A Travellerspoint blog

Malaysia

Farewell Tom, Rich, Sam - it was a blast

Kuala Lumpur for the last time (for a while anyway)

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We arrived back in Kuala Lumpur for our last time (me and Soph have lost count of the number of trips to and from the airport here). It was clear that Tom, Rich and Sam were turning their attention to the week ahead and so a quiet, early night was in order. We called in at the Central Market for lastminute souvenir shopping before going for a cracking curry around the corner from the hostel. The hostel rooftop bar would be our final destination on what had been a fun few weeks.

The trip had run its course and I think everyone was happy, or at least ok with returning to our respective "normalities". The hard part was the thought of when we would get to see each other again. Tom said " I guess I won't see you for a couple of years..." Hopefully that won't be the case, it seems like a very long time, but then we've been away for 10months already and that time has flown by. I feel that all of my good friends and I are happy seeing each other when we can, without expectations. There's little upkeep and it's always good when we do meet up. Tom did however promise to strike me if I develop the upward inflections of our colonial brethren... Fair enough.

So, LadsonTour had ended and it was back to me and Ginge on the road - not such a bad prospect! We were both sad to say goodbye indefinitely, but were really pleased that the 3 of them made the effort (and expense) of coming to see us. It meant a lot and made the organisation required more than worth it! Thanks a lot you 3. You're welcome anytime!

P.S. we'll definitely be back visiting the uk in the next 2 years.

Posted by bloorsontour 22:07 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Langkawi, Malaysia

Sun, sea, sand, jet ski, birthday, gin...

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At last, some beach time! We were all looking forward to relaxing on the white sand and Sam was extremely keen to rock his beach body. A taxi took us straight to our hotel, which we'd already booked on our previous visit to Langkawi a few weeks ago.

Within a couple of minutes we'd been introduced to our neighbours, Annie and Jamie, who bought us all out a can of Skol beer from their fridge as a welcome drink. They couldn't have timed it any better. We sat out enjoying our beers and chatted to our new neighbours, who turned out to be real characters. There was some debate amongst us over their age but I reckon they were in their 70s, they'd travelled all over the world, both had the tanned leathered skin of sun worshippers, and Jamie looked like a roadie from the Rolling Stones (long, perfectly blond sleeked hair). There was a lot of man love for Jamie!

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The evening was getting on a bit and we'd missed sunset, so instead went straight out for some food at the restaurant we'd loved on our last visit to the island. We bought a bottle of Tanquarey gin for the table and enjoyed a feast of prawn fritters, rotis, beef rendang, chicken curry and prawn curry... the evening got off to a very good start!

We then walked along to the beach and enjoyed a few drinks on the bean bags. It was a very civilised evening of wine and good chat... that was until sand wrestling got underway... Boys will be boys! Rich rugby tackled Jason to the ground, but unfortunately Jason retaliated and turned him into a sand monster. J had managed to get sand in his ears, eyes, beard, I'm sure all sorts of crevasses... I was trying to brush it off him and Tom was dowsing him in water to help (although that appeared to make Rich's eyes worse). I think it was all taken in good humour...

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The next day was a lazy day of sunbathing, swimming, eating, sunbathing, drinking, snoozing... very relaxing. There's not much else to report from the day, but we did have a nice evening at Jam Rock (a new bar on the beach with sunset views). We enjoyed a few cocktails, watched the sun go down, listened to an acoustic set (with King Kong as backing dancer) and ordered some bbq food. The food looked really good and we were looking forward to a feast. Unfortunately I think there were some teething problems; Tom had to send back his raw fish, Sam's steak was tough, mine and Jason's food was cold and missing items and it all arrived at odd times. We politely complained and eventually our food came back a lot better. We certainly couldn't complain about the setting, a perfect wooden beach bar (still partly under construction), nice vibe and chilled atmosphere. Satisfied with our food we got up to pay and were told by a friendly Malaysian guy that we didn't need to pay for any of our food and 'sorry' for the problems... Winner! Although it was a bit tight on Rich because he paid for his BBQ burger up front, which was very average and he didn't complain, so ended up being the only one to pay for food that night.

