A Travellerspoint blog

May 2015

2015 MAY UK - HOP, SKIP & JUMP - BANGERS, MUMBAI & LONDON

Long haul flights never change!


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Wednesday, 20th May 2015 (day sixteen)

Bangkok, Thailand to Mumbai, India is just a 3 hour flight. Our first time flying with Jet Airways - they were ok, we are used to not expecting much with budget airlines. Of course flying with an Indian airline the flight is always going to go via the host country ie India and the majority of passengers are going to be natives of this host country ie Indians! To say the aroma inside the aircraft was exotic is an understatement!

A 2 hour lay over in Mumbai airport in the middle of the night was nothing to get excited about. It was a huge airport and even as transit passengers we again had to get our carry on luggage x-rayed and we were give the once over with the body scanning device. I have never had any interest in visiting India and I can tell you this rigmorale just reinforced this no urge even more. At least the airport was clean, which for some reason I did not think it would be.

Finally we were back on a much larger plane for the final leg of this trip to London and I can tell you that most of these passengers were in need of some kind of floral deodorizing. I'm sorry if I sound racist or unkind but the thought of having to spend the next 8 hours in a confined space with the scent of this country was almost stomach turning. Mental note to remember this when booking future long haul flights. Again this unkindness I am expressing must be due to tiredness and an acute sense of smell.

I managed to sleep a good half of the flight, watched a movie and ate something, which didn't taste too bad at all.

We arrived into Heathrow airport 35 minutes ahead of schedule at 6am. Another early morning entrance into a big city, but here we had a plan. We are not stopping in London but have pre-purchased train tickets out to Harwich to spend a few days with our friends Janet & John, (a couple we met in Turkey 10 years ago and they were silly kind enough to give us their address - although I did warn Janet if she did, we would visit, and we have on several occasions over the years, love you guys).

From Heathrow we caught the tube to Liverpool Street station which is where we need to catch the train out to Essex, the tube took almost 2 hours travelling in peak hour, luckily we only had to change lines once. I had purchased train tickets in advance online at home so we had to catch a specific train which was booked for 12pm. It was too cold to stand about the train station, having left 40 degrees in Thailand this drop down to 5 degrees was definitely felt by us. Best place to take shelter was Maccas where we had a hot coffee with a breakfast meal. It did start to rain just before we were due to go back down to the train track level, but we were all undercover so did not get wet.

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The train trip sped by and before we knew it an hour had passed and we were at Manningtree station where we had to change trains to take us on to Dovercourt.

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Welcoming, smiling faces belonging to Janet and Lara were at the station to greet us.

Thursday 21st May 2015 (day seventeen)

Lovely relaxing day with friends.

It's somewhat colder here in UK than we had anticipated - and that is an major understatement. Bad planning on our part as we did not pack very many warm clothes, or perhaps it was wishful thinking? Anyway, we took a nice stroll around town today and managed to find an op shop where we were able to purchase a pair of jeans each for 3 quid = $6. Not the best form of clothing to be travelling with on a bike holiday, but at this cheap price we happy to wear them for the week leading up until our ride and then perhaps donate them to another set of cold legs.

We went out to dinner with our hosts Janet & John and friends Lara & Ray to the local Chinese restaurant. Bloody good feed it was too and we finished the night with a few beers and more laughs at Lara's house, ending up staying the night due to too many beers the late hour and not being able to get a taxi. A great night!

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Friday 22nd May 2015 (day eighteen)

A slow recovering morning we sat around until lunchtime and then went out for a walk along the water shore to Harwich town. It was a little chilly but not too cold as to not have an ice cream.

These last few days have been another enjoyable visit with our lovely friends here in Harwich. Janet cooked us another yummy home cooked dinner (which we will have to keep in memory for the next months, as home cooked dinners will be few and far between) as our parting meal.

Tomorrow morning we are booked on the 9am ferry to carry us across the channel from Harwich to Hook of Holland.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 13:59 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged street train station liverpool harwich Comments (0)

2015 MAY THAILAND - OVERNITE TRAIN AND ONE DAY IN BANGKOK

Yep, Bangers is like a furnace!

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Tuesday 19th May 2015 (day fifteen)

Our overnight train journey went unhindered and surprisingly for the first time we have travelled on the overnight train it arrived into Bangkok train station on time at 6.50am. No one wants to be arriving into a big city at this hour in the morning, no one wants to be woken up earlier than this on the train so the beds could be converted back to seats for the last hour of the journey. No one, especially not me! I had the privilege of sleeping in the top bunk on the train and instead of a gentle rocking to sleep as would be comforting I was jostled from side to side in my narrow bunk. Did manage to sleep a little but the cabin lights are left on all night and the curtain rods are just below the light so my little compartmented area was bathed in light the entire night. Thankfully my eye mask (thanks Jan) did cut most of it out, but with the flashes of light and the body shaking it was a bit like sleeping in a noisy disco.

We had dinner on the train for 170 baht = $6.80 (no beer) which was served to us at our seats at 7pm. By 8pm the stewards were chomping at their bits to set up our beds and after this was done we had little choice but to try and sleep. I guess they know that the passengers are not going to get a fitful nights sleep so they send you off to bed early. And the fact that there is not beer being sold and it was dark outside so nothing to see, so what else are passengers going to do?

