Tag Archives: monkeys

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi (pronounced ‘co pee pee’) is a small group of islands off the coast of Phuket in Thailand. While a small time tourist destination in the 90s, since the release of the film “The Beach”, which was partially filmed on the island group’s second largest island, tourism has exploded.

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Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest island, has a pair of limestone ridges with a thin area of beaches connecting them. This strip of sandy isthmus forms a double-sided bay which is completely covered in resorts, housing, bars and hostels. On December 26, 2004, the water in both bays receded before tsunamis flowed in to meet in the middle, completely devastating the island.

Unlike Phuket, where businesses took only months to get back on their feet, it took 6 years to rebuild the base infrastructure, with construction still continuing 10 years later.

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The most popular daytime activity here is visiting the islands and spending time out at sea, snorkelling and diving. While the bad weather that had plagued us up the Malay Peninsula continued, I booked a day out on a boat anyway, to do some snorkelling and check out some of the beaches.

Beaches
The soft golden sand of the isthmus stretch between the pair of limestone ridge-lines giving great views from both beaches.

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Beyond getting out on the water, sitting on the beach is where most people can be found during the day.

Nightlife
The nightlife is one of the major reasons people come Koh Phi Phi and perhaps also its worst aspect. Koh Phi Phi Don is a haven for 18-25 year olds to drink copious amounts of alcohol and act stupidly. Many outlets even sell drinks by the bucket, and I’m not talking about a handful of bottles of beer in a bucket, I’m talking about a bucket of spirits.

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Monkey Beach
While the waters in this part of the world are usually clear and rife with fish, the bad weather had churned it up a little. The best area in the water was just outside Monkey Bay with large areas of spiky sea urchins and fish.

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Monkey Beach is, as the name suggests, a beach where monkeys harass tourists for food. There are plentiful young and some have a tendency to chase the tourists and bite them.

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Bamboo Island
North of the main islands, this island is surrounded by golden sandy beaches. Because the wind was increasing, we kayaked from the boat to the island instead of swam.

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On a sunny day the island would have the mystique of a desert island with nothing more than soft sand, a calm crystal clear ocean, bamboo and, because it’s Thailand, a bar.

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Maya Bay
Renown for being the location where the movie The Beach was filmed, it’s a popular place with people swarming to it every day. While the beach is spectacular, it’s still little more than just a golden sand beach with limestone hills around the mouth of the bay.

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The inland area, as seen on the movie, is not actually on the islands. But around the bay around the beach has crystal clear turquoise waters.

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Overall, Koh Phi Phi was a little disappointing as its main purpose seems to revolve around young adults getting hammered, spending the day recovering on the beach before doing it again the next night. The setting is beautiful and was otherwise only hampered by the rain.

Next we cross the Malay Peninsula to the island of Koh Samui.

The Trail Wanderers

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Impressions

Settled as a tin mining town in 1857, Kuala Lumpur didn’t officially become a city until 1972. Yet it’s the fastest growing metropolis in Malaysia, having exceeded 6.5 million people in just 150 years. Like many other rapidly growing cities, parts of it are construction zones with new buildings and public transport systems being developed.

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While Kuala Lumpur only has a handful of tourist attractions, it’s still a popular destination because of its great food and plentiful shopping areas. It also has a growing arts and theatre scene and many museums, including a very popular Islamic Arts Museum.

Shopping
Kuala Lumpur’s ‘Golden Triangle’ area is centred around Bukit Bintang, veritably the Fifth Avenue of Malaysia with it’s massive TV screens and monorail.

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The area is also known as KLCC, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, an area of sky scraping buildings and numerous shopping malls. Most of the buildings and malls in KLCC are connected on their underground levels by tunnels, some simply covered in advertising, while others have shops along their entire length. It’s easy to get lost in this underground tunnel network, as telling where one mall ends and the next begin can be difficult.

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Towers
At the heart of KLCC is possibly the most popular central city tourist location, the Petronas Towers.

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There are regular tours up the world’s tallest twin towers to the skybridge on level 41 (also one of the highest in the world) and then to the level 86 viewing area. The view out over the second tower with the KL tower and a rain storm in the background…

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The nearby KL Tower appears to be taller than the Petronas towers only because it was built on a hill. Both offer great views by day and night.

Markets
There are two main market areas in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Street and the Central Market.

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While only two minutes from each other the two markets offer different market experiences. Petaling Street vendors tend to more aggressive, mostly insisting that you really want to buy a watch. The Central Market vendors tend to leave you alone unless asked for help.

Batu Caves
At the edge of the city are the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. The shrines are in caves high in the wall of the limestone hill with 272 steps leading up to them. Dedicated to the Murugan, the Hindu god of war, the shines take some effort to reach, especially in Kuala Lumpur’s general humidity.

