First on my agenda for KL was to do the skybridge tour at the Petronas Twin Towers. Not only was it free, but it was way high up in the sky with a great view of the city – and I like heights!
You have to go to the towers in the morning as they only offer a limited number of tickets and only for the same day. We got there about 10:00 am and were slated into the 4:15 pm tour.
The twin towers are 88 storeys with the skybridge connecting the towers at the 41st floor. It took 41 seconds (one second per floor) in the elevator to reach it. The ride on the way down is even quicker! The double decker skybridge was put in to act as a connector (and an escape route in case of emergency) between the two towers which house mainly offices. Over 36,910 tons of steel were used and 77,000 sq meters of glass. Let me tell you, it’s impressive.
We also went to the Aquarium one day where we got to pet some little bamboo sharks. Even though they are harmless, it was still scary sticking our hands in to that tank. They felt like slimy silk – it was strange.
They have the largest underwater tunnel in Malaysia. You walk through surrounded by glass on three sides and watch big manta rays, sharks, eels and other fish swim over your head and all around you. I admit that I had a memory of Jaws 3 where the glass breaks on the tunnel…but we were safe in our water shrouded world. It is quite something to see the sharks teeth inches away from your head. We couldn’t resist this picture of two sharks sleeping, one with his fin over the other in a little cuddle.
The rest of our sharks through the glass photos didn’t turn out. When we emerged from the tunnel, they had a little section where you could get a picture of yourself drawn while you wait. A man sat down to get his face drawn while his burqa clad wife sat and waited. We found that a little ironic…and I also saw my chance to ask for her picture. I didn’t know when else I would be able to get my photo taken with someone wearing a burqa so I went over and asked her. She was surprised and started giggling a little – then she asked her husband and he jokingly said that they would charge me for the photo. Even though her face was covered, I could tell she was smiling and she seemed very pleased that I wanted a photo with her.
I figured it was my turn to ask someone for a photo after the dozens of people who had asked for mine. I had so many people (especially Muslim girls) ask for my photo in Thailand and Bali and some Indian men ask for it on the skybridge (they included Curtis in their request). This woman was very sweet – shy and giggly – and I thought she had beautiful eyes.
We used the KL transit system because the trains were a cheap, relatively easy way to get around the city. They’ve got 5 different lines and sometimes you have to transfer between them – but after our first transfer which involved crossing a street and following the crowd through an underground tunnel – we had it figured out. They’ve got station names like Masjid Jamek, Sultan Ismail, Setiawangsa and my personal favorite – Dang Wangi.
Our four days in KL flew by and pretty soon it was time for our flight to Cambodia.]]>
real coffee (not the instant crap!)
The first two are pretty much my only requirements at the moment! 24 hour electricity is nice, but not too big of a deal.
I’ve fallen in love with air conditioning…but alas I have to enjoy my few stolen moments with it when I’m in the 7/11. I don’t think I will ever complain about the cold again! I actually get quite excited when it turns cloudy now and especially when it rains! Anything to keep the burning hot rays of the sun off my skin for however long it lasts is a welcome relief.
I hate the bugs here! I wouldn’t mind them so much if they would quit eating me alive. Am I really that tasty? I’ve got big red welts all over my body to prove it! I just came back from the pool and I’ve got a new bite right on my elbow. My elbow! Seriously, another huge welt right on the bone.
There are things I will miss when we aren’t here though. Mainly:
Cheap and tasty food (especially the sidewalk vendors!)
Cheap clothes (when I can find something that actually fits)
Things we don’t do at home but I’m used to now:
Take off our flip flops before going inside a restaurant, store, our own bungalow, even to the reception area of wherever we are staying. (except in Bangkok, you leave your shoes on in Bangkok!)
Cold showers. Gotta love ‘em!
Eat with a spoon. Thais never put forks in their mouths, the fork is used only for putting the food onto the spoon.
The wait staff really do wait. If they come over to take your order and you’re not ready yet, they stand by your table and wait until you are. When they bring the bill (which you always have to ask for), they stand and wait until you give them the money.
In a store, it’s very common for the sales people to follow you around while you look at things. Like literally follow you around like a lost puppy. If someone did that at home, I would walk out but here they are just trying to be helpful.
Things I hope I never get used to:
1. Old fat white men with young pretty Thai women. They are everywhere!]]>
We scoured the beach and looked at several places (a few of the cheaper bungalows were so dark and nasty, I couldn’t believe that anyone would stay in them) but there were also some nice ones in the lower price bracket. We found the best of the bunch and agreed to a weekly rate there. (You can get beautiful accommodations for very reasonable rates here but since we’re traveling for a year, we are seeking out the cheapest digs we can find that are actually habitable).
