Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Our last day in KL - 31/10/06

We had a lovely late morning – went to breakfast late and took our time eating and then coming back to the room. Went to use the hotel’s internet facilities (big mistake – very expensive!) Had showers as late as possible (because our flight was only leaving at 1am and then we still had to travel 10 hours.

We then checked out and left our bags with the concierge and caught the hotel shuttle to The Curve, yet another shopping centre. It would return at 9pm which left plenty of time to get changed into flying clothes before our taxi collected us at 10pm.

We got to the Curve and drew some more money. Before hitting the shops, we found a public phone so that we could confirm our taxi and flights with our tour operator. All fine. Then we tried to phone Carey-Anne so that we could perhaps meet up for supper. Each time we’d hear her say Hello? Hello? And when I spoke, she couldn’t hear us and put down the phone quite quickly too. After the second call, I just left it. It seemed like too much hassle and I was getting stressed. So that’s it.

We were then hungry for lunch (this was about 3:30) so we went to Thai Express and split a curry because we wanted to save ourselves for supper. Delicious!

We then happened upon Borders and I’m not joking, spent the next couple of hours in that one store. Well, it is the biggest bookshop I have ever seen (like Macro, but for books) with two floors. You know this is heaven for us. We loooove bookshops. We spent some money there and much later, went to have a quick supper before the bus arrived. Got some pastries from a bakery for dessert and left. My one regret there is not going to Ikea – I read such a lot about Ikea from American blogs and then I was within walking distance of one and didn’t go. Oh well.

Things to do when next in Malaysia
1. Get new specs made
2. Go to Ikea
3. Take taxi to KL tower

We got back on time and we were so exhausted that we decided to go up the road to the KFC for a quick coffee. There was a lady in a wheelchair outside who was making personalised keyrings out of metal. Very pretty and I got one. However, I have since bashed the little ball to smithereens because the little tinkling was driving me battyJ

When we got back, the taxi driver was waiting. Since he was early, we quickly changed and then left with him. Remember the airport’s an hour away, even with no traffic at that time of night (10pm).

There were no problems checking in so we strolled around the airport for a bit, had some more KFC and then waited for our 1am flight.

I can’t even remember much of the flight back because I was exhausted and slept a lot but I do remember that we watched Click together and it was very good.

I love to be away but I’m always very happy to get home too. So on the flight already, I’m thinking that I have to do this and that when I get back.

Oooh, it was so good to get back.

And the weather was nice and cold which I love!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Suria KLCC and walking the city - 30/10/06

This is the Suria KLCC shopping centre at the bottom of the Petronas Towers.

This place was amazing. About 6 floors of gorgeous expensive shops like Gucci, Prada, Gorgio Armani, Marc Jacobs, Burberry, Escada, Hermes, Chanel, Cartier and Nina Ricci.

We walked a lot and just window-shopped but we bought some Burger King food here (interestingly, at this Burger King, the dispensers have tomato sauce and chilli sauce for the chips – nice) and a delicious cinnamon bun. That’s the bun you see in the bag I’m holding. Yum! I totally indulged in cinnamon buns in Malaysia – so many places do the most beautiful cinnamon buns (I love everything with cinnamon).

I also bought these two watches and I now regret not buying more because they are lovely and weren’t badly priced at all (30 ringgit for two).

We then decided to walk to the KL tower since the information desk told us it was only 10 minutes away. Well, we walked and walked and walked and still no sign.

Eventually I was so hot and bothered and thirsty that I didn’t care if I ever saw the tower or not. Dion agreed, more for my sake than for his, and we decided to take the monorail back to our street, Bukit Bintang. After we bought tickets (they were 2.40 ringgit for both of us, per stop), we got some water at the shop. I swear that was the best water ever! I still have that water bottle and whenever I look at it, I remember that day.

We took the monorail and got off near one of the plazas. We went in and because of the gorgeous blast of aircon, we got our second wind. We bought ourselves MP4 players and lots of books, CDs and a new Bible for Dion at Chosen Treasure, a Christian bookshop. We stumbled upon it quite by accident trying to find a particular technology store. This place had such wonderful stuff and again, we regret not buying more, because of baggage restrictions.

