A Travellerspoint blog

February 2017

Bali & Hong Kong

overcast 15 °C

Hi everyone

Since Australia we have been to Bali and Hong Kong. Moving on to Vietnam today.

We spent a few days in Nusa Dua, Bali, chilling out before the next leg. Bit of luxury after quite a lot of pretty basic accommodation. Can't tell you much about Bali as we saw very little of it, we wished we had stayed longer as what we did see was beautiful. Weather scorching 30 something and very humid so most of our time spent in shade, sea or pool.

Balinese coffee was the best we ever tasted, nutty and velvety but the beer not so good - Bintang Beer available everywhere which is actually Heineken! People were lovely, very happy, they like cracking jokes. Crazy taxi ride to the Airport, we closed our eyes most of the time; even after mad Thailand traffic, a Balinese taxi ride is hair raising!

We arrived in Hong Kong three nights ago after spending a night in Kuala Lumpur Airport, so pretty hanging when we got here. We are actually staying on the Kowloon side and take the ferry across to Hong Kong. Temp here around 15 degrees! Freezing! Had to buy some trousers being the only one wondering around in shorts and flip flops when everyone was in winter clothes.

We thought that having spent a month in Thailand we were prepared for anything - not so! Nothing prepares you for the crowds of people and the massive queues. Hong Kong is chaotic and confusing, but also exotic, bursting with Chinese heritage.

Jaw dropping is the only way to describe the sight of Hong Kong Island from Kowloon at night across the bustling Victoria Harbour. State of the art skyscrapers put on a magnificent light show, the mountains behind form the backdrop and light reflections dance over the water - just stunning.

During the first day we took the historical Peak Tram, a funicular railway tram running since 1888 to the peak for a spectacular perspective of the city at 1800ft above sea level. Even on a cloudy day the view over Hong Kong, Kowloon and surrounding islands was incredible.

Yesterday we started with a breakfast of wontons, noodles and soup, finished off with a yuan yang coffee - mix of coffee and tea with sweet condensed milk, lush! We took a bus to the quaint fishing village of Stanley on the Southern end of Hong Kong Island. Pretty beaches, a harbour and lovely market selling oriental knick-knacks. We sat watching birds of prey skimming the water for fish, in fact these huge majestic birds are everywhere in Hong Kong circling the sky scrapers. They are Black Kites with a wingspan of 4.5 feet. They have been known to pinch food from people and clothes items off high rise washing lines for their nests, usually white things!

Temple Street Market and the Jade Market were also on our list. Jade is everywhere in Hong Kong, it is associated with long life and good health in Chinese culture.

Temple Street Night Market is a warren of narrow paths filled with stalls selling just about everything and haggling is the game. Street entertainers and street food stalls are plentiful. We ate here the first ‪night sat‬ on plastic stools armed with chopsticks, a bowl and a large bottle of Tsingtao beer with eyes like saucers!

We started our last night with a couple of beers in a local jazz bar, we ate in a food hall in the basement of a Chinese mall, a lot of the locals eat in these and the food is delicious, authentic and cheap. Beef cooked on a hot plate on our table, rice and garlic soy followed by Taro Sago, a pudding of tapioca pearls, coconut milk and a purple root vegetable called taro, surprisingly delicious!

We fly to Ho Chi Min, Vietnam later today.

Love Steph & Si

XXX

Posted by simon.steph 21:00 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

G'Day

sunny 35 °C

Hello All

We have left Perth and arrived in Nusa Dua, Bali.

We spent time in both Perth, the capital of Western Australia and the smaller port city of Fremantle located on the Swan River, Western Australia. Perth and Fremantle were founded by the British in 1829, the population remaining small until the gold rush of the late 1800's and subsequent convict transportation.

Fremantle hasn't changed very much since the 1800's. it is like stepping back in time to an eclectic mix of artisan cafes and bars, handcrafted beers, quirky boutiques, street entertainment and art galleries. The architecture is straight from a film set, a mix of old colonial meets American Midwest! Fremantle market, with its indigenous crafts and fabulous selection of fresh local produce, unique food such as kangaroo paste and creamed honey was a real highlight.

The beaches at Fremantle are stunning, white sand and a light green Indian Ocean, very cold water though which was a surprise considering the mid 30's temperatures. The light here is the brightest we have ever seen, you cannot go outside without sunglasses and the sun has to be avoided during midday, an absolute scorcher!

Perth city is approx 30 minutes inland from Fremantle on the Swan River. It contains one of the largest public parks in the world called Kings Park on Mt. Eliza, approx 4km sq. It is stunning, the most beautiful and manicured parkland and botanical garden with sweeping views over the bay. We were lucky to see a Kookaburra here too.

We were also lucky enough to see and get very close to wild Kangaroos on Heirisson Island, a small island located next to Perth on the Swan River. We had heard kangaroos were on the island but they took some finding. We eventually found them in amongst some trees next to a mosquito swamp in a snake infested area! What a treat though, they are used to people and let you touch them, their fur is surprisingly soft.

Of course no trip to Perth would be complete without locating the Waca Cricket Stadium. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to see the ground itself. In true tourist style we tried to get a photo of the ground with the selfie stick fully extended over the wall but to no avail, they have that one covered too?

After a month in Asia, a good old fashioned Australian Steak was definitely on the cards and where else but at the Hogs Breath Cafe - fabulous.

Perth is spotlessly clean, bright, friendly, proud of its heritage and has so much to offer. If we had longer here then a car would be essential as so much is several hundreds of kilometres away, although locals still consider that the outskirts of Perth!

Speak soon

Love Steph & Si xxxx

Posted by simon.steph 04:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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)

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