Email From Indonesia

Hi there everybody
Ok don’t faint, but here is another email from me and only a month since the last one, I wouldn’t get too used to it. So far Gmail has been no problem at all with regard to sending photos so maybe these emails might be more frequent than before, I have also been taking far more photos due to having a new camera.

Well the last time I wrote we where waiting in Kuala Lumpur for visa’s to Indonesia. We left Kuala Lumpur for Melaka as its a much smaller and pleasanter place to spend a few days than Kuala Lumpur (which is just a big dirty city) and from there we went back for a day trip to KL to collect our Visas. We had to show a ticket out of Indonesia before they would issue us with our visa’s so we got a return ticket on the boat between Melaka and Dumai though I very much doubt either of us will use it (we will probably fly out of Bali but who knows).

The boat journey between Malaysia and Indonesia was painless and smooth, the immigration paperwork was all dealt with on the boat too so at the other end we just walked out. In Dumai whilst trying to find the bus station we met a guy who runs and English school and got roped into helping out with his classes for a couple of hours (just chatting to a few teenagers in English) in return for lifts to the bus station and help with getting tickets ect It was interesting to talk to the students and find out a bit about their lives, interestingly the concept of having a boyfriend was quite foreign to them and it seems that you are either just friends or married to somebody here with no in-between. This area of Sumatra is very Muslim though and the girls where telling me how they have to get up at 5 to pray then they go back to bed until 7 when they have to pray again, and then another 3 prayers before bed.

Later on that evening we got the bus overnight to Bukittiniggi which due to the loud music played until about 3am and then the buskers with guitars getting on every stop sleeping wasn’t much of an option.

In Bukittiniggi we stayed at a guesthouse ran by a German guy who was a mine of information about the surrounding area and he invited us on his walks round the village countryside (where he was mapping the area with his new GPS). From Bukittiniggi we climbed up the Gunung Merapi (literal translation is fire mountain and there are volcano’s with the same name all over Indonesia ) overnight which I mentioned on the last email, it was very very hard work and I will never do it again but even though, it was worth it. We also spent a day on a moped riding to lake Maninjou and riding round the lake, and we spent a day with the German guy and his wife going round the Merapi (Fire Mountain) and visiting some palaces. The one bad thing about the place was it was very close to the mosque and the loudspeaker blasting out half an hour of chanting at 4.30 am very very loudly, so loud that we where awakened with a start every morning and earplugs didn’t help enough. We have been careful not to stay anywhere this near to a mosque every since.

From here we went to Padang which isn’t a particularly nice place, we just did a bit of shopping here and Kurt bought himself a surfboard off one of the locals and did a bit of surfing at the break at the river mouth, the sand here was nearly black due to all the volcanic residue that comes down the rivers. From here we flew to Jakarta with Adam Air as it was only a Pound more expensive than a 30 hr bus journey (including a ferry trip) (it cost 270,000RP which is under 17 Pounds including taxes).

In Jakarta we spent a few days but mainly just to get an Indonesian Lonely planet as we had been unable to find a copy second hand (I got talked out of buying a new copy in Malaysia doh). from there we travelled down to the south coast about 6 hrs to Pangandaran which is a beach town with very few tourists (there are very few tourists in Indonesia altogether since the Bali bombs) it was a very nice place to chill out and Kurt did some surfing off the beach (though it wasn’t the best as the waves where crashing down all at once and therefore difficult to surf).

We are in Jogyakarta at the moment, this is where the earthquake happened a month ago and we wouldn’t be here apart from the fact that its on the way to Bali, which is where we are heading on an overnight bus tomorrow (probably).

Anyway that’s about all for now, I have spent hours in here now, but as it seems to be the only decent internet cafe in Java its a good thing. Hope you are all doing well and let me know what you are all up too.

