A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: kay_bramm

People don’t take trips, trips take people.

By Ryan, Italics by Kayleigh

sunny 39 °C

Blog Entry 4 – Siem Reap

The Chatuchak Bus Terminal looks like a confusing open-plan mess when you first enter, but if you spend 5 minutes looking around you realise a more accurate term would be organised chaos, with counters for tickets with varying destinations sold by various bus companies. As we’d been there the day before we knew which bus stop we’d need and got there with enough time to buy some snacks from the 7/11. After taking several buses in SE Asia we’d started to judge how reliable the company is by the ratio of backpackers to locals on board, as well as the thorough research done beforehand. In THIS case however, we’d just bought a ticket to Siem Reap from the first terminal we found (probably my fault) in a panic. The bus was fairly decent with slightly more tourists than locals (a good sign), it was a fairly standard long bus journey, free snack and water, although it did include Cambodian music videos, which was a bizarre extra feature that quickly got annoying. We’d been told by several people and read several times that when you cross the border into Cambodia at Poipet town “they WILL try to scam you”. We knew that we were buying our visa on arrival, as were most people on the bus. The people working on the bus tried to tell us that we needed to give them our passports and an extra 20 dollars so they could get our visas for us and it would be a lot quicker; we could go through ourselves and get the visa, but it would take a long time and the bus would only wait an hour due to legal reasons. It was heavily implied that if we took too long getting our visas they would leave without us. Kayleigh and I stuck to our guns and went through the process ourselves, not only to avoid the scam, but to have the experience of getting our visas at a shady border town. We both had the feeling that everyone there was eyeing up our bags and seeing targets instead of people. At this point I realised I didn’t have any passport photos for the visa, or I did and couldn’t find them in my bag. A sketchy looking fella turned up and said he had a shop close by that could do passport photos for 100 baht. It seemed like a good price and I didn’t really have another choice at that point in time (turns out it can be done as you buy the visa in the official office) so we followed him. We followed him away from where all the other passengers were heading. We followed him over an abandoned railway line. We followed him past piles of garbage the size of a person, down a red dirt track into a shanty town, to his ‘office’. It was a delightful corrugated iron shack with a computer, printer and camera. There were several other Thai men staring at Kayleigh, though more likely the bags she was holding. I’m not sure either of us have ever gripped our bags so tight. But we got the photos for the price he said, and headed back to the visa office to get into Cambodia. We realised the guy was following us, he tried to get us to go into a cafe where apparently everyone got their visas before going into the office. We didn’t know either way but decided to ignore him and head to border control; if he was right we could always go back, if not we’d avoided a scam. We said no thanks, but he continued to follow us right up to the steps into the border control. As we started climbing the steps, he began shouting at us, calling us rude and asking where his tip was for being so ‘helpful’. He obviously realised he wasn’t going to get money from us from his fake visa shop and got angry. We gave him the equivalent of 10p and went to get our visas. To be fair to guys working on the bus, it did leave an hour after arriving in Poipet, but that was coincidently the time it took everyone to be back on the bus with visas. Although the journey from Poipet to Siem Reap is a blur (every bus journey is now) we remember thinking that Cambodia seemed a lot greener than Thailand. It looked a lot more untouched. We’d read that the Bus Terminal in Siem Reap was far out of town, but when we arrived the guys working for the bus company supplied us we a free tuk tuk that only took 2 minutes to take us to our hotel. The free tuk tuk was nice, but when were arrived at the hostel they all but begged us to use them for a tuk tuk tour around the temples, to which we politely declined. All-in-all I’d say we handled our first land border crossing pretty well.

Several other couple-backpackers we had met had mentioned that they found it cheaper to stay in mid-level hotels rather than hostels, as at a hostel you pay per bed and in hotels it’s per room. Taking this advice we chose a nice boutique hotel called Villa Medamrei. It was pretty central and so chilled out inside, with little fish pools, calm music and cool Arabian-style decor. After swapping rooms to a double rather than the twin they put us in at first, we were pretty settled. We went to the in-house restaurant and had khmer food on the balcony. I was shocked that there were so many vegetarian options, but Cambodia went on to be the best country we have been to for tasty vegetarian food.
After settling in at the hotel we ventured outside to find the night market. It turns out there were several big night markets, full of the usual tat but fun to look around once you learn how to not get pulled in by every store owner and their cries of ‘you buy something from me’. Street food wasn’t prevalent here, just the odd crepe stand or fried tarantulas, but there were a lot of restaurants and bars. Pub Street was the busiest street and had bars lining it all of the way down. We were pretty tired but wanted to scout out what the place was like and had a walk down.
The first thing that struck us about the place was how different it was from Bangkok! The tuk tuk drivers constantly shouted ‘tuk tuk?’ at you, but as soon as you say no they just smile (and maybe offer you drugs). The whole place was just so much more chilled out and friendly and the absence of sex workers was such a breath of fresh air. The other travellers were just as much of a relief as there was a noticeable decline in whorists (sex tourists), and more of a backpacker feel. There were a lot of people drinking, mainly backpackers and older western travellers but the atmosphere was still very chilled out, not at all reminiscent of places like Phangan or Phuket, it still retained its Cambodian-ness. We had a beer in a bar called Angkor What? and decided we had to come back the next night.

After sitting on the bus all day the day before, we had some pent up energy and wanted to stretch our legs. It was easily 40 degrees outside, temperatures like that sap the energy out of you and leave you wanting to just find a cafe with AC, so we tried to find a gym instead. A quick google and a quicker tuk tuk ride ($1!) brought us to Ankor Muscle Gym. It was only a dollar, and I had to pay an extra dollar to use the treadmill (because it was the only thing that used electricity). You could buy protein foods at the reception desk, like hard boiled eggs and chicken. Ryan was in heaven.

This was the most testosterone fuelled, old school weights gym I have seen. It was full of older but stacked Khmer guys who were more intent on checking themselves out in the mirror than looking at the few girls there, which put Kayleigh at a bit more ease. The gym was stocked with more weights and machines than I could use. After an hour we had to call it a day, there was no air-conditioning and only a few working fans; and as it was open plan, the 40 degree heat, with no breeze made us sweat profusely. I actually felt rather faint after, but it was worth it for a good work out.

After the gym we had a nice walk back past the river. We got in, lay in the AC for a while, showered and left to get food at the hotel, which was just as good as the night before. We went back to town and had a better look at the night market and decided to go to a fish spa. Unlike the ones you see in England, the fish were HUGE! And it was so ticklish when they bit you. After that Ryan had a foot massage and I got a great manicure for $2. Feeling a bit of a drink, we headed back to the bar we had been in the night before, Ankor What?. The bar was a bit of a dive, in a cool way, and had every available surface covered in graffiti. If you bought two or more pitchers at one time you got a free tshirt, and buying into the gimmick I did just that, but as it came in a large rather than the small I asked for, Ryan has worn it ever since, I will make sure to steal it back one day.
We stayed there a while listening to the great music, steadily getting drunker and drawing more and more juvenile graffiti, and at some point ended up sitting with a group of just as drunk English guys. We have videos of us standing on the seats, but I couldn’t honestly write about that as we can’t remember it! We left the guys because Ryan said he didn’t trust them... we are both still unsure why but he was pretty drunk and it was time we left anyway. It was a great night!

