Posts Tagged With: Malaysia

Readdy for the end…..Hell no!

‘Clunk’…….’Bang’…….’Crash’ came the noises from downstairs. Stirring, I rubbed my eyes and peeled back the clutches of my thick duvet. Mama was making a racket downstairs in the kitchen. ‘What the……’ Well, the first thing I actually thought was where the heck am I!? Staring around the room, I could see familiar childhood teddies, dog-eared and dusty books balanced on the shelves, framed photos of my brother and I, oh and piles of clothes on the bedroom floor! Nothing’s changed then I thought haha!

“I’m home!! I can’t believe I am home!” I muttered to myself. There was no time to be checked out by, no worry about where I had to be, no need to repack my invisible man, no need to worry about tripping over any fellow ‘hostellers’ and no thought was needed as to where I was getting my next breakkie from….I was HOME! Now staring through the objects in my room, I drifted off into my usual day dream….’I think I just woke up from an 8mth long dream! Did any of this actually happen?! Wow, that was some dream I tell thee!’ It actually felt so surreal and I’m sure any fellow traveller will tell you the exact same thing!

“Morning darling! I’ve made you a lovely cup of tea, it’s on the table for you” “Ah thanks Mum!” Came my zombie and jet lagged reply. “Righto, I’m just off to work but we’ll look at some of your photos later!” With that Mama rushed off to work that Tuesday morning. At the kitchen table, there I sat (and probably with the most vacant expression on my face!) still shell shocked and repeating the same line over and over in my head…’I still can’t believe I’m home! The Readders is back!’ Staring into the steaming hot cup of tea, I drifted off into another day dream and one where I wanted to stay with all the monks, monkeys, tigers, temples, markets, bugs, beaches, street dogs, kangeroo’s, deserts, mountains, volcano’s, jungles, spiders, tuk tuks…….(now if this was a movie, my voice would now fade out and the scene would go black to make way for the next bit hah!)……so que fade out about now!

So let’s rewind a bit and transport ourselves back to the last leg of my journey. On goes the transportation hat and Malaysia…..here we come (if only!)

< < < < REWINDING, please wait a moment…..!

So I’ve wheeled my invisible man out of the airport at Kuala Lumpur and found my shuttle bus waiting point. I was starting to feel uncomfortable standing there in the sweltering heat of the afternoon but I let the little beads of sweat sit on my forehead knowing that the aircon of the shuttle bus would soon surround me and make me feel as though I’d then stepped into the antarctic! I was actually beginning to wonder if I was indeed standing in the right place as the shuttle was rather late but then again, looking around, the traffic was horrendous! I could see cars, taxi’s, buses and coaches all at a stand still either waiting for people to move out the way or get in them!

Suddenly a shuttle pulled up opposite me. The tinted window of the passengers side smoothly slid down in slow motion revealing a dark skinned Malaysian man. “Helen??” The driver seemed to instinctively know I was his pick up! “Yup, that’s me!” With that, the driver hopped out and lifted the invisible man from the trolley. “Woah, you must be a strong girl haha!” He said huffing and puffing. The invisible man clearly squeezed every molecule of air from the drivers lungs as he lifted it into the back of the shuttle bus. “Hah! It’s ok when both straps are on your back! Even better when you find a trolley to take the load!” I chuckled. I then gave the driver my hotel voucher and climbed into the back.

The driver was a nice guy, same age as me too. Turned out he had just had a short holiday in Penang with his friends! We exchanged our stories of ‘Did you see this?’ and ‘Did you see that?’ and laughed saying we’d probably walked past each other or maybe even eaten at the same cafe one day hah!

“Anyway, why are you staying at the YouniQ Hotel? You know there is nothing around there, nothing!” The driver seemed quite curious as to why I’d booked the hotel he represented and I was curious to know why he was keen to slate his employers haha! ‘Ahhh’ I thought to myself….I could see why once we’d pulled up outside! He was right, there was literally nothing around the hotel, it was in the middle of nowhere. It was a real tumbleweed moment! “Well, I’m only here for a few days until I fly back to England you see and being close to the airport and low on budget, I thought this would be a good place to chillout?” I replied. “Well, it’s only a 20 minute train ride to the city so you can always do that if you get bored!” (Which actually, he was wrong, you were looking at 2 x trains and an hour of window gazing!)

After signing in, I went straight up to my room and whipped my hiking boots off (I always wear them when I fly as they take up so much room in the back pack you see haha!). “Ahhh….I can chill and watch a bit of telly!” Thankfully the hotel was a nice place to relax in and well, it made up for being in the middle of nowhere, it had to! I slapped the cheap, plasticky, white kettle on and unpacked a sachet of Milo (Asia’s version of Cadburys hot chocolate) and settled down to watch a bit of telly. “Hang on a minute…no movie channel?! Oh great!” How annoying! Nevermind, MTV it was…I had to catch up with what was new in the charts right!

A hot chocolate later, I ventured outside to see what was on offer around the hotel. As I said, it was literally in the middle of nowhere so I wasn’t expecting to find a nightclub (even though that would have been uber cool!) or any swanky bars to get merry in but I did find a small tuck shop and a restaurant. Feeling hungry I sat in the restaurant and ordered some noodles and a teh tarik which is my favourite…If I haven’t already explained, a teh tarik is basically a malaysian tea made with condensed milk, yummy! Not sure that would work in the UK! Can you imagine that…PG Tips made with tip top hah eww!  :p After I’d chowed all my noodles down, I went up to pay. “Thank you Miss. Do you come alone Miss?” I was used to this kind of response by now but I tell you what…out of all the countries, Malaysian’s were the most curious hah. I think this is because they are used to seeing women with husbands….their husbands pretty much tell them what they can and cannot do etc so I must have either looked completely rebellious or um, divorced and on the rejection pile?! Who cares I thought! After I’d explained that yes, I was on my own and yes, I was fine with that he bunged the change in my hand and let me go.

I then went back to my hotel room, switched MTV back on and fell fast asleep!

Knock, knock….”Hello?” KNOCK, KNOCK! “Excuse me, hello?? You want room cleaned?” The repetitive rapping and tapping was just starting to break through and into my wondrous dreamland but it was the final “HELLO!” That woke me and caused me to sit bolt upright with hair flopping over the front of my face! “Huh, what!?” It felt so early. “Go away!” Oops, I didn’t mean to sound so rude but I’d only just checked in and was thinking ‘my room can’t be that bad already?’ haha! Eventually I could hear the maid slope off down the hall and wheeling her squeaky trolley with her. Checking the time, it was 10.30am! I really didn’t do very much that Friday apart from chill, watch MTV and eat haha!

Big City…Big Disaster more like! 

‘Hey Helen! I’ll meet you at KLCC around 3.30pm’ Shazreen’s message popped up on the screen of my tablet Saturday morning. ‘Fab! Looking forward to catching up with you matey!’ Came my reply. I could’t wait to see Shazza! I started my journey with her and was abouts to close it with her too (which of course was also kinda sad!) :/ I found out how to get to the KLCC (which is the huge mall right next to the KL’s Twin Towers) and got on my way.

Urgh, well, what a disaster! Getting there was fine, not a problem at all….as I mentioned, it was x 2 trains and about an hour or something silly…but I had didn’t have a watch on me or my mobile (because I didn’t have any credit) haha! I was relying on my tablet and a free wifi spot so I could tell Shazza where I was. Well, it all backfired on me! The Readders was so distracted by all the bright lights and shops that she totally forgot the time didn’t she!! By the time I’d realised, it was gone 4pm, oh noooo!! ‘Oh Helen you wally! Right, need to find a cafe with wifi’ But could I find any wifi? I was walking around with my tablet as though I was ‘dowsing’ for the slightest sniff of internet to tap into. ‘Coffee Bean’ Aha…bingo! I managed to connect or so I had thought but it kept saying the signal was too weak and disconnected me! Rarrr! I then found another spot ‘Starbucks’ but the same thing happened! Well by the time I’d faffed about trying to find any wifi, it was now getting dark so I decided to catch the train one stop back. Eventually I found some wifi that seemed to be stronger there but Shazreens messages were all coming up with “Where are you? I’m by the giant book store”…”Oh Shazreen, I’m so sorry! Time has completely run away with me this afternoon” I then explained the whole situation with the wifi etc…I was hoping we’d catch each other on the Sunday as I wasn’t due to fly out until the evening but unfortunately Shazreen wasn’t available! I couldn’t believe it. How gutted!

Feeling like an idiot, I tucked my tail between my legs and hopped on the next train headed for my hotel * sighs! Lesson here;  on my next travelling trip, I am going to get myself an iPhone with blimming wifi hah! As soon as I got back to my hotel it was about 9.30pm…yep, 9.30pm! I bought some tinnies of Tiger from the tuck shop next door, packed my invisible man and fell asleep!

Let me buy you lunch!

I was up pretty early in the morning and slipped into the clothes I’d purposely left out the night before (made sense as I could pack the invisible man up with minimal Helen faffings).

Checking out at 11am I then had about 7hrs to kill in ghost town! I ended up finishing one of my blog entries as well as had a go at piecing a few ‘movies’ together with clips I had taken the day before (which are now in the Readdy to Playlist tab).

I was actually getting pretty hungry which was good timing with what happened next….

“Hello Miss. Do you need taxi?” Looking up from my tablet, I could see a short Malaysian guy standing before me extending his arm. Wedged in between short stumpy digits, he offered me his business card. “Not right now thank you but later, yes please!” I replied. Of course, with that the taxi mans ears pricked up! “Ok. Where you go later?” “To the airport for about 6.30pm” “Ok great. I charge 50 Ringgit” “FIFTY!!” I blurted! If I was drinking at the time, I’m sure I would have spluttered it all over him haha! “That sounds way too much. I haven’t even got that much in my wallet!” Fact! I was skint and I really didn’t want to take anymore money out on my last day…and where was the nearest cash point around here anyway?! “Ok, ok….40” He had me by the short and curly’s really because I didn’t have any other options at the time. “Look, I need money for lunch too so even if I paid you 40, that means I will have to go hungry” I wasn’t in the mood for being ripped off on my last day either. “Lunch? But it’s Sunday, no where is open nearby. Look, I am kind man, I will drive you somewhere so you can have lunch. If you eat at the airport it will be very expensive. I will charge you 35” Checking my wallet, it seemed I could afford that and also something cheap to eat. I knew I’d get fed on the plane but I needed something before then. “Ok, deal” I said. “Great. I will take you for lunch in say 20 minutes. I won’t charge you for the ride because I need to clean my cab anyway so while I do that, you can eat next door” “Ok, lovely. That’s very kind of you, thanks” With that, the taxi guy walked off but as promised, he came back 20 minutes later!

I was grateful for the aircon in the taxi as it was sweltering outside. “Very hot today right!” “Yup. But I’m not going to complain as it’ll be so cold in the UK when I touch down!” “Haha. So what food you want? Noodles? Rice? Spicy?” “Nothing too spicy. Maybe some noodles” “Great, I know good place and very cheap. Oh and I’m Dahari. What is your name?” Dahari held his stumpy digits out towards me and waited for me to shake them so gently squeezing his hand, I too introduced myself. “I’m Helen. Nice to meet you” With that Dahari pushed the gear stick into 1st and drove us out of ghost town. He was right though, nothing was open so I was pretty grateful he offered to take me somewhere for lunch however, part of me was also thinking ‘Why is he doing this for me?’ ‘Is this so I can pay him the full fare later?’ Haha! Isn’t it funny how our minds can easily become so suspicious! It’s true though, if this happened in England, you’d automatically be searching your mind for answers to questions like ‘What does this person want from me in return?’ Hmm. So as I mentioned, nothing was open! When we did pass a shop or cafe, the shutters were all locked down and not one person was about. The only thing that was missing, was the noise of a slight wheezy breeze, a huge tumble weed lazily rolling past and the dull droning of a clock tower haha! “Today is a day of rest” “Oh of course, because it’s Sunday!” I responded. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that nothing would be open today.

Wow, clearly the whole town knew this cafe was the only one open! I could see a mix of Malaysians and Chinese people filling each and every table until they were spilling out on to the ‘overflow’ tables surrounding the cafe outside.

Dahari parked up and walked in with me. “What would you like?” Dahari said passing me the menu at the same time. Staring aimless into the menu, it took me a few moments to realise it was in fact all in Malay anyway so I didn’t have a clue what to order. “Um…just some noodles will do nicely, thanks! Oh and a teh tarik!” Of course, my fav Malaysian tea, yummy! “Great, I’ll order for you and then go and wash my car” “Thanks!” With that, Dahari ordered my meal for me and then disappeared to put his car in to be washed (coincidentally right next door!). Sitting on my todd, it felt as though I was getting glared at from each and every direction! Stares of the usual ‘Where is your husband?’ and ‘What is that white girl going to have to eat?’ type of looks. But then again, that was more than likely to be my imagination going crazy as usual!

Dahari happened to appear at my table at the exact same time my food did but thankfully, he was more full of chat than I was so shoving greasy (and slightly spicy) noodles into my gob, I was just happy to hear him go on. In fact, Dahari was doing nothing but gloat about how much of a nice person he was….”I found a diamond ring in my taxi last month. I could have kept it but I didn’t. Thankfully the owners came back for it. I did get it valued but I still didn’t want it” (hmm…he must have thought about keeping it if he went to the trouble of getting it valued right?) In between the smug stories (yes, they kept coming!), Dahari lit up a cigarette and practically exhaled the smoke into my noodles!  “I also found a Gucci watch on the back seat of my taxi too. I held onto it to look after it for the owner incase he showed up again (which he did)! He tell me I was good man and gave me a reward”. Wiping the now smoky flavoured noodle sauce from around my chops I just uttered the odd acknowledgement that I was kind of listening “Oh that’s very nice of you!” “Yes, yes! And now I take you to lunch because I am so nice and I help you or you go hungry haha” Hmm….*que suspicious mind, tick tock, tick tock! I was still really wary of him and as to why he took me for lunch!? But get this, even after I’d eatern…the waiter came over with the bill and Dahari paid! “It’s ok, I will sponsor you” Flicking his cigarette butt on the floor, Dahari fumbled in his pocket for some Ringgits. “Dahari, don’t be silly, I can pay for myself!” But despite my efforts of extending my hand with the exact money pointing palm up, Dahari got in front of me and paid my bill! Afterwards, we went next door to pick up his squeaky clean taxi!

