juliet: (round the world)
I've spent the last couple of days on trains getting from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur (which is where I am now). Unfortunately the free Museum of National History that used to be here has closed down, so I pottered around town a bit (they have a lot of mosques and buildings whose architecture is mosque-like) and then came back to the hotel to have a nap, knit a bit, and wash my clothes. It's very glamorous, this travelling business. Further wanderings around town this evening to locate a restaurant led to the sighting of numerous cockroaches roaming the streets. I think the only thing I wish to say about this is "ewwwww".

I did like Penang, though - it felt bizarrely like a UK seaside village, without looking really anything like it. I don't recall hearing seagulls, but it did feel like I should be hearing them. Maybe it was the light. I got the ferry back across the bay (it's 25p to get from Butterworth to Penang but free to go back the other way) at sunset, which was absolutely beautiful behind the hills at the back of Georgetown.

Then I spent an exciting 3 hours sat in the station, due to the 2 hr delay in the train arriving. After we all piled on, the lights went out and stayed out for the next hour while the carriage was repeatedly shunted out of the platform, backwards and forwards a lot in alarming jerks, and then back into the platform. I think we eventually left just after midnight, over 3 hours late, and were nearly 4 hours late in to KL this morning. On the upside, this meant that the projected (and very unfriendly) arrival time of 05:20 was instead 09:10 which is significantly easier when one is looking for a hotel room.

Singapore tomorrow - looking forward to meeting up with [livejournal.com profile] euphistica & [livejournal.com profile] jhaelan! Though my train doesn't leave till 14:00 (hopefully...) so I intend to spend the morning seeking out the Very Tall Tower that they have here. Possibly this is the same one that I saw this evening all lit up with lovely pink sparkly fairy lights.

A thought that occurred to me earlier: despite the fact that many of the countries I've been in recently have very hot weather, open gutters, and erratic sewage systems, I haven't noticed anything particularly smelling bad. This in contrast with India, where pretty much everywhere the streets smell bad (rotting rubbish in the gutter, basically). I don't know if SEAsia is better at street cleaning (maybe this is the function of the cockroaches?) or if there's a different attitude to dropping rubbish - the streets certainly look cleaner as well as smelling cleaner. (Here, I think there's a 500RM fine for dropping litter, but I have no idea whether it's enforced - I think we have similar fines in the UK but I see more litter around than I do here.)

The other very obvious thing about Malaysia is the presence of 3 quite distinct cultural and ethnic groups - Chinese, Indian, and Malay - but I haven't been here for long enough nor paid enough attention to comment any further. My understanding is that these days things are calm but socially speaking the various groups don't overlap much. Multiple-language signs are common - and lots of ads, signs, etc are in English.
juliet: (round the world)
I've spent the last couple of days on trains getting from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur (which is where I am now). Unfortunately the free Museum of National History that used to be here has closed down, so I pottered around town a bit (they have a lot of mosques and buildings whose architecture is mosque-like) and then came back to the hotel to have a nap, knit a bit, and wash my clothes. It's very glamorous, this travelling business. Further wanderings around town this evening to locate a restaurant led to the sighting of numerous cockroaches roaming the streets. I think the only thing I wish to say about this is "ewwwww".

I did like Penang, though - it felt bizarrely like a UK seaside village, without looking really anything like it. I don't recall hearing seagulls, but it did feel like I should be hearing them. Maybe it was the light. I got the ferry back across the bay (it's 25p to get from Butterworth to Penang but free to go back the other way) at sunset, which was absolutely beautiful behind the hills at the back of Georgetown.

Then I spent an exciting 3 hours sat in the station, due to the 2 hr delay in the train arriving. After we all piled on, the lights went out and stayed out for the next hour while the carriage was repeatedly shunted out of the platform, backwards and forwards a lot in alarming jerks, and then back into the platform. I think we eventually left just after midnight, over 3 hours late, and were nearly 4 hours late in to KL this morning. On the upside, this meant that the projected (and very unfriendly) arrival time of 05:20 was instead 09:10 which is significantly easier when one is looking for a hotel room.

