Looking for tickets or info for the Get Happy Tour 2018 featuring Bowling for Soup, Army of Freshmen and The Aquabats?

This domain name was used for the Get Happy Tour back in its original run around 10 years ago, when I used to do work for BFS and AOF. However, for the past 5 years it has been used for my travel blog as I never thought we would have another Get Happy Tour and I didn't want it to go to waste.

But as a favour to two bands who have done a lot for me over the years, and so you don't miss out, ticket info is:
O2 Presale: 10am on 25 September
General Onsale: 10am on 27 September.

Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk and bowlingforsoup.com
 


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Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

My Myanmar Travel Blog is online!

May 14th, 2014 No comments

I’m happy to announce that my blog from my recent trip to Myanmar (aka Burma) with short stops either side in Thailand and Hong Kong is finally online after some delays.

As explained on this site I write up my blog in note format and then take time to write it up in detail, and to sort through my photos properly, rather than typing it up on the move or rushing through it as soon as I get home. This is the method I’ve found works best for me.

I really enjoyed this trip. Myanmar is a country I have wanted to visit for some time and while I didn’t get to visit the mainland, other than 20 minutes at the end of the trip while our passports were being processed, I found the trip to be very worthwhile and enjoyable. The Myeik Archipelago is a beautiful location and I feel privileged and honoured to have visited it while it is still deserted and has not been ruined by being opened up to tourism too much.

There were a few highlights for me. The first highlight was the beautiful scenery which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen while travelling before as I usually go places where there’s lots to see, do and experience rather than wildernesses where I want to relax. The second highlight was visiting the Moken Sea Gypsy village and interacting with the people – we didn’t spend much time there but I really enjoyed it.

I’m having a few issues on this site and have noticed that visitors are unable to browse to older posts from the main page, however if you click “2014 Myanmar Sailing” in the main menu you should be able to browse through the posts from this trip in date order without any problems. Enjoy.

Sunrise

Sunrise from the boat

Moken village

Arriving at the Moken Village

For the benefit of search engines and ranking here’s a list of the things we saw and did:
Myanmar, Burma, Myeik Archipelago, Mergui, Sailing, Boat, Intrepid, Gecko’s, Trek, Thailand, Phuket, Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Moken, Sea Gypsies, Andaman Sea, MacLeod Island, Lampi Island, Bo Cho Island, Myauk Ni Island, Kawthoung, Ranong, Fishing, Snorkeling, Temple, Kayaking, Swimming, Asia.

Just so that I finish my blog with something better than a list, here’s an adorable photo of some kids from the Moken Sea Gypsie village…

Moken Kids

Moken Kids posing for photos

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Thoughts from Myanmar

March 16th, 2014 No comments

Now that I’ve been back in the UK for a few days, and have started re-adjusting to UK time, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my trip to Myanmar.

I had wanted to visit Myanmar, also known as Burma, for a while. There are a few things that drew me to the country. The first is that it’s not on the general tourist map for people in the UK, secondly I like to visit somewhere that has good experiences and unique things to see and thirdly I like to visit places that have a story, event or culture that I want to learn more about. Myanmar definitely fits those three.

The trip I originally booked is different to the one I finally went on due to changes made by the tour company. Originally I was due to spend a few days in Yangon looking at the sights and learning more about Burmese culture but I was moved onto the version of the trip starting in Phuket instead which missed out the mainland of Myanmar. This had the benefit of fewer early mornings and being cheaper but resulted in me missing out learning about the culture and also resulted in me visiting the tourist hell of Phuket. I didn’t let this change spoil the trip, however, and I had a fantastic time.

Karon Beach

Karon Beach – tourist hell for me

The scenery in the Myeik Archipelago is absolutely beautiful and this was one of the things that made me pick the trip. While walking around on the islands, snorkelling in the sea and just sitting back watching the world go by we saw some of the best scenery I have seen while travelling. I’m not much of a beach person in most places that people travel as they tend to be overcrowded, full of sunbeds and be generally ruined. This was the case in Phuket, the reason I only spent one afternoon on the beach there, but the beaches we visited in Myanmar were almost a world away.

The waters were a bit murky in Myanmar which was a shame but this didn’t affect the snorkeling. If you’re looking for beautiful crystal clear waters then this might not be the best place to go but if you’re looking for a remote, unique and beautiful trip then I’d highly recommend a visit.

