Day 223: No Ray, I Can’t Believe It

Where to begin today’s post? The day was comprised of a failed snorkel trip, filling out insurance forms, a spot of swimming, some Mario kart, and an evening meal. As I lie here in bed I really can’t be bothered to write anymore than that, especially seeing as my Nintendo 3ds is staring at me begging to be played. But I have a mission to complete, there are only 5 days remaining of the “Erratic Ramblings”, and I will endeavour to complete them. Without further ado, day 223 in all its glory.

The alarm rang early this morning 8:00am, although we didn’t need it. For some unknown reason we woke up naturally by ourselves. The reason for such an early start on a lazy island like Lembongan was because we had a snorkel trip planned. We all had pancakes for breakfast, packed a few items into my dry bag, then waited at the beach for Captain Jack to come prepare his boat.

Because of the early hour the tide was in, crashing violently against the brick walls and rocks. It had completely submerged the beach, making it very difficult for us to get aboard the boat. Captain Jack did his best to bring the boat in as close as possible, and one by one we climbed aboard. It was no easy task, Sarah almost slipped over on the wet rocks, fortunately for her there was a staff member from our resort nearby to catch her. We then set off for a 4 hour adventure that would see us covering the perimeter of Lembongan, hitting up all the top snorkelling hotspots along the way.

Sadly we couldn’t do the first spot because of the aggressive waves flying towards the sharp rocks. Wether or not their appearance had anything to do with the full moon the previous evening, I don’t know. Sarah and myself were really gutted by this bad news because that area was where the manta rays were situated. Neither of us had snorkelled with the majestic creatures before so this would’ve been a real treat, but ol’ Mother Nature had other plans apparently. It was really choppy the whole way, the boat had stability bars either side to prevent a side to side rocking motion. The only bumps we felt came in the form of up and down. It was enough to make us feel a little sick, all but Simon, who was well adapted to the sea after so many years of sailing. As we crashed over the top of each wave we could see lots of surfers in the distance treating each one like a playground. After a 40 minute ride we reached smoother waters, and at the same time, our first stop of the day.

Mangrove Point: This place had the best coral we’d seen in our 7 and a half months. It was the size of a football pitch, and more colourful than a parrot fish. In short it was spectacular. As far as we could see there was nothing but tropical sea life. The hardest part about the stop was the constant current which kept pulling us back, but this was something that worked to our advantage. After swimming against it for so long, Captain Jack told us to let the current take us and he’d follow behind in his boat. This made everything a lot easier, we must’ve drifted for about 100 metres at least. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time by explaining what fish we saw, as most of them were the same as every other snorkel trip we’ve done. But there were a few exceptions. We saw really big angel fish, so big that we almost mistook them for something else. Usually the ones we see are around 10 cm, but these had to have been closer to 20. I then spotted something I hadn’t seen before, a brown and yellow speckled sea snake. It was slithering its way through the coral just like its cousins on land, I barely got Sarah’s attention in time before it disappeared. We didn’t stay for long at Mangrove point, as soon as Captain Jack caught up to us we climbed back aboard the boat. It was then we spotted another first… a pod of dolphins. They briefly poked their dorsal fins above the water as they swam along, there were about 4 of them swimming side by side. Our captain drove over to see if we could get a closer look, but by the time we got there they’d already gone. The brief glimpse that we did get completely made up for the fact we couldn’t see the mantas in my opinion. It was such a rare sight, that I felt honoured to have seen it at all. After that we moved on to our second stop.

The waves were too much for me after another 10 minutes sailing. The day trip was taking a turn for the worst, so to compensate for how sick I felt I hunched up and led down on my seat. I’m not someone who has sea legs, and I’ll openly put my hands up and admit to that, the slightest bump makes me queazy. It must have been a further 20 minutes before we arrived at our second stop, immediately I jumped out, but before I did, my snorkel broke. Captain Jack gave me a replacement set, but it was no good, the waves were still coming and it was even harder to stay in one place. There was also a second problem, because of the waves it meant the seabed was churned up, making everything underwater a little hazy and unclear. While I was floating around, the others decided it was time to call it quits. All the other stops would be just as bad, and Sarah was as sick as me by this point. I had been dragged so far away that I had to swim a good 30 feet to get back. I then led down for the 30 minute boat ride back to the starting point.

The tide was still in when we got back, and the Captain wasn’t sure what to do. We drifted between the steps (where we got on) and a gap between some rocks. The Captain yelled out to a friend to help him out. His friend then waded out into the water, and with the Captain’s help, they pulled the boat in as close they could, but to no avail. In the end they pushed the boat back out and went to fetch a smaller one man row boat. This was hilarious to watch as they dragged Sarah, Ann, and Simon to the shore. Sarah’s face looked pale with sea sickness, so she was first to go. Ann’s face was full of fear, her eyes were wide open as she clambered aboard the small white boat and was towed in. I didn’t need it, when I realised the water only came up to the men’s knees I hopped out along with them. The walk in was a peace of cake. They then went back to fetch Simon, which was a sight too funny to pass up on, I had to take a picture. The four of us then went back to our resort where we attempted to pay for the day trip.

Because we hadn’t been out for the full 4 hours we were unsure what was a fair price. We spoke with Jacob who told us he’d have a word with the Captain and get back to us. He then explained it would probably be better to go out in the afternoon when the tides out. After only being at sea for a maximum of an hour and a half, we were back beside the pool. We all got in – including Simon, and discovered the temperature of the water felt closer to that of a bath, when compared to the sea at least. All of us floated about for around half an hour while the cleaners tidied our rooms. When they were done I grabbed a few things from the room, then spent some more time relaxing on a lounger. After a while we all felt peckish and moved over to the restaurant area for dinner. It was here that all the paper work came out for our travel insurance.

Because both Sarah and I had been to the hospital at one point or another this trip, we had the responsibility of informing the insurance company. It was almost as if they didn’t want to pay out, judging by all the paperwork. Names, places, dates, cost, all these questions and more had to be filled out with excruciating attention to detail. One wrong word was all it would take for them to say “forget it”. I had the most to lose out of the two of us, with that injection in my fingertip costing me over £1000 pounds. That’s a whole lot of money, even for someone who’s not backpacking on a budget. That bloody dog, he doesn’t even care, he’s probably added 20 more victims to his tally since then. By the time we’d finished dinner, we’d also completed the forms. Sarah and I then returned to the room until early evening, while Ann and Simon remained at the pool.

We watched the last hour of a film we started the other day, then hours passed as we did our own things. Sarah read her kindle, while I enjoyed my birthday present some more. It was around 7pm before we were forced to stop. Simon shouted across from their hut next door, he said the pair of them were bored and wanted to go out. We told them to give us an extra 30 minutes because Sarah wasn’t hungry, but that time was cut short after only 15. We went to the same area as the previous night for tea, except we ate at a different restaurant. I don’t recall the name, but they sold the best vanilla milkshake I’d hade in a while. I also ate something other than what I like to call “safety food”. Instead of having a westernised dish, I ordered their special from the board. It was pork with mashed potato in teriyaki sauce, I enjoyed every bite. Afterwards, we stopped in the shop next door to grab some post meal snacks, then returned to Nanuk Bungalows. Instead of going straight to bed, what Sarah and her parents did was play a few card games underneath our hut. I was the unsocial one playing on the Nintendo in the corner. They played a few games before calling it quits. Goodnights were exchanged before we returned to our huts to go through the evening rituals. Sarah and I then struggled to stay awake as kindles were read and blogs were written. But would you look at that, I’ve somehow gained a second wind. I think I’ll play some more on my Nintendo, god I need help!!!
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Day 221: All About The Benjamin

It was finally here, my birthday! And with it came the arrival of my Nintendo 3DS XL, although, I didn’t play on it as much as expected. Today was the first time I’d ever celebrated the feat of gaining another year older, abroad. And it was the first time alcohol wasn’t involved. The perks of getting older and more mature eh! To celebrate the wonderful life of Ben Norris, we did nothing, just the way I liked it. Instead we spent the day beside the pool, visiting our very own private beach, then going out for a lovely evening meal. It really was a great day, and now you lucky people get to read all about it.

