About Passing-by and Staying in Place

World is so small. That’s what I’ve been thinking the last few days, because there has been some funny coincidences. First of all, there are a lot of tourists, but I think it’s still kind of weird that some Swedish tourists that went to the Gili’s at the same time as we did, were at Langkawi, at the same time. I mean, what are the odds that they decided to visit Langkawi’s Underwater World on the same day, at the same time?

Shark in the Underwater World.

Other weird coincidence was when we arrived to Langkawi. We shared a cab with a local cook, who works in Thailand, and he remembered me from few days before from Pangkor. I don’t recall seeing him though. Not to mention, I spent most of my time in Pangkor in the hotel room suffering from fever. And in the middle of Pangkor and Langkawi we did spend two nights in Penang too…

I just don’t get the equation: if the world is so small, why don’t I seem to have time to visit all the places I want to?

On our two nights pit-stop in Georgetown Penang we celebrated J’s birthday and for example strolled down the Love Lane in Chinatown.

Well, actually, staying still is nice too. I don’t have to be seeing new stuff all the time. Now, after 24 hours of traveling, we are in Thailand, in Pattaya, and we are going to stay foot for a week! Just to rest a little bit, before the last few weeks of the journey. And I must admit, even though we haven’t been here for long yet, I like having a nice hotel (with swimming pool! It’s the best one on this trip. We’ve spent nights in some real crappy-ones because it’s always only “one or two nights”), and being able to unpack for once. We stayed in Gili’s for a week too. but this is different, ’cause we already know it.

Our “home beach” in Pantai Cenang, Langkawi.

In the Gili’s every night we just decided over and over again that we didn’t want it to be the last one there…

But few words on Langkawi, where we still spent days efficiently. 😀 As mentioned, we visited the Underwater World, and on one of our three days there, we hired a driver (in other words booked a private tour) and searched the island. We took the Cable Car in Geopark up to over 600 meters above the sea level, and it’ was as cool as I had imagined. Even though, for a moment I was scared, when I started thinking what would happen, if the Cable Car would fall or break down. (Note to self: never start thinking things like that when you’re already trapped in 400 metres in a small carriage with 5 other people). It was also so windy up on the mountains…

Hanging Bridge, where the visitors get by Cable Car.

In addition, we visited a crocodile farm and a waterfall, and over all, got a good view of Langkawi. It surely is yet another holiday paradise, but somehow I was just relieved when we left. Maybe it was the knowledge of 10 times better (and 10 euros cheaper) hotel waiting in Thailand, compared to our chalet in Pantai Cenang… Or maybe just the fact, that for some reason Thailand has appeared to me recently a lot more interesting than before. First I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to come here, but now I think there’s a lot more to it, than the usual Finnish tourism-image has left me to believe. I guess I’ll just have to find out, if I’m not too busy sunbathing and swimming that is. 😉

I fell in love with the Temurun waterfall and it’s cool water. If I were to live in Langkawi, that’s the place where I’d want to build my cottage…

Oh, and for those wondering the flood-situation down here: some places and roads were still covered with water in Bangkok. And the smell (at least near the bus station) was pretty stiff… But driving on most of the roads is anyway already possible, and big part of the city has probably gotten back to normal. Don’t know about the epidemics though, how strongly are diseases breaking loose?

Halfway There

Can’t believe we’re past the middle of our journey already. Though it feels like we’ve seen and done a lot, there’s no time to do everything I wanted. So I was kind of grieving inside when we realized in Kuala Lumpur, that we have no time for Borneo. Nor can we visit the National Park Taman Negara, since it’s rainy season, and we heard leeches are “unavoidable” when it’s wet. So we decided directly to head to the places in Malaysia that don’t suffer from monsoons as much. The islands on the west coast. We also made a pact to come back for Borneo and Taman Negara with better timing and equipment.

We saw many animals in KL Towers animalzone. These turtles had an appetite almost like my pet red-ear turtles back home.

My disappointment faded almost entirely when we arrived to Pulau Pangkor last night. The beautiful island is all jungle from the middle, and it’s surrounded by emerald-green waters. There’s a lot of monkeys here and we heard that there should be also hornbills (sort of birds), so it relieves the fact of missing out all the animals in Taman Negara. We stay in a small town called Teluk Nipah, and since it’s low-season, it’s really quiet and peaceful. Many of the restaurants are closed, but there’s just enough services for us to get everything we need. Today we visited the Coral Island close Nipah Bay with kayak, and tomorrow we probably spend the day enjoying our new favorite past-time: snorkeling…

The beach in Teluk Nipah.

