A Travellerspoint blog

One night in Bangkok

semi-overcast
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Bankgkok Miles traveled 732.
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Well, originally, we were not going to Thailand, however, it turns out it is much cheaper to fly into there than Vietnam or Laos. So, we made the decision based on economics to spend several days in Thailand and then several more in Cambodia. This plan nixed our trip to Laos and Vietnam......we will have them as an excuse to return to Southeast Asia someday!
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So, we had one glorious night in Bangkok. We arrived, unbeknownst to us on the Festival of Lights. It can be somewhat compared to a combination of our celebrations of Valentine’s Day and All Saints Day, however, it is much more festive in Thailand. Traditionally, people buy flower baskets to send down the river in memory of a loved one who has passed or in honor of a loved one in our lives. When we arrived, the streets were already full of people, vendors, balloons, and lights. We got there just in time to enjoy traditional dances, fire jugglers, and a fireworks display. Along the riverside, boats festooned in lights were traveling in a procession down the river and under their beautifully lit suspension bridge. On the stage at the riverside temple, traditional dance and song were being performed.
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After watching some of the festivities, which, we headed down Khao San Street to grab a bite to eat and take in all the shops.
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P1010924.jpgP1010925.jpgP1010950.jpgWe ate some delicious Pad Thai for 2 bucks and some fun drinks to go to enjoy while shopping. Sara scored two cute tops to take with to Ko Chang. We also got a smoking deal on 9 patches of countries flags for our back pack. We were lucky to land a hostel in the middle of the festival action, which left us with a great feeling about Bangkok and Thai culture.
The ten foot wide street was filled with two rows of street vendors, a taxi, motor-scooters, and foot traffic all going in every direction. On the wires above the street hung paper lanterns for the festival. Above the lanterns hung the branches of the enormous tropical trees. It was frantic and serene all at the same time. We even witnessed on family launching a small hot air balloon made of a rice paper frame heated with a small candle in thebottom. We all watched in awe as their little ship joined the lights in the sky! The people were very friendly and a helpful tour guide arranged our bus transport to the coast. The main street at the end of the corner was a continuous streem of push carts, taxis, motor taxis, trucks, cars, and buses, that was merely frantic. We arranged a wake up call and went to bed exhausted and tried to catch a few zzzs.

The next day, we awoke early to catch our bus. Two nice Thai ladies guided us to our bus, which had rather frightening company. A short time later we jumped on the bus for a 5 hour trip south to the island of Ko Chang in the Gulf of Thailand.

Posted by tourdeflor 19:01 Archived in Thailand Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Semporna, Malaysia -Finding Singamata

sunny 89 °F
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Semporna and Singamata Miles traveled 105.
Tropical paradise has been found, and it is in Borneo, Malaysia. After a short debate on the merits of the investment, Sara and I decided to become certified in Scuba diving rather than continue snorkeling. It was more difficult than I expected, but we completed the course and have four dives under our belts. We have been more than 50 feet under water…and survived to tell the tale.
The feeling is rather incredible. I turned so that I could look up toward the sky and watch my bubble rise to the surface to reassure myself that I was really underwater. The visibility was incredible, nearly 60 feet, in the clear water of the Celebes Sea. It was hard to believe that what we were seeing was real. Our most incredible dive was in Turtle Garden off of Sibuan Island. We saw three turtles, an infinite variety of neon and Technicolor fish, and coral galore. There was brain coral, fan coral, and branched stiff types of coral. Clown fish and baby sea horses hide in the stinging arms of sea anemones. Lion fish sheltering in the shadowy recesses of coral boulders. Our largest sighting was a monster grouper over five feet long. In between dives we rested on the stunning white beach of the small island.
In between studying and diving we hung out at our hotel Singamata. It was built in the bay and an artificial reef was built around it. Even there, we could snorkel and see starfish, coral, and abundant fish. We sunned ourselves on the beautiful deck, enjoyed the panorama of the sea and jagged islands in the distance, and we watched the huge specimens of fish in the “aquarium” in the center of the resort.
Enjoy the pics, sorry no underwater camera yet.
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Posted by tourdeflor 03:38 Archived in Malaysia Tagged boating Comments (1)

