A Travellerspoint blog

My 2008 Travel to Singapore, KL and Thailand

Bangkok, Final Leg

sunny

If I were to give an endorsement of something that I really liked during my trip, I will highly recommend two: first the VIP Double-Decker Air-conditioned Bus from Phuket to Bangkok and second, the Bangkok Centre Sukhumvit 25 Hostel on 25 Sukhumvit, Bangkok.

After the bus driver dropped me at the Phuket Terminal, I boarded the VIP Double-Decker Air-conditioned bus. It is a double decker bus with toilet, two drivers and a uniformed hostess serving snacks and softdrinks. The VIP bus ticket shows the words Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion. The trip was very smooth and comfortable, a far cry from the long train rides that I had on the locomotive trains! The Phuket to Bangkok trip took only 12 hours from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. A full dinner was served in a restaurant where we had our only stop-over at 10:00 p.m. A Thai film which had an English sub-title was shown. It was a movie about a coach who painstakingly built a tug of war team composed of kindergarten boys. It was funny with a very strong message on the pressures of winning and how small kids handle it.

When we arrived at the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok, we bought a taxi coupon for a fixed fare of 500 Thai Baht for a taxi trip from the Terminal to Sukhumvit 25 where our hostel was located.

The Bangkok Centre Sukhumvit Hostel is highly recommended. It was very accommodating: they simply asked me to pay a membership fee of 200 Thai baht which is valid for three years. I was given an air-conditioned room with hot and cold shower, tv and refrigerator. It was more than what I needed. I was only looking for a place where I could leave my baggages but I got a room where I can freshen up with shower and have a few hours of rest before I went shopping at Pratunam area. For the room stay from 8:30 a.m. till 8:00 p.m. I paid only 800 Thai baht!

At 10:00 a.m.I went to Pratunam area. I simply took a bus from the hostel to Pratunam. I shopped till 4:00 p.m. and went back to the hostel for some rest until I left for the airport at 8:00 p.m.

The hostel made an arrangement for a taxi (actually it was a Mazda 3 which was privately owned) for me. It was a colorum vehicle (just like in the Philippines) for 350.00 Thai baht from the Hostel to the airport.

My flight though was very much delayed. When I checked-in, the flight advisory board had indicated that the flight was moved to 2:00 a.m. but we were able finally left at 3:00 a.m. already. The Cebu Pacific air flight stewardess apologized for the delay but blamed the authorities of the NAIA 3 terminal for the delay. According to her, there was confusion in the NAIA that caused their delay in departing from Manila which had also resulted to the delay of their arrival in Bangkok.

We finally landed NAIA 3 at 7:00 a.m., August 3. I was very thankful to God for the learning I got from the trip. More over, God made it possible that during the entire trip we had a very fine weather while it had been raining here in Manila during that period!

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 08:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged lodging Comments (0)

My 2008 Travel to Singapore, KL and Thailand

Phuket, Leg, Part 2

sunny

The American introduced me to one of the motorcycle drivers who can speak English well. For an agreed fare of 200 Thai Baht, he drove me to a hotel which has a money changer then to the Phuket Youth hostel,12 kilometers away with my luggages placed in front of him.

The motorcycle ride was very exciting! We did not have a crash helmet. I kept my eyes open during the 15 minute ride to be sure that I could still save myself in case of an accident!

It was already 11:00 when I was finally settled in my room in the Phuket Youth Hostel, in Chalong area. Spartan but clean with split type aircon for only 450.00 Thai Baht. After dropping my bags, I went out to a restaurant which is more of a beer house located beside the Hostel. I was so hungry. Again, we had a communication problem with the local Thais in ordering for my food . The fresh shrimps with vegetables in the menu had actually raw shrimps! I had to do a lot of sign language with the cook to fry the raw shrimps!

I slept soundly after the long trip! My LBM was gone thanks to the Cico (Chico), banana and mangosteen I ate in Kuala Lumpur.

