A Travellerspoint blog

October 2017

2017 OCTOBER - MALAYSIA KL TO MERSING TO TIOMAN ISLAND

OUR LAST TWO WEEKS OF HOLIDAY SPENT IN A LITTLE SLICE OF PARADISE

DAY 257 FRIDAY 20TH OCTOBER 2017

KUALA LUMPUR TO MERSING BY BUS

Our last breakfast at Ancasa. It sure has been a nice stay here, and I think future budgets might be stretched to afford a repeat stay here at this nice hotel. And the staff have been nice too, the breakfast is a bonus (even if most of the food is cold – true Asian style).

The bellboy was called up to help us with our luggage and then he went out and flagged us a taxi to take us to the bus station. Unfortunately, he already agreed on a set price with the taxi driver and when we requested he turn on the meter he said he could not as he had already given the bellboy his tip for picking him. So, we had to pay 35myr = aud $10.12, which is not much for a 20-minute taxi ride, but it would have been less on the meter.

Other times when we have caught the bus to Mersing it was from the bus station that is right here in Chinatown, only meters from this hotel we are staying at. But it seems since our last bus journey there has been a station upgrade to a completely different bus station with is now on the south side of the city. This is a little bit of a pain instead of just walking to the bus, we now must get a taxi, which probably works our better with our luggage anyway.

TSB station sure was an upgrade from the old crappy building we used to go to, where touts would accoster you before you were even out of the taxi. I had purchased tickets online 33 myr = aud $9.82 a few days ago so just needed to go to the desk to get a ticket print out and the correct gate. There was a bit of a line but we soon had tickets and were sitting in the departure lounge. We were in plenty of time, only to have our bus delayed for whatever reason. Instead of departing at 12.30 we left just after one, in a completely different bus to what I booked. Never to mind we were lucky enough to get 2 seats each as the bus was not full, and this made the 5 ½ hour ride more comfortable.

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I slept most of the bus ride, so can’t really say anything about it. I do know that we drive past acres & acres of palm trees – for palm oil. There was a toilet stop at some stage where some people ate, we had some food left over that we took with us and Lyn had made a flash of coffee, which was now very much appreciated.

Back on the bus, we were arriving at Mersing bus station before we knew it – think I had another nap.

While at the bus station I purchased our bus tickets to take us to Singapore at the end of the month. Not sure if we will get internet on Tioman Island to be able to book online.

Taxi to the hotel, because we seemed to be too exhausted to drag all our luggage there. He didn’t want to bargain, just said 20myr = aud $5.95 while looking at our luggage and knowing we would not refuse him. Checked in and had a choice of 2nd floor in main building or 1st floor in building across the road. We went for the 1st floor room, not realizing it was a cave room = no window to the outside. Ah it did have a window, but it was a window to the hallway. We didn’t care, for 80myr = aud $23.81 for one night it was fine. A big step down from our last few nights. More like back to the standard we usually have.

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We left the little room to go for a wander around Mersing, it seemed to have grown since our last visit. We wanted to make sure the ferry still left from the same place – which it did. And we wanted to find a place to buy some supplies we want to take with us to Tioman. We found a few shops for supplies and tried to find the night market where we used to always eat. It was like in a clearing which we thought was on the main road, with numerous food stall to choose from and lots of communal seating. This place was either gone or we were just in the wrong area, but it was getting late so we just opted for a roadside eatery, that may have ended up being a mistake.

Firstly, the waiter did not speak English and the menu was not in English, not that I am saying they should speak English it was more the case of what can we order, or what do we order. I knew the Malay word for chicken, which is usually a safe bet, but was informed no chicken. Ok next, I said noodles? Yes. Good. Meat?? Meat?? Oh, just bring anything - not spicy. Well he understood the anything – but not the not spicy. We ended up with what looked like a can of spaghetti mixed with chilli sauce. Lyn got a few bits of meat? We waited over an hour for this culinary delight and were so hungry by then that we both ate it all. At least it was cheap – 14 myr = aud $4.17 for both of us including an ice coffee & chai.

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DAY 258 SATURDAY 21ST OCTOBER 2017

MERSING TO TIOMAN ISLAND BY FERRY

Lyn set the alarm for this morning because in our cave room with no windows to the outside we cannot tell if it’s day or night outside. Our ferry to Tioman is not until 11.30, but we wanted to pick up a few things that we are taking to the island and needed to find breakfast. Also, we needed to take our luggage to the building across the road for storage.

Walking out on the street we were both happy to note it was not a windy day, this meant for smooth sailing across to the island. We have travelled this trip a couple of times before and it does tend to get rough, and one of us is very prone to seasickness so we are hoping for a calm crossing. Just in case we had both swallowed a couple of sea sickness pills just to be sure, these needed to be taken 2 hours before travel.

Of course, most of the shops did not open until 10am so we were too early for most of them. As for breakfast, neither Lyn or I seemed too excited about eating a meal before getting on the ferry, but I did grab a banana & walnut muffin each, which we ended up eating on the ferry.

The shops finally opened, and we picked up the supplies we wanted to take. Next was to carry our locked bags that we were leaving behind down the stairs and across the road for storage. Of course, there was a different lady on the reception this morning, however she seemed to be ok with the storage of our bags in what looked like a narrow utility cupboard. As always when we stored luggage I did a short prayer hoping they would still be there on our return.

10.15am, so we started the short walk to the ferry terminal. It was a short walk but in the already very hot & humid morning these bags, with just a few things for the island, seemed to weigh a ton and we had several stops on the way.

I had booked the ferry tickets online last week, 70 myr = aud $20.84 so when we reached the terminal I just had to go and collect the tickets. There was also a marine environmental fee to be paid which was 30 myr = aud $8.93 for me and only 15myr = aud $4.47 – because her age bracket is classed as a senior citizen and they get half price. Lol, sometimes it pays to be older.

All this toing and froing and I was starting to overheat. Needed to just sit down and cool down a bit. The departure terminal was not very crowded, and we were able to take a seat to wait for the ferry to arrive.

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Lyn went and lined up to change the tickets for our boarding pass and soon the ferry arrived for us to board. There was no worry about getting a seat as the ferry was almost completely empty. This is off season and we have never been to Tioman at this time of year, but needed have worried about pre- booking as I think there was a total of about 30 passengers on the boat. This was good, meant we could have a row of seats to ourselves.

We went out the back of the ferry to take a photo of us leaving Mersing but soon returned to the air con cabin when we realized outside was the smoking area. We both lay down across our row of seats and we both managed to sleep most of the way across the sea. I don’t think it was anywhere near as rough as other trips, but sleeping though it was a good move, and it also made the 2-hour trip fly by.

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I woke, looked out the window to the first glimpses of Tioman Island.

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Our stop was just a little further up the coast and soon we were gazing upon our old familiar Salang beach. Climbing out of the ferry and onto the jetty confirmed our first thoughts – that things had not changed, it still looked exactly the same.

The struggle with our bags from the jetty to our resort, Salang Sayang, did not seem so bad as I think we were eager to arrive. At reception we were greeted by our old friend Jimmy who gave us both a big hug. We met Jimmy the first time we came to Salang years ago. This is our 4th visit and we have been welcomed by him every time. It’s nice to be remembered, these resorts must get hundreds if not thousands of people over the years, it’s nice to know that we stand out.

Previously when we stayed here, we have stayed in the sea view bungalows with 1 double bed, fan and cold shower. This time I pre-booked (back in November last year) the air con, hot shower, 2 double bed, bigger bungalow. And after seeing it I was really glad we went for the bigger, more expensive option – ah this room has a fridge as well which the others don’t. And the resort gave me a great discount for booking in advance and because we were return customers. This room is usually 240myr per night, 260myr per night on weekends, but we got it for a flat rate of 180myr = aud $53.81. Now you might think this is quite expensive for a bungalow on a remote island, but just think – it’s a bungalow on a remote island.

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After settling in (dropping our bags on the floor and using the loo) we went for a walk along the pathway to see what has changed. We noticed a few extra buildings added to some of the other resorts. Seemed to be all the same shops as before. Biggest change is that now NONE of the restaurants serve beer!! This is a predominately Muslim island and previously only a handful of the restaurant’s sold and served beer/alcohol. Our resort never stocked beer – we already knew that. But the bar where we used to have a sunset beer everyday was now a juice bar! We asked the bar tender and he advised no-one serves alcohol anymore. Not that we must have a beer every day, it was just nice to do so while watching the sunset over the jetty. Another dead tradition.

Luckily, the bottle shop is still in existence. All they stock is Tiger beer stubbies @ 4 myr = aud $1.19, so on the walk back we stopped and promptly purchased a 6 pack of Tiger which cost us 20myr = aud$5.95. We are not sure if the guys mathematics were no good or if there was a discount for purchasing a 6 pack, but we were again happy we went for the room with the fridge!

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Back on our veranda we had a late lunch of beer and a packed of Twisties from our mainland stash. As we sit watching monkeys scurry up the coconut trees to attack the fruit, attacking each other in the process, the view past the coconut trees of the white beach and clear water relax us into island mode. We sit sipping our cold beers reminiscing of our previous visits to this beautiful place and the family that were with us, and of the characters we have met here. It does not take long for both Lyn & I to agree this was a very good decision to end our long travels with a stop here.
We both have a short afternoon nap. I wake before Lyn and walk to the jetty to try and get a sunset shot, but the cloud makes for a dull photo.
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This is our resort from the jetty.