Borneo- home of the Orangutan

sunny 94 °F
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Borneo miles traveled 1146
When you hear of Borneo, you probable think of jungles, beaches, and wild animals well you would be right. We landed in Sandakan in the Malaysian Province of Sabah on the northeast side of Borneo. From our hotel, we made our arrangements to travel via bus to the fishing village of Semporna- the nearest point to visit the Sipadan Marine Park. The next day, in Sandakan, we took the mini bus to begin our journey to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. This center was created to rehabilitate orphaned, captured, or wounded orangutans. Their biggest threat at present is the elimination of their habitat due to palm oil plantations. We ended up arriving after the first feeding, but this gave us time to go for an amazing jungle hike. The Dipterocarp trees towered hundreds of feet over our head and had roots as tall as my lovely wife. The sounds of the forest all around us and the density of life were mesmerizing. We ate a leisurely lunch, watched their introduction video, and toured the exhibits before the main event: viewing orangutan feeding time.
We walked about twenty minutes into the rainforest. Jane of the jungle

Jane of the jungle

Sara's jungle queen hat

Sara's jungle queen hat

jungle walk

jungle walk

Mike in the jungle

Mike in the jungle

towering trees

towering trees

Sara and dipterocarp roots WOW

Sara and dipterocarp roots WOW

The buzzing of the birds and bugs made a constant humming sound. On the way in we saw a serpent of paradise on a tree near the trail. Mike at feeding time

Mike at feeding time

Sara Feeding time

Sara Feeding time

feeding stations

feeding stations

Jungle snake

Jungle snake

jungle lizard

jungle lizard

The feeding platforms were built of wood raised off the forest floor to begin the process of getting the orangutans back into wild behaviors and increase their comfort in the forest environment. The orangutans that came were mostly young and small with a few adults, but their playful nature showed through.Oran and staff

Oran and staff

One needed some guidance

One needed some guidance

Close up

Close up

playful cartwheeler

playful cartwheeler

en route to food

en route to food

Oran swinger

Oran swinger

Orangatan on rope 2

Orangatan on rope 2

oran

oran

It was amazing to watch them eat. After they ate, smaller Macaques swooped in to feed on the leftovers. They were like a pack of clowns in comparison to the stately and much larger orangutans. They screeched, chased, leapt, and harassed one another for scraps of sugar cane and small bananas. The clowns attack

The clowns attack

Sneaking in for left overs

Sneaking in for left overs


The following day we grabbed a taxi to the intercity bus terminal just in time to grab a bus to the seaside town of Semporna. English has been a little harder to come by in Borneo, but I picked up a couple of phrases in Malaysian. “How much is it?” “Where is…?” “Thank you.” and “Good bye.” These phrases used strategically invariably get a smile and a little bit of help. During our five hour bus ride to Semporna we saw the huge majority of unprotected forest on the island that is being destroyed for oil palm plantations. These trees, after seven years, produce 13 years of fruit which can be made into biodiesel. After this they have to be chopped down for the cycle to begin again. It was a little sad to be driving across Borneo and as far as the eye could see in every direction was covered by neat rows of the same tree…the African palm.Oil Palms as far as the eye can see.

Oil Palms as far as the eye can see.


We finally arrived at the Port town of Semporna and settled into Global Backpackers lodge to find a way to get away for tropical island bliss.
The next entry…What is Singamata?

