A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong

The last place of our great adventure

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Well this is it...last blog entry!

What can I say, it’s been amazing. We have had our ups and our downs but it’s been one hell of an adventure...one I wouldn’t have missed for anything.

We are sat in Hong Kong’s International Airport waiting to get our 13hr flight to Heathrow and then our last ever flight of this trip home to Glasgow. We are filled with mixed emotions...excitement at going home to see everyone and get back into our missed jeans and trainers! And sadness that the trip of a life time has come to an end.

Hong Kong was amazing. Every inch of the busy, bustling city and bright lights that I thought it would be. Our accommodation wasn’t quite what we had expected, we paid extra for a ‘superior’ room but what we got wasn’t much bigger than a box with a bed and a toilet/shower squashed into it. You couldn’t swing a cockroach in there let alone a cat! We had a room right next to reception so it was noisy pretty much all of the time...I didn’t get much sleep over the last 5 nights. We were on the 15th floor of a really dodgy looking run down building with a lot of Indian and African people about the place touting for business...they could be pretty pushy and annoying. Apparently the Chinese are a bit scared of them and don’t like the area we were staying in because it’s full of Indians. We were told to watch our stuff. We found it safe enough, just a bit dingy and run down.

It’s pretty much shop, shop or shop in Hong Kong. Great if you have the money but a bit boring for us after the second day. I was getting sick of walking around looking in the window of Gucci, Armani, Dior, etc and not even bothering to step foot inside. One look at us in our old scruffy travel gear, hair out to there and empty pockets and the bouncer type doormen would have sent us packing anyway.

The weather wasn’t great, it was cloudy and rained a few times while we were there. We couldn’t see the tops of the high raised buildings most of the time we were there so we couldn’t go up The Peak on Hong Kong Island to get a good view of Hong Kong and the harbour. We took a ferry ride around Victoria Harbour on our first day. It was cool to see all of the tall buildings surrounding us, especially the ones that were covered by mist. We also took a walk along the Walk of Stars, a bit like the area in Hollywood where stars have their names and hand casts in the street. There were a couple of names we recognised...Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

That’s pretty much what we did for 5 days...walk around the shops or take ferry rides. I was getting a bit fed up with it by the end. Its mega busy and they can be quite pushy wee people, I don’t know how many times I was stood on or shoved out the way only to turn round and find out it was a tiny wee grannie who had done it...and not a word of apology or even a recognition that they had done it, they just kept barging on through.

On our last full day we decided to take the ferry to Lantau Island to go and visit the largest sitting bronze Buddha in the world. It took us about 2 hours to get there and it was really cool to see, when the fog cleared every so often. We couldn’t even see the Buddha from the bottom of the steps leading up to it and there were only 50 steps. When we reached the top we could just make out the shadowy statue above us and when the fog cleared for a split second we got to see his face! It was quite eerie to see it in the mist, it gave it a mysterious feel. We certainly know how to pick our times to see major landmarks or places around the world...Iguassu Falls in torrential rain, Uluru in the rain and the largest Buddha statue in the world in the mist!  Oh well, not many people can say they saw these things the way we have.

We would like to come back to Hong Kong some day...hopefully when we are rich and can afford to stay somewhere luxurious and go shopping in the likes of Tiffany and Prada. We also really want to come back to China and do the tour we had hoped to do before we ran out of money. China seems like a wonderful place full of culture, good food and beautiful scenery that we want to experience more of.

But for now it is home...back to reality. Finding jobs and settling back into everyday life. I think we are going to find it hard at first to settle back in. We have been on the go for just over 6 months, constantly moving around, planning our next move and getting a sensory overload. We have seen and done so much over the last 6 months that I think our bodies may get a shock when it all slows down a bit again. After the initial excitement we will probably want to sleep for a week to recover!

To anyone who has a dream...I would strongly recommend following it, no matter how scary it seems. Stop creating excuses and just go out and do it. Live your life to the fullest, have no regrets.

Posted by Wayward83 05:19 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Bangkok

Never again.

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We left Koh Samui on Sunday 31st January at 12.30 noon. We had another long day of travelling ahead of us. As far as we knew we were getting a minibus to the ferry terminal and then a big coach from the other side straight to Bangkok...wrong again!! These people don’t like telling you the truth or what to expect. A taxi picked us up from the resort, took us to the ferry terminal, where we had to get onto a coach, which took us to another ferry terminal, then we had to get back off the bus to get on the ferry! Bit of a carry on, just the start though! The ferry took about an hour to get us to the other side and just as we were coming up to the pier the ferry driver hit something and we jerked forward. We don’t have a clue what he hit but it was pretty scary, I was imagining us having to jump overboard. We managed to get off the ferry in one piece...I doubt they checked the ferry before they set off with the next lot of people waiting to go though!

