Saturday, 10 March 2012

The return of Road Signs and Traffic Lights!

Hello everyone! Have been waiting until I had a bit more to tell everyone... what with all these comments about how jealous people are it seemed a bit mean to write a blog about how we had been sitting by the pool/beach.. although I am going to do that now haha!! We spent a lovely few days at the last resort mention on Koh Phangan lazing by the pool and topping up our tans which is always nice, however we had to swap hotels as our one was obviously a bit of a hot spot for backpackers so was fully booked as it got closer to Full Moon Party. Found a nice alternative although the pool wasn't great - meant that we actually walked an extra 100m and went to the beach though so it was actually good in the long run! The beach was probably the nicest beach we have ever been to - the water was crystal clear and so warm it was like a bath. There were also some nice cheap restaurants along the sand so we got into the habit of buying a couple of beers and watching the sun go down on the beach, and then going back at night time for dinner. Its such a hard life! Stayed on Koh Phangan for almost a week, we both agreed we could probably stay longer but time is ticking and our flight to Australia is getting closer and closer, and still plenty more to see. On our final day on the island it absolutely bucketed down, so we sat on our balcony and watched the rain on and off, as well as massive thunderstorms, it was brilliant, and the first bit of bad weather we have actually had so we thought it was about due! Next day we embarked on our trip to Penang, an island in Malaysia. Was another one of those ridiculously long and complex journeys - jeep/taxi (open air - lovely until it starts chucking it down) to the ferry, ferry to Samui, then on to the main land, then a coach to Surat Thani where we were nearly scammed but caught them out - we are finally learning the ways of Asia!!!! Basically the key is that if someone tells you something is 10km away - they are usually telling porkies! We had already bought our tickets and this man told us to follow him to the tour agency which we did. When we got there it turned out we were at the wrong company (not very convincing display of shock from the man working there) but LUCKILY the man who had brought us there HAPPENED to know where the right place was and ALSO HAPPENED to be a tuk tuk driver. We walked back to the drop off point and spoke to a woman there, who called our company and arranged a free pick up. Scam avoided, we are wising up! Anyway, on with the journey... next we got in a very small, very busy and not very air conditioned mini van, which we were in for a total of 5hours. Ouch. Saw a horrific crash on the way - truck was so mangled you couldn't tell which way up it was. Not surprising considering the way people drive but still scary to see. Eventually we pulled up outside a stall selling toys, and a man stuck his head in and shouted 'Penang? You come in my van now.' So we crossed the dual carriageway on foot and got in a different mini van (air con and leg room this time!) and off we went again to the Malaysian Border. I have never been to such an efficient border! We literally walked in, filled in our arrival card got stamped and walked through. Must have taken a minute in total? Put the two hours we spent last time in Bangkok in perspective! And the people were friendly too and actually smiled, which I thought was against the rules for immigration control! Could tell we were in a different country straight away - roads were so much better, road signs arrived and the houses we were going past was all a world away from the ramshackle huts in the other countries. We had paid for a ticket to Butterworth, the town on the mainland near Penang, but the driver was going all the way and so dropped us on the street we wanted in Penang - cheers mate! Found a hostel (not lovely but a lot cheaper than Samui or Phangan) and a burger van called the Old Trafford, had a bit of food and collapsed in bed, as we had been travelling about 16 hours by this point. Next day we did a bit of touristyness. Went to the Museum and learnt all about the different peoples - again probably not for everyone but we liked it. We also went to Fort Cornwallis, although I think we walked round the wrong way as the displays didnt make a huge amount of sense. They may have just been like that though to be fair... Went out for a curry that night as Sean had been craving one for a few days! Next day we braved public transport for the first time, and went to the top of Penang Hill. You can get a little train thing up there like a cable car, which I thought was ridiculously overpriced but the views from the top of Georgetown, the mainland and the bridge were beautiful. Finally worked out how to use the Panorama setting on my camera - was pretty chuffed but then decided I need to go back to Halong Bay and utilise this new found skill. From the top