A Travellerspoint blog

Pangkor, Malaysia

A few days on a very quiet island...

sunny 31 °C

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We'd got 6 days free before Jason's friends arrived in Kuala Lumpur. We'd debated scuba diving, trekking, visiting a different Malaysian city...in the end we opted to go to the beach for a few days of chilling and catching up on blog writing.

It was easy enough to grab a bus from KL to Lumut and then catch a ferry to Pulau Pangkor on the West cost of Malaysia. It wasn't too far for us to travel and didn't eat into our days. The ferry drops you off at the village side of the island where there's a little industrial harbour producing a lot of dried fish. The island looks really cute with brightly coloured piers, wooden boats and luscious green surroundings... I had high hopes for this tiny island way of life. We caught a bright pink taxi and got dropped off at Teluk Nipah where all of the tourist guesthouses and hotels are. We hadn't organised anywhere to stay and so needed to do the dreaded search of hotels. I wasn't feeling that great (I'd caught a cold) and so opted for the first place we went in...we only lasted one night here... there wasn't anything particularly wrong, it just wasn't that pleasant either. We instead moved next door to Omback Inn where we stayed for the next 4 nights.
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Pulau Pangkor definitely wasn't our favourite island. All those initial high hopes at the cute little harbour soon diminished. We hired a motor bike to explore the island ourselves, but unfortunately we'd seen most of the island after about a one hour round circuit. You can only travel around the island on a circuit road as the middle is dense jungle. A lot of the beaches are filled with litter or dirty from the local fish drying industries. In fact the best beach was right by us anyway so for the next 3 days we didn't move from Coral Beach.
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Coral Beach was pleasant and very picturesque. A cove of palm fringed beach with emerald green water (the colour caused by the limestone in the rocks). Jason got plenty of swimming practice in, able to swim to an offshore island and to a small lagoon. I tried sea swimming with him a couple of times, but I get panicked by what may be lurking underneath me... I'm determined to get better at it! There's plenty of wildlife around too, with numerous eagles and hornbills by the beach and resident monkeys at our bungalow.
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Teluk Nipah was a strange tourist area. On week days there was nobody there and many of the little food cafes close. There's no evening scene and everything shuts at 10ish. We had a lot of early nights and couldn't complain that it wasn't relaxing. Our evenings consisted of afternoon drinks on our own chalet balcony, going to a little cafe, ordering some fresh seafood and a beer and then heading home for an early night (probably just what we needed before the boys were due to arrive).
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I'm afraid to say that all we did for 4 days was beach, eat and sleep.
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We headed back to KL after our time on Pulau Pangkor. When we got back to Kuala Lumpur we had one evening to ourselves before Jason's friends arrived the next day. We treated ourselves to a cinema evening at the Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur and watched 'The Imitation Game'; a brilliant film and a very enjoyable evening. I now feel well and truely rested and ready for two weeks with 4 boys as company.

Posted by bloorsontour 22:46 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Kuala Lumpur 2, Malaysia

Afternoon tea

We caught yet another plane from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur and arrived at our hotel late at night. Debbie had promised us a lie in in the morning...did we get it?...no! She was up and raring to go again.

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It was generally a leisurely day in KL; grabbing some breakfast at a cafe in Central Market, browsing around some shops and then making our way to the Grand Hyatt for afternoon tea.

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Afternoon tea was an early birthday present for me from Jason's mum. We had a glass of bubbly, sandwiches and so many cakes that none of us could finish them all. The setting was perfect; a modern restaurant with glass walls on the 34th floor overlooking the Petronas Towers at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. I had a touch of nerves when I caught a glimpse of the Heli Lounge that we had previously had cocktails at at the start of the two week holiday; a vertigo induced panic at the thought of me sitting that high up with no barrier to protect us.

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After all those cakes there was just enough time for us to go back to the hotel for a rest and for Debbie to pack before we saw her off at the airport. It was really strange for us to say goodbye, we'd been looking forward to these two weeks holiday together and it had flown by. We felt really sad that evening as we caught the bus back from the airport without Jason's mum. We'd spent two weeks together, sharing quality time and creating lasting memories, something which is hard to do back in the UK when we all have hectic lives. We loved every second. Thanks for being our honorary Bloor on Tour.

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Apologies for the lack of photographs. We forgot to take our camera out and so only have a few pics from our phone.

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Posted by bloorsontour 02:26 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Langkawi, Malaysia

Nuts on a jetski

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We had scheduled in some R&R time at the end of mum's trip and Langkawi was a perfect place for it. With flights back to KL costing £9, it was great knowing there'd be no days lost to travel.

We planned to stay somewhere luxurious, but realised that Langkawi is a pretty pricy place... The best resorts charge £400+ per night. In the end we were torn between the Sheraton and a more boutique place called La Pari Pari. We opted for the latter given the reviews and the fact that we could walk to all of the bars, restaurants and shops. You couldn't fail to be relaxed there; having the pool and garden to ourselves most days.

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We were a little peckish from our flight so headed to a Mexican place intent on ordering a few snacks... Sophie decided otherwise, so we got a table full of food instead! It blew our usual food budget, but tasted so good it was worth it!
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We'd been discussing swimming, snorkelling and diving and how mum didn't feel very confident in water, so with our own pool, Soph and I set to work... We had her snorkelling around, working on her front crawl and breast stroke and generally floating around. Mum seemed pleased with her progress - keep practising!

In the evening we decided to watch the sun go down on some beanbags on the beach with a nice glass of wine (mum's treat). Mum looked very relaxed and properly in holiday mode. It was a perfect evening, topped off by a barracuda and a curry at a little fish restaurant.

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The next day, we hit the road on motorbikes to see what the island had to offer. Mum was on the back of me... She stood up on the footrest with all her weight before swinging her leg over. Luckily I'd been prepared or we'd have been on the floor outside the rental shop! She perfected getting on after that...

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First we headed to a waterfall but were told it was 10mins by foot from the road and pretty dry. We gave it a miss and headed to the cable car, which it turned out wasn't running because of the wind. We gave up on the sights for a bit and hit the beach. We found an almost deserted beach on the north coast with nice water and a swing...

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Further up the coast was one of the best golf courses I've ever seen (the Els or Datai golf club). Naturally I enquired... No dress code, even my vest was acceptable, but £130 a round. I would have loved a game, but couldn't justify that amount so, with regret, we moved on... The scenery was fantastic, rugged and mountainous, thick jungle, white beaches and turquoise water. This was where all of the posh resorts were nestled. After a while of riding around, we gave our posteriors a rest and hit another beach. Soph had made us spicy tuna sandwiches. Just after they'd been devoured, we came across Scarborough Fish and Chips. Soph had been craving fish and chips for a while, shame we'd just eaten!

