Friday, 19 February 2010

The end?

When i last posted i was in Phuket, with only about a week left. The last couple of days went by, the day before i left Donnarie was finally leaving so i walked with her to the bus station with some food. Hopefully I'm going to do some editing work for her in the future, if i get round to getting a copy of final cut pro that isn't going to cost me a house. One thing I had decided on while traveling was that, as much as I enjoy video editing, i don't think i want to do it as a career, as it wouldn't be fun to do anymore. So I've made a few contacts who have some footage/will have, and will let me play with it and put it together. Anyways, me and donnarie had this really nice seafood/coconut soup and rice, but didn't really have any way of eating it. Once we got to the place that she had booked a ticket, they brought out a table, plates and cutlery, so we were eating beside this road. A little bit surreal.

The next day i was flying to Penang from Phuket, so after packing up my stuff and saying goodbye, i walked towards the bus station. About a minute after i left, i was walking along the pavement when a bunch of people were coming the other way, so i stepped onto the road to walk. After several months in Asia i was quite happy that i had managed to avoid falling over/walking into things, because there is plenty of opportunity to do just this. Well, somehow, i didn't see the little hole in the road that i managed to put my foot in, and so stumbled, and fell over onto my knee, with the weight of my backpack coming down on me as well. I'm sure it looked pretty funny, but i was on the ground going 'ow.' A lot. It was hilarious. So a bunch of locals crowded around to help me. One woman was keen to drag me off to the hospital, but that wasn't i was so keen on, them giving me a big bill just to say it's fine. So i couldn't stand on it straight away. Another woman started rubbing tiger balm on my knee, which helped. If you don't know what tiger balm is, it's basically unicorn tears. It cures all ailments it seems. Mythical. I managed to stand up, but it was hurting a fair bit. I felt a bit better because another local had shown me a huge scar on his leg from where he had fallen over, so i felt a bit less stupid. But not much.

I was half tempted to walk back to the hostel, because i definitely needed to ice it and rest it. Only problem was, i had a flight to catch, and it was important i started wandering down in the direction of Singapore. So i tried to walked it off, walked to the bus station. Got on the bus. Ahhhh, sitting down. Then of course, 'oh, actually we're gonna take this other bus to the airport', so i limp off and switch buses. About an hour to the airport. Huge queues just to get into the place, as every bag has to be scanned before you go in for some bizarre reason. Somehow i managed to spot a sneaky opportunity to jump ahead a bit. Well, i wasn't in England, the usual queuing rules don't apply :D. Even despite my sneaky-ness, it was still pretty painful to stand on. Get inside, eventually check in. I was flying with firefly, who are a subsidiary of Malaysia airways. For some reason, after my fall, i was thinking, maybe it was a sign! Maybe I'm not supposed to be on this plane! Haha. Well, when i saw the plane, i was a little more worried. It's the smallest plane i've been on, it had proper propellers and everything! There were only two seats either side of the aisle. But yeah, surprisingly, i didn't die, and this blog isn't being written by a ghost, although i think that would be an interesting twist.

So into Penang airport. Apparantly there was a free bus into Georgetown which was about half an hour away. I met three English girls but they didn't seem to have any idea where they were going. So they followed me hoping to find this free bus. It seemed nobody knew anything about it, so the girls went off to change some money, then i managed to find the one guy who did know about the free bus, and there was one leaving right then, so i jumped on and off i went. Had to get off at komplex komtar, then walk about 15 minutes to the place i was staying. I'd booked my hostels in Penang and kl because everything was a lot busier with Chinese new year coming around, and it made life a whole lot easier. Anyway, the place i booked, i walked up to it, and it looked incredibly regal and posh from the outside, so i was thinking, have i got the right place? Penang is cool because the east India trading company rocked up to it one day and said 'right, this is our island'. It's a small island just off the west coast of Malaysia. So a lot of the building have a definite colonial/british feel to them. And when all this was happening, people came from all around because there was lots of opportunities for work etc, so all these cultures came together and mixed. Penang is without a doubt the greatest place for food that i went to.

It has the usual Chinatown and little India, but there's another culture, particularly focused around the food, called 'baba nonya'. It's the mixture of Chinese and Malay culture, and it meant they had some of the craziest, amazing food. Lots of street vendors making tasty, spicy, sweet, salty awesomeness. Mmmmmmm. I ate so much food while i was in Penang. Incredible. Highlight would be the most amazing satay sauce i've ever had. I walked into a bit of a grimy looking place, out it came, just so tasty. Mmm.

