A Travellerspoint blog

Monkey Madness

sunny 30 °C
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After saying goodbye to Yvonne I headed to Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali.
The highlight of the week was going to the Monkey Forest to see the resident troupe of Macaque monkeys. There are over 300 monkeys living wild in the temple grounds but they are used to humans so fairly tame and are particularly attentive to visitors bearing bananas! I was mean and didn’t take any but that didn’t stop them clambering all over me! Every time I bent down to take a picture, quick as a flash they would be on your back and up onto your head!!! If you sat down for a rest even for a second they would advance on any body part within reach. Two particularly cheeky monkeys even stole the hairgrip out my hair!! I spent hours watching them they are so fascinating and scarily human. The tiny baby ones were so cute, their mums would grab hold of their tails to stop them running away! Every now and then you would hear a shriek from somewhere within the forest from someone not too happy about being pounced on by a monkey!
There are many performances in the evenings in and around Ubud (mainly dance some martial arts) and I went to see a shadow puppet performance which was very atmospheric, the shadows thrown by the light of a flickering flame. It was a bit hard to understand as it wasn’t in English but you could get the gist!

The other performance I went to see was the Legong and Barong dances, traditional Balinese/ Hindu stories.
The dancing was like anything I had seen before, heavily influenced by the Hindu style. They are so precise with their body, hand, even eye movements. At times its as though they don’t blink!! Together with the music its very hypnotic.

The Barong section is a character study of the benevolent god (the Barong) the only way I can describe it is a massive Pekinese dog! Well that’s what it reminded me of anyway! It was very funny to watch, its danced by two men within the big costume (pantomime cow anyone?!) the guy in the head was a great puppeteer, very expressive the way he moved around…was just like watching a real dog with his mannerisms!

So after seven brilliant months it was time to say goodbye to Asia and start my Australian adventures in Cairns!!

Posted by VanessaT 06:28 Archived in Indonesia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Gorgeous Gilis

sunny 31 °C
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The flight to Bali was fine, we were only in our hotel for 7 hours before we were picked up early to catch the boat to the Gili Islands. I’d been warned that the crossing could be quite rough so we had stocked up on anti motion sickness tablets but I’m pleased to say our crossing was very smooth and we were soon wading ashore on Gili Trawangan.
Dodging the pony and carts we found the irish bar Tir na Nog (land of the youth!!) and checked into our deliciously air conditioned room and promptly fell asleep on the very high thread count sheets! No bed bugs and air con.…I was in heaven! Yvonne was not…..due to our friendly bathroom cockroach and so would only approach the bathroom in her crocs!!!

Went for a walk around the island to check out the other accommodation options as we wanted something a bit closer to the beach.
On our accommodation hunt we found Kelapa Kecil, three bungalow rooms facing the beach with a plunge pool (at this point we were so hot from walking around we could have thrown ourselves in fully clothed!). We were sold but unfortunately there seemed to be no-one around who rented them out! We returned later and found ‘Anna with two babies’ as she introduced herself holding the fort so booked in for the rest of our stay.

The next day we went on a snorkeling trip around the three islands in a glass bottomed boat. We saw lots of different species of fish…more variety than in the Perhentians. We also saw some turtles but they were quite deep so a bit hard to see. We stopped on Gili Air for lunch and ordered noodles, making the mistake of not asking for it ‘not spicy’ so ended up burning our taste buds off!

Back at Tir na Nog the cockroach had decided to sit in the doorframe so if I closed the bathroom door I’d have squashed it. Didn’t want to attract all the other bugs so shooed it away and it ran off….towards Yvonnes bag!!! Yvonne was up on the bed in a flash telling me it was in her bag. I didn’t believe her but shook out her bag and yep, out fell the cockroach…sorry Yvonne!! It soon scampered away…not sure where to but it was out of sight so out of mind…well my mind anyway…not sure about Yvonne!!!

The following day we moved up to Kelapa Kecil and settled in….then discovered the mosque was right behind the bungalows!! Cue the 5 times daily call to prayer amplified loud enough for the whole southern hemisphere to hear! In the day it sounds quite tuneful but at 5am it takes a lot of self control not to march over and unplug some vital mic cables!! (thankfully we slept through all the other morning ones!!)

The island is also prone to power cuts (I think they follow Yvonne around!) and one day we were without power for most of the day...luckily so was the mosque! Anna (who we renamed Crazy Anna) turned up on her bike most days…often with one or two of her children in tow. She cheerfully told us that her daughter keeps asking for a new western daddy and that she loves her bike more than her husband! Also that she has been in prison for fighting…at which point she pulled out one of her teeth which had supposedly fallen out when she had bitten off a mans finger…! We had nicknamed her crazy Anna before this conversation but it seemed to ring so much truer afterwards!

We visited the turtle hatchery which was on the beach close to our room. The small turtles are so cute and funny to watch. They keep them out of the sea till they are two years old so some of them were quite big. They let us pick them up and the big ones weren’t as heavy as I thought they would be but they were very wriggly! The currents around the gilis are very strong and a lot of the turtles get swept away, so they keep them out of the sea until they are stronger.

