I have settled into live in Milton Keynes and work. In these past couple of weeks it has really has hit me that my life is quite ‘normal’ now, with that comes many feelings of missing my travels. I have worked on my travel album which will eventually work its way into a paper album and a Flickr one for those of you wanting to have a look at the highlights! My feelings have been quite disjointed as I try to find where I slot into this stage of my life but instead of worrying about it all I have decided to share it with you…
I regularly find myself immersed back in my travels, a smell, sound or passing thought takes me back to somewhere I have been, these memories feel like mini travels.
I HAVE checked out flights and Dive Master Training (DMT) courses and dream of my next adventure.
Very strangely for me I have been on some dates and for the first time in a LONG time I really liked someone and wanted a relationship to work with them. Sods law reigns and it didn’t work out but I actually kind of want a partner. This is a huge step forward for me and although I was upset at the time when things didn’t work out I was so pleased I was strong enough to let my guard down.
I am wildly jealous of my new travel friends who are still travelling but also following their travels makes me happy for them as their pictures beam me right back to my travels and the feelings of freedom.
I like my job but at the same time I am looking into PhDs and other opportunities – some things don’t change! I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up!
I also miss my travel friends and really want to see them again, this is all forming part of my plots for my next trips…
I have moved into a big house share so I don’t feel lonely, can save money and for convenience. However I am starting to feel like I want my own place and somewhere that is home where at least the mess will be mine.
In two and a half months I have only spent one weekend in Milton Keynes, favouring instead seeing friends and visiting my family.
I totally don’t understand how my feeling of wanting to ‘belong’ and having own place and a partner go with still wanting to do some big trip.
Very importantly for me I am not stressing out or worrying about the above points, I am just letting my head get on with it and trying to find what I want.
I am amazed how much I have relaxed since this time last year.
I have been back to London recently for a couple of meetings and visiting friends. It is kind of difficult for me to back as I feel like I have left there too soon, London and I have unfinished business. I really am settling into Milton Keynes well but when I got handed my copy of Stylist during my recent trip it prompted me to write what I miss about our beautiful capital city
Correct escalator etiquette
Stand on the right, walk on the left. It is not difficult and people in London are that well-trained/consciences that this applies in shopping centres too. Why don’t other areas understand this?
I miss all the people who people think of as being ‘odd’. London is full of all kinds of people and anything goes. Living somewhere where everyone is more standardised feels a bit sanitary.
A free magazine which is actually really good. Everyone would miss it if they had ever had it.
They go everywhere, they are reliable. Some even work 24 hours, some run on special night routes. No need for expensive taxis unless you’re feeling particularly rich.
The underground is amazing, 24 hour tube will be even better but still great on its own!
The result of the two previous points is that you don’t have to worry about driving home so you can go for a drink anytime.
Another transport genius idea. Hiring a bike for almost free for 1/2 an hour to do short journeys. Absolutely great for users. I will acknowledge driving near Boris bikers is a nightmare as you are expecting zero cycling etiquette but if you give them all a wide berth as a driver you will be ok.
I love how no matter how many people are in a train carriage, a bus or lift; as far as a Londoner is concerned there is room for one more. This sorts the locals from the tourists!
I know lots of people think Londoners are an unfriendly bunch. We aren’t, we are just on our way somewhere. I love the no-nonsense help you get in London, you might be getting help partly because you are clogging up the works but if you have a heavy bag, a pram, a box, a child, a suitcase etc then people will help you to move it. It’s just a ‘get on with it’ attitude I like and you will sometimes get help when you think you are managing but this is nice. You wouldn’t see someone struggling with a pram on the tube as someone will be helping carry it and the child.
I was brought up in Yorkshire with plenty of open spaces very close to where we lived, we had cycle paths and walking trails but somehow although I adore the wide open spaces there is something so very special about the parks in London. As they are everyone’s back garden there is a real sense of intimacy and relaxation whether you are own your own relaxing with a book or staring at the clouds or with a group of friends having a chatter and a bottle of wine.
I think it is very odd considering it is easier to get a good outdoor swim in London than it is in any other part of the UK I have lived, you are allowed to swim in the places I did in London with no fear of angry landowners/fishermen. It would be lovely if it was possible to swim in as many places outside London. With the ponds and beautiful restored lidos Londoners are truly blessed with easy access swim spots!
Macbeth, The Nutcracker, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Quartermaine’s Terms, Jeeves and Wooster and Pride and Prejudice in Regents Park are just a very small sample of the amazing performances I have been to see in London. Even if you come away feeling like a performance wasn’t quite to your taste you have learnt and gained something from it. The theatre is one of my very favourite things where I can get lost in the story.
The odd activities and live performances
I suppose some of these things are kind of theatre as they are shows but London Wonderground and Udderbelly on the Southbank always have amazing (and usually cheap) things on to see. Add to this the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, the parades, Proms in the Park, big screens and all the free events in London you are totally spoilt for choice! There are parties for every kink you might have and the alternative crowds are very welcoming in my experience.
Courses and Learning
In London you can do courses on pretty much anything you want. I did burlesque dancing, learnt how to make beauty products, a massage course and first aid. I was planning on doing art classes but went travelling instead.
Museums and Exhibitions
The British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of London, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery, Geffrye Museum, The Tate… the list goes on. I have seen countless exhibitions which have inspired me to go and learn more about something. To have these amazing places on your doorstep is truly fabulous and should be visited regularly.
A Visible Mayor
Think what you will of Boris but he gets people talking and has Londoners in mind most of the time. So much better than someone who seems to keep quiet for risk of offending.
I know I’m not actually friends with them but I love the buzz they bring to London and I obviously had an amazing time at the Jubilee Weekend!
I am blessed to have friends geographically all over the world and they are all amazing but I can’t possibly miss London without missing the fantastic people who are my friends there.