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We have the day to amuse ourselves in Bangkok before our flight out at 9pm this evening. We head outside the station, dragging our luggage in search of a taxi to take us to our usual haunt to wile the day away. Of course the usual offenders come up to try and hustle us into an overpriced cab with fixed price of 400 baht = $16, which immediately dropped to 300 baht = $12 when I gave them the ‘we are not fresh off the plane’ look. I want a meter taxi I exclaim and immediately my luggage is dropped (taken minutes earlier to aid me when they thought they could rip me off) and the offender walks away mumbling. Sorry mate, not your lucky day today, I have been here before.

We deposit our luggage into a metered taxi and the driver speaks absolutely no English! Which I must say is pretty rare for a Bangkok taxi driver. Sometimes I despise my own arrogance when I come to these countries and expect the locals to be able to understand me speaking a language that is foreign to them, but it had been a rough night and I was tired. To make it worse we had no idea where we were going, well I mean we did know, but did not have the address or anything to give this poor guy. We just rattled off the name of a hotel that we know it in the area we want to be taken to and automatically presume this and every taxi driver will know where every hotel in Bangkok is located and understand the pronunciation we are giving him. I think he was happy to have a fare and drove off, I guess he would figure out where we wanted to go as we were driving. With a few broken words he asked us for an address or phone number to locate the hotel but we did not even have that to give him. Bloody hell, not very organized was I?
Just a block from the station our taxi stopped next to a tuktuk and the driver asked him if he knew where we wanted to go and after I repeated the hotel name to him he yelled something at the driver and gesturing with his hands waving us on. We felt like we were heading in the right direction, like we know Bangkok backwards, NOT! Then I remembered the name of Khao San Road, which is a well know tourist area and once I told our driver this street name he seemed to recognize it and drove with more confidence in our direction.

We did reach our chosen destination with little more fuss and the meter read less than 90 baht = $3.60 - bit different to the 300 baht = $12 the amount the original taxi driver wanted us to pay. It was still early and our first stop was to find some breakfast. We headed towards our usual Bangkok office (a restaurant where we spent a lot of time at last visit to Bangkok using the internet), but unfortunately it was closed down for renovations. How dare they! A few steps up the alley we found another place to sit and have something to eat. It was still only 7.30am and we had the whole day to fill in before our flight. It was worth our while to get a room so that we could have a shower and somewhere to re-organize our luggage. I did a bit of a walk around pricing some rooms (while Lyn sat guarding the bags :-/), we only wanted a room until 5pm but all the hotel receptionists advised the price was the same for half a day as it was for a full day with overnite. We settled on a room at the New Siam 2 for 600 baht = $24, worth the money to be able to shower now and again before we departed for the airport and a safe place to leave our luggage for the day.

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First up we again emptied the contents of our 2 bags onto the bed and repacked them. Our flight to England allows us 20 kg checked luggage each and these repacked bags were just a kilo or so over. Not too bad.

Showered and refreshed we headed back out into the steamy Bangkok day in search of a manicure. We returned to a place we had visited on our visit to this city and paid the going rate of 150 baht = $6 each for an manicure while relaxing in an air-conditioned room. Yes it was very hot in Bangkok as per normal.

After this little piece of pampering it was time for lunch and our last Thai meal was taken in one of our favoured street stalls, 165 baht = $7 - boy are we going to miss these prices in Europe.

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Another shower and soon it was time for our airport transfer. We waited on the side of the road for our minivan that fought through heavy traffic to take us to the airport. Thankfully we took the 5 o'clock shuttle and not the 6 o'clock one as this would have been too close to check in time.

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My least favourite part of travelling is airport check-ins as I always freak out we have too much luggage and today was no different. I think the stress is warranted as we do usually have overweight luggage.

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Turns out we did have a few kilos over our 20 kg limit each, but the Jet Airways attendant did not seem to care about this fact. Phew! Stress gone.

We had an overpriced meal at the airport before boarding our flight which was flying via Mumbai, India so you can imagine the nationality of the majority of passengers.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged train bangkok chiang mai overnight sleeper Comments (3)

2015 MAY THAILAND - FURTHER NORTH INTO THAILAND, CHIANG MAI.

Ferry from Koh Samui to Don Sak, coach & mini van to airport, fly Surat Thani to Chiang Mai. Free days in Chiang Mai relaxing


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Thursday 14th May 2015 (day ten)

We had an early morning today and a full day of traveling via several forms of transport.

After breakfast at Weekender Villas and a quick farewell to a hung over Patrick we were taken by mini van to the bus station. Lyn had gone out yesterday and purchased tickets for 650 baht = $26 each for our transfer from Koh Samui to Surat Thani airport. Although our flight is not until 3.30 this afternoon, our pickup was at 8.30am to enable us to get to the airport on time.

First a mini van (driver was early we were not ready so we made him wait till 8.30am agreed pick up time) to take us to the ferry, but, wait, no, we get dropped off at a bus station. At the bus station we were instructed to load our luggage onto a large coach which would take us to the ferry where we would have to walk on to the boat and then get back on the coach on the mainland side. Waiting about 30 minutes at the bus station for various minivans to deposit passengers for our coach gave a little indication of the waiting time ahead. The drive to the ferry port was only about 20 minutes and we were given tickets for the ferry as we exited the bus and walked onto the ferry. Passengers are not allowed to stay in any of the vehicles travelling on the ferry so we followed the crowds and managed to get a seat inside the air conditioned salon. We would prefer to sit outside in the fresh air during water crossings but the only outside seating on this ferry was in full sun and it was way too hot to be spending the next two hours out there.

