February 5th 2016: Take an overnight sleeper coach to Mumbai for a weekend racing.
February 8th 2016: Fly to Goa from Mumbai.
February 11th 2016: Flight to Bali booked for the 14th of July
March 22nd 2016: Fly to Dubai for the culmination of the World Cup Horse Race meeting. Stay at the same hotel as last year, the Regent Palace Hotel.
March 24th 2016: Have afternoon tea in the Sky View Bar on 27th of the 56 floors of the (self proclaimed only 7 star hotel in the world) Burj Al Arab (that's the sail shape one in all those travel brochures). The tea reservation which cost around £130.00 was in fact a three hour sitting of champagne, sandwiches, home cooked pastries and cakes and all sorts of other things finishing up with dozens of varieties of teas.
I had prior information that if you arrived early you could request a good table with the best view. I duly arrived early and was rewarded with a seat overlooking the city. For the record, the place and everything about it is like being in another world and my every whim and fancy was catered for up to the point of occasionally (because of my seating arrangement) other customers appeared over my shoulder to take photos of the skyline. They were immediately ushered away unless I told the staff it was OK. Funnily enough the skyline at night is no great shakes because unlike say New York, Dubai is very eco friendly turning most of the unnecessary lights off at night so you can't get to see all the big buildings in all their nigh time glory.
March 26th: Race day. After racing entertainment provided by Janet Jackson.
March 27th 2016: Fly back to Goa.
April 2016 Wake up in the morning with a bad knee. No prior problems with it.
April 28/29th 2016: Leave Goa/arrive UK.
May 2nd 2016: Fly to Jersey: from Cardiff.
May10th 2016: Return to Cardiff.
May 14th 2016: Air Asia advise that the Goa to Kuala Lumpur route is being discontinued as from the 7th of July so my options are to accept a full refund or reschedule to an earlier date subject to availability. On the basis of booking with another airline so late the ticket would cost more than double what I had paid Air Asia, so I rescheduled to the 5th July. Presumably because the only seats left were business class I am upgraded.
May 21st/22nd 2016: Leave UK and arrive in Goa.
May 27th 2016 Following more visits to doctors and specialists I am admitted into hospital to have the meniscus in my left knee trimmed and have the joint cleaned out. The option was a knee replacement. The surgeon advised that the recovery would be a very fast thing (days as opposed to weeks) so I would be OK to travel eight days later. It eventually took three months for my knee to heal and it's never got back to 100% to this day.
June 5th 2016: Fly business class to Denpasar
in Bali on one of the last flights by Air Asia as they are discontinuing
Whilst in Bali I bought a
mini guitar to occupy my mind in those
in my hotel but with me being me I can't have an instrument in my hand for
more than a few minutes without getting the urge to write a song so three
have initially emerged.
Ivor's Got A Kite,
Cheese on the Chandelier
Who Stole The Eagle From The Pantry.
The latter two being ideas I've carried around in my head for a while but
never got around to actually writing.
As I intend staying in Indonesia longer than my 30 day visa on entry I am told on arrival to apply to the immigration office seven days before the initial visas expiry.
June 12th 2016: Boat trip to neighbouring islands.
June 13th 2016: Take a boat to Rinca and then Komodo Island. Got up close to about eight of the dragons three or four metres long at the starting point of the two hour Rinca trek so I bypassed the actual trek because of my knee problem. I did go on the shortened forty minute Komodo Island trek though where we saw another dragon at close quarters (fifteen feet) On the way back to Flores while snorkeling (I went in the water more to exercise my knee than for anything else) I found myself above a shoal of about twenty giant manta rays that were all about three metres across.
June 15th 2016: Return to Bali.
June 23rd 2016: Following the Brexit referendum my money deflates by 20% overnight due to the exchange rates. To this day I'm still 10-15% down.
24th June 2016: I apply for the visa extension and am told to return on the 29th for my finger prints to be taken and scans of my eyes etc. My passport and visa will then be returned to me on the next working day. Because of Ramadan the immigration office was closed until the 11th of July. With that being the next working day I am forced to stay in the Bali area with no passport until then.
