A Travellerspoint blog

Singapore Slingers

34 °C

Well we have spent the last three days in Singapore and loved it.

Singapore is an amazing city and after being in Thailand for a month, a massive culture shock! It has to be the cleanest, neatest, strictest and most progressive city we have visited. There are a lot of rules here with on the spot fines for example for smoking in public, littering, singing out loud, jaywalking and eating in metro stations!

Modern Singapore is a tiny island state founded by Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1819 as a free trade port. There are a lot of British colonial influences here, notably in the architecture, however although the majority of the population are Chinese, Singapore is very much a multicultural city. Aside from the enormous glass tower blocks, there is a historic Chinatown, Little India and Arab quarter.

The skyscrapers are incredible, especially at night when lit up, many have rooftop bars and clubs. Being a small island means real estate is at a premium, a downtown apartment would set you back at least 5 million US dollars. Singaporeans like to shop and eat predominantly! We have never seen so many huge shopping malls and every type of food you can imagine is widely available. Everything is very expensive, a pint of Tiger beer costs £8! Clothes have at least a third on again for regular high street brands. We did discover the hawker markets and generally ate with the local Chinese where food cost a lot less. Frog porridge and chicken intestines on the menu so you have to pick carefully if that's not your thing!

Yes we did the tourist number one in Singapore and had a Singapore Sling cocktail at Raffles! You eat unlimited peanuts and throw the shells over the floor in the bar. This iconic cocktail did not come cheap at £19 each.

We landed in Perth, Western Australia late last night. The weather here is about 36 degrees, but the humidity is much lower than Singapore so we can breathe again 😳

Some new photos in gallery.

Love from Si & Steph

Posted by simon.steph 06:18 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Monkeys & Massages

34 °C

Hello

We arrived in Krabi, a large town in Southern Thailand on the Andaman Coast well known for its limestone karsts and mangroves. It is situated on an estuary and the nearest beach is situated a half an hour trip in a longboat. After two flights south we were all herded onto a 'bus' with the luggage piled up down the middle and taken off, we hoped, to Krabi town, a few stopping points during which a Thai man embarked, counted everyone, some shouting in Thai and then he got off. Sometime later we were all dumped in the middle of Krabi town with our luggage wondering if we had a narrow escape from the 'transport mafia'! However after a while we realised, especially in the touristy areas that this is how it works.

Krabi itself is fantastic, usually a stop off point for island hoppers, it does have lots to offer. Fantastic day and night markets including the Friday walking street which is just manic but lots of fun. The beautiful white temple, Wat Kaesong Ko Wararam overlooks the city and provides peace and solitude from the bustle below. The temperature is about 34 degrees but the humidity is double that of the north so pretty uncomfortable at times.

We have had a couple of days beach action this week at Railay beach, reached by longboat from Krabi. Fabulous trip, however you do need to wear shorts and be fairly agile to clamber in and out of the boats! Railay is busy this time of year but probably the most beautiful beach we have ever seen, just how you imagine a Thai beach to look. The beach cannot be reached by road, only boat and then a five minute walk. Crab-eating macaques line the route ready to pinch any food from unsuspecting tourists, a water monitor lizard about two and half feet long also made an appearance, so exciting to see these creatures in the wild. The macaques are chased off the beach by a man with a catapult, he doesn't have to fire it they seem to run as soon as they see him!

The beach has powder white sand and translucent sea, longboats line the shoreline and dramatic limestone karsts form the backdrop. There are lots of caves to explore including the Phranang cave containing a shrine dedicated to the spirit of a drowned princess who gave the beach her name. The cave is full of carved penis's donated by fisherman seeking her favour - see photos!!!

Well we only have a few mores days left in Thailand and we couldn't leave without having a Thai massage! We plucked up the courage, went inside and studied the menu. Si decided on a shoulder, neck and back massage with Nina, he disappeared into a little curtained room and was last seen taking his shorts off...

