A Travellerspoint blog

November 2013

Singapore, Singapore

all seasons in one day 30 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

We were up at 05:00 (ouch!) to catch our bus from Melaka to Singapore and with it being both a Sunday and a National Holiday had reservations about trying to catch a bus to the station, and after waiting for 10 minutes wimped out and jumped in a passing taxi.

The bus was the new, high standard we were now used to with fully reclining seats like you get on a Business Class flight, and in only 3 hours we had reached the border. We were made to get off, go through the exit border for Malaysia to get our passports stamped while the coach drove through and waited to pick us up the other side. This was simple enough, until we reached a split in the corridor both signposted Coach Pick-Up Point? Having no clue which way was right, and everyone else from our bus being long gone we took a chance and luckily managed to find our bus - not surprisingly everyone else was waiting for us - oops! A 2 minute drive through “no-mans land” and we were ordered off the bus again, but this time had to take our bags with us to enter into Singapore and have them scanned, before rejoining our bus (we had checked where it would be this time!). The whole process took less than 10 minutes!

Another hour later and our bus dropped us off on Beach Road, seconds from our hotel, it was just a shame we walked for 10 minutes in the wrong direction before we realised how close we were! We checked into the Park Royal on Beach Road courtesy of Mummy & Daddy Cullen, but as it was only 11:00, our room was not ready but they said we were free to enjoy the pool area while we waited - so we did, soaking up the sunshine - until the thunder started to roll and the pool was closed. Just as we had dashed into the bar area under cover, I saw Nick drop his bag and run making me think something was wrong, but as I rounded the corner, I realised he had seen his Mum and Dad and was giving them a huge hug! It was so lovely to see them as it had been nearly six months and we had a lot of catching up to do!

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We checked into our room which was huge and very nice before jumping in a taxi (everywhere in Singapore has a taxi rank outside it, hotels, shopping malls - literally everything!) to Clark Quay for a spot of lunch. Clark Quay is a large waterside, open-air complex of bars and restaurants, however we had not realised it was more of an evening destination so our choices were limited having to settle for some sandwiches and chips, but they did the trick.

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From here we went over to the world famous Raffles Hotel for a nosey around at how the other half live. The hotel and attached complex live up to their reputations. The main building is a beautiful white colonial style with courtyards you can walk through and is very, very posh with strict dress codes in most areas. After a good mooch around we crossed over to the Raffles City shopping mall to get a coffee.

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That night Nick and I had arranged to meet up for drinks, with Nick’s friend and work colleague Lisa and her husband Eugene (as chance would have it they happened to be leaving Singapore as we were arriving). They had suggested a lovely place called Chimes and at £7 a pint (in happy hour, or it would have been £10) we nursed our pints for as long as we could, while catching up with Nick’s work and each others travel plans.

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The next morning after an overly priced breakfast at the hotel, we decided to do the Singapore Airlines Open Top Bus Tour. Thanks to Lisa and Eugene who kindly gave us their left over tickets, we could join Susie and Hughie on the tour for free, who also received tickets with their flight.

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The Bus was the usual sight seeing, hop on hop off tour and great for getting to see the sights over the huge city. Our first stop was the Singapore Flyer (a huge big wheel which took 30 minutes to do a full rotation similar to the London Eye) and was next to the F1 Pit Lanes, much to Nick’s and Hughie’s delight.

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From this side of the bay we could see views of the new Gardens by the Bay and the amazingly constructed hotel, Marina Bay Sands, cementing our decision to visit them later.

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Our next stop was the icon of Singapore the Merlion, designed in the 70‘s info about why.

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From here it was a short taxi ride to China Lane for a spot of lunch before heading down the street into the centre of Chinatown. This was yet another Chinatown that was a little disappointing, but at least this time there were no knock off’s, just tourist tack and the odd clothes shop.

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By now it was baking hot, so we jumped back on the bus for the remainder of the tour, listening to the commentary as we went past the very British buildings and lovely Botanic Gardens, finishing next to our hotel.

Once back, I started sorting out our bags, removing the things we needed to go back, which Susie was kindly putting in her suitcase for us. I had the intention of joining everyone else, who were now chilling by the pool in the afternoon sun, however it took me longer than expected and by the time I was ready it was dinner time.

While in Raffles City mall the day before we noticed there were some really good food options, so decided to head there. It was the right choice, as we discovered a very reasonably priced Chinese (everything in Singapore is EXPENSIVE!!), where we could share a few of the mains. Then of course we went in search of cake (Hughie made us do it!) and ended up with a lovely slice of chocolate moose crepe cake (this is basically loads of thin pancakes layered up with chocolate or other fillings in between them).

After a great nights sleep in our enormous bed, we went in search of somewhere knew for breakfast, after our extremely expensive and disappointing one in the hotel the previous morning, and found a really good (and cheap!) Espresso Bar around the corner which had a decent menu and some yummy pastries! Feeling full, we headed over to the National Museum of Singapore which was the first purpose built Museum in all of South East Asia and was housed in a very ornate and grand colonial building.