1st July 2016: Take a boat to the neighbouring island of Gili Trawangan and end up staying for six nights.
July 7th 2016: Take a boat from Gili Trawangan to Lombok where I get a mini bus connection to the Southern beach resort of Kuta Lombok (not to be mistaken with Kuta in Bali). Kuta Lombok is basically a nothing place. Nice beach but that's it.
July 10th 2016: Return to Bali.
July 11th 2016: Collect visa extension which is valid from the date of my last one expiring not from date of issue so in effect I'd been robbed of ten days holiday. I had to rearrange my travel plans accordingly. As I was still having big problems with my knee I decided to exclude Borobudur (which would probably require a lot of legwork trekking or climbing) and Jakarta from my schedule. The whole knee thing was a major inconvenience as unless I took really strong pain killers I was pretty much incapacitated. Anti inflammatory tablets had no effect either.
My hotel in Padang was much the same as Padang itself. A shit hole.
July 16th 2016: Take the boat to Siberut Island armed with the details on how to meet my guide who would take me into the rain forest to meet the Mentawis. Regrettably I was still having big problems with my knee which refused to heal and getting in and out of a canoe and trekking was simply not possible. Easiest payday my guide ever had. Siberut has nothing other than the tribes people and it is reputedly the place with the most perfect waves for surfing. A lot of Australians go there just for that only.
On my first night I went out at seven in the evening to get something to eat and the village was closed. Nonetheless, I was committed to stay until the next boat which was not until the 18th.
July 18th 2016: Return to my hovel of a hotel in Padang but at least upgraded my room
July 22nd 2016: Fly from Padang to Medan. The last eight days had been a total waste of time. The only good thing that came out of Padang was that I bought an eleven inch net-book as my laptop bit the dust a few days before I left Goa. It's the notebook that's responsible for this travel blog.
July 22nd 2016: Take a bus from outside Medan Airport to Bukit Lawang which is a wildlife conservation area with the emphasis on orangutans.
July 23rd 2016: Started a three day trek to see the orangutans close up with two girls who I met on the previous day's bus from the airport and three guys we met at our riverside hotel. The whole trek was a blast where we encountered lots of orangutans real close and actually passed two face to face on a hilltop ledge of a pathway. For the better part they are a placid bunch of animals but there was one crazy one called Mina who had terrorised the locals, going as far as to bite two guides. Of all the treks in the forest that day it was ours that encountered Mina. Our guide said "run" which was the real test for my knee. I moved pretty smartish but it was more of a fast downhill limp.
July 26th 2016: Take a five hour minibus ride to Samosir Island on Lake Toba to the South which despite being called VIP was anything but. The minibus had sufficient seating for the eleven passengers but no allowance for our luggage. not even a roof rack.
July 31st 2016: Rented a private car, along with a driver with a couple I'd met along the way to take us back to Medan.
August 1st 2016: Fly from Medan to Singapore.
August 2nd 2016: Go to
Raffles for lunch before flying on to
later that night. Totally love Phuket. The whole area has a million things
to do and places to go and see but it ain't as cheap as it used to be. For
that matter Thailand isn't.
I was to spend every night of my stay in Bangla Road which was a ten minute walk from the apartment I rented in Soi Nanoi on the outskirts of Patong for the duration of my stay. On saying that, patong is very smallso I was never more tahn a fifteen minute walk from the action. Monsoon Bar in Bangla Road became one of my two local watering holes until the events of the 12th which made me seek the safety of somewhere not so enclosed.
August 12th 2016: Following the victory for a military based government a few days earlier there were two bombs detonated in Phuket. One was about seventy metres from one of my locals (Moonshine Bar) in Bangla Road and another outside a hotel in town. There were previously 9 bombs detonated in other parts of the country.
August 26th 2016: Move into the Phuket Graceland Hotel Resort and Spa to finish off my stay in Phuket in real style.
August 29th 2016: Get a Thai visa extension of an extra month.