What else did i do in Penang? Well, i went to the museum, which was pretty interesting, mostly focused around the east india trading company taking over the island. There was a lighthouse on the seafront (suprisingly) which i climbed up. Incredible views for miles around (again, shocking. Who'd think to put a lighthouse where it could be seen from everywhere?) There was a big mall, the place where i had got off the bus originally. It's just insane walking around these places. One moment you are walking down some tiny little street, with quaint/old school architecture, bustling street markets, great smells wafting around, it all feels very real. And then you can go into some huge 7 story mall, a proper cathedral of consumption, with hundreds of people buzzing around, and it feels like this place is more capitalist than we are. Crazy world.

I also met a Canadian guy who had been on an Outward Bound course, but he'd gone to the west coast one, so it wasn't as surreal as it could have been. Following Penang i bussed down to Kuala Lumpur, which took about 5 hours. Conmfiest coach seats ever. Oh wow. Didn't really want to get off. Partially because i was intimidated by the big crazyness of the city, or at least i was at first. Anyway, we got dropped off somewhere, so i set off in search of the nearest MRT or monorail station, as my accomodation was right next to a monorail stop. Well, i wandered past the bus station, found a MRT station, had to go back to KL Sentral so i could hop off and jump on the monorail. So back to KL Sentral, stopped for a KFC. This was one of these days where i spent a rather long time walking around with my 14kg backpack on in the hot, sweaty heat. And so my entire back, and so therefore my tshirt, was covered in sweat. Fun times. But luckily the back was just solidly covered in sweat. So it sorta looked like the back of my tshirt was a much darker shade of the front. Genius.

So i wandered over to the Monorail, and rode the monorail, and got off the monorail. Amazing fun. Got off at bukit bintang. Apparantly my place was right opposite the stop. So i went down the stairs, and the area felt quite times square/piccadilly circus. I was thinking, no way can my hostel be here?! But it was. Next door to a mcdonalds. Up two flights of stairs. On the first floor was a massage place. I walked in there originally, they looked like this happened quite a lot. But i got into the hostel, nice place. Have a much needed shower. I figured it would be wise to go and buy a bus ticket for when i go to Singapore, seeing as it's chinese new year in a few days, so it'll probably be pretty busy. So i ask where the bus station is, same place i got dropped off at pretty much. The guy at the hostel tells me it's just a 15 minute walk away. Curses. I wandered around and rode two different transit systems to get to the place, when i could have just walked for 15 minutes. My way was way more fun though. Terrifying locals with my intense sweatyness. Mmmm.

Had a bit of a wander in the evening. There was a really awesome drum circle going on in the middle of Bukit Bintang. They knew what they were doing. A few people wandered into the middle and started dancing, one of them was actually doing the 'disco dancing' you see at the beginning of Borat. It was great. But yeah, that was good fun. Back at the hostel, the guy in the bunk beneath mine was this older american guy, who had the hilarious habit of narrating everything he did. Funny for about 30 seconds, not so much after that.

Next day i wandered. Oh boy did i wander. Twas the day before chinese new year, so there was plenty going on in keeping with that. I was wandering around chinatown, found a market area, the usual crap but in a different place. Handbags, watches, sunglasses etc. Then up a sidestreet I stumbled upon a dragon show. Awesome stuff. Basically this long rectangular base with about 15 poles sticking up, different heights, with a small bit of space to stand on. Then the dragon, with one person on another's shoulders inside, did all these crazy moves, jumping around from platform to platform. That was good stuff. I remember being a bit of a let down at lunchtime, i saw a nando's and thought why the hell not. Oh it was good. After this i wandered over to merdeka square where they declared independance in the 1950's. It's pretty much just a big field, and a giant flagpole, and a fountain. It's a nice city just to wander around. Cool sights and smells, great transit system. For dinner i went to a massive food court in the bottom of a mall, but it was a good food court, lots of good regional food. It was pretty entertaining at the entrance of the mall, there's just a big huge fountain, with a whole load of kids just standing around in groups, trying to look cool. Made me chuckle.

Met a few people in the evening in the hostel, including a guy who was on the same flight from singapore to london as me on monday. He was flying from KL to Singapore, so we decided we were racing each other to see who would get to Singappore airport first. My money was on him. Midnight rolled around and we got some fireworks for the start of chinese new year. Year of the tiger! Grrr. It was cool wondering past some shops, they would have the usual torso's with clothes on, but they'd have the head of a tiger. I'm wandering if they do the same for the year of the rat. Not so much.