Having failed to catch the view from the cable car earlier in the day, we decided to drive the winding road to the top of the highest point on the island - Gunung Raya. It was a fun ride with macaques all over the place. At the top is a hotel with a 360° viewing tower. We took in the views with a few cups of local tea, before heading back to our hotel to freshen up before a feed. We fancied some seafood and settled on a small Chinese run place. We went for a Mantis shrimp, a snapper and lots of veg, noodles, rice. It was very tasty, another great day!

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Not content with beach relaxation for the day, we rented a jet ski, which proved to be hilarious! It was so powerful and mum was nuts! She turned to me and said "I don't feel in control, you drive". I said she was fine, so she grinned, floored it and carried on squeeling. Feeling that I couldn't let mum show me up, I went for it on my second go... This ended with with mum jumping out of her seat on a tight turn and taking me off into the water with her! It was very funny until I realised that I'd lost my Ray Bans sunglasses... It would be cheap knock-off ones from here on in... If you're ever wondering whether or not to rent a jet ski- do it - they're so much fun!

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We found a really nice restaurant for our evening meal, Melayu. The food was some of the best we'd had all trip and the place was nice, cool and modern. We thought they'd missed a '0' off the prices as it was a tenth of our hotel prices... £10 for 3 of us with drinks, starters and all sorts of curries. Amazing!

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We weren't flying back to KL until the evening so had a full day of relaxing around the pool. Mum seemed pretty content, so we spent an afternoon planning and booking flights for Tom, Rich and Sam who'd be joining us in a week. We did nip out for a spot of duty free shopping and a last sunset cocktail though...

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Posted by bloorsontour 21:20 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Street art & trishaws

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We'd heard a lot of great things about Georgetown from fellow travellers and hoped it lived up to our expectations... it did!

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We caught a direct bus from the Cameron Highlands to Georgetown. Technically Penang is an island, but there's a huge bridge connecting it to the mainland so no need to faff with ferry journeys. We thought we'd try and give Jason's mum a hostel experience... a short walk from our bus terminal we arrived at Wassup Hostel. As far as hostels go it was pretty posh; our own bathroom, air con, hot shower, modern and no dog bed.

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We got straight into our sightseeing and spent the afternoon walking around the city. I think we managed about 50 metres before Debbie went on a spending spree and purchased a whole new wardrobe (no encouragement needed). If only I could buy new clothes... I definitely can't carry anymore!

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There's lots of street art around Georgetown, infact it's on almost every building in sight. The afternoon soon passed us by as we got distracted by colourful graffiti, iron cartoons, colonial architecture and cultural diversity. I tried my best directing us and reading out information from our guide leaflets.

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We treated ourselves to a lovely meal in the evening and me and Jason indulged in a glass of wine (none for Debbie as she says she can't handle her drink at her age before bed... He he).

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Debbie treated is to a cup of tea and breakfast in bed... I could get used to her as our travel companion. We were all prepared for our busy day... First stop... more shopping! This time for souvenirs and a stroll through a busy Chinese market.

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Then we walked along the sea front where you can see the town hall, old fort and posh cruise liners docked up in the city port.

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The Eastern & Oriental Hotel is of historical importance in Penang because it used to be owned by the Sarkie brothers, the wealthy businessmen that owned other Asian hotels such as Raffles in Singapore, and has an extensive celebrity clientele history. We'd read that no trip is complete to Georgetown without a lunch here to try tiffin. Tiffin is a style of lunch that comes in tin tiered pots; ours included a fruit punch, soup starter, spiced vegetables, chicken curry, fish, salad and banana fritter. Of course I had to try their signature cocktail, an E&O sling (Cointreau, gin, crème de menthe)...I was the only one that liked it. The setting was beautiful; a luxurious and exclusive courtyard overlooking the sea.

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We finished our lunch just in time for a guided tour around the Blue Mansion. It's a restored home that used to belong to the wealthiest man in Asia. I would recommend anybody a visit here, we had an excellent guide who was evidently very enthusiastic about the property and its history. He explained that his mother used to live here when it was split into rental rooms for some of the poorer families. We were particularly impressed with the floor tiles that Cheong Fatt Tze, the Chinese owner, had had shipped from the UK, Stoke-on-Trent. The tiles were in original pristine condition because they had been covered by a layer of dirt for years, as nobody had been bothered to clean them when the house was in a state of disrepair. Me and Debbie raised our hand like geeky school children to inform the guide that we were from Stoke-on-Trent...to which he said that it's his wish to visit there one day. All in all its a very beautiful home with a very informative guide... much enjoyed.

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We had a lovely evening in Georgetown. We firstly enjoyed a happy hour cocktail, frozen marguerita, and it was huge!

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And then found ourselves two trishaw drivers to take us around the city by night. We had a slight disagreement about which trishaw drivers we wanted because we'd promised our business to one, who then couldn't be found again as we'd started to negotiate with a different one... Oops! Mine and Debbie's was named Mohammed, he was lovely but unfortunately couldn't speak much English, so we had to have a run through of what Jason had learnt from his driver after our tour had finished. We were taken through Little India, China town, past colonial buildings and then small markets. It was such fun... although Mohammed was sweaty after cycling us two around for over an hour.

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We weren't that hungry after our huge tiffin lunch, so called in at a local food stall for duck noodle soup (its not been my favourite dish, but it filled a hole).

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After that jampacked day I was certainly in need of some beach time.

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Posted by bloorsontour 08:07 Archived in Malaysia Comments (4)

Cameron Highlands

Malaysia's premier hillstation

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The Cameron highlands appear on most itineraries on the Malaysian peninsular so we thought we'd show mum an Asian hill station. The hill stations were set up by the colonists as a place to get away from the heat and humidity of the lowlands. We have been to several in Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the Philippines and have always enjoyed the quaint atmosphere, the cool temperatures, peace, quiet and great food.

On arrival in the main backpacker stop off for the CH, Taman Rata, Soph and I were a little put out by the traffic and high rise buildings. We found a small cafe for mum to have tea and a scone and us to have our curry roti fix. Soph did a reccy and found a couple of accommodation options and we went for a nice place on a quiet backstreet. The men of the establishment were friendly and helpful, but the women were surly and rude. The place was just what we needed though; fairly cheap and mum didn't need to be on the dog bed.

