A Travellerspoint blog

Singapore

Written by Tom

sunny 30 °C

After landing in Singapore we were greeted by Mr Eddie Williams at the airport. He was the first friend from the UK we had seen since leaving in mid October. I think Coralie might of even had tears of joy in her eyes.

We grabbed a taxi back to Ed's apartment (more of a serviced apartment actually). He was on the 18th floor in central Singapore just a short walk from Orchard Road (the equivalent of London's Oxford Street). It was then off to town for lunch and a beer at one of the Marriot's outdoor restaurants. I got laughed at by Ed & Coralie for having a cup of tea instead of a beer to start with, but I hadn't had a decent cuppa since leaving the UK.

After lunch Ed and I got stuck into a game of squash at his apartment block. Having played weekly back in the UK with Ed and James Fenwick, I hadn't played for 2 months travelling and with the temperatures on the court hovering around 30C I was soon in trouble at 2-0 down. I clawed back to 2-2 before Ed sealed the 3-2 win with a nice backhand drop-shot. International squash....love it!
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After a shower it was off to the 71st floor of the Swissotel to the New Asia Bar where we treated ourselves to some champagne and some great views of the city as the sun slowly set.
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One of Ed's friends called Will also turned up to join us. We followed up the champagne with a quick beer before leaving the Swissotel and walking across to Raffles Hotel. A round of 'Singapore Slings' (which are very sweet if you've never had one) in the famous Long Bar and we were well on our way. We grabbed some quick and cheap noodles at an outdoor cafe before meeting up with another couple of Ed's friends at Molly Malone's (there must be an Irish bar in every city in the world). I think Ed's decision to buy a round of Tequila's was the main contributing factor to my hangover the next day. Before we went home we went to Zouk Club which is Singapore's most famous club. The warehouse was so rammed full of people we could hardly move. Thank heavens for 24hr McDonalds at 4am.

We all had bad hangovers the next day and so lunch was taken back at the Marriot. The afternoon was spent lazing by Ed's swimming pool. In the evening we went to dinner in a shopping centre (that's normal in Singapore by the way) and had great dim sum. After dinner we went to the Red Dot bar in an area of Singpore which used to be an air base and is now full of restaurants and bars (Dempsey Road). They served green beer in this bar, in cooled lit up towers holding 8 pints, and you could have one for your own table. Of course we had to get one and we were told it was good for you due to all the stuff in it.

Our last day with Ed was spent down at Senthosa which is a massive man-made beach. It was great fun. They had a cable car there which took us back to main harbour where we could catch a train back into the city centre.
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We had great steak sandwiches and delicious red wine for dinner at the quayside before putting Ed in a taxi and sending him off to the airport to go back to the UK.

In the morning the next day Coralie and I went to Chinatown. It was fun, with lots of stands and stalls and best of all we found a cheap but delicious dim sum restaurant. You know its good when its packed full of local Chinese people. We had so much soft shell crab amongst other dishes. Then I took Coralie to the Singapore Botanic Gardens which were absolutely beautiful and the weather was stunning. They had a section of bonsai trees, a section of rainforest and lakes and even a timeline prehistoric section which was awesome.
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Unfortunately we got stuck in there and couldn't find the way out, eventually we did get out and we had sore feet. For dinner we met a friend from the UK called Paul Bennett. We had great seafood of crab, tiger prawns, satay and noodles at a hawker centre in Newton Circus.
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After dinner we went back to Paul's apartment complex which had an amazing pool by the river, and we sat chatting, putting the world to rights, and drinking vodka and tonics.

On our last day in Singapore we ended up sleeping until 2pm as our hotel room in Little India had no window...I know it sounds weird but its more normal out here and the hotel and the room was nice. We were also hungover AGAIN! All we could do after getting up was watch a film at the movies called Twilight.

The next day we got up at 5am to get to the airport for our 9am flight to Sydney but upon getting there we were told it was delayed for 4 hrs...great! Anyway, after the delay and a free breakfast we were on our way to Australia.