Singapore tomorrow - looking forward to meeting up with [livejournal.com profile] euphistica & [livejournal.com profile] jhaelan! Though my train doesn't leave till 14:00 (hopefully...) so I intend to spend the morning seeking out the Very Tall Tower that they have here. Possibly this is the same one that I saw this evening all lit up with lovely pink sparkly fairy lights.

A thought that occurred to me earlier: despite the fact that many of the countries I've been in recently have very hot weather, open gutters, and erratic sewage systems, I haven't noticed anything particularly smelling bad. This in contrast with India, where pretty much everywhere the streets smell bad (rotting rubbish in the gutter, basically). I don't know if SEAsia is better at street cleaning (maybe this is the function of the cockroaches?) or if there's a different attitude to dropping rubbish - the streets certainly look cleaner as well as smelling cleaner. (Here, I think there's a 500RM fine for dropping litter, but I have no idea whether it's enforced - I think we have similar fines in the UK but I see more litter around than I do here.)

The other very obvious thing about Malaysia is the presence of 3 quite distinct cultural and ethnic groups - Chinese, Indian, and Malay - but I haven't been here for long enough nor paid enough attention to comment any further. My understanding is that these days things are calm but socially speaking the various groups don't overlap much. Multiple-language signs are common - and lots of ads, signs, etc are in English.
juliet: (Default)

The last few days have been very busy. Here in helpful bullet point format for you:

  • Second day at the Angkor temples was also great. Ta Prohm (featured in Tomb Raider, apparently), which is falling down to various extent, is fantastic clambering-over-rubble fun, and pleasingly quiet, as soon as you get off the wooden path they've laid for the tour groups. At sunset I got Ta Keo all to myself, due primarily to the fact that about half an hour before the sun actually went, it started tipping it down. I sheltered in the top tower and watched the deluge, which was very pretty even if a sunset, per se, did not happen. On descending, the food/drink vendors outside came running over to offer me a free umbrella, but I felt that this probably wouldn't work well with cycling, especially as I already needed one hand to hold the torch.
  • Less good: getting hit by a motorbike on way home from Ta Keo. I am basically fine - bruised left elbow and wrist, enormous bruise on my arse (I think the motorbike handlebar end must have hit me there), couple of grazes, one of which is on the side of my foot and is most irritating. Possible slight whiplash, although that didn't show up till Wednesday morning and thus could be related to Hideous Bus Ride (see below). Anyway: I am still not quite sure exactly what happened, as things are slightly blurred between moment of impact, and standing by the side of the road inventorying bits of myself and being somewhat surprised that everything seemed to be broadly intact. I do remember that I made a hell of a racket, partly in an attempt to alert other traffic to my existence whilst I scrambled off the road, and partly in the hope that someone might stop. In fact, the bloke who hit me came back - although at the time I didn't know if that was who he was, because he didn't speak English and I don't speak Khmer (and was too busy shaking anyway). He put me and the bike on the back of the motorbike, and took me back to his house. Which was initially confusing, until he phoned his brother, who does speak English, to translate. We agreed that he'd take me back to the hotel and they would sort things out re the bike in the morning, so that is what happened. Anyway: no major harm done, but it was bloody scary.