We decided to spend the afternoon/evening pottering around Taman Rata; eating, drinking and also booking flights to and from Langkawi, our chosen place to give mum some relaxation time before flying home. It took all evening to find somewhere with internet that would get us through the booking process, but we managed it in the end! We also had a good meal and a few beers.
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We had priced up getting a car, 2 motorbikes or a taxi, but couldn't beat the £5 a head that the 5hr bus tour would cost. As bus tours go, it was good and fit in a lot of what we wanted to see, leaving the afternoon free for a walk.

First up was the butterfly and miscellaneous creature place:
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A mantis...
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Next up, the bee farm. It was a bit wet so we were the only ones to look around and then got told off by the driver for being late...
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We got a taste of the honey, including one by tiny stingless bees... It was good bit not worth a tenner so we moved on...

Next, the Boh tea plantation. This had impressive views, good tea and even better cake. There is an onsite workers village with temples, church, shop, school and football pitch...
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The next stop; a flower farm/attraction thing, complete with slide...
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Our penultimate stop was a strawberry farm- good strawberries but better frozen strawberry pops!
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And finally, a Buddhist temple...

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None of the walks were particularly sold by their descriptions on the guesthouse notice board... "past the garbage falls", "through the power station" and such like... We took the one round the back of a golf course via Parit waterfall (which did have quite a bit of garbage). Once away from the river it was nice, though having not been on a golf course for 9months, I was pretty gutted to be walking without a stick in my hand following a ball! The course looks very impressive. We continued to the town of Brinchang where there are plenty more hotels in the same high rise concrete... In Brinchang we asked about getting a taxi up to Gunung Brinchang, a mountain less than 30 mins drive away. The set fare of £5 an hour was apparently insufficient so we gave up... Taxis in Malaysia carry signs saying metered taxis, no haggling, but perhaps 1 in 5 actually take you on the meter. I'm usually happy to persevere...
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We went for another curry in the evening and this one was great! Very cheap and one of the best currys we've had. We ate until moving became difficult...
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Mum enjoyed the Cameron Highlands and perhaps we have become snobs. The views were nice in places, but the place certainly wasn't peaceful and the large amount of building works, concrete and polly tunnels certainly detracted significantly from the natural beauty of the place. The towns lacked much of the charm that we were hoping for. We made the most of our time and enjoyed our day and a half, but don't see why it is on everyone's Malaysian itinerary...

Posted by bloorsontour 02:55 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Taman Nagara

Welcome to the jungle...

semi-overcast

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As Jason's Mum was on a pretty tight schedule we decided to get an organised mini van and boat to the rainforest, Taman Negara, rather than local buses. Our hotel in KL managed to organise this for us. The mini van was simple with a brief change of bus in Jerantut and then we had a scenic boat ride for 3 hours down the river (it was definitely the best way to enter the rainforest, but my bum was numb by the end).
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We were welcomed into our guesthouse by a smiling lady, Delimah, with fruit juice and biscuits. Our room was basic, but clean and homely, and it provided us with a lot of entertainment when we realised Jason's mum's bed was a mattress in the corner of the room, nicknamed the 'dog bed'. It happened to be Debbie's best nights sleep of the whole trip.
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The 4x4 night safari had been highly recommended by a girl at our guesthouse who had seen flying foxes and sloths the night before... so we quickly organised a tour for our first evening. Our high hopes for the tour had quickly disappeared... the tour consisted of a slow moving Jeep on the main road with a spot light pointing up at trees 50-100m away in the hope of seeing a sign of life...Jason may have seen a wild cat, we saw a small wild pig and then the tail of some form of mammal...we were really bored and disappointed with our drive along the main road (not what we expected of a safari).

Delimah had fed and watered us at breakfast time in preparation for our walk in the rainforest the next day. Unfortunately my toe was still painful and so I wore Debbie's new walking shoes which were slightly wider than mine for the walk. We caught a small boat across the river and made our way to a viewing point in the rainforest. The initial paths are all wooden board walks with signposts all the way through the trees, however if you go further into the forest (which is the size of Luxembourg) it is completely wild and you have the opportunity of catching sight of their big animals, including bears, tigers and elephants. We stuck to the board walks, which were steep and sweaty work in the humidity of the forest, and were rewarded by a spectacular viewing area where we were lucky enough to see lots of tropical birds (catching a photograph of them was more difficult, I promise you we saw bright red ones, green ones and blue winged birds too).
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We also walked through the rope canopy of the forest, which was good fun; but unfortunately no wildlife as I guess the animals know that they are disturbed by humans there.
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After all that walking in the humidity we were in need of a refreshment break and found the perfect spot by the river. Jason and his mum enjoyed their pineapple roti and we all admired the view, including some monkeys and a huge Rhino-horned Hornbill flying across the forest canopy (which we were very lucky to see).

In the afternoon we went on a tour down the river to a local village. We got soaked! The boatman insisted on rocking the boat through the rapids, which in turn sprayed us with water (I think Jason won the prize for being most wet). We were a little concerned by our village stop at first as our guide just left us to walk around it ourselves, we couldn't help but feel as though we were intruding. The tour got better once our guide sat down with us and explained a bit about the villagers; they have an unknown origin, some say their genes are from African descendants and they certainly look more African then Asian, they still hunt in the forests for food and eat gibbons, they have certain marriage and death rituals, there's a village shaman, and many more interesting ways... They demonstrated how they make fire and catch animals with a blow pipe. We all got a chance to use the blow pipe on a target... guess who was the best? Me!!!
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You would think Jason's Mum would have been exhausted by the days activities... but no, instead she treated us to a night walk in the rainforest to see the critters that come out to play in the dark. We donned our waterproofs as it was chucking it down and our torches to meet our guide. We were a bit unlucky with the weather because a lot of the wildlife hides in the rain, but nevertheless we enjoyed it and was a new experience for us all. We saw: stick insects, a family of wild pigs, bird eating spider, a yellow bird in its nest, gecko, porcupine and a scorpion. Apparently we had just missed the deer from the viewing hide, I think the group before us must have scared them away. I really enjoyed it despite the rain.
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A little family cafe became our place to eat whilst in Taman Negara. We ordered drinks, nasi goreng (rice dishes), paprika chicken, Thai soup and for the three of us it never cost more than £5 total. We all also discovered we were partial to a coconut smoothie from a local lady who serves them from her front door... calorific and delicious!
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A jampacked day...no rest for the wicked... next stop the Cameron Highlands.

Posted by bloorsontour 02:11 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

An extra Bloor on Tour

sunny

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I'm writing lying on a beach recuperating from Mum's visit! We had a great 2 weeks, but no time for blogging and not enough sleep (old people dont need as much sleep, eh mants?), so we'll be catching up on both over the next few days...