“Ok, so I pick you up from the hotel lobby at 5.30pm yes?” I’m not sure if Dahari was asking or telling me at that point hah! “Um, sure, ok” “I know it is early but at least you will be able to watch people running all over the place at the airport hahaha” Dahari coughed, spluttered and then wheezed as he laughed out loud…his smokers cough was more apparent than earlier, maybe he’s just recently started smoking more? “Yeh sure, good point!” He was right though, at least I could day dream and ‘people watch’ and spritz on all the latest expensive perfumes as you do haha. Once Dahari walked off to do whatever it was he said he was doing, I logged back onto the hotels computer to kill some time.

Readdy to fly?

“Helen. You ready?” I smirked to myself as Dahari obviously didn’t know my surname but for some reason I found that rather amusing hehe. “Yep, I guess so” Dahari took the invisible man from me and puffed and wheezed as he did so. “Oooffff. You don’t travel light lady!” “Haha…it’s all the souvenirs!” I waved goodbye to the reception staff of the hotel as Dahari opened the taxi door for me and ushered me in. “Well, this is it. Let the journey home begin!” Pulling away, I took my last look around the ghost town I’d been staying in for the past 3 days and was in fact, soon looking forward to delighting my eyes with perhaps ‘too much’ to look at hah…

“So where did you say you were from again?” Dahari asked as he slid some sunglasses on and up his nose. “The UK” “And how long your flight tonight?” “Um…something like 14hrs in total. I have 2 to catch, here to Singapore and then Singapore to London” “Wow, long time in the air then!” Dahari exhaled almost as though he was sighing in relief that it wasn’t him up in the skies that evening! “Oh well, I’m looking forward to watching movies and listening to music on the main flight. I’ll pass the time no problem” No problem?? What was I saying that for? Although actually, I probably could…I’m like a pro when it comes to day dreaming and ‘time wasting’ haha! “Hah. Yes, lots of movies then”

And there we were….Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport came into view and for some reason, I suddenly got a slight rush of nerves…maybe it was because I knew this was the last stop perhaps? Dahari parked up in the taxi rank and immediately hopped out to get the invisible man out the boot and while he did that, I hopped out to get a trolley. Wheeling it over to Dahari, he dropped (and I mean, literally dropped!) the invisible man onto the trolley as though he was relieved to be shedding the whopping 19kg’s from his stubby arms, hands and fingers hehe! I then leaned into the taxi and left my 35 ringgits in the glove box.

“Ok, thank you Miss Helen. Have a safe trip home” Once again, Dahari extended his stubby fingers to shake my hand goodbye! “Thanks Dahari and thanks for coming to my rescue at lunch time. I’ve left your fare in the glove box ok” “Thank you” Then with that….I looked up, found my terminal and wheeled my trolley over to start the last and final trip. Watery eyed, it was as though I was walking (and rolling my trolley!) in slow motion and oh boy, what a journey its been!

I sailed through security and immigration in a hazy day dream and found my gate straight away. I think I was pretty numb and shocked at that point to the fact that I was actually going home! Sitting down, I realised I must have been staring at the floor when a black man came and sat next to me and abruptly disturbed my day dreams….”Excuse me Miss….Hello? Can I use your phone?” “My phone? No sorry, I don’t have any credit” There was something about this guy that I didn’t like! Well, for one, I didn’t like the fact that he seemed to single me out and I was sitting in an area all on my todd at that point. “Ok, well, can I just put my sim in your phone then?” I then realised he was staring at my tablet..”Look this isn’t a phone by the way and no!” I responded by asserting a more ‘stern’ tone in my voice. “I need to get hold of someone” He seemed a bit agitated now. “I’m sure if you ask the porters they will be able to help you. Plus, there are computers around where you can access the internet for free” I was trying to help him as much as I could. My mobile didn’t have any credit and was pretty flat at the same time haha! The fella then stormed off dissatisfied with my answers but I was kinda thinking ‘oh well, I did try!’ I then took a wonder and found a book shop where I bought a travel book (a backpackers adventures around Hong Kong, China and India), and a book written by a guy who trekked the length of the Amazon rainforest near Peru…something for the plane or indeed inspiration for once I was eventually home.

The first flight to Singapore was nice and easy and being only an hours flight, it certainly did whizz by up there! The flight was late coming into Singapore but I didn’t mind at all because I had about 3hrs wait in between. It didn’t seem like I was waiting all that long before I heard my call; “All passengers for flight SQ522 headed for London, Heathrow….we are now ready to board. Would passengers in seat rows 20 to 30 please head towards the check in crew with your boarding tickets” Came the announcement over the tanoy. ‘Ooo that’s me!’ Heading over with my ticket sticking out of one hand and my rucksack dragging on the other, I took a slow walk over. The crew of Singapore Airlines warmly welcomed everyone as we all crammed in one by one.

Yay, window seat for me! Settling into my seat ready for the monster 13hrs ahead, I took a peep around…..hmm, spare seat next to me, Singaporean lady in the aisle seat, ooo hot guy 2 rows behind ;), nice looking couple directly behind, French family sitting in front of me and more families and couples in the other nearby seats. I started chatting to the Singapore lady next to me who was lovely. Phew, sometimes you hear about people sitting next to horrid passengers on long haul flights haha but so far all was good! For some reason I felt it appropriate to tell everyone near me that I’d been away from home for 8mths and that in 13hrs time I’d get to see my Mama and Papz again haha! Of course, they didn’t care but I was rather excited at the thought of seeing my folks and I wanted to shout about it lol! Well, in fact, it was such a bitter sweet feeling….yes I wanted to stay and keep on travelling in the world but the thought of seeing my friends and family was also making me grin so far across my face that it must have looked humanly impossible to stretch a smile that far!

Finally, the plane is slowly creeping along and turning around until we’re facing the long stretch of runway ready to take off. Again, listening to my take off tune of ‘One day I’ll fly away’ (which in my head I had now changed to ‘One day I flew away’), I’m staring out the window and into the night sky with my eyes welling up faster than I could dab them with the corner of my sleeve, sniff sniff 😥 Speeding up and up until that G force rush kicked in for the last time….now in the air, I sat there slightly dumb struck.

Once I’d snapped out of the ‘Oh my God’s’ whizzing through my mind, I flicked through the entertainment system in the back of the chair in front of me. MOVIE TIME!! And well, that was it….I was determined not to sleep and watch movies back to back hah so I did just that! Even when all the lights in the cabin went out I was still sat there watching movies hah! The bright blue light from my lil TV screen must have lit up my row and the row behind oh well…everyone seemed to be sleeping with eye masks on or at least trying to sleep and didn’t seem in the slightest bit bothered as to what I was doing or watching haha.

So….a dinner, snack, breakfast, several swigs of tea and cups of orange juice and 7 movies, yes SEVEN movies later and we have the announcement to ‘buckle’ up for landing as we were now approaching Heathrow O.M.G!!!

Back to the start! 

The Airbus touched down at 6.20am with a slight scrape and screech but it had to be by far the best landing of the whole trip! I knew my Papz was waiting for me in the International arrivals lounge and I couldn’t wait to get off and see him! (My Mum was picking me up after you see). What is it with airlines…as soon as you land there seems to be a massive hold up until people are allowed off. Well, I think that was me being rather impatient because of course I couldn’t wait to get off! Looking around, some people were still seated and others were either standing in the aisles all lined up ready to pile out and others were standing up where they were sitting with their heads slightly crouched to one side because they were standing directly under the air blowers. As soon as the line of people started shifting forwards, that was it, I grabbed my rucksack and tagged along following the rest of the sheep out in line.

Brrrrr!!! First thing I noticed was the weather, well, the lack of sun and heat! Of course, that was to be expected right but woah! I’d been so used to stepping off planes and being greeted by mother nature waiting at the exit with a hot blanket to immediately smother and wrap around everyone she came into contact with but this time it felt like Jack Frost was there pointing and laughing as soon as he’d sprinkled his cold magic on us hah!

I was becoming out of breath from the speed I was walking. Again, passing through all the normal ‘I have nothing to declares’ etc…It was straight to the luggage belt to collect my battered and bruised invisible man (who to be honest, looked like he needed a holiday himself haha!). Ooo ooo, there it was! My bright red backpack, wire mesh and pink scarf must have been the 2nd to come round the belt…right slap that straight on the trolley and let’s go find my PAPZ woo hoo!! Suddenly I felt as though I was in an episode of supermarket sweep or something….I’d already scooped up the jackpot and dumped that into my trolley but now it was a race to find the finish line (aka my Papz!). So whizzing around people, dodging other trolleys and masses of suitcases I finally see the exit signs! It felt as though everyone was in my way and doing all they could to block my path (which is always the way when you need to do something or be somewhere right!) Wheeling my invisible man out through a set of double doors that was it…..’Hang on, is that Papz? OMG, OMG!’ A rush of excitement and goosebumps ran through me…Firstly, I still couldn’t believe I’d touched down at Heathrow and secondly, I couldn’t believe that this was the first time I was seeing my Papz after so long! I got a glimpse of my Pappa’s outline between a bald headed man and another guy in a big fluffy hat and again, it seemed as though they were walking in slow motion! So guess what I did….I screamed haha! “WOO HOOOOO!”  And with that, it was as though the sea parted….the sea of people that is haha. Everyone just moved out the way for me so with that, I gave my trolley one almighty push, pressed all my upper weight on the handle bars and I lifted my feet like a kid so the trolley propelled itself along and heading straight for my Papz!

As soon as my trolley was in reaching distance of ma Papz, I ditched the trolley and ran over and gave him the biggest, longest squeeze! “SWEETIE!! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE BACK!! Let me take a look at you!” Shouted my Papz. “AHHH, I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M HERE!” Of course, I was balling my eyes out by this point haha….I think even my Papz  quickly dabbed his eyes ssshhh 😉

I tell you what, it’s not that I didn’t feel safe abroad but right at that very moment, I felt SO safe and like nothing could touch me haha…And I didn’t give 2 hoots what anyone around us thought either….it was as though everyone became invisible for just those few moments and everything stopped in it’s tracks! Once everything started up again, Papz and I went off for a few cups of tea and had a good old chinwag in the nearby cafe 🙂

Afterwards, my Mum came along to pick me up outside Terminal 3…yup, where it began all those months ago! My Papz waited with me until my Mum arrived and there she was….I could see my black Corsa pulling in and parking up and I got the same rush of goosebumps. “YOO HOO!” I gave my Mum a big squeeze and waved my Papz off. All the way back Mum and I were munching on Galaxy chocolate and talking about this and that and then suddenly, as the adrenalin began to wear off….that sleepy slump feeling began to creep over me.

I dragged my invisible man up the stairs behind me bumping it on every step until I’d reached the top. It felt kinda sad that it was going to be unpacked for the last time and then slung in the corner of my room. It was also sad staring at the invisible man now weighing next to nothing and slumping over itself as it’s ‘guts’ were now all missing! As the kettle boiled downstairs, I gathered all my souvenirs and skipped downstairs to show my Mum this and that and to share the weird and wonderful sachets of strange teas and coffees that I’d accumilated along the way oh and also to give her some of her pressies too 😉

Back with a bang….wallop more like! 

Well, well, well! It took a good few days to realise the Readders had made it back to the good old U of K! Looking back on my photos just made me think it was a dream….’Did I really do this and did I actually do that?’ ‘Did I really climb a mountain?’ ‘Did I really sit behind a Tiger?’ My mind has taken quite a long time to ‘settle’ down and essentially get over having ‘English’ culture shock hah! 

So, here I sit writing to you from the comfort of my own home using the free wifi (courtesy of Mama), tapping away on my pink laptop (which by the way feels ginormous compared to my 7 inch tablet!) oh and plenty of english tea on tap haha! So…..I should be super happy right? Well, one quote I mentioned earlier was ‘bitter sweet’, well, that is truly the best way I can sum up being back I’m afraid haha and I’m sure many a traveller perhaps feels / felt the same. I have felt like a bird of paradise roaming the world doing as I please and exploring this utterly special plant we live on…..but now I’m back, I have to get back to ‘reality’! :/

UH OH….I have to get a J.O.B ARRGGHH!! Hmmm 😦 I can’t bear the thought of being cooped up in an office from 9 to 5 BUT….I shall view it like this – This is just a stop gap, for the Readders WILL get back out there and go on new adventures and explore new lands. I’ve already decided to follow my intuition and plan for Peru, Costa Rica and Cuba so BRING IT ON! I’ve already gone out and bought a book about Peru to ‘geek’ up on. Plus, I’m looking into Amazon adventures and hanging out with the tribes there so trust me, I’m sure my next blogging adventures will be worth tuning in for and I seriously can’t wait to share it with you all! 😀 

Finale!

Ok, so this feels weird! I don’t want to use the word ‘goodbye’ as we know this will NOT be the end! This is simply the beginning! I reckon, this first adventure was more about giving me the courage, the savvy, the ‘you CAN do this’ and almost the ‘what to expect whilst travelling’! It really is an amazing world out there and I’m SO so glad I grew a pair and stepped out of my comfort bubble to chase my dream.

I’ve seen and experienced things I could have only ever imagined and would have kept on imagining if I didn’t do anything about it! Anything is truly possible if you really want it! And that is exactly what I told those kids in the school in Thailand…I really believe that! Sounds mushy but follow your heart and do what makes you happy, do what gives you that thrill!

Instead of thumbing through the soggy pages of a National Geographic magazine (that I’d clearly drooled over) fantasizing over the many photos and articles from the comfort of the armchair wearing my fluffy bunny slippers…I felt as though I’d been transported to the middle of the jungle and had ditched the remote for a journal and Indiana Jones cap to become the editor haha! (Que any travel magazine employers out there hint hint!) I have loved each and every minute of it! The good, the bad and the ugly and well, the super seriously ugly! The ups and the downs, the cheers and the tears….it has ALL been so very worth it.

Thank you to each and every one of my friends and family for being there and keeping me going when I’ve needed that extra push the most…and of course thanks to all the wonderfully fab people who have chosen to follow my blog and my adventures too! Please keep me on your follow lists readdy for the next chapters! 😉

I hope I have also managed to aid any other travellers currently out there doing it or the people who are thinking of doing it and looking for ideas…just GO FOR IT! You will NOT regret it and don’t worry if you don’t have too much of a plan, just follow your heart and go where feels right…for sometimes the unplanned things are the greatest plans of all haha! And also a big shout out to each and every awesome person I’ve met along the way and much gratitude to the many friends and families out there who’ve extended the comforts of their own homes to me! I’ve met so many wonderful and kindhearted people and made life long friends – people that I will never forget! Thanks to all the travellers who have let me be part of their journeys too 😀

So, enough of all my waffling and until the next time….this has been Through Helen Highwater and by God, what an adventure and what a great beginning!

