Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bangkok to Singapore

Well, Bangkok was Bangkok - if you've ever been there you will know how you are usually slightly surprised at how it isn't as bad as everyone makes out. It's just another city really. We did the tourist things, hung out on Khoa San Road, went to the Grand Palace and went to see Wat Po with the big gold lying down budda.

So far we have stayed in ok places, and whilst i am happy to recommend a place to anyone who is interested i won't usually promote places on here. But, having said that the place we stayed at in Bangkok was really really nice. It's a boutique hostel with about nine rooms, most of which have air con and a window (rare for Khoa San Road) and the rooms are only about 4 GBP a night ( Bargain. Their restaurant which is ground level (rooms are upstairs) is superb and we even took some receipes with us. Boutique hostel sums it up really, it's like a hostel but not really, the furniture is nice, the bathrooms are clean and your free toast gets brought out to you to eat on the decking in the pretty little courtyard, which makes a nice change from having to do it yourself!

And an uneventful flight later....

....we found ourselves back in Singapore. After setttling in to our horrible, just horrible hostel (mentioning no names, COZY CORNER BACKPACKERS) and a sleep we decided it was high time we finished off the toursity things in Singapore once and for all. So we set off early the next day to get in some much needed shopping (fruitless) and then hopped the MRT and taxi to MacRichie park to walk the 5km to the HSBC Tree Top Walk. The park is an untouched part of Singapore and as with any walk in the woods, you realise that it must have all looked like this in the beginning. What is nice is that the trees are so big and thick that you can't hear the cars, so it's just you, the insects, the funny pointy nose squirrel rat things, funny half lizard half snake things and, of course, the monkeys. Now this was our second visit to the park and i was hoping that we would see monkeys as easily as we did last time, but 4km into the walk, no monkeys. How dissapointing! And then, out of no-where a monkey appears! Well, appears and continues to appear right towards Rob who is innocently (and quite rightly!) carrying the water in a plastic bag that we bought on the way (the water, not the bag). And still he continues, making not a sound. As soon as he got within reaching distance of the bag i think rob and i both realised that he wasn't after us, just the bag that could have potentially had food in it. I'm sure it's one of those things where if we were in a petting zoo the animal keepers would say "now, if any of the animals grab for something, let them have it, don't get into a snatching match with a small monkey". But we weren't so rob had a snatching match with a small monkey and strangely, dispite rob being over 6' and the monkey measuring in at about 1.5' the monkey won. Broken handle and all. :) I think he quickly realised his mistake when all he could smell was water bottle and MY camera bag. But still he sat there cutching it like a small child would a new toy. But after threatening him with the empty water bottle we still had, we retrieved the half full water bottle, my camera bag and the broken handled plastic bag and we also got a show of monkey teeth (fangs, rob wants to write fangs), which, incidentally, are not in proportion with their bodies. Monkeys aren't that fun anymore.

(mum - new trousers!)

The Tree Top Walk was fun. Hot and a little disappointing after we'd both been riled up by a pack of monkeys (yes, it's a pack now). But we did it. And a long, hot walk home later we appreciated that we had a place to stay and shower, even if it was shabby and we had to wear our flipflops at all times (including the shower).

After more food (are those people who lose weight travelling just the ones who get diseases?) and a sleep we took ourselves down to the Marina to get over to Sentosa Island. Finally, FINALLY i got to go on a cable car!! And it was excellent! Nice view of everything because it's so nice and sunny here. Now as most poeple know, cable cars usually go from low point to high point, or high point to high point (or back again) so when we got to the island we were actually at the high point of the island. As is usually the case in Singapore we then had 5 choices to get down to beach level. Stairs, escalator, chair lift, bus, or - mine and rob's particular favourite - a small tray with wheels and a brake so you can free wheel your way down what they call the "luge". If every hill had one of these to get down more people would walk up hills.

We then spilt up for a while to worship our different religions. Mine being sun, sand and sea, so i parked myself on the beach. And rob's being a thirst for knowledge of stuff that happened ages ago, so he went to the museum. After reuniting and checking out the merlion together we got back in the cable car and back to the main tower and then onto Mount Faber.

Sentosa is really nice. It very very touristy, but so obviously so you don't mind. You banish thoughts of "where has this sand come from?" as it wriggles its way through your toes and you turn a blind eye to the 'rocks' with holes in, clearly reveiling to the world that they are in fact fibreglass rocks, and as far from real as you can get. It's peaceful even though we went on a saturday and it was packed. It's created solely for the tourists and the people who live here in Singapore to escape. You don't mind paying over the odds for food because of all these reasons. Somebody is making a big effort to make this a nice place, and it's worked.

