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Mon
9
Aug '10

Last night in Singapore

On my last day in Singapore I wanted to do a few things. My friend Cheryl had mentioned Clarke Quay, so I decided I want to go. She also joked about waving $1,000 dollar notes to attract the ladies, however I was down to my last $16 SG so that wasn’t going to happen.

After smashing a huge Singapore Chilli Crab in Chinatown, I was completely full. The crab set me back like $38 SG (like $35 AUS). I decided to eat away from the main street section, and not in the places where there lots of tourists. The train station had a bunch of places that looked pretty local, with only locals there (i.e. no white people lol). So I chose the busiest one, and rocked up to the counter to order a chilli crab. I had my mandarin all worked out and confidently ordered in chinese. The lady pointed to the kitchen, and said go to the other side. I thought “ok? What does that mean – do I get to pick a crab?”. Apparently, there were more seats on the other side of the kitchen. There were two sides to the street hawker street!

So I ordered a crab. They told me they only had big ones left and it was more than the standard price of $35 SG. I thought whatever and ordered a fried rice as well for $4 and a drink. The crab was really good and very messy. I figured when eating crab or ribs, you gotta go all in. I was sweating, my hands were covered in the chilli soup type thing (I thought the dish was supposed to be dry!!). Anyway, I met this two old Australians (like 65+ who were travelling for 3 months) from Blacktown! There was an old Asian guy and a german guy. It coulda been me and tim or me and ashby in 30 years time!

I bid them farewell, and took the train to Clarke Quay. I had seen it from a distance the other day from Boat Quay. I thought it was a strip with a few bars like Circular Quay. It turned out to be much more. Its a massive area with heaps of nightclubs and bars. Its jam packed full of people – particuarly young Singaporeans. There’s this bridge which connects both sides, and there’s people just sitting there (crammed might I add) just watching everyone go past.

Walking around, it reminded me of why I like the nightlife in Asia. It just seems to be a happening place, everyone’s out til really late. I checked out a few bars and ended up at this one called The Tapas Tree. I chose it because they had a coverband playing some songs that I was familar with and it wasn’t as packed. I just wanted to enjoy a Singapore Sling and a beverage or too in a relaxed place. One thing that I don’t like about Singapore is the cost of alcohol. A beer set me back $14.50 SG (thats like $12 Australian!). I reckon it was a pint size. The band started playing song requests, so I put in Black Eyed Peas, Lets Get Retarded. Why – because I like that song, and I’ve seen BEP perform it in person and it was mad!

The band asked who put it in, and laughed. I raised my hand and acknowledged it was me. I had spoken to the band during the break, and they seemed pretty cool. I then put in another song, Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s (RHCP)  “under the bridge”, which is one of my favourites. I’m a big RHCP fan btw. It was a pretty good rendition! I ended up ordering two more mojitos because I liked the band and they were playing a lot of songs that I liked and knew (top 40 type stuff). The guys from the band were called Marisol, and they had toured Australia and played in some of the music festivals. One of the guy’s East told me he’d been to Australia 6 times and loved Sydney. I spoke to them outside the bar, and they were pretty cool. We talked about RHCP, including Anthony Kiedis biography,  eating Durian (and how to pick Durian fruit!), why alcohol is so expensive, and being Malays in Singapore!

A few interesting points:

– Malay is a ethnic group from the Malay area (peninsula?). These guys are not from Malaysia – as is commonly thought by most people including myself.

– pick Durian fruit that is soft but not too soft. If its too soft, it is too watery. And they confirmed that alcohol and durian is not a good mix (thanks Fozz for the tip!). Also, durian is from the same family as rambutans and heats you up. You know if you ate too much as your throat gets hot. I can confirm this!

I then left the Tapas tree in search of some more action as the crowd was dying out. It was prolly around midnight, maybe after. And the cocktails set be back like $15 each (plus there’s a service charge on top). I figured at $15 each, it was better than drinking beer.

I ended up at this nightclub called The Pump Room, which has a live band (and the guys at Marisol recommended as a happening place).   After paying $20 cover charge including a free drink, I went in. It was medium sized club, with a raised area for chilling out. The band was really good, and they were playing lots of top 40 songs. I also had another drink,  it was bourbon and coke, it set me back $18!! Are you kidding me!!