  • Tuesday was Siam Reap to Bangkok. Minibus arrived at hotel, and I got in, assuming that (as per the Phnom Penh to Siam Reap bus) this would take us to the bus station, where we would transfer to the real bus, with a/c and nice seats, to get to the border. Not So. Scrotty minibus (and I had the seat over the wheel arch, Deep Joy) for entire 6-hr journey to Poipet, on the Cambodian/Thai border. Over the most appalling dirt-plus-pothole (mostly pothole) road it has ever been my misfortune to encounter. Also at frequent intervals there was a big swerve off the road as they're rebuilding all the bridges and have built dirt-and-pothole detours around them. Minibus did not have a/c, so all the windows were open, which when driving through a big dust-cloud for 6 hrs means that you get very, very grubby. My back still aches today, and I genuinely do suspect that this is road-related rather than accident-related. Anyway, we finally reached the border (I note for the record that Poipet is a dump, really: even bigger potholes and rammed with goods lorries), and I ran away from the minibus, deeply grateful that I'd only booked to the border. (Well, I say "ran"; in fact I mean "limped slowly and pathetically due to hideous wound in foot".) Then I ran away from someone else offering another minibus. Instead, I got a tuk-tuk to the bus station, where I bought a ticket on a lovely, comfy, a/c and toilet equipped express bus to Bangkok. Even got a bizarre Thai film featuring a humorous transvestite and some kind of heroic contract killer (or possibly a bodyguard - he was cute, wore black, and shot lots of people, but only Bad People) to watch as a bonus.
  • On arrival in Bangkok I got on a moto for the first time (and bargained him down to 60% of his original price, thus only getting overcharged by probably around 100% instead of 200%); got on the SKYTRAIN which is a TRAIN in the SKY and thus very exciting (actually it is the Tube in the sky which is even more exciting); found a hotel; washed my trousers for the 2nd time (finally the sand from the accident has gone, hurrah); went next door to the hotel and ate pizza (it was 2130 and I seriously could not face going any further); went to sleep mmm lovely sleep.
  • Wednesday morning I had approx 6 hours in Bangkok, which seemed like enough time to do something nice after I'd collected my train ticket and dumped my rucksack. So I went to the post office (three letters! Thank you Mum, Wendy, and Kat!), and then to the river, where I got on a river boat up to the Royal Palace. Why doesn't London make more use of the river? I know we have a couple of commute-type boats, but they're so damn expensive, and IIRC fairly slow. The Bangkok one is both cheap (25p flat fee) and pretty whizzy, although you do get splashed a bit. The Royal Palace was very, very, very shiny. Lots of gilt and coloured glass. Mostly what I saw was the Emerald Buddha (actually jade) which was interesting, but possibly more interesting was the large number of people coming in for actual worship (i.e. not tourists). Then it absolutely tipped it down for a bit, so I didn't really see much else before having to set off to walk through Chinatown back to the station.
  • Back on the train from Bangkok to Butterworth after my Cambodian bus interlude; once again v comfy, and this time you have the option of dinner being brought to your seat. Veggie option available and everything! Comfort levels generally quite high; I approve.
  • The people across the aisle from me, Meg and Jeff, are also travelling from the UK to Australia overland! So chatting to them was very nice, and I shall be following their blog.