Kuala Lumpur

We arrived in KL the day before Mum's arrival to get our bearings, do a little admin (fix my phone and do some laundry) and generally prepare ourselves... Before we knew it, it was time to get to the airport to await her arrival.
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As an aside, Mum once let my brother, Christian, set up sky internet for her. The next day, she was calling the helpline to deal with a fault and explaining that her username: 'Psychomantis4' was not of her choosing... Mantis has stuck as her nickname and the whole incident goes down as one of my brother's finer moments!

The 'Mantis Bloor' sign went unnoticed, both due to her excitement at seeing our faces and her dodgy eyes.
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We decided to get her straight into backpacking mode, so took the bus into KL rather than a taxi. She was on good form considering the flight, but we were all ready for bed by the time we made it to the hotel. After a decent (though too short for my liking) sleep, we were ready to go and explore. There was no plan so we took her for a nice breakfast where we decided on a plan for the next week. Having done a little booking, we set off to the bird park, which was a Grandad recommendation. It's a huge aviary that you can walk through, dotted right in the middle of KL city; we had fun and saw lots, we even had time for a fruit stop and mum's first try of mangosteens... They were a hit. With all the birds we saw at least we wouldnt be too disappointed if we didn't manage to see much in the jungle...
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Next up, we headed to the Indian area for a curry and a mango lassie.

We decided to have a treat and went to the Heli Lounge for a sunset cocktail or 2... The place is pretty impressive, essentially just some tables and chairs on the helipad atop a skyscraper, looking out over the KL skyline of the Petronas Towers. It was a great evening and Mum was definitely in the holiday spirit!
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On our way back, we stopped off at the Pavilion (big posh shopping centre) food court for some breakfast supplies and a spot of supper. Thai green curry, proper Ribena and beef fried rice. Mantis was starting to flag by this point, but we had to eat... We jumped on the free bus back to our hotel and got our heads down ready for our trip to the jungle the next day...
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Posted by bloorsontour 05:40 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Yangon, Myanmar

Take Two

This is just a brief blog entry as I'd said that we were revisiting Yangon at the end of our Myanmar trip; we did but I'm afraid we didn't do that much.

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We arrived in the early hours of the morning after our overnight bus from Inle Lake, so were unable to check in to our hostel room. Instead we thought we'd visit the Shwedagon paya before the tourist buses arrived later on in the day. Unfortunately we only saw it from the outside as the price was more than we expected,we felt a little templed out already and it was covered in scaffold... whether this will be a decision we regret I'm not sure... We still got a good view of it from the surrounding streets anyway.

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From here we headed to the same Indian biriyani place we'd been before for some breakfast... yes, we had a curry breakfast, just doing it Myanmar style, and a banana lassi.

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We then quickly visited the Bogyoke Aung San market again to do some souvenir shopping; which included a young boy choosing some lounge wear for Jason's brother as a birthday gift. We were then both feeling pretty tired and went back to the hostel for an afternoon nap.

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We had both been quite keen to go to the Strand Hotel happy hour in Yangon, however we couldn't because they only do it on a Friday night...bummer! Instead we went into China town for a meal and a few beers for our last night in Myanmar.

Posted by bloorsontour 05:30 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Inle Lake

Water and wine...

sunny 26 °C

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It's been so easy to travel around Myanmar; granted we've stuck to the backpacker buses rather than local buses, but even so, they're so cheap and efficient. We caught another overnight bus from Hsipaw to Inle Lake, which arrived on time, 5.30am, and we managed to check straight into our hotel to catch up on few hours sleep in the morning.
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We stayed at Blissful Inn; a relatively new hotel with very attentive door staff (racing to open the door, even tripping over themselves to ensure they get there before you). In fact all the young staff were really nice and seemed to work there 24/7, we often had to wake the receptionist and ask her to deal with our request in her pyjamas. Nonetheless, they were all really friendly and helpful.

We felt like a chilled day initially at Inle, so this turned out to be a food and wine day... lovely! We hired bicycles from our hotel and our first stop was a 'sort of' bakery for a homemade burger and avacado smoothie. We then cycled through Nuangshwe, the town we were staying at on the lake, and worked up an appetite and thirst...what better way to deal with hunger and thirst than a stop at a Myanmar vineyard. The Red Mountain winery sits just outside Nuangshwe, a short 30 minute cycle ride. It has a lovely outdoor area where you can soak up the views of the lake with a glass or two of wine. We really treated ourselves and ordered a tasting set each of 4 wines, then a bottle of wine (a lovely sauvignon blanc) and then a glass of red each. I was pleased with our wine afternoon, but I was even more chuffed that I got to eat proper blue cheese (I've not had decent cheese for 8 months and I've missed it so much). It all went down a treat. By evening time we needed some food to even up our alcohol intake, so had a nice meal at Lotus restaurant; lemon chicken, lime lassi and avocado salad.
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On our second day we decided to see Inle Lake up close...it was a brilliant day! We paid 14000 kyat each to spend the day on the lake with our very own teak boat, boatman, chairs, blankets and umbrellas. You can take your pick of boat companies to take you out on the lake, all doing the same sort of tour (souvenir shops, silversmiths, cigar workshops, traditional fisherman, stilted village and floating allotments). We picked ours based on an honest initial quote (rather than all the haggling and pestering)...it turned out to be the right choice.
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The lake's huge and surrounding mountain scenery stunning. It took us about 1 hour to get from the north side to 2/3 of the way down. We were both amazed by the stilted villages and floating farm land of fruit and vegetables...I could have spent hours just boating in between the villages to see how they live. We've visited lots of villages throughout Asia, but none like this... aesthetically it has to be my favourite... the wooden houses are perfectly suspended over the lake water by thin wooden poles, creating beautiful waterways of teak lodges. The villages have schools, the local post office and all the usual daily goings on of normal village life, except that neighbours don't just pop next door for a chat or to the local shop, instead they have to elegantly row themselves through the small water channels. Almost all of the villagers income is from farm produce, fruit and vegetables, that are grown on marsh land... you can see the villagers tending to their tomatoes, courgettes, fresh flowers on their small boats...just amazing to see! There's so much fresh food and they're all sold at the local markets that happen at village sites over the lake.
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Our boatman called in at the obligatory souvenir and workshops; including silversmiths, weaving, cigar making, boat timber men, ladies with long necks (I'm not sure what tribe they were from) and craft work.
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I think our boatman soon guessed that we weren't the type of tourist that was interested in the tacky souvenir pitch, so spent more time taking us around more villages and floating gardens.
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We stopped for lunch at a stilted restaurant and had a lime sour fish dish with rice and noodles... Delicious!
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As the sun was going down over the lake we made our way into the middle where the fisherman were using traditional techniques for their catch...elegantly the men balance on one leg and paddle with their foot, what seems to be effortlessly and with grace, whilst casting their nets out to catch the fish. Again, I could have spent hours watching them, it was fascinating. Our lovely boat man let us circle the men, so peaceful, and joined Jason with a Myanmar cigar while we all relaxed in the middle of the lake watching the sunset... a truely beautiful day, one of my favourites!
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What better way to end an already fantastic day than to have a curry and a beer in the evening. We ordered chicken and Dahl curry, with plenty of naan bread to soak it up...oh and an avacado salad (in case you haven't guessed by our Myanmar blog entries, we can't get enough of the avacados here).