Me on Island 115

Me on the beach of Island 115 – a beautiful beach that I loved

Sunset

Sunset over Swinton Island – the most memorable of the trip

 

One of the good things about doing the trip this year is that it has only just started opening up to the outside world. For years it was impossible for foreigners to visit the region, then for a while it was possible to visit on short trips with liveaboard boats, and then finally this year it was possible for foreign operators to visit the region. This hasn’t spoilt the region, however, as it must be organised on a local license instead of a foreign one, so there are hardly any boats around except for fishing boats. Except for the night at MacLeod Island we didn’t share our anchorage with any non-local boats and that was brilliant.

All of this could be changing, however, as during the trip we were told that the Myanmar Government have started allowing foreign operators to bid for permits directly rather than going through a local operator. If this is managed correctly it should still preserve the pristine environment of the area but there is a risk that up to 100 boats could be operating in the area rather than the 4 that currently do.

It would be a shame if the area opened up fully as there is a chance that it could ruin the reason that people want to visit. There are hardly any pristine areas left in the world and so the area would need to be managed fully. This would mean that prices would go up but it would be a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. This is what the Government in Rwanda have done with the National Park containing the Mountain Gorillas. In Rwanda it is only possible for a maximum of 32 people to visit a day, which has resulted in the price of a Gorilla permit almost doubling since I was there, but it has helped to preserve not only the habitat but the Gorillas themselves.

There were a couple of things I was worried about before embarking on this trip. Firstly I was worried about the seas being too rough. I’m an experienced traveller, and used to sail around Dover Harbour when I was younger, but I’ve never really sailed on the open seas. This is one of the things putting me off other sailing related trips that I’ve looked at, such as The Galapagos Islands, the British Territories in the Atlantic and Antarctica. The seas did get a bit choppy on a couple of days but were never anything I couldn’t manage.

The other thing I was worried about was the cramped conditions on board the boat. We were told in advance that the cabin space would be limited to maximise public space and this was definitely the case. The cabin I was assigned to share with one other person had a double bed with hardly any space to move, a couple of shelves to put bags, a wash basin and nothing else as you can see in the photo below. Some people may be worried about not being able to get any personal space but I never found this to be an issue. During the sailing portion of the trip it was possible to sit in the social area and chat but it was also possible to sit on bean bags on the deck and relax, lay in the hammock, sit on the seats at the bow of the ship or sit on the sides of the boat with your legs over the edge if you needed a bit of personal space. The deck space was quite large and never felt cramped even though there was nowhere to go while sailing. Obviously this depends on which boat is in use, and I can’t guarantee that the same boat will be in use next year, but Intrepid won’t use an unsuitable boat for the trip.

The cabin assigned to myself and Ashu

The cabin I was assigned to share

On board the boat

Looking towards the bow of the boat. Win can be seen working hard as usual!

On board the boat

On board the boat

On board

Another view of on board the ship

Our boar

This is a view of our boat from the water

(Photo credit : Ashu Khanna for the on board photos)

One thing I’m amazed at is this is the first trip I’ve been on since I started travelling to weird and wonderful places on my own where there hasn’t been somebody moaning the entire trip about the smallest of things trying to make everybody’s life a misery for the sake of it. I guess as sailing isn’t for everybody and as this is a brand new trip, which we were told in advance to expect issues with, we were all like-minded and so got on well.

I like to visit a variety of places rather than going back to the same place all the time but I do want to visit Myanmar again soon to be able to visit the mainland and to experience more of the culture and history of the country than I did by just sailing. Myanmar has such a vibrant culture, detailed history and beautiful scenery so it’s a country I would definitely recommend to anybody who likes to get off the beaten path and experience a country which still has things to discover. This is, of course, as long as you’re somebody who likes to visit a country on its own terms rather than having things your way. Myanmar is a country which still has things to discover but according to reports it’s already changing rapidly and I don’t want my recommendations to speed this up.

Ma Kyone Galet

Walking through the Moken “Sea Gypsy” village

As far as the trip is concerned I would highly recommend it to anybody as long as you’re able to travel with no advance expectations. This is a new area which is only just opening up so things will go wrong, and you will be in close quarters with other people for a week, but it’s a highly rewarding trip if you’re able to do it.

After the issues I had with the travel company I’d recommend going direct with Intrepid as opposed to booking through Gecko’s, as they were completely incompetent, but if you’ve got this far in my blog I suspect you already have an idea that you want to go on the trip so I’d say go for it. Alternatively feel free to contact me using the contact form on this site – I’m always happy to hear from people if they want to comment on my blog or ask questions / advice.

