A Travellerspoint blog

Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

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We had a long train ride to Yogyakarta, or Jogja as the Indonesians and travellers call it and after arriving it was only a short walk from the station to the area with all the cheap guesthouses are located.

The only annoying thing, which is common throughout Asia, but they have really adopted and embraced it here in Jogja, is people scoping tourists for commission. Walking the little claustrophobic streets in the Sosrowijayan area you are passed between different Indonesian men with varying dentistry issues who have an uncle, cousin, or sisters boyfriends ex wife who owns a cheap guesthouse, so 'come come, cheap this way!' In the end we picked the cheapest one and decided we would look ourselves tomorrow without our bags and a posse of Indonesians pretending to be our best mate. We went out to check out the area, accosted again as we went by different people making small talk with the intention of ripping us off, and eventually sat down to some very nice street food. 

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(different modes of transport in Jogja).

The following day after walking up in possibly the worst room of our travels yet (it would breach human rights regulations for prisoners in soppy old England) we decided to seek new accommodation. I consider myself to have a good sense of direction but after getting lost several times in the mazy alleyways  we found a place only a touch more expensive but ten times better and moved in after breakfast. We then decided to aquaint ourselves with different alleyways and passages which hold a certain charm!

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(view from the communal balcony at our new accommodation).

Jogja has many tourist attractions within driving distance, two of which we were very interested in exploring, the two different temples Prambanan (Hindu - 9th century) and Borobudur (Buddhist - 9th century). All of the travel companies in town did day trips to both these temples, and we decided to see if we could get a deal if we bought that tour, with a tour that would take us two days later to mount Bromo and then onto Bali. We eventually, after many tour operators, touts, and leaches (those commission hunters) managed to get the cheapest deal. Which as it turns out was only a few pounds off what most people were asking.  

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(Regaee culture!)

We had to be up early to go to the temples, the first stop was Borobudur, a huge Buddhist pyramid, but not how you might think of the Gaza pyramid. It isn't classed as a pyramid, infect it's called a Stupa. Upon arrival we were all fitted with sarongs, which we thought might be a joke played on tourists, but even the Asian visitors wore them. Apparently it's just out of respect and modesty, which on reflection, Smith and my reaction wasn't. Until we grew up we initially acted like kids playing dress up, performing curtsies and being daft, not in full public view I hasten to add!!! 

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The temple itself was pretty spectacular, from a distance it looks quite a basic stone temple, but when up close there is some fantastically intricate carvings and statues. It looked even better in the morning sunshine, which was cool enough to wander about without passing out. Much like China though, kids on school trips and even some families stop us and asked to have photos taken with us and some groups of teenagers learning English regularly tried to stop us to ask questions to help with their courses. 

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The next stop was the Hindu temple of Prambanan, in the grand scheme of things, both temples actually share many similarities and are actually considered contemporaries. There are many records of marriages between Hindu and Buddhist nobles during the time. From afar it looks more spectacular than Borobudur, with it's tall spires, although I wouldn't say the carvings were as intricate as at Borobudur. 

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The following day we used to relax before the next travel laden instalment of the trip, to Mt. Bromo and on to Bali.

Posted by Christian25 13:08 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Jakarta, across the Equator.

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We landed on new soil, the first time in my life I have ever crossed the equator, in Jakarta, Indonesia. After the usual boarder inspections and paying for our visa we gathered our bags and headed via taxi to Jalan Jaksa, the travellers hangout in Jakarta. It has all the cheapest guesthouses and a few bars down a narrow one way road. Once we arrived we spent a little while searching for cheap rooms, all were pretty grimy. Then on a road just off Jalan Jaksa we found a hostel with a nice room, slightly more expensive, but it had everything we needed and was very comfortable. We went out for a little wander quickly and decided to grab a bite to eat. It was already noticeably hotter in Jakarta and we decided to take shelter until it cooled down a little later on.

That evening we met up with Jesse who we originally met in Kuala Lumpur, she was kind enough to come meet us after work and showed us a nice restaurant nearby which was nice. Afterwards we headed to a little bar where an Indonesian Reggae band were playing, they were very impressive, and they looked the part too with their dreadlocks and afros! It surprises me how popular Reggae, and Rastafarian culture is in South-East Asia. A lot of them seem to live a laid back lifestyle, as well as indulging and embracing some other famous Rastafarian cultures!

The following day we went for a walk to have a look at some local landmarks. I'll be honest nothing too impressive, and in fact the day can often expose some of a cities less finer points, as of course a night can. The only issue with Jakarta being it's uncleanliness, especially mixed with it stifling heat. It bodes for a bad impression. 

