Posted by: glenswatman | February 3, 2011


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SUNDAY 16 JANUARY – Head off to Point Impossible and soon realise we should have done this yesterday as the mist tries and fails to burn off. Grant & Anne arrive followed shortly by Jamie and family. We do get a brief sunny spell and Steve & Norm take the boogie boards out and the kids play cricket but it is really making the best of it. In the evening we go over to Beth & John Crags for drinks. We’ve visited before but their stunning cliff top home and garden never fail to impress, just like a 5 star holiday resort with million dollar views. He has recently extended one of the cliff top decks and this is where we sit for drinks and nibbles. Once it gets too cold we retire inside for more food. John & Beth are very well travelled and he has loads of tales to tell. Beth is just recovering from cancer so their travels have been on hold but they have lots of plans for later this year.

MONDAY 17 JANUARY – Back to the cooler weather. During my afternoon on the Internet I book for Claire, Daniel and Natasha to fly out and join us in Venice in July. Ryanair have great deals at £39.99 each but it is so frustrating that you cannot avoid paying £6 each for on line check in and £5 each for paying by credit or debit card. Claire will only stay for a week and we are lucky to get her return flight cheap as well at Euro 50.99 all in. I also order solar panels for the motorhome on EBay through Green Electric; £315.98 buys us 2 x 180w monocrystaline panels plus a controller and other fittings. As if that isn’t enough spending for one day I round it off by phoning to pay the buildings insurance on our cottage in England.

TUESDAY 18 JANUARY – It is another dreary day so chance to watch a DVD in the morning. We enjoy a fish lunch then I walk to the library. More research on things for the van. Today I order travel books and through Vicarious books some specialist ones on motorhome camper stops in Europe. Always figure this is money well spend as you really only have to save a couple of night’s campsite fees and the book has paid for itself. Travelling around Europe we will need INF (International Naturist Federation) cards which you get by being members of a club. As nomads we learn that we can become friends of Wai-natur in New Zealand and get a card for a couple for NZ$45 (£23) so I do this all on line. Steve & Norm have a fishing afternoon and return with their bag limit of 20 whiting each.

WEDNESDAY 19 JANUARY – Today I feel I have gathered enough information to order the LPG gas system for the motorhome. We are going for 2 x11kg aluminium refillable tanks and through F.E.S. get a kit plus a European adaptor for £436.68 including postage. I may well be getting stuck in to ordering things for the van but almost as fast as I get one thing done I realise we need others. Now find out that brand new motorhomes do not come with even one leisure battery so I need to research leisure batteries plus an inverter. We are hoping that by the time we pick up the motorhome around 13th May it will be kitted out and ready to go other than buying things for inside. Again the lads have a good fishing trip catching their bag load.

THURSDAY 20 JANUARY –The floods are now spreading through Victoria and Garth & Jude in Mildura are cut off from Melbourne so plans to pick up Alex from the airport have had to be changed to flying him home. Norm & Bev take us for a run out to the block so they can collect some firewood. It’s a good job they have come prepared as part way along the track is a fallen tree. Whilst Norm & Steve set too with the chain saw Bev & I walk to the shed and get the BBQ started. It’s amazing how much nicer a sausage sandwich tastes when it has been cooked on a wood BBQ and is eaten out in the open. We do a walk around the perimeter so the fences can be checked and the tracks cleared of debris. In the evening their friend Lynn calls round and we have another nice steak BBQ. It’s amazing that given the size of the small towns Lynn has a friend in Market Drayton and also grew up in Wilton where I also used to live.

FRIDAY 21 JANUARY – I spend the morning in the library and manage to get the Inverter ordered through Amazon with Kikatek at £18.66. In the afternoon Bev joins me on line and we book a ferry crossing with DFDS from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark for 2nd June. It costs £110 for the motorhome and £178 for a 4 berth inside cabin. Now we have a date to work to they can get on and book flights. Phone Mum in the evening to wish her a Happy Birthday, she has a nice day out planned with my sister.

SATURDAY 22 JANUARY – The lads head out for an early morning fish. They don’t do too well but enjoy the experience so go out again in the evening and get their limit of 20 whiting each.

