A Travellerspoint blog

Kuwait - Home


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As we go for breakfast, we ask the receptionist to order a taxi for us, and for the porters to bring the cases from the room. By the time we get down to the lobby, the bags are already in the taxi.

Kuwait Airport

Just inside the door is a small information desk, where we ask for a wheelchair. We are asked to “sit down”, and two minutes later a chair and porter arrive, and take us to the check-in area, through immigration and security to the gate area.

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At the gate

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sign in the airport toilets

Several wheelchairs board the aircraft first, and the service we receive here from the porters and staff is second to none.

Kuwait Airlines flight to London

The aircraft is spacious, with plenty of legroom – not once do my knees touch the seat in front of me. I spend the time (it’s a six-hour, 40-minute flight) watching a film (Shotgun Wedding – good fun), snoozing, and eating – we are served pepper chicken with cream sauce and mashed potato (very nice, quite peppery).

Heathrow

A wheelchair is waiting for me at the door, which takes me up to a waiting buggy at the top of the ramp. David is not allowed to accompany me on the buggy (which he always has previously), despite there being an empty seat next to me. The buggy takes me to a holding area next to immigration, where there are lots of unhappy people having waited for over an hour for a wheelchair to take them through. The American lady next to me has a taxi waiting outside, which is racking up extra costs on the meter as well as parking charges. Seeing that the queue for Special Passengers going through immigration is not that long, rather than hang around waiting for a chair, I walk. There are only half a dozen or so wheelchairs in front of me in the queue, so it should go reasonably quickly (my arthritis does not like me standing still for any period of time).

Not so. First, a Middle Eastern family with what looks like the grandmother in a wheelchair is stopped at the desk, and they take an age to go through. Next a paramedic with a patient is let through (quite rightly), and the Immigration Holding Centre for those who have been taken aside for extra questioning is right down this end too, so they also jump the queue. Then one of the officials goes to lunch / coffee / toilet or whatever, leaving just one desk open. After a lot of grumbling by the waiting passengers, another two positions are opened, which thankfully speeds things up.

When it is my turn, the immigration officer is all smiles and friendliness, takes my passport, scans it, and hands it back. Ten seconds.

Meanwhile, David is wondering what has happened to me, having already collected the luggage. He doesn’t want to ring me, as phones are strictly prohibited in the immigration area. We finally meet up and make our way to the car park. No car (we have booked meet-and-greet parking). After what seems like an eternity, David calls them, only to be told that the car has been here all along – at the other end of the car park. All that remains is to drive home.

And so ends our amazing eight-week Grand South East Asia trip, arranged by Undiscovered Destinations.

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Posted by Grete Howard 11:00 Archived in Kuwait Tagged kuwait heathrow undiscovered_destinations grand_south_east_asia_tour kuwait_airport kuwait_airlines Comments (2)

Kuwait City Sightseeing


View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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A WhatsApp message wakes me at 01:30 from Walid, the guide we have booked through Viator for a sightseeing tour of Kuwait today (not arranged through Undiscovered Destinations like the rest of the trip) asking if we can do the tour at 08:30, rather than 13:00 as previously arranged. I explained to Walid when I booked the tour, that I specifically wanted an afternoon trip so that we could finish at Al Shaheed Park at dusk, as they have a water fountain display after dark which I’d be interested in photographing. Feeling too tired and more than a little travel-weary at this stage, I capitulate and agree to leave earlier than originally agreed.

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The original message back in September

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The message in the early hours of this morning

I go back to sleep feeling a little peeved.

As soon as we leave the room and head for the lift this morning, I notice a glorious sunrise over the city from the lift lobby and rush back in to get my camera. Breakfast can wait.

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In the breakfast restaurant, I notice a glass screen wrapping around the entrance to the gents’ toilets and remark that you’d never get a wheelchair around that corner. With both my parents being wheelchair users towards the end of their lives, and now me needing one at certain times, I have become increasingly observant to the fact that most buildings are not easily accessible for anyone with limited mobility.

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City Sightseeing

We wait in the lobby for Walid to arrive, and are disappointed when he doesn’t even bother to get out of his car to greet us, just sending a WhatsApp message “I’m here”.

While not as messy as it has been, my cold sore is still concerning me, so I ask Walid just to drive around for me to take photos from the car, rather than risk exposing my mouth to the strong sunshine here in the Middle East.

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The inside of Walid’s car is shockingly messy, and I am quite appalled when he asks if we mind if he vapes in the car. Despite me answering “I’d rather you didn’t”, he leans out of the window when stopped at junctions to take a quick drag.

The city is modern, and the buildings are close together, making it quite hard to get a good picture of a cityscape on more than a couple of occasions.

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From across the bay

Instead, I concentrate on photographing architectural details, closing in on patterns, shapes, and reflections.

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After a couple of hours, I am fed up with Walid, his messy car, and his vaping, and as I feel I have photographed more than enough architectural detail, I ask that we go back to the hotel, where we chill for the rest of the day. Walid is the only guide we have not tipped on this trip.

Dinner

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Penne Pasta with Cajun Chicken and Cream Sauce

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Moroccan Lamb Shank

The sightseeing tour of Kuwait was a disappointing finish to an otherwise superb trip, but it is rather telling that the excursion here is one of only two that were not arranged through Undiscovered Destinations.

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Posted by Grete Howard 10:25 Archived in Kuwait Tagged kuwait viator undiscovered_destinations grand_tour_of_south_east_asia grand_majestic_hotel Comments (3)

Kuala Lumpur - Kuwait

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Although our flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuwait is not until 01:40 in the morning, we need to leave the hotel at around 21:30 the night before to get to the airport on time. Thankfully there is not as much traffic this evening as there was when we arrived a couple of days ago.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport

At the Kuwait Airlines check-in area, a long queue has formed, waiting for the counters to open. Yoga, who has been our guide here in Kualala Lumpur, asks for a wheelchair. “Not until after check-in” he is told. Really? I am not allowed to be disabled until then? That’s a first for us! He is also refused priority check-in, which is normally offered throughout the world for less-abled passengers. Another first.

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Yoga tells me to go and sit down, while he and David join the queue. After their lack of customer service, when the lady at check-in insists that she wants to see me, Yoga insists that she has to walk to where I am sitting. We finally manage to get a wheelchair with a porter, who takes us to a holding area, a dull room tucked away far from the departure gate. I feel a little uncomfortable and concerned that we might be left there and forgotten, especially when there is a change of shift, and nobody arrives to replace the staff who are leaving.