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We started by visiting an exhibit of Australian art from the DATES to Modern day which I found really interesting, but am not sure Nick and his parents were so sure. We headed back towards the lobby to discover that there was a free guided tour of the History of Singapore exhibit - perfect! Our guide was excellent and it was very interesting to learn all about Sir Stamford Raffles, the British Colonisation and our hasty retreat during World War II.

After a very interesting couple of hours we stopped for a quick drink, but annoyingly Nick wasn’t feeling great again, so we all agreed we had had enough culture for the day so went back to the hotel for another afternoon by the pool (this time I got to join in the fun!). That night after a failed attempt to find some food at a local Hawker Food Court we decided to head back to Clarke Quay and as suspected there was a much livelier atmosphere by night! We ate at a really nice Western restaurant - although I somehow managed to order a spicy Caesar Salad?!

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Next morning and Nick woke up feeling even worse so stayed in bed while Susie, Hughie and I went back to the Espresso Bar for breakfast. We bought him back a huge croissant which seemed to perk him up so we decided to visit Gardens by the Bay; essentially a huge public park near the marina which has “Super Trees”, a Sky Walkway and two Bio-Domes (a bit like the Eden Project in Cornwall). Susie and Hughie had more free entry vouchers from their Singapore flight so while they went in, Nick and I wandered around the free bits, before discovering the Sky Walkway was an absolute bargain at S$5 (£2.5o) each, so up we went!

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From here we walked through the Marina Bay Sands hotel which is enormous and very impressive (we didn’t go up to the Sky Park though sadly) and headed through to the attached shopping mall which is very exclusive, full of every designer label you can imagine and not a high street brand in sight! It did however have an excellent food court which was surprisingly cheap!

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We then spent the rest of the afternoon being very lazy napping by the pool!

While we were at the Marina Bay Sands Shopping Mall we spotted our favourite food stall; Pepper Lunch which we had first fallen in love with in Hong Kong and then discovered throughout SEA so had to head back for dinner! Luckily Nick’s parents enjoyed it just as much as we did! After dinner we walked outside to the marina to watch the most fantastic light and fountain musical extravaganza! It was absolutely amazing and mesmerising to watch with pictures projected onto a mist of water, fountains shooting jets of water into the air and even flames all timed perfectly to music - there were even bubbles floating over head! It was a truly magical evening and the perfect end to our time in Singapore with Susie and Hughie!

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Our final morning and after another delicious breakfast at our new local, it was time for an extremely difficult and emotional goodbye with Susie and Hughie as they were picked up for their flight home. We then had another couple of hours to finish packing before checking out, jumping in a taxi and heading to the airport for our flight to Perth.

It was the end of our second leg of our trip. First Europe, then Asia and we were still loving every minute, but our final part awaited - Australia and New Zealand here we come!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Malacca, Malaysia

sunny 32 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

We had already done a reckie of the bus station during our time in KL as we new it was roughly 15KM outside of the city and were worried about getting lost and missing our bus to Melaka, so knew the journey to the station would take over an hour with the monorail and metro lines, but it was really straightforward. The bus station was more like an airport though with organised gates, no pushy touts and good old British queues!! This was not the South East Asia we knew!

A mere 2 hours later and we arrived at Melaka Sentral station, annoyingly another out-of-town bus station. We had instructions from our hostel so we knew we needed the number 17 and to get off when we saw the brick red coloured church. The bus was packed, but it was easy enough and was obvious when we had reached the centre (the huge tour coaches parked up were a good sign!). We popped to the Tourist Information to pick up a map and registered for a free Walking Tour the following morning (perfect!) and walked the 5 minutes to our hostel.

The Fern Loft was very similar in style to our emergency accommodation in Georgetown (Rainbow Lodge 2) in a former Chinese Shophouse. It was very basic but our room was clean and comfortable (although very dark with the only natural light coming from an internal courtyard).

We went out to explore in the last of the afternoon sunshine, but didn’t make it far before stopping for coffee and a bite to eat (satay sticks and spring rolls), but sadly my stomach was feeling bad again so we headed back to the hotel so I could lie down. A couple of hours later and a nap (oops!) we set off back out to see Melaka by night. As we were there on a weekend, Jonker Street had been transformed into the Night Walking Market which was good fun and very similar to the ones in Hong Kong and Chang Mai in Thailand.

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The next morning we were up early for our Walking Tour and met our guide and about 20 other tourists at the TI. This turned out to be one of our best walking tours in our entire trip and wished we had found more of these around the rest of South East Asia. It gave us so much information, not only about the town, but about the whole country and Asian culture helping us to piece together somethings we had seen in other countries. We visited Christ Church (the brick red one we had used as our landmark the previous day), the former Governor’s Mansion, the ruins of St Paul's Church with it’s statue of St Francis Xavier.

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Apparently St Francis Xavier did a lot of missionary work in Malacca and when he died overseas the decided to ship his body back to Malacca. The journey took several months and his body was left on board covered in banana leafs, well when it arrived 3 months later the body looked just as it did the day he died. They buried the body but word for around about it's condition, till eventually 5 months late another missionary and friend of St Francis Xavier came and asked for the body to be dug up so he could take it back to Portugal. Surprisingly even after 5 months under ground it was still as the day he died, so was called a miracle. Malacca wanted the saint buried at St Paul's so to make a compromise they chopped off one of his hands for them to keep (nice, I know) and to their surprise the arm bled when it was chopped off and the hand soon became a withered skeleton. Now the hand goes on tours for people to see and Malacca have a statue of St Francis Xavier instead, which in a freak thunder storm lost his right hand making this St Francis Xavier third miracle???? (Even our guide thought this was a step too far).