When we had checked out the bathroom, all we saw was a toilet and just assumed that it would flush. Boy, were we wrong! It turned out that we had fill a bucket up with water and manually flush the toilet. Fun! The entire bathroom would smell like an outhouse every morning (horrible gases having no where else to go except for back up into the toilet is what we guessed) and our shower would smell strongly like sulphur every time we turned it on, for the first 5 minutes. It was such a stinky bathroom that we actually splurged on an air freshener!
When we had checked out this place, the Lanta LD Sandy Beach, the staff had been nice. (One guy there named Job was a really sweet kid) but we soon found out that the receptionist had a bad attitude. When we were almost out of toilet paper, we requested some more and were told that they were out and we could buy it at the store! This happened twice and we did have to buy our own (totally unheard of anywhere else we stayed and also to the other travelers I’ve told!) I was so pissed off that we paid them 50 baht less at checkout to recoup the cost of the TP that we’d had to buy. Based on their customer service, I would definitely not recommend them!
The location was good, right on Long Beach, but there are so many other places to stay that I wish we had stayed at one with nicer staff. The Best House was right beside it and the couple who run that are super nice. We booked our boat to Ao Nang through them (not wanting to give Lanta LD anymore of our money) and they drove us to the pier in their air conditioned truck.
While on Ko Lanta, we rented a motorbike for the day and explored the island. Super fun way to get around! I took a bunch of pictures and movies while Curtis drove. I got a great shot of him where he looks like the Red Baron (helmet, sunglasses, hair blowing in the wind).
Some of the Muslim ladies ride side-saddle here…looks dangerous to me, I don’t know how they balance (and no helmets of course).
Curtis only drove on the wrong side of the road twice….we quickly remembered that right is wrong when we saw the traffic coming straight for us so our mantra that day simply became “LEFT!”
We saw a sign for a waterfall and decided to follow it, even though it meant leaving the paved road and maneuvering over a dusty bumpy one.
We had to hike into the waterfall which was fun. It was nice being near a stream, snaking our way through the jungle and jumping from rock to rock when the path led into the water. After about 30 minutes we were rewarded with a sheer cliff wall and a slight water trickle. No fall, just a trickle. I guess it’s the wrong season for waterfalls.
The best part about our hike though was that we saw 3 elephants taking some people on a trek. My first time seeing elephants and I couldn’t get over how huge they are. Absolutely enormous! Their poop was bigger than a soccer ball!
After our hike, one of the elephants was chained up to a tree (I really wanted to undo that chain from around his ankle and set him free!) but he seemed happy enough and waved his ears at us and put on a little show with his trunk. I (barely) resisted the urge to touch him since his handlers weren’t around. We will definitely be going on an elephant trek in the future!
I spent one day at the spa in Lanta….soooooo amazing! I had a massage, followed by a coconut body scrub and a facial and then a manicure and pedicure. 3 ½ hours and all of that cost about $45! All of my services were performed outside under a beautiful tent with a nice breeze. I didn’t have to change locations or estheticians in between services, they all flowed together with a quick outdoor shower in between my body scrub and facial.
Curtis got a one hour massage on the beach for 300 baht ($9).
The swimming was awesome on Long Beach and had the most amazing sunsets ever!
We found a great beachfront restaurant that made delicious thin crust pizzas called Mr. Wees (where we were served by various lady boys all 3 times we went there). Our favorite restaurant was on the road called Cookies and Cream (which you won’t find in a guidebook). The Thai food was outstanding and the service was a welcome relief. The Thai family who owns it basically cook for you in front of their home and the food is so fresh and tasty. They even give you complimentary pineapple for dessert and the meals and beer are dirt cheap.
The restaurants in town near the pier are really cool. There’s a row of them all on stilts over the water with lots of colorful hanging baskets.
One night we found a little bar (outdoor of course!) at the very end of the beach that played kick ass music. After ordering our beers, they brought over a game of Connect 4 to keep us amused and we played and drank for hours! The resident expert, who’s name was Boo, took turns beating us (“pop pop, you lose”) but on the rare occasions that I beat him, I gloated even more.