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(The Presidencial Palace)

That evening I received some news which I had been anticipating for a while, but was still ecstatic to read in a message from my Brother-in-Law, that my sister had just given birth to a baby boy! Harry was born on the 22nd of Feb, to two very proud parents, and I cannot wait to meet him!

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(Recieving the good news! I was just out of the shower, that's why I look a little dishevelled. I havnt taken to walking around with my flies and belt undone, hair unkept and no shirt on!)

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(My Nephew Harry on his way home, making a bid for freedom from the Hospital!)5

That evening we decided to treat ourselves to a bit of western living by going to Pizza Hut and then to the Cinema. I'll be honest the Pizza Hut was nothing to write home about, in fact it was a little bit of a disappointment, but I really enjoyed the cinema, I had forgotten what it was like, you cannot beat watching a film there. When the light came up it was bizarre. I could have left the theatre and walked out into the big car park outside the Vue at Westwood Cross, it was a little strange when we didn't. Instead punched in the face by the night heat and smells of the noisy city.

We had read about a water park just outside Jakarta and thought it would be a good laugh, unfortunately the taxi driver took us to the wrong one, it was pretty dire and clearly few westerners go there which was a great shame! That evening we met up again with Jesse, grabbed some street food, Indonesia's famous satay. We had arranged another cinema trip, after all it only cost a few pounds and we met up with Stephanie, Jesse's friend, and fellow English teacher. After the film we said our goodbyes before we headed for Yogyakarta the following day. 

Posted by Christian25 05:25 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia travel Comments (1)

Singapore!

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Singapore is a good few hours bus ride from Melaka, and unfortunately we arrived in an area we didn't expect to in heavy rain. After spending a while trying to flag down a taxi we were soon on our way to our home-stay accommodation in little India called Al's Nest. The place was actually recommended by Howard from Melaka. Al's Nest was nice enough, not the same atmosphere as Ringo's, but then Al had his family living there and from the pictures on the walls had been doing it for sometime. Singapore is an island off Malaysia, however, like Hong Kong, it's a city state and therefore has it's own currency, government and laws.

We decided to have a wander round the local area, little India, which is where we were staying. We found a little food quarter which was pumping out some delicious smelling Indian food, so we decided grab a bite to eat and we were not disappointed! That evening we had a couple of beers outside a trendy bar that cost an arm and a leg, Singapore is not cheap!

The next day unfortunatly was a little bit of an anti climax, the weather was poor so we spend most of the day wandering round ridiculously expensive shopping malls, Singapore isnt mucking about, they have money and they are flaunting it!

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We had decided that the following day we would go to the Singapore zoo, we were lucky with the good weather so thought we would make the most of it. It's easily one of the best Zoo's I have been to, there is a fantastic variety of animals and the enclosures are fantastic. The animals are almost always visible because of the way it is designed, but the wellbeing of the animal isn't compromised by this fact. It was a great example of a well run and designed zoo! The added bonus was the fact that we got to see Orangutang's, which I had never seen before, their enclosure was ingenious, with them being able to get to trees and platforms above the paths that the zoo-goers  walk along without it being enclosed. That evening we had a little wander around china town. 

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(China Town)

Following day wander at the harbour area which has received heavy investment and the majority of the buildings are space age, and cutting edge in design. It felt like you were an extra in a science fiction film, a microcosm of what the developing world may look like years from now! That evening in Little India, being a Sunday, Indian men gather in their hundreds on the grass greens and mingle, when we went out to get some food it was almost intimidating, and we only saw a handful of women if that. the food we had that evening was arguably the nicest curry oi have ever had!

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(Indian male gathering)

The next day we had to be up early to catch a flight to Indonesia, and after our exploration of Singapore, I think it might be a world apart!

Posted by Christian25 18:51 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore travel Comments (0)

Melaka.

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Melaka is a new member of the 2012 world heritage sites. It is a really pretty town, with it's old colonial buildings and mazy streets filled with little galleries, boutique shops and trendy cafes. This is a place to enjoy a wander and have a chilled out time.

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We arrived at our accommodation, Ringo's Foyer after a while of searching to be greeted by a smiley Chinese man by the name of Howard. We initially chilled out and then he recommended that we check out the weekend Market and get some food from there. He said that the people staying at the guesthouse had had a heavy one the previous night and that we should join them on the roof for a tea party as everyone attempted to recover!

The following day we went for a wander around the local area and explored the town in the evening we went for a bike ride with Howard to the food quarter and around the town at night. it's a regular thing that he does with his guests, it's a nice touch, he is all for his guests bonding. Every now and again he would stop and tell us all about different sites of interest. Considering the price of the room Howard's service to his customers is second to none.  