Spent most of our time in the pool to keep cool and watched dvd’s in the evening…I think we only managed to make it to the end of about 2 of them though as they all kept stopping before the end! Very annoying!!! Also met up with Ian and Jess a couple i had met in the Perhentians who are from Northampton for a delicious seafood BBq!

We hired masks and fins are went snorkeling off the beach hoping to see some turtles. Unfortunately they seemed to be in hiding but we did see lots of fish…practically the whole cast of Finding Nemo! It was really nice just to be able to wade in to the water off the beach and see all the fish really close up.

The boat back to bali was a bit more eventful than the way out. About 40 mins into the journey it got very choppy, the boat was literally flying over the swells, good job we had taken our anti motion sickness tablets! The windows were open to get a bit of breeze and all of a sudden this massive wave came in through the windows and soaked everyone on that side…luckily Yvonne and I were sat opposite! It was very funny. Then about 30 mins later the shout of ‘Dolphins’ went up and they stopped the boat so we could watch the dolphins swim around, there must have been about 10 of them and they were nice and close. What a magical way to end out Gili adventures!

We had one day on bali to do a bit of shopping and bob around the hotel pool. In the evening we met Jess and Ian for dinner, then bright and early the next day it was time for Yvonne to go to the airport!

Thank you for a brilliant two weeks Yvonne, hope its not too cold at home!!

Posted by VanessaT 03:04 Archived in Indonesia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Sisters and Singapore Slings!

sunny 30 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

Yvonne arrived in Singapore and we set about squeezing in as much sightseeing as we could. Went on the Singapore Flyer (their version of the London Eye...and they like to point out its slightly taller at every available opportunity!!) and had dinner in a hawker centre near the Esplanade their Singapores performing arts complex. Was nice to walk along the river, saw the statue marking the point where Thomas Stamford Raffles landed in 1819. the next day we did a bus tour, a interesting perspective, seeing the city from the top deck of a bus. Spent the afternoon wandering around the market in Chinatown and visiting the Buddhist temple, the Hindu temple and a Mosque which are all a stones throw apart, such a mix of religions, like in Malaysia.

Also went to Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari. The zoo specialises in primates and they have a big orangutan section where they are free to swing about above the pathways. They are very funny, it seems like they are posing for photos, one was even blowing raspberries at us!!
It chucked it down in the afternoon so we did a couple of laps of the zoo on the stripy zebra tram ride! The animals seemed a lot more active than in zoos in England, maybe because they are in their natural climate so all a bit more awake?

The night safari was interesting, seeing the animals at night feels very different. Some of the enclosures looked suspiciously empty and we wondered if they actually had any animals in them! We were even brave enough to have a wander through the bat enclosure!

Our last day in Singapore and what else could we do apart from head to Raffles and enjoy a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar. We thought it was going to be a bit pretentious but it was actually very relaxed and we didn’t feel too out of place taking tons of pictures and posing with our bright red cocktails…which incidentally tasted….not that nice!!!!! We had lunch and after chucking a few peanut shells on the floor and perusing the gift shop it was time to head to the airport to fly to Indonesia.

Posted by VanessaT 01:41 Archived in Singapore Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

KL bed bugs!!!!

sunny 30 °C
View Backpacking 08/09 on VanessaT's travel map.

It was a shock stepping off the bus in Kuala Lumpur, it was so hot!
The hostel was nice and had all you can eat toast which was a bonus!! Hostels in KL are notorious for being riddled with bed bugs…mmm what a selling point!

Was exploring the area around the hostel when I discovered a hair dressing academy. I’ve always had good hair cuts at academys in London so I thought why not? Started off well with a lovely 20 min head and shoulder massage…then the trim seemed to go ok, the problem started when the stylist started to hack at my hair with her scissors when she was putting in the layers. It was like Edward Scissorhands running his fingers through my hair! Pretty painful. I had emphasized ‘keep the length’ but it obviously didn’t translate very well because she cut quite a lot off! Luckily it just goes up into a pony…..never to be released until it has grown back!

We visited the Petronas Twin Towers, had to get there very early and queue for tickets as they only release a certain amount a day. The view from the sky-bridge was nice, you go up in groups of about 20 so it was nice that it wasn’t very crowded.

So as I was congratulating myself on finding a non bed bug infested hostel, the itching began!! Woke up in the middle of the night and spotted one. Was straight out of bed and down to reception. The manager played dumb but moved me anyway, did a quick inspection and discovered the little critters in the new room. Back downstairs…another room….in the end I changed rooms 5 times, finally getting into a bed bug free bed at 5.30am! Was a bit of a zombie the next day. They did admit they had a problem though and were in the middle of spraying for bugs so decided to stay but in a different part of the hostel which seemed to be bed bug free.

Walked through Merdeka Square where they raised the Malaysian flag 51 years ago to signify independence from the British. Also visited the Menara KL, a telecommunications tower with a viewing platform at the top, unlike the Petronas towers this was rammed full of people, the view was better but you had to fight your way through to the windows!

The rest of my time in KL was taken up with visiting the cinema…..only 1.80 and air conditioned to the point of feeling like a freezer!