We were inevitably hungover the next day, which meant barely leaving the air-conditioned room until we recovered. I’m pretty sure our diet during the day was Pringles and water. A bit later on I decided, pretty much on a whim, that I want the back and sides of my head shaved. Not being used to the heat, I needed my head to be a bit cooler. Kayleigh did a really good job of it, and although it was a very drastic change from my usual hair, I thought it looked great. We went out for food that evening at the Temple bar, which substituted as a restaurant during the day. Kayleigh had some form of tofu dish, whilst I ate a crocodile burger. I was unsure what to expect, but it more had the texture of fish than meat, but very tasty. We had a quiet evening as we would be up early the next morning to visit the temples of Angkor.

I had assumed, based on previous temples we’d visited that Angkor would be a few old, but cool, buildings fairly close to each other. I was wrong. We had to hire a tuk tuk driver for the day to drive us between the temples as they were so far apart. Each temple was huge. Our first stop was Angkor Wat, probably the most famous temple of the collection. An ancient palace in which Kings resided and wars were fought over, the spires were huge and the detail in the carving along the walls was incredible. We decided not to hire a guide to take us round (in hindsight, it would have been nice to know the history as we were there, but Wikipedia has had to suffice since then), but you could still imagine how grand it would have been when it was first built. There was an outer wall, enclosing the main temple and large grassy areas, which was about 300 square meters. Inside the central palace were several shrines to Buddha, with people praying and lighting incense (a smell I will forever associate with temples); and many corridors with intricate carvings telling stories of battles. Angkor Wat is the largest man-made pyramid in the world. Our next stop was Ta Prohm. It’s the temple seen in the Tomb Raider movie, probably most famous for the giant sprawling trees growing around it, and covering the buildings. It’s an impressive structure, which has since been given a linear path throughout the several different stone edifices that allows fantastic views at the trees and temples alike. Although on a smaller scale than Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm was, for me, more impressive. We had a lunch break in small cafe, and bought some of their home-made rum. Our final stop of the day was Banteay Kdei. A very old and crumbling, small temple, often held up by planks of wood with one end jammed into the floor. Here we sat and prayed with an old Buddhist monk, who blessed us with a long life and good luck. After walking through the length of the temple we told the tuk tuk driver that we wanted to head back as the heat had finally worn us down. Our route back took us past Angkor Thom. I’m still upset we didn’t manage to look in there, but my disappointment was quelled by the presence of some very cheeky monkeys. Our driver stopped and let us out, and we foolishly left our bag in the tuk tuk. We wandered about 20m to a stall on the side of the road to buy some hard boiled eggs to feed to the monkeys. When we turned round a monkey was in the tuk tuk and rummaging through our bag, fortunately the driver saw in time we didn’t have anything stolen. We sat on the side of the road next to a few of them, who were quite curious, some grabbing at Kayleighs dress or the string on the handle for the GoPro. They were very gentle taking the eggs from our hands, and just sat down next to us and slowly ate their snack. It was a satisfying end to an eye-opening, if sweltering, day.

The next day we made the strange decision to have a ‘Happy Pizza’ for breakfast. That is, a weed pizza. It tasted disgusting and I didn’t actually manage to eat more than two slices. Ryan ate the other four or five slices and we went back to the room and waited. We both kept thinking it had kicked in but it actually took several hours to have effect and when it did it was pretty strong. We needed to go to the shop to buy chocolate and Ryan had a big problem paying the cashier. He looked so confused! I had to go outside because I was laughing too much.

A lonnng while later, the effects wore off and we went to a restaurant, it was pretty eventless except that a waitress came over to us with a packet of pills, she said the elderly man who had just left had left the packet and wanted us to tell her what the pills were for (as the writing was in English). Viagra. It was Viagra. We managed to get the point across with the help of some cruse hand gestures and she got really embarrassed and then laughed for a long time!

The rest of the stay was pretty uneventful, too, and we go the day bus down to Sihanoukville via Phnom Penh. We managed to stay for six nights in Siem Reap, a town where most travellers stay only for two or three but for us it was great and we loved the chilled out, social backpacker feel.

Posted by kay_bramm 06:12 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temple cambodia adventure angkor backpacker sunny couple traveller siemreap Comments (0)

Take only memories, leave only footprints

By Kayleigh, with additions by Ryan in Italics

sunny 35 °C

Blog 3.5 Bangkok 2

The next morning I was up early, had breakfast and booked another couple of nights at 3Howw on the Hostelworld app. I left Bodega, and walked the quick way (now I knew my way around the area) back to our old hostel. I didn’t have a lot of time so I dropped my bags in the room, and walked to the Makasan BTS stop, and got the Skytrain to the airport to wait for Kay to arrive. I turned up on time, but as Kay was trying to avoid using her last visa entry into the country, she tried to go through visa-on-arrival, but was denied, and was a bit late. After the obviously large amount of hugs and kisses, we went back to the hostel and Kay had a big nap to catch up on sleep after the two days travelling.

That evening we decided we’d visit the infamous Lebua Skytower, from the film the Hangover 2. It was a couple of stops down the BTS, the neighbourhood in which we arrived looked very seedy, we didn’t want to hang around there for very long. We think we managed to gate-crash a party in a jazz bar, there was lots of locals singing karaoke, who all seemed to know each other and gave us some odd looks. We didn’t stay long, heading straight to Lebua. When we tried to enter a guard told us the clothes I was wearing were not acceptable. Apparently, the Avengers t-shirt was fine, but the expensive Hollister shorts weren’t. I had to pay to borrow some trousers and shoes from a lady who provided the service from around the corner. Getting changed in a stranger’s car, down an alley, in Bangkok, is one of the more bizarre moments in my life (I felt as if it resembled the scene in The Inbetweenters where Simon swaps shoes with a tramp, no offence to the lady with the clothes) I managed to barter her down to about half the price for the rental fee, which I was happy about as these trousers I’d borrowed were too short, and too tight. In 35° heat, I was sweating a LOT! We were allowed into the tower this time and took the elevator up as high as it went, although it opened into what looked like an empty corridor. We walked around the corner to find more deserted hallways, painted all white. It looked like something from a horror film, when you turn around and see a clown with a knife. Turns out we’d taken the staff elevator up to a service corridor. We eventually found the hotel section of the floor and made our way up in the actual elevator to the 63rd floor. I was unaware how posh this place would be. It looked like everyone there had a lot more money than we did. Some people we’re eating multiple course meals, others drinking bottles of champagne. Kayleigh and I brought a lot of money with us but could only afford a bar snack and one cocktail each. It rained whilst we were up there, but the staff had umbrellas for everyone. The views were fantastic though, the lights of Bangkok spread out below you and the golden dome of the tower behind. I found the height quite exhilarating, but Kay was a bit scared. After our food and drink we took a few photos and headed back to the station, not before changing back into my shorts. It was about 23.50, and the last train leaves at 00.00. We had a rush getting our tokens, and catching the last train back to Sukhumvit. Both of us were apprehensive as we’d been told by lots of people that the skytrain is perfectly safe, just don’t travel on your own at night. Fortunately, there were still quite a few people on board, and we were travelling from one effluent area to another. Needless to say we made it back without incident.

The next day we got a taxi to Don Mueang airport to meet our friends Lou and James, who were stopping off at Bangkok on their own round the world trip. We had rearranged our trip for the extra few days and the chance to see them so we were pretty excited. The taxi to the airport was particularly terrifying, the driver kept hitting himself in the face and didn’t get out of third gear the whole journey, regardless of speed. We were so relieved to get out we basically threw our money at him! But we were on time (a shock in itself) and very happy to see Lou and James!