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(Howard told us a story about how the local government decided to put about 40 ducks on this river, he said that after they were released with in a day or so they had vanished, he joked that the Chinese will eat anything and everything!)

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(The monitor lizards were a common sight around Melaka, and again, Howard said that Chinese tourists have asked if they are edible!)

The following day Howard informed us of an opportunity to get a free lunch. So a group of is from tue guesthouse followed through Melaka to go to a book launch. Howard's a bit like the pied piper, except he goes everywhere, on foot or bike with tourists following him. Melaka has just become a world heritage site and they were putting on a book launch and free food to celebrate this. That evening we ventured out on another Bike ride to the big night Market for snacks for the evening, we had asked Howard about getting some beers to have on the rooftop, and he offered to sorts us out with beer on the cheap from a friend. There was a nice group of us up on the Rooftop chatting and playing games. It actually resulted in a bit of an All nighter, Smith myself and a new friend Sumiyah chatting and chilling until the morning. The next day I didn't get up till the early afternoon and next day was a bit of a right off. Smith and Kailey had already been out and found a Pizza Hut, but Smith couldn't bring himself to eat. I was a bit jealous that I had missed out on Pizza Hut, so me and Sumiyah headed out to find it. That even was taken up with relaxing and watching films, much need!

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(at the book launch)

The following day we had almost said goodbye to all of our little group from Ringo's, we went and had a wander around a shopping centre during the day and in the evening we were chilling in the lounge area while Howard was out on his usual bike ride with some guests and some people turned up, later in the evening we had some beers with them, they were from Australia and kindly said we could crash at their house when we passed through which was kind. 

We were all sad to leave Melaka and the the little community that develops at Ringo's Foyer, all down to Howard!

Posted by Christian25 20:04 Archived in Malaysia Tagged travel malaysia melaka Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur.

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Kuala  Lumpur, felt like we had walked back into that modernity of Shanghai or Hong Kong. One of the most prosperous and developed cities in South East Asia. We had been informed by a guy we met in the Cameron Highlands that the day of our arrival coincided with the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam. He recommended that we went to have a look at the Batu Caves a little way out of the city. After arriving at easily one of the nicest hostels we have stayed at so far, we arranged ourselves and headed off to locate the caves, there is a train after getting to central K.L. that takes you all the way there. It was packed with Hindus making their way to the holy site, but for a few tourists. 

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The scenes at the Batu caves were like what you can quite often see on the news where religious celebrations in foreign countries almost become out of hand. There were thousands of people. It was quite intimidating, Indian music was blaring out at a deafening volume and smells of different curries and snacks punched you in the face and tickled you taste-buds! The actual caves themselves were pretty incredible, packed with people praying, and at the foot of the steps that lead up to the caves people just discarded their shoes. I'm sure their intention was to collect them once leaving the cave, but the shear volume of people doing this would rend it impossible, it gave the experience a bizarre feeling, but a great experience. Some people almost appeared in a state of trance. Men, Women and Children had shaved their heads and covered their scalps with and Ochre coloured power. When we eventually decide we had had enough, we realised the train station was what appeared almost dangerously packed. We decided to get a Taxi, the driver proudly announcing that we visited during a point where the festival is at a relative calm, 'you wait till this evening' he chuckled!

That evening we went for a wander, deciding to walk toward the famous Petronas buildings. The tallest twin towers in the world. The city this particular night was a little unnerving, with many of the shops and people you would usually expect to see celebrating at the caves. The towers are an impressive sight on the skyline, once considered the tallest buildings in the world, the tops if them have an Asian style. they almost reminded me of a modern take on the architecture at different religious sights we have visited in South East Asia, particularly Angkor Wat. 

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(This is the K.L. tower)

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(Petronas Building)

The following day we decided to have a walk round the local area and in particular the China town area. We found a restaurant that is actually recommended in the lonely planet, it's not too pricey, but is well renowned for it's tasty food, so we decided to have lunch there, and it was particularly nice! That evening we went up the K.L. tower (one of the worlds tallest telecom towers) to have a look at the evening vistas of the city, they were impressive, especially looking across to the glowing Petronas towers.

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The following day was one of the highlights of my trip in it's own individual way. We had payed to go to an Elephant reserve about two hours out of K.L. We booked it with the hostel and they included lunch into it for us, which was brought along, almost like a picnic, as well as a cooler with plenty of drinks, which I thought was a nice touch. The driver and the guide from the hostel got involved too, having lunch and charting with us. It was only a small group, Smith, Kailey and myself and joining us was a girl from California called Jesse. She was on a long weekend away, renewing her visa as she is teaching English in Indonesia. We wandered round the museum first, then watched a video on how they are protecting Malaysian Elephants, and even using trained elephants to relocate troublesome wild elephants encountering humans. Then was the time we were looking forward to, we were loaded up with fruit, our guide even bringing extra watermelon with our packed lunch. We met the gentle giants, playfully feeling out with their nimble noses trying to pilfer fruit of the tourists. The keepers encouraging us to pop the food directly into thief mouths, I wasted no time fattening them up and attempting to win them over as the person who gave them the most treats. After this we looked at some of the recuperating elephants, one who had lost a foot, but was almost nonchalantly aware, and also one who lost his tail to a tiger attack in the wild. After having a little ride on the back of one of the elephants, some of the tourists got into swimwear and took to the river to get involved with bathing the elephants. It was a really special day with these magnificent creatures!

