So I haven posted for a while but only because this trip continues to be amazing! We spent a few nights in Lombok in Kuta and Sengigi. Kuta was a pretty small little town not much going on so we only stayed one night. But in Kuta we did enjoy chatting with the locals and getting tips for our next destinations from fellow travelers, relaxing on the beach and only paying 17$ for room. It’s hilarious that every time someone finds out we are Americans they all say, ooh Obama he is my uncle! It’s so funny. The gas stations here are also hilarious they are little huts with reused plastic bottles filled with gas lol.
After Kuta we decided to go surfing for the day at Selong Blanik. Which was awesome, amazingly my first time ever surfing and I did pretty awesome. Our teacher Yogi was pretty awesome too. He fell in love with me, he told me I came to him in his dream. It was cute but I said I think the distance might be a problem lol. After surfing we headed to Sengigi which was a little bit more of a town than Kuta we went out for drinks and met some locals to show us around to all the good bars. It was fun but also a late night and we had booked an 8am slow boat to Gili Trawangan, which had been recommended to us by and Austrailian couple we met in Kuta. It was kind of a rough morning. Especially considering it was quite the journey. An hour bus ride then horse drawn carriage to the beach and hop on a boat for another 20 min ride to the island where they dump you out on the beach. Next we search search for a room, we start following this guy who says he has a room for 95000 a night, but its crap so we stumble upon this guest house in an alley way called Karisma. Bast place we could have possibly found. Hon, the hotel guy was awesome and we ended up with an air con room for 200000 a night, although our air con didn’t work. There were 5 rooms total and we had amazing neighbors! There was a group of Brit lads, a group of Aussie guys, a Frenchmen named Kevin who had been on the island for three months and was our personal Gili T information source, another group on Aussies who we went scuba diving with and another British guy that we met at the pool. It was our little Gilli T family!
Gili T was by far one of my favorite places. It’s just this little tiny island with beautiful beaches and no motorized vehicles only bicycles and horse drawn carriage and loads of stuff to do like scuba and snorkeling and tons of partying. Everyone on the whole damn island was young, single and hot! Needless to say we had an amazing time and met so many cool people. We weren’t sure how long we were going to stay there but ended up staying four days. Sadly we had to leave Gili T for Bali so we would be near the airport for our departures. It was another long travel day. We did scuba in the am and then booked a 3 PM fast boat to Bali and a bus to Jambarin which was about a 7 hour process total. Our driver was awesome though, he let us stop to buy some Bintangs and drove us around until we found a place to stay. It was one of the nicest places we’ve stayed so far. Air con, fridge and they even gave us soap and towels. They also had a gorgeous 24 hour pool which we utilized.
The next day we hopped in a taxi headed for Kuta. Arrived and booked a room. We spent the day lounging at the beach and got mani pedis from these little ladies. You basically can’t say no to them because they won’t leave you alone until you buy something. They must be making loads of money. We sat down at a “bar” for a drink (which was a dude with a cooler and some chairs selling beers and water) and next thing you know your buying a bracelet for everyone you know, getting a massage, a henna tattoo, and a mani pedi all at the same time lol. Then spent my last night with Samantha 😦 she was the best part of the trip! It would never have been the same with out her here! So sad to say goodbye she left for her flight around 1 and I will be heading to the airport at around 7 for my flight to Sydney. I still haven’t decided what will be next from there but I will work it out once I get there. I am a bit worried about customs there though because they are strict on anything organic entering the country so I may lose my spices and wood carving. I tried to post it today but since it is Sunday the post is closed. I should have done it yesterday but I didn’t even realize what day it was.
I am so glad that I decided to ditch my second tour and go it alone it has been awesome! Best choice I could have made. It has also been super easy to travel here the locals and fellow travelers alike are very helpful and honest and everybody speaks English.
So on to the next adventure we will see where this takes me…..
Malacca was for sure our best stop in Malaysia. On our free day we roamed the winding narrow streets and explored the shops. We sampled the famous chicken rice balls, which were basically rice that had been cooked in chicken stock made into a ball. They were pretty good not that great though. We tried the Chendol, which is a shaved ice treat topped with molasses, i thought it was gross. We also visited the Baba Nyonya Heratige Museum which explores the marriages of the native Malay women and the Chinese business traders that immigrated to Malacca. It was in an original Baba Nyonya home of the Chang family who were spice traders. It was beautiful and it was amazing that the intricately carved teak staircase was built with no nails because the Chinese believe nails should only be used in coffins. They also said that when they were married the bride and groom would meet each other for the first time (arranged marriages back then) and they would drink sweet tea, to have sweetness in life and eat sticky food, to stick together. Then later the group enjoyed the night market and dinner together.
