Another long old blog.. happy new year all..xx
Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
17Trip End Sep 14, 2010
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Where I stayed
Hi again everyone, so its been a while and there is a lot to tell again... This is our SE Asia leg so far..
We landed in Singapore from Mumbai, what a flight, our plane was so brand spanking new despite being in cattle class it felt like 1st class it truly was so much fun that we forgot to sleep and so arrived into Singapore absolutely exhausted.
Singapore airport is HUGE and so plush I think we could have stayed there it was that nice but then we got into the city and OH MY GOD its so so so clean.. I mean super clean maybe a little too much but still coming from India to that was like we had just landed in some alternate universe we LOVED it..
We took a taxi to our hostel, we had landed at about 7.30am and all we wanted to do was sleep but unfortunately the hostel said we couldn't check in until after midday so we took a walk around the streets and still kept pinching ourselves half expecting to see a pile of rubbish somewhere or a foul smell drifting out of some dark hole but nothing of the sort, what we found was clean pavements (pavements at all was quite something) and pedestrian crossings where you didn't have to take your life into your own hands with each step, shopping malls.. Oh my word... shops without someone dragging you in there and making you look at every item they had on offer.. we then discovered the food courts.. these are incredible, the food is so cheap and you get so much and to top it off its all so healthy! Steamed pak choi, broccoli, carrots, veg in general that hadn'tt been boiled to death it was delicious.. (I must point out here that still to this day and its 28th December now we still cannot even think about eating an indian curry.. our stomachs do a funny turn when we think of it..)
Anyway after we ate and it was coming upto about 30+ hours of no sleep we eventually got into our dorm room and melted into the bed for a few hours.. it was a pretty good hostel, we decided to do a dorm as much cheaper and it ain't cheap in Singapore that'ss for sure! When we managed to wake up we took a wander again into the city and again found an amazing food hall. The next day we went on a hike through the city walking all the way down Orchard Road, this is the main shopping street and its amazing! It was jam packed with Xmas decorations that were so immaculate and Xmas music coming out of all the shops.. they love Malls and this is pretty much what this whole road of about 2km contains and its a real mix too, you have your cheaper malls and your mid rangee sort of debenhams style ones and then just as your coming to the end its the world of Gucci, Prada, Miu Miu and LouisVuittonn its pretty incredible how big these places are.. and every single one of them immaculate..
We carried on down and went to the Botanical Gardens, by this point though our feet were killing us and it was pretty hot and sweaty so we took our time in the gardens which again are pristine.. we saw a wedding in progress.. and some turtles in the lake before we caught the public bus down to Raffles and yes you guessed it the bus was perfect and pristine too..
We more gazed in raffles rather than went in when we saw that a glass of wine cost 8pounds we kind of couldn't justify the cost and Adam was gutted as he wanted a pint of guiness but this also was way too expensive.. he is still waiting for that pint..
We carried on walking and our mission was now to find a deal on a net book, from which I am typing now.. we got a bargain I think and its come in handy so many times so that cost we could justify.. the guiness can wait till we get to Aus.
That evening, tired, very sore feet we took the metro to Chinatown for dinner.. metro was... yes you guessed it immaculate! And such a good system you buy a pass from the machine, it gives you a kind of oyster card thing use it and then when you have completed your journey you put the card back in the machine and get a dollar back! Such a good idea.. Singapore seems to get pretty much everything right..
Chinatown was good fun, lively and lots of places to eat it was hard to choose but this little guy came out of his place and he was so sweet we just had to eat there and it was the best meal we had I reckon.. he had pictures all over the place of him with strange looking white men not sure if they were meant to be famous people of maybe lookalikes bless him..
The next day we took a bus to Kuala Lumpur, this would be our first bus since India and Oh My God it was amazing, we got water, full reclining seats, air-con it was great but then its more expensive than India! It took about 5 hours to get to KL as we had to do the border crossing of running off the bus to be stamped out of Singapore and then off again on the Malaysia side to be stamped in when we arrived in KL we walked to our little guest house which took about 15mins I seriously thought I would collapse it was so hot and the bags so heavy I was bright red and sweaty once we arrived, NICE!