Unfortunately, even though today was my birthday, I didn’t get the luxury of a lie in. Nor did in get the immediate attention of my girlfriend. The second she woke up she asked for my phone instead of wishing me a happy birthday. I didn’t mind, as I’d actually forgotten what day it was myself. It took her 10 seconds to realise her mistake, then I got a big cuddle and a kiss. Today saw us leaving Ubud to move on to greener pastures. We were scheduled to catch the first fast boat of the day to Lembongan, a stunning island where we’d all relax and chill out for the duration of our stay. First things first we needed breakfast, so at 6:30am we got up and went about getting ready. Sarah and I packed our final things away, then went to knock for her parents. SHOCKER, we were ready before Ann and Simon, but not by much. We all then went for breakfast. After that we moved our bags to the reception area and waited on our driver. To pass the time we made small talk with the hotel manager.

The driver was running half an hour behind schedule. It was around 8:15am before he showed up, the boat left at 9:30, and the port was a good one hour drive away. Ann, more so than the rest, was paranoid we weren’t going to make it in time. Even more so when Simon asked the driver to stop so he could make a withdraw. The driver spoke extremely good English, and he was asking about what sort of cars we drove back home, he then explained how his son is studying to become an accountant, he was a very friendly and chatty man. I enjoyed listening to him talk because of the way he rolled his R’s. Every so often he’d say the name of a place like Sempur, but when he said it, it came out as “Sempurrrrrrrr”. At 9:20am we had arrived, but narrowly missing the boat was the least of our worries when we saw what waited for us up ahead.

The fast boat we’d be taking across the sea to Lembogan, floated atop the passing waves in an uncontrollable manner. Each wave was around 5 foot high, and forced the boat all over the place. Ann was really worried by this. There were porters whose job it was to carry everyone’s large holdalls aboard the boat, but they expected a tip upon their return. The way people got aboard resembled the two pence machines at an arcade. The ones where the shelve moves back and forth casually pushing any hangers on off the edge. As the tide went out, it was do or die for everyone. I found it slightly amusing as I saw Ann run on behind Sarah, I don’t know why, maybe it was the swaying boat that made everyone look uncoordinated that did it. I climbed aboard after them, but because the wave was going out as I climbed on, there was no issue. The hardest part was walking down the aisle to my seat. When Simon sat down beside me I looked out the window, that’s when I saw it. There was an upturned boat, which had clearly been there a while. Not the best sight to see given the circumstances. Just when we thought we were safe, it got worse. I didn’t learn of this until later on when Sarah told me, as the last few passengers climbed aboard, the anchor rope snapped. The anchor at the back of the boat, which was holding it to the beach, now served no purpose. The only one keeping us from washing up on the shore was the front anchor. As I looked around the boat I could see these worries and scared expressions on the passenger’s faces. At first I wondered what the big deal was, until I noticed the back end of the boat tipping over on itself. Fortunately the wave passed, and the boat levelled, but there was one particular passenger who feared for her child’s safety. She asked a man if he’d mind swapping with her, but you could tell he was also scared. He shouted back at her saying “yes, just give me a minute”. Wimps, the lot of them. There was nothing to worry about, even if the Lonely Planet had printed horror stories of the crossing on its pages. After a nauseous half an hour voyage, the boat parked safely alongside the shore of Lembongan.

When all the bags had been offloaded by the friendly Balinesian staff, we were escorted to a small truck for a free lift to our accommodation. We shared the truck with a cool looking surfer dude, who had with him a really lightweight board. For all I knew he was a world famous surfer, he certainly had the build for it. God I wish I could surf… Sorry, I went a little off track there. Our new resort was just as pretty as the last (which you’ll see in the pics) but for different reasons. Inata had more of a modern meets traditional vibe, whereas Nanuk was comprised of wooden huts, giving off the more authentic island experience. Surprisingly each hut had a/c inside. Up until now, all the huts we’d stayed in were fan only. There was a small pool to cool down in, a restaurant which sold food throughout the day, and lovely grounds to explore. It was definitely worth the price we were paying. We were given a welcome drink each by the staff, and when Sarah told them it was my birthday, they said “we’ll party later” – we never did 😦

After our drinks, the guys told us our rooms were ready and walked us to them. It took a while for everyone to get sorted, but around midday I was finally given my presents. I was like a kid at Christmas. All those items I’d ordered on eBay had gone from digital images to real life tangible objects. For my birthday I received the Nintendo system from Sarah (much to her concern, she feared I’d give it more attention than her… she thought right). I got a few cards from my mum, nan, and Sarah’s parents. My mum also got me a new Starbucks card to replace the one Sarah and I had rinsed. After I’d unwrapped everything and read all my cards, I spent a while playing on my new toy as the others sat by the pool. Eventually I left the Nintendo to charge in the room, then joined Sarah and her parents. After a short time swimming around, we moved over to the restaurant for some dinner.

Before we ordered we spoke with Jacob, he was one of the staff members who spoke excellent English. Jacob told us of the many day trips to do on Lembogan, and reinforced my decision to snorkel with the others rather than do a dive. He told me it worked out cheaper to do it as a group, and because I was the only one with a diving license it meant I’d have to pay double the price for the privilege of going under. When we learned all there was to do we had dinner, followed by a walk. It was a hot day, but a nice kind of hot, either that or Sarah and I had well and truly acclimatised. Poor Ann and Simon hated it, the pair of them nearly melted into blobs on the floor every few feet. The first beach we located at the end of our resort was kind of dirty. This was because all the boats were docked there, the fuel and oils stained the water. Instead of going there, we located a hidden gem off the beaten track. It was stunning. The beach was guarded by two colossal mountains at either end, the sand was white, and the sea was crystal. The best thing was, because it was hidden, we had the whole thing to ourselves for the length of time we were there. After a while Ann found the heat too much, and had to sit it out in the shade. Sarah and I took a final stroll up and down the shore, then we all left together. On the way back I spotted the most adorable calf I’d ever seen, its eyes were so big and shiny that I just wanted to give it a cuddle, but I didn’t think mummy cow would have been too pleased with that, so I settled for a picture instead. Back at the resort, Sarah and I got back in the pool to spend some time floating about, before getting out to dry off in the sun. Every year on the 24th of May it’s always sunny, and today was no exception. Until around 4pm that was. Out of nowhere the skies filled with grey clouds, making Sarah and I come to the conclusion that staying on the sun loungers was probably a redundant idea. That’s when Sarah came up with a brilliant idea, to get some beers and return to the room.