After nine days on Lanta, we were ready to move on. There were a lot of tourists and prices at most of the restaurants along the beach were too inflated. We were more than ready for a change of scene so we hopped on a big boat and came back to the mainland.]]>
After our overnight train from Bangkok and a 4 hour stop over in Trang, we made our way to our first island in Thailand, but not without getting a little lost first. While Curtis was at the internet café for 3 hours, I had plenty of time to wander around town. Buying some books for some serious beach reading was a high priority so armed with my Lonely Planet I managed to find my way to both a new and a used bookstore. At Ani’s books I made the mistake of having a conversation with the European owner who asked where I was heading. I replied, “Ko Lipe” and he was very helpful in providing me with directions on how to get there.
So when I collected Curtis from the internet café, and found a tuk tuk (a Thai man actually helped me wave one down and didn’t even try to get money out of me), I told Curtis that I knew exactly how to get to where we were going and I had the directions written down.
When I had made the reservation for our accommodations, they offered to pick us up for 700 baht but that sounded like too much so we were determined to get there on our own for much cheaper.
We took the tuk tuk to the bus station (40 baht), got on the right bus (120 baht) and about 30 minutes into the 2 hour bus ride, Curtis was sure we were going in the wrong direction (again with the help of the Lonely Planet) so we got off at the next stop. We managed to cross the street, hoping to get a taxi back to Trang but there were none in sight. We happened to be in front of a jewelry store and the 3 women working there took pity on us and called a friend to come and pick and pick us up for an agreed upon price of 180 baht (just under $6).
We only had to wait about 30 minutes (very good by Thai standards) for our “taxi” which turned out to be some guy in an old Sedan from the ‘70’s with a carpeted dash board. He drove us to the minibus station in Trang where we were able to purchase our ticket for the Hat Yao pier to take us to the correct island.
“Ko” in Thai means island and with so many that start with an “L”, I had said the wrong one to the guy in the bookstore.
The minibus (120 baht) was crowded but air conditioned (yeah!) and ours was the last stop (about an hour’s drive). We took a long tail boat (another 100 baht) to the island with a bunch of Thais (mostly Muslim women) and on the other side discovered the only means of transportation were motorbike taxis with a posted rate of 100 baht to any of the 3 resorts.
We had no idea how far our resort was from the pier but didn’t think it was possible that we’d be able to ride on the back of a motorbike with our huge packs. The small Thai drivers assured us that it was no problem. We wore our small packs on our backs, with our big packs resting in front of the driver and each had our own motorcycle taxi. Curtis managed to get some footage of it with his camera (I was riding on the bike in front of him).
Ko Libong is a big island so there was no way we would have been able to walk and riding on a bike was actually pretty fun. The only nervous time I had was when my driver seemed to speed up a little while a rooster was crossing the road and I really wasn’t sure if he was going to make it in time not to be road kill. They can run pretty fast when they have to!
Going through the villages, the kids would shout out “hello” to us and ask us where we had come from.
Arriving at the Libong Beach Resort for our 800 baht a night bungalow with an ocean view was like heaven. It was absolutely perfect! (Posted rate for the ocean view bungalows is 1000 baht but I got the 800 baht per night weekly rate). The two Thai women who run the place are very sweet.
When all was said and done it ended up costing us 760 baht to get there….but we’d had an adventure along the way! (it’s not actually fun getting “lost” in that kind of heat with those heavy packs, but it was pretty short lived and something we’ll always remember).
There’s not much to do on Ko Libong which was part of the reason we loved it so much. After the chaos of Bangkok and how hectic how lives were at home for the last month, a quiet tropical paradise was exactly what we were looking for.
The water was great for swimming when the tide was in (too rocky when the tide was out). Some people commented that it felt like bath water, but it was nice and calm and still refreshing even though it was so warm.We met a wonderful couple from France who asked if we would like to share a boat with them one day to explore the island and try to see a dugong (an endangered mammal that looks a sea cow). We spent about 4 ½ hours exploring the island (no dugong sightings) but we saw plenty of birds and mangroves growing out of the sea. We stopped for our fruit snack at the Wildlife sanctuary and for a quick dip in deeper waters before heading home.
We met up with Chantal and Alain a few nights later for beer and to discuss some of the other islands they had visited. They had spent two months in Thailand and were at the end of their trip. Their English was definitely better than our French but there were still some words they didn’t know in English and it was fun speaking with them. We taught them a few words, they taught us a few, and some of our high school French started coming back. They laughed at our harsh pronunciation of “r” and taught us how to make the “u” sound they use. We hope to see them again when we visit Bordeaux, they were a lot of fun.
Besides a lot of reading, swimming, eating and sleeping, we also took a few walks through the nearest fishing village. The kids loved saying hello and so did the old women, some of the others were a little more shy. We must have walked through one evening at bath time because it seemed almost everyone was bathing or had recently bathed. One guy was wearing a big pink towel wrapped around his waist while riding his motorbike.