To be continued……………

*Awful computer game alarm then goes off….

Helen reaches a hand out from under the duvet and whacks alarm…..”Wow! What an amazing dream!!”

Back to the start!

Back to the start!

Haha! Just had to put this in for a laugh (My friend Simone will have a chuckle over this hehe!)

And just out of interest really;

End of Transmission

*Cue fuzzy radio noises! …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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The Thai of my life!

Yesss, I finally got a window seat for my flight to Bangkok! Although saying that, I felt kinda blue peering out of the window and watching Penang shrink into nothing more than a ‘toy town’ below! I was sad because I knew that Bangkok was to be the last destination. Now, each time I board a plane, it feels as though it’s bringing me closer to ‘that day’ when I finally have to step onto the last airport shuttle headed for Heathrow 😦

Phew! Ok, so I’ve touched down in Bangkok…again haha! But this time of course, it’s for the last time on this leg of my journey *sighs. But anyways, I was really looking forward to seeing my Thai pals and hanging out in the city once more. I know my way around and well, just where to hang out and let my hair down so I will be making the most of my final week or so.

I got through immigration and customs all ok and had another stamp bashed into my passport allowing me up to 30 days stay. Hey, hang on a minute, I tell you what…I managed to get through Penang security AND Bangkoks with a 2ltr bottle of water in my hand! How that happened I don’t know but hey, that could have been ‘bomb’ liquid for all they knew muwahahah! That’s never happened before…I normally get my water taken off me but not that time haha! Just a random observation…

My fab friend Ken (or Kendoll as I call him) offered to come and meet me at the airport which was sweet of him. He even assisted me with my luggage and getting me to my hotel which was great actually and it avoided hearing all the ‘Excuse me Miss, you want taxi’ etc. Once I’d checked in, we went straight to the movies! Well, I had some movies to catch up on hey lol! So we had some food and watched Gravity (which is FAB for anyone who loves their space movies!)

30 degrees of Rain!

Oh noooo! The rain’s followed me all the way from Penang! And it’s determined to scrub off all proof of the slight jaundice looking tan I’ve achieved right before I hit Heathrow haha! Nevermind. I wasn’t going to let the rain put me off having a good time either on my final week of being a free spirit!

I tell you what though…I love the rain abroad, it’s so warm! Who needs wellies when you can wade through the puddles in yer flip flops! * Sighs, if only the rain was like this in the UK…wet and warm haha! The only bummer is that yes, you still get really dirty feet haha. Sometimes I’d look down and think, ‘Huh, since when did I get black grubby toes!’ hah! So yup, I will miss the ‘hot rain’ 🙂

The Flower Market

My friend Kendoll told me about a Flower Market near Koh Sarn Road and asked me if I’d been there before. “No, I haven’t. I’d love to see it though before I leave Thailand” I excitedly replied. “Yes, it will be good for your pictures”. So Kendoll agreed to take me there and show me around. It was amazing, I loved it! Plus it was a brucey bonus having a local to hang out with and speak ‘Thai’ to everyone for me haha!

It was just gorgeous! I could see the market folk all setting up their stalls ready before the customers flocked…although saying that, it didn’t actually get all that busy but again, another bonus for me! I could see trucks delivering bags FULL of flowers! Some Thai words were exchanged from the drivers to the stall owners and they’d then drive off. I watched as the marketers then opened each bag and literally picked out flowers one by one and ‘arrange’ them either in glorious bouquets or just singly in their rows.

It was just fascinating to take a slow walk around and see stall upon stall, row upon row and bouquet upon bunch of flowers in every shape, size and variety! Oh and the smells….WOW! For once it disguised that Bangkok ‘stench’ that I had become all too familiar with haha! It wasn’t just a flower market….it was like walking through a perfume factory! Oh and the colours, you would not believe it but the sellers even decorated their stands with the flowers by colour! So red with red, pinks with pinks etc…now that must have taken forever but it was quite an impressive display.
I found a Rose stall and stood and watched for a few moments as the market lady picked out what looked like a dozen roses and bundled them up with speed. Can you believe, that a dozen red, pink or yellow roses were the equivalent to 1 English pound….yes 1 POUND! Everyone would be buying their Mums or lovers a huge lorry load of them if they were that price in the UK right? Although it would probably cause our roses to become extinct at the same time too!

Once the flower stalls diminished, new stalls were revealed with a different variety of produce to entice… Wow, fruit and vegetables! Most of the fruit and veg still seemed so foreign to me (of course) well, I mean, a lot of it I had now tried but to name them….ppfftt, forget it! Un-hygienically, the stall owners even let their pets crawl all over their produce! Hmm…2 cats and a puppy – if that happened in the UK, they’d probably get shut down! It was cute all the same though because I wasn’t IN the market for buying that evening haha!

Bo in the Big City

Yay, my friend Bo from the School in Nang Rong came all the way over to Bangkok just to see me and party one last time woo hoo. So Ken, Bo and I all went out for dinner as soon as she arrived. It was sooo good to see Bo and I immediately threw my arms around her when I spotted her getting off the train at Thailand Cultural Centre. “BO…..how are you! So good to seeya again!” I screeched! “HELEN! I missed you!” Awww….

After a huge (and of course, rather cheap) plate of salmon and veg, we had a walk around town before hitting the city centre. It was rather funny actually because we found some 3D paintings on the walls….you know, the kind that you stand in and it looks like you’re abouts to fall into a black hole or something when really it’s all an illusion! That was fun. After much mucking about of pretending we had angel wings or were surfing the ocean, we then caught a tuk tuk into the Big C itself…

One last hit…

We all hopped out the tuk tuk (and probably all looking rather windswept too!) and took a slow stroll around Koh Sarn Road.

“I can’t believe you’ve never been to Koh Sarn Road before Bo?!” I said, giving Bo a wide eyed look. It made me chuckle though…’Hah, an English gal showing a Thai national around her own city!’ hehe.

It was so amusing to see Bo’s face as we walked past the usual stands selling all the tat I’d seen many a time….the wooden ‘croaking’ frogs, the brightly sewn bracelets with every obscene word you can think of, the ‘slinky’ penises! And then there were the stalls selling the edible bugs – scorpians and tarantulas on sticks, the giant locusts, bowls of hot fried meal worms YUK! Oh and don’t forget the clothing stalls displaying T-shirts in vivid colours with slogans of ‘I love BKK’ or ‘Chang Beer’. And then there are the club promoters bombarding you as you walk past their bars….”Hello Miss, you come inside. Buy one get on free bucket” Oh my goodness…and how could I forget this…”Hello Miss, you want to see Ping pong show? Or how about a happy ending?” You have to laugh at it all really. But I’m also glad I saw and heard all of that and glad Bo experienced it too even if she did look kinda shocked (same as me the first time hah!) And again, you have to avoid the limbless beggers sitting in the middle of your path which of course, is horrific to see but I have been told they are professional beggers who have made a trip specially from Cambodia because Koh Sarn is where all the tourists go! You know, when we were walking around, I was thinking to myself; It’s kinda like….you have to experience the darker side to see it and believe it – believe that it all goes on so you can appreciate all of the good, the beautiful and the wonderful things of this world if that makes any sense!?

We were pacing in slow motion for a while and in silence for most of it because I wanted Bo to take it all in. After hearing the many chants of “Excuse me Miss” this and that and the constant flow of hard and heavy bass music mixing into softer tones of live acoustic Bob Marley to Green Day variations, we decided to hit a club….yup, the one and only ‘The Club Koh Sarn’. I laughed to myself again thinking ‘The amount of times I’ve stumbled out of this club hehe’ Well, it just had to be done one last time……

Heights, Flights and….Hangovers!

Yup! You guessed it! Bo, Ken and I all had a wicked night in ‘The Club’ on Koh Sarn that night. Bo and I were also loving mucking about with the free glowsticks you get given when you walk in which immediately makes you feel 12 again haha, funny that! It was also fun chatting to the many different nationalities and hearing about where people had been or where they were off to next… One guy from Dublin came and sat with us and immediately plonked down 3 shots on our table “Drink with me!” He slurred and then promptly hiccuped! “No no, you go ahead” I replied….I really didn’t fancy doing shots that night as I knew that would kill me! The Irish fella was harmless though, just way more drunk than we were haha. He downed all the shots, chatted to us for a bit and then……threw up right at our feet! GROSS! Shame really haha. What a conversation killer that was so yup, we moved away sharpish and left him for his mates to clean up hahaha!

Ok, so falling out the club at 4am we grabbed a cab back to our destinations. We weren’t that drunk (well, not as bad as the Irish dude that’s for sure) but we were at that ‘happy state’ lets say! “Oh my Buddha! I have to be up around 8-8.30am to get ready for my flight!!” Stumbling with my words was a sure sign I needed to hit the hay….well, the TIME was a sure sign I needed to hit the hay hahah! Saying our goodbyes, we all headed our separate ways.

As soon as my head hit the pillow….well, actually, I can’t remember that bit but I do remember the horrid video game alarm of mine going off at a most unholy time! “Oh nooooo!” I groaned but miraculously was up, out and in a cab to the airport to catch my final flight to KL. I was feeling dehydrated, a little nauseous and ached from all the dancing we did the night before. But above all of that, I felt sad and had to fight my watery eyes from actually turning into waterfalls haha!

Finally boarding the plane to KL, I sat and watched the air crews usual safety routine of ‘what to do if’ and then sat staring out the window (yay, another window seat!) whilst listening to the tones of my ipod playing ‘One day I’ll fly away’. The rain outside was hitting the window (another symbolic moment hah!) as I stared blankly out into the distance. I then watched the run way lines gradually speed up and up until they became one continuous line….then the ‘G-force’ facelift feeling hit and we were up! Once more, I watched the airport, the buildings, the roads and cars all turn into nothing more than a ‘toy town’ below. It was almost as though the higher the plane went, the more ‘fake’ the toy town below became hah! Nausea crept over me once more and reminded me how much of a blast I’d had with my friends just hours before! Heavy eyelids encouraged me to make use of the 3hrs ‘free time’ to sleep the hangover off so I gave in resisting and soon drifted off into a sweet slumber…

“Hello Miss….MISS? Can you please open the window shutter” That must have been the 2nd or 3rd time the air hostess had muttered those words to me but the nudge from the person in the middle seat abruptly brought me back to ‘reality’ when they interrupted my slumber with their pointy elbow! “Sorry! Are we landing now?” I stuttered. “Yes, we are now arriving at Kuala Lumpur” Came the reply. “Great stuff!” I tried to sound enthusiastic but I was kinda blue knowing that actually, this was to be my final 3 days before heading home!!

I found the shuttle bus to my hotel straight away and was soon on my way to ‘hibernation’! No, I won’t really be locking myself away for 3 days but I am looking forward to taking it easy and catching up with some telly etc…oh and MTV, who’s at number 1 right now, I have no idea haha? I will also be looking forward to catching a few of my Malaysian pals too and seeing what they are up to.

I will also have to think about what I’m going to do with my blog right? 😦 I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this but I guess I won’t have a lot to write about until the next time I explore the world and believe me, this is just the beginning (until I save up again!) Now I know I can do it, I have well and truly been bitten by this beautiful bug and I don’t intend to stop now! 😀

But this post isn’t the last one, don’t worry! I still have another one in me yet but that one may be coming to your screens from the good old UK!

So thanks again Thailand and for giving me the Thai of my life! 😉

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Pee-nang!

So, I’ve made it to Penang and oh my, what a difference to Bali! I’m missing Bali so much already and of course the wonderful friends I’ve made. But ho hum, that’s what the life of a traveller is all about 😉 Each and every moment is being stored, recorded, experienced and locked away for my memories 😀

Well, it took all day to get to Penang and theoretically speaking, it’s only 4hrs away from Bali! So anyways, I left at 9am and arrived at 9pm, phew! I slept well the first night, I tell thee haha!

I was pretty tired and groggy when the plane finally landed but I knew I could relax a bit as soon as I got in a cab. Waiting for my invisible man to finally make an appearance on the revolving luggage belt, I stood for a moment just taking in my surroundings. I must have been the only white person there but hey, I was pretty used to sticking out like a sore thumb now right hehe.

The invisible man and pink scarf…(yes, STILL clinging on in it’s now battered and rather dulled down shade of pink) slowly came round the belt. The whole back pack I must say is beginning to look just as tired as me haha! Hauling the invisible man onto my luggage trolley, I then joined the que for the customs and security checks….and straight away I was approached by one of the airport workers.

“Excuse me Miss, where you from Miss?” A stern looking Malaysian man started to walk over to me, his eyes narrowing the closer he got as if he was already trying to work out what he was going to say to my response! “I’m from the UK” I replied. Taking a dry gulp, I started to feel that nervous flutter rising up from the pit of my belly which of course is really silly because I hadn’t done anything wrong but in good old fashioned Readders style my mind was naturally awakening with it’s ever enthusiastic curiosity! “May I see your passport?” Asking with authority, I immediately passed it over, “Of course”. I was then beginning to wonder why I had been singled out from the line of other people…’Hmm…why is he not asking other people the same question?’ I thought to myself but of course, what can you do apart from follow orders! “How long you stay? “Oh just 9 days” “For holiday?” He asked…’Um, well, YEH!’ I was thinking….what else for haha…then my mind flashed to a comedy programme that I used to watch with my Dad ‘How not to live your life’ and my mind was then whizzing through all the things that I should NOT say at that moment LOL! But anyway, it was all fine and dandy and he left me alone after that…very odd! But at least I didn’t get strip searched lol! Without naming any names, I have met someone on my travels who has unfortunately been a strip search victim and this person is the most innocent looking person you could ever meet haha! 

To me to you….to LAZY BOYS please! 

Finally escaping the airport, I was greeted by a waft of heat…30 degrees of it engulfed my whole body and infact, it felt as though the heat was almost punishing me for enjoying the air conditioned environment inside! I wheeled the invisible man out to the front and followed the signs for the taxi rank. With the address of the hostel screwed up in one hand and the other pushing the trolley, it wasn’t long before I was approached by hoards of “Excuse me Miss, you want taxi?” Well, I’ve learnt to ignore these and follow the signs for the official airport taxi’s as you are bound to get a better rate. Chatting through the glass window of the taxi office, I was immediately assigned to a cabby man who slung my back pack straight in and ushered me into the car. This taxi office was actually a pre-paid service which I thought was pretty good…ok, so they could have been charging over the odds however, at least you knew that you’d already paid and didn’t have to worry about what the fee was going to be at the end of the ride! So, sliding into the back of the cab (note to ladies….I strongly suggest you always take the back seat…not that anythings ever happened to me but I just think that this is safer plus I just feel more comfortable in the back!) and we were off.