of Penang Hill, we decided to walk to the Botanic Gardens. In our lonely planet book it makes sounds as though this is a short walk. It is not. 5km of steep hill and I thought my knees were going to explode - comforted by the fact that as we walked monkeys started playing in the tree tops around us which was pretty amazing. We eventually got to the Gardens but were so tired we didn't walk far - just far enough to see some turtles in a lily pond and find a massive Orchid house which made us think of Terri! We then got the bus back to the centre. Ran for the bus as it was about to leave, only for it to stop at the next stop along, the bus driver got off, and did not return for 35 minutes. At first we were a bit baffled, but I think 6 weeks out here has changed the way we think, so we just laughed and got out the cards and played a fair few rounds of Rummy. When we finally got back to the center we walked around a couple of malls and I treated myself to some conditioner and dove body wash - so excited! That night we went to a night market for dinner - it was quite an experience! Really cheap good food from stalls all around, and a bustling place with lots of people watching to be done, our favourite! That was pretty much it for Penang, we got a coach a 1pm the next day to Kuala Lumpur, pretty annoying though as it was by far the nicest bus we have been on so far for the shortest journey! How unfair! We got picked up by Sean's friend Ed in the centre, as we are staying with him in KL. It is pretty nice to be in a decent place to stay - its a condo (aka posh flat) and we have a little room with en suite to stay in! We have definitely made use of the washing machine since we got here, as well as finally seeing everyone on Skype which was brilliant! Weird though, as sitting chatting to Mummy for ages just feel like you are there with them, then you sign off and look around and think 'Oh my god I'm in Malaysia how did I get here?!' First day in KL we went to the middle of town to the HUGEST shopping mall I have ever seen in my life - eleven floors, two wings and more in the middle. Put it this way, its the first occasion since my life began that I have not made it all the way round a shopping centre. Does that put it in perspective?! We then went up the KL tower just in time to get all the views of KL in daylight, sunset and night time. Pretty high up - the lift left my stomach behind somewhere around 150m. Observation deck is 276m up. On the way back down, our ticket included a visit to 'The Animal Zone', which turned out to be a ramshackle shed full of huge snakes and tarantulas. Conclusion: not a place for Anthony to visit. We were both pretty tired by this point, but then discovered that no taxi driver knew where Ed lived... apparently Taxi drivers rely on the passenger to direct them here, which is all very well until you get a pair of foreigners like us who are absolutely perplexed by the layout of this city. In the end rang Ed and put him on the phone to the taxi driver and got to the right place in the end, but I was concerned for a while... Next day we went out for a brunch. Curry. Sean was loving it haha, was really good food, and another dining experience, as you eat off a big banana leaf not a plate, and all these people with dishes of stuff just come over and plonk it on your plate until you say stop! Literally Sean was in heaven. We then went to the Batu Caves (lots of steps) but there were some rather vicious looking monkeys lurking and actually climbing up people, so we didn't stay too long! Last night we went to a 'Thai Bar' which was an... experience. You don't buy drinks, just pay for the bottle and they bring over mixers and leave it all on your table, and the entertainment was Thai women in not many clothes singing half of the words to Lady Gaga. I loved it! Met a lot of prostitutes which is always nice... Sean said he was glad I was there to protect him! Not convinced all of the lovely ladies we met were actually ladies. Some very big feet and deep voices. Not much else to say really, we are on to Singapore tomorrow so next blog will most likely be from Australia. Only thing left to tell is a small toilet related fact for you (no trauma for me this time don't panic). Not all the toilets here are quite the same as at home. Some of them are toilet seats around a hole in the floor so you have to squat, which I think is a bit silly, because if you are going to bother put a toilet seat in then you really should put a toilet in as well. It clearly is a confusing system for everyone involved, as on some of the actual toilets there are signs on the back saying DO NOT STAND ON THE TOILET and a diagram showing you how to sit on it! Found that hilarious, until I found foot prints on a toilet that didn't have a sign!!!!!! Hope everyone at home is alright and enjoying what sounds like some pretty strange weather!!! Lots of love to everyone xxxxxxxxxxxxx

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