Tag Archives: snorkelling

Sihanoukville, Cambodia – Impressions

Five hours by bus south-west of Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s only deep water port, Sihanoukville. The port was used by the US during the American War with Vietnam. When the US evacuated the region the Khmer Rouge attacked, seizing a US container ship. This led a two-day rescue operation by marines including airstrikes across the city.

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Sihanoukville is becoming more popular among tourists because of its long golden sandy beaches and peaceful untouched islands. It’s lack of infrastructure is the only reason it has yet to become like the southern Thailand islands, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. But it’s only a matter of time.

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Beyond hanging at the beach and cruising the islands, there’s little to do in the area. This didn’t stop me hiring a scooter and heading out to see what I could find.

Wat Leu
One of five main temples in and around Sihanoukville.

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Wat Leu is also called the Upper Wat as it stands on a hill providing great views along the bay.

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Kbal Chhay Waterfall
This small waterfall is 7km from Sihanoukville and the main source of fresh clean water for the city.

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The falls became a hiding place for the Khmer Rouge in 1963 effectively cutting off the water supply.

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Island Tour
With little else left on land to do here but sit at the beach, I booked myself on a boat and was out on the beach waiting for it in the warm early morning air.

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During the tour, we visited three different islands, swam, stopped for a bbq lunch on the beach and snorkelled. As the water was mostly murky, it wasn’t the best for snorkelling but I enjoyed the time anyway.

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On our return, I hung out at a $5 bbq restaurant on the beach watching the sun set.

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Overall, Sihanoukville is a lovely, serene and peaceful place to stay for a couple of days if you like basking in the sun. The location where I was staying was a distance out of town and was particularly relaxed and quiet.

Next, Siem Reap and the much-lauded Angkor Wat.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi (pronounced ‘co pee pee’) is a small group of islands off the coast of Phuket in Thailand. While a small time tourist destination in the 90s, since the release of the film “The Beach”, which was partially filmed on the island group’s second largest island, tourism has exploded.

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Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest island, has a pair of limestone ridges with a thin area of beaches connecting them. This strip of sandy isthmus forms a double-sided bay which is completely covered in resorts, housing, bars and hostels. On December 26, 2004, the water in both bays receded before tsunamis flowed in to meet in the middle, completely devastating the island.

Unlike Phuket, where businesses took only months to get back on their feet, it took 6 years to rebuild the base infrastructure, with construction still continuing 10 years later.

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The most popular daytime activity here is visiting the islands and spending time out at sea, snorkelling and diving. While the bad weather that had plagued us up the Malay Peninsula continued, I booked a day out on a boat anyway, to do some snorkelling and check out some of the beaches.

Beaches
The soft golden sand of the isthmus stretch between the pair of limestone ridge-lines giving great views from both beaches.

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Beyond getting out on the water, sitting on the beach is where most people can be found during the day.

Nightlife
The nightlife is one of the major reasons people come Koh Phi Phi and perhaps also its worst aspect. Koh Phi Phi Don is a haven for 18-25 year olds to drink copious amounts of alcohol and act stupidly. Many outlets even sell drinks by the bucket, and I’m not talking about a handful of bottles of beer in a bucket, I’m talking about a bucket of spirits.

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Monkey Beach
While the waters in this part of the world are usually clear and rife with fish, the bad weather had churned it up a little. The best area in the water was just outside Monkey Bay with large areas of spiky sea urchins and fish.

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Monkey Beach is, as the name suggests, a beach where monkeys harass tourists for food. There are plentiful young and some have a tendency to chase the tourists and bite them.

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Bamboo Island
North of the main islands, this island is surrounded by golden sandy beaches. Because the wind was increasing, we kayaked from the boat to the island instead of swam.

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On a sunny day the island would have the mystique of a desert island with nothing more than soft sand, a calm crystal clear ocean, bamboo and, because it’s Thailand, a bar.

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Maya Bay
Renown for being the location where the movie The Beach was filmed, it’s a popular place with people swarming to it every day. While the beach is spectacular, it’s still little more than just a golden sand beach with limestone hills around the mouth of the bay.

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The inland area, as seen on the movie, is not actually on the islands. But around the bay around the beach has crystal clear turquoise waters.

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Overall, Koh Phi Phi was a little disappointing as its main purpose seems to revolve around young adults getting hammered, spending the day recovering on the beach before doing it again the next night. The setting is beautiful and was otherwise only hampered by the rain.

Next we cross the Malay Peninsula to the island of Koh Samui.

The Trail Wanderers

Bali, Indonesia – Adventures

When you have three weeks in Bali you can’t just languish around the pool or at the beach the entire time. Actually, I guess you probably could, but I can’t. There’s just too many other things to see around the island…

Mt Batur

In Bali’s highlands there are several volcanos. Mt Batur is the most active, having erupted 20 times in the last 200 years.

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It’s a fairly small volcano that lies in the caldera of a once more mighty volcano, one that stood over twice Mt Batur’s current height. And on the south-eastern side of the caldera is Danau Batur, the largest crater lake in Bali.

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Coffee Tour

Indonesia is the fourth largest producer of coffee in the world and Bali’s highlands has its share of plantations. During the tour we discovered the many tastes of Bali’s coffees and teas, all of which were delicious, although some were overly sweet.

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Indonesia has a most unusual coffee called Kopi Luwak. It’s the most expensive coffee in the world because the beans are fed to the Asian Palm Civet, collected from its droppings, cleaned and roasted. Enzymes in the animal’s gut react with the beans to give them a rich and smooth flavour.

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There are growing concerns about the ‘farming’ of Kopi Luwak as the animals are held in battery cages and forced to eat the beans. The two animals at the plantation weren’t so cramped in their larger cages although seemed quite disinterested in our being there.

Highland Cycle Tour

A gentle way to see the highlands of Bali is via a bicycle tour. A large group of us ventured out one morning on a tour which started in the highlands and worked its way down quiet roads. This provided plentiful views of rural Bali including many rice paddies.

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We were introduced to many of the local traditions as we rode through several villages and past many small temples, including this temple to the Destroyer, surrounded by palm trees.

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Midget Fun Boxing

Beyond all Bali’s standard evening entertainments of fine dining, drinking, beach-side bands and dancing there’s Midget Fun Boxing. While this might seem like a strange and violent form of entertainment, it’s actually quite fun. Reminiscent of the classic days of WWF wrestling, it’s more of a comedy fare with the midgets wearing gloves that cover more than half of their arms. Midway through a bout the competitors stop to dance to whatever music comes on, head banging to AC/DC or bopping to other types of music. But should one opponent take his attention from the other he gets belted. With a low centre of gravity the midgets are easily knocked over and then it’s a free for all. Here, after knocking his opponent over, this boxer jumped on top and pretended to hump him.

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Between bouts female midgets dance around on stage with some of the younger members of the audience. Cheeky boxers would stuff a boxing glove down their oversized shorts and chase the dancing-girls. Overall it was a fun night with much hilarity. No midgets were hurt in the process, although that can’t be said for this audience member during post event photos.

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Manta Ray Safari

On a hot and humid island in the tropics there’s usually plenty to do out on the water. I took the opportunity to go out by boat and snorkel with Manta Rays. Four metres from wingtip to wingtip these placid creatures fly through water without a care. Unperturbed by us being there they would come up close to have a good look before swimming on.

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Bali also has some very diverse coral reefs, with 500 species of coral recorded around the one island. This is more than the entire Caribbean Sea. We snorkelled around the reefs in the warm waters for much of the day.

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Next, we hired some scooters and checked out some temples, but that for another day…

The Lone Trail Wanderer