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Happy Birthday Richard! Me, Jason and Tom got up early and went for a morning swim in the sea, a really lovely start to my day! We gave Tom a few pointers on his swimming; relax the arm stroke out of the water and slow down the kick; and guess what...he looked a professional. We then met Sam and Rich for a massive breakfast at one of the bigger hotels near to our rooms. We only paid £2 for an all you can eat breakfast and it even included baked beans... amazing! I'm sure the establishment were keeping an eye on Sam as he worked his way through all the banana loaf that was on offer.

The day was of Rich's choice; boat trip, swimming, motorbikes, snorkelling? He, alongside the others, decided on a day of sunbathing and bat & ball. After a morning of sunbathing we thought Rich might want his first Birthday beer of the day so went to a Mexican restaurant for their happy hour and we all wore Mexican party hats to get Rich in the Birthday spirit (I think Jason could get away with being a Mexican... don't you?)

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We also treated ourselves to a bottle of wine, picnic style in plastic cups, on the beach.

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I don't know what it is with the boys, but they love bat & ball... they even went on a lengthy hunt to find a shop that sold them. I've never played tennis with Sam, but Jason tells me that he's got a vicious slice and this seems to be the case with bat & ball as he broke the bat. Sam you're very competitive. There are some cracking action shots.

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I'd had a lot of sun time and feared I was looking like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, so left the boys to their game and got ready for a night out. We went back to the same restaurant in the evening as it was 'bring your own' and splashed out on a bottle of bubbly for the birthday boy. It was to be another evening of drinking... my liver needs more time than this to recover. We went to a couple of bars and then on to the only club on the island, Sun Bar. It was the strangest place but seemingly very popular as it was busy, it gave us a chance to have a Birthday boogie anyway.

It was quite late when we got up the next day and we were all in the mood for another Mexican fix to help us with our hangovers. The portions are massive and I'm a particular fan of their chimichanga and lemon & mint drinks. I think it was just what the doctor ordered. The only other thing we got up to was sunbathing, bat & ball and general beaching around.

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In the evening we went to a seafood restaurant that was jam packed with customers, so we had high hopes for our food. We should have known to walk out straight away when it took so long to organise a table and then when the waitress took no interest in taking our order. I quite like the loud shouting and hectic food haunts in Asia, however I think some people found the screaming in their vicinity a bit too much. The boys debated whether or not to try a lobster, but in the end went for shared crispy squid starters, with Sam having crab as a main dish and Tom and Rich ordering fish. We waited...and waited... and waited for our order. We watched other people give up and leave the restaurant in frustration at waiting. We hung on in there and eventually, after 90 minutes, got some of our food delivered to the table. We all felt really bad for Sam, he was really looking forward to his seafood meal for the evening and his plate of crabs were virtually inedible; just scraps of claws with no meat in them. In the end he gave up and shared the fish from our orders, which were too huge for person to manage themselves anyway. I'd just like to say now that me and Jason had a lovely meal at this place, but I think the mood had been hampered by poor service and others inadequate meals. It then got worse when we bought it to the waitresses' attention and said we wanted the service charge taking off the bill. There were lots of debating, lots of staring and in the end shouts of frustration from the waitresses that they would have to foot our bill to the owner. By the end of the meal we just wanted to get out of there and me and Jason retired to our bed. I guess you can say "you win some, you lose some"...

It was our last day in Langkawi and the main activity of the day was jet skiing! Eek! Jason and his mum did it a few weeks ago and the video of them looked so much fun... well this time it was my turn. Luckily I was partnered with Sam, as Toms experience was 'wet' to say the least. I'm sorry Sam, I know I was timid, but I was so scared of the power the jet ski had and you seemingly drive it with very little control at very high speed. I think Sam may also have suffered from a burst ear drum from my screaming the entire time. How I stayed on the jet ski is a mystery, Sam went full pelt through the waves and all I could do was cling on for dear life. It was such good fun, better than any ride at Alton Towers, and I'd recommend it to anyone. As for Tom's experience...we all jested him when he tied swimming goggle bands around his sunglasses before getting on the jet ski, but he definitely needed them with Rich's driving. I couldn't stop laughing at his cob when we returned to the shore "Rich did me a over...I can't believe he chucked me off the back of it"... he was soaked but at least he still had his sunglasses on his head. As for Rich, he was beaming from ear to ear.

