A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about backpacking

James Franklin is unwell (again)


Just wrapped up our last 2 nights in Bangkok. The first of these was spent visiting Patpong, which is the seedy end of town where there are numerous clubs designed to take the money of single Western males - as we went together, I wasn't hassled that much. The bars in Patpong vary from standard pubs, to pubs where bikini-clad women wander around and dance on stage, to the more "exotic" where ping pong balls and other paraphernalia come in to play. One of the bikini-bars that we visited did seem to have a few bikini-clad dancers that didn't seem to have double-X genes, favouring the X-Y sort. What was really troubling, was that the X-Y dancers seemed to keep looking at me and waving - maybe I do need to get my hair cut after all.

The following night, we caught up with a friend of ours (Adrian) that had been backpacking around SE Asia for the last couple of months. After a traditional Thai dinner, we did a mini-pub crawl around the area where our backpacker accommodation was. At about 2am, we decided to call it a night, so we headed back to our place for one for the road, as it is also a 24hr pub.

Well, one thing led to another, and before you know it was 6am and dawn was breaking. Our mate headed back to his place on the other side of the city, and Heather and I weighed up our options as we had a flight to catch at 2, and had to checkout at 12. Taking the risk, we both crashed and set our alarm clock for 11:00. Naturally, we slept through it but still managed to be checked out by 11:50. We can get a shower in Phuket...

Posted by jefranklin 23:47 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking round_the_world city_break Comments (0)

Temples. Shopping and Beer...


Today was our first full day in Bangkok, so Heather had us going to all the temples in the city - as tourists tend to do. The question was how we were going to get there, there are many transportation options available in Bangkok (taxi, buses, tuk tuk, etc) however Bangkok used to be known as the Venice of the Orient because it has a network of canals running through it. Running through these canals, are a network of boats that act as a bus service, which we decided to use as our means of transportation.

Without any idea of how to pay, determine where we were going or whatever, we leapt on the first one we saw and handed over 25 Baht (about 1 Aussie$ or 35p, not sure how many Euros). The boats themselves are about 6 metres long and have seating for about 50 people, there were about 60 on it when we climbed aboard. As such we spent the journey standing up, leaning out of the side tarpaulin. I don't consider myself to be tall but it was quite disconcerting being told to duck by the boats attendants as we went under bridges, still better than the alternative. Eventually we landed at the centre of town (where we wanted to be) and headed off in search of the temples.

The first stop was the Great Palace, which actually contains a number of smaller temples. The most significant of these is one that houses the Emerald Buddha. This is a carving that is actually made of jasper and was found about 700 years ago. I am not sure of the origin of it, and to be honest I don't think anyone is. Anyway, this is a mecca for Buddhists and we were fortunate to be able to go in to a prayer session so that we could look at it (the Buddha not the prayer session). In addition to the Emerald Buddha, we also a statue of the reclining Buddha in another temple. This is about 15 metres (45 feetish) long and is covered in gilt. Unlike the Emerald Buddha, photos of this could be taken, so we did...

After our religious enlightenment, we decided we needed to become seedy tourists again so we headed to Khao San, which contains one of the major markets in Bangkok. It also happens to be the main backpacker location (and we're not staying there) and so has the cheapest pubs. That however is entirely coincidental. After a couple of circuits, trying to find something to spend our money on, we ducked in to a pub and they were screening an FA Cup Quarter Final match. As it was Liverpool playing, Heather was keen to watch it - so it was with some reluctance that I agreed to stay there.

After the match (and a couple of beers), we wandered to another pub which wasn't showing football but did have a guy playing a guitar and singing. It seemed a nice enough spot, so we decided to spend a couple of hours there taking the sights of Khao San rushing by us. At one point though, I thought the guy was trying to sell us replacement windows or doors, because we was singing about an "eternal frame", fortunately it was not a hard sell.

Posted by jefranklin 04:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking round_the_world city_break Comments (0)

It's not that ridiculous...


The trip from Singapore to Bangkok was our major activity for the day, and it proceeded nice and smoothly until we arrived at immigration and I handed over my passport. My photo has me at the height of a grade 2 crew cut and wearing contact lenses; I currently have 3 months of growth (Afroboy I have been referred to more than once) and was wearing glasses at the time. The girl behind the counter did her best, but managed about 3 seconds before collapsing in laughter. It was very off putting.

After being ridiculed, we grabbed our stuff and caught a bus into the centre of Bangkok to the backpackers lodge we were staying at. The end of the day was spent exploring the surrounding neighbourhood and sinking a few well deserved beers.

Posted by jefranklin 04:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking air_travel round_the_world Comments (0)

All those birds and no poop?

View Backpacking 2006 on jefranklin's travel map.

Today (20th March) was spent at the Singapore bird park. This consisted of around 3,500 birds covering about 900 species. Although a lot of these were in open spaces (e.g. flamingos, which when I saw them, I got the inexplicable urge to play croquet) there were also a number of aviaries.
One, which recreated a rainforest, has the largest man-made waterfall in the world - there's a challenge for any landscape gardeners out there. Other aviaries included the largest in SE Asia, and one that simulated a thunderstorm and associated rainfall once a day (ironically, there was a thunderstorm while we were at the park).

In the evening, we found a nice restaurant in the Singapore Chinatown Cultural centre and had a great value meal (entree, main course and soft drinks for 2 for $35), although the owner made Eddie Maguire seem shy and retiring - posters and news articles about him adorned the length of one wall and a TV was playing a continuous stream of programmes about him. I guess he is running for Prime Minister next. After dinner, we had our last walk through Chinatown, stopping to take a few photos before returning to our room.

So, time for my thoughts on Singapore: this is our second time here, the previous time we stayed briefly in Raffles while on honeymoon; doing it "backpacker style" is a real contrast. Before arriving, I thought it would be the same prices as Australia but have been pleasantly surprised that it isn't the case. I would come back again, and could probably do budget accommodation again. If visiting for the first time, I would recommend shelling out as much as possible as Singapore does luxury well, but make sure to check out Chinatown, staying until past sun down, if possible.

Posted by jefranklin 04:20 Archived in Singapore Tagged backpacking round_the_world city_break Comments (0)

Day one in Singapore

View Backpacking 2006 on jefranklin's travel map.

Our first day in Singapore didn't start until after midday, as we spent the morning catching up on a lot of lost sleep.
We started off by exploring Chinatown itself. It is best described as a cacophony of smells, noises and people. There are stalls selling clothes, food and bric-a-brac (i.e. junk) and just about everything imaginale except dodgy DVDs as the Singapore government has cracked down on that kind of behaviour, not that we would ever endorse it. We spent a few hours wandering around in the humidity, before heading off to the other major cultural district in Singapore: Little India.

Just like Chinatown, Little India is a cacophony of smells, noises and people. However, as Singapore is about 75% Chinese, Little India is not as large. We
spent a couple of hours here, before heading back to the hostel and having a much needed shower.

In the evening, we found probably the dodgiest place possible to eat dinner and ordered something that could have passed off as edible. There is a strong penchant in Singapore for porridge served with a variety of accompaniments (e.g. chicken, seafood, etc.). Neither Heather or I were in the mood to try it, so it should come as no surprise that the place we had picked sold nearly exclusively porridge. We managed to find something on the menu that wasn't porridge, but as stated it was barely edible. We may be losing a few kgs in SE Asia :)

Posted by jefranklin 04:16 Archived in Singapore Tagged backpacking round_the_world city_break Comments (0)

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