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Dinner is usually just taken at our resort, this is what we previously did. It was just easier and they served the same as every other resort here. And we can charge it to our room here and just pay by credit card at the end, good because we did not bring enough cash for the next 10 days and there is no ATM on the island.

The seafood BBQ used to be very good here, but we are in the final 2 weeks of the season so I guess things are slowing down a lot. Ziad, owner and chief BBQ cook, showed us a few sad fish he had and we decided on the groper that he claimed to have caught yesterday. The other fish looked like they were caught last month, two months ago. The squid was frozen, but we noticed it was everywhere so that seemed the norm.

Anyway, we ended up with the freshly caught grouper (fried) sweet & sour, and some squid cooked on the grill. Served with boiled rice and grilled potato.

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The meal was fine, but the price ended up a bit high we thought @ 70myr = aud $20.84.

With full bellies we went to bed to the sound and light show of the going storm which hit just after midnight. And hit it did, I thought the window was going to implode on to us. Lyn slept blissfully as I closed the curtain hoping it would form some sort of barrier against the shattering window pane.

DAY 259 SUNDAY 22ND OCTOBER 2017

Seems last night’s storm did not smash through the window last night, as everything was still intact and dry this morning.

I slept late, very late. No idea why I need all this sleep but seems I do. So, after lazing around, doing our washing and having a tea and coffee in our room (we have a jug as well as fridge!) We headed out for breakfast at about 1.30pm! Walking up the path, stopping to watch the giant water monitors, it was 2pm by the time we were eating pineapple pancakes. But who cares? Pancake 3.50myr = aud $1.19 & ice coffee 2myr = aud 60c.

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Ah yes, the water monitors, there is a sort of creek that runs along the back of the resorts and in here lives water monitors. They have always been here and seem to live alongside the population, we have never seen one close to people, they are always lurking in the dirty water or sunning themselves in the sunshine close by. We have only seen a couple so far, this trip, but it might be the time of year. No idea. We have seen a few baby ones this time so maybe it’s the time of year.

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Finally, we went for a swim. Not sure why we didn’t make it into the water yesterday, usually the first thing we do. As usual the water was beautiful. It’s always warm here, but it was a little cooler than the water we swam in Hua Hin, Thailand a few weeks ago.

Crystal clear so that we could see the fish that started to mill around us. I think they are used to being fed by the big bodies that come and invade their space in the water. We saw a few shops selling bread marked as fish food. We did not try out our new snorkel masks today, that is a job for tomorrow. The rest of the day was for relaxing and watching the antics of the monkeys in the nearby trees, powerlines, our roof, trying to come inside our room. These little buggers know that a plastic bag contains food and they are very keen to get to any that they spy. They also manage to bite into a young coconut and pull out the flesh by sticking their little hand inside the nut. Very amusing and interesting to watch, but also have to watch out they don’t grab anything.

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5pm was our cocktail hour and Lyn poured us a rum & coke. Yep still have a bottle of rum that we have been carrying around for ever, so will be drunk here to keep to the theme of the Rum & Beaches trip.

6.30pm we were back in the water for a sunset swim, glorious! Another quick rum to while we dried off before heading to dinner. The resort here is almost empty and we were the only ones in the restaurant. No BBQ tonight, thank goodness, hopefully they have chucked those sad fish away.
I had Special Fried Rice with fried egg and even more fried chicken wing 12myr = aud $3.58 & Lyn had Ginger & Onion Chicken with rice 20myr = aud $5.95.

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We splurged out and bought internet for 10myr = aud$2.98 so we had contact with the outside world again. Not sure if this was for the day or for our stay, will see tomorrow if the internet connects again.

DAY 260 MONDAY 23RD OCTOBER 2017

I slept in again today. It seems at night while Lyn is being lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves lapping the beach, I am being kept awake by her nasal serenading. So, she is awake at 7am and I am still catching up on sleep until around 10ish.

We had breakfast here at our resort this morning, not the best, poached eggs, which I must admit were ok, but served on one slice of soggy white bread. Did they forget to drain the egg before slapping it on the bread, I think so yes.

We sat around reading today, and watching the antics of the resident jungle monkeys, who are happy to come out of the jungle to raid the coconut trees. Now that there are not many people about they are quite bold and are surrounding our bungalow on the ground, trees and on our roof. We dare not leave anything outside when we go for a swim as the little buggers are into everything. Don’t chance leaving the door or a window open as they will be inside quick enough scavenging for food. Of course, they are only like this because people have in the past fed them, so they know the sound of a rustling plastic bag or food wrapper. Aggressive little buggers too, if you get between them and an empty Twisties packet, as I stupidly found out.

5.30pm – beer o’clock – we were sitting on our deck having a beer and a packet of Twisties from our stash. Me, wanting to have a little experiment, got more than I bargained for. I said to Lyn how long do you think it would take for a monkey to come investigate the empty Twisties packet? No answer so I got up and walked just 3 meters in front of our bungalow with the empty Twisties packet, picked up a small coconut (that had already been eaten) and put it inside the empty packet and dropped it on the ground. Well, before the packet even hit the deck a biggish monkey ran towards it and me, with teeth baring, hissing and screeching at me. Seems in the split second that I dropped the bag and stepped back towards the bungalow the monkey thought I was going for the bag that it obviously wanted. You never saw me move so fast backwards, problem being other monkeys heard the ruckus and saw the packet so they also came running in attack mode. The biggest monkey soon picked up the wrapper and found it was a hoax and soon dropped it and backed off. Certainly, an afternoon heart starter for me! And all Lyn could do was laugh, for the second time today at my monkey aggravating antics.

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Earlier in the day as we sat on the front deck having a cup of coffee a rather bold monkey climbed up onto the deck railing to have a look at what we were consuming. When I looked over at it the bloody thing beared its teeth in the manner that primates do when they are being aggressive. Stupid me, beared my teeth to it in return. Challenge taken, the hairy little bugger came running towards me along the railing. It wanted to have a go at me, as after all I had returned the challenge. I screamed and leapt across the deck, much to the amusement of Lyn so almost fell off her chair with laughter. You think I’d have learnt from that little encounter, but no had to push the boundaries with the Twisties packet experiment.

We swam out to the pontoon and back this afternoon, that was the most energetic we got. Although, after the first beer and Twisties incident we took our 2nd stubbie and walked out to the end of the jetty to watch the sunset. It was still rather cloudy, won’t be surprised if we get another storm tonight.

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Once the sun had gone and the jetty lights came on, just after 7, we headed back to find somewhere to have dinner. We noticed that a few restaurants have already packed up and closed for the end of season, so our eating places are narrowing down. We checked out the resort behind us as they were still doing BBQ, but the food there looked old and grey. Seems they are just trying to get rid of whatever is left. When we told the guy the fish did not look very healthy, he said, ‘can’t be fresh every day’. Mmmmm one day in the last month would have been nice. We walked away. Our resort BBQ was dismantled today so no chance of anything from the grill here for the rest of our stay.

We walked back to the Indian place as it was obviously still open as there were lots of lights on. Even here they are operating on a limited menu, again I guess using up whatever is left. We ordered chicken noodle in oyster sauce gravy. The meal was only 7 myr = aud $2.08 so we really could not complain, but what we got did not look like anything we ordered. To start with neither Lyn or I found any trace of chicken, but there was squid rings and beef? Vegies and a bit of noodles swimming in what looked like a gravy soup. It tasted ok and was cheap enough so beggars can’t be too choosy. Although we are worried that we are here another week and food seems to be scarce already.

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DAY 261 TUESDAY 24TH OCTOBER 2017

What a beautiful day today, blue sky, sunny!

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Ice coffee 2.50myr = aud 77c & pineapple pancake 4myr = aud $1.23 for breakfast today.

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We tried our new snorkel masks today and they are a great success. The full-face mask is very comfortable to wear, and vision is good. Great buy. We saw lots of fish today that someone should be catching to serve us for dinner.

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Also had a float around on our air beds we have carried from Malta.

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Lots of cats lazing around.

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Rum o’clock with crackers & cheese (this is a jar of blue cheese we bought in Spain, found it in the bottom of my bag, can’t take it into Australia so have to eat it here).

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Sunset looking a bit blue today.

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DAY 262 WEDNESDAY 25TH OCTOBER 2017

Another beautiful day. Seems we are the only guests at the Salang Sayang Resort. Not sure if our restaurant is still serving food or not, never seems to be anyone there. Only a handful of food places open now. We always go to the Salang Indah Restaurant, as does everyone still left here, which seem to be mainly staff and a few tourists doing diving.

Monkeys not so active today. Monitor lizards seem to have gone up creek. Saw a squirrel today.

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We just lazing around reading between swims.

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Sunset had good colour today.

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Dinner for me: chicken (actually was chicken in this dish) in oyster sauce gravy 7myr = aud $2.15 & Lyn: chicken in spicy peanut sauce 10myr = aud $3.07 both very soupy! Tasty enough.