We got back on the coach which drove us to surritani, about an hour and a half away. We pulled up at the wee shack they call a bus station and shouted for everyone to get off the bus. We were then given stickers to wear saying where we were headed and told to wait an hour and a half for the next bus. Starting to feel a bit like sheep getting herded around the place. 6.30pm came and we then got shoved into a tiny tuk tuk!!! 6 of us and our luggage!!! There were a German couple (I think) getting put on the tuk tuk with us who started shouting and demanding to know where the big bus was and saying that this wasn’t good enough, blah, blah, blah. They eventually squeezed into the tuk tuk and asked us where we were from and if they did this kind of thing where we came from. They were outraged, saying ‘this doesn’t happen where we come from’. Ehhh hello, that’s kind of the whole point of going to different places, to see them and learn how they live. Not everywhere is like home!

Anyway, they moaned the entire way to the next shack/bus station. We were herded off again and got new stickers to wear and told we had another hour to wait until the big bus came. We were assured this time that we would be getting on the coach and it would be going straight to Bangkok.

The bus eventually turned up and I thought the woman from before was going to hit the guy in charge. She was trying to push her way onto the bus before it had even stopped and the guy was trying to keep her back. A few heated words were exchanged then we all got on.

We arrived in Bangkok at 4am, an hour ahead of schedule. We were shouted at again to get off the bus and had our bags thrown onto the pavement. We were then bombarded by guys trying to get us to take their tuk tuk or taxi. We had no idea where we were or how to get to the hostel so we just got in a taxi...he didn’t have a clue either. He drove around jabbering in Thai and eventually he had to phone the hostel to get directions. It ended up only being a ten minute walk from where the bus had dropped us off!

When we rang the bell at the gate of the hostel the guy wasn’t going to let us in, he said we couldn’t be there because it was full. He didn’t speak very good English but we eventually got him to see that we had a booking for the morning. We were hoping that we could have wangled our way into the room early. No such luck, we were lead into the wee courtyard just inside the grounds and offered a concrete bench to sleep on! We managed to get a couple of hours sleep before waking up at 8am. We were getting some odd looks from the staff, the night porter had told them why we were there or that we had a booking! We sorted all that out and were told that we would have to wait until 1pm to get into our room because check out wasn’t until 12 noon. Nooooo!!!! We dragged ourselves onto the streets and headed for Khaosan Road. We had read that it was the main street for everything from shopping, to eating, to partying. It was horrible. The street was crowded with market stalls, people falling over themselves trying to get us to buy something and tuk tuk drivers trying to get us to take a ride. Plus the place was filled mainly two types of Westerners, hippies or just plain trampy. They were already sat in the pubs drinking and it hadn’t even gone 9am yet. A lot of them looked like they were high as kites too. We quickly headed for the safety of McDonalds and ordered some breakfast, then we killed a few hours in a coffee shop right next door. We decided to brave it and head back to the hostel at about 12 noon, we could hardly keep our eyes open any longer.

I think the walk back to the hostel got our adrenaline going because by the time we got back they had a room ready but we were too awake now to sleep. We just took sanctuary in our room, reading books and going online. I eventually got a couple of hours sleep before having to head back out to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok to get some dinner. In Thailand you pretty much go round the stalls choosing what you like the look of and eating on the go. We could not be bothered having to deal with the crowds whilst trying to chose something that looked edible so we ended up grabbing a kebab and heading straight back to our room.

We were hoping that we just needed an early night and that things wouldn’t seem so bad in the morning...

We were a bit more prepared for the invasion of personal space and constant harassment but it wasn’t much better than the previous day. We thought that we would have a walk to what was described as a shopping centre and then go on from there to see a temple. There was no shopping centre, only street markets and lots of them selling anything you could imagine. They even had stalls displaying dentures! The signs were written in Thai so I don’t know if they were advertising that they could make you a set of dentures or if those ones were actually for sale. Could you imagine if they were for sale how many people would have tried them to see if they fit....eeeeeeewwww!!!

We braved trying a few nibbles from the stalls but they didn’t seem too big on hygiene and we didn’t fancy getting sick so we headed for yet another coffee shop and had coffee and a packet of biscuits.