On our last day in Nuangshwe we had just enough time to visit a couple of temples by bicycle before we had to get the bus back to Yangon. Oh, and we happened to squeeze in another curry, Nepalese this time...
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Posted by bloorsontour 18:14 Archived in Myanmar Comments (4)

Hsipaw, Myanmar

Cat and mouse

sunny 30 °C

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We'd read a few travel blogs about Myanmar and people had recommended taking the bumpy train ride from Mandalay to Hsipaw (pronounced tea-paw). It meant leaving at 4am on a very cold morning, on an extremely smelly and ramshackled carriage, complete with our very own mouse...ergh (this was despite being in upper class). The journey took 12 hours and for the most part isn't actually that scenic, but there is a creaky viaduct that makes the journey sort of worth it. The Gokteik viaduct was built in 1901 by an American steel company and cuts over a deep ravine, it is still in full use despite its age and probably lack of renovation. The train has to stop completely before it goes over and can only travel slowly, I mean snails pace over it, feeling every inch of its sway. It makes for a good photograph anyway.
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Mr Charles Guesthouse in Hsipaw seems to be on most people's travel agenda, so didn't feel much like being of the beaten path as our guide book had promised. We had a twin room with shared bathroom, very clean and efficiently ran. The guesthouse also has hotel rooms too, so there's a mix of backpackers and the more luxurious of travellers there. The big draw of this place is that it organises tours/treks to the local villages, having the monopoly of tourism in Hsipaw. We chose to do an overnight trek to the Palaung village of Pankam.
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The trek takes you through some beautiful scenery, rolling landscapes and flat fields. There were 7 people in our group and we spent a little of our time talking to a British man Ollie, 63years of age and he seems to have travelled most of the world. His 'thing' is to get a tattoo from each place he visits and his Myanmar one was of a leaf (but he didn't know why or what it meant?!). My 'thing' of collecting keyrings from each country didn't seem to impress him... can't think why? He was fitter than me and talked about some of the different treks that he'd been on over the years. The only reason he had to go back to the UK after Myanmar was because he had no more pages left in his passport.
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Our guide, Aweso, was really nice and pointed out a lot of interesting things along the way; such as Shan noodle making, peanut plants and traditional production of sugar blocks from cane. He was really interesting to talk to, his English was brilliant and he enjoyed reading novels in English; and seemed to have his very own library at home. He spoke a lot about the political history of Myanmar and the need for change, and also about his hopes and dreams for the future; which included a cheap and tasty Thai food stall with organic produce. He'd worked in Kuala Lumpur away from his family for 7 years just to save some money for his wedding (a 3 day affair with over 2000 people on the last day) and said if things didn't change with money distribution in Myanmar he would have to consider working abroad again. It's tough for a lot of Myanmar people, the county's said to be the poorest in Asia.
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We stopped for a lovely lunch break at a village and were offered an absolute feast. There was banyon leaf curry, cabbage salad, noodles, rice crisps, fermented bean bars (horrible), vegetable rice, and much more. All vegetarian and off the land, and all but one were delicious.
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Unfortunately I keep having a problem with my hiking boots in hot weather and my little toe blisters. I was in quite a lot of discomfort for the last part of the trek and so couldn't wait to reach our village home to put my feet up. By the time we arrived at Palaung village it was already dark. We were staying in a large stilted house with a local family; parents, grandparents, 2 little boys. They were all really nice and friendly, but disappointingly there wasn't much interaction between us and the group considering it had been sold as a homestay. Nonetheless it was still lovely to meet them and see a little of their way of life. I learnt that 'hello' is 'cam-sigh' and 'thank you' is 'rock-main'. The family even offered me and Jason a private room because we were the only couple; it was small and cosy enough with a very firm rug to sleep on the wooden floor.
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I had a pretty bad nights sleep... it was freezing and so uncomfortable. There was a lot of noise all night from the cockerels and their pet cat. In the middle of the night the cat got louder and louder, I turned on the torch and there at the end of my bed was the cat with a mouse in its mouth...OMG! I HATE rodents, anything with a tail and it was in my room! I woke Jason up with the words "Oh...My...God" (I couldn't shout or scream in case the cat dropped the mouse in the room). Jason couldn't believe it either. Some how I managed to slowly usher the cat with the mouse out of the room, but from then on there was no way I was sleeping in case it came back in.
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The next day we got shown around the village, it has its own monastery, school and local shop. The kids at the school were so cute. We watched 6 lessons going on at the same time in one small room. Tom & Nicola, both teachers in England, there is no way you could teach properly in that environment. Each lesson involved children shouting and chanting at the top of their voices, every word that the teachers were saying was echoed back in loud chorus.
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The next day I gave up on my boots and resorted to walking in my flip flops. My blisters were now really sore. The only problem was that I am so clumsy and tripped over a stone, stubbed my toe and am now pretty sure it's broken with thick purple bruising covering my toe. Let's just say I was far from happy during the final 3 hours of walking.

At the end of the trek we were picked up by a tuktuk and taken to some hot springs. I only dipped my toes in as it was really hot in the midday sun and appeared quite dirty, but Jason went fully in; as we were leaving several locals turned up and started doing their dirty laundry in the hot baths...gross! The food in the restaurant next to the springs was very good- the tea leaf salad and shan noodles were delicious and we all ordered double portions.
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When we finished the trek we had one final night at Mr Charles Guesthouse to recover. We had a day of pottering around Hsipaw; including a visit to the market (I bought a beautiful handmade woven hat), fruit juice by the lake and we found Mr Shake smoothie bar. It's quite a pleasant town to spend a day or two in, but most people come here for the village treks like us and skip the town itself.
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We really did enjoy Hsipaw and the people are extremely friendly, but for now I need some time off trekking to let my toes recover.