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Another set of stairs leads from the main cavern to an open-topped cave where the main shrine is located.

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A short distance from the Murugan Caves are the Ramayana Caves. These caves, dedicated to the Hindu god, Hanuman, depicts the Ramayana, an epic indian poem about the avatar Rama. There are many carvings in the cave, although it has yet to be completed.

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Of course, a general favourite of the caves area are the monkeys.

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Overall, Kuala Lumpur is a capital city, a great place to hang out for a few days without the need to visit as many tourists spots as possible. We enjoyed the great food, the nightlife and playing Cards Against Humanity with fellow travellers in the hostel. While little is spoken of it in the travel guides, Kuala Lumpur also home to the grande chicken temple of Nandos. A must visit to all chicken lovers.

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Next, we head north to the small city of Ipoh.

The Trail Wanderers

Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia – Impressions

For our final stop of in Indonesia we flew into the city of Padang in West Sumatra, a 90 minute flight from Jakarta.

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Padang has only 1 million people and this small population is noticeable as soon as you arrive. The sense of being crowded that pervades Bali or the cities of Java doesn’t exist here.

Padang is a major transit point for surfers heading out to the island groups of Batu and Mentawai. Those locations are remote and beautiful but with limited power and amenities. Rainy season was just beginning as we arrived so we chose not to spend the money to visit these islands. Maybe on a return visit.

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Padang has the feel of Bali without the tourists or the aggressive locals trying to sell us anything not nailed down. Padang beach is a well-known place for sunsets and has hundreds of food stalls along its length. Padang also contains many examples of Sumatran architecture, a style different to anywhere else in the country.

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Padang Cuisine
On our first night we were introduced to a local cuisine simply called ‘Padang’ which has spread throughout Indonesia. On being seated, the table is layered with small plates of food.

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There were usually several dishes of chicken, each cooked in a different manner. The same for fish, beef and vegetables, giving the meal a smorgasbord-like feel. At the end of the meal you’re only charged for what you eat, even if it’s only half a plate. A particular favourite was the Rendang, a spicy beef dish.

Angkot Kota
Padang has this public transport system common to other Indonesian cities. But unlike those other cities, Padang does it with more with style. The vans are modern, sportier and many even have spoilers, although by definition they don’t go very fast. And because of the loud Doof Doof music, you always know when an Angkot is approaching.

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Celebrities
On our first day in town we walked along the waterfront for several kilometres before circling back along one of the major roads of the city.

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Not long after we began walking we seemed to become local celebrities. People would honk horns, mothers would bring their children out to wave at us and school kids would call ‘Hey Mister!’ while going up for a high-five. Some people tried to start conversations but between their english being little more than ‘where are you from?’ and our Indonesian no more than ‘terima kashi’ (thank you) it never went far. For the most part we just smiled, waved and continued walking.

The Twin Lakes
With scooters available for hire at the hostel, we couldn’t resist taking a pair out for a day. To make the most of our time we took a long ride across the mountains to the twin lakes, Danau Diatas and Danau Dibawah. While it’s humid in Padang, once in the mountains things cool down pretty quickly.

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We crossed the small mountain range and as we came down the other side I discovered my front tire had a puncture. We drove into a small town, waved down a local and was surprised that he could speak English. Five minutes later we were at tyre shop where the mechanic kindly fixed the puncture for 10,000 rupiah – about AU$1.

Not long after, it began to rain. Thankfully one of the local roadside stalls sold rain ponchos. Then, after three hours we made it to the lakes. Danau Diatas…

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…and Danau Dibawah.

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With the weather closing in quickly we spent little time at the lakes before deciding to head back. The rain got quite heavy, but this didn’t put us off as we were dry under our ponchos. While we had to be more careful on the wet roads, the journey was actually quite fun. Wipers would have come in handy on our full face helmets though.

The mountains protect Padang from the rain, so once we crossed back over the range it became drier and warmer. A most enjoyable day.

Padang Hill
In the mid afternoon of our final day in Indonesia we decided to climb Padang hill, at the end of Padang Beach.

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While the hill only took ten minutes to climb, it was enough to soak us in sweat. The views of the coast line and the city were worth the effort, though.

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But beyond the views, we discovered a shopkeeper and a large family of monkeys at the top of the hill. We hung out watching the shopkeeper fend off the cheeky monkeys with a long bamboo stick. This seemed to be a constant battle. As the rain began to set in for the day we headed down the hill.

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After six weeks in Indonesia, it’s time to move on to a new country and more adventures. Tomorrow, Singapore.

The Trail Wanderers