It was a pretty cool club, I recommend it if you are in SG! If you want to have any drinks, definently have them before you get to the clubs. But hey, it was my last night, and I wanted to go out and have fun. I was by myself the entire night and had a great time.

I left about 3am in the morning and headed back to the hostel. Singapore is a cool place, very safe, feels very honky as well! I really like Singapore (except for the cost of living). Food is cheap, not as cheap as say Malaysia or Thailand but its fairly clean.

I’m out like my last night in Singapore,

Matt

Mon
9
Aug '10

burgers, little creatures, and coffee

I’m currently in Perth, Australia. I decided to come to Perth because I wanted to see a bit more of Australia. I’ve seen a lot of the world – I’ve travelled through South East Asia, a bit of central america, US, Europe, and a bunch of other random places. But I haven’t seen much of Australia beyond Melbourne, Gold Coast, Canberra and Brisbane (1 night). I hear a lot of people from overseas tell me about these kind of places like Tasmania, Darwin, Cairns, etc… and how good they are.

I was told by a few people from Sydney that Perth was boring, there’s no nightlife, there’s nothing to do. Well if I listened to them, I probably would have never gone! Despite this, I’m glad I came to check it out.

Today, I wanted to go to Rottnest Island. I hear its a cool place to check out. However, I got there at 1pm and the tickets were sold out on the ferries that were going there. So I bought it for the next day and spent most of today checking out Fremantle. I most of the day there. I found a few good fish and chip places (there’s a famous place called Cicerello which I plan to check out tomorrow). However, I stumbled across Little Creatures pub / restaurant. Little Creatures is a beer brand, which my friend Jamie Andrei introduced me to (as well as Rottnest island!). I haven’t drank much of it, but I thought this was a pub worth visiting.

I had the marinated kangaroo skewers with tomato chutney dip. Very tasty. Kangaroo meat is kinda like beef (more solid & chewy than say chicken). Also had some chorizo’s which were kinda burnt. How did I found out about these dishes? Well I checked the tips on foursquare!

Also knocked back a pint of little creatures pale ale and also a white rabbit dark ale. Pretty nice, with a view of the marina. I spent a while there, not wanting to move (and also knowing that everyone else was working on monday afternoon while I was drinking little creatures at the pub!).

I also spent some time checking out Elizabeth’s secondhand book shop. There’s two in Fremantle, and like half dozen in WA. I thought to myself, I wish there was one in Sydney! Then I realised there is – its actually behind my work on Pitt St. However, the selection isn’t as good. I ended up buying a bunch of books, I just have to figure out how to bring them back!!

I then had a coffee at Gino’s – its meant to one of the best coffees in town! It was a nice local place in Fremantle, fairly big actually. I had a pretty good cappucino while reading XMEN 2099: The Freakshow, which I purchased for a $1 from Elizabeth’s bookshop.

It was getting late, so I decided to grab some dinner. I really wanted to check out Alfred’s Kitchen in Guildford. It actually is quite a fair way from Perth City centre. Its about 10 stops (half hour on the train). I got there about 9pm. I actually missed the stop because the train doors don’t open automatically. You are supposed to press a button to open the doors, if it doesn’t open. So I ended up going to the last stop and coming back again. There were train guards on the train who were quite helpful, and it was safe to travel on the train.

However, when I got off, I couldn’t see any shops near the station. It was supposed to be right next to the station. The streets looked completely dead. I chose the street which seemed to be more commercial and had a few shops which were shut. I walked down the road, everything was pretty dark. I then came across the guildford Hotel, but they had just turned off the lights. Mind you, this is 9pm! I decided that I was not going to get the train back – as the trains were fairly empty and there’s no staff at the train station beyond certain stops.

I later spotted what looked to be a diner with some people gathered around a fire. It was a small tuck shop, a permanent setting. It reminded me of Harry’s Cafe De Wheels in Sydney.

Why did I travel so far to get a burger? Well I read about it in the in-flight magazine on Tiger Airways. Apparently, Matt Preston of Masterchef fame reckons its one of the best burgers he’s ever eaten. I know he’s very critical and picky with his food – one does not get to his size and fame without eating a lot of food. It’s about $9 for the Alfred Special. Pretty good burger. It had sandwich bread (toasted) not buns. I prefer buns in a burger. However, the bread was really soft and it had 3 layers of bread. There was beef pattie, egg, bacon, tomato. I ate it on the seats in front of the fire, and spoke to some of the locals and told them I’d come all the way from Sydney to eat this burger!

