A Travellerspoint blog

Malaysia

Music festivals, Kuala Lumpur and a PSY sighting

sunny

Our first day in Malaysia was spent sleeping, due to the fact that we had spent about 18 hours travelling to Malaysia from Thailand. We stayed not far away from the Sepang F1 race track, as this was a key venue for our stay in Malaysia. The main reason for us visiting this beautiful country was to attend the Future Music Festival, who had Prodigy, Temper Trap, Armen Van Buuren, Rita Ora FUN! on it's line-up, amongst other big hitters in the music biz.

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To be fair, the hotel we stayed in was a bit of a dump. We had originally made a booking at the hotel down the road, only to be told that they had no record of our booking, so the management moved us down the road to their partner hotel. However, when you're travelling, any actual hotel room where you're not having to share with 16 other people is quite a luxury treat. And location was key here as we weren't far from the festival venue.

The first day, we woke up early afternoon and decided to take a stroll to our local Tesco for a bite to eat. We thought it would only take 10 minutes or so by foot. It didn't. And Malaysia is hot. Really hot. After about 5 minutes of walking, conversation quickly dwindled away, and all we could talk about was how hot we were, and questioning how much longer it would take us. Backpackers on a budget are easy to spot in countries like this. They're the only ones who are stupid enough to be wondering around in midday heat, all the locals passed us comfortably in their air-conditioned cars, probably thinking, 'what the hell are you doing?' A number of taxis beeped at us as they passed, but no, we were determined to walk there, and not have to pay for it.

We finally made it to Tesco, sweat drenched, panting, former (highly unattractive) shadows of ourself. A taxi driver approached us and said, "I saw you walking, you are crazy. Why do you not take a taxi?" Good question. We retrieved some treats from Tesco, and had lunch in a cafe on the other side of the road.

That evening, we headed down to the venue early to pick up our tickets, nearly didn't get the tickets, then waited around for a good hour and a half waiting for the venue to open, seeking any available shade to hide under.

The first day at the festival was spent drinking Asahi and European red bull (a real treat when all you've had is Thai red bull for 6 months) listening to various trance acts, including Armen Van Buuren, who was headlining that day. It was such a great day, and the atmosphere was very similar to that of an English festival, albeit on a smaller scale. And not a pair of wellies in sight.

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After a lie in the next day, we took the train into the centre of Kuala Lumpur, and headed to the Petronas Twin Towers, which are absolutely amazing. Underneath the towers is a massive shopping mall, with a variety of western treats. After 6 long months sans peri peri goodness, we hit up Nandos. Bellissimo!

That afternoon, we headed back for day two of Future Music Festival, where we saw poor Rita Ora's mic fail three times, as she was none the wiser, still singing her heart out on stage, whilst we stood amongst the crowd shouting "we can't hear you!" She was not amused with the organisers. Other musical highlights that day included Fun! Bloc Party and Prodigy. It goes without saying though, that one of the most interesting acts of the day was that of South Korean mega star, PSY. When you've spent six months living in Asia, where the most popular Asian song, actually the most viewed video on YouTube (nearly 2 billion views to date!) , ever, is having it's moment in the sun, this was truly exciting. I probably heard this song hundreds of times when I was living in Nong Bua Daeng, including as pasrt of the Christmas Day assembly. I also used to use if it the kids were late to my class. I would make them stand at the front and dance to it as punishment.

People around us were buzzing, camera phones at the ready. We got a rendition of some of his other big hitters from his five (!) studio albums, and got to hear Gangnam Style twice. He mentioned that he had had an amazing year, but after singing the same song for nine months, this would be his last performance of Gangnam Style. He told us he would sing it twice, once so we could film it, and the second time so that we could just enjoy the music. Really generous of him.

That night I parted ways with two travelling buddies, and the next day, we hit a few of the (expensive) pubs in KL, and after a good night's sleep, I left the others to catch my flight to Vietnam....

Posted by meghanoleary 02:35 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Islands of Thailand Part 2

Giant flying cockroahces, underwater beauty and amazing beaches

After spending a couple of weeks on Phuket, waiting for my friends to finish teaching and join me on my travels, I headed to Phuket Town to join my friend Charlotte, and her brother, Tom, to head to Ao Phang Gna national marine park for the day. We caught a bus to take us to Phang Nga and then hopped on a long tail boat to explore the park. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Mountains covered in greenery jut out of the sea at every turn. Our first stop on the trip was to a muslim fishing village, which is constructed in the middle of the sea. We grabbed a cheeky ice cream and explored the village. I couldn't believe that people lived in this village in the sea.

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We got back on the boat with our fellow day trippers and headed to the famous 'James Bond Island', which is popular due to it's appearance in the 1974 film, The Man with the Golden Gun. This island was relatively quiet, much to our surprise, and delight, and we were some of only a handfall of tourists visiting this popular tourist attraction.

