Kuala Lumpur – From One KL To Another

After exploring Georgetown, the Perhentians and Cameron Highlands, it was time to sample what Malaysia’s big city had to offer. As both Travelling Gs are from England’s version of Kuala Lumpur – in acronym terms anyway – there were many comparisons made to King’s Lynn. Safe to say it’s not quite as shiny, big, or affordable as its Malaysian counterpart!

We treated ourselves to a touch of [really cheap] luxury during our time in KL, staying 2 nights in a lovely little boutique hotel, then 3 nights at Citrus Hotel where we had a pool – and almost had a view of the iconic Petronas Towers! Sadly there were other buildings blocking it. We did go up to the Sky Bar, where we got an unrivalled view of the Towers lit up at night. They are so impressive in person.

P7260103.jpgWe also visited them during the day, where I was asked by a Malaysian family if I’d have my photo taken with them. What a treat! Over the course of my time in Asia though, being a pale, flame haired celebrity became more of a nuisance than a novelty, and I hated being stared at for being different.

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Oli was chuffed that his girlfriend was now a celebrity

I have to admit that I didn’t really form a connection with Kuala Lumpur. As with many large cities, it was little more than that – just another big city. We enjoyed the street food, wandered the city and spent hours exploring Times Square Mall and Low Yat Plaza, where we gave in to seven floors of electronics and bought a camera. I had to drag Oli out of the electronics mall before we came home with laptops, cameras and gadgets galore. Kid in a sweet shop comes to mind…

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Batu Caves

One attraction that I did really enjoy was the Batu Caves. It was an easy journey – we took the train straight there and spent hours marvelling at the huge Hindu shrines, complete with a 140ft high statue of Murugan (the world’s tallest I am reliably informed.) The caves were eerily impressive and cheap to get into. The stars of the show were the macaque monkeys that live near the shrine, and spend their days happily terrorising tourists like us. Top tip for visiting: don’t take a plastic bag with you! These intelligent apes have associated bags with food, and will rip the bag out of your hands, hoping for a trophy in the form of some crisps.

The monkeys are unpredictable and I’m a wuss so I stayed well clear. Oli was braver than me and got some great shots of the monkeys with the new camera.

Next up for the Travelling Gs is Kota Kinabalu in Borneo. Hoping to catch a glimpse of my ginger orangutan pals. Excitttting!

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Pulau Perhentian: Another Name For Paradise

Arriving on the big island of the Perhentians we didn’t really know what to expect. We’d heard the islands were beautiful, we’d heard the snorkelling would be good, but we had heard that about plenty of places. After an early start (5 hours on a coach from 5am) we were a bit dazed. As the speedboat crashed through waves from Kota Bharu, on Malaysia’s east coast, we admired the clear water but didn’t have a clue what beauty awaited us.

We soon found out though.

Mama’s Chalet was our accommodation of choice, and was located right by the beach. I know people talk about a stones throw – I have a terrible aim and could still have hit the ocean from our chalet’s balcony! The combination of palm trees, clear blue sea and sunshine was irresistible. For most of our time there I had Coldplay’s “para para paradise” lyrics running through my mind.

On our first night we were treated to some fantastic evening entertainment in the form of the biggest, most dramatic storm I have ever witnessed. There were three storms in different parts of the sky, and forks of lightning bolted between each one, lighting up the whole area. The rain poured down, creating a deafening roar on the roof and a huge stream in front of our chalet. Oli and I stood outside for well over an hour, ooh-ing and aah-ing as if it was a Bonfire night firework display. It was so atmospheric!

We rented a kayak on our first morning, with the intention of heading up the island in search of turtles. There are no roads so you can either trek through the jungle to certain beaches, or go via the sea. It was much harder work than we’d realised, and three hours later we returned our kayak. Red faced from the sun and shoulders aching from paddling, we realised we’d made it much further than we’d aimed to. We had hoped to head two beaches north and in fact we made it to the top of the island. No turtles were spotted but we did see a puffer fish amongst lots of tiny jellyfish. Later we snorkelled at Turtle Beach and saw lots of cool fish, a few stingrays and a baby black tip shark in knee high water too! On another beach we saw a pit where a turtle had laid eggs the night before.

As you can see from my life jacket selfie below Oli hasn’t moulded me into a pro snorkeller just yet…  If you’re keen on scuba diving then Oli would highly recommend the Perhentians. He dived at the Pinnacles and the visibility was between 15 and 20 metres even with a storm above. Amongst lots of cool marine life, he saw a stonefish, and turtle spots are not uncommon. I would recommend it for the amazing views, weather and great food too.