Posted by tourdeflor 22:54 Archived in Malaysia Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Once in a lifetime- Malaysia!

sunny 91 °F
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Malaysia, miles travelled……6555
Our flight on Malaysia Air was longer than expected. We thought flying time would be around 8 hours, but it turned out to be 12. Also of note, we are now a day ahead of time in the U.S. When we call our friends in the morning, it is night time for them of the day before. We got off to an inauspicious start on Malaysia Airlines with a round of orange juice and confusion regarding our in flight entertainment. Soon this was remedied by a flip through the in flight magazine. We discovered we could choose from dozens of movies, languages, games, music, and learning programs. We were even able to make up our own playlists for the flight! Sara watched a program exploring the mysteries of the Big Bang and Mike failed in several contests of Yatzee against the computer. Later, the stewardess, dressed in Malay attire, came by with selections of free beer and wine. This helped us prepare to take a nice rest and pass the time until touchdown.
Kuala Lumpur’s airport was modern, clean, and posh. We wizzed through immigration faster than any other country and hailed a cab to down town KL. The cab dropped us off at Lanson Place, where we would stay with our friend Spencer, who just happens to be in KL on business. Lanson Place

Lanson Place

We got to know him better over several meals and adventures that we shared during his free time. We rested up and explored the immediate vicinity around the hotel until Spencer got back from work. We spent several days getting to know KL, including seeing the Batu Caves, Chinatown market, the Petronas Towers, and City Center Park. Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park

Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park

Crazy KLCC tree

Crazy KLCC tree

Petronas Towers

Petronas Towers

Petronas Towers

Petronas Towers

The city was nice, very modern, and a conglomerate of many different cultures.
The Batu caves are Malaysia’s main Hindu Shrine. There are over two hundred steps that lead up to the main shrine. Several of the main Hindu divinities are depicted there. Several incarnations of Vishnu, Lakshima, and Ganesh. Normally, there are hordes of monkeys there, but when we arrived all we found was enormous flocks of pigeons dive bombing the unaware. Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Caves steps

Caves steps

Batu Caves 5th Incarn of Vishnu

Batu Caves 5th Incarn of Vishnu

Back of statue KL skyline

Back of statue KL skyline

Shrine Batu Caves

Shrine Batu Caves

Batu caves

Batu caves

Batu Shrine

Batu Shrine

Batu Shrine

Batu Shrine

We ate at an Indian restaurant nearby. The food was fantastic and vegetarian, our best Malay dining to that point. The four of us ate like incarnations of Vishnu for about five dollars total. The Petronas towers lower levels are filled with GLAM shopping: Luis Vitton, Gucci, Chanel, etc. We were amazed and out of our price range. We got our revenge by buying knock off gear in the street market. We wanted to visit the sky deck, but the tickets for that day were sold out, and we made a note to return early another day to get visitors tickets!
Thanks to Spencer’s generosity, we enjoyed a few days of comfortable digs, access to laundry, gym, fridge, and reliable wifi. This gave us time to research and plan where we wanted to go in Malaysia. We ended up choosing Borneo as our first stop. Our plan was to see the Orangutan Sanctuary and go snorkeling at the marine park in Sipadan, a small island in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Borneo. Spencer really made us feel at home.

Posted by tourdeflor 23:49 Archived in Malaysia Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

LONDON: Tube: Bangers: Pub: The Church of Football.