We found a couple of comfortable seats and before the ferry even left the dock Lyn had fallen asleep, which shattered the silence of the loud marine engines and prevented anyone else within 10 meters of getting any sort of shuteye. ( I'm sure she is telling lies, I can't snore that LOUD!) I read! The sea was again calm so the ferry trip was smooth sailing. When we docked there was the usual mad rush to be the first off, but I was kinda hoping they would do a head count on the coach and not take off before we had reboarded it so there really was no need to push along with all the over eager disembarkees. As it was we were not the last to reach the waiting coach anyway as some very over hung smashed up lads had stopped to purchase water to try and re-hydrate. I was impressed that there was actually a head count performed before the coach took off towards Surat Thani town, just under 70km away. We were told we would be transferred to the airport by minivan.

About an hour later driving into the city limits of Surat Thani the bus just stopped by the side of the road and all passengers with the red airport sticker were to get off here. That was us. And although it seemed like we were being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, I know better than to question these things as this is Thailand and this is just the way things work here. No doubt a minivan will show up any minute and take us and several others on to the airport. Not to be left just standing on the side of the road we were ushered into a restaurant / waiting area where there was a 5 baht fee to use the loo. Luckily I did not have the need, as even for a loo that you pay for does not guarantee any standard of cleanliness. We were told to sit and our minivan would arrive in 20 minutes. We had some snacks and water with us so we were fine, I think the idea to keep us waiting was in hope we would order food. Finally a minivan did show up but we were not asked to load into it until a good 20 minutes of time had passed. I guess they realized no one was going to purchase any food so we may as well go.

It was about another hours drive in the minivan to the airport and we arrived just before 2pm - so that means our airport transfer had taken 5 1/2 hours - not bad.

We checked in our luggage and as we still had full bottle of duty free Baileys that we did not drink on Samui we asked if it was ok to carryon? No, still no liquids on domestic flights so we had to pack it into our checked luggage. Staff were not happy with this option either and I had to sign a tag to say they were not responsible for any breakages. They slapped on a fragile sticker, which I'm sure the luggage handlers ignored as after we had landed I saw our bag come out of the plane first and was impressed that perhaps extra care was being taken. Until the ground staff grabbed bag and tossed into the waiting luggage cart and then was piled high with other bags being tossed from the belt to the cart.

We had lunch at the airport, not the best meal, but it was cheap and colourful:

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The flight to Chiang Mai is less than 2 hours and we end up landing 15 mins early at 5pm after the Captain informing us its 36 degrees. It had been a very hot day in CM today reaching over 40!

We are in Chiang Mai to visit Lyn's daughter-in-law Keeraya (married to Lyn's eldest son Michael) and her grandson Nik (who just turned one last month). Can hardly come to Thailand not visit the grandson.

When we exited the airport terminal the hot air really hit us, much hotter than the last couple of days on the island. Here the air is think and feels very close. Keeraya arrived in an air conditioned car and took us to an air conditioned mall to eat so we remained pretty comfortable. Of course the house is air conditioned so I don't think we will suffer that much.

Friday 15th May 2015 (day eleven)

First stop this morning was the CM train station to purchase tickets for us to get to Bangkok to meet our flight to the UK. We booked 2 berths on the overnight sleeper train for the 18th departing at 5.00 pm - scheduled to arrive in Bangkok 7.30am on the 19th. It's probably cheaper to fly from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, but we enjoy the train journey and have the time so take the train.

After breakfast at a café a the station, Keeraya takes us to a museum. Museum? Yes I know we are not museum goers (being the only people to have ever visited Paris and only stepped inside a museum building to use the toilet), but this is a museum with a difference.

ART IN PARADISE - 3D ILLUSION ART MUSEUM

Art in Paradise the first Illusion Art Museum of Chiang Mai, presents Illusion Art, the painting art requiring techniques and expertise in painting on a flat surface into a "3D" and giving a sense of realistic art. In addition, the museum also offers artworks in the form that allow visitors to take part in the artworks closely (Interactive Art), where the visitors can take photos with creative imagination, emotion and postures designed to correspond with each painting according to their own preferences as if they are a part of the painting. Therefore, Art in Paradise (Chiang Mai) is where the art is understandable for everyone, and happiness and entertainment are delivered to the visitor as well.

WHAT IS ILLUSION ART?

An illusion is a sensory perception that causes a distorted or altered impression. Since illusion is not the opposite of reality, the effect of illusion one experiences is neither true nor false.

The illusion of depth in paintings and installation art are presented on two dimensional surfaces by combining a variety of art elements, special techniques and professional skills. This transforms ordinary artworks into extraordinary three-dimensional interactive environments.

Art in Paradise Chiang Mai welcomes you into the world of fantastic illusion art, where you can create your own activities and be fully immersed in the interactive 3D artworks.

This place was a load of fun as you can see by the silly photos we took, highly recommended.

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Saturday 16th May 2015 (day twelve)

Stupidly, this morning we decided to head out into the heat and go see a local trash and treasure market. After about 30 minutes of walking out in the heat we realized just how stupid this idea was and retreated back to the air conditioned car to take us to an air conditioned shopping mall. The market was set out on the footpath of a few streets and although it may have been interesting it was way too hot for the baby to be out experiencing the discomfort. Well that's our excuse anyway. Nik is too young to dispute the fact and if he could it would be in Thai and we would not understand anyway.

So we found ourselves again in the air conditioned refuge of a giant shopping mall. I said to Lyn, this time next week we are going to be praying for this heat, but right now we complain about it. It would be good if we could store some of this warmth for when we need it later.

