A Travellerspoint blog

The final month of travels...

featuring Thailand & Malaysia

Apologies its been a while, in our defence we have been busy flat hunting, jobhunting and generally readjusting.

Our last blog left off in Coron, the Philippines, from where we undertook our last of many back to back flights, finally landing us in the backpacker hub of Bangkok (Banglamphu) just in time to see all the freaks on the streets. We really enjoyed the craziness and randomness of Bangkok, although it was a bit of a culture shock coming from the tranquility of the tourist starved Phillipines. Bangkok is rammed, smelly, traditional, modern, Eastern, Western, sleazy and cultural all at the same time. The chaos of the bars, stalls and nightlife of the Khao San Road can also be seen in the main temple – beautiful but bursting with tourists.

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We enjoyed the spicy food obviously, and managed a trip along the Klong on a river taxi, before riding the monorail into the new high-rise and shopping precincts before hopping on a tuk-tuk back to tourist town. If there were awards handed out for the number of modes of transport we in one day, we could be in with a shot!

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After a night out on the Khao San road, longing to escape the hoards of backpackers, we boarded a train for Ayuthaya, resisting the temptation to get haircuts on the platform… Ayuthaya was a strange place, a sort of island surrounded by four rivers, home to a multitude of ruined temples, Buddha images and packs of stray dogs. The old city was originally built as the capital of the Siam empire but was later sacked and near destroyed by the Burmese, who have recently apologized and donated a heap of cash. The ruins remain as they were left by the Burmese army – very cool actually – along with being overgrown in places by the routes of sacred Bodhi trees.

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Dinnertime in Ayuthaya was spent at the exciting night market eating spicy fish dishes and hot and sour seafood soups (Tom Yum) among the ruined battlements that line the riverfront. This was of course washed down with Bandy’s favourite ice cold asian beer, Chang, it would simply be rude not to.

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Another day and an overnight bus journey later and we were in the northern city of Sukhothai. A bit like Ayuthaya’s older, bigger, less wrinkly sister, Sukhothai and its temple complexes are larger and much better preserved. The walled city is so large that we hired bicycles to get around, which was a real highlight as we zipped around from temple to temple on retro bikes, with Bandy snapping away madly on her beloved camera. The thai schoolkids were out in force that day with many a different group approaching us to practice their English, and they seemed to think Mark was some kind of celebrity asking en mass for his autograph.

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Another bus ride and another delightful northern thai town, we next hit the bustling cultural centre that is Chaing Mai. More well established on the tourist trail than Ayuthaya or Sukhothai, Chaing Mai had at times a Bangkok-esque feel. However, there is never a shortage of things to do, and we were spoilt for choice from treks to the nearby hill tribe villages to white water rafting.

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Aside from spending the evening eating and people watching at yet another amazing Night Market, our love of filling our face won out and we opted for a Thai Cookery course at Baan Thai Cookery School. Surrounded by a group of likeminded, greedy foodies the day began with a visit to the local market to pick up the ingredients for each of the five mouth-watering Thai dishes we had chosen to cook (and eat!) that day. Our patient teacher explained each and every one of the multitude of Thai produce on display, along with their nutritional value and regional origin.

Back at the school we tucked into Thai snacks and tea before getting stuck into the cooking. As well as cooking a plethora of delicious dishes, including pounding our own curry paste in a gigantic pestle and mortar, we also of course got to eat them all. We ate so much that, having rolled out of there once the course was over, had to sit very still and digest for quite a while before venturing out of our hotel room.

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After a few days back staying in the Siam Square area of Bangkok and Christmas shopping at the quite simply gigantic Chatuchak market, we boarded our Air Asia flight back to Kuala Lumpur en-route to Australia. Room service and a film in our upgraded deluxe room at the splendour of the Impiana hotel later and we were on our way again, headed down under for our lengthy stint in Melbourne, but thats one for the next blog!

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Posted by CLBandy 21:58 Comments (0)

Island Hopping around Palawan...

... taking it slow with a snorkel

An early breakfast by the beach kicked off our island hopping boat trip through the myriad islands between El Nido and Coron in Northern Palawan. As we boarded the wooden 'bangka' (a modified traditional filipino fishing boat with long bamboo outriggers) named 'Aurora' that would become our home for the next 5 days, we were joined by 9 other western passengers (a mix of Brits, Danes, Canadians and a Norwegian) and 5 filipino crew members including our unstoppable tour guide Zaza.