The bustle and buzz
The life energy in London is thrilling. After living in London you get used to a non-stop way of life, of course this can be very tiring but to me it is so exciting living somewhere where so many things are happening.
Now I know that London is not everyone’s idea of a good place to live but it really wouldn’t do for us all be to be the same. I don’t think everyone should love London just don’t judge us that adore it. I do love the outdoors and I am happy living without running water on a tropical island but in the UK, London feels more suited to me than anywhere else! Of course if you’re not making the most of things then there is an argument that you could live anywhere but theatre, museum, gallery, exhibition dates with friends is a really good way of socialising. I live in hope that one day I will find someone who doesn’t mind spending the extortionate amount it is to attend the adults sleepover at the Natural History Museum – it would be a dream come true!
Well, hello Milton Keynes! You aren’t somewhere I ever thought I would live but it is nice to meet you. Let’s have some fun!
I moved down with three days to settle in before I was due to start my new role which I thought would be ideal, time to get my room tidy, meet the housemates and have a look around the area. In actual fact it took me an afternoon to get unpacked and included a jaunt to the local shopping area on a begging mission for some clothes hangers, then I was left waiting for my new flatmates to arrive. My new house is a big five bed detached new build (what else in Milton Keynes!) so I was waiting to meet four new people for the first time. Very thankfully they all turned out to be lovely. There is Nicola who work in a buying role, JP, Jon and Ammar who are accountants, they are all younger but at least they are in the their 20s and the guys are quite into the gym which hopefully should be motivating for me too!
I soon figured out that cycling to work was going to work for me again so I dusted off the Brompton and gave it a whirl! Although I would say that MK is flat there is certainly a steady incline on the way into work so I was very thankful for the shower when I got there. As the cycling provisions are so good I decided I needed a more ‘normal’ bike (I wouldn’t let my Brompton hear me say that!) so very kindly my lovely brothers donated a Boardman to me which they had originally done up for Mum. I even took my new colleagues to visit her in the bike shed, so they now know I am a bit special! I love cycling, my derriere took a while to get used to it but I just love it, it is perfect for me to fit in some fresh air and a think and the fact I can get to work without having a cycle on roads is pretty special after London!
I was actually excited about work but also a bit nervous about how I was going to react to being in work after so long chilling out and doing my own thing! My new colleagues soon put me to work on lots of things so I didn’t have time to dwell on the changes which was quite nice. I have moved from a business development role in onshore wind (finding sites, talking to landowners, mapping, legal and commercial negotiation etc) to working in development for a solar company where I am expecting to be dealing with planning and beyond. It might not sound too different but it is but thankfully there are many shared skills of the two roles. Within a couple of weeks we have our first planning consent and I was settling in well enough to start making a few suggestions. I am really enjoying how busy and fast paced this role is compared to the long timeframes of the wind work I am used to. My boss and colleges are lovely, there are a few with quite smutty senses of humour so I feel I will be a good fit. I feel such a relief that I am actually enjoying it!
The plusses of the kind of industry I work in are ever present. I got to go on my first solar farm visit to a site in Oxfordshire in construction. A road trip with colleagues, a walk around a construction site, some learning and chatting, followed by a lovely lunch and a cream tea…what is not to like! I now have my own rigger boots and jacket and fleece so I am all loaded with stash and ready to get on with the visits! We had a lovely German guy in doing a three week internship which was fab and I managed to talk his ear off going on the site visit and also got to know he used to be in a band that have some really cool music!
I have been visiting my family back home for most of the weekends. As I have previously mentioned my brother and his girlfriend are digging out for their new garage and as I like being useful, I love digging and being outside it seemed only natural to be there for them wielding a borrowed sledgehammer and shovel! I am not sure if I should be concerned with how much I love smashing into things with a sledgehammer!? Rather brilliantly too they have also just bought themselves their first dog. Bluebell Blossom is a gorgeous little blue Staffordshire Bull Terrier, she is simply divine so the fact I was going to their to dig also gave me a fantastic excuse to spend some time with little Blossom, after all she is my first niece from my family! We had some lovely weekends spent digging all day and playing with Blossom and then having a couple of beers and a pizza in the evening, I love the feeling of exhaustion and weariness when you have spent a day doing manual work!
While I was back in Yorkshire I also took the opportunity to finish clearing out my parents house and my room. My parents are generally quite understanding about all my belongings but, as anyone would, they want their house back to a more normal situation. My main issue with my belongings is that I have so many hobbies I have lots of associated belongings to support me doing them, as well as plenty of the finished products! I really need to find an outlet for selling my things! After a good clear out I decided to do my first car boot sale and Natalie (brothers girlfriend) was going to do it with me. It is so therapeutic just getting rid of things – I like the feeling of not being weighed down by them as much!
I decided that to make the most of my first Bank Holiday weekend I would road trip around London and see some friends. First stop was Haywards Heath for a catch up with a ex-colleague and her husband, she is very pregnant so we spent a good amount of time watching baby wriggle around in her tummy and then lots of catching up. I also had a rather good ego boost by getting chatted up in a Tesco’s car park – always good for morale! Next stop was Camden Roundhouse to see Imogen Heap perform with one of my best mates singing in a choir (London Contemporary Voices) supporting her so I got to catch up with his fiancée Amy while he was getting ready. After a very special performance with some lovely moments we were shattered and decided to pretty much head straight to bed. Next morning we had a good natter and full English which, to say Mike isn’t really allowed in the kitchen, he did a very good job! I can’t wait for their wedding! Mike and I met at university doing the same course so we have a lot of dirt on each other – I must get in touch with his best man to see if he needs any pictures or more stories…
I really am so lucky to have so many amazing friends and I know I have said it before but I am so pleased that my friends have such good taste in partners as I wouldn’t swap any of them either!