Lunch was a pizza at a place called Dukes in the shopping mall. Not usually a visitor to western style restaurants while in Asia, Keeraya had told us the pizza here was pretty good and she seemed keen to go. Being a pizza lover, I did not hold out much hope for a good pizza to be served to us here. But it was lunchtime and we were hungry and open to suggestion. Well I must admit the pizza was very good, so good that I say this is the very best pizza I have eaten outside of Italy and that is that!

On the way home we stopped at a baby shop where Nik tried a Ferrari on for size.

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It's nice to have this spare time to do nothing, spend time with family in a different country. Keeraya cooked for us at home tonight, it was good but still her idea of not spicy (chilly) is enough to make my hair curl. I do love the flavours but the heat just makes my tongue go numb.

Sunday 17th May 2015 (day thirteen)

What a lazy day we had today. Sitting inside in the air con so no idea what is was like outside. lol It did rain a little at midday so it may have not been too bad.

Late afternoon we headed out towards the Sunday Walking Market. On the way we stopped at the shopping mall as I wanted to get a screen protector for my tablet. I wanted to go somewhere that would install it for me, and as the mall had a whole floor of camera, computer and accessories shops, we had no problem finding a place. It cost a little extra because they had to cut to size but for 290 baht = $12. I was happy.

Finding a park for the night market was not so easy, as we discovered after lapping the vicinity several times. Finally we found a parking lot that was only charging 20 baht = 80c and was just a short distance walking to the market.

First stop was food and we bought some chicken wings, fruit shake and pork noodle soup for 175 baht = $7 for the both of us. DSCN1058.jpg Has to be said street food is still unbelievably cheap and it was good too. Walking through the market we topped off our meal with a coconut ice cream on a stick at 10 baht = 40c each.

The markets were crowded as usual and it was interesting to note that there were many more Asian tourists then western/European tourists. Keeraya said there are lots of Chinese tourists coming to Thailand now.

We pushed through the crowds browsing at the market stalls, remembering we can't really buy anything as we would have to cart it with us for the rest of the trip. Or of course we could buy up big and get Michael to bring home on his next trip over. But we were very restrained opting for a foot massage 80baht = $3.20 before heading home. It was hot in the crowds and little Nik had done so well looking around with wide eyes, he's a good kid.

Monday 18th May 2015 (day forteen)

The day started off slow, we were going to use this day to organize our bags, repack everything into our bike panniers to see what could be or needed to be culled. Lyn laid out everything on the bed and took a deep breath then came and joined me downstairs for a cuppa. This needed a little thought before we tackled the repack.

Next thing we know Keeraya suggests we go for a drive up the mountain to have lunch. This sounded like a good idea and as it was only just after 11 o’clock we agreed. Her brother came along to drive up the windy village roads and yes it was a very pleasant drive and a lovely lunch stop at a restaurant up the mountain, in the jungle.

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After lunch we drove on a little further up the mountainous windy road, to a café with a great view. They grow coffee around here and we enjoyed a cup with a chocolate brownie for dessert. Yum yum!!

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Next thing we knew it was 2.45. Our train is scheduled to depart Chiang Mai railway station at 5pm. Home was a good hour drive back, we still had to pack our bags and the train station is another 30mins from home. None of this is taking into account any traffic hold ups.

Shit! Mild panic hit!

The drive back home went ok but of course took longer than expected because while we were up in the mountains the city had experienced a heavy down pour of rain and a lot of water was still covering the roads we were travelling on.

Shit! Panic a little stronger now!

We scrambled up the stairs towards the bedroom, where all our gear was strewn across the bed, at 4.05pm. There was no organizing or culling or sorting – stuff was just being shoved into our two bags with the greatest speed we could muster.

Shit! Now totally stressed out! There was no way in hell we were going to make the train. Adrenalin has now taken over the panic as we kid ourselves we can get to the train station in time.

Meanwhile, Keeraya’s Dad had been recruited to drive us to the station. I think he may have been a Bangkok taxi driver a former life because of the way he was manoeuvring the vehicle with us and our overstuffed bags through the traffic. I had little faith that we would make it in time but he was doing a hell of a job, doing his best to safely weave in and out and around other sluggish drivers. There seemed to be a glimmer of hope, until…

Shit! The traffic! What should be a 30 minute drive from home to the train station was of course taking much longer due to traffic – the fact that is was peak hour and also the extra traffic due to the earlier rain. But still Dad was going to give it one hell of a go, and for a nano second I thought yeah we are going to make it, until…

Shit! Red light! We waited 3 sets of changed lights, I looked at my watch, 4.45 and turned to Keeraya in the back asking ‘do you think we are going to make it?’ I think maybe not, she answered and immediately started to search on her phone for flights we could take to Bangkok tomorrow. We would not have time to take another train as our flight out of Thailand is tomorrow.

Shit! The panic and stress subsided once I accepted we were going to miss the train. We would only be losing $50 worth of train tickets and the cost of a flight would be less than $200 each tomorrow, so really no biggie. I was fine with it, we could get a flight in time to get us to our flight out, just meant spending another night in CM.

Shit! Dad had not yet given up – it was 10 minutes to 5 and we were finally through the lights Now we were so close to the train station let’s just go have a look.

Driving into the car park my watch read 5.01 and although everything is not always on time in Thailand I thought for sure this train, our train would be. The car stopped and I jumped out, ran towards the platform expecting to see the train pulling away. Instead I saw the long line of purple carriages were still there with other panicked passengers running towards it. I bolted back to the car where Lyn had unloaded our 2 huge bags. We both did a quick kiss goodbye to Keeraya and Nic who were still sitting in the car, all this happening so quick.