Posted by tomcoralie 00:50 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Thailand - Railay Beach

Written by Coralie

sunny 29 °C

When we got back to the mainland, we headed over to spend the night in Krabi where we had a delicious dinner at a night food market by the river. The following morning, we boarded a long boat to make our way to Railay Beach, which many would argue is the most beautiful beach in Thailand. Railay is made up of three beaches which are surrounded by impenetrable cliffs and you can only get there by boat. We stayed on Railay Beach East, which doesn't have much of a beach to speak of but Railay Beach West and Phra Nang beaches are a 5 minute walk away. Our first afternoon we sat on the West side, baking hot with beautiful clear green waters...
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The next day we went to Phra Nang on the other side of the island - white sand and stunning scenery all around us - it was utter bliss!
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At one end of the beach there is a cave dedicated to the goddess of fertility so the cave was jammed full of phalic statues - bit random! The following 4 days were pretty much spent relaxing on the beaches, reading, having foot massages, swimming...oh and Tom had a henna tattoo done of a scorpian on his bicep! You'll have to see Facebook for photos of that little beauty! The guy who did it assured Tom that it would last for a month (I was horrified!) but thankfully I breathed a deep sigh of relief when it started to fade after about 48 hours! 5 days later and it was pretty much gone! (phew!)

We were finally able to use our masks and snorkels for the first time - the water was so clear and we saw lots of coral of all different colours as well as sea cucumbers, leopard fish, butterfly fish and blue tang amongst others.

In the evenings, we headed over to the West side of the island and enjoyed absolutely beautiful sunsets before heading back to our hotel for delicious fresh fish bbq's - baracuda kebabs on one night! So good!
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And seeing as our days in Thailand were coming to an end, I was making the most of the local food such as the delicious curries etc, whilst Tom decided to tuck into cheeseburgers! It so happened that the week we were there, there was a lot of footie going on in the Premiership and our hotel had a big screen showing the matches - what a joy! Tom was of course thrilled so made the most of it, and you can only imagine his elation when Newcastle beat Portsmouth 3-0 away from home!!

Although we were sad to be leaving the beautiful beaches and Thailand itself, we had Singapore ahead of us. We spent our last afternoon on a boat going from Railay to Phuket where we spent the night. Phuket town was pretty ugly and we wouldn't recommend spending any time there.

The following morning we were up at the crack of dawn to get our flight to Singapore where 3 days of carnage awaited us - yiipppeeeee!!

Posted by tomcoralie 06:19 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand - Ko Pha Ngan

Written by Tom

sunny 28 °C

We finally got back to Bangkok train station at about 8am....23hrs after we had left Vang Vieng in Laos. I would recommend the night train for comfort over the bus though. We had a pretty chilled out day walking around the crazy backpacker area of Khao San Road buying a few things and catching up with some internet access. It was then back to the ''Lucky Guesthouse'' for an early night.

In the morning we headed off to the airport, thanking our lucky stars that the demonstrations and protestations had cleared and the airport was open again. After an awful, cold, rip-off breakfast that you always seem to get at airports we flew Air Asia to Surat Thani on the East coast of central Thailand. The flight we had booked on-line a couple of weeks earlier and all in including all taxes the flight came to US$23 each (not bad). Once in Surat Thani we picked up a taxi who drove like Lewis Hamilton to get us to the port for the 2pm ferry to the island of Ko Pha Ngan and not the 4pm ferry. The guy was literally doing 160kph at one point and the limit was 80kph.

Once on the 2hr ferry we met a local who recommended a cheap bungalow for the night on Haad Yao beach called "Chocolate Bungalow". When we got to the bungalow it was pretty basic to say the least but at US$6 a night there was not a lot to complain about. That night we headed down to the beach for sunset and a seafood bbq of fresh red snapper and king prawns.
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During dinner we were drinking buckets of Samson Whisky, Red Bull and Coke. The 10 minute walk home after the buckets of whisky took us 2 hours.

The next morning we headed down to the beach in the heat to find a smarter bungalow, with our rucksacks on and a mean hangover in tow. We did find a good bungalow very close to the sand and sea and then spent the day reading on the beach. Coralie even happened to find a Heat magazine. The beach was not the big wide quiet one Coralie remembered from her trip there with Zoe 4 years previously. It had become much more developed but it was still a pleasant few days of relaxing on a beach.
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On our third night Coralie randomly spotted Johnny & Elma (Canadians) who we had met on Bamboo Island in Cambodia. It was a complete coincidence as neither of us knew the other was even going to be in Thailand at that point. We had a good catch up and shared another seafood dinner with them and watched the sunset.
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The next day we did some snorkeling with our new masks & snorkels which Coralie had bought me for Xmas. The visibility was pretty poor and coupled with the half cloud / half sun weather we decided we would head off to go to Railay Beach on the west coast of Thailand the next morning. We had a few more beers with Johnny & Elma and even shared an apple flavoured shisha pipe on our last night.
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Tom eventually got to bed at 2am after staying up and chatting to Johnny and the local Thai people working in one of the bars.