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We made our way back to the mainland, via the vast mangrove forests that engulf much of the sea. That night, we stayed in Krabi, as the plan was to meet some of our other friends in the morning and head to the hugely popular Koh Phi Phi. We had found an ideal hostel on the internet, and headed there in a pimped out tuk tuk. We arrived and the hostel looked absolutely amazing, modern, clean..... They obviously didn't have any dorm beds left for us, so we headed down the road, to another hotel, that was equally accomodating, just a bit of a let down from what we were hoping for. The next morning, we got up early to catch the ferry to Phi Phi. As is pretty standard with Thai organistion of transport, there was some minor confusion as to what bus we had to get on, when we were leaving, what company we were using. During our wait, we booked some accomodation for Phi Phi, as we knew it could be troubleseome getting somewhere to stay on the island. We made our way to the pier, where we met our friends, Rina, Christine and Forest.

We arrived on Koh Phi Phi, and to be honest, I think this island gets worse each time I wisit. This was my third visit, and I feel like the beach gets dirtier and the place more crowded, each time I come back. Every visitor pays a 20 baht fee when they arrive on the island, to keep it clean, although evidence of where this money is actually put to use is lacking!

Phi Phi is an island free of motorised transport, which is part of it's charm. You do, however, have to contend with people on bicycles, navigating their way around the streets and ringing their bell at you every 30 seconds. We rocked up to the hotel that had been pre booked for us, and the layout was....odd. Charlotte mentioned that it reminded her of the painting with the never ending stairs.

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That night we went out for drinks on the beach front and watched hoards of brave (off their faces) travellers attempt various activities, all involving fire - skipping rope of fire, fire limbo etc. etc. We winced watching the same drunk man repeatedly burn himself on the skipping rope of fire, numerous injuries to his head and legs sustained.

Rina and I had a little treat on our return to our hotel room, when turning on the light we discovered we had flying cockroaches living in our room (notice, plural). We had to deal with this over 3 nights, I found one in my pillow case, and consequently, we slept with the light on for the duration of our stay there. We also noticed that there were posters placed in very odd positions around the room, and found that they were actually covering holes in the wall. Who says you can't redecorate on the cheap??

One of the most amazing experiences of my time travelling happened on Phi Phi. We decided to take an evening boat to Maya Bay (also known as the beach from The Beach). Going in the evening is 3 times more expensive than during the day, but is oh so worth it. You get to avoid the huge amounts of travellers that flock to the island every day, and also get to do a bit of night time snorkelling with plankton. At first, this may seem like a daunting thought, jumping into the sea in the pitch black. But, the reason for doing this is that when the plankton are disturbed, they glow, so waving your hand through the water, it looks like you are swimming in a sea of glitter, absolutely amazing! I would highly recommend this to anyone travelling to Phi Phi!

Our original plan was to head to Koh Lipe after Phi Phi, before making our way to Malaysia. Turns out, Koh Lipe is a reaaaallllly long way from Phi Phi. So we made a compromise, as we were short on time, and headed to the nearby island of Koh Lanta.

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Koh Lanta is greeeeeeat! The beaches are stunning and the the water is crystal clear. Whilst here, we mainly slept a lot, sunbathed a lot, ate, and not much else. We ventured out one night to a beach party with a very random collection of people. We got dropped off at the point of the mysterious beach party. A candlelit path led us down a dark and bumpy track. A Thai guy with crazy long dreads came down on his motorbike to collect us, or maybe he was just on his way out and saw us, and wanted to make sure we found our way ok...yeah, that makes more sense. Seating at the paty was limited (despite the fact we were at a beach party) so, we ended up sitting with a crazy Swedish stoner who was on holiday with his dad but who was by himself at the party, he was nice enough.....just a complete and utter weirdo. Cue awkward social exchanges.

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One of the major stresses that we faced whilst on Koh Lanta, was how to make our way to Kuala Lumpur. This part of our jounrey was pretty crucial as we had tickets for a music festival in the capital. After finding a great deal on flights to Malaysia, we thought that would be our best option, seeing as it was cheap and would only take 2 hours....then the deal ended. So we ended up booking an overnight VIP bus....which was actually very comfortable, but predictably arrived ridiculously early. We then spent the next 2 hours looking for our hotel with the frustrated taxi driver. We FINALLY made it to our hotel at 5am in the morning after a long night of travelling, 'Oh, sorry miss, we have no record of your booking...' Travelling is so fun sometimes.

Posted by meghanoleary 14:45 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Islands of Thailand Part 1

A great couple of weeks, beginning with the worst hangover of my life...

So, I finished my semester of teaching in Nong Bua Daeng in Chaiyaphum, had a few emotional goodbyes with students and fellow staff and made my way to Bangkok for the beginning of my South East Asian adventures. I stayed in a great hostel in Lumphini, opposite one of Thailand's most famous Muay Thai stadiums and purchased my VIP bus ticket to Phuket, to leave at 7am the next morning.

I headed up to the rooftop area to take in the skyline of Bangkok, and to see if there were any other travellers around. I came across a couple of friendly guys, one from Australia and the other from Sweden, and we chatted for an hour or so before we arranged plans to head to the infamous Khao San Road in the evening (an area that had previously staged many a drunken night).