Five days and 4 nights of relaxation followed as we hopped from one deserted island to the next. Words and pictures do not do it justice - we saw some amazing scenery, snorkelled along bright coloured reefs, swam with stingray, barracuda and clown fish, slept on deck, on the beach, in bamboo huts, swam to deserted picture perfect beaches, ate fresh fish everyday, had bonfires on the beach, visited tiny villages with playful villagers, met some great people and generally had a wonderful, relaxing time.

Boat trip - Day 3 - seaweed fishermen

Boat trip - Day 3 - seaweed fishermen


Boat trip - Day 3 - waking up on Daracuyon island2

Boat trip - Day 3 - waking up on Daracuyon island2


Sunset in the Calamain Islands

Sunset in the Calamain Islands


Boat trip - Day 2 - Cadlao island in the morning2

Boat trip - Day 2 - Cadlao island in the morning2


The last boat home - our group

The last boat home - our group


Another sunset in the Bacuit Archipelago

Another sunset in the Bacuit Archipelago


The Aurora

The Aurora

The trip we did was with Tao Philippines - we would highly recommend it - www.taophilippines.com

Boat trip - our route

Boat trip - our route

We arrived in Coron with 3 days to go before we arrived in Thailand (after a group trip to see some ladyboy karaoke that is).

Coron

Coron

Posted by CLBandy 05:33 Comments (0)

Filippino Island Hopping

...our first weeks in the Philippines...

sunny -30 °C
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Another epic travelling session from Malaysian Borneo finally landed us in Cebu City in the Philippines late at night, via an 8 hour delay in Clark Airport, Manila.

This late night view of sprawling Cebu led us to a swift exit the next day in search of a quieter life (Cebu was chaotic and dirty, but good to have witnessed). We jumped on the fast boat to nearby Dumaguette (a mere 4 hours), a student town on the island of Negros.

Dumaguette was a great antidote to Cebu - good food, an almost European waterfront promenade ( must have been the spanwards) and a laid back atmosphere. It also provided our first tricycle journey - not to be missed, these are basically motorbikes with metal framed sidecars - loud, fast and adorned in a mixture of either staunchly Roman Catholic or cheesey 80s movie slogans. They love their cheesey music here too, epitomised by the Celine Dion classics belting out over numerous Karoake machines.

Dumaguette seafront

Dumaguette seafront


Our first (of many) tricycle rides

Our first (of many) tricycle rides

View from our room at Harold's Mansion, Dumaguette

View from our room at Harold's Mansion, Dumaguette

After a couple of nights amongst Dumaguette's laid-back student population, we headed on another boat to the famously 'spooky' island of Siquijor (what better place to spend Halloween than amongst the infamous witch doctors). A hut right on the beach was our home for six long lazy days. The sunsets from our veranda were beautiful... as was lounging in the hammock with a cold beer and a trashy novel.

CB in the hammock outside our beach hut

CB in the hammock outside our beach hut


sunset the beach hut

sunset the beach hut

kyak's eye view of the hut

kyak's eye view of the hut

On the one day we managed to rouse ourselves, we hired a motorbike for a sight-seeing trip around the rest of the island, exploring waterfalls and spanish era churches along the breathtaking coastal road, a pretty good day.

Waterfalls on Siquijor

Waterfalls on Siquijor

MG jumping

MG jumping

MG waterfall feet

MG waterfall feet

On the road...

On the road...


Church in Siquijor

Church in Siquijor

We even tried out a bit of kayaking, exploring neighbouring beaches around the headland from our hut (though we found out later that we had the boat the wrong way round..i though it was hard!).

Kayaking around Siquijor

Kayaking around Siquijor

We were sad to leave Siquijor, we have never been smiled at, waved at and generally greeted so much as in the Philippines, and in particular on this tiny island. However, three solid days of travel beckoned (via over-night sleeper boats, budget flights and dusty long distant bus journeys) which have finally got us to El Nido, from where we start our boat trip exploring the Bacuit Archipelago of Palawan...

