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Entries about beaches

Chapter eighty eight - Sydney

all seasons in one day 12 °C

Day 312: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 07/08/2012

After a refreshing two hours' sleep we touch down in Sydney, breeze fairly easily through customs and are kindly met at the terminal by Gemma's cousin John. Amazingly, the Pakistani woman who tried to board the plane without a ticket is one of the first at the baggage carousel to claim her stuff. To say the eight degrees celcius outside feels a bit chilly given the last ten months is an understatement and we are happily soon in the back of John's car on our way to the first 'proper' cup of tea of the trip. A quick shower at John and Nele's lovely flat soon blows the cobwebs of the flight away and before long we are on our way out to see the sights.

First impressions of Sydney - and Australia - are very, very positive, with the area in which J&N live being home to countless terraces of beautiful houses, all cast iron balconies and bay windows. The 'normality' of the roads after ten months in Asia is a big shock to the system (as are the prices...) but all is good as we board the ferry at Double Bay and head for Circular Quay, home to the postcard shots of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour bridge. My perceptions of these buildings/structures being cliched are blown apart, and as we sip a couple of beers in the shadow of the Opera House, any misconceptions we had about Australia and what we should expect from our time here, are laid to rest. With friends and family here, we could not ask for better hosts and we start to look forward to the next three and a half weeks and what it will bring.

After a quick lunch - and some welcome 'home' food (who'd have thought a pie would be so good?) - Nele heads back to the flat to sort some things out and John shows us some of the local pubs. A more pleasant, cleaner and more relaxing environment in which to have a few bevvies could not be found and before long we have whiled the afternoon away. Over a good dinner I am somehow roped into running the world's biggest fun run on Sunday, the 14km City 2 Surf event. Great! I am very well prepared for this...We manage to stay up until 2am somehow before hitting the hay.

Day 313: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 08/08/2012

A great sleep and a well deserved lie in (we have had a tough time of it this year!) is followed by a nice cup of Rosie Lee. Given the beautiful weather outside - unusual for this time of year apparently - our hosts take us down to Bondi Beach and beyond. Another cliche blown apart by actually visiting it, Bondi is actually a really great place to spend some time - the beach is long and wide, the sea is clear and blue and the surf is up. The skatepark on the beachside further compounds my admiration for the place.

We then take the Bondi to Coogee walk over the clifftops, with some stunning views and some rather nice properties overlooking the sea. The traditional end of hike Aussie meal (McDonald's) further sells Sydney to us and the bus back to their flat passes some big parks and cricket grounds. A trip care of John and Nele to a quiet spot overlooking Sydney harbour at sunset introduces me to Heartbreak Hill, a half mile piece of hell that makes Gladiators' travelator look friendly, which is part of the City 2 Surf route. John rustles up some meatballs for dinner and after some Olympic action from a faraway land we head to bed.

Day 314: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 09/08/2012

After another great night's sleep John takes us for a brisk walk around the local park, which has lots of public facilities including playing fields, an equestrian centre and a heap of public barbecues for use for a nominal fee. Nice. A spot of lunch at the Sailing Club at Double Bay is followed by a trip to see all the nearby sights, including 'The Gap' - a suicide hotspot but also a beautiful part of the city - Shark Beach and Camp Cove, which has some dream properties on it. We then take a quick stroll up the cliff towards Lady Bay Beach. This involves taking in some more sights than we originally hoped for, as John 'remembers' that it is a nudist beach. 'There won't be anyone there on a blustery day like this...'Oh. We have to tell one of the men on the beach that it's rude to point. Ahem.

A trip to the supermarket for tea is followed by some decathlon pole vaulting action - who invented this event? - and bed.

Day 315: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 10/08/2012

A very short entry today. We are left to our own devices as John and Nele are at work today. The weather outside is positively Novemberish Manchesterish - rain, wind and cold - so we have a day in front of the tv enjoying a few brews. Our big day out eventually sees us venture into the nearby Westfield centre at about four and after braving the gale and getting some supermarket produce we return to the flat over an hour later. Roast chicken, mash and veg lifts the spirits.

Day 316: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 11/08/2012

A marginally more eventful day than yesterday and after dragging ourselves out of the very comfortable bed we decide to do something with the day ahead. We head out on the bus, with Circular Quay in mind, and find ourselves alighting slightly earlier than expected in the trendy Paddington district of the city. Here we visit the Saturday Paddington Market, where there are lots of bargains on offer at ten to fifteen times the price of those in the Bangkok markets. Still, some nice stuff available.

After visiting some nice shops, getting some trousers for next week's wedding and passing some nice looking bars and restaurants, we visit a rather cool coffee shop/second hand bookshop and get a Lonely Planet for the China leg of the journey. We then find ourselves back at the harbour, which looks completely different lit up at night and get some nice photos.