Posted by bloorsontour 17:35 Archived in Myanmar Comments (2)

Mandalay

sunny 30 °C

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Rather than being unceremoniously dumped at a bus station in the middle of nowhere, the bus dropped us off right at our door. Night Sweet Hotel looked very professional with concierge to help us cross the road and see that we didn't need to open a door for ourselves... Not bad for £20 a night. We got a nice bright room on the top floor and even a pretty good breakfast included.

Mandalay is a dusty, smoky sprawl of a place. Taxis were expensive so we decided to brave the traffic and get a motorbike. First stop was the train station to book a 4am train to our next destination and then on to a food stop. We found a place with nice curries and good, but expensive strawberry lassies (our latest obsession). After we decided to limit our riding around in daylight so headed back to the hotel for some planning, sleep and a couple of episodes.
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For our second day, we decided to head out of Mandalay to see some of the more picturesque former capitals. First up though was the Ubien Bridge - a large ramshackle teak bridge crossing a lake. It was quite pleasant in the early morning with mainly locals strolling along, fisherman and cockle pickers doing there thing and a bit of monk business going down. We returned in the afternoon thinking of staying for sunset and found coach loads of western tourists, many of whom looked very miserable for some reason. On the return visit, we grabbed a quick beer and a crab before leaving the tour groups to it, happy with our mornings memories and photos.
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We stopped to grab petrol at a slightly chaotic station and the staff tried to charge us for 7 litres. Knowing that our tank probably held 3 in total I explained that we wouldn't be paying that... I also explained how nice people had been so far and my disappointment at finding people trying to take advantage. After a small discussion amongst themselves, we were told no payment was necessary... Apology accepted and a good bonus - free fuel for the whole day!
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Inwa is further south of the bridge and is a pretty low key town. Horses and carts ply the streets ferrying people to various temples. I was glad to have a bike so that i didn't have to follow a stinking horse around for a couple of hours... Nothing was particularly standout, but the area is scenic and there are plenty of small temples that you can "discover" alone. The main attractions were busy enough but not oppressive. I quite enjoyed watching a photography group with one woman taking photos of kids with a huge lens about a foot from their faces.
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After Inwa, we took the bridge over the Ayerywaddy River to Saigang where gold and white stupas shine from the hillside. We chose a random monastery to visit where there happened to be a film crew up to something and a friendly monk, keen to show us around and practice his English. Like many monks, he had been "given" to the monastery as his parents couldn't afford to feed and clothe him. The monastery was beautiful, but the lack of choice in how to spend your life is quite sad... On the way down the hill a group of kid monks heckled us. One of the boys (about 7yrs old) was smoking. They looked like a proper little gang. Perhaps being a monk as a kid isn't so bad...
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Next up on our bike tour was getting lost around the western end of Mandalay. There were plenty of locals going about there daily lives, many of whom were keen to say hello. Having had enough of battling the rush hour traffic, with the sun setting and red eyes from a the dust and the fumes, we set our sites on a restaurant. Diamond Ring vegetarian Indian restaurant was awesome! So good that we went back the next day to work our way through the rest of their tandoori breads with paneer, Dahl, cauliflower and potato curries. Each one was extremely tasty (I'm writing this 8hrs into a 10hr train journey and it's making me very hungry!).

For our last day in Mandalay, we had planned to cycle around the streets, take in the palace, a few pagodas and Mandalay life in general. Given the heat, dust and our laziness, we took the motorbike again.

In the centre of Mandalay is a moat and walls cutting out a square with sides 2.5km long. Inside there appears to be very little... Its nice and peaceful and seems to he mainly army bases. At the very centre is the former palace. For us it was interesting as we'd read a good book called the Glass Palace (the author's name escapes me), which describes the walled city as a place commoners could only look upon from until the British invaded and exiled the royal family in the name of cheap teak. The palace was bombed and heavily damaged in the second world war and so much of what was there was reconstructed afterwards and is in a slightly shabby state.

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The golden monastery was originally brought from a former capital and rebuilt within the palace grounds. Later it was moved again outside of the walls. This saved it from the bombs and it's pretty impressive now, but in its glory of would have been covered in gold leaf and must have been quite the site...
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It was a hot day so we checked out a posh hotel to see if we could use their pool. It seemed we could, though at 30 dollars we decided it was a bit steep. Next door was an Olympic sized outdoor pool, which was only 2 dollars. Sophie had decided that a public pool would he disgusting and despite it being nice she stuck to her guns and watched from the side while I did a mile. Well, she actually got the Bagan blog written so she did well.
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The last activity for the day was to climb Mandalay Hill. Sophie has been a bit put out at having to walk barefoot so much, even taking to doing a strange tiptoe thing; walking gingerly, if you will. Apparently the ground feels horrible under her feet. Anyway, Mandalay Hill is a series of covered walkways between pagodas taking you to the top of the hill (about a 45 minute walk). You walk barefoot because of all the pagodas, but the ground is a little dirty (dogs, cats, birds, people). The walk up has a couple of small highlights but is generally a line of souvenir shops, dodgy construction projects and obscured views. At the top, the coach trips arrive and even have an elevator to take them the few metres up from the car park... The views are impressive, but the people annoyed us too much to justify waiting for sunset and anyway, the curry was calling to us...
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Posted by bloorsontour 08:54 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Bagan, Myanmar

E-bikes...woohoo!

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We caught an overnight bus from Yangon to Bagan, with JJ bus company. We'd definitely recommend them as a mode of transport; hostess with a drink & snacks trolley, plenty of leg room to recline and more importantly the journey time took exactly the 9 hours they'd promised...none of these frustrating delays we'd heard about.

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When we arrived at the bus station we were greeted by the usual mayhem; local men shouting and pestering for our custom. They claimed to offer "good price" for their taxivan to the hotel, however then proceeded to try and rip us off. Us, alongside another group of 5 backpackers, refused to pay their 5000 kyat per person transfer and after 30 minutes of arguing we all walked away...only to miraculously find them chasing us to offer the ride for 2000 kyat per person instead (I'm sure it's supposed to be even less than that in reality).

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We'd got a lovely room at Northern Breeze Hotel and luckily for us they let us check in straight away to catch up on some much needed sleep. The room rate included a lovely breakfast with fresh fruit, omlette chef and bread & jams. Plus our view at breakfast included a sky filled with hot air balloons floating past. We also hired their e-bikes to explore Bagan on. Couldn't have asked for more.

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Unfortunately our first day was a write off... Jason woke up ill! Let's just say he needed to spend the day being very close to a toilet...oh dear! It was an excuse for me to have a relaxed day too; catching up on blogs, editing photographs, reading and watching Dexter. The only thing I didn't like was having to dine on my own; I'm not sure I'm very good with my own company, Jason says I need him to twitter my thoughts to...I think he's right! Luckily the next day he felt much better...