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DAY 263 THURSDAY 26TH OCTOBER 2017

There was a big storm last night - lots of rain, thunder & lightening. We thought it had set in for the day, but although the sky remained cloudy there was no more rain during the day.

Brunch up at the Indah – I had an mushroom (singular) & cheese (questionable) omelette with 2 x toast 8myr = aud $2.46 & Lyn went for deep fried egg with beans on toast also 8myr = aud $2.46 . The food is nothing flash but its filling enough and doesn’t taste disgusting.

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We still seem to be the only people checked into our resort. The only other non-workers around seem to be tourists that get of round the island boat tours that stop off here at Salang Beach for lunch. Everyone ends up at Indah cause it’s the only eating place open!

Lazy day today, dinner back at same place.

I had same as other night chicken with noodle in oyster sauce/soup 7 myr = aud $2.15 & Lyn tried chicken with peanut sauce soup 7 myr = aud $2.15.

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DAY 264 FRIDAY 27TH OCTOBER 2017

Ho hum, another glorious day in paradise.

We were thinking when we first arrived here on Tioman, 9 days doing nothing - did we book too long. But now that we are over halfway we are thinking we did not book long enough.

Walked the usual up to Indah for some brunch, I ordered pineapple pancake and Lyn ordered baked beans on toast with fried egg. And I ordered an ice coffee that came about 5 minutes later. About 25 minutes later the girl came back to tell us sorry no toast, cannot do breakfast. No worries, we will both have pineapple pancake. Good, Ok.

5 minutes later girl comes back, sorry no pineapple. Shit, ok just plain pancake then. By now it was after midday, so we called the girl back and said sorry we will have hamburger instead. Ok no worries. We ordered chicken burger no sauce (as they go really overboard with sauce and you send up with a soup burger). 5 minutes later we were eating burgers!

Internet was back on today, seems they paid the bill, so we are again connected with the world and I had a chance to zap out a few blogs that I am still catching up on.

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We took our new full mask snorkels out again today as the sea was a flat at a pancake, a plain pancake, not a pineapple pancake. Anyway, the water was warm and when we put our faces in the water it was like looking into an aquarium. A big aquarium. Visibility was at the max today and the water was so clear you could see forever. The coral was beautiful and the colourful fish even more so. Sadly, I do not have an underwater camera otherwise I would be able to share it all with you. But this was the Tioman waters we fondly remember, and the snorkel masks are fantastic.

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They serviced our room today. Clean sheets and towels and it seems they think we need a roll of toot paper each.

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There seemed to be an influx of people yesterday & today. Several of our bungalows are now occupied. And this afternoon when in for a swim we noticed a big increase of heads bobbing around in the water. This weekend is the last of the season. Next week the whole island shuts down over the storm season, reopening in February next year. The weather now is still so nice, even with the few clouds that are in the sky, so I guess it’s the last chance for folks to come out to enjoy the island.

Dinner at Indah we had fried noodles 7myr = aud $2.15. After ordering we did spy some plates with what looked like charcoal chicken, hopefully it will be on the menu again tomorrow night. Ok only a few more days of noodles or rice!
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DAY 265 SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2017

Another great day, is it possible.

Snorkelling again was magic, saw so many fish again today, and some beautiful big parrot fish. Camera needed next time. I did start travelling with an underwater camera, but it packed it in back in the first country I used it.

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DAY 266 SUNDAY 29TH OCTOBER 2017

Our last day today on Tioman Island and the weather is feeling sad for us too, as it is the worst day we have had here. Rained last night and the whole day today was dreary and overcast. You could feel the dampness in the air.

When we arrived here over a week ago, Lyn & I both had reservations that 9 days here doing nothing was too much, but now that our time is up we are both wishing we had booked for longer. But not possible anyway as the island goes into shut down mode in a few days. Most places already have shut down/boarded up and prepared for the 3 months of bad weather when no one comes here. The reopen in February, timed with Chinese New Year, we were advised.

This is our 4th visit to Tioman Island, and every time it has not disappointed. Our last visit was back in 2010, so 7 years ago and then I think it was 2009 & 2007 before that.

You must be careful when returning to a favourite place, because sometimes it can disappoint if the place has changed or the memories you have just aren’t the same as real life. But here I can definitely say that it is still exactly the same, because absolutely nothing has changed. Sure, there are a couple of new bungalows at a few of the other resorts, and restaurants can no longer sell beer due to not having liquor licences, but other than those little changes it is still the same as the first time we visited with our Brother Oscar maybe 10 years ago. Even one of the staff, our mate Jimmy still remembers us every time, we met him the first visit.

It’s very basic accommodation here, although we did step up to an air con, hot shower, fridge room this time, and I think this will be our comfort level from now on. And the fact that we are in the close down weeks the choice of food places was very limited, with our own resort restaurant closing the 2nd day we were here. But this close down week also meant it was not very busy and at times we were the only ones here at the resort. This is a major diving destination, so most of the guests at the other resorts were doing just that. But snorkelling is good enough for us and this is one of the best places in the world I have been to do this. The clear warm water is like an aquarium full of colourful fish and coral.

Yep, we will return again to Tioman Island and this time will make sure it’s not in 7 years’ time. In fact, I’m sure I can squeeze it into next year’s itinerary.

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DAY 267 MONDAY 30TH OCTOBER 2017

Didn’t sleep fitfully last night, I guess due to knowing that we had to be up at 6am for the 7am ferry. I woke up several times to the sound of wind, rain and waves crashing on the beach. These were not good sounds to hear when we would be catching a ferry in a couple of hours.

The alarm went off at 6am, it was still dark, and although it was no longer raining there still was a bit of wind to be heard. We got up, dressed and had a hot drink just before one of the guys turned up to collect our luggage to take to the end of jetty for us. I dropped the key in the drop box at 6.30 and we continued the short walk to the where the ferry was waiting at the end of the jetty.

The sea was rising and falling, which made the ferry rise and fall about 5 feet. We had to time the step from the jetty onto the boat with this up and down. Both Lyn and I had swallowed sea sickness pills when we woke up and this looked like we were going to need them. The ferry left Salang Beach early at 6.45am.

2 hours later, after a little nap and a smooth crossing we were pulling into Mersing dock. The trip across the sea had gone smoothly, much to our surprise.

It was only just 9am so we thought a little too early to try and check into the hotel. We sat in a nearby café and had a hot coffee killing just half an hour. Another 20 minutes to walk to the hotel and they had no problem with letting us have a room now.

We relaxed some, caught up on a bit of sleep and then went out for some breakfast/lunch, as we had not yet eaten. We ended up in KFC mainly, so Lyn could have mash potato and I could have some meat – chicken. With all the noodle and rice dishes we have been having on the island, we really needed a change.

We had a wander around the shops etc of Mersing, there is not a great deal here. We have just one night here then bus to Singapore tomorrow.
For dinner we went local having a roti with dahl and an ice coffee eat (think we are addicted to the ice coffees here in Malaysia now). Total cost 5.60myr = aud $1.72 for the both of us, must be the cheapest meal ever.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 07:45 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

2017 OCTOBER - MALASIA PENANG TO KUALA LUMPUR

BACK TO FAMILIAR TERRITORY, WE STAY FLASH IN KL

sunny

THIS BLOG IS BEING WRITTEN FROM MEMORY SO NOT MUCH DETAIL.
I AM CATCHING UP ON MISSED BLOGS WHILE RELAXING ON TIOMAN ISLAND

DAY 254 TUESDAY 17TH OCTOBER 2017

PENANG TO KUALA LUMPUR

Checked out of our nice hotel, the bellboy called us a taxi to take us to the ferry to take us back to Butterworth. The taxi was again 15myr = aud $4.63 , same as we paid to get to hotel. The ferry was free as you only need to pay on the way over to Penang, not on the return journey.

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Our booked train departs at 1.30pm and we left the hotel at 11.30 to give us enough time to get to the station. We walked straight onto a ferry which departed about 10 minutes later. The longest wait was for the shuttle bus to take us over to the train station and avoid the up and down stairs. This was starting to get a little unnerving as we waited almost an hour for the every 15minute shuttle. In the end 2 minivans showed up as another ferry had arrived while we were waiting, and I thought we might be bumped for the old & infirm. Ended up we arrived at the station in plenty of time and had to wait until we were allowed onto the platform.

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Looked like the train was fully booked again as advised by signs up in the ticket booth. Glad we pre-purchased them. Train tickets are somewhat more expensive here in Malaysia than in Thailand, but I guess the trains are somewhat better also. Our ticket Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur was 79 myr = aud $24.38 each. The journey took about 4 hours with multiple stops for the first 2 hours then express the rest of the way, we reached speeds up to 145km / hour, according to the screen. And we were given a snack.

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DAY 255 WEDNESDAY 18TH OCTOBER 2017

Greeted again with smiles and good morning as we passed the reception area on the way to the breakfast room.

Breakfast at the hotel was a pretty good spread but as like in all Asian hotels the food is all served cold. You could get an egg freshly deep fried or an omelette cooked, but all the other food sitting in tin boxes with a candle under it were luke warm at best. I took some of the fried potatoes to the egg cooking lady and requested she give it a bit of a heat up in her frying pan. At first she looked a little bewildered, started to take it back to the kitchen when I demonstrated just put in it fry pan for a few minutes. It was still only just warm but better than before. At least there was some nice bread – non-sweet bread – so breakfast was good enough.

