I have been criticised in previous blogs for mentioning the monetary value of my experience too often, so I will try to talk about Asia without mentioning how cheap everything is and yet all my money has disappeared...
My decision to stop-over in Asia as opposed to exploring more of Australia has definitely been the right thing to do, the whole place is completely different to anything I have experienced so far on the trip. I was eased in gently with the first stop in Singapore which is an interesting and efficient city, pretty easy to get around as the MRT (underground) is as simple to follow as TFL. The official language is English but due to the mix of Chinese and Indians living there it turns into 'Singlish' which at times feels like they are speaking a foreign language. The hostel I stayed at was lovely, the owners are 2 of the nicest people I have met on my travels - really accomodating and happy to give fair, impartial advice. Ended up spending another night there to sort out my onward journey!
I made the spontateous decision to visit Melaka after I couldn't book a train ticket to Kuala Lumpur (KL) in time. Really glad I did this as Melaka was awesome, quiet and relaxing town. I got a bit confused with their bus system but luckily this old lady took pity on me showing me which bus to take and even volunteered to walk me to the hostel! Met a Welsh guy Tom here and we explored the town's night-market together, food was amazing and they had a karoke competion going on in the street which was hilarious to watch! Me and Tom then travelled to KL together which was a bit of let-down after Melaka, wasn't used to people hassling me after the friendly Malays in Melaka. Visited the touristy things like the Petronas Towers which was good for taking pictures but unfortunately closed on Mondays so couldn't go up there! My next stop was the island of Penang where I travelled by myself as Tom had a couple of extra nights in KL, booked my accomodation on the same day so I struggled to get anywhere at first. Had to book a guesthouse in a quiet area but I did have my own room for the first time which was a bonus, Penang was nice but seeing as not many other people stayed at the hostel it was a bit lonely in the evenings.
The buses in Asia are a mixed bunch, some are air conditioned, comfortable and punctual where as others leave when they want, stop for no apparent reason and get lost along the way! A lot of my time in Asia as been spent on public transport so you quickly get to grips with it, yesterday I undertook a 20 hour journey to arrive in Bangkok via taxi, boat, bus, train and tuk-tuk! As long as you can sleep for at least part of the journey and have a good book it makes the time go a lot quicker!
My first stop in Thailand was Phuket which was an okay town, just not really a lot to see for such a huge island. I did venture up to Rang Hill and got an incredible view of the island at sunset which I really enjoyed. Met a couple of South African guys in the hostel bar and had a pretty forgettable night (self-induced) - nearly missed my bus as a result too! Next, I headed across to the island of Ko Samui as a stop-over before Koh Phan-Gan. Didn't really explore the island as I was pretty jaded after another 12 hour bus journey, also hanging from the night before...
Koh Phan-Gan was easily my favourite part of the Asian adventure, hostel was strange as they didn't bother to ask me to pay at any stage. All they took from me was my passport but I had it back the same day when I used it to rent a moped, I did still pay them despite losing my wallet on my last night - long story! First time I have ridden a moped before so took me a while to get used to it, really enjoyed it though but you have to be extremely aware of all the obstacles on the way - particuarly stray dogs! The highlight was definitely the Half Moon Party, I didn't even think to look for a half moon while I was there but the location set in the jungle was stunning! Spent the rest of my time chilling on the beach which was nice to work on my tan before returning to the UK. The best thing about Asia is definitely the food, I must have had rice every day for the past 16 days but still not sick of it! The fruit shakes are a speciality too which are so refreshing after a big night out. I came into Asia thinking I would lose weight but think the opposite has been true if anything!
It's been an incredible 11 weeks, experienced more in this period then I will probably do for the next couple of years! Definitely been a life-changing experience though and will write a final chapter when I return to the UK and have had a few days to digest the events of the past 3 months and reflect. Visting the Grand Palace of Bangkok tomorrow in the sithering heat before flying tomorrow evening to the cold (and I'm guessing snow) of the UK. See you all very soon...