Thursday, 25 April 2013

Fingers crossed!

It's always lovely to finally locate some wifi and find a barrage of emails and messages from people. I can only hope that this recent interest doesn't dissipate too quickly. Thank you ;).

Apologies that I don't have a Travelpod update for you today, as although I took a short trip into KL city centre yesterday, my sightseeing was limited to the already visited (by me anyway) Petronas Towers which also speaks for itself as Malaysia's most famous landmark.  After that I somehow managed to get caught in another electric storm whilst making a dash for it between downpours, so have little to report other than getting drowned and having to almost swim (I'm not exaggerating) 'home'.

Petronas Towers - in case you didn't know that lol

I am now in Hanoi, Vietnam, having left at 3.30am this morning (KL time) and 20hours later have yet to locate my luggage that got lost en-route!  That's it in a nutshell - much of a muchness in an average backpackers day; but despite being used to mishaps on my travels this time it's really got me down.

To cut the long story short, my bag basically didn't arrive with the other luggage from my flight, the airline couldn't then find it on the system, let alone locate it's whereabouts. 3 hours later I'm still dealing with security officials and the like, at the airport, trying to determine if it is missing or just lost.  Turns out it was in Brunei!

I've always wanted to go there, just hadn't planned for my belongings to go there before me... however getting them back was another problem in itself. Several phone calls later it's being re-routed back to KL and onto Hanoi.

Whether it will arrive in the morning tomorrow is no doubt down to luck, which I really hope for once is on my side - I have everything crossed and more so because I'm in Vietnam (check out the 'don't be rude section' as defined here and you will understand!). I have had virtually no help all day with the problems encountered, at least from the people here; which was actually extremely frustrating (sorry, I broke the 'don't get cross' rule as well!), more so as the tour company I am now travelling with has always provided a tremendous customer service - here it seems I am 'not their responsibility'.

Not knowing whether to cry or just give up and go home - yes it did actually get as bad as that today (!), I'm at a loss as to why someone as well travelled as me can struggle at the first hurdle on a trip such as this! Am I just getting too old for this travel malarky? Is it right that a tour leader tells me that I am 'a foreigner' and would 'find it too difficult' when referring to my suggestion that I get the train and join the group in a few days; because he simply cannot delay the private minibus that departs in the morning, back to the more reasonable time of one hour later than he has changed it to?

It actually took the power of the 3 (11 actually in this case!) musketeers, meaning the other members of the group, to provide some empathy that was seriously lacking from our group leader. Thankfully the majority won, but if it was up to this tour leader, I would have to be left behind and with no support because he 'can't help'. Let's be blunt... he is the 'foreigner', and a particularly poor standard for a tour leader in my view! I know that other leaders would have gone out of their way to help me, despite it not being their responsibility, and they would have done it without making me feel like I should never book another trip with them again. It really doesn't bode well for wanting to take the hassle out of a holiday, when travelling independently would have been, on this occasion, much less unpleasant.

Unfortunately there is a complaint brewing nicely here... I will just take a breath first, before I break any more rules!

For now anyway.

So, yeah, not a great start to what I was hoping would be a great trip. Tomorrow is another day, thankfully. I can only keep my fingers crossed (ha!) that I don't stumble upon any more bad luck; unless of course it comes with a good story (blog entry!) and happy ending, please :(!

Totally needed this!

Monday, 22 April 2013

One way ticket

After quitting my job back at the end of November, I'd budgeted to be back in the UK and looking for a job around June time. However during the last couple of weeks I've finally been able to rent out my house, so just a few days ago, I made the decision to book a one way ticket to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It was a bit tight to get some of the furniture from the house and the numerous boxes in storage moved, particularly on a day when my parents were away and everyone else was at work, but I completed the task, with time to spare to get my visas arranged too.

Straight after that I flew out to Mallorca for my friends wedding and distributed a few favours, playing chauffeur and hair stylist for a few days. Although nice to be back in warmer temperatures it was a little less than relaxing.

The bride looked amazing and it turned out as a good choice for a shot gun celebration, in fact I would  definitely go back and explore the island a little further another time.

My scrapbook  pages Mallorca
Preparing to leave again

Returning to the UK once more, it was this time last week that I was frantically trying to organise my life once again. As I've said before it is almost unbelievable how many things you can occupy your time with or that need doing when you have quit your job, are renting out your house and are hoping to leave the country asap!

