Sunday, 13 November 2011

Dodging torrential downpours

From Kathmandu, I was due to fly to Bangkok, visit Maria (fellow African trucker) and then the vague plan was to head north by train and work my way to Luang Prabang (Laos) via the slow boat.  These plans were however rendered useless by the floods in Bangkok.  This became apparent on the Wednesday I arrived in Lhasa but as I had booked my flight with Nepal Airlines and it was Diwali and then Saturday (non-working day in Nepal), changing the ticket with the Nepali travel agent took a lot longer than expected.  Finally on Sunday afternoon my Monday flight was changed and my new destination was Kuala Lumpur on an overnight flight.

It felt time to leave Nepal.  After the freezing temperatures in Tibet and the subsequent chilly weather in Nagarkot (lovely place 1 ½ hours outside Kathmandu), it was time to find some warmth, guaranteed hot showers and clean toilets.  After a chaotic check-in (everyone tells you to avoid Nepal Airlines – more for the disorganisation rather than any safety problems – but they are half the price of Thai Air!), Nepal Airlines came up trumps and upgraded me to business class.

Landing into Kuala Lumpur was like entering a forgotten universe – air conditioning, clean toilets, road lane markings…  I am a city girl at heart and enjoyed my two days in KL wandering around, indulging in a little clothing and nice toiletry shopping and varying my diet to include properly cooked pasta and eggs Benedict.  I rode the monorail and prepared to head off to Penang by train.  The weather was most definitely a lot warmer (and humid) but as it is monsoon season here, every afternoon was livened up by a big thunderstorm.  I’ve always loved a good thunderstorm (these competed well with hols in the Dordogne in the 1980s) and enjoyed my first KL one whilst having afternoon tea on a covered outdoor terrace.

A very uneventful 7 ½ hour train journey took me from KL to Butterworth.  From the train station you can walk directly to the ferry which will take you to Georgetown, Penang for the pricely sum of 25p.  The ferries run every 10 mins or so and take no time at all.  In the end I stayed for five days in Penang pottering around the old town looking into all the workshops, visiting the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion and jumping on the bus up to the beach at Batu Ferringhi.  I did do a cookery course (#1 thing to do on Trip Advisor, chef had made TV appearances..) which I looked forward to telling you all about.  Alas, it was largely underwhelming and so there is little to recount.  The weather precluded much else and there is a limit to how many shopping centres a girl wants to visit.

A three hour ferry carried me up to Langkawi Island to laze by the beach for a few days.  After day one, the weather was generally kind to me and I enjoyed some long sunny days reading by the sea & the pool as well as doing a little island hopping.  I found a fab spot at Frangipani Beach to sip a Tiger beer and watch the sun set.  Whilst lovely, my budget on Langkawi couldn’t afford me a dreamy bungalow on a beach and so it seemed like time to move on.

Singapore had never been on the agenda but the flight times and prices to Siem Reap with Silk Air made the most sense and so I decided to spend two days in the “clean” city.  I will admit to a few prejudices before arriving – that it would be too clean and boring.  I’m happy to admit that I warmed to Singapore very much and took advantage of being in a big city by going to the National Museum, both the cinema and theatre (Indian dance performance) and partaking in a very pleasant Tanqueray Ten Sling at the Long Bar at Raffles.  

Have to dash, boarding for my flight to Siem Reap is being called.  Angkor Wat awaits…

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