The next day was cool. I wandered over to the petronas towers, which were once the tallest skyscraper in the world (of course there is two of them). You can get up crazy early to go get a ticket for the skybridge, but i didn't have a great desire to do this as i've seen a fair few cities from up high before. But anyway, it was great to wander around them. The first few levels is just another huge mall. Kuala Lumpur loves them. Looking at clothes and stuff, they were as expensive or more so most of the time. Pah.

After this i took the MRT back down to Chinatown, wandered around for a bit, then took the monorail towards the KL towers. Apparently the views were much better than from the petronas towers. It's perched on a hill, so i walked up a windy road to get to the entrance. Cue more sweatyness. Get inside. Annoyed. Lonely planet said it was 20 ringitt two years ago. I have 40 ringitt left, and wouldn't mind eating tonight. Now, you can pick option a, which includes going up the viewpoint, a pony ride, some jungle thing, and some other rubbish. Or option b, which includes going up to the viewpoint, and a whole load of other rubbish i don't want to do. Both options cost 38 ringitt. Annoying. I just want to go up! I ask, how much just to go up? It will still be 38 ringitt. I just want to go up and have a look! I don't want to ride a sodding pony! Why would i come to a big tower and think, hmmm, you know what? This is great and everything, but it would be better if i could ride a pony. Screw you KL tower. Screw you and your sodding ponies.

So yeah, i chose to eat instead. Always a good call. It was my last night of travels, but i didn't really have any money to go and blow on ponies and beer, which is a bit pricy in malaysia. Well, i have more money, but i would have had to get it out from a bank, which would of charge me, etc. And plus i had a 24+ journey ahead of me the next day. So i watched the road with a couple of English guys. And some other crappy stuff. But it was all good. I went to sleep, dreaming of throwing ponies off the KL tower. I might pay 38 ringitt for that.

Up at 7am. Quick breakfast. Walk to bus station without falling over (go me!). 8.45am bus to Singapore. Hop off and do customs stuff at exit and entry. Into Singapore at about 2pm. Find the MRT. Ride for about half an hour, hop off and switch trains to get to Changi airport. Now, my adoring fans will remember i slept in Changi airport about 5 weeks ago. Pretty rubbish night. I flew into terminal 1, so that's where i slept. And there was nothing out the front, no food places or anything. Well, the train took me in to terminal 2, and this was where everything had been hiding. Have burger king, take 'skytrain' (trying to make a monorail sound more cool than it already is) to terminal 1. There about 3pm. Flight isn't till 11.30pm. Crap.

Why did i come over to terminal 1? Skytrain it back over to terminal 2. Coffee coffee coffee. Wander. Back to terminal 1. Sit down and just people watch for about 1 1/2 hours. Funny stuff. Of course, ipod was lost several weeks ago, and book was a bit heavy. So i watched. Haha. Lost a marble or two. Went and saw if i could check in ridiculously early, turns out i could. So then i had about 4 hours to kill on the other side. Changi airport is fun though. Got to know it quite well. Felt a little like Tom Hanks in the Terminal. There's a bar upstairs somewhere with a pool, that was cool. TV area. Free internet. Bought a copy of Q magazine. Yeeaaahhh. Went to the gate and sat down. Bumped into the guy i mentioned earlier, who'se name is also Dave. I think i won the race, although in reality, i was the biggest loser, as i'd spent 10 hours in an airport. Get on the plane. Airbus 380. YES. Much better than the boeing 740. I really hate flying now. Used to love it, but this trip well and truely sucked the fun out of it. BUT, i was in the middle, with an aisle seat, with an empty one next to me. YES.

Shockingly, i didn't want to see any of the movies. Watched flight of the concordes etc, listened to some music, slept for about 30 minutes. And 14 hours later, boom. 5.30am. London. Drizzle. Grey. Um.

The end

I feel like there are a few tracks that completely remind me of awesome times on the trip. So here goes.

Faithless - We come one: Me and Hamish and our horrific attempt at dj'ing at the Irish bar in Phuket. This was one of the songs i remember massacring.

I am giant - City Limits - Crusing round in Kiwi Dave's car in Christchurch, this song seemed to be on the radio all the time, but twas awesome. Whether we were driving over to the mini golf place, or driving over to the mini golf place (it was closed the first time), good times were had.

