 weeks. The houses are made of the same reeds tied together. Each island is about 250m². There are loads of these little islands, each with about 5 houses and then there is an island in the middle with a school on which all the children attend. You can if you wish do a homestay on these islands, but it gets very cold by the lake at night and there is no electricity other than the odd solar powered lightbulb in the houses and so would be pitch black after dark. Chris and I were more than happy in our hostel!

The island's men spend their days fishing and trade the fish for other produce at the market back on dry land. The women make tapestries showing Uros life on cushion covers and small table covers to sell to the passing tourists.

After taking a traditional boat also made from these reeds across the lake to another island, we headed off on the boat for another 2 hours to Taquile island.

Taquile island is a proper island about 3 hours by boat from Puno. This island had great views of Lake Titicaca and if you climbed up past the main square, it was so peaceful and quiet. We sat for about an hour, enjoying the sun before deciding to head back down to port for the return boat.

We started heading back the way we came, when we heard a young child going in the opposite direction ask his Dad why they were heading that way to the boat and not the way they had come. (The way we were going.) The Dad explained that the boats picked you up from the other side of the island. Chris and I suddenly had a minor panic as we realised the chances are we needed to be on the other side of the island as well. We had 25 minutes to work our where we were going and get to the port before the last boat left for the day. Fortunately, we had not started the downhill section to the original port and were only a few minutes from the main square. We had the name of the port and so asked the locals which way. I checked to see how far it was, and one man said 15-20 minutes. We picked up the pace, which is not easy when you're at 3800m above sea level and heading uphill. Knowing we didn't have any spare time, we checked a few times along the way that we were going the right way as it was not signposted and as we were still heading uphill, we could not yet see the port. We made it in the end with 5 minutes to spare, which allowed for us to realise how close we were to missing the last boat. Never have we been so grateful for inquisitive children!

We arrived back at 5pm and headed into town for dinner before heading back to the hostel.

The next day, we caught the bus to Copacabana, Bolivia.

Copacabana, Bolivia

Tuesday 27th August

We caught the bus at 7.30am and it took about 2½ hours to reach the border and 30 minutes for the whole bus to clear immigration. Bolivia is an hour ahead of Peru and we arrived shortly before midday local time. We were unexpectedly greeted at the bus by a free transfer to the hotel, which was a matter of minutes away on foot, but being up a hill we were very grateful.

We dumped our stuff and went out for some lunch. The food in Bolivia cost the same as in Peru; however their currency is a lot weaker which therefore meant the main course for 35Bs was not £8 as it would have been in Peru, but just over £3. We found what looked like a nice restaurant and ordered a couple of burgers and drinks. The food came very quickly and while I was busy putting sauce on mine, Chris got started on his. He took his second mouthful and said is it alright to eat raw burgers? I said no and he spat out a mouthful of completely raw burger. These burgers were incredibly thin, so thin that they barely stayed together. I cut into the middle of mine, and it was bright red. It was completely raw. I didn't think to take a picture in time but it looked as raw as mince in the supermarket. As you can't eat raw mince unless it's chopped there and then, which we doubted very much we decided to send them back and head off.

When I told the waiter the burger was raw, he just stood there staring at the almost still moo-ing burger and before questioning me as to whether it was cooked our not. If that wasn't proof we didn't want to eat there then I don't know what is. Commence trying to explain to the waiter that the burger had put us off our food and we just wanted to go. He disappeared off, I assume to check with the manager as he returned with the bill for the drinks. These came to £2.80 and I tried to pay with the equivalent of a £4.50 note, which was too big to him! Eventually he found some change and once we'd finished our drinks we found somewhere safer to eat. We think....

Isla del Sol

Wednesday 28th August

This morning, we checked out of our hotel and caught a boat to Isla del Sol which is an hour and a half from Copacabana. We trekked up the mountain and spent about an hour looking for accommodation until we finally found one with a great view of the lake for the princely sum of £11 including breakfast and a private bathroom. I have noticed that whenever discussing with people how much something costs, when I go to translate the options to Chris, I think they seem to think we're backing out because the price has often dropped before I finish even telling Chris. This was the case here as the man dropped his price by £2.

We set off walking to Challa, a village which according to 'good old never one to exaggerate, Lonely Planet, ' it had a 'white sand beach straight or of a Greek holiday brochure'. We arrived at this beach after an hour and a half's walk and unsurprisingly it was not picturesque by anyone's imagination. We sat on the wall for about half an hour with school children staring at us as they went past before we headed slowly back up to our hotel.

We went out for dinner, remembering to take a torch for the journey back. Our restaurant only had lights at the front to light it up from the street and so we ate our dinner by candlelight before walking 10 minutes in pitch black down the mountain to our hotel.

Thursday 29th August

The next morning we woke up in our unheated, single glazed room to a substantial covering of frost on the ground outside. We had breakfast and headed off down the mountain to the port to get the boat back to Copacabana. Today was to be the day of no seats as despite being one of the first down to the port to buy a ticket for the boat, we initially ended up with no seat until some people shuffled along reluctantly on the bench. The boat ride back to Copacabana was quite funny (for me) as most people on the boat looked ready to chuck at any moment as it was incredibly choppy today. Unfortunately Chris was made to eat his words as yesterday he'd questioned how anyone could feel seasick on one of these boats. Luckily he and everyone else survived and there was no potential chain reaction.

We bought a bus ticket to La Paz and had an hour to get lunch. We arrived at the bus 30 minutes before its departure time, as advised to find there were no seats left. It was OK though, the angry bus man has a solution; there was one seat at the back and the other person could sit on the jump seat at the front. We declined his great offer for the 4 hour bus journey and he got annoyed. He said there wasn't another bus until much later and just got angrier when I tried to ask what time. We knew we still had time to buy another ticket with another company, but I'm guessing as he already had our money, he was not to fussed about sorting us out. Eventually another lady offered us a seat on a different bus. We were reluctant, as we have heard Bolivian buses race and overtake crazily to beat each other to fares. They also have a tenancy to end up in ditches. This bus didn't look battered and so we went with it. We were the only foreigners on the bus.

All was fine for the first couple of hours until for some unknown reason, the bus turned off the ruta nacional and onto dry, incredibly bumpy fields, which was to be our route for the next half an hour. We eventually arrived in the centre of town where we sat in traffic for about 15 minutes. We soon headed out to the middle of virtually nowhere which it turned out was where our bus was to terminate. We finally managed to flag down a taxi to our hotel.

We went into town for dinner, but managed to go to the one part of town which had nothing but a load of market stalls. We found an awful restaurant to eat at and left most of it and got a hotdog on our way back to the hotel.

Here's to tomorrow being a more successful day in Bolivia. At least our hotel is warm!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:12 Archived in Bolivia Tagged boat beach bus lake island floating uros isla_del_sol Comments (0)

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