A Travellerspoint blog

Pulau Tioman

more fun in the sun

semi-overcast 30 °C
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It's been a while since the Bruntons enjoyed a holiday, so we opted for a bit of rest and relaxation on the lovely little island of Tioman, Malaysia. The place had been voted as one of the top ten islands in the world by Time magazine a few years ago, so we thought "if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us".

Eight days were spent lazing around the beach, reading books, eating, and snorkelling. We were glad that we'd visited the Barrier Reef first, because we were both REALLY impressed by it; it was the first snorkelling we'd done in the tropics. However, we reckon the snorkelling at Tioman beat the Reef, for corals (it was much brighter and more colourful here), variety of fish, and numbers of fish. We didn't get to wear those fetching lycra suits though, and both Lisab & Andyb burnt their bums (well, the bit that the swim wear doesn't cover), despite being lathered in 30+ factor suncream. We also didn't have an underwater camera. But amongst the fish we spied was a really big flat one (don't know it's latin name), a Ray of some sort, clown fishes(only know these cause of "Finding Nemo"), some other big fishes, and some other little fishes. We also saw loads of clams, a big turtle and these really weird, almost luminous corals, which really impressed Lisab.

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Andyb enjoying a beer at (nearly) sunset

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Our home for a few days. (the highest chalet)

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The view from our digs, at Bamboo Hill. This place looked idyllic, and was, except for each time we opened the door, things would scatter, under the bed and up the walls. For example, Lisa saw a mouse one day jumping out of the bin (it was empty) and behind the bed headboard. Funnily enough, we moved on after a couple of days...

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This is a macaque monkey with her baby. Each morning around 6am, we would hear the pitter patter of monkey feet on the roof of our villa. They used our roof as a spring board to get to the trees. The trees contained some kind of fruit, that they would eat at various points during the day.

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Sunset at Salang

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Air Batang

We took a stroll through the rain forest one day to get to "Monkey Bay" (the clue should have been in the name). We'd taken lunch, snacky things, but left them (underneath the towels and books) in a zipped up backpack, whilst we went to snorkel. Just as we were walking out of the sea, Andyb was struck by a thought - "I hope those monkeys haven't nicked the bag". Well, as luck would have it, they didn't, but they had (or should we say he) riffled through all our possesions, and niftily (we thought, cause nothing was out of place) helped himself to our food. We found him up a tree, eating our bag of crisps. Andyb called him a "little monkey", Lisab called him something more choice (we all know Lisa don't share food). At least he wasn't wearing our t-shirt or watch, whilst taking photo's of us below. The monkey had also kindly left us all the rubbish and crumbs by Andyb's t-shirt, so at least we didn't add to the litter problem (as well as encouraging a junk food habit amongst Macaques). It's the last time we'll snorkel before lunch.

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Monkey Bay

Video of macaque monkey eating stolen fodder - this lasts about a minute

Video of macaque monkey eating stolen fodder - short version

Posted by bruntonal 22:56 Archived in Malaysia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Singapore

sunny 32 °C
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Who knew it would be so difficult to enter Singapore?! We arrived at Sydney airport in plenty of time to check in as we'd been told that if we arrived early we would get allocated the exit aisle seats (needed on account of Lisab's long legs). The smiling lady behind the check in desk of Jetstar requested that we show her our "onward travel plans". We showed her the ticket from Moscow to London (in 5 months time). Sneeringly (we thought) she then requested the travel plans for the next 5 months. Andyb said "hey, man, we'll go where the wind blows us" (not really) for the next 5 months. This evidently wasn't good enough, as "Jetstar have a responsibility to ensure that you don't outstay your Visa requirements in ANY country, until you arrive home" and we were told that we had exactly 2 hours to book an itinerary or we couldn't board the plane. Our protestations were quashed with "the rules aren't going to change, so lets find solutions, not problems" and "lots of people change their travel plans ALL the time (at my desk)". Her solution was to book us a flight to Cambodia (because, she said, they let anybody in there, for 5 months). We were about to pay, when the woman at the information desk (still Jetstar) said that her colleague was a simpleton (or some such) and what they actually required was JUST a bus/train ticket out of Singapore within 30 days. So we purchased a train ticket to Melaka, in Malaysia, and this satisfied her, but not nowty woman, who was still blurbing on to another colleague at the gate check in about it. Better still, on the plane over, we were discussing the incident with a man sat next to us, who hadn't and HAS NEVER been asked for onward travel plans when he boards a Singapore flight - with no return journey booked. Guess what happened when we got to Singapore? correct, they waved us through, without so much as a "please can I see your onward travel plans?".