We stayed on the big island (Pulau Perhentian Besar) which had chalet and hotel accommodation. We didn’t visit but the small island (Pulau Perhentian Kecil) is known to be more backpackery, with hostels and bars. We did hear that the dorms were expensive compared to our 100 ringgit chalet though!

On a serious note 

Despite the paradise label of the Perhentians I do have to acknowledge the changing landscape we saw on our way there. The Malaysian mainland is packed full of palm oil plantations. It’s really sad to see hundreds of miles worth of destroyed natural jungle that has been replanted with palm trees. Malaysia produces 80% of the world’s palm oil over more than 4.7 million hectares of ruined forest. They extract the oil and use it in a wide range of food. On our journey we looked at the ingredients of our snacks and every item contained palm oil. Deforestation in the name of palm oil is one of the reasons orangutans and other endangered wildlife are getting rarer (and becoming extinct) as they have no habitat left. It’s hard to capture the scale of these plantations but here’s a photo of one we saw.

 Next up – Kuala Lumpur!

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Georgetown & Cameron Highlands – From Islands to Highlands

Georgetown

After saying goodbye to Thailand we crossed the border into Malaysia. Our first stop was Georgetown, the state capital of Penang. The whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has a lot to see. It is famous for its wide variety of historic architecture, which juxtaposes modern street art. We spent 4 nights spotting cool graffiti, visiting temples, browsing malls and hiking through the jungle. We stayed 3 nights at a guesthouse called Heritage 61, which we would recommend to anybody heading to G Town.

On our first night I was treated to a stay at a hotel on the ultra romantic Love Lane. Blissful ideas of romance disappeared when I heard the story behind the street name – traders of the past used to keep their mistresses here! Also the hotel was a dump, so no rose petals or poetry in sight!


We walked a lot around Georgetown, taking in the sights of the old buildings. It is a fusion of many different cultures, featuring many colonial English buildings alongside Chinese, Indian and Islamic influences. Some of the buildings reminded me of New Orleans – big pastel coloured houses with shutters and balconies. Just around the corner from these historic sites you can see modern culture in the shape of street art. Whether it is Bruce Lee karate kicking a cat, or a young boy perched above an actual motorbike, there is a lot of graffiti to find. You can pick up a map with the location of each piece marked on it.

 One of the funniest experiences we had in Georgetown was popping into a local mall to have a wander round. Initially I was oblivious to the attention but apparently a giant gringo and his ginger girlfriend are not the normal customers there! I felt like like either a celebrity or a convict as shop assistants followed us round and other customers stared. My hair got us a lot of double takes too! The malls are massive and sell everything you’ve ever wanted, mainly copies of well-known brands. The t-shirt slogans are just bizzare too!

In true Travelling G style we hired a motorbike to see as much of the island as possible. We pulled into tropical fruit stalls to try local produce, discovered beaches full of locals and visited temples. We went to a Thai Buddhist temple where there was a 33m long statue of a Buddha laying down – it was huge! We also made a trip to the National Park, where we were hoping to see turtles in a sanctuary. Unfortunately it was shut so we went to monkey beach and hiked through the jungle. We saw four massive bosc monitors (big lizards, google it!) on our way, as well as a few monkeys too.

Cameron Highlands

Our next stop was Cameron Highlands. We found that one night was enough to see the important bits of this hilly Malaysian paradise. This location fitted my image of how Malaysia would look before I arrived in the country – lush green rolling hills, fluffy clouds and blue skies (somewhat like the Teletubbies) – but also provided a nice reminder of home. We ate scones, drank tea, visited a strawberry farm and stayed in a town full of curry houses. Safe to say Little England (aka Tanah Rata) was full of the best bits of home!

Oli and I did a half day tour with a legendary guide called Bula. He took our group to the Mossy Forest (not mozzie forest as Oli initially thought it was!), a mountain lookout, Boh tea plantation, a butterfly park and strawberry farm. The forest walk was incredibly muddy but a lot of fun. All of the trees are completely covered in green moss, due to the area’s high elevation and humidity.