We get the bus back to the flat and embark on a carb load for tomorrow's 'fun' run. After months of (delicious) Asian food, pasta is a nice return to the diet and after a quick skype it is time for bed and a rest before the day of reckoning.

Day 317: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 12/08/2012

So then, the day has come for the City 2 Surf. Up at six to don my shorts and trainers and with me nervously glancing at the clock, Gemma kindly makes me some breakfast. Soon on the bus and seemingly sooner still find myself at the start line. There is an enormous crowd here - allegedly there are over eighty thousand people running (the biggest fun run in the world I am reliably informed) - and before I know it...we're off!

Start the race at a blistering pace, thinking this is a bit of a breeze. Soon flag however, with the hedonism of the past few months catching up with me with a vengeance. An attempted murder by Heartbreak Hill does little to dampen my spirits, and despite nearly throwing up when a cup of Gatorade goes down a bit wrong, I start to think we must be getting close. Then the 8km marker rears its ugly head and the realisation that we are only just over halfway dawns on a few of us runners I think! Anyway, ignoring the stunning scenery of the route the run takes due simply to the lack of oxygen reaching my brain I am at the finish line before I know it and an enormous sense of relief and joy sweeps over me. A time (I later learn) of seventy six minutes is not too bad all things considering and I am reasonably proud of myself. If only I was fitter...one to work on when we get back I think.

After forty five minutes spent finding Gemma and braving the biting wind blowing onshore from Bondi, we are soon in a VIP hospitality tent care of Jon, our friend from the Gili islands. Some great food, some unsuitable recovery drinks and a good massage later, we bid goodbye to him again and thank him for the invite! With bags of freebies in tow, we sit down for a drink in Bondi, where we meet an older Brummie couple and during Happy Hour the day catches up with me and I doze off in my chair. A quick dinner and a well earned early night follow. Exhausted! Gemma tells me how proud she is! If only I was fitter...If only I was fitter...zzzzz.

Day 318: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 13/08/2012

Arise ever so slightly sore today and with the sun back in the sky we decide to make a day of it. A bus to Circular Quay opens a world of possibility and after watching an Aborigine play his didgeridoo we catch the ferry across to Manly. A very choppy crossing is compensated for by yet more fantastic views and after arriving we spend a very windy afternoon on the beach. Glad to be wearing a hoody!

The lactic acid builds up progressively during the day and soon my legs are giving way underneath me. A touch of the green eye as we spy people running out of their front doors and straight into the sea with their wetsuits and their surfboards. A bit nice for them really. We grab a great steak for dinner and prepare for tomorrow's early morning flight.

Posted by tevs 02:29 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches opera_house sydney food harbour city run bars Comments (0)

Chapter eighty four - Sihanoukville's second chance

A place in the rain

sunny 30 °C

Day 301: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 27/07/2012

So depart from the B&Q furniture bus depot and make our way to Sihanoukville, for a final chance to snatch some quality beach time. The not uncomfortable minibus takes far more than the promised four hours (and nearly run a dog over in the process) and I run into somebody else reading another of Michael Palin's fine travel books. Have just finished Around The World In 80 Days and give it to my new buddy as I finished it last night. Decline a book back in return on account of the eight we are already carrying around.

A quick stop at Victory Hill for the fat, white, middle aged man sat next to me and it is the seediest, sleaziest, scummiest place I have ever seen, built solely around the world's oldest profession. We find a hotel room and head to the beach for the afternoon sun. The town is a lot quieter and therefore nicer than it was the last time we came due mainly to it now being the low season. The clouds gather but the rain holds off for today and we enjoy a decent tea in the town. Consider a trip back to the desert island but decide against as the weather is not as reliable in low season. A film in bed is followed by a good sleep.

Day 302: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 28/07/2012

A beautiful day outside - the sun is shining and the beach beckons. We saunter down to the beach and after grabbing a sun lounger, enjoy a whole twenty minutes of uninterrupted sunshine before the biggest, blackest, most threatening clouds you ever did see appear on the horizon and the staff of all the beachside businesses run out to collect in anything that could be damaged by the rain.

And rain it did, as we spend a very uneventful afternoon in the room listening to the almighty storm gather pace outside. With the sun back up in the early evening, we head back to the beach, where we run into one of the lads we met in Koh Samui and briefly catch up with him. Happy Hour then opens its welcoming arms and we enjoy a few 50 cent beers with an Aussie-Kiwi couple and their young son, who has grown up in Cambodia. Needless to say, this ends later than Happy Hour intended and I forget where we live.

Day 303: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 29/07/2012

Wake up early to confront the hangover and duly lose this battle. Back to bed. A very uninspiring day mirrored by the miserable weather outside. Dinner is about the only highlight. Shocking.