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We also visited St John's Fort and our guide told us how Melaka is continuing to grow in size as the land is continually being reclaimed from the sea. Our final stop was the Cheng Hoong Teng (temple of green cloud) where our guide walked us through all of the different shrines and deities explaining all of the different prayers and offerings given. The whole thing lasted nearly 3 hours and was fascinating.

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After our walking tour it was time for a coffee stop (surprise surprise!) along the river front. After this however we split up again as I had work to do, so Nick went for a walk around town informing me later he had visited all of the places in town I did not need to see - the new town with it’s mega-malls and the “scenic river walk” which ran along side a dual carriage way!! He did however find some funky looking shops and good looking eateries, so when I was finished we set off to look around them together stopping for dinner at the Geography Cafe which seemed appropriate!

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Next morning and we were up horribly early (about 05:00) for our bus to Singapore to meet some very important people!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

One building, 138 pictures

semi-overcast 34 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

After our somewhat interesting time in Penang and having to say goodbye to our beautiful hotel for Nick’s (belated) birthday celebrations we were on the bus bound for Kuala Lumpur.

Roughly 4 hours later we arrived just after dark and a short 20 minute walk we arrived at the Orange Pekoe Hostel. This was one of those places that looked great in pictures, and even looked ok once you were there, but if you looked too closely you realised it was not that great after-all! There was a colony of ants in the kitchen, and our room was one of the smallest we have been in so far - absolutely tiny with nowhere to put our bags and smelt really badly of damp - it wasn’t even that cheap!

We dumped our bags and decided to go looking for food as we had not eaten all day. The street the hotel was on was a little dodgy with lots of men hanging around for no obvious reason, but a 2 minute walk (admittedly past a few ladies of the night) brought us to Bukit Bintang, a seemingly never ending road of bars, restaurants and clubs all with seemingly never ending Happy Hours. We settled in for a couple of giant burgers, before heading back for an early night and slept surprisingly well.

Next morning and after enjoying our free breakfast (albeit cereal and toast - free is free!), we set off to explore. The sky was blue, contrary to weather reports we had seen, and Nick wanted to head straight to the Petronas Twin Towers to photograph them before it clouded over (“You can’t photograph a grey building against a grey sky - it’ll look s**t!” were his exact words to convince me!). Our hotel was very centrally located, only a 15 minute walk to the towers.

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They are stunning and the obvious landmark of Kuala Lumpur, but did we really need to take almost 100 photographs of them?! It was really hot, although the sky had already started to cloud over as predicted, so we escaped the heat and humidity by getting lost in the Suria Shopping Mall (which sits underneath the towers) for the rest of the afternoon.

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Nick was feeling a little ropey again (we seemed to be taking it in turns to have Travellers Tummy) so we went back to the hotel for afternoon naps - which turned into a VERY early night! With Nick feeling a little better the next morning we took the MRT (metro) to Mederka Square, one of the oldest parts of the city which used to be a huge British cricket ground. All that remains of the cricket pitch is a small patch of grass and the original pavilion, both of which are still used by wealthy cricketers who can afford the club fees. Now a huge road runs along side but a few old buildings remain, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, (which wasn’t a palace but a government building), Jamek Mosque and the Government Printing Office now the tourist information which also doubles as a city gallery.

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We of course went into the TI but this time it was to see the history gallery and a large scale model of KL. The gallery was disappointing, it was only two rooms and it filled in no more history than our Lonely Planet had already given us. Now the large model, well that built up expectations we had to weave our way up stairs, then reached a curtained off room and told to wait till the next show. After a minute we were allowed into a large room which was pitch black and had a large model in the middle, then a video came on and told us nothing of interest and the model lit up once or twice then in two minutes it was finished. A real waste of time! After a quick look around the shop which had lots of Christmas items, very strange when it’s 30+ outside, we left. Upon leaving the TI we saw a sign for the “chocolate museum”! This obviously had to be done so we went down the steps into a... shop! This was basically a chocolate shop with 6 old chocolate making machines then a whole store of very expensive goodies. We sampled a few bits then made a swift exit before they could sell us anything.

From here we jumped back on the MTR across town to the National Museum (after walking down the middle of a freeway which believe it or not was the correct tourist-signposted walking route?!?!). The museum was really interesting (and free as we somehow managed to sneak in a back door without realising!) It told the story of Malaysia through it’s Portuguese, Dutch and then English rule, it’s importance on the Silk Route with trading ports like Georgetown and Melaka and the story of it’s independence in 1957.

