Scenes from Koh Lanta

After Koh Lipe we spent a week on Koh Lanta, a three hour boat ride away. It was longer than we had planned but Scott and I both came down with some food poisoning and had to extend our stay. Our days were full of swimming pools, banana shakes, walks on the beach and massages. Compared to Lipe, Lanta is very developed with a little town, a major road down the center, and many beach resort areas. We spent the first night in a little hut that wasn’t technically open for the season, and moved to a hotel with a swimming pool for me and air conditioning for Scott. One of Scott’s friends came from Canada to join us on Koh Lanta, and while Scott was sick we got massages, went snorkelling and to an underwater cave and while I was sick he enjoyed drinking fancy coffees with Scott. My absolutely favourite part about Lanta was the wonderful cooking course I took on my birthday.

Although I won’t be rushing back to Lanta, whose beaches are not as beautiful or uncrowded as many other thai islands, and whose size made it difficult to get around with renting a scooter, it was really a lovely  and cheap place to relax!

 

 

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Australia by the Numbers: a Wrap Up

Time: 37 days, 3 in Cairns, 6 in Sydney, 4 in Melbourne, 3 on the Great Ocean Road and 21 days in the Campervan down the east coast.
Vans rented: 2, Excalibur from spaceships, a lovely van we slept in for 21 days and loved, and one from Wicked that was pretty horrible.
Friends visited: 2, one on the Sunshine coast, and one in Sydney.
Boat Rides: 3, a scuba trip in Cairns, a sailing adventure in the Whitsundays, and a ferry to Fraser Island.
Bus Rides: 1 Overnight bus from Sydney to Melbourne, not a great experience, but certainly better than the buses in Japan
National Parks: Noosa, Agnes Falls, 12 Apostles, and too many more to count.
World Heritage Sites: 5 – Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics of Queensland, Fraser Island, Opera House and Blue Mountains
Wineries visited: 5 and a brewery. Wonderful wines.Best Food:  a multi way tie between delicious cheddar and brie picked up in the Hunter Valley while touring wineries, wonderful pies picked up on the side of the road, Malaysian and Japanese food in Sydney, BBQ Kangaroo, and all the gourmet food we had in Melbourne. Australia has wonderful food. I would highly recommend Green in Northern Melbourne for brunch, especially the breakfast stack and Mamak in Sydney for the best Malaysian.
Worst Food: Again with the Marmite, we tried Marmite flavoured chips, and they were not good.
Best City: Personally I loved Kendall, but I’d have to give this one to Melbourne. A gorgeous city, with beautiful museums, a great market, a free tram, wonderful food, and the best library I’ve ever been in. Sydney was great, with a nice waterfront, but if we were to move to Australia, Melbourne is where we’d settle down.
Worst City: While Cairns had great weather and a nice location near the barrier reef, I wouldn’t spend so much time here next time, as there weren’t many great restaurants and it was really expensive compared to some of the other cities we visited. Best New Experience: It was in Australia that we tried Scuba diving for the first time, and held a Koala, feed a Kangaroo, but I think our best experience was our flight in a 6 seater plane over Fraser Island, something I never thought I would do. So fun!
Worst New Experience: Trying to rent a car from WICKED campervans and instead getting a hideously painted, falling apart van instead. Add that to trying to drive around Melbourne with only a very bad map, and it was the worst experience of our trip. However, that van took us to the Great Ocean Road and back safely, so it all worked out in the end.

Travel Tip: There are free places to stay everywhere! Pick up a copy of the giant book of camping and road maps, “Camps Australia Wide”, if it’s not included with your van rental and you will be able to find all the free sites in every state. Most free sites had nice washrooms and some even had driver reviver booths, with free coffee, hot chocolate and cookies. Perfect for camping in the cold weather.

Will we return: I certainly hope so, it’s a fascinating country and we never made it to Uluru, Tasmania or the West Coast, all places I would like to see.

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Thailand’s Weird Food: Thai Pancakes

These ubiquitous pancakes are made of a thin dough, deep fried in oil and butter, and served with whatever topping and stuffing your heart desires. The most popular is banana and chocolate, but at most restaurants you can get any fruit or sauce. They cost anywhere between 50 cents and a dollar, and are absolutely delicious. Every morning on Koh Lipe we picked up a banana nutella pancake and shake from a little booth for a total of $4. They also make excellent post-bar food, and are available from carts on most Thai islands.

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Our favourite Thai Island: Koh Lipe

My memory of arriving on Koh Lipe will always be that of landing in paradise.  Our packed speedboat from the mainland pulled up between the long tail boats and we jumped into the knee deep crystal blue water and I never wanted to leave. Lipe is a small island, with no real roads or vehicles, just a lot of bungalows and a walking street lined with pancake stalls, massage parlours, and cafes. We received a tip to come here from our diving instructor in Malaysia, otherwise we may never have even heard of this gorgeous island.

We had originally planned to stay here for 4 days and do a couple days of scuba diving, but we extended our stay as long as possible, staying until the last day of low season pricing at our gorgeous resort. We stayed and dived with Castaway resorts, and I can’t recommend them more highly.  Our hut was right on the beach, cost $25 a night, and was absolutely gorgeous. It even had two wonderful hammocks on the porch.

When we weren’t Scuba diving or sitting in our hammocks, we found a nice coffee shop, enjoyed cheap massages and pedicures, watched fire dancing on the beach, got lost barefoot on the many island paths, went swimming, and read many many books.

Of all the islands we have visited on our trip, Lipe remains our favourite and I can’t wait until we return someday.

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Malaysia’s weird food: Roti Bom

I’m sure this is not an everyday food in Malaysia, and it might have been a speciality of just this one Sydney based Malaysian restaurant, but it was so delicious I can barely stand to remember it. A roti, wrapped into a spiral, covered with a liquid sugar mixture, fried and served with ice cream. Absolutely heavenly. The crispy sweet top, the many layers of soft, melty roti, this may be the perfect desert.

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A week in paradise: The Perhentian islands

After our short stay in  Kuala Lumpur, we flew to Kota Bharu, took a taxi to Kuala Besut and a boat to the Perhentian Kecil, or small perhentian, where we settled in for a week. We had originally had planned to stay here for 4 days and get our Scuba diving qualifications, but we fell in love with the peaceful and beautiful island and kept extending our stay.

We signed up for the Scuba course with Quiver Diving, on Coral bay, and we absolutely loved it. Coral bay is very small, with a few resorts, some beach front restaurants and a few dive shops, but you can easily access the larger long beach with a ten minute walk across the island. Our timing was ideal, a week before monsoon season started, and while the weather wasn’t great, we had the bay almost to ourselves. Our diving class was just the two of us and we had an absolutely fabulous instructor.By default we stayed at the Shari-La resort for about $13 a night for a private room with cold shower and AC. It’s right off the jetty and adjacent to Quiver, so it was extremely convenient, but a little dirty, and we were pretty sure that a rat shared the room with us.

Other than Scuba diving, our days here were filled with reading books, delicious BBQ and fruit shakes, snorkelling, and waiting out the early monsoon storms in our only slight sketchy hotel room. Of all the islands we have visited on this trip, this was one of our favourites. We loved it because it was quiet, no vehicles, no touts, and no partiers and the diving was amazing. You could walk right off the beach and find coral in a five minute swim. It was the perfect place to learn and I hope to return someday and check out the dive sites when I’m not so concentrated on remembering to breath.

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