Just as we were about to climb the steps of our hut, we saw Sarah’s parents in the chill out area below, so we did the same. The huts were divided between an upstairs and a downstairs. Upstairs housed the bedrooms, downstairs had two chill out beds to relax on during the day. This is when I began playing on my new toy. The 3d effects were great, if not a little disorientating. It came with warnings to take breaks every 15 minutes when using the 3d, but what do they know… Just kidding, eye care is a very serious matter. After an hour or so, Sarah and I returned to our outdoor bathroom, tucked away behind our hut, to shower. We had plans that evening, which had been arranged in advance during dinner. Sarah really wanted it to be perfect for me, so she went online to reserve us a table at a fancy restaurant which had 5 star reviews. When I was dried and dressed, I told sarah she’d have to hurry up if she wanted to see the sunset. In the end she told me to go on ahead and she’d catch up – she didn’t. Instead I went with Ann and Simon. There was nothing to see though, the sun was now masked behind the large dark clouds, and one ginormous thunderhead. That made for spectacular photos whenever I caught a lightning bolt tearing through its dark colour. After that we returned to the resort, where only 15 minutes later our reserved restaurant’s shuttle had arrived to pick us up.

The restaurant was amazing, everything was top notch, from the look of the place to the quality of the food. The only downside was the time we had to wait for it to arrive. Although there were storm clouds overhead, it still wasn’t raining, instead there was a nice cool breeze. Our drinks arrived in reasonably good time, but when you get through a milkshake and a jug of water before your food arrives, you get a little irritated. After a while the rain just couldn’t hold off any longer and began falling all around us. It wasn’t fast, or heavy enough to warrant moving tables like we did, but after seeing others beginning to evacuate the outdoor area, we did the same. It took over an hour for our meals to arrive, and all I ordered were the ribs. It was a good job the salad was an all you can eat sort of deal, otherwise we’d have started eating the decorative table arrangements. The food was lovely when it finally arrived, but because of how long it took, it made Sarah feel bad. She kept apologising on the restaurants behalf, but there was no need, I wasn’t bothered at all. I was just frustrated by how long they took to serve us. At just gone 9pm we were able to get the free shuttle back to our resort, where I then spent the next hour and a half skyping my mum and nan. Because it was so dark out, it was difficult for them to see me. Disturbingly, the only place they got a good view of the birthday boy was in our bathroom. The lighting was slightly better beside the toilet, so at least I got to sit while we spoke. Whilst I was there, I figured I’d introduce them to the greatest bathroom gadget of all time.. the bum hose. This device cracked them up to no end, mostly because of how powerful it was. If you weren’t careful you could do yourself some real damage, I’m pretty sure it was capable of cracking the porcelain, it was that powerful. I thanked my mum and nan for my birthday gifts, then said my goodbyes. I was so tired by the end, yet I still managed to write the days blog. Even on my birthday I didn’t give myself a day off. To conclude my evening, I went on Facebook to see if anyone had wished me a happy birthday – they had. Even as I checked it, the wishes kept coming. At last count I had over 35. I truly am loved, for all those who sent your kind words, I love and miss you all.
Happy Birthday to me.
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Day 219: What a Liberty

So today involved a lot of time in the car. Our private taxi driver showed up first thing this morning ahead of time, and stayed with us right through until 5:30pm. We decided that today we wanted to visit Tulamben so we could do done snorkelling. Because we were staying in Ubud it meant a 3 hour drive to reach our destination. Seeing as I’ve already explained countless times how green and pretty Bali is, I will save time by not repeating myself over and over again. Everywhere is green, and rich with rice, and water, and wildlife. There are only so many ways I can say that without coming across like someone with Alzheimer’s. it truly is a stunning place that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s almost as if you enter a world in HD. Now, enough about that, lets get started with the day.

It was the earliest start yet, the alarm rang at 7:15am. I had accidentally set it for the wrong time, as that was when we’d scheduled breakfast to be served. This meant we had little time to get ready and meet Sarah’s parents at the restaurant. I quickly packed a day bag, then we headed over for food.

Sarah didn’t like hers and ended up leaving the majority of it. I wasn’t all that hungry either, but shoved it all down to clear the plate. At just gone 8am, while I was returning to our room, I saw the driver pulling up. Quickly we darted around the room and grabbed the last of our things, before climbing into our taxi for the day ahead.

Our plan was to visit Tulamben, where we could snorkel the shipwreck Liberty. The ship once belonged to the US Navy, and was used to carry cargo. It was torpedoed in January 1942 by a Japanese submarine near Lombok. It was then towed and beached at Tulamben, where its cargo of rubber and railway parts were saved. This was prevented by an invasion by the Japanese, and the ship sat on the beach until the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung broke it in two, leaving it just off the shoreline. Nowadays it’s home to many sea creatures and encrusted in coral, much to many divers and snorkelers delights. The journey to reach Tulamben was very peaceful. There were hardly any tight windy roads like the day before, and instead we had long smooth straight roads for the 2 and a half hour journey. During which time the three of us put the world to rights by covering the various topics of religion, politics, supernatural phenomenon, and many others that nobody really knows the answers to. The reason it takes so long to get anywhere in Bali is because there are no motorways or other forms of fast road. Not that this matters, as you’re never really in a rush to get anywhere, and the views outside the windows are forever captivating. Around 11am, to midday, we had arrived.

We initially stopped outside a dive centre hoping to hire some snorkel gear, only to be directed down the street to a more popular area. One of the guys showed us the way on his scooter, shortly followed by another man when they switched out. The end result saw us parking up in a car park just beside a pebbled beach. Here we could hire the gear from a nearby shop, as well as buy food and drinks from the neighbouring shops. At first we wondered if our driver had brought us to the correct place, because there weren’t that many tourists around. After asking a couple people we found out it was, it just happened to be a quiet day. Immediately we walked over to the shop to get our gear, but were staggered at how much they were asking for. 100,000 rupiah each. Like usual Sarah bartered them down, saying it suggested a price more along the lines of 30,000 in the Lonely Planet. The guy came down to 60,000 after that, and although we weren’t happy about it, we paid. Ann then paid an additional 20,000 when she requested a life jacket. The price for that was also negotiated, as to begin with he wanted another 30,000.

We left a few things with our driver in the car, then Ann began trying to put in her contact lenses. This was something she’d not had much practise in, and it took a good 10 minutes before the first one was in properly. It involved a lot of blinking, eye watering, and frustrated attempts before it stuck to Ann’s eyeball, but we all cheered her when she accomplished the task. It’s not an eat feat, but like anything, it gets easier with practise. The hardest part is always remembering to remove them after a night out. With Ann’s contacts in, and our gear in tow, we went to the beach. It was here that I wished I hadn’t left my flip flops behind. The pebbles were all different sizes, and this made for an extremely painful experience as I walked across them. Sarah and I were the first to get our fins and snorkels on, and went on ahead. By the time we were 20 metres out, Ann and Simon were still figuring it out on the shore. Instantly we saw all the usual fish we were familiar with, angel, parrot, clown, trumpet, as well as many others. All of which were minding their business sucking on rocks, a sound that could be heard anytime you put your head under. As we swam out a little farther, that’s when we saw it, the two pieces of the shipwreck Liberty. Surprisingly the individual rivets on each panel of metal were still visible. Just as promised, all around it were different types of fish swimming in and out of the many clusters of coral. Deep down, near the bottom, were divers. As we snorkelled about on the surface, every once in a while their oxygen bubbles would float to the surface and tickle our stomachs. It was amazing to see a ship wreck up close, and have it be so near to the surface. Usually people would have to be advanced divers to get this experience, I was happy because it meant I now wouldn’t have to pay an additional £200 to upgrade my divers license. I could tick “explore a shipwreck” off my bucket list and be happy about it. Sarah and I couldn’t have been at the wreck for any more than 5 minutes before I told her to stop looking, and instead pay full attention to a far greater sight. Ann was now making her way into the water. In an uncoordinated manor she began walking backwards whilst wearing her fins, all the while Simon was walking forward holding her hand and guiding her. It was like watching someone who’d had one too many drinks. You knew she was going to fall, you just didn’t know when. Every few steps Ann had to regain her composure before advancing a couple more steps. Eventually Simon left her to it, and she stumbled down in. Sarah and I then made our way back towards her, where she became an even more uncoordinated mess.