We spent a good couple of hours in there soaking it all up before emerging into the afternoon monsoon rains. After sheltering for a couple of minutes we decided to brave it and huddled under our umbrella back along the freeway (getting splashed by cars!) to the MTR. We arrived at Chinatown with memories of Hong Kong and with the hope of exploring the night markets and maybe getting some decent food but were immediately disappointed! Not only was it tiny, all of the stalls sold nothing but cheap knock-offs of sunglasses, handbags, and football kits! I’m sure if you are into your designer labels this place would be heaven, but was neither Nick or my scene. Also annoyingly there only seemed to be fast food restaurants rather than decent eateries. Feeling annoyed and like we had wasted our time, we made our way back towards the hostel to eat.

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A few hours later and we were settling down for food at an Irish Bar for pizza and salad (we know, but needs must!). There were a group of loud, drunk, middle-aged Aussie guys sat at a table near-by who were making a bit of a nuisance of themselves, but seemed harmless enough. Nick went to the toilet and while he was in there one of these guys happened to come in and asked “who the lady I was with was?” Nick replied “my wife” to which the guy responded “Ah, then that’s the end of our conversation - you’re a lucky man” Feeling rather perplexed, Nick returned and managed to whisper to me what had happened. Soon after two of the Aussie guys left leaving the drunkest and loudest on his own. Then he wandered over to our table and pulled up a stool and proceeded to tell us all about his life, how beautiful I was (and how amazing my teeth are?!), what a lucky man Nick was, how horrible Australian women are, and asked where he could find someone like me! We somehow managed to keep a straight face through all of this and even gave him tips on where in Nottingham he should go for a “good time”. As the conversation started to descend into rather adult territory with some rather personal questions we got the impression he was angling for more than just a conversation with the two of us, so we made a very quick exit!! Haha!

It was still early and we had no desire to go back to our hotel, so we walked the 20 minutes over to the Petronas Towers (again) to see them lit up by night and to watch their fountain and light show which was really cool. Another 100 or so photographs later, we decided to head back.

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Our final full day in KL and the weather was beautiful - perfect for going up a tower. Lonely Planet had suggested the KL Tower offered better views that the Petronas, so our plan was to get the basic ticket up to the first viewing platform, than head over to the Petronas and get a ticket up the SkyBridge rather than all of the way to the top to save some money (again a LP suggestion). The KL Tower was really expensive RM59 (£XX), and was also quite disappointing. They have tried to make the whole experience more interesting by installing loads of shops, “cultural centres” and 3D cinemas at the base of the tower, but you essentially go up a lift, walk round and come back down - admittedly with some pretty impressive views along the way!

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Again we felt a bit annoyed that something else had not lived up to our expectations so we walked over to the Petronas Towers (yes that is the third time!) to go up the Sky Bridge only to discover that yet again Lonely Planet had let us down! They no longer offer separate tickets for the bridge and the top, but one combined ticket for both costing RM80 (£15). This was too much for both of us to be able to go up due to our tight budget and we were kicking ourselves for wasting money on the KL Tower! Oh well! After um-ing and ah-ing we agreed that Nick should go up (he was desperate too and I had some work to do back at the hotel anyway), so we purchased our timed ticket for later that evening and set off to the Batu Caves on the MTR.

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About an hour later and we arrived at a HUGE golden Hindu statue and an enormous flight of steps (282 to be precise) leading up. When the British had colonised in the 19th century they had discovered the vast Batu Caves and the Hindu Temple at the top. We climbed up (avoiding the angry monkeys playing with litter!) and as you can see from the photo were disappointed yet again! The caves themselves are very impressive, but as they are a “Hindu Temple” / Tourist Attraction they are filthy, covered in litter and graffiti and have tacky souvenir shops inside them! Nick had visited them 15 years previously and remembered them as being much better! Oh well…

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We headed back to the city and went our separate ways for Nick to go up the Towers. Needless to say when we met back at the hotel later on he was suitably impressed! He described going up to the 42nd floor to the Sky Bridge which believe it or not is not connected to the towers! It floats on brackets between the two to allow for movement. He got 20 minutes on the bridge to take photos before getting back into the lift to go up to the 88th floor for some absolutely incredible views of KL just as the sun was starting to set. He raved about the tour and slammed LP for getting it so wrong as he was really upset that I could not share the experience with him, but he showed me the 134 photos he had managed to take in under an hour!!

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We settled in for an early night for our bus to Melaka the next day...however at 04:00 Nick flinched when he thought he felt something touch his arm. Thinking nothing of it he settled to get back to sleep when all of a sudden he flinched so hard he woke me up saying he was convinced something ran across his face. I laughed at him while he went to the toilet, before squealing when I spotted the 2 inch long cockroach run across the bed!! Argh!! We spent the next 10 minutes being generally pathetic as it scurried around the room. We somehow managed to get it into the bin and tied the bag up quickly before dumping it out in the hallway for someone else to deal with. Needless to say we did not sleep well for the rest of the night!!

We checked out about 10:00 the next morning and complained about the cockroach, but they did not seem that bothered! Kuala Lumpur had been an interesting couple of days - parts were amazing, but parts had been really disappointing. It is a beautiful city with some incredible architecture, both modern and colonial, but we couldn’t help feeling a little underwhelmed as we left for our 2 hour journey to Melaka.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Georgetown, Penang

3 Night, 3 Hotels...

sunny 32 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

Sadly, all too soon, the time had come to leave Langkawi and catch our ferry to Georgetown, Penang. Nick was desperate to stay longer but it didn't work with either our timings or our budget (Langkawi was really quite expensive!) so consoled himself by spending most of the journey sunning himself on deck while I stayed glued to my seat reading fearful of feeling sea sick, as this was a catermaram and last time I was on one it was not good!