Back in Milton Keynes I have continued the ‘settling in’ phase, I have decided what gym to join, I am looking for drawing and painting classes in the area, although it must be said I am not having much luck with it. I have got in what I need to have a go at my craft-de-jour, decoupage. I have even been on a date!
My first big trip with the new company was to our head offices in Hamburg which was fantastic! It was so nice to be travelling again, I may just be slightly addicted to seeing new places! As I was in charge of accommodation we stayed in the Reeperbahn area of the city which is a famous red-light district so although I slept well I think the other light sleepers may have suffered a bit but they did see something of Hamburg they wouldn’t have seen otherwise! When we arrived in the evening as it was a beautiful day we walked to the Warehouse District or ‘Speicherstadt’ for a look at the harbour and to get some dinner. I would have liked to have a few drinks but as we were due in head office the next morning and it was my first time meeting many of the people we decided to have an early-ish night with just one beer. Our offices in Hamburg are stunning! I wonder what I need to do to get a secondment out here! I really want to come back to Hamburg, we just don’t have enough time to look around though I guess that isn’t what business trips are far. Anyway weren’t far from the beautiful town hall square so we visited the Hamburg Rathaus for a quick walk around at lunchtime as well as managing to get some sweet treats for the office at the supermarket.
I think it is safe to say that three weeks in and the job is going well, the company is good and the people are lovely. Additionally I have great housemates and the overall settling in is going well! I have got off to a good start I think!
Having had a fantastic 6 months travelling I was now very short of cash and in dire need of a job to get the bills paid so I started job hunting with a vengeance. Although I had decided I didn’t want to work in renewables anymore I decided that as I would get paid more in renewables and I have a plan to go travelling in the next year to eighteen months that it was worth returning to similar work I did before and see how it goes. Within two weeks I had three interviews lined up, two in London and one in Milton Keynes, no prizes for guessing which location I preferred but I was actually interested in all the jobs which were all related to Solar Energy but slightly different job descriptions. After the third week I was offered the role in Milton Keynes which I accepted. Although the location wasn’t London it is 30 minutes away from the capital by train and only two hours back to my parents and northern friends so it might actually be the best of both worlds. It still took me about a week to come to terms with the fact that this time I wasn’t returning to London!
Eventually I found somewhere to live in Milton Keynes – a nice big house share around four miles from work so I could commute by bike. It was a lot cheaper than London, with bills included, free parking, a garage for our bikes, a garden and best of all….people to talk to! Within a month of being back in the UK I had moved towns and found a very good job with a very good solar company who I was excited to work for. I was rather happy with my situation as I had also had a lovely month in Yorkshire with my family and friends.
I had a lovely 24 hours with my amazing little sister Pippa who was on her way back up to Newcastle after a week in Devon, not long enough but long enough for some good cuddles and chats! I helped out in our parents garden picking a bumper crop of raspberries. I helped my brother and his girlfriend with digging out for a new garage at their home. I was a busy girl!
I got back three days before the Tour de France was in Yorkshire and as it is a fantastic day out and our family is into cycling I headed up to my brother’s house and then Ben, Nat, a couple of Ben’s friends and I walked from Oxspring out onto the Strines where we knew we would get a good spot on a decent hill – as it was a good five-mile walk each way we set off early and we were there for 10am…just had to wait until 3pm until the riders were expected. The atmosphere was fantastic and it was a lovely way to break back into being home seeing Yorkshire really get behind ‘Le Tour’ and get rather excited about it – there were yellow sheep, ‘Tour de France’ mown into the farmers’ fields and lots of writing on the roads, bunting and general excitement. We were not disappointed – although the riders were past us in seconds it was absolutely worth the wait, to hear lots of Yorkshire accents shouting’ go on my son’ was very inspiring although there were plenty of people there who had travelled from various parts of the UK to be there.
I surprised my Great Aunt Maureen with a quick visit and managed to take her out shopping and do some errands as well as popping in to see my Mums side of the family – so good to have a catch up with them. I also got myself around to my brother’s house pretty sharpish – Ben and his girlfriend Nat bought a house before I went traveling and are now digging out the foundations for a new garage for Ben’s beloved car. As I love a good dig and playing outside I made myself useful there and had a really good catch up with them. I saw my school friends and their little ones which was lovely, little Maisie, April and Jasper are adorable and I am looking forward to meeting Helen’s next baby but before that she and Adam are getting married too – so exciting!
Now, the whole reason for my timeframes for travelling being what they were and needing to be back in early July was for two of my old friends weddings. I met this crazy duo at Marks and Spencer’s where we used to work when we were at college and ever since we have been good friends. Harriet was due to marry Rob and Sarah to Chris – they had all been together for around 10 years so high time a wedding was on the cards! Harriet had asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding but due to the travels I didn’t want to be an unhelpful bridesmaid as well as the issues with dress fittings so instead I was set to do a reading at their wedding. Their wedding was lovely, they had the ceremony at Monk Bretton Church which I hadn’t been to before and Harriet looked so beautiful and relaxed it was an amazing day. The reading went well, the weather held, we had glorious sunshine at the Wortley Hall reception and I had some cracking company in the form of the soon-to-be married Sarah and Chris. I really am lucky that my friends all have great taste in partners – I can’t think of any of them I wouldn’t happily spend time with, it make social things so much easier!
In the lead up to Sarah and Chris’ wedding I spent a few hours tying bows around favours and chatting to Sarah at her house, it was lovely to spend so much time with her as it made me realise how much I miss when I live in London or away from my home-friends, however I do have friends dotted all around and it can be hard being as involved and in touch with people as I would like to be. It is nice to have my ‘rootless-ness’ challenged as it makes me think about what choices I am making in my life and if they are leading me to where I want to be. However as I rarely have a clear idea of what I want I am happy to go with the move for the money and good job opportunity this time!