We left the airport and entered the steam room that is Singapore. First port of call (after we'd dumped the bags) was to get something to eat. We went to a hawker stall, near Little India. Unfortunately, Lisab didn't (and still doesn't) speak Chinese, and so settled for fruit and crushed ice (she reckoned they wouldn't put meat in that), whilst Andyb had a lovely seafood noodle soup. Over cautiously the next day, Lisab settled for vegetable noodle soup (at a vegetarian food stall). Andyb opted for the fish head soup. Turned out, it was tofu fish head. Lisab was well jealous.

Singapore is great if you want to shop - but we'd had enough of that after the first half hour. We did go to M&S though (just for the novelty and to buy Andyb some shirts so he wouldn't get bitten by the mozzies in the jungle). So, we spent our time people watching and eating at the various food outlets in the shopping malls.

We also did what most people feel they HAVE to do in Singapore; go to Raffles and have a Singapore Sling. We opted to go into the Long Bar (cause we'd heard you could throw peanut shells on the floor). Andyb was incensed that he had to pay a service charge to the waitress who curled her lip every time she looked in his direction. We think this was because when she came to take our order, we couldn't be persuaded to take the "special cocktail of the week" for which she must receive commission. Obviously thought, "bloody tourists, will have one drink, chuck loads of nuts on the floor, then bugger off", and of course, that's exactly what we did do. The added service charge was nothing compared to the shock (A&E needed to be put on red alert) when he received the bill for 2 slings (22 english pounds). Lisab suggested that the glass (engraved with Raffles, Singapore Sling) must surely be included in the price.

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Is this the place that serves the most expensive drink in the world?

Another day was spent at the zoo. We absolutely loved it here, and it seems a very well run place. The best space is given to the Orang-utans, which have their own adventure playground in the sky. There are loads of ropes and trees for them to swing around on. "Token feeding" happens a couple of times a day, when they come down to the ground and are fed apples etc. We also went into the "rain forest" area, and got REALLY excited because they promised tree kangaroos. It's only quite a small area (certainly smaller than the big forests we'd tried to see them in, in Australia). We saw every animal that was advertised in that rainforest, but as sod's law would have it, we didn't spy the tree kangaroos. We can only imagine they've been putting the word out amongst each other, to avoid the Bruntons.

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baby orang-utan

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I'm having a FAG Waynetta

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Meercat on sentinal duty

We left Singapore (thanks to Jetstar) on a train bound for Melaka, Malaysia. Interestingly, the train station is actually owned by Malaysia.

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Singapore train station

The train was 2 hours late setting off (thanks to Jetstar) and we were delayed on the tracks for another 1 hour (thanks to Jetstar). We arrived 38kms away from the city (thanks to Jetstar) because there is no train station in Melaka - there is a perfectly good bus station, but you can't book buses on line (thanks to Jetstar). We therefore arrived at 1 o'clock in the morning, instead of 9 o'clock in the evening - thanks to Jetstar. A stongly worded letter is winging it's way by post (because Jetstar don't have an internet facility to send complaints - even though tickets are booked on line) to those lovely people in Jetstar's customer relationship services (we've decided to divorce them).

Notes on Singapore: We'd heard that you could get fined for jay walking (not true, we saw loads of people do it & nobody got carted off) and that it was the cleanest city on earth (not true, we saw loads of bins and places overflowing with rubbish). We were quite put out by this - for months whenever Lisab dared to cross before the green man lit up, Andyb would say "you can't do that when you get to Singapore, or they'll put you in jail". Lisab stopped Andyb from taking a photo of a particularly rubbishy street, or we would have photographic proof.

Posted by bruntonal 21:19 Archived in Singapore Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

A little bit of Queensland

sunny 28 °C
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Our home for 7 days!

