Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

The tuk tuk driver rouses himself from his slumber. It’s the slightly rude man who took us to the market last night. He’s probably just worn down from his labours in a hot and hectic city. To him we’re probably rich foreigners who sleep in a bed rather than a hammock strung across a tuk tuk. We’re not a prospect for repeat business so he doesn’t have to care. It’s understandable but still unpleasant. I resent having to pay him at the end of my ride. If he’d been friendly I would have given him the last of my Riel as a tip (about $US1.50 on top of a $US7 fare). But I don’t. I take them home because I cannot bring myself to encourage his approach. 

The streets of Phnom Penh are now less alien than when we arrived. I no longer feel as anxious as I did just twelve days ago. I had read so much bad press about Cambodia and its people. So much that turned out to be so untrue. Our bag was not snatched. Our pockets were not picked. Our belongings were not stolen from our guesthouse rooms (we didn’t stay in dives though – we paid $12-$25 per night for places with excellent reviews). I don’t know why I read up so much. Usually I don’t. Perhaps I’d lost my touch being back on our large island continent for ten months. I wish I hadn’t and I won’t in future. 

We experience the last of our Cambodian snow. That’s what Tony called the dust kicked up by traffic on the gravel roads outside Battambang. Next time I see snow I hope it’s the real stuff in Belgium or Holland at Christmas.

Airport officials make us reprint our boarding passes. Ours have bar codes but don’t look like the airline ones. Flexibility will take a little while to ease into officialdom here. 

It’s a short flight to Kuala Lumpur. Forty minutes over Cambodia, forty minutes over the sea and forty minutes over Peninsular Malaysia. Our captain plays tour guide. He clearly loves his job and it passes the time for us. 

We’re both quite tired and have both picked up stomach bugs in Kampong Chhnang. So we have a lazy afternoon in our room then catch a movie.

We eat at a local restaurant.

And have a short walk around our hotel before calling it a night. 

Vietnam in 2017

I woke at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep so I randomly opened Facebook. What did I see but an advertisement for an Air Asia Mega Sale. Logging onto the Air Asia website I saw there was also a 0 points sale. 

A patient search found return seats from Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for MYR304 ($AU95) for two people (that is, seats were free and we just need to pay airport taxes). Then I found return sale fares from the Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur for $AU575.44 for two people. So we just booked. 

The dates were critical because we are studying at university to be primary school teachers so are limited to university holidays (and to now selecting subjects with no exams because I couldn’t find fares after the exam period ended). 

We came to Cambodia due to a similar free seat sale and look how great this is turning out. So no doubt Vietnam will be similarly great. 

And we’re off – Cambodia trip 2016

Paul and I tied the knot on Monday night at our Halloween themed, non-government-sanctioned wedding ceremony. I don’t play the divisive and demeaning “commitment ceremony” game. While marriage equality is yet to occur in Australia (not for lack of public support), we don’t need some official government suit to recognise our relationship because 100 of our closest family and friends have (including their own certificate to recognise our union). 

Our wedding was amazing and an incredibly happy event. And I am blessed to have a kindred spirit as my husband. 

So now we’re off on our honeymoon to Cambodia. It’s the first trip where I can leave my laptop at home because I no longer work online. Sure, I now don’t get paid when I travel (I work casually) but boy will it be fantastic to just relax, explore, read and laugh without needing to make time to think. And this also means my 32L pack is half empty 🙂 .

Tonight we fly to Kuala Lumpur, arriving at 4am tomorrow morning. We have two days in magnificent KL before we continue on to Phnom Penh. Stay tuned for some stories from the road.

It’s been 10 months since we traveled together and we’ve both missed it. This will change moving forward, starting right now. 

Cambodia in November 2016

Paul is worse than me. We’re only just home from Europe but he found a fantastic return airfare to Kuala Lumpur for November and free seats to Phnom Penh so he booked us return flights. We’ll either have a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur then a fortnight in Cambodia. Ironically, I made the same booking for almost the same dates in November 2015 but cancelled to be with Paul. But this time I am going with Paul so it will be amazing.

We’re getting married on 31 October so this will be our honeymoon.

Someone said that it wouldn’t take long for us to book our next trip … they weren’t wrong. Haha.

Arriving in Yogyakarta (Central Java, Indonesia)

We’ve taken the long way to fly from our home in Brisbane to Java. We flew from the Gold Coast over Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur, waited five hours at the airport and then flew back south to Yogyakarta. But it’s not all bad. The only direct flights from Australia to Indonesia go to either Jakarta or Bali, and neither of those places are that attractive to me. Besides, thanks to Air Asia’s amazing discounts, our long way flight was super cheap anyway. I actually don’t mind transit time either. When we’re up in the air the real world ceases to exist. There’s no email, phone or internet (unfortunately, this is about to change). There’s just time to chill out, watch movies and catch as many uncomfortable zzz’s as possible.