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Bagan used to be Burma's capital city and is now on everybody's tourist trail to see the magnificent landscape of stupas and pagodas. It does not disappoint!

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The temples are built with brick and topped with guilded pinnacles, often decorated inside with ornate frescoes of Hindu and Buddhist images.

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The main temples, such as Ananda Pahto and Dhammayangyi, get lots of tourists but it is incredibly easy to escape the bus tour crowds.

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The best thing about being in Bagan was exploring. It was hilarious bombing around on these little pink e-bikes. Heading down muddy paths that lead to overgrown ruins that you feel you've discovered for the first time, then being chased away by cows down dirt tracks and then finding your own roof top view to enjoy all to ourselves...we loved it!

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Mum and Dad you may be interested to hear that a lot of the river cruise companies stop off at Bagan as it's next to the Ayewaywady River. There's a gold temple right on the river and I'm sure the best view of it would have been sailing past it on a cruise but unfortunately we didn't have time. We were going to get a boat from Bagan to Mandalay but the 32 dollar fee exceeded our budget on transport... tis a shame because it's meant to be beautiful.

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Bagan is famous for its sunset vistas. Finding a quiet spot to enjoy it is more of a challenge as lots of tour groups arrive on buses to catch a glimpse of the view. We managed to sit on our very own temple while lots of people crowded on the one in front of us. We watched the sky turn to pink as we admired the jaw dropping view.

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There's a local village in the centre of old Bagan, real Burmese life on the doorstep of a huge tourist trap. This was nice to see, especially as when I was researching about Bagan I read that the Myanmar military forcibly removed a village from the archeological centre and relocated them..all for government money prospects from tourism. We caught local men playing football volleyball (I've yet to find the actual name of the sport) in the evening as the sun's heat was dissipating. There were some impressive overhead kicks going on, very athletic.

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I've not mentioned thanaka yet. As soon as you arrive in Myanmar you'll notice that everybody has sandy cream on their face, usually round splodges on their cheeks. All different ages and genders wear it. It's a beauty cream made from the bark of a tree... can't remember which tree now. This little girl on the photograph was interested in having some of my lipstick to match her cream.

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We took a lot of photographs. I won't bore you with the history of each temple, but its fascinating to think that the earliest ones are from 1057AD. There's a huge conflict between 'restoration and preservation' and UNESCO are trying to ensure that original styles and techniques are being upheld (which in many cases they are not).

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We found a couple of good restaurants around Bagan; Be Kind to Animals served delicious tamarind leaf curry and mint & lime tea and Weatherspoon's (nothing like the chain you get at home) did an amazing avacado salad and Myanmar Mule (rum, lime, ginger and soda). I enjoyed celebrating with my midday cocktail...celebrating what I hear you ask?! You'll see...

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We did a lot of debating about how we compared Bagan to the Angkor temples and Petra... I thought Bagan's plus side is it's scale and skyline of pinnacles, however the buildings themselves are very samey and restored to varying qualities. You can maybe get a bit bored by the red brick and 4-sided temple combo. There was always something different to look at in Petra and Angkor. Bagan is great for exploring, it's relaxed and there are lots of interactions with the locals. People here are very friendly, dignified and respectful. There are plenty of souvenirs on offer, but people aren't pushy and they won't take your money for showing you around. Three kids on top of one temple were plenty happy with a chewing gum each after we wouldn't buy a painting. Individually the temples don't have the wow factor but overall we had a great time exploring.

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Posted by bloorsontour 01:50 Archived in Myanmar Comments (5)

Yangon, Myanmar

Mingalarbar Myanmar!

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Our journey from Manila to Yangon (via Kuala Lumpur) was 17 hours, so you can imagine that by the time we got to Sleep In Hostel in Yangon we were ready for our bed. The transfer from the airport to our hotel was very straightforward; hassle free, fixed price and comfortable. We've been warned about the frustrations of travelling in Myanmar. So far so good...

At the end of our Myanmar trip we fly out of Yangon airport so only chose to spend one day here now (and hopefully another day before we depart at the end). As we were staying in downtown Yangon we thought we'd explore this area and follow the Lonely Planet's walking guide, well, loosely anyway.

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From our hotel we walked through the busy streets of downtown; fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, Indian street food, lots of shouting, chaotic streets. It gave us chance to soak up the atmosphere. We felt very safe and were only greeted with smiles from the locals.

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We called in at a traditional tea shop for a rest from the sun's heat. I ordered lemon tea, which disappointingly came in a sachet and tasted like Lemsip, whereas Jason joined the locals and had a very milky, sugary cup of tea... it was so sweet and reminded us of the Sri Lankan teas we had. You can find lots of tea shops in and around the streets.

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The walk then takes you past some grand buildings; the city hall, high court building, banks and the Strand Hotel. We had a sneaky peek inside Yangon's most expensive hotel; posh restaurant, cafe, musician in the lounge. If we get chance when we next come to Yangon I'd like to enjoy their evening happy hour (we can't afford their drink prices normally).

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There's a relatively large street area dedicated to books, the outdoor library.

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It was so hot and so it only set seemed fair that we should have plenty of food and drink replenishments.

A bag of fresh pineapple.

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A delicious chicken and vegetable biriyani (amazing!)

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And Jason's personal favourite, a fresh strawberry lassi from a street corner stall.

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The Bogyoke Aung San Market is a large area filled with souvenir stands selling jade bracelets, longyis and paintings. The upstairs area is filled with fabric shops and seamstresses; some of the floral embroidery work is beautiful.

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Before catching our night bus to Bagan we had just enough time for a quick rest and freshen up. Jason got a few food supplies from the outdoor vendor for our onwards journey; including Indian nibbles and fruit. Our food experience so far has been very Indian in flavour, but I gather this changes the further north you travel... we shall see.

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We're both looking forward to returning to Yangon in a couple of weeks (hopefully for a cocktail at The Strand and Jason for another strawberry lassi) and to see the main temple based attraction: Shwedagon Paya.

Posted by bloorsontour 05:24 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

Vigan, Philippines

A taste of Spain

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We knew we needed to be back in Manila on the 12th January because we had a flight booked on the 13th to our next destination. We could either stay another night in Sagada and risk the bus back to Manila being fully booked or we could have a very long journey to Vigan and see a different side of the Philippines...we went for the latter.

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It took 11 hours and 4 buses (Sagada-Bontoc-Servantes-Somewhere else-Vigan) to get there. There's no set timetable for the buses and they just leave when they're full, we seemed to be waiting for ages for our bus to leave Servantes...we managed to watch quite a few episodes of the Dexter series while we waited. Overall the journey wasn't too bad, we've definitely had worse.

