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First up was Burma (or Myanmar) which couldn’t have been more different from Thailand. Our first stop was Yangon a chaotic city of attractively crumbling colonial buildings, cracked pavements and vibrant street scenes. The sights and smells reminded us more of India than Thailand.
As we travelled around the country the people were the highlight – friendly, warm, welcoming and often very excited to see us. Burma has been cut off from the world for five decades and people are happy to see tourists returning to the country.
Our favourite place in Burma was definitely Inle Lake. After the busy cities this peaceful mountainside lake was just what we needed. We explored the lake and surrounding villages by boat, canoe and bicycle, visiting colourful hill tribe markets, floating gardens, hot springs, and even a winery. The wine was surprisingly good.
We left Burma on a high note with Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory in the by-elections. These were the first free elections in 50 years and although the leader of the democracy movement only has a seat in parliament it’s a big step forward considering she has been under house arrest for much of the last 20 years. Celebrations were understandably restrained – the military is still in control – so no dancing in the streets, but the people we spoke to were jubilant and hopeful for big changes in the future.
Back to Thailand
We were sad to leave Burma but it’s not the most practical place for a couple of digital nomads to work (the internet is fairly common but usually painfully slow) so we headed back to Bangkok. We caught up on work and some Western comfort food while staying in a Roomorama apartment in the city before heading down to the islands.
Although Koh Lanta was blissfully chilled out we had a few eventful days . First a tsunami warning meant we were evacuated from our hotel and waited up a hill for four hours having no idea whether it was really going to happen or not. We assumed it would all be fine, although after a few hours we realised we should probably prepare for the worst. Luckily the tsunami didn’t hit and at 8pm we were told we could go back to the hotel but had better not sleep “just in case”!
Then there was Songkran. To celebrate Thai new year locals douse each other with water and all day parties start at 10am. As foreigners we were obvious targets and were thoroughly drenched. The Thais are so polite though that some apologised before pouring a bucket of water over us!
As if Koh Lanta wasn’t relaxed enough we made the one hour ferry ride to Koh Jum, a quiet island that many people haven’t heard of despite the fact it faces one of the most popular islands Koh Phi Phi. And it was quiet! For a few days we enjoyed empty golden beaches, watching monkeys play on our bungalow roof, and an adventurous motorbike trip around the island. We have never ridden on such terrible “roads”. We bumped and slid along rocky, steep dirt tracks with more pothole than road. Simon did a remarkable job keeping us upright despite a few near misses. It was worth it though to explore untouristy Koh Jum including a fishing village of wooden stilted houses and a 4km long beach completely to ourselves.
We are now back on Koh Lanta staying at the most amazing place we’ve ever stayed. Our hilltop villa at Baan Kantiang See is huge with a kitchen, loads of comfortable places to lounge, a terrace three times the size of most rooms we stay in, infinity pool, and incredible views of the beach and sea below. We are going to find it hard to leave!
It has also been time to rediscover our love for the underwater world. We spent a day with Freedom Adventures island hopping, snorkelling, kayaking, and swimming through the Emerald Cave to discover a hidden beach.
Then for the first time in nearly four years we went scuba diving. Our guide Sara at Scubafish did a great job calming our nerves and we were soon happily swimming around 18 metres underwater. We saw thousands of colourful fish, purple coral, a giant moray eel and a 2m long sea snake. The highlight was diving up through a narrow dramatic cavern called The Chimney.
Our visa runs out soon though so tomorrow we are heading to Malaysia for a few days. Let us know if you have any tips for Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. We are loving our relaxed island life so we’ll be spending most of May back on Koh Lanta.
Our New iOS App Company
Just before leaving for Burma we launched our new iOS app company Voyage Travel Apps. Our first iPhone app is called Hotel Checklist and is a simple app aimed at backpackers wandering around looking at different hotels and trying to decide which one to go with. It was a process we struggled with when arriving hot and tired after a long journey and the app makes it easy to check off the features and amenities of each place you look at so you can then compare and choose the best one for you.
We decided to start with a simple app as a few weeks before we launched Simon had no experience developing apps at all. In a short time he had completed the free Stanford course about iOS development on iTunes University, created his first app and published it to the app store – not bad going!
We are now working on our next, much more substantial app which will be useful to many travellers (including us!). Details coming soon…
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Don't forget to leave a comment and let us know what you've been up to in April.