It was about 9.30pm, and I decided to head off and grab the train. Seriously, the streets were dead! The station actually reminded me of like Glenfield in Sydney. Pretty far from the city and not the safest place in the world. As I approached the train station, there were a couple of people across the road. I could see that they were homeless as they had all their bags with them. I thought stuff it, I’m getting on the train.

After getting to the top of the platform, I decided it wasn’t the best idea. The train station only had one exit (I noticed it when I got off). As I turned around and walked along the street, the guys from across the road started pointing and yelling at me. I could hear them say “look at this chink (or something to that effect)”. They asked if I had cigarettes, I said no. They asked why, I said I don’t smoke. Then they asked if I had $2. Judging from this, their tone of voice the fact that the streets were completely empty, and a few other factors,  I could just see this situation potentially turning bad. You get a sense about these things. I decided not to answer anymore of their questions, and just to head back to the diner and call a cab. Having been robbed walking home from the train station once in Sydney, its definently made me more aware of my 6th senses.

All this for a burger!

If you go to Alfred’s Kitchen, make sure you go a bit earlier as it is out of the way on public transport.

I’m out like the Alfred Special,

Matt

Sun
8
Aug '10

Leaving Singers!

I’ve leaving Singapore now for Perth. I’m currently in the budget terminal waiting for my flight.

I’ve done everything I wanted to do on my list (which I hastily made up on my first day in Singapore).

  • Changi Chapel & Musuem (where Australian POW were held)
  • Asian Civilisation Musuem
  • Orchard Rd (massive shopping street)
  • Clarke Quay – went to a few bars and a disco
  • Singapore Zoo
  • Chinatown (several times!)
  • Singapore Sling (its a cocktail)
  • Durian (stinky fruit kinda like a rambutan)
  • Chilli Crab – yep had one whole crab!

I’m out like the durian smell,

Matt Ho.

Sat
7
Aug '10

Singapore Fling

The last few days i’ve been in Singapore. I’m currently in Little India, which is a few train stops from the CBD. You can’t call it the train (as I’ve found out and confused the locals), it’s really an MRT – Mass Rapid Transit.

Yesterday, I decided to go to the Singapore Zoo. It was pretty cool. I spent about half day there walking around checking out the animals and plant life. My favourite exhibits were the White Tiger (1 in 10,000 tigers is a white tiger), Giraffe, jaguar, cheetah, crocodiles. I guess I like those predator type animals (except the giraffe of course). It was pretty impressive. Singapore Zoo is an open zoo – its not completely open, there’s a pathway like a normal zoo and a there are cages. But they are open cages (no roofs), except for a few. For example there’s a big moat and island for the chimpanzees. On the island, there are a bunch of wooden logs and vines connected together.

When I was walking around on the footpath, I randomly came across a few fairly big sized birds (like turkeys), a sloth hanging on a tree, some squirrels. Of course, the biggest animals they cage completely like the jaguar. Its a very powerful animal that can leap. I learnt a lot about the animals, how they live, how man kind has been ruining their habitats and hunting them to extinction.

It was quite handy that I met someone in the hostel that had been to the zoo they day before, and told me how to get there via train and bus. He also told me to bring food/water because the zoo is quite big and expensive.

After the zoo, I decided to go to Orchard Rd as it was on the way there. I had a Laksa at Ion Food Hall – it was awesome! I was hot and sweaty but I had to have one. Then I thought I would talk down Orchard Rd a bit. 45 mins later, I realised that Orchard Rd is massive! It’s quite an impressive street. Its the glitz and glamour (and hence the expensive end) of Singapore. They’ve got all the big brands from Hermes, LV, heaps of other stores. The store fronts near the MRT look huge!

Later that night, I met up with Fozz, a high school friend. He’s now working in SG on an internship. We went to  a hawker street stall and just chilled out.

Singapore is hot and humid, but I actually found it better than Thailand / Malaysia. Or maybe its because i’m more used to the heat now having been in Asia for a few weeks!