In the end of the week we plan to travel to Langkawi and then continue to Thailand to meet J’s uncle, who  is currently on a vacation in Pattaya.

Did I already mention there's monkeys on Pangkor Island? 🙂

The island is also a refreshing change after Kuala Lumpur. We are so used to water and beaches, that a big city felt overwhelming. But it was great to spend ‘normal’ weekend for a change. In addition to visiting the KL Tower and checking the Petronas Towers (they were sadly closed for visitors until December because of some sort of reconstruction) we went to the movies and shopping!

The swirling landmark of Kuala Lumpur: Petronas Towers.

Sharks Night was an ok film, when we only paid under two euros to see it.

 

Christmas is in the tropics! Holiday Greetings from Pavilion Mall in KL.

 

Shopping & Sunshine Prices

After we left Vietnam, I’ve been suffering from this personal money crisis, because everything feels so expensive after the dongs. The fact, that no money is coming in to my account, but more and more is going for travel and accommodation expenses on this long journey, is like turning the knife in the wound. Not to mention, there’s no endlessly room in my bag to carry new stuff so I can’t buy much anything, which increases my shopping-depression. So I decided to cheer the shopaholic in me up, by writing about the all the possibilities I can’t always grab.

Hoi An in Vietnam is a place where you can get everything tailor-made. Had we stayed there longer, I had probably ordered every other dress I saw in my size...

Even the Vietnamese prices felt sometimes expensive though and I didn’t spend that much. (I’m actually a bit proud of myself, of how well I have been able to resist all the temptations. :)) There I usually ended up picking the meal in the restaurant that was 40 000 dongs, because the one that was 60 000 (1 euro is about 26 000 dongs) felt so much more expensive. Funny. After we left the country I realized how little everything really cost.

What comes to shopping I reached my personal paradise in Singapore, on Orchard road where there is hundreds of ways to spend all the dollars. For me the ultimate shopping-heaven though was Forever21 (Now my mom probably does oh-noes back home, but don’t worry, your credit account remains still intact.), clothing store I first came to know in the US, and have been fanatical about it since. It’s a must sight, if I travel to a place where it exists.

Wisdom in the Orchard roads shopping center in Singapore.

Not to underestimate shopping in Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam also have a lot to offer. What is great in Asia, is, that you’ll probably find anything you need, by just standing on the beach or on the street. That’s a downside too though, because many times you’ll end up buying something even when you don’t want to. My weakness are the bracelets they sell around beaches… The hawkers usually offer everything from manicure and massage to mangos. The prices they might ask are sometimes ridiculous though, even they say it’s a special “sunshine” or “sunset” price depending on the time of the day “just for you my friend”. And always, tomorrow it will be more expensive. So good bargaining skills are needed. My style is to act cute and innocent when I hear the price, for example “Oh, I would have bought that for 10 000, but now I can’t”. Sometimes in the end the price has come down 80 percent, sometimes only 30. Sometimes I’m left empty-handed.

On Friday we fly off to Kuala Lumpur. Well see how tight the strings in my purse stay in Malaysia…

Troubled Paradise

I’m getting tired of all the scams and ways of ripping off money from tourists. We’ve landed on the Gilis that are surrounded by divine crystal clear blue waters, but again, getting here wasn’t easy. We had booked a direct transfer from Ampenan to one of the Gilis, that is a shuttle bus and boat, and I just liked to see a time, when everything here goes as planned. The shuttle bus broke down on the way, but the thing that got me near boiling point happened at the harbor, or close to it. The bus left us in the “office”, and the trip-arrangers said we have to stop for a while. We waited for more than half an hour, and  nobody told us anything about anything. Suddenly a group of pony cart drivers pumped in and took our bags, and told they are taking all of us travelers to the boats. When we were already sitting in the cart, they revealed it’s gonna cost us extra. I tried to bargain the price with our driver but he just went on, even when we refused to pay and said we would walk instead, since we had already paid for transportation to the harbor. It turns out, we were about 100 metres away from the sea all the time, and they asked 20 000 rupiah for that short ride. It’s a little less than two euros, but still we would have chosen to walk if we’d only knew it was that close! I tried paying only 10 000, but the driver started to get angry. Finally, even when he got he his 20 000 bill he shouted insults at us.

