Monday, November 22, 2010

2nd Stop: Phuket

Pronounced poo-get, and poo is definitely what we did get! It was crap! It was seedy, dirty and packed with tourists, but having said that, we still had a larf. In fairness as well, I think we were in one of the worst parts of the island, Patong Beach (don't go there). The one good thing I would say about the place is that we've got a contender for best accommodation, The Bodega Phuket! We had an enormous bed, TV, fridge etc. (and it's a good thing too, seeing as we didn't really fancy going outside much...)

We arrived into Phuket on the night of the 7th after a short flight from KL. We got dropped off at our hostel and immediately realised we weren't in the best spot... The hostel, which itself was immaculate, was located just off the main street in Patong, littered with neon lights, seedy market stalls and massage parlours. We were both wrecked when we arrived but hadn't eaten in 12 hours so we dumped our stuff and got food in the nearest place we could, some Swedish restaurant. It was nice in fairness but we were both far too tired to eat much so we went back to the room and crashed for the night.

We had a bit of a lie-in the next morning, to recharge our batteries (and to avoid Patong for as long as we could...). We went to a nearby shopping centre to get lunch and we found a lovely Irish bar close by, "The Irish Times". It started lashing as we got there, so we were glad of somewhere dry to sit, in familiar surroundings too!

After lunch the rain had died off so we took a stroll down to the beach. We read that Phuket has some of the best, white sandy beaches in the world... well they don't keep them in Patong, that's for sure! It was tacky, crowded and it didn't help that it was overcast. We went for a quick paddle then decided to retreat back to the safety of our hostel. As we headed back, we decided to walk down Bangla Road, a place recommended on our map as a "happening hotspot", and in fairness it was... if by happening hotspot, you mean seedy shithole! The amount of people coming up to us, trying to get us to buy things from their stalls was insane! And they all had awful English so all they could say was "lookiiiiing" or "shoppiiiiing". It went from irritating, to very irritating, to actually hilarious! Myself and Ash still say it every time the other is looking or shopping. If I had a penny for every time I heard those words... well, I wouldn't be a millionaire, but I'd have a few Euro at least! One guy actually came out with "Hello, how are you tomorrow?". He either had terrible English and didn't know his mistake, or he knew exactly what he was saying and was just trying to stand out from the crowd. We like to think it was the latter, and well, it worked seeing as I'm writing about him in my blog!

Another thing about Phuket, every street is riddled with about 30 or 40 telephone and electrical wires running overhead. It looks awful, and I have no idea where they would even start to find the problem if anything ever went wrong!

That night we just stayed in our room and watched about 4 episodes of The Amazing Race. Why would we need to go outside when we can just watch other people travelling the world instead?!

The next day we decided to head to Phuket town, basically to get away from Patong. We got a songthaew (it looks like a cross between a prison bus and a fire engine) there as it's much cheaper than a taxi or tuk-tuk, and we actually had a lovely day in Phuket Town. We found a taxi driver (or rather he found us) who drove us around the town for a few hours showing us all the sights, all for only 150 Baht (around 4 quid). We went to see another butterfly park along the way (there wasn't much else to do in the town) and it was actually great fun, much better than the one in KL!

On the way back to Patong, we went to an amazing temple called Wat Chalong, by far the best thing we saw in Phuket (but that's not really saying much...). There were a few different temples around the area so we took a stroll around the place, enjoying our time not in Patong. Like most temples in Asia, you had to cover up before entering. Check out Aisling's lovely towel/dress, I think the look is going to catch on!

Inside, there were loads of flowers and Buddha statues, it was actually a really nice place. We stayed there for as long as we could before returning to Patong...

That night we gave in to our Western ways and got Subway for dinner and brought it back to the room. Aisling said on the way back that we should take a picture of ourselves with the Subway as a reminder of Phuket, so I agreed. When we got back to the hostel she said, 'put it up on the TV and take a picture'. I thought this was a strange request but did it anyway, and we ate our dinner.

Later, she told me she meant, 'put the camera on the TV and take a picture of us with the Subway', but she was so hungry at the time that she didn't bother correcting me. We kept the picture as a funny memento. (I know that wasn't a very interesting story but that just proves how bad Phuket was! We had to find anything we could to amuse ourselves!)

The next morning we got the ferry to Ko Phi Phi, very glad (as I'm sure you can imagine) to leave Phuket behind...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

1st Stop: Kuala Lumpur

Ok, so finally starting the blog! Sorry for the delay but we've just been having too much fun! I'll try to catch up to date as soon as I can! So, let's start at the very beginning...

We flew out from Cork to Stansted on the evening of the 2nd (my bag clocking in at a thoroughly satisfying 14.9kg. Take that Ryanair!) The flight over to Stansted was straightforward enough anyway, AND I made a plane friend, just some woman going over to visit her family in Kent. Plane friend!!

From our memory of booking the flights, we thought we had a layover of about 7 hours in Stansted... it turns out it was 12 hours. We were way off! It was actually grand though. We nabbed a lovely leather couch in Costa Coffee and just stayed there for the night, taking turns napping. Who needs a hostel when you've got a couch in a cafe! And it didn't Costa penny!