Other adventures in Singapore include getting lost in Little India on my first night. All the streets look the same, and I had no map. Plus the locals try to help you out, but I think they have no idea either. I must say, Little India is not little. The place is huge. I’ve never seen so many Indian people before. I heard Sunday is when they all come out. There is a lot of Indian people in Singapore. I read that a lot of them do the manual labour jobs that the Singapore people won’t do. That’s also why there are a lot of mainland chinese here.

There is definently a lot of Mandarin being spoken here, so I’ve had to brush up my skills. Thankfully, I’ve been learning for the past few months and I like to try it out from time to time (except when it involves financial/bargaining conversations haha). Otherwise, everyone here speaks English / Singlish la!

Today I’m going to head to Changi Musuem and then probably meetup with Sheena at Clarke Quay.

I’m out like Little India,

Matt

Mon
2
Aug '10

Getting to the full moon party

To get to the full moon party (FMP) from Koh Samui was my research task for the group. So i’ll tell you all how to get there just in case you decide to go. Check it:

1. From Koh Samui airport go to the desks selling taxi/bus rides. The easiest way is to go to Big Buddha pier. Its the closest one to the airport and has a direct boat to Haad Rin. The taxi ride cost 70-90 baht per person. There’s a set price at the desk. They packed all 13 of us into one van designed for 11 people. There’s also other vans going there and they’ll wait til they are full of people before they leave.

2. Try to avoid buying the combined option (taxi van + boat). This is because the boat may leave before you get there, plus they try to charge you more. In our case, they offered us 300 baht per person. The actual price was 200 baht at the pier.

3. When you get to the pier, go to the office and buy a ticket for 200 baht. The boat leaves every few hours. there’s 4 boats daily. The last one is at 5.30pm. We got there at 4pm, so we had to wait.

4. We chilled out in this public common area, had some food, use the internet. You can line up, but you can wait til the boat arrives. but don’t be the last to get on the boat. Because its an old ferry and the sea was really choppy at night, a few people got seasick. Generally on boats, if you can, sit on the top deck, not the lower deck. As there is less motion and fresh air. Trust – I know this from experience after getting really sick on a boat in Belize. Try to grab a seat, its more comfortable. The bags are piled in this common area in the middle, so take out any valuables.

5. The other option is to get speedboats from Big Buddha to Haad Rin. It cost more say 500 – 650 baht. The ferry takes 45 mins, the speed boat takes like 15 mins. Speed boats leave more frequently.

6. There’s also boats (speedboats, ferry?, and catamarans) leaving from Thongsala on Koh Phangnan. As this is further from Haad Rin (100 baht ride), we decided not to do it. The easiest for us and for most people going to FMP is Haad Rin to Big Buddha. There’s only one ferry company that does the ride called “The Queenie” or something to that effect.

7. From Haad Rin Pier, there are tuk tuks waiting. Now, that was one thing I hadn’t prepared for. I read on the website that the hotel was 5 mins walk from the pier. But I didn’t know in what direction, and I didn’t have enough time to check it out. Google Maps and their website had no directions from the pier. However, there were tuk tuks waiting nearby that was willing to take everyone for 50 baht per person (like $2 AUD).

8. If possible and if you have time, stay on Koh Phangnan. Many of the hotels/  bungalows have minimum stay of 5 days. The other option is to take the boat from Koh Samui on the day of the FMP, and leave the next morning. However you could be really partied out the next day, and the last thing you want to do is go on a boat ride for 45 mins. There are plenty of speed boats waiting on the beach to take people back. I read that one of the accidents happened on the speedboats, as it was packed with too many people (the operators try to pack on 40 ppl on a 30 person speedboat). I went on a speedboat tour on the island, and it fit 15 people comfortably. Now, 40 ppl is a different story!!

I’m out like the full moon party,

Matt.

Mon
2
Aug '10

Thailand roundup

This is a catchup post about Thailand which seems like a distant memory.

Clubbing in Bangkok

Our second night in Bangkok, we hit up RCA (Royal City Avenue). It is an entertainment district. There was like 4 nightclubs in a row on this one street. The club we went to was the 2nd last one, which had one room for techno/house music, another room for RNB and the last one for a live rock band. The rnb and rock band areas were absolutely jam packed. We definently had a lot of fun.

