Petronas Towers, Sydney, Mamanucas, Yasawas, Beqa
Trip Start Dec 09, 2007
19Trip End Sep 23, 2008
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Photo link: Flickr
My planned mission to get my ass over to the Petronas Towers to grab some snaps went as smoothly as I'd hoped. As soon as I landed, I jumped on an express train to KL Sentral (after some great help from the Malaysia Airlines staff), then jumped on a Metro to KLCC (the station under the towers). There they were, as soon as I emerged, these huge hulking steel towers, reaching up into the sky. They are just immense.
I wasn't going to bother going up to the SkyBridge as 1, I thought I was too late for a ticket and 2, that I was too short on time. Anyway, as has been my motto for this entire trip I thought that whilst I'm here I may as well make the most of it and see and do what I can in the time I have. After taking a heap of photos I headed in and tried to get a ticket. They are all timed tickets and they only had one left and it was for 6.30pm. I worked the good old Harrison charm and asked if they could make an exception as it was just me. The girl behind the counter smiled and waved me through.. result! The next girl also let me skip watching the dull 10 minute video too so I was just ushered straight to the lifts.
The bridge is relatively cool but you can't really appreciate the scale of the place from it as it's only on the 41st floor and the building itself is 84 storeys. I hung around for a bit and used a new filter I bought for shooting through glass, to reasonable effect, and then headed back down to get my train back to the airport.
As I headed back through Sentral I spotted a McDonalds and craved a Big Mac so relented and got stuck in. This meant that the last meal I had in Malaysia was a McDonalds. Terrible.
I then made my way back to Bangkok and on to meet Steve at the Buddy Lodge. I rocked up around 7pm after a ridiculously rapid taxi journey from the airport and got checked in. We then did what I haven't done in the 3 times I'd been to Bangkok and that was to check out a "ping pong" show. Jesus! What crazy theatre that was! Nails, razor blades, darts, cigarettes, ping pong balls, you name it, they produced them... It was made even more seedy just from the establishment that put the show on. Well, when in Rome and all that. Never again, that's for sure.
Next day we headed for the MBK to try and seek out a couple of items we'd both been after for a while. For me it was a new monitor cover for the back of my Nikon (I broke it when I was trying to jam my camera under the seat of a moped back in Thailand) and for Steve it was some new HD tapes for his cam. This shopping centre is huge so we were both seriously pissed to come out empty handed. I even offered one place 1000THB for the one from their display model, saying they could re-order a new one and replace it but they were having none of it. Language barrier didn't really help me. Hopefully I'll be able to replace it in NZ.... I did however buy a cheap walled that I've made into a "fake" one to be handed to any would be muggers in SA. I got this idea from Koen, a guy I met in Laos.
We then headed for the airport for our mammoth journey to Fiji, via Sydney....
Operation Circular Quay
We touched down in Sydney around 7am and headed for immigration where we filled out cards and were then denied entry into Australia. I was gutted and determined to see at least a taste of Sydney if I was going to be in the City for 7 hours....
We both tried to blag entry to either the Quantas 1st class lounge or at least the business class lounge just to make the 7hrs a little more bearable, but again we were denied. Steve gave up and headed over to a row of seats and went to sleep. I on the other hand wasn't giving up and decided to try a different tack. I went to a different lounge and asked the girl if I could very quickly use the internet to check something as I remember being issued with a visa when I was meant to be visiting Australia with Caroline in Dec. Amazingly the girl led me down to the lounge so I helped myself to some food and water (it had been ages since I'd eaten) and logged onto my email. I found the electronic visa, printed it, headed for immigration (a different inspector this time) and tried my luck again. Amazingly the visa was still valid and they let me through!
I got some directions for the train etc and got a ticket and headed to Circular Quay (home to the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge). As I'd wasted so much time messing about I was very short on time so I got the usual quick snaps and asked a random to get a quick shot of me in front of the OH. From what I saw and from my very brief experience of Ausies on their own soil I know I'll go back and do it all properly one day.
Anyway, I then hot-footed it back to the airport and got on the next flight to Nadi and Fiji. Having not slept in over 30 hours I was simply knackered so we checked into a place I'd found on the net, had a beer and slept. I think I was out for something like 12 hours. We were lucky in that cyclones had wreaked a bit of havoc on Fiji just days before we landed.
In the morning we had probably the best cooked breakfast of the trip so far before we headed off back to the airport to book up things to do during our brief stay.
We decided on visiting 3 islands and then heading back to Viti Levu and doing some diving, surfing and relaxing. As we were quite late getting out we could only visit an island in the Mamanuca group and opted for Bounty, a great looking island but sadly the home of Celebrity Love Island.
This is a robbery!!
I checked into a Bure (bungalow on the beach) and jumped straight in the sea and did some snorkeling. I then went for a wander and took some snaps before heading off to dinner. Just after dinner I went back to the Bure and put my camera away as it was bugging me a bit and we had a few drinks with a Welsh guy we'd met.
About 20 mins into the beer a young guy comes running into the restaurant saying that we should go and check our Bure (number 8) as there had been several robberies and all sorts of things had been stolen. Oddly we'd tried to check into Bure 8 but the lock was too stiff so they put us in 9 at the last minute. As it turns out, everyone that was in a Bure was robbed (the hostel wasn't touched). I checked number 8 and was stunned to see that it too had been broken into, even though it was empty....
