maanantai 24. maaliskuuta 2014

Day 85 - 85. päivä: Just photos: a monkey and coffee edition

Yup, we saw like 50 humongous wild spiders today, so to take off the edge, we're posting a ton of pictures of monkeys and coffee here. They were taken in Malaysia (Batu caves) and Indonesia (Monkey forest in Ubud and a Balinese coffee plantation). Enjoy!

Can your mum do this?

Time to shave, mum?


Just minding my own business...

Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.

Drinking morning coffee at Mt. Batur.

Brewing Kopi Luwak.

Coffee and tea samples, a.k.a. little pieces of heaven in Indonesia.

The coffee maker napping (civet cats are nocturnal)

Drinking the most expensive coffee in the world.

Roasting coffee beans to make "Cat-poo-chino"

Has your baby ever climbed on a random tourist's back to examine his twig?

Bye 'till next time!

lauantai 22. maaliskuuta 2014

Day 84 - 84. päivä: It's all in the numbers

Enjoying the bus ride in India
We started this trip nearly 3 months ago. Since then, we have stayed in 25 or so hotels (lost count some time ago), visited 5 countries, used public transportation for free in 3 of them (didn't have to pay for a bus in UAE, got a free taxi ride to the airport in India, and got a free bus to the right stop in Malaysia), visited an odd number of cities and towns, and eaten in countless restaurants. We have taken 10 flights. We have talked to many taxi drivers giving us an insight into the local life, tried to adjust our brain to converting Euro to 5 different currencies, while trying to compare the strange currencies with each other, too. We have taken a train once, buses and motorbike taxis weekly, even daily and taxis we can't even count anymore.

Penang National Park
We have crossed the Equator once (by plane), hiked in jungle in 2 different countries (check out Penang National Park in Malaysia), eaten vegan and vegetarian food based on local dishes in most of the places we've visited, visited a doctor zero times, been really sick once, very tired very many times and done our own laundry in just one place. We have sat down planning our next move tens of times, missed no planes and got nothing stolen. We have taken hundreds of photos, of which some were really good ones (published some but not all of them here and on Facebook). We have seen breathtaking scenery in all the countries we've been to, a ton of Russian tourists, and half of the population of Finland (Malaysia was an exception with almost no other Finns in sight). We have tried local beers in 4 countries, and liked all of them except for the sample of 2 brands here in Indonesia (sorry, Bali Hai and Bintang). We have seen one wild baby horn bill, baby cats and dogs, and a couple of very aggressive monkeys.

Our accommodation has varied from less-than 5 euro beach hut in Goa to 5 stars Sheraton Imperial in Kuala Lumpur. We have stayed in cities, towns and beaches, in really super touristy areas (Patong beach in Thailand) and a quiet paradise island (Koh Phra Tong, Thailand), far from nature (Delhi, India) and very close to it (Ubud, Indonesia). We have seen what a really modern city looks like (Abu Dhabi, UAE) and how a really old, historical town has been restored and taken care of (Georgetown, Penang island, Malaysia). We have been carrying our bags ankle-deep in mud, and been treated like royals.

Blue Manson, Georgetown, Malaysia
All this being said, it seemed like the perfect time to stay 5 nights in a small resort in Ubud, Bali. We have our own backyard, with a view over the rice field (and a small fish bond, too!). And, pretty much by accident, we found this not-mentioned-in-any-travel book-we-know-of, really cool hippie part of the town, where you can find vegan and vegetarian food, stay in old Balinese style houses and pretty much forget you're very close to the most touristy area in Indonesia, the beaches of Bali. The nature is close here, as well as any modern comfort one may need, but without all the dirt and noise of a big city. At least for now, we're happy to have left Kuta yesterday, and come here, instead. The bus ride for two was 120 000 IDR (8 Euro), booked via a travel agency. Today we'll sit down again, and decide if we'd rather book an organic cooking class, go for a bicycle tour or sunset hiking, or just book all of them. After all, here in Indonesia even a common traveler can be a millionaire.

