A Travellerspoint blog

Dubai - the end of an adventure

...and the beginning of a new one?

28 °C
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Well, after being back 'home' (no apartment etc) for a week, several things are clear.

  • Am I glad I did the trip? Hell, yes
  • Was it worth the minging bathrooms, mould, smells discomfort and general slummin' it? Again, yes
  • Would I do another Tucan Tour? Erm, nope

I've had some amazing experiences, met some pretty amazing people and not missed being at work (or the wretched Blackberry) once.

Another thing is also clear - I am in no way ready to return to the world of work.

  • Irresponsible? - Yes
  • Potentially embarrassing when I have to sleep under a bridge when the cash runs out? - Yes

So, it's off to Australia and New Zealand for me for the next two and a half months, and then I really will have to stop messing around a get a job...

Before I head off into the sunset, I just want to say a huge thanks to all of you for reading my inane ramblings (sometimes more than 200 of you!) over the past months. Your comments have made me smile, miss you all and have encouraged me. By popular demand, I'll start a new blog for the next stage. For anyone who has had quite enough, just click the 'unsubscribe' link and I'll say 'So long and thanks for all the fish'.

Posted by Slummin'_it 19:41 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (2)

Ubud - Bali

sunny 30 °C
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Now, I knew Ubud was going to be pretty. However, I just wasn't prepared for the amazing scenery that surrounds this part of Bali. The other Brucey Bonus was that my punt on the rather inexpensive 'Sri Rathi Cottages' had paid off as the place was stunning - and my suite had a bathroom bigger than some apartments. That the place was good was a double bonus as Evie had also booked a room on the back of my booking and I knew the trouble that would be in store had it not worked out.

So, feeling smug, I went to reception and asked for Evie's room number. The chap then starting chatting away about 'iPhone' and just when I thought something had got lost in translation I twigged that was his pronunciation of 'Yvonne'. So, from now on 'iPhone' it will be...

In the evening we braved the humidity and treacherous pavements (and lack thereof) to find somewhere to eat. Fifteen minutes later and both sweating uncontrollably we stumbled upon a lovely little cafe that appeared like a mirage. The food was lovely and again, when ordering dessert, I thought something had got lost in translation. The waitress said there was only 'Banana Fritters with Cheese' left. I assumed there must be some confusion or perhaps it would be Mascarpone or suchlike. Nope - sure as cheddar is cheddar, the pudding turned up covered in grated cheese. I put this down to a Vicar of Dibley-esque Letitia Cropley style recipe and we ate up like good boys and girls and politely made our leave (it didn't taste that bad surprisingly).

Too tired and lazy to walk back, we grabbed a cab and in so doing got ourselves a driver for the next few days. After a brief night drive around Ubud, we headed back for some much needed sleep.

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The next day kicked off with an Elephant Safari and show. The elephants looked well cared for and happy (just call me Dr Doolittle) but I didn't like the way they were chained up with not much room to move when back in their pens. Nonetheless, the ride was great and we gripped nervously as they went into the pool and spurted water from their trunks for the cameras. Afterwards, the elephants showed themselves to be adept at maths, football, basketball and painting!

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The afternoon consisted of a walk (sweaty obviously) around Ubud and a cheeky glass of wine before we got our glad rags on for our appointment at the Mosaic restaurant (http://www.mozaic-bali.com/) for a six course meal with accompanying wines. The food and setting were stunning (as indeed were we shimmering nicely with mosquito repellent) and the wines paired with each course were superb. Full and slightly merry we headed back to the hotel.

My final day was spent sightseeing and started with a trip to see the medicine man. For those who have watched Julia Roberts in 'Eat, Pray, Love', this is the chap featured - Ketut Liyer.

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Thanks to our driver Nick who had collected our ticket the night before, Evie was number one in the queue. I think it would be fair to say that his magical powers may have departed. Evie's suspicions were first raised when he was picking his nose, and heightened with his first piece of analysis: "You have two eyes - this is good". Apparently, having a nose is also good... This didn't give much hope to those who had tickets numbered 2-20...

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After escaping from the madness, we went exploring into the mountains for a look at the terraced rice paddies which were absolutely beautiful, before being taken to some hot springs (read: hotel that was closed fifteen years ago) for a swim in the sulphur pools. As the place hadn't really been attended to in that time, I'm not really sure what was festering in the pools but decided ignorance is bliss.

