A Travellerspoint blog

Phuket, Thailand (26th - 27th November)

I didn't actually see any of Phuket, aside from the airport, but still, that's where I re-entered Thailand. Jamie and Martta had been in Khao Lak, which wasn't far away, so Phuket was the best place for me to fly back in to.

The plan had originally been to then go on to somewhere else in Thailand - maybe Krabi - but due to time constraints and some impracticalities, it had been decided that we'd just fly straight on to Malaysia instead. Hence me not leaving the airport.

It was a shame to not get to see more of Thailand. I can't imagine that only seeing Bangkok was remotely representative of the country as a whole. Still, it's somewhere to go back to at some point, which isn't a bad thing.

We had a few hours before check-in, so found some benches to get a bit of sleep on. My body clock was already completely confused, so it didn't make much difference. However, when we did try to check in, we were told that we couldn't get our boarding cards unless we had proof of when and how we would be leaving Malaysia. This led to a panicked search for wi-fi, which we eventually got at a Burger King. We'd been planning to take the train from Malaysia to Singapore, but we discovered that flights were cheap and easier to book, so we got those sorted, showed the confirmation screen to the man at the desk and thankfully got our boarding cards in time for our flight.

We had a short flight to Kuala Lumpur, then another short one on to Langkawi. As the second flight was internal, we had to go through passport control in KL. We were expecting to be asked about our onwards travel plans, but no, all quick and simple. Oh well, the hastily booked flights to Singapore would still be useful.

Posted by chantalpatton 05:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

UK Flying Visit (21st - 25th November)

I'm not going to blog fully about my time in the UK, as it wasn't really part of this world trip, it was a brief break from it, but I don't want to just skip it either.

It was actually really nice being back in the UK for a few days. With having just been ill, I did kind of feel like my body was rejecting Asia, so a few days back home was a welcome change. Just being somewhere familiar for a while was surprisingly wonderful. As much as I love travelling, there are points at which you just need a break.

It was great to see all my family as well - even if it was under such sad circumstances.

Although I was away from The Big Trip for about 6 days - 2 of those were spent travelling, so I didn't really have that long in the UK. It was all a bit fleeting and surreal, but nice nonetheless.

The journey back to Thailand was particularly long as I had a 6 hour stopover in Dubai. Still, as I was feeling much better now, I could at least take advantage of the free alcohol provided by Emirates.

Posted by chantalpatton 05:40 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Bangkok, Thailand (14th - 20th November)

From the bus station we took a taxi to our first accommodation in Bangkok - Siam Journey Guesthouse. It wasn't located in the greatest area, from a tourism point of view, but it was a nice hostel. It has rave reviews online, which are maybe a little OTT, but the reason for that is the sociable ethos of the place. It's not a crazy party place, but hanging out and talking and sharing some beers is encouraged. The actual accommodation though is pretty standard. We were in a 10 bed dorm, though I'm pretty sure it used to be an 8 bed dorm. Mostly because 8 of the beds had their own lights and plug sockets, whereas the bunk bed at the end of the room, didn't. And yes, that's the one we were given. Definite minus points for that.

During our time in Bangkok, I unfortunately got quite ill. I don't really know what it was, as I had a few different symptoms that didn't all start at once and weren't obviously related. My Mum's since suggested that the shock of my Dad's death might have lowered my immune system and just left me really susceptible to things, which makes a lot of sense. Anyway, it started on our second night at Siam Journey - I woke up shivering and just couldn't stop. I had to put extra clothes on, squeeze into Jamie's bed with him and have 2 duvets on top of me in order to get warm enough. It was strange.

We only stayed in the hostel for 3 nights, as we then wanted to have our own room for a couple of nights. We moved to a more interesting part of the city and stayed at a hotel I've unfortunately forgotten the name of. It was a really nice place and it meant I could get some proper rest, to try and get over my illness.

On our first night at the hotel, it was a full moon festival where people traditionally take floating candles down to the river, plus lots of Chinese lanterns are released. Our hotel provided a free candle float for each room, so we got to take it down to the river and lower it in. That was really nice to be part of.