Headed down to Melaka, the historical port town where the Portugese, Dutch, Indians and Chinese used to trade. The old town is very pretty and they also have a Chinatown area. We had tea in a Chinese Tea House…apparently we drank really smooth 10 year old black tea but not being a tea fan it still tasted pretty horrible to me!!

Then it was off to Singapore to meet Yvonne!

Posted by VanessaT 01:20 Archived in Malaysia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Perhentian paradise

rain 18 °C
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Spent a night in the small town of Kota Bharu, went to the night market for dinner and had been tipped off by the guesthouse owner to try the bar-be-qued chicken...we did and it was delicious! In the morning it was off to Kuala besut to catch the boat to the perhentian islands. The boat only took 30 mins but it was like a rollercoaster ride! there were only 4 of us on the boat so it was really light and practically flew across the water! Transferred onto a tiny boat to get dropped on the beach....we had to reverse in because the waves were so big and narrowly avoided getting a soaking! I headed down to moshin chalets as i had heard they had a cheap dorm but when i saw it it wasnt that appealing. was heading to look around another guesthouse when i bumped into 3 girls, two from the uk..both called laura and anett from norway. they had walked up and down the beach and looked in every guesthouse and said moshin was the best so decided to share a room with anett. after we had settled in we headed down to the beach and the clear warm water...it was so amazingly clear!!!!

Had a couple of days relaxing and one day we took a snorkelling trip around the island. We saw black tip sharks, so many tropical fish, colourful coral and my favourite- green turtles. They are so graceful to watch as they swim up to the surface to breathe and dive back to the bottom to feast on the seagrasses. it was amazing to see them in the wild, and there were quite a lot of them, quietly wandering around the seabed! such a privilege to swim with them.

did lots of reading, swimming, eating (great fish bar-be-ques on the beach!). there was one bar on the beach and they set up a big bonfire every night that every sat around with some people doing fire juggling and eating! its such a relaxed place, and the moon was full so the nights were so light!

i'd had such a good time on the first snorkelling trip i went on another one! we went to the same places as before but this time there were lots of baby turtles, only days old. The eggs are collected from the beach and hatched away from the water. when they are small their shells are very soft and they have a little hole in their bellies which attracts predators so they have to wait till that closes up before they are released into the sea, it gives them a much higher survival rate. we were allowed to pick them up and hold them, they were so tiny but feisty at the same time, they were raring to go!!! we also stopped at a coral with so many fish you could barely see the water!! as soon as we got into the water we were surrounded by hundreds of fish!!! it didnt help that the snorkelling guide was chucking bits of bread at my head (these fish loved to eat bread) so it was turning into a feeding frenzy, i felt like i was in a piranha tank! there were also lots of jellyfish at this stop which i wasnt too keen on!!

We kept changing our bus tickets so we could stay one more day, then another but we (anett and i) eventually dragged ourselves away and caught the bus to the Cameron Highlands, 5000ft above sea level it is the highest point in mainland Malaysia. the cool climate is ideal for growing strawberries, tea and lots of other vegetable crops.

We checked into fathers guesthouse and settled into the dorm which was in an old Nissan hut, felt like we were in army barracks!! I was so excited to get out my jumper, scarf and jacket...it was worth carrying them for 6 months just to wear them up here!! at the moment its the rainy season so its nice in the morning but at about 12.30 the rain starts and doesnt stop for the rest of the day.

we took a tour which took us up to gunung brinchang the highest peak in the area, 6,666ft, it was quite misty but we had a lovely view over the tea plantations. then we headed to the mossy forest...we were thinking a nice wander through the forest, on no, it turned into a muddy, scramble on all fours up and down and up and down a big steep muddy, mossy...did i mention muddy? forest! it was a bit of a surprise but we soon got into the spirit and were throwing ourselves around the tree roots and over the boot sucking mud.

next stop was the Sungai Palas tea plantation...the nice clean tea factory...and us looking like we had been dragged through a hedge backwards (well it was quite close to the truth actually!!)
the Boh plantations were founded in 1929 by scottish businessman J.A Russel, he visited the Cameron highlands and realised their tea growing potential. the company is still run by the same family and some of the tea bushes are nearly 100 years old and still producing tea. we did a tour of the factory and discovered the drying and rolling processes are still the same, still using some of the original machinery but the plucking process is now done using shears and machinery rather than plucking by hand.

we then visited a strawberry farm, had some strawberry ice cream!! then dont plant the strawberry plants in the ground here though, they are in raised grobags so not quite like being back in Tiptree. the strawberries are lovely though, nice and sweet. they even manage to grow 'self plucking' (aka, pick your own) strawberries here!!

spent the next few days exploring Tanah rata (the town we are staying in) and taking advantage of the jam and scones!!
had an indian meal one night...choosing the mildest curry possible, it was very nice...no plates though- we ate off banana leaves...think they were trying to save on the washing up!

heading to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, will be sad to leave the cold weather, even enjoyed the rain -when i've been inside, nice and warm rather than out in it!!

have put some pics on flickr...dont get too jealous over the perhentian ones!!!

Posted by VanessaT 05:48 Archived in Malaysia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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