Straight after breakfast we headed back to Petaling Street where the few day market stalls were just setting up. But we were not looking for fake bargains, we were looking for someone very specific. The Duck Lady! For years we have been coming here and the duck lady has been here selling cooked ducks to all and sundry, including us. Many a time we have purchased ½ a duck to take on board an Air Asia flight as our meal. Never being seated next to each other, the duck would be passed down the aisle to Lyn or me. Last time I flew with Robyn and we did in fact sit together and enjoy the duck, do you remember Robyn? So, today again we purchased ½ a duck for 28myr = aud$8.61 , taking it back to our room fridge to be enjoyed later for lunch.

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Back outside we walked to the Central Market to have a look to see if anything had changed there, it hadn’t, and to drop off our shirts to be embroidered with this year’s trip slogan. 70myr = aud$21.53.

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To kill some time we went for a ride in the free loop bus that leaves from Chinatown, but this took less than an hour because the traffic was quite free flowing.

Back to the room for duck lunch!

We ventured back out for dinner only to find that the satay stand was still unmanned. I asked the guy at the fruit stall next to the empty stall and he said gone, no more. Not sure if he meant for good or that she was gone on holidays or what. But sadly, this is the first trip to KL without a visit to the satay stand. Another tradition dead!

We returned to the food hall where we ordered lemon chicken & stir fried mixed vegies both 15myr = aud $4.61 each. The both came with plain rice and we splurged out on another 14.90 myr = aud$4.58 beer.

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DAY 256 THURSDAY 19th OCTOBER 2017

After good mornings and smiley greetings, we went to breakfast. It’s the same fare every day, but the bread is still nice so all good. Coffee is shocking, but you can’t win them all.

We are off on an adventure today, an adventure on the public transport. It’s so cheap to use the public buses here and how lost can we get really? Anyway, today we were on a mission and I had consulted google maps to find exactly where we were going and how we could get there.
Bus #100 that could be caught a block behind the central market would take us to our first destination. We found the bus stop no worries and as we were waiting the bus guys asked where we wanted to go. 8truim Shopping Centre I advised, and one guys said – oh Decathlon! Yes, exactly, that’s where we wanted to go. OK get on this bus 103, it will take you there and its leaving now. Perfect, we took our seats and new it was about an hour or so ride due to distance and the amount of stops the public buses do. The bus did in fact depart minutes later and when the bus conductor reached us he advised ticket was 3myr = aud 92c each.

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We drove out of the central town area and into the suburbs. Numerous high rises everywhere, there must be a hell of a lot of people living here in KL. The bus turned onto a highway and I though, gee how far out of town is this store? Next thing the bus is pulling over on the highway and the driver was motioning for us to get out – we were stopped on a 3-lane highway. There was no bus stop, there was no pedestrian walkway. But we were stopped outside the Decathlon store and they were happy for us to get off here, so we did and crossed a lane of merging road, climbed over the barrier and walked to the store. So funny, only in Asia would they just drop you off in the middle of a busy highway. But we made it there ok and spent the next 1 ½ hours browsing my favourite sports store.

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Of course, we made some purchases, including full face snorkel sets 99myr = aud$30.39 which we had seen in the same store in Europe and kicked ourselves for not purchasing back then. But we did now as these will be handy for our upcoming time at Tioman Island.

Since we were over this side of town, we thought we may as well drop into the Ikea store that is out this way. We asked the worker standing outside the Decathlon store where the nearest bus stop was, and he pointed to the highway where we were dropped off. It was all well and good being dropped off the bus on the highway but to try and flag one down when we had no idea even which one we wanted, it was easier & safer to get a taxi the short distance.

So, we headed out to a back main road, not going to try and flag a taxi on the highway either, and we saw several taxis parked on the road up ahead. We also saw a Maccas and decided to go in there for a cold drink and toilet break first. Of course, when we headed back outside all the taxis were gone so we just stood roadside until we saw one passing and flagged him down.

It was only about 20 minutes to the Ikea store, via the highway and through a toll, and the fare was just 14.90myr + 1.10myr (for the road toll) = 16myr = aud$4.91 so not too much damage. Considering the bus was so cheap it all sort of evens itself out.

Lunch at Ikea around the world differs only slightly with each countries speciality, but you can always rely on them all having the Swedish Ikea meatballs, which were a popular choice here as in every Ikea restaurant. Also, a hot favourite here was chicken wings, so we had both. And they had mash potato, of which I got an extra scoop for both of us.

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Again, we made a few purchases, as you do. The line-up for the checkouts was quite long, obviously the Malaysians love Ikea too.

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We caught the free shuttle bus that runs from Ikea to the nearest MRT station, very kind of them. Actually, we have noticed a few countries where we have visited Ikea stores they have free shuttle buses from a nearby transport or shopping centre. Anything to make it easier for the customer to access their shops, very smart I think.

The MRT ticket was just 3.70myr = aud$1.14, similar to the bus fare, but was much quicker as did not have to negotiate any traffic.
Back at our hotel we surveyed our purchases of the day, wondering how on earth we are going to incorporate these extra items into our already overloaded luggage. Minutes later I was on the internet purchasing a few extra kilos of luggage for our last flight home.

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Dinner was left over duck, Ikea chicken wings which we could not eat at lunch and we went out and bought some garlic nan bread and dahl. Picnic fit for queens in our posh room, ah washed down with a couple of Tiger Radler beers from 711!

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:21 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

2017 OCTOBER - MALAYSIA, PENANG

A FEW DAYS IN LUXURY IN PENANG

sunny

THIS BLOG IS BEING WRITTEN FROM MEMORY SO NOT MUCH DETAIL.
I AM CATCHING UP ON MISSED BLOGS WHILE RELAXING ON TIOMAN ISLAND

DAY 251 SATURDAY 14TH OCTOBER 2017

PEDANG BASAR, THAILAND TO BUTTERWORTH, MALAYSIA TO PENANG

Our sleeper train arrived at the border station about an hour late, but that did not matter as it was still morning and we had all day to get to our destination of Penang. The Thai train does not cross the border, we needed to get out at the Pedang Basar train station, go through Thai exit immigration, then go through Malaysian entry immigration, then continue our journey south to Butterworth from a train at the same station. This was an easy task involving about an hour of lining up waiting for our stamp out of Thailand. Timing was on our side because as soon as we were stamped into Malaysia we could board the train to Butterworth that left minutes later.

The ride to Butterworth was 11.40 myr = aud $3.52 each , and took about 2 hours in a comfortable, clean, air con train that was completely devoid of any kind of food or drink vendors.

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Before leaving the Butterworth station, I purchased our train tickets to Kuala Lumpur for a few days’ time as there were notices that today’s tickets to KL were already sold out. Purchasing in advance assures we travel the day we plan.

The train station at Butterworth was very close to the ferry that would carry us over to Penang, the only problem was that you must cross the train tracks, which meant lots of steps up and over the tracks, then down the other side. This task looked to be impossible for us with our luggage and we were relieved to be told by a nice gentleman in uniform that there was a free shuttle from just outside the train station to the ferry station. This free shuttle was supposed to be for the old and infirm, but another uniformed man who was at the shuttle stop seemed happy enough for us to line up for it with all our luggage.

The shuttle took us to the walk on ticket booth, where we purchased tickets for 1.20myr = aud 37c each and waited for the ferry to arrive. This was much better than even attempting to carry our luggage up and down steps. We made a mental note to get the free shuttle on the way back too. The ferry crossing took about 20 minutes.

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I had read about taxi sharks in Penang refusing to use their meters, so you have to bargain a price before you get in the taxi. Our hotel was only about 5km away so when the driver advised it was 20 myr I said what about 15 myr = aud $4.63 and he relented, giving me a look like we were ripping him off, which of course we were not!

While checking into the hotel I asked the reception what the price of the taxi should be, and he said no more than 15 myr, so I felt ok with the price we paid.

Hotel Royal Penang, our home for the next 3 nights. Malaysia is a little more expensive than Thailand and we have decided to stay somewhere a little bit nice. 140myr = aud $43.20 per night, for a room on the 15th floor with an amazing view.

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Next door to the hotel was a Giant supermarket that sold real bread – ie baguette, not sweet Asian bread. So for dinner we bought some bread & butter and a roast chicken, which we ate in our lovely room.

DAY 252 SUNDAY 15TH OCTOBER 2017

PENANG

The sky is still cloudy and grey but it’s hot outside. We went for a walk along the waterfront, checked out a few flash hotels where we could never afford to stay. And wandered through old Georgetown.

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Penang is famous for it CKT noodle dish which was a little disappointing when we had it last time we were here. This time we tried it again from a street vendor and it was ok (I think my Eric’s Noodle shop at home does a better job), but here it was only 5myr = aud $1.54 , and as we sat in the street we think it was the same street vendor we ate from last time.

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At a nearby 711 we also managed to find some Tiger Radler beer which was on special @ 7.10myr = aud $2.19 for 2 cans. We had a can with our street dinner and took one home for tomorrow.

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We walked around a little, then found our way back to the hotel.

