06
Feb
11

these are a few of my favourite (and not so favourite) things

Well the travel leg of South East Asia is all but done. Sure, I’ve got another eleven days back in Malaysia with the now not so mystery guest that is Stephanie Bouttell, but this is now my holiday. I may have had a more chilled time in Vietnam than I did during the manic early stages of my trip, but crashing in a chaotic, noisy, polluted city such as Ho Chi Minh for nine nights cannot be classed as a holiday. Jumping on buses every third or fourth day after this to discover pastures new does not get classed as a holiday. However, getting on a plane to meet an excitable best friend for a break on the familiar isle of Langkawi does definitely get classed as a holiday. Remember my affection for Langkawi? If not, click on the October tab at the side of the page where you will find my gushings still present.

Basically, don’t expect to hear from me for the foreseeable future. After such a long time without seeing Steph, or even talking to her for that matter, it’s safe to say writing will be put to one side for now. It’s not as if you want to read all about us lying on a beach by day, getting stupidly drunk by night and gossiping non stop for the time that we are together anyway!

So as a tribute to this marvellous part of the world, here are a few highlights of mine in a Q+A style write up thingy.

Thailand
Most endearing feature?
Is it uncultured to say the brilliant Chang beer?
Least endearing feature?
The ‘hello welcome’ bullshit cat call you get from every bar that you walk by. Shut up and I’ll decide where I want to eat and drink.
Best travel moment?
The excitement of finding my way to Khao Sok from Surat Thani by the cheapest possible method, using local transport. I was loving those early adventures, even if they were more challenging.
Biggest shock?
The lack of ‘backpacker’ style bars to meet people in Karon Beach, Phuket. The more places I go to, the more I dislike this part of the world. Shit and hole spring to mind.
Best night out?
A tough call between the two nights out with Simon in Bangkok or the drinking games with the Canadian students in Khao Sok. As I survived the jungle that day, it would have to be the Canadians who come out on top.
Favourite random moment?
Sat on the back of a crowded minibus from Phuket to Surat Thani sat next to a young Pakistani lad and a slightly older bloke from Israel. When he found out the lad was from Pakistan, he paused for a second before announcing ‘Israel is friends with Pakistan, yes?’ in a wonderful impression of a middle east peace envoy. I pissed myself.
Would I go back?
Yes. To visit the north of the country in and around Chang Mai. I hear you get a lot less hassle.

Cambodia
Most endearing feature?
It’s people. The Khmer people as a whole have very little in terms of possessions and have to deal with high levels of corruption on the back of a torrid recent history. Through it all they seem remarkably upbeat about life.
Least endearing feature?
The karaoke videos you have to endure during any bus ride. It’s that loud, even a particularly raucous live Oasis gig on my MP3 failed to drown it out.
Best travel moment?
Cycling round the temples of Angkor was cool but the winner for sheer experience was playing games in the courtyard of CCH orphanage with the kids. Amazing how a simple bouncy ball can bring such enjoyment.
Biggest shock?
The docile crocodiles and snakes that had been pumped full of more drugs than Pete Doherty to ensure they wouldn’t harm the tourists that visited the floating villages. Not nice, even if the locals were just trying to earn a buck or twwo.
Best night out?
A surprise given my recent ‘food glorious food’ entry, but a night on the streets of Siem Reap tucking into a Khmer BBQ. It didn’t fill me up, but it was awesome cooking your own food while supping on a dirt cheap Angkor beer.
Favourite random moment?
The sign at our guesthouse in Kep that announced ‘No hard drugs allowed’ made me chuckle. I wonder if reception had a list of allowable ‘soft’ drugs?
Would I go back?
Most definitely, ten days just wasn’t enough time in such a great country. I’d like to visit the likes of Sihanoukville and spend more time round Kep and Kampot. Plus, it would be great to see how the country develops and whether or not it still maintains its positive vibe.

Malaysia / Malaysian Borneo
Most endearing feature?
Being able to walk down Langkawi’s main beach strip and not get hassled by jet ski renters, bar staff or woman selling general tit tat.
Least endearing feature?
The water you have to cross at the 10th hole at Gunung Raya golf course? No, I’d have to say the island of Penang. The guidebook raves about it yet slags off Jakarta, which in my opinion is a far better spot than Penang’s capital, Georgetown. Another shit hole.
Best travel moment?
The easiest answer of any – the feeling of triumph when my guide told me I had reached the summit of Mount Kinabalu. A stunning place to watch the sunrise.
Biggest shock?
The pain and discomfort felt when coming down Mount Kinabalu. It was tough going up, but more than manageable. Going down was torture, I could barely move for the last two kilometres, every step was greeted with a groan or a swear word. Or both.
Best night out?
The smash up in Kota Kinabalu with a couple of nurses from the UK, Rachel and Emma. One of those nights that you know was awesome, but cannot recall much of it thanks to the effect of Carlsberg export and rum and coke.
Favourite random moment?
My realisation that we Brits are so lucky when it comes to the language barriers when we travel abroad. I was sharing a dorm room with a German girl and Italian lad of similar age and we held a conversation in my mother tongue. I felt rather guilty about it at the time.
Would I go back?
Yes. I am going back, on Monday.