Now I am in Penang (just across the water from Butterworth) for about 6 hrs, having finally located a left luggage option for my rucksack which consisted of a broom cupboard opened by the station manager. Found food, had a little wander, here checking the emails now.

juliet: (Default)

The last few days have been very busy. Here in helpful bullet point format for you:

  • Second day at the Angkor temples was also great. Ta Prohm (featured in Tomb Raider, apparently), which is falling down to various extent, is fantastic clambering-over-rubble fun, and pleasingly quiet, as soon as you get off the wooden path they've laid for the tour groups. At sunset I got Ta Keo all to myself, due primarily to the fact that about half an hour before the sun actually went, it started tipping it down. I sheltered in the top tower and watched the deluge, which was very pretty even if a sunset, per se, did not happen. On descending, the food/drink vendors outside came running over to offer me a free umbrella, but I felt that this probably wouldn't work well with cycling, especially as I already needed one hand to hold the torch.
  • Less good: getting hit by a motorbike on way home from Ta Keo. I am basically fine - bruised left elbow and wrist, enormous bruise on my arse (I think the motorbike handlebar end must have hit me there), couple of grazes, one of which is on the side of my foot and is most irritating. Possible slight whiplash, although that didn't show up till Wednesday morning and thus could be related to Hideous Bus Ride (see below). Anyway: I am still not quite sure exactly what happened, as things are slightly blurred between moment of impact, and standing by the side of the road inventorying bits of myself and being somewhat surprised that everything seemed to be broadly intact. I do remember that I made a hell of a racket, partly in an attempt to alert other traffic to my existence whilst I scrambled off the road, and partly in the hope that someone might stop. In fact, the bloke who hit me came back - although at the time I didn't know if that was who he was, because he didn't speak English and I don't speak Khmer (and was too busy shaking anyway). He put me and the bike on the back of the motorbike, and took me back to his house. Which was initially confusing, until he phoned his brother, who does speak English, to translate. We agreed that he'd take me back to the hotel and they would sort things out re the bike in the morning, so that is what happened. Anyway: no major harm done, but it was bloody scary.
  • Tuesday was Siam Reap to Bangkok. Minibus arrived at hotel, and I got in, assuming that (as per the Phnom Penh to Siam Reap bus) this would take us to the bus station, where we would transfer to the real bus, with a/c and nice seats, to get to the border. Not So. Scrotty minibus (and I had the seat over the wheel arch, Deep Joy) for entire 6-hr journey to Poipet, on the Cambodian/Thai border. Over the most appalling dirt-plus-pothole (mostly pothole) road it has ever been my misfortune to encounter. Also at frequent intervals there was a big swerve off the road as they're rebuilding all the bridges and have built dirt-and-pothole detours around them. Minibus did not have a/c, so all the windows were open, which when driving through a big dust-cloud for 6 hrs means that you get very, very grubby. My back still aches today, and I genuinely do suspect that this is road-related rather than accident-related. Anyway, we finally reached the border (I note for the record that Poipet is a dump, really: even bigger potholes and rammed with goods lorries), and I ran away from the minibus, deeply grateful that I'd only booked to the border. (Well, I say "ran"; in fact I mean "limped slowly and pathetically due to hideous wound in foot".) Then I ran away from someone else offering another minibus. Instead, I got a tuk-tuk to the bus station, where I bought a ticket on a lovely, comfy, a/c and toilet equipped express bus to Bangkok. Even got a bizarre Thai film featuring a humorous transvestite and some kind of heroic contract killer (or possibly a bodyguard - he was cute, wore black, and shot lots of people, but only Bad People) to watch as a bonus.
  • On arrival in Bangkok I got on a moto for the first time (and bargained him down to 60% of his original price, thus only getting overcharged by probably around 100% instead of 200%); got on the SKYTRAIN which is a TRAIN in the SKY and thus very exciting (actually it is the Tube in the sky which is even more exciting); found a hotel; washed my trousers for the 2nd time (finally the sand from the accident has gone, hurrah); went next door to the hotel and ate pizza (it was 2130 and I seriously could not face going any further); went to sleep mmm lovely sleep.
  • Wednesday morning I had approx 6 hours in Bangkok, which seemed like enough time to do something nice after I'd collected my train ticket and dumped my rucksack. So I went to the post office (three letters! Thank you Mum, Wendy, and Kat!), and then to the river, where I got on a river boat up to the Royal Palace. Why doesn't London make more use of the river? I know we have a couple of commute-type boats, but they're so damn expensive, and IIRC fairly slow. The Bangkok one is both cheap (25p flat fee) and pretty whizzy, although you do get splashed a bit. The Royal Palace was very, very, very shiny. Lots of gilt and coloured glass. Mostly what I saw was the Emerald Buddha (actually jade) which was interesting, but possibly more interesting was the large number of people coming in for actual worship (i.e. not tourists). Then it absolutely tipped it down for a bit, so I didn't really see much else before having to set off to walk through Chinatown back to the station.
  • Back on the train from Bangkok to Butterworth after my Cambodian bus interlude; once again v comfy, and this time you have the option of dinner being brought to your seat. Veggie option available and everything! Comfort levels generally quite high; I approve.
  • The people across the aisle from me, Meg and Jeff, are also travelling from the UK to Australia overland! So chatting to them was very nice, and I shall be following their blog.

Now I am in Penang (just across the water from Butterworth) for about 6 hrs, having finally located a left luggage option for my rucksack which consisted of a broom cupboard opened by the station manager. Found food, had a little wander, here checking the emails now.

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