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We aren’t forgotten, however, and someone comes to collect us and takes us through security to the gate, and along with another disabled lady from London, we are the first to board. At least that is something. The stewardess who meets me at the door of the plane seems surly. She is the first crew member who has not offered to help me up the step into the plane, or with the overhead bags. Not that I necessarily require assistance, but the lack of care is very noticeable.

The seat configuration is 2-4-2, and once everyone is settled into their seats, another stewardess comes over and asks if I would like to move to the back, where I have a complete row of four seats to myself. OK, my confidence in Kuwait Airlines’ customer service has been restored. David is also happy, of course, as it means he now gets two seats to himself. It’s a nine-hour flight, so I am thankful for the extra legroom and being able to spread out.

Overnight flights, also known as Red Eye Flights, are great in that we both manage to get plenty of sleep in, making the time go so much quicker. Dinner is chicken biriyani, which is pleasant, and breakfast, served soon before we land in Kuwait, consists of a choice of omelette or a waffle. I choose the latter, which is absolutely delicious.

Just after we touch down on the ground in Kuwait, the power goes on in the plane. Even the stewardess claims thst is the first time it has happened on all her flights.

Kuwait

Welcome to our country number 147. A porter pushes me in a wheelchair to the Visa Hall, where they convert our e-visas to paper visas. So much for being paper-free. Our fingerprints and photographs are taken, and we are on our way immediately, unlike the number of overseas workers from the Indian subcontinent who are waiting around in the hall.

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Once through security where our bags are X-rayed, we grab a taxi and head to our hotel. The taxi driver appears not to recognise the name Grand Majestic Hotel, or maybe his English is not very good (it is probably still way better than my Arabic, and after all, we are the guests in their country), so I show him our booking and he heads in the general direction of the address shown on the paperwork. David spots the hotel and points it out to the driver.

Grand Majestic Hotel

While there is a comfortable lobby on the ground floor, the reception (and restaurant) is on the 17th floor. Check-in is smooth and quick, and we are shown to our room on the 8th floor.

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The lobby

We wander back up again to the 17th floor, to grab something to eat.

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Hummus, tabuleh, fuul medames, labneh - some of favourite Middle Eastern dishes

Feeling pretty exhausted from the nearly eight weeks of travelling (and the overnight flight, of course), we spend the rest of the day chilling in the airconditioned room. When it starts to get dark, I get my tripod out and take some pictures of Kuwait City from our room.

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Dinner

The dining room is bright, and the menu features Indian, Middle Eastern, and International dishes, and the portions are absolutely enormous!

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David's chicken curry with accompaniments

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My chicken shawarma comes with fries, coleslaw, ketchup, mayonnaise, pickled vegetables, and olives.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for putting together this amazing itinerary, including some destinations that they don't normally cover (such as Kuwait)

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Posted by Grete Howard 09:52 Archived in Kuwait Tagged kuala_lumpur malaysia kuwait klia wheelchair undiscovered_destinations grand_south_east_asia_tour grand_majestic_hotel Comments (3)

Kuala Lumpur - Thien Hon Temple, Batu Caves, Petronas Towers


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After a great sleep, I wake to a glorious sunrise over Kuala Lumpur this morning.

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Breakfast here at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is a grand affair, with so much choice from the buffet.

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Individual little butter dishes

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I try some local food followed by French Toast.

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From our room, we look over the plaza in front of the Petronas Towers Shopping Centre, where a number of people dressed in pink create the Cancer Awareness sign for a publicity campaign.

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Thean Hou Temple

Yoga, our local guide, arranges for the driver (Peter) to drop me off at a rear entrance on a hill at the top of the temple so that I don’t have to climb all the steps from street level.

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The rear entrance

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Fortune telling offered by the rear entrance

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Numerous steps at the front entrance

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The temple, completed in 1987, was built by Hainanese living in Malaysia and is dedicated to the Chinese Sea Goddess Mazu.

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Light offerings

Featuring elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, Thean Hou is one of the largest temples in South East Asia.

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Details of the intricate ceiling

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The temple is popular with wedding couples

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Great views over the city from the top

Royal Palace

The Istana Negara is the official residence of the supreme King of Malaysia, who relocated to Kuala Lumpur in 2011 upon the completion of this palace.

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The palace complex boasts a total of 22 domes and is a fusion of traditional Malay and Islamic architecture

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One of the guards at the palace

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A change of guards arrive

Batu Caves

The caves themselves are amongst the oldest in the world, estimated to have been organically formed some 400 million years ago in an area of high limestone outcropping. Although having previously been used as a shelter by the local tribe, the cave was not ‘discovered’ until some time in the 1870s by Chinese settlers who were collecting guano.

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The actual temple, which is nestled in the heart of the cave, was built in 1920 and is a popular attraction for devotees and tourists alike. Realising that I am unable, and David unwilling, to climb the 272 steps to reach the cave, Yoga suggests we just enjoy the atmosphere around the temle instead, where there are a number of other shrines.

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The original steps were wooden, later replaced by concrete as the wood wore out. In 2018 the 272 steps were painted, each set of steps painted in a different range of colours.

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In front of the temple stands the 42.7 metre (140ft) high golden statue of the Hindu God, Lord Murugan. Dating from 2006, it is the tallest statue in Malaysia, and the third tallest Hindu statue in the world. The cave complex is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India.

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Cheeky monkeys roam the area, hoping to be fed by visitors, and bird feeding is positively encouraged.

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With my cold sore still angry and pussing, I wear a mask to protect myself from the sun.

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Taking a rest from exploring, we stop in an Indian restaurant in the grounds of the temple where Yoga treats us to some chilled fresh coconut.

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National Mosque – Masjid Negara

This enormous mosque, completed in 1965 in honour of Malaysia’s independence from Britain some eight years earlier, can hold up to 15,000 devotees for its Friday prayers. The 73-metre high minaret is shaped like a folded-up umbrella, as a nod to the tropical climate here in Malaysia.

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The umbrella theme continues in the dome (you can just about make it out in this photo), which is created to look like a half-open umbrella, and it has 16 folds to represent the 11 states of Malaysia (before Sahah and Sarawak were added), plus the five pillars of Islam.

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Reflecting pools and fountains are spread throughout the compound. The mosque is a bold and modern approach in reinforced concrete with a contemporary expression of Islamic art and ornamentation, symbolic of the aspirations of a then newly independent nation.