We left the hotel at 6AM for Singapore yesterday and it was quite the interesting journey, at least for me anyway. We drove about three hours to the border and went through the exit point of Malaysia then reboarded the bus to drive over the straits of Mealacca and enter Singapore. We arrived at the border of Singapore to go through customs, being sure not to have any illegal contraband. including chewing gum, we had a gum chewing party while we packed the night before to use it all up before crossing the border. I get up to the customs agent and hand over my passport. It won’t scan. He tries and retries. He tries at the neighboring agent’s desk, no luck. The rest of the group has already gone through and is waiting at the bus and they shuffle me off to the sixth floor to a waiting room with several other people. I watch as the agents behind the desk scrutinize passports and one by one call people into the back like a doctors office only to release them and not let them leave yet. I ask the Indian guy next me how long he has been waiting there, he says 30 minutes. I have no way of contacting anyone from the group and I had already been briefed that the bus would leave after 20 minutes. They finally call me into the back for questioning. They ask me all sorts of questions, how much cash do you have with you (random small amounts of several currencies and no Singapore dollars), how long will you stay in Singapore (one day), do you often travel from country to country (once in college), Have you ever been to Singapore before (no), where do you travel next (Lombock, Indonesia). In my head I’m thinking this story sounds more and more like a drug smuggler the more I tell it. They finally decide that I am not a threat and allow me to take my passport and enter the country, after about 40 minutes. I find Anik waiting for me on the other side and we take the next bus into the city. The others went a head on the first bus. Turns out that since my passport was issued in 2005 it is the old version and does not scan in their scanners, however it is completely valid so I’m not sure why that should matter.
Finally Anik and I arrived at the hotel and relaxed for a minute before we went to lunch at a nearby food court. I had chickens feet with noodles which I was happy about because its only the second time I’ve seen them on a menu since I’ve been in Asia and the first time they were fried and were not as good as the black bean sauce kind. Later we waled around the city and it is for sure a modern westernized city. Also the first city in Asia where they actually follow traffic laws! Lots of impressive modern architecture and shopping malls everywhere. We even enjoyed a cocktail on the rooftop of the boat building, it had great views. We also sipped Singapore Slings at the famous Raffels Hotel, where apparently Hemingway used to do the same.
We also said goodbye to all of our trip mates, which was sad. They have all been so great and I will miss them all. I’m sure we will stay in touch via Facebook and hopefully share all of our photos. The one thing that I think I will miss out on the most by skipping my next tour is the people. I will meet plenty of others though I’m sure.
We arrived in Malaysia about four day ago after a pretty long travel day crossing the border. It was a bout 12 hour journey which seemed worse since we were extremely hungover from our last night in Thailand. Had an amazing day out on our private longtail boat made some new friends who joined our boat and we met them later for drinks at the Chang Bar behind Burger King. Our boat driver suggested this are and it was tons on fun.
We arrived in Penang and we were there for two days. We had some Chinese street food and indian food in little india. Little india was the coolest spot there. I imagine it is much like india and I would love to go there. However I’m not that crazy about indian food but I guess I just don’t know very much about it. Our hotel there was quite dirty but free breakfast and they had a pool.
Another 5 hour drive on a super awesome bus we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. It was clean, good A/C, and super comfy seats. It was quite comfortable. Once we arrived we checked in to our hotel quite clean, It had weird plugs though the we had to rig to fit out adaptors and the hot water only lasted about 1 minute. The coolest thing we say in KL was for sure the National Mosque. We even had to put on robes to cover ourselves. Our guide there was so nice and he spoke to us about several very interesting and unexpected aspects of Islam. I wish we would have had more time there. I would have also liked to see the mosque when 15,000 people come to pray on Fridays. We also got to go out on wednesday night, which is apparently ladies night in the whole city, free margaritas for all! It was good fun.
This afternoon we arrived in Melaka after a two hour bus ride. It is a really neat little place, by far my favorite city in Malaysia that we have visited on this trip. The city occupied at one time or another by the Portuguese, Dutch and British so a lot of history and mixing of cultures. On one single street in the center of town there is a Tao Temple, a Buddhist temple, a Catholic Church, a Hindu temple and a mosque.