Our plan for the day was to go to volunteer Safari Park in Kanchanaburi, about a three hour drive away. Lou is very organised and had called ahead to the airport taxi company for a quote but they quoted us a much higher amount when we got to their desk. As we were standing around wondering whether to just go with the price, a Thai man came up to us and said he could do the trip for us much cheaper. Yay we all thought! But he said his boss would not be happy with him soliciting our business so we had to go outside to his taxi and meet him there... strange but UK taxis can be weird about that sort of thing too, so we went with it. He had a laminated card for a taxi company that looked pretty official and he rushed off ahead, occasionally showing up to point us to where to go. We don’t know this airport well so we didn’t realise anything was amiss until we were wandering through a wedding party in a hotel that was apparently attached to the airport and out of their front door. He then took us to his car which was a normal car, not a taxi. Lou complained and he said okay, and a second later a taxi rounded the corner with his ‘son’ in, who would take us. We started to discuss between ourselves whether this was a good idea and the taximan got a little weird. He was so insistent that we thought nope! We said sorry for wasting his time and set off to get another taxi. The man followed us for about ten minutes! When we tried to speak to other taxis, the man would jump in and talk to them in Thai first, making us really suspicious. Eventually Lou basically told him to go away and we got the first company. He could have been a really nice man, but it was a strange situation.

Fast forward three hours, and we got to the safari park. The first thing we noticed was the adult tiger chained to a plinth for tourists to take pictures with. None of us liked this, it was about 35 degrees and we just felt sorry for him. The park was run by western tourists volunteering, so we had a few English girls who showed us around. They explained that the company had an agreement that Blue (the chained tiger) was the last such tiger to be trained to do this, but that he had been doing it for so long that it was all he knew and that he was unable to socialise with the other tigers who were aggressive towards him. He also would only eat if his trainer fed him personally. This woman was there and seemed to really love the tiger, but more as a pet, which a tiger is not. Luckily this was one of the only bad things about the park, the rest was AMAZING! One of the best days of the trip so far.

The four of us were the only tourists at the park, it seems like they make the bulk of their money from the people who pay to volunteer there. Firstly, we went into an enclosure with six baby Leopards. They were only a few weeks old. We each had a bottle with formula to feed them and they lay on their backs on our laps and drank their milk with all four paws holding the bottle! It was the sweetest thing. After they had finished they were a lot more lively and mischievous! They were climbing over us all and wanted to investigate and play with everything, including my hair. They had toys in there but seemed a lot more interested in us and the go pro. We were in there for about half an hour, which was enough for me because they had sharp little claws. Ryan said he could have stayed in their forever. James looked like he was in actual heaven.

We went in with some bigger and older leopards next. These were about four months and were about half their adult size. I had spotted them earlier being really feisty so I was scared to go in, but I made myself anyway. Luckily Lou and James had been in before to feed them so they were a bit calmer! There were three of them, and Ryan and I fed one each with a bottle. The bottles didn’t last half as long with these as with the babies! After they had fed we played with them with some big sticks with coconut shells on the end of a rope, like a giant version of toys you would play with a house cat. These were definitely not house cats, they had big claws and were pretty naughty! They weren’t as interested in us as the babies so it wasn’t too dangerous. At one point one jumped onto my shoulders, that certainly gave me a fright! There were two keepers in there with us, they were vigilant and seemed able to notice the leopards doing mischief before it happened. I couldn’t help but notice the amounts of bruises and scratches they had, I wouldn’t have liked to be in with the cats on my own!

After the leopards was the 3 month old lion cubs. Despite the fact these were in a more open enclosure than the leopards, I felt a lot more uneasy. The lions seemed to act a lot more quickly, with a lot less warning that the leopards. The two cubs in with us were very quick to drink their bottles, after which we played with some big palm fronds. They would dart about trying to catch them, a lot like normal cats then suddenly stop at look at you, at this point we’d promptly distract them with the fronds. I feel sorry for their prey in the wild because even these cubs made me feel as if I was nothing but dinner... and I almost was. At the end of our time with the lions, Kay was having a few final pics taken, everyones attention was on her. At this point one of the cubs decided my left testicle would be a tasty snack and lunged at my crotch. Fortunately, it’s teeth didn’t pierce anything of value, but my scrotum had a dangerous nibbling. We had a few photos taken with some macaws, before going on a feeding run with one of the permanent keepers. On the back of his jeep, we went through some of the less dangerous enclosures, feeding zebras, emus, deer, and some very friendly giraffes with seeds and raw carrot. During our feeding of the deer, we found a newborn that must have only been a few hours old as she was still wet. It was extremely cute, and we made sure it was clean, and out of the way of the larger deer, trampling near their food trough. After the feeding was the safari tour in the bus. Loaded up with more carrots, we went back in the giraffe and zebra enclosure. At one point there were more giraffe heads in the bus that people. We moved on into the enclosures of a few more dangerous animals; these were where the lions, tigers and leopards came, when they were too big for the smaller cages and petting we had just done. In the tiger enclosure, I’m pretty sure we were stalked by a very mean looking adult. We went through an enclosure with some sleeping sun bears as well.

We then went in with the adult leopards. Which was a bit daunting. There were three of them and they were my favourite out of the three age ranges! They were a lot calmer than the younger ones and a bit more predictable. We played with them and the keepers told us we could stay in their enclosure for as long as we wanted. We played and petted and Ryan got stalked - never turn your back on a big cat! Even the cubs pounced if they see your back. Eventually me and Lou couldn’t hack the heat any longer and we went home.

Back in Bangkok we went for food at Lou and James’ hotel and went for a walk to Soi Cowboy. Emboldened by Lou and James being there, we headed into a ladyboy bar. It was a tiny bar, with seats around the edge all facing a central stage that had about a dozen very pretty lady boys with a few less convincing ones scattered about. It was basically a brothel, a man came in after us, got out a big wad of cash and the ‘girls’ all crowded him begging him to pick them. We had a beer whilst James looked incredibly uncomfortable and left pretty quickly (Ryan got his bum pinched on the way out!).

The next day Ryan and I headed to the bus stop to get our tickets to Cambodia, as we had heard horror stories about booking them through agents on the street. It took us forever to get to the station and at one point we got lost in the middle of a construction site with dogs barking at us and workers staring! On the way back we found a great park and watched about a hundred people doing group yoga, including an old man in tiny tight denim shorts. We saw a massive monster (monitor lizard) in the lake. We got back pretty late, due to getting lost so badly, and headed back to Lou and James’ hotel to play in the pool. We said an emotional goodbye to Lou and James as the next day they were going to Bali (where they got engaged!!) and me and Ryan were heading to Cambodia.

Posted by kay_bramm 04:08 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand zoo adventure city bangkok friends safari backpacker tiger traveller bear lion giraffe ladyboy leopard kanchanaburi lebua soicowboy Comments (1)

Not all those who wander are lost

Entry by Ryan, additions in italics by Kayleigh. Check out our pics on https://instagram.com/get_lost_insta/

overcast 38 °C

Bangkok (part 1)

After landing in Suvarnabhumi Airport, we boarded the SkyTrain (BTS) to Makkasan station, which was fairly close to our hostel and a lot cheaper than a taxi from the airport. We made our way out onto the street and tried to get a taxi from there, but the driver refused to take us. Turns out he wouldn’t make enough money if we wanted to go on the meter (cheaper than agreeing on a fixed price) as we were fairly close and there was a lot of traffic! He directed us to the MRT (metro/underground) which could take us the one stop we needed to travel to arrive outside our hostel. It was all very easy to use. Inside the station it has a map of all the stops and their respective prices; everything is paid in single journeys.