Love Charlie

Email from Malaysia and Singapore

Hi there everybody
well seems I have been slack as ever! Its been over 3 months since my last bulk email with photos. Sorry! Anyway better late than never.
I guess my lack of email has coincided with meeting my man. He’s called Kurt and is from Estonia (but he has been away from there for 7 years or so and can speak perfect English). Anyway there might be quite a few photos with him in.
So from Sinhoukville in Cambodia we went to Phnom Pehn for a couple of nights and then got a bus to Saigon in the South of Vietnam. We spent a few days in Saigon exploring round Chinatown and hanging out, we also ended up watching some tv as our hotel room, and every other hotel room in Vietnam had cable tv so much so that by the end of our time in Vietnam I was sick to death of crappy Vietnamese tv., From there we got the bus to Nah Trang which is a seaside resort, loads of concrete and a dirty beach, altogether not my cup of tea but you could get draft beer there for 1500 dong (less than 10p) for about 2/3 of a pint so that was one saving grace. We did also do a hellish boat trip and hired a moped and drove 20km north to a nice (small) waterfall where we didn’t see another soul.
From here we headed up the coast to Hoi An which is a very old town and one of the few places that was preserved despite the Americans bombing the country (I think there was some kinda agreement not too). Anyway it was very picturesque and very touristy with bus loads of American and Japanese tourists wandering around with cameras hanging round their necks.
We then hit Hue which was another old historic city which we wandered around for a couple of days and then went up the coast to Hanoi which was our last main stop in Vietnam before we headed to the Lao Border. Hanoi was another big city but the old city did maintain quite a lot of charm and there was minimal hassles once you left the touristy area. Alas like most of Vietnam there is hassle galore around anywhere that tourists are likely to be. By this time we had both got utterly fed up of being asked to buy something constantly and having very little contact with the Vietnamese people that didn’t involve them expecting us to pay them for something. This did really colour our experiences in what is otherwise a very interesting and at times beautiful country.
In Hanoi we obtained our visa’s for Laos and at the embassy found where the nearest border was (about 300km sw of Hanoi). We tried to find out if there was a bus to the border but all the travel agents (almost all transport by tourists is done through travel agents as local buses and trains are about 3x more expensive for foreigners so private buses are cheaper) where claiming either the border wasn’t open to foreigners or trying to sell us tickets to Vientiane instead of Vieng Xai (the nearest town to the border on the Lao side). At this point in time we should have guessed that it wasn’t an easy border to get too. Anyway to cut a long story short we managed to get a local bus half way with about 150km to go to the border and we did think we where at the totally wrong place but with the use or an expensive (well only because they charged us way more than they should have) internet cafe and mapquest we managed to find out exactly where we where and where we had to go. With a combination of walking (with all our stuff for a total of about 40km) and hitching (we got 3 good rides 2 free and the other costing 10$US between us) over 2 days (one night spent in the tent just outside town as the only place to stay was a hotel costing 50$US) we made it too the border and crossed it easily.
Entering Laos was lovely, the attitude of the people was so different from the Vietnamese that it was a pleasure to travel there. Vieng Xai was a very nice place and a great place to chill out for a week and recover from the strain we had put ourselves through. We stayed at a very basic guesthouse by the lake with very friendly staff and great food and excellent lao lao (lao local spirit) . We didn’t see any other tourists all week. We then travelled by bus to Sam Neua and then to Muang Ngoi where we spent a lot of time chilling out in the hammock and not doing much at all (pretty much like the last time I was in Muang Ngoi).
We then headed to Louang Prabang and enjoyed the delights of the night market for both food and shopping and ended up bumping into Kim McGeer (for those that know her my ex flatmate from the western rd flat who was heading towards Oz to see Lorna with her lovely boyfriend) anyway we ended up going for a herbal sauna (as you do) and then a few beers. From Louang Prabang we headed to Vang Vieng and went Tubing and enjoyed more chilling out in Hammocks.
We spent on night in Vientiane before heading into Thailand and then spent a week in Nong Khai and enjoyed the water festival (and stayed put for a week as not to get drenched in transit). From there we went to Bangkok and spent a few days then headed very quickly to Malaysia on night buses and after one night in Kuala Besut we went to the Pehrentian islands and spent 18 nights in Corel Bay on the Small island. I did loads of Diving (16 dives here) and unfortunately got my camera stolen (left my bag on the beach and went swimming one evening, doh) but I hadn’t taken many photos before I lost it but alas I have no photos of Malaysia as i replaced it in Singapore. The Pehrentian islands where lovely, white coral sand, clear turquoise waters which where at times too warm really (30 – 35 degrees C) and lots of sun.
After the islands it was to Chetaring about half way down the east coast where we stayed for a week enjoying the laid back atmosphere (as you can tell we are really stressed and needed the break ;))
We then left Malaysia for Singapore where we camped out in the national parks for free and its all allowed (the cheapest accommodation in Singapore) we stayed 5 nights in the East coast park and 5 nights at Pasir Ris park and I would recommend it to anybody coming to Singapore as the cheapest accommodation other than that is 10S$ for a dorm bed and these places are not very nice, and the facilities in the park are superb and very clean and you get a sea view . We did a lot of shopping and wandering round town and i spent my birthday wandering round the botanical gardens and the national orchid garden after having a sushi picnic, perfect.
We are now in Kuala Lumper waiting for our Indonesian Visa’s and then we should be off to Indonesia to do more Diving.
Hopefully the next email will be a bit sooner (but knowing me it wont be)
Love Charlie