On the plane ride over from Sydney to Cairns, we had the spontaneous idea (we are such adventurists) of renting a camper van for a few days to have a look around the outback and tropical bits of Queensland. This had the added advantage of not having to spend any time in Cairns (sorry Cairns, we're sure you're lovely, but we couldn't face another city). Our first stop was to "camp" at Innot Hot Springs. We had a very hot dip (the clues in the name) in the pools and a very pleasant night. The next day we were set to go fossicking. Unfortunately, it was 7 kms away to the nearest site to search for topaz, along an unsealed road. Being the conformists we are, we didn't want to chance the camper down an unmarked track, and couldn't be bothered to slog the equipment (water, lots of it, plus shovels and sieves) on our backs, in the heat of the day, so didn't bother. Instead we moved on to the Undarra lava tubes. These are massive underground tunnels which were formed 190,000 years ago, when Undarra volcano errupted. The lava followed the paths of the rivers and gullies. The surface of the lava flow hardened, due to the drop in temperature at the surface. This formed insulated tubes, in which the lava continued to flow in a liquid state until the lava eventually drained out. The tubes were found because over the years, hot gases and earthquakes blew holes in the tube ceilings, which caused a collapse and so created a way into the tubes. We took a half day tour and had an expert guide called Tim to show us around. We were lucky to be joined by only 2 other people (a nice couple from the Sunshine Coast) and so got lots of time to chat to Tim, and also were lucky to explore parts others people don't explore.

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Turmite mounds. There is hundreds of them on the way to the lava tubes.

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The Bruntons are put on special alert not to run over any amazing wildlife that Australia has to offer.

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Undarra lava tubes.

Onward to Yungaburra, where were went in search of the elusive tree kangaroos. We spent 2 days looking for the blighters and the closest we got, was to see a stuffed one in the visitors centre; they had it taxidermied when it got run over (it was dead at the time).

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Trying to spot tree kangaroos in this dense rainforest became futile for the Bruntons. Although several of the locals had seen them the day before.

We had more success when we went to spot the crocodiles on the banks of the Daintree river, with the "Bruce Belcher Tours". It must be a quiet time of year, because this time we found ourselves the only ones on the 1:30pm tour and had the big boat to ourselves. We got more of an adventure than we bargained for when Kerry the driver got us "stuck" for a few seconds on a sand bank. First his face was a picture, as he muttered "geez, please not today, not in the water today" and looked in need of a brown bag to breathe into, then Lisab's face was a picture (so say's Andyb) when she realised how panicked the driver was. Lisa had already planned an escape route onto the roof of the boat, and would refuse to come down until rescued by a helicopter. Thankfully, he managed to pull us off the sandbank as quickly as he got us stuck, though we wondered if we would have been so lucky if we had been a boat full of (well fed) tourists. We were quite glad to make it back on to dry land.

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We were lucky though to spot Albert sunning himself on the banks of the Daintree river, a local called him a fattie but we think he was obese. The photo's don't do justice to how huge he is; we thought he didn't look capable of moving, though we were assured he could catch his prey VERY quickly - despite being an old man of 70 (sorry David!). We didn't fancy testing him to find out.

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A close up of Alberts teeth. We were assured by our guide that the red you see on his teeth was in fact rust and not blood.

We also went in hunt of the amethstine python at Lake Eacham. Walking round the lake, which is surrounded by rain forrest, we saw all sorts of birds, including the (two a penny) brush turkey, and some amazing trees. A pair of English guys then told us that they had spotted a python sunning itself on a fallen tree, about 50 metres away. They were either kidding, or had scared it away, cause we didn't see it, and we would have; it reaches a size of about 6 metres, being the largest snake in Australia - not surprising given that it can down a kangaroo as a light lunch. Then, making our way back to the campsite; tired from a day of spotting everything we weren't looking for and spotting nothing we were, didn't we see an amethystine python?! It was certainly an adult, as it stretched almost to the other side of the road, and was at least 5 metres long (with a large girth). It was crossing a relatively small road, with 20km speed bumps all along it. Andyb was driving, and we stopped to watch and let it pass, putting on the hazard lights to warn others we had stopped. Something terrible then happened, as some stupid or callous person in a car ignored Andrew's warnings (hanging out of the window, flagging car down) and ran over the snake. It appeared dazed for a few seconds, and then sloped off to the bush where it had come from. Although it moved, we think that it probably died later. Unfortunately, road kill is an all too common site in both New Zealand and Australia. We were initally REALLY excited to see a python, but would obviously have far preferred not to see one and for it to still be alive.