And then we really were ready to go back to the hotel. We ate lunch at Burger King quite late so didn’t want a proper supper – Dion went to get a bun from the 7- 11 and I had Tesco Ritz biscuits (like our bacon kips here in South Africa) for supper. We then packed our bags (mostly) because although we still had a full 25 hours left in Malaysia, we had to check out in the morning. I later managed to arrange a late check-out for us at 2:00pm.

Kuala Lumpur city tour 2 - 30/10/2006

The National Museum was not very impressive (old and some parts very dirty) and museums are not my thing at all. The only reason I went is because we were in Malaysia. By this time, due to the extreme heat, I was ready for the loo so went in search of a toilet. When I discovered that they charge to let you in, I had to find Dion to get some money. They also charge for toilet paper! I don’t mind paying to pee BUT then the toilets must be clean and they were not. I will just say that my thigh muscles received a nice workout because I could not sit on those filthy seats. At one point I left Dion looking at museum-type stuff and I went to the shop (much more my style) where I got us some wooden bookmarks with pewter animals inlaid. I felt like a real fuddy duddy in the shop at one point because there were like stacks of children and they were all making such a noise and I found myself involuntarily saying “sshhh” to which they all went “sshhh” to one another (is there an echo in here?)

The war memorial however was probably for me the best part of the tour. First off, it is housed in absolutely beautiful gardens so you have to walk quite a way to get to the statue. I could easily have spent another 30 minutes there, just looking at that beauty.

The memorial itself is in the middle of a pool with lots of Jacuzzi-like jets of water spouting periodically. Absolutely gorgeous.

I love running water, any running water. In fact, right now I’m typing this on my laptop next to the pool where our water feature is providing the perfect accompaniment to this beautiful day – okay, I just took a picture now to show you).

We took some nice pictures and our Sri Lankan friends took this weird picture of us. He was into strange shots and I must say this turned out well.

(There were old people on the tour with us who couldn’t walk very much and after about an hour of on and off the bus, they just sat on the bus. I found this quite sad because you save up your money to visit other countries and then you can’t even appreciate the country properly because of health issues, SO take care of your health!)

I can remember virtually nothing about this part because it is blocked out because I was so cross. The bus stops somewhere. The guy said we have 10 minutes before we move on – fine. Dion and I cross the road and walk around taking pictures (oh, now I remember – it’s where the two rivers meet – that’s what Kuala Lumpur means) and I then said that we’ve got to get back so we can get there in the 10 minutes. The robot took forever so we were a little bit late but the guy saw us standing and waiting for a green light.

Two Rivers meeting

Then we get to the bus and he shouted and screamed at us all the way about how we were late and we must do things like that on our own time! We were both shocked and absolutely gob-smacked. (I just asked Dion why we didn’t say something – he says it’s because it was so unexpected and we couldn’t believe it). That guy could learn a thing or two about hospitality from the Thai people.

On the bus, he publicly berates us again but like this…you don’t go off and do your own thing blah blah blah. Then and this is the best bit – he says we can be dropped off either at our hotel or somewhere along the way. So he goes up the aisles asking each couple where they want to be dropped off and when he gets to us, he ignores us totally and moves onto the next couple. Amazing! So childish and unprofessional. You can believe that if I’d been in Jhb, I would have given him a piece of my mind. Being half way around the world in a not-very-friendly city I just shut up counting down the minutes till we were off that bus and away from Mr Congeniality. Fortunately after about 10 minutes we were dropped off outside the Petronas Towers shopping centre, or Suria, the proper name

Detour into the weirdness of people
It’s sort of unspoken but when you’re on a tour, you sit in the same seat throughout. You adjust the airflow to your liking, fix the curtains on the windows and so on. Well, there was a certain couple who didn’t care about tour bus etiquette. We were sitting in the 3rd or 4th seats from the front. We got off at the first stop and got back on only to find that our seats had been taken. Fine, I thought, two can play at this game. So next time we left the bus, I made sure they were off first before us and I put my top and water bottle on our seats. Well, that worked – when they came back, they went to other seats and we had our original seats again.