Shit! So here is Lyn and I dragging our rather large bags towards the train just as I hear the conductor's whistle blow.

Shit! So close and yet so far – but wait, he is waving a red flat – not the green one and another guy is yelling at us to get on the train at the nearest carriage door.

Shit! We made it!

Shit! I cannot believe it!

Out of breath and struggling we drag our bags almost down the entire length of the train, moving through about 8 carriages, to get to our allotted seats. The train had well and truly left the station before we are even seated.

The hostess came around to take our dinner order and I said to Lyn after all that we deserve a beer. She agreed, but we were then informed that they no longer serve beer or any alcohol on the trains.

Shit! No Beer! Now that was a real shit!

We ordered dinner, then menu still being the same as when we travelled on the same service last year – but without the beer. A little expensive at 170 baht = $6.80 , but it is served to us in our seats promptly at 7pm.

By 8pm the seats are converted to our beds and I guess that means it’s bedtime.

Shit! What a fabulous day, nothing like it to get the stress levels up and adrenalin going!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 22:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged chiang mai Comments (4)

2015 MAY THAILAND - WE CONTINUE NORTH INTO THAILAND.

flight Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Surat Thani, Thailand, bus to Don Sak, ferry to Koh Samui - then free days on Samui

Friday 8th May 2015 (day four)

We had to get very early today to be at the bus station at 6.45am for our 7am shuttle to the airport. Luckily the bus station was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. At this early hour, although there were still no shops or anything open, the streets were already congested with morning traffic mostly made up of taxis and buses. Today we are flying from Kuala Lumpur up to Thailand, heading for the island of Samui. Lyn's youngest son Patrick is working at a resort on the island and since we were sort of passing by it would be rude not to stop over for a couple of days.

The shuttle to the airport was 12 myr = $4.20 and took just over an hour, getting us to the airport just a little over 2 hours before our 10.35am flight. Or so we thought. Panic struck as soon as we looked on the board and our flight was not even listed. My computer has been out of internet action for a few days so I did not check the flight or know if I had received any emails advising a change of flight time. We walked towards the self checking kiosk praying our flight had not been cancelled for the day, a delay we could live with but a cancelled flight would be a pest. Thankfully it was just a delayed flight that was not due to depart 12pm instead of 10.35am. Not too bad but had we know it would have meant not such an early start to our day. No harm done, we headed to Maccas for some breakfast.

The usual waiting at the airport always seems so much longer than it is, but in our case it actually was when the flight was delayed almost another hour. Finally flying and a relatively short flight less than 3 hours.

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At the airport we purchased transfer to Koh Samui which included coach to Don Sak ferry dock, ferry to the island and van drop off at our chosen hotel for 550baht = $22 each. We were the last to get onto the coach and it took off shortly afterwards for the hour drive to the ferry dock. We drove through rain most of this drive, but it was hot and sunny at the port. We had to wait about 30mins for the 4pm ferry and by the time is arrived there was quite a crowd and line up of vehicles to load onto it. This all went smoothly and Lyn was relieved to see the sea also was looking smooth.

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Ferry journey was very smooth and took about 2 hours before there was a mad scramble for everyone to get off. I never really understood this mad dash to be the first off. This phenomenon takes place on aircraft also, everyone pushes and scrambles over seats in such a rush to get off you would think the plane was about to take off again before they get a chance to disembark.

After walking the length of the jetty we were met by the van drivers who had already been delegated their drop offs, so when I heard a guy calling out 'Weekender' we gravitated towards him and he showed us to his air conditioned van. A cool haven where we sat for about 15 minutes while he collected his other passengers.

Our transfer to hotel took about an hour as the ferries come in on the opposite side of the island to where the main accommodation areas are. We have been to Koh Samui before and a few things were looking familiar.

So here were are at Weekender Villas Resort for the next week and as soon as we arrive I knew it would be hard to take. NOT!
Travelling with mother to one of the key staff members is a bonus in these situations as we get to stay in the best room bungalow villa in the place. There is only one villa directly facing the beach and we've got it. Beautiful, also overlooking the pool it's pretty flash by our usual Asian travel standards. Air con and flat screen TV and a fridge, wow luxury. Only draw back is only one bed, but its king size so I might be lucky enough to escape Lyn's fondness of spooning. lol.

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We had an early night after such an early start.

Saturday 9th May 2015 (day five)

We are going to take full advantage of our time here on Koh Samui by doing probably absolutely nothing. And what better place to do that than on an island in Thailand where the sun promises to shine every day and the sea is warm.

Earlier this morning I attempted a swim but after walking out approximately 100 meters I was still in only calf deep in water. Giving up I just sat down to get wet, so at our resort the pool is the better option.

Lyn and I did wander out to find some lunch and went for a walk along the beach and a swim in the lovely clear water. Unfortunately the beach directly in front of our resort is not the best for swimming.

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So just a relaxing day by the pool and the sea - times like this we realize how tough life really is.

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Sunday 10th May 2015 (day six)

Mothers Day today, so Pat hired a car to take us on a bit of a tour around the island. Unfortunately the beach that was recommended to us was not the best although its name has received lots of comments on my facebook page. We had lunch at a little beachside restaurant on The Virgin Coast and it was very pleasant.