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We'd not booked any accommodation in advance but luckily the tourist information office were very good and found us a lovely room in a Spanish Colonial House (I can't remember the name). First impressions, it was difficult to believe we were still in the Philippines; cobbled streets, horse drawn carriages, European architecture. I imagine this is what Intramuros in Manila must have looked like before it got bombed in WW2, luckily for Vigan it escaped unharmed by the war and is a well preserved Spanish colonial town.

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You only need a day here to see the main tourist attractions and get a feel for the place. There appeared to be a lot of Filipino tourists, all making the most of the sunny weather and outdoor dining on the cobbled streets. It really did feel like being in an old Spanish town in Andalucia, we even found a little place serving pork espanadas. Although I'm afraid to say we went for an Italian feel to our outdoor dining experience in the evening and found a lovely place that did wood fired pizzas; we enjoyed eating our pizza and watching horses trot past in the piazza.

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The Filipino tourists took quite a shine to me and Jason when visiting the bell tower. Jason went up to the top of the bell tower and while I was waiting for him I got accosted by a group of Filipinos who wanted a souvenir photograph of me... I lost track how many I posed for, they all wanted a piccy. Then when Jason came back down from the top of the tower we had to do a whole load more photographs of the two of us... I felt like a celebrity.

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We visited a museum of Crisologo, a local governor, set up in his old home with remnants of his assassination.

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We went to the local cathedral and park.

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Then spent the late afternoon reading in the park. This is when all of the locals come out and socialise away from the sun's heat; the parks fill with people chatting, skateboarders and basketball players.

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When its completely dark, 7.30pm, there's a free light show by the towns water fountains. We were joking beforehand about it probably not being up to much...and...we were wrong! It was surprisingly good. They set a 50m square area of water alight to music, all perfectly in time and in colourful displays to match the theme of the music.

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After our day in Vigan we caught an overnight bus back to Manila. We weren't up to doing much on our last day in Manila, other than catching up on sleep and I had my first hair cut in 8 months (an interesting experience, and let's just say I think I'll be wearing my hair up for the next few months). It was time for bed as we had a 4.30am start to catch our flight to Myanmar.

Posted by bloorsontour 05:40 Archived in Philippines Comments (2)

Sagada, Philippines

Spelunking time!

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It was another early start at Randy's Guesthouse and another well organised morning; he provided our tricycle ride to the jeepney and estimated costs for onward travel (with an aim of not being ripped off). Unfortunately we nearly got ripped off at the first hurdle...

Everyone was asked to pay for the jeepney ride up front, with a guarantee of taking us straight to Sagada rather than a transfer at Bontoc. For an easy life I suggested just paying the 300pesos to take us straight to the door of our next guesthouse...I could see Jason was sceptical and rightly so. At Bontoc the driver appeared insistent on waiting for something... we explained that we had paid more money for a direct transfer... to which he laughed and pretended to be on his phone... then exclaimed that the 300pesos hadn't been given directly to him... after much arguing he started the engine and drove us to Sagada. Then we found out that other people on our bus were paying less money than us for the same journey... that really annoyed Jason and I could tell he was thinking "I told you so". I really lost my temper though when he tried to drop us off at the far end of Sagada rather than at our guesthouse...I wasn't moving until he'd completed the task we'd paid him for. Finally we got to our guesthouse, as promised, with some arguing & negotiating, but in one piece and via an extremely scenic route through rice terraces.

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I'd got an instant good feeling about Sagada; it's a pretty town, dotted with multi- coloured houses, set amongst green mountains. The main street that runs through the town has some really cute restaurants and coffee houses; our particular favourites being the Lemon Pie shop (that only sells lemon pies) and Sagada Brew (delicious beef caldereta and chocolate brownies).

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We took it easy on our first afternoon in Sagada and went for a walk to a small waterfall with a natural plunge pool to soak in and escape the heat of the day. It was freezing so I only briefly went in, but Jason was in his element.

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On the walk back we found the perfect beer break; a lady selling ice cold beers, with a bench with a view over the rice fields and glorious sun...bliss!

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Our group of 6 from Banaue split in Sagada, each couple staying at different guesthouses, but we bumped into Amy and Joel and agreed to do the cave connection tour together the next day. We set off the next day with our Filipino guides, Adam and Jacob, for a 3-4 hour underground trek that takes spelunkers between the famous Lumiang and Sumaguing Caves. You enter the caves entrance past some ancient coffins, then descend into the black with the only light coming from a kerosene lamp, and put all of your trust in the guides and hope they know what they're doing. Luckily they did. At times Adam became a human ladder for Amy, the shortest of us 4, and she climbed onto his shoulders to enable her to reach tops of rock walls. At other points I wished I was as petite as Amy because the holes that we were climbing through were tiny (I don't think your claustrophobia, mum, would suit this expedition). We had to wade through waist deep water and ascend slippery rock faces... it was so exciting! There was the option to swim in an underground pool but the water was icy cold and we still had another 1-2 hours of being underground left...so we passed on that one. (Our cave shots aren't that great as they were taken from the GoPro with no light).

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The caving definitely worked up an appetite. Amy and Joel are vegan and recommended we went to a vegetarian restaurant they'd found. It was actually really nice, with tasty bean burgers and lentil soup.

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Keen to explore more of the countryside we went to Echo Valley to see the hanging coffins that Sagada is famous for the next day Some of the coffins are hundreds of years old and the newest one is from 2010. People are buried in a foetal position and hung in small coffins on cliff sides so that they are closer to their ancestral spirits. We only saw a small collection of them, but apparently there are lots of them off the beaten track.

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We had arranged to go for an afternoon hike with our guide from yesterday, Adam. The weather had turned in the afternoon and was actually quite cold and drizzly. Not to be put off, we went for a 3 hour trek over the mountains; at some points very muddy we were in need of our machete made walking sticks. Adam seemed disappointed with the cloud covered views, but we weren't... atmospheric clouds rolling through the mountain in front of us and beautiful pink sunset clouds at the end of our walk.

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Different berries were pointed out to us along the walk; there were some bright pink ones that Jason tried, they looked poisonous so I took a picture in case Adam had misinformed us... Jason is still alive and well!

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At a sunset viewing spot there were some Filipinos on holiday and I partook in some of their photoshoot... they were taking a lot of posed photographs and I'm sure they missed the actual sunset!

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I felt so relaxed in Sagada, despite the energetic itinerary; if we'd had more time, and more money, we'd have stayed here longer and probably gone on the Crystal Caving Tour...maybe next time...

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Posted by bloorsontour 03:27 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

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