We have a free day tomorrow and following that we arrive in Singapore. I defiantly prefer Thailand to Malaysia. It was prettier, the people were friendly and it was dirt cheap. Malaysia is much more expensive. Everything costs the same or more than it does at home. I’m also assuming that Singapore will be the same. Singapore will be the last day of the tour. It has been so great I am so happy with intrepid and I would definitely travel with intrepid again. Our leader, Anik, has been amazing! He is so nice and very helpful. He really does his best to make sure everyone of his travelers get the experience they are looking for from their trip. I think it has also been great that tour is pretty flexible.
My original plan was to go on form Singapore to another intrepid trip Jakarta to Ubud. However I have decided to ditch the trip and go it alone over there for two weeks. Samantha and I booked flights today to go to Lombok and we will travel at our leisure from there to the Gilli Islands and then to Bali. I was not able to switch my tour but and its not that I don’t want to do the tour because like I said I think intrepid has been great but I want to push my limits a bit more and figure things out on my own rather than rely on the tour. I am so excited for it and it weird to be excited about a vacation while your on vacation!
Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days but the WiFi has been a bit spotty in our last few stops. There is so much to catch up on the elephants, Kaho Sak, the home stay and the Phi Phi Islands (pronounced Pee Pee). On top of that tons of different and exotic fruits and tasty treats like fried chiken’s feet from the street side market next to 7Eleven. Quite tasty. We are now in the province of Krabi and we have private charter longtail for the day tomorrow to go to beaches and all but apparently fishing is not on the itinerary unless we want to pay a lot more and have no say in what we are doing. I have soo many great pictures that I am trying to post but it does not seem to be working.
So let me fill you in. The next day after the elephant encounter we went to the lake at Khao Sok national park. It is a man made lake that feed
s a hydro electric dam. It was incredible with the aqua blue water and the dramatic limestone cliffs. We drove around the lake in a longtail boat with our awesome local guide, Bandit. After a scenic drive along around the lake we got off to hink through the jungle to a cave. It was quite hot and humid especially wearing a life jacket. We did see some cool stuff like taranchala holes! It was also really muddy and I totally slipped and fell on my ass and got mud all over me. When we arrived on the other side we hopped on a bamboo raft and motored over the cave. It was the coolest raft ever! After the cave we headed over to a floating resort for lunch and a swim which was much needed after the sweaty trek in the jungle. The water was amazing and we had a blast jumping off this huge log in the water.
The next morning we went tubing down the river by our resort. It is a pretty fast moving river with some rapids. It was pretty cool and it was hilarious no safty features at all. They asked us if we could swim before we left the river bed and that was about it lol!! After that we packed up and drove about two and a half hours to Thao Nathai where we did a home stay. Our host his wife and their two sons were very nice and showed us a lot of neat stuff in the village. They were muslim so we had to keep out shoulders arms and legs covered. The houses were very cute. There was even one that was for rent, only THB 8,000 per month! The village is only about 10 minutes from the beach and that is only like 265 USD per month! I so want to move there!!
The houses are all raised apparently because of the heat and they like the aesthetic. Most have no windows and no furniture. We saw several different fruit farms as well as a fighting bull (apparently bull fighting is big in southern Thailand for gambling). We also got to see how you tap a rubber tree plant! After we got back to the house we had a cooking demonstration. They made three different wok fried dishes. As well as Tom Yum soup. It was all delicious! In the morning we had breakfast and they brought us Thai doughnuts that had a green coconut dipping sauce, OMG they were so friggin good I must have had five of them.
After a ten minute drive we arrived in Ao Nang where our beach hotel is located. From here we hopped on a bus down to the beach and boarded our speed boat that took us around sightseeing snorkeling and beach going for the day. Nikki was our island guide and he was super cool. We even went to the beach from “The Beach.” We were a bit rushed at times since we were seeing so much in one day but it was awesome anyway. We went to Phi Phi Le and Phi Phi Dong. Monkey Beach and Bamboo Island. Today I think we will go to some closer islands to hang out on the beach.
Today is our last day in Thailand 😦 I am so not ready to leave. It has been so amazing! Tomorrow we have a 10 hour drive to our first stop in Malaysia, Penang and Georgetown. The currency exchange is not as good there so not looking forward the that either.