We arrived at Sukhumvit station and walked the 2 minutes around the corner to our hostel, called 3Howw. It seemed fairly empty, but looked very clean and was central to all the attractions in Sukhumvit. Once in the room it was an extremely easy decision to have a nap. It had been a very long two days travel, and the bed felt like heaven! It’s not surprising the two hour planned nap turned into four.

We woke up hungry and excited to explore! Last time we were in Bangkok the coup happened and we weren’t allowed outside of our hotel (it was 5 star, so no big hastle!), but this time we were ready to see the sites. Our first stop was a restaurant called Dine in the Dark, in the Grand Sheraton, which was a super posh hotel. The concept for the restaurant is really cool, the whole place is in pitch darkness and you are served by blind waiters! We chose a set menu but couldn’t see what we would actually be eating. I chose vegetarian and Ryan picked Asian. We had our own waiter just waiting on us and met him at the entrance, his name was Bin and we all put our hands on each others shoulders and went through several curtains into the dark restaurant. Because talking was the only way to know where people were, we ended up having a lot of conversation with him! The food was really great but it was so difficult in the dark to know what you were eating or where things were so we ended up eating with our hands a lot! I had a dish with carrot in and didn’t even know what it was, even though I recognised the taste, and Ryan got told by mistake his beef was lamb and was then convinced it really was lamb! It was expensive but some of the proceeds went to charities for blind people in Thailand, so definitely worth it.

We walked back to the hostel and the area felt really safe to walk in even in the dark. We had to walk past an infamous street called Soi Cowboy, a neon jungle of sleaze but quite fun to walk down! It was a massive shock to us even though we knew what to expect. There were dozens of girls outside the bars barely wearing anything and a lot of single men on their own wandering around. The whole street is basically strip clubs and brothels. We walked up and down the street and then wandered back to the hostel, still knackered despite our nap and slept for about 12 hours.

I am in no way at all ashamed to say we basically spent a whole day in a shopping centre. About 5 minutes walk from our hostel was a place called Terminal 21, an 8 floor building, with 3 floors of restaurants, a floor dedicated to men’s clothes, one for women’s clothes, a floor for accessories, one for a bit of everything, and the top floor was electronics, a gym and a MASSIVE cinema. The best part about this place was that it was set out like an airport, and each floor was modelled after a destination. Women’s was Paris, men’s was London, the cinema was Hollywood etc. We had a window-shop in every stall and shop in the place, but didn’t dare buy anything as it was way, way over our budget (Sukhumvit is the business district of Bangkok, and one of the more effluent). We had a drink break mid-shop, in a cafe set out like a tram in San Francisco. Leaning out over the window you could see right the way the basement floor (the Caribbean), which was 6 floors below. It was pretty cool. We carried on mooching about until we got hungry, and eventually settled on a sushi restaurant (also in San Francisco). We had a feast! For about £10 in total we each had a main dish, a side salad, miso soup, rice, a small dish of spicy stuff, and to accompany that, an extra side of California rolls. After a long day walking about, we got back to the room about 8ish, watched some Game of Thrones, and Kayleigh packed for her trip back home.

I had to go home for a biopsy, which I actually only found out I needed the day before we left (my birthday!), which was pretty stressful but the doctors and nurses assured me that whilst it was something that needed to be done soon, it was pretty routine and nothing to worry about. We had been travelling for only about three weeks at this point, not quite long enough for homesickness to kick in but I was definitely looking forward to some English food and seeing my family (and Emma). My flights were with Emirates so they were pretty nice, with a stop over there and back in Dubai. It was weirdly upsetting leaving Ryan in Bangkok airport, even though it was only for a week. I got the appointment over and done with, drank a lot of smoothies with my mum (she had just bought a smoothie maker), smothered my dog in cuddles, and drank a lot with Emma. I headed back to Bangkok extremely hungover and the journey took thirty hours in all. But here’s more about Ryan’s much more interesting week.

After getting the BTS and MRT back from the airport, I packed my bag and killed an hour in the room watching some random movie on tv before having to check out. I’d already done some research on where I wanted to have a as a base while Kayleigh was away. A hostel called Bodega was only about 10 minutes walk away, so still very central, and was apparently very laid back and a social. I turned up without a reservation and was put into a 16 bed mixed dorm. I was still pretty bummed about Kayleigh heading back home, so I thought I’d go catch a movie at Terminal 21. As I set off a couple of guys from the hostel were also heading out, I got chatting to them a little bit. There was Raffi, Ryan, and Brian. Apparently I was the fifth Ryan staying at the hostel in the past few days, along with four Brians. They were heading off to a pharmacy to try and get some Valium for the long overnight train to the islands down south. I said I’d catch up with them later and headed to the cinema. The plan, as I am a massive nerd was to watch the second Avengers film again, but I decided on a whim to watch the new Mad Max: Fury Road. Absolutely mind-blowing film. When I got back the guys were having a few beers in the bar area, I joined them. This drinking started about 3/4pm-ish. This carried on slowly until the beer pong tournament started at 7pm, which was followed by a game of Ring of Fire (a.k.a. Kings Cup). I don’t remember much of the later stages of the drinking, but apparently the elderly Chinese man in the bunk below me had to point me to my bed when I stumbled up to the dorm.

The hangover was pretty bad, but not to the point where I felt sick. It was more like a dull ache in the base of my head that would not go all day. For some reason that is still unknown to me, I decided a great way to cure my hangover would be to walk 3 miles in the blistering Bangkok heat to a place called Purr Cat Cafe. I’m not sure if this is a high or low point in my life. I was sat on my own, with a cake and iced coffee for one (actually on the menu, not surprising for a cat cafe), clearly hungover, playing with cats. I should point out that there were several couples here occasionally throwing me sympathetic looks. I skyped Kayleigh, as she would’ve loved it! Also I felt a bit less lonely :p. The cafe itself was very cool. There was lots of toys to play with the cats, they had a run which extended all the way along the ceiling, and the cake was very good. I walked back to the hostel and bumped into Raffi. I mentioned I wanted to have a look a Chatuchak weekend market tomorrow. This is a market with 8,000 stalls, and is advertised for being the only market in the world where you can buy anything apart from people. He was intrigued and said he’d like to see it as well, so we planned to head out at 11ish, as he was leaving Bangkok that day and needed to pack.