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The mosque was the largest in Malaysia until the completion in 1988 of the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque in Shah Alam.

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Walkie Talkie Building

From the grounds of the mosque, we spot the Walkie Talkie Building, which at 679 metres, is set to be the 2nd tallest skyscraper in the world upon completion (after Burj Khalifa in Dubai).

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Independence Square

Historically important, this is the place where the British Flag was lowered and the Malaysian flag was raised for the very first time at midnight on 31st August 1957. Many important buildings surround the square, but many workmen and filmmakers mingle around, with scaffolding and marques being erected, and one of the main roads closed off, rendering parts of the square inaccessible to accommodate a pro-Palistian demonstration.

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Sultan Abdul Samad Building

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The Royal Selangor Club was known as The Spotted Dogs Club in colonial times for all the dalmatians tied up outside when the wives met for coffee while the men were working.

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Modern skyscrapers behind

We continue our whistle-stop exploration of the city by car.

The very ornate Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

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KTMB Corporate Headquarters

Jamek Mosque

Built in 1909, the mosque remains the city's central house of worship for the Muslim community.

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It gets rather lost nestled between the much taller modern buildings.

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Kuala Lumpur means 'confluence of muddy rivers'. After dark, mist is created over the river, lit by a blue light.

Street murals

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A brief story of Chinese tin miners who were the founding fathers of Kuala Lumpur

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Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple

Founded in 1873, Sri Mahamariamman is the oldest Hindu Temple in Malaysia and features an impressive five-tiered gopuram (tower).

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The dramatic 22.9m tall gate tower is richly decorated with depictions of Hindu gods sculpted by artisans from southern India.

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Murukku

Yoga, who is himself Indian and a Hindu, brings us a bag of typical Indian snacks, popular at Diwali. They are crunchy and savoury and not at all spicy as I expected.

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Petronas Twin Towers

We drive slowly through Chinatown without stopping, before arriving at the Petronal Twin Towers near our hotel. We have tickets to scale the towers later this afternoon, so meanwhile we wander around the most expensive shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, found within the lower part of the Petronas building.

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The famous towers

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Lunch
With plenty of time to spare, we stop at the huge food court within the shopping complex.

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There are so many choices, so many different cuisines, but nearly all of them are large portions, so we finally choose a couple of wraps.

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Chicken shawarma (mine)

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Felafel wrap (David's)

At our allocated time, we head for the entrance to the Tower Experience.

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It is all very well organised (commercialised), with small groups being allowed to enter every few minutes so as not to crowd each place. With lots of standing around and very slow walking, I struggle big time with my arthritis, so I give up after the first bridge and return to the ground where I find a comfortable seat. My camera goes with David, so the images below are a combination of mine and his.

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The following information is taken from their website:

Petronas Towers is the world’s tallest twin building.

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The design of each tower floor plate is based on simple Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares, creating the shape of an eight-pointed star. Architecturally, these forms represent the important Islamic principles of unity, harmony, stability, and rationality.

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Each tower is 88 storeys high, measuring 452 metres, and weighs 300,000 tonnes which is equivalent to about 42,857 adult elephants.

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The construction of the Twin Towers took 6 years and cost over RM 6 billion (USD $1.6 billion, or £1.2 billion) to complete.

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The towers have a ground-breaking 120 metres of solid foundation underneath their massive concrete footings.

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The Twin Towers include 29 double-decker high-speed passenger lifts, six heavy-duty service lifts, and four executive lifts. Each passenger lift can carry up to 52 people total, while the executive lifts can carry about ten. The speeds of these elevators vary between 3.5m/s and 6.0 m/s, depending on the zones they are servicing.

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The observation deck in Petronas Twin Towers is at Level 86, the 2nd highest level of both towers. The deck allows visitors to enjoy the spectacular cityscape view from 370 meters.

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Weighing 750 tons, the double-decker skybridge acts as the connector between the two towers on the Level 41 and 42. Interestingly, the skybridge is not fully attached to the main building - engineers deliberately designed the skybridge this way to make allowances for small movements during high winds and other unpleasant weather. This prevents the bridge from breaking away from the towers. The bridge is 170m above the ground and 58.4m long.

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Once David has completed the tour to the top and returned to ground level, we walk the short distance back to our hotel, where we chill and watch the pro-Palestine demonstration on the plaza below.

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Dinner

With my back and sacroiliac joint giving me a lot of pain, we decide to order room service this evening. A porter arrives with a small table on wheels covered with a white tablecloth, starched napkins, and an orchid in a vase.

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My prawn laksa with a flask of sauce to pour over the food in the bowl, and a spicy dip.

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David’s lasagne is kept warm in an oven underneath the table – I have never seen that before!

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And so ends our time in Kuala Lumpur, the penultimate destination on this Grand Tour of South East Asia, expertly arranged by Undiscovered Destinations.

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Posted by Grete Howard 13:48 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur batu_caves monkeys mosque caves malaysia pigeons royal_palace southeast_asia chinese_temple petronas_towers national_mosque hindu_temple thean_hou_temple undiscovered_destinations room_servce independence_square masjid_negara grand_tour_of_south_east_asia mandarin_oriental_hotel istana_negara lord_murugan murugan kuala_lumpur_railway_station jamek_mosque tewmple sri_mahamariamman pwetronas_twin_towers sij pro-palestine_demonstration Comments (3)

Brunei - Kuala Lumpur


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We have an early start this morning: up at 05:30, breakfast at 06:30, and leave at 07:30. After a whistlestop visit, we are leaving Brunei today, heading for Kuala Lumpur.

My cold sore is still looking grotesque this morning, and feeling very sore. I am so over this now, but what can I do other than keep applying the cream?

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Air Asia flight from Brunei to Kuala Lumpur

At the departure airport, Farez (our local guide) goes in to look for a wheelchair, but having no joy he comes back out again, and while he goes to park the car, David and I walk to the Priority Check-In lane at Air Asia. Farez tells me to sit down, “David will sort it”. After Farez checks up why it is taking so long, eventually, someone arrives with a wheelchair. Air Asia is the only airline where we have had to pay (ca £20) for the ‘pleasure’ of a wheelchair – an absolutely disgraceful way to treat less abled passengers!

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I sleep for most of the 2½ hour flight. At Kuala Lumpur Airport, the wheelchair waiting for me is tiny, and constructed so that the wheels touch my bum when moving; so they put out a call for a larger chair, which necessitates a long wait. All the passengers and crew have left the aircraft, and when the captain passes, he stops to find out if we have a problem. A nice touch. Eventually, a larger wheelchair arrives and we are able to make our way through immigration and security quickly and easily thanks to the online visa application.

