Crossing borders

Usually I’d write a blog post with a message/point to it, but this one is just going to be an update of my travels around Asia for the last month. Sorry if you were expecting something more exciting!

First off I visited Indonesia, in particular Bali. For the first few days me and my friend stayed in a cute little hostel in Ubud (Dormy Inn Rumah Pakir), and I absolutely fell in love with the place. I will definitely be revisiting! We were in a quiet area which was nice, but we were also just around the corner from a row of shops and restaurants. Ubud is very much about yoga, organic foods, market shops, and it’s very green (as in jungle, not Eco-friendly…although they might be!) I had a relaxing few days exploring, chilling and just generally soaking up Bali. Me and Emma (the friend I was with) did a half day tour one of the days and checked out the rice paddies, the water temple and the monkey rainforest. It was so nice to experience such a variety of trips, and find out about a totally different culture. One tip for Ubud (although important in every place I’ve found): haggle like you’ve never haggled before with the taxi drivers, because they will absolutely rip you off if they can. Or just use uber/grab car.

The second place we went to was Seminyak, and to be honest, after Ubud I really didn’t rate it. It was so busy and touristy where we were located that we could have been anywhere. This was where my other friend Beth joined us though and I hadn’t seen her for two years so that’s what made seminyak amazing. One tip for seminyak: have a sunset dinner at breeze restaurant. Beautiful location, perfect food and seriously attentive staff!

Last but not least (in indo) was Gili Trawangan. I had high hopes for this place because of how much people had raved about it, which made me nervous because I had high expectations, but they were met on this island. I could have been there way longer than 5 days! We stayed in a resort at the top of the island which was absolutely perfect because we got the best of both worlds: quiet and paradise-like around our area, but you could get to the busy area in twenty minutes. It was just beautiful, the water was clear and turquoise, the people were lovely and the sunsets were just amazing. We went paddleboarding, sat on the beach drinking beer, sunbathed, cycled around the island and snorkelled. I say ‘we’ went snorkelling, but I only lasted ten minutes before I had a traumatic wave incident and gave up/ran out of the water. One tip for Gili T: watch the spirits over there, I’ve heard some pretty bad stories about methanol poisoning, so just make sure the place seems legit.

So then I flew to Singapore, and after basking in island life, it was a bit of a shock to the system to go back to city life. It’s a beautiful city, but boy was it expensive! Bordering along the lines of Australia, and I definitely wasn’t prepared for that! But I did a lot of free stuff: bought myself a tourist pass for public transport(recommend!) and shoved as much sightseeing as possible into two days (deffo wouldn’t recommend!) I was shattered! I visited Marina Bay, Gardens By The Bay (twice) Shoppes, Botanic Gardens, Bugis Junction and Chinatown. Singapore has the best transport system I think I’ve ever used so it was ridiculously easy to get around. One tip for Singapore: visit Tai Hwa Pork Noodle stall, they received a Michelin star so you won’t regret it. I bought a regular portion for $6 and it was well worth the two-hour wait (visit before you’re hungry, because you don’t wanna be hangry in a two-hour queue!)

I then bought the cheap bus option to Kuala Lumpur, so I wasn’t expecting much, but it was better than most of our UK coaches! 5 hours flew by, and after getting ripped off by a taxi driver (again) I was safely at my hostel: Reggae Mansion (hugely recommend) it’s the best hostel I’ve stayed in, facilities-wise! To be honest, I didn’t see a lot of KL. I met a few girls and went for a drink on the hostel rooftop. One drink=2 buckets of rum and coke+beer pong played with whisky. Fun night, but I was an absolute gonner the next day (my only full day in KL): wallowed in bed til 4 and eventually dragged myself out to see atleast one landmark…the petronas towers. One tip for Kuala Lumpur: don’t follow my example!

Then I got the express train to Penang for 59 ringitt, which is about £10, and was surprised yet again by Malaysian transport. Great way to get from A to B! Once I got to Butterworth, one short ferry and a bus ride later I was in my hostel in Georgetown: Dreamcatchers Travellers Refuge (another big recommendation!) the atmosphere of the hostel was so homey and relaxing, and Naz & Renee were the most helpful hostel managers I’ve ever met. Georgetown is one of my favourite places so far, it reminded me of a Malaysian Melbourne. It’s all about street art, food, markets, festivals and beautiful buildings (particularly the temples). Three nights wasn’t enough!

Then came my 14 hour journey to Koh Samui by minibus. Yep, minibus. All good thoughts about Malaysian transport went out the window during these 14 hours! I got picked up at 5am and driven to the Malaysian border, then the Thai border, where no one spoke English and my driver hurried me back to the bus without an opportunity to exchange my money. Couple of hours later, I was ushered out of the bus and pointed towards a shop. Sat outside the shop for 15 mins, then ushered into another bus. All people said to me during this time was “samui” so atleast I knew I was going in the right direction!

We didn’t stop for food and toilets til 1:30pm: but of course the ATM wasn’t working and I hadn’t managed to change my ringitts at the border! No food or water for me! We finally got to the ferry terminal at 4 for Koh Samui, and three hours later I was in my hostel reunited with one of my Melbourne buddies, Sanne.

Honestly, I didn’t really rate Koh Samui, but maybe it was because I was in Chaweng Beach area and it was just a strip of bars/clubs/restaurants, so again it felt like I could be anywhere. I seriously enjoyed chilling on the beach for the first time in a while though! One tip for Koh Samui: they won’t use their meters in metered taxis (go figure) this is where your haggling comes in handy.

After another three-hour ferry I made it to Koh Tao, which is where I’m writing this from. I’m so glad we came here because it is way more my scene: it feels like I’m  somewhere else, and the beaches are to die for! I don’t have a tip for here yet, but there’s still time!

Next stop: Bangkok!

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