Tuesday, 24 March 2015

CHINESE REMEDIES AND JUNGLE MELODIES- South Thailand and Central Malaysia

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux 



The break from Ko Fruitpoia was not as painful as might be imagined after such a long rest there. We were revived by the wonderful experiences this season, and ready for more, in places further along the road.

Bye bye till next time.....


KRABI / TRANG / HAT YAI

Although Krabi is a particularly busy tourist town at this time of year, with tourists constantly arriving and leaving for the various islands, we appreciate the casual vibe of the place, varied food (now with 5 different food night markets to choose from!), cheap prices (compared to the relatively expensive islands) and of course one of our favourite guesthouses, Swallow. We indulged in all the things we crave to be away from while on Fruitopia- electricity, internet, movies and 7-11 to name a few.

The fresh morning market held our attention, with some unusual offerings....


Shellfish, any ideas on the name? Krabi fresh morning market

Dried fish, Krabi fresh morning market

Mountains of mussels, Krabi fresh morning market

Skinned frogs- at least these ones were dead, Krabi fresh morning market

Vivid blue crabs, Krabi fresh morning market


We visited nearby Railey and Ao Nang beaches after an absence of several years, and were dismayed at how ugly such once beautiful places have become- Ao Nang the worse. They are no longer the perfect picture the travel agents all have on their walls. Grey concrete paths, rubbish and rubble everywhere, noisy and polluting long tails boats lined up for miles, not to mention the inevitable mass building of restaurants and hotels, have nearly spoiled the naturally gorgeous beaches and limestone scenery. Nevertheless, we made the most of the days out, and found ourselves amused by the feeling of being on another planet, with sun worshipers, glamour pusses (one in a tiara and sequined bikini!), in a people watchers delight.


A bit different from what we're used to!! Railay beach


Trang and Hat Yai were short stopovers of a couple of days each, and we tried to see at least one new thing in each place, having visited these towns dozens of times. In Trang it was the Thungkai Botanic Gardens, where a forested area full of butterflies has been set up with walking paths, a canopy walkway, and is surprisingly well organised and signposted......and free. We also stumbled across a fabulous new hotel in Trang which, as well as oozing character (an old building very recently and beautifully renovated), had the bonus of a Trang street view from the wraparound verandah, was spotless, friendly, and only a few dollars more than the dive we usually stay in at 300 baht/AU$12! Trang's other huge draw is the new night market near the train station. We certainly felt we were entering in to the real south of Thailand, with the many different Muslim/southern Thai style foods on offer, such as kopi (strong, black, local coffee, sometimes served with condensed milk), biryani (flavoured yellow rice) and roti (see here on more on these brilliant breakfast foods!).


Thungkai Botanic Garden, Trang

Gorgeous peacock, Trang

Handsome devil on the balcony of our Trang hotel

Chinese temple, Trang

Southern treats for dinner, Trang (chicken biryani, coconut juice, guava and our fav pumpkin custard)


In Hat Yai, we followed the advice of a fellow traveler, and stayed in the alternative guesthouse area around the bus station, instead of in the town center, which, once we eventually communicated what we needed to the non English-speaking hotel workers, was much more convenient considering our short stay. The new places for us to visit in Hat Yai were a) the unexpectedly impressive Wat Mahapanya Vidayalai, a Chinese Buddhist temple with a huge, golden Buddha statue surrounded by dozens of lines of life sized Buddha statues, some containing the ashes of deceased monks, and b) the Hat Yai Municipal Park, a boringly named, but rather charming, shady garden with a large lake in the middle, and it was too tempting not to take a pedlo out on the water and feed the frenzied fish! Unfortunately, we didn't make it up the 1000 steps to see the various religious statues at the top of the hill, as Richard's recurring back problem flared up again, in a nasty fashion, and we decided the best thing to do was temporarily quit our plan for a slow trip back to Kuala Lumpur, and rush back to arrange some visits to the Chinese therapies hospital in KL.


Wat Mahapanya Vidayalai, Hat Yai
Wat Mahapanya Vidayalai, Hat Yai

Hat Yai Park

Yes, that's Sal asleep on the bus, under all that clothing!


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

THE MAGICAL LANDS OF OZ AND FRUITOPIA

It had been a while since we've spent time in Australia, and I realized, unexpectedly, that I really missed it! Being in Asia for so long, we had forgotten the intense beauty of Oz, especially the gorgeous colours and smells of the bush, particularly the outstanding wildflowers, and the vibrancy, diversity and arty nature of the cities. For 6 weeks, we were taken in by generous friends and family in Cairns, Brisbane, Nanango, Sydney and Melbourne and experienced funny and varied little snippets of Oz life and culture- bush walking, a live cricket match, birdwatching, uniquely Aussie BBQs, picnics in parks, op shopping, fantastic markets, garage saleing, vineyards, city cafes, opera, the Archibald Prize, rugged beaches, pubs, Dandenong rainforest, a Melbourne Cup sweep, and even lawn bowls! The highlight, though,was catching up with Sal's fabulous family and our best buddies, and it was difficult each time we had to say goodbye.



Beautiful waratah flower

Sal in the bush

Large insect on large flower

Gorgeous grevillia

Spectacular colours

Australian bushland

Wild parrot in our friend's garden

Dessert delights

Sri Lankan feast thanks to my broher and sister in law

Enjoying a beverage at the cricket, Brisbane

Rich trying his hand at bowls, Melbourne

Catching up on sleep on the plane in between hectic schedules!

Sal's beloved Melbourne



People sometimes scoff when we say we need a rest from all our moving around the place. But as wonderful as traveling is, the fact is sometimes we have a hectic and energetic schedule (as in the last year and a half) and we feel the need for a break. For us, the perfect place for this, is our old favorite, Ko Fruitpoia. Much has been talked about this place on other posts, but this year was particularity fantastic, so much so we decided to stay longer than usual, and ended up there for several months. It was the people, really, that made it for us this year, and from the time we arrived in early November when there were only a handful of guests, right through to the busy, more populous high season, we met so many hugely entertaining and brilliantly unique new friends as well as many from previous years. They were all there in all their glory: The Long Time Travelers, The Inexperienced Newbies, The Drunks, The Potheads, The Aging Lotharios, The Keen Young Pups, The Schedule Keepers, The Time Wasters, The Socially Awkward, The Extroverts, The Yoga Fanatics, The Beachbums, The Chilled Out Families, The Musicians, The Princesses, The Young, The Old and everything in between!



Tai Chi on the beach

Noel in a dream

Great friends
Enjoying the serenity


Queen D getting creative

R's new look

Getting artistic



A lonely beach


By far, this year was the time for music. We were so privileged to have many first class musos amongst the guests, and many an afternoon and countless evenings were spent listening to, and joining in with songs and laughter. A hugely special added bonus was Queen D at her very best, with her happiness manifesting in some amazing sea gypsy song sessions, including some written just for us!



Naree feeling inspired


Full of energy, Annie
Tony's hard working hands

Deela in her element

A new song, one of many this year from Deela



And, of course, there were the sunsets......I tried to choose just a few, but every day is different and beautiful, so I've been indulgent!















To say these last few months have given us great happiness and inspiration would be an understatement! We've truly been revitalized and rejuvenated by the good energy of so many uplifting people, and ready to take on the world (or at least some of it!)


Happy and healthy