Here’s a map of the route of the sailing portion of the trip.

Map of Myanmar Sailing Trip

The route that the sailing portion of my trip took

Myanmar Sailing Map

The red circle is the area that we sailed in. The two red X’s indicate Phuket and Hong Kong.

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Charlie : Hong Kong

March 12th, 2014 No comments

Charlie has just returned to The UK after our trip to south east Asia, for a sailing trip around southern Myanmar with a few days in Thailand either side and an overnight layover in Hong Kong.

Charlie

Transiting through Hong Kong airport on the outward journey

Hong Kong was an experience to visit, especially in contrast to how quiet and relaxing the south of Myanmar was. Unfortunately it was very foggy when we were there so we didn’t get a chance to visit the peak to see the whole city but we did have a look around the city, visit the botanical gardens and take a ferry to Kowloon to visit the mainland.

Charlie

Charlie in Hong Kong

Charlie

Charlie in Hong Kong

Charlie

Charlie on the long escalators in Hong Kong

As I wasn’t there for long, and as we didn’t see much due to fog, I am going to make an effort to return next time I need to make a transit through that region of the world.

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Hong Kong and home again

March 12th, 2014 No comments

I’ve arrived back home after a great trip. Myanmar is a country I have wanted to visit for a long time and even though I didn’t see much of the country itself as it was a sailing trip I had such a great time. I also ticked off three new places on my list – Myanmar, Thailand and Hong Kong which was great. I even found a way to get around Hong Kong not stamping passports anymore and have just glued by arrival paper into my passport as a permanent proof that I have been to the city.

Unfortunately my time in the city wasn’t as productive as I would have liked. When I woke up this morning I saw that the fog was just as thick so most of the things I had planned to do – the Victoria Peak, sailing across the harbour, enjoying the skyline etc, would all have to be abandoned. Instead I decided to just wander round and enjoy the atmosphere of the city before grabbing food at the airport.

Fog

This is the view I was greeted with this morning

This is all I could see of the city from my room due to fog

This is all I could see of the city from my room due to fog

After checking out I wandered towards Central Station via the back roads to take in the atmosphere. Even though it has been more than a decade since Hong Kong was ruled by the UK the British influence is still felt here – from the language use to the side of the road you drive on all the way to the use of double decker buses which until now I thought were a purely British thing. It’s a weird mixture of Chinese and British cultures that’s fast paced and I really liked it. The city felt like somewhere that I could wander forever and still not see anything but as I had a flight to catch that evening I had to walk with a purpose.

I spent some time sitting in Statue Square, outside the Hong Kong Parliament, watching the world go by and assessing my options as I wanted to make the most of my time in the city but most of the things I had planned to do relied on good visibility. I decided that there was one thing I couldn’t miss and that was the Star Ferry to Kowloon. I knew that I would be unable to see the skyline but my friend who has visited Hong Kong told me it’s something I had to do and so off I went.

Hong Kong

Walking around Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Walking around Hong Kong some more

Statue Square

Statue Square

Hong Kong

This was the best view I got of the skyline all day

The ferry ride was really cheap and only takes a few minutes. The boats are in good condition but have that old maritime feel to them which I liked. As we sailed across the harbour the Hong Kong skyline quickly faded into the fog and was replaced by nothing more than a grey blur by the time we arrived in Kowloon. I decided to spend some time walking around, taking in the sights, and enjoying the atmosphere for a little while before heading back to Hong Kong Island. Among the things I saw were the Museum of Art, the Space Museum, the Cultural Centre and Nathan Road which is the Hong Kong equivalent of Regent Street or Fifth Avenue – nothing but a long road flanked by high rise buildings containing brand name shops. If I had more time I might have popped into the Space Museum as that’s a topic I’m interested in but it was also school outing day so I would have shared the museum with several hundred screaming children.

Before heading back I had to have a photo taken, even though the skyline wasn’t visible, so spoke to a Canadian couple who were in the same predicament as me – they were in Hong Kong for an overnight stopover and were a bit lost on what to do because they wanted to do the same things as me. The photo came out a bit grey but I had to at least have one photo of me while in Hong Kong.