Wow, Penang is just lovely! It felt as though I was back in Kuala Lumpur except without the hustle and bustle of the city centre. I was then reminiscing about the start of my journey which began all those months ago…8 to be precise! I was also then day dreaming out the back of the taxi’s window as to how far I’ve come! ‘Hey, you’ve done the full circuit you know Hels, you should be proud of yourself!’ Said I to um, me haha! * Sighs! Re-focusing out of the window again, I could once more see familiar street food stalls selling whole chickens that were hanging in rows by their feet (heads included), noodle stands, hot and spicy mixtures and rice stalls oh and the all too familiar street dogs sniffing around for the odd scraps! Gorgeous palm trees, outdoor restaurants decorated with a multitude of bright lights trying to entice people in by their fancy-ness and locals going about or should I say buzzing about on their scooters! Note to self, I really want to get myself a pink scooter when I’m back in the UK haha, they are so much fun!

An hour passed and I was beginning to wonder where we were. “Um, do you actually know where Lazy Boys Guest House is?” I questionably asked. The aged taxi man seemed a bit lost in my opinion. “Yes, yes….Lady Boys I know!” Stating the wrong guest house whilst scratching his head was a clear giveaway that he didn’t have the faintest idea! Good job I wrote the full address and phone number down! Then literally a few moments later…”Crazy Boys eh?” “No, Lazy Boys!” I emphasized on the pronunciations of LAY ZEE BOYS as best I could haha! “Yes, yes that’s what I say to you!” Grrr…in my sleepy state, I was trying hard not to get annoyed but after the 10th time, yes TENTH or so time of hearing every variation of Lazy Boys, I suggested that he pulled over and called someone! “Ok, ok,, I ask my friend” Phew, finally we’re (hopefully) getting somewhere. The old man then stopped at the nearest street food stall and asked the worker if he’d ever heard of the place rarrrr! I made a firm but polite suggestion when he got back in the car “I have their phone number, just call them!” What is it with men and directions, they just don’t like just calling direct do they lol?

I think the taxi man was just as excited as me when we finally pulled up at Lazy Boys Guest House except I think his was more of a proud and boastful victory ‘Yay, I found it!’ kind of moment haha! Dumping my invisible man at the front door, he promptly sped off. Hauling the back pack up with both hands, I just couldn’t lift it, I didn’t have the strength to pull it on my back so I wobbled and hobbled with it swaying from left to right finally dropping it just inside the doorway so I could sign in.

Aww the owners are soo nice! I was warmly welcomed by the husband and wife who immediately took my things, showed me around and made me feel at ‘home’. So pleased I picked this place. The reviews all seemed fantastic on Trip Advisor and they weren’t wrong! My single room actually looks like the kind of bedroom I had as a teenager so straight away I felt pretty comforted by that. Hey and perks of staying here are; FREE laundry service, FREE cups of tea and coffee, use of kitchen and utensils oh AND there is a mini music room fully equiped with a drum kit, keyboard, acoustic and electric guitars woo hoo! After letting Mama and Papz know I’d arrived safely, I quickly whizzed to the 24hr convenience store next door and ‘stocked’ up! Yay, I could buy cereal and milk! After buying my essentials and labelling everything as ‘Helens, do not touch’, I then went to bed where I had the best nights kip I’d had in a while! ZZzz…

Lets go to the beach beach

Oops, I woke up at 10.30am Saturday morning haha, guess I needed it! The good thing about the room is that it’s so dark, although, could be a bad thing because I thought it was still the middle of the night when I woke up haha!

Rising from my slumber, I stumbled to the shower rooms to snap out of my sleep drunken state! A bowl of cereal and a cuppa tea later and I was readdy to explore my surroundings woo hoo.

I took a walk around and to be honest, there doesn’t seem a lot to do in the sleepy town centre but of course a bus ride here or there opens you up to a lot more. I know there are botanical gardens, a butterfly farm, the JUNGLE, beaches etc..but just for today, I felt a beach day was in order!

Finding the beach, I took a walk up one side, then the other and just enjoyed taking in the fresh air, the ‘fizzing’ sounds of the waves caressing the sand, the sights of people on jetski’s and gentle music wafting in the wind from nearby restaurants. “Ahh, this looks like a good spot” I thought to myself. Unrolling my beach mat (kindly lent to me by the guest house) and plonking myself down, I popped my ipod on and opened my journal. “Right, I’d best get updating ready for my blog”. I must have only scribbled a few words when…splodge….hmm, wiping off the small droplet of water I carried on. SPLODGE, SPLAT, oh noooo!! Smudged biro letters turned to water and began running down the page! ‘Dammit’ I had to run for cover because a few splodges and splats turned into the heaviest downpour I’d seen in a while. Hiding underneath what I can only describe as a ‘grass umbrella’ I waited for the rain to stop or at least subside. I waited..waited and waited some more until I had to give in to the rain! At least I found the bus stops on my jog around town…oh and MacDonalds too, oops! Well, after a month of detoxing and eating nothing but veg and salad in Ubud I thought ‘why not’ ! Haha.

So the first day was pretty much a wet beach and chill day…well, actually, it turned out most days were peeing down hence the name of the blog hehe!

Butterflies, Bugs and Beetles = 😀 

Ok, so Sunday I decide to get up early and find out where the Butterfly Farm was. I figured that if it was raining again then an indoor activity would be best. The hostel owners gave me a map of Penang and also a list of all the bus numbers and routes which was fab. So, armed with my map, the bus journeys and my camera, I was off…

Wow, what a seriously hot day! It reached 30 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! ‘Oh, so today looks like it’s going to be hot as and I’m staying inside!’ Typical, I thought to myself but oh well…maybe I could hit the beach afterwards? I found the bus stop no problems, sat myself down and popped my ipod on and waited. It wasn’t long before I was approached for a ‘taxi’. A dark skinned Malaysian man came and sat himself down next to me and asked “Where you go Miss? I can take you” Turning my head towards the man I firmly said “No thank you, I am taking the bus out of town” Finally, he got the message and walked away but minutes later another Malaysian man came over and plonked himself down on the metal chairs. “Where you going?” He asked in a monotone voice. “For a day out” I replied, well, I didn’t want him to know exactly where right! “You need taxi? I give good price” “No thank you. I want to take the bus” I gave a firm answered and then popped the right headphone back into my ear to make it clear that I wasn’t interested in talking to him. He too got the message and thankfully bus 101 then appeared in the distance. Wow, it was only 1 Ringgit and 40 cents to get to the Butterfly Farm (I know 1 RM is about 20 English pence so less than 30p to get there!) A cab would have still been cheap but FAR cheaper to get the bus, plus it’s more fun to stare out the window and travel like one of the locals hey. Oh and the hostel owners warned me to ‘watch my valuables’ on the bus as other guests have complained of having things stolen…so just have your valuables at the front of you (so bags on laps ok!).

Oh my word, the bus driver was a maniac! He was driving so fast that I seriously thought we were going to make it round the bends on 2 wheels! I had to hang on to the bars as tightly as I could! One poor tourist let go for a split second to re-adjust her bag but a 2 wheeled turn of a corner and she went flying tee hee! Her partner had to catch her! No language was needed at that moment either, all of us tourists were exchanging looks of ‘Strewth! Are we there yet?’ haha.

Phew, finally the bus driver came to an abrupt stop almost causing me to head butt the person in front of me and shouted “Butterfly Farm” Ooh fab! So I hopped off (probably looking rather green in the face at this point along with the other tourists hah) and like a Lemming, I followed them for a few metres thinking they too were heading the same way. We walked up the road in a crowd of mixed accents and languages but they all soon veered off into the Toy Museum leaving just me, myself and I exposed. Hmm…I guess the Butterfly Farm is further up, so I kept walking until about 5 mins later there it was! I did actually spot a huge monitor lizard blocking my path and typically, once I managed to get the camera out, it slid off, boo!

Wow, the Butterfly Farm was so cool and I recommend anyone who makes it to Penang to make the trip out. It’s so close to Batu Ferringhi and just under 6 english pounds to enter. I could see every variety, every colour, shape and size of butterfly fluttering about and doing butterfly things haha. Then you take a walk through the bugs and reptiles corner which of course is my favourite woo hoo! Ooo, snakes, scorpians, spiders, beetles and reptiles 😀 In actual fact, I could identify (not by name) a lot of the bugs and reptiles that I had seen on my travels too which amazed me! I then realised just how much wildlife I had encountered along the way!

I then came to a platform showing illustrations of all the different bugs, animals and wildlife etc in the world and just how different it is all over. Next to the ‘Nature’s Atlas’ there was an option to play some music so I loaded up ‘What a Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong and it was amazing! The display then seemed to light up all the different mammals, landscapes, bugs and plants etc in sync with the music and just at that moment, I smiled to myself and actually, I didn’t care that I probably looked like a smiley freak haha because yes, it is a wonderful world and the music carried me off into a day dream about my travelling adventures to date and made me feel so very fortunate to have discovered just some of the world 🙂

The Perfect Stranger…

After much butterflying and bugging around, I then took a walk back to the bus stop and headed for Batu Ferringhi to find a spot for lunch. I quickly found a nice place (the most packed one around of course! It’s common sense to always head for the one where all the people are at!) I sat down and ordered some chicken and fried rice and did a bit of people watching. There was just one other white couple and the rest were all locals…a good sign really because I wanted to go where all the locals ate and avoid the temptation of going back to MacDonalds haha! I also spotted a nice looking Chinese guy sitting on his own…I watched as he slurped up his snake like noodles and sipped the soup from his bowl. After a short while, the Chinese man went up to pay his bill and um…..MINE!! I didn’t realise he’d paid my bill until he was walking out..”Hey, that handsome Chinese man just pay your bill Miss” Shouted the Waitress! Omg! Well, the whole restaurant turned to look at me and as usual, I went bright red! My mind was racing with questions like ‘Why? Why would he do that? Who was he? Why didn’t he just say hello if he wanted to chat with someone?’ “Huh?! Really? But he’s a stranger to me” I stuttered…I didn’t really know what to do! Looking through the open flaps of the restaurant (which was literally a glorified marquee) I caught his gaze as he walked around the corner and before he went out of sight I managed to mouth the words ‘Thank you’ He smiled back and then disappeared.

Soon the buzz of peoples gossiping, points and stares disappeared and thankfully went back to focusing on the food on their plates once more. And I too went back to finishing my plate but I couldn’t help ponder about the kind stranger who wanted to randomly pay for the food I was eating! But then I was battling with my independent Beyonce alter ego of ‘I can pay for my own food thanks’ hahah…hmm, Penang is a small place so perhaps if I see him again I can find out why he wanted to do that or….I could just leave it for what it was – a kind gesture from a beautiful stranger 😉

Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang Hill

Wanting to explore more of Penang (and secretly hoping to bump into the perfect stranger again), I decided to catch another very speedy bus out for an afternoon so ended up at Penang Hill. There you can visit Kek Lok Si Temple which is beautiful! A huge white temple surrounded by wonderful grounds, a wishing tree and a wishing pond packed with Koi Carp! The temple itself is like a mix of Thai, Chinese and Burmese styles so it was different from what I had seen before.

As soon as I got there, I was busy looking around until I came across the wishing tree. You basically buy a ribbon with your chosen message (from the options they have on display) and hang it on one of the branches. I chose ‘Constant Happiness’ of course 😀 Then I took a walk over to the wishing pond although, couples were crowding the wishing pond and enjoying their ‘moments’ together so I sat there feeding the hungry carp with some bought fish food pellets hehe…that was fun though. I spotted a big black fish in there which wasn’t a carp but more like a cat fish? I wanted to stick my finger in the water to see what it would do…so I dapped a small stick in and ‘SNAP’ the black fish had hidden teeth and attacked the stick as though it could have been some kind of small prey for it’s lunch hah! Phew, so glad I didn’t risk my finger in there lol!

After much pottering about, I decided to grab something to eat before heading back. A local told me “If you want to try local food, then you have to try Laksa” Laksa is basically a spicy fish soup. Hmm, sounded pretty nasty to me but hey, I wanted to try it and eat as a ‘local’.

So, taking a seat in a local street cafe, the waiter plonks down a bowl of this Laksa. “Enjoy!” “Thanks!” With chopsticks, you pick up the noodles and fish with one hand and then plonk the mixture onto a spoon with the other and well, slurp it up! To start with I wasn’t too sure but actually, I started to rather like it! I believe the fish was mackerel but it tasted a bit like spicy tuna and I love tuna so I ate it all up hah!

Turns out, the owners have been running this cafe for 57 years! Yup, 57yrs of knocking out the same dish, day in, day out…oh and get this…that is ALL they make! It all became clear once I’d taken a glance around the packed seats…everyone was in fact eating the same dish! “Everyday people come here to eat my Laksa. Some ordering 2 / 3 bowls per time” The owner seemed to proud to be able to boast this as fact of course. I was then day dreaming and thinking ‘I bet every line in the cafe owners face could tell the story of how all this began!’ In fact, the table I was sitting on starting filling up as there were no seats left! ‘Wow, people really do fill this place up fast!’ I thought to myself, taking a final slurp from my spicy fishy dish. But what a fascinating story hey and one that the cafe owner will continue going on and on no doubt.

Busy doing nothing!

The following days were complete wash outs…the heavy rain was as persistent as an army of a thousand drummers and stormy winds seemed to scatter the rain like seeds leaving limited dry patches to take refuse under! “Hmm, what am I going to do with myself?” I thought…well, it’s a good job the hostel owners and guests were easy to get along with at Lazyboys. I really didn’t do much at all apart from laze around, chat with other travellers and sink a few Tiger beers whilst listening to Azlan (one of the hostel owners who yes, shares the same name as the Lion from The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe haha!) playing his own rendition of ‘No Woman no cry’ on his acoustic guitar…”Azlan, you keep missing out the verse that repeats ‘Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be alright!’ Haha” “Ah yes, so I do haha…Oh well, this is Azlan’s version!”