We were only staying the one night in KL before catching the bus to Penang to cross over into Langkawi. We had been to KL last April so we didn't get up to much we had the most overpriced and disgusting meal at a “mock” street cafe, a real tourist trap, and then set out the next morning for Penang.
As I said we were using Penang as a jump off over to the island of Langkawi, we stayed one night in Penang. Its actually a nice little place, with a mix of old colonial and new buildings and a great night food court where we had dinner (much nicer than the dodgy dinner in KL) When we arrived there we had to get the local bus to the main town, the lovely bus driver was going to tell us where to get off.. we were on it so long though we thought maybe he was just taking us on a bit of a jolly round the island but turns out he really was helping us out as we arrived safe and sound.
To get to Langkawi you have to take a ferry so we were up bright and early to catch that, its not a ferry as we know it, some steel structure, it was more of an oversized speedboat, I'm sure any yachtsmen out there will correct me on my description but what do I know! It took about 2 hours and was pretty easy journey with movies too.. very glam..
Finally we arrived on Langkawi and at our guest house, Zackry's. We were so chuffed with our accommodation, we expected a basic, small, damp kind of room and we got a huge immaculate bungalow, great! Neve, who is manager there is so lovely, shes Irish and has been there for I think 5 years and is such a character and so so lovely. We weren't on the beach as those places cost an arm and a leg but we were only a short walk away and it is a gorgeous beach, picture postcard really, white sands, turquoise waters, gently lapping waves, however when we went for our much needed swim after a sweaty journey, there we were enjoying the cool waters when suddenly my legs, arms and back started to feel almost like burning.. now its not jellyfish season there and I couldn't see any in the water but when I got out I found this little translucent crab crawling right where it was stinging.. the little bugger.. they were horrible things and made it pretty unpleasant to go in the water, now I know why the water was so empty of bikini clad women! But the beach was lovely and so we enjoyed our time there..
The nearest town was basically geared for the tourists, it had a huge array of bars, spas and shops lining it and we found some cheap and lovely places to eat. We even found a fish spa which we treated ourselves too, basically you put your feet in these various tanks full of little and medium sized fish who suck and nibble on your dead skin.. its such a horrible but kind of nice experience and our feet afterwards felt so soft until yet again the feeling died and the crusty tired backpacker feet returned.
Our guest house was pretty cool too they had beers etc to hand and we played a lot of cards etc but on our first night some guests and friends of the owner decided to party until 5am which was pretty shit as we were right next to the kitchen/bar area and now I know why we got our room so cheap! But you know what its not like we had to get up for work the next day or anything so cant complain too much.
We stayed 3 days in Langkawi, on one of the days walking back to our hotel we saw a truck being led by a police escort, at first we didn't think anything of it then I heard something and there they were 4 dolphins being transported in the back of this truck and they were making so much noise it was amazing.. Langkawi has a protected marine area near by so I think they were heading there.. or at least that's what I hope. Its was quite bizarre though as every time seem to think wish we had seen dolphins there they are although I must say I really didn't expect to see them in a truck..
After Langkawi we knew we had a long old journey ahead to cross into Thailand and get up to Bangkok. We took the ferry over to Satun to cross into Thailand, after we had thawed out from the air con on board we got our visas into Thailand and caught a minibus up to the town of Trang where we would then catch an over night train up to Bangkok.
We got a sleeper train we wanted to go fan class as its cheaper but these had all sold out so we went Air con.. Oh my what a train.. its soooooo clean and you get dinner served to you if you want and breakfast too.. when it comes to bed time a man comes and folds down your seats into beds and makes them up with sheets and pillows and a blanket, they are so cosy and you have a curtain as privacy I couldn't believe it.. you can see from the pictures just how nice it was..
We arrived in Bangkok about 9.30am the next day and walked to our little guest house near the station, we couldn't for the life of us find it but the lovely owner, Betty had come out to find us and lead us there she was hilarious.. little handbag and painted nails.. Thai people are so friendly they really go out of their way to help, we had to ask about buses and directions to all sorts of people and they would really make an effort to help us so lovely.
