Reminiscing about South East Asia with a montage

It’s been almost 2 years since we left New Zealand and set off through South East Asia for two months. We went through Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and at the time we thought we would struggle to live out of a suitcase for that long.  We thought wrong.

I think that trip was the best I’ve been on (which is a tough competition) mainly because it was longer and that allowed us to really soak up the place and relax.

We’ve been throwing ideas around of future longer trips we could take and also getting nostalgic for our trip; back when we didn’t have jobs, a lease on a flat or many possessions.  Life was simple and fun then (not that it’s particularly bad now though!).

We’ve been looking at buying a GoPro for recording some more travel clips along with other gadgets and have been wishing we took more video when we travel.  I spent a bit of time digging around on the computer and I found a treasure trove of video clips from our trip back in 2012.  Most of them are pretty poor quality (I’d like to blame our cheap little camera but mostly its my poor camera skills at fault).  We did manage to do up a bit of a montage of our trip anyway.

Hopefully we get back there one day as this video makes me miss the place!

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Finishing up in Bangkok – the last of our SE Asia trip

Leaving Phi Phi and Phuket behind, we arrived in Bangkok (3 of the better place names there!) to some great news – we were getting a free upgrade of our hotel room at Baan K residence to a suite (pretty much a one bedroom apartment).  We had wanted to book somewhere nice so we could spend our last few days in Asia in comfort and this place fits the bill perfectly.

Upgrade to a 1 bdm suite!

Kitchen and lounge

Huge TV

Sweet TV

Living room, bedroom through the door

Lounge and bedroom through the door

Our first impressions of Bangkok were that it’s huge and really spread out.  Despite having a pretty good public transit system the traffic is terrible here and whenever we go anywhere by taxi it seems to take at least an hour.  At least the taxis are cheap though.

The main problem we’ve had with taxis are the idiots driving them.  Most of the time we’ve been really organised and had a map with the name of our hotel and directions written out in English and Thai.  Despite this, nearly without fail, taxi drivers will have no idea where to go.  At one point we were pretty much on the main road that we needed to drive down to get home but the taxi drivers were so confused they wouldn’t take us (I offered to drive the taxi myself as it was so easy to get there).  Map reading skills are definitely not their strong point.

On our first night in Bangkok we got a taxi to one of the (very) few places taxi drivers can all find here, Khao San road.  I was expecting a packed, crazier, busier version of Bangla road in Phuket but Khao San was actually pretty tame in comparison.  The main feature seemed to be a lot of stalls selling the usual cheap t-shirts.

We did find a really cool bar with live music to sit and have a few drinks at.  The musicians here can be so good at covers it’s crazy.  They can’t speak English that well but that doesn’t stop them from perfectly imitating Chris Martin for a Coldplay song.

Our second day in Bangkok also happened to coincide with my birth 26 years ago so we had a good excuse to go out.  Being in Thailand where there’s so much good local food, you would think we would go out for some more nice local fare right?  Well after 2 months in SE Asia, I am quite over rice, noodles, curries and soups and we instead opted for the home of Bangkok Burger Company (the same place we went in Phuket).  The choice was not regretted.

The only problem with our choice of dinner location was that it was quite far away from our next intended stop – the Sky Bar at the Lebua.  If you’ve seen Hangover 2 then you would know this place from the rooftop bar scenes there.

We tried getting a taxi but couldn’t find one that spoke a word of English so ended up hiking around for quite awhile until we found a sky train station.  From there we didn’t have a problem though.

The Sky bar is outside on the 64th floor and has an amazing view of Bangkok. The drink prices were also amazing (a beer cost $18) but it was worth it for the view.  We made the error of not taking the right camera lens so we couldn’t get any really good photos but we still tried.

Going high up

Bangkok River

Cool View

We haven’t been feeling like seeing many of the tourist sites here and we both decided that this is probably travel fatigue finally setting in and the fact that we are already quite busy with trying to get jobs in London.  However, we did shake this off for a day of sightseeing to see the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.

We discovered another scam (there’re SO MANY) outside the temples where local Tuk Tuk drivers explain to you very kindly that the temples and palace are closed until 3pm for foreigners and only locals are allowed in until then.  They conveniently had a list of alternative places that they could drive us though while we waited.  So nice right?

We smelled a rat and left on foot where shortly after we heard a loud speaker that basically warned against the scamming Tuk Tuk drivers.  I think the frequency of scams like this has definitely contributed to our travel fatigue but mostly we try laugh at how stupid the scams are.