I wasn't sure what I made of Bangkok in general. I'd heard really good things about it and had really been looking forward to it, but I just didn't really see the appeal of the place. Maybe I just didn't get to see enough of it, with being ill an' all.

On the Tuesday we made our way to our third and final accommodation in Bangkok. We were back to a hostel, though it was just down the road to the hotel we were checking out of. It was called Born Free and it was OK. Again it was quite sociable, though I definitely preferred the vibe at Siam Journey. The reason why we were back in a dorm was that Jamie's friend Martta was joining us from Finland for a while. Jamie picked her up from the airport and then we were all able to check in.

We stayed in a 12 person dorm, which is far bigger than I like dorms to be. It was a weird setup as well. The bunks were arranged in sets of 2, so your bed would be right next to someone else's, with hardly anything between. The lower bunks had dividing curtains, but the upper bunks didn't. We were all on upper bunks, though Jamie and I got to go next to each other and Martta was put with another Finnish girl. Albeit a Finnish girl who ended up sleeping in the bed of someone else anyway. A fact that I was aware of due to waking up in the night and hearing them having a very good time! I felt sorry for the guy in the bed right next to them.

Anyway, on the following day, my last day in Bangkok, we went to the Grand Palace. That was easily the most interesting and impressive place we went to in Bangkok, so I was pleased I got to see it.

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In the evening we met up with Tyneil and Daniel for dinner, as they'd just arrived in Bangkok. It was good to see them again. We then had to head off back to the hostel though as I'd booked on to a shuttle bus to take me to the airport. A date had been decided on for my Dad's UK memorial service, so I needed to be there. I said goodbye to Jamie and Martta and took a very bumpy minibus to the airport.

Posted by chantalpatton 04:54 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Siem Reap, Cambodia (10th - 14th November)

Our guesthouse in Siem Reap sent a tuk tuk to collect us from the bus station. It was a really bumpy journey to start with but thankfully the roads smoothed out a bit as we got closer to the town centre.

We stayed at Jasmine Gardens. It was an ok place, though I wouldn't recommend it specifically. The room and bathroom were a bit rough and scummy in places. Not hugely, but enough to warrant mentioning. Plus we had problems with the toilet, which has happened far too often on this trip. We did get breakfast included though, even if the coffee was gross again.

One good thing about the guesthouse was that they arranged a tuk tuk driver to take us around the temples at Angkor the following day. We set off fairly early so that we could fit in as much as possible. Entry tickets aren't cheap but you do get your photo put on them, which is quite novel.

Our driver was really good - he'd drop us off in different areas, tell us roughly how long to spend there, then specify a collection point to meet us and drive us on to the next place.

Angkor Wat's the temple that everyone's heard of, but there are lots of others too. We started off at Angkor Thom, which is really impressive. It's hard to find the words to describe it, so here's a photo:

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Another really impressive one (though they were all pretty impressive) was Ta Prohm. The main draw of that was the trees that were entwined with it:

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As well as all the beautiful structures, we saw quite an array of animals on that day too. Elephants, pigs, monkeys, tiny tiny frogs... Plus we bumped into the Australian couple that we'd met in Mui Ne. That's happened a lot on this trip too.

Angkor Wat was the penultimate place we went and it is incredibly beautiful. Walking around inside it isn't as impressive as the other temples I've mentioned above, but looking at the outside from a bit of a distance is pretty stunning:

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After that our driver took us to a place with a good lookout point, so we could watch the sun set over Angkor. It was incredibly busy, as you can possibly imagine, but it was a nice way to end the day.

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We had initially considered spending two days at Angkor, but it was such a long and tiring day, we didn't really have the stamina for another. There was stuff we didn't get to see but we'd squeezed in a decent amount. It was a hugely enjoyable and memorable day. Easily one of the best days we've had on this trip. But like I said, incredibly tiring. Although not so much from the walking around; it was mostly due to the weather. It wasn't hugely sunny, but it was very unpleasantly humid, which is probably worse.

