A Travellerspoint blog

When two become one

sunny 31 °C

After getting to the hotel, on Friday night, we went to a Money Changer as we were carrying around quite a lot of money from other countries. I was excited about this as it seemed like getting free money to me, although Bill pointed out that it wasn't the case. Money changers tend to be like tiny banks with a glass partition between us and the money changer. I pointed out to the man that the cubed chairs they had on our side were upholstered with the Union Jack. He looked very uncomfortable and started to apologise for them disrespecting our flag; he explained to us that in Thailand they never use the flag for anything else. We told him he was fine with ours and they can do what ever they wanted with it, much to his relief.

Yesterday morning, Bill was particularly keen for me to sort my laundry out; it was only as he was leaving, that the penny dropped and I realised he was so keen for the laundry to be done as he uses the taxi motorbikes in Bangkok! He says he finds it so exciting as they weave through the traffic as such speed! The motorbike actually costs almost as much as having the washing done. Things are much cheaper in Thailand than other places (especially spending our free money), the washing was about four pounds and a meal for us both with a beer is around five pounds.

Virtually ever since we started traveling we have been looking for a new electric toothbrush, as we smashed the casing on ours, so yesterday was shopping day. Bangkok is lovely, it has such a buzz to it and all the craziness of a bustling city in Asia, so it is nice to be out and about again. We went to the large shopping centre a couple of sky train stops away from us. Walking along the walk ways to the shopping centre, there was lots of art work which was part of a treasure hunt. The pictures were all done to look like 3D Illusions. There was a competition for the best pictures taken so at each painting I was taking pictures of Bill. This lady began to advice Bill on where to stand to get a better picture. She began talking to us about where we were from and asked us if we were married (I rarely wear a ring, which she looked for) and I said yes, she then began to congratulate me and shake my hand, I think she thought we were nearly weds!

After shopping, we decided to go to the pictures (I have been to the pictures more since we have been away than I do at home). We went to see Spider Man and I actually recommend it as I stayed awake throughout the whole film. Like before when we went to the pictures in Thailand, just before the film starts, they play the King's song. Throughout the song they show pictures of the King doing things and then at the end a sequence of pictures of him sat with two dogs next to him; in the first pictures the dogs are quite young and then they show them next to the king wearing jumpers, but as they go on you can see the dogs are getting older (and the King I assume as I was looking at the dogs). The last picture only showed the King with one dog, I was so upset and cried for about the first five minutes of the film.

After swimming and brunch today we went to Wat That Thong. It is a civil Wat and the land originally had two Wats on it; Wat That and Wat Thong. To use the land these two were demolished and a new Wat called That Thong (we have had so much fun with this name) was built in 1937. The Wat carries out Buddhist cremations and also educates on death and good deads. Buddhist cremations in Thailand follow a ritual where relatives and friends pour water over one hand of the departed who is then interred in their coffin. The coffin is surrounded with wreaths and candles, usually with a photograph of the person. The seven days before the funeral, monks chant for the deceased.

All around the central long building (which had the furnace in it) were buildings where people were paying their respects to their dead. There were flowers all around the buildings. We saw a funeral possession going on, a monk was leading the way and he was followed by someone carrying a picture of the lady, then the coffin followed which was on an ornate cart and there were two monks walking with it, attached to it by white strings We didn't stay to watch as we didn't want to intrude, but the procession then walked three times around the temple in an anti clockwise direction. The mourners were wearing black or white and were taking pictures of the possession.

Outside the Wat, was a man crafting grasshoppers out of palm leaves. Bill really wanted to take a picture, so we had to buy one. I was pointing to the one I wanted and he kept pointing at one and then at himself and then at me and pointing at another grasshopper, we were totally bemused. Somebody nearby eventually explained to us that there were male and female grasshoppers and he wouldn't sell me a male one.

We are becoming a bit confused about where we are and which hotel we are in, such as thinking we are in a hotel from several weeks ago and heading for non existent lifts. Bill was talking about taking something home today, but what he actually meant was to the hotel. We never know what day of the week it is and the time seems to whiz by and my need for an early night has disappeared.

Tomorrow we are traveling to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand by train and this will take us about ten hours. We do enjoy a train journey. We did think we would need to do a visa hop at this stage as we thought we would only be stamped back into Thailand for fourteen days, but we got the full twenty eight days, so a visa hop is not a necessity, although may still be on the cards as between the nineteenth May and the second June we have nothing planned, but we both look forward to what is ahead of us.