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Landing in Yogyakarta is so far removed from our regimented lives in the West. People mill around on the tarmac taking selfies with the plane in the background. There’s no bunting or security guards telling us where not to go. This is Indonesia. Things are different here. Fun … interesting … at times challenging … and totally different.

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Yogyakarta’s international airport is tiny; just as Semarang’s was a year ago. But there are more foreigners requiring visas on arrival here. We manage to get near the front of the queue though because I get in before the customs officers organise the chaos. Interestingly, the visa on arrival here in Yogyakarta is only $US35 while I payed $US70 in Semarang last year. Lucky us I guess.

We catch the public bus into the city. It costs just IDR3,600 each ($AU3.60). We could have taken a taxi but we both get the “go away” feeling when taxi drivers harass us. I know they are just trying to be helpful and make a living but it’s confronting when you just step off a long flight. Perhaps we are both just stubborn and independent so want to feel like we are making the decision not having it pushed on us. The bus turns out to be quite fine. We are going to a hostel south of the Kraton (Sultan’s Palace). We take bus 3B, get off at the next bus station, wait for bus 3B to park and then come back to pick us up again, then get off three stops later to walk to the hostel.

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After a rest and shower we set off in search of the first meal of our trip. We go out on foot, preferring to stretch our legs than be pedaled around in a becak (Indonesian rickshaw). It’s hot after a month in the Brisbane winter. Mild as our winter is, the temperature on the street here in Yogya is in the high twenties centigrade.

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The city’s streets are hectic and cramped. I guess that’s what happens when 143 million people live on an island just 1,100km x 210km (680 miles x 130 miles). Interestingly, the population of Yogyakarta is a modest 4 million people. So it’s not a heavily populated city by global standards. But it is hectic.

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We wander the streets taking in the uniquely Indonesian atmosphere. There’s a particular ingenuity here that I noticed on my last visit and it doesn’t take long to see it in action again when there’s an actual pot plant marking a pot hole in a road.

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The crazy loaded trucks of young men presumably traveling home from school or work prove we’re not in “Kansas” anymore.

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But it’s food we are looking for. I’m fanging after the flight and my favourite cuisine by far is Indonesian so the sights and smells make me drool. It’s still early in the evening (around 5:30pm) so the main food stalls and restaurants are not yet open. But that’s okay because there’s not much like the scent of chicken satay cooking on a coal fire to whet my appetite. Poor Paul. His first taste of Indonesian food comes from a dinky little satay stall … and he’s not even fussed on satay at the best of times. But he’s a good sport.

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We walk some more and let our senses get bombarded by the cacophony of noise. It’s loud here. Especially after our week out west where there was sometimes no sound but the wind. Paul proves to be the champion road crosser and is across every intersection before I’ve even taken stock of the traffic. It’s an impressive skill.

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I encourage Paul to stop at an angkingan stall for dinner. He’s not sure about eating cold pre-cooked foods but I convince him that this is the way it’s done here. His trepidation comes from getting sick in Thailand after eating cold food. Being a good sport he tries some rice with tempeh, green beans, fried chicken and fried egg. I go with the rice, tempeh, green beans, fried fish and fried egg. We wash it down with typically sweet teh panas (hot tea). This Paul likes very much … the super sweet tea.

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I am excited to see a terang bulan (pan-sized fresh made golden crumpet) stall. This time I think I will be on a winner introducing Paul to one of my all time favourite sweets and the biggest reason why I gained so much weight last time I was on Java. We order a chocolate and condensed milk variety. It’s almost torture to carry it all the way to the hostel to eat it. But, somehow, I manage. This Paul likes but doesn’t love because it’s a very fatty desert. There’s a truckload of butter smeared all over the crumpet and obviously a truck load of butter or oil in the batter. Me: I love it but decide I will not eat it every night like I was last time I was here. I do not want to carry that extra weight next month when I am hiking in Turkey.

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It feels late as we walk back to our hostel but turns out to be a little after 7pm. The streets are still alive with motorbikes and people. We are both tired from the long flight and our bodies haven’t yet adjusted to the time difference (it would be 10pm at home). But we’ve both had a lovely first evening in Yogyakarta and are looking forward to getting more familiar with Java over our next month here.

Indonesia here we come!

We’re all packed and ready for our next adventure: Indonesia. Yesterday we packed. Last night we stayed at my sister’s house to say goodbye to her kids so cooked dinner on the camp fire and then made breakfast for them before school.

Our flight departs tonight so we’ll be sleeping on the plane and arriving in Yogyakarta around lunch time tomorrow (we’re flying Air Asia so have to go to Kuala Lumpur first then fly back to Indonesia from there). See you when we get there.