We noticed that there was a palace next to temple so we decided to go see that too. Going through the gates we were greeted by a big sign saying we had to cover our legs completely. I had worn a long sleeved top and shorts that went past my knees because I thought that was all you had to cover to be respectful and Kev had worn long shorts. Not good enough, we had to rent some clothing before we were allowed in. I had to wear a long wrap around skirt that I kept tripping over and Kev had to wear long baggy trousers with the crotch down to his knees. After going through all of that we didn’t end up going into the palace or temple because they were charging an absolute fortune. We quickly got changed and left...heading back to the hostel. We had had enough and only ventured out again to get dinner. This time we were a bit more adventurous with the food and ended up having quite a good meal. We took it back to the hostel though because we don’t like eating and walking at the same time.

Today, Wednesday 3rd February, we got a taxi to a real shopping centre the other side of the river. That was more like it...proper shops under one roof, air conditioned and away from tuk tuk drivers! We spent a few hours wandering around and got some lunch there before heading back to the hostel.

Tomorrow is our last day in Bangkok...thank God. We are just going to spend it at the hostel chilling out reading and not doing much. Some people may love Bangkok but it’s just not for us, I can safely say that we won’t be back. Once is more than enough for us.

Posted by Wayward83 05:02 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Samui

Tropical beaches and crazy people on scooters

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We left Krabi on Wednesday 27th January at 9.30am, thinking we were getting a big bus all the way to the ferry terminal....wrong! We ended up getting 3 minivans, 1 coach and a ferry spread out over 8 hours. It was awful, we felt like we were never getting there. There was a lot of stopping and starting and waiting in the middle of nowhere for hours. Not fun but we got there in the end.

We had booked a beach hut type of accommodation...it wasn’t right on the beach they were a lot more expensive but they were nice we hut style buildings looking onto a garden just a stone’s throw from the beach. The resort was lovely outside, our room was very basic and could have done with a lick of paint but it was ok and we never really spend that much time in our room anyway. There was a restaurant and small pool looking out over the beach. It was really pretty and the beach had that tropical feel.

The day after we arrived we just had a chill out day by the pool and then went to get a traditional Thai massage in the afternoon. That was brilliant, quite sore at times but we felt great afterwards. They were quite rough and would stretch you in all sorts of ways, I nearly had my leg up round my neck at one point! I think they found it quite amusing to see us flinch and squeal, they kept giggling at us. We felt totally relaxed afterwards and not as stiff as before.

On Friday we decided to rent a scooter. Everyone rides scooters in Thailand, even children. We saw one wee boy on one and he could barely touch the ground! You don’t need any licence or knowledge, just rent one, pay the money and go. Most people don’t even wear helmets...we weren’t so daft! Kev drove the scooter, I was too scared. They are crazy drivers, almost as mental as Egypt. They come out of nowhere and don’t even look, they come at you on the wrong side of the road and they even drive on the pavement, so you aren’t safe anywhere! Kev did well though, he managed to get us around the island in one piece! I was terrified, I’ve never been on a scooter or motorbike before. I hung on for dear life and probably deafened kev a few times. The island wasn’t that big, we got round it in about 4 hours and that was us stopping for lunch and to take photos. We drove to the top of one of the hills and managed to get a glimpse of the sea and islands in the distance. We also drove to a big Buddha statue and saw lots of monks chanting. That was pretty cool.

We spent our last day on the island chilling by the pool again. It was good getting a chance just to do nothing. We have been feeling pretty tired and burnt out lately. Looking forward to going home for a break! :)

Posted by Wayward83 02:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Krabi

At first we thought it was Krappy!

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We arrived in Krabi on Saturday 23rd January at about 6pm after spending 10 hours crammed into a tiny wee minivan. There were 11 of us squashed in there and speed across Malaysia to the Thailand border. We felt like refugees getting smuggled from one country to the next, it was all a bit odd but that seemed to be the most preferred method of crossing the border, it took the hassle away from us having to get a bus from Penang to the border and then trying to find another bus once we had crossed to take us to Krabi. We were so glad when it was over and we could get off and stretch our legs.

Our first impression of Krabi wasn’t great. It’s a smallish town that’s quite run down looking and dingy. We checked into our very basic accommodation. The guy hadn’t even known we were coming, we booked it through hostelbookers and they couldn’t have sent him the information. Luckily he had space and we ended up with a room and ensuite when we only paid for a room.

