It’s been quite a while since the last post and this is mainly because we’ve spent the past months mostly returning to places we’ve already visited (Hue and Hoi An in Vietnam, Bali, and Krabi, Thailand).
After leaving the Perhentian Islands we decided to spend a few more months getting to know Malaysia. As this is the country where we have a retirement visa (MM2H) we wanted to find out if it’s the place where we may eventually consider settling down.
First stop was Penang – A place many expats have chosen to call home. George Town is the capital of this State and is known for its British colonial buildings, Chinese shophouses and mosques. It’s also classed as the foodie paradise of Malaysia.
Our first week we spent in a beautiful hotel in the old town: “The Eastern & Oriental“. Whilst exploring China Town we sampled the local food. My favourite, one of those love it or hate it dishes, is asam laksa (noodles in a spicy, tangy fishy gravy) – Yummy!
We then moved to the modern part of George Town. What a difference: Skyscrapers and shopping malls galore. With everything that’s available, it’s no surprise that a lot of expats choose to settle here. We soon realised that it wasn’t for us, at least not in the foreseeable future. For the moment we’re looking for somewhere a bit more laid back, where we can enjoy outdoor living – A garden and a pool.
So, full of optimism, we flew on to Langkawi, intending to stay a couple of months. This is one of the only places we have revisited (we were last here 5 years ago) which has actually not moved forward. Normally this would be a good thing but Langkawi has gone down hill. Gone are all the cosy little beach bars and eateries. They haven’t even been replaced by up-market restaurants. They have simply just not been replaced by anything and the whole area now looks sad and poor.
One highlight (not) was the cable car which provides an aerial link from the Village at Teluk Burau to the peak of Gunung Machinchang. Not having a head for heights I was a bit dubious but let Dave talk me into it. The result:
I kept my eyes firmly shut the whole way and screamed at Dave every time he stood up to take a photo. Did I mention that the floor of the cabin was transparent?
We eventually made it to the top and whilst I tried to regain some self control Dave went off to walk the sky bridge:
In the short time it took him to return, the wind started to pick up and the sky got darker and I realised we’d be heading back in a storm ……… Had Dave not promised me a couple of martinis at the other end, I’d probably still be up that hill.
After another dire trip which seemed to go on forever, we finally made it back to terra firma! Dave of course thought the whole thing was hilarious. After the martinis I started to see the funny side too.
A week later we decided we’d had enough and flew to our favourite place – Bali! It felt like coming home, reconfirming what we already suspected: This is the place we will likely end up settling down one day (in the distant future).
In the past year we’ve been back here three times. On two occasions it was great to meet up with best friends, the Scannells. Hopefully again, later this year!
During our stay, the island of Lombok was hit by an earthquake measuring Mw 6.9 and killing hundreds of people. Though Lombok is nearly 200 kms away from Bali we felt the tremors from this and the after shocks. These alone were terrifying. Unimaginable to think what it must have been like on Lombok itself or the neighbouring islands.
The quakes and aftershocks continued over several days on and off and it got so bad that before we went to bed at night, we’d pack an emergency get-away pack with all the bare necessities required for a quick escape.
One of the strange after effects of the quakes was a light-headed, dizzy feeling and occasional loss of balance which lasted for a few days – Very weird!
Our 30 day visa expired so we headed off to Hue, Vietnam, staying in one of our favourite hotels. This time the visit was seriously marred when I woke up on the second morning, covered, and I mean COVERED in bites. Dave stripped the bed and sure enough … BED BUGS!
I was pretty upset and grossed out and it took a couple of weeks for the bites to disappear. My one consolation was that bedbugs in this 5 star hotel which had recently hosted the Emperor and Empress of Japan would be of the posh, upperclass variety.
One thing that we learned from this experience is that bedbugs, like mosquitos, do not like Dave – Typical!
Anyway, the hotel sorted the problem but even so – it’s left an icky feeling and we won’t be returning.
We still love Hue and are already looking forward to coming back (alternative accommodation has already been found 🙂 ).
We then spent a month in beautiful Hoi An. Vietnam issues multiple month visas on arrival as long as you follow the instructions and have the necessary paperwork. It’s not difficult and it’s all done online. Would be wonderful if more countries did this rather than the normal 30 day visas!
Then it was on to a new part of Thailand for us: Phuket. We weren’t sure what to expect but it was entertaining. Fortunately we stayed at this place which was out of town and quiet. The hotel looks much better in the pictures than it is in reality!
Once again we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and met up with an ex colleague and friend of ours – Mike Garbe.
One of the main beaches (Patong) is definitely the place to people watch. Never was so much testosterone and steroid use on display, and not in a good way. Anyway, another city that we won’t be returning to.
Christmas and New Year was spent in Kuala Lumpur in the marvellous Mandarin Oriental.We treated ourselves to club lounge rooms which meant we could stuff ourselves on the most amazing food (including turkey on Christmas day). This is now definitely our favourite hotel in KL.
Currently we’re back in Thailand in Krabi. We’ve rented a villa with swimming pool for a month and are loving it. Thailand is moving into its hottest period now and temperatures are around 36 ℃ every day so the swimming pool is very welcome.
Lucky for us, we got to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary here (together for 40 years😱). What better way than with a slap-up Indian/Thai meal.
Our time here is just about over and we’re on our way back to Bali tomorrow. Not a hardship that’s for sure, but we will miss our little home of the past month.
Till the next blog post – All the best from SE Asia!