View from our hotel, El Nido

View from our hotel, El Nido


Children playing in El Nido

Children playing in El Nido

Posted by CLBandy 06.11.2009 21:51 Archived in Philippines Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Jungle Japes

...10 days in Malaysian Borneo...

sunny -32 °C
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We arrived in Malaysian Borneo having spent at least 10 hours in Indonesian airports (Denpasar, Bali and Jakarta, Sumatra respectively). We flew into Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, a city famous for its mountain, 180 degree sunsets, and as we soon found out, extortionately priced alcohol. A teetotal visit to Borneo ensued... We did, however, eat well. This culinary experience started with the seafood food court which we frequented regularly over our time in Kota Kinabalu. Our first experience saw us choosing our own crabs, which were cooked in a tomato sambal (chilli) sauce, and eaten without cutlery (who needs cutlery?!), but delicious. Many a meal of exceedingly cheap, fresh and delicious sushi was to follow.

Traditional Malaysian tribe huts

Traditional Malaysian tribe huts

A glowing recommendation (thanks Dave) led us to a jungle retreat close to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The orangutans were incredible, so human in their movements and facial expressions. Despite loving being spectators at their feeding frenzy, we may well have enjoyed our jungle stay even more (www.paganakandii.com). Consisting of several small huts set amid lush jungle, the resort featured a great chef, friendly owner, swing seats and a viewing tower hovering over miles of greenery. Our hut itself was great - sliding doors on all sides opened it up to the jungle breezes, an outdoor bathroom and a little balcony for spotting odd looking insects and birds. We made it up the tower for both sunset and sunrise - amazing, the photos do not do it justice.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabitilation Centre

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabitilation Centre

Our jungle hut in Sepilok

Our jungle hut in Sepilok

Sepilok again

Sepilok again

Borneo Rainforest - MGCB

Borneo Rainforest - MGCB

Borneo Rainforest - MG

Borneo Rainforest - MG

Jungle japes were followed by a stay in nearby Sandakan, a port town with many colonial remnants. A trek up to the highest point in Sandakan took us to the house of Agnes Keith, who wrote extensively about her time in Borneo, her book 'The Land Below The Wind' was made into a film that our older readers may have heard of (we hadn't). The neighbouring English tea house drew us in and we very surreally dined on tea and scones (although, like us, the cream struggled to cope with the jungle heat), overlooking both jungle and sea, there was even a croquet lawn!

Sandakan tea

Sandakan tea

Tea and scones, Sandakan

Tea and scones, Sandakan

View from the hill over Sandakan

View from the hill over Sandakan

Agnes Keith's house on the hilltop

Agnes Keith's house on the hilltop

Our Malaysian Borneo stay ended back in Kota Kinabalu where we joined the locals in their alcohol free pastimes - bowling and pool - they all seemed to be pros at both and our comparatively feeble attempts at times had them in stitches. We have now arrived in the Philippines, where beer and rum are cheap, so we will definitely be having one or two to celebrate my little brother's 21st on Monday (as, I'm sure, will he) xx

Posted by CLBandy 30.10.2009 21:00 Archived in Malaysia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Beaches, mopeds and boats

..over to Lombok and back again..

sunny

We have moved about a bit since the last blog, so thought we'd start with the map...

From Ubud we headed back to the coast and the public ferry from Padangbai to Lembar in Lombok (the next island in the archipelago). The boat was VERY slow and took almost 5 hours to make the crossing, something our guidebook failed to mention, leaving us hungry and devoid of snacks but glad to be on the high sea for the first time.

After a brief stopover in the Lombok capital, Mataram (Not Matalan, but almost as exciting) we headed south for the sleepy surfer town of Kuta. This was a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle we had seen pretty much everywhere in Bali, with literally just one short street of hostels, vagrant chickens, stray dogs and warungs (roadside restaurants) facing onto a vast, deserted beach. Here we enjoyed simply losing a couple of days finding our own secluded private beaches to laze on in the day before tucking into comfort food over pirate DVDs with all the spaced out surfers after dark.

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We did, however, manage to rouse ourselves eventually and hire a moped for a bit of exploration. Everyone here does it but until now we had been pretty wary of the Indonesian roads. Lombok's roads seemed much wider and quieter though so we decided to take the plunge, but not without ensuring we also received helmets with our rental. At such an apparently odd request (we were the only people on the road even with shirts on a lot of the time), the proprietor managed to blow the dust off a couple of ancient circa 1985 specials that left us looking like extras from Top Gun (and loving it i might add, though the matching outfits were purely coincidence!).

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Once we got the hang of it we were soon zipping around and having great fun. We made it to an industrious fishing village to the east, pausing to watch the fisherman fixing their nets, before heading north and climbing for lunch at a hilltop restaurant with amazing views fo the bay below.