Kowloon

Walking around Kowloon

Kowloon

Walking around Kowloon some more

Me in Kowloon

This should have been a great photo if not for fog

After arriving back on Hong Kong Island I decided to check out another unique Hong Kong experience – the mid-level escalators. As Hong Kong is very mountainous most of the commuters live in apartments built high up on the hills. This leaves a predicament about how to get to and from work and the Hong Kong authorities decided that a kilometre long series of escalators would be the key. During the morning rush hour the escalators go downhill to bring people to work but for the rest of the day they travel uphill. I decided to ride them all the way from the bottom to the top to take in some more sights and to see a more residential side of Hong Kong.

As I rode up the escalators the buildings changed from glitzy Dior shops to smaller shops and bars, then to office buildings and finally to run-down apartment buildings where the locals live. There isn’t much to see up there so I wandered around for a bit taking photos before heading through the botanical gardens and back towards the city.

Trams

Trams are regularly seen in Hong Kong

Escalators

Riding the mid-level escalators

Hong Kong

A more residential area of Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Walking back to catch the Airport Express

By this time I had run out of things I could do when time pressured in Hong Kong on a day with low visibility so decided to head back to the airport for some food. I made my way back to Hong Kong station and not long afterwards I was being whisked at high speed towards the airport on the Airport Express train. Why we can’t have something as efficient as that in London I don’t know.

Airport Express

Travelling back on tha Airport Express

I bought a few souvenirs and had dinner at Pizza Express before walking around the terminal to stretch my legs and get the blood flowing before my flight. I doubted that I would be lucky enough to have a row to myself on the way back again and I was right – I was next to an elderly Chinese couple who couldn’t work their interactive TV and kept interrupting me while I was watching my movie to ask for help. I didn’t mind just it happened far too often but I wasn’t planning on sleeping anyway and wanted to watch movies all night to get my body back into the correct time zone again.

The flight was uneventful and quick and we arrived back in London on schedule early this evening. I’m now back in my room and thoroughly exhausted but I couldn’t be happier that this trip went well considering the problems I had before departure. In my usual fashion this blog is written in note form so will take some time before it’s typed up online but when it’s finally online I hope you find it informative and that it helps you make a decision about whether a trip like this is right for you.

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From Thailand to Hong Kong

March 11th, 2014 No comments

I’ve arrived in Hong Kong and even though I’ve been here less than an hour I’m already impressed with the city. Everything just seems to work so fast and efficient compared to other places I’ve been in Asia and it’s a whole world away from Thailand where I started the day.

As my flight from Phuket to Hong Kong wasn’t until this evening I decided to have another day of exploring so after breakfast on the roof terrace I was straight out into the city to do some more exploring. I decided I was going to start the day at Monkey Hill which is just north of my hotel and is a hill overlooking the city which is home to hordes of monkeys. I thought this could be an interesting experience but the main reason I wanted to go here was to see the view due to the disappointment on Rang Hill yesterday. Unfortunately there was more disappointment as I just couldn’t find the entrance to the road leading up to the hill no matter how hard I tried looking online and at maps. Maybe the view from the hotel is the best one I will get of Phuket Town.

I decided not to let this spoil the day and decided to divert back towards the city centre to check out some more sights. My first port of call was the Chinpracha House which is the last remaining colonial mansion in Phuket that is open to the public. I passed it yesterday while walking towards Rang Hill and the guide book said it was worth a visit if you’re in the area. I would agree with that description as it was worth seeing but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit again. It was nice to see a mansion set up how it was back in the colonial era but other than few rooms with a pond and a lot of china there wasn’t much to see, although it was cheap to visit so I can’t really complain.

Chinpracha House

Chinpracha House

Chinpracha House

Chinpracha House

Chinpracha House

Chinpracha House

Lunch Time

This is where I had lunch both days

As the Chinpracha House was just down the road from the great little cafe I had lunch at yesterday I decided to head there again for another great meal. I had the same as last time, stewed pork on a bed of leaves with various sides such as hot sauce and soup, but I really liked it so didn’t see the need to change.

There wasn’t much time left by this point so I decided to head back the hotel, via the memorial gardens to the Queen of Thailand and a few temples, to catch up on my reading before heading to the airport in my prebooked taxi. When I arrived I was told that even though I was an hour early there was a taxi available and so I decided to head to the airport straight away to allow for holdups, after changing into my travelling clothes. I could have delayed until my prebooked time and visited one of the other museums in the area or grabbed a coffee but decided there wasn’t much point and I would. rather just get there.