The next morning I got up about 8am, had some breakfast and walked the 10 minutes to the closest gym I could find. It was honestly one the best stocked gyms I’ve been in, and it was completely dead. After about an hour in the terrible air-con I was sweating like a pig, and decided to call it a day. I grabbed some street food on the way back, probably Pad Thai (I can’t remember), had a shower and met Raffi in the bar area. Two girls from his dorm, Ffion and Mali (sorry if I’m spelling that wrong :p), wanted to join us, so we took the 45 minute BTS journey to Chatuchak station and followed the crowd into the most confusing, disorientating market I have ever seen. It was like a maze; a lot of stalls sold very similar merchandise, living up the popular saying in S/E Asia “Same Same, But Different’. A lot of what we saw was counterfeit or ‘copy’ versions of watches, bags, hats etc. There was numerous stalls dedicated to bathroom soaps, and a surprising amount of penis shaped products, ranging from ornaments to candles. We sat down for a bite to eat, with several different menus thrust in our direction, ordered what we wanted, and then had to avoid the squabbles between stall-owners who were adamant we chose from their menu. The good thing about this was it made bartering the price extremely easy, it seemed the owners were more interested in getting one up on the neighbouring stalls than making the most profit. After we’d wandered round for about an hour we became determined to seek out the pets and exotic animals that we’d heard about. Chatuchak is not completely disorganised, there are about 30 sections, in which there are many sois (roads/streets). Maps were located throughout the place, with signs telling you where you were and what was being sold nearby. We found some extremely cute puppies, on sale for the equivalent of a few hundred pounds. We kept looking and found another stand. This is where I lost my enthusiasm for trying to find the animals. These puppies we’re not in good accommodation, only had one or two fans to keep them cool, and this place was HOT! The owner of the stand refused to allow you to take photos, obviously to stop any bad press getting online, and would charge you a hefty fine if you did. It was quite upsetting and if possible, I would absolutely boycott the buying of animals from there until better standards we’re available. A bit downhearted, and exhausted, we decided we’d have a final look around before we hopped back on the BTS to the hostel. Chatuchak was definitely a unique experience, and although the poor state of the puppies put a dampener on it, I’m glad I got to witness the market in all its madness.

When we arrived back, the others wanted to go for a full thai massage. After hearing the story of another girl staying at the hostel, in which she was “touched down below” for a few seconds, Raffi and I were a bit apprehensive to say the least. We went round the corner to a place the hostel recommended (unfortunately I can’t remember the name). The girls opted for the full, Raffi and I bottled it and decided on a foot massage. We were led through the back of the building and up three flights of stairs into a seedy looking room, with only curtains separating mattresses on the floor. If everybody I’d seen in the building had not been wearing identical uniforms, I would have been a lot more concerned. As it turned out, the place was legit. This being my first massage ever, I couldn’t understand how anyone could have their feet rubbed for an hour! I put my headphones in, listened to some dance music (which was surprisingly relaxing) and shut my eyes, it was actually a very nice experience. The staff were all very professional, and the time seemed to fly by. I had about 25 minutes spent on each leg, and for 10 minutes at the end had a quick neck, head and arm massage. We’d only spent 100 baht (£2), so it was a bargain. That evening was very relaxed. Had a few beers, said bye to Raffi, and went to get an early night. In the dorm I got chatting to a guy called Rory, and told him I was going for a walking tour of the temples, near the Khao San Road area tomorrow. He seemed keen on the idea, so we decided we’d go at early the next morning.

Up early as planned, Rory and I decided we wanted to try and get to the start of the walking tour without use of a taxi. This is considered the standard way to get there from the Sukhumvit area, taking about 50-60 minutes, depending on traffic and costing about 100 baht. We took the BTS to a station called Saphan Taksin, a location near the river. We found a cheap river taxi which took us up a few stops to right outside Wat Pho (a.k.a. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha). The trip probably cost us 80 baht each, and took roughly the same length of time, but was a lot more fun and we got to see some of Bangkok from the river. Wat Pho is a very large area, consisting of lots of smaller buildings containing other shrines to Buddha where people can pray; a historical building, showing the changes in the depictions of Buddha and the building of Wat Pho; as well as other structures that looked incredible, but I have no idea what purpose they serve. The main chamber itself was about 70m long and the reclining Buddha was HUGE! Some pictures taken show its size, but to be next to it was amazing. Unfortunately, it’s feet were under restoration so we couldn’t see it in all its glory, but it’s understandable that something made in 1788 would require some upkeep. The next stop on the tour was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Grand Palace (the previous home of the King of Thailand). Rory had already been, so opted to find a coffee shop with air-con while I went inside. Entry cost 500 baht, and I was required to borrow some ‘long trousers’ to keep to the dress code. It was about 35 degrees and I was sweating profusely, but it was worth it. You walk through the entrance gate into the open complex of the Emerald Buddha, the main hall is directly in front of you with large statues of dragons and other impressive buildings everywhere! The Emerald Buddha itself is tiny, the hall in which it’s located was rammed full of people praying, and first time walking through I didn’t even spot it. Second time I noticed a small glass container (like you would have for a lantern) and inside a statue of Buddha, carved in pure emerald. Must be worth a mint, as there was lots of security. In the complex there was a vast painting along a long corridor depicting an epic fight that happened centuries ago, after following that I came to the entrance of the grounds of the Grand Palace. It puts Buckingham Palace to shame. The two buildings were comprised of several different styles, representing the different religious building styles throughout the ages. It is the most Thai thing I have ever seen. I’d been looking around for about an hour and felt bad for leaving Rory on his own, so I handed back in my long pants and met him in a well needed air-con cafe. Next step was the Khao San road. Using an app on my phone (pretty much Google maps, but offline) we walked for 20 minutes, over some VERY busy roads, and found it. Vaguely remembering it from last year, when Kayleigh and I had a fleeting visit, it is the heart of Bangkok’s backpacker scene. Although because of its reputation as such, prices for hostels, beer and food have skyrocketed from what they once were. But the place has not lost any of its sleaze, tuk tuk drivers seemed to all double as sellers for the classic ‘ping pong pussy show’. Needless to say there was lots of “no thanks”, “just walking thanks mate”, “nope, no pussy today thanks”. It looks a bit pathetic during the day, all of the neon signs ready for that night switched off, but makes up for it with the many street food and market stalls. After trying to shake a tuk tuk driver who followed us for about 100 meters trying to get us to use his services, we walked to Phra Sumen Fort, an old 18th century fort in a nice park area. There wasn’t a lot to see so we chose to move on, with the next stop being Democracy monument. This is an impressive monument that occupies a large roundabout in the centre of Bangkok, to commemorate the Siamese revolution in 1932. Again, there wasn’t much to do apart from take some pictures so we decided to head to the closest BTS station and go back to the hostel. We were almost caught in a scam from a local who seemed very friendly, offering us advice on which temples to see (as some where open today only!! NOT) and his friend could take us to them for a reasonable price. I have very quickly figured out that these scams often rely of the politeness of tourists. They will keep on at you, often walking with you for quite a while trying to sell you this ‘not to be missed experience’. Occasionally when you refuse they will accuse you of being rude, and tell you they’re only trying to help; if not for the extortionate price this could be true, but it isn’t. We got away from the scam with a sigh of relief, which was short lived as we had about 3 miles to walk to the station. I reckon by this point we had walked about 6-7 miles already, but we powered on, determined not to get a taxi or tuk tuk. We found ourselves in a strange area, without a single tourist in sight. There was busy traffic and road works but still heaving markets on either side of the roads with locals doing business, we got a lot of stares. I had a feeling that this area wasn’t visited by tourists much, this felt like real Bangkok. A long walk down this straight road brought us to the MRT station Hua Lumpong. We hopped on, glad for the air-con, and stopped off at Lumphini Park on the way back. This is a beautiful, massive park area in the middle of Bangkok. It is a hidden treasure, with open grassy areas, picnic tables, tennis courts (whoever would play tennis outside in that heat I do not know) and a large lake in the centre. This was the highlight. Roaming about in the lake were wild Monitor lizards and terrapins, they would just climb out of the lake and saunter about. A local told us to be careful as they like to climb trees and sit on branches for shade; but as they are so large it has been known for branches for snap, and fall (with lizard) onto people chilling below. We finally made it back to the hostel, absolutely knackered. Me, Rory and a guy called Billy decided we’d go to the cinema that evening and watch the Avengers. I decided to keep it a secret that I’d already seen it, didn’t want to scare off my new friends with my excessive nerdiness. We got back from the film and Billy said he was going out to the Khao San road to meet some guys he’d previously been travelling with for drinks. Rory passed, but a girl called Hannah (who is also weirdly from Oxford) in the dorm, said she was up for some drinks, so we got a taxi and headed out.