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Afterwards we ended up back on Lamai Beach where we had a swim and bought an overpriced ice cream on the beach.

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Monday 11th May 2015 (day seven)

Today we managed to do even less than yesterday, can you believe that.

We did however go for a walk up the beach to watch the sunset and have a beer at a different location.

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Cannot believe how warm the water is, in the really shallow places its almost hot enough that if we could catch the tiny fish swimming around us they would be par-boiled and ready to eat straight from the sea. Which reminds me we had a delicious fish for dinner tonight. Red snapper!

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Tuesday 12th May 2015 (day eight)

Ok time to be a little active today. After breakfast we hired a motor bike so we could go out exploring. However our first call was to the computer guy where I dropped off my tablet on Friday. Something happened to the internet adapter while in Kuala Lumpur and I was unable to connect to the internet - apparently this adapter needs to be installed for this to happen. How the hell it became un installed is beyond me, but it had and it needed to be fixed, which it was for a princely sum of 500 baht = $20. I have no idea how computers work but am annoyed when they don't so to pay 20 bucks to have this one fixed I was very happy. Only thing is in the process of re installing the internet adapter he un installed the OFFICE program which I use to keep track of our expenses and to write up this blog. Anyway luckily it was a simple task of getting the program key from Mitchell at home and re installing OFFICE. All good now.

Anyway that was out first stop and after that we got on the bike and rode around the island, stopping for lunch at Coral Cove and swims at other beaches along the way and drink stops. It was a nice change and broke a little of the nothingness that we had been doing the last few days. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

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We actually went all out today and got on a double kayak for a paddle out on the water to enjoy the sunset. Gee settle down girls don't go getting to energetic I hear you all saying. Don't worry it was a pretty casual paddle with a beer either side of the experience.

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Fish again for dinner.

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Wednesday 13th May 2015 (day nine)

Today was a real relax.

Lyn went off with Patrick for some Mother/Son quality time together.

I stayed poolside to catch up on some housekeeping after getting computer back yesterday.
It's our last day on the island so making the most of poolside.

Had a couple of cocktails to end the day and a man size chicken schnitzel.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:46 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach samui koh surat thani lamai Comments (6)

2015 MAY MALAYSIA - THE ADVENTURE FOR 2015 BEGINS!

flight Coolangatta, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, then free days in KL

Tuesday 5th May 2015 (day one)

Departure day has finally come around. The last week has been somewhat busy. Turning half a century last week and throwing a party before a big trip was a little challenging, but it all seemed to go smoothly. Again thanks to all who helped, contributed and came along to help me celebrate.

With most of our luggage already sent on to Thailand with Michael (Lyn’s son) there did not seem to be the normal last minute packing and repacking panic. All of our bike & camping gear and majority of our clothing has already started the journey towards Europe.

This morning we were up at some still dark hour as our flight was scheduled to depart Coolangatta / Gold Coast airport at 8.40am. This meant we had to be at the airport approximately 2 hours before at 6.40am, which meant we had to depart my home at 5.40am, which meant me getting up around 5am and Lyn (who had to drive from hers to mine) at 4am.

Not many friends or family members were putting up their hands to offer a lift to the airport at this ridiculous hour I can assure you. So it was our good fortune that - we were able to sucker – we could ask my good friend Mandy visiting from New Zealand to drop us down the Gold Coast and then drive herself to the airport later that day for her return flight. Rudely, when our flight had been cancelled a few weeks ago I had changed it to the previous day without a thought for my visiting friend who was flying out the same day but hours later.
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The past week has been great having Mandy over. Think I finally found someone who is on par with me in the talking and drinking coffee department. I reckon we must have clocked up close to 100 cups over the last week!

Check in at the airport was easy as we only had carry-on bags and after a last coffee together we left Mandy with car, gps navman and wishes of good luck finding her way back up to Brisbane airport. I’m sure she will be fine and she has like 10 hours to get lost and found. Thanks Mandy!

On the drive down, sitting in the airport and even when boarding the plane it still had not hit me that we were off on another long holiday. I think it’s the fact that in the last 6 months I have been on several flights having travelled to Melbourne, New Zealand, Darwin, Broome & Adelaide. How privileged am I that flying has become so blasé.

I’m sure it will hit me once the plane doors open and the old familiar aroma of Asia wafts into the cabin. Then I will let out a sign of relief that the adventure I have spent 100’s of internet hours researching and making numerous bookings for is now underway!

Flight as usual was an uneventful 8 hours. I managed to catch a nap.
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We caught the bus (not pictured) from the airport to China Town for a bargain price of 10 ringget each ($3.52), took about just over an hour as the traffic (pictured) was busy as usual.
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Short walk to Petaling Street to our reserved Hotel Chinatown (2). We have never stayed here before, location is perfect for us and as expected the rooms look nothing like they did on the hotel web site. But hey, at 108 ringget ($38.35) per night for air con, flat screen TV, fast internet and hopefully hot shower - for us its a very comfortable start to our holiday.
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After settling into our room, we headed out to find our usual dinner haunt. Chicken satays and a Tiger beer is the meal we usually start every trip with. The price of the satays had risen to 1myr = 35c each, but they were still as good as ever, but of course it’s the peanut sauce accompaniment that really makes this place our favourite. The old lady in the stall next door pushing drinks onto satay diners has also been there as long as we have been coming to KL. Tax on alcohol in Malaysia is high so us having a beer at 17myr = $5.95 is really a treat. But this repeated habit cannot be left off any of our itineraries that include a stopover in Kuala Lumpur.
That was about it for us for today, early to bed after watching a bit of telly (Animal Planet being the only channel in English that worked). Thankfully the shower was hot and pressure pretty good, so we showered and crashed.
It has been a big first day!