A park

The park dedicated to the Queen of Thailand

The park again

The park again

Phuket Town

Outside my hotel in Phuket Town

The journey to the airport was quick and I arrived an hour before check-in opened so relaxed outside reading a book and watching the world go by before checking in. The check-in process was fairly slow but the people themselves couldn’t be more helpful. As I’m only spending tonight in Hong Kong I asked if there would be a way to check my bags all the way through to maximise the time I had to look around and they were able to do this for me which was great. This way there was no waiting for luggage when I arrived in Hong Kong and no worrying about checking in on the way back as I’m checked all the way through.

The flight was on time and uneventful and I arrived in Hong Kong at 11pm which meant there was hardly anybody around. This was good with me as I wanted to get an early night and then rise early tomorrow in time to explore. The arrivals process in Hong Kong was very quick, due to the fact that they now issue slips of paper rather than stamps in the passport, and I was soon through to the Airport Express train which whisked me into the city in 20 minutes. From here I grabbed a taxi at a rank which was run with military precision and was soon at my hotel for the night, the Island Pacific Hotel. In total I landed less than an hour ago so I can’t believe I’m at the hotel already.

I decided to stay at this hotel as it is right on the waterfront and offers rooms on a high floor with a great view of the harbour. I thought this was perfect so upgraded to one of the expensive harbour view rooms on a high floor. However when I arrived I saw that the city was shrouded in thick fog so I couldn’t see a thing except the buildings next to the hotel and the ground below. Hopefully it’ll clear up by tomorrow so that I can make the most of my time in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Hotel

My room in Hong Kong

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Thailand bound

February 28th, 2014 No comments

I’ve arrived in Thailand and am loving the temperature and prices here already. Back in the UK at the moment it’s freezing cold, windy, foggy and expensive but it’s in the mid 30’s here and everything is so cheap. It has been a long journey to get this far, however.

On Wednesday I had my last day at work before my trip. I was originally planning to use that evening to get everything sorted, finish packing, rest etc. However due to the problems with my flights I had an early morning flight out of Heathrow yesterday and needed to get a hotel near the airport to avoid having to get up very early and risk public transport issues.

The hotel I picked was the Ibis Budget in Hounslow and it turned out to be a really good hotel for the price. The room itself was weird and looked like something out of a 1970’s Sci-Fi series but was clean and functional. The staff were also really friendly – due to the rush I had left the copies of my passport that I might need during my trip at home so needed to get some new copies. I thought the best thing to do was ask at the hotel and then try at the airport if the hotel said no. However the hotel staff were more than accommodating and after getting the copies done I was able to catch a good nights sleep without worrying about not having copies.

Ibis Budget Hounslow

My hotel room at the Ibis Budget in Hounslow

So then yesterday I had a long travel day to get to Thailand. I got up early as check-in for Cathay Pacific opened at 8am and I wanted to make sure I was there at the start to get a good seat and to give myself time to have breakfast. The issue was that due to having a different class of ticket issued through a travel agent I wasn’t able to check in or select a seat online but due to having long legs I need to have an aisle seat so that I’m not squashed in. They had electronic check-in desks but for some reason these wouldn’t work so I had to wait until check-in opened. As expected I was first in the queue when check-in opened although the lady at the desk told me I had successfully checked in using the machines just hadn’t been issued a boarding pass. But either way it didn’t matter as I got the seats I wanted and checked in successfully.

While waiting for the flight I did the usual get breakfast, stock up on water and snacks, buy magazines etc and then headed to the gate once it was announced to wait for boarding. The flight was a bit late leaving but they let us jump the queue to make up our slot for take off.

The food on the plane was surprisingly nice although I kept having problems with the entertainment system in the back of the seat in front of me. First the screen kept going blank when each feature started so they reset it. Then it kept crashing and restarting when I tried to watch movies so they reset it again. Then the screen just froze so they reset it a third time. It was getting late by this point so I decided to give it one more go and, as expected, it crashed again and I just gave up and decided to catch some sleep.

It seems staff on Cathay Pacific are attentive, however, as at some point a little while after closing my eyes one of the flight attendants woke me up to ask if I needed any help as she noticed there was a problem with my screen. I explained that I had been having problems and she asked if I would like to move to some seats that were spare further forward. I agreed and she showed me to a row they had kept empty in case of emergency so not only did I have a working entertainment system I had a row to myself which was excellent. I watched a few movies but wasn’t able to sleep so once the lights went back up I had a lot of coffee with breakfast.