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Roughly 3 hours later and we docked at the Jetty and only had a 10 minute walk to our hotel for the night. The Red Inn had excellent reviews and was relatively cheap. It also one of the few things we could find available. We had discovered after we booked our ferry tickets that we were arriving the day before the Penang Bridge Marathon so everything was fully booked! Having learnt from experience that some of the best guesthouses are not online, we figured we would stay one night and find a hotel easily enough while walking round the town- how naive we were! After 2 hours of going into every guesthouse, B&B and hotel we could find (the really expensive looking ones and the dodgy looking ones) we couldn't find anywhere that had a room - bollocks!

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We stopped for food at a nice looking cafe where guests were encouraged to write messages on the walls (it was cooler than it sounds) and I had the spiciest Spaghetti Bolognese - OUCH! We also got talking to a couple from Argentina who were in the same situation and couldn't figure out what was best to do either. Leaving the restaurant narrowly missing the rain, we spent the rest of night coming up with ideas and quickly discounting them;
get the ferry back to Langkawi, however the hotels seemed to be full there too!

  • Fly back to Bangkok to see what we missed when Charlie was ill - too expensive and a massive detour in the wrong direction!
  • Fly somewhere random like Bali - too expensive!
  • Fly to Borneo which was on our original itinerary - but we had no permits arranged!
  • We even considered hiring a car to sleep in or just staying in a 24 hour McDonald!

Finally at about 02:00 we gave up deciding our only option was to get a bus straight to Kuala Lumpur and stay there for three days, buggering up our plans!

After not much sleep we set off on a last ditch attempt to find a hotel on our way to the bus station. Surprise, surprise no joy! Things got even worse when we got to bus station where our previous nights hotel had told us to buy our tickets. To be told that he was wrong and we needed to go to the bus station 12km outside of town! As some of you readers may know, this was also Nick's birthday so needless to say he was not very happy and had a complete meltdown in a coffee shop. Just as we had given up and were sulking our back to the Red Inn we walked past Rainbow Lodge 2. It was on a side street we hadn’t walked the previous day. Thinking there is no harm in asking, we went in ready for the now familiar rejection. To our surprise, she said yes. She has spare beds in a 6 bed dorm for only 18RM (£3.60) each including free wifi and breakfast! Bunks beds had not been either of our first choice for that night but it was cheap, immaculately clean and somewhere to sleep! Hurrah!! Problem solved and Nick was coming out of his birthday coma! After swapping hotels we went for a much needed coffee where I surprised Nick with a slice of birthday cake. The staff were brilliant and gave me a candle and everything!

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Finally we were now able to relax and get to see some of Georgetown! It was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 due to concentration of original Chinese Shophouses. It is quite pretty (albeit slightly rundown town) with lots of Colonial buildings and the most amazing coffee shops! After spending a couple of hours exploring the Esplande, Town and City Halls, and Fort Cornwallis we were both melting in the scorching heat - time for another drink!

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As our dorm room didn't have a lock we had the laptop with us and like everywhere in SEA the coffee shop had wifi so we decided to learn from our mistakes and get all of accommodation booked, right up until we meet Nick's parents in Singapore. We also splashed out on a swanky boutique hotel for one more night in Georgetown to celebrate Nick's birthday properly and unwind after such a stressful 24 hours!

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Everything booked and feeling less stressed we went off in search of some unusual street art the Argentinas had told us about. Around several street in the old town artist have created painting and incorporated 3D objects to make them stand out. They were brilliant and so creative, although we did have to wait for all the Asian tourist to have their photo in front of them one at time before we could actually appreciate them.

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After a VERY hot (our dorm did not have AC!) but surprisingly good nights sleep and tasty breakfast we bid farewell to one hotel to check in to hotel number 3! Noordin Mewss]] was stunning. Tucked away on a quiet side-street the hotel was a series of converted shophouses immaculately restored and renovated with dark wood furnishings and shutters and felt like stepping back into the 1920s. The hotel only has 12 rooms spilt over two floors around a small swimming pool. Our room was equally impressive with antique furniture and an amazing bathroom!

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The rest of the day was spent relaxing by the pool, being spoilt with free afternoon tea and feeling pampered - exactly what we needed! We were so lazy we couldn't even be bothered to leave the hotel to get food so dragged ourselves off the rattan sofa in the now candle-lit grounds to eat in the hotels restaurant - yummy!