After returning to scabby resting place for a rest, we donned our least 'dirty-traveller' clothes, perfumed up and hit the Long Bar at Raffles hotel, for - of course - the famous Singapore Sling. Very nice drink, but the taste is ever so slightly tainted by the fact that you've paid so much for it. :)

And now we are all checked out, ready to lounge around Starbucks, drinking coffee and watching the world that is Singapore happen before us for the rest of the day. Tonight we collect out bags and head to the airport to board our flight to Australia. Plans have changed somewhat due to scheduling (not my fault, the commonwealth games' fault) and we will be hopping around Aus when we get there to land sometime in the afternoon in Brissie.

Bring on the Toohey's and XXXX beer. Mate.

Chrissie Out.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Similans to Phuket to Phi Phi to Krabi to Phi Phi to Phuket...

OK, internet is everywhere in Thailand but it's not always cheap and it's almost always slow, which makes it a nightmare when i am putting photo's up aswell. That's my excuse anyway!

Anyway - we left Singapore no problems and got to Phuket ok - nice quick cheap flight, i can recommend Tiger Airways (cheap airline in singapore, but be careful of the baggage allowance, it's a crappy 15kg so both Rob and i had to pay excess. If you book the flights enough in advance (like we did) it's still the cheapest way by far to get to Thialand flying. Albeit at stupid-o'clock in the morning.

So, Thailand. I was a little apprehensive returning to Thailand, mainly becuase i had the crappest time here before. But, i'm all for giving things a second chance and, after being here for a bit i would urge anyone who's been to a place and hated it to go back, at least once. Maybe at a different time of year or with someone else. Thailand this time around is very cool. Of course that may have something to do with the fact that a) it's gloriously hot here, b) we went on an awsome 4 day liveaboard to the similan/surin national park and saw some really excellent stuff, c) we're not exactly slumming it and d) having someone here with me this time makes everything that much easier.

Enough waffle - here's what we have been up to the last several days....

Off the plane into Phuket and we met a couple in the airport (hi Ryan and Annie!) who were also heading to Phuket solely to get on a liveaboard to the Similan Islands (sensible). One shared taxi ride later we parted ways and Rob and I dumped our belongings in the ScubaCat bar and headed for breakfast (Sub-Way and a fruit smoothie).

After wasting the day emailing and sorting out ferries and accommodation to Phi Phi & Krabi, we got on the boat around 7pm for a long trip through the night to the Similans. Our cabin was awsome! Very comfortable and air conditioned too. We pretty much slept all night and when we woke up it was to the crazy boulders on the islands around us.

We were up every day in time to see sunrise, and doing four one hour plus dives a day we made it every sunset, but probably only just! After being such a lazy diver in the Caribbean i had forgotten all about things like visability under 30m, and currents. :) Rob did very well seeing as all his diving has been in LC and coming from 25/30 minute dives with 30m plus vis and no current to Thailand with 55/65 minute dives, lower visabilty and strong currents! But - you can't beat the diving here for the diversity in the water. Big stuff, little stuff, medium stuff. Then there's the volume. Stuff everywhere. We were lucky enough to see a Manta, but no whale sharks. We might have to head to the west coast of Aus for them. The manta was quite far away but huge and it did a very impressive loop thing before heading off into the blue. The weather for the four days was really good- sunny sunny all the time, and only on the last night did we have a huge storm and lots of rain, but by morning it had cleared up and some people even slept through it. Some people were woken up by other people who can't sleep through storms and because they are awake they think their girlfriends shoud be. All in all a great trip - recommended for anyone who is coming near this area - even if you have to get separate flights like we did - it's totally worth it. Here are a few photos below of stuff we saw.. one of the good things we saw was this nudi that we saw, apparently you only get them in the maldives. Not any more i guess!

So after the live aboard we stayed one night in phuket to get our stuff sorted and then it was onto the ferry to Phi Phi. I've been to Phi Phi before - but that was pre tsunami. In phuket you would never know anything had happened, in Phi Phi, if you've been before - it's a totally different place and clearly something has happened there. When i went there last you couldn't see from one side of the island and there were shops everywhere and people everywhere and it was packed. Now you can see from one side to the other and it's SO quiet. We stayed in the Phi Phi Hotel (recommended) which is one of the few places which did survive, other places are still being fixed up and new places are being built. Nice island, very relaxed and although it's only an hour away from Phuket on the ferry it's miles away from the hustle and horrid smells and phuket-ness of phuket. We found a lovely bar on the opposite side to where the ferry drops you - great back drop (one of the photos below), there is a really nice photo of rob and i sat on the chair with the sun setting in the background and our beers in hand. I won't put it up though as on closer inspection on the laptop you can see my pants. Sharn't be wearing that skirt again!!