overcast 56 °F
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London….miles travelled…3460
We touched down at London Heathrow bright and early the next morning. The only problem with sweet onboard entertainment is that you don’t sleep as much as you otherwise might. This was to cause some problems throughout our trip in London. British Airways flies into the new terminal and it was impressive. Sara’s chum, Neal, from Ohio University met us at the doors of the terminal. He kindly had taken the day off to pick us up and take us on a quick and dirty tour of Old London town.
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Our first stop was for food at Hampton Palace. Hampton Palace is one of Her Majesty’s residences west of London.
P1010663.jpgP1010661.jpgP1010664.jpg It is most renowned for its hedge maze, which incidentally has the goal of getting to the middle, not exiting), and its many colors of brick from different phases of construction. At the palace, we had our breakfast and walked about on the grounds. The grounds were thoroughly beautiful and the coffee and cake truly hit the spot as we caught up on the goings on of the family Thathapudi .
Before leaving we made a quick itinerary of spots to hit, we made reservations at a local Inn, and got a pass to enter the congestion zone of downtown London. All cars that enter downtown during peak hours pay the special fee which can be done at some gas stations and news stands. Neal buzzed us around London for the next couple of hours. We saw Buckingham Palace, Notting Hill, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and Big Ben in a whirlwind of key points. On the way to the Inn, jet lag finally got the better of me and I slept for the final twenty minutes. We crashed around one thirty that afternoon, and slept until breakfast the next day.
We used the first part of the next day to tour the small town of Watford. We had coffee and later a pint. We saw shops for bangers which we found out were various kinds of sausage and hot dog. We ate fish and chips, and tried to log on to the local wi-fi. We visited the sculpture of the Watford hornet, the mascot of their local football club. The wi-fi proceeded to rip us off and we got even further behind on our blog though the coffee was quite good. We watched some movies in our room. We bought tickets to see “Wicked” in London’s theater district, and hit the hay early hoping to maintain our readjusted time-clocks.
We managed to wake up early enough for breakfast and prepare ourselves to spend the afternoon with Neal and his family who graciously invited us to dinner. When he picked us up, he asked if we were interested in seeing the lads play Belarus in the church of football, Wembley Stadium. Not knowing anything about it but always being up for an adventure we said yes. We got the tickets for Wednesday and were on our way to lunch. His wife, Kirsty and his two girls, Madelyne, and Isabella, along with their puppy, Poppy were amazing hosts. We went for a walk in the wood and each of us got quite muddy. We ate lunch and played Karaoke on the Playstation where I learned Abba tunes and the words to popular hits from the 90’s. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. Neal helped relocate us to our central London digs in Thornton Heath and left us to our own devices for the next couple of days.
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The next two days we spent sleeping in late and then going to see plays. Wicked was Sara’s first choice and was very fun. At the theater, we picked up our newest hobby. We purchase the cheapest seats. We have a drink before the play, and order drinks ahead for half-time. Genius, no waiting in line…America take note. Then after intermission we sneak lower down to unoccupied close up seating! Awesome. The next day, I chose Othello. On the way there, we visited Trafalgar square and ate at a pub nearby. The performance was excellent and in the second half we sat in a private box facing the stage. Not too shabby.P1010709.jpg
On Wednesday after breakfast we packed our belongings and moved to another inn right by the airport. After depositing our bags, Sara and I went on a little shopping spree. I got a little jacket, darn it, it’s chilly in London. We enjoyed a light lunch at the boring, but reliable Subway. After this we began the journey back into town to meet Neal at Dollis Hill station on the way to Wembley.
After we met Neal, we had time to have a snack and meet his mom and sister. They were extremely friendly, and we enjoyed our traditional Indian snack from their home region. His mom gave us candy bars to sneak into the stadium—thanks!! Wembly was amazing and the game quite fun, though not as rowdy as we expected. We even got outfitted in England attire beforehand….Sara with her practice jersey, Mike in his cap, and Neal in his official jersey.
England triumphed over Belarus. We had fun cheering them on to victory. As we left Wembley, we herded like cattle to the tube (London subway station), all the while hearing shouts of “Green Army” from the crowd. Later, we found out what green army is about (google- "green army advert" if interested). 14102009745.jpg14102009740.jpg14102009737.jpg14102009733.jpg
We have decided that London gets the”Nicest People Award” in our tourdeflor. We were surprised, too! Yes, everywhere we went people were very helpful and friendly and we look forward to getting back there in December. Before departing, we made reservations for our accommodations and planned to meet up with Neal and family again. We had such a genuinely good time. Cheers!
Tomorrow – head to Southeast Asia.

Posted by tourdeflor 21:56 Archived in England Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

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