So, at around 10pm, we collected Swedish man's friend and made our way over to Khao San, a short taxi ride away. As I had to be up at 5am to catch my bus, I obviously told myself, "just a couple, Megh, let's not go overboard". This clearly didn't happen. About an hour later I was chugging 80 baht (£1.60) strong strong cocktails, eating deep fried scorpion from a street vendor and buying ridiculous amounts of wristbands, stating a variety of amusing (weird) slogans, including the charming well known catchphrase "up bum, no baby".

Eating scorpions Khao San Road

Eating scorpions Khao San Road

You realise how small the world is when you bump into people you've met on your travels. During my heavy drinking session, I bumped into a German guy I had met whilst staying in a hostel in Laos, and he came to join us. After far too many cocktails, we headed to 'The Club', where I quickly decided that it was definitely hometime for me, and I quickly said my goodbyes and popped myself in a cab. Had a cheeky token chunder on the way home with the wonderful taxi driver holding back my hair and rubbing my back as I was sick out of his taxi, in the kind of way you would hope a gal pal would help you out in such times of hardship.

Alarm goes off at 5am to wake me up for my TWELVE HOUR journey to Phuket. Queue horrendous hangover. I put myself on the back of a motorbike taxi to the bus station in a moment of drunken/hungover madness as I shortly realised this was not appropriate transportation when carrying a 17kg backpack, nor when you're feeling just about ready to die. After a quick nap leaning on the back of the taxi driver, I soon declared 'mai sa bai dee' (I'm not good) and he put me in a car taxi to resume the rest of my journey.

I arrived at the bus station and found my bus, and shortly before the bus left the station, I had to ask the poor Thai lady sitting next to me if I could have her 7/11 bag so that I could be sick into it. This happened another 10 or so times during the remainder of the 12 hour journey. Needless to say, it was not the 'VIP' bus journey she had hoped for.

I eventually made it to my cousin's apartment in Phuket, and I have never felt so relieved to have arrived at my destination. The next week or so was spent relaxing at the beach, majorly chilling and hanging out in my cousin's jacuzzi on his balcony in the mountains surrounding Patong, taking in the amazing views.

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My Thai visa was about to expire, so I booked myself on a day trip to Burma, which would take me out of the country in the morning and bring me back in the afternoon, thus giving me more time in the country before I moved on. Unfortunately, after waking up at 5.30am, the minibus never came to collect me, and this was the last day I had left on my visa. So, I booked myself a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to leave in the evening.

Kuala Lumpur is an amazing city, and is vastly different to Bangkok. It feels very modern, clean and very westernized, with sharp lines, trendy bars and skyscrapers at every turn. I had a brief stay there, but took in some of the major sights, including the Petronas Twin Towers, which are amazing. There is a great mall underneath the towers, which housed many designer brands, not the best sight to see when you're living on a backpacker's budget. I did, however, manage to get my hands on some cadbury's chocolate, something I hadn't had at all in 5 months due to it's non-existence in Thailand.

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During my stay at Serendipity Hostel in KL, I met a lovely English girl, Alex, who happened to be heading back to Phuket the next day, as was I, so we arranged to meet up for a night out when we were both back in Thailand. The next evening, I took an overnight train from KL to Hat Yai, which was actually a very pleasant way to travel, and I then took a minibus from Hat Yai to Phuket (after negotiating the inflated price that the driver had tried to sell me, "Miss, don't tell anyone else about your price")

The next night, I headed to Alex's hotel and introduced her to Sangsom, as it was her first time in Thailand. We then headed down the infamous Bangla Road, home to booze and sleaze-a-plenty. After one too many Sangsoms, we had the amazing idea to head to a ping pong show (to those of you who are unaware about this famous tourist attraction in Thailand, I can tell you, that it does involve ping pong balls, but it is definitely not a sporting event). We negotiated free entry to one club, but once we were in, we looked at the drinks menu, where they were trying to charge £35 for a drink, which is a crazy price to pay in Thailand. We had watched about one minute of the show before looking at the extortionate costs and deciding to leave. A hostess tried to demand 500 baht from us before we left, I pleasantly declined, and we left, although I'm not so sure it would have been so easy to leave if we hadn't been two girls out. We then found a cheaper bar (where a beer was still 400 baht, about £9), and watched the show amongst a sea of men and the occassional girl.

I have honestly never seen anything so crazy on stage, I won't divulge too much information, but I will tell you that the RSPCA may have been slightly concerned about what was happening with live white mice during one particular stunt. After a couple of hours in the bar, and far too many drinks later, we headed back to Alex's hotel room, where I proceeded to pass out on her bed. The next day was spent sunbathing (burning) and indulging in western treats, before we said our goodbyes as we were parting ways as I was heading to Krabi the next day. Although ping pong shows, drinking and ingestion of insects can't really be classed as 'real' Thailand, these experiences are definitely fun, and provided me with some rather entertaining memories.

Posted by meghanoleary 09:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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