DAY 253 MONDAY 16TH OCTOBER 2017

PENANG

Walked back into Georgetown to hire a motor bike as at 35myr = aud $10.80 , it was cheaper than getting taxi’s to the 2 places we wanted to visit today.

First up was a drive out to Penang Hill to ride the funicular up to the top for a bird’s eye view of Penang. Yes, us and 100’s of other tourists. It seems Penang only has a limited number of sights or things to do and this was the number one thing on everyone’s list. I stood in line to buy tickets 15myr = aud $4.63 each, one way, for about 35 minutes, and if I thought that was bad the line up to actually get on the funicular was about 1 ½ hours, in the heat!

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Finally it was our turn and the trip up took all of 5 minutes? But yes the view was good.

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There were a couple of very expensive restaurants up the top, but we also found a food court where most of the local people were eating. Here Lyn & I just shared a small meal as we had plans later that we didn’t want to spoil our appetites for. Chicken rice 6myr = aud $1.85
There was a temple, mosque and a few other gardens and things to see at the top, but mainly it was the view. Ah and there was a stage set up where for 15myr = aud $4.63 you could get your photo taken holding a snake. As I never like to let the opportunity of holding a snake go by, I managed to coax Lyn in joining me. As you can see by the photos she was not very impressed.

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We had bought just a one-way ticket on the funicular as we had intensions of walking down the path, but as it turns out we ran out of time as we had to be at our next destination before 5.30. So, we rode the rail back down, jumped back on the bike to our next destination.

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Our second destination for today was Suffolk House for afternoon high tea! Thought we would have a posh afternoon and out of all the places I found online, Suffolk House, which was once an English Governors house claimed to be the best place in Penang for high tea.

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I must say I was a little disappointed when we were served the tea in daggy old white café cups. Where was the English bone china to match the surroundings? The room was nice, although the pipped music turned a little rock n roll every couple of songs. The food was ok, I say ok as this is Asia, if I was served these rock biscuits in England or Europe as scones I would ask for a refund. But this is Asia, so I was a bit more lenient. The tea was nice, and our 2 cup pot was refilled numerous times, but the same bag was used. The food was enough as we took the tiny cakes away to be eaten later. Price we paid for 2 of us 95.40myr = aud $29.44 and I would score it a 4/10.
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We had a bit of a ride around before taking the bike back. We had used 2myr = aud 62c in fuel, so it was a bargain.

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Dinner was the remainder of chicken and bread & butter in our room with the fabulous view.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 23:30 Archived in Malaysia Tagged hill penang Comments (0)

2017 OCTOBER - THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part four

WE TAKE A SLEEPER TRAIN TO THE THAI/MALAY BORDER

THIS BLOG IS BEING WRITTEN FROM MEMORY SO NOT MUCH DETAIL.
I AM CATCHING UP ON MISSED BLOGS WHILE RELAXING ON TIOMAN ISLAND

DAY 247 TUESDAY 10TH OCTOBER 2017

HIN TO PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

Back on the train we are continuing to travel south from Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan, just a short less than 2-hour distance so we opted for a 3rd class seat @ 19 baht = aud 75c.

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We are booked into Safe House Hostel for the next 3 nights @ 650 baht = aud $25.56 per night, no breakfast. This hostel had really good reviews regarding owner who advises on what to see and do in area.

On arrival at PKK before leaving the station, we sit and have lunch that we purchased in Hua Hin before leaving. Herring on a roll from the Dutch restaurant – it was very good. A little extravagant at 160 baht = aud $6.29 each but where else in Thailand can you get real Dutch herrings?? Washed down with a flask of coffee that Lyn had made back at the hotel before we left.

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We take a tuk tuk from the train station to the hostel for 60 baht = aud $2.36 ,no compromising on price.

Owner is not at hostel and we are checked in by her parents so no help with what to do in area. Room is ok, with 2 single beds and our own big fridge.

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We head out in the late afternoon to take a look at the sea front. Not what you would call a swimming beach, but it is on the coast.

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We walk out onto the jetty and spy a temple gracing the top of a ‘small’ hill and decide that climb is a job for tomorrow or the next day!

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Food stalls are being set up along the waterfront and we try a couple of Japanese deep fried balls as a snack. Then take a seat in one of the seafood restaurants to have the cheapest beer we had found in Thailand. Large Leo for just 70 baht = aud $2.75 , so we had 2!

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Walking back to the hostel in the dark we did not have much cash on us so just bought a couple of pieces of fried chicken to have for dinner.

DAY 248 WEDNESDAY 11TH OCTOBER 2017

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

We didn’t do much today, highlight being the seafood dinner that we enjoyed in one of the beachside open air restaurants. We had natural oysters, garlic clams, little deep-fried fish and crab rice. Delish – and all for just 445 baht = aud $17.50, washed down with a 70 baht = aud $2.75 beer.

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DAY 249 THURSDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2017

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN

We did even less today than yesterday, highlight being the fact that last night’s yummy seafood dinner may not have been as fresh as we would have liked. Although it tasted ok and good at the time, obviously something was not good as both Lyn & I are struck down with toilet duty for the day.

knew something was amiss when I woke up burping the taste of the crab rice. I had abdominal pain most of the day with minimal trips to the bathroom, which was just as well as I would have had to share the toilet seat with Lyn as she occupied it most of the day. To add to our misery, the beds in this hostel would have to be the most uncomfortable beds we have had the whole trip. It was like already being laid out on a concrete slab!
We did not leave the room or eat anything all day! Not bad odds really, this is the first time on this long trip that we have been bailed up with upset systems.

DAY 250 FRIDAY 13TH OCTOBER 2017

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN TO PEDANG BASAR

Thankful that our train was not departing until 8.30pm, the hostel allowed us to keep the room until 6pm for just an extra 150 baht = aud $5.90.

We were feeling a lot better than yesterday, now that everything had passed through us, but still a little weak. We had to go out to get some cash from the atm, but still food was not a priority. We did toss up hiring a motorbike for the day to explore, but I soon kyboshed that idea, not wanting to risk anything too strenuous or too far from a loo just in case.

7.30pm we decided to get a tuk tuk to the station, of course when you want one, there is never one in sight. Our hostel grandmother said she would take us up for the usual 60 baht = aud $2.36 , and we happily agreed. Only thing was she seemed to ride very warily and at a speed that I could have walked faster. And she insisted on taking us in 2 trips. Lucky we had plenty of time, and thanked her with 100 baht = aud$3.93, because of the 2 trips she had to make.

Our sleeper train arrived on time, and we only had a few minutes to scramble on board with our luggage. Due to the time the seats had already been converted to the sleeping bunks, and our carriage looked like it was full. We both had upper bunks, because this is all that was available when I purchased the tickets a few days ago when we arrived in PKK. 764 baht = aud $30.04 each. We must take a sleeper train to get us to the border because our Thai visas expire on the 14th, so we must leave the country tomorrow. Our luggage half blocks the passageway, but does not seem to be a problem, we are both sleeping with a bag in our bunks too.

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Top bunks in sleeper trains are always cheaper than the lower bunks, this is due to many reasons. Firstly, the lower bunk is obviously easier to get into, you need to climb up a ladder to get to the top bunk. Secondly, the lower bunk is MUCH wider than the top bunk, more room. Thirdly, the top bunk is usually artic cold due to the air con vents blowing straight into the curtained compartment. Fourthly, the top bunk curtain rail has a gap to the roof, where the passageway lights shine in on the sleep all night! Despite all these drawbacks it was not long before I could hear the sound of Lyn’s nasal music, even over the noise of the moving train. Obviously, these draw backs to not prevent some people from having a good night’s sleep on the train, others are not so lucky.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 02:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged penang khan besar prachuap khiri Comments (0)

2017 OCTOBER - THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part three

TO BANGKOK AND FURTHER SOUTH

THIS BLOG IS BEING WRITTEN FROM MEMORY SO NOT MUCH DETAIL. I AM CATCHING UP ON MISSED BLOGS WHILE RELAXING ON TIOMAN ISLAND.

DAY 243 FRIDAY 6TH OCTOBER 2017

AYUATTHAYA TO BANGKOK

Today we are returning to Bangkok, we need to make just a quick stop to collect our bag that is in storage at Mango Lagoon Place, we left it there before we went over to Cambodia - over a month ago, so we hope it's still there.

Breakfast at our accommodation was the easiest for this morning, but it was more like brunch as we were not in a big hurry to go anywhere early.
I had pancakes with banana & sweet syrup 80 baht = aud $3.08 & Lyn had fruit & yoghurt for 60 baht = aud $2.31, we shared a mango smoothie 40 baht = aud $1.54.

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After eating we returned to our room to pack up the last of our stuff and I was merrily chatting on FB when Lyn asked 'what time is the train?' Just after 12 I replied, well we best get going as it's 3 minutes past now. Shit, I thought it was just 11 o'clock. Lucky for us the train station is only 4 minutes walk away - maybe 5 with us dragging our luggage. I was purchasing our tickets as the train was being called. That was close. This is only a short ride over under 2 hours to Bangkok so it really would not have mattered if we missed this one as there would be other trains we could catch today. 3rd class 15 baht = aud 58c - unallocated seats so everyone just scrambled on when the train stopped. We were just lucky with timing and managed to both get seats as soon as we boarded the carriage.