Posted by mulliganward 00:29 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Penang to Bangkok

A lot of beer seems to be involved

sunny 35 °C

We enjoyed the Aloft hotel in KL; and they let us have a late book out with no extra charge. When booking out, the receptionist looked down through our bill and said "You two, really enjoyed the rooftop bar didn't you" We weren't sure what sort of response was necessary, without looking like a couple of alcoholics, so just stayed quiet. Malaysia has been a very pleasant surprise as originally it was just somewhere to go on our way to Singapore, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and we left feeling very relaxed.

The railway station was just over the road from the hotel and you have to arrive to catch a train thirty minutes before departure. Getting on the train there was an elderly couple sitting in 'our' seats. It transpired that the seats had been double booked. The guard was very perplexed by this and after finding us alternative seating, he wanted to take the tickets away to investigate. I wasn't happy with him taking the tickets off me and kept refusing, he was a lovely fellow and said I could trust him. I turned to the rest of the carriage, who were listening into the conversation and asked them if he could be trusted. The general consensus was he was trustworthy, so I let him. The seats we were given were in first class, but nowhere as good as our previous first class train experience. The carriage wasn't too clean and we were up at the front near the toilet. Everybody kept going to toilet and leaving the door between the toilet door and the carriage open, so we had to keep getting up and closing it, because of the smell. Every time it was my turn I gave everyone in the carriage the evil eye, it did work as they were closing it by the end of the journey.

We got in to Butterworth in Penang about ten at night. A taxi driver grabbed us as we got off the train and lead us to his car. The car was a twenty eight year old Nissan. There was no need for me to ask him to drive slowly as we hardly moved at all. The taxi driver quoted a price when we got out, which I refused and I was very pleased when I asked in the hotel, what the price is from the station, as we had paid him the correct fare. There is not a lot I would like to say about the hotel, Bill says it is the worse one yet, it smelt of grease, the bed linen was covered in stains and neither of us had a shower as the towels smelt so much. But, it was a bed for the night to give us a rest before the next train. Booking out of the hotel the next day, there was a large group of Jordanian people in reception, the males were all dressed in traditional thawbs. We couldn't work out what they were all doing, so Bill went to ask them, they said they were off to a conference to make lots of money and invited Bill along.

Whilst waiting at the station, The Eastern and Oriental Express came in. This train does the same journey as the train we were on, but we paid thirty pounds and they were paying three thousand. We were laughing, because the clothes and luggage the people on the train had on, was very different from the backpackers on our train. The train from Butterworth to Bangkok, was a second class overnight sleeper. We were a little worried about it, but it was brilliant. My only issue with the train was getting on and off it, the gap was enormous as it had steps going down, to get onto the train I had to sit on the edge of the platform and get on that way. When we stopped at customers, they had put a plank across the gap. The problem was that it was a Thai train, where you climb down to the ground, on Malaysian stations who have platforms.

Our seats turned into beds in the evening and the bedding was spotlessly clean, as was the train (although the toilets were another story after twenty two hours). A steward came along the train with a menu and asked us what we wanted for dinner, we chose the vegetarian meal and a beer. About four hours into journey we stopped at customs and were stamped out of Malaysia and into Thailand in the same building within about ten minutes. When we got back on the train our food had been delivered to our seats and we had to put our clocks back an hour. It was nice to be back in Thailand, it is very colourful, everyone seemed to be on motorbikes and it is nice to see Buddhist temples and shrines again. At bedtime they made our beds up in super quick time. Bill was in the birth opposite mine. We both slept really well, the man in the bunk above Bill, left at two in the morning and neither of us heard him leave. The beds were all along the carriage and there must have been about thirty people sleeping in the carriage and Thai people like to wake early and chat very loudly, so we had an early start. There was a little girl on our carriage who was so cute and had such a lovely welcoming smile and waved at us every time we passed her.

It took about twenty two hours to get to Bangkok, Bill had to do a last minute clothes change as he was wearing a red top, which is not advisable in Bangkok as it is the colour the protestors wear. At the station, we got the train tickets for us to travel to Chiang Mai on Monday, well I got the tickets whilst Bill sat near the monks in the monk only waiting area. We thought we knew the route to our hotel, we got the underground to the correct stop ok, but then got lost in the midday heat and finally had to get a taxi. So after all the time on the trains the hardest part of the whole journey was the last half an hour.

After booking in, we had a shower and ordered a pizza from room service and are sat in bed now eating pizza and drinking Chang beer.