Sarah’s wedding was also a very beautiful affair with the stunning Nostell Priory and then the welcoming Rogerthorpe Manor for the reception. This time around I spent the day with Harriet and Rob and got talking to many of Mr and Mrs Poskitts other friends which was fab – I can be a bit like a puppy as I get excited at meeting new people! Yet again I was so thankful to see one of my amazing friends on the happiest day of her life. I am a complete sucker for weddings, and in actual fact, most emotional things. I am always blown away by someone saying that they will love and cherish one person. To me marriage is a really big thing and to see people you love saying ‘I do’ is truly special, waterproof make up is a must for me!
I got the opportunity to do some crafting which is always good in my books – I utilised a whole bunch of old and broken jewellery to decorate a lot of picture frames – something else for me to add to the ‘must sell at some point’ pile!
So finally after a lovely month at home I was due to move to start a new chapter in Milton Keynes!
So, another very delayed post about the last leg of my trip in Kuala Lumpur.
After a night on my last night bus of the trip I wasn’t as rested as I had wanted, the night bus wasn’t as good as the Vietnamese sleepers where you can recline almost flat – instead these were more like normal coach seats. As we pulled into KL and I got off the bus I saw Sophia asleep on a bench in the station. As it was 5am and we hadn’t much else to do at that point we just snuggled up and got a bit more shut-eye.
Eventually we decided to head on to where I was going to be staying, the Reggae Mansion I had heard so many good stories about. Sophia was going to couch surf which I would have done but as it was my last nights I wanted to be central and to relax. It turned out the Reggae Mansion was a very good choice – it was a very upmarket hostel which had good Wi-Fi, lots of seating areas, free breakfast and water and generally was amazing. The beds had lots of privacy with a curtain so it was like a hotel to me!
As we arrived around 6.30 I couldn’t check in so I passed out on a sofa while Sophia planned what she needed to do while we were in KL. After a couple of hours we decided to try our luck at getting a free breakfast and we were thrilled when we managed to get a 3 course breakfast with coffee for free – very happy girls!
We spent the next few days having a wander around KL as although Sophia had been before she hadn’t had a good look around. I had to be rather careful with some rather bad looking blisters I had sustained while diving but I still managed some good walks! I met up with Guilleme, the guy I met in Saigon who I also saw in Chiang Mai, to do some electronics shopping and was very pleased he was able to help me with my laptop purchase as Low Yat Plaza was like nothing I had seen before, the choice was overwhelming so it was very much appreciated having someone with me who knew what I wanted!
We visited the Helipad Bar which is what it says on the tin; a bar on a helipad. It was simply stunning to watch the sunset over KL and the Petrona Towers and Menara KL Tower and enjoy a cocktail. The prices weren’t traveller friendly but to sit with one and watch the sunset was amazing! We went out for drinks with Sophia’s couch-surf host and his friends after the Helipad bar and had a great time, the world cup was on so the Germans with us were very keen on watching that and very nicely the boys kept us topped up with Jack Daniels. We were pretty tired though so we were pleased with our 1am finish – we thought we had lasted well!
I spent a fair amount of time wandering around Chinatown and down towards Low Yat, I fell in love with all the old colonial buildings and was daydreaming about how lovely they would be to restore and revamp. I had heard mixed reports about the Central Market but I loved it – it was more touristy than lots of the other markets I have been to and not as cheap but compared to the UK there were lots of bargains so I picked up a few things as gifts and for peoples birthdays. The Art Deco exterior of the market was fantastic, it was so well made it was shame that there wasn’t a better setting to be able to sit back from it and just admire its form.
I went to Merdeka Square and once again, I was thrilled with the architecture and the history of the location with it being where the Malay flag was raised for the first time in 1957 it was pretty atmospheric . I had a visit to the City Gallery which is just off Merdeka Square too and it was very informative as well has having a pretty awesome miniature model of the city set with a light display and information on the building of the city – I thoroughly geeked out and enjoyed myself. One evening Sophia and I headed to Little India for food and although it was smaller than we expected (the clue should have been in the name!) we had a great time and enjoyed the atmosphere.
I went to visit the Petrona Twin Towers, the iconic image of KL. I was unlucky in the sense that when I turned up there were no remaining slots to go up the towers at that point but they did have one available slot left in the evening which I snapped up as I was due to leave the next day and didn’t want to miss this opportunity. So when I got back in the early evening (too early for the sunset unfortunately) I finally got to go up the towers – when I had mentioned to my brother that I was going to go to KL he said I had to go up them for him – I stuck to my promise! The building is amazing and as you walk around looking at the equally amazing views you are struck by how fantastic buildings like this are. I think I might still prefer the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh but then the day was slightly clearer. I really enjoyed my visit to the tower but then I like going up something tall wherever possible to see the bird’s eye view of the place I am in. I am not scared of heights either so I am the one trying to stand on the glass flooring which many other people are avoiding like the plague!
I visited where Sophia was staying after going up the Petrona Towers, by the time I got there it was dark so we had sushi on the roof which had a pretty amazing infinity pool looking over the city towards the towers I had come from. It was stunning and I know where I will be staying next time I go to KL! WOW! That was the night I said goodbye to Sophia and put her on the night bus to head back to the island while I would be heading home the next day.
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to visit Batu Caves which was a shame but I was surprised by how much time KL took to look around. I really enjoyed KL and would happily find work here for a year or so. I really liked the atmosphere and the people I met here were fantastic. I had wanted to go up the Menara tower too but city life is too expensive to do everything and with a city this great I hope I will be back in the future.
Spending time in such an amazing city with a good friend was a perfect way to round off my trip. I was in denial about having to go home but had decided that the best way to make it easier was to surprise someone. As such my darling Mum knew no real details about my last days travelling as she thought I was arriving home a couple of days after her and Dad had set off for a holiday. I also wanted to surprise two of my oldest friends so Facebook was kept in the dark with some slightly misleading/delayed (though truthful) updates. To surprise my Mum I had to get my brothers, sister and Dad in on the act, Mum is used to knowing everything so covering up an operation like this was a feat in itself.