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The next day we went to one of the largest enclosed Bird parks in the world, it was cool to see all the birds quite natural and being able to fly about rather than caged up. Later in the day we went and did some window shopping at a shopping centre called Time Square. The place is that large it has a roller-coaster an a small theme park inside it. That evening we went up like most evening and had a beer on the rooftop bar overlooking the city, with K.L. Tower and The Petronas building lit up in the distance!

The following day we sorted out our bus to our next destination, Melaka, and just chilled out about the hostel which was nice, as we had been relatively busy in the stuffy heat of the city. However, it had proved to be one of my favourite modern cities we had visited so far!  

Posted by Christian25 21:54 Archived in Malaysia Tagged travel kuala lumpur k.l. Comments (0)

The Cameron Highlands!

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The Cameron highlands was the next destination on our trip through Malaysia. I hadn't heard a great deal about it before coming to Malaysia, apart from some information given to me by the guy who I cancelled my car insurance with before I embarked on my travels. 

The Highlands are home to some of Malaysia's highest points, as well as being home to perfect conditions for certain fruits and vegetables which would often not be suitable to grow in the stifling conditions of South East Asia. Obviously being high up results in greater precipitation and moisture in general, as well as a far more cooler environment.

Once we arrived in the town of Tanah Rata, We were a little bit confused to where to stay, the towns we had passed through and Tanah Rata were all very busy due to the Muslim holiday which was being celebrated, Muhammed's Birthday. Luckily two travellers noticed us looking bemused and pointed us in the direction of a little guesthouse called Twin Pines. It wasn't much to look at, and once the room had been evaluated against the price we realised we shouldn't complain. It was £7 for a three person room per night, bargain, even if you couldn't stand properly because of the sloping roof!

We ventured straight out to wander round the small town, not a great deal to see, but we stopped at a curry house to get a late lunch. The Highlands look and feel what I can imagine Scotland might look like if it was relocated to the tropics, and it's population swapped for Asian people, primarily Indian. The buildings actually looked a little Scottish too, but it may have been my imagination. After we had eaten we decided to book a tour so that we could see some of what the highlands had to offer, particularly the tea plantations, and tea pavilion, I had my hopes set on having a cream tea!!!

The next day we were picked up in an ancient Land Rover, being driven wildly. The car, an antique of a vehicle screamed up the road and out popped an Indian chap in big 'wellies' with a bottom lip like the character Bubba from the film 'Forrest Gump'. After picking up the rest of the tour group he headed for the first stop, the butterfly farm. It was an interesting mix of wildlife and plants that could be found in and around the highlands. The butterfly's were the largest I had seen, not shy off dinner plate size some of them.
 
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After a look round the butterfly farm 'bubba' took us to the second highest point in Malaysia, or so he said, apparently it's the highest point accessible to a vehicle. There was a look out tower which offered amazing views of the surrounding countryside.    
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Coming down off the highest point in our roaring land-rover he stopped off at an area known as Mossy Forrest, we took a very short trek through the undergrowth, he explained that in the tropics forests can only be found at this sort of altitude due to the heat, hence why it's normally jungle in the tropical areas. He explained that there was little animal life found in a forest mainly just plants and fauna, which also meant no mozzies or leeches.

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The roads coming off the highest point were manic, tiny little mountain paths packed with cars because of the national holiday. While we were stuck in traffic our guide said we could wander along the road in the direction of the Tea pavilion and factory, walking the winding but clogged roads of the plantations. Eventually after stopping at an area which had a group of houses and only just constituting a village we waited at a children's playground for our guide to pick us up. Now comes the most important bit, the cream tea, I was particularly hungry so also had a tuna sandwich, like a true English gent, and scoffed it down like a true rabid animal. The factory was closed due to the public holiday, which was annoying, so we headed for the Bee farm and strawberry farm, located in separate areas I must add, otherwise it would be chaos!

