Singapore and Beyond
Just got back from two months in Asia....whhhhoooooowwwweeee. Went to the Philippines (wife's family building a rest house on top of a ridge in the center of the island - helped put in a septic tank and water supply system)....then visited my second child, daughter, working in Singapore after transferring in from New York Jan 1st. Singapore is nice, clean and English speaking just like the States. I could live here. Really cheap food at hawker centers, too...and varied ethnic.
After 5 days, took a train to Kuala Lumpur on the railway system. Since wifey and I could not get a private two berth cabin (sold out), we took a sleeper car which was air-conditioned. 40 sleeper bunks with privacy curtains, and two semiclean toilets at the end of the railcar. OK for young ones, but not for us 60+ adventurers. DW did not get to sleep the night, (she said I was snoring in the top bunk) because it was new to her, and we arrived at KL Sentral about 8AM. We got a shower at the Sentral ($5.00 for soap, towel, and a private bath) then cached our humungously big bags at the left luggage counter for the day for another $5, bought a hop-off hop on bus ticket for $10.00 each and toured KL. Of the 21 available stops we only got off two at a half day each. The Bird Park (largest in the world) and Petronas towers. The former had really clean bathrooms which I got to use, and the latter had four floors of shopping (DW paradise) in the basement areas. All were full of tourists and local folk.
One day in KL, then we took another overnight sleeper train to Penang. We got there at 5:30AM still dark, waited for daylight, and got on the 15 minute ferry ride to Georgetown from whence we took a taxi to a resort - ParkRoyal. ParkRoyal is on par with any resort in the Caribbean or Mexico and we stayed for RR 2 days. Took a plane from Penang to Bangkok (no more traine for us). The search for our previously reserved $37/night Suvarnubhumi airport hotel was hilarious because it was so remote and unknown our taxi driver kept getting lost, but we eventually found it. Surprise...no english speakers around at 11PM. Well, they did have free breakfast, and a complimentary trip to the airport next morning to catch our flight to Chiang Mai.
Chiang mai was nice. The night markets is as reputed to be, quite interesting. We got to talking to a young tuktuk driver next morning who offered to take us around to see all the city sights. He charged as 50 bahts per hour, and spent 3 hours going around looking at the temples (4) and the local market where my wife had a ball buying the local fruits which we kept on eating in our hotel room. I paid him 200 bahts including the tip when we got back to the hotel.
Back to Bangkok after two days, we took a local bus with our big bags to our hotel in the "foreign" area. Wrong choice. It was hard lugging those bags up the pedestrian crosswalk and down again to go across the street where our hotel was. My wife got help from a woman and her teenage kid because they saw her really struggling. Nice people....no english, though.
Now Amari Boulevard was great. Across the narrow street, there was a grocery store, western style, with a sit-down diner counter open 24 hours a day...and CHEAP!!! The grocery store had all the tropical fruits we were dreaming about, and the breakfast at the diner was GOOD! What a find.
Took a one-day private tour in a car arranged by our pretty tour operator at the hotel. Turned out the driver was her ex brother in law who was a lawyer, business owner of two tourist agencies (was his off day) and a politician to boot. He was in the political party of the Prince (the eldest of the Kin'gs three children) and appears to be headed for bigger things once the King steps down. We got a runddown on the local political happenings. Mind you, there had been an airport sitdown two weeks earlier which paralyzed tourist travel for 3 or 4 days. Also, we were lucky because two weeks after we left, there was a general strike by the red-shirters which again paralyzed Bangkok for 5 days.
From Bangkok, headed back to Manila, stayed for 5 days more with DW's family, then flew back to the good old USA.