As such when I left KL I was excited to seeing everyone. I love the fact you can check your bag in at the central train station in KL and then just you and your hand luggage head to the airport. So easy! My flights were as straightforward as could be – flew to Abu Dhabi and then into Manchester –it was a little odd flying backwards against time but it worked really well. I left KL at 8.30pm local time and arrived into Manchester at 7.30am the following morning. My awesome brother picked me up from the airport and after me talking non-stop and lots of hugging I finally got home to sneak around the back of the house to surprise my Marmee. It was amazing! I had led her to believe I was going to skype her that morning and instead I turned up! I think she was a little annoyed to be left out of the loop but also very pleased to see me! Later when I surprised my friends after involving their husbands and Mums I got another similar reaction!
So with all of those hugs, smiles and laughter I brought that particular six month adventure to an end. And oh, what an adventure!
So, this is another very delayed update and I wanted to do it as the blog needs finishing off for my travels so there are a couple more posts to go and then, best of all, a proper updated photo album!
Arriving on the Perhentian Kecil felt familiar as the land formations are pretty similar to Koh Rong Salmeon, Koh Rong, Koh Tao and Koh Samui but that is not to say I didn’t appreciate this new island. I immediately felt at home on the island which was definitely helped by having my good friend Sophia already there working towards her DMT and the great team at Panorama Divers. I decided that I would finish my trip penniless but it would be worth it to do the Rescue Diver course and make the most of my last couple of weeks of living on a beach.
After completing the Emergency First Response (EFR) course I had a day off while I waited for a couple of French girls – Emilie and Viktoriya to finish their EFR course so we could do the rescue course together with our very adorable instructor Pablo. I had heard plenty of times that the rescue course was good fun but hard work and I had seen on Koh Tao how intense it could be which was a good thing but still nothing prepares you for all the information you have to take in. Emilie ended up kissing Viktoriya rather than imitating the rescue breaths (Pablo unfortunately didn’t get the same treatment once we started using the pocket mask!), Emilie also had a bad back. Viktoriya seemed to break any piece of equipment given to her as well as getting a very sore looking rash from the BCD. For my part I took some skin off my hand as I jumped in to ‘rescue’ someone, managed to get matching blisters on both feet which got pretty gross and generally was my normal bossy self. It was fantastic and the sense of achievement when we had worked through the scenarios was fantastic.
Early on in the course we had the amazing luck of seeing three Giant Guitar sharks in water around 5m on a sandy bottom in an area where you don’t usually see much and where all the buoyancy diving takes place. We couldn’t believe our luck! There was one large on (over 2m) and two smaller ones (under 1m). We also did some fun dives which resulted in a rather distant viewing of some Bumphead Parrotfish, a Blue Spotted Ribbon tail being terrorised and then freaking out at a Cleaner Wrasse, numerous Morays, Bamboo Sharks, a VERY territorial Trigger Fish, some very cute Box Fish to name but a few. I thoroughly enjoyed diving on the Perhentians, as much as I loved Koh Tao it was so quiet here without the hordes of divers which was a real bonus.
I did my second ever night dive here and we did it with UV lights…oh wow, it was brilliant! It was like a trippy disco down there and a rather atmospheric lightning storm was also ongoing at the time so it was a truly brilliant experience. One moment we were in a night dive looking at how the coral show up under the UV light and the next second we could see clearly as the lightning lit up underwater. It was breathtaking and definitely something I hope to do again sometime soon. We also saw a Grouper casually eating a crab, caught with half the crab hanging out of its mouth, lots of sleeping Parrotfish and a Moray Eel sharing the same spot as a sleeping Parrotfish. I love night dives!
The people I met here were pretty darn special. I met the crazy Australian I want to be my DMT instructor/mentor thingy so here is to hoping she gets work somewhere I can afford to do my DMT! The staff at Panorama (or Panamazing) were brilliant, I spent a lot of time with them and they really were a good bunch. The people I met who were diving there were also an interesting bunch. I met a team of British girls doing a gap year that would make 18-30 holidays proud; a few solo travellers who were pretty cool as well as some Canadians who were amazing.
The World Cup seemed to dominate a lot of conversations when I was on the island as there was a bar which was showing all the games, so every night people would be discussing which matches they were staying up for, or going to bed and then getting up at 3am. I am far from a football fan so I did quite well avoiding having to watch a match until I ran out of excuses…thankfully the weather came to the rescue and provided a breathtaking thunderstorm so I sat watching that while everyone else faced the other way watching the screen.
My last night on the island was also Emilie, Viktoriya, Meghan and Scotts last night which ended up being quite a big one with my good friend gin getting involved. Meghan and Scott, the Canadians, had brought some duty free gin with them which made them very popular. After consuming this and some rum (I may have had a beer or two and some vodka too) I decided that Sophia should take us on an adventure so I took my bag back to the dorm so I couldn’t lose it (so organised) and then we set off for a wander with another person we picked up on the way. As Scott started doing some rather questionable cartwheels followed by Meghan it is safe to say we were quite far gone. At some point Scott threw off his clothes and went for a swim so we went too leaving Sophia and the other person breaking just about the only rule I think there is to skinny dipping which is ‘dont watch, get involved!”. After a midnight swim, honing our underwater handstands and having a good laugh we eventually called it a night and were quite proud that there were some of Panorama up to more mischief than us.
The next day after our very good last night was hell. Emile, Viktoriya and I were in the same part of the dorm so got up together to feel sorry for ourselves, Scott and Meghan turned up to get the same boat off the island as the girls so after saying our goodbyes I got down to the business of getting ready for my last dive which I had been looking forward to as it was a drift dive; however after 3 hours sleep and a lot of gin I wasnt as keen as I had been and knew I would feel pretty rough with a dive over 20m. The dive was as tough as I expected but I managed not to throw up until I got to the surface which I was very proud of. After getting home, getting showered, Sophia feeding me lunch, I went and passed out on the balcony for a couple of hours which helped me no end!
