I'm finally in the big KL (as everyone calls it) known to you and I as good old Kuala Lumpur. It's 35 degrees with an 80% humidity rate so I'm hiding below the Petrona twin towers (magnificent as they truly are!) in an internet cafe...don't get me wrong KL looks awesome but I was in the queue for free Petrona tower tickets at 8am this morning and have been up and out in the heat so I need a break from city life for an hour or so and this blog is so overdue!
So I last updated you all from Cambodia heaven and hell as it's stuck in my mind. A small group of us opted to take a train to Bangkok instead of the truck for a mere 75p and how right we were....We passed the truck on what has to be the worst road to the border since we left the Friendship highway in China. The taxi was bumpy enough but the truck isn't too hot on rough roads so due to the potholes and the lack of speed over them they never made it to the capital until the folowing day by which time we were already nursing our first Bangkok hangovers! Our train ride was interesting safety first was out the window with no doors on some of the carriages and I lost count how many times my seat fell off still for 75p for an 8 hr journey none of us were complaining! So we arrived into Bangkok at night a trifle excited to be back in a big city after Cambodia and my week in detox! We checked into our hotel that the rest of the group were booked into for the folowing day then headed out to the madness that is Khoa San Road.
Khoa San Road was featured in 'The Beach' and most backpackers appear to land right in the middle by the truck load each day. It's a haven if you like the western world...the backpackers "uniform" shirts and travel gears are all there, all the counterfeit stuff, clothes, syndicated CDs, travel agents for air, train & bus tickets and package tours...hair-braiding, body piercing and tattoos .... all along the street you name you can get it there's even a Boots the Chemist... The market scene of Khaosan during the daytime is transformed to street bars at night. Khaosan is like a small municipality in itself for backpackers around the world and I'm ashamed to say Will and I spent the majority of our time there meeting new people (and a few old friends from Vietnam (Charlotte and Alex from out boat trip in Nha Trang) it was strange Will and I were sat people watching in the sunshine when I said "I feel like someone I know is going to stroll past with so many westerners about" then low and behold Charlotte did, Will thought I was pretending to know her but soon realised I wasn't when Charlotte relayed a few stories from a night out in Vietnam....!
It was mad to be in Bangkok with the knowledge that we'd arrived there by land as most travellers start or finish there journeys there by one flight, it still doesn't feel quite right that we've nearly driven halfway across this world!
So our first night was spent drinking 'buckets' of Thai Whiskey not quite literally buckets but close enough at a ridiculously cheap price I had to stay off the expensive red wines and opt for the whiskey instead. The next day I was up early and sightseeing by 10am the reclining Buddha, Chinatown, a river trip, the Bangkok Skytrain and yet more temples (I've lost count how many I've seen in the last six months)
In the evening a few of us went to Patpong the red light district home to the infamous Ping Pong shows which these days draw more tourists and sightseers than locals, we didn't stay long it was all a bit overated in my opinion (I'm sure it's more your scene Nads!) The next day strangely enough was spent on Khoa San Road with Will until the evening when we returned there with the group for Nicoles birthday. Our hotel was parallel to Khoa San so we justified our time there by saving money on taxi's going elsewhere!
That evening the group arrived and we all went out for Nicole's birthday first stop was a petrol forecourt which at night turned into an outdoor bar, strange concept but it worked well we rolled in at 6am the next morning we made the most out of late licences as for the past couple of months Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia were relatively early nights! The next day I met a chap from Manchester a true manc you guys from the North will know what I'm talking about anyway 'Kev' had just landed an hour before and rolled into our hotel a bit bemused with the whole Khoa San road thing so we took him under our wing and he spent the next couple of days getting used to the Thai ways! So with the help of Kev, Charlotte, Alex, Will, a few folk from Israel and a wheelie driving tuk tuk driver I had a ball in Bangkok so much so a few of us chose not to go to the River Kwai with the truck and catch them up on the Island of Koh Samui instead (ie. we missed the truck!) A night bus (12 hrs) a and ferry ride later we had caught them up and Koh Samui it was. A beautiful island but very expensive especially after a dabaucherous time in Bangkok!
After a shaky start in some dreadful accomodation Kirsty moved us into much nicer beach bungalows complete with thatched roofs in the sleepy fishermans village of 'Bohemian' Bophut. We felt spoilt having air con, a tv and fridge and soon found a huge Tesco to stock up on essentials saving us hefty restaurant bills!
Will and I stumbled upon some locals on the first night and ended up sharing their barbecue with them complete with squid, baracuda and red wine from a plastic water bottle cut in half for a glass, I would eat with locals any day rather than pay to sit with all the other tourists! The next morning I went to a local Pilates class which nearly killed me not because I don't go to the gym at the mo but the instructor obviously thought we could all put our legs behind our heads and do a handstand! It was good pain though...the next couple of days was spent beach strolling and relaxing really as we couldn't afford much else in overpriced Koh Samui! We hired a jeep for a pound each and toured the island which was great but my highlight has to be the Black Moon Party on the adjacent island of Ko Pha-Ngan. The island is home to backpacking folklore and the famous full and half moon parties but there was no full or half moon so instead I think they just made another name up and called it Black Moon apparently they throw parties al the time to draw folk in and give it any old name the following day there was another party called 'The Day Party'
So the black Moon. Will and I caught the 45 min ferry over ahead of the rest to see some of the island in daylight mid afternoon. We beachcombed and watched a beautiful sunset before meeting the others off the later ferry. Ko Samui is one of the biggest islands in thailand and draws in the most tourists but Ko Pha-Ngan was far nicer and had more of a island feel to it with more vegetation than resorts! The party started on the beach at about 10pm but didn't start going until about 2am (for those of you that have been to the Glade at Glastonbury it was similar to that but a tad better on a beach!) I didn't take my camera for obvious reasons but Will did and I'll upload some of his photos soon. We caught the 10am ferry back (which I nearly fell overboard from) and slept/recovered for the rest of the day then I spent the evening scrubbing my clothes as someone thought it was funny to facepaint them the night before!