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There was just time for one last meal at the Malaysian 'bring your own' restaurant... and yes, it was another table full of food. I must admit this time there was a bit of confusion with our order and the restaurant service was a little lax, but you can't grumble at what you get for your money... the food is delicious and our bottle of gin went down a treat. Rather too well for some...Rich had to retire early to sleep it off while I enjoyed a few prosecco cocktails in a bar. There was one last giggle from Langkawi...that was Rich locking out Sam and Tom from their room and then being unable to open the door to let them back in...I was in fits of giggles (maybe the prosecco bubbles had gone to my head).

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Note: there was a lot of drinking, but it's a must when staying on a duty free island!

Posted by bloorsontour 00:40 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Georgetown, Penang

Food, cocktails and street art (take 2: lads on tour)

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Georgetown was our last stop before hitting the beaches of Langkawi. The weather was blistering hot and the pace was slow.

We checked into Wassup Hostel, ready for our first night of sharing one room... it was cosy. I thought Sophie would be thrilled at the prospect of spending the night with 4 strapping lads, but she confided that this was not the case, with her concerns being based on smells and Rich's sleep walking tendencies.

After we'd settled in, we headed out, decided to get some food and so we took them to the Eastern and Oriental Hotel where we'd enjoyed a nice meal with mum a few weeks ago. It was all very civilised... although not the best food of our trip the tiffin was pretty good again.
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Next up we recommended a visit to the Blue Mansion. We hoped that they would get the same tour guy we did, who was excellent. Instead they reported getting a Ting Tong from Little Britain lookalike and they could only understand 50% of what she said. It was nice and handy for the cocktail bar afterwards anyway... The pedant in one may highlight an issue with the "happy hour" at this place; it actually spans 5 hours... We made the most of things and for Sophie four margarita's seemed to have taken effect (Sophie claims to have only had 3...). We went in search of food but got distracted by various bits of Chinese new year celebrations and called in at a temple, at which point Sophie began fluttering around the courtyard like an oversized and somewhat dazed butterfly. She was a hit with some costumed Chinese men with weapons, being plucked ahead of the queue for a photo.
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Eventually we found a curry house for a much needed feed. As you can see from the picture, it was all a little too late to rescue Sophie and after a few laps of the nearby streets, we left the boys to a few more cocktails. Soph was apologetic, but she'd provided plenty of entertainment for the evening!
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We ventured out for brunch after a lie in and stumbled upon an excellent little place: (Jawi House Cafe & Gallery). Tom and Sam spent the rest of the day arguing about how good their respective dishes were and why each was the best. Naturally, neither conceded, but it was definitely a sign of a good meal. There was even a good pudding selection, which is pretty unheard of in Asia. The pineapple and coconut tart was good and there was an incredibly bouncy chocolate cake, but the prize went to a type of set rice pudding with a coconut and palm sugar sauce. It's hard to explain, but it was a taste and texture sensation!
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After a long lie in and an extended feeding session, it was time to see George Town's historic centre. Well, after a bit of shopping... Sophie got herself a ribena ice on a stick, Tom deliberated for a few hours and then bought Catherine a photo, Rich and Sam treated themselves to a vintage poster (Rich opting for the vintage beer one).
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So, Georgetown... I'd found most of the art (or rather Sophie had given a cracking guided tour) on our last trip, so I gave a whistle stop tour of the big names. The highlights being Sam and Rich's attempts at a Bruce Lee flying kick, Tom and Sam on a swing and Tom and Sam pretending to be part of the basketball scene.
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Next up, we decided to take a trishaw though an area, so far unseen and get dropped off at the cocktail bar to start our evening. Unfortunately we chose a couple of bandits! We agreed that 30mins would be enough as we'd seen a lot on foot already. After a little over 10 mins (I knew this as I checked when we set off and it was 6pm give or take a minute) they announced that time was up. We had a stand off, I told them that we'd be reporting them to the tourist police and took a mugshot. Mine and Sam's driver looked a little sheepish, with the other guy the apparent ring leader. We ended up paying something like £4 instead of £5, which I hoped would not lead to having a trishaw Mafia after us, but would mean they hadn't completely won!
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We kept Sophie in check on the cocktail front, ordered some food to be washed down and put the world to rights for a few hours. Being Chinese new year, there was a big celebration on the Esplanade. It was an assault on the senses (mainly the ears)! Sam described as "machine gun fire of words", endless, repeated, high pitched, screaches of words! The lion dancing was impressive and it was certainly an authentic experience. We were glad of a little quiet once it was all over.
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Our time in Georgetown was short, but on the day of our leaving, we had time for one last meal at Jawi house. It didn't dissapoint and we left for our flight feeling pretty content with our time (I think?).