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This was the longest (most amount of carriages) and the most crowded train we have been on so far, which makes getting a seat even more lucky. There were people having to stand in the aisle, made even more uncomfortable by the food and drink vendors plying up and down the corridor.

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Not much countryside to look at out the window in this leg. Being so close to Bangkok already we drove through suburbia nearly all the way. Seeing the back of peoples living quarters, as you do when travelling by train, is always interesting. Not the prettiest of views here in Thailand as you can imagine, and some of the food preparation sights you just really don't need to see.

Our train arrived into Bangkok station just a little late due to the fact we were delayed at a couple of stations, think we had to wait for oncoming trains to clear the tracks, because as soon as they passed we would move on. As we are only spending one night in Bangkok we decided to purchase our onward ticket while here at the train station. There are special ticket windows for advanced ticket purchases so we had to take a number and a seat and wait our turn. 10 minutes later I was at the counter handing over cash for our ride out of Bangkok tomorrow. Lucky we did buy the tickets today as 2nd class was already sold out, so 3rd class it is for us again.

Leaving the station building we are prime targets for taxi touts and drivers. These buggers refuse to use the meters with us, they quote a stupid price and don't seem to care if you walk away. I guess they know that we need the transport so this is one of the rare places where they stick together and do not give in to a reasonable price. I suggest to Lyn we go out onto the main road and flag down a taxi away from these sharks. This has worked in the past, but did not go so well today. I few stopped but would not agree to use meter and would not agree on the price we wanted to pay. This was not looking good, we even got so far as to load our bags inside a taxi only for him to remove them once he saw the address.

We moved further along the street, still prices quoted were crazy 200, 300 even 400 baht. We know the distance in a meter taxi is only about 70 baht so it was hard for us to give in to a more expensive price. Eventually, we had to, and climbed into a tuk tuk with our bags at an agreed price of 100 baht = aud $3.85. This was worse really because a tuk tuk should be cheaper than an air con taxi, but this guy was the only one who agreed to take us for the maximum that we wanted to pay. Worst part about travelling in a tuk tuk is you get all the traffic fumes right there in your face. Lucky the ride was only about 15 minutes and he dropped us at the front of Mango Lagoon Place, where our bag was hopefully still in storage and where we hopefully would be able to get a room for the night.

Prices are a bit higher here in Bangkok and due to the facts this was where our bag was, we knew this place was clean and they had a room with 2 single beds we gladly paid the 900 baht = aud $34.65 they asked for.

Up in our room we had air con and a tv with English speaking channels! Small things satisfy us!

We had been looking forward to having ribs and roast potato for dinner, from the restaurant attached to our hotel. The old man was again in the alley way bbqing and we were not disappointed with the meal for 160 baht = aud $6.16 each. Washed down with Bangkok priced Leo beer for 110 baht = aud$4.23.

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After dinner we returned to the same massage/nail salon to have a manicure 150baht = aud $5.77. So now our nails are back to looking lovely and cared for. Just before the ladies finished our nails, I suggested to Lyn we should have a foot massage 120 baht = aud $4.62 while we wait for them to dry. So a great pamper session for less than aud $10 each!! Makes up for the overpriced beer.

Back to our room we rescue our bag from storage and I must admit there was a little part of me that was surprised that it was still in the storage room. And another little part of me was hoping that it was not there as now we have more weight to carry. lol The bag was still totally intact and looked untouched, still we decided to wait until the morning to open it up and tackle the question of how we are going to carry it all.

More English TV, watched a few non-descript movies, before going off to sleep.

It was supposed to rain today, but both on and off the train we did not see any.

So we have now travelled from Chiang Mai to Bangkok on an assortment of trains.
Chiang Mai to Lumpang 53 baht + Lumpang to Phitsanulok 48 baht + Phitsanulok to Ayutthaya 168 baht + Ayutthaya to Bangkok 15 baht = totaL 284 baht = aud $10.97 each, approximately 700km.


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DAY 244 SATURDAY 7TH OCTOBER 2017

BANGKOK TO HUA HIN

Our train is not until 1pm later today so we head out for breakfast. We go to the Green House Restaurant at the other end of Rumbuttri where they serve a great tomato & egg dish called ‘shakshuka’. We ate here a few years ago and keep meaning to come back to have it again, but always seem to run out of time, so made special time for it this trip. It was delicious as we remembered and served with real bread & butter – washed down with a coconut shake total 332 baht = aud $12.83.

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Getting a taxi to the train station was again a challenge, however we managed to find one that would take us for 150 baht = aud $5.79 , no one wants to use a meter when you can rip off a tourist.

Today we are traveling to Hua Hin.

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We had 2nd class tickets and sat in an aircon compartment, it was a pretty comfortable 4 ½ hour trip for 152 baht = aud $5.87.

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The hotel I booked for the next 3 nights was walking distance from the train station so we dragged our luggage down the street a few blocks and finally found it. Hotel Ansu 630 baht = aud $24.34 per night including tea & toast breakfast. Didn’t realize it was a cave room, with only a tiny window in the bathroom to the outside, but with air con, TV & hot shower we didn’t mind. The location was good also.

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Hua Hin is known for its seafood night market and our hotel was just 2 blocks so we went out looking for dinner. Unfortunately, the seafood is priced the same or more than it is as home so we gave it all a miss and had a huge pork chop that was cooked on the BBQ served with a big baked potato – excellent.

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DAY 245 SUNDAY 8TH OCTOBER 2017

HUA HIN

Today we went to the beach, walked about 7km along the length of Hua Hin Beach. Stopped a few times for a swim, the water was lovely clean and very warm, like a bath. It was very hot so after a cooling off in the air con of a 711 we cheated and caught a songthaew back into town for just 5 baht = aud 19c.

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That night we ate at a Dutch restaurant – it was delicious and a nice change from the Asian food we have been eating.

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DAY 246 MONDAY 9TH OCTOBER 2017

Today we hired a motor bike to do a little bit of exploring. Just south out of town we found a fishing village with lots of shack restaurants selling seafood which was much cheaper than the seafood we saw in the night market. We ear marked this place to come back later for dinner.

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We stopped and had a swim at the beach on the other side of monkey mountain.

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And stopped at KFC to have our addicted to ice coffee.

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We decided to ride up to Cha Am which is about 30 km up the north coast, first stopping at a petrol station to fill the bike with fuel, always get motorbikes empty. The bike had been playing up all morning, being hard to start but now after putting in the fuel it would not start at all. The young guys who pump the fuel did their best to get us going again but the bike did not want to start. They even put in a different battery from one of their own bikes to see if that would work. Of course it didn’t so we were stuck with a no go bike. The guys helping us did not speak any English but we managed to convey to them to phone our hotel where we hired the bike from and advise them it was not working. We waited for an hour before deciding to walk back to the hotel as no one had shown up to replace the bike as yet. Back at the hotel they had sent someone out but of course we had the key so they could do nothing. Long story, short, the bike was kaput and we were refunded our 200 baht hire fee so we could hire another bike from the place next door. No refund was given for the fuel we had put in the bike as suddenly no one spoke or understood English. It was only a couple of dollars so we did not worry too much and had lost 2 hours of time already.

Rode along the highway up to Cha Am which looked like a really really touristy place even compared to Hua Hin. But definitely more aimed at the Thai tourist. We stopped and had a swim because it was so hot but the beach was not half as nice as it was in Hua Hin.

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Rode out on the Cha Am Jetty to see the big squids.

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Rode on the highway back to Hua Hin before dark and headed straight to the fishing village to have a fabulous seafood dinner of oysters, scallops & clams.
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:20 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok Comments (0)

2017 SEPTEMBER THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part two

TRAIN PHITSANULOK TO AYUATTHAYA

rain 25 °C

DAY 240 TUESDAY 3RD OCTOBER 2017

We booked a 8.55am train, so it was early down to breakfast and then a taxi (flash air con taxi) 60 baht = aud$ 2.31 to the train station.

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Our 3rd class ticket costs 168 baht = aud $6.41 on Rapid train #106 and took about 4 hours. We got allocated seats on this train and luckily we were given side seats as they were much wider than the other seats and we could both fit on it. They are both bench seats but the forward facings ones are not really made for 'Westeners' girth. Even some Thais have difficulty fitting on the bench side by side.

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The train ride was uneventful, the scenery much the same same same, lot of rice paddies. Again there were lots of food vendors on the train, who seemed to work in a system of travelling just so far along the track before they were replaced with new vendors.

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It was obvious that this area had received much more rain than further north as there was a lot of water laying around and a lot of fields were flooded. I guess this is a good thing as they need the rain for their crops, but from a tourist point of view it's not the kind of weather we want to see. Halfway through the trip the rain started and continued until we arrived at our destination of Ayuatthaya.

Ayutthaya, full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, is an ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km north of Bangkok. It is the Capital City of the Province of this name.
Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France. Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city down to the ground.