The man at reception told us to head for the night markets at the next street to find food and allsorts. The place was heaving, I felt so uncomfortable. It felt like we were being watched constantly, I was very wary of people bumping into us in case they were trying to steal. The place was just a mass of wee stalls selling anything from clothes, jewellery, massages to food and drinks. There were no signs in English so we didn’t have a clue what the food was, we took one quick look round then left. It was way too overwhelming for me. We were tired from a long day travelling and we couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of trying to think about what we wanted or trying to communicate it so we headed for KFC round the corner. It wasn’t great but we knew what we were eating and we could point to the pictures.

The next morning we headed out to see what there was to do...not a lot in Krabi besides wee shops and eating places. We had lunch in an Italian place because again it was the only thing we could find that had a menu in English! We were feeling a bit down, thinking what were we going to do for 3 days in this dump. We went back to the hostel and asked the guy on reception what there was to do. He suggested we visit the Tiger Cave Temple that was just outside Krabi town, it’s a Buddhist temple on top of a massive hill, we saw it as we drove in on the bus. So off we went, feeling a bit better that we had something to do.

At the temple we entered a cave at ground level, taking our flip flops off before we entered. It was a pretty cool cave with statues of gold Buddha’s and monks wandering about. There were also lots of monkeys running about looking for tourists to feed them. They sold bananas in a stall just before you head up the 1223 steps to the top of the hill to the huge Buddha statue. The monkeys were cheeky little things, swinging from cables, jumping on roofs and fighting with each other over the bananas. We were bombarded by them when they saw us coming with a bunch, they were even trying to climb Kevs leg to get them from his hands. I stood back and filmed it, I didn’t want attacked.

We then headed up the very steep steps to the top. We were exhausted by the time we got to the top, the sweat was dripping off us. The view from the top was absolutely amazing though, we could see for miles. There were lots of hills jutting out from the land and we could see the sea in the distance. It was stunning and so peaceful up there. Well worth the climb.

We caught our breath, had a wander round the statues, took lots of photos and then headed back down. About half way down we were met by lots of monkeys and baby ones too sat on the steps and playing in nearby trees. We thought it was cute until they snatched two bags from an Asian family walking up. They just grabbed the bags and started tearing into them to see if there was any food...the Asian family didn’t stick around, they dropped the bags and fled back down the stairs. We had just got past that bunch when we saw a lone monkey on the railing, we stopped to take some photos and he came closer. I thought he could smell more bananas in Kevs bag as he was heading for that, instead he grabbed our bottle of water out of the side pocket and sat in a tree just outside arms reach. He then managed to get the screw top off and lifted it up for a drink! We couldn’t believe it, he was a smart wee thief. Once he was done he just chucked the bottle to the ground. Cheeky little so and so. It was really funny though...I’m just glad he did it on the way down and not on the way up when we really needed the water!

At the bottom we got hustled into some tent thing to make a clay tablet. We had to select a Buddha, we chose the one for luck, and then write our names on it. Then Kev got to press it out and then we had to kneel on a mat and repeat a prayer in Thai. We thought we were getting to keep the tablet but the guy took it off us and said that in a years time it will be put on the temple that was still being built behind us. That’s pretty cool to think that our names are going to be on a Buddhist temple in Thailand. We will have to go back in a year and see if he was telling the truth!

That night we were feeling a lot better about being in Krabi so we headed for the night market again. We had read that you if you like the look or smell of something then just point and hold up your fingers to show them how many bits you want. We had great fun trying out all the different stalls, we didn’t have a clue what half of it was but we tried it anyway, most of the time we were pleasantly surprised. There was some really good food there, couldn’t tell you what it was called or order it again though! It was all really cheap too.

The next day we had booked an elephant trek in the jungle. I was really looking forward to this, I have always wanted to go on an elephant trek. We were taken off to some place, not quite heart of the jungle, more like the outskirts of town. It was really good though, it was just me and Kev out for a ride. It was a small family run business with only 3 elephants. All the elephants were female, ours was called Namping and she was 30 just like me. He said she was just a young one (which made me feel better) that they live to be 95 – 100. She also liked her food, she stopped umpteen times on the trek to grab some leaves on the go. At the end he took her to a pond so she could have a drink...yes she did try to soak us 

Once the trek was over we got to feed her some bananas, she was really gentle when taking them out of our hands. She was lovely and the family were really nice too.

When we got back to Krabi town we jumped on a tuk tuk to Ao Nang, the more touristy part of Krabi. The tuk tuk was fun, we were sat in the back of a truck as the guy sped along beeping his horn looking for other passengers. They are almost as mental as the Egyptians at driving.

