Saturday, 30 April 2016

off to Singapore

We woke up, ate toast  (aka how every day starts), packed up our stuff and caught an uber to the bus station. Anyone unfamiliar with ubers it's basically a kind of unregistered taxi. I know that sounds beyond dangerous but they're not! Each driver's car is tracked, it's way cheaper (roughly half the price) of a taxi, and you just put in where you need to go, get a date estimate and then the app finds a taxi for you. You see their name, number plate and car model and then can see on the app when it's getting close. Hoping when we return to England that bournemouth will have adopted these!! The journey took approximately half an hour and was less than £3 which is cray.

Okay the rest of the day was very mundane which is why I think I've put off writing this! We booked tickets and began the  half hour wait before our bus left. This became an hour and a half thanks to our bus breaking down. Not great when you've already got a 5-7 hour journey!! We eventually left around 1.30. We arrived at customs at 6 and were pleasantly surprised to already be in Singapore. 2 hours after queueing in customs we weren't so cheery. I honestly don't understand how it took quite so long. Everyone filled out a departure card when they entered the queue, and when you got to the desk your passport was thoroughly inspected, your thumb prints taken etc. Whilst it was a fairly rigorous process it was by far the slowest of any borders we've been to, the queue just didn't seem to move!!

Eventually we were back on our coach. It was great to put out massive bags down and the charis even had a massage feature. Sometime later we arrived at the bus stop and after some confusion got a taxi to the hostel i'd found online. We drove to what looked like a suburban neighbourhood, went upstairs to the entrance where a teenage boy opened the door approximately a centimetre and said they had no rooms. We asked if there were any hostles nearby, he said no. I asked if I could use the wifi to look one up, he saidno. Very helpful. We wandered down in the hope of finding some wifi, and a man asked us if we were looking for a hostel, and pointed one out across the road. Amazingly they had availability and we checked in. It was an eco friendly hostel and pretty cool, but sadly they only had a room that night. The others had dinner at a food stall nearby then we say in the hostel taking full advantage of the free tea and biscuits until bed.

Laura x

Friday, 29 April 2016

back to KL

Argh wrote a blog post earlier and somehow managed to delete it. We had yet another lie in, consumed a questionable amount of toast and then checked out. It's amazing how cheap stuff is here; our triple room was spacious and well designed, we had a balcony, dressing table etc and paid roughly £6 each a night. Craaay.

We ventured into town for a juice and i sent two more post cards (mum and dad I personally feel you should refund this and it's what a very high percentage of my budget goes on!! ((Well money i could be spending on snacks))). As we woke up so late it was soon lunch time. Rather than face the humiliation of returning to the same curry house for the third day in a row, we opted for, er, another curry house. This one was a tad questionable, one where i start to feel I can sense the food poisoning, but it was less than £2 each with a drink for a massive plate of food and we're all fine (fingers crossed) so can't be too fussy!

Next Molly and i went for a walk. I was going to say hike but i think that may be pushing it a bit. I also used one of the worst toilets of the trip so far! I'm fine with the squat/hole in the ground ones but this one had no lights, no toilet paper, no flush, no running water in the sink, wet floor, was a hole in the ground and the door didn't lock. I think we've become pretty hardened travellers given that this didn't faze me. Fotunately the only other time we've encountered ones quite this bad was the time I had food poisoning in Laos- cute timing! But yeah anyway we continued with our walk. There are proper intense hikes but it was pretty humid and we walked for an hour or so. It's nice to be away from the city and do some rare exercise. The whole place was just very calm and chilled, I think i would like to retire there.

We met Lauren and headed towards the bus station to return to Kuala Lumpur, stocking up on snacks for our 4 hour journey. For some reason 4 hour journeys have started to feel as bad (if not worse) than the 20+ hour ones which makes no sense. I'm not sure if it's because we took a break for them but this just really seemed to drag! Fortunately we arrived in kuala lumpur and set off to our hostel. We asked someone which bus to get to Pudu Raya where we were staying and he just pointed into the distance and said 'it's a 10 minute walk'. 15 minutes later in the middle of a dual carriageway where the path decided to end i wasn't best please with his directions, but pretty soon we were at our local kfc where the others had dinner. We went back to the hostel we'd been at before, mainly because lauren and i are in love with the owner, and spent the evening watching funny videos on the hostel tv before going to bed. I was very sad to be reunited with my big rucksack which I am intending to fly home with the others when they leave!

Laura x

Thursday, 28 April 2016

our day in the cameron highlands

We woke up at 8 and after showering and eating toast we headed off on our half day tour. For only £5 each we had a pretty extensive your of the area. The first stop was a butterfly house with a number of other animals (there were some very cute rabbits) and then headed to a bee keeping dark. We tried the homemade honey and got to see the hives which was pretty cool.

Next we went to a huge tea plantation. It stretched out for miles over the hills and we could see people working. We learned about how the tea is made then enjoyed some in the cafe (I had teh tarik which has become a new obsession).

Next stop was a rose garden to look at all the flowers. It was like a really elaborate garden centre and even had a slide to go down.

After this we went to some strawberry fields. These were a little disappointing as i'd anticipated open fields where we could pick some but they weren't. Luckily a snack in the cafe quickly improved our spirits!

From here we could wander round a local market. I really wanted to find an avocado but had no luck. I definitely need to start eating more vegetables. Finally we stopped at a beautiful Buddhist temple. It was very very pretty and elaborate. 

After the tour we had a fairly quiet afternoon, got lunch in town and then started at the hostel for most of the afternoon. At 5.30 ish lauren and i attempted the easiest trail near our hostel to a waterfall. It was nice but a little cross country (I think I definitely could have fallen into the river).