 My main source of excitement for this day was going to the tea plantation. I’ve missed my standard 8 cups of tea a day (I worked in an office, don’t judge me!) since being away and a trip to Boh was long awaited. Malaysia is much more into their tea than Thailand – thank god – so I’ve been feeling much more human here. After seeing how they produce the tea (using machinery dating back to 1935 – old school) we could sample their produce. Along with some new friends from the tour we ordered scones, cakes and a range of different teas. I had a loose leaf mango tea and a delicious piece of banana and carrot cake, while looking out over the scenic tea fields. I promise I haven’t used any edits or filters on the photo below, this is actually how amazing it looked!

In other news 
One major reason I love Malaysia – they have a version of M&Ms called Nips! On our first night this brought us so much amusement we had to explain it to a confused shop assistant (who still didn’t really get it!)

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Farewell to Thailand

We spent just over two weeks exploring the south of Thailand. In this time Oli and I have ridden motorbikes, taken in some beautiful views, met wild monkeys and eaten some really incredible food. We’ve had a lot of fun and laughs together during our adventures so far. As much as I would have liked to visit northern Thailand, which Oli did last year, I was ready to move onto Malaysia. 
We said goodbye to Thailand with a massive feast of various curries and spring rolls, and a massage. We opted for a ‘relaxing’ oil massage but still had bruises the next day. The tourists next to us were brave and went for a proper Thai massage where they stretch you into all different positions and basically pummel your body. From the noises they were making it sounded more like they were being beaten up than enjoying a lovely massage. Half way through we heard them ask if they could have a ten minute break to recover! 

We visited Bangkok, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Sok and Koh Phi Phi in our time there. (We didn’t just look at a map and decide to go anywhere that begins with Koh but it could seem that way!) The Travelling Gs agreed that our favourite two places we’d visited in Thailand were Koh Samui and Koh Sok. In both places we got lucky with cheap, but really nice, accommodation. The experience of sleeping in a jungle hut in Koh Sok was unforgettable, and will probably be a once in a lifetime experience. Both our favourite locations were also the least backpackery. It was nice to be off the beaten track a little, going on our own adventures that thousands of Brits haven’t already done. 

  Thailand didn’t seem to have much authentic culture left, in the places we visited anyway. Besides the temples, food and ladyboys it seemed that everything was geared towards pleasing the tourists. Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi have just become the new Magaluf or Zante. I’m sad to say that Thailand has completely sold out – they have found the secret sauce that backpackers are after (buckets, fire dancers, crap tattoos and baggy elephant-printed pants) and repeated it across the country. We got speaking to a man who had visited Thailand 35 years ago and he couldn’t believe how different it was now. I wish I had visited Thailand a few years ago before the mega tourist boom, when it wasn’t full of Westerners and it was cheaper. Oli went to northern Thailand last year and found it was cheaper and less touristy not too long ago. Despite that, I can see why so many people go on a gap year to Thailand. The scenery is amazing, everyone speaks English, it’s easy to get around and it’s very affordable. 

If you’re visiting Thailand you have got to be on your guard for scams. On one occasion we bought a bus ticket to Krabi, and checked it took us to the centre. Lo and behold we were dropped off 5km from the centre, at the firm’s bus station, where we had to pay for a taxi to get into the town. We met some boys that had paid a guy for accommodation in the next destination. When they arrived the hotel had no record of their booking and they’d lost over a thousand baht. Also, a lot of the time you’ll pay for a trip and when you arrive there will be an extra charge on top. There’s the classic tuk tuk scam in Bangkok where they take you to tailors and travel agents so they get free fuel, but that’s not too bad. You should definitely not worry, but you’ve just got to be savvy, book at proper travel agents and not be afraid to double check what is included in your trip. Thai people are generally really lovely but get grumpy very quickly when you’re not giving them extra money! 

All negativity aside, it’s still a beautiful country to visit and it was a great place to enter my sixth continent (just one to go now!). The food was absolutely amazing and I would happily go back just for that. As a vegetarian it is the best place I’ve ever visited to eat authentic food. Everything is made fresh, it’s quite light, and they have lots of tofu too. For less than 200 baht (£4) you can get a good feed with a drink, and you’ll often find it for even less than that. I’m determined to learn how to make Pad Thai, Massaman curry and Panang curry when I get home.  

      
 Something interesting to note about Thai culture is that they are obsessed with becoming as white as possible. Every pharmacy, supermarket and corner shop stocks whitening soaps and creams. Even Vaseline and Olay have whitening versions of their face creams for the Asian market. We were intrigued by how they work and found that many contain ingredients such as Mercury to lighten the skin’s pigment! This seems crazy to me, especially as I’m so pale and would love to be tanned. I guess it just shows you always want what you don’t have. 

    
 After a couple of weeks in Thailand its on to Malaysia, where we are looking for wildlife – elephants, turtles and orangutans to be specific! As we get further south we’re hoping to escape the rain and clouds, as well as having some more fun adventures. I would be interested to hear from anyone else who has visited Thailand – do you agree with my thoughts?  

 

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Koh Phi Phi – Monkeys, Mountains and Maya Bay

Koh Phi Phi is a small island in the Andaman Sea, sandwiched between Phuket and Krabi on the mainland. We didn’t visit either mainland town, except to get the ferry across to Phi Phi. Like Koh Tao it is backpacker central, but I felt it had a bit more natural charm than its counterpart. The clear water, limestone rocks and long tail boats were very scenic. However every night a collection of gap yah kids would congregate to drink out of buckets, compare crap tattoos and wear incredibly short shorts. We experienced fire dancing on the beach one night, and watched Thai boxing in a bar another, but decided against buckets and bum-baring shorts. Aren’t we boring?!  
Once we’d got over the great hilarity of having a pee pee on Phi Phi we decided to actually explore the island. Our normal method would be to rent a motorbike but there are no roads there. Instead we trekked, walked and used long tail boats. On the ferry over we had met a German girl, Lara, who we spent the whole of our time on the island with. The three of us went up to the island’s viewpoint, where we could see the entire of Phi Phi, which looks like two islands joined by a thin stretch of beach. On the way up, a local monkey took a liking to the look of Oli’s snack bag and decided to try and help himself to some crisps. I’m glad to say he didn’t get any, but he was a determined ape! Oli was swinging the bag with monkey attached to get it away. Luckily Oli got off better than the plastic bag, which had numerous holes from the bites and scratches. The moral of the story – apart from never try to steal food from Oliver – is that as great as it is to see wild monkeys they really are unpredictable and scary! We met a girl who had been attacked by 3 monkeys on a beach – she has the selfies to prove it, as well as a wound, scratches on her face and the bill from a rabies jab. Luckily on this occasion my darling boyfriend and his delicious crisps escaped this attack without a scratch!   

 The views from the vantage point were awesome, as we had expected. In 2004 Koh Phi Phi was hit by the Boxing Day tsunami and a big area of the island was destroyed. It was really interesting to get a birds eye view of what had been ruined and how it was being rebuilt. Even 11 years on it isn’t fully rebuilt but the island is geared around tourism so I’m sure they’ll get there.

We decided to take a boat trip to Maya Bay amongst other beaches and snorkelling points. Maya Bay was made famous by the film The Beach and was like paradise. The journey to get there was not so good! It was a surprise to us that it rained a lot during Thailand’s rainy season, and this meant some very bumpy sea conditions for a small boat like ours. Because the waves were so big the boat couldn’t pull into the bay itself, so they parked up near another beach. We then had to swim/dodge sharp rocks in a shallow part of the sea before climbing a makeshift rope ladder. It was really precarious and definitely wouldn’t have passed any UK health and safety tests! The boatload of tourists were bemused and we all said we hoped the beach was actually worth it. 

  The beach was really lovely and the snorkel points were great too. Oli was brave and snorkelled much further out than me, seeing a sea snake, baby shark, urchins and tiger fish amongst lots of other sea creatures. The weather turned stormy on our way back so we were all drenched and feeling a bit sick on our return to dry land.

One of my favourite parts of Koh Phi Phi was our hotel. For £4 a night each it wasn’t particularly glamorous but it had one unique selling point – a mumma cat and her 6 gorgeous kittens lived there! Oli, Lara and I spent a lot of time playing with the kittens and brought them back any leftovers from our meals. There were cats all over the island but these were our favourites because they were so cute! We were tempted to research the process of bringing animals back from abroad but willpower prevailed. I have about 167 (thousand) photos of the kittens but I’ll leave you with a select few of them below. 

A round-up of Thailand and some stories of Malaysia will be with you soon!  

    
   

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Khao Sok – In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle

Khao Sok is a treasure on Thailand’s mainland. At 739 square kilometres it is half the size of London, and probably boasts more wildlife than London Zoo! Despite its size there are only two entrances, one for the hiking part and the other for the lake. Both will cost you 300 baht to get into the park. 

We were met off our bus in Khao Sok by an excited Jungle Huts representative, who offered us tree house accommodation for 400 baht a night. That’s £2 each a night – the cheapest room we’ve found so far! One thing we immediately liked about Khao Sok (apart from the obvious mountains, jungle and possibility of seeing wildlife) was how quiet it is. There were much fewer backpackers and tourists to be found there than other areas of Thailand. Unfortunately this did mean they charged crazy money for activities, such as the floating river huts and canoeing trip that Oli had his heart set on.    

    
We were surrounded by wildlife in our jungle hut. There were frogs and lizards everywhere, including some tiny red frogs that were smaller than the top of my little finger! My favourite was a big frog with a croak that sounded exactly like a fart. Oli got the blame for a lot of those noises when we first got there! Staying in the hut listening to the sounds of the jungle and sleeping under the mosquito net was very atmospheric. It got even more so when the heavens opened as we got into bed. In Sydney Harry and I used to listen to tropical storm sounds on YouTube before bed – but this one was real! Even better! I sat up for ages before going to sleep, staring out of the window for wildlife. I was like a child waiting up for Santa. I didn’t see much through the darkness but we did hear a monkey running across the roof! 

The substitute for floating huts and kayaking in the national park was canoeing on the river near our accommodation. I went with the goal of seeing monkeys. We got lucky and saw two sets of monkeys, as well as a big toad, kingfisher, and a parrot. The water was pretty high and fast as it’s the rainy season. There was evidence of the flood devastation everywhere – fallen branches and trees ripped out at the root. Floating down the river was really chilled and a great start to the day. We had lovely weather with the sun peeking through the clouds regularly. We got lucky – there was a huge storm as soon as we returned to the huts. Unfortunately that wasn’t the last storm of the day…

   
 In the afternoon we headed into the National Park itself. You can hire a guide or not, but we decided to do it ourselves. We stepped out looking like outdoorsy pros in our new Mountain Warehouse gear – seriously Bear Grylls eat your heart out. We walked for about an hour through lush green rainforest, scouring the trees and ground for any animals. We kept seeing the effects of the recent flood, such as branches perched perilously above our heads, held up by a single vine. All of a sudden the heavens opened. For 25 minutes we were drenched by a downpour that would make any power shower look weak. I could barely see, the raindrops were so huge. We could hear trees snapping in the distance and just hoped that nothing above us would fall.     

  Our feet were swimming in water and a couple of days later our shoes still haven’t dried out! Normally being soaked through would make me quite uncomfortable and miserable but it wasn’t cold, and our clothes dried fairly quickly once the rain stopped. The reward for these two soggy hikers was found in the trees on the return leg, in the form of macaque monkeys. We found a family of them (including babies!) swinging across the trees in search of higher, drier land. In hindsight maybe Oli and I should have followed them… We then saw some more up close nearer the park exit. They were smashing fruit from the trees and playing around. It was amazing to see but as soon as one jumped onto the ground and came near me I had the sad realisation that they are unpredictable wild animals and I shouldn’t get close enough for a selfie.  We both really enjoyed Khao Sok and and would recommend it to anybody interested in nature, or even anyone looking to get away from the main backpacking circuit for a bit. It’s still touristy enough, with lots of accommodation and English speakers though. Sleeping in the jungle was an amazing experience! 

Next up is Koh Phi Phi, an island further south in the Andaman Sea. 

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Koh Tao & Koh Samui – A Tale of Two Islands

Island life has always held something special for me. A lot of this can be attributed to tropical fruit, the concept of island time and the beautiful views often found in these remote places. Obviously I’m talking about sunny isles slightly more exotic than the UK! Whether I’ve been whale watching off the coast of San Juan Island, USA, spotting monkeys in Ilha Grande, Brazil, or driving 4x4s on Fraser Island in Australia, I’ve always loved being on an island. Oli is a keen diver, so when we talked about our next destination after Bangkok, the islands in the gulf of Thailand were our obvious choice. 

We had three islands to choose from – beautiful but tiny Koh Tao, party central Koh Phangan or the bigger, but more touristy Koh Samui. We started with Koh Tao, and decided from there that Koh Samui would be our next stop. 

Koh Tao

We’d heard rave reviews of Koh Tao – the tiny island filled with natural beauty. In Thai, Koh Tao translates to turtle island so I had very high hopes for some sealife spotting. Unfortunately Koh Tao didn’t really live up to the hype. We stayed in Sairee Beach, which was full of 19 year old gap yah backpackers who were there do their PADI open water and drink cocktails from buckets. We thought we’d keep out of their way a bit and hired a motorbike to explore the less touristy parts of the island. Sadly as it’s such a small island, and it was packed, everywhere seemed touristy! Everyone seemed to own the nice parts too, so if you wanted to see a view or visit the beach you had to pay for the privilege. 

OK, negativity over. Despite it being backpacker central, we still had fun. The motorbike (nicknamed Gok) gave us freedom to go anywhere on the island and we enjoyed exploring. I think the view from Mango Bay (photo below) was my favourite part of the island, as well as the bike. I’d had ‘ride a motorbike’ on my bucket list for some time and now have a big tick next to it! Oli was in charge of Gok and I just clung onto the back in a co-pilot role, but it’s really good fun. Don’t worry mum, we wore helmets! Proof:

   
 We also weren’t miserable and boring oldies amongst the youthful backpackers. One night I talked Oli into drinking out of a bucket, a pink one nonetheless. He was a good sport and took his new accessory round the shops. He wouldn’t let me keep the bucket to make sand castles with though…

   
 One really strange observation is that Koh Tao was full of gingers! Travellers rather than locals I must note. I hadn’t seen many at all until I got to the island and was amazed by how many Travelling Ginges had gathered there. 

Koh Samui

After two nights in Koh Gap Yah we were excited to head over to Koh Samui, a much larger island with a reputation of being more family and couple orientated. We found cheap accommodation in a lovely area called Fishermans Village (Bo Phut), where we were suddenly surrounded by some very well-heeled folk. Surprisingly nobody asked us if we were on a honeymoon but it seemed like that kind of place! We made friends with the hotel staff, including a Scouser named Kevin and a few dogs, and were able to hire a motorbike again. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Samui we would highly recommend Siam Shades House in Bo Phut. It’s surrounded by frangipanis and is a few metres from the beach. A few days in Kevin said we could stay for a year and offered us jobs – tempting but London calls! 

   

 Every day the Travelling Gs would get on the bike (Gok II) with a new mission of places to see, and views to find. One day we rode around the whole island. Another we rode to the top of Samui’s highest mountain for the views. My favourite day was when we discovered some secluded beaches, mainly from us just deciding to go down a road and see what was at the end of it. It’s great to have the whole beach to yourself and take in the scenery with no distractions.  

   
We’ve seen some interesting things and met a lot of people in our journey. One of those was a man we found releasing sea creatures into the sea from a plastic bag. We asked what he was doing and he explained that he’d bought them in the local seafood market and wanted to return them to the wild. I was speechless – what a great act! I was quite shocked though, as he’d bought turtles from the market that were destined for somebody’s dinner. Do people even eat turtles?! 😦 

Oli is a diver and is set on turning me into his dream woman, aka a fellow diver. As a non-amphibious creature myself this is a bit of a challenging mission, so we’re starting with baby steps. Snorkelling 101 started in Koh Tao where we saw barely any sealife in Shark Bay’s shallow waters. I was deemed good enough at that point to buy my own snorkel mask and mouthpiece. Feeling like a pro I went out with Oli in Crystal Beach, Koh Samui and… almost died. Something about being in deep water, which was cloudy so you couldn’t see far ahead, really spooked me. I’m just glad Oli is such a strong swimmer and could keep me up during my panic. I think he enjoyed his role as hero after the incident and he can now blackmail me as he’s saved my life. I’m thinking armbands might be a good investment for next time…

  
Where to next? 

Next stop for the Travelling Gs is Khao Sok, back on the mainland. It’s a rainforest and we’re hoping to stay in a tree house above the jungle so we can hear the wildlife below. I’m also praying to my lucky Buddha that I see a wild elephant – keep your fingers and toes crossed!   

  

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Bangkok – Our Gateway to Asia

Bangkok is a bustling city, full of ladyboys, Pad Thai, Tuk Tuks and several thousand Western backpackers. Well, Khao San Road is anyway. Beyond the touristy stretch there is authentic culture to be seen and experienced, with Bhuddist temples and street food galore. My main encounter with Bangkok was the lively touristy section, as we stayed in a hotel on Khao San Road itself. We chatted to street vendors, sampled the Thai food and drink, and laughed at the two bars opposite each other competing to have the loudest music on the strip (if not in the whole city!)

We arrived on Wednesday morning after 17 hours of flying, complete with a hectic, shorter than planned stopover due to Turkish Airline’s inability to be on time (I think they went to the same school of timekeeping as me). Oli and I had been given a 6-strong leaving party on Tuesday morning for our early morning train. I was impressed at the turnout given we left at stupid o’clock in the morning. Here we are looking slightly sleepy but obviously very excited at King’s Lynn train station, the place where every great journey begins…

      
 I feel I should introduce my travel buddy at this point. Oli is the Grange to my Ginge, making us the Travelling Gs. We’ve been preparing for our adventure by spending every moment of our spare time together in the last few months, just to make sure we don’t annoy eachother too much. So far so good. He shares my childish enthusiasm, and is always up for an adventure (perfect travel buddy trait #1). On top of this he is incredibly practical, which comes in handy when a solution is needed to a problem. So practical in fact I’m sure he spent his childhood eating manuals and handbooks just to absorb information about how everything works! I now have to nod, smile and pretend I understand the science of whatever he’s explaining to me! 

We had two nights to enjoy the sights and sounds of Bangkok, as well as eating some amazing food. I wouldn’t be surprised if I come home looking like a Pad Thai at this rate. Oli has been to Thailand before, and introduced me to the important aspects of local culture – namely Chang beer. Despite the 5.5% label, it is unregulated so its alcohol content can be anything upwards from that figure! Its not all beer though – I’ve drunk from a lot of coconuts since being here too.    

   
 When we weren’t making the most of our foodie options our days were spent wandering round markets, chilling in our hotel’s rooftop pool, and sightseeing. We spent part of our second day riding in a tuk tuk, visiting points of interest and admiring the Thai crazy driving. We saw the Towering Buddha, temples and the Golden Mountain. Bangkok is a big place with lots of standard city buildings, then all of a sudden there is a shining golden roof to a glitzy Buddhist temple. 

I was actually pleasantly surprised by Bangkok. I imagined it as a frantic place where you would constantly be hounded by scammers, ladyboys or tailors. Although it is a bit crazy it’s not unlike any other big city. We had a laugh with the little ladies trying to sell us jewellery and mimicked the sounds of the men trying to get us into ping pong shows. 

Although it’s mega touristy, Bangkok is a lot of fun and a great start to any backpackers’ tour of Asia. Next up we’re heading down south to the islands, Koh Tao & Koh Samui.

   

    
 

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Guess Who’s Back?!

After a hiatus that was much longer than expected, Travelling Ginge is back! In fact I haven’t been abroad since August, and haven’t published a blog post since September, despite my best intentions to continue blogging.

So what have I been doing since then?

Aside from catching up with friends, staying in touch with my new travelling pals and dreaming about sunny beaches I have tried to settle back into real life. It’s tough when everyone on your Instagram or Facebook is travelling, or lives in a sunny picturesque place (Sydney & Rio friends I’m looking at you!), especially when it’s a dismal November day in King’s Lynn.

I’ve spent my days working for a digital marketing agency since I returned from travelling. I’ve been working in a content role, which could translate as a professional blogger, as well as learning about the world of digital marketing (aka finding ways of flirting with Google to get more traffic). As I’m sure anyone that works in an office will tell you, coming home from 7.5 hours of eye zapping computer work does not motivate you to blog whatsoever! However it has resulted in an updated skillset, new friends and many laughs.

I was committed to this settling challenge – I bought myself a car, got a boyfriend (cheers Tinder!) and adopted a gorgeous house bunny. I even hid my passport in my attempts to be a ‘grown up’ who was settled in one place.

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What’s next for Travelling Ginge?

It was all going so well until I was offered an amazing opportunity in London starting in September. When I realised I had 5 months before it started, there was no way I was going to sit in King’s Lynn and wait for it to arrive! Oh no, travelling was the only option.

My boyfriend and I briefly discussed going travelling one evening at my friends’ wedding reception, and 2 days later we were researching flight prices, beautiful beaches and diving spots. Luckily Oli is a keen traveller and a go-getter like myself – it turns out opposites do not attract in this scenario!

In exactly 2 weeks time we will be on a flight headed to Bangkok, Thailand and I cannot wait! Find out where we’re headed here. If anyone has any advice, tips, or stories from Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore then please comment below.

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Newsflash: Travelling Ginge Stops Travelling (after a trip to Portugal)

Yes you read that right!  Travelling Ginge is suffering a slight identity crisis as she is no longer on the road, living out of a backpack, or speaking terrible Spanish.  Does this make me King’s Lynn Ginge?  Homely Ginge?  Or maybe the incredibly catchy Not-Travelling-Very-Far Ginge?  I think I can justify keeping my original blog title as (to the slight annoyance of family and friends) my constant nomadic tales from faraway lands mean that travelling is never far from my mind.

I returned to King’s Lynn nearly a month ago, with a depleted bank account and fears of Post-Travelling Blues (we call this PTB in the backpacking loop).  Luckily I’ve overcome the PTB by keeping busy, catching up with my friends and family, and creating a scrapbook, which is serving as a lovely memory of my seven months away.  Unfortunately I’ve been so busy that this blog has fallen to the back of my mind a little.  Never fear devoted readers, I’m back with a vengeance to fill you in on my final adventures, namely my last few days in Peru, one day in Rio and four days with la familia in Lisbon, Portugal.

With news of all my gloomy goodbyes in my previous post I thought I’d better bring some uplifting updates.  My flight out of Rio de Janeiro’s airport took me to Lisbon, where I was reunited with my family.  This flight also gave me 10 hours of sitting next to a young Brazilian who was travelling by plane for the first time in his life!  This was such a strange concept to me, as I barely think about flying anymore, and it made me realise that not everybody can hop across to Europe anytime they wish.  At Lisbon airport I was greeted by three Jermanys, including my brother who was holding a sign saying “Bem Vinda Gingey” (‘Welcome’ in Portuguese) – very cute!  It was great to catch up with them and share my travelling tales.

My welcome in Lisbon Airport

My welcome in Lisbon Airport

I noticed a couple of differences on my arrival in Lisbon.  First of all – so many people in Europe speak English!  I honestly hadn’t realised how much Alex and I had relied on our basic Spanish and Portuguese skills in South America until then.  This put my back up a little as I wanted to show off the Portuguese I’d learnt in Brazil, but at least we could communicate with the ‘Lisbonites’.  I also experienced a minor version of culture shock as I kept forgetting I was able to flush toilet paper – what a luxury!  Another amusing observation was how quickly I settled into child mode when reunited with my parents.  I had been independent, thinking on my own two feet and solving problems on my own for seven months, but all of a sudden I was mothered again!  My brain switched off and I enjoyed the sights of Lisbon without a care.

Lisbon is a really pretty city, and the trams are a great way to get a feel for your surroundings.  My mum was intent on getting a photo of a tram outside a church, and we spent about 20 minutes on this project.  Dad and Robert were stationed on the corner signalling when a tram was coming round, and Mum was on button pressing duty.  Approximately 30 photos later and I think we found a winner!

The winning snap

The winning snap

My Lisbon highlights were Cristo Rei and Belem.  Cristo Rei is a massive statue of Christ, based on Rio’s Cristo Redentor.  It was strange to see JC’s younger Portuguese brother just days after seeing the original in Brazil.  Although the scenery wasn’t quite the same as Rio it was still really pretty, and possibly more impressive as Cristo Rei was built on a massive concrete base in order to get the height provided by Corcovado Mountain in Rio.

Cristo the second

Obligatory selfie with Cristo the second

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Our final full day in Lisbon was spent in Belem, a hive of foodie activity.  After a long tram ride we were rewarded with a huge waterfall, monuments and lots of tempting restaurants.  We visited the Monument to the Discoveries (which was unfortunately under scaffolding at the time), featuring statues of famous discoverers and a map of the world.  I’m fascinated by maps so spent a while walking over my route around the world and taking photos of me ‘back in Brazil’.  As we were in foodie territory we had to get involved, and visited Pasteis de Belem, the home of custard tarts.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a custard tart before but I was definitely converted after my visit to this world-famous bakery!  We then dined al fresco at a lovely Italian restaurant in the Belem Cultural Centre.

Back in Brassiiilllll

Back in Brassiiilllll

And so, after 7 months, 3 continents and 8 countries, I flew into Luton on August 15th.  What an adventure!  5 weeks later and I am still astounded by how many amazing people I met, how many jaw-dropping sights I saw, and the fact I was at the World Cup Final!  It wasn’t a cheap 7 months by any stretch but the experiences I had were incredible and worth every penny.  If anyone is thinking of travelling, whether its a couple of weeks or a couple of years, I would highly recommend it!

Travelling Ginge will be back soon with reflective pieces about my travels, and articles about various aspects of travelling.

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