I was so sad when I came to say bye to people but I really did very well out of the whole hug situation. Everyone knew I am a hugger so all the people going on the afternoon dive had to hug me before they could go for their dive. I was pleased! I even got a couple of hugs from my crazy Gabs who swears she hates hugs!
On the boat to the mainland and then the nightbus to KL I may have felt more sad to leave this island than any of the others. I think I could have spent another few weeks here in heaven with the crazy people. I also loved the fact that the people I was spending time with worked there so they weren’t going to leave just as I had gotten to know them.
After a few hours chilling out on the mainland it was time to get the nightbus to KL and the next part of my trip. The best bit…I was going to be seeing Sophia there too!
So, after leaving the amazing Koh Tao I headed on the night boat to the mainland and Khao Sok National Park. I managed to sneak away from the island without having to say bye to anyone which made it easier, I got on the boat expecting a floating hostel, instead it was rather two floors with thin mattresses with two rather questionable bathrooms. I must say I was rather pleased that it wasnt very busy but I did have three people on my side of the boat which made me feel safe. After popping two seasickness tablets I was out like a light and cuddled my rucksack for the night. We arrived on the mainland around 4.30am and after some change of busses we were then on our way to the National Park, as the tablets were still in my system I was guaranteed more sleep which was fab!
I managed to find a cheap bungalow easily which was great and the best thing?? A hammock on my own raised balcony! All you could hear was the sounds of the jungle which was so relaxing. I had a little walk and admired the local swimming hole but due to the sheer number of mosquitos I didn’t fancy baring more flesh for them to devour. I looked into doing some activities but I was rather unlucky in that it was so quiet I would have to pay a fortune for anything and I didn’t fancy any of the trekking options due to the heat and the biting insects. Considering those two points I decided to head on to Krabi the next day, I was really disappointed with leaving so soon as I had heard so many good reports about it but in the end I can always come back – just because someone else had a great time doesn’t mean I need to stay somewhere, it would have been much better if it was busier or if I was with other people. I spent a very lovely evening chilling on the balcony listening to the jungle and then had dinner with a German couple I had met.
The next morning after a cuddle with a very cute kitten who was trying to get milk from my leg I headed off by minibus to Krabi Town. I decided to stay in Pak Up hostel as again I had heard word of mouth suggestions and I wasnt disappointed. The staff were friendly, the beds were comfy, huge lockers, a laundry area, good wifi, two bars and they even provided toilet paper, shower gel, shampoo and an adorable tiny puppy to cuddle…truly five star hostelling! There wasnt much to do in Krabi Town itself so I planned to do a day trip and also go to Railay beach before moving on again.
I decided to visit the Tiger Temple, attempt to climb the 1200+ steps to the top temple, swim in the Emerald Pool and wallow in the Hot Spring Waterfall. The Tiger Temple cave wasnt what I was expecting, I was thinking there was a tiger who might have saved someone and therefore there was a temple dedicated to him, however the truth was the a tiger used to live in the cave and people could hear him roar and then the monks moved in and he moved out – sounds like he was evicted to me! I got chatting to a Portuguese girl and we decided to attempt all the steps together, thankfully it was 10am rather than the afternoon but it was still scorching hot and high humidity so we hadn’t got up the first 50 steps before we were dripping in sweat, the steps were very steep which was a good workout for the thighs but I was a little concerned about how my knees would react on the way down. I called it quits at 491 steps (close enough to halfway for me), I still had a good view but I am sure the view from the top would be worth the climb, and descent! On the way back down my knees didn’t mid t hings too much if I went slowly and took my flip-flops off for stability, what I wasnt expecting was my foot that I broke to become an issue so I was very slow on the way back down but I didnt fall over which I was very happy about!
At the bottom I enjoyed watching some monkeys take a bath and begging (successfully) for some food and I took some cool pictures of random things. I also went to the temple for some quiet time to count my blessings. I don’t forget how lucky I am to be having these experiences, I know there is planning and sacrifices made to be able to come away and travel but the things I see and learn are truely amazing. I am very lucky to have an amazing family and friends who support me in what I do and it was lovely to stop and take the time to acknowledge this.
After a nice lunch it was time for the Emerald Pool which looked good on the pictures I had seen but the reality was so much better! The sandy bottom, clear water and surrounding of jungle made the place feel so special. There were a number of people there but it didn’t feel overly busy or noisy so it was nice just to swim around and relax. I was thrilled to see two very cute little puppies there too so once I had extracted myself from the bliss of the water I had a play with them, they were adorable!
The absolute highlight of the day however was the Hot Spring Waterfall, after a brief walk through the jungle we arrived at a small waterfall with pools. It was beautiful and seemed like something out of a fairytale so I quikly got about getting in. It was so hot I was amazed, it was hotter than I have my bath but oh, it felt so darn good! I could have easily spent a day there and made use to the people offering massage and then cool off and do it again, it was heaven! As it was late afternoon by this time we were already quite dehydrated with our earlier efforts and the temperature was high so we didn’t manage to stay in too long but wow, it was fabulous!
That evening I got the fantastic news that one of my oldest friends had (finally) had her first baby, at this news I promptly burst into tears I was so happy for them but also gutted to be missing such a special time. The people in my dorm were really sweet about it and agreed that baby Jasper was an absolute cutie! I cant wait to meet him and give him lots of love!
My visit to Railay didn’t go to plan, in fact it didn’t even happen. I was all ready and waiting for the boat but as no one else turned up wanting to go the taxiboat didn’t go – after writing my journal and reading a book for a couple of hours I gave up. Instead I had a very relaxing day and topped it off with a massage which was fantastic. As my foot was still sore from the previous day I was a little concerned about her hurting it and being too enthusiastic but without me even needing to tell her about it she was very gentle with that foot – result!