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Not surprisingly we slept like logs and had a late morning and fantastic breakfast before having to say our farewell to the hotel, their amazing staff and to Penang as we headed to the station to catch our bus to Kuala Lumpur.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Langkawi, Malaysia

15 years on and still amazing

sunny 32 °C
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Nick knew he wanted to return to Langkawi. He had visited once before with his parents 15 years ago and he still raves about the island and the hotel he stayed at and how wonderful it was. Our hotel in Ao Nang had a good deal on a mini-bus and ferry ticket (300 Bhat, £15 each) so Langkawi was set to be our next stop much to Nick’s delight. The mini-bus took an uncomfortable and crowded 6 hours to travel from Ao Nang down the Thai coast to Satun on the border, where we had an hours wait before boarding the ferry for the two hour journey to Kuah Port, Langkawi. Luckily, the ferry was really quiet so we were able to spread out and both fell asleep (we had been up since 05:00!!)

We docked at about 16:30 (Malaysia is 1 hour in-front of Thailand) and shared a taxi with a German guy met on the ferry who was staying fairly close to us in Pantai Cenang - the main beach resort on the island. The White Lodge Motel was a little more money that we would normally pay, but Langkawi is not exactly on the backpacker trail so prices are higher. The hotel was lovely though, almost like an American Motel set around landscaped gardens and minutes walk from the beach.

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By this time it was already getting late, so we dumped out bags and went for a walk to explore the "town" (one road lined with shops, restaurants and the beach) and stopped at a beach side cafe for a drink and soak up the last of the evening sunshine before finding some food at a restaurant close to our hotel. By 21.00 we were both exhausted and crashed out for an early night...however at 02:00 we were both woken up by the most amazing thunderstorm right over head. The sound of the rain hitting the roof was so loud as it was so heavy!! It lasted for a good hour before starting to slow and before we managed to get back to sleep.

Next morning and the rain was still around (much to Nick's annoyance - although he was handling it very well I must admit!). We grabbed our brolly and went for a walk in search of some breakfast; finding The English Tea Room where we had some nice Croissants and pot of tea, while we waited for the rain to slow. We figured we may as well use the time to sort some stuff out, so booked our ferry tickets to Penang (84 RM, £16 each) for 2 days time, reserved a car (80RM, £15) for the next day to allow us to explore the island, booked an extra nights stay at our hotel and I went bikini shopping! After all of which it was still only 13:00 and the sky had started to clear and the sun was already beating down drying the pavements, so we headed back to the hotel, grabbed our beach stuff and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the sunshine, swimming and being lazy, watching the sun-set and eating at another beach side restaurant.

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We had picked up our car the night before (a tiny little silver thing we named Polly) so we could set straight off and make the most of our final day on Langkawi exploring the island. Nick drove an Automatic for the first time and picked it up really easily and quite enjoyed being back behind the wheel after 6 months of not driving!

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Our first stop was to drive up the winding road to the top of Gunung Raya, which Nick remembered doing with his parents, however had forgotten that there is nowhere to stop at the top as it is a private communications base. There were a few roadside pull-ins where we were able to get some good views though, so it was not a completely wasted journey!

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We then drove to Tanjung Rhu Beach, stopping for an early lunch at Scarborough Fish and Chips!! And spent the next couple of hours relaxing on the gorgeous and deserted beach!

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Once we had too much of the sun we decided to stop at the Temurun Waterfalls measuring 100 feet with a large pool you can swim in. Although we were hot and the water was cool (after a small test with our toes) we decided not to jump in as we didn’t want to get our car wet. The waterfall was surrounded by jungle and lots of monkeys hoping to steal a snack or two from the locals.

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Since Nick last visited Langkawi a cable car and sky bridge have been built and boast fantastic views of the island and Andaman Sea. Knowing it was a must see and also knowing that the bridge was unfortunately closed for repair we drove to the other side of the island via a small not very nice beach, Pantai Kok.

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Upon reaching the cable car we could see this was a huge tourist trap with a holiday camp style village at the bottom, selling tacky souvenirs, food, pony rides and ice creams. Really not our scene but we bobbed and weaved round the tour groups to the ticket booth. The ticket was still full price even though you couldn’t go to the bridge but at £6 pounds each (30 RM) we couldn’t grumble. Luckily we had timed it right and didn’t have to queue, unluckily though the weather had changed and was threatening rain. The car holds 6 people so we had to ride to the first level with a large family who’s children squealed every time the car moved.

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This wasn’t the best viewing platform we have been to on our journey. The views of the sea and islands were good but then you had lots of jungle and not much else.

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Once down we drove back to Pantai Cenang, said goodbye to Polly and walked back to the beach for our final beautiful sunset.

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On our last day the weather was baking hot, making Nick rethink leaving the island. We had breakfast at the English Tea Rooms again and went for our last stroll along the beach, it was now time to leave the island for Penang.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Ao Nang, Thailand

Life's a beach...

sunny 35 °C
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The night train from Bangkok was actually really nice. We were in a second class sleeper cabin which is basically just a normal train carriage until about 21:00, when they come along and convert the seats into the bottom bunks and fold down the top bunks and then each has a privacy curtain.

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We both managed to get some sleep, but knew we had to get off about 04:30 so were paranoid about missing our stop - annoyingly, we did not reach our stop until 06:00, meaning we could have had an extra couple of hours sleep. We jumped off the train and were almost pushed into a waiting minibus which was packed with people and luggage. After 20 minutes it pulled in down a dirt track past a broken down bus with no wheels and arrived at a "bus station". Kicked off and given stickers (they seem to like them here) we waited for a clapped out coach. A further 2 hours later and we arrived at another "bus station". It turns out this wasn't Krabi or it's bus station but the offices of the bus company we were using and if we wanted to get to our destination we had to fork out another 100 Bhat (50p) each for a minibus to our hotel. Having no choice we purchased a ticket and jumped on the minibus for only a 10 minute drive to J Hotel.