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Mandarin Oriental Hotel

As we pull up in front of the hotel, I comment on all the luxury cars parked outside, and Yoga - our guide here in KL - quips “It’s the sort of hotel that not everyone can afford to stay in”.

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The latest Bentley

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A red Ferrari

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The Reception at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

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The lobby

The large ground-floor lobby area is certainly spectacular, with some eclectic lights and lots of fresh flowers.

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The lift is all silver and mirrors, with many different textures and patterns.

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Before we left home, I joined the hotel's loyalty program, which meant we have been upgraded to a corner mini-suite with views of the famous Petronas Twin Towers to one side, and KLCC Park in the other direction.

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We can see 1½ of the towers from our room

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KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) Park

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Skyscrapers beyond

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There's a lot of construction work going on in the city

We chill in the room for a while, with one of the complimentary drinks, and open the ‘gift’ that was brought up with our luggage. The porter spends ages chatting with us, and offers to help us “with anything we might need”. He is very sweet.

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Very refreshing apple and calamansi (a small lime) juice

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This looks interesting...

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What is it....?

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It's a fragrant candle

The Sky Bar at Traders Hotel

I spent a long time as part of the planning stage, trying to find a place to take night shots from that offers a good view of the Petronas Twin Towers. Eventually, I discovered that Traders Hotel has a bar on the top floor which should have unobstructed views of the towers. Their website suggests that booking a table is necessary, so I do that online. I request a table in the window at 17:00 so that I can be there before nightfall to make the most of the blue hour just after sunset when the lights have come on in the buildings and the sky still has some colour in it. The fact that they are offering a Happy Hour between 17:00 and 18:00 helps me decide.

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We can see Traders Hotel from our bedroom window

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The Sky Bar

Getting to Traders Hotel is easy, they have a free transfer buggy for their guests, which stops at the plaza outside the Petronas Towers. The two passengers that get on after we do, are asked if they are staying in Traders Hotel, and are kicked off the buggy when they admit they are not; whereas we are not even questioned. I feel a little bit of discrimination going on there, as they look to be of local origin, and are probably in their 20s, whereas I guess we might appear to be more the sort of tourists that would stay in the hotel. I feel a little uncomfortable about that, but not enough to own up to not being residents of Traders.

The Sky Bar is on the 33rd floor of the hotel and is nothing like I imagined from the pictures on their website. The room is dominated by a pool, with a couple of people sitting on benches in the window in dressing gowns. There are some tables and chairs, but apart from one person swimming, there are no other patrons.

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The barman is totally disinterested when we approach the bar, barely looking up, and looks like a huge question mark when I tell him I have a reservation. I show him my printed-out booking confirmation and he asks: “Where would you like to sit?” I notice that none of the tables have a RESERVED sign on them, so we choose one of their ‘cabanas’ in the window, which are not exactly luxurious, being just huge pouffes surrounding a central area with a table.

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The view is great, though.

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KLCC Park and the shopping plaza which makes up the bottom of the Petronas Towers.

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Excellent view of the towers.

Ordering food and drinks is done via a QR code on the table, which means we don’t have to go to the bar, nor try to attract the disinterested barman’s attention. I like being in control!

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There are QR codes on every table, plus free wifi, of course

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David perusing the cocktail menu

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Somersby Cider and Pina Colada

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Mai Tai

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Sex on the Beach and Cider (David is always excited when he finds cider on the menu when we travel)

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I, meanwhile, work my way through the cocktail list: Frosty Gingher

With a few drinks under our belt, we think we’d better have something to eat.

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David has Wagyu Burger, whereas I fancy Chicken Popcorn

As we wait for the light to go down, we watch the dancing fountains in the park below.

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While there are windows next to the seating area to shelter diners from wind and rain, the top part of the wall is open to the elements, so I am able to take pictures without getting reflections from the glass.

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No lights on in the buildings yet

It doesn't take long, however, before it is almost dark and the buildings look beautiful with all the lights on inside.

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Satisfied that I have achieved what I set out to do here at Traders Hotel, we catch the buggy back to the plaza and watch the nightly light show across the water in the park, known as the Lake Symphony.

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We get a good view of the light show from our room too, as well as the city by night.

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And so ends our first day in Kuala Lumpur, a small part of the Grand South East Asia Tour, arranged by Undiscovered Destinations.

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Posted by Grete Howard 08:48 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur fountains flight light_show klcc ferrari cocktails klia brunei wheelchair petronas_twin_towers petronas_towers bentley air_asia upgrade undiscovered_destinations night_photography traders_hotel cold_sore brunei_airport mandarin_oriental_hotel the_sky_bar pool_bar dancing_fountains lake_symphony Comments (5)

Brunei


View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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I enjoy a very naughty breakfast of waffles with sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup this morning. Sugar overload!

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Today we have a sightseeing tour of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital and largest city of Brunei. Originally known as Brunei Town, in 1970 it was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan, which means 'honourable leader' as homage to the Sultan’s late father, Omar Ali Saifuddien

I am grateful the sun is not out today, as my cold sore is quite raw this morning, extremely unsightly, and rather painful, so I put on a mask when leaving the hotel.

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Brunei is an independent Islamic sultanate on the northern coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.

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Kota Batu

Believed to be an ancient burial site from the 14th - 17th century, Kota Batu is an important archaeological site. The name translates as ‘city of stone’, as a result of the rock structures found here, which would have served as walls of a fortress. It is believed that this site was the capital city of Brunei, and the site also played an important role as a center of government, trade, and settlement in Brunei during that time. While the park is of great importance as a hub for archaeological research, there is not that much to see for visitors.

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Mausoleum of Sultan Bolkiah

Bolkiah was the fifth Sultan of Brunei, who reigned from 1485 following the abdication of his father, until his death in 1524. This era is said to be the golden age of Brunei, with Bolkiah expanding Brunei’s territory to include present-day Sarawak and Sabah in Borneo, and Manila and Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines.

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Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Bridge

Commonly known as the Temburong Bridge (or SOAS Bridge from the initials), the 26-km bridge is the longest in Southeast Asia, connecting the district of Temburong with the rest of Brunei.

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Before the bridge was completed in 2020, the eastern half was separated from the rest of the country, and to reach the capital, they would either have to take a boat across the bay or a two-hour drive via Malaysia involving two complicated border crossings.