I had booked myself onto the 8am minibus to Koh Lanta but as no one else was booked on it they decided not to turn up until 9am, annoying as I had woken early for no reason but I have no rush. Finally arriving to Koh Lanta I found out that the weather forecast was so bad than no dives would be going until I had left the island, I had planned on being in Malaysia by the time they would be diving again so I would only be here for a couple of days. I eventually sorted out my accommodation, rejecting the bungalow option as it was too isolated and quiet I went for Non La Mer hostel on Long Beach and was really glad I did. The island was very quiet but at least I had one other person in my dorm. The first night we ended up drinking rather a lot of cocktails in a bar we almost had to ourself with a Thai band doing covers of Queen, Chilli Peppers and other great bands and then finished the night off with a swim. The next day we had planned on hiring scooters and exploring the island but as the weather closed in we decided to chill out, sleep and nurse our hangovers. I had wanted to try riding a scooter here as the roads are quite good and it is quiet but I will now have to save it for somewhere else! My second and last night on the island we had a BBQ in the hostel with the owners cooking some delicious fish, octopus, mussels, pork and rice soup with a very good chilli sauce. While it threw it down outside we played cards and had some beers…not a bad night at all!
The next day was another early start with a 7am pickup for the bus to Hat Yai via Trang. It was all quite uneventful, I slept a lot and then got checked into a cheap but nice hotel in Hat Yai. After a wander around, I booked my ticket to the border, changed the last of my Thai money to ringgit and headed to bed. The journey to the border was interesting, I knew that it wasnt a popular crossing point and that it wasnt one that should be used as a first choice but as I hadn’t got enough time to go the long way around I thought I would be ok. I was ok but it did freak me out a bit. The south-eastern provinces of Thailand can be prone to outbreaks of violence and this was clear on the bus ride, we went through regular checkpoints, past dugouts, reinforced areas, guards with machine guns and watch towers. I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel unsafe but I didnt like it. However crossing the real border to Malaysia was very straightforward, I breezed though (or rather dripped my sweat the whole way through) both side with all the guards ad officials being very friendly. I was a bit intimidated on the Malay side, I was the only white person there, never mind white woman and although I was wearing long shorts and a t-shirt I felt very underdressed, just a bit of a culture shock at first. After chatting to some of the locals I managed to get my bus to KB and found a very cheap and skanky room for the night so I could use the ATMs (no cash machines on the Perhentian Islands) and get my laundry done. I am always amazed how tiring travelling is even though I usually sleep! Tomorrow I head on to the islands for my last lot of diving before I head home.
As much as I don’t want to go home and I want to travel more I also miss my family and friends, I want to give them all a big hug and have a good catch up. I also feel I want to ‘regroup’ – I know I want to do my DMT next year but I want to plan the next lot of travels, I think it is good that as my 2014 travel is coming to an end I am feeling alright that it is that time.
So after finishing up my internship I decided I wasnt ready to leave the island yet and I might as well get some more diving sorted out. With that in mind I decided to get my Padi Deep spec and Nitrox with Crystal as both will be handy in the future. I want to do the Wreak Spec too but that will have to wait a while. The added bonus of doing the deep was that to do it I have to go to the deeper dive sites I wanted to visit – so it is almost a 2-4-1!
I had a great instructor with Scott so after the paperwork was completed we headed off to Chumphon, Green Rock, South West and the local wreak. We had some great dives and we had a couple of people tag along which was good fun too. We didn’t see any whale sharks but the visibility was great and we saw lots of fish and also a very cute little yellow Box fish at Chumphon and South West. I managed to get some decent pictures but I really need to work at staying stationary for pictures – my buoyancy is good but I ended up with diadema urchin spines in both my index fingers from having to push-off rocks…it really hurts!! I got down to 40m on the deep dive which was good fun, I didn’t get narced and even managed to complete a task faster underwater than on land! I uttered the famous last words before the dive of ‘my ears are never a problem’ only for me to find at just over 35m that equalising was going to have to be done the normal way (and hard) and not my way. Never mind…I got there and it was fantastic. I love diving past the thermocline into the colder water, it makes the surface water seem unbearably hot when you return to a shallower depth.
I have wanted to try freediving for some time and as many people were giving very good reviews to Apnea Total on the island. It was amazing and on the first day I reached the 12m maximum depth for the day and on the second day I again reached the maximum depth for the day which was 20m. We did constant weight diving, which is where you duck dive and use fins to power your descent and also free immersion where you use a line to pull yourself down. I loved both – the free immersion is really relaxing and uses little energy but the constant weight is great fun and you have a hand free all the time to equalise. When I’m scuba diving I don’t have to use my hands to equalise pressure – I do something with my jaw so it was quite odd not being able to do this due to the straighter body position and having to use my hand and nose to do it the normal way! The course was fantastic with lots of breathing techniques which I must admit made me want to have a giggling fit with a room full of people breathing deeply a fly on the wall could have misunderstood what was happening if its eyesight was poor! If I was here on the island for longer I would do the advanced course with my amazing instructor Kate to be able to improve further! Later that day I was having s Skype conversation when I noticed it looked like my cheekbones had made a reappearance, imagine my dismay when I realised it was just thanks to some impressive shading thanks to sunburn and the mask!