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Wednesday 6th May 2015 (day two)

We woke relatively early today. Too early for Asia as the shops here tend not to come awake until 10ish. There are the early morning wet markets which start very early, and people are out and about, but shops and restaurants do not start to open until much later. This suits us fine, as it gives us an excuse not to have to be up and around early in the morning. Hey we are on holidays.

Finally just before 10 we left the room in search of breakfast. We went via Central Market as we had a couple of T-shirts to drop off to the embroidery man, but the centre was not yet open so we found an Indian restaurant to have some food. No western style breakfast here, unless you stay in a flash hotel that offers buffet breakfast, so not much chance of that for us. It always seems to amuse the locals when we pull up a table at these local food outlets. I guess not many tourists eat at these places, but we are up for just about anything food wise. This place looked clean enough and it was displaying newspaper articles which meant it was semi famous for something on the menu. We were seated and served a pulled milky white tea (which to me tastes nothing like tea in any form). It’s very, very sweet, but is hot and just the treat to wash down the oily roti and dahl we were served to eat. All pretty good really and at a bargain price of 8.80myr = $3.08 for the both of us, our hunger was satisfied.

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So what to do when we have visited KL so many times. All the tourist traps & attractions had been visited on one of our many previous visits to this familiar city. We decided to challenge ourselves by going on a public transport excursion to try and find the IKEA store which is located out in the suburbs. You may think this is a lame thing to do, but like I said we have seen every other attraction and being avid IKEA visitors at home, thought this would be a novel public transport challenge. And it was, but a fairly easy one really. We caught the red transit rail line (2.10myr = 74c each) to the very last station Kenlana Jaya, where there was supposed to be a free shuttle bus to take us to the shopping mall where IKEA was located. We sat at the bus station waiting and waiting, finally giving up and catching a bus (2myr = 70c). Good decision as a local lady on the bus told us we just missed the free shuttle as it did drove past the bus stop where is was supposed to pick us up at.

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Of course all IKEA stores are identical everywhere in the world, as is the cafeteria menu. We enjoyed a mushroom soup and shared a plate of the famous IKEA meatballs (which taste the same worldwide) with about 300 other Swedish cuisine eating locals. Prices average out about the same as the prices in Australia, which is pretty high by Malaysian standards, so we were quite surprised that the café was packed to capacity.

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After lunch we had a quick wander around the IKEA shop to confirm they are all identical in products available also. To kill more time before our shuttle bus to take us back to the train station we did a bit of window shopping in the other stores in the mall. Then as we still had time for a coffee, we purchased an overpriced drink in Gloria Jeans Coffee Shop which may just be the worse tasting swill I have ever had served to me, and I think they had a real cheek even calling it anything remotely like coffee!

Boarding the free shuttle just before it departed, we were back at the train station in no time. Usually only a 2 minute wait for the next train we arrived back in Chinatown 20 minutes later, proud of our successful experience on the public transport system.

After collecting our t-shirts from Central Market, we decided to return to our room and celebrate our successful day by drinking our bottle of duty free Amarula! Boy, those litre bottles sure don’t last very long do they?

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Since we’d had a huge lunch and after polishing off the bottle of Amarula, we thought just a small dinner was in order. Earlier at the 7/11 we discovered a vending machine that dispensed mashed potatoes and gravy, which we decided would be a perfect accompaniment to with our chicken satay sticks. Add a bottle of Tiger beer and there we had another well rounded meal.

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The air con in our room is playing up a bit, a lot actually so we are in for a hot humid night. We were offered another room which was half the size and with only a double bed, so we have decided to sweat it out in our original room. After the exciting day we had and with the aid of the bottle of Amarula we drank, I don’t think that sleeping is going to be a problem.

Thursday 7th May 2015 (day three)

First task for today was to find an ATM as we were out of cash. Usually an easy thing to find but after calling into the nearest bank which was just metres away from our hotel I was advised that we needed a 6 digit pin number, not just a 4 digit number as used at home. I have encountered this before and in the past have just added 00 to the beginning and all was fine. Not so this time. The teller in the bank told me the system had changed and we needed a 6 digit pin unless we found an international bank which there of course were none in the China Town area.

We still had about 12 ringgets left which was enough for breakfast so we went to do that and would find a bank later. As usual information was incorrect and the next Malaysian bank we came across I tried my card with a 4 digit pin and it gladly spat out my money to me. I then had to race back to Petaling Street to where our duck lady was as usual selling ducks from a makeshift stall on the foot path. I paid her 25 myr = $8.75 for half a cooked duck and added 2 myr = 70c for a duck foot wrapped in duck liver and kidney as an old man passing had suggested we should try this little treat. Back at our hotel the duck was put in the communal refrigerator for later in the day.

By this time we had missed the breakfast service and as we had returned to the same Indian restaurant as yesterday the waiter and a couple of patrons suggested we have the mee chicken for brunch. Mee = noodles = 2 minute noodles. I find it amusing in Asia where a lot of noodles are eaten everybody uses and all restaurants serve up instant noodles. I don’t think we have ever been anywhere that the noodles have been made fresh. The meal was good enough, noodles with a splash of Maggie and chicken wok fried to within an inch of its life but still moist inside. Highlight for me was again the pulled tea, don’t know why we have never had this before on previous visits, but I’m loving it!