Flight of the Concordes - Albi the racist dragon - Somehow Dave hadn't heard this song, so when i burst out with it at the ballroom overhang on an overnighter, it became a bit of anthem. And of course, once Dave knew the lyrics, we wouldn't shut up. Sorry Laura. Dave even drew a special picture.!/photo.php?pid=2904455&o=all&op=1&view=all&subj=243024743101&aid=-1&id=514099893

Mogwai - Auto Rock - Very strang this. Just got into Mogwai before i left, and then i find myself in Number 9 guesthouse in Phnom Penh, watching an amazing sunset over the lake, having a beer with splash and some sporadic Italian's, and it came on. Half of me was shocked it wasn't another Akon song, and half of me was shocked that i was hearing a slightly obscure song by a slightly obscure band in Phnom Penh.

Akon - Beautiful - I hate that this is here. Hate hate hate. Most of the time, as a rule, if a place was playing an Akon song, like a restaurant, i wouldn't go in as a matter of principle. But one of the few blurry memories of an insane night on Patong beach with a crew of randomers is this song. I feel dirty. Bleurgh.

And so, perhaps, one day this blog will be resurrected. Who knows how soon. But yeah, that's it. Laters taters.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Little bit more of Indonesia...and a lot more of Phuket

Last time i wrote, i was in Lovina, going snorkeling the next day. And so i did! Wasn't really too sure what to expect, i just kinda got talked into it, figuring it would be something to do as there wasn't a whole lot going on in Lovina. So i got picked up early in the morning from my place, jumped in a minibus as we picked up 9 other people. A bunch of swedish people, two swiss girls and a couple of aussies. We got flippers and snorkels then drove for about an hour to a little harbour, where we jumped onto a boat and travelled for about 20 minutes to the tiny little island we were heading to. It's near gilimanuk if you just happen to be looking at a map of indonesia right now.....So we parked the boat and jumped in, and straight away I was thinking 'wow...all this coral reef.....crazy looking fish swimming around....'and then i stuck my head up out of the water and one of the swiss girls was going 'magnifique!!' or however you spell it, so i swam across with the other swiss girl and there was this sudden huge drop-off, where the coral just stops and descends into nothingness....and all the big crazy fish were just down in the darkness...looking slightly evil. And so we swam along this ledge, amongst hundreds and hundreds of fish, huge shoals that you'd swim straight through....crazy colours....crazy was just....crazy.

So after about an hour and a half of just going wow, we swam to the beach and had some lunch. Then dived back in again. It was just completely insane. It makes me want to do my PADI though and learn to dive, so i can go and check out the deep places, without the slight drawback of drowning....

So then i spent about another 4 nights in Lovina...and looking back at it, i can't really think of anything else all that exciting that happened! I just relaxed, had some great food, swimming, met a few people here and there....but nothing all that exciting really. I was just enjoying my $6 a night watch tower!

So next up i went to Ubud, which is in the middle of Bali. It's a bit like Chiang Mai, kinda artsy and cultural, but i had some really amazing food there. There was a monkey sanctuary there, so of course i wandered over to see that. Tha t was really fun, it had been raining for a couple of hours before i went, and there was this concrete channel that ran through part of it, talking water away. Well, the monkeys were having a fun time running and jumping in and out of that, and playfighting. It's just funny as walking round watching monkeys being monkeys...i want a pet monkey now....that would be pretty sweet :D

Good old lonely planet said there were some good walking trails around on the outskirts, but it wasn't exactly obvious where they started or finished. So i wandered off to try and find one. So i'm pretty sure i was on the right road, and it said the trail started somewhere on the right hand side. So i'm walking along, pretty much to the middle of nowhere it seems, and i reach a river, which means i've gone too far. So i turn back and start following every little trail that leads off to the right hand side. So, i end up at someone's house, then at a spa, then i'm just wandering through a paddy field, figuring the trail has been made by the people that work in them. And eventually the trail stops. Plus the guys working in the fields were looking kinda pissed off. So i walked back pretty quick, and gave up.

After Ubud i went to Padangbai, thinking that i was going to go across to the Gili Islands, which are just off of Lombok. I tried to book transport to the gili islands from Ubud, but apparantly it was too choppy, so i decided to just got to Padangbai and hope the weather situation improves. Everyone i asked in Padangbai either didn't want to take me to the Gili's because it was too choppy, or they wanted to charge me a bucketload to get there. So i spent three nights in Padangbai, it had an ok beach but it mostly seemed to be a place for old europeans to come on holiday. So not all that exciting.....