However, they again took other people’s seats. And I heard the one lady mutter something, so when we stopped before we got off, I said to her, “they did the same thing to us. Put something on your seats – should keep them for you”. She had some stuff from the shop so she left her parcel and that seemed to do the trick.

I suppose I’m a bit of a saddo because I felt really vindicated by this J

some architechture in KL...

This was probably the worst city tour we’d ever been on, due to the tour guide’s abysmal behaviour and the fact that I felt cheated since they rushed us at some of the most stunning places and yet we could easily have spent an extra 10 minutes here and there if the tour itself was the 3 hours they said it was.

Kuala Lumpur city tour 1 - 30/10/06

Well, since Dion was now fine, we could at last go on the City tour (3 days into our 4-day stay).

We made sure we were earlier for breakfast but seems like the whole hotel had the same idea so there was even more of a queue. At least it went fast so we had a lovely breakfast and were back in the lobby by 8:40 for our 8:45 pickup.

They were very late – only arrived at 9:00 and they didn’t seem to know about us so good thing I had our receipts because of course, the concierge who we booked with was not working that shift.

We went on the bus to a central point where they split us up depending on what tour we’d bought. Got our yellow stickers and we were on our way at about 9:25.

First stop was the Petronas Towers.

The bus parked in such a position that we could get good pictures of both the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower.

That was quite cool, especially since we weren’t stopping at the KL Tower on this particular tour. We also met a Sri Lankan couple (both of them very good-looking) and he showed us how to take different shots with our digital camera so that we could get interesting shots of the famous towers.

Next we visited an arts and crafts centre. They mainly had batik crafts and pewter in there. We had a demonstration of the batik artists. It was amazing how the guy draws all these flowers and leaves completely freehand. What was even more amazing is how the second guy then colours in the material - not a drop of paint outside the lines. (one of my weird things is I can’t colour inside the lines – don’t know if it’s lack of patience or what – but I just can’t do it).

There are 25 million people in Malaysia and they are mostly farmers – top exports are rubber, palm oil and tin (pewter is an alloy of tin). So at this craft centre, there’s a huge pewter selection of goods and of course, we were encouraged to buy, buy, buy. I’m not one for ornaments though so thanks very much but no!

We then went to the King’s Palace and took pictures with the guards, in front of the very impressive gates. Some years on a particular holiday (I think it’s Diwali) the King opens the palace and you can walk through. The guide said that on those days everybody goes through because it’s for free!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Kuala Lumpur - still no city tour 29/10/06

And incidentally, our 11 1/2 year anniversary!

We’d booked places on the City Tour through the hotel’s concierge the previous night so we had to get up nice and early to get breakfast and be ready for collection at 8:45.

Well, when we got to the dining room, there was a queue of about 6 people before us (it was a HUGE hotel and obviously everybody decided to get breakfast late like us). We were just about to be seated when Dion realised that he forgot the breakfast tickets in the room, so I was seated while he went up.

I waited for a reasonable time and then I went to start getting food. You feel weird just sitting there “taking up table space” when you can see the queue of hungry people, staring at you! Eventually Dion pitched saying that he was sick and nothing was staying inside (must have been the beef hot pot). I felt quite pleased that I had Imodium (and all the rest of the little medicine bag I take everywhere when we travel) and for once, the stuff was being used. He couldn’t have any breakfast so he went back to the room to take the pills and rest. Meanwhile I finished my breakfast (no sense in both of us starving, now is there?!) and then explored the hotel a bit – gym, swimming pool and so on. I had to also tell the concierge that since D was sick, we wouldn’t be able to take the City Tour and would have to postpone.

I checked on D where I found him battling to concentrate on his book because of two very naughty boys in the room next door. You could see that their mother was all out of ideas so she just let them run loose. They were banging on the interleading door and running around their room making a noise. They left soon after I got back so we left it for the moment.