Escaping once again, we managed to spot the iconic conical hats in rice paddies and stopped for the token photos.

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Our final tourist stop, was a trip to see the monkeys (apparently there is only one type on Bali). Evie managed to make a friend who kept climbing onto her shouder (obviously I supported her by making sure her terror was captured on camera) and our rather pushy guide whisked us around before trying to get us to visit her shop. We were having none of it and made a sharp exit.

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So, following a quiet dinner at the hotel, I made a promise to come back to Bali one day and see more of the place. I don't think I had a Julia Roberts style epiphany, but the place certainly deserves further exploration.

Final stop: Dubai

Posted by Slummin'_it 23:35 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Singapore

sunny 29 °C
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After being eaten alive my mozzies at the restaurant in Melaka, they decided to have another go on the bus to Singapore. As a result, I had to clear customs with 21 bites trying not to look like I had some weird tropical disease.

Our arrival in Singapore marked a major milestone - the end of the mammoth Asia tour. The 47 day mega-tour had come to an end, but before we all said our goodbyes there was still time for some sightseeing. We kicked off with a very strange orientation from Bob which ended in a 'Indian restaurant meets LSD' lunch. The place was kitted out like a jungle complete with random statues and animals and was almost totally dark. Very strange.

Back in the sane world, I escaped with a fellow traveller for a walk around Clarke Quay and out to the Marina (dodging the torrential rain). This was for two reasons: 1) I needed to stretch my legs and 2) I wanted to gawp at the lovely hotel in which I would be spending the next three nights. As you can see, subtle it ain't:

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The waterfront at night is also pretty impressive:

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In the evening we headed out to the Singapore Night Zoo. I have to say that this was very well done - a sort of road train that takes you very close to all of the animals and a few paths for you to get out an explore. However, the most memorable experience has to be one of the bats who, when faced with an audience, swung himself up the right way - had a wee and then proceeded to, well, how do I put this - give himself oral pleasure. At that point, we made a hasty retreat...

The next day, me and the usual suspect headed out and did all of the three tourist bus routes (avoiding the rain again), met Evie for a Singapore Sling in the Raffles Hotel (well, you can't go to Singapore and not do it can you?) and then took a ride on Singapore's rip off of the London Eye - sorry I meant to say Singapore's very similar to the London Eye looking 'Flyer'.

We made it back in time to say our goodbyes to our fellow travellers and the remaining three headed over to the swanky hotel.

The view from the 57th floor roof terrace was simply staggering, so we spent the next hour or so snapping madly before waving goodbye to Birgit. And then there were two....

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The next morning, Mickey and I decided it would be rude not to try out the roof top infinity pool. Even the sub-zero temperatures of the pool didn't detract from the views. Probably the best swimming pool ...................... in the world.

Waving goodbye to Mickey, I had a day for some serious retail therapy (and the token bookshop fix) before my final destination.

Next stop: Bali

Posted by Slummin'_it 04:41 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Melaka

sunny 30 °C
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Now those of you that know the Greek translation of Melaka, feel free to snigger away. For everyone else, we'll carry on regardless.

Old town Melaka is a mix of Dutch, Portuguese and English Colonial buildings and it's position on the coast made it a wealthy centre for trade with China, India, Thailand and Indonesia. Lonely Planet says "One of Malaysia’s most eagerly sought-after destinations, the small city-state of Melaka lures droves of visitors to its namesake historic port city, where they are quickly steeped in an intoxicating multicultural world of heritage architecture and the alluring aromas of distinctive local cooking."

Now, I'm not sure that I'll get quite that excited, but it was a lovely little city. Our first full day started off unexpectedly with a trip to the local hospital. One of our group had managed to get more than a hundred bed bug bites from the hotel in Penang (a whole new category on the Scank-o-meter I think), and despite many creams and pills the itchy bites had only seemed to get worse. Full of trepidation at what a Malaysian hospital might look like, we were totally wowed with the modern and efficient experience that greeted us. In just over an hour, Birgit had been registered, seen the specialist and been provided with medication. I don't think this would have been the experience if we'd tried this in the UK.
Before moving on, it is worth noting that our tour guide did nothing to help Birgit from the moment the bites appeared and then rejected the Specialists diagnosis. Nice to know help is always on hand from Tucan...