Because of Ann’s life jacket, it made turning from her back to her belly damn near impossible. She then said the other reason she didn’t want to turn over was because she didn’t want to get her face wet. Like the timid little mouse Ann is, she feared the water would get under her mask and she wouldn’t be able to see. Sarah helped roll her over, and held her hand as they began swimming out. At first she kept her mum in the shallows to build up her confidence, then when she was ready, Sarah guided her over to the wreck. There was a constant current throughout our visit which made staying in one place very tricky. When I saw a group of divers at the bottom of the ship I swam down to say hello. It was so deep that I almost feared I wouldn’t make it back, I had to clear my air spaces 3 whole times before I reached the bottom. I grabbed a handful of sand while I was down there, then when I looked up, I had to have been a good 20 foot down at least. Quickly I began swimming back towards the surface, and I gave Sarah the ash like sand as a gift. She was also scared I wouldn’t make it back to the top. Sarah and I were the only ones to be constantly stung by the sea lice, every so often we kept feeling quick sharp stabbing pains whenever they touched our skin. After a while we’d had enough, and decided to go for dinner.

It was a trickier process to get out of the water than it was getting in. Eventually we all managed it, but because of the current, we ended up farther away than planned. I was the first one back, so I threw Sarah her flip flops, followed by Simon’s and Ann’s, then we returned to the car park to shower off. We would’ve liked to have visited Ahmad after lunch to snorkel some of the coral there, but our driver told us it was too far away to go both there and back to hand in our gear later on. Instead we told him not to worry about it, then found a restaurant on the main road. The food was great and hit the spot, the only qualm was the amount of flies around us. Every two seconds they were pitching on our skin. When everyone had eaten we returned to the waters.

This time however, we weren’t there for long. Probably around 40 minutes. Simon sat on the beach the whole time, while the rest of us went to see what we could see. By now the current was moving in a different direction, and we allowed it to take us on its current, observing the coral reefs as we went. Ann was fortunate enough to see both Nemo and Dori during our time there, and there were also giant starfish of various bright colours. I grew tired and bored after a while, because for me, nothing’s been the same since the Perhentian islands. We saw so much there that I’ve spoiled it for myself anywhere else. I left Sarah and Ann to swim around and returned to Simon, but ten minutes later they’d also had enough. I found it quite difficult to get out, but nowhere near as difficult as the others. Sarah had her toe pinched by a crab. She screamed so loud that it set of some nearby dogs. Whereas Ann could barely move two centimetres before she looked as though she was going to fall over. It took them about 5 minutes, but eventually they reached us. We then returned the gear, and showered and dried off, before getting in our drivers car. I think he was happy because we decried to leave earlier than planned, this meant he would get back in good time to do his chanting at the dance show later on that night.

It took longer to get back than it did to arrive because of the weather. An hour in, the skies turned black and the rain began to fall. It took about 3 hours, most of us were tired on the way, so conversation was scarce. Our driver asked us at one point if we wanted to stop at a silk factory to see how the locals made it. Inside, the factory looked how I’d imagine a sweat shop to look. It wasn’t, it was all above board and belonged to a local family who all worked there together. The silk products were created using wooden machines which weaved tiny strands of thread into beautiful one off items. These varied from cloths to scarves, which we got to see in the shop upstairs. After a 15 minute stop we got back in the car and returned to Inata resort.

When we pulled up at the entrance the staff ran to our aid with umbrellas in tow. Simon made the joke that they didn’t need to worry because we were from England, and such weather was a normality. We each selected what we wanted for breakfast the next day, then returned to our rooms. We needed a shower to help warm ourselves up, as the rain had left us feeling somewhat chilly. There was so much rain in fact, that it caused the road outside our resort to flood. The showers were cut short when Ann showed up at our door requesting help with the removal of her lenses. I tried my best to pinch them from her eyeball, but she squirmed to much for me to get a grip. I gave her instructions, then she returned to her room to try again. I spent the rest of my time watching films, while Sarah took the phone to her parents room to FaceTime her sister and niece. After an hour or so, everyone was ready to go out for the evening.

We caught the shuttle into town and got dropped off in a different area of Monkey Forest Road. Sadly, in the area we were dropped off, most of the shops were closed. I say sadly, what I actually mean is thankfully. Because of this, we spent what time we would have used visiting those shops in a supermarket instead. It was worse than I’d thought, after collecting the usual toiletries and snacks, Sarah and Ann spotted an upstairs section, and like moths to a flame they went towards it. The upstairs section sold such items as clothes, shoes, sunglasses, and my personal favourite… knock off toys. They looked identical to their authentic counterparts, but had much more exciting names like “super warrior”, and “robot terminator”. After finding nothing to spend our money on, we headed back downstairs to pay for our goods, followed by finding somewhere to eat. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but the food was served twice as fast as the previous evening. Although the food wasn’t the best, at least we got to listen to the truly unique sounds coming from a woman in a nearby temple. No, I’m not talking about hymns, chanting, or prayer, instead this woman was hocking up something from 5 years ago. At least that’s what it sounded like. Every 5 minutes, just as we were about to place a forkful of food in our mouths, we heard the attractive sound of “harrwwwkkkkkkkk”, followed by the even more attractive sound of it leaving her mouth. It was the perfect soundtrack to our meals. After we settled the bill, we got the staff to phone our resort requesting them to send the shuttle to pick us up. I barely had enough time to grab a bottle of water before it arrived.

The driver and Simon spent the whole journey back talking about football, and as we neared the resort the roads had worsened. The mud and water together had created a murky river floating across the surface. Fortunately for us we were in a 4X4 and it didn’t slow us down at all. When we got back I just managed to catch my mum on Skype before she headed out to work, then I got to work on solving one of life’s biggest mysteries… “Who is Red John?” For those of you not in the know, Red John is the name of a serial killer on one of mine and Sarah’s favourite American tv shows. For 5 series now the viewers have been kept in the dark, as the stories protagonist “Patrick Jane” tries to figure out who the murderer of his wife and child is. It’s a brilliantly made tv show, and does a great job of keeping you guessing. After an hours research I am still led to believe my first hunch, that Patrick Jane himself will turn out to be Red John. It’s just an idea, but there is evidence to support it. Obviously this means nothing to those of you who don’t watch the show, but to those of you who do I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. Drop me a message on WordPress if you like, or add me on Facebook (Ben Norris) and together we’ll solve this mystery. After my detective skills led me back to what I already believed in, I got to work on the blog. It took forever and a day to complete, and my eyes are on fire from the constant battle between concentration and fending off sleep. It’s been a long time coming, but now I’m truly ready to catch some Z’s. Maybe in my sleep I’ll solve the Red John case once and for all.