Posted by mulliganward 00:18 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Malaysian hospitality

32 °C

You've got to love a city that calls itself KL. KL has a population of around 1.6 million and it's name literally means muddy estuary. KL is also the sixth most visited city in the world, we have become quite interested in this, as all the top six countries, bar London are in the East, NY is quite low down on the list. We thought it may be because of the population in this part of the world, but that would exclude London. English is widely spoken as a first language across KL, especially with the middle classes.

Our hotel continues to be one of the trendy venues in KL. On Sunday night, next to the swimming pool, there was a Love Boat party. There were various DJs next to the pool and the music was extremely loud. All the young people around the pool were drinking and having very serious poser fun whilst sipping cocktails and in their midst was Bill and I in our swimming costumes, swimming up and down the pool. We then got out and had a drink next to the pool, whilst everyone pretended that there wasnt an odd, old couple next to them drinking pints.

Yesterday, Bill's birthday, saw the very rare spectacle of me getting up before Bill to get the Starbucks, whilst Bill had a lie in. We had arranged to meet John's cousin Philip at eleven, so it gave us time for a swim in the morning. There was a Scottish couple in the pool and it was great to hear a Scottish accent.

We met Philip in the hotel and he told us he has an apartment just down the road from our hotel and one about an hour outside KL. Philip is very like John and he insisted that we either had a glass of alcohol in front of us or food, at all times, he was very shocked we had some ginger beer with our lunch. Bill and Philip get on really well and they spent the day laughing and swapping stories, with each other. We went to see Philip's beautiful house out of KL and then went to their local yacht club. On our way back into KL, Philip took us to their local church, where there was a window, which had been removed from a hospital. The window appeared to have an image of the Virgin Mary on it. Bill was very keen to take pictures of it, as he said the next time his Mum asks him if he has been to church recently, he would have proof and an imagine of the Virgin Mary to boot.

On the way back into KL, it started to rain and it didn't stop. We spent ages sat in the traffic because a container lorry had jack knifed and the container blocked the highway. This pleased me as it meant the traffic went very slow and nobody was injured in my pursuit of said slowness. Philip's wife who is a headmistress was waiting for us to pick her up and she had a very long wait. As soon as we cleared the accident, the storm really kicked in, there was thunder and lightening above us and the rain was pounding on the car, Bill and I don't think we have ever seen such a storm, Philip was very pleased as they have had water rationing recently.

Running from the car to the restaurant was lovely as all the rain and the flooding on the floor was warm. Celine, Philip's wife was wearing a beautiful Baku kurung [which is a long sleeved blouse over a long skirt] and she looked very glamourous, especially next to the rain bedraggled three of us. We had an Indian meal and Philip helped us choose the food and ensured that Bill and I had had enough.

When we were dropped off at the hotel last night, we both felt very blessed by the time Philip and Celine had spent with us and Molly and Audry in Penang. The people in Malaysia have been wonderful, talking to us and ensuring that we are ok.

This morning, we caught the local train to Batu Caves. We were very proud of ourselves as we had planned to go on an arranged trip, but caught the train for a tenth of the price. The journey only took about twenty minutes; we have noticed whilst in KL, that there are women only buses and there was a women only train carriages on the train. The main attraction at the caves is the temple cave, which is accessed by two hundred and seventy two steps. I started to climb them and Bill asked me to stop and look down and think if I could get back down again as they were very steep, so we turned around and I went very slowly back to the bottom. Bill went up on his own, dodging the monkeys. He said at the top of the stairs was a Hindu temple, dedicated to Lord Muragan, whose forty two meter high statue stands outside.

Before we left for Batu Caves, we brushed up on our understanding of Hinduism; it is is a mixture of a few beliefs and traditions, in which the prominent themes include: Dharma (ethics and duties), Samsara (rebirth), Karma (right action) and Moksha (liberation from the cycle of Samsara). It also centres around truth, honesty, non-violence, celibacy, cleanliness, contentment, prayers, austerity, perseverance, penance, and pious company. As the temple was a Hindu temple all the restaurants in the area were vegetarian. We went in a Jain restaurant ( Jainism is an Indian religion, which believes in non violence to all living beings and emphasises spiritual equality between all forms of life) and again were treated with such kindness, the young man went through the menu, explained everything and kept coming back to see if we needed anything else. I did have a bit of a problem as I had a coconut and there were ants crawling all over it, I would never kill ants, but would normally brush them aside, but realised I couldn't do that in a Jain restaurant.

Walking back to the train, I became a full tourist victim and had a henna tattoo. Whilst looking through the designs, Bill said "wouldn't it be nice to have something dainty for a change". Needless to say, this didn't go down to well with me.