The Phuket Youth Hostel’s complimentary American breakfast was a relief after the not so filling dinner I had. I immediately took another motorcycle ride to the Bus terminal to buy VIP bust ticket for Bangkok. The motorcycle driver charged me 80 Thai Baht for the ride from the Hostel to the Bus Terminal. The VIP Bus for Bangkok costs 1,120.00 Thai Baht. I took the 6:00 p.m. bus schedule.

In going back to the Hostel, I asked for directions to where the terminal of the bus that would pass by the Hostel. It was only a 10 minute walk. The bus are those that plies from Phuket town to Chalong Bay. Its terminal was near the market and it is not actually a bus but a pick up truck that is being converted into what looks like a passenger jeepney. Just like in the Philippines, the length of time that the bus will wait for passengers was “alas puno” meaning it will wait for passengers until it will be filled up. Good enough, the driver decided to leave after 20 minutes even with only three passengers! The bus ride was only 25 Thai Baht for a safe and comfortable ride compared to the 80 Thai baht that the motorcycle driver charged me for the same distance.

I packed up my things and left it in the Hostel lobby. I took the same bus to Chalong bay. Chalong bay has a pier where sailing boats are anchored. There are sailing boats for rent which would sail to the Islands near Phuket, the most popular of which is James Bond Island which was named after it was used as a set for a James Bond movie. There were several decent restaurants and I chose Kan Eang @ Pier which serves Japanese food for my lunch. The dining area was beside the sea and the trees provide shades that give a comfortable feeling. The food was good and reasonably priced.

After lunch, I went to the queue of the taxis waiting for passengers nearby. I made arrangements for a taxi rental for a sightseeing trip in the Kata Beach, Karon beach and Patong Beach. The taxi drivers offered very expensive rent for the tour. After a failed negotiation, the bus (more appropriately the passenger jeepney) driver who was all the while observing my negotiation with the taxi drivers, offered to provide me his service for the sightseeing ride to beaches of Kata, Karon and Patong, then back to the Hostel to pick up my baggages and take me to the VIP terminal for only 800.00 Thai Baht! That one I could not resist! So off I went to the beaches!

Kata and Karon are both similar to our Boracay with its powdery white sand. The only difference it that they have not constructed the bars and restaurants and other commercial establishments close to the beach but are instead located in areas farther from the beach. The beaches are left for sunbathing and swimming alone. The driver took me to several Buddhist temples too. Indeed, my sightseeing tour was a great bargain!

When I went back to my Hostel to pick up my baggages, I asked the man at the counter if he knows of a hostel in Bangkok. I have not made any booking in Bangkok because my Bangkok leg was a very short one: if I will arrive Bangkok early morning, I would just need a room to leave a baggage while I go around shopping and leave for the airport early evening for my Cebu Pacific flight at 12:00 midnight. He referred me to Shukumvit Hostel in 25 Shukumvit, Bangkok.

(to be continued…)

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 08:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged transportation Comments (0)

My 2008 Travel to Singapore, KL and Thailand

Phuket Leg, Part 1

“SAME, SAME, BUT DIFFERENT”. I read this phrase in a black t-shirt worn by a co-passenger who turned out to be a Filipino. He explained to me that this phase is popular in Thailand. When Thais meet Filipinos, they will say, ”Thais and Filipinos are same, same”, to our kababayans with the purpose of establishing a friendly rapport. This happens during introductions or even during shopping time when a Filipino will haggle with a Thai sales clerk for discount on the price of an item.

This phrase would appropriately describe this leg of my latest travel. I saw a lot of things we shared in common with the Thais but definitely we are different.

Our train made the penultimate stop at Padang Besar, the border station for immigration formalities. The border station is not as tightly secured compared to the Singapore-Malaysian border. There was no military presence. Well, the Thais and the Malaysians are known to be friendly neighbors. There was a money changer. But, I changed only a small US dollar bill since the exchange rate was only 1 USD to 30.4 Thai Baht. I thought that maybe in Phuket, the rate will be better.

The landscape as the train moved closer to Hat Yai (the first province of Thailand after the border with Malaysia looked like Agusan del Sur! There are large tracks of Palm Oil and rubber plantations and rice paddies close to the railroad. However, when we reached residential communities, I noticed a big difference: almost every house has a Buddhist altar/pagoda like structure which is being used as a place where the Thais make offerings (fruits, flowers, incense, etc..) while back home, the images of Santo Nino are placed in pedestals being offered also with sampaguita and lighted candles.