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Finally, in the afternoon we made it up to a traditional Sasak Village (indiginous Lombok tribes), where one of the village youths gave us a guided tour for a small tip.

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Leaving Kuta behind we again hit the road north to Sengiggi and the boat to the Gili Islands. These small palm-fringed islands off the coast of Lombok sit amongst coral reefs and turquoise waters, with simply the most stunning beaches either of us have ever seen (and we have seen a few!). We chose to settle on the largest island, Gili Trawangan, with the intention of staying as long as we could with the cash we had remaining (there are no ATMs, and no motorised transport of any kind).

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We did splash out a little amongst the plethora of 'luxury' traditional bungalow-style accommodation, determined to make the most of it. The result was 5 glorious days, taking every meal on the beach, from enormous banana pancake breakfasts to fresh BBQ'd Snapper and King Prawns for dinner. We watched yet more DVDs and drank icey cold Bintang Beers in the many 'DVD booths' attached to many of the bars, before strolling over to the west side of the island to catch a spectacular sunset without another soul in sight.

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All good things, as they say, have to come to an end though and reluctantly we hopped on the (much faster and much more stomach churning) speed boat back to Bali before our flight over to Kota Kinabalu and East Malaysia on Thursday.

Posted by markg22 12.10.2009 04:30 Archived in Indonesia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Ubud, Bali

City of culture, art, monkeys.. and pigs!

sunny 26 °C

After negotiating a nice, first floor room in a Homestay amongst the locals of East Ubud and catching up on some reading on our private veranda with palm top views, we were woken at dawn by the raucous crows of all the local Cockrells. A breakfast of strong coffee and banana pancakes later, we were ready for our self-guided walk around the local villages ( Bandy navigating with the guidebook and Gregory carrying everything!)

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First stop was the Monkey Forest Sanctuary (officially called Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana), a fairly substantial, designated section of jungle filled with playful yet mischievous monkeys (i have to admit to recognising a certain family resemblance!). All this amidst an Indiana Jones-esque setting of ruined and overgrown temples, rickety bridges and damp rainforest (i just wish i had brought a brown leather Fedora). The scenery was amazing, and we were up well before all the other westerners so it was just us and the wildlife which made us feel even more privileged.

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Eventually we broke out of the jungle into the surrounding villages of Nyuhkuning, Dagin Lebak and Katik Lantang, strolling through as the locals smilingly set about their daily work. The back-drop was equally mouth-watering, rice with little thatched houses and crumbling temples set amongst the incredibly green and verdent landscape of rice paddies and coconut palms.

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After such an epic walk we had understandably worked up quite an appetite, and luckily (deliberately) our self-guided 'tour' finished up right outside a restaurant that sell only the fabled Babi Guling, a spit roasted, suckling pig stuffed with a Balinese spice paste and basted for hours in coconut water. This is usually a ceremonial dish, only eaten at weddings and big events, and this place in Ubud is only one of a few in Bali to sell it. Not to say that we invest a lot of time thinking about our stomachs on this trip, but we had been salivating about this particular dish since reading about it in the guide book on the flight out of London... My god it was good, and so good in fact we ate the exact same lunch again the next day!

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Heading back for our final night at the homestay we came across the local villages plucking and preparing numerous ducks over the fast running stream alongside the path. It turned out that there was to be a wedding the next day and everyone was pitching in with the preparations, culminating in us being ironically awoken the next morning by the pained squeals of a LARGE pig being slaughtered for the Babui Guling. It was then shaved and butchered beside the same stream as we left to catch our bus to Padangbai for the ferry to Lombok, literally sidestepping the puddles of blood as we waved farewell.

Posted by markg22 01.10.2009 20:54 Archived in Indonesia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Balmy Bandy does Bali

Travels around an island paradise.. so far

sunny 27 °C

Having landed at Denpasar airport in Bali, we made the short trip to Kuta Beach, party capitol of Bali. However, we had not anticipated how busy it was going to be and as a result spent the next two hours hiking our rucksacks round looking for a bed. By the time we found somewhere to stop, we were tired, sweaty, insect bitten and had already missed the first half of the Manchester derby!

Luckily there is no shortage of hostelries in Kuta and a welcome meal and a couple of cold Bintang Beers later and things were feeling a lot more rosey. The night was warm and there was still time to catch the second half (shame about the result though).