Anyway we had a lovely little guest house Baan Hulamphong once we had showered etc we went to see the rest of Bangkok. It was a Sunday when we arrived so the weekend market was on we caught the metro up to Chatuchak and the huge 8000 stall market.. (by the way the metro was great, clean, spacious and on time... why is London so bad!! ) Anyway we browsed the thousands of stalls for a while before then spending about an hour trying to figure out the bus system to get to the Khosan Road (backpacker ville and mad famous from the film “The Beach” ) There was an amazing veggie restaurant off here that we wanted to go to.. amazing food! I had the spicy papaya salad.. couldn't feel my lips for about 20mins afterward.
It was getting late so we decided to head back and then go to Chinatown for dinner and a look around later.. we tried to find a bus to get back to our guesthouse but to no avail so we set off on foot, took about 45mins to get back.. seriously my feet were on fire with pain by this point..I'm holding out for a foot massage in Laos... ahhhh
Anyway back to it.. we went to Chinatown that night, a bustling madness of street stalls and shops, neon lights and traffic. So many shark fins in the windows, one HUGE one so sad to see though.. there was also a lot of weird looking meat hanging in the shops and at one of them I stupidly couldn't tell what this item was it was flat, round and had 4 stumps but I couldn't see the head just a tail.. or so I thought, I had an utter blonde moment as I said to Adam are these Armadillo!! hmmmmmmmmmm OK so duck is what it was and what I thought was the tail was the head and now I cant believe how blind I was.. hilarious!
We found somewhere to eat and were served by a very butch but very camp lipstick wearing man he kind of looked like an Asian version of Barbara Cartland! When we were walking back we found a happy English (mokney) working on one of the fruit stalls and so had a desert of Cantaloupe and little green ball things I think called Gozo in coconut milk it was delicious.
The next day we had a whole day to kill before our train to Chiang Mai left at 10pm so we did some proper sightseeing. We took the local bus to Wat Pho (Wats are Buddhist temples) its famous for the giant gold reclining Buddha and my word it is gigantic.. so amazing to see and the wat itself is incredible surrounded by loads of amazing architecture we spent ages there and a lot of photos too as you will see. Just up the road is the Grand Palace also containing another famous Wat, called Wat Phra Kaeo famous for the emerald Buddha which used to be in Chiang Mai but was moved years ago. Its not a huge one but an amazing sight to see sitting atop all the gold and ornate structures and housed in a beautiful Wat. The palace is very beautiful and huge but a lot you cant go into but definitely worth a look all the same especially as when you arrive you have to make sure your legs and arms are covered... luckily this day I had on my long skirt and long sleeved top however Adam had his knee length shorts on and so had to queue to hire a pair of trousers.. these things were so special.. they were purple, saggy arsed velor style trousers.. he looked like one of the beasty boys from back in the 1980s it was hilarious.. I think he didn't want to give them back as he seemed to enjoy them a little too much!
Once our sightseeing was over with we went again to the veggie place off the Khosan road and spent a few hours there before walking back through Chinatown and eventually back to our guest house to get our bags and hit the rail station for our 14 hour train to Chiang Mai, this time we got fan class tickets and this was just as good as Air con class. Same service just different colour beds.. this train though was jam packed with backpackers.. it was quite weird to suddenly be amongst loads of backpackers as in India its only really the odd one or two you see on the buses and trains this was carriages full of us all.. and also the odd old man with a 20yr old Thai girl.. one can only imagine!
One of these men was a loud, drunk German who would not shut up most of the evening.. his Thai girlfriend didn't exactly look like she was having fun! However we got a good nights sleep and went for breakfast in the dinner cart the next morning to be greeted by the bubbliest waitress.. she was dancing round the cart to Xmas songs and so smiley and it was about 7am!! some people have so much energy its great.. in fact as she was so happy it made the brekkie taste good which really shouldn't have as I had processed cheese sandwiches with ice cold hard french fries and a slice of pineapple.. interesting but tasted really good!
Finally we arrived in Chiang Mai and checked into our guest house, CM Blue which was a lovely place in the quiet side of town as we discovered.. Chiang Mai is definitely a tourist led town, there are bars and shops, a Starbucks, McDonald, and burger king..a canal runs around the center old town and this separates the seedy from the chilled areas.. we were luckily in the chilled part which had a great food market where all the cookery course students went each morning and some really good street food stalls too serving great Pad Thai. We found a fantastic place for breakfast each day, the owner was so sweet each day he would say “good morning, your welcome, pweese sit” and a huge smile.. he also did the best fruit salad with musuli I've ever had.. it was enormous.