Today, only a few remains might give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural value of Ayutthaya's ruins were officially recognized in 1991, when the Historic City became an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We have been to Ayuatthaya before, back in 2013, and thought it would be a nice place to stop again before we reach Bangkok. I booked the same hotel we stayed in last time, Baan Are Gong Riverside Homestay, air con, fridge, hot shower and TV (with only one English speaking channel which is called France 24 - its a 24 hour news channel so we are now experts on the 3 main news stories of just now. 1. Las Vegas shooting 2. Protests in Spain as Catalona is try to claim independence 3. Trump visiting hurricane torn Puerto Rico stupidly telling them they did not have as many deaths as New Orleans did with Katrina) all this for just 680 baht = aud $25.93 per night. It's a nice location right on the river.DSCN6916.jpg90_DSCN6917.jpg

Unfortunately the weather does not look good for our stay here, and does not look like the forecast is any better for the coming days.

After settling in our room we headed out for a bite to eat and to find an ATM so we could pay for our room. Our hotel is in a small laneway that is directly across the road from the train station, so it only took us 5 minutes to walk to it. This laneway is lined with food stalls and restaurants so food is close by, and a couple of bicycle & motor bike hire places, hasn't changed much in the last 4 years.

We chose one randomly and had a nice meal that costs us a total of 100baht = aud $3.81. Rice with pork for me and noodles & tofu for Lyn.
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7-11 up the street had 4 ATM's outside so after trying them all to check the fee we found they all charged the same. 220 baht = aud $8.39 - outrageous! but we needed cash so had no choice but to suck it up. We paid the hotel receptionist before returning to the street to find dinner. A local food shack was our choice and again the food was tasty. We shared a dish of garlic pork and a bowl of curry chicken soup, both eaten with rice and washed down with a glassed of iced Leo beer. Total cost for the meal 320 baht = aud $12.20.

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DAY 241 WEDNESDAY 4TH OCTOBER 2017

I seem to be getting lazier every day. The more we do nothing, the more tired I get. All this doing nothing is wearing me out and I am managing to sleep very long hours. It's going to be a real struggle to return to the real world, a world where I will need to get up early each morning to go to work, but let's worry about that later, shall we.

So today we had a very late breakfast by the riverside at our accommodation. I had the eggs breakfast for 80 baht = aud $3.05 & Lyn had fried potatoes 80 baht = aud $3.05 and be both had a yohurt fruit smoothie for 40 baht = aud $1.53 each.

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We then made the mistake of going out exploring in the afternoon rather than the morning. Because although the morning was overcast it did not rain, and just within 1 hour of us hiring a motor bike and riding off to see some sights it poured down with rain.

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We managed to find our way to Phra Buddha Sai Yat (The Reclining Buddha), took some photos and then rode to our next stop, but had to pull over to shelter from the downpour.

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When the rain eased a little we braved the ride back to the hotel. That's enough for today, we spent the rest of the afternoon & evening watching Mrs Brown on Lyn's mini ipad.

We had dinner by the river in our accommodation restaurant and I'm not sure who got the best feed, us or the millions of mosquitos that attacked us at the table. We both had simple stir fry dishes that cost just 60 baht = aud $2.29 each and returned to our air con room to escape the feasting of the local insects.

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We have decided to stay an extra night here, maybe I can force myself to wake up a little earlier and we can go out for a ride in the morning when it usually doesn't rain. The hire bike has to be back by 2 which is around the time the rain usually comes.

DAY 242 THURSDAY 5TH OCTOBER 2017

We were up early for a 711 breakfast of toasted sandwich, washed down with an iced coffee, to take full advantage of the clear, dry morning.
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The weather stayed kind to us until after we had driven around and returned the bike at 2pm. We did not have a particular plan of what to see today, however for our first stop we headed to one of the most well preserved temples. Us and every other tourist in Ayutthaya! The area was swarming with tourists like little white ants all over the ruins. Too crowded for us so we hopped back on the bike and headed a little way from the main tourist sites. We rode past a few minor sites which were still free of ants.

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We road just out of town in search of a giant Wat we had seen when we were here 4 years old. It was not very difficult to find because it was so big and stood out over the countryside. And the fact that it had been painted. We rode up to Wat Phukhao Thong and managed to have a quick look around before a bus load of ants started to crawl around the site. On our last visit we were able to climb the giant Wat which afforded us magnificent views of the surrounds, but this was not possible today as the stairways were all fenced off.

You can see by the comparison photos below the new paint job looks great!

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We drove off looking for another memorial but did not manage to find it, although we did manage to get sort of lost, continuing along a busy road hoping to see a sign that would direct us back to Ayutthaya. It was not until we stopped and turned around that we saw the sign, so we had been heading in the completely wrong direction. Not to mind it was a nice ride out in the countryside.
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The memorial to Queen Suriyothai was pretty impressive and was surrounded by lovely frangipani trees.
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A large water monitor crossed the road in front of us at one stage, its back all green from the algae in the waterways.
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We passed another very popular Wat sight on the way back around the river. Again crawling with antlike tourists, we stopped for a quick photo outside the gate just as another 2 bus loads of ants pulled up.
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It was a complete fluke that we found our way back as time was running out to get the bike back before 2pm. Somehow after riding around we don't know where, we came out at the Shell garage just down the road from where we needed to return the bike. Perfect as we needed to fill the bike with fuel before returning it. It took just 60 baht =aud $2.31. The fuel plus the hire cost of 150 baht = aud $5.77, the bike costs us a total of aud $8.08!

Lunchtime, we ate at the same place where we hired the bike from. Lyn had fried green spinach (morning glory) 60 baht = aud $2.31and I went all western and had a chicken burger and chips 99 baht = aud $3.81.
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We returned to our air con room for the afternoon to cool off and watch some France 24 news channel cause we needed to catch up on the top 3 new stores of the world. We got the 3rd nights accommodation for 650 baht = aud $25.02 - discount of 30 baht!

After dark we took a quick trip across the river on the ferry just next to our hotel. It's just 5 baht = aud 19c and takes about 3 minutes to cross to the other side.
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Once there we walked a couple of blocks, found a KFC - fed our KFC ice coffee addiction. 19 baht = aud 73c. Lyn confused the staff by asking for the drink without ice. The staff member had to consult just about everyone one else working at the store as this was an ice coffee so should have ice. We did manage to get the drink without ice, but I don't think we will be welcome back at that KFC.
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Deciding to return back to our side of the river to find something for dinner, we settled for a chicken noodle soup from one of the food carts that are parked outside of the 711. The food was tasty and at just 40 baht = aud $1.54 a very cheap meal.
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Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged ayutthaya Comments (0)

2017 SEPTEMBER THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part one

TRAIN CHIANG MAI TO LAMPANG TO PHITSANULOK

semi-overcast 30 °C

DAY 236 FRIDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2017

It rained last night, and it was still raining when we woke up this morning. Lyn did our last load of washing early and hung them on a clothes airer in front of a fan inside so we would have all clean clothes to depart with. Keeraya had gone out early with her mother, but left us a note she would be back at 12 noon to take us to the train station. We left the house at 1pm, which was still early enough to stop and have lunch before driving us to the train station.

Time has come for us to move on again, start our journey back to Bangkok. We have decided to take the train, but instead of doing the overnight sleeper, like we have done several times in the past, we are taking the day train and doing a few stops along the way. Our Thai visa is good until the 14th of October, so we still have a couple of weeks.

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Today we left Chiang Mai on the #52 3.30pm train heading south approx. 100kms to Lampang.

Lampang, also called Nakhon Lampang to differentiate from Lampang Province, is the third largest town in northern Thailand and capital of Lampang Province and the Lampang district. Traditional names for Lampang include Wiang Lakon and Khelang Nakhon. The city is a trading and transportation center. Lampang lies 601 km north of Bangkok and 101 km southeast of Chiang Mai.

2nd class, padded seats with open windows and overhead fan 53 baht = aud$2.04 each. Train departed 10 minutes late, but arrived 30 minutes early, arriving at 5.30pm, so made pretty good time.
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Lots of green countryside, rice paddies and jungle along the way. The train stopped at just 3 little stations before it was our turn to get off.

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I bargained a good price for a taxi 50 baht = aud$1.91, from the train station to our riverside guest house which I had pre booked. Not very intrepid, but it's much easier and nicer to have a place to come to rather than having to search once we have arrived. The Riverside Guest House 900 baht = aud $34.45 including breakfast, air con & hot shower. After dropping our bags in our room we returned to the reception restaurant area for a cold Leo beer (which costs the same as the taxi at 50 baht = aud$1.91 each) overlooking the Wang River.

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By the time we drunk our beer and caught up on a bit of internet it was dark. Our receptionist had given me a map of the town and the Friday night walking market was marked on it so we decided to take the short walk and have a look around. It was a pleasant 15minute walk to the market, mostly along the river. It's still pretty warm even after dark, but at least there is no rain here.

The Ratsadapisek Bridge across the river was all lit up with lights changing colours.

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The walking street market was not much, although we did manage to buy some more house slippers and a couple of colourful rag mats. We seem to be a bit of a novelty as there are not many tourists around.

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Not feeling very hungry after the huge lunch we had before leaving Chiang Mai, we settled for a toasted sandwich from the 7-11 store. Always a good standby for a quick bite to eat. Unfortunately there was nowhere for us to sit and eat so we had to pick a bit of sidewalk that had a step where we could eat. Ended up looking like we were sitting the gutter at a crossroads with traffic lights, so we really gave the locals something to stare at.
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DAY 237 SATURDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER 2017

Had a bit of a restless nights sleep, but woke up feeling ok. Breakfast is included at the guesthouse but we had no idea what it might be. Really anything is a bonus if we don't have to go out searching for food first up. So there was a choice of 3 western type meals and Thai style meals so pretty good really. Lyn & I both chose the French toast with bacon which turned out to be quite a large, filling serving - with tea and coffee.

