Days M236-237: Escape From Khao San

Sun 20.05.12–Mon 21.05.12: When you gotta go, you’ve gotta go. I don’t need The Hangover II to tell me that Bangkok is more addictive than crack. I could happily stay here a long, long time, become that crazy drunken hippy guy with the nifty hat and the funny stories. But there is adventure afoot and nobody ever won an award for finishing 98% of a race. I HAVE FOUR COUNTRIES TO GO AND – ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – I WILL CONQUER THEM ALL!!! Wahaha! After my snail-like experience on the public bus from the border with Laos to Bangkok, I opted for a ‘VIP’ bus to take me down to Singapore (you can buy a direct ticket for about forty quid). It left at 6pm, giving me ample time to get myself a new fake student card on Khao San Road. Yes, I’m a criminal…

Continue Reading Days M236-237: Escape From Khao San

Day 666: Such a Chill

28.10.10: I awoke with my teeth chattering like I was camping naked under the stars in Svalbard: my jumper, jeans, waistcoat, sleeping-bag AND blanket were not enough to shield me from the searing frigidity of the air conditioning on this bus.  I mean, I’ve been on buses where the driver has had the same homeostatic malfunction that allows fat orange girls from Newcastle to go out in a blizzard wearing little more than a piece of dental floss, but this was just nuts. I tried to get him to turn it down, but he just laughed and ignored me.  Was I the only one suffering?  Would I be the first person to die of hypothermia in the history of Borneo?  Everyone else looked just as frozen to death as me, but they seemed to be taking it in their stride.  One guy was wearing a woolly…

Continue Reading Day 666: Such a Chill

Day 665: The Battle of Brunei II

27.10.10: Urgh, I thought as my mobile blipped my alarm: not again.  Today’s mission – very much like last Wednesday’s, was to make it through bloody great boring Brunei.  By 7.30am I was down at the port for the ferry to Palau Labuan.  By 11.30am it had arrived.  The next boat to Brunei was at 12 noon, so I just had time to rush out, fill my boots with Nasi Goreng (spicy fried rice with chicken and eggs – it’s the best food around these parts). By 1.30pm I was back in Brunei getting stamped back in.  A taxi driver outside the port told me that the last bus for Miri in Sarawak, Malaysia left at 2.30pm, which gave me an hour to get from port Muara to the capital. Ha! The bus to BSB took AGES to get there: it was 2.50pm before I arrived. …

Continue Reading Day 665: The Battle of Brunei II

Day 664: Return To Sanda

26.10.10: It was early afternoon before the ship pulled into Sandakan.  I’m now going to be backtracking over the exact route I took last week, so if you like you can just read those blogs again but backwards. At the taxi rank outside the port a woman overheard me asking the cab drivers how much it would be to the bus station and, since she was going the same way, suggested that we share a taxi.  This unfortunately required a short fight with the drivers.  Not only do the taxis in Malaysia not have meters (SO annoying) these guys were insisting that we took separate cabs.  Seriously – what is this?  Saudi? Eventually they relented.  It was about half three by the time I got to the bus station and I was left with two options: I could get on the 4.30pm bus back to Kota…

Continue Reading Day 664: Return To Sanda

Day 661: The People’s Republic of Spock

23.10.10: I had purchased a AC ticket for the ferry to The Philippines.  I didn’t really know what the difference would be, but after sleeping in cockroach central on the way from Jakarta to Pontianak, I had no intention of repeating the experience.  Happily, the Tim Marine ship from Sandakan to Zamboanga was nowhere near as bad and at least a million times more fun. As on the ferry from Pulau Batam to Jakarta, I shared a large-ish cabin (only this one had bunk beds) with about forty or fifty other people.  It was a nice communal atmosphere and everyone who spoke a bit of English was happy to sit and have a chat with me, amongst them was a guy called Zakaria who was the Secretary General of the Foreign Relation Office of the Sultanate of Sulu. Where’s that eh?  Next to the Kingdom of…