It was about 10pm, and everyone else I saw on the Khao San road was clearly very drunk already, apparently everything shuts up and finished by about 1-2pm so people start early. We met Billy’s mates and sat in a bar that was ridiculously loud, it seemed to be having a bass war against the bar on the other side of the road. We had a few drinks, and noticed there was a birthday party happening on the table next to us. Now this wasn’t an ordinary birthday party. This was a ladyboy birthday, it was odd to say the least. Lots of very tall ladyboys, not wearing a lot, doing shots and dancing on their chairs; and then at the other side of the table was their families! There was elderly relatives and kids, most definitely too young to be in a bar amongst drunk and drugged up people. The birthday ‘girl’ took a shine to Billy’s friend Toby, and he even got a slice of cake off her (not a euphemism). A few buckets of Sangsom rum and Redbull later, we decided to head to the ingeniously named club, “The Club”. Things start to get a bit blurry here for me. I was a bit taller than everyone so it took more to get me drunk. Everyone else seemed to have had enough to drink to be ready to dance, or maybe just don’t feel as embarrassed as me when I try to dance sober, but I tried to play catch up. A few shots and another bucket later, I was just about ready when the lights came on, and everybody had to leave. Grabbed a tuk-tuk back to the hostel, and went to bed. The next day wasn’t a fun hangover like the one with the cat cafe. I slept a lot, grateful for the fan right next to my bed. I think I left bed three times that day. Once to get water and Pringles, once to get some street food for dinner, and once to shower before going back to bed. I didn’t mind though, because as fun as it was experiencing being a backpacker on your own, I couldn’t wait for Kayleigh to get back the next day!

Posted by kay_bramm 03:51 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples beer the in drink backpack bangkok san buddha ladyboy khao dark hungover dine streetfood Comments (0)

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

Entry by Kayleigh, with additions from Ryan in italics.

sunny 30 °C

Following the horrible hangover we decided to head to Bulabog beach, world famous for kite surfing. There’d been a few windy days so we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see them in action performing their acrobatics. Before we went there we decided to walk up the beach towards boat station 3 (There are three stations on the beach, we were in the middle on two), but it turns out the beach is realllllly long! We walked for maybe a hour and a half and found a really nice bit of beach and just camped out there for a while instead. When we got tired of being lazy on the beach we had a really good work out, push ups (for Ryan) and abs and sprints for us both. Gotta stay fit! Plus taking a dip in the sea afterwards was bliss.

We didn’t sleep well that night because of a storm, it turns out it was Super Typhoon Noul (the locals called it Typhoon Dodong) which killed a couple of people in the north of the country! After the military coup when we were in Thailand last year we are starting to wonder whether we have bad luck or we are the bad luck!

We woke up after a bad sleep and decided we’d tire ourselves out that day and make sure we slept well that night. We went for breakfast at a cafe on the beach, had a triple espresso-mocha-chocha-chino, and headed to the local gym. A workout cost 300PHP (about £4.50), not really cheap but definitely worth it! Kayleigh managed to reach her full splits!! Very impressive, even if she had to hold a 15kg weight to push herself down. And I lifted some heavy things. Enjoying the healthy feeling we thought we’d eat healthy that evening; I ordered chicken salad, Kayleigh had Minestrone soup. It was DISGUSTING! We barely ate anything, so had Oreo cheesecake instead. Back at the hostel we had a few beers to try and get ourselves sleepy and able to face the heat that night, never have I wanted air conditioning so much.

We had two days left and two things we wanted to do – an infamous pub crawl, complete with free shots and guaranteed debauchery, or Ariels Point, a cliff jumping, snorkelling and kayaking day trip. I’ll be honest, it was a tough decision, but with the horrible hangover still a recent memory we decided on the day trip. We set off down to posh Boat Station 1 (where all the 5 star hotels are) to buy our tickets. We had some iced espresso and a sticky cinnamon bun to share and help us on our way. Tickets brought (for 2000php), hyped up from the sugary and caffeine filled breakfast and a very beautiful day on the way we decided to just buy a ball and hang out on the beach. We spent a whole hour in the sea practicing me standing on Ryan’s shoulders... I’m certain we can join the circus now.

After some healthy food (in pizza hut) we booked the next part of our trip from our bungalow porch whilst the hostel played some kinda out of place deep house. It took a while on the shoddy wifi but come a few days time we would be really glad for the organisation! Plus, there were less mosquitoes outside than in. Really.

This next day (days of the week have no meaning anymore, no idea what day it was) is so easy to write about because it was the most fun! Picture it.... Unlimited booze, beautiful scenery, lots of new friends and cliffs to jump off! On the way we had a beer, the big group of Koreans next to us had a lot more! The boat journey there took forty minutes and was very scenic, we sailed past mountains and hidden beaches. When we got there we were so excited, there were about fifty people and the area was built into the cliff-side and was all twisting paths and hidden dens. We originally sat in a cool little table off by itself overlooking the sea, but soon decided to be more social and moved into the bigger area.

The jumps! There was a 5, an 8 and a 15 metre. To put this into perspective, Olympic dive boards are 10m, so these were pretty high! Ryan went right in on the 5m, with no visible nerves (I’m sure there were some!) Nahhhhh! To get back up the cliff there was a rope/bamboo ladder and then some steps built into the cliff. I started off here on the steps (3m) and I was so scared! A 50 year old woman did it before me, else I’m sure I would have chickened out. Ryan pretty quickly worked his way up to the eight and I eventually made it to the 5. Queue lunch, a buffet barbeque affair which was delicious.

By now we’re several Red Horse beers down and feeling a bit more confident. I decided it would be a great idea to use the wrist mount for the go pro and jump off the 15m board. I should point out that the wrist mount is a Velcro strap, so what happened is not really my fault, but George de Mestral - the inventor of Velcro. There is a video (soon to be uploaded to social media) of this jump, followed by the GoPro falling 20 metres to an ocean shelf, next to a drop that had no visible bottom; there is 10 minutes of it sat there before one of the tour guides managed to free dive to the depths and recover it. We tipped him 700 pesos (about a tenner). Kayleigh made some friends with an aussie girl and a girl from Bournemouth, who eventually goaded her into making the 15m jump. We had some rum, I jumped, and Kayleigh followed.

Doing this jump is up there with my BSc in the list of things I’m proud of doing... because it was scary! Everyone seemed to turn up just to watch me to it, everyone in the water, a crowd of people at the top and everyone in between. There was no question of backing out and once you’re up there it looks a lot higher! Only a handful of people there had done it. They all started cheering and chanting. Because we were some of the only English people, and because I was drunk, I yelled ‘FOR THE QUEEN’ and jumped! And landed bum first and I’m still in pain in bed writing this up a week later. I blame the Queen.

We boated back, and a lot of rum was pushed into our hands by the over zealous boatmen. Me and Ryan very drunkenly rambled to a very sober Texan family, with the help of the other drunken people, who, obviously, were also the only other English people. We got back to our room, somehow, and I proceeded to be very drunk and then get a hangover before I even went to bed. It wasn’t good, and we had to pack for leaving at 6am the next morning.

