Thailand 2009

Thailand 2009

A very short 18 day trip to complete my PADI Open Water certification on a liveaboard crusing the Similan Islands in the Andaman sea. Into Bangkok for the first time, then down to sleepy little Trang in the far Southwest, Across to Ko Mook, then ferry North to Ko Phi Phi. Another ferry to Phuket, and up to Khao Lak for the start of the liveaboard trip. Once back on dry land, overnight bus to Bangkok and back home…

That’s me on the right in the pic above!

The beginning – Delhi

The beginning – Delhi

Arriving in Delhi is never a tranquil experience, but successfully retrieving an undamaged mountain bike from baggage claim after 12 endless economy hours of imagining it crushed under cargo does wonders for centering one’s Chakra. Thank you, British Airways. Hotel Relax in Pahar Ganj was to be our holding camp for 24 hours as we…

The road North and Manali

The road North and Manali

From Delhi, in theory we would be getting ourselves and our bikes to Manali, as Cass and Cara were still there with the previous group, but in practice we were simply receiving a masterclass in Cara’s genius planning skills. With no direct train service, the HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tourist Development Corporation) bus service is the…

The ride starts

The ride starts

Manali – Marhi – Khoksar – Gondhla Friday morning, after a leisurely breakfast idly watching a mouse scurry around the kitchen of our chosen eatery, we finally got on the bikes and started up what was quite a big hill. It was, as expected, stupidly hard riding for me – from 2000m at Manali, up…

Following the river

Following the river

Gondhla – Udaipur – Sach Kas With the challenge of Rohtang behind us, we could chill out a little and enjoy the riding. I still found each day a challenge, but the legs did get stronger, if not any faster. Leaving Gondhla, we flew down for a few kilometres to the bridge at Tandi, which…

Killar – where dogs rule the night

Killar – where dogs rule the night

Just like Sach Kas, there was nowhere to camp in Killar, so we parked the jeeps and bikes on the roof of an unfinished building which hung off the side of the valley (as did the rest of the town) and the group was split between two guesthouses. The following day we would start the…

Up to Bagatou – Sach Pass begins…

Up to Bagatou – Sach Pass begins…

reakfast was dark and hurried, with a noticeable tension in the group as this was to be a big day in the saddle.

Across Sach Pass

Across Sach Pass

Bagatou – Sach Pass – Tisa Leaving Bagatou the next morning I was a happy person – by this time tomorrow the hardest part of the ride would be over. Looking back, what was unique about the next few hours was we were finally away from people – having got used to being surrounded by…

Final hills towards Chamba

Final hills towards Chamba

In our trip plan, this was an easy day – sliding “down” the foothills of the Himalaya to the regional capital Chamba, except there’s no such thing as “down” around here.

The end of the bike ride

The end of the bike ride

The next day we dropped back down to the river and headed South towards our final Himalayan pass, somewhere around 2250m.

McLeod Ganj day off

McLeod Ganj day off

It was with some sadness that I part-disassembled my bike on the terrace of our hotel, ready for its journey to Delhi. For the bike geeks amongst you, I rode a 2006 Orange P7 hardtail – the slight chubbiness of which was offset by the comfort only old-school steel delivers. Tyres were Schwalbe Marathon XRs…

Dive Thailand 2009

Dive Thailand 2009

Thailand for the 1st time.

Exploring the city

Exploring the city

Up too late to catch the wet markets, Bangkok’s Chinatown was still a nice little excursion, bustling and busy, but without the tiny alleys being clogged with people as they would be later in the day. Bigger than I expected, there was a lot of common zoning going on – If you ever need a couple of hundred stalls all selling Hello Kitty merchadise, this is the place to come to.

Grand Palace closed (yes, really)

Grand Palace closed (yes, really)

In Bangkok, when a tuk tuk driver tells you the Grand Palace is closed, you don’t believe him – even the dumbest farang knows that’s the cold open to a scam of one sort or another.

Travelling to, and winding down in, Trang

Travelling to, and winding down in, Trang

Tweet 15 hours on a second-class AC sleeper doesn’t sound fun, but turned out to be a smooth ride. Knackered by this point, I went with the flow on board – overpriced separate farang menu (nice spicy soup, D- cashew chicken), super-overpriced Chang – “What did you say, 120 baht for 660ml of 6.4% silky…

Onto Ko Mook

Onto Ko Mook

In theory, I’ve got to find out how to get from Trang to Kuantong Pier, then bag a space on a longtail to Ko Mook, then find my way across the island to Had Farang bungalows on the West side.

Emerald cave

Emerald cave

Exploring Ko Mook’s Emerald Cave

Traveller Ground Zero – Ko Phi Phi

Traveller Ground Zero – Ko Phi Phi

Passing through the Andaman Sea’s party island

Phuket pit-stop

Phuket pit-stop

Sadly, I was off Phi Phi on the 9am ferry without spending daybreak hanging out with reef sharks. But, big bright blue skies made the ferry trip over to Phuket an early morning pleasure.

School time in Khao Lak

School time in Khao Lak

You could never, ever describe Khao Lak as pretty – it’s a strip mall, happily strung out along dusty old N4 North to Takupua. If you’re in Khao Lak, you’re here for one reason – diving.

Similan diving perfection

Similan diving perfection

So, for those who don’t know about diving liveaboards (e.g. me, yesterday) the routine is very simple – up at 6am, then eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat and finally sleep…