I decided on a full body scrub and massage with coconut oil which lasted two hours! Both us came out deciding the whole experience was more pain than pleasure, feeling bruised and kneaded, however my skin glowed and I felt amazing afterwards with the added bonus of smelling like a macaroon. Si had to have a lie down.

Expecting a big thunderstorm this afternoon, when it rains here it is like nothing else, you just have to stand and wonder at the amount of rain that falls out of the sky, flash flooding and torrents of water everywhere. It then dries up so fast, you would never know it had rained.

One more day in this beautiful country and then we fly to Singapore for three nights. Onwards then to Perth, Australia.

Lots of love

Steph & Si xxxx

Posted by simon.steph 00:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Sawadee Ka

34 °C

Hi everyone

For the last five days we have been in Chiangmai, Thailand's northern capital nestled in the mountains 680km north of Bangkok. Chiang Mai was founded in the 13th century and was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The old city wall with its four main gates is still pretty intact and it is easy to see what the city once looked like. The old city is beautiful, vibrant and bohemian, bars, restaurants and street food, day and night markets shimmering with colour, smells and noise, an utterly stimulating experience on all the senses.

The markets are vast, the daytime market is a real eye opener. You enter into a dark maze of shanty town like stalls, there's are pervading fishy smell with wafts of the sweet smell of mango and sticky rice and banana pancakes. There are mountains of dried fish, fish innards and shrimps, durian fruit and dried bamboo worms. The night market is an altogether more glitzy farang affair, clothes including genuine fake Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren, carved elephants, scarves and bags. A huge food hall full of street food vendors has been our evening haunt for the past few nights.

The annual flower festival took place over the weekend, carnival type floats covered in flowers passed through the city, downtown streets coloured with flowers and parks full of flower tunnels, displays and walls of flowers. It was a sight to behold and the smell of the flowers just beautiful. There are some pics on the gallery but they don't do it justice!

Yesterday we hiked up to a beautiful but underrated Buddhist temple (Wat) nestled in the mountainside with a stunning outlook over the city. We used the monks trail, a little challenging especially in 34 degrees of heat but enchanting all the same. The monks marked the trail through the forest with orange cloth from their robes tied around the trees. The temple is built on sloping rocks shaded by the tree canopy with a waterfall cascading down the mountainside, there are no tourist stands, cafes or in fact many tourists and for me it was one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited. Dragons, elephants and mystic creatures adorn the temple grounds immaculately kept by the monks, there is an other worldly feel here, true peace.

We have one more night here and then we are off down south for our last few days in Thailand before flying to Singapore. We will be staying in Krabi and day tripping to some of the islands. No major disasters, nothing more stolen although my clothes came back from the laundry covered in blue splotches. A couple of rot daang rides (trucks with two benches in the back) have gone awry and we have ended up in the wrong places, we prefer the Tuk Tuks if you can stand the pace! The mossie bites have eased off a bit as we have found some strong local spray which is like coating yourself in an oil slick and it smells but it works! Both looking brown now, no more red patches, we have also learnt a couple of Thai words although they giggle at us when we say them! We are just like the locals now!

Speak soon

Love Steph & Si
,

Posted by simon.steph 00:54 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Sunburn and Singha

sunny 33 °C

Hello All

We left Koh Samui on the East coast of Thailand after a few days and travelled west to Khao Lak, on the other side of mainland Thailand. we arrived a couple of days ago after taking a taxi, a ferry and three buses, the whole journey was a little challenging! Thunderstorms, flash floods and a bus that leaked like a sieve was all part of the travelling experience. Trying to avoid the water literally pouring into the bus was fun, in fact I gave up and cupped my hands to collect it before throwing it on the floor. I also had my main bag broken into on the ferry from Koh Samui to the mainland and several items stolen, despite it being locked, a combination lock of no consequence to the scammers working the Donsak Pier area. Still my bag was a little easier to carry around after that I guess.