Continue Reading Day 661: The People’s Republic of Spock

Day 660: A Tale Of Two Rangas

22.10.10: Another late night followed by another early morning: I ejected myself from by bunk at 7am and was already at the seaport for 8am, not that it made any difference, the very same woman who told me to come back this morning told me that they don’t sell tickets for the ferry to The Philippines: I had to go an agency halfway back to town.  Which I grumpily did, and eventually I got my ticket.  Damnit: I could have had a lie in; the boat wouldn’t be leaving until 7pm.  Bah! Well there was nothing for it but to return to the backpackers, eat some breakie and head out to the nearby Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre.  I arrived about 11.30am only to discover that the park shut down between 12 and 2, but a ticket was good all day, so I bought one and headed…

Continue Reading Day 660: A Tale Of Two Rangas

Day 659: Gods And Monsters

21.10.10: Up at 8am and onto the bus to Sandakan – the port town where the boat leaves for  country 182: The Philippines.  Happily, the bus left on time, but unhappily the onboard film was the most turgid, rotten waste of photons I’ve seen since Dreaming of Joseph Lees.  It was like the worst bits of Star Wars Episode I (i.e. all of it) mixed with the soggy turd that was The Matrix Revolutions sprinkled from the leftover crud from the backstreet abortion that was The Golden Compass. The only funny thing about the film is that it was about -finarr finarr- BENDERS.  Christ WHY DID NOBODY TELL THEM??  I was seriously perplexed.  Was there not a single person from the UK on the crew who could tap M. Night Shallaballadingdong on the shoulder and say “M, we need to talk…”.  Did nobody suggest that since…

Continue Reading Day 659: Gods And Monsters

Day 658: The Battle of Brunei I

20.10.10: Although when seven o’clock wheeled around with alarming speed I thought sod it and hit the snooze button.  Today I needed to fight my way through Brunei to the other half of Malaysian Borneo and a place known as Kota Kinabalu or KK.  I already knew what a frustrating and expensive experience this would be, but the 8am bus to the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), would be just as good as the 9am bus and damn I was tired. By 8.20am I was at the bus station, bright and eager to get the next bus to BSB. Which wasn’t until 4pm. What? 4pm. WHAT? Two buses a day.  One at 8am and one at 4pm. For. Heaven’s. Sake. Taxi it is then.  Miri is just a few km from the border, but the taxi driver managed to rip me off to the tune of…

Continue Reading Day 658: The Battle of Brunei I

Day 656: When I Left School

18.10.10: Borneo.  The second biggest island in the world, home of the mighty orang-utan and some of the last virgin rainforest left on Earth.  It’s divided between three countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, and I was here for two reasons – Brunei (country 181) and The Philippines (country 182).  There’s a ferry service that leaves Sandakan in the (Malaysian) north-east of the island for the troubled Filipino island of Mindanao, Hobson’s choice I’m afraid – there’s no other sensible way of getting there without flying. When I left school, because I had only been taught completely useless things in geography like about the formation of ox-bow lakes, I thought Borneo was in South America, because I had heard word of there being a rainforest and the only rainforest I knew was in South America.  I also thought Brunei was in the Middle East, because I…

Continue Reading Day 656: When I Left School

Day 651: Lion City

13.10.10: Singapore! World’s End!  You can get here all the way across the mega-continent of Eurasia from John O’Groats to Raffles via the Channel Tunnel, the Urals and the causeway without ever stepping foot on a plane or a boat.  But this is the end of the line I’m afraid.  From now on it’s going to be ship-this ship-that and ship’s-your-uncle.  Ticking a magnificent 179 countries off my list: a daunting and unsettling task lay ahead: the final 21 countries are all islands, parts of islands or full-on archipelagos and (as if I haven’t been at pains to point this out already) I’M NOT ALLOWED TO FLY. Nature’s borders prove much more troublesome to me than man’s invisible lines. I am more than happy to pay lip-service to Singapore, with it’s miles and miles of docks and smug (and lucrative) placement right in the middle of…

Continue Reading Day 651: Lion City