Chiang Mai is a main town on the tour package route as well as the backpacker one, mostly because its a jump off point for trekking up into the hills and the tribal villages as well as having an elephant conservation center where you can volunteer for 3 days.. its also famous for its prostitution and on our first night we saw so many older men with these young girls.. but then we cant say they were prostitutes but its likely as they hang in the bars and are called go go girls.. the ones on the streets seemed to be lady-boys so there is a bit of something for everyone's tastes as they say.. its seedy but no more so than any red light district I guess. Just when its in your face and some of these men are pushing 70 I swear.. must be hard though for the men visiting on their own and not looking for boom boom as they probably get judged too..
Anyway we originally were using Chiang Mai as a stop over for a couple of days we did lots of Wat seeing etc and then we were going to head to the the Laos border but we had arranged to meet our friends, Tom and Tilly for Xmas in Luang Prabang which is in the north of Laos so we needed to delay our selves a bit so we decided to do a trek and I'm so glad we did. We chose a 2 day 1 night adventure including 1 hours elephant ride, 3 hour uphill trek to a Lahu village where we would spend the night and sing songs round a campfire as the brochure said.. then the next day we would trek again for 2 hours downhill to some waterfalls for a dip and then another 1 hour walk to a whitewater rafting center where we would raft for 1.5hrs and then a 20min session on a bamboo raft.. it was amazing.. there were 12 of us in total and everyone was great, there were four lads from the UK, Jules, Ben, Tricker and Nick and then 5 Aussies all of whom were lovely and of different ages Amy, Stefan and Karl were great fun, and then there was Peter from Ireland, he was the old boy of the group but a really sweet man and then there was our guide Poosa! What a character, hyperactive and such a good laugh and really did know his stuff.
We got picked up from our guesthouse at 9.30am with the rest of our group we headed to the local market for supplies before we arrived at the Elephant riding place about 12pm.. now my only experience of elephants is that one that charged us in India so I've been close but not this close, they really are immense and so beautiful, we had to clamber onto its back and in our little seat we went off each elephant took 3 people, 2 in the seat and one on the neck. Stef was on our elephants neck and we all had bananas to hand as these creatures know how to bribe you.. 2 steps.. banana, another step banana please.. then another and another.. by the time we had taken 12 steps we were out of bananas.. ha ha they led our elephants down to the water where we all got splashed with a mix of water and elephant snot before they led us in a big circle around the camp where all the elephants in their own way either backed us into trees or ditches to scratch their arses and then cover us in dirt too.. which was hilarious.. it was only a short ride but very different experience and a bit hairy too as I'm sure our seat wasn't strapped on properly we were at one point hanging from the side.. the guys really do treat them well though they have huge areas to wander around in and they look healthy enough but still they aren't wild and this does grate on me a bit that we paid to ride these gorgeous creatures.. what was amazing is there was a calf in the group who would try to copy the adults but not quite so gracefully, when they throw dirt on themselves they pick the finest dirt, this calf just threw all sorts of debris all over itself.. Then when we were by the water it charged in and just threw itself on its side and rolled around legs all over the place.. ha ha it was pretty funny to see.. Also it linked its trunk onto its mothers tail and walked along like this.. ahhhhh
Dumbo in real life!
After we gracefully got down we had lunch before setting off on our 3 hour trek.. Adam managed to loose his wedding ring when washing his hands but luckily Poosa retrieved it from the bottom of the drain.. dear me we thought one of the elephants had had it with one of the bananas at one point!
Wedding ring back on finger we set off on our uphill trek to the village we would be spending the night in.. the scenery was amazing and the trek was hard work, it was about 8 km uphill which was pretty awesome and great for the bum and thighs but we are soooo unfit its crazy..
We had a dog, San, with us and he just charged off ahead.. not even knackered by the end.. mind you I called this dog a freak of nature.. he had the coat of a Rottweiler and the body of a sausage dog, the head the size of a staffy, and stumpy legs that were far too short and fat for his frame.. he was a brilliant dog! Mind you we came across and elephant semi wild I guess he was owned but the owner was nowhere to be seen and San just had to wind this thing up which meant there was yet again the fear of another charging only this time if it had happened there was every chance that I would not be writing this right now.. crazy dog but thankfully Poosa knew how to take on the elephant and we made our exit uphill quickly.