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Mangroves

Using a traditional longboat, we explore the mangroves that surround the capital.

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The mangroves play an important part in protecting the city, by stopping the tidal waves from reaching the built-up areas.

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The virgin rainforest is also home to many birds and animals – I tend to forget that this is part of Borneo.

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Chinese Egret, a new species to us

Proboscis Monkeys

As I pick up my long 400mm lens to point at the monkeys in the tree, all I can see is grey. The lens it totally steamed up, and however much I try to wipe it off, it makes no difference.

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It turns out, the condensation is on the inside of the lens, not the outside.

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That is rather worrying (for any long-term damage), and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it now. I use my 24-105mm lens to take some photos, but as the monkeys are a very long way away, by the time I have cropped the images to the point where I can distinguish the monkeys from the rest of the tree, the quality is so-so.

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Royal Tomb

The area around this old tomb is said to be haunted, and local people fear coming out here at night, as there have been a number of strange occurrences.

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Kampong Ayer

We return to the city to see the world’s largest settlement on stilts, housing close to 12,000 people in an area of 10 km² (less than four square miles) spread across 30 villages connected by 30 km of wooden walkways.

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As a major historical and cultural heritage of Brunei, Kampong Ayer is believed to have been inhabited for at least 1000 years, and in the 1500s it was a bustling port, known as Venice of the East. Over the last few decades, the population based in these water villages has decreased, with many people preferring to move to land-based accommodation. The diminishing population, added to the busy modern lifestyle, is threatening the survival of the customs and traditions practiced in Kampong Ayer. While it would be a shame to lose this cultural heritage, I can fully understand people wanting to move with the times and make life easier for themselves.

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The houses here at Kampong Ayer are mostly built of wood in the traditional Malay style, but we also see a brand new housing estate!

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Most of the houses, even the old traditional ones, have running water, and electricity, with fast wifi and air conditioning.

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There are mosques, schools, a police station, and a fire station.

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Mosque

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Fire Station

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Police Station

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School

The secondary school in Kampong Ayer, Awang Semaun Secondary School, is the only school of its kind where its buildings are built on water.

Fires are a common occurrence, unfortunately, mostly as a result of faulty wiring, and with so many wooden buildings in close proximity to each other, the fire spreads easily and quickly.

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Bandar Seri Begawan

The central district of the city is modern and luxurious as many of the buildings have been reconstructed after the city suffered serious damage during WWII. Around 180,000 of the country’s 500,000 population live in the city. I have to confess that I knew very little about this small kingdom prior to this trip, including that it didn’t gain its independence from United Kingdom until 1984.

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Now rich from oil (Brunei has the second-highest Human Development Index among the Southeast Asian nations, after Singapore). Crude oil and natural gas production account for about 90% of its GDP

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I ask Farez, our guide about living standards, and he tells me he still considers Brunei to be a Third World Country.

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Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

Back on dry land, we visit the most famous mosque in the city, alongside a replica of the boat Sultan Bolkiah used when he colonised Borneo and the Philippines.

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The mosque, which was built in 1958, has 28 real gold domes to celebrate him as the 28th Sultan. Up to 5,000 people can pray inside the mosque on any one day, and the construction features a number of tunnels under the city that are frequently used by the current Sultan to journey through town.

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While Brunei is a Muslim country, other religions are also tolerated.

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St Andrew's Church

We see a huge Land Monitor crossing the road. Farez explains how they are a real nuisance, having killed three of his cats over the last year or so.

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Jami Asri Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque

Named after the 29th and current Sultan, the mosque was inaugurated in 1994. The tiles used in the construction of this extravagant building came from the Middle East, the marble was sourced in Italy, and the wood was transported from the Philippines, with the stained glass imported from Britain! It is said to be the Sultan’s favourite mosque, and he is often found here on a Friday, praying and shaking hands with the people. Known for his compassion and generosity, the Sultan is approachable and will often help everyday citizens in trouble if asked.

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The Istana Nurul Imam Palace

Behind this ornate fence, is the royal residence, the world’s largest residential palace as per Guinness World Records. The palace contains 1,788 rooms, with 257 bathrooms, a banquet hall that can be expanded to accommodate up to 5,000 guests, and a mosque that can hold 1,500 people praying. The palace also includes a 110-car garage, an air-conditioned stable for the Sultan's 200 polo ponies, and five swimming pools. In total, the buildings contain 2,152,782 square feet (200,000 m²) of floor space. Istana Nurul Iman has 564 chandeliers, 51,000 light bulbs, 44 stairwells, and 18 elevators. Outside the queen has her own garden, there is a polo ground and football field, plus a private airfield, where the Sultan is often seen flying his own helicopter. Over 1,000 are employed within the palace.

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You can see an aerial image of the property in this article.

Malay Technology Museum

This museum is not at all what I expected it to be – I thought it was going to be all about technology, but what the museum does, in fact, is focusing on the traditional lifestyle and artisanship of Brunei’s ethnic groups through recreations of tribal villages and cottage-style industries.

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Royal Regalia Museum

A visual representation of the immense wealth of the Sultanate, the museum is home to heirlooms and regalia such as crown jewels, ceremonial gowns, golden chariots, olden-day symbolic weapons, and shields.

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Dinner

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On my recommendation, David orders the Pulled Beef Panini, BBC Sauce, Jalapenos, American Cheddar, Mustard Mayo, with chips

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My Penne with Pesto, Cream, Garlic and Chicken

We both have Banoffee Bread Pudding for dessert, I have vanilla ice cream, David chooses coffee

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Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this incredible Grand Tour of South East Asia

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Posted by Grete Howard 10:40 Archived in Brunei Tagged mosque church museum haunted water_village royal_palace mausoleum egret waffles mangroves monitor brunei sultanate proboscis_monkey bandar_seri_begawan kampong_ayer undiscovered_destinations grand_tour_of_south_east_asia cold_sore kota_batu sultan_bolkiah sultan_haji_omar_ali_saifuddien tempurong_bridge soas_bridge steamed_up_lens royal_tomb stilt_village sultan_omar_al_saifudding_mosqu st_andrews_church land_monitor jami_asri_hassanil_mosque istans_nurul_imam_palace malay_technology_museum royal_regalia_museum Comments (3)

Manila - Brunei


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Cold sore

My cold sore has really developed this morning, becoming crusty with lots of pus. Nice (insert sarascm font here).

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Breakfast

For our last day here in the Philippines at the Bay Leaf Hotel, I have a breakfast salad, whereas David chooses egg on toast plus pancakes.