I grabbed my wallet and went to the plazas. I went to the Low Yat Plaza, Sungei Wei Plaza and many others. The strange thing with these malls is they are all inter-connecting. Basically you walk from one mall right to the next. The only way you know that you’re in another mall is that the tiles in one mall would be, say brown, and the tiles in the next mall are green. I only figured this out after a couple of hours when I started feeling lost and didn’t recognise shops and so on. Eventually I had to ask someone for the nearest exit to the street. He pointed it out to me and when I got outside I was like waaayyyy down the road, far from where I’d gone in. It’s actually a miracle I even knew where I was with my warped sense of direction. Although there were lots of food shops which are always good landmarks for me!

Side note – in Thailand, I knew exactly where we were at any point by our proximity to the Dunkin’ Donuts J

I bought a Brian Tracy book (Eat the frog) that I’d wanted for a long time but that I never saw in SA, a Malaysian magazine, two gorgeous silver rings and some keyrings.

By this time I was hungry so went back to the hotel to see if Dion was feeling any better. The little boys were back and the noise was not better so we decided to move rooms. Because they’d upgraded us, we had to take the normal room that we booked and paid for, which apparently had a not-so-wonderful view. We were totally fine with that because of course we’d already taken our pictures!

So we moved rooms and boy what a relief that was! Dion was also feeling better so we went out together again. He was still not well enough to eat though so I decided to have a small burger at KFC. Delicious! When we were walking through the hotel lobby, all the porters, concierge, etc. kept asking Dion how he was feeling. He felt like quite the star!

I then tried to find some shops again that I’d seen earlier when walking around, almost to no avail. It was only through my photographic memory that we eventually found the place. But at that point, we decided that if we saw anything we wanted, we’d just buy there and then as there was a good chance we wouldn’t find the shop again. Remember the street we were on (Bukit Bintang) is called the Shopper’s Street of Malaysia as there are 8 malls next to each other in less than 1km. And each of those malls has 6 to 7 floors, each of which is like one of Eastgate’s floors. Crazy!

So Dion bought me a beautiful leather bag at House of Leather. I liked a particular style but they had it in the wrong colour, so the assistant phoned around and said they’ll get it from another store. I asked how long it would take thinking a couple of hours but she says…10 minutes. Sure enough – 10 minutes later, we went back (not daring to venture very far in case we got lost) and bought it.

For some reason, the specs and sunglasses are really, really cheap. I bought this pair for 120 ringgit. If I’d had normal weak eyes (my eyes are both outside of the range, so they charge me extra for my lenses, and that’s besides all the other stuff I usually get added, like anti-reflex and hard coatings, etc.), for lenses and everything they would have charged 250 ringgit, which is R550!!! Cheap as anything – we would have paid at least R1500 here. Anyway, I wasn’t prepared to pay for everything since the medical aid probably wouldn’t refund us for the specs, so I just got the frame. In retrospect, I should have just had the specs done, because with all my fancy stuff, just the lenses will cost be between R1800 and R2600. So I’ve said to Dion that next time we go east, I will take those very frames with us, and get them to make my specs.

Well we were exhausted after trawling the malls and went back to our hotel for some tea and reading, and then decided to walk to China Town. We’d heard such a lot about it but it was quite disappointing. I found it extremely dirty and not very exciting at all.

We had to buy something after that loooong walk so I bought a watch and two apples and Dion bought some roasted chestnuts.

We then had a very late supper (10pm) at Nando’s!!! We were very excited to see a little bit of home.

And that was day 2.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Walking around the city 28/10/06

Beautiful street shot
Dion loves to take street shots and while we're on holiday, I don't much care for all the stopping and snapping. I want to move, move, move! However, when we get back is when I start to appreciate these because they are just beautiful and you get a real sense of the place, looking at the people, buildings, shops, etc.

I've always wanted to take a shot like this. Next time I'll look for an escalator that's not moving!

This is the place where we got supper (that made Dion sick).

Check this out - my hands are the same size as Demi Moore's

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur 28/10/06

When we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, we made our way through customs and found our tour operator very quickly. It is amazing how quickly all the taxi drivers zeroed in on us to try and get us to take their particular taxi into the city.

We waited around for the rest of our party but ended up in a taxi all alone as the other guys had too much luggage so there wasn’t enough space for us.