Sunrise over China

Sunrise over China

Hong Kong Airport

Transiting Hong Kong Airport

Transit at Hong Kong airport took a while as a couple of flights had arrived at similar times to us but the flight arrived early so I had plenty of time. Once through into the departure lounge I had a look around, changed some money ready for my overnight stopover on the way back, and was amazed how big the terminal is – the place reminded me of the new terminal at Dubai which I transited through a few years ago.

My flight down to Phuket was with Dragon Air, a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific, and was only a few hours in duration so I wasn’t worrying so much about getting a row to myself like on the first leg of the trip. However I had a surprise as I was sat in front of the over-wing exit row which was occupied by a disabled couple who, for obvious reasons, were not able to sit there so were asked to move. I took the opportunity and asked the flight attendant if she would like me to sit there and she said that would be helpful. So not only did I have a row to myself it was the exit row with extra leg room.

The flight arrived on time but most of the journey was misty or over sea so we didn’t really see much. I was just happy when we touched down in Phuket Airport. The entire process through the airport including collecting bags, passport control and customs took less time than transit at Hong Kong so I was soon through into the arrivals area. I changed some money and purchased a pre-paid taxi voucher and I was then taken through to the taxi rank for my journey to Karon. Just a side note that there are several ways to organise a transfer in Phuket – you can book one online or through your travel agent but these are usually more expensive. I would recommend just getting a taxi when you get there. You can either purchase a voucher like I did for between 500-1500 Baht depending on the destination or can just go through and use a metered taxi. I used the voucher as it was less hassle although it did cost 20% higher than it would have with the meter.

After arriving at my hotel, the Karon Living Room, I relaxed in my room for a while before exploring the town. Most of Phuket is my idea of hell and is tourist central with rows of sun loungers on the beach and Karon is no different. It’s nowhere near as bad as Patong, which we drove through on the way to Karon, but the only reason I’m here is because this is where my trip starts tomorrow. The scenery is nice and the food is cheap but I didn’t get a chance to look around much as I’m really tired so I’ll be going to bed shortly to catch up on sleep.

Karon Living Room

My room at the Karon Living Room

Walking arond Karon

Walking around Karon

Karon Beack

Karon Beach

Walking around Karon

Walking around Karon

The view from my room

The view from my room in Phuket

The trip starts tomorrow officially although it’s just another night at the Karon Living Room before we head north to the Myanmar border the following day. Either way I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the group tomorrow. I’ve been told that I can stay in the same room and not have to move which is helpful.

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This is adventure travel

January 14th, 2014 1 comment

The title of this post is s bit of a play on the phrase “This is Africa” but I’ve done a lot of travel in Africa, and there has been plenty to fix with this trip already, so I feel that it’s appropriate.

When you take part in adventure travel, be that as a solo traveller or on a group trip of what I like to call “organised adventure travel” inevitably something will go wrong. Indeed I have had plenty of examples of that. To name but a few of the memorable ones.

  • In Namibia in 2002 we had to leave our school project a week early due to how uncomfortable we were being made to feel by the officials at the school.
  • Again in Namibia we had to cut our evening plans short one night due to the police getting into a shootout with some people fighting outside the bar we were in.
  • In East Africa in 2009 we missed the final admission to a National Park after a border crossing took longer than expected.
  • Again in East Africa in 2009 our truck broke down half way up a hill meaning we didn’t get to our campsite until after dark and couldn’t take part in our planned canoeing on a lake.
  • In Central America one of our buses took too long to get to its destination and we had to have one of the fastest and scariest taxi rides I’ve ever been on, after a quick bag swap between vehicles, to get to the ferry we had tickets for.
  • While touring the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone we ran out of time to meet the resettled residents as we spent so long exploring inside the abandoned buildings which, according to policy within the zone, we weren’t due to go inside anyway.
Fixing Oscar

Our truck being fixed in East Africa – taken from my East Africa blog

Whether you will enjoy adventure travel or not depends on how you take to little mishaps like this. On every trip there tends to be one person who stands out for moaning about everything as they weren’t expecting it, and on some trips there may be more than one. For example.