I was desperate to go trekking in Penang’s National Park but I felt rather jinxed by the weather, oh and the fact that I was alone too was another issue! Hmm. Grabbing a Tiger beer from the fridge, I peeled back the ring pull hearing it snap and fizz. Once the bubbles crept back into the can, I took a slurp and then pondered for a minute or two. “Azlan, do you think trekking is possible alone?” “No. You will need a guide but really it’s better in a group. Also, with the rain, you could slip and fall or worse still, lose the path. But also, even when the sun is out, it will be too hot to trek and it’s not an easy walk” He seemed quite serious. “Oh” I didn’t really know what to reply…it seemed a harsh catch 22 situation because yes, I could have hired a guide but I really didn’t want to just go off into the jungle with a stranger either…I would have rather fancied going in a group, safety in numbers and all that.

Life’s a Beach

So with trekking looking more like a ‘could have, would have’ scenario…some kind of mass laziness came over me haha! I thought to myself, you know, you’ve done so much trekking, you’ve seen so many jungles why not just take these 9 days to do absolutely nothing! With the beach conveniently over the road, I spent much of my time there and loved it 😉 I loved sitting there and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells….lovers taking a romantic sandy stroll together, children playing volley ball, families taking a horse ride up the shore, locals trying to catch the slightest glare from tourists so they could rent out their deck chairs and umbrellas, watching teenagers fall off the banana boats and seeing the odd over weight, white balding man wearing things he really shouldn’t hahah! And trying to resist the succulent smells of barbequed food which would gently waft under your nose and turn into a seducing and beckoning finger – (just like it would in a cartoon) until your tummy would give in and grumble to it! Or watching the sand dogs (like street dogs but um, well, sand dogs) curl up and find a spot to snooze in….

But do you know what else I really loved about it all….the sitting there and not being noticed. I could just blend in and be ignored, I could be anyone I wanted to be on that beach. I mean, travelling is a great escape if you’re looking to escape anything (which of course I’m not) but there is something about sitting on a beach and watching the sun-setting while your favourite tunes gently serenade your ear drums – it’s so peaceful, so beautiful. But then, sometimes, I would feel a slight hollowness trying to rise up…hmm, what is this? Then it hit me…’Oh my god. I’ll be home in a week….ONE WEEK!’ Of course, I can’t wait to see my family and my friends but I just can’t believe that my wonderful journey will soon all be over. Day dreaming at the sinking sun sounds rather sentimental I know but it also felt rather symbolic to me too.

One afternoon, I sat on the beach to scribble an idea for a short novel (just an idea that I may pursue once I’m back!) and a sand dog walked right over to me and just stood just a few metres directly in front of me and stared. ‘Ok, just stay calm, just stay calm….’ Telling myself to stay calm was just not going to happen but I had to try and stop the fear from breaking through my pores and giving the sand dog the green light to bite! I dropped my gaze to the sand because I didn’t want to try and play a stare out game with what could potentially be a dangerous dog right?? ‘Ok, um, try and look busy’ I carried on scribbling to through off a ‘Bothered, do I look bothered that you’re standing there?’ demeanor haha! And then the sand dog curled up, sighed and started to snooze right there in front of me. ‘Aww, he seems alright’ Phew! My fear began to disappear and I felt relaxed that the sand dog and I had made our ‘peace’ of sharing our space together.

Moments later, the sand dog got up and stepped even closer to me and laid down once more to kip. In fact, the sand dog kept getting closer to me until he was literally sat by my side. It was rather cute actually….the stray sand dog, my bodyguard haha! “I guess you get lonely too sometimes hey lil one!” I said, giving him a lil tickle on the head. So there I was, scribbling the drafts for a potential novel whilst taking in the most beautiful sunset of the week with my stray sand dog. I bet it looked rather funny to the locals casually walking past too hahah but I know it made me chuckle!

Georgetown

Wow, time to check out of Lazyboys and head for Guest Inn Muntri in Georgetown. 7 nights in Penang seemed to fly by but hey, now it was time to explore the main town.

I arrived at my new hostel and was immediately shown to my room and woah…it was like a prison cell (well, from what I’ve seen on telly haha!). I’m not claustrophobic but the room was so small that I feared I may actually develop the phobia just from staying there! So picture this….a tiny room that even the invisible man had trouble fitting into, no windows to peer out of and nowhere to hang your clothes…oh AND, I got eaten alive by mozzies before I’d even got into bed that night! There does seem to be more mozzies here than in Bali so I well and truly paid the price for forgetting to apply my bug repellent that day.

Avoiding hanging around at the hostel, I went off to explore my new town! I must say, I much preferred Penang. Penang is quieter and I was also missing ‘my’ beach! Georgetown is more about the history and the buildings. However, the buildings are very pretty…they seem to come in every pastel shade going! I saw pale minty green buildings along with fine yellow, orange and pink structures, it was rather stunning. There were also a lot more tourists and a lot more bars to walk in and fall out of but I wasn’t too impressed hah. ‘Oh well, just another night and I’ll then be heading back to Bangkok to see my friends’ I thought to myself and hey, whatever the situation…it is what you make of it.

I did actually check out of the hostel to avoid being suffocated and bittern to death by mozzies and pitched up in a much nicer place so I could enjoy my final night in Penang in comfort 😉

Getting a cab back to the airport was funny, well, not so funny actually. The day I checked out was typically a ‘monsoon’ day and the rain was bucketing down. I hailed a red and white cab down and asked for the airport. I trusted the look of this cab because of the ‘This taxi is metered, no haggling’ sign on the door…’Great stuff, this’ll do’ “Hello, taxi to airport please?” “Yes, get in” comes the enthusiastic reply from the taxi dude. I firmly responded with “Meter” as I chucked my bag in the front seat. “No, no…fixed price, 50 Ringgits” “Forget it!” I couldn’t believe it. So it wasn’t metered at all then!?

I hailed the next red and white cabby down and opened the door and asked the same question. “Metered taxi to airport please” “No meter. I do fixed price only” “Well, why say you’re a metered taxi when clearly you’re not!” I was getting a bit hacked off with not just the taxi guys but just at how tourists can be treated in this way. I told him to get lost and walked away leaving the door wide open for all the rain to come pouring in haha! It was funny seeing this Malaysian taxi driver ranting what I can only assume to be bad words at me. I stood under nearby ledge for shelter from the rain and smirked to myself watching in amusement as the cabby driver frantically tried to reach to shut the door of his cab to stop anymore rain seeping in. I could then see him dapping the inside of the door with tissues before he then wheel spinned off…..good punishment for him really hehe!

A chinese man and his daughter saw the whole thing (and no, sadly it wasn’t my perfect stranger coming out of nowhere to whisk me off haha) but he asked what happened and was I ok. James was his name and his daughter was called Nikki. “I just picked my daughter up from her computer class. I live right by the airport so I can take you there” After much umm-ing and arr-ing, I thought it would be pretty safe as he was with his daughter and she’d be coming along for the ride too. So James and Nikki drove me to the airport and all for free, he wouldn’t take a dime for his efforts even when I insisted. There really are some wonderfully kind people out there…always trust your gut and go with what feels right and you’ll be ok! My instinct has kept me safe and believe me, your intuition grows tenfold when you’re out in the world.

And that was beautiful Penang! It was short but it was very sweet. However, I feel I need to come back just for the trekking one day!

Someone once told me ‘A wise man said, leave some things undone’ I’d like to interpret that to mean….’Because you can come back and knot the bits you left for they will then become the best bits!’ 😉

So farewell Penang – Bangkok here I come just for one last hit! I’m looking forward to saying my final goodbyes to my Thai pals and catch up with the movies, bowling, drinking etc 😀 Then it’s one final trip back to KL where it all began….

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Leaving the Land of Smiles – Insert sad face!

Ok, before I reflect upon ‘gushy’ sentimental goodbyes to Thailand, I must give you an up to date Readders Digest because hey, it’ll be the last one on Asia………or will it 😉

Flip-Flop saved my life….well, my foot!

Haha, ok, total exaggeration…..I will explain!

Do you know what? Ever since I have been back from BKK, my house has been ‘alive’ with creepy crawlies. It is ‘them’ now sharing their toys with me (or so it feels!). It might actually have a lot to do with it being the rainy season too. It has rained here in Thailand everyday which in turn brings all the beasties out! Huge spiders that jump, (yep, jump) enough to make even the sportiest of jumping athletes envious, giant army ants through to the teeniest of tiny ants, ginormous flying termites, geckos, lizards oh and a crab – a singular side walking crab haha! That was so odd! I stepped out my house one wet evening, torch in hand and there it was – a grey palm-sized crab staring up at me through it’s funny boggerly eyes! Of course, I had to fully inspect him with my torch all the while he was ‘eyeballing’ me right back. The crab then clasped his little claws together, repeatedly opening and closing them (at this point, I imagined his claws sounded like a chef sharpening his knives on his sharpening block!) as if to say ‘You come any closer…..I’m not afraid to use these!’ hah, so I tapped him gently with the tip of the torch and off he scuttled in a sideways motion.

Another evening back in the house, I was standing over the sink brushing my teeth….of course, still sharing the sink with the giant army ants who set up residence in the overflow holes remember hah! They didn’t bother me anymore. If you cleaned the holes out, they’d just be back the next day anyway but the ants had become a regular common ‘fixture’ just like a soap dish or flannel – they’re always there!

Sitting back down, I noticed something on the side of my rubbery flip flop. ‘What is that?’ I noticed it was one of the giant ants. Thinking I’d accidentally squished one, I tried to flick it off…..it didn’t budge. A few more flicks and the giant ant was still firmly stuck to the side of the flip flop! I took a closer inspection…OMG! This giant ant wasn’t squished at all, this was obviously one of the soldiers and it was biting the side of my flip flop with it’s out of proportionately sized head! His huge jaw like pincers were ferociously  attacking that flip flop as though his life, his Queen and country depended on it! Well, I’m so glad that wasn’t my foot! I’m not kidding but he was near on slicing into the rubber as though it was a lump of butter – yeouch haha! Finally, I gave up and just stared at him in amazement gnawing away.  I was imagining him muttering away angrily to himself (with a mouthful of rubber of course) ‘Take that, and that!’ He finally got bored and scuttled off taking his funny looking ‘big head’ with him hah!

I think I’d better think it out again! 

So I’ve finally got my butt into gear and yes, I am leaving Thailand…the land of smiles as they call it. I just can’t believe it!

I’ve had to change my plans quite a few times actually and it’s taken much thought and careful consideration. I drafted ideas to take myself off to New Zealand after my Australian adventure….then off to West Papua, Indonesia to hang out with the loin clothed and bare breasted Dani Tribes (stop sniggering at the back haha!)….then another short flight up to the North Sumatra Province (still Indonesia) to trek through the dense jungles of Bukit Lawang in search of their resident ginger monkey (Orangutans) BUT I’ve sadly had to cancel those thoughts and fantasies because the FCO (coincidentally) believe both these areas of Indonesia to be unsafe for tourists right now. And as my parents are reading this I won’t go into the details but all I’ll say is…..as the good old saying goes ‘better to be safe than sorry’ I’ve come up with plan b!

I’ve decided to continue with my plans to Oz (Thursday 8th August to be precise woo hoo!) and then jet set off to Ubud, Bali for a month and CAN’T WAIT. I have read Ubud is fairly similar to Pai in Thailand and that is one place I wanted to visit but didn’t. Pai is said to be a relaxed and almost hippy like town 🙂 In short, Ubud looks to be bustling with culture, (markets :D), scrummy food oh and yoga, massage and healing practices! Being trained in Reiki, I would really like to experience ‘Indonesian’ reiki and in fact, pick up some new techniques if I am able to have extra lessons out there! 🙂

After spending a ‘spiritual’ time hippy-ing it up in Bali, I will then fly off to Penang in Malaysia (near Georgetown) where I aim to trek the jungles of Penang State Park and also take myself off to visit monkey and turtle beach.

Then it’ll be more jungle trekking down at Taman Negara National Park before hitting Kuala Lumpur once more.

Let me clear my throat! 

Oh my goodness! What a wonderful send off I had on Friday morning! I was sooo nervous the night before because June asked me to do a ‘goodbye’ speech in Friday mornings assembly! ‘Speech!!’ I thought…..’Oh no!! “Is that Ok?” June asked, peering over the top of her familiar thick rimmed glasses. Perhaps she could sense my hesitancy by the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ expression on my face hah!

Well, I had to reply with; “Of course, I would love to!” Suddenly that injection of adrenalin was drawn up and injected straight into the pit of my stomach. I could already feel the adrenalin travelling through my system and I imagined the chemicals taking a ride on my red blood cells as though it was on some kind of ‘tubing’ adventure rushing through my veins! It brought back memories of when I did my welcome speech! ‘Oh, stop it Helen! It should be easier this time because you know them all now….right!?’ Well, easier or not, it still made me break out into that cold sweat like before haha!

So Thursday evening after I’d booked a few flights and accommodation for Bali 😀 I then went straight back to the house to write up a short speech. I thought it would be great to finish by saying something in Thai followed by all of us singing one of their favourite songs that I’d taught them…’Wherever I go!’ Ken text me some Thai words and with that my speech done it was time for bed!

Beetle Bum!

As usual I did my daily routine of shaking out my inner silk liner and then my sleeping bag because one thing I’ve learnt out here…is anything can be lurking in your shoes, under towels OR maybe sleeping bags! With everything shaken out (and nothing falling out), I got tucked up, rested my head on my brick of a pillow and soon started to slip into the land of nod…..

I woke up suddenly around 4.30am and couldnt get back to sleep. I felt itchy, hot and bothered. Trying to ignore these annoying sleep interrupters, I forced my eyes shut and tried desperately to get back to my lovely little dream of working the red carpet at the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival hah! (been on my mind a lot this week you see!).

Suddenly, it felt as though something crawled over one of my legs! ‘What the hell?’ Surely I’d imagined it and it was just my silk liner brushing against my irritated skin? Nothing can get in here, I’m wrapped up snug as a bug in this and not with a bug right!? Nope, there it was again. Scratching the back of my leg from under the sleeping bag, I tried to ignore it for a second time! This time, I felt something crawling over my butt and when I went to scratch, I felt something!! ‘AARRRRGGHHH’ I screamed haha! If only this was on tape…it must have looked so funny! Well, I was trying to scramble out of that sleeping bag as fast as I could but I was encased and trapped in the silk liner and the sleeping bag so picture this: my legs were frantically kicking about so much that I could have sworn I looked like I was pedaling one of Fred Flintstones leg powered cars hahah!!

