Indonesia – Komodo

Labuan Bajo is a little port town on Flores, Indonesia that acts as a gateway to the Komodo Islands. Obviously dragons like mediterranean cuisine as I have never seen such an accumulation of Italian restaurants in Asia. However, after being used to such luxuries as pavements and covered sewers, it was strange, yet oddly reassuring, to come back to a place where we could afford something (pizza) more substantial than a watery broth.

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Pretty sunset in one direction, weird town that sells gone off fish in the other. This was, without a word of a lie, taken in a pizza restaurant.
I naively promoted Phoebe, straight from the fray as chief photographer and chief restaurant picker, to temporary-seasonal assistant accommodation picker for one time only. I quickly realised how much of a mistake this was when I found out we were over an hour walk to the city centre – I’m not kidding when I say our neighbours awee four goats and a rainforest. As such, we were heavily reliant on the hotel shuttle – an enigmatic service which operates on the whim of a long haired man called JoJo; the efficiency of this service seems to derive from the square root of an early morning multiplied by how many Bintang beers we had bought him the night before.
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Dolphin picture or Phoebe picture ? Guess who won that argument… (in fairness, the dolphin is quite far away… I still preferred it)
We came to Komodo to do two things: refresh our aqua lungs by scuba-diving again and see an oversized reptile in its natural environment. We decided to do the former first. It seems every other premise is a dive shop with a gaggle of laid-back, dreadlocked types lounging at the entrance so we did not find it too arduous to find one. The diving around Komodo has more currents than a trail mix but the marine life made up for this (and some). Particular highlights were reef manta rays – take a sting ray, click the expand button and voila, there is a manta ray – a large group of different reef sharks, lots of turtles doing nothing and a particularly disgruntled frogfish (the marine equivalent of a pile of goo). On a sidenote, all the Manta Rays are named – the one that got closest to us was called Winnie the Pooh (kudos to the namer). We were even graced by the presence of a pod of dolphins, presumably they saw how well I was diving and thought I was one of their own. Disappointed, they swam off.
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Terrorising magnificent creatures – the Manta is actually 6 metres down and is the size of a small truck (or one of the German couple described later).
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I wanted to show it my rock collection – it did a u-turn and swam away.
Second on the list! Whilst in Komodo, we felt we should actually see the dragons of the same name. In order to see these mythical reptiles, we had to book a tour with one of the reputable looking shitholes (interspersed between the hippie types) that adorn the streets of Labuan Bajo. After much deliberation, we decided to go with Komodo Explorer, and not Komodo Fun, Komodo Enterprise or Komodo Adventure. Needless to say, it didn’t matter which suffix we had plumped for, we all inevitably ended up in the same boat, literally and metaphorically. Thus, our story continues with nine new intrepid explorers: a young German couple straight from the set of High School Musical, an old German couple straight from the set canteen of High School Lunch, three Asian woman propping up the Eastern Instagram market and another British couple, looking similarly bewildered and moody to us. Our first destination was Padar Island – an island with three different coloured beaches. Our lecherous old boat driver, stained shirt coming off briefly to treat us all, had developed a rather disturbing crush on the three asian women. With more pep than an excitable puppy, he dragged each of them up the hill ready for the 18,000,000 photos to be placed on instagram later that hour. I believe there was a grunt to the remaining, less desired, boat mates about being back in an hour, but it was probably just gas. Upon our punctual return, our Asian trio + one troll had yet to return (they actually turned up half hour later all tuckered out with their edgy instagram piccys). Next, we had the piece de resistance of the day, the fat lump of lards that are Komodo Dragons. Oh how we wished we would be lucky enough to see one. Don’t worry. They are everywhere. Sleeping. In fairness, when one of the rangers went to lower the goat on a rope they had tied up in honour of the Forest Commission officer of Indonesia (and me), the fat geckos did run pretty fast then looking all scary and whatnot. Luckily the rangers had … “a gun?!”, “killer spray?!”,”a lightsaber” – hush again, dear listener for he had something better – a stick.
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Padar Island – we both agreed that a far away picture was better as we are both swimming in sweat (your welcome) because the sun was kicking our asses.
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Default Komodo Dragon position.
We then went snorkelling and saw manta rays again (yawn) and a beach that is pink due to the deaths of the worlds corals. Instagram girls loved it; it matched their shoes.
ps. Troll went home disappointed; it appears the three girls were engaged to themselves. Fat German couple stared hungrily at my lunch; thin german couple were about as bland as rice pudding for the day and the other British couple were ok.
love
Alec, Phoebe and Winnie.
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Singapore

