Monday, 27 October 2008

Week 29 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Dear Ethel, Family and Friends,
Blood tests came back negative for malaria and I just had a case of the flu, 3 days in bed was all it took to recover. This made our trip to Penang rather dull, as our hotel wasn’t very close to the center of town so Louise was stuck at the hotel with me most of the time. We did get to see Danny and Barbabra for a meal and also caught up with Tana and Robert from the Sea English Academy for dinner, we also met Tana’s dad as well. It was good to catch up with people even only briefly.

Thursday, we flew to Kuala Lumpur for a 4 day stop over. We booked into a 5 star hotel on Wot If because it was so cheap and found out why. On one side of the hotel a building was being demolished and on the other side a new one was being constructed, fortunately we were on the construction side. Still it was right in the middle of KL on a train line.

Unfortunately, our friend Tony was in Sydney while we were in KL this time, so didn’t get to catch up, however the other student from our TESOL class, How Seng Lee, lives in KL as well. We phoned him and he showed up at the hotel to pick us up in a Saab convertible. First stop was Yum Char, a 15 course breakfast. We did a tour of the city and then we were taken out to How Seng’s garage. How Seng is an automobile fanatic and runs and owns a full auto garage to support his habit. He does this as a sideline to his main business of renovating houses and furniture manufacture. We wandered about his garage and counted about 5 complete Minis and another 20 or so in various stages of restoration.

Not long after we arrive another couple of Mini’s showed up and another owner to pick up one of his cars from the garage. How Seng had planned a Mini rally from KL up the hills behind to Fraser's Hill, about 120km away and 4000 meters up. We started out as 5 cars, one overheating before we left town and another driver got called back home for domestic duties, so we we ended up as 3 cars going up the hills. It was a fun day, as every time we stopped, a crowd of on lookers gathered to take photos of the shinny wee cars. How Seng had a friend who runs a guest house up at Frasers and we were treated to Tea and Scones at an old stone colonial hill station.

We had a fantastic day out and it is a terrific drive up the hill, through the jungle on the narrow windy roads. We will be having steam boat for dinner tonight, a Chinese specialty.
India on Tuesday. PS see the photo album for photos of the Mini Rally.

All the best Ric & Louise

Monday, 20 October 2008

Week 28, Penang, Malaysia

Dear Ethel, Family and Friends,

Despite our visa fiasco, we made it to Penang without a hiccup, but this was surely “pushing the envelope”. We left the lovely Island of Ko Samet on Wednesday at 10 am, opting for the speed boat back to the mainland, rather than the bone crushing ride in the taxi, which is really a ride in the back of a ute, and the slow Ferry back. It cost us an extra $20 each but worth it. On the mainland we were lucky enough to get a single mini bus back into Bangkok. The following day Tuesday, we picked up my new glasses then picked up the Visas at 5pm. Then Sky train to the MRT underground train which took us right to Bangkok Railway station and the 7.30pm overnight train left on time.

The second class overnight sleeper is a great way to travel. Food and drinks on the train if you want to buy them. Beds are made up at about 10pm and apart from the ‘clackety clack’ we had a reasonable night’s sleep. We were up at about 6am and had breakfast on board at 7am and the train arrived at Suri Thani at about 8am. The waiting bus drivers herded us on to our designated bus and we were off again, this time for the port about 60km from Suri Thani. Next we all pile off the bus and on to the ferry to Ko Sumi. About a 2 hour trip. Keeping in mind we have a 2.30pm flight to catch and its now about 10.30pm. It has been a somewhat nervous trip for both of us. The ferry arrives in Ko Sumi 12.30 on the dot. We transfer again to another minibus for the 45 minute drive to the airport. However we picked the only driver on the Island who has never been to the airport. And there were road works to gust to keep the stress levels peaking.

Needless to say we did make it on time, but it was a close one. Ko Sumi is a lovely airport, open air with free drinks and snacks while you wait which is just as well as that all we saw of Sumi. We flew with Firefly airlines, the old fashioned type airline that uses propellers for propulsions. It’s a good flight and got too see a good view of Penang as we flew around the west side of the Island as we came in to land. From the airport a short 1 hour taxi ride (peak hour traffic) to our hotel to relax.