I absolutely swear this was an inside job as the young guy from the resort made a point of saying number 8 to us. I think that someone tipped people off as to which rooms were occupied and which weren't and whoever moved us forget to update the books. People were robbed both sides of us. It just didn't add up.
As you can imagine I was legging it back to the room cursing myself for putting my camera back, for leaving it in the room at all and for leaving all my SD cards with it too. I was absolutely elated when I shone my torch in and saw everything there. People had everything taken: ipods, phones, cameras, laptops, money, one guy even had 3000 Fijian dollars (1000GBP), a bottle of whiskey from his fridge and 9 cartons of cigarettes taken! Some poor girl that had been so happy a few hours earlier was in floods of tears. She'd had antique jewellery taken as well as photos going back to the start of her trip. We were serioulsy lucky and it was a good reminder not to become complacent.
The next morning I was extremely happy to be getting off the island and heading somewhere new.
Next stop was MantaRay Bay resort on Nanuya Baluva in the Yasawa group of islands. This place was amazing in comparison. Everyone was super friendly, calling me by my name, helping out with anything they could etc. The great thing about this island was the abundant reef that lies just off the shore. I jumped in a Kayak with my snorkel gear and paddled out before jumping in and taking a look. Amazing visibility and loads of life down there including titan triggerfish, pipe fish, a huge porcupine puffer, Lagoon triggerfish, etc etc. It was great and made scuba redundant.
I could have stayed on the island for longer but we decided to stick to plans and move on to the next. A place called Sunrise resort on the Island on Nanuya Lailai.
This place was just funny. For starters it was run by a guy called Queen who said that Queen Latifah was his sister. He was as camp as they come but very photogenic as you can see from my pics on Flikr. The room we had was one of the worst we've stayed in but the island had a lot on offer including access to the Blue Lagoon from the film of the same name.
I took a hike over and had a dip and snorkel and checked the place out. Another pretty good reef but this one was also home to banded sea snakes so my session was pretty brief. I saw one behind me and decided to swim for shore! We'd encountered these in the Similans and the DM there reckoned that they were killers....
I went back with a Polish guy and a German girl I'd met and we went for Banana Cake at this famous place on the beach. A real character of a woman owns the place and told us a few stories. There was also a guy in the corner of the room that I wanted to photograph. When I asked he said he'd love a photo but he had to put his best shirt on first. He produced a nice loud Hawaiian number and then let me commence. He was a great man with some cool tales. We then headed for dinner and a few rounds of Uno with the rest of the guests. (Bry, these Aussie girls had a waterproof version! Great idea!)
Next day I just lay on the beach reading and this little girl came running out onto the beach in this brilliant-red rain poncho. She looked amazing so I had to photograph her. Again, pics on Flickr. One of my favourites, along with a little girl with a guitar from the night before. The resort itself was a little shabby but the people were all brilliant. Even the tuck shop owner wanted me to take her photo so she posed with a pot plant...
Next stop was back to Nadi and then down to Pacific Harbour for some Shark diving in the Beqa Lagoon.
We checked into a place called "The Uprising", a fantastic place with amazing facilities for 10GBP per night (in a very nice dorm). The Bures here are 50GBP so it's great to make a saving for a change....
After checking in, relaxing and enjoying the pool we booked ourselves on the dive and heard all about it....
Sharks at The Bistro!
Basically people from one particular village near to Beqa (pronounced Bangor) have an ancestral covenant with the Shark God that all people from Beqa will be protected from Shark attacks. A company here feeds the sharks chum on a daily basis and, as divers, we pay a fee (and sign a disclaimer!) to watch this from a metre or so behind. The dive site itself was called "The Bistro"....
It was an absolutely amazing experience and Steve got a ringside seat due to my misfortune (during my descent my reg decided that I needed water and not air to breathe so I had to surface and switch) and as a result the DM took Steve under his wing and sat him down behind him. I still got an amazing view of Giant Trevally, huge Remoray, Triggers, 2 Bull sharks, an amazing menacing looking Lemon shark, a beautiful silver-tip shark, nurse sharks as well as the usual grey reef sharks and a black-tip reef shark. The only species missing (due to it being in Oz eating turtles at this time of year) was the Tiger shark. I'd love to have seen one of those guys up close.
It's odd as the guys put you at such ease that even when the sharks decide to swarm around you, you still don't realise the possible danger that's present. These sharks are totally wild, we weren't in a cage and if they'd wanted to attack us they could easily have done so.
The dive company keeps the reefs busy, the busy reef produces loads of good, fit and healthy fish and this in turn feeds the villagers. It's all good!
Also seen some great movies since I've been away. A few must sees: Rescue Dawn, John Rambo, Into the Wild, The Darjeeling limited... I forget the rest as I've basically watched about 20 (thanks to the great selection on Quantas) since I've been away. I'm really looking forward to sitting in a cinema again in NZ.
That brings me to now. The shark dive is over, it's 11.41pm here (11.41am in the UK) and I have to get a bus tomorrow as we have a surf lesson booked.
I hope everyone's well and all is fine and dandy in Blighty. I'm absolutely shattered (as you may be able to tell from the grammar in this blog text) so I'm hitting the sack. Next stop is Christchurch in NZ where my next blog will be from.
Photo link: Flickr
Where I stayed