Tag Archives: asia

Climbing Mount Kinabalu (on the cheap!)

Standard

I climbed the highest mountain in South East Asia yesterday. I can’t feel my legs. 4,095m up in the sky, all the pain was worth it.

Mountain shadow - sunrise at the summit

Mountain shadow – sunrise at the summit

I wasn’t always sure I’d get the chance to climb Kinabalu due to different things I’d heard about cost and availability but when I stayed at the lovely North Borneo Cabin in Kota Kinabalu the owner told me about the deal at Jungle Jack’s and so I jumped at the chance and left the next day.

Mount Kinabalu

Jungle Jack’s

Jungle Jack’s is just outside the National Park. Jack is an absolute diamond and completely runs the show. We were provided with steaming hot showers, kitchen and food supplies as well as dinner in a local restaurant. Cute dogs for company – always an added bonus. 420 ringgit (£110) included 3 nights accommodation (the second night is spent in a lodge on the mountain), all food, entrance to the park and trekking guides – bargain. 

After 6 months on the road and next to no exercise I wasn’t sure how my body was going to respond to climbing over 8km and 2,000m. It was tough but worth every step. The first 6km to the lodge for the night weren’t too bad especially as you can take your time. No rush to get to the lodge where you have dinner and get some kip before an early start for the summit at 1.30am the next day. Despite getting up at such an unearthly hour this was by far the most fun part as you literally get to scramble up rock faces, pull yourself along cliff edges with rope and battle through ice cold winds in the dark. Adrenaline is a fine wonder.

Mount Kinabalu-001

I cannot describe how cold it was at the summit. We just about managed to stick around for half an hour to make the most of the incredible colour changing skies as the sun came up. It didn’t take long to get back to the lodge for a rest and second breakfast before we faced what I hadn’t realised would be the most challenging part. The decent was horrible. The first few kilometres weren’t so bad as you’re still running off the high of your achievement. But the last 3 nearly killed me. I felt like my legs were detached from my body and simply refusing to work. Even though I’m still walking like an old lady I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Advertisements

Chiang Mai and the search for ice cream

Standard

My mum is in Thailand. She loves ice cream. Chiang Mai is full of tasty food but WHERE is the ice cream? We found it. It’s in a kitsch cafe called iBerry in Nimmanhaemin. Don’t be lazy – get in a red truck for 30 baht and find this place. Amazing ice cream, quirky drinks, weird decor, loads of Asians taking selfies – what more do you need?

P1050624P1050625 P1050630 P1050631

Angkor Delights

Standard

There’s a good reason Angkor Wat is so popular and rightly dubbed the eighth wonder of the world. It is awe-inspiring in every way: from size, to detail, to monkeys, to flooded forests, to monstrous trees that take over ancient walls – the whole site is a lot more than just a very old, large, religious building. I understand that when travelling around Asia you are going to encounter a lot of temples, but even if you’re feeling a bit templed out, Cambodia’s main tourist draw will not fail to impress.

angkor blog

Many backpackers opt for the one day pass ($20) but I knew I would want to see more so opted for three days ($40). I spread out the experience out over four days so as not to encounter too much temple fatigue. By amazing coincidence my first evening trying to catch one of the awesome but elusive sunsets outside Angkor Wat I bumped into a friend from home who I’d travelled in Peru with last summer so we arranged to spend the next day together touring the small loop by tuk-tuk which includes all the main temples. Then after a day off chilling out in Siem Reap I awoke the next morning at 4.30 and hopped on a motorbike taxi in hope of experiencing a decent sun-rise which paid off massively! I spent the rest of the morning absorbing the immensity of the main temple’s towers and stone carvings and touring around the bigger loop to experience further variety of what Asia’s biggest religious site has to offer.

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat certainly delivered more than I ever imagined and was by no means a let down. If you are remotely into temples, make sure you get at least a three day pass. It doesn’t mean you have to spend every hour of every day templing, but you will get so much more out of the experience if you can take the time to do it at your leisure.