The next 4 days were spent relaxing (and recovering) on beaches and hopping from island to island. So, if a picture tells a thousand words, then we have nothing more to say than this...

Ao Nang Beach

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Railey Beach

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Phra Nang Beach

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Hong Island and it's Beaches

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After a an amazing 4 days it was time to say goodbye to Thailand with a way too early bus to the Malaysian border.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Bangkok, Thailand

Temples, Monuments and Hospital

semi-overcast 31 °C
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For once VIP actually meant it! On so many of our previous "VIP Buses" through South East Asia there has been nothing remotely VIP about them - many of them being Chinese hand-me downs. Our coach from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand was going to be another long overnight journey, but we were so pleased when we boarded and found huge comfy seats that almost fully reclined, free water and box of biscuits, blankets and pillows etc. That being said sadly neither Nick nor I got a great deal of sleep so when we arrived at Mochit Bus Terminal we were both feeling and looking a little worse for wear (again!).

Our hotel had emailed us with directions in both English and Thai as it is brand new and a lot of taxi drivers don't know it. They also advised getting a metered taxi rather than a tuk-tuk and that it should cost no more than 150Baht, so when the touts started quoting us 500Baht we knew something was up. We kept refusing them, much to their annoyance and could not figure out what the best option would be, when Nick spotted a Tourist Information booth - hurrah! The lady basically said "Metered Taxi - about 200Baht" and pointed to the queue - perfect! We headed for the taxi rank and Nick resisted the urge to stick his fingers up at the touts, where we were ushered into a waiting car. Our driver was really cool and turned into a mini-tour guide for us as we weaved through the crazy rush hour traffic watching the most amazing sun-rise over the city and it only cost 165 Bhat

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We arrived at iSanook Residence at 07:00 so knew we were too early to check in to our room (although we had our fingers crossed there would be a room available). Thankfully our wish was granted and we were given our keys and a free breakfast! Being so tired after our journey and me not feeling 100% we ate our boiled eggs and promptly went back to bed. A couple of hours later (opps!) we woke up feeling a little better and took the hotels free tuk-tuk to the jetty to catch one of the water taxi’s, that ferry's people up and down the river. For only 30 Bhat (15p) we went 6 stops up river to Tha Chang Pier to visit the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Place where the famous Emerald Budda resides.

The palace is highly religious, so we donned our temple clothes (long trousers and shirt for Nick, long skirt and cardi for me) and had to laugh at the people who were buying trousers from the touts while standing in front of a huge sign saying they offer free robes inside. We walked into a huge complex of temples, stupas and gardens.

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The decoration was the most elaborate yet, with most buildings covered in gold and mirrored mosaics.

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Reading a sign saying the temple with the Emerald Buddha was closing in a hour we thought we should head that way first. The Buddha had a story behind it and was often referred to as the Loas buddha. This was because it was stolen while travelling from Chiang Rai to Bangkok and had a long stay in Luang Prabang until being seized again by Thailand and finally made it to Wat Phra Kaew - it's new home. So we were a little disappointed that once entering the Temple it was easy to miss as it's so tiny and surrounded by so many other statues of Buddha and other deities.

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After a couple of hours exploring and getting free ice cold water (which was a bonus) we went back to the scorching heat and walked to Wat Pho to see the huge reclining Buddha. Now this was more like it. It was humungous measuring 46 metres long and 15 metres high, it was impossible to photograph and barely fitted in the room it was in. The Buddha was again a gleaming gold with painted black feet and mother of pearl decorations. We again got a free bottle of cold water which was much needed as I was getting really hot and had to keep sitting down.

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Because I was still feeling bad, Nick saying he was really worried we headed back to the hotel for me to lay down and Nick to have some pool time as our hotel had a nice outdoor pool to relax in. Unfortunately as I was feeling so bad we ended up not doing anything else that day, only just managing to make it to the nearest shopping mall for some much needed food, although I couldn’t eat all mine.

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The next morning still not feeling any better, in fact feeling worst, we ended up missing breakfast and having a slow start. Nick was trying to get me to stay in bed but me being my stubborn self said we should explore. So yet again we went to the pier to get a ferry to Phra Artnit (number 13). From here it was short walk to Khao San Road which has featured in a few films (The Beach and Hangover), it is a street full of stalls, cheap guesthouses and pubs making it a backpackers haven.

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After a quick walk round and sighing in relief that our hotel wasn’t near here we went on to the Democracy Monument. This had a large political demonstration taking place, which meant it had a traffic jam, lots of people and lots of noise.

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We did a quick photo stop and moved on to the Giant Swing monument instead.

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Again this wasn’t what was expected and we weren’t sure what it was about, but it was outside a nice looking temple. I was starting to feel bad again so had to sit the temple out. However Nick went and took lots of photo’s and said that the large Buddha was impressive.