Our taxi driver spoke very good English which was a refreshing change from the ones in Phuket. We got chatting (as is our custom) and found out the prices of everything from burgers to taxi fare. It took about an hour to get into the city to our hotel, the Royale Bintang.

We arrived at about 2pm, checked in and found that they’d upgraded us to some deluxe room. At this point it was raining and Dion got right to it – taking pictures from the room’s window.

I unpacked quickly and then was dying for a cup of tea so got going with that and then carried on reading my book (The Broker – John Grisham, if you’re interested).

Meanwhile ... Dion’s still snapping away.

After Dion unpacked, we went exploring. The weather was amazing – very, very hot and then sudden rain. It then stops just as suddenly. Weird.

We drew some money and then went to get some food. The food courts in all the plazas (shopping centres) are laid out in exactly the same way. You enter on the ground floor and go down one floor and the entire bottom is food. Of course Dion and I do our usual thing which is to look at each and every place before deciding where to eat. We decided on a hot pot meal.

Now that I’m thinking about it, it sounds quite disgusting but when in Rome… and remember, we were starving. The last time we ate was on our 10:30 flight and it’s about 5 – 6pm.

They do a stirfry-type thing with beef/ chicken, mixed veg, noodles, and then they add two soup ladles full of a soya sauce-type liquid and cook it all up. And then get this – they fry an egg on top of the sauce.

Anyway, after watching all of this, I could only eat about half of it. Dion ate his and mine. We had the most delicious pastries for dessert, all 1 ringgit each (R2,20).

Then we went walking through a plaza or two until we happened on a stunning bookshop, called MPH (Malaysia Publishing House). We happily spent an hour or so just in this one place as well as about 47 ringgit.

On our way back to the hotel, we got some ice-cream cones (delicious) and of course, water, at the 7-11 a few shops away from our hotel.

That’s it for day 1.

Something we noticed in the plazas…there are so many job vacancies in all the shop windows. Coming from South Africa where unemployment is rife, we were absolutely amazed. I don’t think there’s any reason you need to be unemployed in Malaysia!

Leaving Phuket 28/10/06

After a quick breakfast, we were ready for our 7.30 pick up. We were collected on time but it still took an hour and a quarter to get us and the 2 other couples to the airport.

When we were in the queue waiting to check in, we noticed that we were behind yet another two Aussie girls. We picked our queue well because these girls had bulging suitcases so after them, our luggage would actually look normal.

The four of us chatted about whether they'd charge us anything extra but all that paranoia was in vain - the lady hardly batted an eyelid.

We bought a coffee at the Burger King and then changed the rest of our money to Malaysian Ringgits. Now here's where the problem came in.

We asked her what the R/ Ringgit exchange rate was and she said R100 buys you 33 Ringgit. So the whole holiday we assumed that it was the same. When we got back to SA, we discovered that the exchange rate was R2,12 to the Ringgit.

What does this mean? We could have bought a lot more in Malaysia. Aarggghhh!

Oh my word but that airport was packed - I was very tempted to jump into the Singapore queue.

Our flights were late but eventually we boarded the aircraft and flew out of Thailand.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Introducing Kata Kitchen's new sales reps...

When we went back to this place, another couple was looking at the menu and we said, "don't even bother to look, just go in and eat. We liked it so much last night - we're back for the second round."

And they were sold!

Our last day on Phuket - 27/10/06

Rene's birthday today - Aussie neighbour

Woke up late, had breakfast where we met a South African couple from Cape Town, Weston and Isla (Hi guys).

We went straight for massages after breakfast - Dion for the Thai massage - and me for a 9-step facial that lasted 1 ½ hours. It was DIVINE. While the specific treatment is on - let's say the cucumber - the lady gives your arms a massage. Next treatment she'll do your legs, etc, etc. No waiting around idly. So I got a head, neck and back massage too. Well, well worth the 550 baht (R115).

After the massages, we went to read in the room and then down to the pool. Spent some time chatting to Weston and Isla.

When we eventually were ready for lunch, we went to a place overlooking the beach. This was our most expensive meal in Thailand at 410 baht (R85) and not for the food, but for all the delicious drinks. I had a chicken baguette, coconut and pineapple shakes and D had a prawn cocktail and papaya shakes.