SUNDAY 23 JANUARY – Norm wants to make a fish delivery in Torquay so this ties in well with our last visit to Point Impossible. It is really busy and the tide is high making it a little more difficult for walking the 1 km length. Steve & Norm go out for a last evening’s fishing. Bev & I really enjoy watching the Aboriginal based movie “Bran Nue Dae”. It was a stage show and last year came out as a movie and was filmed in Broome and Perth so we recognise many of the places.

MONDAY 24 JANUARY – I join Bev for a visit to Drysdale so I can say Goodbye to her Mum Joan. Spend the rest of the day relaxing and packing. In the evening we sip bubbly during our last “Happy Hour” whilst showing Steve & Norm Bran Nue Dae. The second time around you get to concentrate more on the lyrics of the catchy songs and realise there are a lot of historical stories within them. Bev & Norm drop us at the airport around 10.30pm; we will next see them at the beginning of June when they join us for a European Swatour. I’m just figuring out which Air Asia line we want to be in when I feel a heavy hand on my shoulder and someone saying “immigration”. It’s Grant trying to wind me up. He has come along with Daniele to see us off. After doing on line check in we just have to go for a document check. They weigh our hand luggage as you are only allowed 7kg each but my extra 1kg slips through and the fact that Grant is holding another carryon bag goes completely un noticed. The flight leaves on time at 1.30am. Air Asia offers a very basic, but cheap, flight and you pay extra for a DVD player, meals etc but they are very reasonably priced. I buy the Tune mobile phone SIM card at RM5 (£1.10) with the RM5 credit included. Our attempts at sleep fail due to a medical emergency on board. The sick lady is moved to the row of seats just behind and across from us. The oxygen tank is behind my seat and it makes a lot of noise when they keep getting it out but at least the lady looks much better for it.

TUESDAY 25 JANUARY – We land at the LCCT (low cost carrier terminal) of Kuala Lumpur airport, MALAYSIA, around 6.30am after our 8 hour flight. Immigration is fast and efficient but we just miss the 7am Air Asia sky bus to the city, (RM9 (£2) and must wait half an hour. Exchange rate around 4.80 Malaysian Ringgits = £1. It takes about 45 minutes to get us to KL Sentral and from there we connect to the KTM train to Serdang, RM1.70 (£36p). We are Couchsurfing with Vina and she meets us at the station. Of Indian descent her family moved here many years ago. She lives with her mother at Blu Waters in the Mines Resort in what Vina calls a simple home. It is a huge mansion with its own swimming pool and we have a private room with en-suite so are going to be very comfortable. Vina heads to work whilst her Mum Honey feeds us toast and drinks. It is now 10.30am and she suggest we take a nap and not to worry if she has gone out at 12.30pm but to make ourselves at home. We get up around 1pm, home alone. I really appreciate being able to do some swimming and stretching exercises in the pool. We meet their opposite neighbour David from Tasmania, he has just moved here as headmaster of the nearby Australian school. Vina gets home just after 8pm and after a quick shower takes us out in the car. In Bungsar we meet her Mum and friend Sathia at Pelita Restaurant. Vina amazes us with her parking as she follow no rules and stops where she wants but this time is in eye sight of the car when the traffic warden comes along giving her chance to move it quickly. During our meal Sathia gives us lots of tips on places to visit in India. Vina gets a call from fellow Couchsurfer Fahmy from Egypt. He has been out on a day’s bus trip to Malacca and is coming back to Vina’s to freshen up before they go out for the evening so we pick him up from the bus station. We are more than happy to call it at day at 11Pm when Vina and Fahmy head out.