August 31st 2016: Take a Coach to Surat Thani for a boat connection to Koh Samui. As with Phuket I'd been there before but I'd vowed never to return to Koh Samui when I first visited it in the early nineteen nineties. Upon arrival I remember why.
September 4th 2016: Go for a scooter ride around the island to check it out again but find very little of interest. In my mind, as a tourist destination it doesn't have a lot to offer. A giant Buddha statue, a few temples, two waterfalls, two beaches and that's it.
I stayed at the Samui Verticolor Hotel in Chaweng. If your happy lazing around the pool and going for nice meals at night it's fine but you can do that in Spain or any resort in the UK on a sunny day. Koh Samui in my opinion has no character.
September 17th 2016: Against my better judgment I take the overnight VIP sleeper coach to Bagan in the North of Myanmar. I have no expectations of the description VIP but have by now got into the habit of booking whatever with either "VIP, superior or deluxe" in the description. As everything is so cheap in this part of the world the money aspect of it doesn't matter but least if I book the best I'm in with a chance of getting something partially decent. As it turned out the coach was very clean and comfortable.
September 18th 2016: Take a rented e-bike to the historical Old Bagan area where there are over two thousand temples and pagodas.
The first e-bike I had had no lights or gauges working on the dashboard and even the brakes didn't work. This was changed when it refused to start three blocks from my hotel and then the battery on the second e-bike went flat a good few miles from base.
September 19th 2016: Take a morning trip to Mount Popa (an hours drive out of Bagan) which is basically a temple on the top of what looks like a rock but is in fact the remnants of a dormant volcano. You have to traipse up 777 steps to get to the temple. On the way there we stop at a place that makes alcohol so the trip included several complimentary shots of the 100% proof moonshine for breakfast.
September 19th 2016: Took a
boat trip which included complimentary beers and rum. Not necessarily a
good thing considering I had a taxi picking me up at four thirty the next
morning to take me to the harbour for a boat trip to Mandalay.
My planned trip to Lake Inle has been postponed because I simply didn't have enough time so as the the next best thing I decide to take the boat instead of coach to Mandalay.
September 20th 2016: Take the 05:30 ferry up the Ayeyawady (Irrawaddy) River to Mandalay. The 38 metre boat with an air conditioned lounge that seats 96, a dining area that seats around fifty and deck space with seating for another hundred had a total of four passengers for the twelve and a half hour journey.
The trip itself is is pretty mundane until the last 45 minutes when there are suddenly dozens if not hundreds of golden temples and pagodas on the hills approaching the city. I've pre-booked the (very average) E T Hotel on 83rd street which is dead centre of town and only two blocks from Mandalay Palace.
September 21st 2016: Do the tourist thing visiting Mandalay Hill, temples, pagodas and Mandalay Palace.
September 22nd 2016: Hire a bicycle for the day. First time I can remember riding one in fifty years with the exception of the previous day in the grounds of Mandalay Palace which was big enough to warrant some sort of transport.
September 23rd 2016: Fly to Saigon via Bangkok. It was a nightmare at Viet-Nam immigration much the same as when I re-entered from Laos last year. Unbeknown to me the rules had changed since my previous trip when a thirty day visa on entry was a formality. The rule now being that you had to fill in an on line form beforehand and upon arrival you had to submit a letter of authorisation which is emailed to you following your application. Same situation as in Myanmar which for the record was so straightforward it was no hassle. However, as I had no letter of authorisation my option was a two week entry with no visa requirement for which I only had to show my return or outward bound ticket which at this point I didn't have, or return to where I came from. After an hour of being shoved from pillar to post a lady who worked at the airport set up a dummy booking for me to show to the immigration staff and as soon as I was out of the airport she'd delete it. I now had two weeks to get to the immigration office to sort things out.
September 27th 2016: Applied for a Viet-Namese visa extension and told to return on the 5th October to collect my Passport.
September 29th 2016: Booked plane tickets for Da Nang - Ho Chi Minh City; 22nd October, Ho Chi Minh City - Cebu; 23rd October, Cebu - Kuala Lumpur; 21st November, Kuala Lumpur - Singapore 23rd November and Singapore to Goa; 25th November. All in all a quite expensive day.