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Day 164: Maya My, This Place Is Terrible

I had the pleasure of waking up this morning to a sound bite on Steve’s phone. It was a clip from the Hangover movie of the character Stu. At first I thought I was hearing things, but after the 5th time of hearing him shout “**** the police!” I was awake. He gave Sarah the same treatment, then the three of us quickly got ready for the day ahead. It was about 11am by the time we stepped foot out the door, and our first plan of attack was to book up a day trip. We had been in Phi Phi for a few days and so far all we’d achieved was getting drunk and seeing a view point. Seeing as the island had plenty of snorkelling trips on offer, we took advantage of one. For 400 baht (£9) we booked a trip to Maya Bay. It was scheduled to start at 2pm, giving us enough time to grab breakfast. We visited the Reggae Bar for a full English, even though I was tempted to try the 800 gram burger challenge. Afterwards we returned to the hostel to apply suntan lotion, and Sarah challenged Steve to a game of slam. Once again Sarah was undefeated, nobody can beat the girl at that game. Lucky for us Sarah checked the ticket for our trip, we had only 10 minutes before we were supposed to be back at the booking office, and not the 40 we initially thought.

There was a group mostly comprised of Americans when we arrived, and we were divided into separate colours. Red stickers meant you’d be cliff diving on the way, yellow meant you weren’t. At 2pm we all had to follow a local Thai guy to the longboat. By then we had met the majority of the group. It was all women bar the one guy from Washington State named David. The girls were from California and Holland, their names were Alga, Paxton, Monica, and Eva. Even though the trip itself ended up being a disappointment we were happy to have made a great new group of friends. Our first stop of the day was to monkey island. You could feed the monkeys if you wanted to, and those who did were given pieces of pineapple skins to hand them. The small bearded creatures got a bit aggressive with each other at times and began fighting, every time that happened the alpha ran over to intervene. But it made everyone close by run away screaming. We stayed for only 10 minutes before getting back on the boat. Next up was the cliff diving.

Pretty much everyone on the boat got involved in the jumping, leaving only Steve, Sarah, myself and an Asian couple behind. We could have done it for an extra £3 but decided against it, plus they told us it would be from a height of 18m. It was nowhere near that height, in fact I’d say it was closer to 10m at tops. All the same, they jumped one by one, with those left on the boat recording their act of bravery. Then when everyone jumped, it was up to our tour guide to leap. He obviously did it everyday, as unlike the others (who jumped in feet first) he did a superman swan dive. It took him a good 4 seconds before he hit the water, and when he resurfaced he complained about all the water that rushed up his nose. Everyone cheered his brave act, and then we moved on to the next activity: snorkelling.

The snorkelling was as it always is, full of fish. There’s no point in me explaining every detail as nothing substantially different happened. The only thing worthy of note was the starfish we saw. It was no bigger than 5 centimetres from point to point, and it was a bright yellow colour with red dots. The snorkelling lasted for 45 minutes, then it was back to the boat to be taken to Maya Bay. This was the famous location of the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and it was a complete let down. In the movie it is close to paradise, white sands, crystal clear waters, you know the deal, but because the tide was out it looked horrendous. Sarah had the pleasure of visiting the bay during her visit 3 years previous, and during that time the tide was actually in. She said that when it came to reaching the beach there were strong waves pushing her and her friends into the sharp rocks. This time around we were able to walk along the rocks, and we had to squeeze through a tiny cave to locate the wooden steps to the entrance. On the other side we found ourselves in a glorious forest. Beautiful tall green coconut trees, and plenty of rich green bushes. But as we continued, and passed through a tropical archway to the beach (much like they do in the film) we were sad with what we saw. In front of us was a beach that looked like the one next to our hostel. Thanks to the tide being out it meant there were rocks everywhere, and instead of there being a small desolate white sand beach, we had a crowded large beach instead. We didn’t have the pleasure of admiring the turquoise waters because in their place was shallow sandy water. Never the less we took plenty of photos. These included ones of everyone jumping, lying down, standing up, any conceivable position you can think of, chances are the girls wanted it done. After an hour my job as a photographer was up. We returned to the boat to be taken back to the start. Along the way we got to watch the sunset, although that too was terrible because of how cloudy it was. The sun was a dark red colour but it didn’t change the colour of the sky. We all laughed at how bad it was then proceeded to watch our tour guide drink beer through a snorkel. He downed two small cans of Chang and was very wobbly afterwards, it didn’t help that he had been drinking all day anyway.

Back on Phi Phi island we had to adjust our positions on the boat because it got caught on some rocks. In the end they told us to get out and walk because the water was too low to float on. Our large group then went for an evening meal (where I ate pizza and fajitas) before returning to our hostels to shower and get ready for the evening. We agreed to meet at the Reggae Bar at 10pm, because the girls hadn’t seen the fighting before. Surely enough the clock rolled around to the agreed hour and we located the gang inside. Then began the drinking and the fighting. Like always we were subjected to the tourist fights first (which were always awful) then eventually the two Thai guys got in the ring. I got my phone out ready to record the spectacular event, but there was something different about this particular fight. The other night we caught the tail end of the two guys that were in the ring, and we thought what we were witnessing was amazing. Now, after watching them for a second time we realised it was all staged. I don’t think it was coincidence that the same guy flew out of the ring during a fight. He appeared to be throwing himself violently towards the ropes every time he was kicked, and the pair of them allowed the other to land a punch or kick every so often. After those guys were done we all left for the beach.

Again, my memory gets a little fuzzy after we set foot on the sands. I know we alternated between Slinky’s and Woody’s bar, and bought several buckets as the night went on. For the most part we all danced – as we were with a bunch of girls. At one point during a bucket break I ended up chatting in depth about my tattoo to David after he asked me about it. On the way back to the beach, Sarah in her drunken state, started chatting to a French guy who had a tattoo stencil on his arm. He explained that he was just seeing what it looked like and would be going back the next day to get it done. Sarah then walked off to the beach with the rest of the group (with our freshly filled bucket in tow) and I remained chatting with the Frenchman. Had I realised I’d have been there for 45 minutes I probably would have left with them. But it was his first tattoo and he had a lot of questions. I did my best to answer them all and put his mind at ease, but he was thinking about getting it done the traditional bamboo way. I didn’t know much about it, other than it would take a lot longer to complete. I told him how mine was done with machine and how much it cost, so I was extremely surprised when I learned how much his would cost. I have a full left arm tattoo sleeve, roughly it cost me around the £1500 mark. The piece he was getting was roughly the size of his forearm and he told me he’d have to pay £700 for it. It sounded like a lot of money, but I presume you have to pay more for bamboo. I had to cut the conversation short after a while and explain it was my last night on Phi Phi. I had to get back to my friends. We shook hands and he thanked me for my time, we then parted ways.

When I got to the beach I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Sarah Duxbury had drank a good 3/4 of the bucket and was very drunk. She was running around, dancing, and shouting, there’s video evidence of the whole thing. She even assaulted a police officer several times. Luckily that police officer was Steve, so she didn’t get in trouble, but for the rest of the night SHE was the liability and I wasn’t. It took me three nights to get back into the swing of drinking, and I was happy to know I wasn’t going to wake up with a hangover. As the night went on more and more people from the group started calling it a night, leaving only the elite among us to party. Somewhere around 4am Sarah and I returned to our hostel, and only Steve and Paxton remained in the beach. The next day we found out they got into trouble on a locals boat, but that’s their story and I doubt they’d appreciate me writing it down here. But if you ask me about it in person, then I’ll give you all the juicy deets.