WEDNESDAY 26 JANUARY – Vina drops us at the KTM station on her way to work at 8.30am. She works in IT and her company operates 24 hours so her hours are a little bit flexible. We get off at the old Kuala Lumpur railway station to begin the Lonely Planet Colonial walking tour. We hear a lot of music when we get to Merdeka square and find out there are numerous bands and dance groups practising for a festival. At Masjid Jamek mosque you have to don long coats and a scarf just to walk around outside the buildings. Since our last visit in 2006 we are noticing many more Muslim women in the city. We head off to nearby “Little India”. The market stalls have lots of cheap clothing and goods but I suspect these things will be even cheaper in the real India. There are a number of art deco buildings and the neglected Coliseum Hotel where Somerset Maugham used to stay. Backtracking from the end of the main thoroughfare we catch the LCT (RM2.30, £49p) to Sentral and then walk down to Brickfields area. We immediately spot a sign advertising that Sentral My Hotel has a promotion with double rooms at RM108 (£25). We will need a place to stay when we return in May and are shown modern rooms with the rate including Internet, tea and coffee in rooms etc. Just around the corner the sister hotel My Hotel Brickfields has almost identical rooms at MR98 (£22) and should be quieter. Vina has recommended we check out Annalakshmi restaurant within the Fine Arts Museum on Jalan Berhala near the Buddhist temple. It is a very nice restaurant serving a vegetarian buffet with no fixed price; you pay what you feel it is worth or what you can afford. After paying we talk to one of the staff who gives us details of their other restaurant in Madras. At the Buddhist temple we are approached by a man who very briefly tells us about Buddhism and invites us to take as many of the free books as we wish. His approach is very casual and tailored to our interest. With him is a visiting monk from Nepal who has spent time at the Wolverhampton temple. When we get back to Serdang it is raining so for RM11 we get a taxi home. After a brief afternoon nap we chat to Honey and learn much more about India. Tonight we have asked to take Vina & Honey out for dinner so once Vina gets back we head off. She takes us to a huge hawker food court in nearby Seri Kembangan. She helps us with our choices and Steve has herbal pork clay pot dish whilst I have stingray. Our drinks and other foods all come from different stalls but we just sit at a table and when each one brings a dish over we pay. The dragon fruit drink is delicious, a bit like a cross between blackcurrant and raspberry juice. We have more than enough to eat and the RM50 (£11) note we put on the table at the start covers it all. Vina wants us to see KL at night and in the centre of town Petronas Towers look magnificent. It is just coming up to Chinese New Year so we get the bonus of many streets full of red Chinese lanterns. At the Sunway Hotel and shopping centre the surrounding streets and square are full of amazing light displays. During the drive Vina and Honey continue to entertain us with their banter and with Vina’s parking. After our first full day back in Malaysia we conclude that it is still a wonderful country with very friendly and helpful people, reasonable prices and the bonus of most people speaking English and signs and newspapers that we can read. Reckon it would be a nice place to live if you could cope with the constant humidity.
KL 2

THURSDAY 27 JANUARY – It’s David’s 32nd birthday but we will be unable to text him until later in the day. Vina has left early so we make the 30 minute walk to the station. Today we get off at Mid Valley. Vina has instructed us to take a taxi for RM10 to go to Thean Hou Temple. The first taxi driver has no idea where it is but the second one does and agrees the price. Unfortunately he is not absolutely sure where it is and we make 3 sweeps back past the station before he gets it right. Really we could have walked it but it is at the top of a hill and Honey thought it would be too hot to climb up. The temple is wonderful with a garden showing all the Chinese year symbols so we pose for pics beside Steve’s horse and my monkey. The temple is stunning with many attractive painted features. You also get some great views back to the city. We walk back through Brickfields and down a small alley way notice a movie being shot. They are happy for us to watch and take pictures of the action. Waiting for the train we notice that the central carriage is reserved for women only, apparently this is a new trial as many women were being plagued by pick pockets or being touched up. We arrive back in time to have a swim before the afternoon downpour. In the evening Vina takes us over to the Mines shopping centre. In the underground car park it is very easy to find a space as the free ones have a green light above and the taken ones a red one. Inside the mall is a canal with boats that brings people from the train station at the far end of the lake right into the shopping centre. In the food area we find a restaurant where we take a set fish meal. Later in the evening Vina cooks at home for her Couchsurfing friends Jeeves and Thomas and of this we just have a taster as it is eaten around midnight.
KL 3