Posted by bloorsontour 05:44 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Lads on Tour: KL

The lads are 'ere, well two thirds of them anyway...

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Our two weeks travelling with friends, Sam, Tom and Rich, didn't quite get off to the best of starts. Rich hadn't made it onto the plane. I honestly couldn't believe it. His passport was close to expiry and so they wouldn't let him fly. Whilst we were all catching up with each other in KL, he was somewhere in Liverpool trying to get an emergency passport to allow him to travel within the next 48 hours from the UK... would he make it out to us?!

We'd not seen our friends for over 9 months and so there was a lot of catching up to do over some obligatory beers. We were staying at Reggae Mansion Hostel and they had a nice bar upstairs for us to enjoy their happy hour in. It was good to get some of the gossip from back home.

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Tom and Sam needed some catching up on sleep after their long flight, but after that were keen to explore KL. By now it felt like me and Jason had spent a lot of time in Kuala Lumpur and so knew a few of the sights they'd want to see. It was Chinese New Year when they arrived so thought we'd head for a wander around Chinatown, only to be disappointed that there was no sign off any celebrations there. That said, I still think Tom and Sam enjoyed wandering around the area soaking up a little of a night market atmosphere. Of course there was one thing on their minds... Food! We had a lovely meal at an Indian restaurant in Little India; a table full of naan beads, curries, mango lassis and rice. We then spent our evening back at the hostel bar playing card games with a g&t (or two).

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The next morning we went to the famous Petronas Towers. Tom's an architect and was keen to see them up close in the day light. The area surrounding these mirrored towers is nice to walk around, with a park, aquarium and shopping mall close by. We'd only seen them by night light previously from a distance so it was good to actually see them up close from a different perspective.

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We'd read that you could get a cracking landscape view of Kuala Lumpur from Tittiwangsa Lake. We jumped in a taxi and had a nice stroll around the lake, taking in the views and stopping for a drink. The lake appeared to be a stop for local families to take their children on bike rides around the lake, we were the only tourists there and I felt like we'd dropped on a gem of a spot as the views of the city were so good.

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We thought we'd be in time to visit Masjid Jamek mosque back in KL, but unfortunately it was a Friday and they don't allow tourist visitors' entry on Fridays. That was a shame as we made sure we'd timed it for after afternoon prayers... maybe if we get chance we could visit it on our return trip at the end of their two week holiday. Instead we went for a curry...yes again! We stumbled across a little cafe that served a brilliant lamb biriyani and the best garlic butter naan I've ever had.

We were pretty sure that Sam and Tom would enjoy to spend an evening at the Heli Lounge with a cocktail watching the sun go down over KL. We'd done it previously with Jason's mum but enjoyed it that much that we wanted to go back again. It was just as good. After this we went to Bukit Bintang to enjoy some Chinese food. The area had a great atmosphere, really bustling with some buskers nearby. It's just a shame that the road isn't shut off from cars as they squeeze their way between the rows of restaurant chairs. After many beers and satay chicken skewers we found a bar based on a recommendation Sam had had from a friend. It was really nice, outside of our backpacker budget, so Tom and Sam kindly treated us all to a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin for the table... let's just say it went down very well! It was soon 4am and I was ready for my bed; but the boys made time for a final early morning curry stop before bed!

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We had a plane to catch the next morning. Rich was supposed to be flying in 48 hours later than scheduled and meet us at the airport... however... both of his flights had been delayed! His bad luck continues. Luckily there were a few flights leaving for Medan from Kuala Lumpur that day, we just hope he would be able to get a last minute seat on one of them...

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Posted by bloorsontour 23:16 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

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)

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