Ao Nang was very touristy, it had a completely different feel about it. Where we were staying was more a local way of life, we got to see how the locals lived which to us is more interesting than just going to the main tourist areas. Ao Nang was right on the beach though which was really pretty and we could see some Islands dotted around in the distance. We had a drink on the beach and waited for sunset before getting another tuk tuk back to the town.

On Tuesday we did a tour of the Phi Phi Islands by speed boat. It was beautiful, we got to go snorkelling and were taken around 4 Islands. The sea was so clear and there were thousands of colourful fish swimming right next to us, it was brilliant. We also went to Maya Bay the place where they filmed The Beach, with Leonardo Di Caprio. The beach was swarming with people, there were so many boats anchored that you could hardly see the shore. I knew it would be busy but not that busy, it was crazy. It kind of spoiled it a bit. The beach wasn’t that big either, I thought it was a lot bigger when I saw the film. I guess they are right when they say things look bigger on tv.

Our time in Krabi ended up being a lot better than we had thought it was going to be. Just goes to show...never judge a book by its cover!

Posted by Wayward83 05:55 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Penang

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We got the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang on Thursday 21st January, which took about 7 hours. The bus was really comfy, the seats were like big sofa chairs that almost reclined all the way back.

We had only booked 2 nights in Penang because we had seen a weather report saying that it was to rain for the next few days. It didn’t rain but we were glad that we had only booked for 2 nights, there wasn’t that much to do there. The place we stayed at used to be a fishing village and our hostel looked like one of those tin huts you see on TV where they sort through the fish and put them in buckets of ice. It was a really basic hostel, we got a private room which was basically just four walls and a bed. They seem to like having there showers in the toilets here. They place the shower right next to the toilet seat so you have to manouver yourself around the pan whilst trying to wash. As Kev says you can go to the toilet and have a shower at the same time!

It was absolutely sweltering in Penang, we were so hot that we didn’t want to do anything. We managed to motivate ourselves to have a wander around. We first headed to the beach, 2 seconds away from the hostel. It was pretty but it wasn’t really a sunbather’s beach, the tide was always pretty high so there wasn’t enough space to sunbath. It was more of a water sports place. 2 minutes on the beach and we were being harassed to go Para-gliding. We told them we would think about it and then made a quick exit.

We had a walk about, not much to see or do, just a couple of shops. Had dinner and waited for the Chinese night markets to open. They set up stalls along the road and sell allsorts from fake designer bags to ice cream. We were a bit disappointed by them, they weren’t that great and it was like being back in Egypt again, getting harassed to by something from every stall we walked past.

On Friday we hired a guy to take us around the Island to see some of the sights. We wanted to do a tour but because it was out of season we had to hire a guy and his car to take us around. It was only £4 an hour and we thought it would be a good way to see what we wanted to see on Penang.

He had a list of the popular tourist sites and we had to choose where we wanted to go. First stop was the fruit farm, it was really interesting. We saw so many fruits we had never seen before and got to try some at the end. There were all sorts, elephant apples, star apples that tasted a bit like yoghurt, they had a milky juice. Figs, pineapple, dragon fruit and a fruit that tasted like root beer, I can’t remember the name of it, cheetcha something.

After the fruit farm we went to Kek Lok Si temple. Part of it is still being built. It’s a massive Buddhist temple with a huge bronze statue under a very detailed pagoda type thing. From there we visited the Snake Temple. Pit Viper snakes live in the temple, they came here to breed once and have stayed ever since. They say that the snakes aren’t harmful because they are subdued by the incense sticks but there are signs up telling you not to poke them! I thought it was going to be like an Indian Jones movie, a dark, dingy temple with snakes everywhere but it wasn’t. There were only a few snakes there strategically placed on branches and on picture frames! We were taken into another room where they had a couple of Python’s which before we knew it were wrapped around our necks for photo time (and of course we had to pay for the photos, they were only a couple of pounds though) The snakes felt wierd, I was just a little bit scared! I was ok until they started turning round to face me and started feeling me with their tongue, it tickled but they were getting a bit too friendly for my liking. That’s when I started telling them to get them off me.

After the Snake Temple we visited one more temple, the reclining Buddha Temple. Basically just another temple with a huge Buddha lying down. By this point we were getting too hot and bothered to care anymore, we just wanted to go back to the hostel and lie down for a bit. So that was the end of that. It was good to get to see a bit of the Island but it was just way too hot to keep going.

Posted by Wayward83 09:51 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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