On the Beach

Trip Start May 02, 2012
Trip End Jul 31, 2014

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Where I stayed
Bliss Resort

Flag of Thailand  ,
Thursday, June 5, 2014

We landed at 3am in Singapore and caught a taxi straight to our hotel and slept! We had to be out of the hotel by 1:00pm so we left our luggage there and proceeded to explore Singapore for the rest of the day.

We walked a lot and also got a day pass for the MRT – a really efficient underground transport system.   It was so easy to use and enabled us to get to various locations in the city quickly.  We have been to Singapore previously and, once again, loved the cleanliness and generally orderly society.   Everyone is just so polite and considerate.  In the subway people gave up their places for us (although it did make us feel old!) and if we were looking at train maps, we would be asked if we needed help….

We loved Chinatown and I bought a silver Pandora necklace at a little jeweller who then just wanted to talk to us – which we were happy to do as he kept bringing out cold beers!   (The saleslady told us that her name was Florence Nightingale!!!)   The sentences if guilty of any wrongdoing in Singapore are pretty drastic and we were interested to learn that men have to do compulsory army training for two years.

We had a lot of time to kill in Singapore as our train to Kuala Lumpur only left at 11:30pm from Woodlands Station – some way outside the city centre.  Having been a long walking day, we were pretty tired when we arrived at the station.    We did get there at the last minute having underestimated how long it would take to get there with our luggage.   To get onto the train we had to queue on wooden benches and half an hour before departure we were all sent through Immigration and Customs.   

Our "first class" compartment was just a row of beds down each side of a carriage with a central narrow passage – and curtains at each bed for privacy.  It was quite a thing clambering up to the top bunk as it involved having to negotiate a railing around the bed…. The toilets were awful as, having Muslim style water jets, after an hour they were awash - and there was a pitiful little basin with a trickle of water.  The beds were made up with clean sheets and pillow, and actually quite comfortable and not too hot.  

But we didn't get much sleep as the man across the aisle played his radio loudly (surprisingly BBC World Service– so that wasn’t too bad) and then snored loudly all night.   The train stopped often and with passengers continuously walking the centre aisle we had a disturbed night!   I woke up at about 5:00am when we stopped at Butterworth, which is the station to get to Penang.  Lots of passengers disembarked here.   And from there we lay awake and enjoyed watching the passing scenery from our train window.

 We arrived at Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station at about 7:00am and very little was open – but Mcdonalds was bustling - so we were very happy to have a familiar breakfast with coffee. There had been no food on the train…!

Our schedule involved another long day waiting to catch a late-night sleeper train from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai in Thailand so we took a hop-on hop-off bus for a tour of the city.

Kuala Lumpur is a city that combines the old and the new – old mosques and temples and huge skyscrapers.   It has a staggering amount of new construction underway.  On every corner there was another high-rise building being built – it looked like many of them were new hotels!   We find that taking hop-on hop-off busses is a good way of getting a general feeling for a city.  

The Petronas Twin Towers were very impressive – all shiny and silver.  It was the tallest building in the world before Taipei and then Dubai built taller buildings.    KL has the usual major city features - Chinatown, Little India, markets, shopping malls, mosques.   We particularly enjoyed the bird park (the largest in the world) where the birds are housed in fairly natural environments with enormous canopies covering the area.

The Royal Palace was also rather impressive with horse guards (standing in little sentry boxes with fans and rubber mats for the horses).  No tourists are allowed inside the gates of the Palace, but it was interesting to see people sweeping the Royal grounds with traditional grass brooms.

Our last stop of the day was at an Irish bar called Healy Mac’s right at one of the hop-on-off stops.    A number of the waiters were from Bangladesh – one even called himself Paddy!   When they found we were from South Africa all they wanted to discuss was cricket!   Their service improved dramatically and we even got a complimentary pudding at the end of our meal….  When our hop-on hop-off bus arrived they ran into the street to wave us goodbye!    Like the Malawians and Zimbabweans in SA they work hard to send money back to their struggling families in their homeland. 

Back at the station we were delighted to find shower rooms as we were still in the same clothes that we had left Los Angeles in 3 days earlier!!!   The ladies shower had no hot water and my towel was hand-towel size.  I had to walk from my changing cubicle to the shower without much cover to my body….. past lots of staring Asian eyes!!!!   But I was desperate and, despite being cold, the shower just hit the mark!   Probably the best shower that I have ever had!!!!