So i was getting a bit fustrated with Indonesia. After the awesomeness of the previous 4 months, it was all a bit slow. There weren't really all that many backpackers around, and there wasn't really anything that i was desperate to go and do. I sorta wanted to go see Borobodour on Java, but that would mean flying out of Jakarta, which would mean going to Jakarta, which was something i really wasn't keen on. Like most of this trip, nothing was really all that researched before i came, but i wasn't really enjoying my time in Indo. And i still had about 3 weeks decided to go do something else. I fancied going back to Phuket in Thailand, and so booked a flight first to Kuala Lumpur and then up to Phuket. And so then, the next day, off i went. The beauty of Cheap flights, and always space available.

The next day i toddled off to Kata beach on the bus, it was a whole lot busier than it was back in October, as it's now high season, and now the sea is just like a big bathtub, as opposed to crazy waves and bodyboarding that happened in October. So i was sat on the beach and a thai girl who was on the bus wondered over and sat next to me. Turns out she had just finished her third year of med school and was taking a holiday but didn't really know too much about the south as she is from the north east. So we sat around and went for a swim, she asked me if i wanted to come with her to Krabi and Ko Phi Phi, she was going to be staying at her brothers place in Krabi then probably just day tripping to Ko Phi Phi. I was up for it but then we realised that there was no way to contact each other once we got off the bus as she had no access to internet where she was staying. But it was all good because i ended up staying longer in Phuket town and having a bit of a crazy time..

So the next day i was sat outside in the garden for a bit, reading the chronicles of narnia (yeah i'm cool) and then met hamish, from brisbane and donnery from the states somewhere. Watched some movies in the evenings. Then the next day me and hamish set off to try and find this mythical irish bar. We weren't entirely sure where it was so we were wondering around for a fair old while, we ended up asking a bunch of people but none of them had a clue what 'irish' or 'bar' was, so we attempted to act out being 'irish', which was a bit harder than acting out 'bar'. So then we walked into a ford dealership and tried to get directions. One girl came running out and drew a pretty descriptive map, and then also told us about a place called timber hut, which sounds like a really crappy version of pizza hut, but gave us her number for no apparant reason. So we'd been wondering around in the hot sun for a fair old while, and finally we saw it. Success.

We origninally went there because we wanted to watch the tennis, which we can do at the hostel but we just wanted a change of venue, so we got in there....and watched the tennis. And then.....we ended up staying the whole night. It was some guys birthday, there were a bunch of people who lived/worked in phuket town as english teachers etc....well at some point me and hamish ended up on the dj decks. That was entertaining. Of course, at the time we thought we were amazing, but we went back the next day for a few more beers, and found out how rubbish we thought we were. But it was all good fun!

The next few days was just spent not doing a whole lot really. One day i went to patong beach with hamish and pascal, and in the evenings we would just sit outside, drink beer, eat food and meet whoever turned up. There wasn't a whole lot going on in Phuket town, so at one point we decided we should head down to patong beach and stay at the backpackers there. It's where the majority of holidaymakers go, so there's hundreds of bars/clubs etc. So me, hamish, two norweigen guys called eirik and stefan who had been travelling together and two swiss guys called marco and pascal who hadn't been travelling together, headed down. We sorta had some issues with the booking, so three of us had dorm beds and the other three had to sleep in the common area. Although ultimately, when we came back from our first night out at 6am, the sleeping issues wern't really such a massive problem!

So after we arrived, we went down to the beach for a bit. There was this awesome inflatable assault course type thing in the sea, so we went in that. It had inflatable climbing walls, and this one thing called the moonwalker, which was inflatable trampoline platforms with this long inflatable round tube between the two, and the task was to run across without falling off, as it would spin as you ran on it. Well, i went at it for a fair old while, drank a whole lot of salt water and occasionally wiped out just short of the platform, but didn't make it all the way across once. Curses.

In the evening we had some drinks before we went out, then just had a bit of a crazy time really! And then again the next night. But at this point, me and hamish had been drinking every night for about 8 or 9 days, and we'd just been eating crappy food and lying around watching movies during the day, trying to feel better. So the next night i just chilled out at the hostel, and then left the next day.

I was planning on getting a bus, first to hat yai on the border of thailand/malaysia, then down to butterworth and hop on a ferry to penang, but i came back to phuket backpackers, and i'm still here. Whoops. It's just so easy to spend time here. Great food everywhere, so laid back. However, i have booked a flight to penang for wednesday, then i'll go to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days, and then i fly home from singapore a week today! Arg!