Posts in "Island Hopping"
paradise takes shape in phu quoc island...
well we finally arrived in vietnam after a horrendous border crossing from cambodia which saw our bus brake down, us get shoved with 15 other people into a 13 seater mini-van, having to spend a night in ha tien after missing our connecting ferry and our hotel reservation getting cancelled on the island, which is not good in peak season. after trekking down the hot sand and finding another place to stay (which ended up being better than our initial place), we began our holiday on the island. ok breathe jamee... ahh... now that long winded whinge is over, i will change my tune to a more positive one and fill you in on possibly our favourite place yet.

note. phu quoc is an island off the bottom of vietnam, located in the south china sea, which - given its close proximity to cambodia is also claimed as theirs.

the white sand, palm trees, coconut cocktails and blue water were more than inviting and after the few days it took to finally get there and certainly made it all the more worth it. long beach is a beautiful stretch of sand that houses many different resorts, bungalows and guesthouses and overall seemed to have a pleasant balance between what western tourists want out of a holiday while still keeping a real vietnamese cultural vibe. we stayed in a gorgeous bungalow just back from the beach, and it was utter perfection.

after spending two days lounging on the beach (one day was had relatively sore heads due to a very social evening we had with laura and ro, a couple en route to melbourne) we opted to get out and about and see the rest of the island. we ended up getting tempted to join a day trip out on the boat, fishing, snorkelling, eating and resting. it was a great day out and so nice to be out on the ocean. it also gave us the opportunity to drive past phuc quocs infamous prison which was the site of some of vietnams most horrendous war crimes, in world war two.

our final day on the island was spent exploring on motorbike. our mission was to find a deserted beach, or as close to a stretch of sand that was not inhabited but a. other tourists or b. water buffalo and local huts. it didn't take long. we found a spot with a cute little seafood restaurant and spent the day lounging in the sun, sipping cold beers and eating tuna steak and salads. it was a surreal experience that made us feel as though we had been let in on a secret. we had to, still have to, process the fact that this is how we spend our days. it was probably one of our most memorable and i hope you can all see why in the pictures.

pics. phu quoc beach, relaxing at amigos, us on the day trip, snorkelling spot, deserted beach and the sunsetting over a local fishing boat.

i heart the perhentian islands...
a nine hour overnight bus trip took us overland from south malaysia to the north-east coast to the small fishing village of kuala besuit. a ferry ride later we to arrived at a cluster of small islands just south of the thai border thr perhentian islands. pulau kecil has been our island home for the past five days. one word to describe it is paradise. yes i know, nias and certain parts of bali have been named within this blog as paradise, or postcard perfection – but thus far, this place is my favourite and as true to those descriptions as we’ve found.

i wont go over the usual white sand, crystal clear blue water and seafood details, ill focus on the quainter aspects of long beach such as it being so far off the main tourist trail that there are only two places on the beach that sell alcohol. we resided in a cute little a-frame hut that housed two single beds pushed together, a mosquito net, a bedside table and a fan that only operated on generator from seven pm to seven pm each night.

our days were filled with stress-free snorkelling trips, sunbaking under the countless stripped umbrellas that ran the length of the beach, visiting traditional fishing villages for lunch, taking hour long swims out the front of our hut and taking leisurely siestas in the afternoons. the days often got off to a good start at the world cafe, where we got toast with butter and jam and free flowing tea and coffee for $2.30aud. bargin. this week we have managed to save money, which will come in handy with thailand being the next stop.

today we took a mini-van nine hours from kuala besuit and we are now over-nighting in pinang and getting ready for another day and a half of travel to get to our final destination of koh phi phi. with it comes more sun, sand, snorkelling and sisters. taryn and libby will be waiting at our villas on koh phi phi this friday for a few days and then joining us further onto phuket. bring on tie-me up, tie-me down thailand.

pics. our day trip to the batu caves in kl, the hostel in kl for the end of ramadan and a few happy snaps from the perhentian islands. enjoy.

nias chronicles...
were not m.i.a peeps, we have just had a little difficulty getting internet connectivity...

part 1 – 25.08.2010

ahh... we have arrived at our final indonesian destination after two agonising days in transit, which saw the planes get smaller and smaller with every flight we took. needless to say, the final flight was spent with my fingers and toes crossed on a rickety old double engine propeller plane. (btw, i have to board again to get back to medan; not happy jan...) however i was quickly distracted once we left medan and headed west to the coast of Sumatra. it was memorising. the thousands of acres of wild, untamed jungle and volcanoes had us captivated enough for kurt to turn to me mid-flight and say, cant you just imagine tigers down there.

once we arrived, all we could see was miles and miles coconut trees lined with the occasional banana tree, teaming with fruit. this place is the most exotic location to date and probably one of the most unusual places this trip will take us. the two and a half hour drive to lagundri bay saw us pass through some breathtakingly blue rivers which met the sea. the beauty was astounding but in the same breathe we also saw the devastation that was caused in 2005 which left the island in ruins. the luscious green mountains were barren where the tsunami had hit and less than three months later, an earth quake decimated nias’s coastline and left mass trails of destruction. construction and rejuvenation of the island is still in its infancy stages and there is a long way to go.

without much prior investigation into lagundri bay on my behalf, all i can say is that it has little but surf and an amazing view. from the balcony of our losmen, looking from left to right all you can see is reef, crystal clear blue water, pounding surf, fishing boats and coconut trees. with this in mind we have spent our last few days chatting with the locals and the group of aussie surfers also residing here. to fill up the afternoons and evenings we have taken to purchasing fresh meat or seafood and having a big cook up. yesterday the guys went into the local village and bought and killed a pig. the afternoon was spent sipping bintangs and watching the locals dig a pitt and lay coconut shells to barbeque the pig. it was without a doubt the best tasting pork barbeque i have had in my life. it could be because its the first piece of meat i have eaten in the past three and a bit weeks or if it was because it was the best tasting bbq pork i have ever had (sorry dad). tonight, kurt and i bought a large mahe mahe aka. dolphin fish, off a fisherman that came ashore which should be mouth-wateringly tasty with some rice and stir fry veggies.
thus far i have been able to establish that nias is good for: fresh seafood, decent sized meals, coconut bread, surfing, tanning, sweating your ass off, friendly locals, pineapple jam and good massages.

part 2 - 28.08.2010

with the swell getting smaller and smaller each day, we have decided to leave nias early. after learning that merpati airlines decided to can their medan – nias leg, we had to rebook flights and decided that a date change was in order. the past few days have been spent with lazily because the heat seems to be getting worse, or its effecting us more, or a combination of the two. we have had some good laughs over the past few days, thanks to charlie the likeable-bogan from sydney and have bought another mahe mahe for dinner tonight.

yesterday we headed into town on a scooter and the afternoon turned out to be a little more magical than we could have imagined. in our rush to get to the internet to confirm our new flights, kurt and i got stuck in an afternoon thunder storm and got a little wet. having to drive a bit slower, given the wet, that we were on a scooter and the terrible condition of the roads, we saw some things that ended up being the highlight of our trip to sumatra.

driving past the small local communities we observed families laying out their coconut shavings and nuts to make homemade museli, local seafood markets with endless supplies of fish, crabs and shell fish, men welding side carts to their bicycles and old women pushing their old food carts carefully dodging pot holes in the road. seeing the clouds roll over the rice fields and listen to the thunder crack over the mountains was a memory that will stick with me for a long time.

some pics from our nias photobook.