Posts Tagged With: beach

Lisbon: Trams, Hills and Sexy Toilet Paper

Being so close to Portugal following our Andalucian adventure, we couldn’t not go to Lisbon. That would have been rude! So we scheduled a few days in the Portuguese capital into our plans. Definitely a worthy detour from Spain. After a sleepless late night bus from Seville, squashed next to a rather nosy Romanian lady who insisted on shouting “DORMIRE?!” in my ear once I’d began to drift into dreamland, I think you’ll understand when I say we were relieved to arrive early morning at our hostel.

Once suitably freshened up, we headed out on the hunt for food. I was keen to try out my newly learnt Portuguese on the locals and enjoyed ordering a custard tart and orange juice for breakfast in a local restaurant. (Yes! Custard tart for breakfast! Amazing, right?)

Shortly after our morning stroll introducing us both to Lisbon and Portugal for the first time, we joined a free walking tour we’d seen advertised in the hostel. Our  tour in Granada had convinced me that Hannah was onto something with her love of free walking tours! Unfortunately, this one wasn’t as good in my opinion. The guide was clearly passionate about Lisbon and he had some interesting facts to share with us – he even recommended a great local restaurant to us that we would never have found on our own. However, the one memory that really stands out was him taking us all through the underground system passage to get from one place to another by skipping a rather large hill climb, and instead escorting us up escalators through throngs of commuters. Not really my idea of making tourists, or locals, feel comfortable.

Still, there were some nice photos to be had on the tour – and as I said, the restaurant he recommended was excellent. With a handwirtten menu on a paper tablecloth stuck up in the window, we knew this was the place we wanted to eat. As it turned out, we got lucky with our food in Lisbon, and managed to find a “paper tablecloth menu” place most days. The prices were amazing (and a great shock after Spain) and the food was delicious.

The city of Lisbon is beautiful. However, after over a week of nothing but urban landscapes (well, minus a few language filled days in Essaouira) we planned for a day at the beach! Cascais to be exact. Cascais is an easy day trip from Lisbon, as the crowds of tourists and locals alike on the train proved. The journey takes 40 minutes by train and the beach is just a stone’s throw from the train station in Cascais. We’d read about surfing possibilities there but the water looked rather calm and the wind looked rather strong. Feeling a little doubtful, we asked at the surf place but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Minus surfing, Cascais still made a great excursion from Lisbon and I’d definitely recommend it if you fancy a little peek out towards the US of A! (Disclaimer: You can’t actually see America!)

One of my favourite things about Lisbon, other than the food, the cute yellow trams and the company that make multicoloured toilet paper, was the Oceanarium. Partly because it’s the biggest aquarium in Europe. Mainly because they had a sea turtle exhibition at the time. Yes, please. I don’t think the exhibition is still there,  but if you go to Lisbon, I would say the Oceanarium is a worthy morning or afternoon chilling with some penguins and jellyfish.

Lisbon did not fail to disappoint. In fact, I preferred Lisbon more than I thought I would and was slightly disappointed when I had to leave for Madrid.

Have you ever been to Lisbon? Did you like it? I’d love to read your thoughts below! 🙂

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Categories: Europe, Portugal | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts on Penang (and other exciting news!)

In keeping with the rest of Malaysia, Penang is very nice. In difference to the Cameron Highlands, Penang is very hot! I haven’t really sweated yet since I’ve been away, yeah, it’s been hot, but Penang? WOAH! I’m thinking it could just have been the change from shivering at night in the Cameron Highlands to stepping off the plane into a blanket of heat but wow!

After my wonderful night at Jim’s Place, (not only was there a bratty jungle kid but my fan didn’t work!!) I awoke bright and early and was ready to leave ASAP. I showered, packed my bag, checked the map for an idea of which direction to head for cheap hotels and so I was set. I headed downstairs. Complete darkness. Brilliant. The shutters were down, no-one was around…then I saw a man on the sofa. It was Jim.

“Jim? Jim?” I whispered, “Jim?”

He stirred.

“I need to leave now”

“Ok. You can go out the back, baby.” That’s the kind of guy Jim was. He had notice boards on the wall filled to the brim with quotes from “Sir Jim”, mainly about having sexual intercourse with the Thai population.

Glad to have finally left, I ended up in Banana Guest House! Doesn’t sound much better, does it? Thankfully, it was, and I had a very pleasant last night’s rest in Penang. A much needed one after my 8km trek through Taman Negara Pulau Penang earlier that day. That’s Penang National Park to you and me. It was a fun, sweaty hour and a half before reaching a beautiful white sandy beach with a turtle conservation centre – and a tank full of baby sea turtles! It was very cute!

I met a lovely man called Izman and his two cousins who were so kind, and gave me a lift to the Toy Museum that I’d seen on my way over. However, when I got to the entrance, I noticed the ticket price – as far as I could make out, it would have cost me 100RM (20quid!) just to see some toys. I was kinda hoping for 1-10RM…so I headed to the bus stop straight away to catch a bus back into town.

“Where do you want to go?” came an angry sounding voice from the shelter.

“Err, I need bus 101? Into the city, Komtar?”

“Ahh, yes, ok, it will come. But i’ve been waiting half an hour already. Huh!” She was quite a character, “So where are you from?”

“England.”

“Ooo, long way. How do you like Malaysia?”

“I love it! I was in Indonesia before, and I hated it. So Malaysia is great in comparison!”

She nodded and smiled. We sat for a few moments and then she asked, “What do you believe?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What do you believe? Like, God, religion? Are you a Christian?”

“Oh, I’m not religious. I…don’t know what to believe.” This was an easier answer than getting into a religious debate. I turned the tables, “And you?”

