Sunday, 25 May 2014

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur

Colonial architecture KL style
Monday 9 November 2013: Following a short stay in Phuket, with my laptop (sort of) repaired, I take a bus to the busy border town of Hat Yai and overnight at Cathay Guesthouse, a backpacker favourite, to arrange onward transport to Malaysia.
Thursday 12: My comfortable sleeper train arrives in Kuala Lumpur where it's great to meet up with Damian, another one of my old muckers from Portsmouth university, and his wife Julie. I'm astonished to discover that they live, together with their pouch Harry, in a rather bizarrely misplaced five-bedroom English Edwardian-style townhouse with private gardens and pool - we are in Southeast Asia!.
Friday 13: Shopping with Julie I buy a reconditioned laptop and in the evening we all hit the nearby Brussels Beer Cafe, another bizarre but enjoyable experience. Usually I try to experience tastes and culture unique to the country I'm in, so this is quite different.
Saturday 14: Wine and oysters for lunch at the M&S style local supermarket and in the evening Damian prepares a barbecue on the terrace just before the skies open, yes it's still rainy season here.
Sunday 15: An Indian Kingfisher beer with Damian and Harry in their local Bulldog Bar, one of the few bars that allow dogs access. Muslim sensibilities treat pigs and dogs as unclean.
Thursday 19: I've agreed to look after Harry over the holiday period while Damian & Julie are back in blighty - it will give me a chance to rest and recuperate and also improve Harry's lot rather than him being incarcerated at the airport kennels.
Thursday 26: Once again I embark on my annual 10-day detox diet. I have the use of a large modern kitchen so this is the ideal place and time to do it.
Sunday 29: The reconditioned laptop I bought is so slow that, even though it won't be covered in my pre-arranged travel insurance, I treat myself to a brand new top of the range Acer Aspire laptop. I then spend the following week or so transferring files and customising it to my preferred format.
Sunday 5 January 2014: Damian returns bearing gifts. Oops, I'd forgotten all about Christmas - it all seems so overly commercial and far away - not really my cup of tea anymore.
Monday 6: Sleeper over the border to Cathay Guesthouse in Hat Yai.
Tuesday 7: Sleeper north to Hui Hin on Thailand's Gulf coast.
Slideshow of Kuala Lumpur.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Thailand: Krabi

Krabi's mangrove and Karst estuary
Tuesday 19 November 2013: Following a surprisingly comfortable Qatar Air flight via Doha I stay in Bangkok's Penpark Place just long enough to visit my dentist (a filling and teeth polished for 1,700 Bhat, about £30) and have several Thai traditional massages to soothe those aching muscles (200 Bhat an hour, about £4). It's good to be back in Asia even if it is pouring down, I've just caught the end of the rainy season.
Friday 22: My laptop packs-up on arrival so I get it repaired but the keyboard still won't work without a mouse, bloody annoying.
Saturday 23: From Bangkok's Hua Lumpong station I board my sleeper train berth to Surat Thani - I'm on my way to Krabi.
Sunday 24: I wake for breakfast to find that we are still north of Chumphon. The track further south is under six feet of water but the sun is shining and the water levels are dropping. Pessimistic taxi drivers tell us that the railway embankment is washed away and the bus routes are also flooded, would we like to take a taxi to Surat Thani by back roads? Most decide to wait at Chumphon station as the train may 'leave soon'. As darkness falls I book into Chumphon's Suriwong Hotel and call it a day.
Monday 25: The morning train delivers me to Surat Thani's Phun Phun station and the orange railway shuttle bus takes me to into town for the the 'big' bus to Krabi. It's been a long two days, my laptop's packed up again and my blog is so out of date.
Tuesday 26: A long-tail boat down Krabi (pronounced Rabbee) estuary to Railey beach is expensive (300 Bhat, about £6, return) but the trip and beach are great.
Friday 29: I take a pick-up to Than Bok National Park. I've been here before and the waterfalls are fairy-tale fantastic.
Saturday 30: Wat Kaew in Krabi town centre is also a delight with golden dragons guarding the stairway up to the elegant grey hill-top temple.
Monday 2 December: I'm staying in Green Tea Guesthouse, an all time favourite, where the owner (who I'm uncomfortable calling 'Mama' - she's younger than I am) books a super-value (400 Bhat) four-island boat trip, including lunch, for me. The 'Karst' limestone scenery, warm emerald-green waters, soft sand and lovely Muslim women dishing-up snacks from their floating kitchens make it a great day out.
Tuesday 3: Today I take a pick-up to the mountain-top Tiger Cave Temple where I climb the 1,237 steps to the summit. On a clear day the views would be stunning, it's misty. Krabi's night market is renowned for it's good value food and flaming woks churn out delicious meals to order. The big Chang beer is keenly priced too and I eat here every night. I'll have to head to Phuket tomorrow to try and get my laptop repaired, I really need to get this blog up-to-date.
Slideshow of Krabi.