One peculiar thing is that in these clubs, there’s lots of tables setup. People book these small tables and standaround them, ordering bottles of alcohol. Its bottle service basically. And they dance around these tables. All night. There’s no dedicated dance floor area. So if you don’t have a table, its very difficult to stand anywhere, especially in a large group. Its a totally different scene to back home. In fact, I don’t know how anyone meets someone outside their immediate group.

I thought that this phenomena was peculiar to this area in Bangkok. We then went to Escobar, in Ekkamai. Its kinda like Surry Hills back home and everyone was doing the same thing there too. Luckily, we got there earlier this time (around 9.30pm) so we were able to secure some seats and tables.It was a local club, so not many tourists were around, and we had a great time.

One thing I don’t like about Bangkok, is the weather. Its really hot. ALL DAY! When we walked out of the club into other areas, via an open outdoor area, it felt like you were in an oven. and this was at 11pm at night.

Ko Phangnan to Koh Samui

Some random points

– It seemed like every party at Ko Phangan had a top 5 list of songs, which they played on heavy rotation.

– The taxi ride from Koh Samui big buddha pier to our hotel was probably the funniest moments on the trip. We landed at the pier and we organised two taxi vans for everyone in our group. In our taxi for 7 of us, the taxi looked it had been decked out. I’m not sure what it was, but we had seen some tricked out taxi’s in Thailand.

Our taxi driver said “what music do you want?”. We said “hip hop”. He put in a CD and the most deafening bass started pumping out of the speaker behind my head. I can’t remember what song it was, it was a song being played over and over again at the full moon party and #1 song in Australia. A dance party then erupted in our van as all 7 of us started dancing and shaking the van. I was laughing so hard I was crying. And we hadn’t even pulled out of the pier driveway.

We then drove about 15 mins to the hotel, going through his hip hop song list including Black Eyed Peas “boom boom pow” song. It was absolutely hilarious. The driver also joined in and started pulling out some moves. Scott’s got the video so I’ll upload it soon.

I’m out like the full moon party,

Matt

Mon
2
Aug '10

Malaysia!

Right now I’m in Malaysia with Tim, Rahul, Scott and Nate. I’ve just spent like an hour an half in Zara in KL, in Lot 10. I heard that zara is coming to Oz next year.

We landed in KL last night at like 10.30pm. A bus transfer to Central, then a train ride to LCCT, then a taxi later, we got to our hotel. From one of our rooms, we can see the Petronas towers. It looks awesome at night, and every panel in the building looks like it has been lit up. I imagine the electricity bill must be huge. We’re going there later tonight to check it out.

We had dinner at like 1am in the morning, and we actually had very little cash (ringit is the local currency). I went to 2 different ATM’s and they were both out of order. I heard another tourist at the ATM say that all the ATM’s on the street were not working. I asked the guy working at 7 Eleven what was going on, and he said that the banks were closed, and it will be working at 2am. I raised my eyebrows slightly and walked out. I then came back in and asked “can we use creditcards?”. I was then told 2am again.

It occured to me that being Sunday and after seeing a few mosques around and the signs being in Arabic, that it was probably a day of rest for Muslims (Malaysia has a very large Muslim population). I had been in Morocco before, which was a Muslim country and I recall something particulary about Sunday. I don’t remember the ATM’s not working.

For lunch today, we had some Arabic food. We had some dips, lebanese bread, shish kebabs, wine leaves. Pretty good food! It was a little Arabic area, as I noticed that 4 of the restaurants included Iranian, Moroccan and Arabic cusine nearby.

I hadn’t realised that there were many Muslim people in Malaysia. There are ladies walking around with the traditional black dress, clothed from head to toe, some with only a slit for their eyes. It must be incredibly hot given the humid temperature. I had read somewhere that this is because for married women only the husband can see them.

Malaysia is an interesting place – its quite diverse in its population. I hear Cantonese and Mandarin in the street, Arabic, Malay, English. There’s a big Indian population here as well (the Indian club near our hotel was still pumping music at 2am in the morning).

I’ve hit up about 3 to 4 shopping malls already in Malaysia including Pavilion Plaza (more upmarket), Lot 10 (upmarket), Sungaiwang (like MBK in Thailand, cheaper) and someother one. I’ll prolly do some more shopping before I leave for Singapore.