The ATM’s in Singapore dispense solely $50 notes whilst the Metro only takes $5 notes. It is this sort of bullshit which makes our lives ever so slightly more difficult. We found it in the end and decided, innocently enough, to go to the shop. Little did we know that we would have to take out a small mortgage for some breakfast cereal (cereal and milk together cost eight quid!?); I have bought small farmsteads in Myanmar for such funds. As such, ideas to save money such as putting the cardboard from the cereal box to flesh out the contents and selling my body started running through our heads.

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Gardens by the bay – it was my birthday so Singapore decided, hey, we’ll light it up for him. They also sang me happy birthday and gave me the key to the city.
After our cardboard-filled breakfast, we made a token attempt at being festive for my birthday, an occasion celebrated globally. Unfortunately, the weather had different ideas and unleashed an apocalyptic flood Noah would be proud of onto our heads that day. We were left pawing at the doors, along with the resident French bulldog Louie (who incidentally seemed quite a frustrated little boy, if you catch my drift), and caught up on Netflix. We went in to Singapore Chinatown; a similar experience to every other Chinatown in existence except 400 times more expensive.
Once again I was made to stare blankly at otters for a solid hour when we visited Singapore Zoo whilst Phoebe planned out her future life which inherently involved feeding eggs to otters each and every day. On the other hand, I saw a naked mole rat; a magnificent creature I often see as my spirit animal, and so was also slightly cheered. Mousedeer, ever prevalent in Malaysia, also made a token appearance on our trip; my opinion has not changed – they are utterly pointless. I didn’t buy a souvenir at the shop but I acquired a nice rash on my arm so I guess I had something to show from the day.
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A picture which sums up our relationship. I, the lemur, am eating a delicacy I have ordered whilst Phoebe, the annoying chirpy bird, is squawking at me to give her some.
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What a majestic creature…
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… oh look, it’s peeing.
The Gardens at the Bay is a pretty unique exhibit with two indoor biomes: a boring flower dome which had flowers and an amazing cloud forest which also had flowers but the ones that eat insects. My opinion of the cloud forest improved further by the addition of lego carnivorous plants and a rock exhibit (you can’t beat a rock exhibit … (unless you have a bigger rock exhibit)). Apparently the need to throw coins at objects is a trait shared by the world so pieces of amethyst had a nice layer of one dollar singapore coins which meant it was far more wealthy than Phoebe and I put together. Someone rather ominously left a joker playing card – it is nice to think that Batman villains still visit tourist attractions too. We then saw the Marina Bay Sands – a strange building which acts like a black hole but instead with all the money you own (drinks cost $25).
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Oversized flower bed.
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We asked a Russian woman to take a photograph. She essentially pulled out a tripod and started setting up a studio to provide us with the perfectly composed picture you see before you.
In fairness, Singapore is fantastic – the attractions are incredible and its nice to see so many buildings with ecology at their heart. It’s a shame we are broke, yet devilishly charming, backpackers and therefore could probably not appreciate it in all of its glory…
From Alec the broke ragamuffin and Phoebe the vigilant vagabond, oh and Louie.

Malaysia – Malacca & Kuala Lumpur

You’d have thought that we would have learnt by now not to antagonise Asian bus drivers. However, walking on to a blasting rendition of Asian Celine Dion followed by Asian Axel Rose at about the same sound level as a small space rocket left Phoebe to ask him to turn it down slightly. What followed was what I can only relate to the petulant tantrum of a child who has had his annoying squeaky toy removed. He kept telling us to shush and directed the air conditioning vents towards us, plunging us rapidly into a two hour ice age. “Why did you endure another 3 hours of public transport misery dear Alec & Phoebe?”, I hear you scream. We felt we needed to escape the confusion that is KL and go to a small town on the outskirts called Malacca and until teleportation is available at a budget cost, I will have to endure such delights as pissy bus drivers for the foreseeable future.