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We covered lots of miles today, seated in the KL Go free buses. There are 4 bus loops that go to various areas around the city. We managed to cover just about every route only getting off to change lines or at the end of a route where we were forced to change buses. Interesting to note these so called free tourist loop bus routes are used by a lot more locals than tourists just to commute to and from work. The buses are pretty good, with most having free WIFI and if you were a first time visitor to KL you certainly could use these buses to get to just about every site and attraction in the city, as well as every major shopping mall, which seems to be a major attraction for most tourists to KL. We are not so much into shopping in this giant shopping centres mainly as they are expensive western brand name shops, but mostly we cannot buy anything as we would have to carry it with us for the rest of our trip and later travelling on a bike extra purchases is the last thing we want.

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It was late afternoon by the time we boarded the last purple line bus which would take us back to Chinatown. We had seen lots of the city today, even a few places we had never been to before. And we were sheltered from the short down pour of rain during the day sitting comfortably in a bus.
Finished the day with a coffee at McCafe in Chinatown, which was half the price of Gloria Jeans coffee yesterday and this one actually did resemble the taste of coffee.

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For dinner we collected the duck from the hotel fridge, grabbed a couple of instant mash potato & gravy from 7/11 and used their tables and chairs to enjoy our feast. The duck was magnificent as usual, we tried the liver and kidney which was inoffensive, but Lyn was a little unsure of how much of the duck foot is actually eaten. Are you supposed to eat the webbing? A mystery we may never know.

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Unfortunately the air con in our room was still not doing much to change the temp so that hotel is going to cop a beating from me on Trip Advisor and we will know better next time. I’m happy to live without air con, but if we have paid for it as we did with this usual upgrade of room, then I bloody well expect it to work! The hotel owner who seemed to live in the room next door to us didn’t really give a shit, he already had our money.

Relatively early night as we have to be up very early for our flight to Thailand tomorrow.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:48 Archived in Malaysia Tagged chinatown kuala air duck asia lumpur ikea coolangatta satay Comments (3)

2015 ITINERARY

2015 tour de spoke & stroke (5th May 2015 – 1st November 2015)

WELCOME TO THE NEW BLOG!

Hi Folks,

Another epic adventure is about to take place. Some people were asking for a full itinerary or wanted to know where we are travelling to.

Here is a bit of a rough itinerary so we all know where we are going or are supposed to be. This is for Lyn’s benefit more than anyone’s, so that if we do get separated she might have a bit of an idea in which direction to head. LOL

Nothing is set in stone but this is a rough idea:

5th May - fly Coolangatta/Gold Coast, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 3 nights in KL
8th May - fly Kuala Lumpur to Surat Thani / Koh Samui – 6 night in Samui
14th May - fly Surat Thani to Chiang Mai – 4 nights CM
18th May - train Chiang Mai to Bangkok – overnight train
19th May - fly Bangkok to London
20th May - train London to Harwich – 3 nights Harwich
23rd May - ferry England to Holland
23rd May -1st June – 9 nights Holland – purchasing bikes
...25th May - Toni & Shawn Lemon join us in Holland from Australia
...26th28th May - Sarah joins us in Holland from Australia
1st June - CYCLE TOUR STARTS – ride south thru Holland into Belgium
5th & 6th June - Bruges, Belgium – accommodation booked
7th & 8th June - Brussels, Belgium – accommodation booked
9th – 26th June – cycle through Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany – camping enroute with a couple of kayak / canoe trips along the way
26th – 29th June Lahnstein, Germany – accommodation booked
...27th June - Sarah fly’s back to Australia from Frankfurt
...27th & 28th June - Lemons train to Essen, Holland for Motor GP Race (spectators only)
30th June – 5th July - canoe trip down Lahn River, Germany
6th July – 11th July – cycle along the River Rhine to Frankfurt
11th July – part company with Lemons who head to Germany Motor GP (again spectators only) and then they fly back to Australia
11th July – train Frankfurt to Zurich
12th July – 13th Sept – continue with cycle tour – quick mini tour around Switzerland, looping around into France to ride along the Loire Valley / River
14th Sept – fly Jersey to Gatwick, London – Robyn & Sandra join us in London from Australia
14th & 15th Sept – accommodation booked – free day London
16th Sept – fly Gatwick, London to Sardinia, Italy
16th – 24th Sept – explore Sardinia
24th Sept - fly Sardinia to Venice
24th – 28th Sept – Venice 4 nights
28th Sept – train Venice to Bologna – overnight
29th Sept – train Bologna to La Spezia
29th & 30th Sept – Cinque Terra 2 nights
1st Oct – train La Spezia to Pisa
1st – 5th Oct – Pisa 4 nights
5th Oct – train Pisa to Naples
5th – 9th Oct – Naples 4 nights
9th Oct – train Naples to Rome
9th – 13th Oct – Rome 4 nights
13th Oct – fly Rome to Bangkok – overnight on plane
14th & 15th Oct – Bangkok 2 nights – we join Miss April & Toni Lemon
16th Oct – fly Bangkok, Thailand to Yangoon, Myanmar
16th – 31st Oct – tour Myanmar
31st Oct – fly Yangoon to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – overnight KL
1st Nov – fly Kuala Lumpur to Coolangatta / Gold Coast, Australia

WOW, so that is full on! I am a logistics superstar if I can pull off all that as planned! Stay tuned for our adventures along the way.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 03:07 Tagged itinerary Comments (12)

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