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We were given the option to trek back ourselves from a neighbouring town, the Highlands also being a massive destination to those who enjoy a bit of a walking holiday. We set off on a long trek through the forest on our own, up and down muddy hillsides in dense foliage, across babbling brooks and over felled trees for a good couple of hours almost until we decided to take a different route back to civilisation, it was massively enjoyable bit harder than expected. In typical form we realise once back at our hotel we got dropped off at a different point to what we expected and had taken one of the most difficult treks!

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The following day we took a walk to see some water falls, which were close by, admittedly I wasn't that impressed, I think you can do others if you pay for an excursion to some of the more protected and impressive ones, but it still made for a pleasant walk, however, we were quite warn out after the pervious days activities.

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(an electrical storm rising up over the highlands, the pictures do not do it justice, it was like God was having a rave!)

The next day we boarded a bus for Kuala Lumpur, and waved goodbye to the beautiful highland landscape and the cooler climate to head to the hustle and bustle of the Malaysian Capital.

Posted by Christian25 00:48 Archived in Malaysia Tagged cameron highlands Comments (0)

George Town, the first step in Malaysia.

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Leaving behind Thailand from Samui involved a bus to the port, a ferry, then a coach journey to a pick up point before finally gettin on the bus that would take us to George Town in our next country of interest Malaysia. All three bus drivers were ex rally drivers, crazy speed freaks, but nothing new, arguably they are all like it. I think i was just about ready to leave Thailand by now i was excited and hoping Malaysia would be noticeably different. We were greeted once on the boarder to some really bad rain and layers of cloud. I hadn't really seen a sky that had reminded of the sky's you see in the U.K. 

Once we arrived in George Town on the island of Penang on the west coast of Malaysia it was noticeable the influence of many varying cultures that have left their mark on the town with it's colonial houses and winding little streets. After dropping off our bags at our nice hostel we were pointed in the direction of the food quarter. Once arriving we walked into a covered area with as many as twenty small canteens selling a variety of different Asian tucker. Everybody sits in the middle of the food stands in the square where entertainment in the form of karaoke is being performed (Throughout Asia they love a spot of karaoke). 

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(an example of the hawker food stands)

The next day we went for a wonder to get our bearings and explore the town by the day. We went to the George Town museum and learnt about how the different cultures that live in the town came to be situated there as well as the the colonialism that took place by the Dutch and English, lending a look to many of the buildings.

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(St. George's Church)

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We also had a brief wonder round fort Cornwallis a British fort left over from Malaysia's colonial past. Something intriguing about the different people living in George Town, Malaysia being a Muslim country. Round one corner and be confronted by a Chinese temple, a few doors down a large gleaming White mosque and a few paces round the block and you will see either an old or space age modern church. A cake mix of cultures treading on each others toes but creating a delicious blend of sensory experiences. That evening the hostel were celebrating the Chinese new year, there were games of killer pool, which had some bizarre rules from what I was used to but we embraced them. There was also a traditional Chinese lion dance with people beating drums and cymbals as the guys in the costumes weaved in and out of the crowd bobbing to the beat. Strangely all day due to someone reading the list of the evenings activities wrong we had though that it was going to be a line dance! Nobody took the blame for this faux pas, I expect I looked bizarre sitting there in my leather chaps, waistcoat, Stetson and cowboy boots! We met a group of Swedish lads and the evening promptly descended into chaos once hitting the town. I can recall a scene in which I ordered a Fillet O' Fish from MacDonald's at about four in the morning to an uproar of laughter, due to me ranting about 'who in their right mind' would eat one. You had to be there... so did I really to understand exactly what happened either, it made for a funny story.

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Need i say more than the next day was spent relaxing and contemplating our actions.

Feeling fresh and revitalised the following day we took the 101 bus to it's last stop, the national park. Once there you have to sign in and you can trek along the coastline, it was a really fun walk, made more interesting by doing it in flip-flops, essential trekking wear! We saw massive monitor lizards sunbathing on the beach, butterflies, monkeys and other insects. We eventually made it to what was called Monkey Beach, although ironically seeing few monkeys. We got a boat taxi back from that beach, dropped at a jetty where we had started out, once on our way home we remembered we hadn't signed out, hopefully there aren't search parties still looking for us, oblivious to the international news headlines we have made 'ENGLISH TRAVELLERS STILL MISSING, PRESUMED DEAD, MOSTLY LIKLY CONSUMED BY MONITOR LIZARDS!'

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(the picture doesn't do it justice, plus this wasn't the largest one anyway!)

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(how good is that camouflage?)

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The next day we decide to go up Penang Hill, as we had been informed of the excellent panoramic views that were attainable up there. We had to get on a little train ride up the side of the hill, and it was worth going for the views, from up there too, we noticed a massive temple and once down the hill we walked to have a look, it is Buddhist and called Kek Lok Si. While at the impressive temple, because of the chinese new year, people were hanging up prayer ribbons. Their definition being in English too, I picked two and hung them up, hopefully someone's watching my back this year! 