Tomorrow we head for Bangkok, getting there on Friday.

Posted by mulliganward 00:36 Archived in Malaysia Comments (3)

Kuala Lumper

sunny 32 °C

We left Marina Bay Sands in a bit of a flourish; this was due to the hotel claiming we had had something from the mini bar which we hadnt had. They kept assuring us that they had taken them off the bill and they hadn't. When it came to checking out (usual my time to shine with bad behaviour), they tried to charge us again, Bill was extremely angry about it, telling the receptionist that they were accusing us of stealing. The poor Bell Boy who just wanted to move our luggage got snapped at as well as anyone who came in our path. It was a shame that was how we had to leave after such a wonderful time, but it won't change the great time we had there. I have just put a complaint in to the hotel.

The taxi driver taking us to the coach station was very funny and was telling us the road we were on was used for the Grand Prix and kept making car noises. The driver dropped us off at this shopping centre, I was quite excited, as all the shops I had seen in Singapore were extremely high end, so I thought I could finally shop, but the centre was full of nail shops and clothes that wouldn't fit an eight year old in the uk. However I did get to buy two pairs of reading glasses and a new watch, all for under ten pounds.

The coach to Kuala Lumper was great, it cost us twenty pounds each, it was a normal size coach and it only had thirty seats in it as they were so big and there was just nine of us on the coach. Customs was the quickest yet, the coach stopped outside the customs hall in Singapore, we went in and were stamped out straight away, we went along the road stopped at Malaysian customs, this time lugging our bags and were stamped in, all very easy. The journey was supposed to take seven hours but we were there in just under five. For the first time on our travels, when we got off the bus we had to go and find a taxi, as usually the drivers are trying to drag us into their cars! We had no idea how far our hotel was, so we agreed on the taxi driver's price. The traffic was busy but it only took ten minutes to the hotel and I realised the driver had tried to diddle us, so I gave him more than the journey was worth but less than he had quoted. He started to complain to me, as did Bill who gave me a look to suggest the driver and his family will never eat again because of me, but the driver obviously realised he was still on to a good thing and left.

Booking into hotels is never good and booking into this hotel in Kuala Lumpur became comical. The lady asked for our card, which she said was declined, we gave another, declined and another, all declined. We knew they shouldn't have been declined, but in the end suggested we get cash out of the cash machine near the hotel and give a deposit that way. So we set off, under the reproaching eyes of the reception staff. The first card we used in the machine worked as did all the others, as we had to check, but when we got back, the receptionist wouldn't accept it was their machines, although it was happening to someone else whilst we were there. The hotel is really nice, a little trendy for us, but lovely and clean. We went to the roof top pool last night, which looks out over the city. There is a bar up there full of trendy young things, listening to trendy music, but it is fun to sit next to the water. Bill is in the gym this afternoon.

This morning, our first port of call was to the railway station to get tickets to Bangkok. We went to the desk, spoke to the lady and she (we thought) quoted a price near to seven hundred pounds, so we left. I even said to Bill it looked like we were going to have to fly! We then went back again (well Bill did, I was too embarrassed) and got a different price and finally went back together. We think what may have happened is she showed a price, I questioned if it was thousands and she said yes. Anyway, we have the tickets back to Bangkok, all for seventy pounds between us. The journey will take over three days, with a night stop in Butterworth and a second class sleeping carriage the following night.

We then got on one of our favourite tour buses which took us around; it was very hot and at one stage Bill had a shirt tied around his head as he forgot his hat! Kuala Lumper is a lovely city, it is very modern and very old and quaint , all together. We loved the Petronas Twin Towers and sat and looked at them for a long time. There are signs all over the city saying they haven't forgotten the people and the families of Flight 370. When we got to Little India we decided to stop and eat, we went into a vast open type food hall and had some Indian food. We have been asked a few times in Malaysia and saw it on the signs in this restaurant, that their vegetarian food did not have garlic or onions in. We have always thought this was funny when we asked, but looking it up today, we found out the Jains do not eat garlic, onion and some other foods as it is seen as unclean and some Hindus do not ear garlic and onion as it is seen to raise sexual awareness!

Last night we went to a Korean restaurant near the hotel, they were so good in there, they explained everything on the menu and also explained how to eat it. Bill said that his meal was better than a Thai Green Curry! The waiter was from Pakistan (in a Korean restaurant in Malaysia) and he was very excited we were English as he thought he could discuss cricket with us and was very disappointed we had no interest in cricket. I say the waiter was very excited we were English, but this was after he thought we were Australian. Everybody thinks we are Australian!