We arrived Hat Yai two hours late at 12:30 p.m. The Hat Yai station is an old structure. Before we could disembark, Thai porters went up to our cabins offering services of carrying our baggages. Very Filipino. I did not get their services. Funny, just when the passengers will have to finally get out from the platform, we have to climb over a pile of lumber, two regular steps higher! I was really puzzled why those stock pile of lumber was there blocking the way! I asked where the bus terminal to Phuket is. Instead of leading us to the bus terminal, the men pointed us to an office in front of the train station. When I asked the man who turned to be a booking agent for the van service from Hat Yai to Phuket where the bus terminal is, he told me the bus will leave at 2:30 p.m. yet and since the travel time is at least 6 hours from Hat Yai to Phuket, I agreed with him that it will be faster to take the van service because if we decide to take the van service, a van will leave in a minute. The fare of the van service for Hat Yai to Phuket was 300 Thai Baht. However, there is a hitch: he told me that passengers will have to change van in Krabi, a town between Hat Yai and Phuket. But, he assured me that the van service will still be faster than the bus. My main consideration is to be able to reach Phuket early, if possible before sunset. So, I chose the van.

We left Hat Yai at 1:00 p.m. and arrived Krabi at 5:30 p.m. The van made only a stop for coffee break. When we arrived Krabi, the contact agency of the man in Hat Yai told us to wait for the connecting van. She was only able to make arrangement for another van ride to Phuket from Krabi by 7:30 p.m. But that time it was already dark. Just like in the Philippines! We were again delayed, it was already 10:30 p.m. when we arrived Phuket town.

Too late, the banks and the money changers in the Phuket town were already closed. After two long train rides, the Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai being delayed for two hours, I decided that for the Phuket to Bangkok trip , I will try the VIP Bus. I must get an early booking to be sure that I will get a ride otherwise I will miss my plane for Manila which I will take in Bangkok. However, the ticket counter for the VIP BUS was closed too.

I was asking the people in the terminal where I can change my dollars but the local Thais have difficulty communicating well in English. Another difference between the Thais and the Filipinos I told myself. You see, the Thais were never under any foreign colonizer. That is why it is named Thailand from the word thai which means “free” thus Thailand means freeland. This is the reason why the Thais have difficulty in speaking English.

I saw two Americans in a company of a Thai woman. I decided to ask help from them since it was getting late. I have to change my money and I need direction on how to get to Phuket Youth Hostel in Chalong area. The Americans were very helpful: One of them led me to the parking area where the motorcycles (the same ride I had in Vietnam and similar to the Habal-Habal in some Mindanao provinces) are. Please note that it is not a tricycle, it is a two-wheeled motorcycle like your Honda or Yamaha or Suzuki without any side care! The drivers are wearing numbered red chalicos indicating that they are authorized by the government.

(to be continued)

As Always,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 08:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged motorcycle Comments (0)

My 2008 Travel to Singapore, KL and Thailand

Malaysia Leg, Part 2

sunny

“TRAVELLING IS LEARNING: MALAYSIA LEG, PART 2”

Since it was only 8:00 a.m. when I arrived at the Matahari Lodge, Manny - the owner was very helpful to allow me to deposit first my luggage in their storage room until the occupants of my room would check out at 12:00 noon. Meanwhile, he allowed me to use the common toilet to freshen up and to relieve myself since I had an LBM!. After that, Manny offered me to have coffee and toasted bread with butter and jam at the pantry. It is free for all hostel occupants.

After my breakfast, Manny advised me to buy a ticket of the KL Hop-On, Hop-Off City Tour Bus ride. For only 38 RM, the ticket will allow me to have unlimited bus rides on the Hop-On, Hop-ff buses for 24 hours. The buses have a fixed route around the major tourist areas of Kuala Lumpur. You can get off at any point on the route, do shopping or simply walk around for souvenir photos and ride again on next Hop-On, Hop-Off bus to go to the other points of the route. I decided to buy the KL Hop-On, Hop-Off City Tour Bus ride because KL does not have an EZ-LINK like Singapore. Although they have several MRT lines, just like in the Philippines, they have not interconnected yet and you have to buy ticket every time you ride the MRT.