Day 304: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 30/07/2012

Another rainy day unfortunately, and the after a spot of luncheon at the Big Easy bar we catch a bit of Olympic action all the way from good old Blighty. Lots of US Navy personnel about for some reason.

Back to the room for some movie entertainment - so much for the last bit of beach before going to Australia. Book a bus to Siem Reap for tomorrow and head out for dinner - two courses for $5. Baked scallops in white wine are very good. The rest is distinctly average. A frustrating few days here.

Posted by tevs 04:13 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beaches cambodia sihanoukville Comments (0)

Chapter eighty three - Kep

sunny 31 °C

Day 299: Kep, Cambodia 25/07/2012

Awake early this morning, each of us a fair bit healthier than we were yesterday. When I ask G what time it is she replies with an authoritative and decisive 'ten past eight'. A look at the watch reveals it is in fact ten past nine. She is living in the past. To the embassy then Batman, and the trip starts well as we step out of the tuk-tuk and I promptly go arse over tit care of a shin high chain fence at the side of the road. 'Oh my God' squeals the tuk-tuk driver. Quite.

Get all the required paperwork in and ask to pay for express/same day processing. The jobsworth from yesterday does not understand why we would possibly want this and tells us that it is not possible. Au contraire mon ami, as he looks up to see me and remembers the laser eye treatment he was subjected to yesterday and allows us (begrudgingly) to pay for the expedited issuance. Told to pick them up in a couple of hours so we grab a spot of breakfast from a restaurant run by an OG, who walks round commanding respect and holding two huge bricks of money without so much as the thought of a worry. Not a man to cross we feel.

We get our passports back with two Chinese visas firmly pasted into them and a weight is lifted off - the journey can be completed and the final leg undertaken. Check out of our hotel for the last time - I am sure they will be really sad to see the back of us for good - and we make our way to the bus station, where we buy two tickets to Kep and we leave Phnom Penh, passing through some parts of town we definitely haven't been near before. See a new favourite shop. It is magnificently named the 'Selling Glasses Watches Shop'.

We reach Kep, find a room and make mortal enemies with an obnoxious and truly quite horrible French nine year old. Good tea.

Day 300: Kep, Cambodia 26/07/2012

Get up and watch a bit of tv, flicking between Russia Today, Somali Kingdom TV and numerous Christian channels (kids love oatmeal snacks apparently). Go for a walk around the really quiet and quaint little town that is Kep and continue on our walk round the cliff that we abandoned last night due to the dark. Just as well we did really, as the pathway is teeming with monkeys and given our previous with these cuddly, furry, evil balls of fun we would no doubt have had a scrap on our hands.

A spot of lunch is followed by a spot of beaching it. A scorcher today and after two minutes sitting on the sand we find ourselves on two rather ancient and delapidated sun loungers. Charged to use them by a woman that Gemma thinks is just someone using the beach and seeing an opportunity. Lots of locals around the beach today, all of them staying in the shade by the road and most of them extended family units enjoying a good barbecue, which is always nice to see.

Book a minibus back to Sihanoukville tomorrow and are told by the travel agent to meet him back here at his office in the morning. His office is a patio table in a car park. Love the way that Asia conducts its business.

Posted by tevs 03:36 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beaches cambodia kep Comments (0)

Chapter sixty eight - Koh Lanta

Banter in Koh Lanta

storm 25 °C

Day 246: Koh Lanta, Thailand 01/06/2012

A breakfast in the room – cereal from the fake 7-eleven store next door – then picked up for the journey to Koh Lanta, a nearby island two hours away by minibus. Arrive in Koh Lanta after a nice, easy journey incorporating some great scenery and views and two ferry crossings. We get dropped off in the Klong Dao beach area, a complete ghost town. There seems to be NOBODY here due to it being low season and as a result we are able to get a real bargain of a room on the beach.

We take a walk on the beach after lunch and there is a restaurant affiliated to the local animal sanctuary that is always on the look out for volunteers to walk their dogs. We choose to take Sugar for a walk – we are told to walk her all the way to the end of the beach - and it soon becomes apparent that this is possibly the laziest dog in the world. Sugar simply does not want to go any further than about a hundred yards and simply sits and refuses to budge. Try to make her come with us but she somehow gets her head through the collar and I am forced to run after her as she gives it some serious legs down the beach the way we came. Eventually catch her. Try again. This process is then repeated. Weird bitch.

Lazy evening and a spot of dinner before a night in front of the telly.

Day 247: Koh Lanta, Thailand 02/06/2012

We are up reasonably early, look out at the sea to see a steely grey, raging pool of surf, much wilder than any other coastline we have seen in Thailand up to now. I go for a run along the beach, which is lovely in the mid-morning sun, before heading for the pool.

