We are very much aware that the last time we completed a journal entry was way back in November, one whole month(ish)!! December was dedicated to rest and relaxation.... before you all scoff at that, life as a soapdodger can be quite stressful at times so we thought we would take a holiday from travelling.
Having chickened out of the horrific bus journey(a mere 3 days from Siem Riep - Phuket) we decided to fly. This did take a degree of planning and organisation(which was incredibly taxing) but was well worth the effort. You could tell it had been a while since we travelled on some kind of civilised transport as we both commented on how comfy and the plane was, Thailands equivalent of Monarch Airlines!.
From Bangkok we picked up our flight to Phuket and headed straight out to Kho Phi Phi. This involved a taxi ride with a thai boy racer out in his dads car for the first time and a crowded boat ride across to Phi Phi island.
Kho Phi Phi is one of the islands they used to film "The Beach" so as you can imagine it was just horrible. Looking forward to some serious R&R we headed to the beach. After having just got comfortable on the beach, the locals side show started. Mr P. felt something soft and furry rub against his face, as he jumped up a small black cat nestled into the warm spot on his towel. After trying to shoo the cat away he decided to use a more aggressive tactic and call for Mrs P.(who was incapacitated with laughter at this moment in time). As this didn't work, he picked the towel up and rolled the cat into the sand only to find that the cat resorting to the same tactics once more but with even more sand on it. Slightly aggrieved that out of all the people sunbathing on the beach the cat decided to pick Mr P.'s towel he decided to play it cool and ignore it. Not happy with the spot it had found (and infested with fleas) it decided to take over the whole towel. At this point Mrs P. stepped in and rescued the cat from a long swim. Looking round Mr. P. was overjoyed to find that everybody had been watching the little cat show for the last 10 minutes and Mrs P. wasn't the only one laughing.
After the cat incident we decided to try another beach where, by chance we bumped into our Swedish friends Karin & Fredrick. After getting reacquainted with them over a few beers we decided to book onto an island cruise for the next day. This involved being taxied around all the surrounding islands for snorkelling and swimming adventures. We were even lucky enough to see some dolphins off the coast of monkey island, work that one out!
Saying goodbye to our Swedish friends(who very kindly bought us a joint birthday present) we made our way to Phuket for the start of our "Holiday". We checked into a lovely hotel, swimming pool, air-con, Satellite TV and even breakfast buffet! We celebrated Mr. P's birthday in style by finding the finest restaurant on the island and blowing an entire weeks budget on one meal.
Friday morning saw us starting our PADI open water diving course. After an intensive session in the classroom we headed to the pool to familiarise ourselves with the SCUBA equipment. Unfortunately, we were learning with a Danish guy who was probably the most anally retentive person in the world. Every time we went under the water he was convinced he couldn't breathe. After several hours of trying to convince him he could -he was still alive and hadn't drowned yet, we made it to the end of the first day. Next day we were back in the swimming pool for more paranoia from our Danish class mate and then our first open water dive in the sea. Due to poor visibility Mrs P lost contact with the gang and headed to the surface too quickly. This caused some ear problems and forced Mrs P. to sit out the second dive(luckily). The second dive was completed in a tropical storm so the visibility was even worse.
After more time in the class room and the final exam, which took the Danish guy 3 hours to complete, (afterwards the instructor told me he thought he was sick in the head), we eventually made it to the final stages. Two more open water dives saw Mr P complete the course with a great sense of achievement. Mrs P. had continuing ear problems but was certified as a class room diver and promoted to Mr P.'s dive planner after achieving 100% in all the exams.
Slumming it once more we decided to take a mini bus from Phuket to Kho Phagnan. The most dilapidated minibus in the world turned up at our posh hotel and the soap dodgers boarded it reluctantly. We eventually made it to Kho Pagnan jaded and very late in the afternoon. The next few days were very relaxed, although there was a moment when Mrs P. cheated death. Lying on the beach we were plunged into shade as the sun moved round. Fortunately Mr P. suggested we moved a littel furhter away from the trees to soak up more sun. Just after getting comfortable a coconut became loose and rolled down a palm crashing onto the floor right next to where Mrs P was lying. Shell shocked and not knowing quite what to make from the experience Mrs P. looked up, looked shocked then dozed back off to snooze some more. The thai lady who had just witnessed this became obsessed with Penny and kept trying to stroke her for good luck.
Although we were sad to leave Kho Phagnan, we caught a ferry across to Kho Samui for our last night on the beaches. We checked into this lovely hotel with swimming pool! and realxed by the pool for the afternoon. We even treated ourselves to lobster on the beach, something we had been promisiing ourselves through out asia, this was follwed by the Liverpool Newcastle game in a beach side bar(Liverpool won).
Next day checked out a caught flight to Bangkok. The airport in Kho Samui is all out doors so this was a novel experience gettign taken out to the plane in a giant golf cart down the side of the runway with planes landing right next you.
Although we were sad to leave Asia as we really enjoyed our time there we were looking forward to Australia.
We were deeply shocked and saddend to hear news of the tsunami that happened on boxing day. Thankfully, everyone we met travelling through Asia are well, but we will never know what happened to some of the lovely thai people we met in Kho Phi Phi and Phuket. We hope they are safe and well and beginning to get over this terrible disaster that has destroyed their lives.
Our thoughts are with those families who have lost loved ones and those still waiting to hear news.