The walk back was fun, I got to watch Sarah munch drunkenly on a pizza and try her best to recite the alphabet backwards. When we got in I was completely sober by comparison to the other nights, and I drank 2 bottles of water to prevent any onset hangover. During this time Sarah was sat outside the hostel harassing her friend Georgia on Skype. She wanted to talk with her, but grew extremely frustrated when she was told to wait because they were eating dinner at the time of Sarah’s drunken ambush. After her phone call (some 30 minutes later) she climbed on my bed to annoy me. I was falling asleep as I tried to watch an episode of family guy. Sarah used that as an excuse to take photos of me. In the end I got up and slept on her bed after she became uncooperative and sleepy. The only thing I could take solace from was the undoubtable hangover Sarah would receive. Not only from the amount of alcohol she’d consumed, but because of the karma that comes from slapping a police officer multiple times, annoying her friend, and forcing me from my bed!

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Day 150: Down Where It’s Better!

You’ll be pleased to hear readers that today we booked up another trip. We spent the majority of the day at sea snorkelling. It truly is magical here on the Perhentian islands, and I cannot do it justice (like many things I’ve experienced this trip) in words alone. Even by adding the pictures at the bottom isn’t enough. But I will do my best to explain to you just how astonishing a place it is…

• Another morning in paradise. We woke up when Rachael’s alarm rang at 8:30am. Acting like a drill sergeant, I whipped those whipper snappers out of bed and encouraged them to get ready. While we were waiting for Sarah, Rachael and I played frisbee on the balcony (She wanted me to include this in the blog). Rachael has come on leaps and bounds since the day before, her throwing and catching skills have improved significantly, drastically, phenomenally, and any other adjective you can think of to go there. I don’t know if she had been up all night practising, or if the simple fact she had contacts in altered her performance. But she is heading for the big leagues people! I’d say Rachael Goddard is a one to watch in the frisbee game!!! (There, how’s that Rachael? Good enough for ya?). When Sarah was ready we went to our resorts restaurant for breakfast.
Oh, and the toilet roll in our room was still in tact!!

• After a belly filling meal the three of us went to the beach to try and locate a good snorkelling trip. The first group we spoke to couldn’t really help us out, they offered the short day trip which we had already done. Another trip to the Rawal islands. Or a long day trip. Only we couldn’t go on that one because there weren’t enough people. In the end we paid the people we went with the other day a visit.

• They already had a small group of people waiting to go, one of which was Dick Dastardly…. Sorry, Phillip (I’ve gotta stop calling him that). When the final two people finished having their breakfast, they joined us and off we set.

• The first three stops were ones we had already been to. Turtle Point, Shark Point, and Coral Point. But this time round we saw a different turtle. It was a little bit smaller than the first, but because of the amount of people swimming, it was quick to leave. It moved very quickly too, I found it difficult to keep up with it. Sarah was quick to get in when we arrived, so she spotted two turtles during our visit. We didn’t stay there for long before moving on to Shark Point.

• This was the shortest visit of the day, mostly because half the boat wouldn’t get in after spotting a few jellyfish. I didn’t spot any sharks this time, but I did see a horned fish. Two in fact, both of which were very large. Everyone soon climbed back on the boat, then we set off for Coral Point. We stayed for a long time at this particular spot. There was an Asian couple amongst us, and they had a rather expensive looking underwater camera. The guy took it upon himself to dive under recording all the footage, leaving his other half to float on the surface in her fluorescent orange life jacket. We saw very similar fish to the last time, but we explored the coral reef in a lot more depth. AND WE FOUND NEMO, Sorry, we found Nemo. He was with his family in their little wavy home. If we attempted to get a closer look, one of the family members would come out to stare us down. The reef was alive with colour, more so than anywhere else we had been. I was the last to get back on the boat after I swam too far away. It was just too pretty. Our next stop was to the fisherman village for food.

• This wasn’t as I’d expected. When I heard the name I presumed we’d be visiting a series of huts built atop a floating deck. Quite the opposite. We were taken to a resort like area, there was even a giant blue and white building with tall pillars outside. This turned out to be the police station. We sat on plastic chairs around small tables in a little building, out of suns reach. I ordered the prawn and pineapple with rice, which was fiddly to eat but tasty. Opposite the restaurant was a woman selling sweets and treats at her stall. I purchased several eclairs and a piece of bubblegum before returning to the boat for our last stop of the day. Coral Garden.

• Coral Garden was remarkable. There were equal parts dead and alive. The alive coral was astounding, it was rich with fish of various sizes and colour. We even spotted Nemo and his family again. We spotted one large fish that was on patrol for some food. We learned this when we saw it sucking something white and fleshy from the underside of a shell. If we were quiet, and put our ears under the water we could hear the sucking sound. This is because sound travels faster in water than light. We left him to fend off all the other fishes in search of an easy meal, and carried on exploring. It wasn’t long after that that we discovered an even bigger fish. It was at least 3 foot long, and was so fat that any angler would have been proud of such a catch (if it were legal to fish for such creatures). For its size it could certainly shift, we couldn’t catch up so only admired it from a distance.

• The dead coral was still brimming with sea life. There were smaller silver, ghost like fish swimming around. They were kicking up the seabed in an attempt to find some sustenance. Rachael had been sitting on the beach the whole time, so Sarah and I went over to encourage her to get in. We hadn’t realised we’d be swimming around for close to an hour though, so when she got in we only had around 20 minutes of the trip left.

• Never have I ever been in waters so clear. I attempted to describe its quality in yesterday’s blog when we played frisbee. And I don’t really know how to elaborate on it any farther really. When we were in the shallows I honestly felt as though I was in a painting. The blue colour of the water was so intense you needed sunglasses to look at it properly. Underneath the surface it was so clear you felt as though you were floating on air. And the sands at be seabed were so soft and white, you could have easily fallen asleep on it. I truly didn’t want to leave the water, if I could have developed gills in that very moment I would have been happy to live out my days underwater. After all, there’s not exactly a shortage of food down where it’s wetter!

• At 3:30pm we were told to get back into the boat and were driven back to Long Beach to conclude our trip.

• We darted back to the chalet for the girls to rinse off and to grab some money. Then we returned to the beach so I could grab some food, and for us to take some pictures of paradise.

• After my pasta and Sarah’s coke, we took to the water to try and capture the crystal clear waters on my iPhone. Nervously I walked out with my phone in hand, I snapped the girls throwing a frisbee back and forth, then some of them splashing in the shallows, then some more of Sarah running around, then even more of them doing handstands on the beach. By the time we finished I felt like a professional photographer doing a real shoot. The handstands took an annoyingly long amount of time before I captured the girls in perfect synchronicity. They still weren’t happy with how they looked when I showed them the results – are they ever? When it came time for me to have a picture taken, an empty bottle floated up alongside me! As nice as our beach was, it certainly had a lot of plastic bags and other rubbish floating amongst its currents. I felt bad, as it’s the plastic bags that kill the turtles. They mistake them for jellyfish and end up suffocating when they swallow them. Keep it clean people!!!

• When my clients were happy with what I captured on camera, I was a freeman. I left them to soak up the sun and returned to the Bencave to work on the days blog.

• The girls returned about an hour later, with Sarah looking like a tan addict. It took them both roughly an hours worth of faffing before they were ready for the evening. Then the three of us went to the Internet restaurant for dinner.