Then Dion went for a swim while I people watched (one of my favourite things to do). We saw some cute little boys whose parents had bought them miniature dusters for the beach chairs. These little boys were eating, drinking, undressing but they would not let go of those little dusters. Too cute.

Here's a picture of a big boy with the duster :)

I also bought two bracelets for 100 baht (asking price 150 baht each - yes!)

Back to the room for showers - while Dion had his shower, I crossed the street with wet hair to have it blowdried for 200 baht. We then met in the hotel lobby for drinks (like we were dating).

Can you see why I called this (the place on the right) the Happy Restaurant? This photo doesn't do it justice but all those lights are just so pretty at night.

Went back to the Kata Kitchen where I had sweet and sour chicken, and D had Thai red curry with chicken.

Afterwards we went for massages again - this time oil massages - variation of Thai massage but not so sore. Of course, then came the worst part of all - trying to pack everything back into those same suitcases.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Monkeys, water buffalo and coconuts

They also showed us how they train the monkeys to pick coconuts. They reward them with cute little bottles of milk. Here is the monkey getting his reward for getting the coconuts.

Then we watched a lady demonstrate how to cook a Thai curry. They were selling curry paste afterwards and, of course, we bought some.

Next, the water buffalo.Those who wanted to could take a picture on him.

This is Wi, our tour guide, showing us how it's done. Now amazing thing about stereotypes – two of the three make-up girls actually got on that hot, smelly beast to have their picture taken.

Dion and I, being the adventurous sorts of people we are, decided to rather take a photo next to him. The water buffalo's coat is hard, bristly and sweaty. Quite gross actually. We also took a ride on a wagon pulled along by this water buffalo.

They also showed us absolutely everything to do with coconuts - how to de-husk, how to get the water/ juice out, how they make dessicated coconut, coconut milk and coconut oil. These people do not waste anything - the husk is used as a sort of chocolate flavoured topping for cakes.

Then we went to lunch where we sat with a New Zealand couple, Duncan and Rebecca (by the way, they didn't have the strong NZ accents). They also got married at the end of April like we did and this was their honeymoon on the way to England where he was being transferred for a year.

We were also in the same transport to the drop-off point and back to our hotel - this is how I could get all the details!

At the hotel, we rested for a bit, then changed and went to the pool. At 4.30 it looked like it was going to rain so Dion packed everything up and we went back to the room. I sat on the balcony updating the journal for about an hour and then spent some time chatting to our Aussie neighbours, Rene and Maria.

After showers, we set off for the Happy Restaurant which is actually called Kata Kitchen. It had bright pink and blue tablecloths and lots of lights, hence the nickname. This one had free rice and soft drinks. D had pad thai with seafood and I had THE MOST DELICIOUS MEAL EVER - chicken with cashew nuts and pineapple.

Afterwards, I stopped by an internet café for 45 minutes. Dion went off in a sulk because I was taking too long and wouldn't come for a massage. So I went on my own - independent Marsh strikes again.

Well, that was my first and last Thai massage - it was very sore although to be fair, some of it was very nice.

Elephants! 26/10/06

After the rubber tapping, we saw a baby elephant show. Very, very cute. I won't even try to upload the video we took because my dear friend blogger lost an entire post earlier and I'm not messing with fancy stuff.

We took photos with them and some of the tour group fed them fruit. They charged 50 baht a basket.

This is the platform where you get on the elephants. These are the 3 make-up girls!

Dion and Marcia just setting off

Then we went riding on the elephants for about 40 minutes. We had what we call a Jhb elephant who kept overtaking the slower ones. My kind of animal. When we started out, we were number 6 or 7 in the queue. Because our elephant was having none of this slow stuff, we ended up number 3.

The view was beautiful and we enjoyed the ride thoroughly.

I bought an elephant necklace for only 80 baht (R17) at the elephant compound. Stuff was amazingly cheap at this place, especially so because it was a real touristy place.

Siam tour & rubber tapping - 26/10/06

Woke up early again as the tour pick-up time was 8.30. Had hard-boiled egg on toast and fruit salad.