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Egg on toast

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Breakfast Salad

Airport Transfer

Our driver, a chap we haven’t met before, called Alan, turns up to take us to the airport, Terminal Two. My recollection is that we are flying from Terminal One, so Alan checks with the office. We are indeed flying from Terminal One. Just as well I have a good memory, otherwise, it would have been a lot of hassle once we reach the (wrong) terminal.

In order to enter the airport building we need to show our passports and flight tickets, then we encounter a pre-check-in check where they want to see the passports, tickets, onward flight itinerary, the flight ticket to London, my British Settled Status documents (this is only the second time I have ever been asked for that), details about why I have requested Special Assistance, what is wrong with my leg/back, and when it happened (I am pretty sure that would be illegal to ask in this country). When we finally reach the check-in desks, they ask for all the same information, plus the hotel reservations in Brunei. Thankfully, I am very organised and have this all to hand in a chronologically organised folder.

I ask for an aisle seat on the right-hand side of the plane, and she books me one on the left-hand side. I manage to get it swapped fairly easily, and the porter pushes me to immigration via a shortcut. There are long, long queues for security, but the porter jumps the queue to get nearer the front. One of my carry-on bags is picked to be checked, and I have to take everything out. They also check my boarding card and passport.

We continue through long corridors and down lifts. My boarding card says Gate 7, but there has been a gate change, so we re-route to Gate 5. Here there is another X-ray for the bags and security screening for humans, plus they check our passports and boarding cards. On the move again, we have to go down another long corridor, but in order to be allowed to continue, boarding cards must be shown. Once we get to the gate, the porter has to find someone with a key to unlock the door for us to get in.

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The waiting area at the gate

Once on board, we take our seats, and find, much to our delight, that we have been upgraded to Economy Plus, which offers ca 4” extra legroom, plus free food and drink.

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As we take off, audio of an Islamic 'prayer for the traveller' is played, with subtitles in English. That's a first! The complimentary food is chicken and mushrooms with pasta and vegetables.

Brunei Airport

A delightful husband-and-wife team of porters are there ready to push me around (so to speak) when we land in Brunei. They wheel me straight through immigration and collect the luggage to meet our local guide Farez in the main hall. We are urged to check in online tonight for our flight to Kuala Lumpur in two days’ time, as Air Asia apparently charges for you to check in at the airport (that sounds like some of the low-cost airlines operating out of the UK), and also purchase extra hand luggage beforehand as they are apparently very strict, according to the husband and wife team.

Hotel Radisson

We receive a warm welcome from the receptionist, with the paperwork already completed and on the desk ready waiting for us. The room is modern and fairly big, with a chaise lounge and a writing desk. Welcome to country number 147.

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As suggested, we sort out the stuff for the upcoming flight before going to dinner in the hotel restaurant.

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Dinner

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Pulled Beef Panini, BBQ Sauce, Jalapenos, American Cheddar, Mustard Mayo - absolutely delicious with just the right amount of spiciness

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David's fish and chips

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Dessert: Banoffee Bread and Butter Pudding with Coffee Ice Cream and two spoons

In the room next to the restaurant, there is a very loud awards dinner taking place, with lots of laughing and clapping. They also have a karaoke session, but just with the singing, no accompanying music. It is painful to listen to, so we are glad to go back to the room.

This incredible Grand Tour of South East Asia was organised by Undiscovered Destinations.

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Posted by Grete Howard 10:45 Archived in Brunei Tagged manila brunei airport_security undiscovered_destinations upgraded bayleaf_hotel manila_airport economy_plus radisson_brunei airport_travsfer misty_aircraft_cabin Comments (3)

Bohol - Manila


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Today marks just one week left of our eight-week Grand Tour of South East Asia.

I wake up with a huge cold sore this morning. I have felt it coming on for a few days – it was presumably triggered by spending all day in the sun when we did our island hopping boat trip in El Nido.

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Our favourite waitress is on this morning, and knowing how much I love it, she brings me a large plate of mango.

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We take one last look at the beach here at Bohol Beach Club before leaving

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Bohol Panglao Airport

Our pick-up is 15 minutes early this morning, so by the time we get to Bohol Panglao Airport, the check-in counter is not open yet.

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When it finally opens, the assistant attaches a PRIORITY sticker to our luggage.

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At the gate, a three-piece live band turns up to entertain the passengers – it seems a little extravagant!

Philippine Airlines flight from Bohol to Manila

I’ve never seen an aircraft quite so foggy before, we can hardly see a foot in front of our faces. It isn’t smoke, of course, but mist to stabilise the temperature in the aircraft as the doors are open while boarding.

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Despite being only a 1½ hour flight, we are served a hot drink (or water) and a snack pack of spicy peas and mango, and half an hour later, a crew member comes around with a tray of cookies.

Manila Airport

As a result of the PRIORITY stickers, our bags arrive among the first on the carousel. The airport terminal has been decorated for Christmas during the time since we were here about a week ago. They certainly start the Christmas celebrations early here in the Philippines.

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Pharmacy

We stop on the way from the aircraft to the hotel to try and get something for my cold sore. The pharmacist is thankfully able to override the fact that the cream is meant to be available on prescription only, so at least I have something to hopefully give me some relief.

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Bay Leaf Hotel

We are back in the same hotel, and the same room for our last night in the Philippines, which can only mean one thing: Churros!

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Dinner

Later we try out the Raffaele Restaurant in the hotel, which is almost empty.

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David's Pizza with Beef, Garlic, Chilli, and Cheese

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I have Pasta with Prosciutto and Truffle

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We share an enormous Tiramisu for dessert

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing trip to South East Asia

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Posted by Grete Howard 12:17 Archived in Philippines Tagged beach manila pizza bohol panglao pharmacy philippine_airlines tiramisu cold_sore bohol_beach_club panglao_airport bohol_panglao_airport manila_airport chrictmas_decorations Comments (3)

Bohol - Chocolate Hills, Tarsiers, and River Cruise Lunch


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The breakfast buffet here at Bohol Beach Club is absolutely amazing, and I enjoy some lovely fresh whole wheat bread with bacon, followed by muesli and yogurt; while David has Koko Krunch to start, and egg, bacon, toast, potato wedges, and a banana for seconds. That’ll set us up for the day!