• We were all down to our final ringgits which meant we couldn’t order that big a meal. But the tomato chicken and rice I had was just right, plus the additional portions of rice from the girls plates filed me right up. When we were done eating we began playing cards. It was around that time that 2 young children came over to watch. Suddenly, before we knew it our game had been hijacked. The young boy and girl had taken over mine and Rachael’s hands and began taking our turns. It got a little bit weird when they grew more comfortable with us (within 10 minutes). The young girl sat on Rachael’s lap to get a better view of the cards, which was fine, that’s fair enough, but all of a sudden the boy thought it would be alright to do the same on my lap. “Oh no you don’t sunshine!!!” Screamed the voice in my head. I didn’t feel comfortable with a 5 year old boy who I’d just met climbing aboard my lap. So in response to this action I sat as still as a statue, and laughed awkwardly at anything remotely funny that happened during the game. I thanked the gods when his milkshake arrived and he climbed down to get it. I was then quick to block any opening I may have left which allowed such an awkward situation in the first place.

• The children’s parents were from two different countries, the mother was from England, and the father was from Italy. Meaning both children spoke 2 languages. They had met when they were travelling through India, some 10 years ago. Their children were very young, but had seen more countries than some people I know back home. The boy was named Josh, and had been to India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Borneo and Malaysia to name but a few. And he was only 5. FIVE! The girl was only 3 and a half and her name was Dahlia, she was the more inquisitive of the pair. All throughout the games their parents kept asking if it was ok for them to be with us. The girls ended up befriending them and we stayed at the restaurant until gone 10pm. Before we left there was a slight squabble between the kids for who got to hold Sarah’s torch, my iPhone, the playing cards – basically anything Dahlia could get her little hands on.

• Everyone walked back through the dark jungle together, and when we reached the walkway to our resort we said our goodbyes. It was then a case of returning to our room, packing the bags and going to bed. As tonight would be our last night in paradise. In the morning we would be catching the first boat off the island in order to catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur.
One last check… Yup, as predicted. The complicated species that I share a chalet with have certainly made headway on that toilet roll, there’s barely any left for the evening. I shall continue to monitor its deteriorating state as time goes on. All I can say for now is it will be interesting to see how the two females fare in the morning when there are only 4 sheets left!!

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Day 147: Turtle Heading

What a day. We spent the whole day out in the sun. Something in particular I hadn’t done for a while, and by the end of the blog you’ll understand why. We went snorkelling, and ate amazing food around our island. At one point we even encountered a viper. So please ladies and gentlemen, come join me as I recount the days event.

• It was 9:30am before we got up. The previous evening Sarah and I had a small debate over wether the alarm should be set for 7:30 or 8am. As I predicted, when the alarm initially rang at 7:30, Sarah opened her sleepy eyes, and in an exhausted voice, she muttered the sentence “put it on snooze”. Typical. The alarm continued to ring a couple more times before we gave up with it altogether.

• When the girls had showered, we grabbed our bags and made our way over to our new home. I checked us in, paying the full 160 ringgit for two nights in full. It would have cost an additional 40 for an extra bed, but when we saw the size of the bed in our room, there was no need for it. It had to have been at least 6 feet wide.

• The buildings were semi detached huts. They were all built into a hill, meaning each row was higher than the one in front. In total there were 3 rows, and our hut happened to be the one at the back. The highest row. We paid for an a/c room – which later turned out to be a god send, but other than that one feature the rooms were pretty basic. It had plastic laminate flooring, a set of plastic drawers, wooden shutters on the windows, and an en suite bathroom. However, because of the electric power situation, the room was very dark and hot. The huts key feature though was its view. The view was amazing, making the £16 we were paying all the more worth it. From the balcony we could see all of the beach, the surrounding jungle, and overhanging large palm trees that looked like beach equivalent street lights.

• The time was getting on for 10:30am by the time we had moved in, and the long day snorkelling tour was scheduled to leave at 11am. We had to decide if we wanted breakfast or to go on the trip, as we definitely didn’t have time for both. After speaking with the guys running the trips they said they’d wait for us if we wanted. We told them to go on, as there were people who were more organised than us already waiting to go. Fortunately they offered a different day trip, a short day snorkelling trip. Seeing as nobody was booked on that one, they allowed us time to go have breakfast first.

• While walking along the beach we ran into Dick Dastard… I mean Phillip, again. He told us that our accommodation sold good breakfast, so we followed his advice and ate there. We ordered the largest of the four breakfast sets, it was just the right size. Unfortunately it was also quite expensive, 15 ringgit (£3). It doesn’t sound like a lot but it was nearly a seventh of our daily budget. When we had finished our eggs, toast, sausage and beans, we returned to the snorkelling guys.

• For 30 ringgit (£6) the short day trip would see us visiting three dive locations. Coral Point. Shark Point. Turtle Point. All of which were fantastic. We did them in that order too. The equipment we were given was a snorkel and flippers (or fins for the divers amongst you). We had to make a quick stop to another island on the way to Coral point, as they didn’t have my size fins before we set off. Dam these thirteens of mine. While our small boat’s captain ran into the building to grab my larger sized footwear, we waited on the beach. Having not exercised in a while I began doing press ups. The girls asked me to perform thirty like a muscle bound show pony. Seeing as that’s exactly what I am (YEAH RIGHT) I began the sexy show. It was then that the physiotherapist amongst us noticed I had a weakness. My right shoulder blade. Apparently my left one was a lot stronger, and was performing a lot better than its lackadaisical twin. Later on that day I was shown a few exercises to help develop and strengthen the minor muscles.

• Our boat was no bigger than a traditional rowing boat, yet had an engine on the back all the same. I noticed there was an oar tucked away just in case it ran out of fuel. Each of the stops were relatively close to one another, and we had two and a half hours in which time to do them all. Our first stop took us all of 5 fast, bumpy minutes to reach.

Coral Point: This one definitely had the most fish, and the richest coloured coral. The second we jumped in we were surrounded by fish. It was an aquatic ambush. Various sized fish in different coloured clothing all around us. If we stopped for too long the smaller fish grew braver. One even nibbled my leg and Sarah’s belly button scar, causing it to bleed. Try as I might, I still couldn’t touch one because they were too quick. The coral was the best bit. It was home to sea urchin and fish alike. Many bigger fish like the parrot fish for example, were sucking up nutrients from the deeper parts. With Sarah worried about her fish attacker still roaming the seas as a free fish, we returned to the boat.

Shark Point: It’s always intimidating getting into the sea, knowing full well there might be sharks in there with you. It seems like you’re forcing yourself to go against the safety alarms in your head.
“Uh Ben, just thought you’d like to know, there is a good chance there will be sharks in the deep blue water there. In case you didn’t know, they have big sharp teeth, an incredible sense of smell, and in short, they are the world best hunters!!! Everything about them helps them find and kill their prey with ease. By getting in that water you’ll officially be in their kingdom, and they’ll be the apex predator!”
“I know all this brain, but did you know that more people are killed each year by a falling vending machine? And that they’re more scared of us than we are of them?”
“No I didn’t, as you were!”

It took a while for us to locate any sharks. When we first jumped in all we could see were fish, and damaged coral. In the shallower sections most of it was white. It wasn’t until our boat driver got in with us and signalled us over that we saw the large black tips. They were beautiful, and fairly big in size. I’d say they were around 3 foot long. When I first went to swim over I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was thinking I wouldn’t see one until I got closer to him, but when I put my mask under the water and began to swim full pelt, I nearly hit into one. I only saw it briefly before it darted off, but it was the biggest one of the trip. How big, I don’t know, it moved too quickly. After we saw one they all came out. I think we most have seen 3 or 4 altogether before returning to the boat. It was there that Sarah managed to get her hair stuck in the snorkel. Rachael soon got her free, then we headed off to the last point.