Posted by bruntonal 01:19 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The Great Barrier Reef

sunny 27 °C
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We were very excited to be heading out to the Great Barrier Reef, and decided to go from Port Douglas. Having never visited the reef before, and doing no more research than going into the first information place and being sold the first tour, we don't know how "our" spot on Agincourt Reef compares to the others. Suffice to say that muchas fun was had by both Bruntons and we both never wanted to get out of the water when the horn sounded. We spared no expense and rented a digital camera for the day. In true style, Lisab was allowed it for 2 minutes to take a (very fetching) shot of Andyb underwater, but then a really big fish swam past and Andyb "suggested" she take a shot of it, but the photo came out blurred and the camera was promptly returned to it's rightful renter.

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Typical view when one stuck his/her head under the water.

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A Reef Shark that swam past us a couple of times, although deemed 'not dangerous' it could quite possibly give you a nasty nibble.

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The Shark went that way! (though she's more concerned with whether her bum looked big in this....)

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Given we are not marine biologists (and are too lazy to look them up on the internet), most photos will either say yellow fish or black&white fish, even after studying a wall chart on the boat we have failed to remember any of their names. These are little blue fish near some sort of coral.

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A fish with a yellow fin.

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A giant clam. Kenny would be impressed!

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A spotty fish.

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A thin yellow fish thats got a trumpet for a nose.

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Andyb trying his best to look like Jacques Cousteau in his fetching lycra suit.

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Some stripey fish.

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A yellow fish with black&white stripes.

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We think it's a Parrot fish or it could be some sort of wrasse with a yellowish friend.

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Giant sea turtle.

Incidentally, we chose (yes, it was a conscious decision) to look like overgrown babies and wear the lycra suits, not because we have a new fettish (though Andyb seemed rather attached to his by the end of the day) but because there are box jelly fish lurking in the waters. To be fair, jelly fish season is over, BUT Lisab did spy an invisible jelly (it was virtually see through)in the water. She had no idea what type it was, but moved away from it quick smart, and was highly pleased with her hire.

Posted by bruntonal 00:57 Archived in Australia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Spot the Diff-HAIR-ence competition

In association with dodgyhairdos.com

For your chance to win a stunning free hair cut in one of Sydney's mid priced, below parr barber shops, just spot the diff-hair-ence between the right side of Andrew's head, and the left side, after a recent trip to the girl who forgot to listen in hair school.

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Left side

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Right side

To enter, simply study the 2 photo's to "spot the diffhairence" and send your answer in the form of a blog message, with the title "I wish I'd gone to Tony & Guys" by 5pm on the 22nd May 2008. Correct answers will be put into a hat and one (questionably) lucky winner will win a free do FROM THE SAME SALON frequented by Andyb! Terms and conditions apply, see below:

Terms & Conditions

1. The winner will receive one Aus$15 voucher, to be used ONLY at the salon where Andyb's hair was cut. This entitles the winner to receive a free "flat top". Alternatively the winner can part exchange the voucher for a "crew cut" (Aus$20) or upgrade further to the Andyb experience, a "scissor cut" (price Aus$25).
2. The competition promoter cannot guarantee the same hair stylist; in the event of another stylist, the promoter guarantees a cut of similar or worse quality.
3. In relation to point (2), the winner uses the voucher at his/her own risk. A dislaimer will need to be signed prior to receiving the voucher, waiving all promoter responsibility. Ultimate responsibilty for hair state, post-cut, lies with the competition winner.
4. The prize does not include transport costs to/from Sydney. The winner must find their own way to Sydney.
5. The competition is subject to Andyb being able to remove the hat (needed to select a winner) from his head by the 22nd May 2008 AND is subject to Andyb remembering the name of the salon in Sydney. Hence, promoters may relinquish the prize, and/or terminate the competition at any time, without prior or post notice to competition entrants.
6. The promoters reserve the right to use entrants' profiles for future promotional advertisements

Posted by bruntonal 23:18 Archived in Australia Tagged events Comments (0)

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