We were collected at 8.50 and the guy then hurtled through the streets to the Siam Safari meeting point. There were these 3 very young girls in the Jeep with us - you couldn't find people who looked less like they were going on safari. A modeling shoot - yes, but safari, no. These 3 were doing their hair and makeup like you cannot believe. Now remember it is BLAZING HOT and after the first day, I didn't even bother with eye pencil, let alone make-up. A quick dab of lip gloss or lipstick is about all you have the energy for. I thought I was the only one shocked at these girls but once we got there, the other people were all, "can you believe those girls?!" Too funny.

The Thai people seem to focus only on the actual start of the tour, and not at all on the beginning and end bits. There is absolutely no communication whatsoever and lots of disorder until the ACTUAL START. I always itch to get involved at this point and I really have to remind myself that it's not my business and to butt out. But it's difficult, people.

Like this morning. We're all dumped there; we get out of the Jeeps and all sit/ stand around. No-one knows what's going on. Fortunately or unfortunately it's too hot for us to really care enough to do something about it. Then we're taken to the Elephant Centre for more hanging around. Turns out that there are too many people to start the tour at the scheduled beginning so we're going to start with the rubber tapping. They book people on the tours who all pay beforehand so surely they should stagger times or something? Anyway!

Anyway, we learnt how they tap the trees for rubber for only 2 - 3 hours a day at around 3am because the sap doesn't flow when it is hot. We got to touch the sap - it is white like glue and when it dries, it peels right off.

They then mix it with water and some acid (I didn't catch the name) and roll it to make a tiny little rubber mat. V. interesting.

You all know what they use rubber for... yes, that's right - car mat and, of course, condoms.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tesco Lotus - Wed 25/10/06

Another lazy morning.

Today I decided to ask for what I wanted (novel idea!) at breakfast. So I asked for banana (they brought 3 of the cutest little bananas I have ever seen - about 10cm long and 2cm in diameter) to cut up in my fruit salad and yoghurt, and a boiled egg. I had a delicious sandwich of wholewheat toast with sliced boiled egg and tomato. Yum! I love this combination.

We then read at the pool, sunbathed and swam until lunch time. Back to the room to change and then to Tesco. (They all say TescoLotus like it's one word - because it's at a shopping centre called Lotus Centre)

The hotel taxis are 50 baht more expensive than the ones on the street but we usually tried to get them down another 50 baht from that. So, the hotel rate to Tesco is 400 baht so we paid 300 baht. Thank goodness the car was airconditioned because it was very far.

This picture is actually from the Burger King at the Phuket Airport but it's the only fast food one I could find so there you go!

We got there at 4.30 and first walked around the food court to check menu, prices, etc. before settling on KFC. We shared both a zinger and a chicken tortilla. The zinger was lovely but not the tortilla - too much creamy sauce. Then we went to Dunkin Donuts for dessert before hitting the shops.

I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I went a bit wild - 2 handbags, 2 pairs shorts, 2 capri pants, 2 long pants, 6 t-shirts, some baby things for my sister, notebooks…and that's beside Dion's things. All that came to …wait for this…2089 baht, or R435! A bargain!

We also bought some toiletries at my favourite health & beauty store, Watsons (like Clicks, only better) and an Amy Tan novel. And then I spent the equivalent of about R50 on some glass rings and about 4 bracelets from a lady sitting outside one of the shops.

We were so tired of walking that we were happy to rest for supper at the Santa Fe Café for chicken before going back to the hotel. The taxi again wanted 400 baht but this time we paid 350 baht.

All in all, a very, very nice day.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blame it on the rain

okay, blogger was messing me around again in that previous post.

When we were on the island, we saw this rain waiting for us back on Phuket.

This picture was taken from one of those small boats.

Phang Nga tour - part 2

Next, we travelled for about 1 ½ hours to a secluded beach for swimming. Isn't it beautiful?

This is the small boat that we used to travel to this island.

The locals charged 100 baht for beach chair rental which of course, I wasn't prepared to pay for just 1 hour. So I sat on Dion's beach towel, chatting to Jan, while Dion and Mick had a swim. We stopped there for an hour.