I haven’t been able to upload all the photos here but I will try again later to add more.
The overnight train was a lot of fun. Spent the night in the dinner car drinking beers and getting to know my trip mates. We did have a bit of drama with the bill. These Austrian dudes we were sitting with apparently didn’t pay for all their beers and they wanted us to pay 1200 THB. We paid for ours but they were still arguing with the other dudes in the morning. As it turns out they were in our sleeper car and they are also at the same hotel as us now! Once we arrived at our train station we had breakfast and were a met a cute pit bull puppy. Then we took a two hour drive to the hotel and Khaosok national park in the back of a pick up truck. The guesthouse is in the jungle and we have little hunts with screened windows. Quite cute! Then yesterday afternoon we bathed an elephant! It was fun we got to get so close to him. He was a 40 year old male names Sonmoon, (I have no idea how to spell that). Pictures to come of that, I was not able to get wifi yesterday evening. Today we are going to the national park to check out some caves and swim in the lake.
Today was our fist day with the group , they are all very nice but older crowd than I expected. We did a longtail boat ride and toured Wat Pho with the giant reclined Buddah. It was very pretty but ridiculously hot! After we roamed the streets a bit and found a cool little market and i got some spicy sauces to bring home. They even gave us free dessert for some reason, which was cold sweet soy milk with green noodles in it. It was actually pretty good but I just had a taste since there was ice in it and was worried about the water. After we took the ferry across the river to another Wat, I don”t remember the name of it. Theres so many Wats!! Anyway there we found these ladies who dress you up to take the photos with the Thai garb on which was awesome!
We leave Bangkok tonight, we are taking the overnight train to Khao Sak National Park. A little sad to leave Bangkok but I think we got a lot in for a short time. Heres to hoping the next spot is just as much fun!!
Day 1 in Bangkok has been great. It is amazingly easy to get around. Would have never thought you could come here and get by on your own with out a tour but you totally could. People were stopping us on the streets and writing down list of all the places to see and then hopped us right in to a TukTuk to drive us around for the day. 20THB for taking us to five different places and waiting for us at each one which is like less than $1. Although they did have to take us to a few tailor shops which I think is how they make their money because the shops pay them to take tourists there.
We even wandered into some type of event or ceremony with all these monks everywhere and someone speaking Thai over load speakers. It could have something to do with it being the Queen’s birthday today, not quite sure though.
Nightlife so far is interesting. We wandered the streets last night for a bit and came across a huge street party. There was literally just an old lady selling beers and a dude with a speaker playing music and people are all just dancing in the street. An active street mind you. Cars driving through the dance floor! Good times for sure. We will see what is going on tonight after we meet the rest of the group.
Airport #1 Ft Lauderdale
Airport #2 Chicago
Three more hours to go until I board the long flight to Hong Kong. Already seeing the Asian culture at the Cathay Pacific counter waiting for my boarding passes. Gaggles of pretty little stewardesses strolling by in impeccable powder blue suits with funny collars and pointy hats. Reminds me of the scene from Catch Me If You Can!
Also hoping I won’t have to check a bag, but their signage seems to limit to ONE carry on we shall see.
To be continued….
The long flight was, well long. Cathay Pacific though was awesome. Great service, decent food and loads of free entertainment. They even have a nifty sky cam that shows the front of the plane!
Airport #3 Hong Kong
And finally airport #4 Bangkok
Ember and I have been enjoying our last days on the rock before we head to the mainland for my flight early Friday morning. I’m nervous and excited at the same time. I don’t think there is anything else I can do to prepare for my trip and now I just can’t wait! I’m also hoping that monsoon season over there won’t be too rainy. I’m thinking it will be much like South Florida or Costa Rica in rainy season where there are sporadic heavy downpours but mostly sunny, (accept of course when I have friends from else where visit, then it rains for days). Anyway, only two days until my journey begins and the wait is so short now that it seems long, if that makes any sense.
I know this probably makes me a huge dork, but this is a game I like to play when I’m bored. The geography quizzes from sporacle! My goal is to be able to name every country in the world in 15 minutes. Haven’t mastered it yet but still working on it. They even have an app now so you can play on the go but it is more challenging on the ipad or iphone because there is no map image to help you out. Check it out and test your knowledge!!!
(I can’t believe I missed Singapore!! I’m a little rusty as you can see. I didn’t miss Azerbaijan, I can just never remember how to spell it!!!!)