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KL Petronas Towers – They had to cheap out as the oil industry has plummeted recently of course.
Malacca is a town which has red buildings in it, affordable shops and about one street’s worth of activities to do. Consequently, we spent two hours walking at which point we bought Star Wars Uno and retreated to a quiet cafe. Tempting as a Pokemon, Little Kitty and Spiderman themed trishaw driven by a wizened old man with as many teeth as I have arms seemed, we passed. This ended up being a lucky escape as we soon saw some unamused tourists being ridden around in these stupid things while Crazy Frog blared out at you like an annoying siren. Malacca in itself was actually quite nice though, wearing it’s colonial buildings like a cape and not really doing much else to make it seem attractive – after the ten other 4d art museums we had declined, we sure as hell weren’t going to break a tradition on that front.
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Malacca – evidence that if you just paint your city red, there’s no real need to do much more.
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Despite my last rendezvous with a street art woman going pretty badly, I was willing to take another shot at making love work. She seemed mildly infatuated by me.
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Three wheeled menaces.
We got back and spent the other few days in Kuala Lumpur doing city things. For those still reading – Why? – I will list what else we did. We had a cut-price burger at an American franchise called Johnny Rockets where the poor waiters had the same look about them as most of the inhabitants of Battersea Dog Home: they all had to yell hey in the same monotone voice regardless of what they were doing when we walked in, the poor waiter had to draw our jam-ketchup hybrid into little smiley faces on our trays (incidentally his face was that of thunder as if daring us to talk to him about the situation), and, a personal favourite, was at 1pm on the dot, they all had to go and dance (burgers on the grill apparently being burnt to a raisin) to Earth, Wind and Fire – September. On our final night, I donned the one shirt which had been festering in the bottom of my rotting backpack since the start of the trip (I was told this was a romantic evening). We went on top of a helipad where we had a couple of cocktails (nursed expertly for a solid two hours) and enjoyed our final view of Kuala Lumpur.
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Making sure we get that Instagram friendly picture! #didweevengoiftheresnophoto!? #artsy
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Stupid couples photo that I seem to constantly have to smile for grumble grumble.

Cheers. Will try and give it another 4 weeks before posting again!

Alec+Phoebe

Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur

Despite Kuala Lumpur’s definition of being a muddy confluence, I would take it after the two lifeless days spent in the duty-free abyss that was Langkawi. Whilst heading to our accommodation, we headed through a rather large mall which looked like the USA had thrown up the entirety of it’s franchises all over the place. I tried talking to Phoebe – alas her eyes were glazed over with the vacant stare of someone possessed as she saw a takeaway pretzel shop.

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I have always thought whilst shopping in England “Where is the giant phoenix model hanging over the cars”. Kuala Lumpur understands.
We explored Kuala Lumpur over the next few days, taking it steady in a way that only two unemployed people can. After observing that Malaysian citizens pay a fraction of the cost of foreigners despite the fact that a fair number of them earn grossly large sums of money, we decided we would gain a win for the little guys. We scratched the expiry dates off of our student cards. Yes, that is correct everyone, Phoebe and myself are now criminals. If you see us in jail, you will now know why. We entered an aquarium (discounted) and spent an hour looking at otters because, and I quote, “they hold hands while swimming like little puppies in the water”. We went to look at islamic swords in a museum because after looking at otters, I felt I had to prove my masculinity by looking at long weaponry (not an innuendo).
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Fat, water rats.
No hugely miscalculated long time in Kuala Lumpur (8 days…) could be complete without a visit to the Batu Caves. These are huge limestone cliffs likely deposited in the Cretaceous period (100 million years ago) by the accumulation of marine life and which have slowly been eroded away (I have a degree in rocks; I’m a riot at parties). I love religion as much as the next guy, don’t get me wrong, but it was weird seeing fairy LED lights around plastic statues within this huge hollowed cave. There was also a strong odour of rooster and monkey wafting around the place. Oh, and a gift shop selling banshee-wailing, epiliepsy-conjuring but presumably useable plates. Furthermore, education in animal nutrition has apparently taken a hit around these parts – an elderly Chinese lady was hand feeding a monkey… “nuts?!”, “bananas?!”, “a highly nutritional mixture good for the monkey?!” – hush now, dear naive listeners. This lady was feeding the monkey mint polos, a sweet likely to give the monkeys fresh breath whilst causing stomach ulcers. A highlight was when she asked the mummy monkey, in English, to give it to the little baby monkey. I assume she was expecting a sage nod of understanding and a reply; instead the monkey growled and hissed while she dropped the minty sweet in surprise. You could say the monkey was mintally unstable I guess.
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World’s fattest pigeon. Another one for the growing collection of pigeon shots I am being forced to take.
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Goldenballs.
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Beautiful cave, wheelie bin, ridiculous signage and an intoxicating smell of pigeon droppings define the Batu Caves.
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A monkey showing that apples are not his preferred food after the feast of mint polos donated by a Chinese woman.
From Phoebe, Alec, three otters and a monkey with terrible indigestion.