You can see the beach umbrellas on the right of this picture

While we were waiting for the small boat to arrive to take us back to the big boat, all of us had a weird/ interesting discussion about what a miracle a long-lasting marriage is, and how so many people don't even bother to get married these days but just have kids. Apparently the average length of a marriage in the US is a mere 26 months. Very sad.

We were all very quiet (tired out from the day in the sun) on the way back to hotel where we set off from. Amazingly, those floating blue things were now on the sand because it was low tide.

The guy showed us the pictures he'd taken of us in the morning when we set off - very nice one of us, but we didn't buy it at 150 baht, and I was tired of bartering for the day.

We went to the loos, and then back to the hotel. Sad thing is we didn't get to say good-bye to the Australians but we did with Mick and Jan since we traveled back with them.

Overall, a very nice day - especially chatting to people who could speak English!

Funny thing happened on the boat - Jan started chatting to the Australians and she said, "oh by the way, we're from England". Now Jan speaks in a very English accent so it really is obvious. But Anthony says in a real deadpan way, "yes, we gathered"

Jan & Mick were from Windsor, England. She'd worked for British Airways for 39 years and just retired at the end of September. She was at home for 2 weeks before getting bored, so she got a part-time job working in a dept store two days a week. Mick retired 7 years previously and now works from 3 - 6pm 4 days a week as a bartender.

The other Australian couple, Lee-Ann and Anthony, was from Melbourne. She's an ex-chef turned office worker and Anthony is an interior designer. She stays in Richmond and he in St Kilda. The cool thing is we've been there - we had a whole story to tell her of how we got lost in Richmond.

It rained heavily once we were back for about 3 hours (most it ever rained while we were there). We tried waiting for it to stop but eventually at 7.30 we set out with our umbrellas. And you know what? The rain was lovely - warm and tropical and actually quite pleasant.

We ended up at the Kata Café (opposite Natalie's) where we had spaghetti marinara (D) and carbonara (me). We didn't enjoy it very much, not so much for the food (although the portion was really small - fine for me but not for D) but for the attitude.

Free salad with some bread but you have to pay for the butter. You pay for ice, etc. so it's almost like are you charging me for the glass and cutlery too?! In the end you're too scared to ask for a wedge of lemon or a serviette in case she says 10 baht, which was the answer for any extras.

Phang Nga Tour - 24/10/06 part 1

A quick breakfast before we were collected. We were the 3rd couple on the minibus and we then went to collect the 4th – Mick & Jan from Windsor, England.

We were all taken to a central hotel together with all the other groups from Tour East where we had a quick tea/ coffee/ water (us) before setting off.

We walked on a water float (v scary as the whole thing moves and I'm NOT a water person) to get to the big boat. We were 11 people besides the 2 guides.

We saw beautiful limestone cliffs on our way.

Our first stop was James Bond Island. !

Obviously not it's real name but since the making of The Man with the Golden Gun, that's what everybody knows. We transferred to a smaller boat and because of that, we had to wear life jackets

After the guide did the talk, we were allowed 30 mins for photos, hiking, shopping, etc.

We took photos mostly and watched Japanese tourists setting up tripods to take a picture. Weird. The photo in our profile was taken by an interior designer, Anthony, from Melbourne, Australia. Just thought you should know that!

We then went to a Sea Gypsey Village for lunch – rice, prawns, omelette, crab, soup. I didn't really enjoy it because it was too oily for my taste. Dessert was fresh pineapple which I always enjoy. However, the company was lovely. At our table, Jan took charge and made us all introduce ourselves – Jan & Mick from England, Lee-Ann and Anthony from Australia, and Dion and I from SA.

Then we went "touring" through the village – all suspended on water, families living in shacks, people selling things, people cooking all around. Terrible place to live but I suppose they don't know anything else. This is what I said to another English girl who looked quite traumatised at the thought of kids living there.

I was also inspired by Aussie Anthony who paid just 100 baht for a necklace where the asking price was initially 750 baht. (this was before this tour). So! I bargained a lady down from 150 baht to 25 baht for a glass ring.. Cool.

Stay tuned for the rest of the Phang Nga tour!