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Throughout George Town there are large iron pictures up against the walls of the buildings explaining the history of the town which is a world heritage site.

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(this one is for the girls, Jimmy Choo's first apprenticeship as a shoe maker!)

The following day we headed off to tue Cameron highlands, me salivating at the prospect of a cream tea, or so I had heard. See I can almost be civilised! 

Posted by Christian25 00:02 Archived in Malaysia Tagged town malaysia penang george travel. Comments (0)

The final leg of the Thai aventure, Koh Samui.

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Koh Samui was our last leg of our Thai adventure, I had had mixed reviews of Samui, my sister had been there several years ago and said it was an island paradise, however people we had been traveling with that had previously gone there said that it was very commercial and touristy now, not that Thailand isn't in places, but more so that others. I suppose it being the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand and also having it's own airport adds to the islands accessibility to holiday tourists rather than just travellers. I believe that when my sister went there it was probably a much different place, but it certainly wasn't a Phuket, which I was worried about!

We travelled after the night of my birthday so everyone was feeling a little delicate, it surprises me, but I don't remember a great deal of the boat ride. Not that I'm complaining, and once we had arrived after about a three hour boat ride we hopped into a taxi and headed for Chaweng beach.This is admittedly the most touristy area of Samui, if you wanted to go there and relax and avoid the tourist trap you could do so in some of the small beach resorts. The first day after checking in at Coconut Lodge was taken up with readjusting ourselves and making sure we were on top form for the next day!

The following day we decided to try something a little unique Football Golf. It was a little drive out of town. Being keen on both sports, more so football, I was expecting to take to it quite quickly, but I'm pleased to say we all struggled! A few times getting a little frustrated and kicking it a little harder than recommended! A few of the 18 holes were holed under par, but thank goodness that the most strokes or kicks, however you want to call it, you were allowed per hole was 7! I'm saying that for all of us! The course itself, although very difficult, (especially with a football as soon as it touches a hill it's back down it but twise as far away!) was very nicely set out and did resemble a tropical golf course. It proved to be a great laugh, or source of great frustration, whatever way you want to look at it. I think some of mine and Smiths language took in the etiquette of football rather than golf!

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That afternoon we went down to the beach to find the waves were pretty strong. Smith decided he wanted to rent a surf board and got in the water quick, after a little while i decided to have a go with a bodyboard, catching a good couple of waves that took me right in to the shore. After a little while due to the fact they had no rash vests to rent it felt like i had napalmed my nipples, so had to stop!

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(Smith in the surf, he caught a couple of good waves!)

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The resort area was particulary expensive for food, well compared to our budget, but we found a side street with some cheap and cheerful restaurants on it, selling some meals for less than a pound! It was good food and at a price not to be scoffed at, quite literally.

The next couple of days were spent on the beach soaking up the last Thai rays before moving on to our next destination, Malaysia!!! 

Posted by Christian25 20:28 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand samui koh Comments (0)

Laid back Koh Tao & my Birthday

As it turned out the trip to Koh Tao which I was a little apprehensive about due to the reported poor seas in the gulf was not actually that bad, maybe I'm developing sea legs with all the boat journeys we have been taking, but I slept through the majority of it which was nice!

Koh Tao is famous for it's diving! It's the smallest of the three islands in the Gulf, not that it matters, with it's relaxing island vibe. The island is expanding, particularly the Sairee area which we were staying, potentially in a few years it will be another Phangan or Samui (from what we had heard). The nice sandy long beach at Sairee has clear waters and although there is long boats along the shoreline, it's not as manic as Ao Nang or even Phi Phi, and it also doesn't have the jet-skis or parasailing like Phuket, I hope this doesn't change!

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On arrival we found a very cheap guesthouse, dumped our stuff and went and grabbed a bite to eat. We were meeting Shaun later in the evening who had been on the island almost a week taking his diving courses. We had a good night out at one of the beach bars, it had a good fire show on and we sat around chatting, eventually saying our goodbyes to Shaun for the last time, unless we catch up in Australia or if we are in his neck of the woods Toronto.

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(these pictures are actually a false account, I took these in Phi Phi of a fire show but forgot to include them on my blog for then, bit give you an idea of the fire show, the are all relatively similar).

The next day, I unfortunately had a dicky tummy to go with the hangover, although hard to beloved I can assure you they were unrelated, but I'm not going to divulge any details. I spent the day hydrating, and dehydrating in a constant cycle. In the evening we met up with Bryony and Bully who we had made friends with on Koh Phangan and had caught up with for New Years on Phi Phi too!