We had a crazy day of travelling the next day; trike, boat, minibus, plane, taxi, coach. We were knackered after it all! We got to see some great scenery though. The minibus was scary. It was an 8 seater that had 15 people and all of their luggage rammed in. There wasn’t even enough room to lean back and it was a very uncomfortable two hour journey. Ryan tried to sleep. Kalibo airport was the worst airport we have been in, there wasn’t even anywhere to buy food! We were very hungry, four hours into the journey and no food, plus another eight hours to go. On the plane we promptly ordered a tonne of food, but literally as soon as we got it the plane started to descend and we barely had time to eat it. It was beautiful flying over Cebu and seeing it from above, and we liked the city a lot more than Manila once we landed, too. We got a taxi to South Bus Terminal and managed to get on the right bus in all the confusion, we were pushed to the front of all the lines because we were the only white people! On the coach I had to close the curtain because so many people were staring in at me! Now the driver of this coach was certifiably insane. Like actually insane. He took corners at full speed and we were convinced it was going to roll. He barely used his breaks the whole time and overtook on blind corners! But we eventually made it to Oslob. We knew from research that Oslob was a little town, but as the towns and villages grew smaller and smaller we were both a little taken aback by just how tiny it was. It really was the middle of nowhere.

Oslob was literally 100m long. As soon as we were off the coach a local selling street food pointed us in the direction of our hostel, and it took us all of 5 minutes to lug our bags there, a little boy playing basketball in the street even asked if I’d like to join in the game with his friends. We were staying at a little place called New Village Lodge, the room was tiny but we didn’t care because IT WAS AIR-CONDITIONED!!!! We’d only be staying for a few nights so didn’t bother unpacking but just lived out of our bags. After we’d cooled off, we headed out to the street to get some food. It was almost impossible to find vegetarian food for Kay, and I’m pretty sure the locals didn’t even understand the concept. I had some chicken and pork (marinated in “sweet”) from the lady who helped us find the hostel, and Kay had some pastries from a bakery. We got chatting to some guys staying in the room next to us, who were from Ireland. They’d done the same as us and come just to see the Butanding (whale sharks).

We got up about 7am the next day, which was HARD, after that long travel day we just wanted to sleep, but it was definitely worth it. A guy that worked at the hostel called Elmer gave us a lift to the bay where we’d see the Butanding. By give us a lift, I mean both me and Kay on the back on his bike with no helmet. It was a bit nerve-racking at first but we quickly forgot as it was the most scenic route I have ever seen. The sea lapping on the rocks on our left and mountains of rainforest to the right. When we got to the bay, we had a brief safety talk, and were told we couldn’t go within 4 meters of the Butanding, and could be imprisoned if we touched them as they’re protected creatures. This was fair enough, but impossible to follow in reality. After we’d be rowed out about 100 meters, we grabbed out goggles and snorkels and jumped in. This is honestly one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. The GoPro takes some amazing pictures, but nothing can describe or show what it is like to be in the water next to these huge creatures; but I’ll try. Feeders on the boats throw food over the side, and they swim right next to you to eat it. Once again, as Kay is extremely white, we got special attention, and a lot was thrown near us. As you’ve probably seen from the video on Facebook (the one where Kay almost gets swallowed whole), it is impossible to avoid getting close to them, they swim directly at you as if you are not even there. If you tried to back away from one coming in your direction, there’d be another right behind you! The ones in the water with us must have been about 8 meters in length, and these were only the babies. In Donsol, in the north east of the Philippines, you can swim with 12 meter long ones. We were in the water for half an hour, but it seemed to pass in a few minutes. We both agreed we could have easily stayed in there for at least another hour, just watching these gentle giants eat and swim about. Elmer waited for us on the shore, and drove us back to the hostel after. The whole experience was incredible and I could not recommend it enough to anyone thinking about doing it!

Once we got back to the hostel we were a bit dazed and in shock that we had done something so amazing, and it was only 9am! The room was a little basic and there wasn’t much to do in there so we decided to visit some local waterfalls that we had seen a sign for on the way back from the Whale Sharks, called Tumalog Falls. Once again on the back of Elmers bike we set off and about fifteen minutes later we were there. We had to walk down a pretty steep slope to get to the actual waterfall, and on the way we were accosted by a group of teenage Filipinos who wanted a picture with us (again, because we are white!), they were so excited! It was nice and cool in the trees at the bottom and the waterfall was so pretty! We had a little swim and stood under the falls, it was all very serene.

This sounds like a pretty amazing day, but to top it all off it was also mine and Ryans four year anniversary! And we spent it in the best way possible.
Back at the hostel we decided to cut our time in Oslob short and spend an extra day in Cebu. Oslob was great but we had pretty much done all that we could do, so we hopped on a coach the next morning and four hours later we were in the city where we had booked into the Best Western Lex Cebu. We weren’t expecting much from this hotel even though it was a little on the expensive side (a present to ourselves for our anniversary) but it was amazing! Hands down the best hotel I have ever stayed in. The room was gorgeous, the bed was massive and the bathroom had a huge shower in, but what really made it was the service, the staff were all so accommodating.

Now by this point I had been eating nothing but oreos and cakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a few days, so the first thing we did was order a tonne of room service! We had so much and we ate every last bit! As soon as it settled down we went to the rooftop gym where Ryan sated his gym addiction with a good workout.

The next day we headed to the Ayana Mall, which was very nice and set out with no logic at all. I think this was my favourite place in Cebu. There was a big gardened area called The Terraces that had a lot of restaurants and bars. It was very western though, there was a Topshop, Marks and Spencers and a TGI Fridays! We had a plan to go home, get ready and go to TGI Fridays for dinner followed by bars, but time got away from us and so we had to have dinner in the room instead (no big disappointment, it was super tasty!). We asked the guy who brought us our food where he would recommend for a night out, and he mentioned a place called IT Park, which is where a lot of the locals go. Even though it was already 11pm, we decided on an impulse to just get in a taxi and go.

We rocked up to the place expecting nightlife but were faced with a bar which was still serving families dinner... so we walked about trying to find a club. We wandered into a place called Music One, it looked a little odd and so I went in and asked if it was a bar, but no, it was a KTV place! KTV is karaoke television, where you have a little room to yourselves with a big TV in, two mics and a big book of songs to pick from! On a whim I said lets just give it a go and it turned out to be one of the best nights out we have ever had!! We started off a little nervous, we are both a little tone deaf (me more so) but you could get alcohol delivered to the room. Skip forward five hours and we were a bottle of rum down, dancing around the room and getting the bartenders to join in with us! Memorable performances included the likes of Rammstein, Taylor Swift and A-Ha.

The hangover wasn’t as bad as the one in Boracay but it was still pretty bad. We stayed in the room all day and only left to get McDonnalds. Waste of a day but worth it for the fun night.

The next day we had to check out at noon but our flight to Manila wasn’t until 1am, so we had a lot of time to kill. The logic to the flight time was to save on a nights accommodation by sleeping in airports, which worked but wasn’t fun. We went to another mall just to bum about until we could leave but it wasn’t as nice as the Ayana. We went to the cinema and watched Pitch Perfect 2, which was funny. The Filipinos were a lot more interactive than us Brits at the cinema, there was a lot of loud laughing, clapping and whooping. There was a very awkward moment with a Filipino ladyboy joke in the film that no one laughed at.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur as we spent the whole next 36 hours awake, we made it to the airport in Cebu, flew to Manila and then onto Bangkok.

I’ll miss the Philippines! It was such a beautiful country with the friendliest people. Me and Ryan have decided to definitely come back at some point, as theres a lot we didn’t get to do.

