Singapore was a blast! An amazing transportation system compliments the efficient nature of the local culture – it was refreshing to experience a city that is so clean and safe.
We visited Sentosa Island, which houses many resorts and water attractions and is just a short train ride from the city center. The Gardens by the Bay were absolutely stunning – a must-visit free attraction for all. A visit during the day was a bit unbearably hot, however we did make it back later that night in time to see the amazing water and light production in front of Marina Bay Sands as well as the gardens lit up in fluorescent colors.
We stumbled upon many foodie havens – dove right in despite a complete language barrier and tasted some of the best Asian food to date. We snacked daily on wonton and dumpling soups, curry puffs, and fried noodle dishes with names I wouldn’t dream of attempting to pronounce. Thanks to Groupon, we also learned quite a bit about the ancient Chinese science of Feng shui at a lovely downtown office – now just to get a place with my own things so that I can put in into practice!
The next day it was on to Phuket Town, so we bid a sad farewell to the shiny and pristine Singapore airport and headed off to Thailand with a bottle of Christmas Bailey’s in hand (Max’s little tradition that I have gratefully become a part of). Culture shock hit in the form of dozens of little Thai people trying to sell us shuttles and taxis and rental cars from the airport. We opted for the cheapest shuttle we could find – 150 Thai Baht, which is roughly around $5.50 US dollars. Considering the trip nearly took an hour, I’d say we got a steal! It was a quick night in Phuket Old Town, where we had a Christmas dinner of pad thai and curry at a local spot; though I must say given the number of scantily clad young Thai beauties working there and the fact that we were the only ones not old and male…I’m not sure they are best known for their delicious food ; )
Christmas night was a blast; we relaxed in our five star Metropole Hotel room (a mere $66 US dollars a night) downed some Bailey’s to Max’s Christmas tunes and Skyped with our moms (they are our biggest heroes) before we knew we would be roughing it the rest of our time in Thailand without internet.
Bright and early the next morning it was off to Don Phi Phi island about an hour off the coast of Phuket. After spending less than 24 hours in Thailand I grasped that the Thai people are extremely friendly and very accommodating. They insist on carrying your bags (even Max’s) and literally expect you to let them do everything. We arrived to a very hectic pier, and ignoring the sweltering heat we marveled at our surroundings. Beautiful longtail boats bobbed around us, the fronts covered in colorful sashes which the Thai believe bring good luck. We made our way to our hotel through the cobblestone roads filled with swerving bicyclists, men with wheelbarrows (which is their only other form of transport) and – of course – drunk backpackers getting their holiday party on.
Phi Phi island is hands down the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Looking out from the coast you are blinded by the bright water splashing up onto the flawless white sand. After exploring a bit we stumbled upon a local bar called the Sunflower, where chilled tunes played as a small group of locals swung in hammocks and lounged on cushions. The bar had a shipwreck theme, $3 cocktails made with fresh fruit and the most gorgeous sunset view ever – we found our place on Phi Phi.
The locals don’t wear shoes, there are wild cows and chickens and monkeys running around, and the food is dirt cheap and freshly made. There are so many street vendors selling bags of carved fruit, fruit juices, frozen cocktails and beer, and pretty much any variety of meat you can imagine. Aside from the overwhelming number of underage Westerners that swarm the bars late at night, Phi Phi is pretty much paradise.
We hopped on board with Canadian Captain Bob’s sailboat tour. Although the small and poorly maintained boat was crammed over capacity, all of our worries faded away as we made our way toward Monkey Beach. We kayaked over to the beach from the boat and to our dismay realized our camera batter had run out! Not that we had time to stress over that, as we were more concerned with the flesh-eating monkeys that hissed at us and overtook our kayak in search of food. Next stop was cliff jumping, which we opted out of after seeing one of the guys nearly fall to his death after jumping and getting caught in the branches of a tree, cutting his chest pretty badly. On our way to Maya Bay, we stopped to hear the history of how Thai people value the regurgitated fluids produced by a certain type of mountain bird, and because of this many still venture up the deadly cliffs of the islands to get the bird snot, which is believed to grant youthfulness. After snorkeling and seeing Maya Beach (the beach in Leo DiCaprio’s “The Beach”), we skidded to see a sunset in a secluded cove, floating in lifejackets with a beer in one hand and camera in the other. Finally, we had a proper sail back to the island and drifted off into a deep sleep.