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After a small argument as to whether or not I should go back and lay down, I managed to persuade Nick to go to one more place before going back. This was called the Golden Mountain and offered views of the city once you climbed 318 steps to the top. Yet again there was a debate whether I should go up Nick telling me that I didn’t look great. Once again my stubbornness won out and we went up together. The views were ok nothing special as there isn’t really anything in Bangkok which stands out as a landmark. It was only 50 Bhat (25p) so wasn’t too bad.

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Now I gave in and we got a taxi back to our hotel just in time for me to collapse on our lovely comfy bed until the next day. Dinner that night wasn’t happening I didn’t want food and Nick didn’t want to eat on his own so it was to 7 eleven for a shredded pork bun and a packet of crisps.

Our last day and after me missing breakfast yet again Nick put his foot down and insisted that I go to the doctor, which in Bangkok meant going to the hospital. This felt a little dramatic but I had to admit I need to see someone as I was; feeling sick, couldn’t stand the sight or smell of food (which as you know is not like me) had a constant headache, bad cough and had been bitten once in a malaria area. The hospital was not what we were expecting it was more like a 5 star hotel with a reception desk, chandeliers and comfy leather sofas.

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I had to check in which involved a digital photograph and a few details, I was given a plastic card with me name on and instructed up a level. Expecting this to be when in turned into a hospital we were yet again surprised by waiting room with leather comfy arm chairs. I waited all of two seconds and had get my vitals checked and two minutes for the doctor, who told me that I most likely had dehydrated and may have to go on a drip for one night. At this we both looked shocked and told him we had plans to travel that night. He said he would do blood tests to rule out malaria and dengue fever first. Another shockingly long wait of one minute and I was having my blood taken and nose swabbed. We were now told we would have to wait for the blood test results to come back and were gob smacked when they said it would be under an hour, which it was! Results back and the doctor had confirmed his diagnosis I had dehydration but he wouldn’t keep me in so I could travel and instead told me off for not eating, giving me sickness tablets, sachets of powder to rehydrate me and something for my cough. All of this and it only cost £85 I was amazed! Medicines in hand we went back to the hotel grabbed some food (well a small bag of chips for me) and went off to get our train to Krabi.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Four nights dinner for only £5.60

sunny 33 °C
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After a ridiculously long journey from Luang Prabang, we finally made it to the Tree Residence Hotel around 17:00 looking, smelling and feeling a little worse for wear! We were in no mood to explore and it was already getting dark, so after a long and much needed shower we walked about 5 minutes away from the hotel to the South Gate Food Market where we had our first bad street food (Crispy Pork with rice - both of which were cold and not very tasty!). However for 60p each we couldn’t complain. We popped to Tesco (yes you read that right!!) for some naughty munchies to make ourselves feel better before heading back to the hotel and crashing out!!

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Late the next morning, we headed out to explore and get brunch. Walking into the old town which reminded us a little of Ha Noi, with crowed streets, food stalls, markets and lots of traffic. Our brunch turned into lunch of some very strange not so nice toasted sandwiches, we were starting to think Thailand didn’t do good food. Now it was time for sight seeing which was mostly temples, after seeing so many on our trip we decided to just choose two and take it easy. Both temples were amazing with brilliant decorative artwork and the most amazing monk shrines, they were wax work and looked real.

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It was starting to get really hot and I wasn’t feeling great (as you can see in the photo), so we stopped yet again for some much needed ice-blended fruit shakes.

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It was now late afternoon and a Saturday meaning the Saturday Walking Street was getting set up and it was supposed to be near our hotel. Heading back we saw it was indeed near the hotel, right outside having to weave through the stalls to get to the front door. After a quick shower we went to explore. These markets differed to the ones we have seen through most of SEA as it was goods you would buy in shops, no rip offs, no real bargains and quality. Once half way down the street it started to get very crowed and repetitive so it was time for food.

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This time we decided to go for a stall that had someone cooking from scratch with fresh food to order. We came across a women with a huge queue and great smelling food so put in our order which meant shouting over everyone else and sat down to watch her cook. It was brilliant!! She was so fast, putting a sprinkle of this, a sprinkle of that, breaking eggs one handed on her spatular and all on a small wok over a small single hob. It was almost mesmerising to watch! This time our plan had worked and the food was amazing (again all for 70p each!) so good we went back the next two nights.

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Our next morning was spent doing boring stuff; booking bus tickets, accommodation and checking our bank balance! The day almost gone but the sun still shining we went to the only park in town to relax. The park took up a small space at the corner of the old city wall and was quiet small but perfect for relaxing, with a pond, small bridge and plenty of grassy spots to chill. Once the sun finally went in we headed back for a much needed shower and a change of clothes before going back to our fantastic street stall.

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On our last day I was starting to feel even worse and lacked any energy so thought we would make it a relaxing one before our night bus to Bangkok. We ate breakfast at a small coffee shop, checked out, brought snacks from Tesco and relaxed in the park till late afternoon. Perfect! It was then back to our now local food stall, where the women now remembered us and laughed at the “No Spice!” hand gestures. Stomachs satisfied we grabbed our packs and jumped into a “Jumbo” to the bus station.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 16:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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