Brunei
Most endearing feature?
The ferry terminal out. The superb trip into Borneo just about justified the previous twenty four hours that were a bit of a non event.
Least endearing feature?
The lack of entertainment? The lack of things to look at? The lack of decent food? The lack of beer? The lack of a decent bus terminal? The lack of a working plug in my dorm room? You get the picture, take your pick.
Best travel moment?
Being saved in the Brunei countryside by Malaysian Nancy after I got on the wrong bus. I’d still be in Brunei now probably.
Biggest shock?
Walking home from the capital cities Pizza Hut (the only thing still open) at 8pm and seeing the grand sum of two cars and one person on my ten minute stroll home. She was a rather out of place prostitute. If that’s what she needs to do, I’d guess Bandar Seri Begawan was not the ideal place for her to make some money.
Best night out?
I was only there a night. Thank goodness.
Favourite random moment?
Taking an entirely different ferry and route into Borneo than my original plan. I had never even heard of Lawas till I got on the ferry.
Would I go back?
No chance. Been there, done that. Didn’t buy the t-shirt because no shops were open.

Singapore
Most endearing feature?
The ease of getting round with the spotless, zippy monorail system.
Least endearing feature?
Lack of decent, cheap bars around Little India, the area of town we were staying.
Best travel moment?
Sat in the common room of the hostel watching crap on youtube and hearing Basingstoke Pat struggle to get up the stairs. A new travel buddy had arrived.
Biggest shock?
Going in to my terribly cramped, sweaty dorm room only to find an Indian lady crying her eyes out. Sure the hostel wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t that bad!
Best night out?
Well seeing as I was only there for two nights and the first night I was avoiding emotional Indian females by chucking up in the streets, then obviously the second night is the winner. A street curry and a few beers with Pat. Though I was ill again the following morning too. Nice.
Favourite random moment?
The rather natty jingle on the monorail that was directed at encouraging people to give their seats up to the elderly or people with disabilities. It was cheesiness personified.
Would I go back?
I have no real desire to go back. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t particularly interesting.

Indonesia
Most endearing feature?
Being made to feel welcome by nearly everyone we met. Indonesia gets a bad press, especially Sumatra. I found a high percentage of people to be very warm, helpful and generous.
Least endearing feature?
Down town Pekanbaru. Driving round and round the same few streets searching high and low for people that wanted to travel to Bukittinggi. We finally left after finding an extra four passengers some several hours after we had arrived at the bus depot. Which, incidentally, we had been told to arrive at a good hour before the bus even arrived. I tried explaining to them what a ‘bus timetable’ was used for, without success.
Best travel moment?
The ferry from Batam Island to Tujong Buton in Sumatra. We were the only two westerners on the ferry and were treated as VIP’s by the crew, being invited on the deck for cigarettes, coffee and photographs. Fantastic travel.
Biggest shock?
The lack of westerners in central Sumatra. Sure, arranging ferries and buses is hard work and extremely frustrating, but come on. It’s good to get away from the likes of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh sometimes. The again it wouldn’t have been so special had the place been so full of travellers. They can stay on their open bus tours (which are great when you can’t be arsed to sort things yourself) Also how much I enjoyed Jakarta, which I had zero expectation. A fine city.
Best night out?
Easily the first night on Gili Trawangan. Which was actually more of an all day, all night affair. Missed sunrise by about an hour after hitting the fall finally in the wee hours of the morning dancing on the beach.
Favourite random moment?
Within two minutes of arriving on Gili T we bumped into Winslow who was having breakfast. Literally ten seconds earlier I had said I bet we bump into him before we find a place to stay. Yes, it was a small, compact island, but was still home to several hundred tourists.
Would I go back?
Yes. When my energy levels are fully restored then a trip across Java would definitely be classed as a must. Plus the Gili islands were stunning, a lovely place to revisit for a break.