Finally escaping the prison of my sleeping bag, I jumped up and brushed myself down….nothing on me! Ok, lets shake out both the bags….and there it was….a small black beetle GROSS! God knows how it got into the inner liner but I wasn’t happy. I spritzed the place with bug spray and then felt comforted enough by that to soon rejoin the land of slumber. But then it only felt like a few moments later when the awful electric sounding alarm went off!! :/

Graduation Day?!

Right, it’s speech time! It actually felt as though it was my very own graduation day or something. I was nervous but at the same time, felt quite sad too. I know I banged on about becoming ‘bored’ nearer the end of my time at the school but actually, I’d come to realise just how much the school had become a part of me.

So, it’s 8am and the whole school have begun congregating outside for their Friday mornings assembly. The children all walked over neatly in their lines and sat down together row upon row. All the teachers then sat at the sides so they could keep an eye on them all! Waiting for the assembly to begin, I looked around and saw all 700 little faces sitting down and staring straight towards the front. As usual, they all looked so well behaved and so ‘regimented’. Following the usual morning ritual, the first kid walked up to the front and began speaking in Thai and then the Thai’s National Anthem would be sung whilst one kid would raise Thailands’ flag up the pole. Flag now flying, June stepped up to make an announcement….I was suddenly transported back to my first day, my first speech. The injection of adrenalin was once again ready to shoot it’s dreaded concoction of poison into my system! I was waiting for my ‘turn’ and in turn, waiting for the reaction of pure fear to take over for I knew June was building up to my ‘leaving’ speech!

Moments later (which felt like a lifetime of waiting!)……

“Helen, would you be kind enough to come up to the front please?” June was now looking at me and pointing the microphone in my direction. Now over 700 faces were also looking at me! Oops, there it goes…adrenalin is now tubing on my river red so it should help me through ha!

Taking the microphone, I nervously began my farewell speech to everyone. Even though I had written a few selected words, I couldn’t help but think…’do they actually know what I am going on about?’  haha! Towards the end of my chatter, I then said something in Thai to them all….now that (I think!) they did all understand! To end, I asked all the children to join me in singing one of their favourite songs which went down well.

Oh this is what I said in Thai;

Khobkhun mak kha

Tea hai oh kas di chan

Ma yooh tee nee

Mee kwam sook

Mahk mahk kha

This basically means thank you for having me, I’ve really enjoyed staying at the school and teaching English to you all..

Afterwards, the Sub Director came up to the front and began talking to me. He’d also put together a few words together for me! It was so touching! Although I didn’t understand the first part (which was all in Thai), he ended by speaking to me in English 🙂 He expressed the schools gratitude for my help, kindness and for also sacrificing my time for them. He then also went on to say that I will always be in their memories and their hearts and I’m always welcome……*sobs! I was just lost for words after that….not knowing what to say, I just kept repeating ‘Thank you, thank you’ and glared back at him with watery eyes and a bright red chevvy chase! haha!

After the Sub Directors words, the school presented me with a beautiful handmade silk scarf that I will treasure forever. It was then that the kids thought it would be funny to bundle me hahaha little buggers 😉

Sing us one final song

Once everything had become settled and all the kids were off in their classes, I was then booked up for my final lessons too. It was so sad…the children didn’t want the lessons to end and in fact, they ran over time which of course, I didn’t mind at all.

Back in the office, I was thinking, I really should get packing once schools finished but the school had other plans….

After ‘work’, the teachers all took me out for dinner and karaoke! It was my surprise leaving party 😀 I had no idea! We all enjoyed a banquet of food along with more ‘speeches’ and more beautiful pressies! The food was delish. Star was shoving all sorts under my nose, bowls of green soup like liquids, funny looking meat balls that came in different colours (white and brown), fishy things (steamed and grilled and yup, eyeballs intact)….. ‘Helen, you must try this and also this one!’ Star wanted me to try as much Thai food as I could before going on my way but I also think she was trying to fatten me up just like all mothers do (I saw Star and June as my surrogate Mums you see aww). Oh one embarrassing thing happened…when I tried one of the spicy meat balls, I tried to cut one in half with my spoon but as soon as I pressed into it…the thing grew wings and just flew right off the plate and onto the floor! I thought no one had seen but once I’d bent down and picked the meatball up…my eyes caught everyone elses staring at me! They all then broke into laughter and yep, once again, I had rosy Readders cheeks hahaha!

The final final speeches were getting quite emotional but the last one from June ended with “If you come back next year, we would like you to join us!” Wow, sounds like I have a ‘job’ in the bag there if I really wanted one hey! 😀

Joe and M, the ladyboys of the school asked if they could play barbie with me in the morning….they wanted to dress me up in traditional Thai gear, full make up, the works! Well, hell yeh! What girl would refuse a pampering right! Only downside was that I had to meet them by the office at 8.30am. I knew it would be worth it though.

At the end of the evening, June and Star dropped me back at the house and I was dreading it for now, I had a monster job of repacking my old friend the invisible man! :/

Well, I was up until gone 2 in the morning busy making sure I’d got everything. I checked, double checked and triple checked the house. Phew, I think I’ve finally got the ‘knack of the pack’. Roll, squeeze, cram. Heavy at the bottom, light at the top and just make sure as much air is squeezed out of the bags too. I’ve actually heard some travellers will get their bags of clothes vacuum packed before they go…yeh, I can see how that will help….will give you more space too.

Finally, wrapping myself up in my silk liner and sleeping bag, I said my last goodnight to the house before drifting off……

Helen of Thai

Again, it only felt like I’d been asleep an hour or so before the dreaded mario brothers alarm shrieked at me to get up! I literally through on some trews and a Tshirt and got myself over to the staff room where I met Joe and M.

And wow! What an experience! Straight away, Joe started slapping on my make up and I had the works!! Dark black eyeshadow blending into lighter browns and 2 full sets of fake eyelashes! To finish, Joe slicked on the brightest pink lipstick I’ve ever worn haha! I was then fitted with a long black wig! Wow, the Readders with long black hair….I couldn’t wait to see how different that was going to make me look! I imagined it wouldn’t look too good against my pale skin though, I would probably look more like a vampire than a dainty Thai!

Now for the clothes. Joe wrapped the top half around me (under my Tshirt) and measured me up. It was like a beautiful silk bodice. You basically get ‘stitched’ into all the gear while you’re still fully clothed! Again it was the same for the bottom half…you get wrapped into the skirt part (over your trews) and then you have to wriggle out your trousers and Joe then popped in the final stitches so it was literally made to measure. Well, I couldn’t breathe haha! I imagined I was wearing a corset or something and that Joe had just put one foot on my back whilst pulling the strings so tight that every molecule of carbon dioxide was forced out of both my lungs hah! Once I was measured in and secured and stitched up, Joe then wrapped a delicate see through pink shawl around my shoulders to complete the clothing part. Joe and M then both ‘decorated’ me with all the traditional Thai jewellery including a crown, belt, bracelets etc…

Done! Excitedly clapping theirs hands (in a feminine ladyboy fashion), Joe and M stood me up and seemed so pleased with their ‘work’ and couldn’t wait to show me off outside to the school! I tell you what, all that gear was so heavy, I felt weighted down with accessories and I was also starting to feel rather hot in my new thick wraps but I couldn’t wait to see the finished look. Handing me the mirror, I just couldn’t believe what / who I saw! Wow, that just isn’t me! I looked completely different and couldn’t stop staring at the strangers reflection!

Walking out the office, the first person I saw was June “Wow….you look like an Angel, so beautiful!” Well, that was it, I started getting my usual and all to familiar rosy glow haha. Of course, who doesn’t like a compliment but I guess I was so overwhelmed with the whole look and with everyone’s kind comments.

The teachers all wanted their pictures taken with me, the children, standing by the schools Buddha statue etc…and Joe and M kept asking me to stand or sit in what felt to me like silly poses haha. But great fun all the same and an experience I feel very lucky to have been privileged with.  Thank you Joe and thank you M for transforming me into a full blown Thai!

Party in BKK

Finally, it came to say the last LAST goodbye to the school. Joe and M took all the gear back but I still had a face full of thick make up and I was fretting about the thought of sitting on the bus looking like a ladyboy myself haha….I pulled off the fake tarantula looking eyelashes which helped a bit and then heard June toot her car horn from outside the house.

Driving to the bus station must have taken at least 2hrs! June wanted to take me as far as she could you see which was very sweet of her. We chatted non stop all the way and it was actually this car journey that made me feel more ‘bonded’ with June than I had before…strange that and bad timing with the fact I was on my way outta there!

At the bus station, June helped me to get my ticket and gave me a big hug that felt like it seemed to go on and on. Both our eyes were welling up and June promptly said, “I have to go now, I can’t watch the bus pull away” and with that we both went our separate ways 😦 The double decker bus looked pretty empty so I zoomed straight up to the top to bag the front seat! Pulling out of the bus station, it was then I sobbed a little as I watched North Thailand disappear.

My bus was so late arriving at Morchit Station in Bangkok, it must have been 10.30pm. Once at Morchit Station, I then had to grab a short cab ride to the train station so I could catch the Skytrain to On Nut to meet my Japanese pal Tomo. Finally reaching On Nut station, the usual ‘thick’ smell of pollution and other stinky smells soon hit (and blocked up) my nostrils.  I met my friend Tomo nearby and we then both had to quickly get ready to go out and meet the others and party!

4 of us all partied hard in the touristy area of Koh Sarn Road! Walking the streets together, I looked around thinking ‘In a funny kinda way, I’m actually going to miss all of this’ The hustle and bustle, the buy one bucket get one free, the being approached every minute to come and see the next ping pong show or the ‘you want laughing gas?’ or the ‘you want to eat scorpian?’ haha! I’d gotten used to the same old lines and right at that moment, I suddenly didn’t feel like the ‘tourist’ anymore and found I kept repeating ‘Mai ao Kha’ (which means no thank you).

We all partied until the early wee hours at ‘The Club’ and had such a fun night! And one thing that did make me laugh…I actually made friends with someone who lives 2 miles from my Mums house in Bedford!! How incredible! Such a little big world!!

Ooooh you give me fever! 

Ok, so I thought it was more than likely my fault but I ended up falling rather sick 2 days after our party night. Being hungover on the Sunday, I didn’t feel anything more than ‘hungover’ but Sunday evening I was engulfed by an awful fever which ended up lasting for days. My throat was so painful, it was on fire and my temperature was fluctuating from hot to cold quicker than I could put a jumper on to then whipping it off again. When I’d actually lost my voice, I got in touch with my friend Ken for help….squeaking away like sooty and sweep, Ken and I met up and he rushed me straight to the pharmacy. I was becoming panicky you see with nasty bugs flying around such as Dengue fever and malaria I thought I could have picked something up ‘Oh great, what if I have one of these diseases?’ ‘Did I pick something up from the school on my last day?’ ‘Crap, I’d better be 100% by Thursday for my flight to Oz!!’

Well, Ken and the pharmacist were chatting away about my symptoms and I was then issued with anti bacterials, some more pills to sooth the pain of sore throats and some throat lozengers. I’m so grateful Ken was around to help! Phew! I couldn’t get over the fact that the chemist could just hand out Anti-B’s like that too….it was as though she was prescribing me skittles haha! Well, do you know what, I didn’t care if they were going to even be the right ones because at the time, I felt so ill, weak and shivery that I was willing to take anything.

Even though I’d just started taking all these pills (and probably sounding like a rattling pharmacy myself!), I developed a burning red itchy rash which started on my throat and soon spread downwards until my whole body was scarlet..then my stomach decided it wanted in on the ill action and began cramping up (felt like indigestion or something). Yep, I knew exactly what this was….Scarlet Fever! I’d had this once before when I was at college…you’d think you can’t get this kind of illness anymore, and god knows where I caught this, strange hey!

Well, a few sweaty days later…I had beaten the fever and my voice was slowly coming back! The rash has died down too and is nothing more than a few itchy patches now. I’m not yet 100% but not far off so do forgive me if my blog’s not quite up to my usual Readdy standards 😉

Goodbye Thailand

As much as I am looking forward to kicking up the pace on the running machine of adventure, I am actually going to miss the school as I said earlier and well, Thailand overall! I was starting to pick up their ‘ways’, their language (ok, so I only learnt a few words!) but I mean the way they speak, the way they talk to you e.g. the ‘Where are you going Miss?’ ‘How old are you?’ ‘Are you married?’ – which of course, in the beginning, I took all of this as being a bit rude or nosy however, Thai people have to be the least rudest people you could ever meet. They are so kind, generous and sincere and always seem willing to help you no matter how trivial the need.

My Thai friends even said I was beginning to dress and act like a Thai hahah! Although my dietry requirements could never adapt to all the spicy food…my poor tastebuds, my tummy, boy will I be glad to be leaving ‘phet’ (hot) food behind haha!

This might sound very sentimental because right now, the theme tune to Jurassic Park has just started playing on my ipod and is reminding me of when Judith and I went jungle trekking in Laos haha! Hey, maybe you should put it on while you’re reading this, music really does help the imagination 😉

So, here goes…..one door closes and another one opens (in the form of a plane haha)

Here we are! And what an incredible adventure Thailand (and Indochina) has given me but now, the time is right to go. I will soon be following the yellow brick road with my little wooden stick (white bag hanging off the end of it!) and waving goodbye with the other 😥

So when I am on that plane Thursday evening, feeling the planes wheels turning to straighten up for it’s powerful boost along the runway waiting for the plane to gradually speed up and up until the ‘super jet booster’ button is hit projecting all passengers ‘G forced’ faces back into their seats and up into the air……my mind will be rushing with beautiful memories. The elephants, the temples, the Buddha’s, the culture, the markets, the crickets (and eating of them!), my gecko family (who I wish all the best with their new batch when they finally come to hatch!), the giant ants and termites (well, maybe!), the parties, the friends, the jungle treks, their simple yet beautiful way of life, Helen’s bug hunts, the weather, the school, the food, their laid back ways (Thai time), their ‘don’t worry’ attitude and their traditions! The list could just go on and on!

I’m so so proud of myself! I can’t believe I’ve completed and survived the first leg of my journey. I know my Brother would be so proud too and I know he’s been looking after me along the way and I reckon he’d also be thinking, ‘You did it!’

I will be looking down from out the planes window, watching with watery eyes as Thailand shrinks in size until it looks nothing more than a miniature toy town…and perhaps like something that I imagined ‘happened’

Always in my heart, always in my memory, forever…..

Love you Thailand ❤

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Trains, planes…well, mostly trains!!

Hey there! Wow, my time here in Malaysia has really flown..already a month has past and I’m now embarking on the next adventure! Actually typing (well, one touch finger tapping on the tablet..painfully slowly and apologies in advance if you spot any typos!) from my hotel in Butterworth right this second but I’ll just give you the weekly update!