Trouble continued as we got to the peaceful island of Gili Air. The Gilis are three Islands (Air, Meno and Trawangan) that don’t have cars or any motorcycles. The only ways to move around are by foot, on a normal bicycle, or on one of those notorious (at least for J and me) pony carts. The roads are pretty sandy at some points, but luckily the islands are pretty small.

The boat to the Gili Air was a bit crowded with people and food.

So in Air, we took this room with air-con, but as it turned out, electricity was gone from the whole island, and our hotel didn’t want to use their generator more than two hours per day, because it’s so expensive. Then, trying to cover our bungalows bathroom window to prevent mosquitos from coming in (mosquitos are serious threat, the stings are more itchy than in Finland not to mention all the possible diseases…) J accidentally slashed his toe with his swiss army knife. The wound was pretty nasty, and we thought it needed stitches, but it was Saturday, and the doctor had left to Lombok for the weekend. So we sweat in our bungalow for three nights, and during the day rested J’s toe in the beachside cafes. Since the electricity didn’t show signs of coming back (we heard it usually takes a week in a situation like that) we hopped with a boat to Trawangan. Here boats are left ashore on the shallow water, so we had to wade few steps to get on the dry land. Points to J for managing it with his bags, without getting the toe with the wound wet. For all of those who worry, here J saw a doctor, and the toe is fine. It didn’t get stitches, so we just continue to keep it disinfected.

The harbor at Gili Air.

Now it’s time to enjoy the paradise. I think we just keep landing on more and more beautiful places all the time, and sometimes it’s just hard to believe all of these places really do exist.

Today we tried to bike around the island, but in the end the heat and the soft sandy roads defeated us, and we got only to half-way. Before we leave back to Bali, we should also go snorkelling and check the reefs around the islands… I’m just happy when I get to lie on the sand and unwind in the clear water.

View to Meno from a beach in Trawangan.

Off the beaten track

If Easy Drivers wanted to show us the real Vietnam, we needed no help in finding the real Indonesia. After spending leisure-days in Bali for almost a week we continued to Lombok on Tuesday. We reserved inviting (read cheap) hotel from here already beforehand, and found ourselves in the middle of a town called Ampenan, on the outskirts of Lomboks biggest city Mataram.

Our hotel is a cozy family run business in the end of a muddy alley. The owner is a Dutch man with Indonesian wife and kids.

Our lovely hotel in Ampenan, The Red Pepper Inn.

The room has air-con and pink walls. There’s no shower, but we get to pour water on us with a heart-shaped scoop to wash up. Other guests are Indonesian. When we told the guy who arranged our transportation here where we want to go, he asked several times are we sure. “There’s nothing there. You are the only tourists there. Senggiki is a lot better.” But we were sure.

Instead of a taxi, here it’s possible to choose a cart pulled by a pony and all the kids and most of the grown ups greet with a hello, since we sure are the only tourists here. Prices dropped like 70 percent from those in Bali. Even though I like seeing places that aren’t crowded with other westerners, the first night here wasn’t one of the best. I had been feeling a bit sick already few days before we came here, so a visit to a local market place with smelly fish and rotting garbage around, was hard. I must have looked like a stupid, foolish and spoiled girl for covering my nose so I wouldn’t throw up, but I had to.

Ampenan market

When we got back to the hotel I was shivering, and an hour later I already had over 38 degrees fever. So yesterday I spent in the hotel room reading The Girl in the Picture while J stayed beside me, sometimes going out to grab me something to eat or entertain himself. Today he rented a scooter and went to look for monkeys in Pusuki, though we already saw some in Bali. I didn’t feel energetic enough to go with him. Driving on the back of his scooter takes a lot of energy. We tried it already in Bali to get to Padang Padang (the famous surfing camp to get my sports pictures), and I think I still haven’t fully recovered from it…

Macaque in Bali’s monkey forest

Since one day was wasted because of my illness, we decided to stay here at least until Saturday. Then, we’ll probably go to the Gili islands, the tourist-attraction of Lombok. If only we had more time, we would like to search more of the islands here, Flores, Komodo maybe East Timor even, but looks like this time we have to leave it to these few. The original plan was to focus on Indonesia and Malaysia, but we’ve become more interested on Laos and Cambodia, so we want to have enough time to explore those too.

We’ve seen some phenomenal sunsets on our trip. This one is from Tanah Lot, the Rocky temple in Bali. We took a tour around the island to see some temples and rice terraces on Monday.

And here’s what I got from Padang Padang. Photographing surfing was hard, especially with my bad 18-200 kit lens, but luckily I pumped into a local photographer and he let me use his 400 for a short moment.