For anyone expecting pictures, we are having a few issues uploading them. We will keep you informed and should hopefully have some up soon :)

Posted by kay_bramm 07:04 Archived in Philippines Tagged waterfalls beaches sea beer beach travel philippines sun sharks cliff backpacker jump cebu sunny karaoke whale boracay oslob rum butanding ktv hungover rhum tumalog Comments (1)

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

Written by Ryan with additions by Kay in Italics.

sunny 33 °C

So it’s currently day 4 in Boracay (9th May 2015) 5 days after leaving the UK. Lots of new experiences already, and several lessons learned.

The flight from Heathrow to Mumbai (with Jet Airways) was fairly normal, but apparently there are now gaming handsets on planes!!! Very exciting but unfortunately no pokemon. One thing we found out the hard way is that in some cultures passing wind is not considered as taboo as in the UK, which is not very pleasant in a pressurised cabin with recycled air. The plane itself was surprisingly comfortable, lots of leg room, regular meals and a large variety of in flight entertainment.

Mumbai airport was a nice surprise. Lots of shops, bars and restaurants (Kayleigh trying to get into beer for casual drinking). There was some entertainment in a central area with choreographed dancing and loud music. It was an interesting change from the boring British airports everyone is used to, but with only a 2 hour stop over we didn’t really have time to explore a lot more.

Mumbai to Bangkok at about 1am (Mumbai time) wasn’t a pleasant flight. We were both getting tired and Kay had a migraine, but luckily it went as soon as it arrived. I managed to get about an hours sleep on the plane, and Kay a bit less.

We had an 8 hour stop over in Bangkok Survanabhumi airport, which felt like an eternity. A croissant and coffee perked us up a bit. We found a seat near out check in gate and managed to watch a whole film while we waited. Thank god for showbox! The Voices with Ryan Reynolds is a bit bizarre but quite good.

The flight from Manila to Bangkok was tough, at this point we’d gone almost 48 hours with no sleep and it seemed as if the hotel in manila was a million miles away. We tried to pass the time by reading and doing puzzles but all we really wanted was a comfy bed and to not be on a plane!

We landed in manila about half 5 in the evening and after clearing customs and picking up our bags we headed into the inevitably expensive taxis with the craziest driver. We soon realised it wasn’t just him, but everyone. Looking out the window we soon forgot about it and got lost in the sights of the city. It was hectic, busy and still bustling. We saw jeepneys for the first time - elongated vans that people sat in the back of and worked like a bus service. One had a picture of Jesus and a fire breathing dragon, bizarre.

Arriving at the Bayleaf hotel 45 minutes later felt like heaven! The staff were very welcoming and we made use of what we knew would be our last bit of luxury for a while. We showered, ordered room service (still surprisingly cheap for such a posh hotel) and slept like the dead for a solid 12 hours.

Because we missed a nights sleep we had no jet lag at all! We got up and went for a really nice breakfast and checked out. The staff were pretty surprised when we asked for advice about getting the ferry to Boracay, seems like most people choose the 1 hour flight over the 20 hour bus/ferry journey.... fancy that. They were very helpful still though and phoned around a few companies for us. At this point we were a little scared of Manila.... it looked pretty scary from the taxi last night, and we surreptitiously stepped out into the heat to find the travel agents office that the hotel staff gave us directions to. Turns out it wasn’t scary at all and we found the office pretty easily. I (Kay) had to get used to being ignored.... which I don’t like. Its all ‘Have a nice day, Sir’ and ‘thank you, Sir’, to be honest I’m still trying to get used to that!

It cost 1350 peso each for the ferry and 167 peso for the bus to the ferry port, which is about £20, compared to the £100 flight, so it was a lot cheaper. I’m not gonna pretend it was easy... but it was a great immersion into the Filipino culture and the 4 hour bus to the ferry port was really scenic. We stoked our newby backpackers egos by travelling as the locals do and not like the tourists. After the 4 hour bus and then the 4 hour wait, came the 11 hour ferry ride. We have to point out that we were the only white people on the journey (until two American guys turned up) and the locals were very stare-y! I (kay) was wearing my most conservative outfit, a long legged baggy playsuit with spaghetti straps but after constant tutting and clicking from the men, which we quickly learned was the equivalent of a cat-call, I hid under a big scarf.

The ferry was quite big, not as big as a P&O ferry to Calais, but big enough to fit 2000 people. We found our bunks in the ‘upgraded’ accommodation, right next to a Filipino family with a very young child. After sitting for a bit to let everybody settle down, we locked our big backpacks to our bunks and took our smaller ones (with the valuables in) exploring round the ferry. We had our free meal, rice and the skankiest looking chicken I have ever seen. Kayleigh obviously didn’t touch hers, but even I couldn’t eat all of it. On the top deck there was a bar area with a guy singing some classic ballads and local favourites. We had a beer chilled for a bit. I looked around and had the revelation that this was absolutely crazy. “Why are we here!? What are we doing?” I asked kay. We were on a ferry with 2000 Filipino locals, in the middle of the sea, and this is just the first few days; and probably wont be the weirdest experience we’ll have. Retiring back to our bunks, we thought we might as well try and get some sleep as it looked like everyone else was. I checked my bag and realised the one unlocked pocket had been raided, someone had stolen a Natwest card reader (of no use to them) and a few old receipts (also of no use to them). That was a bit disappointing but not the end of the world. I think I managed an hour or two again, but kay got nothing. There was still two hours left of the journey when I woke up, so I got some breakfast and we just monged until we reached Caticlan port.

It looked absolutely beautiful, and even at 9am the heat hit us like a wall. It must have been 30 °C. It took about 45 minutes to queue up at the ticket booths, and buy a travel ticket, an environmental fee ticket and a terminal fee ticket, which came to about 200P. The boat journey to Borocay took about 5 minutes, and another 5 minutes in a trike taxi took us to the road of our hostel “Frendz”.

We were a little disconcerted at the dodgy looking alley way that we had to walk down to get to the hostel, it was narrow, rocky and just generally dangerous looking. Half way down the alley was our hostel and at the other end of it is the beach! The hostel itself is great, nowhere near as nice as the hotels we are used to but at £15 a night, it’s as good as can be expected, and it’s pretty cool, with a big central bar area full of other travellers at any time of day. Our room has a big double bed, an en suite and plenty of room. We went straight to bed for about 4 hours!

The place is absolutely amazing, really nice beach, very friendly atmosphere. Lots of people trying to sell you day experiences or random tat on the beach, but they in no way pester or annoy you.

On the second day we met an American couple called Sabrina and Reece on the beach who were just at the end of their year away. They were super friendly and we arranged to meet up with them a bit later for drinks at a bar called Coco bar, which was all done up like a jungle inside. To cut a long drunken story short, we had a very fun night and at the end of it we realised Kayleigh had lost her phone. At this point I was very drunk, and after being told by everyone to not trust people as they will all steal your things, I accused Reece and Sabrina of taking Kayleigh’s phone. Obviously they hadn’t, and we found it had been handed in at a bar. I felt like a dick, and probably put them off being friends with us again. Lesson learned: some people are just nice and not out to get you :p.

So now, after a very hungover day, we are sitting outside a cafe writing this up on the laptop with an ice chocolate and the cacophony of the intermingling music from various nearby bars and the people streaming past and feeling pretty happy we decided to quit everything and go travelling!!

Pictures to come soon :)

Posted by kay_bramm 21:11 Archived in Philippines Tagged beach philippines sun drinks boracay Comments (1)

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