While I wasn’t in the water we had a good laugh watching the soon to be DMs complete their scuba test which involved lots of alcohol, raw egg and vomiting which while good to watch made me dread having to do the same when I do my dive master training. One of the girls was looking after a little kitten for the animal rescue place as we played with her and fed her but very sadly she died this morning, she had been poorly but at least Lara had managed to give her a few days with lots of love. I have been bitten lots by insects…not too sure what but apparently my feet are tasty…unfortunatly I have been unable to resist the scratching and now have lots of scabs so it is probably a good thing I will be out of the water for a little while so they can heal. I may have also visited a tattoo shop but if my Dad is reading this…I didn’t! I also spent some time relaxing on the beach trying to tan my white body, my legs, arms, shoulders and back are impressively tanned (for me) but the rest of me is very white! I also enjoyed some beautiful sunsets. The were a few fantastic storms this week – watching the lightning out at sea and over the island was amazing, one night it was throwing it down with rain so I went to sit on the beach to enjoy the elements…bliss!
I leave this beautiful island tonight on the night ferry to make my journey to Khao Sok National Park for a couple of days, on the Krabi, Railay, Koh Lanta and then onwards to Malaysia to see a great freind I made in Cambodia. I am very sad to be leaving as I am just starting to feel settled here, it is amazing how fast three weeks goes by. I have had a lovely time here and have met some fantastic people who have made me want to do my dive mater training at least now!
After a very short stop off on Koh Samui and reacquainting myself with the beach I was headed on my way to Koh Tao to do a two-week marine conservation internship with Eco Koh Tao.
After getting settled into the accommodation at the dive resort linked with Eco Koh Tao, Crystal, I was ready to get diving. It felt so good to be back in the water and the good visibility, lack of currents and increased marine diversity meant that the diving was much better than in Cambodia. I have seen a tutle (so amazing!), much bigger groupers, wrasse, moray eels, boxfish, lots of porcupine and angel fish as well as lots of my favourite little damsel fish. I love damsel fish, they are so cute and it is like they are watching you as much as you are them.
During my internship I helped measure the growth a some giant clams in the nursery we have. I was taught how to complete Coral Watch, as this is an El Nino year some of the corals are bleaching so we were recording the health of the reefs.
During the second week another intern, Jasper, joined us and we began our Reef Check course which will enable us to collect data on the health of coral reefs. Even though I probably wont get to use this on Koh Tao it will be a good certification to have as I do enjoy conservation work. All the work I did on fish and invertebrate identification in Cambodia came in rather useful for this too. Thankfully I passed the three tests on fish, invertebrate and substrate ID though I was right on the border with a couple of them, identifying things isn’t always straight forward but on-screen with no movement it can be downright frustrating!
I would love to be staying longer so I could do more with Eco Koh Tao but money is the limiting factor. On World Oceans Day on the 8th of June Eco Koh Tao will also be doing things to raise awareness and increase conservation participation with other divers. Although all the diver I have seen here have been careful with the reef there is undoubtedly immense pressure on the reefs around Koh Tao due to the popularity of the area for diving.
I was on Koh Tao when a Wild Challenge was on, which is essentially a tough mudder style event used to raise money for Eco Koh Tao. I was more than happy to help out thinking I would be in the shade somewhere on the flat. However it turned out I was on a water station which was quite a climb. By the time I reached my station I looked like I had been taking part and I only just made it to my station before the first person came past and I must admit I was very happy they weren’t finding it easy either. To be honest I don’t know how they did it. It was hot, the mosquitoes were out and yet people managed it – good for them! On the way down I did appreciate the beautiful view over the island but rather wished I was wearing trainers and not sandals.
I headed out to Aow Leuk beach a couple of times as there were baby sharks in the shallows. The first sharks I have really seen and it was amazing. To see them swimming about around your feet and being able to swim after them was fantastic, I now want to swim with the adult sharks which has never been high on my list before as I am terrified of getting eaten! The fishes on the reef surrounding the beach was also good to see with some huge schools of goatfish.
From what I have seen of Koh Tao so far I love it. I still prefer the feel of Koh Rong but this is a larger island with more amenities while still feeling peaceful so I love it here too. I have seen some beautiful sunsets, lightning at sea, sat on the beach in a storm and been woken by the loudest thunder I have heard. It is like paradise here and I don’t want to leave!!
The people here are lovely, everyone seems quite friendly and it is great spending time with people with the same interests. Lots of the people here are doing their Dive Master Training (DMT) so they are here for a few months and the people who are here less time are usually doing courses together so I haven’t found it as friendly at Koh Rong Samleom but that was a completely different atmosphere on a much smaller island.
This is the closest I have been to ‘real life’ since I set off as I am staying in one place, making friends and around established friendship groups. I have found it a lot harder than I thought I would and it has made me realise that my depression is closer to me than I had thought; I don’t know if this is a relapse of sorts, a tough few weeks or what which is worrying me and frustrating me. As I am low I am also struggling with binging. I am being as proactive as I can, emailed my doctor and I am reworking some of the CBT exercises I did before I came away. All I can say is that depression clearly is a ‘real’ illness if I can suffer with it when I am in a beautiful place and doing something I love!
I am still very proud of myself for getting on with it and going travelling. I am getting new insights into myself all the time and I am finding it insightful exploring what interests me, what doesn’t and where my priorities are.
My depression is as under control as it was before I left. My body is healthier than it was which I am happy about but it is my mind I am most pleased for as my body can catch up with it later.
I miss my family and friends as I thought I would and I am thankful for all the technology which makes them easily contactable. I don’t know how people did long-term travel before Facebook, Skype, mobiles etc. I have always been happy to be out of touch with people for a week or so while I have been on holiday but I don’t think I would have been happy with no contact for over 4 months!
So far my travels have given me the urge to travel more but I have also learnt that I might well be better travelling with someone next time as although I am more sociable than I thought I don’t like having to say bye to people I meet all the time and it is nice being able to share things with someone. My time with Jim, Bob and Lynne in NZ, with Cat and Rick in Oz, the time spent on the island and subsequent travels with people off the island have been my favourite times.
It looks like I will be away for another month before heading back to the UK…so if anyone knows of any jobs I might be suited to when I come back let me know!!