  • In East Africa in 2009 we had one person who moaned bitterly about the previously mentioned delays even though there was nothing anybody could have done about them. We also had one person who moaned that we didn’t have hot dogs all trip despite the fact we were in Africa and had a beautiful, and large, selection of freshly cooked tasty food each day.
  • In Central America there was one person who every time the smallest thing went wrong felt the need to complain. Apparently the bus ride taking too long was the tour leader’s fault, as was a previous bus getting stuck in traffic in Guatemala City. This person even moaned that our leader was a few minutes late arriving back to the hotel on our last transfer morning despite the fact the leader was grabbing food for the first time in days after feeling ill – during which time all duties were performed to a much higher standard than I could ever hope to achieve. This person even made a point on the last few days of telling everybody she was going to complain which did nothing other than persuade some of us to send compliment to Intrepid about the tour leader in addition to completing the survey form.
  • In Chernobyl there was one member of the group who moaned for 24 hours continuously about missing the resettlers to the point that we all had an argument while out for a group meal as we couldn’t take any more.

However if you are willing to accept that things happen on adventure travel you can have the most amazing time. In Namibia sure the sound of a bunch of gunshots outside were scary but we had just spent a few great hours in a local bar in a town that hardly any westerners had visited in decades so it allowed us to get under the skin of the country in a way we wouldn’t have if we had stayed in our sterile camp within a walled school. In East Africa our food was the best I’ve ever had while travelling, and the delays crossing the border meant that we stopped in a town that wasn’t on our itinerary and ended up playing pool, playing darts and drinking with the locals at a local bar. Some of us also had a chance to hang out with some Park Rangers at the entrance to a National Park for a few hours while the others insisted on going on our pre-planned nature drive even though it meant delays in getting to our next destination.

Then more recently in Central America we got a true taste of the region and if it wasn’t for using public transport we would have been disconnected from the surroundings and missed so much. Central America is a chaotic but vibrant and friendly place which you won’t see as much with private transport. In Chernobyl if we had left Pripyat early to ensure we saw the resettlers we would have had to cut out the last few buildings which we were allowed to explore – and these for me were the most amazing and memorable.

Science Lab

We were allowed to wander around the abandoned buildings in Pripyat, against policy, which allowed us to see and experience so many memorable things. This was far better than a staged meeting with resettled residents.

None of the things that have happened in the past while travelling have put me off the idea of going to weird and wonderful destinations – in fact they have probably persuaded me even more that this is the style of travel that I enjoy. While camping may not be the top of my list of things I want to do right now, and while after Central America I’ll make sure ear plugs are at the top of my packing list, what I want to do with my life is get out there and see the world. I want to get under the skin of the countries I visit and see what they have to offer and I want to discover and experience things that most people I know could even dream of. I also want to do this on the terms of the country I visit rather than acting like a stereotypican western tourist who wants everything the same as back home.

That’s why when I saw a photo of the Myeik Archipelago in Myanmar in an advert on Facebook advertising new trips for 2014 with Intrepid I knew it was something I had to do. Myanmar is a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time and the idea of experiencing a side of the country that nobody else gets to see really appealed to me even though I had never really considered a sailing holiday before. However being an adventure holiday, and a brand new one at that, inevitably things were to go wrong. On this occasion, however, things started going wrong and needing fixing a few months before the start of the trip instead of during it.

The Myanmar sailing trip, when I booked, had two options available. I could either start in Phuket in Thailand and be driven up to the Myanmar border or could start in Yangon and fly to the starting point. Phuket has never really appealed to me, and I wanted to see as much of Myanmar as I could, so I chose the version starting in Yangon. However a few weeks after booking I noticed that it had disappeared from both the Intrepid and Gecko’s website. After contacting them I discovered that this version had been temporarily suspended as a temporary travel warning had been put in force by the Australian government for the town that we would fly to in the south of Myanmar. Being an Australian operation they had to put a hold on the trip following this advice for legal reasons but they recommended I didn’t change my flights yet as there was the possibility that it would be reinstated.

A couple of tense months followed where there was still no news so Gecko’s advised me to change my flights and transferred me onto the trip starting in Phuket. A week or so of heated three-way negotiaton between Gecko’s, myself and STA Travel and I managed to change my flights and managed to persuade Gecko’s that they should pay for the £350 upgrade to my flights needed to make the changes as my original trip was a guaranteed departure but was no longer operating. While I’m upset at how long it took them to make that decision they didn’t have to agree with me so I’m thankful for that. I’m also upset with the service I got from STA when trying to change my flights but that’s the matter of a complaint that’s still pending with their customer relations department so I won’t go into detail about that here – even more so as the complaint was twice as long as this post.