Just the one night in Phi Phi and then a ferry, a taxi and a long boat to West Railay. West Railay is lovely too - it's that little bit more remote which makes it nice. The sand on the beach is so fine it's like flour, and with the clear sea and towering cliffs it's certainly a nice backdrop for a meal and a few beers!! We decided to stay here for four nights and then head back to Phi Phi before returning to Phuket to fly to Bangkok. Days were easily filled with lying on the beach, eating, drinking, playing frisbee and playing in the sea. The bungalow we stayed in didn't actually have air conditioning, but i think that's probably best for us as it's the first place so far that hasn't! It was a nice little place though and the resort has a nice pool and is right next to the beach on the nice side (west railay as opposed to east). One of the afternoons/evenings we started the drinking early to watch the sun go down on the beach. We continued through dinner and then decided to go around to the next beach to see what was happening over there. There are a couple of ways to the adjacent beachs, longtail is the easiest and the next option is climbing over the big rocks. By no means an easy feat. Earlier in the day we had gone exploring at the end of West Railay to see if we could get around to one of the beaches around. It was alot of climbing up on hands and knees and it ended in a steep slope upwards from the path (complete with ropes to pull yourself up on). After some persuasion i climbed up it (i actually don't have a problem climbing up, it's the down bits that bother me) and what a great view it was. Then we climbed down (slowly) as to get to the beach we were thinking you had to rock climb straight up - then climb through a cave. That actually sounded like fun but there was a bunch of really serious climbers there that were a little intimidating with their dirty trousers, funny shoes and clippy things. Anyway - back to the point. It appears after a few beers i'm not frightened of climbing down things! Rob made me climb (in the dark with a couple of torches) over the rocks instead of getting the nice relaxing longtail! It was actually quite fun - but i don't think it would have been half as quick if i hadn't had a few beers! One of the main reason we ended up coming to Krabi/Railay was to do some rock climbing, some sort of half day climbing or something. We never did get around to it, it seems all the sitting, relaxing, eating and drinking got in the way.

So we left Railay and headed back to Phi Phi for the night. We had tried to book accommodation on Phi Phi when we were in Railay but couldn't seem to find any that wasn't ridiculously overpriced but decided to go anyway. It's all about the adventure! :)

We ended up staying in a dodgy bungalow. The plus being that we were on a bit of the island that we hadn't seen before and the bars, resturants and beach were lovely! Plus it did have air conditioning which makes it less sweaty to pack the bags! In the evening we headed out and had dinner and cocktails in this very cool restaurant (photos below) and then watched a bit of fire-baton twirling. Though i'm sure it's got a much more manly name than that. After buying some trinkets the next day we hit the ferry and returned to smelly Phuket. Today we fly out to Bangkok for three days before getting back to Singapore.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

To Singapore...

Ahh, Singapore. Over the last three days this place has crept slowly up my list of favourite places... it's come to a halt somewhere near the very top and i'm very much looking forward to returning here after Thailand.

After arriving from a long 7 hour flight we navigated our way straight to the hostel with no problems. A good start! After dumping bags we headed out to Clark Quay - the place to be apparently (for those of you from home, it's kind of like Gunwarf!). We sat and ate some resonably priced food and expensive beer (of course, we're in Singapore now!) whilst perusing the many leaflets deciding what to do over the next three days.

The first day we headed out to find another hostel nearby as we also had to scout out somewhere to stay for our next visit and figured we should stay somewhere else to see what that's like, we decided not there, and i think we both came out of there feeling a little old. :)

Next we went to MacRitchie Park to go on a tree top walk through the forest. After we got there and walked about 1km we foudn a sign that said it was shut on mondays. Of course it was. So we ditched that idea in favour of lunch in China Town (mine was good, Rob's was crap) and then some muching about there... then up to Orchard Road which is a shoppers haven. I bought some trousers to make me look more of a traveller if that's possible, i'm sure they will show up in future photos. Anyway. From there we wandered back to the hostel and then showered and got ready to go and explore the Night Safari! OOoooo. It was really cool. The best bit was when we got off the tram thing that takes you around and walk a bit of the trail. There's on bit you can go in and walk about and see the fruit bats... They are massive! And i swear one nearly landed one me! It was nice to see the animals at night - most of the time you couldn't see the edges of the cages it was so dark - which is why i probably liked it better than the zoo.

Today we hung out at Sim Lim Square for a bit (slept in late - yeah!), had mexican for lunch and then wandered about in the sweltering heat. It's great! We stopped at the closest bar for some air conditioning and a beverage and found ourselves at a fancy coffee house with more varities of coffee that ever seen before!

Tonight we are off to get Indian food at a restaurant recommended to us by James (hi James!), so if it's crap, we can blame James! :) And we are of course packing. I think even Rob is getting bored of packing!

Tomorrow we are up at stupid o'clock to get our 7am flight to Phuket and tomorrow night we get on the boat bound for the Similan islands... everyone cross their fingers and think of whale sharks....

Clark Quay...

Look Mum, no coats!

Rob @ Clark Quay...


.. just down the road from our hostel.. pretty colours!

MacRitchie Park

Mr Monkey in the park...

Mr Lizard in the park...

Sleeping Tiger, Hidden from Camera..

Big tall buildings...

.. and of course, BLUE SKY!!

Hot countries have cool plants...

Coffee and cocktails..