Sunday, 8 December 2019

Ko Tao | Saving the best to last

When we headed back to Thailand to explore some of the islands, I had every intention of writing a post about all four we were due to visit (Phi Phi, Samui, Phangnan and Tao), but have decided just to focus on the one I would return to - Ko Tao.

I'll be honest, I didn't fall in love with Thailand as I had expected to. It is a beautiful country with so much to see and do, but in my opinion a hard act to follow after Vietnam. Having said that, our final island destination (Ko Tao) completely stole my heart and I could have stayed there for much longer than the four days we spent. As soon as our ferry docked, we knew almost instantly that we would fall in love with the place.

We chose to stay at the Simple Life resort which was reasonable, and really nice. The bed we stayed in was one of the best I've slept in since leaving the UK in September! We were able to organise the Oxygen snorkel tour through our hotel which was a real highlight of the trip. 

For 850 baht (approx. £22) we had a whole day on the water with lunch included. This was a real highlight of our stay and I couldn't recommend Oxygen tours enough. We had five stops during the day, and the team were so good - one guy would come into the water with us each time, and even helped us to find a baby shark! The snorkelling was great, and it was my first experience of this properly as well so it was a special day. One of the best stops was Ko Nang Yuan, a small island just off of Ko Tao pictured above. There is a viewpoint there offering stunning views, and the water was ideal for snorkelling - this is where we saw the baby shark. We had a delicious lunch on the boat after this before heading to our final four stops of the day. The oxygen tour is definitely worth doing if you are heading to Ko Tao. 

Some of the best sunsets we have seen were on Ko Tao, best watched from one of the beach bars along the seafront. Our favourites were Lotus Bar, who do a fire show starting at 8pm (and finishing at who knows when! It was still going at 10pm) and Fizz Bar. Fishbowl had decent live music and loads of beer pong tables, although it does get swamped by the bar crawl by the end of the night. We also headed to a cabaret show, which was good but I definitely preferred the one in Chaing Mai. 

Ko Tao is such a stunning island, and if you are limited on time then I would recommend bumping this to the top of your list. The scenery is stunning, and it was the perfect place to relax. 


Thursday, 14 November 2019

A week in Malaysia

After an incredible two weeks exploring Thailand, Laos and Cambodia with Contiki, we spontaneously decided to spend a week in Malaysia. We knew we wanted to spend a few days in Kuala Lumpur but chose to add on four days in Georgetown, Penang, as well.

Our time in the capital, KL, was great! It was so nice to be back in such a big and bustling city with plenty to explore. We ate street food at the Jalan Alor food street on our first night and it was delicious. We both had the Pad Thai, and really enjoyed it.

We had a list of things we really wanted to do whilst in KL including the Petronas Towers (both at day and night), Masjid Jamek, the Heli Lounge Bar and the Batu Caves. We easily managed to fit all of these in within our three days in the city and more!

The highlight for me was the Heli Lounge Bar which is an operating helipad during the day, transformed into a bar in the evening. We went around 6pm to make sure we could get a seat, and this was the perfect amount of time. I think it was around 50 MYR to enter (which included one drink from a set menu) and I would really recommend going at around 6 so you can see the city in the light, during sunset and in the dark! I had the Lychee martini which was delicious.

Another thing worth doing are the Batu Caves, which are around 30 minutes from KL Sentral on the train. It didn't cost much at all to get there and back (around 5MYR pp) and it was nice to explore a Hindu place of worship. There are a lot of stairs to walk up to reach the caves but it is definitely doable, even in the heat and humidity. It was super busy with people and animals (so many monkeys and pigeons) but worth the trip out of the centre.

After our time in KL, we caught a short flight up to Penang which is an island just off of North West Malaysia (it can also be accessed by a bridge from the mainland). We opted to stay in Georgetown, which is famous for its street art following the council hiring a Lithuanian artist to do some street art across the city in 2012. I absolutely loved Georgetown, it was one of my favourite places of the trip so far. Whilst it is classed as a city, it was so easily walkable and we hit our step target every day!

We spent a couple of days strolling through the streets, admiring the street art and eating like queens. The food scene in Penang is pretty incredible and we had a real mixture of local cuisines and western food. A few places worth mentioning are Olive bar and kitchen (definitely more pricey but we ordered far too much so order cautiously!), The Loft, Woodlands Vegetarian (the best Indian I have had in AGES!) and the Red Garden food paradise. The food was far cheaper here than I expected it to be in Malaysia which was a really nice surprise! Love Lane is a great place to have some beers in the evening, and a lot of the bars also do Shisha.

Alongside eating and admiring the street art, we checked out Fort Cornwallis (a British Fort), Penang Hill and funicular and a couple of museums (the upside down house and the 3D trick art museum). I'd definitely recommend the Upside Down museum which cost 30 MYR each, it was so cool and a great way to spend 30 minutes or so! Penang Hill is a must do, and the funicular is pretty impressive. It's super steep and a return in the "normal" queue will cost you 30MYR. The views from the top are really cool, even if you go on a rainy day, and there is a small food court and various other bits to see up there too! You can get the 204 bus from Georgetown to Penang Hill which is the last stop, Stesen Bukit Bendera. Each way costs 2MYR per person.

Malaysia was a lovely country to visit, and the prices were a nice surprise as I had excepted it to be one of our more expensive countries. I'd love to head back one day to check out some of the islands, and Malacca!

Monday, 11 November 2019

Bambusa Resort, Phu Quoc

Situated on an island (Phu Quoc) just off of Vietnam and Cambodia is the Bambusa Resort. I'm dedicating an entire post to this place because of how amazing it was - the perfect place to kick back and sort out our livers and laundry before the next step of our travels.

I don't think Phu Quoc is a usual stop on the backpacker trail, but I'm really glad we stopped here for five days. We didn't do much, bar a couple of beach trips, but travelling is tiring and we knew we would need some time to relax between exploring Vietnam and our next part of the trip. Bambusa was the perfect place for that! 

As it was just before peak season, the resort was pretty quiet which was ideal. On some days we were the only guests which made the whole place feel even better, like a secret waiting to be discovered! The staff were so friendly, and went above and beyond to make our stay fantastic. I really couldn't recommend their service enough! 

The resort itself was beautiful. It's a 20 minute walk to the beach (factoring in the early 30's heat!) which is absolutely stunning, and set in pretty much the jungle! Quite a lot of the island is a national park and you can definitely see this as you make the 30 minute drive from the airport to the resort. We could hear birds chirping away from our room!

The room we stayed in wasn't massive but it was beautiful. The walls were decorated with bamboo, the bed was huge and the bathroom was lovely as well. 

And the pool, oh the pool! It was absolutely where we spent most of our time and it was lovely. Cold during the day, warmed up by the sun at night and the perfect place to sit and recharge for a few days. Even better, the restaurant overlooked the pool so we had some pretty gorgeous evening views as well. I don't know if they offered an all inclusive package, but we mainly ate on site. I'd say that dishes cost around £5pp, so not the cheapest in Asia but certainly not expensive. I'm sure there are other restaurants around but we were both very happy to kick back, relax and not do much!

If you're thinking of heading to Phu Quoc, I would really recommend Bambusa for a relaxing break! 
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