However despite all of these setbacks there was no point getting too stressed about it as there was nothing that could have been done either way. It’s sad that I’ll no longer see Yangon and won’t get to travel on the Circle Train, visit the many beautiful golden temples or see Aung San Suu Kyi’s house, among other things, and it’s sad that my new flights only give me one evening stopover in Hong Kong instead of two full-day ones. However there are benefits to these changes including visiting Thailand as well, the trip being considerably cheaper and now being able to see the Hong Kong skyline at night. I’m sure there will be numerous other mishaps and corresponding benefits by the time I return home but this will still be an amazing trip which I’m really looking forward to.

I still need to receive my reissued flight tickets from STA and need to book some extra hotel nights in Thailand and Hong Kong but I’ll get to these. If I can get through the chaos that the original person at Gecko’s left me in before leaving the company and if I can weave my way through the web of illogical staff and unacceptable customer service to find the one helpful person at STA Travel then I can wait a few more days until I receive my new flight tickets and can book some hotels without any problems.

Route of new trip

This is the route of the new trip I’m doing to Thailand and Myanmar.

Even though this has been a long post I guess what I’m trying to get at is, for those of you that are reading my blog to try to decide whether adventure travel is the right thing for you or not, I would say that by the time you get this far in the post you’ll already know. You’ll already know whether you’re the sort of person that thinks it’s the end of the world when your bus stops for traffic lights or whether you can’t go 24 hours without hot dogs for example. You’ll also already know whether the things I have mentioned in this post would make you panic, feel scared and never want to leave the house again or whether you see them as getting under the skin of a country and all part of the fun of travel.

Adventure travel, be it solo or in organised groups like the ones I go on, can be incredibly rewarding if you are ready for it. You get to see so much more of the world than most people and have some of the most amazing experiences and memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life. I would say if it’s something you want to do, and don’t think you’ll be that one person on the trip that moans about every small detail with the aim of ruining everybody elses’s trip, then go for it. Otherwise you may as well just lay by the pool in an all-inclusive gated community in the Benidorm for a week and never experience anything that this amazing planet and it’s people have to offer.

Sunset over the Kazinga Channel

Without adventure travel you wouldn’t see amazing scenes like this…

Playing Football

…or have great memories like our own England vs Namibia football match in a town that only a handful of westerners have visited in the last few decades….

Team Breakaway

…or meet amazing people like this who you keep in contact with for years and still consider to be friends even though you live on opposite sides of the world and only rarely see them, if at all, after the trip ends.

It has been a tubulent few months since booking the sailing trip to Myanmar but I’m confident that I’ll see some amazing scenes, have life-long experiences and make new friends. In 2-3 months expect some great photos and a new blog of my experiences. I fly out on February 27th and return on March 12th.

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Myanmar Sailing 2014

October 19th, 2013 No comments

I tend to get very distracted by special offers when travelling in order to maximise everything I see. In 2010 North Korea shot to the top of my list when I spotted some special offers on flights and accomodation and the same happened in 2012 with Central America. Both were on my list but not at the top before the time I booked.

This year it seems is no different. I’ve been looking at Myanmar (aka Burma) as a holiday destination for some time as it’s a country that has a lot of history, that I’ve heard a lot about, and that just looks spectacular. However it has never been at the very top due to the cost of trips there and there still being places on my must see list that I added 10 years ago. However last week I spotted a special offer on a trip to the country and when I discovered a special offer on flights I decided the time was right.

So I’ve booked a trip to Myanmar for March 2014. The trip stars in Yangon (aka Rangoon) for a couple of nights before flying down to Kawthoung which is a small fishing town in the far south of the country on the border with Thailand. From here we board a catamaran for a week of sailing around the remote and largely uninhabited Myeik Archipelago before returning to Yangon where the tour finishes.

There was a cheaper option to start the trip in Phuket, Thailand, before travelling up to the Myanmar border but I didn’t want to spend a week in the country without seeing it so decided to take the option to start in Yangon. This also had the added benefit of flights via Hong Kong with stopovers in each direction that are long enough to allow me to escape into the city for 5-6 hours.

So there you have it – in 5 months or so expect some great photos of some beautiful scenery and a report of what looks like a fascinating country. If you want to see some photos from the archipelago click here to go a Google image search.

2014 Myanmar tour map

The route I’ll be taking on the trip. Map taken from a different tour company to the one I’m using but it’s the same trip.

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