We finally reached the top of the hill and the village of the Lahu people.. we had a huge bamboo hut on stilts overlooking the valley we had just climbed up and our room was 12 sort of mattressess layed out along the floor with mossie nets and blankets it was great, like a school trip.
We got a shower which was FREEZING as it came from the mountain water.. brrrr and then settled in for the night with some beers and a fire some amazing food and guitar playing with Poosa and some of the villagers. The local children then came all dressed in their tribal outfits and sang for us.. they were brilliant, one of them stole my camera for a bit at took some photos of herself and us which are hilarious as you will see. We stayed up quite late chatting and playing games with Poosa and in the end it was just us with Jules and Tricker, finally we tried our hardest to be quiet to go to bed but these bamboo huts make one hell of noise as you walk.. we must have sounded much like the elephants stomping around even though we were all on tiptoes.
Going to the loo in the middle of the night was fun too.. again noisy exit from the hut then down the steep slippery steps to the toilet I fell down the step to the hut as I couldn't see a bloody thing. Ha ha ha
We were woken at about 4.30am by the rooster mafia.. there must have been 10 of the buggers competing for territory crikey so loud.. but it was good as it meant we saw the sunrise which was stunning.
After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bread and fruit and feeling a little sore headed we went off on our downhill trek to the waterfalls, this time San didn't follow I reckon as his legs are so short downhill is harder for him much like it is for me with my mini legs as it was pretty steep and my legs had to practically do the splits to get down some of the ridges.. I was of course at the back due to my grandma pace of walking.. finally though we reached the waterfall.. it was Freezing but cured my aching legs and head in one fowl swoop that's for sure.
We then had an easy hours walk to the whitewater rafting place, it was great fun full and Poosa and his demonstration was so funny on how we should paddle etc.. his motto was if you can swim then I cant get fired if you die.. ha ha and its probably true.
The rafting was great fun, the rapids weren't amazing but we had to all split up into groups of 4 we were with Amy and Stef, the UK boys were altogether, then the Aussie girls and Karl and Peter were in the other raft and there was also a group of french that had joined us that day in another one.
It became a race and also a huge water fight along the way.. we got soaked but our guy was such a skilled boat man he had the best technique for getting everyone soaked who attacked us.. Now when we did hit the rapids you would usually hold on but our guy said paddle fast.. so we did but then we hit a rock which made me bounce through the air and land smack bang in between our mans legs..and as we were still in the rapids I could not get up he was giggling I was in hysterics such good fun.. we definitely want to go rafting again but maybe on some stronger rapids but not too strong not yet anyway!
We had a bit of a race at the end between us and the British boys.. they should have beat us.. but we were just the better team ha ha ha!! sorry lads.. but you were losers..
After this we changed rafts to a flat bamboo structure and Adam punted us to our final destination where we had a bite to eat before being driven back to Chiang Mai and the end of our trek.
We had such a brilliant time and such great people too. It was Jules' birthday on the last day so that night some of us went out to celebrate with him and the boys.. we went to the seedy side of town on a bit of a bar crawl, Jules was suitably wasted by the time we left and I'm sure they carried on. It was a great night out but we had a bus to catch the next day to Chiang Khong at the Laos border so we got home at a very reasonable 3am !!! Arrghhhhhh
The bus wasn't too bad though, it only took about 5 hours and the road was good, we arrived too late to cross over in to Laos so stayed in a great and cheap place. They had a restaurant there where some guy ate with us and my word it was unbearable, he would suck and slurp everything into his mouth even Adam wanted to get out of there but luckily he left first so we sat and watched movie night with some other travelers, we watched Inglorious Bastards which I thought was a pretty good film, if you haven't seen it do so as its pretty good and Brad Pitt is surprisingly funny in it too.
The next day we were up bright and early to cross the Mekong and into Laos and thank god we did get there early as there were so many people crossing after us if we hadn't have got there first we may have been waiting a very long time to get our visa and entry in..
I will tell you all about Laos next time though..
Till then.. lots of love
See the pictures from Singapore, Langkawi and Thailand on the following link -