Our Air Asia flight was grand, no frills really. We got two meals though which I was delighted about (I don't know why but I love the novelty of eating meals on a plane!) even though they were kind of rank in the end... I watched Despicable Me to pass the time, which was pretty good, but no Toy Story 3 (which I also watched again! It's just so good!) We arrived in KL after our 14 hour flight at around 5am local time, but despite it being in the middle of the night, it was still 26 degrees outside! The blast of heat when we stepped off the plane was unreal! It's hotter in Malaysia in the middle of the night in November, than it is at the height of summer in Ireland! We got a bus from the airport to KL city centre, then a taxi to our hostel. (Just a quick note: there are loads of palm tress in Malaysia, they just can't get enough of them!) Between the heat, the lack of sleep and having to carry all our bags around, we were both dead on our feet, but when we got to the hostel, we were told we had to wait til 2pm to check in... this was at 8am... So, we had 6 hours to kill. I've never been so unenthusiastic walking through a new city...

We went to the Menara tower first, which wasn't too far from the hostel. It was pretty cool actually and it gives you a great view of the city. We were originally planning on going to the Petronas Towers which are a lot taller but you're only allowed to go halway up, so you actually get a much better view from the Menara tower. Plus you actually get a view of the Petronas Towers too! They are awesome in fairness, especially at night! There are so many skyscrapers in KL in general. It's definitely the tallest city I've ever been to! Oh also, while we were up on the Menara Tower, a bunch of Muslim school children came up and interviewed us, for some school project or something. We felt very important. One of them lived in Cork for two years too!

We just had a general wander around then, went to Mendeka Square, went for waffles, then headed back to the hostel. We could barely walk at this stage, we were so tired, and even got lost on the way back cause our brains just stopped functioning. Finally we got to bed at around 3pm in serious need of a power nap! We slept til the next morning... (Or to be more precise, I slept til the next morning, Ash woke up at 1am...)

It really did the trick though, cause the next day we were raring to go! We had a cup of Barry's tea back at the hostel (two boxes of which we brought over with us for the year!). It wasn't the best though... the tea was fine, but the milk... we knew something was up when the expiry date was June 2011. That's one thing I'll definitely miss about Ireland, the milk. After breakfast, we headed to the Batu Caves (we somehow managed to get a bus there, even though there was no bus stop, no timetables and we weren't entirely sure where we were meant to get it from...) For anyone heading to KL though, this is definitely a trip worth making! The caves themselves are pretty good, (if you can conquer the 272 step climb up) but the highlight is definitely the 43m high golden Murga statue guarding the entrance, it is unreal! Just look at the photos! There was also a less impressive statue of some sort of green half-monkey god... i didn't really get it...

We got a bus back to the city (again somehow?!) and headed up towards the lake gardens, where we went to the bird park and butterfly park. (We were planning on just going to the butterfly park but got lost on the way and ended up at the bird park...)

Afterwards we headed to the Pavillion shopping centre where Aisling went off shopping, while I got ice-cream... (just writing it now makes me sound like a child... I don't care, I got ice-cream!) There are so many shopping centres here too, and they're all enormous! The nearest one, and our favourite, Berjaya Times Square was 10 storeys high and had a roller coaster inside it! A rollercoaster!! Imagine having a rollercoaster in Mahon Point!

The next day Ash went off shopping for herself while I had a real pampering day! First I went to a fancy salon to get my haircut. It was the best haircut experience of my life! They washed my hair and everything! Twice! And it still only cost like 7 euro. I then went to get a massage in Old Asia, a place recommended in the Lonely Planet. (I made sure to consult the book in case I ended up in, eh... a different kind of massage parlour...) The massage was awesome and, like everything here, very cheap! It was an old asian lady who did it, and I'm no expert on massages, but my theory is, the older you are and the more Asian you are, the better the masseuse.

Myself and Ash met up after our respective days and went for dinner... in Ireland's Potato, an Irish fast food restaurant! We saw a sign for it earlier and decided we had to go there!

I wasn't too sure what to get, (there was very little on the menu not made from potato...) and in the end decided to plump for something called sotong. I didn't know what it was, but I thought 'hey, I'm in Ireland's Potato, how bad could it be?' The answer is very bad. It was deep fried miniature squid.

Now, I know we've away from Ireland for a couple of weeks, but I'm pretty sure that's not something we eat. It didn't taste good. (Another side note: everyone seems to be mad into corn over here! We've seen loads of different stalls selling cups of corn! Who the hell would buy a cup of corn?!)

On the Sunday, our last day in KL, we were planning on heading to the nearby town of Putrajaya, but there was a lot of hassle in organising our way around and we had to catch a flight to Phuket that night, so we decided to just have a fun day in KL! And there's only one way to start a fun day... steak for breakfast! Afterwards we went to the cinema to see Megamind. It was excellent, go see it! (While we were getting the elevator down after the cinema, a little girl walked on with a cup of corn. Myself and Ash burst out laughing!)

Afterwards we went to Petaling Street in Chinatown, just to have a wander around and then headed over to Sri Mahemahamehameha... ok, I can't remember what it was called. It was really good though! And that was about it for our time in KL.

All in all, I really enjoyed our time here. I have to say it was a very aromatic city, there was a different smell around every corner, some good, some very bad... it was strange too seeing so many enormous skyscrapers, especially when a lot of them were surrounded by old delapidated buildings. It was a very diverse city, in every sense. Literally in every sense!

Oh, by the way, on the flight over to Malaysia, we each made various predictions about all of our destinations, under the headings of:

- Best & Worst City
- Best & Worst Country
- Best & Worst Food
- Best & Worst Accommodation
- Best & Worst Tourist Attraction (excluding temples)
- Friendliest & Least Friendly People
- Best Cultural Experience
- Best Temple

and we're not allowed to look at them til after the trip. I'll keep you updated, as the cities go by, as to any possible contenders!

Anyway, peace out for now,
Mark & Ash