The first class carriage on the train from KL to Thailand was much the same arrangement as the previous train.   This time we slept a bit easier – maybe it was just getting used to sleeping where you can…or maybe it was the effect of the shower!   

By the time we got to the Thailand border most of the other passengers had already left the train.  We weren’t told anything about the routine in crossing the border, but soon realized that we had to leave the train “to be processed”.   The train’s engine was changed, most of the carriages unhitched and we continued with just two carriages.   As we proceeded to Hat Yai we went through thick jungle plants that scraped along the train as we passed!   On arriving at Hat Yai we noticed people running alongside the train – they were touts wanting to get you to take their transport to wherever….   We had barely stopped when they boarded the train and pushed and shouted in order to get business.    We had heard that there was a government bus that would get us to our destination at a beach near Krabi, but we never actually found the bus station.     

We got a good deal in a minibus with only 7 other passengers (although this number did go up along the way until Andy was actually sitting with a laundry basket under his feet!) and had a 4 hour trip with Thai music blaring, and a driver who accelerated whenever the signs indicated that care should be taken.    We had arranged to be dropped at the Krabi bus terminus - about 4kms outside the town in order to get local transport to the beach where we were to stay. The minibus driver offered to take us there but wanted double the amount that we had paid for the 380km trip from Hat Yai.  This negotiation was done by some of our young fellow travellers who could speak English.  They were horrified by the exhorbitant amount that he wanted to charge.    When Andy refused the deal and asked just to be taken as agreed to the bus terminus the driver took umbrage and screeched to a halt and told us to get out – nowhere near the terminus!   By this time it was absolutely pelting down with rain, and the streets were rivers of water.  So we got out and were lucky enough to find another taxi.  This one was a bakkie with the bak fitted out with 2 rows of seats and a cover.  They are called “sorngtaaou” (meaning '2 benches’).    The taxi picked up local school children who were even standing on the step at the back of the bakkie.   The children had to hold on tight as the driver certainly didn’t waste time! 

The main tourist area in Krabi is called Ao Nang which is just a row of hotels and tourist attractions along the main beach road.    Seeing this we were rather apprehensive about our internet booking of Bliss Resort as maybe the name  concealed a real dump.    But Bliss Resort has been better than expected – right on the beach – off the main tourist route, very clean, basically yet elegantly appointed and just what we needed to catch up with ourselves after our hectic travelling. 

We have been trying out Thai food at nearby eating places - some catering for locals and some for the tourist trade.   All have been a bit rundown and the food has varied from really nice to mediocre.

The weather has been extremely hot and humid, and the rain comes down in sheets every day – making the sea murky and generally rough.  We had wanted to spend time visiting islands in the area and snorkelling but we have been advised against going out to sea and most trips of this type have been cancelled…. A pity as we would have liked to gone diving and seeing Phi Phi Island and Phuket.     But we have enjoyed relaxing with the waves lapping our feet.  

Tomorrow we leave for Cambodia via Bangkok
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Gill on

I was wondering when you would start! It was fantastic to have you with us for the wedding and great be able to keep up with your trip. Sounds so interesting so far xxx

Judy on

Wonderful to read about your adventures. Enjoy every moment and take care. Xx

Benita on

So envious, love the way you are traveling! Enjoy!

Jill R on

Dear Ann and Andy, loved reading all your travelling news - wonderful trip but empathized with your train trip trying to sleep with all that going on! And getting kicked out of the taxii! But it seems you have been in a little spot of paradise, beaches look amazing and I am sure you r enjoying all beautiful Thailand has to offer. Safet travelling and have a wonderful time. Enjoy Cambodia, we loved Vietnam so much the same. Keep up the blog - looking forward to the next episode! Lol from blustery, wet Cape Town. Rudi and a Jill xx

mosa on

wow - what an amazing pair you are. What an extraordinary experience! Enjoy and so look forward to further reading of your adventures
xxx Mosa

Justine on

At last! I was getting worried about you. So nice to catch up on your travels and read all the interesting things you have done. Look forward to reading each 'episode'.
Love J & J

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