FRIDAY 28 JANUARY – We’ve had a great time with Honey and Vina and look forward to staying with them on our return. Honey needs to buy a new remote control so she joins us when Vina drops us at the station just after 8.30am. The platform is crowded but a train due at 8.37am. As the time approaches the time changes and continues to do so until almost 10am. There’s a problem further up the track where a train is stuck. Honey tells us we cannot get a direct bus from here to Sentral and Steve finds the taxi is RM39 (£4.50) but there is already a line up. We are really pleased to see a train arrive just before 10.15am but it is so packed not everyone can get on. Actually this works well for us as the next train is less crowded. Connect with the Air Asia bus and arrive at the airport just after mid day. We take a meal and make use of the free internet before proceeding to the departure area. The terminal has grown so much since our last visit 5 years ago and now has so many shops and restaurants. Our flight to Cochin leaves on time at 3.35pm and lands in Cochin INDIA at 6.30pm local time 4 hours later. 2 ½ hours behind Malaysia and 5 ½ hours ahead of England. Getting off the plane and through immigration is really fast and we are pleased to emerge into the arrivals hall and see a sign saying “Glen – Thomas Inn”. We pre booked the car and Stanley is ready to take us to the homestay, (INR660 (£10). Directly outside the building I spot an ATM and initially make a mistake drawing Rs 1000 (Indian Rupees) misjudging the Rs75 = £1 and thinking I have over £100. Fortunately the machine allows me a second transaction. It is around 30C but a bit less humid than Malaysia. We are whisked away in a modern people transporter car but not for long as the bad roads and traffic soon slow us down. It is 20 years since we were last in India and little has changed other than a few more modern buildings appearing. The most important part of the car is still the horn with different touches signifying, I’m coming past, move out of the way, hurry up or danger. Our accommodation is in the Kaloor district and chosen through as the reviews say it is down a quiet side road, the accommodation basic but clean, well priced and with friendly owners. We are immediately greeted by Thomas and his wife Laslee who makes us tea and coffee. The Indians seem to be very softly spoken and coupled with our flight muffled ears and unaccustomed to the accent we have great difficulties understanding his helpful information. We do make out that at 7.30pm Stanley will take us out to dinner. No idea what this actually means but happy to just go with the flow today. It turns out that he escorts us back out to the main highway, pointing out the bus station and other important landmarks, then stops outside a modern restaurant. He checks we know our way back and then leaves us there. We guess this restaurant is recommended either because of the food or the cleanliness and it lives up to both. I order a beef masala and chapatti, Steve has vegetable noodles and we share it all. The marsala is very spicy so a butterscotch ice cream cools me down nicely. Including a couple of lime waters the total is Rs 189 (£2.50). Probably dearer than street food but way cheaper than Australia and good value for us. Pop into a couple of shops to pick up more toilet paper and mosquito repellent. Although they are designed like self service supermarkets I find a couple of girls continuously hovering over my shoulder. Toilet paper is surprisingly expensive at around Rs30 (40p) for a very small single thickness roll but I am sure this is because the locals don’t use it. Most other things seem reasonable or downright cheap. It is 9.30pm when we get back and I am shattered. The bed is a wooden base with a thin foam mattress and not the most comfortable but I always reckon if you are tired enough you will sleep anywhere. Steve sits out reading some local guide books and when he comes to bed he tells me of the other guests he has met and the information he has gleaned.
COCHIN, THOMAS INN, Rs 880 (£12) DBL, En Suite Inc breakfast.