Stress? I’ve just the ticket…

So, next plan is to visit a monkey training college in Southern Thailand..all trains are mapped out and hotels are booked. Well I can tell you, it’s not easy buying a train ticket over here! Ok, so the first x 2 tickets I bought in person at the KTM Train Station in Malaysia because that was much easier..basically you could only buy half the journey online (something to do with using a different system?)..hmm, very strange. Anyways, with that sorted, I then had to buy my ticket to Bangkok. Well all I can say is thank god for this website http://www.seat61.com. This is such a useful site recommended by and to travellers to help suss it all out! So short story is, I found out you can pay a small commission to an agent to book a Bangkok train ticket (only about a fiver so seemed worth it)..I highy recommend Asia Discovery for thier service and speed by the way! The only stress I had here was with the courier company DHL! I was beginning to panic as the days were running out and the ticket still hadn’t shown up despite DHL saying they’d tried delivering it twice! Phew! Tickets in my hand, we’re readdy to rock…

Thailand Island?

So with a trip to the monkey college sorted followed by a week of hanging with Hill Tribes..what next? I had 9 ‘free’ days to fill before discovering Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

Saturday afternoon I shut myself away for while as I wasn’t feeling too great plus, it was muggy and the skies were getting ready for another rip roaring tropical thunder. I remember casually watching a mozzie zig zagging in front of me and thinking he looked like how I felt at that moment hah! A quick blast of my jungle formula should soon let it know that this tuck shops not open today! I think they mostly come out at at dawn or dusk hence why it looked dazed, hah, hungover on red blood cells from the night before I guess!

Well, after hours of searching and plotting..I’ve got it…always fancied the Similan Islands but thought I’ll do that on the way back – wrong!! The Islands close after April as its their monsoon season so the waters are too choppy to reach them, plus the fact they are (I believe, protected islands and only so many boats per day are allowed access).

Anyway, found a recommended company via previous travellers who run these island tours. You can also stay in one of their bungalows in Khao Lak. Sorted..another plan in place and another ‘geek sheet’ to put together haha! I will be off snorkelling around, Similan Islands, Surin, Tachai and Koh Bon and I can’t freaking wait! To add to it, I popped into KLCC before I left and found a great deal on an underwater camera so cant wait to try that out! But that wasn’t as easy as it sounds to book either…its not an easy place to get to and due to a very tight schedule, I’ve had to source flights to Phuket and then onward travel to Khao Lak, phew.

Train spotter

I am going to be so sick of trains soon! The trains (so far) in KL have been good, on time and generally ‘train’ like. When I went shopping at KLCC, I caught a train back to Shazreens and that was similar to taking the London underground, very busy and very crowded. Well, that was quite funny actually because when you buy a ticket, you get given a small blue coin shaped token..I was thinking, what do I do with that? Anyway, I watched the regular commuters trying to get a glimpse of what they were doing but couldnt see in all the hustle and bustle. Basically a Malay person kindly showed me what to and I got in..you just swipe the token like its an oyster card and when you get to the other end you drop the token in the machine.

So that brings me to today! I caught the 8.45am train from KL Sentral headed for Butterworth which was a painfully slow ride but interesting to say the least. Each cabin is marked with a number so you get in the one which is designated on your ticket. You also have a seat number too. I went for a 2nd class aircon carriage seeing as it would be an 8hr journey in a blistering heat of 32 degrees and no doubt packed with hot sweaties!

So the train pulls up and I can barely walk straight with the weight of my backpack..think I’m actually firemans lifting the invisible man!! I feel as though I’m bashing everyone on the head with my bag on the way through the aisle and am relieved when I get to my seat. Wow, every seat was taken! Seriously take note, if you’re planning a long haul trip out here, its much cheaper by train and everyone knows it.

I’m sitting next to an old man who looks as he has no teeth and in the seats to my right (which I later found out) are his grandchildren. I’m thinking, yep, this is gonna be the longest 8hrs! Next thing, I can hear the old fella chomping down on a sarnie..I can hear his lips smacking and his gummy gums clicking away which sounds as though its getting louder and louder, people coughing and spluttering in the background, babies crying in the carriages ahead…arrgghh, think I’ll put my ipod on! About an hour later, the old boy starts talking to me..he was actually ok but I still had (and will always have) that basic rule in mind of ‘trust no one’. Martin was his name, he spoke perfect english and was very well educated. I felt sorry for him actually, he told me his wife passed away just 3wks ago..they had been married for 55yrs. He seemed like a very humble, sweet old man. Before he got off for his stop, he told me when my stop would be coming up and that I’m very brave to be travelling alone!

As soon as I got to Butterworth, the taxi drivers are on you like mozzies and before you can even get your bearings, all you can hear is ‘Excuse me miss..taxi madam, you want cab?’ (And yes, it was all in the same tone as ‘you want dvd!’). I tried bartering but they weren’t having any of it and seeing as there wasn’t much about I succumbed but it was only 5 min, bonus!

So, next train journey tomorrow finishing up in Thailand for monkey schooling woo hoo! No internet for a while though so its back to the old fashioned pen and paper journal for me but I’ll update as soon as! Tarrah for now!

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Monkeys and Monks!

So, it’s been another hot and humid week in KL! So hot that we’ve had rip roaring thunderstorms some nights which are so exciting by the way! They’re more intense and not like the pathetic flash and crash in the UK, we’re talking blinding flash, BOOM, crash and ‘lets chuck every single piece of furniture on the floor and try and cause the sky to crack and cave in’ kind of thunder = awesome!  Anyway, that’s enough of talking about the weather like a typical Brit!

I have had a mixed week of plotting and planning as well as sight seeing and making new friends in the big City! My plotting has been calculated down to a ‘T’ and I must say, I’m quite proud of myself (and quite shocked actually) as to my organisation for my onward journey. So, organisation….a word I can so far proudly present on my CV and believe in haha! But I will tell you nearer the end of the post what the Readdy plans to do!

So I’ve been doing a lot of socialising over here! Yes, even if I can’t always understand what my new Malaysian friends are saying, actions really speak louder than any language and we’ve been having a laugh and getting along great. On Sunday we actually went to a gathering at one of Zaidi’s (Shazreens husband) friends house…we were all sitting around tooting on flavoured Shisa’s, very nice (even though they are ridiculously bad for you!)

Batu Caves

Shazreen kindly dropped me off at the gates and left me to go exploring on my todd. Wow, this place is amazing! The first thing you simply cannot miss is the ginormous gold Hindu statue based near the entrance of Batu Caves. So, what do I do first? I take a look around and see what this place is all about.

There are various gimmicky, tourist shops darted all over the place displaying their ‘I love KL’ T-shirts and an array of smells coming from all the food stalls which are lined up trying to entice you in but I ignore those and take a walk to the left of the statue. A long walkway takes you past coconut stalls and a Hindu temple where I can see people either praying or sleeping and at the end of the walkway is a huge pale green statue (another Hindu god which has a monkey for a face!). So I stop near the coconut stall and watch a while as the shop keeper hacks open a coconut, drops a straw in and hands one to a tourist and what do I see next……a monkeys head pops up from out the bin next to me!! OMG, it’s a monkey! (I should be getting used to this by now!) Haha, I’m thinking to myself ‘Ah look at him, he’s rummaging in the bin!’  Enthusiastically, he jumps out grasping a can of Iced Tea! Another monkey comes out of nowhere carrying a coconut and another with a bottle of pop probably from his bin find too! So out comes the camera and I’m snapping away, nevermind the caves, there’s a monkey with a bottle of pop haha! Right enough of that..I go to the end to check out the Monkey faced Hindu God. Woah…there are monkeys running around all over the place! Indians are chucking sunflower seeds at them to encourage them to hang around for the tourists (performing monkeys hey!) so again, camera is out and I’m snapping away trying to get ‘the’ shot of the mum and baby monkey!

‘Monkied’ out, it’s time I headed for the main attraction! Right, so um, 272 steps to the top! Ok, here goes, nice and slowly does it! It’s sweltering hot, so hot you can feel the sweat slowly trickle down your back, nice! I’m hoping no one can see it clinging to my blue T-shirt but everyone’s the same so nevermind! I purposely stop at nicely paced intervals to take snaps (and to catch my breath) along the way up!

More monkeys! They’re everywhere and they’re so tame! Maybe too tame, I was told an American got bitten that day because he wouldn’t give the monkey some of his food! There looks to be a ‘side cave’ entrance so I go in here to explore….Urghhh, it smells so bad! No one’s going all the way in so I’ll carry on to the main entrance. Wow, real life monks!! I see 4 Buddhist Monks also walking up the stairs in their orange wraps (or habits I think they’re called)…crikey, they must be so hot in them! When I reached the top, I asked if I could take a photo of one of them…I was told to kneel before him and then take the photo.

As soon as you get inside, you can hear bats squeaking and fluttering about but the other thing I notice is the breeze, arrhhh, that’s so nice! There are statues, pictures and hindu temples tucked in the walls of the cave. Wait a second, music….sounds like a drum and a sitar! Wow, there are Hindu’s praying! The Monks are even joining in with the prayer session! So I video some of the procession on my camera for the memory bank!

Monks! 

So I’m walking out of the caves to go back down and see the Monks following shortly behind. They’re stopping to chat to some of the tourists and I see the Master Monk handing out beaded necklaces…I must have one of those, wow, a gift from a MONK! So I rush over and feel like I’m joining a que of tourists all wanting one. It was like a scene out of a comedy sketch to finally get to the master monk to be shown the hand! Talk to the hand cos I’m all out of necklaces….gutted! That would have meant so much to me but hey ho.

Anyways, I get chatting to one of the other monks (named Wor Magatee) and he tells me how he’s visited London before (I love that about foreigners, when you say you’re from the UK, they all assume you’re from London) and that he trains and resides in the Kings Temple in Bangkok! I explained how I’d love to stay and volunteer in a temple for the experience and get this….Wor Magatee and the Master Monk said I am very welcome to stay at the temple and they will look after me! OMG! Wow! This is amazing and way better than getting a beaded monks necklace! Wor Magatee exchanged his facebook page with me so we can keep in touch for my arrival in Bangkok! Yep, Monks on facebook, still makes me chuckle!!

So with a spring in my step and a new monk for a friend, I go off to find some food from one of the many stalls!

Monkey Restaurant! 

Saturday 16th I spent time with my new friends Dhilla and Ramsdhay oh and a new guy called ‘Podgey’ (which of course is his nickname!) We drove to a place called Bukit Melawati in Selangor where you can feed tame monkeys!

So armed with long beans, we parked up, took a short tram ride up to the feeding point and eagerly waited to feed some monkeys! Well, you didn’t need to wait long hah! As soon as they see you have food in your hand, that’s it, it’s getting snatched hah!

The monkeys are sweet little things, very tame and clearly used to the tourist feeding frenzy! More trams delivering more tourists = banquet right!! They’ll never go hungry here!

I walk about trying to feed different monkeys when I meet some Americans who are taking each others pictures…one with a long bean hanging out of his mouth and the other one ordering  “Go on, get closer, get the monkey to take it right out of your mouth!” Was quite funny actually!  So I take some pics for them and vice versa! Coincidentally,  they are also going to Bangkok in 2wks time! I’m starting to wonder if they’ll also be headed for Chiang Mai to visit the Hill Tribes like me!

My next target is to take photos of the baby monkeys eating! Awkwardly,  I try to take photos with one hand and hold the long beans out with the other hand and wait….hold on….where are they all going?? They all rush over to an Indian guy who is feeding them pringles! Cheeky lil *#@!! Well, what can I say….junk food wins hands down!

After the monkeys, we then drove to visit some Malaysian Government buildings and then sat and admired Putrajaya Bridge which is pretty cool by night, it’s all lit up and changes through the colours of the rainbow!

Next move

So…..before I hit Chiang Mai on 6th April, I needed to find out firstly how the hell I get to Bangkok from Malaysia! Yes you can fly but it’s more expensive for the low budget backpacker so I had to source every avenue possible. I have been advised against buses (in and around Thailand anyways) as they’re apparently not too safe so opted for the train, at least that way I get to take in the view the safest (but slowest) way possible. I have actually created a ‘geek sheet’! My geek sheet is basically a table of days / times / mode of transport / hotels staying in etc etc..and it’s proving very useful!

So, straight to Bangkok or shall I stop along the way and start my exploring adventure?? After much deliberation, I have decided to stay and volunteer in a Monkey Training College in Surat Thani! Yup, a training college to teach monkeys how to ‘farm’ coconuts! How cool!

I will be leaving Malaysia on Friday 29th March and headed for Surat Thani, Thailand. It will take me 2 trains (consisting of 16hrs travel time) and 2 overnight hotel stops. Once I’m there, I will spend a week living in a hut right next to the monkeys and learning how to train and look after them! Yeh I could have gone to the beach for a week but c’mon, once I’m deep in the heart of  Thailand, I will be seeing beaches everywhere so I wanted to do something a little different!

I’m really looking forward to my stay at the college! Seems they really do look after their monkeys too and they train them with kindness and respect.

The owner has agreed (for a small fee of course) to pick me up from Surat Thani train station and also back again for my next train headed for Bangkok! Hey, they’ve even said as I’ll be staying in the hut on my own, I can ‘borrow’ one of their dogs for company haha! Awesome! Bummer is, they don’t have internet arrrgghhh! Oh well, guess I will have to get used to that sooner or later!

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Welcome to the Jungle!

As I sit here tapping away in Shazreens high rise flat, I can hear the hustle and bustle of KL below…car horns, traffic and people generally going about their way and in the mean time, over 9,000 miles away my Mum’s sitting at home alone on mothers day! It’s strange because Dunx and I would be quickly writing her mothers day card in the kitchen whilst waiting for the kettle to boil so we could bring her card, tea and pressies up! But not this year…no Dunx and no Helen so been quite a sad day this morning but must be more so for mama at home! A nice long skype call soon changes that and thank god for modern technology 😉

But the world still spins and this adventure has only just begun! I feel so carefree and can’t wait to uncover each day and see new sights to marvel and experience! It’s daunting but totally liberating leaving your job and just taking off with a half planned journey…it’s the blanks I can’t wait to fill in!