Our last 'trip' on Koh Samui was a snorkelling one to Ko Tao and Ko Nang Yuan although I may have that spelt wrong, the latter was the best stretch of beach I've been to thus far and the fish were amazing until one bit me! So although pricey our island hopping few days was spent well and although I never made it to Phuket it was good to be back in Thailand under better circumstances.
So from one island to another as our next destination was Malaysia and a beautiful island called Langkawi off the west coast of the mainland. We endured a 14 hr truck journey, a nights accomodation in a cockroach ridden hotel and a bumpy ferry ride/giant jet ski (as it felt) to get there but it was so worth it. We arrived during a storm and half the truck were sea sick but the next morning and for the next 5 days infact the sun shone down on us all and we thoroughly took to island life.
Langkawi is Malaysia's best known holiday destination and comprises of99 islands with Langkawi itself the only one to have any real settlement. The beaches were long and white, the interior of the island was jungle clad and it was declared a duty free zone in 1986 so prices were well within our budgets! Polly, Will, Martin and I shared a 'family' room and I must admit we acted like kids for the duration (although I was nominated mother as the designated sweeper of sand out of bungalow)
We had 5 days allocated to explore the island and that we did. We hired a car and went up to Mt Raya at 851m above sea level, (not a patch on Everest of course but we were above the clouds) swam in pools of waterfalls and saw wild monkeys/just missed driving over wild monkeys. As you'll see from the pictures our bungllaows were on the beach and the quiet town itself was so friendly and relaxed we felt like we'd been there for years! We played beach volleyball with the locals and I met a couple of people from KL (Langkawi is very popular as a break for fellow Malaysians from the capital). We got on really well and we're all meeting up tonight for a night out in the city 'local' style!
I really didn't want to leave Langkawi and highly recommend it as a holiday destination. Our highlight was stumbling upon the Four Seasons hotel in the north of the island...we hired the car and stopped off at a couple of different beaches, the first beach was in a cove and as nosey as I am I decided to persuade martin and polly to swim with me to see what was around the corner...We were fortunate to swim into the private waters of a resort that has just been awarded the best resort in the world and it so deserved it. (Tabs/Nick I don't know you're honeymoon budget but I'm sending you the info anyway!) We, as gracefully as we could, got out of the water and sneeked up onto the sands to have a look we were spotted by staff within minutes but got chatting to the 'beach' manager Derrick. Derrick then proceeded to give us a tour complete with chilled water, snacks, cold towels and our faces were sprayed to cool us down. Derrick may have know our game but he certainly treated us like royalty for the hour that we were there ( I was even asked if the ground was too hot for my feet God only knows what would have been done if I'd said yes!) We had to ask if any celebs had stayed there which of course they have but good old Derrick wasn't allowed to disclose their names and just smiled!
So if you have $5,000 dollars to spare for ONE night in the exclusive villas within the resort get yourselves to the Four Seasons and ask for Derrick it was heaven on earth! (There are cheaper options Nick/Tabs!)
Our last day in Langkawi (yesterday) was an eventful one down to a banana boat ride that went wrong. being a virgin to it myself I leapt on without hesitation and was joined by 4 others from the truck and a couple of random people from Pakistan. A ew minutes later we were thrown off and I ended up spending the rest of the ride in the speedboat in front. Our 'near death' fall was painful to say the least I thought I'd broken a rib and Polly thought she's died! 2 people headbutted me and Martin ended up breaking a bone in his hand and is spending the last few weeks of the London to Sydney trip in plaster!
So our last few hours were spent in the Langkawi casualty department and I'm never going on a banana boat again! other than that I'm absolutely fine and as now safe and well (although a little sore) in the capital Kuala Lumpur which already looks amazing. This morning we were up early to go up the Petrona towers which were featured in a blockbuster film I forget the name of, tonight I'm meeting my local friends and tomorrow it'll be more sightseeing from great heights before we head for Singapore on Tuesday. At the end of next week the truck gets shipped to Oz and we all get a 2 week break from the truck... Will, John and I will be flying to the Philippines for 2 weeks so fingers crossed no typhoons come our way! We're going to spend a few days in the capital Manila before probably settling on one of the islands in the west coast on Peurto Princesa rather than the tourist mecca of Boracay. (300 resorts on an island 9km long sounds a bit excessive to me!)
So that must be enough for now, much love from KL, congrats to Em and Steve on your new arrival thanks Missy for the updates! TJ and Mel thanks for your KL advice we adhere to it as best I can!, good luck with Uni on Monday Anne keep up the good work!, TP and Slimmy hope the S.African wedding went well (no not to each other) Maff great recent update thankyou,Tobe, Lloyd and Amy hope France was cool and hope there's room for one more next year?!
My mobile number has been switched over and I am now back on the usual 07788801999 so please keep in touch as I miss you all....
Mum I have sent two large boxes home today from KL by sea so they should be with you by Christmas!
James, Katie, Keiran and Curtis hope the new terms at school/playschool go well and to my big/little brothers good luck with your moves from your sis whom you seem to have forgotten about already!
Much love, Rach xxx