Our backyard in Anini Raka Resort in Ubud, Indonesia
P.S. This blog has already been viewed nearly 2000 times, far more than either of us would have expected. It means not only our families are following our trip. Thousands of thanks :)
Vegetarian Fried Koay Teow and Vegetable Sweet and Sour Rice Set

perjantai 7. maaliskuuta 2014

Day 68- 68. päivä: Happy Women's Day!

A 420 meters high tower is high. That being said, it was not a total waste of money to pay 99 MYR per person to get to the open deck of Menara tower. The view from about 300 meters was unbelievable, especially with no walls or window glasses to block it, only a see-through fence and open air. The tickets also gave us access to the lower level observation deck, which has several binoculars for the visitors to use (and windows, so there's really no fear of falling...). Yes, first thing we did was look at our apartment. A 20 storeys building seems pretty small when you're at 276 meters.

Plus, I got to confuse some girls at the souvenir shop. I have noticed that the locals seem to speak Mandarin Chinese a lot here; even so much as to speak it to each other instead of Malay. The two shop assistants in the shop were not an exception, so I decided to give it a try, and started chatting with them. In Mandarin... The girls seemed a bit surprised first, but in a few seconds I found myself having a conversation in a language I have studied years ago, and have not spoken in nearly two years, except with a hotel clerk at Sheraton. Naturally, it didn't go quite fluently, but it was a start. And knowing that we'll be in China next month, it's really, really good to know I can still communicate in Chinese. I have been hitting my head against the wall for forgetting my electronic English-Chinese dictionary at home, but even that seems not to be a problem; they sell them around the city here. And with all the Chinese signs everywhere Malaysia has turned out to be like a huge Mandarin school for me. 

Today, however, is not for studying but deciding where to go next. We have no plans other than leave Kuala Lumpur next Wednesday. Any ideas?

Oh, and happy Women's Day! 

torstai 6. maaliskuuta 2014

Day 66 - 66. päivä: Hotel hopping and book shopping in Kuala Lumpur

Sheraton Imperial Club room
Travelling is fun. It can also be tiring. That being said, after two months on the road, we begun our Malaysia part of the trip resting. And by resting, I mean staying at some luxury hotels for a week; Sheraton Imperial, Hilton Petaljing Jaya and Hilton Kuala Lumpur. At Sheraton we enjoyed free breakfast, complimentary laundry service, access to lounge with food and beverages, Wi-Fi and what not for three nights. At Hilton, we had no such luxuries, but hotel hopping between the two Hiltons served a practical purpose; Ari now has the Hilton Honors Gold Card. If we can ever afford staying at a Hilton again, we will have free upgrades, Wi-Fi and breakfast included.

How could we afford the luxury, though? Well, it is simply much cheaper in Asia than in Europe. A cheap, plain room in Sokos Hotel in Finland costs more than an Executive Club Lounge room in Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur. So, if you want to get your money's worth, invest in luxury and comfort in Thailand, Malaysia, China or other Asian country (fine, we only know about those three, but one could assume the great level of quality in service and super low prices apply to most areas in Asia).

View from our balcony.
Now we're staying in a holiday rental apartment near Times Square mall. We booked it via Airbnb, and although a bit small, it is perfect for playing house for one week; I had no idea it would be this nice to do our own laundry and cook our own meals in an actual kitchen and even do the dishes. Whilst having a vacation from travelling, we have been exploring the city. Going to movies (Lego Movie), buying books at Kinokuniya (only like the best book store EVER!!!), visiting Bird Park and studying the local public transportation system have been the main excitements for us here in Kuala Lumpur. The people in the city are super nice, everybody speaks English, and prices are not bad. The plan, however, is to head to some more rural areas next week, to see some jungle and exotic wildlife. One can spend only so much time in the concrete jungle...