So this week has been half busy and half about relaxing. With sweltering temperatures and the miles you can cover walking per day, yup, your feet swell up no matter your age so you’ve got to spare time to rest too! In the ‘quiet’ times, I’ve been observing one of Shazreen’s part time jobs. Very interesting actually, she has 3 part time roles in all which keep her very busy; Sugar Bliss Wardrobe (which is her own business of marketing and selling children’s fashion), a cake baking service and her role with Kumon, who are providers of supplementary maths and english programmes (they provide private tutors etc)…there’s more on that one later..Here Shazreen is one of the partners and she will manage all the admin as well as look after parents queries / questions.. The cake making service is a great idea!  An online service where you can select and order a cake and have it delivered when you like (within reasonable time frames of course). This week Shazreen had 2 orders; A berry cheesecake and a summer fruit pavlova…yummy, she let us try some of the pavlova and it was so scrummy! Was nice to see the whole process..the order, the shopping for supplies and then the delivery!

So, as this post it titled ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ you’re probably wondering what that relates to exactly? I digress…60% of Malaysia is still covered by forest and it is currently the worlds largest producer of palm oil. Malaysia is home to some 15,500 species of higher plants, 746 birds, 300 mammals, 379 reptiles, 198 amphibians, and 368 species of fish….so a visit to one of these rainforests is a must right!

Jungle Fever! 

Saturday 9th March we all take a trip to Frim Kepong, a tropical flora and fauna. Wow, this place is amazing! Incredibly hot (as to be expected) but it’s a humid heat that engulfs your whole body so you can’t help but sweat! First thing I notice are the noises! Chirping, hissing, crickets, birds, monkeys the lot, it’s brimming with life! The whole jungle is chattering amoungst itself! It’s just like it is when you’re watching one of those wildlife programmes on TV!

So we head off towards the canopy….”Wait, isn’t that a monkey?!” Yeh, there he was, just shading himself underneath a huge leaf chomping away on something ‘foresty’ hah! While I’m still getting over the fact that monkeys live here wild and free (which of course they do hah!), they are very dangerous and must be avoided..we’re quite close to him and worry that he’ll ‘jump’ us hah! Managed to get a quick shot of him even though it is his bare behind, nevermind!

The Canopy can only be reached by hiking up a steep and rocky looking path 500 metres long…in this heat, it sounds rather challenging but up we go! Estimated time is 45 minutes to climb but it’s taken us more like an hour! Finally at the top with rather damp tshirts hah, we see the canopy bridge! It looks like something out of Indian Jones…COOL! Can’t believe we’re going to cross that, but hey ho, should be safe as houses right, or bridges!??

So I take my first step onto the rickety looking bridge. Seems ok, one foot in front of the other, no problem. You’ve got to make sure you’re leaving at least 2 planks in between you and the person in front, this immediately sets my imagination off…’So, does that mean it could break if we were to all huddle and cross together causing the bridge to snap and fall leaving us swinging like Indian Jones to the other side?’….And you’re back in the room! Got to get that day dream out of my head..So, focus on the view that’ll help….wow, I can see the whole of the forest below! I wish I could remember how high above sea level that sign back on the climb said we’d be! Blimey, I really feel so small next to all these trees, they are huge! Wait a second, look back down…..what’s supporting these planks? And some of them aren’t even tied together! Oh I see, there’s a ladder underneath them and a netting, phew, that should do it? ‘But when is the last time they serviced this canopy walk? They must have thousands of people pass through and slowly weaken it making it closer to eventually giving way?’  Again, back to reality, got to push these thoughts out of my mind! There are platform stops between each walk way so you can take photos (and a deep breath) before continuing! Finally made it to the end of the walk and we realise the whole things being held together by cable ties! Omg, I don’t think we would have attempted it if we had realised! So now it’s a long and sweaty walk back down the 500 metre rocky path, so much easier even though our legs feel wobbly and achy hah! Awesome! I loved it even though it’s scary when you’re on it!

So next weekend….guess what I’ll be doing!? Yep, another forest trek and an even longer canopy walk! So until then….

Hels Bels 😀

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Markets and marriages!

Hey! So, not even been here for a week (typing this on Monday morning) and already feels like I’ve been here for ages! Time is whizzing by over here.

So where do I start? I think when I left you all last I was getting ready to visit a market (Friday morning) to get me a Baju to wear for the Malaysian wedding on Saturday. First up, we head to the local cafe for breakfast..here I have something which looks like a soft naan bread with a small pot of spicy sauce (yep, gotta get used to the spice, there’s a lot of it!) along with an orange juice…uh oh..ice…there I am scooping it all out and chucking it on the floor ignoring the funny looks I’m getting! Then it’s off to the market!

The market is full of people all looking for a bargin, including myself of course. It felt like we were walking around for hours looking for the perfect Baju. I did find a lovely pink satin one but it had a nasty stain on the front, the shop keeper said I could have it for 45 Ringgits instead of 50 but we thought we’d try one more shop before giving in! Uh Oh, what’s that noise? A horrible screeching old hag sound…..Everyone looks down at my bag! Oh no, it’s Alisha, Shazreen’s little girl has pulled the tag out from my personal alarm! So funny! Well, at least we know it works! So tag back in…we promptly left that stall haha! Finally, found a gorgeous red and black one and it fits great! Feels so nice to wear, nice and airy in this heat! So I picked that one up for 50 Ringgits which is about a tenner! Then I found some flip flops to wear underneath, ok, so they’re pink but I can’t be fussy as there didn’t seem to be much choice on offer but then the Baju is so long, no one will notice it hah!

So with the Baju sorted, it’s now off for lunch at the mall…chicken and rice, nice! After this, we then visited  KL’s National Monument and also stopped at KL’s Twin Towers.

Saturday 2nd March – The Wedding!

Wow, what a busy day! Saturday morning we were all up at 7am and out by 8am. First stop, Shazreen’s Husbands parents house for early lunch. What a nice bunch of people! They didn’t really speak any english but words were not needed for them to make me feel so very welcomed. We had a nice lunch of rice and chicken followed by a very sweet tasting tea. It’s funny because they are used to eating with their hands but they offered me a spoon for my rice and asked Shazreen if this was the first time I’d eaten rice before haha! They were also curious to know why I wasn’t married at my age hah! After lunch, I got changed into my Baju and it felt great! Right, time to head off to the Malaysian wedding! On the way out of the rents house, we’re saying our goodbyes and there on the wall sits a monkey!! “OMG, it’s a monkey!!” haha…again, it’s like I’ve never seen one before, well, only in the zoo of course but jeez a real life monkey casually chilling out in the front garden! Shazreen said they are dangerous as they bite so I’m quick to get a few snaps before we get in the car!

Wow, so we’ve arrived at the wedding and my god it is so hot! With dewy faces, we all go in to meet everyone. The wedding is actually outside but under a canopy / gazebo or whatever it is called but that doesn’t seem to keep the heat at bay. We walk in and it feels like all eyes are on me…being the pasty looking english, it was probably a bit of a shock for them all hah! Shazreen said it is a privilege for me to be invited to a Muslim wedding but also for them to have someone ‘different’ attend! So tradition is you go straight into the house to meet the bride and wish her well…first up, you greet the family and shake their hands, then you are ushered in to the brides bedroom to meet her. Wow, she looks stunning in her pink and white Baju wedding dress! The bride mentions something to Shazreen…”Is she French?!”  haha…no no! From the good ole’ UK. She allows me to have my photo taken with her before leaving the room. Again, you pass the family on the way out but they hand you 3 gifts…a hard boiled egg presented in a decorative pouch, a small glass bowl with chocolate dipped strawberries inside and a bag of small snacks like crisps etc. And before you ask, the hard-boiled egg denotes healthy children and new beginnings. So the music begins, drumming and chanting as the groom arrives at the house. The groom waits at the front of the house by the gates and the bride will come out and meet him…then they walk back into the house together. The actual wedding is fairly similar in the fact they exchange vows and then cut the cake but the bride and groom will feed each other – their first meal together. Then afterwards we all eat together in the garden – I had beef and noodle soup and chrysanthemum tea! We all signed their good luck card before leaving…I’m wondering if I should sign in Malay so instead I put…”Good Luck from the English girl, Helen!” I’m guessing that way they will remember me hah!

After the wedding

So after the wedding it’s a long drive back home to pack our overnight bags as we are staying at Shazreens Dads house. Omg, I wonder if he will remember me! I’m a bit nervous but looking forward to it too. Once we’re there, we pull up outside some electric gates and pull up on the drive. Wow, yes, they are remember me and I remember them too apart from the younger sister! So we’re all chatting about my stay in Malaysia and start the BBQ…chicken, lamb and sausages. I crashed about 10pm as it had felt a really long day for me and the heat once again, beat me to resigning in for bed! In the morning we had some brekkie. Now forgive me for the way I’m abouts to describe this but there is no other way I can hah…brekkie consisted of a sugary donut, a small chewy green ball covered in coconut shavings with a brown liquid centre (which I was told was brown sugar) along with something that looked like a white gel…inside of this was a green coloured gel…tasted ok actually but all I can describe this as was very sweet! I left the green chewy ball thingie as I wasn’t keen on this so washed it all down with a hot chocolate!

So we say our goodbyes and then go off to visit the local forest although we get there to find it’s closed for renovating! So plan B, we then head for KL to visit KL’s Tower at Menara Place. Wow, the tower is HUGE! One of the tallest communication towers in the world. On the way in, we see traditional dancers, souvenir shops, food stalls oh and an animal zoo place…outside of this, you can have your photo taken with an Iguana for 2 RM’s which is about 50p so of course, was rude not to haha….I know my Dad will love that one haha!

Inside the tower you literally get in the lift, zoom to the top with your ears a’ popping as it’s so high and admire the view! You can pretty much see the whole of KL up here!!

Then back down we go to hit the mall for some lunch…mmm Thai noodles and chicken for about a quid 75! Right, now it’s time to hit China Town!!

China town is a great place! Very very busy, full of tourists! Have actually seen quite a few English people! Being typically british, we just exchange a smile but no words are spoken hah! Also seen a few fellow back-packers…hmmm…their packs look smaller than mine, maybe I’m carrying too much! Oh well, I’ll worry about that when I am actually on the road in 3wks time!!

So China Town is a bit like (and for those of you who know it) a HUGE Blackbushe market! Plenty of bargins and a mix of fake watches, perfumes and so called designer gear! There are an array of smells, some nice, some not so nice but your nose soon adjusts and ‘deals’ with it!

“You want DVD? I got DVD. Come to my shop, I got shop” Yes, they really do sound like the character from FoneJacker (again, a reference for those who know it!) This is actually pretty annoying, around every corner of the market you are approached for ‘Dvds’..you actually have to be straight to the point or else they start to follow you. Shazreen and I did laugh because one of the men thought we were following him but we managed to slip down a side alley and fox him haha, was quite funny actually! So being polite really doesn’t wash in this place, if you show any ‘niceness’, it’s almost like a vulture spotting an easy meal….so it’s ok to shout no hah!

So I purchase a baggy Hawaiian looking shirt for about a quid 75.  It’s far too hot out here to be wearing tight fitting clothes so I think I will buy some more like this and ditch all my tops along the way!

Phew, righto..I will log off for now but message again when I have the chance to get back online. Not sure what the plans are from here but I know one evening we will be visiting KL Twin Towers at night as they are all lit up so that will be an experience. We may also try visit an Orang Utan centre if it’s not too far!

Laters, Hels Bels x

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Readdy hits Malaysia!

So here I am! A Readdy in Malaysia! I always knew I wanted to travel but just didn’t realise when this dream could ever have the chance of coming true! So SO proud of myself for actually growing a pair and getting myself out into the big wide world hah!

Wednesday morning was so difficult! The realization of it all had only really kicked in AT the airport ha! It was such a scary thought knowing that once my Mum and Nana’s had gone…that was it…I would be all on my todd!! So after a very hard and teary goodbye, me and my streaky make up’d face proceed to go through all the security checks.

Finally sitting on the plane, that was it, I was blubbing like a baby, oh dear! Pulled myself together and checked out the movies, after all, I had at least 13hrs to kill! Wow, I’d always been told Singapore Airlines are fantastic and yes, I can also now vouch for this! Firstly, the air hostesses are so beautiful! Tiny and petite women with perfect make up! I feel as though I have been instantly transported to China lol. They are very sweet. They give you a blanket, pillow, toothbrush and toothpaste oh and some flight socks. Ok, so movies, hmmm….managed to watch; Pitch Perfect, Ted, The House at the end of the street and the New Ice Age movie hah! The food is pretty yummy too…lots of noodles and rice and beef with an array of your usual drinks – unusually I’ve been avoiding any of the alcoholic ones and opted for orange juice and waters! It was very strange looking out the window at 4.30pm to see it was pitch black!! I’m guessing it was gone midnight thier time by that point!

So I arrive at Singapore to the slight problem that I’ve missed my connecting flight to KL! Not my fault though, the plane was late arriving so they couldn’t wait! That’s ok though, all was sorted for me before I’d even touched down so another tiny, petite Asian lady told me where to go and the flight details etc and even gave me a voucher for a free lunch woo hoo!

Thursday 28th @ 11.15am touched down in KL! Wow, it is SO hot! I can feel it more here than I did getting off at Singapore! It’s the kind of heat that with each breath you take in is just feels like hot air minus the oxygen! So after passing through, I get my passport stamped with a 90 days tourist visa and then I go find my backpack!

“Helen”…..I recognize Shazreens voice! She’s spotted me before I’ve seen her. Lovely to see her standing there with her 2 lil bambinos (who are very cute btw!) and they warmly welcome me to KL. We then drove for about an hour and a half to Selangor….oh but first stop….Maccy Dee’s hahah! So funny, my first meal in Malaysia, yep, a quarter pounder with cheese, was much needed though. Then as soon as I got to Shazreens pad, I unloaded what I needed and literally crashed from 3pm until about 10pm ish. Then I sat down for a meal with them…yummy sticky rice and beef soup.

Friday morning we are all getting up at 8am to visit the local market! Really looking forward to that because we are looking for an outfit for me! I’ve been invited to a Malaysian wedding this Saturday followed by a BBQ! I can’t wait to dive into their culture and it will be so special to witness a Malaysian wedding…I’m sure I will have a tone of photos to show you all.

I am actually sat here typing away feeling very wide awake and alert at 3:30AM ha! I’m sure I will get into the pattern of it soon though. I really must try to get some kip so I can be up for 8am so tarrah for now! Photos to follow soon I promise!

I’ll leave you with this song which I am loving at the moment! I find it is very apt for me right now! Oh and a few photos which I have just received via email from Mama of me checking in etc haha!

Hels Bels xx

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlZ7qFVPZTQ

back pack checking in airport going

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