A Travellerspoint blog

BLOG: Fantasea finish.

View 2001 Indochina & Bario on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_11661313823711.jpgFeeding tiger cubs at FANTASEA. (Scanned photo, apologies for poor quality).
Not much to report except that we're having a great time eating the wonderful food ... but that's no different from Vietnam, Malaysia or Brunei really. Our time is split between the Allamanda Laguna (an exquisite property courtesy of my sister) and the Baan Sukhothai in Patong [Patong-travel-guide-1312477] (which is really handy to all the things that Phuket is famous for, like shopping and eating). We ended hiring a car as it works out very cheaply in comparison to taxis and tuktuks, due to the distances covered (about 25km each way).

It is good to see that Phuket has renewed itself to provide new interests for visitors. The FANTASEA show outside Patong is a fusion of culture (dancing), high-tech (laser and pyrotechnics), theme park and shopping. All very well done, with up to 30 elephants on an indoor stage at once, plus chickens and doves. Oh Susan ... you'll be so envious when I show you the photos of Kim and I each having a tiger cub on our laps, sucking on a bottle of milk! I think Sylvester will be downright jealous!

This has been a good finale to the trip. We look back and think that the highlights are:

* obviously the ruins at Angkor

* meeting the people of Vietnam and Cambodia and their unsurpassed resilience in recovering from the atrocities of war

* seeing how a remote bunch of people (with no electricity or water) can achieve so well in their career and education

* and of course seeing family and friends (which is always associated with eating .... curry for breakfast anyone?)

We look forward to seeing you all soon (obviously only those in Auckland). Arriving home on Thursday on that great airline that hasn't heard of peanut allergies ... oh, the political correctness of some airlines nowadays that don't serve peanuts.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

BLOG: Back to my roots

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We made our way back to Miri [Miri-travel-guide-1097323] in Malaysia to catch our flight to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915]. It is cheaper (less than half) to fly from there than from Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), and there's the international departure tax vs the domestic departure tax from Miri.

From Miri, we flew to Kuching and stayed with Mum ... well she wasn't there ... she was in Singapore. But we'll be spending time with her in Phuket soon.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

BLOG: Amusement, courtesy of his majesty

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From Bario we flew back to Miri (with a brief stop in Marudi) and shared a cab to Brunei ... my first visit to this particular neighbour.

Bandar Seri Begawan (the capital) is quite pretty and we visited the Royal Regalia Museum and two grand mosques. In a way the Sultan's extravagance will leave something for future generations to admire! Where would we be if the pharoahs didn't force a few million slaves to build some pyramids for us today? Would we be richer as a human race?

We also went to Jerudong Park. This an amusement park supposedly bigger than Disney. It was built by the Sultan for his subjects on one of his birthdays (about 8 years ago). It used to be free but now they charge 6USD for unlimited rides. With a population of 300K the customers dwindled even when it was free.

It has supposedly gone downhill and some rides are now closed. But the good screaming ones (including a rollercoaster pulling 8 Gs, and a vertical drop machine) are still open with other good ones. Still beautifully kept despite the low customer numbers ... there were no other people in sight at many times during our visit and it was quite eeeeeerieeee! Expected about 50 people that night!

There was also a water-fountain synchronised with music and lights (like Rotorua & Kuching). But this was huge and very well presented with Malay songs (common thru Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia) and Michael Jackson (who performed free for the subjects of the Sultan as his gift to the people on his 25th anniversary). The music is changed nightly! What a job doing computer programming.

In Bandar Seri Begawan, we stayed at the Pusat Belia or Youth Centre. It was basic but the swimming pool was good. All was fine until the aircon packed up at night. It could have been a lot worse ... Kim spotted a Dutch fellow-hosteller walking into building with a durian, but managed to convince him to leave it outside ... of all places, in a locker!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Brunei Comments (0)

BLOG: The Kelabit Highlands experience

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Checking in Miri [Miri-travel-guide-1097323] for Bario [Bario-travel-guide-1309383] involves weighing yourself as well as your baggage. The 50-minute flight took us over a couple of small airfields which have no other connections to the outside world. We fly over a high mountain range (covered with dense rainforest) before landing in a now sealed strip surrounded by rice paddies.

Bario is about 3700 ft above sea level, in a valley surrounded by high mountains. There is a dirt track that goes around the valley with a couple of other tracks criss-crossing. People generally do treks lasting several days out of here but we didn't have time 'cos return flights out were full for alternate dates.

We saw the funniest sight ever ... a large unkempt man with a group of nomadic Penans (quite small) carrying large tanks of petrol on their backs. They had been walking for a day carting gas to Bario to sell because there's a shortage.

Petrol is carried in by a cargo Skyvan normally and because the aircraft had been chartered by the government for survey work, they had been running low/out.

The wild looking European ended up being a Swissair captain who was helping out. He said that the Penans carried more than he could with no food or water through the day (only smokes). The 6 year old carried a baby on her back for the whole duration.

For such an isolated place, we were surprised at how well-travelled people were. Some people (including those with ear lobes down to their shoulders) have been to NZ, Stavanger, Sydney etc. Comments like

* "that lady went to NZ and brought back plant seeds because flowers in NZ are so pretty ... see the plants in the garden now?".

* "My daughter is a stewardess with Malaysia Airlines and she took me to Frankfurt and Auckland on her work trips".

About 1000 people live in the Bario area and we had to shake the hands of most people we met. The people are Kelabit and they've done amazingly well for themselves.

Grandpa and Grandma would speak no English and have ears to their shoulders (with weights) and Ma and Pa would be teachers or other professionals. The children would be lawyers, doctors, PhD in marine biology etc. Very outward and forward looking people compared to many ethnic people around the world who look backwards at injustices or opression.

They were so hospitable, inviting us into their longhouse, insisting that we eat with them in a "restaurant" (and then the restaurant refusing payment).

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

BLOG: Nightstop in Miri

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From Saigon we flew to KL transitting smoothly to Miri [Miri-travel-guide-1097323] for an overnight before our flight to Bario [Bario-travel-guide-1309383]. We stayed in a small inn where my brother Benny was staying on a business trip.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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