Apart from that we haven’t done much this week. However, I have come down with some flew like symptoms. We have been to the doctor this morning (Monday) to get a blood test for malaria before setting off to India just in case. Will be in KL next week.

All the best for now.

Ric & Louise

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Week 27, Koh Samed, Thailand

Dear Ethel, Family and Friends,

After 21 days in Bangkok I have now finally escaped and lounging on a beautiful beach on Koh Samed. Most importantly I have Louise back with me, she arrived on Tuesday night. 21 days apart dosen’t seem like a long time apart but it is, believe me. We had both made the decision that we would be moving on to India. So my last week in Bangkok was spent aimlessly wandering around the enormous shopping malls, you can literally walk for miles inside the aircon and not have to set foot outside unless you want to cross the skybridge(the walkway under the skytrain) that links one group of shopping malls to another.

In our enthusiasm in planning the next few legs of our journey to India we have got a bit carried away with ourselves. In one afternoon on the internet we had booked tickets all the way from Bangkok to Koh Pangan, Koh Sumi, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and then on to Bangalore India. Success, all done, until... we quickly checked the visa requirements for India. Yes Australians need a visa before arriving, as does everybody nowadays. Quick search for Indian Embassy, check, get train and taxi, ah, embassy has moved, ok new taxi, race around the corner quickly run up to foyer...So sorry sir embassy is closed (pronounced close ed) today. Nervous wait until Friday morning. Friday morning arrive on the dot at 8.30am join queue fill out all forms including 27b, attached photos (luckily got them yesterday), wait in queue, approach counter...much stamping shuffling of paper, ticking of boxes . Thankyou sir, $80 each pay over there, then come back here and pay $20 each processing fee. IT WILL TAKE 5 WORKING DAYS TO PROCESS YOUR VISA. AAAAAAAHHHH (thats me). There is the spanner that brings it all undone.

As a consequence we have travelled down to a small Island not far from Bangkok for 4 days to wait until or visas are ready. Its Sunday today and we had hoped to be on Koh Pangan enjoying the fantastic Sunday roast at the Reluctant Chef with John, Richard, Steve and the rest of the characters who live there. Unfortunately we have missed that and will also not get to see Koh Sumi, as we now pick up our passports in Bangkok and catch the overnight train then bus and ferry to Koh Sumi and fly out that afternoon to Penang. So it’s a busy life we lead.

However Koh Samet is a very laid back Island, small and quiet and no real hi rise style tourist accommodation here yet. We are staying at Horizons, ao Seangthien in the grass hut style bungalow with aircon. As we come from Coolum Beach, we never really go looking for a nice beach as ours is so hard to beat, but the beach here is great, nice white sand and clean. And they make good coffee.

We should be in Penang next week. All the best for now

Ric & Louise

Monday, 6 October 2008

Week 26, Bangkok, Thailand

Dear Ethel, Family and Friends,

Well, I missed the blog last week, mainly because there was not much worth writing. Louise went back to Sydney and Bathurst and now back in Coolum with Colin and Sammy. I have been looking for work without much success. Nearly all schools want you to have a university degree, in order to get a work permit and I also don’t have any work experience apart from the 3 short weeks I did during prac on the course. One recruiter told me I will always be offered the jobs no one else wants, either being the furtherest out of town of in the countryside somewhere, largest class sizes etc. Also only getting a one month visa in Thaliand when you are looking for work makes it difficult as well, as my visa runs out in about 10 days time.

Louise & I have been talking on the phone and have decided that we will keep travelling for a while, this time going on to India. We will go to Penang first to visit our friends there, then on to Kuala Lumpur and get flights to Bangalore for about $350 each. Bangalore is in the interior in the south of India and will be a good starting point. We have a lot of research to do yet. Louise has been to India many years ago and I have never been. There are a lot of danger spots in India nowadays, with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka not to mention natural disasters, monsoons and flooding in the north. So we will probably stay down the south and west side of the country.

To fill in my time here apart from some interviews, I’ve been going to the movies a bit as it’s really cheap here about $2.50 AU ($14 at home). I’ve also been updating the youtube site and picasa web albums so don’t forget to have a look.

All the best for now

Ric & Louise