Tokyo-Narita to Kuala Lumpur

I wake up early and ready to fly home. I’ve enjoyed Japan but there always comes that moment just before departure when you are ready to see those you love. I don’t sleep well because my missed flight from Chiang Mai is still firmly fixed in my memory. But I wake up on time, load the final two pannier bags on the bike and set off for the Tokyo Narita International Airport. It’s only supposed to be a 9km ride from the hostel but I fail to pay attention and cycle about 2km in the wrong direction resulting in a 2km ride back to where I was. The total ride is 13km but I’ve left myself plenty of time so it’s no problem.  photo IMG_20150512_055723_zpsk1uagrmp.jpg

Just before the airport I find one last geocache in Japan. I think I found five here in total. But I needed to find this one because I’ve been carrying a travel bug for over two months that I have been trying to find a cache large enough to place it in. I had seen this cache was a “regular” so knew it would be big enough. It’s a travel bug hotel so I drop the one I’ve been carrying and collect three from the cache. There are about ten travel bugs in the cache and many have been there for a while so I figure it will be okay to take a few and send them on their way.  photo IMG_20150512_075310_zpscgyerefo.jpg

You can ride all the way to the airport along a cycleway. But once at the airport itself, finding the entry is a challenge. The security guards at the entrance to the driveway force me onto a walkway but then the only way to the actual airport entrance is either down some stairs or through a carpark and then into a lift. I take the latter option. I just walk the bike right up to where the Air Asia gate is signed, remove the box from the back rack and pack everything. The box needs to be cut down because it’s far too big but I manage and even can fit it in without removing the rear wheel or rack. I could have put the whole bike in complete but thought that might be a bit cheeky. And yes, I did cycle to the airport with that big wide box sat on the rear rack like that … it was fine.

The Air Asia check in was not so fine. You are not allowed trolleys at the baggage drop which means people have to struggle with their luggage, especially sporting equipment. I slide the bike box along the floor and am not the only one who is having difficulty. To add insult to annoyance there are two check-in areas for Air Asia. One is Air Asia Thailand and the other is Air Asia X. The distinction isn’t signed. So I struggle and wait in one queue only to be sent to another counter, which requires more struggling with my gear. Oh, and the Air Asia counters are in an alcove in an area between the two terminal entrance doors – not inside the terminal itself.

The next joy was discovering that my luggage could not be checked through. The lady said that I should have booked the flight as a through-flight on a single booking. In fact, I had done this but Air Asia decided to cancel my connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur to the Gold Coast so now I have to clear customs with my luggage and recheck it in tomorrow morning from Kuala Lumpur. I will also have to pay for my own hotel in Kuala Lumpur or sleep on the airport floor. I emailed Air Asia to query this and they said that “flight schedules are subject to change at any time” and that Air Asia will not be liable for any loss incurred by passengers due to the airline changing flight schedules. Let’s just say that I am monitoring the flight cancellation situation by Air Asia compared with other airlines that I fly because so far I have had a number of flights cancelled (Kuala Lumpur to Gold Coast leg of my through flight home from Thailand but for some reason they did put me up in a hotel that time, my return flights between Kuala Lumpur and Narita were canceled and I was re-routed to Osaka, this flight home has been cancelled and Paul’s flight from Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur was also cancelled and he was placed on a later flight). Yes, they put you on another flight but I am starting to get annoyed with the cancellations.  photo 20150512_092826_zpsxdigfkrb.jpg

But perhaps this is why the airline is canceling so many flights. This is my flight from Narita to Kuala Lumpur after all the passengers have boarded. I would estimate that the flight was about 25% booked and the rest of the seats were vacant. Everyone on the flight got a whole row of seats to themselves and still there were plenty of extra spaces. It was a quiet flight with lights dimmed and window shades down throughout the plane despite it being a daytime flight. I guess if we passengers can lie down to sleep we all will.  photo 20150512_165215_zpsbl3zcvih.jpg

The flight itself was a little bumpy due to monsoon season in this part of Asia. But the pilot flew very high (41,000 feet … the limit of this aircraft’s legal altitude) probably to fly over the worst of the weather. Once the seat belt sign was off I just turned on a movie and dozed. Oh, the silhouette in the window is Tozzie my travel companion. He was a gift from a friend to Paul and me. We are taking him traveling with us and he has his own Facebook page so I took a photo of him for that page and it turned out to be the better of my in-flight photos.  photo 20150512_191704_zpspo3r7o3z.jpg

 photo 20150512_191804_zpsb9dlyf48.jpgFlight successfully completed I decided not to sleep on the airport floor. For MYR100 ($AU35) for 12 hours I could get a capsule in the airport container hotel. It included luggage storage (including the bike), showers, sitting area, international power point and fast wifi. I only have 17 days to be with my loved ones so why turn up home tomorrow night tired when I can have a good sleep now and depart refreshed in the morning. The capsule is really comfortable and much better than a hostel dorm. And I don’t need much more space than this to write a blog post or two, watch a movie on my laptop and have a refreshing sleep.