I had a grand time sightseeing all the tourist spots that we passed. After completing one round of the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus, it was already past 1:00 p.m. so I returned to the Matahari Lodge. My room was already available. I was dead tired and decided to sleep the rest of the afternoon.

After waking up at about 5:00 p.m., I took another Hop-On, Hop Off bus and got down at the Petronas Tower. I did some window shopping at the Suria Kuala Lumpur Commercial Center (KLCC). When darkness came, I had all the time to take pictures of the magnificent Petronas Twin Towers. The stainless steel claddings that wrapped the entire towers being illuminated with high powered lights are visually awesome!

Again, I took the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus in returning to Matahari Lodge. I had a good sleep in my room at the Matahari Lodge which was newly-constructed and was only opened last March this year.

I woke up early the next day, packed up my luggage, placed it the storage area and took the Hop-On, Hop Off bus to Petronas Tower. I joined the queue for the free ticket to gain entry to the bridge of the Petronas Tower. I was able to get a 1:30 p.m. schedule for the Petronas Twin Towers Skybridge Visit.

Killing time while waiting for my schedule of the Skybridge Visit, I went inside Suria Kuala Lumpur Commercial Center. I entered its supermarket and bought Cico fruit (Chico in the Philippines) and ate lots of it to help me solve my LBM! I had another round of window shopping where I bought some dried dates imported from Iran and Tunisia. At lunch time, I ate at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in the KLCC.

A few minutes earlier than my 1:30 p.m. schedule, I was already at the entrance of the Skybridge Visit. The staff led us to an audio visual room where there were presentations on the preparatory planning and construction of the Twin Towers.

The Skybridge Visit was exciting. The high speed elevators took us to the 45th floor in less than a minute. We were allowed to be on the Skybridge for 10 mimutes. The view of Kuala Lumpur from the Skybridge gave me an idea of how enormous the city is.
After the Skybridge Visit, I went to Matahari Lodge and opened my e-mails. Internet was fee was only a donation of 3 RM for an hour use.

At about 5:30 p.m., I left Matahari Lodge and walked towards the MRT Central Market station. At that time, the MRT was not yet crowded and I was able to be at the KL Sentral very early for my 8:45 pm. KTM train to Hat Yai, Thailand.

If my train in Singapore for Kuala Lumpur was delayed by 45 minutes, my train for Hat Yai was delayed by almost two hours. It was scheduled to leave at 8:45 p.m. but we were able to leave only at 10:45 p.m.

This time I decided to get the aircon sleeper bed instead of the aircon seat. It was more comfortable. I had a good sleep from the moment we left KL until 7:00 a.m. the next day.

I had coffee at the train canteen. I had a good view of the rubber and African palm oil plantations of Malaysia as the train passes by. To my mind, what we had envisioned in 1998 when I was still with the Department of Agriculture as the Director of the Planning Service with Secretary William Dar to promote the production of champion commercial crops in Special Agricultural and Fisheries Development Zones under the Agricultural and Fishery Modernization Act is to this date still valid.

When the train reached the southern portion of Thailand, I got a glimpse of the rice production areas of Thailand. It looked similar to our Bulacan or Iloilo rice fields. But why are we importing rice while the Thais and the Vietnamese are doing the other way around, exporting their rice? Oh, but I was suppose to learn and enjoy in this trip, and not be bothered if the marginalized families under the bridge in Fairview and the squatters in Payatas would be falling in line for NFA rice in Commonwealth Market. Oh my…

(to be continued…)

As always,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 08:07 Archived in Malaysia Tagged transportation Comments (0)

My 2008 Travel to Singapore,KL and Thailand

Kuala Lumpur Leg, Part 1

sunny

“TRAVELLING IS LEARING: MALAYSIA LEG, PART 1”

A country’s historical past (referred to as kaagi in cebuano which according to modern-day historian Inquirer’s Ambet Ocampo is more appropriate word to use) plays a vital role in its development. Take the case of Singapore. As a former British colony, English language is widely used by the Singaporeans. Another legacy of the british colonial era of Singapore is its efficiency as a trading hub. Products from as far as the Malaysian peninsula (another former British colony) were brought to the harbor of Singapore using the railway system for shipment to Europe. The Railway System is a major monumental infrastructure established by the British colonizers and left behind after the colonial era.