Shortly after we were at the Grand Palace swapping our inappropriate western attire for some more conservative local clothes.  They (very kindly) rent you these clothes for free just inside the entrance to the Grand Palace but that doesn’t stop “entrepreneurial” locals (I would probably use another word to describe them) trying to drag you in to their store to get you to pay to hire the same clothes.

Sweet pants Matt had to wear

Sweet pants Matt had to wear

Cover up the legs!

And Dayna’s sweet skirt she had to wear

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

Reflection

Dayna’s self portrait

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace

The rest of our time in Bangkok has involved a lot of phone calls and emails with recruiters to discuss jobs and set up meetings and interviews.  I now have 12 meetings or interviews set up for next week in London (and Dayna’s list is quickly growing) so it’s going to be busy!

We did find time to make a sweet pants purchase on another trip to Khao San road.  We were inspired by my free rental pants at the Grand Palace so went haggling our way around the pants stalls for similar pairs.  Dayna opted for a somewhat traditional pair of “Elephant pants” while I opted for what I’m calling for the moment my new “Party pants”.

Rocking our awesome pants

Rocking our sweet new pants

And so now here we sit (in our sweet suite), enjoying the last of our opportunity to chill out before we hop on our flight to London at midnight tomorrow!

The change in temperature alone might be a bit of a shock…

The final days in Phuket

I was able to console Matt about losing his travel beard (I think a kick in the shin was all he needed to understand that some things are definitely MORE PAINFUL than shaving off a beard) with a trip to Patong to get a Bangkok Burger that Cath and Jono had raved on about. After 2 months of eating weird looking beef and not even wanting to attempt a burger, the thought of a good one was enough to make our mouths water.

*Side Note: if anyone can suggest the best place in London to get a deliciously massive steak and yummy side salad, I would really appreciate it as that’s all I’ve been craving for the past 2 months*

Thank goodness the burgers lived up to the hype.

Bangkok Burger

We couldn’t decide on the type we wanted so we ended up sharing them both. And look! Curly fries! It was all so so tasty (and expensive by Thai standards – worth it though).

After that, we walked down Bangla Rd to get a proper look at it this time. The street is just crazy, eh. The video I took pretty much sums it up – being offered a Ping Pong show (for the love of God, Mom, please don’t google it) and seeing Ladyboys posing with tourists.

We found a bar and sat down to have a drink and ended up meeting this American guy who had been living in China for the last 10 years and chatted with him for a while. Really cool to get his perspective of the country and be able to ask him questions for when we eventually get around to visiting China.

After just a couple drinks (I was kinda bummed cause I lost out on a ‘Burberry’ bag thanks to my poor haggling skills) and a banana pancake (for Matt) we headed back to Kata for the night.

Probably best that we had an early night with few drinks because we had booked another snorkelling trip for the next morning. I, of course, forgot to take my seasickness pills but thought I’d be alright cause the water was really calm for our last trip. I was so so wrong.

I didn’t take any photos of the waves, because I couldn’t, but I was looking pretty green within the first few minutes of being on the boat. Thankfully, the islands we were going to weren’t very far so I managed to make it to shore with no projectile accidents.

The first place we went to was just a nice beach for “relaxing or swimming” so we got some beach chairs. No sooner had I settled in when I felt something on my foot and looked down to see a SNAKE slithering past. It was only a little thing, but STILL. Not something you really want to worry about when relaxing on a beach.

On the beach

I don't get it.

Asians make it very easy for everyone to recognize that they’re a couple.

After that, it was back to the boat (my stomach flips just at the thought). A spew and a half later (not me, thank goodness) we stopped at our snorkelling site. I thought the water was clear on our last trip but it was so much better this time! I’m not the best swimmer but snorkelling really made me want to take lessons again.

Fish

Even more fish

Well played, Fish.

Matt feeding and being attacked by fish

A few more stops (including a very dodgy lunch which we hardly touched) and a boat ride from hell later, we were finally back on dry land.

Lots of fishies

Cool clouds

Dinner was carb loaded as my tummy still felt off. And we spent the rest of the evening watching Dupree and Me (it was the only movie on TV that wasn’t dubbed over in Thai) and packing for our final destination in South East Asia – Bangkok.

Saying goodbye to the Travel Beard

It is with a heavy heart that I have had to say goodbye to my Travel Beard in Phuket.

It’s been with us through 7 countries and has shared some good times.  It’s come in handy for saving food for later and looking thoughtful (rubbing your beard always makes you look deep in thought).  It’s protected me from getting a sunburnt face and kept me warm when the aircon is on too cold.  It’s even helped Dayna find me when shopping (“Man with beard?” “He go that way”).