We arrived at Bang Niang Beach, Khao Lak and are staying at a hostel run by a beautiful Thai lady who gives out hugs like they are going out of fashion. Shoes are left at the entrance door and the various smells of the downstairs laundry, insence and Thai street food pervade the nostrils. Our room is basic but spotless and we don't have to share!

Khao Lak was one of the hardest hit areas during the 2004 tsunami, Bang Niang beach in particular. There are few signs of it today, but they are there, the tsunami warning signs, the building work still going on along the beach, mangled iron and brickwork once part of a slipway to the beach. The area was completely flattened and to look at it now is an absolute miracle, of course life has gone on but the memory is never forgotten. We visited the tsunami memorial, a huge concrete 'wave' like structure and the museum running loops of footage from that Boxing Day morning. We saw the police boat, number 813, which had been thrown 2 km inland by the wave from its petrol on the sea and has been left where it came to rest, testament to the sheer power of the waves. Haunting stuff.

The beach itself is utterly beautiful, a typical Thai beach lined with trees, torquise water and golden sand. The wind whistles through the trees, wind chimes chant and piles of pebbles like little temples are dotted on the rocks. The beach is huge so there is something for everyone, peace, Thai massages and little street food kitchens nestled in the trees producing the most amazing snacks like garlic spicy squid, barbecued barracuda, fresh mango juice of just an iced Thai coffee.

Do we look bronzed and beautiful yet? Sadly no, still red, peeling and covered in mossie bites, yes we are itchy and we hurt! A visit to a pharmacy today to purchase boxes of antihistamine, bite cream and super strength sun cream. A Singha beer or two continues to smooth these weary travellers however, so we are happy.....

Xxxxxxx

PS: photos to follow x

Posted by simon.steph 06:58 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Burnt and beautiful

Hello All

We have left Bangkok and travelled south to the island of Koh Samui, an island of approx 55km circumference nestling 70km from the west coast of Thailand. We loved Bangkok, it is an amazing city, truely something for everyone! We had a superb meal on the last night at the Cabbages & Condoms Restaurant, complimentary condoms given to you at the end of your meal instead of chocolate - nice touch! On our last day we visiting one of the Buddhist temples close to the river, Wat Arun, where I received a blessing from one of the monks, a truly wonderful and peaceful experience. We also visited The Grand Palace, the former home of the monarchy until 1925. Breathtakingly beautiful it also contains a temple housing the Emerald Buddha. The former king, King Bhumibol the Great passed away in October 2016 and the Thais are currently in mourning, hundreds of Thais, dressed all in black are going to the palace to pay their respects to the king's remains housed there.

We then took an overnight train to Surat Thani before catching a ferry to Koh Samui. The train journey took 11 hours and was an experience in itself. We started stamping on the cockroaches at first, not very Buddhist I know, but after a while you got used to them. We did keep the light on the whole way though! A bum-numbing bus journey to the port followed and then a ferry to Koh Samui, a few hours waiting here and there but we are getting used to that. Koh Samui is beautiful, just what you would imagine. We are staying in a little hotel right on the beach with palm trees and blue-green sea, idyllic. The weather is hot, in the 30's but there is always a breeze and the occasional heavy rain storm accompanied by War of the Worlds clouds and cracks of thunder. In true Brit style we have burnt already, the sun is fierce, but we will brown off in a day or so, hopefully 😡! The food so far has been stunning, plenty of seafood, chillis and noodles, coconuts, mangos and Singha beer.

The Thais are fabulous people, the most friendly and welcoming we have ever met. They are gentle, light-hearted and caring people who have been brought up to avoid confrontation and to always keep calm. They find things funny rather than irritating - they had a good laugh at our sunburn too!

Wildlife so far, plenty of stray dogs, it very well fed as the restaurants look after them. They seem to sleep in packs on the beach at night. Lots of Mynah birds too and a few lizards. Oh and plenty of mosquitos, just to add insult to the sunburn injury!

Some photos to follow, difficult to upload as wi fi drops in and out but will do my best.

Love Si & Steph xxx

Posted by simon.steph 00:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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