Fri
30
Jul '10

I’m on a boat (part 2)

This blog entry is actually about a boat trip. Today, Fat Chris organised a boat trip for the group. It was little speedboat, perfect for a group of 15 people. Our first stop was to another part of the island, where we chilled and hung out at the beach. The sand was really hot (it was burning my soles).

We then went out to another spot, where we had lunch. It was really cool seeing another side of Ko Phangnan. It was a resort type area, where people were sitting around and eating. It wasn’t the crazy scenes of Full Moon Parties. In fact, we saw the Cactus club in the morning, it looks the biggest dive ever. Corrugated roof and walls, make shift tarp pulled over the top. But that place goes off at night! Its one of the biggest spots for the full moon party.

Our third stop was the snorkelling spot. I did a Navy Seal type entry into the water, by flipping over backwards. We had some pretty crappy snorkel masks. I’ve snorkelled before, and I only took a few breaths and I could tell something was wrong. It wasn’t pumping the air in and out properly and water was coming in. And it was hard to get back into the boat as well (for those of us without upper body strength!).  We didn’t snorkel much as most of us were too full from lunch and the equipment was not very good (note: bring your own gear or buy it next time).

The last stop was another beach, where we played an impromptu game of gridiron (6 vs 5). The game was good for about 2 downs, and then guys started getting injured. 8 downs later, and multiple injuries later, we called it a game.

It was probably one of the best days I’ve had on the trip so far. Tomorrow we’re heading to Koh Samui but not before another night of hitting the beach!

Oh, and we threw Ip overboard as well. Love it!

I’m out like Ip overboard,

Matt Ho.

Fri
30
Jul '10

I’m eating on a boat

Last night, we had an awesome dinner at Fisherman’s restaurant. It was about 10 minutes from our hotel. Easily the best food I’ve had on this trip so far, and probably the best I’ve had in both my trips to Thailand. All 16 of us piled into a van.

This restaurant had a section at the back with a bamboo floor, which creaked and groaned every time someone stepped on it. It then connected to this old wooden boat overlooking the pier. We ate like kings! Kat Pung Karee Crab (spelling?), green curry, scallops with ginger, mussels, fish (white/red snapper), fish cake type things, and topped it off with an Oreo Shake!

It was a really chilled night, exactly what the doctor ordered after a hectic full moon party. We had a great time sitting in the boat, eating, drinking, chatting and recapping the full moon party.

I would have loved to have taken pics of the food, but unfortunately my hands were too sticky and dirty from eating all the food!

The total cost? About $200 AUD which was more than enough food to feed 16 hungry guys.

I’m out like eating on a boat.

Matt Ho.

Thu
29
Jul '10

Most insane party ever!

Imagine 10,000 people dancing in the rain on the beach.

10 different bars are blaring rnb/hip hop music, house, techno, pop and more. Everyone is drinking buckets of alcohol with multiple straws. These buckets have mixes including Vodka, Redbull, Lemonade.

80-90% of the girls there are hot as well. People are dancing on makeshift wooden stage, dancing on chairs and tables. This is the full moon party!!

It started off with a light rain followed by a stronger rain. It wasn’t muddy but I reckon it made it more fun. We could see more and more tuk tuks bringing in loads of ravers.

I got back to the hotel at 5am. Some of my friends finished up at 7am when the sun rose and low tide had come in.

It was very peaceful, I only saw one group get into a pushing and shoving match. Other than that everyone seemed to be pretty relaxed, happy and enjoying the moment. While others had drunk too much and were puking on the beach, or were just too tired and needed to sit down.

The main section of the beach is several kilometres long, with bars/disco’s spread throughout this area. There are heaps of street stall vendors on the beach selling buckets of alcohol for about $10.

Lots of random people are dancing/hooking up/talking.

I read that the full moon party was started by a traveller who had his birthday party on Ko Phangnan in 1987. They had such a great time, they decided to have it again the next year.

There is a full moon party once a month, half moon parties every two weeks and Black Moon party (in the forest) like every two months. There’s also parties daily like Coral Bungalow. I don’t think its even related to the moon anymore – just an excuse to have parties!

Definitely a once in a lifetime experience!

I’m out like the full moon party,

Matt Ho