A grey, damp afternoon follows and we stroll down the road in search of lunch. In such a small, quiet and out of season town Gemma obviously runs into somebody she knows from home. Crazy! We have a quiet afternoon – a swim in the sea and the pool. A quiet evening in the room, nobody on skype (too busy enjoying the Bank Holiday no doubt), have a nice dinner and watch a bit of TV. Kevin and Perry Go Large. In Thai!

Day 248: Koh Lanta, Thailand 03/06/2012

After a swift breakfast in the room we hire a bike from the hotel. We go for a quick ride around the island, which is very small but very beautiful on such a bright, sunny day. We follow (we think) the road that parallels the west coast of the island and encounter some great scenery, before lunch overlooking the coast and the smaller islands that are just off the east of the island. Somehow ended up on the complete other side of the island. Oh well.

See a bit more of the island – see a snake, which makes my day – and we are on the way back round the top of the island when…we…run…out of petrol. Join a family on their front porch, who kindly help us out by sending their twelve year old son out on his bike to the local Esso for some gasolina.

Eventually get back to ours, have a bit of afternoon sun by the pool and then skype. Tea, bed.

Day 249: Koh Lanta, Thailand 04/06/2012

A very quiet and uneventful day. A spot of breakfast, a spot of sun by the pool, a spot on my head and a spot of lunch before the weather changes and the rain starts to come down sideways. Head to an internet café and there is a skype first when Gonny appears on the webcam! Tea then bed after a spot of television.

Day 250: Koh Lanta, Thailand 05/06/2012

Another quiet day at the ranch and as the sun is out we head poolside baby for some sunnage. However, after a good takeaway lunch the weather changes again, the wind gets up and there is some serious precipitation. No wonder this is the low season here…
Out for some more skype (poor Ben Cribbo terrorised once again by his father) and a very good dinner. Back to the room.

Day 251: Koh Lanta, Thailand 06/06/2012

Well, the rainy season is well and truly here and after a sunny start the wind whips the rain into a frenzy and the bus tickets out of here are booked for the 8th. A very wet afternoon is spent in the room watching Universal channel and amid games of cards and Uno the rain starts to seep through the ceiling of the room and onto the edge of the bed.

With relatively little to do a takeaway dinner and some more telly makes for a successful evening.

Posted by tevs 08:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches thailand season rainy koh_lanta Comments (0)

Chapter sixty five - Cherating

Frogs, bed bugs and monitor lizards

semi-overcast 28 °C

Day 241: Cherating, Malaysia 27/05/2012

We get up nice and early, have a nice breakfast with Bev and Mark and soon find ourselves at the bus station ready to move on once again. Board the bus for the East Coast (baby), have a little sleep and arrive earlier than expected in Kuantan, from where we catch the connecting local bus service to Cherating.

Arrive in this small, eerie little town around four in the afternoon and it becomes apparent that the majority of the accommodation is made up of wooden chalets modelled on B&Q’s excellent range of garden sheds (other DIY retailers are available). However, we find ourselves something a little cosier and are soon bunkered down in a breeze block shed at a meagre five quid a night. Truly a case of from the sublime to the ridiculous, having come from Mark and Bev’s lovely home this morning.

Head out for tea after chasing a couple of frogs out of the room (‘nature’ the owner helpfully says) and after a decent bit of food we head online to speak to people back home. After arriving back at our home for the night we are greeted by another of our amphibious friends. This time however, he proves to be a bit more athletic and difficult to eject than the dumpy, toady little things everywhere and moving like a ball of flubber, the route he takes before finally being captured goes a little something like this: my leg, the wall, across the room to the curtain, Gemma’s pillow, my backpack and back into the bathroom. I eventually manage to detain him by throwing a fluorescent yellow workman’s vest on him, which helpfully was hanging on the back of the door. Bed seems the order of the day after this drama.

Day 242: Cherating, Malaysia 28/05/2012

After being awoken very early by a monkey running loudly across our corrugated tin roof we have a bit of a lie in and head for a very cheap lunch up the road. Before leaving however, we usher another frog out from behind my backpack (how do they keep getting in?).

A sunny afternoon is spent on the beach, which due to the Malaysian school holidays, is pretty busy. I go for a quick run to the other end of the beach and reach the river estuary which seems to have escaped the attention of the numerous tourists playing at the other end.
A few games of Pictionary in the sand and a couple of hands of Uno later, we plan where we want to go next and the next stages of the trip. We adventurously head for tea at the same place as lunch and hit the hay (well a makeshift foam mattress) nice and early. Disappointingly, no frog activity to report this morning.

Posted by tevs 08:34 Archived in Malaysia Tagged beaches beach malaysia frogs cherating Comments (0)

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