SATURDAY 29 JANUARY –It is always interesting to hear the morning sounds in a new place. Here it begins with a mosque call to prayer followed surprisingly by bird calls and not traffic. Although we are only about 200 metres down a side street it really is very quiet. Breakfast is served at 8am and we are joined by Plym and Tony. They spend summers at their Bude home and winter in Spain and make interesting company. Unfortunately they are leaving today. Breakfast is French toast, the local dish of dosa masala (a sort of pancake crepe stuffed with vegetables in a sauce), watermelon juice and tea of coffee. We take a rickshaw, Rs50 (75p) to Ernakulam port and then the ferry across to Fort Cochin, Rs 2.5 (3 1/2p) an incredible bargain. We begin our walk heading towards the famous Chinese fishing nets a legacy of Kubla Khan. They must do well using these huge nets as the nearby fish market is very well stocked. We continue around the old fort then get accosted by some street sellers. One of them has straw sun hats that fold concertina style into a small flat bell shape. This would give me much better shade that my baseball cap and be more comfortable to wear. He wants Rs 150 but seems happy to be bargained down to Rs 70 (£1). Next we are approached by a rickshaw driver who wants to take us on a tour and show 14 points of interest. He tells us he usually charges Rs50 an hour but as today is very quiet he will charge Rs50 for the whole tour. It actually works out really well as he doesn’t rush us at all and takes in all the places we had marked plus many more. St Francis Church is the oldest European built one in India and within it Vasco de Gama was buried before being relocated to Lisbon. The dhobi centre is amazing as this is where all the hotels send their laundry. We see a row of men hand washing the sheets etc then an area where they are hung out to dry. The washing lines are 2 rows of rope twisted together so they can push the fabric between the ropes instead of using pegs. Next it is put into piles for the people to iron. We see both coal filled irons and electric ones and both are incredibly heavy. At the Jain temple we see a very young boy in training to be a monk. He is so small he has to stand on a stool to reach the idols. The spice warehouses are a revelation with people working in terrible conditions where the ginger is stored. We only pop our heads inside and almost choke on the ginger tainted dust. In between tourist attractions our drive keeps dropping us at shops where they want to sell us jewellery, carpets or furniture. It is know that these places inflate the prices to pay the driver a commission but ours is out of luck. Mattancherry Palace, Rs5 (7p) has some fantastic Hindu murals on the walls and very attractive wooden ceilings. When we are dropped back at the ferry terminal almost 3 hours have passed so we are happy to give a generous tip. Back in Ernakulam we walk along Marine Drive waterfront promenade then head into a shopping centre. From Airtel we buy a mobile phone SIM card Rs 26 (39p) plus some credit. Luckily we have all the right documentation, passport, photo and proof of where we are staying. Return for a freshen up before setting out to walk the neighbourhood. By chance we come across Dr Uma’s Multispecialty Dental Clinic. (Surya Kiran, 36/2317 Kaloor-Kadavanthra Road, Kaloor, 0484 2349470) A proper western style dentists surgery where Steve has his broken tooth fixed up with a filling Rs 300 (£4). Uma is really chatty and recommends we take an evening meal at the restaurant in 3* Gokulam Park Hotel. Tonight is seafood buffet and for us the Rs 420 (£6) price is reasonable for the standard of food and surroundings. So much for us expecting to lose weight in India.

SUNDAY 30 JANUARY – We take a morning walk for me to buy a “salwar kameez” pyjama style cotton suit, R225 (£3.25). In the afternoon Steve watches Andy Murray lose the tennis whilst I use the computer. New arrival is Maine from USA, so we chat to him before walking out and picking up pies from the “New Bakery” for tea.

MONDAY 31 JANUARY – Steve returns to the dentist for his scrape and polish, Rs 500 (£7) and says she does a really thorough job. We take a rickshaw to the bus station then the local bus to Alleppey, Rs 37 (50p). So much for the buses in India all being crowded, we have a triple padded seat between the two of us. The journey is pretty hair raising with our driver spending as much time on the wrong side of the road as the right side. He just seems to charge at everything coming towards us unless it is a bigger lorry. How no one gets run off the road is a mystery. The journey takes 2-hours and there is never a moment without something of interest passing by. On arrival we take a rickshaw out to Sreekrishna Panchakarma Centre where our Couchsurfing Host Joy is the manager. It is an ayurvedic centre with this building being used for massages. Joy is really friendly and shows us to our bungalow in the grounds. We relax through the heat of the day then early evening set out to the beach. Steve on the back of Joy’s (forgot to say Joy is a man) motorbike and me behind Pardeep on his scooter. Fortunately they are both reasonably steady drivers as we have no helmets or other protection. The beach is a beautiful strip of soft white sand with a few guest houses behind it. We watch the sunset then head to Mushroom restaurant for a tasty meal. The bill for all 4 of us is only Rs 305 (£4.60). Most people come to Alleppey to do a house boat cruise but Joy explains that there are now around 800 boats and they are polluting the waters. He suggests we will see more and have a better experience on a canoe and arranges this for tomorrow. He also says we can go with him to his bosses pre-wedding meal tomorrow night and then to the wedding (a 4 hour mini bus ride away) the next day. Now this is one of the reasons we love Couchsurfing.


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