Malaysia – Langkawi

Sigh. I suppose after Taman Negara I had to expect a bit of a comedown. Unfortunately this was like the come down of a roller coaster without tracks. Welcome to Langkawi.

We arrived at 10am and paced around the tumbleweed stricken, drought ridden, duty free shop laden streets with our backpacks like a couple of dehydrated turtles. We went back to the guest house and sorted out flights for other places. Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, had so far prevented us from being the Alecoholic and Phoebe “Spewitt” Hewitt we are known as back home, so we decided we’d treat ourselves to a beer on this duty free island. That was it on day one. Oh, I also left my belt at security at the airport. I suppose that was a highlight.
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Our only photo of Langkawi – This will be looked back on as someone would look back on surgery they received whilst young.
Day two was about as enlightening. We had a power cut for a few hours which sent our adrenaline sky high. This power outage was probably the highlight of day two. We also bought a litre of vodka for a tenner. We resisted the temptation to down it all that night.
We left Langkawi the next day; it felt good.
P.s. after the 5D cinema on Penang Hill, we found out that Langkawi had gone past this sort of technological advancement and reached the 6th dimension. I suppose a congratulations are in order.
P.s.s. I’ll be happier after Kuala Lumpur – sorry for the quality of the post.

Malaysia – Taman Negara

I usually grip on to the sour points of a place with the subtlety of a Rottweiler with toothache and enjoy ripping the shit out of it. As such, enjoying Taman Negara as much as we did kind of made me feel slightly depressed as I knew my audience, ever the needy bunch, so wished to hear how little Alec & Phoebe have had small disasters happen to them. Sorry.

Trundling along in a boat made quite a nice change from the bombardment of lengthy bus rides we had endured so far… We were on our way to Taman Negara; a rainforest in the middle of the country. Despite seeing tourists with the looks and intelligence of small jungle creatures in Krabi, it would be nice to see the real thing.

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Our originally planned hostel fell down the bank; we booked a better one.
We are cheap; a known fact. As such, we decided to walk ourselves around the jungle path over the two days. After paying a strange weaselly Malay man straight from the Greek underworld the costly sum of 20p, we bumbled up a walkway for two hours trying to get to a canopy walkway – a glorified plank between trees. During these two hours in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet we saw… a singular jungle squirrel. For the animal lovers, it’s exactly the same as grey squirrels but lives in the jungle. On the way back however, it seems like my raw animal magnetism was about to come into it’s own ;). Whilst trundling along, I spotted a snake. I alerted Phoebe to this. Phoebe and the snake, after a lengthy second, leapt roughly 3 feet in the air each in surprise at seeing each other. The snake then went into a tree and yawned, obviously making some sort of snake like insult at our expense.
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I started talking about the geology of Malaysia – the snake made a rather rude point of yawning.
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The greatest couples photo of the trip. I feel the photo really highlights our best points individually. (It’s a selfie with an SLR camera – I proved it can be done)
After spending the evening chatting with our host – the Malaysian equivalent of Michael McIntyre – we went on a night walk in the jungle. Rightfully so, we didn’t trust ourselves alone in the forest through fear of spending a night with a rabid jungle squirrel nestling between us. Our guide spent a solid five minutes annoying a long-suffering scorpion while shining a UV light over it and pointed out a load of stick insects to us (half of them i’m convinced were actually sticks).
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Phwoar – an amazing shot of a Mousedeers ugly little mug. See it?

 

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I zoomed it a lot. I bet you’re glad.
The next day we ambled out again with no map, no good shoes and no idea. We soon found ourselves off of the raised walkway and into naked jungle – a solitary leech glanced threateningly at Phoebe as she passed. After a few minutes of this we heard these horrific barking sounds echoing through the forest – the barking deer. We were quite content listening to the panicked cries of other animals, not us for once, until a sound cut through the babble – a deep resonant growl. As all good survivalists do, we stood like lemmings for a while hearing the growls repeat themselves until, not unlike a cameo in a Scooby Doo episode, we comedically tiptoed away. We later found out from locals that this was probably a Malayan tiger – when Phoebe and I looked panicked, they assured us it might not have been – “It could have been a Puma or a Leopard…” they would explain with a sympathetic nod. With our nerves well at ease after that, we went out again and saw a Mousedeer; a creature who seemed to have drawn the evolutionary short straw with a face like a shrew and legs like chopsticks. Phoebe, naturally, fell in love with the ridiculous creature and proceeded to tear up after seeing it – I assume its the same sort of instinct that makes her like me.
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Resident hornbill chowing down on a berry. This was probably far more substantial than most of the meals offered in the local area. At least it wasn’t frog porridge again.

Malaysia – Cameron Highlands

Despite three changes of bus after the first hour, the remainder of the bus journey was fairly uneventful (i.e. will likely be a shit card in the evolving top trumps of long bus journeys…). Despite having a taxi driver glued to my leg for a large period of time, we managed to locate the hostel.

We decided, against all of my principals and better judgement, to go on a tour with people. I am usually firmly against this sort of action due to my allergy of Americans (kidding…) but it was actually really scenic! The tea plantations, owned by a Scotsman, are a landscape of rolling hills covered with what looked like a green version of an entrance mat. The plants are like miniature bonsais – it made me feel like a giant walking through (and I’ve always quite liked the idea of being a giant – I would be revered but modest). Other delights of the day involved a mossy forest, whereby, after being told that moss was very sensitive, an oafish, bearded (not jealous), Italian man prodded a centipede into the green mass. Our final stop was a tea plantation. I knew it sold good cakes because Phoebe had her nose to the ground like some sort of sniffer dog knocking people out of the way. She bought a strawberry cake and I bought, under her bequest, some sort of cupcake – both of which were inhaled. The tea wasn’t like the frothy disasters typically seen in Malaysia and actually resembled tea – a bonus neither of us were expecting.
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Tea plants. I hate tea. 
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Mossy forest. I am Lichen the name of some of the tourist spots here. This was taken promptly before an Italian tourist inevitably head butted the tree.
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Phoebe ate both cakes. I was allowed to nibble on a teacup for sustenance.
I will admit, we were on quite a high at this point. Nothing disastrous had occurred and I had even got over my fear of conversation with gap year kiddies. Unfortunately, on a similar note to how Africa has Ebola and how South America has drugs, the Cameron Highlands has strawberry plantations. We only went to one although they cover the highlands like some sort of aggressive form of rash. It reminded me a little of an English village garden centre crossed with the dilapidated nature of an abandoned seaside resort. When the highlight was a couple of faded strawberries with a hole cut in it to put your tearful face, we knew that the withered berries would be of a similar standard.
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The Big Red Strawberry Farm. The faded rusty sign, the diseased-tomato-red wall paint and an annoyingly cheerful tourist are just tastes of the sumptuous delights we were about to witness.
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The interactive section. Phoebe made me get into the spirit of the attractions… Note. This is a cut out – I’m not actually a strawberry (I know, it’s realistic).
We went on a walk up a hill the next day. The walk up was hot and fairly uneventful bar an elderly indian man overtaking us whilst simultaneously playing a BB King blues song on a worn acoustic guitar. The summit had nice views – In a 360 degree turn I could see the tea plantations, an electric pylon also on top of the hill and an asthmatic Phoebe sat on an open aqueduct. I then descended the mountain like a gazelle while my companion, of a similar nature to Bambi with a broken leg, kept sliding down the mountain ungracefully.
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Cropped Phoebe out of the view. You’re welcome.
Our stay in the Cameron Highlands ended up being quite quick and rather tea filled. We had precisely four strawberries between us over the course. I would generously place them just between a Tesco Value strawberry and a diseased “pick your own” strawberry.
Have a “Berry” nice day!
Alec + Phoebe