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We decided to hire a motor bike from the guesthouse today so that we could have a bit of an explore around the town. Bike was only 200 baht = aud $7.60, so a cheap way for us to get around without having to walk everywhere. We had a map from the guesthouse, but really just drove around a little randomly. There are lots of teak houses here in Lampang - some restored to their former glory and now used as hotels or guesthouses (like ours). However there was also a lot of houses that just seemed to be occupied by regular Thai families. Some of these were not so well maintained, but they were still obviously liveable. This used to be a logging town years ago so I guess that is why there were so many timber houses built.

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And of course there are a lot of Wats - there are a lot of Wats in every town / city / village of Thailand. Wats in Thailand are a bit like Churches in Europe or Castles in England - once you have seen 100 you have seen them all.

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We went in search of the ceramics market as this area is supposed to be famous for its clay, but unfortunately could not find the location and were advised later back at the guesthouse that the market on the map was no longer there. Anyway while out on the super highway looking for the ceramics market we could see the sky was starting to come over very black. Once we started spotting lightening and hearing thunder we decided it would be a good time to stop at a shopping centre and take cover. Our timing was impeccable, as soon as we had parked the bike in the undercover car park the sky seemed to open up and drenching rain fell. We spent an hour or more wandering around the shops and it's always interesting to take a look at the foods available in the supermarket in a foreign country. And man there were some foreign foodstuffs in this one. Some of the meats are similar to what we would purchase in Australia, just some of the cuts differ a little. Like we have pork, but would not see pork spleen for sale in the super market, and we have chicken, but would be able to purchase fresh chicken feet in our meat department. And then the frozen stuff was just as interesting, with bugs, grubs, frogs and duck heads all ready for purchase. lol, it's interesting and helped to kill some time while we sheltered from the rain.

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Before returning to the bike, we had lunch in the food court. Crispy noodle with pork gravy for 50 baht = aud $1.90 was very tasty.
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We managed to find our way back to the guesthouse, but had to go back out on the bike to fill it up with fuel. The nearest petrol station was a few km's away and I think we used more fuel going there and back than we had used all day. To fill up cost just 30 baht = aud $1.14, and we paid the guy who pumped the fuel 10 baht tip cause he helped us put air in the tyres after pointing out it was flat.

It was dark again by the time we walked down our laneway to the Saturday night walking street. A bit bigger and more crowded than last nights market, but we as tourists still seemed to be in the minority, which was kinda nice. Only purchase tonight was Lyn bought a plastic basket. It was warm again tonight, but not as hot as last night I think. Still pretty steamy though and we are thankful for air con in our room.

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We stopped for a snack of what looked like a cheesy toasted sandwich, but turned out to be a greasy, cheezy, sweet (cause it was painted with sticky condensed milk) toasted sandwich @ 45 baht = aud $1.71. And an ice coffee, one of the best we've had except for the shaving cream consistency of the cream on top @ 35 baht = aud $1.33 each.

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After walking around the market it was time to find somewhere to eat. A short walk up the street along the river to the riverside restaurants, but they did not really entice us to eat there. A little further was a roadside food shack, that was crowded with customers and was offering more at the price we wanted to pay. Lyn had stir fry mixed vegetables with crispy pork and I have stir fry bean sprouts with crispy pork, both served with steamed rice at a total cost of 65 baht = aud$2.47 and we shared a largie of Leo beer at 70 baht = aud $2.66, to total meal & drink for the both of us was aud $5.13 - unreal.

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We had a long walk home as we took the long way looking for a 7-11 to get some milk to have a cuppa back in the room. The 7-11's are a bit thin on the ground here compared to them being every 2nd shop in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

So we are moving on again tomorrow, continuing south by train again, in the general direction of Bangkok.

DAY 238 SUNDAY 1ST OCTOBER 2017

Up early for our guesthouse breakfast, which again was very good.

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A taxi was called to take us to the train station and as it turned out to be an air conditioned private car we agreed to pay the 100 baht = aud $3.82 the driver asked for. The train we wanted to catch was departing at 10.41am and we were there in plenty of time arriving at the station before 10am. I went up to the ticket counter to purchase our tickets and when the guy showed me the price of 421 baht = aud $16.10 each I told him there was a mistake as I had seen them online for just 111 baht = aud $4.24. Apparently it turns out the mistake was on my part as this was a #8 Special Express Train that was fully air con with limited stops. This was not the price we wanted to pay so I asked when the next train was and how much and he advised #408 Ordinary Train will depart at 12.02pm and 3rd class tickets were 48baht = aud $1.84 each. This sounded more like our style so I purchased these tickets and we just had an extra 2 hours to wait at the station for our 'ordinary' train to arrive.
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The #408 pulled in on time and we scrambled with a load of other people trying to get on the 3 carriages and find unallocated seats. We had our luggage to drag on as well so it was just luck that we actually managed to get seats, although I had to ride the entire journey travelling backwards.
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Third class is not so bad, the seats were padded and the windows were open to let in the fresh and sometime fragrant (sometimes not so nice a fragrance) air of the countryside in. Open window is sometimes better than freezing to death in stale air con compartments.

The countryside was not much different to what we saw the other day. Lots of green. Where it was hilly it was jungle and where it was flat there was rice paddies.
It took about 5 1/2 hours for us to travel approximately 250km, stopping a mere 36 times at tiny village train stations along the way. These stations of varying sizes were spotlessly clean with manicured shrubs and decorative flowering plants. All had on average 12 resident dogs, sitting, lying or standing at the station or running to greet the train and or persons who may be disembarking the train. Station masters, at every station, wearing their very tight fitting beige uniforms waved the red and green flats to officiate the coming and going of the train. These many sights made the hours fly by. An no worries about if you get hungry or thirsty on the train as there is a constant procession of ladies selling just about anything you might want to eat or drink. Lucky for us Lyn had done a toasted sandwich run to the nearby 711 before we boarded the train.

Arriving at our destination, Phitsanulok, dead on time at 5.22pm we decided to purchase our next train ticket for 2 days time so that we would not make the mistake of arriving at the station for the incorrect train again.

We stepped outside the station onto the street and we met with the usual 'you want tuk tuk?' Having pre booked our accommodation for the next 2 nights our answer was 'yes we do want tuk tuk.' After advising the name of our hotel the driver said she (yes our first women tuk tuk or any kind of taxi driver) wanted 60 baht = aud $2.29 to take us both to the hotel. I only wanted to pay 50 baht = aud $1.91, but after a long train ride am I really going to insist and argue over 10 baht = aud 38c?? No! We loaded our bags in the back and were driven the 10 minutes to our hotel.

P1 House Hotel, I booked online for 650 baht = aud $24.86 per night including breakfast. Our room was a surprise - much bigger and better than what we expected after seeing the foyer. 2 large single beds - always a bonus when we don't have to share a bed. Air con is a must now, TV (which turned out not having any English channels) and a fridge! All good, ah and hot shower. Win, win all round.

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After dropping off our bags we returned downstairs for a nice cold beer. Largie of Leo was a little overpriced at 100 baht = aud $3.82, but it had been a long day so we had 2!
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After dark we walked 100m up the street to find the Sunday night market was on. Similar to the market in Lampang it was not at all targeted to the tourist trade, unlike the markets in Chiang Mai. In fact there were no tourists at all to be seen besides us, and we seemed to be a bit of a novelty.

Lots of roadside stalls that sold real Thai food, the kind that we don't really want to eat, you know the ones that have that unidentifiable meat on a stick. And lots of hot soupy dishes with god only knows floating around in it. We did not feel like going native for dinner tonight so we safely bought some crispy chicken wings which we took back to our room to eat in the air con, with a cup of instant noodles.

I surfed the TV channels for a little while, but it seemed no matter how many times I did the loop of all the channels, everyone was still in Thai!

DAY 239 MONDAY 2ND OCTOBER 2017

Quiet day today. Breakfast was a bit of a let down after the last place, but hey it was something that we didn't have to go out looking for. Deep fried egg with a teaspoon of pork mince!

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Not much to do here in Phitsanulok and we did not want to hire a bike as it looked like it would rain most of the day - turned out it didn't.

In the afternoon we went for a walk down by the Nan River, which had that same lovely brown colour as all the rivers we have seen here in Northern Thailand. The current was running quite quickly here too, not sure if that is due to it being the wet and a lot of water is rushing through the rivers or if they are always running this fast. I think that may have something to do with the colour as well, not that I think they would usually be crystal clear as my own Brisbane River back home is never clear either.

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I guess the main attractions around this area are Wats, and as I mentioned earlier we are Watted out so did not go out exploring much today.

Dinner was a repeat of last night with some more crispy chicken as the same street vendors were out selling their mystery bowls of food.

Tomorrow we are back on the train tracks continuing our journey south towards Bangkok.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 03:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged train mai guesthouse lampang riverside chaing Comments (0)

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