The Singapore Railway Station constructed during the British colonial era is still standing and is currently being used by the present Malaysian railway company named Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad Antarabandar (KTM). When I arrived at this Station, I immediately took pictures of this historical landmark. This building is lucky it was constructed in Singapore which must have a good sense of history. Today, it is still in existence being surrounded by new high rise buildings. If it were constructed in the Philippines it has long been torn down to pave way to a new shopping mall or a new condominium!

Our train for Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to depart at 9:00 p.m. I made a fatal mistake of eating dinner in one of the eateries inside the Singapore Railway Station. I was spared from chewing a hot chili flavored food but was not lucky enough on my choice of a fried fish. I got LBM when I reached Kuala Lumpur! Muy advise, before going to the Railway Station, take out some food from either Mc Donald or KFC.

The train was delayed by 45 minutes. I took the Superior Class (CMB) which is an air-conditioned seat. As the locomotive train started to move, I experience the same old toot, toot sound coupled with the klacking noise as the locomotive wheels hit the railway. It took me almost an hour before my ears got used to the sounds of the moving train and eventually I was able to sleep.

My shallow sleep was abruptly interrupted when the train stopped at the border of Singapore and Malaysia for the immigration formalities. The border appeared to be very well-secured by the Singaporean government with all the heavily armed border guards with sniffing K9 dogs. The fence on the border are all topped with deadly modern bladed barbed wires.

After the we got the immigration stamp on our passports, the train ride continued with the toot-toot and matching klacking sounds which my ears had slowly been acquainted with as I went back to sleep.

The train made several stops on the stations along the way to Malaysia until it was 7:00 a.m. when we finally arrived at the Kuala Lumpur Sentral. It was still dark when I disembarked from the train and walked into Kuala Lumpur Sentral which is a huge complex transportation terminal. It provides link among several MRT lines, the Air Asia airline, KTM train lines to Singapore and Thailand, bus and taxi connections.

I immediately had my US dollars exchanged with Malaysian Dollar or Ringgit or RM. My 100 USD was changed to 321.00 RM. With my RM, I went to the ticket of the KTM train and paid my train ticket for Hat Yai, Thailand which I had reserved through the internet. I was scheduled to take the train to Hat Yai the next day at 9:00 p.m.

I then bought a taxi coupon for taxi ride to the Matahari Lodge where I had booked for our stay Kuala Lumpur. I asked the man at the taxi coupon counter if there is a train or bus line going to Matahari Lodge which is located in the China town. He said no train or bus line to that area. So I decided to buy from him a taxi coupon which was 9 RM from the KL Sentral to the address of Matahari Lodge. The taxi driver speaks good English and was very helpful. He went to look for the entrance of the Matahari Lodge when we arrived in the area.

However, Matahari Lodge is actually located in a very strategic area. The taxi coupon man was just more keen to sell taxi coupon than to help me spend less on transport. I could have taken the MRT train from KL Sentral to to the Central Market station which is just the next station for one 1.50 RM!. Matahari Lodge is just in front of the Central Market Station!. Also, there are buses plying a route that pass in front of it! Anyway, I just consoled myself that having took the taxi made it easier for me to locate Mahahari Lodge since I had never been to this area before. I was in Kuala Lumpur some 20 years ago and have not seen the Central Market or even the Chinatown during that trip!

to be continued….

Nagmamahal,

Edgar Sandalo

Posted by E. Sandalo 08:01 Archived in Malaysia Tagged lodging Comments (0)

(Entries 31 - 35 of 37) « Page .. 2 3 4 5 6 [7] 8 »