Vietnam
Most endearing feature?
The natural beauty of the place. I have found that across most of SE Asia, but the southern Vietnamese countryside and coastal area are spectacular. The mountainous coach trip from Nha Trang to Da Lat was a highlight.
Least endearing feature?
The continual offers of drugs, tours, guides, prostitutes and anything else you can thing of by the lazy bastards that sit on their scooters all day in Ho Chi Minh. A decent city, but leave me alone. I said no yesterday, what do you think is the answer today?
Best travel moment?
The third scooter ride through the mountains overlooking the coast outside Nha Trang. I had confidence in what I was now doing after riding in Hoi An and loved the sense of freedom in such an incredible part of the world. The volcanic style mountains out at sea were breathtaking.
Biggest shock?
My down beat mood on arrival. It took a good couple of weeks to shake off.
Best night out?
More of a best day out than night out. A all day session with a scouse bloke called John in Ho Chi Minh, where we both chewed the cud over many Saigon beers.
Favourite random moment?
An older American bloke called Doug who introduced himself to me on the bus ride back to Ho Chi Minh. We hit it off straight away and ended up having an afternoon playing pool and eating curry in a couple of my ‘locals’. Not enough of that in Vietnam, unfortunately – hence the random part of it happening right at the end of the trip.
Would I go back?
For sure. I’ve only done the south of the country thanks to the Indian Embassy and their archaic rules when it comes to bureaucracy. A trip up to Hanoi and Halong Bay would also give me the chance to visit Laos, one of a couple of SE Asian countries I now haven’t visited.

Thanks to Dr Matt that offered up the question above of ‘Most favourite random moment’ in each country.

And in other questions……

Gilbey asks – ‘Are there still millions of kids selling books and sweets in S E Asia?’
Yes Gilbs, there is. Favourites seem to include photocopies of every single guide book you could imagine plus that popular crime writer Steig Larsson seems to catch my eye on a daily basis. Sweets seem to have been replaced with cigarettes though. Oh and if you tell them you don’t smoke then they whip out a pack of chewing gum in a flash. Obviously if you don’t smoke it means you have just given up and require a substitute.
Martin asks – ‘What’s the most satisfying pint/drink you have had?’
That is the toughest one yet, Mart. Well done, there are that many to choose from. The one that stands out was the ridiculously expensive mug of Heineken that I supped in the revolving restaurant at the top of Menara Tower, overlooking Kuala Lumpur. It was the first sky scrapper I had been in and was blown away by the views across Malaysia.
Fred asked several questions, including – ‘Where have you felt most relaxed on your travels?’
Langkawi, Fred. I was loving my own company at that particular moment and just lying on such a beautiful beach listening to some music with the warm sea lapping at my feet was perfect. It was the first chance I’d had to relax for months, what with the stresses of leaving work, moving out of my flat to only start travelling some two days later.
‘At the other end of the scale, what’s been your biggest strop of the trip and what prompted it?
See Indonesia section and that morning in Pekanbaru. A proper strop on.
‘Where’s the weirdest place you’ve had to spend the night?’
Well apart from sleeping top to toe with you in Kep (!) I’d have to say I’m struggling with this one. If you could class weird as different and annoying than I’d have to say Bukittinggi. Before I go any further I want to say I really liked Bukittinggi and wished we had longer there, but any place where the rooms with squat toilets are more expensive than the rooms with western, sit down toilets is a bit odd. Plus, the local mosque next door to the hotel wasn’t satisfied at just waking the whole town up with a call for pray. They broadcast the whole service which featured a spluttering child reading what seemed like the whole of the Koran at 5am.
‘What has been your scariest experience in an “Oh my God, I could die” sense?’
Realising I was completely lost in the Khao Sok jungle and had seen hardly anyone else around all day who could hear me shout for assistance. The best decision I made was to cross that river and scamper back up the other side of the verge. If I hadn’t, well I’d have spent the night in the jungle with no food and about 200ml of water. In recent news I nearly came off the scooter in Nha Trang when I braked hard in wet conditions because some moron pulled out in front of me. I have seen two crashes since then involving locals and decided that a fourth ride in the space of a fortnight might be pushing my luck a bit!
As some will know thanks to her spam emailing, Mum (Donna) has also come up with several questions. One was – ‘What has been your favourite, if any, foreign food?’
A bit of a cheat as it was Indian food (you did say foreign) in Ho Chi Minh. I tracked down a cracking small curry house called Mumtaz which not only felt very homely, but also served great curries. I liked it that much I ate there four nights while in the city and plan too before I leave for Kuala Lumpur. I slag the lonely planet off a bit on here but I discovered the other day when checking up on something that it highly recommends this restaurant. Good work.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. I’ll do some scribblings at some point on my experience of South Vietnam, but for now that can wait. It’s almost time for a holiday safe in the knowledge that my bank has incredibly found my change of address form nearly five months on from me submitting it in person, and has kindly allowed me access to my own money again. For a minute then I thought Steph would be getting the first round in. And every round after that, come to think……damn 😉

Advertisements

4 Responses to “these are a few of my favourite (and not so favourite) things”


  1. 1 Loz
    February 6, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Great blog as always, will eagerly await ur next one after a weeks catch up with steph

  2. 2 donna
    February 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Phew! I’ll get back to you on this blog …

  3. 3 donna
    February 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Ok that’s an amazing read…and phew you are experiencing sooooooo much ….

  4. 4 Martin Chapple
    February 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Top blog matey….how many experiences have you had??? Have a great time over the next few days x x x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Sign up here for email alerts for updates.....perfect for the fellow lazy office worker!

Join 25 other followers


%d bloggers like this: