Saturday, 10 March 2012

Kuta, Bali

14,300IR to the £1.00

We arrived here at 12am in the pouring rain and reluctantly went in search of accommodation. Luckily I had bought an umbrella with me so we didn’t get too wet looking around. 

There are two main streets of accommodation in Kuta, the first being Poppies 1 and the second being Poppies 2. We started at Poppies 2 and compared a few room prices before settling with a place called ‘Palm Gardens Taman Nyiur’. We paid 125,000IR for a large, basic fan room with a simple breakfast included. The room came with a balcony and so we each enjoyed a beer there before going to bed.

Our room & bathroom

The next day we briefly met up with one of Ian’s friends called Andy, he was staying at a place opposite us called Tanjung Inn, which even had a nice swimming pool, for 150,000IR per night. Andy was leaving that day and heading to Uluwatu for some surf, so we decided to meet up again from there.

Update* We reluctantly ended up returning to Kuta during the last couple of days of our trip as we wanted to be close to the airport for our flight home. We stayed at Tanjung Inn for 150,000IR per night. Below are pictures of the room and swimming pool.

We spent a day looking around Kuta, which I can only describe as being an 'Aussie' Club 18-30 package holiday destination. The only beach there looks awful and is covered with rubbish, we left after 10 minutes.

The locals constantly hassle you to look at their shop and ask you if you want a taxi or if you want to buy any drugs from them. They will also say to you, 'Where are you going?' which can get irritating as this is said relentlessly, but i did later read that this question is asked a lot by the people of Bali because that's how the locals determine which village people come from and so they like to know where you, as a tourist, come from. 

Sunset from Kuta Beach

We treated ourselves to a local tenderloin steak at Poppies Restaurant where we paid 79,000IR. Although the steak was amazing and the surrounding garden area was atmospheric and pretty, my only criticism was the chips, they weren’t even hand cut. Considering I ordered a meal from a cheap restaurant elsewhere and even that came with hand cut chips I expected this ‘posh’ restaurant to do the same, pre cut, frozen chips are just lazy! Although i did order a pretty cool cocktail, see below.

On one evening we went to the Sky Garden for a ‘free drinks hour’ that Andy had told us about. The club itself was huge and has about 5 different levels with bars and dance floors. We went to the top of the club to the Sky Garden and sure enough were greeted to as many free ‘local vodka’ based drinks as we wanted, from 10pm to 11pm. There was even a free buffet offering nibbles. 

We sat outside of the rooftop bar and enjoyed our drinks whilst watching the rest of Kuta party below us.

Taxi from Denpasar Airport to Kuta

We flew with AirAsia once again and enjoyed a smooth 3hr flight, arriving in Denpasar at 11.00pm.

We got a taxi from the airport to Kuta (Poppies 2) for 70,000IR. We had to barter hard for this price and ended up walking right outside to the front of the airport and must have asked over half a dozen taxi drivers along the way for a price.

Don’t pay any more than 70,000IR for a taxi from Denpasar Airport to Kuta. Many will try charging 150,000IR plus and it’s only a few miles away!

Kuala Lumpur

4.5 Malaysian Ringitt to the £1


When using taxis always insist that they use the meter

We decided to stay in Chinatown as that is where many of the cheaper accommodation can be located. After some dinner we went in search of somewhere to stay. This wasn't easy, all the cheap accommodation was either fully booked or only offered rooms with shared bathrooms and these alone were £10.

Jason, Luke, Josh and Aaron found a place to stay called ‘Oasis Guesthouse’, where they paid 70.00MR between the four of them for a small room with AC and a shared bathroom. The guesthouse was a bit of a dump and most of the door locks didn’t appear to be very secure but they didn't encounter any problems themselves.

*Update: The boys returned to 'Oasis Guesthouse' at a later date but had to leave after discovering their room had bed bugs!

Ian didn’t want to stay at Oasis as he hates sharing bathrooms and we were both convinced that we could find somewhere cheaper with a private bathroom. 
After 2hrs of looking at overpriced and run down rooms we eventually found one that was, funnily enough located next door to Oasis, called ‘Hotel Petaling’. We paid 66.00MR for a basic double room with AC and a private bathroom, wifi was also available. We tried to barter the room down as by now it was 12:30am but the manager/owner refused.

The room

The next day we all went to the KLCC shopping centre to see the Petronas Twin Towers. The KLCC shopping centre is amazing; it even has Topshop, Uniqlo and Zara. There are a few other high street stores as well as designer and surfwear.

As much as I wanted to I didn’t buy anything in Topshop or Zara as the prices were sometimes £20 higher than in the UK and I just couldn’t justify wasting that extra cash when in theory I could order it online, get it shipped back to the UK and have it waiting for me once I returned! I did get a couple of things in Uniqlo as that was much better value. The food at KLCC was really nice and quite reasonable in price too.

We ended up staying until the evening so that we could see the towers lit up during the night, which I definitely recommend doing as they look spectacular when they’re brightly lit up against the dark skyline. 

Rosie & I

It was here that I had arranged to meet up with my friend Rosie, who I met whilst travelling around India. Through her I learnt that there was to be a Hindu festival happening that evening in Chinatown and so we all decided to go and check it out.

By 11pm Chinatown was crazy; there were people everywhere, with the women all dressed up in pretty saris and a heavy police presence. The festival itself was called Thaipusur and from what I was told the men, women and children all walk barefoot, carrying milk for the gods for 24hrs to the Batu Caves. It was from Chinatown that they set off and a huge crowd had gathered to cheer them on.

A shocked Rosie (haha) with Josh, Jason and Ian

The following day Rosie and I kept missing each other (how did we used to cope without the use of mobile phones!) and Ian and the others wanted to go to another shopping centre (who said it was women that liked to shop!) called ‘Times Square’. The boys had read online that it had its own theme park inside and this was the deal breaker for them as well as the AC.

I was dragged to Times Square shopping centre and of course it indeed had a mini theme park, roller coaster included! Luke, Josh, Aaron and Jason paid 40.00MR for entry to the park but Ian and I decided against it and instead went to the cinema where we watched a terrible film called ‘The Grey’. We had a quick look around at some of the shops, Ian played some archery and we then made our way back to our hotel.

Ian having a go at Archery in Times Square shopping centre

After an early night we met up with Rosie again for breakfast and to say our goodbyes. That day we were planning to go to the Batu Caves as the Thaipusur festival was still on-going and I was keen to see the caves.

To get there we had to go to a different train station from the one that we used to get to KLCC. Rosie kindly showed us the way and we each paid 3.00MR for a return journey. 

A local beggar in Chinatown

We boarded this small 3 carriage train that was absolutely jam packed with people. The train journey took 20 minutes, but I have to say it was the worst journey I have ever endured during the whole time I have been travelling around Asia. Not only was it really claustrophobic but due to the combination of heat and too many people, I was absolutely boiling hot and even had sweat running down my legs. We finally arrived at Batu Caves to find that the hot air outside actually felt like a fridge compared to the train carriage!

The festival was in full swing and there were hundreds of thousands of people walking around in the hot midday sun, making it a little uncomfortable but just about bearable. 

Some of the men even had spears pierced through their cheeks and hooks dug into their backs with fruit dangling from them, it was an unusual scene to see but really interesting and something I won’t ever forget.

We returned to the hotel and asked if we could use a shower before we left as we had already checked out. We were charged 20.00MR for 1hr use of the room. Although this was pricey we had to pay, as there was no way we could have got on a flight after the amount we had both sweated during the train journey and festival!

Before we left for our flight we said our goodbyes to Jason, Josh, Luke and Aaron. After 2 incredible months of travelling together we were now going our separate ways, they were heading to the Philippians and Ian and I were flying to Indo.

We were running a little late and decided to get a taxi to the bus station instead of the train. We paid 6.50MR on the taxi meter from our hotel to the bus station and from there paid 8.00MR for a coach to the airport.

During my stay in Kuala Lumpur I found it to be quite expensive, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Beer costs from £3.00 up and that’s just in the local shops. Spirits are actually more expensive here than in the UK.

I have to say that out of all the cities we visited I preferred those over KL, but I still had a really good time here and it was great to see Rosie again.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Flight from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur

We hired two tuk tuks from LongLin House to Phnom Penh International Airport for $7 per tuk tuk.

The airport was decent and had a few shops and restaurants and there was even free wifi available, take note Heathrow!

Our flight was with AirAsia and departed on time at 4:45pm. I’m quite a nervous flier and as we were sat at the front of the plane the air hostess could see this and was very kind in asking if I was ok. I don’t think the large coffee I had 10 minutes before the flight helped much! Except for my nerves, the flight went smoothly and we arrived at Kuala Lumpur at 6pm, although we lost 1hr due to the time zone difference.

Our baggage came out quickly and we got on a coach from KL International Airport to Chinatown for 8.00MR (roughly £2) each. You can buy these coach tickets at the airport.