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El Nido

Our next destination in the Philippines would be El Nido, Palawan, but first we had to get there from Bantayan Island. This isn’t as straightforward as just going there, first we took a tricycle (like a motorbike tuk-tuk) to the port on Bantayan, then the ferry to Cebu (which for some unknown reason, maybe the shape of the moon, or the wind direction or the captain was sobering up, took two hours this time). Then it was the four-hour bus back to Cebu city, followed by a taxi to Cebu airport.

Next was the one hour flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and because we arrived at night, we’d have to stay there in the city for one night before going to El Nido the next morning, so it was another tricycle from the airport to the hotel. The next morning we got up early and took the six-hour bus (that only took five) to El Nido, I think the driver was making up for the slowness of Philippine time by trying to drive at close to the speed of light to get there quicker.

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The Philippines; Cebu & Bantayan Island

A four-hour flight from KL took us direct to Cebu, in the Central Visayas, Philippines. Cebu City is one of the biggest cities in the Philippines, and is a base to get to many other areas on Cebu island or the other surrounding islands. It’s safe to say that we weren’t short of options when planning where to go in the Philippines, there’s 7,641 islands to choose from, so picking just a few to visit was never going to be easy.

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Ipoh & Back to Kuala Lumpur

We had been in Penang for almost a week, in all honesty, we could have stayed a month, but it was time to see somewhere different as we were quite short on time for Malaysia. We got on the free ferry (yes, FREE) from Penang Island to Butterworth, walked to the train station and took the fast train south to Ipoh, it only takes around two hours and takes us back half way towards KL again.

We planned to stay in Ipoh for just two days, we had read it had a very lively food scene and that it was relatively untouched by foreigners, both turned out to be very true. The people here were very friendly and interested to know why we were there, and the food was fantastic, which seems to be true throughout Malaysia.

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Kuala Lumpur & Penang

Kuala Lumpur would be the first time we stayed in a big hotel since we set off, we had accumulated a free night through one of the booking websites we use, worth £50, so be booked a £50 per night hotel for two nights and got one of them free. The result was that we got a club suite in quite a nice hotel, with a room on the 25th floor looking out over the Petronas Towers with access to the club lounge and free wine for two hours on both nights, it was certainly much nicer that than the budget rooms we have been used to so far, although we’re not sure if having that, and then going back to the budget places is worse than not having it at all 🙂

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Krabi

Despite falling back in to the travelling way of life with a bang, and having a few emotional moments after leaving the others behind at the airport, the bus ride was fairly quick and easy, after about three hours we arrived in Krabi town bus station. We seem to have learned what to do in these situations better than most, so whilst most people stand there negotiating with the tour agency office staff, or just accepting their drastically over-inflated prices to get them to their hostels, we just walk away and go to the public transport station where this time we just hopped in the back of a public Songthaew (like a tuk-tuk bus, with two rows of seats, that you can hop on and off anywhere on the route) for around a third of the price the bus company office wanted. It seems Vietnam and Cambodia were good practice for dealing with this after all.

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Phuket – The Holiday

Following a few busy and fun days in Bangkok, it was time to fly south in Thailand to Phuket, for what was to be for us all; a Holiday. The girls (Lily and Izzy) love flying, so it was another exciting day for them, we all once again crammed in to one Bangkok taxi and headed off towards the airport, a short flight later we landed in Phuket and we got picked up to go to Kamala for the first five nights, a quiet beach town away from the hectic main town of Patong.

 

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Ayutthaya & Bangkok

After about a week in the north of Thailand, We had a night train booked from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya which Stac was a little apprehensive about, after a bad experience that we had in Vietnam, you can read about that here, but as soon as we saw the train we could tell that this one was very different. The train was brand new, clean, aeroplane clean in fact, with soap and tissue in the western bathrooms, big comfy seats that convert to beds just at night-time and a charging socket in each bed. The ride wasn’t too noisy or bumpy, in fact it was very enjoyable, it would have been even better if we weren’t still feeling a bit ill.

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Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai

The journey from Siem Reap to Bangkok was supposed to take 7-8 hours by bus, but of course it didn’t, the journey was fairly smooth in a reasonably comfortable bus though. About three hours after setting off we arrived at the Thailand border, at which point the bus stopped at the bus company’s office, they gave us entry cards for Thailand and took all our passports to complete the Cambodian exit part of the border. I’m never a fan of handing our passports over to a bus company but we didn’t really have much choice.

What did confuse us, was that twenty minutes later, the guy who had the passports came back and the passports were nowhere to be seen, but not before another guy took all of our bags out of the minibus, put them on a trolley and disappeared with them. Questions to the staff about what was happening went unanswered. It turned out he was taking them to go through the scan process at the border, and we were loaded back on to the minibus for about a 200 metre journey to the Thai border section, this was when the obvious happened, another corrupt entrepreneur who now had our passports but apparently spoke no English, wanted $10 each to ‘fast-track’ us through the border, he showed us he had our passports and put them away again.

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Siem Reap & Angkor Archaeological Park

We were picked up by the bus company from Phnom Penh around 6.30am to go to Siem Reap, the second biggest city of Cambodia, the bus company said the journey would take over 6 hours, but we set of at 7am and arrived in Siem Reap by 12pm. We had booked in a place to stay in Siem Reap that was a little out of the city but offered free tuktuk rides to and from the centre, they told us they would pick us up from the bus station at 1pm, so we went down the road and found a place to get some lunch before going back to the bus station to be picked up.

After three phone calls to the hotel, an hour of standing in the street with our bags, and talking to another tuktuk driver about going to see Angkor Wat the following day, the hotel tuktuk finally arrived to pick us up. When we got to the hotel, they gave us a nice cold welcome drink and showed us our room which was huge with a nice comfy bed, a balcony and a bath (Stac was just a little bit happy), it also had free breakfast, a swimming pool and free tuktuk rides, so the $22 per night, although it was over our normal budget, was a bargain.

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Kampot & Kep

We were getting picked up from the bungalows we were staying at in Otres at 10am to go to Kampot by bus. They also picked another person up from the same place but he wasn’t supposed to be leaving for another hour so we had to wait for him until he finished having a shower and packing up before the bus could ‘set off’. It soon became apparent that half of the people on the bus were coming from Kampot to here and the other half (us included) were being picked up to go to Kampot.

The bus (mini-van) was filled to the max, then went to their central office in Sihanoukville, at which point they asked us to get off and the bus immediately sped off with all of our bags in it and no explanation as to where it was going. After a couple of minutes it transpired the bus driver was going to get the tyre replaced on the bus, we weren’t very happy they had taken our bags, buy 15-20 minutes later he re-appeared, we all piled back in the tiny van and it set off. At which point, after one hour and twenty minutes since we were picked up, the bus then drove the same way back straight past where they had picked us up from earlier on.

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