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30 Apr 2011

Koh Maak

Island life...

With Easter, weddings and May Day it sounds like people back home have been having something of a holiday season.  It's the same in Cambodia with a flurry of public holidays in April and May to celebrate Khmer New Year (three days), Labour Day (May Day), the King's birthday (requires three days' off) and other lesser events.

This year we were lucky to be able to meet up with Owen and Cath on a lovely Thai island called Koh Maak.  The original plan was to go to Koh Tao but the storms and flooding there meant a late change of plan.

We forgot to book our boat in advance and the holiday season meant it was fully booked.  Not to let this be a setback we threw some money at the situation and chartered our own.

I remained in relative safety inside while the others ran the gauntlet of possibly being thrown out the back on the very bumpy journey (see video below).

I'm trying to hold the camera straight in this!

We stayed in the cheap and cheerful Koh Maak Cottages and took advantage of the facilities in other hotels such as hiring a golf buggy for a day to tour the island by ourselves.

When I took to the wheel I tried to find second gear.  There is no second gear.

We found the island's temple with Buddhas sitting around this big tree, representing the life stages.

And this one towering over us.

Owen put the buggy in reverse so that we could go back to get a photo of this huge mushroom that we passed.

I also managed to catch some of the strange behaviour of the local fauna on camera...

We found a number of palm-fringed beaches on our tour.

Owen and Cath getting their toes sandy.

Sunset after a great day.  (The two people aren't us but some bloke with his Thai 'girlfriend'.  It's hard to avoid in Thailand.)

In the evening we blew some more cash on pizzas and, after dinner, this guy and his young accomplice kicked off a fire show.

The main man in action.

The kid shows how its done.

On our day out we discovered a fantastic place called Ao Kao (White Sand Beach) and we decided to head there for a day trip.  I got royally thrashed by Owen at ping pong, I lost count after he went up seven games to two...

Cath made the most of this Flintstone-style hanging bench and the lovely view.

Team photo, are my legs really that big?

More of the local wildlife behaving in strange ways.  The creature on the left is far too white to be a local species...

And more of the plant life, this dangling over the sand by the beach.

Timber!  Cath fells a whole palm tree with her little toe.

Men not at work.

Back to Koh Maak Cottages where the unique selling point is their home-made ice cream.  Gilly shows the best of the bunch, yoghurt berry flavour.  Mmmm.

The other volunteers in Kratie gave Gilly some money for her birthday and she used it to get a long Thai massage.  She told me afterwards that she was actually in quite a bit of pain when I took this photo...

Another day, another sunset.

One evening we got the playing cards out and got down to that travellers' favourite, Shit Head.  The twist was the introduction of forfeits.  Here's Gilly doing her regulation ten star jumps for all the (beach) bar to see.

Here's Owen doing his ten metre sprints.

Guess who didn't have to do any forfeits?  No flies on me, make that another Sangsom and coke barman!

Gilly going round the twist with ten spins around a straw.  Good forfeit nomination from Owen to see her dizzy afterwards.

Oh dear, he's back, ten press-ups for Owen.

After all that excitement the next day was a time to chill out round the bungalow with a good book.

Sunset on our last night, where we took advantage of the pool at another hotel which you can see the edge of in the picture at the top of this blog post.  Nice!

Beers all round as we toast our last dinner together in a restaurant we were gutted to only discover so late.  I love Panang curry, make it hot!

Owen and Cath had brought untold goodies for us in their luggage.  As well as the standard issue Skittles my package included a real blast from the past, Nerds.  Anyone who was young in the late 1980s probably remembers these tangy treats and the special box they come in.  I was much happier about them than I look in this picture taken as we were waiting for the boat back home.

All in all it was a fantastic holiday.  It was great to see Owen and Cath and we look forward to more visitors in the future.

Home at Last

My life is slowly getting back to normal. I have now visited Bangkok 3 times for varying lengths of time for the operation and checkups. My hand is getting much better and now the check ups are about what physio I need . I had the splint off on the 31st March which exposed my skinny, hairy, scarred hand to the public. I was given exercises to do and stayed in Bangkok for weekly check ups. My ring finger is already 90% back to normal but my pinkie, which was more damaged, does not look so good. At first I couldn't bend it at all but after nearly 4 weeks of exercises 20 minutes every hour for 8 hours a day, I can bend it a little bit. It's still quite swollen but I'm hoping it will be fine in the end. I can't wait to be able to put my rings back on!

Comparing my hands

The scarring is almost gone now and my hand is getting some muscle back

This is how much I can bend it. You never know how much you use your pinkie until you can't!

I have spent the last 2 weeks back at home in Kratie which I haven't been in for 2 months so it has felt amazing. I have been going into work in the mornings and had meetings with the Primary office staff about my placement. It feels like I have had a massive breakthrough as they are now really eager to work with me, rather than let me get on with stuff on my own, and I have a counterpart to work with which is great. VSO has got some funding from Canada so I spent the week going over the activities and planning out the next year with Gill, the new education volunteer at the Teacher Training College. I think it's going to be a busy year and I'm eager to get back to work properly but my hand comes first and I still have quite a long way to go (and a thousand exercises to do!) before it's fully better.

Back to Bangkok on Tuesday where hopefully the doctor will say I've made amazing progress and I can come straight back home again!