“I’m a Christian. I used to be a Hindu but then I changed. What is the point of a religion when I can’t do anything, you know? But being a Christian, I can ask for forgiveness, you can’t do that in Hinduism, I mean, we all make mistakes sometimes, we need to ask for forgiveness and my old religion didn’t allow for mistakes so now being Christian LOGOS HOPE!!!” The endless monologue was interrupted when two minibuses drove past with the words “Logos Hope” on the side.

“What’s Logos Hope?” I asked.

“It’s a boat, a travelling book fair, and it’s here in Penang, first time in Malaysia and first time in Penang and it’s here!”

What a lovely idea. A book boat shop that travels the world.

She was chatting all the way on the bus too. A very nice, open woman called Mala.

The following morning I left Penang and after a few hours stop in Kuala Lumpur airport, I arrived in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on Borneo yesterday. So far, so good! I caught the bus into town for 30p as opposed to at least a tenner for a taxi and went for some lunch in a shopping centre. I found a small cafe in a supermarket where I chowed down on a plate of fried noodles for 40p, only to be filmed by the women on the next table…I wasn’t literally chowing the noodles down, I’m not a dog. I was eating sensibly despite being ravenous. So that wasn’t the reason they were filming me. I did still have my backpack on but get a life! I even turned back as I walked away and she was still filming me!!

It was a half hours walk from the bus station to Lucy’s Homestay (the cheapest in the book!) and if they were full there looked to be plenty of other options nearby. Thankfully, they had space and I’m now in a lovely hostel for the next three nights (well, two now!) with free breakfast and wi-fi AND I’ve had my laundry done! Hooray!

Even more exciting news is…

  1. I may be able to do a try dive in the Semorna Archipelago – apparently one of the best dive spots in the world!
  2. I have planned Borneo down to a T and should be able to hit the orang-utans (not literally), Semporna, Gunung Mulu National Park and Kuching within a time span allowing me to…
  3. GO TO SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX!! Yes! How amazing is that?! It falls just when I’m ready to leave Borneo, flights from Kuching are dirt cheap (I’ve already booked one!) and Shakira, Linkin Park, Shaggy AND Rick Astley are playing!! I mean come on, Rick Astley? Cherry on top of a fantastic cake or what?! It’s a night race around a track in the city centre so different to most races around the world. What a cool place to see my first Grand Prix! Of course, I’ll be rooting for Hamilton and Button….if I’m not too busy singing along to Rick Astley that is!

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Categories: Malaysia, Singapore, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Some Surf, A Snorkel and Some Sunburn.

Pangandaran. I have finally learnt the name, the spelling and the pronunciation. I was a little worried on leaving Yogyakarta that I’d end up in Prambanan. A temple. Not far from Yogya, in the other direction to Pangandaran. And I’m pretty sure you can’t surf, snorkel or get sunburnt there. Ok, well, maybe you can get sunburnt there, but the other two are definite no-no’s.

Luckily, my weak Bahasa Indonesian had got me the right ticket, and after a creepy half hour with the bus company office guy who asked to take my photo, I was heading to Pangandaran.

Even better, when I arrived at a pretty decent looking hotel complete with Western toilet and shower, I noticed another “white person” arrive on his motorbike. His name was Cliff. And Cliff is one of the many that are being added to my list of saviours. He offered to take me out for some good food on his bike and is married to an Indonesian woman so visits every year and has been to Pangandaran a few times so knew his way around much better than I could have figured out on my own!

On my first day here, we headed to the National Park at the bottom of the village. Cliff went fishing around the corner on a different beach and I stayed on the coral rich beach at the top end of the park. There were so many starfish! I hovered around for a while but eventually, the people bobbing up and down in life jackets with little snorkels popping up looked a lot more appealing. Having no-one to leave my bag with, and having my camera, phone, and money in my bag, finding a trustworthy looking snorkel rental man was a must. Thankfully, the first guy I found was sat chatting to a police officer, so I thought, “If I’m gonna leave it anywhere, here’s the best bet!”. I’m so glad I did. Snorkeling made me want to dive even more so, so much so that I’m considering adding the Philippines into my trip much more than I was initially.

I was floating along, taking it slow, constantly bobbing my head up to check my bag was still there when a little man in a mask and snorkel called to me, “Here is good but over here is much better, follow me!” He seemed like quite a genuine guy, so, hoping that he wouldn’t be after a tip once the tour was over, I followed. He grabbed me by the wrist and must have been showing me round some amazing coral for at least 20 minutes. However long it was, it was enough for the back of my legs to get sunburnt!

I’d asked Cliff on the first day if he knew of any good surf instructors, or places to ask along the beach. He recommended Batu Karas, a small village 32km from Pangandaran. He was kind enough to offer to take me there on the second day. And so I attempted surfing! One of the things on my trip to do list. It’s a real tough workout! I paid 150,000 Rp (about a tenner!) for an hours lesson and board rental all day. My instructor was adorable, and reminded me of my old Spanish teacher Gonzo (for those of you who are now confused, I did not name my tortoise after my old Spanish teacher. That would be weird.). After a few failed attempts, he said to me, “If you don’t stand, you don’t pay! Money back guarantee!” As tempting as it was to get the lesson for free, I was determined that I would stand. And I did! About 4 times. Once I managed to stand all the way to the shore, and I caught about 10 – 15 other waves but bodyboarded them in as I couldn’t quite stand. Overall, not a bad first attempt, but definitely need more practice before I can be cruising along like some of them were!

And now tomorrow I leave Pangandaran. Not a temple. I’m heading to Bandung for one night, to catch a plane to Kuala Lumpur, where my mum and sister will be waiting to spend a few days with me! Very exciting! But today, I need to relax, stop swaying from the surf and keep applying the aftersun…

 

Categories: Indonesia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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