The next morning we headed back to the mainland, as two of about only six westerners leaving the island. There was a famous full moon party taking place on the 12th December on the island but we were in search of clear waters and bright sunshine...

Posted by tomcoralie 06:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Laos - Vang Vieng (2nd stop)

Written by Tom

sunny 25 °C

The 7 hour journey back to Vang Vieng took longer than expected (9 hours). We were told it was the law to turn up to the bus station an hour before the bus left so we sat outside the bus for an hour and then just as were pulling out of the station, two backpackers ran up to the bus and jumped on (breaking the law I guess) but none of the bus staff or driver minded and just saw an extra few dollars coming their way. Then 100 metres down the road we pulled into the petrol station to get fuel...why couldn't they of done that in the hour before when we were waiting to get on??? Then with just about half an hour to go until we got to our destination we had to stop at the services for 30 minutes....again, why? Finally after going 10 minutes down the road from the services a backpacker idiot realised she had left her bag at the services with her passport in it. Instead of turning the bus around to go back they rang for a guy on a motorbike to bring the bag to us. 40 minutes later the motorbike and bag arrived (the reason it took so long was that the 1st motorbike got a puncture and had to get a 2nd motorbike out). That gives a brief summary to what the transport in South East Asia is like most of the time.

The next day we hired a couple of mountain bikes and set off down the road to find some caves. We went down the main road for about 15km before turning off to a dirt track. The main road was in a pretty bad state of repair and every few hundred metres the tarmac gave way to long patches of ridged mud and gravel so it shook you all over. The weather and scenery made up for this though. It was beautiful. At the end of the track we parked up our bikes and crossed a rickety bamboo bridge over the river and arrived at our first cave. It was quite small and filled with a statue of Buddha and a "Buddha footprint" (apparantly Buddha must have had size 4 ft shoes).

To get to the next cave we walked across dry rice paddies and fields with basically no signs towards the limestone mountains. We found the cave and a guy giving out pink torches and headed inside. The cave was great, a long tunnel type cave with solid compacted mud floor and walls about 5m width average and ceiling of 2 - 20m.
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The cave apparently went 3km into the mountain to an underground lake but with our torches giving out almost no light, no guides, no lights in the cave and an irrational fear from watching the film "The Descent" we went in about 100m and turned around.

To get to the 3rd cave we had to scramble through trees and over rocks and it seemed even more scary and we were totally alone. So we looked in the entrance and quickly turned back.
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The last cave was the best (and coldest). We had to get into these large inflated black rings and wear a head torch and strapped on battery pack and get into a very cold river. Then lying on our backs we pulled ourselves along by using ropes tied to the ceiling. After the ropes ran out we had to swim backwards in the dark with weird flapping motions. It was pretty scary but good fun. Coralie could hear bats squeaking in the ceiling every now and then which she didn't like (putting it mildly). In parts of the cave we had to get out and crouch-crawl with our rings through shallow bits of water and then get back in. An hour later and we were glad to be back out in the daylight where we could warm up.

On the way home (cycling) we met a really fun English couple called Ziad and Laura and we decided we would meet them the next morning to go 'tubing'. Just before we were going to bed we met up with Mo (from Bamboo Island in Cambodia) who had made it up to Laos. We decided to catch up and have a few drinks by the river in a place called ''Bucket Bar'' and it turned into a late finish which was not wise with the big day ahead in the morning.

10.30am the next morning we met Mo, Ziad & Laura and collected our big black rubber inflated rings (more commonly known as 'tubes') and headed out by big tuk-tuk to the river. The first bar we went to advertised itself as ''drinking for children'' (profits go to local kids) so we felt good about having a mojito / beer at 11am. We then got into our rings on the river and in bright blue sky / sunshine and a stunning backdrop of mountains we floated off to the next bar. 'Tubing' basically consists of floating down the river and stopping off at some or all of the bars along the river (on average one bar every 200m) and getting out and having a drink (sometimes a beer, sometimes a free shot of whisky and sometimes a big bucket full of whisky cocktail). By the end of the day you are literally wasted and have trouble walking. It is hilarious! On top of the drinking, each bar has some sort of crazy giant rope swing / death slide / zip line with which to do damage to yourself.