Tomorrow, which is Bill's birthday, we are meeting John's cousin Philip, who we have met before.

Posted by mulliganward 02:06 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Photo bombing

sunny 31 °C

We have had some fun filled days here, with lots of laughter. This hotel is out of this world and although so big the staff are marvellous, although they do keep calling Bill and I, Miss Alison. We have not found one area where we would could criticise anything. There is a man walking around with two minders, but neither of us have any idea who he is and it seems The Blessed David Beckham was here very recently.

Outside our room we can see Gardens by the Sea. There are super trees which are tree-like man made structures that dominate the Gardens' landscape with heights that range between twenty five metres and fifty metres. They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental areas. In the super trees are lights, they also collect rainwater for use in irrigation and fountains. On an evening they do a light and music show with the trees, the first night we were in the park and last night we watched from our room, it lights up the whole sky and we have become fascinated by the trees. Yesterday afternoon, Bill went over to walk in the elevated walkway between two of the larger super trees, he also had a look around the museum over there. I spent my time wisely; shopping in the mall attached to the hotel, which has a skating rink and a Venetian waterway system, where you can go on a boat.

Yesterday morning we went to breakfast at seven am at the 360 restaurant at the top of the building, we were allowed the buffet and then two things each off the menu. Bill and I are partial to a good breakfast in a nice hotel and this one did not disappoint. Bill caused a bit of a stir when he ordered French toast and fruit, finished it, then ordered the same thing again. After breakfast we headed for the pool, it was before eight in the morning and there must have been over two hundred people there. Everybody, including ourselves were taking pictures of themselves with the Singapore skyline. We have adopted a new picture pose, where we fold our arms and look grave, which all the Korean men were doing. By eight thirty Bill and I were laughing as it seemed like lunchtime as we had done so much and we deliberated whether it was time for a glass of champagne. The sun beat us in the end as there was no shade there and we had to retreat to our room.

Getting to our room, we found that Hana and Chris had sent us Champagne and strawberries. The strawberries tasted like strawberries used to taste like in the UK before they became tasteless. From our room we look out to sea and we can see about a thousand ships (haven't counted, looked it up online!), it seems that all these ships are waiting for work, on a night there lights go on for ever.

We had seen advertised in the hotel, that there is a Cheese and Chocolate Buffet, Bill doesn't really like chocolate but is partial to some cheese, so I tempted him by showing him the pictures of the cheese. Whilst Bill was out yesterday, I had tried to book a table but they said it was fully booked. When Bill returned and I had shown him the pictures, he rang again and said how disappointed we were not to get a table as it was our anniversary (it wasn't) and they said if we come along later they would fit us in!

Last night before eating, we went for a swim so we could see the views in the dark, the pool was full of people taking photos, including a Russian man with all the camera gear, he was in speedos. We decided to try and photobomb all his pictures, we had such fun and he was so engrossed in his mission of taking pictures of his wife, he didn't see us. We took piggy backs behind his wife, made exaggerated hand movements, preformed YMCA, did exaggerated swimming strokes and did handstands, he was shouting out his wife because she wasn't posing properly, but when he looks at the photos, that will be the least of their problems!

When we arrived at the restaurant, they wanted to put us in another area, but I said we were so disappointed as it was our anniversary which was so special. After some muttering they came back and said they had found us a special table overlooking the sea. We can't say enough about the food, the cheeses were out of this world and there were over fifty chocolate desserts in four areas. The waitress was talking to us about our view and Bill said that it was a beautiful sight for our anniversary! We were so full and extremely disappointed that we couldn't eat more food, when the waitress arrived at our table with a special cake with Happy Anniversary on it! Bill excelled himself by getting up, giving me a kiss and telling the waitress what a special anniversary we were having. We couldn't laugh so had to keep going along with it. We never celebrate our anniversary, but we have decided from now on we will celebrate it on this day.

When we went to bed last night, we were in soo much pain from eating so much, we swore never to do it again. We did manage to have a Tiger Top and toast Jid and Singapore memories. Memories are so different for people, yesterday whilst looking at the city scape in the pool, we were pointing out things to each other and talking about when we were last here and we both had such different memories.

We have loved Singapore (it is my favourite City, Bill still has Hongkong at the top), we have seen very little here this trip, but we did know it was going to be about this super hotel, but we both know we will come back here one day.

Today we head to Kuala Lumper, we were unable to get train tickets, so we have a long journey ahead on a coach. We won't be need ending any food as we are both soo full.

Posted by mulliganward 16:03 Archived in Singapore Comments (6)

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