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I love the way the cutlery on the table is wrapped

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The bread is absolutely delicious

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Lots of different breads to choose from

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Sticky cakes

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Philippino dishes

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Cereals

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Bacon and potato

The weather today is very hot and sticky, and while we are waiting for the guide and driver in the open-air lobby, the receptionist fetches a fan for me to cool down. Such a kind gesture.

Blood Compact Monument

This bronze composition was created to honour the first international treaty between the Philippines and Spain. It celebrates the event that took place here in Taglibaran in 1565 when a pact was signed between Filipinos and the invading Spanish. The two warriors cut their wrists, dripped blood into a cup, and drank their mingled blood as a peace treaty.

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The life-sized monument

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Panglao Island behind, which is where our hotel is situated

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A poster for selfies

Kalamay

Many vendors mingle with tourists here, selling a popular sweet delicacy called Kalamay (or Calamay), made of coconut milk, brown sugar, and ground glutinous rice.

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Church of Immaculate Conception, Baclayon

Founded in 1596 as a bamboo structure, it became the oldest Christian settlement in Bohol (and one of the oldest in the Philippines) upon the completion of the current building in 1727 at the hands of 200 slave labourers. They took coral stone from the sea, cut them into square blocks, and piled them onto each other. Bamboo was used to move and lift the stones into position, and the white of a million eggs to cement them together.

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It has been heavily renovated since, and sustained major damage during the 2013 earthquake, with the portico and bell tower collapsing.

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The Baclayon Church was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2010.

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The Tarsier Sanctuary

The park is an eco-tourism destination where visitors can see and visit the smallest primates that are mostly found in Southeast Asia — tarsiers.

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The main part of the sanctuary, where the small primates are found, is set back from the road, and the path is surrounded by many gorgeous flowers.

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We first enter the visitor’s complex, to register and look at the small exhibition.

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The skelton of a tarsier

The Philippine Tarsier Foundation established the sanctuary to protect these endangered species while also promoting eco-friendly tourism. While over 100 of these territorial primates hang out in the immediate vicinity of the centre, only eight are in the viewing area. We are allocated a guide, who leads us to them via a short jungle trail. We see four of them in total, but they are mostly hidden within the foliage of the bamboo where they live, thus making photography very difficult.

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The tiny saucer-eyed tarsier can fit in the palm of your hand yet it can leap 5m, rotate its head almost 360 degrees, and move its ears in the direction of sound. Its huge imploring eyes are 150 times as big as a human eye in relation to its body size. They are delicate, emotionally sensitive, and easily stressed, and have been known to commit suicide by banging their heads against tree trunks.

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So as not to stress the little fellahs out, no flash photography is permitted, and it is very dark where they are hiding, so the ISO is almost through the roof – this is the best that I can do.

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Chocolate Hills

We move on to see one of the most well-known sites of Bohol. This unusual geological formation gets its name from the grass covering the hills turning brown in the dry season, reminiscent of chocolate truffles.

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These cone-shaped hills are unfortunately not made of real chocolate, but grass-covered limestone. The karst hills vary in size from 30 to 50 metres (98 to 164ft) high with the largest being 120 metres (390ft) in height.

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Steps lead up to a viewing area

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Drone shot

There are thought to be somewhere in the region of 1500 hills spread over an area of 50 km².


A security guard polices the selfie area so that others don’t crowd you when you are having your photo taken, and also that no one hogs the spot for any length of time. He also works out a first-come, first-serve system, and berates someone trying to jump in front of us. The system works very well. He'll even take your photo for you.

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Lunch Cruise

While this entire Grand Tour of South East Asia was booked on a private basis, I didn’t expect that to include chartering an entire floating restaurant for just the two of us. It is a totally surreal experience, with a 46-seat restaurant, captain and crew, and even a live band. With just David and me.

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This is the type of boat we have

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Many seats have been moved and removed, with a huge table set up for us

As we cruise down the Loboc River, we pass small settlements and virgin rain forests. There isn’t a great deal to see, but then we are mostly occupied with eating.

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Collared Kingfisher

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At a small landing, a group of artists perform a folk dance for us.

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While we may be the only two passengers, there is enough food to serve a large number of people. I hope the crew gets to share the leftovers.

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Curry

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Fried Chicken

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Chicken Satay and Mixed Noodles

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Fish

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Lechon

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Prawns

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Chicken Satay

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A selection of desserts (Banana, Watermelon, Halo Halo, Cake)

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Desserts (Kusinta, Suman, Banana

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Desserts (Coffee Flavoured Halo Halo + Cake)

We return to base and make our way back to the hotel, stopping to look at a place that produces recycled knives made from leaf springs. A worker can make 5-10 blades a day, and he will then send the knife off to someone else to fit a handle.

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We’ve been so lucky with the weather today, it rained while we were driving between the Tarsier Sanctuary and the Chocolate Hills, and again between the hills and the boat, when we had a really heavy downpour. More rain between the boat and the hotel, but it is dry as we walk from reception to the room. Soon after we reach the room, the rain starts again.

Dinner

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On my recommendation, David has the hot dog this evening

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Whereas I order sausage and mash

Entertainment

The two-piece band performing this evening is way too loud, to the point that I am unable to hear what David is saying unless I lean right across the table. A proper conversation is impossible. We are obviously not the only ones feeling that way, as I notice the area of the restaurant furthest away from the stage is full whereas the tables nearest the band are empty. For the first song, there is enthusiastic clapping, the second song receives some clapping, for the third a few people clap, and for the fourth – nothing! David claims "he sounds like he's been kicked in the balls".



After dinner, we drink cocktails while watching lightning out at sea again.

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Black Russian

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White Russian

When the laundry has not arrived by 22:00, David goes to reception to enquire (we are leaving here tomorrow morning, and would really like to have our clothes with us). The laundry is returned while he is gone – typical.

Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing private tour

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Posted by Grete Howard 11:48 Archived in Philippines Tagged church philippines bohol chocolate_hills laundry kingfisher loboc tarsier taglibaran selfie drone undiscovered_destinations drone_photography dronography bohol_beach_club blood_compact_monument panglao_island kalamay calamay baclayon_church tarsier_sanctuary lunch_cruise Comments (3)

Bohol - Relaxing on the Beach


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The dazed dove from last night is no longer on our doorstep when we go out this morning. I try not to think of it being gone for any other reason than it flew off. There are a few birds around the grounds, but not as many as I would have hoped.

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Domesticated Tumbler Pigeon

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Zebra Dove

The restaurant here at Bohol Beach Club has a great breakfast buffet, with crispy fried bacon and the softest wholegrain bread. I am in breakfast heaven.