Turtle Point: Our driver had to steer us around for a while before he spotted the solemn turtle. He must have saw its head when it surfaced for air. When I turned around all I could see was the dark shadow swimming back to the seabed. To begin with we were the only ones with the beautiful sea creature. We immediately put on our masks and dived in with it. It looked so peaceful as it swam up and down. It was chewing on the sandy grass at the bottom, and had two long fish swimming underneath its shell trying to eat any debris the turtle may kick up. It was a lot of fun to swim below with the large 4 foot animal, he didn’t seem bothered by our presents. He’d only turn his eyes to look at us as we’d pass him. It was quite murky compared to the last two locations, so we couldn’t make out what colour it was. That was until it swam to the surface to breath.

His little head popped out from the water and it made an incredibly funny sound. Like someone who had been holding their breath for too long, and was now taking their first breath. It was then we noticed the turtles colour. It was a majestic yellow with orange spots, and had the biggest blackest eyes I’d ever seen. It repeated this act around every 5-10 minutes, each time it looked cuter than the last. At times I believed it was trying to get just as good a look at us, as we were at it. Unfortunately other people came along and spoiled it. In particular two foreign women. One of them kept swimming down towards the turtle, not to admire it from a distance like we were, but so she could touch its shell. Each time she did this she’d push down on the turtles back to enable herself enough momentum to come back to the surface. She was in the wrong to be doing this, as you should never touch the wildlife because it can have serious effects on the animals health. Not to mention the fact the turtle might swim off, therefor ruining the amazing sight for other people. We stayed for a little while after they left, then returned to our own boat to be taken back to our island.

• Long beach was the name of the island we were staying. It was on the east of the island which meant (if we got up early enough) we’d be able to see the sunrise. There were three restaurants in a row, all selling similar dishes, and were quite high in price. Rachael had a few ringgit in her bag so we decided to stop for a refreshing can of coke. When we finished, we paid up and returned to our chalet. We only stayed for as long as it took to grab some money and other necessities for the beach, then returned to the third and final restaurant for food.

• They sold the best food of them all. I was pretty hungry by that point so I decided to order two meals. I had the penne and tuna for a starter. As soon as I finished that my main arrived, the garlic butter chicken breast. Good lord, both dishes were amazing, and the chicken even came with potatoes. POTATOES! I had missed them a lot. I still felt hungry afterwards, so it was a good job I also ordered the M&M chocolate shake to wash it down with. The girls found this amazing and kept taking sips. During dinner I finally completed my book. I had been engrossed and captivated for the past two days, and now I was finally free. But what a book, I then gave it to Sarah to read. She’s like a machine when it comes to books, and will have finished it come the time Rachael leaves.

• I left the girls to continue their sunbathing on the beach, as I had to throw in the towel and return to the room. Although I was covered in suntan lotion before we left for snorkelling, it wasn’t enough. I had achieved the task of beating Sarah in getting more colour (in our secret tanning battle). Only it wasn’t the colour I had in mind exactly. My back, my arms, my neck, upper chest, and even my hands were scarlet. Never have I been so burned, especially to say I was lotioned up. Even the whitest one (ahem, Rachael) wasn’t as burned as I was.

• I was sat on the balcony outside our chalet. I found it very hard to read through old blogs with such a stunning view in front of me. Add to that the warm breeze that blew through, and I could have easily fallen asleep while enjoying the music on my iPod. After about 2 or 3 hours Sarah came to grab me, telling me her and Rachael were heading to the west side of the island to watch the sunset.

• I’m glad I joined them, as when we reached the other side the sunset was spectacular. The time was around 7pm and everyone had gathered around the pier to admire its glory. There was even a photographer with his tripod out (ooh matron) taking a time lapse. However, a man passed by twice on his speed boat, most likely ruining his shots. There was an abandoned boat anchored at sea, it added to the effect of the photos. The suns setting beam danced across the sea, until it reached the boat, and as it floated around on the gentle current, they looked as though they were putting on a show. The sun was setting so quickly that you could literally watch it fall from the sky. Although the sky could have been alive with more colour for it to be truly astonishing, it was beautiful nonetheless. And by the time it reached the horizon, it was a rich pink colour.

• After we had taken 20 or so pictures of the crispy character, the three of us headed to a restaurant for tea. This side of the island was supposedly cheaper for food. It turned out that was true. Each restaurant does a BBQ every evening. Over on our side they charged 25 ringgit, this side it was only 18 (just over £3). They had various meats to choose from, but most of it was sea food, including fish I’d never heard of, like a red snapper. Seeing as I’d seen them in the wild, but never tried it, I ordered barracuda. I’m not the fondest of sea food, but barracuda was lovely. There was only one bone running through the middle (which the chef took out) and the meat itself was really fleshy. It looked more like chicken when it arrived on the plate. Along with the meat of choice, it was served with lime water, baked potato, coleslaw, banana bread, a mound of white rice, and a sauce of your choice. We chose mamas special sauce – a combination of soy and chilli, and it made the meal the best I’d had in Asia yet!! My only fear is the next time I go diving, I hope the barracuda don’t realise I’ve had a taste of their brethren and turn on me!

• It was very dark by the time we finished our mouth watering food, and luckily I brought my iPhone with me. The two sides of the island were separated by a concrete pathway that led through the jungle. Although it had no lights to guide you. This is where the iPhone came in handy. I used the torch app to get us through, although it didn’t help that much. Because there were 3 of us, it made it quite tricky to share the light, and the person at the back couldn’t see too well. To start with I was at the front guiding us through, but as I passed a certain tree we heard the pile of leaves at the bottom rustling. All of a sudden, out poked a reptilian’s head. Only it wasn’t a friendly lizard, it was a viper. It had a black body with yellow stripes. What made things worse was that Rachael nearly stood on it. If it wasn’t for Sarah shouting, Rachael wouldn’t have hopped out of the way.

• We didn’t know if the snake was poisonous or not, but after that near miss Sarah grabbed the phone and began running ahead of us. Both the girls were shaken up, and moving too quickly to avoid anymore threats that may live in the jungle. I shouted at them to encourage them to slow down for their own safety – which they did, but Sarah’s whole body was shaking. Even her voice was wobbling. We made it the rest of the way safely, and climbed the stairs to our chalet in one piece. Even if the occasional flicker in a shadow made the girls jump out their skin.

• We didn’t leave the room for the rest of the evening. The electric generators had kicked in by then, so we put our a/c to 16•C on full blast. We took it in turns to shower, and by that stage my back had turned a crimson shade. Which the girls made fun of for some time. We applied the aloe vera to help sloth any pain. At least, that’s why I did it. The girls put it on in the hopes of reducing their burn, just so they could do it all again the next day. Rachael taught me some exercises to help improve the weak spot in my shoulder, then all three of us climbed into the giant bed to go to sleep. Although it didn’t end there, the girls were annoyed because there was sand in the bed. For the next 5-10 minutes we brushed and scooted the particles off, just so they could sleep comfortably. However, with three of us in a bed and Sarah being a notorious duvet thief, I think my sleep would be anything but comfortable.

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