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Kuta does seem, however, to be filled with noisey drunk aussies crashing thier scooters into one anther and we only stayed two nights before hopping on the bone-shaking 'tourist bus' over the mountains to Lovina in northern Bali. We did have time though to take in the Memorial Wall opposite the site of the 2002 Bali bombings (the actual site is now used for parking motorbikes!), which was actually quite a moving reminder of all the lives lost, made all the more poignant amongst such brash surroundings.

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Lovina was much more chilled out and relaxed and we settled down to some hot sunny weather, good food and relaxation by the beach without the noise and hassle of Kuta (we must be gettting old!). Here we stayed in a traditional Lomen homestay, which is basically a series of low bungalow type buildings within the compound of a Balinese family home. This was really good fun as you get to know and talk to all the family and thier (many) guests throughout the day while taking breakfast or catching up on some reading on the sunny verandah. The owner was a wiry, grey-haired old Indonesian called Harris, a real character and proclaimed reformed 'player' now living with his chain-smoking German wife.

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Amongst the relaxation we also took a side trip to a nearby hill-top buddhist temple (this is rare in Bali as the island is predominantly Hindu) followed by Air Penas Banjar natural hot springs that pour from the hillside into a series of intricately carved stone pools. It was an amazing setting, filled with chattering and playful Balinese families relaxing under the massaging water-fountains and hot water as the sun set. Indeed the trip to the springs and back was almost as entertaining as we zipped down the hill-top country roads clinging on for dear life on the back of one of the local's scooters (We left the arrangements to Harris!).

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On our last night in Lovina, Harris took us to a local Kanteen (open air bar by the side of the road), where his friend was celebrating his 50th birthday by playing guitar, drinking Arak (a potent local spirit distilled from palm Sap) and generally having a raucous time at such a grand old age. He turned out to be an incredibly good guitarist, famously know across all of Bali (and much of Indonesia) as Luppo Santana. We ended up sitting drinking with him and all the band until fairly late and generally appreciating how friendly and welcoming all the Balinese people have been in Lovina

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The next day was an early start and another, albeit more confortable, bus ride to where are now Ubud. We are high up in the mountains in the cultural centre of Bali, famed for the Balinese Dancers, Picturesque Rice Paddies and Relaxing Spas.

Posted by markg22 26.09.2009 05:19 Archived in Indonesia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Rain & Ringitts

everywhere we go we always take the weather with us..

rain 30 °C
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Dear All,

So we finally escaped and have been living it up in Kuala Lumpur for the past few days. We stepped off the plane after 14 hours and were immediately hit by the heat, 30 degrees and 89 percent humidity. We collected our bags and headed to our fancy hotel (we promised ourselves a little luxury before the budget kicks in - thanks Vicks) and we weren't disappointed.

This place is amazing, we stumbled in off the street with all our bags, drenched in sweat and feeling more than a little out of place (i have also shaved my head before setting out for minimum maintenance, so look straight out of Shameless). No sooner had we stepping into the air-conditioned luxury of the hotel lobby than a bowing hotel porter rushed over to take our dusty rucksacks, followed by another proffering chilled wet towels for our faces and glasses of refreshing iced tea. Not bad for £30 a night eh?

However we also seemed to have brought the rain with us and it began lashing it down about 2 hours after we got here. Born and bred in sunny Manchester, I was not about to let a little rain stop me enjoying the delights of the roof-top infinity pool though
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Luckily, by the time we had got over the jet lag the weather has picked up and we ventured out on an archi-geek wander round the once-highest-in-the-world Petronas Towers (also i might add featuring quick prominently in the film Entrapment alongside the legend that is Sean Connery)
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More sight-seeing ensued including the old colonial district, complete with very English cricket pitch, and dinner in China Town.DSC01753.jpg

Thats about it for now as we are still getting into the swing of things. Tonight is the the famous Saturday night market in 'Little India', where we are hoping to sample some tasty Indian treats, and hopefully we will avoid any 'Ghandi's Revenge' before our flight to Bali tomorrow when the adventure really begins.

Posted by CLBandy 18.09.2009 22:36 Archived in Malaysia Tagged luxury_travel Comments (1)

Welcome to our website...

We will be uploading photographs and writing blogs as much as possible as we go...

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Posted by CLBandy 09:31 Comments (0)

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