Anyway, on our second day in Siem Reap, we had a much more relaxing day. I can't really remember what we did, to be honest, but I think it involved a jug of beer at about midday.

Originally we were only going to spend the 3 nights in Siem Reap, so that's all we booked at Jasmine Garden. However, as we were then going on to Bangkok, where we'd need to spend quite a few days anyway (as had a friend joining us), but didn't want to arrive there too long before her (as we'd only get a 15 day visa), we decided to spend one more day in Siem Reap. It wasn't to do anything particular, but it was a nice place to just chill out.

We didn't want to stay in Jasmine Gardens so we moved to a nearby place called Bunlinda. It was about the same price but turned out to be quite a bit nicer. It even had a pool, so we made some use of that. Plus the owner was really sweet and friendly and sat with us for ages, asking us where we'd been to on this trip and drawing his own map of our route. It was quite an abstract map, it has to be said, but it made our stay there extra memorable.

On the day that we did leave, we took a bus to Bangkok. The bus and the journey were fine, as far as I remember. We had a border crossing, of course, which seemed to take place in the most fishy-smelling town in the world. But aside from that, it was fine. Infact it was better than fine - we were only meant to get 15 day visas, as we were entering by land, but we were given 30 day visas for some reason. Not that we needed them, but they were still nice to have.

Posted by chantalpatton 19:38 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (7th - 10th November)

We arrived at an incredibly busy bus station / market and fought our way through all the offers of transportation in order to walk to our guesthouse.

Cambodia felt quite similar to Vietnam, just with slightly less bikes and slightly more cars. You still couldn't walk on the pavement, so in amongst the melee it was.

It was a decent walk to the guesthouse, though not too bad. We stayed at Velkommen Guesthouse, which I really liked. The staff were friendly and the rooms were nice and clean. When we were looking for somewhere to stay, we narrowed it down to Velkommen and one other place. Both sounded good but not outstanding. It ended up being the rave reviews of cleanliness at Velkommen that swung it for me. Especially as one of the reviews for the other place mentioned cockroaches, which are apparently common in Cambodia, but still. We happily didn't have any cockroaches at Velkommen. We did have a teeny tiny lizard at one point but he was a welcome guest.

On our first full day in Phnom Penh we paid for a tuk tuk driver for the day (which isn’t much), to take us to the Killing Fields and also the Genocide Museum (which is the old prison). For anyone who doesn’t know, a tuk tuk’s a cart thing that’s attached to a motorbike.

The journey was partly fun and partly scary. You’re in amongst the crazy traffic, plus the road’s really bumpy in places. I also realized why so many people on bikes will wear the dust guard things over their mouths, as you do get covered in a lot of dust and grit from the roads.

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The Killing Fields were really interesting. You get an audio tour thing included in the ticket price. The fact that you can still see some teeth and other bits of remains under the ground in certain places is really eerie and gives you an idea of the extent of the genocide that took place there. It was pretty hard going though, as I’m sure you can imagine.

We went to the prison after that. That’s good to see, but it got a bit too much for me when we were there. To be walking around amongst so much evidence of death, so soon after my Dad’s passing, was just really upsetting. I’d been fine at The Killing Fields, as I could separate it in my head and just concentrate on the audio guide, but there was too much chance for thinking and reflection at the prison and I had to leave. We still saw a decent amount of it though and it was a good day, just not the easiest time to be doing it.

Our second day in Phnom Penh was more laid back. We just walked around and took in a few sights, then went to a sports bar in the evening to watch the rugby.

We left Phnom Penh for Siem Reap by bus. We travelled with Giant Ibis, who were decent. The roads are pretty bad quality though, so it was quite a bumpy journey and took about 2 hours longer than it was meant to. Plus the wi-fi on board only worked for a really brief period. They’d have been better off having a toilet on the bus instead. I had a pretty uncomfortable hour of waiting for the next toilet stop! Still, we got there safely.

Posted by chantalpatton 01:17 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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