Afterwards, we treated ourselves to a little light retail therapy before heading up the Melaka Tower (Malaysia's only gyro tower) for a panoramic view of the old town. It's actually pretty clever: up to sixty people sit in the cabin which rises to one hundred and ten metres before rotating slowly. Smart.
We then continued with 'Operation fit as many tourist activities into one day as you can' with a boat trip, cyclo trip and walk through the streets surrounding our hotel. The cyclo ride is worth mentioning as they each have attached boom boxes and play their bangin' toones as they cycle around. Thankfully unique, but quite amusing nonetheless. They are also bright yellow and covered with fake flowers as the following unflattering photo demonstrates:

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In the evening I managed to upset Bob by suggesting we ate at the Tapas restaurant that we'd seen earlier. Everyone else thoroughly enjoyed it, but as he didn't get his free meal I don't think I'll be on his Christmas list. We then added insult to injury by nipping to a posh hotel for dessert....

Although our visit to Melaka was brief, it was most enjoyable and worthy of most of Lonely Planet's hype.

Next stop: Singapore

Posted by Slummin'_it 01:03 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur

sunny 30 °C
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The coach journey from the Cameron Highlands to Kuala Lumpur (K/L) was very twisty but stunningly scenic. Mile after mile of drop dead gorgeous scenery before heading onto the highway and into the city. Quite very pleasant.

After dumping our stuff at the 'boutique' hotel in Chinatown (not sure by whose definition it was boutique, but at least it was clean) we hopped aboard the monorail to explore the city.

It would be fair to say that the Malaysians love to shop. K/L could rival Dubai for the sheer amount and variety of Malls and there was no absence of the high end shops. Before we had a retail fix, we took the token photos of the Petronas Towers but were unable to go up to the viewing deck as it is closed on Mondays. It is also very difficult to buy tickets on any other day of the week as you have to queue from 6.30am (the ticket office opens at 8.00) and tickets are on a first come basis. We then escaped the heat in the KLCC - the mall under the towers - and I sought solace in the bookshop.

To get our aerial view of the city, we headed over to the Menara tower for sunset which has a much more sensible ticketing system. Bob had said sunset was around 5.30, but was nearer 7pm - so we were there much longer than expected. However, the view was superb and it was good to get such a great view of the city.

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Despite our very casual attire, we tried our luck at the Manderin Oriental hotel for dinner and blagged our way in to the buffet restaurant (and managed to get some free chocolate fondant).

We headed out early the next day in an attempt to get some sightseeing done before the temperature and humidity forced us inside. The War Memorial and Botanical Gardens were up first, but by 10.30am we were all hot and sweaty so grabbed a cab and headed for the Aquarium. The Rough Guide to Malaysia said that it bearly justified it's ticket price, so expectations were not high. How wrong they were (just goes to show these guides are only useful up to a point) as it was a great experience. I particularly enjoyed watching the giant sea turtles swimming above me as I walked through the tunnels. So, A'must do' if you're in K/L.
As more shopping was on the agenda, Mickey and I escaped to the IT and Tech mall and left the women to their own devices.

As Evie was also in town, we decided to have an anti Valentines Day dinner somewhere nice. Now, after complaining about the Rough Guides, I must recommend the 'Wallpaper*' City Guides. These are small guides to many cities each in a different Pantone colour, so not only do they look nice on your bookshelf, they also provide information about cafe's/restaurants/hotels etc that you wouldn't find otherwise. So, from the Wallpaper* guide to K/L I found a restaurant called Neroteca serving great Itialian fare.

And what a find, the place was amazing (as was the food). Evie, another tour member who shall remain nameless in case she hasn't mentioned to her other half where she was and I enjoyed every course and even added in our own cheese course. Two bottles of wine and some champagne later, all was well with the world. So, if you're in K/L, I cannot recommend this place enough.

Evie and I both decided that we could live in K/L despite the heat. For day to day life, the Monorail is air conditioned, as are the walkways between buildings. It is clean, and the roads are well organised and no busier than any other city in the world.

So, farewell K/L - I'm sure I'll be back.

Next stop: Melaka

Posted by Slummin'_it 17:13 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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