Unfortunately Coralie and I played it safe and left our camera at home for the day so there are no photos on this blog of the tubing. Luckily we will get some sent to us later by Ziad and Laura who did bring their camera. There are a few videos of me and Ziad doing the various slides and swings on YouTube. Clink on or copy this link to your browser...

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ziadmantoura&search_type=&aq=f

By the end of the day we were cold and tired and so after a bit of food and a movie in a bar we hit the sack.

The next day we started our annoying slow 23 hour journey back to Bangkok by mini-bus, bus, night train and tuk-tuk. This is us on the night train with a beer.
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Posted by tomcoralie 02:55 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Laos - Luang Prabang

Written by Coralie

sunny 24 °C

It's all true what they say about the roads in Laos! We left from Vang Vieng to get to Luang Prabang in the north and although the distance isn't that far, you have to go around all the mountain ranges on the most awful roads that are made up of non stop pot holes as far as we could tell! For anyone who has been skiing, if you can picture the half hour journeys from the main road leading up to the ski resort....this was 7 hours of it... However, the scenery more than made up for it and gave us a real taste of what we had in store over the next couple of days.

On our first day we visited the waterfall of Kuang Si. At the bottom of the waterfall is a bear sanctuary where young bears have been rescued from poachers so we saw about 6 Asian bear cubs rolling around in the dirt having a great time. We then made our way up the waterfall, each level being more impressive than the next. The water was full of calcium and an incredible bright blue opaque colour. It was freezing though! We decided we'd try and hike up the side of the waterfall all the way to the top which was definitely worth the climb - the views from the top overlooking the mountains and valley were amazing. We walked across the top of the fall and then down the other side, with jungle either side of us.
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On the way back down Tom of course had to prove his manliness and decided he'd go in for a dip so very bravely jumped from an overhanging tree branch into the pool and he pretty much turned the colour of the water!
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In the middle of Luang Prabang there is a mountain (small!) with a small temple at the top of it - we climbed up it during the late afternoon and watched the sun go down over the town and mountains behind - it was a beautiful sight.
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And then onto dinner at the local night food market - so much fun! The most amazing whole fish, chicken and pork being cooked on bbq's, costing next to nothing, eating noodle soup with locals - we had a great time!

The following day we got up early and headed out to a nearby elephant sanctuary - it was amazing! There were only 6 of us in our group so 2 of us on each elephant and we trekked through the jungle for over an hour - each of us even got to ride on the elephant's neck ourselves - such an incredible experience!
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When we got back to the sanctuary we fed them bananas and then set off on our trek up through the mountains to a small hilltribe village where we were due to have lunch. The sky was the most amazing blue with not a cloud in sight and the mountains were all around us - it was simply stunning! And we had another great English couple on the hike too which was good fun.
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We got a warm welcome from the locals when we arrived in the village - especially the children! Tom got stuck into village life, helping the local women make up a sort of chilli snack which they proceeded to devour - Tom tried it and almost choked it was so spicy! He then spent the following hour playing with the kids, rolling an old tyre rim around the ground for them to chase - they absolutely loved it and couldn't stop screaming with delight - it was cute! Tom was loving the attention too!
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We sadly had to leave the village and hike on to another waterfall which was made up of very wide, shallow limestone pools - again the water being the same blue as the day before. We both ventured in this time although it didn't last very long! It was refreshing up to a point and then just bloody cold! Tom managed a couple of 'bombs' into the water and we then had to head off to catch a long boat back down the river, home.

Just as we were leaving though - we saw a group of 4 elephants being taken into the waterfall pools to be bathed by their keepers - it was such an amazing thing to see! They were absolutely loving it, flailing their trunks and making all sorts of noise! One in particular was being really badly behaved and wouldn't follow the others out of the water - very amusing watching his keeper trying to discipline him...until he came charging towards us (the elephant that is, not the keeper!)!

We got back to Luang Prabang in the evening completely elated at the day we had had. It was one of the absolute highlights so far without a doubt and after so much travelling and being on anti biotics for a few days, it was just the pick up we both needed...so what else to do but go and celebrate??!! Which is what we did with the other couple we met - I managed to stick with the beers all night but Tom decided to get stuck in with the massive wine-glass-size whisky shots they do there and lets just say, it wasn't a pretty wake up call in the morning that's for sure!

It was then back on the bus the next day to head down south again to Vang Vieng to finally get some 'tubing' in!!

Posted by tomcoralie 02:40 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

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