October 5th 2016: Collect my passport with a Viet-Namese visa extension.
October 2nd 2017: Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels.
October 7th 2016: Take a Train to Nha Trang.
October 12th 2016: Travel from Nha Trang to Da Lat.
October 13th 2016: Take a scooter to see the waterfall and later take a walk around the corner from my guest house to Crazy House.
October 17th 2016: Take a coach from Da Lat to Hoi An.
This to me is the jewel in the crown of Viet-Nam. The Americans went there for R & R in the war and it's easy to see why. A wonderful place to simply watch life go by. I loved it there.
October 22nd 2016: Fly from Da Nang (closest airport to Hoi An) to Ho Chi Minh City and stay overnight.
For some time I'd been promising myself an all singing all dancing camera. On this day I bought a Nikon D7200 DSLR. I was never comfortable with it and until giving it up as a mistake four years later I always wondered if it was a very expensive copy. I guess I'll never know.
October 23rd 2016: Fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Cebu in the Philippines.
Cebu City in my opinion is nothing more than a stepping stone to other places and should be avoided unless your only intention is to use it as that. Realising I'd made a big mistake by thinking otherwise I look for an escape.
October 26th 2016: Fly from Cebu to Manila and have to stay overnight before my ongoing connection to Puerto Princesa.
October 28th 2016: A day of doing nothing special in Puerto Princesa. Like Cebu City, Puerto Princesa is a stepping stone to other places and with the exception of the underground river (which is 80 kilometers from the town) has nothing to offer.
October 29th 2016: Take a day trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River which is the longest underground river in the world.
October 31st 2016: Take a minibus to El Nido in the North of the Island.
El Nido and the surrounding islands is in my opinion the jewel in the crown of The Philippines and the majority of the tourism photos are taken in this area. The next four days I take day tips to neighbouring islands.
On reflection, a better option for me would have been to fly to Puerto Princesa and take a minibus straight to El Nido and then take a day trip to the underground river from there.
November 5th 2016: Go to Coron Island.
November 6th 2016: Not happy with my previous night's accommodation I relocate to Sea Dive Resort which is a budget travellers lodge right on the river front.
November 8th 2016: Return to El Nido and stay for four more nights.
November 12th 2016: Return from El Nido to Puerto Princesa and stay overnight.
Again, I should have taken a minibus from El Nido to tie in with a flight instead of staying overnight in Puerto Princesa.
November 13th 2016: Fly from Puerto Princesa to Cebu City (again via Manila) and stay overnight.
November 14th 2016: Take a coach and then ferry to Malapascua, an island a few hours North.
One of the main reasons to go there was to swim with thresher sharks and cross that one off my bucket list. Unfortunately the requirement to do that though is having an advanced PADI diving certificate because it involves more than a ten metre dive so for me it never happened at that time.
November 16th 2016: Day trip to Kalanggaman Island. Our boat broke down returning to Malapascua and we had to transfer to another.
November 17th 2016: Return to Cebu where I arrive in time to take an afternoon boat to Bohol, an island off the coast of Cebu.
November 18th 2016: Rent a scooter and visit amongst other attractions, the Chocolate Hills. On the way there I visit a sorry excuse for a zoo that is home to a bengal tiger, a 16 foot python that you can have your photo taken with, and not much else. On the way back I stop at a buterfly farm and a tarsier sanctuary.
November 19th 2016: Return to Cebu City where I stay overnight in preparation for my return to Goa.
November 21st 2016: Spend the day on Mactan island (where Cebu City Airport is) before flying to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia
At Kuala Lumpur I stay in the Chinatown area in what to date is the worst shit hole of a so called guest house I've stayed in on the trip.
November 23rd 2016: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
Stay in a really nice hotel which is compensation for the previous two nights. Coincidentally it was called the Chinatown Hotel.
November 25th 2016: Fly from Singapore back to Goa via Bangalore.
Thank you a million times over to Wikepedia for making everything so easy in providing so many links.