There were a group of kids playing outside in their pajamas and after the chorus of “hellos”, one little girl said I was beautiful. I was glad I brought stickers with me and when I started handing them out, all the kids rushed over. They definitely knew the word for stickers too!
We had a surprise visitor one night. We were laying in bed reading when I felt something land on my head right by my ear and run across my hair. I could actually hear the “thunk, thunk, thunk” sound of whatever it was running over my head. I sat up and flicked my hair and asked Curtis to check it. There was nothing there. We were standing up and he thought it probably just a gecko but we didn’t see anything on the bed. I told him to look under my pillow and when he moved the pillow, against the white of the bed linens was a HUGE black spider. HUGE. If I hadn’t been so scared, I would have laughed at the expression on Curtis’s face. It was a mixture of surprise, fear and the horrible realization that he would be the one who would have to kill it. The spider ran across the bed and onto the floor near our backpacks. Curtis wanted to put on some pants (I guess killing spiders in the nude brings out a whole new fear) so he grabbed some shorts and then looked for a good weapon. His yoga mat was the best he could find. He pushed the bags away from the wall and waited for a good shot. We were standing on the bed and he proceeded to beat that spider to death. He really did bang on it a few more times than necessary but we wanted to be sure of its demise. It looked like it was a dangerous spider because of the sheer size of it. We were both pretty freaked out with the heebie jeebies and used the bug net that night to sleep.
Despite our run in with the arachnid, we thought we might stay another week on our island paradise of Libong but when a big group from Singapore showed up and started lighting firecrackers at indetermined intervals (causing one to jump suddenly), our quiet paradise was ruined.
One night over drinks with a fun German couple we met, the people from Singapore set off a fireworks display for a full 10 minutes of loud noise (and not much sizzle). When we asked them what they were celebrating, they said every day is a celebration and they are not allowed to do that at home. I guess they were enjoying the freedom of making as much noise as they wanted.
We had a really great night with Lutz & Lena, lots of laughs and a little too much Singha because my head was feeling slightly achy the next day. Over breakfast, when two more random firecrackers went off, we decided right then and there that it was time to leave. L&L were leaving at noon so in order to share their longtail, we packed and checked out in under an hour. It’s cheaper the more people you have in a boat and there were six in ours so our ride back to Hat Yao pier was nice and cheap.
Once there, we bought our tickets for the fast ferry (Tigerline) to Ko Lanta. The journey was pleasant; air conditioned comfortable seats with English movies was a nice way to pass a couple of hours.
On to the next island….]]>
We had a 1st class compartment which consisted of a “couch like” seating area that turned into bunk beds, two fold out little tables and a small sink with aircon. The stinky squat toilet was down a narrow corridor (you should have seen Curtis squeezing through, one Thai laughed at how he had to scrunch his shoulders together to make himself smaller). While in the toilet, I just pretended I was camping and it wasn’t so bad.
They brought our meals to our berth and sleeping was kind of soothing with the motion of the train. We played cards and drank Thai beer after it was too dark to see anything out the windows. A great way to travel!
We are heading for the island of Ko Libong today.]]>
Highlights from our 5 days in Bangkok:
It’s funny how you get such pleasure from seeing familiar places like 7 eleven or Starbucks but it’s nice to see things that we have at home.
Some major differences:
It was soon dismissed, only to be reawakened several months later. This time it was me who wanted to turn the fantasy into a reality. I wanted to turn the routine of my 9 to 5 existence into something MORE. Taking a trip around the world was something I had dreamed about for as long as I could remember and I realized that if we didn’t do it now, we probably never would.
So we quit the security and comfort (and steady paycheque) of our jobs, rented out our condo, put all of our stuff into storage, got our shots and visas and a couple of Lonely Planets, packed our backpacks and are now sitting at the airport in Vancouver waiting for our first flight.
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of packing, saying our goodbyes to co-workers, family and friends and doing all the prep work that comes with leaving the country for a year. We just did our taxes last night!
The itinerary is: 4 months in Thailand, 3 months in Australia and then 5 months in Europe. Not sure exactly where we are staying or what we’ll be doing yet. But that’s half the fun!
It is with a huge sigh of relief that I sit here blogging waiting for our 10 hour flight to Frankfurt. There is nothing left for me to do except sit and relax. Oh, and figure out where we are going to sleep once we get to Thailand. We’re definitely winging it…but we’ve got 3 plane rides to figure that out.]]>