Hopefully I've departed leaving nothing pressing to deal with whilst I am gone. Disappointingly I ran out of time to complete the wedding (not mine) scrapbook that I started, catch up with a few people and also write an entry for a travel writing competition. The latter is still bugging me, as although I probably wouldn't win, I still had more of a chance than I have currently, after not making the entry deadline!

So, now I am adamant that wherever my upcoming travels take me, I will be ensuring that I collate as much info as possible to support any potential future travel writing opportunities. Particularly those with a prize to write a piece for the Rough Guide (or any other publication) and actually get published.

First stop and other plans

So here I am in the 31° heat of Kuala Lumpur. It's a place I have come to know well over the years (also my most visited destination at 5+ visits!), although perhaps never fully appreciated. My last visit here was in 2006, as part of my first big 'round the world' type trip, from which my travelling bug originates.

I think 7 years is long enough to see that a place has changed and get nostalgic over how it once was (?) in fact, last time I was here it was already dramatically different (see archive: KL technology monsters - don't get swallowed up 2) to my previous visit just a couple of years before that.

I'm staying with my aunt, which is always a culinary indulgence, although she is a strict vegan, but she also knows where the best places are to obtain the 'best' delicacies that KL has to offer.

Sadly my grandmother passed away on Friday night, so it is very strange that she isn't here. My aunt/uncle, cousins and mum are now here instead, as have been numerous other friends and family. There were a number of services at the house, including the funeral on Monday morning,  I've been able to get some insight into Christian Methodist Chinese traditions after someone passes away.

I now have a couple of days in KL to eat as much as possible (revisiting the sights may have to wait till I return) and of course collect at least one geocache to help boost my countries statistics. Then on Thursday I fly to Hanoi in Vietnam to start the tour through Laos that I booked some time ago.

Hanoi is another place I wanted to return to, and hopefully locate the perfume pagoda that I was unable to visit on my last trip here... although that may be a challenge that I fail, we will see.

I'm only going to be passing through Vietnam for a couple of days, which with hindsight wasn't very well thought out as the entry visa is the most expensive one I've ever purchased, plus there's the added cost of dropping off my passport at the embassy, and collecting it.

I'm armed with passport photos ready for the other visas I may require enroute!
Evidently there is an adventure to be had, so, without further dialogue I will leave you to your day. Selamat jalan.

Keep an eye out on my travelpod for more... Electric storm and fake shopping, Petaling Street is first.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Thoughts and plans

It's amazing how busy life can be when you're unemployed and trying to plan your next move. In fact I have barely had any time to research possible destinations and I certainly haven't had a chance to reflect on my recent trip to Portugal and Spain just yet.

With British summertime commencing yesterday and April fools day today, I've been out and about enjoying the lovely (bitter cold) temperatures and getting into the spirit of treasure hunting (but not with Google treasure just yet - is that really real?) around my home town and all those lovely oasts :)!

I still want one of those!
Next week, I'm off to Majorca for my friends wedding, so fingers crossed I get some R&R and time to do a bit of research whilst I am there. I am certainly looking forward to some warmer weather and won't miss the  need to layer up every time I set foot outside!

So, as you read this quick update, I expect you're wondering what my plans are and whether I will eventually get to the point of this post!? 

Well, I'm still mulling over potential ideas, but it is looking very likely that South East Asia is going to make an appearance on my stats once again. I've already been to most of the countries there, in 2006, but that was for my first real backpacking/long term trip and it's always nice to go back and see things with a different perspective. I'm also having to battle with the reality of having to travel alone again, which despite being sometimes easier, is not something I am at all looking forward to this time.

If I'm honest it used to excite me, the thought of meeting new people, and of course some of the trips I have done alone remain fondly in my memory. However, the best experiences are always those that you can share, even if they are with someone you only just met. 

I think the realisation finally came when reading back through my oldest blog posts.  Some of these I feel are some what negative, as well as extremely self centred and generally not very interesting to the average reader. 

In conclusion, there are a lot of reasons to choose South East Asia for another visit, the weather, the cost, the variety and of course the fact that I haven't yet seen Laos or Myanmar (Burma)... so let's hope I can get those on my list :).

By the bye, these days I feel my travel writing is a little better thought out, and I hope you will agree, so anything that I choose to see a second time will inevitably be worth it, even if you are just following my blog/s. But, does anyone want to join me?