Again we had another quiet evening- by this stage we are very middle aged, but the only club here seems to just offer Malaysian karaoke so it was probably safer for everyone that we gave it a miss.

Laura x

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Cameron highlands

Thanks to my excellent geography skills I hadn't even realised we were going to Malaysia but thankfully a friend of mine from primary school has recently been there and suggested where to go. One of these was the Cameron highlands which was described as "a place with lots of strawberries". Strange description but Balan also recommended it so we decided to go there.

A 6.30 wake up wasn't great but we fitted in our last traditional breakfast and then headed to catch the bus. We practically sprinted there, the sweat was not fun, and then waited on the bus for ages before it left. The journey took about 4 hours with a stop half way and then we arrived. It was a lovely surprise to find that the temperature here is 15-25°c. This is the longest I've gone without sweating since arriving. The bus has stopped next to a curry house and we went in for a delicious lunch and using the Wi-Fi to find a hostel. The first we went to was full but they drove us to their partner one. It's much more like a guesthouse, £7 each a night for a triple room with a balcony, a 5 minute walk from town. It's a really nice place though everyone has advised us that 2 nights here is enough as there's not loads to do.

We checked in then had a fairly relaxed afternoon, we booked a tour for the next day and then in the evening we walked into town for dinner. The first restaurant we went to looked really cool as it was in old army barracks but had a limited menu. I ended up having an amazing juice at a juice shop, mango, banana and strawberry and it was so nice. We wandered round for a bit then headed back for a classic early night.

Laura x

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Our last day in Penang :( I'm always so sad to leave places because there's a chance I'll never get to go back but hey hopefully I will! It was molly's birthday! We always sleep in so no surprise there and went out for breakfast at the egg place. It's less than £1 for a large breakfast and drink, amaaaazing. Afterwards we got the free bus to a big shopping mall and wandered round. Lauren bought some shorts and then we got lunch. The others got McDonald's but I felt I needed something vaguely healthy so I had a subway (you know your eating habits are bad when that's your idea of healthy...).

After this we went up to the cinema inside the shopping centre. There were only a few things on but we decided to see The Huntsman which was actually really good. Tickets were less than £3 as well which was a bargain. Only issue was that the cinema was freezing, and it's so hot outside we just went from one extreme to another. After that we wandered round a bit more and then got the bus back. We'd seen a sign outside a cafe saying that it was a cat cafe so went to investigate. We were not disappointed. It was a cafe with a separate area with 6 cats in it. They were so cute though did spend a solid 95% of our time there asleep, but when they were awake it was definitely worth it. I always ignore my allergy to cats though which is not actually a good solution to it and my skin was soooo itchy while we were in there but the cats were so cute it was worth it.

Next we went back to the hostel and asked where Balan recommended for dinner. We went to a restaurant down the road and the others had curry and i had byriani which he recommended. The food was sooo good. Then we got a milkshake and went back to our room. We started packing up our stuff in preparation for leaving in the morning. Also today Balan's wife and 2 children were home as they'd been away for a few days and they were so sweet! He has a 2 year old girl and a 4 year old boy and they were so tiny and cute. I went to brush my teeth and came back to find the little girl peering into the doorway where the others couldn't see her, and she wandered into the room to look at herself in our mirror. She got very excited by my hairbrush and started brushing my hair and then climbed onto my bed to play with my phone. Pretty soon her brother found her and joined in, showing us some kind of martial arts routine. It was so cute and funny and it was like we were running a creche. Their mum was desperately trying to get them to leave (though we were enjoying it!) and getting them to say good night to us and eventually they did go off to sleep. We'd bought Balan a card to thank him and some stickers for his children so it was nice to meet them, especially as he got them to call us 'aunty laura' etc which was so funny.

We went to sleep pretty soon after in preparation for a 6.30 wake up, a solid 4 hours earlier than we're used to.

Laura x

Monday, 25 April 2016

national park

We woke up late (again) and after showering and getting advice and directions from the hostel manager, Balan, we ventured out for the day. First we got breakfast and then caught the bus to a national park. It took about an hour as it was the last stop and it started to torentially rain but fortunately it stopped by the time we arrived. After a short walk and showing our passports we began the bike to Monkey Beach. It was supposed to take 1 hour 15 minutes and was approximately 4km. It was fairly intense, not like the jungle trek, but with the heat and uphill parts it was quite difficult and it was a relief when we arrived at the beautiful beach. I imediately jumped into the water to cool off.

By now it was about 3pm and we stayed until 5.30 or so, sunbathing and swimming, before hiking back. There was an option to get a boat back to the entrance but given the severe lack of exercise we've done on the trip it was nice to do a bit. Afterwards we caught the bus back. We showered and then went out for dinner. A local food court has loads of different cuisines and we had Mexican which was really nice and then some dessert. Afterwards we headed back to the hostel and all skyped our parents before going out. We wanted to go to the sky bar for cocktails to celebrate Molly's birthday a night early and got sooo lost on the way. Everyone we asked gave us the same specific directions but after following them we were nowhere near the bar and ended up getting a taxi for the remainder of the journey.

It was very fancy and i felt out of place in my flip flops! We got the lift to the top where there were amazing views out over Penang. We had a drink and sat there for a while before trying to find a club to go to (with no luck). We began the short walk back to the hostel, being harassed by maybe 5 groups of men?? They were all just driving round in cars and would pull up beside us and be like ' hey girls where are you going?'. They weren't threatening, just annoying, and it was strangely enjoyable to shout at them to get them to leave us alone.

We arrived back at the hostel and the other day headed to the room but Balan pulled me aside. He'd bought Molly a personalised birthday cake from a bakery/ice cream shop down the road. We took it into the room very quietly as the other girl there was sleeping and it was so cute!! We all ate a slice and went to sleep soon after

Laura x