Food food food food food

Standard
Food food food food food

Unsurprisingly there have been many many food experiences over the past two and a half weeks. My brother being the ultimate foodie, we have enjoyed a vast variety of eating experiences. I’m hoping to reduce this slightly after he flies home tomorrow and budget slightly better! Having said that though we’ve had plenty of very affordable meals. Here’s a some of memorable and crazy cheap eats from Myanmar…

I have to give a special mention to the following possibly slightly backpacker central restaurant based purely on its name: Weather Spoon’s! As soon as I heard about this place in the Nyang U area of Bagan, I knew we’d have to eat there for the pure novelty of the fact it’s named after the famous cheap pub chain from back home, Wetherspoon’s. The owner had visited the UK a few times and had worked and hung out in a local namesake in Bristol. He’d loved his time there so much he decided to open his own tourist cafe named after the bargain drinking spot. Winton said his favourite pint had been Fosters (easily pleased). He’d actually been in Bristol to learn how to make hot air balloons – sounds a bit random but Bagan offers hot air balloon rides at certain times of year over its temples (the best way to see them but very pricey) and Bristol is home to the industry in Britain.

P1010200

Weather Spoon’s Bagan

P1010216

The owner Winton

The restaurant offers a range of western and Myanmar food. We were keen as ever to try out the local dishes so we ordered three salads to try (ginger, tea leaf and papaya), beef curry and chicken curry – all delicious and far healthier, cheaper and more interesting than anything I’ve ever eaten in a Wetherspoon’s back home! It wasn’t the best bargain we’d had but at only 14,000 kyat ($14) including 3 beers you can’t complain.

P1010212

Way more exciting than beer and a burger

P1010213

I added to the positive graffiti feedback on his walls

I wish the best of luck to Winton and his booming business in Bagan. I’m sure his warm nature and tasty menu will continue to be a hit with travellers. The name certainly has nothing to do with disappointing burgers or cheap old man ale!

Before flying back Yangon, we stopped for a “light meal” in Kan Daw Gyi restaurant, again in the Nyang U area, a recommendation from our loyal taxi driver Kyaw (pronounced Chaw). I’d read about this kind of place in the guide book and it suggested we bring a crowd to share the dishes that would be brought to our table. We’re good eaters though so I didn’t pay much attention to this, I wish I had! The very attentive (almost overly) owner Dati presented us with an inconceivable amount of food; curries, salads, soups, veg, pickles and of course rice. The variety was simply incredible!

P1010460

The insane spread at Kan Daw Gyi

P1010453

Slightly overwhelmed

After a mouthful of each I was stuffed! This awesome culinary experience only cost us 3,500 kyat ($3.50) each. I’m still not quite sure how they can make any profit from this but there you go. They even gave us a traditional dessert to finish off the banquet: a tamarind flavoured sweet in a pot alongside a selection of everyday Myanmar flavours (ginger, tea leaf and peanuts) and a couple of bananas (just in case we were still hungry!). To be honest I wasn’t a massive fan of the tamarind stuff, it was basically like eating a lump of powdery lightly spiced sugar.

P1010464

To finish…

I can’t recommend Myanmar food enough. A combination of Thai and Indian flavours brought together in a range of dishes, it’s hard not to find something you like (or everything if you’re like me!). In the local hang outs, the waiters are really accommodating, especially in this place. Dati literally watched us eat and frequently reminded us of what we were eating (a bit weird but actually quite helpful with that much food in front of you!). It was low season so the place was empty apart from the workers who had stopped for their mid-afternoon chill out, but the feast more than made up for the quiet atmosphere.

P1010468

The very friendly owner Dati

One last meal time in Myanmar was spent in the Yangon central market eating like the locals on tiny plastic stools surrounded by the hubbub of daily life. This was a real bargain treat. For 5,500 kyat ($5.50) for both of us, we dined on a spread of fresh spring rolls, soup, noodles, tea leaf salad. Oh, and tea (served in a plastic sandwich bag for those who wanted a takeaway!). I love eating like this. The best people watching, the cheapest prices and the yummiest food. Why don’t we have this at home?

P1010638

The food hatch

P1010639

Yangon street life

It started to rain as we were tucking into our lunch. This seems pretty typical of afternoon weather in SE Asia so far. Nothing a borrowed hostel umbrella couldn’t solve though! It was quite interesting watching the locals react to the downpour; they basically just whack up an umbrella or shelter under the edges of the market and carry on. Rain is no trouble really, so long as it’s warm rain!

P1010643

Street food in the rain

P1010645

Nom nom nom

P1010646

Tasty noodles

So that’s it for my culinary experiences in Burma to date. Vietnam so far has brought yet another monsoon of food based delights, but they will have to wait for future blogging. I need to stop eating such amazing food! More posting soon…