The following day, feeling better now we decide to go to the mini golf we had seen advertised around Sairee Village. As it turned out it was a great laugh, and one of the more difficult mini golf courses I have played. They also had a bowling ally there too, it was like an episode of the Flintstones, bowling down a relatively uneven ally to have the pins and balls sorted out manually by some poor Thai guy, I kinda felt sorry for him, but it was a laugh!

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The next few days we payed a few pounds to go and spend some time round a resort swimming pool. Just relaxing and mucking about. After being in our cheap accommodation for a good few days we decided to look elsewhere, and as we were paying for a pool, maybe somewhere with one. We found the place to be was Asian Divers Resort, we payed for a very roomy 2 person room, and only for a little extra they put an extra bed in for us, the room was really nice and even had a balcony. The swimming pool was of a good size, plus very deep at the deepest end, they used it for dive practices, this meant for ridiculous entrances into the pool and plenty of laughs. The next few days were spent in the same vain, around the pool. One afternoon me and Smith decided to take a little trek to the view point on the island. 'it's just up a hill' we thought. After almost an hour of walking, sweating like marathon runners up and down the side of hills, 'how can we be going down? Surely a view point is at the top of a hill', we weezed blinded by the sweat pouring off us! Eventually we made it, cursing our way up the hillside on the mud tracks as other tourists wobbled by on the uneven road on their mopeds and motorbikes. It was worth it and the view was amazing, allowing us a moment to ignore the fact that we had to do the same journey to get off the hillside!

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By now we had become residence on Koh Tao, deciding to stick around, i was very keen to see my Birthday out on this chilled island. We decide that we would get a taxi boat to the famous little island off Koh Tao, called Nang Yuan. This is where the vast majority of diving is done off Koh Tao. It's made up of two islands one larger than the other, poking their way out if the water and creating a sandbank in the middle. There is one diving resort on the island other than that you can only visit for the day. We hired snorkels and took the 10 min boat ride over to the island with Bryony and Bully. The water around the sandbank was the clearest I have seen on out trip so far. We saw lots of tropical fish, whole shoals of them, someone them were brightly coloured and not fazed by humans in the water, they were almost playful, one or two nipping my toes, but only felt like a little pinch, still a little unnerving though, but funny when you realised what it was. There were pipe fish, or what I assume to be pipefish, sea Cucumbers and sea Urchins. We are a little convinced that we saw a barracuda too, not a massively large one but easily 2 (and a bit) ft long, which swam by looking relatively aggressive, but far enough away not to seem threatening, of course we are not convinced it was a Barracuda, but it still counts, Birthday Barracuda. On this island there is also a view point, not a trek like the one on the mainland, and it offered postcard images of the little island. A perfect place to spend a Birthday, during a month when it would normally by raining or snowing at home. That evening we went out and had a few beers, enough to make me feel considerably rough the next morning when we had to be up at silly-O'clock to catch a boat to Koh Samui! (Why am I always hungover before a boat trip?)

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(the gang)

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(King of the World!)

Posted by Christian25 10:17 Comments (2)

New Years on the Andaman. (Part I & II)

sunny

PART I

We arrived in Ao Nang, the beach area of Krabi, and we were greeted by an amazing beach, after a first night out though we decided promptly that the area was not quite what we had hoped for, while beautiful we missed our group of friends who had moved on to Phi Phi an island off Krabi. After spending a few glorious days of sunshine on the beach at Ao Nang we decided to pull some strings and get ourselves out to the island of Phi Phi Don for New Years to be spent with our friends. 

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(the above pictures are all of Ao Nang -Krabi)

We received a message from them informing us of a boat trip they were taking on New Years Eve afternoon before the celebrations so we asked them to book us in too. We arrived on Phi Phi on the 31st to be greeted by the dilemma of everywhere being booked up, Phi Phi being a tiny island in the Andaman sea, literally too large rocky outposts with maybe just under a half a mile stretch of a sand bank in between that is full of places to stay, restaurants, bars and shops! We found accommodation albeit one night in a dorm and then booked a following two in a bit of a box room, we dumped our stuff, got ready and met the gang.

The boat trip took us to the infamous 'Beach' on the neighbouring island of Phi Phi Lay, made famous by the film which shares the same title with Leonardo Di Caprio. I have read the book too while I have been away traveling, the island is actually fictitious, and supposed to be an unknown paradise in the Gulf of Thailand not the Andanaman. I expect once upon a time Phi Phi Lay would have been like this, but due to the film being filmed on this island it has made it a tourist destination, even though you cannot stay there for more than a day and the island has no accommodation it has become in some respects everything that the book and later, the film, is attempting to depict an unspoilt island with no tourism where people who want to escape reality can. Ironically,  in reality the setting for this had becoming exactly what the characters were striving to avoid. However, it was still remarkably beautiful. We jumped off the boat and swam to some steps that went up the side of the steep cliffs around the islands so that we could enter the beach like Leo did in the film. It was a cool experience, unfortunately though I was unable to take my camera so I have had to steal pictures of the beach from friends who have waterproof cameras.