Unfortunately, job interviews are fast coming up and I need to at least look like a respectable guy.

I haven’t had a clean shaven face in about 9 months so this was an emotional experience – pretty much like giving birth I imagine.

Last shot of the Travel Beard

Last shot of the Travel Beard

Mid shave

Mid shave

Possible new look?

It was very tempting to leave it at this stage

Movember is coming...

Looks like I will be set come Movember

No more beard

…and now I look like a 12-year old

Dodging Bedbugs, Coral and Fish in Phuket

I would love to be able to say we left our mixed luck in accommodation (and bed bugs) behind us in Siem Reap.  But I can’t.

After our first look, we thought the place we had booked in Patong was fine for what it was (cheap).  We ventured out for the night to Bangla road to dodge people trying to drag us in to a Ping Pong show (table tennis is apparently REALLY popular here) and find somewhere to eat.

Bangla Rd

Walking down Bangla road in Patong

After a pretty average, overpriced meal (that was, at least, in a really nice setting on the beach front) we headed back to our guesthouse, looking forward to a good sleep that we both desperately needed.

So it was that I found myself lying down on the bed reading and generally minding my own business when my pillow erupted with a handful of bed bugs scuttling out to attack me (and Dayna erupted with shrieks and screams).  I did a pretty impressive gymnastics move to flip myself up and away from the bugs – pretty sure Dayna thought she was watching the Olympic games already.

I took a moment to compose myself before venturing downstairs to very calmly and politely explain to first one, then another staff member that we were, in fact, sharing our room with a large family of bed bugs who did not seem to like us and we would like to avoid them for the night.  After getting nowhere for awhile, I made the suggestion that perhaps a move of rooms could be in order.  They agreed.

Bed Bugs

One of the many bed bugs that came crawling out of the pillow case that my head was laying on

And so we spent a night having nightmares of being eaten alive by huge bed bugs in the room over the hall (Dayna’s pillow was immediately thrown to the other side of the room where it stayed for the rest of the night).

Giving a guesthouse a review mentioning bed bugs is kind of a killer so I won’t name them online (to their credit they were clearly trying hard to get rid of the bugs the next morning and I did really like the owner).  That said, if you’re ever travelling to Phuket and want to know where NOT to stay – send us a message and we’ll let you know.

We had only booked one night there and you’ll be glad to know our luck has picked up since then.

We booked in for 3 nights at Villareal Heights at Kata beach (a much nicer beach than the slightly seedy Patong) and were immediately wowed by how friendly and awesome the owners (Phil and Jo) are.  After we arrived, Phil (a British expat) took us for a drive around the town to show us all the best places for everything and they also talked us through all the different tours we could do (for which they take zero commission).

They also have a massive DVD selection and the comfiest beds we’ve had our whole trip.  They’ve even given us a cell phone to use (which is coming in handy for phone interviews and calls with recruiters in the UK).  Needless to say, we’ve now extended our stay here to 7 nights.

Our luck has also been great with weather – perfect blue skies and hot days when apparently it was flooding here last week.

We’ve spent a lot of our time at the beach swimming, reading, watching the sun set etc so there’s not much exciting news to report on (unless you think our trip to Dino minigolf is exciting like I do!).

Dino Mini Golf

Dino Mini Golf

The one piece of (actual) exciting news, for us at least, is that we have ticked off number 46 on our 100 Thing’s list – Go snorkelling in the open water in Thailand.

We joined a speedboat tour around Phi Phi and the surrounding islands for a day and there was barely a cloud in the sky.  The perfect day for swimming around beautiful clear water with a close up view of coral and all sorts of fish.  Our underwater photography skills aren’t amazing so we didn’t get any pictures of the bigger fish but got plenty of the little colourful ones.

Matt Snorkeling

Matt snorkeling near Phi Phi Ley

Fishes and coral

Fishes

More fishes

I got quite friendly with the coral/rocks at one of our snorkelling stops (the waves kept wanting me to hit the rocks despite my objections) so I keep discovering small grazes and cuts all over the place.  A small price to pay for a great day though.  I now can’t wait to go snorkelling again.

We have another few days of paradise here in Kata and then on to Bangkok for our last 4 days before we hit London (Eek!).

Maya Beach

Maya Beach (where part of “The Beach” was filmed)

Me at Maya Beach

Dayna retracing Leo’s steps (despite never having seen the movie)

Matt at Phi Phi

Breast Soap

Soap for breasts – who knew?

Watching the hockey game

Watching LA win the Stanley cup

Matt feeding a monkey

Monkey feeding

Sunset