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(the gang on the boat before departure!)

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During the boat trip we pasted a Cave which has the bizarre name of Viking Cave, this is not because the Vikings ever made it to Thailand, or were even the first people to develop the package holiday. Apparently inside the cave is a painting of a viking ship that one of the first people who used the cave as shelter during a storm drew on the cave wall, however, I'm not sure why they chose to draw a Viking ship. This cave though is now inhabited by a few brave people who live there all year and pay the Thai government a substantial annual free of around a Million Thai Baht (over £20,000). The people who then live there, in return are allowed to harvest the birds nests of the birds nesting in the cave. These are used in the famous Birds Nest soup, a very pricey delicacy in many of the power nations in Asia such as China and Japan.

New years eve was an amazing night out, all along the beach bars where we were located when the clock hit 12 they let off fireworks. Although, at times, they almost seemed out of control, particularly as the bars were attempting to out do each other, it was a great place to see in new year! The weather the next day was very wet, and the island with it's poor drainage got pretty flooded resulting in a common practice in Thailand of taking your flip-flops off and leaving them outside shops or guesthouses. This prompted some bastard to steal my trusty flip-flops, I couldn't get it into my head why someone would as they were horrendously worn and shabby. After a couple of days they reappeared outside the guesthouse, muddy and dishevelled. I was planning on waiting in a bush nearby to see who came out and put them back on, particularly seen as they had been that 'ballsy' to wear them to where they stole them from. I had the intention of clubbing them round the back of their head and stealing their shorts or something. I decided to let bygones be bygones and except that my flip-flops had a little fun without me but were back in possession to cushion my tootsies on the road again!

The rest of our time on Phi Phi Don was spent on the beach, one day Smith and I hired a sea kayak and paddled out of the cove and around the headland to a secluded beach called Monkey Beach, I don't expect it would take a lot of guessing to work out what was there. One of the other days after spending a day on the beach, the weather became a little over cast and we headed up to the view point on the island and got some amazing views across the island and across to Phi Phi Lay.

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After spending a little while on Phi Phi and our group gradually getting smaller as people headed off to other places, some before going home, others heading back up to the north of Thailand and some getting ready to move on to pastures new. We decide to check out Phuket which has a reputation as a popular tourist destination and is only a couple of hours away by boat from Phi Phi.

PART II

Phuket like the Phi Phi islands is located on the Andaman coastline, and although an island it is connected to the mainland in the north by a bridge, due to it's close proximity. Phuket didn't have the same vibe that we had experienced on the previous island we had been to, it felt more like a Coastal Bangkok. Packed full of westerners and families clearly on holidays. 

We spent a couple of days down by the beach which was packed full of sun-loungers and the water front was bustling with people doing various water sports. After a little while on Phuket we decided it wasn't for us, just a walk down the some if the streets became a challenge, being accosted by Thai girls outside countless massage parlours trying to pull you in or physically standing infront of you. Our hotel too, although we had no problems and the room was cheap and cheerful but pleasant enough, we were quite convinced some of the rooms where being used by prostitutes. The bar street in Phuket was huge, we had a couple of beers there while watching some football, but it arguably made Khao San road in Bangkok seem a little tame, which I never expected to say.

I'm painting a bleak view of Phuket, to some its got everything they would want on a holiday, but it is more of a Magalouf kind of destination, and is a poor reoresentation of Thailand, even more so if you have experience the North, which unfortunatly we were unable. It was one of my least favourite destinations, it did have somethings going for it, but we had decided we had enough and decide that we would head back to Phi Phi for a couple of days before heading off to the otherside of Thailand, back to the Gulf to explore the two islands we still wanted to see, Koh Tao and Koh Samui. Going back to Phi Phi was nice, but arguably we had exhausted the small island the first time, so other than a couple of nights out it was a relatively familiar existence and we booked our tickets to take us to Koh Tao. They had been experiencing poor weather conditions in the Gulf and we had no choice but to take a boat to Ao Nang, where we were before new year, and then stay for a night before heading off early in the morning as to make sure that we caught a boat in the gulf during the day when it was safer and less rough. Once in Ao Nang we went out and had some food at a Resturant we enjoyed the first time, watched some football and then got an earlier night before a day of travelling back to the Gulf!

Posted by Christian25 06:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand krabi phi phuket ao nang Comments (0)

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