Today is a completely free day, and surprisingly, I am very happy with that. I guess after travelling for 46 days non-stop, a little R&R is very welcome. While we are not normally very keen on large resort hotels, there is something about this place that has captured our hearts.

Beach

We spend some time on the beach time this morning, sitting in the shade watching the comings and goings all around us. With many spare sunbeds and an uncrowded beach, I really don’t think the hotel is full at the moment.

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Chocolate Milkshakes on the Beach

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Drone

We ask the security guard about using the drone, and he confirms as long as we don’t fly over the pool, that is fine.

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Me flying the drone

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The hotel boasts a one-kilometre private beach with pure white, fine sand.

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The water is very shallow for a very long way out, making it popular with families with small children.

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Pool

The pool is our next destination. As it is completely in the sun, we just take a few pictures and retire to our air-conditioned room for a few hours.

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Lunch

Again we order in from room service.

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Crispy Breaded Bacon Strips with Aioli Dip

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David's BBC Burger

Dinner

We ask if we can sit outside, but there are no spare tables, so the waitress splits a table for four which already has two patrons on it. They are not happy about it, but we notice as the evening goes by that they both seem really miserable anyway. We are facing the sea, where we can see an amazing lightning storm through the trees.

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Pre-dinner nibbles - breadstick served with sweet butter, almost like custard

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My teriyaki chicken sandwich

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David has chicken teriyaki with rice

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David chooses ice cream for dessert

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While I have a very nice mango crème brûlée

By the time we finish eating, the lightning has stopped, much to my disappointment as I was hoping to photograph it, and much to David’s delight as the tripod is in the bottom of his suitcase.

The pool is looking nice all lit up at night.

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Back in the room, we try to apply for an e-via for Brunei, our next stop on this grand tour, but can’t find the piece of paper with the wifi password on it. David goes up to reception and comes back with the magic word, and I log in while David goes into the in-room safe to get the passports out. Or rather tries to – he can’t get in and having used the incorrect code too many times, he is locked out. We call reception and the maintenance man comes out. He can’t open the safe either and sends for the engineer. They are very very customer service focussed, replying “Please don’t worry, it is no problem at all” when we apologise profusely. The engineer has the secret code and manages to get in in less than two minutes.

Oh, and we had already applied for, and received, the Brunei e-visa. Doh.

This incredible Grand Tour of South East Asia was arranged by Undiscovered Destinations.

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Posted by Grete Howard 10:11 Archived in Philippines Tagged beach philippines pool pigeon lightning bohol safe dove drone undiscovered_destinations e-visa drone_photography dronography bohol_beach_club in_room_safe locked_out_of_safe bohol_beach room_serve Comments (3)

El Nido - Bohol


View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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Early start this morning, up at 05:00, breakfast at 06:00, and depart at 06:30 for the very short drive to the airport by hotel transfer bus.

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Waiting for the pick-up

El Nido Airport

As airports go, this has to be one of the most laid-back ones we’ve flown from, it is surrounded by jungle, and you approach the departure lounge on wooden walkways with signs of “Please do not feed the animals”.

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We show tickets and ID (passports) on entry, and then a very relaxed security, which beeps when I walk through. “It’ll be this,” I say, pointing to my knee brace which has metal bars through it. The guard just shrugs and waves me through to the lounge.

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There is a lot of confusion at the time of boarding, as there are two flights leaving at the same time. There is only one gate, with no-one checking tickets, and once you get onto the tarmac, a few cones separate the two lines for the aircraft. Thankfully the boarding cards are checked on entry to the plane.

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The gate on the right, the shop / café on the left

It’s the first time my walking stick has had its own luggage tag (despite me taking it onboard as 'carry-on').

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They also ask us to sign the back of the luggage tags – the only other time that has happened is when I was checking in Big Bertha, my enormous 600mm lens.

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As usual, I ask for an aisle seat on the right-hand side of the plane, but I am given a window seat on the left-hand side. As the flight has a mere handful of passengers, and David and I have a row each, it really doesn’t matter.

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The almost empty plane

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We have a row each

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The in-flight meal

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This must be a new-ish plane, as they have a sign referring to no mobile phones and laptops, rather than the old "no smoking"

As we exit the plane in Bohol, staff are waiting at the bottom of the steps with umbrellas against the rain. There’s a longish walk to the terminal building, but I have a wheelchair and porter to push me. And an umbrella.

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Our luggage has been marked as priority, and thus comes out before the rest of the bags. One of the cases has sustained some scuff marks, which I suppose is just general wear and tear, and to be expected with all the flights we have taken on this trip.

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Brian, the local guide, and June, our (male) driver, are waiting to whisk us the ten minutes to our hotel for the next three nights.

Bohol Beach Club

The reception is an open-sided affair, with plenty of comfortable chairs. A young man appears as we are being led to our room, carrying an umbrella to shelter me from the rain. David has to carry his own!

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The reception area

The grounds are beautiful and lush, with plenty of trees and flowering bushes.

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Our room is the furthest away in the corner of the grounds. The nice thing about that is that we are not overlooked when we sit on the covered veranda that runs outside the rooms

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The view from our balcony

Lunch

Instead of handing us a welcome drink while we are trying to check in, we are given a voucher to collect one from the restaurant.

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It is something citrusy and rather refreshing

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BBC Burger (short for Bohol Beach Club, not the British Broadcasting Corporation) and cuba libre

I order a sausage sandwich, which turns out to be enormous

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For dessert, I have deep-fried mango ice cream (and a Black Russian cocktail)

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The ice cream itself is nice, but I am not sure the soggy Cornflakes add anything

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David's Banana Split

As we have nothing planned for the afternoon, we yet again get a little carried away with the cocktail menu.

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Banana Daiquiri

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Chocolate milkshake with added Kahlua

The young waitress is absolutely delightful, she is studying tourism and spends ages chatting with us.

The afternoon is spent chilling, walking around the gardens and on the beach, before retiring to the room and ordering Cuba Libre with nibbles room service instead of going to dinner. It feels so nice and relaxed.

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The first two of many room service drinks

Sitting on the doorstep of our room is a bedraggled-looking dove of some sort. We leave some crumbs for him but are not really sure what else to do. We mention it to the waiter who delivers the room service, but he just shrugs and walks away.

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My lips are still tingling, but no cold sore has yet developed, so I am hoping that I have managed to avoid it this time. David, on the other hand, is covered in insect bits.

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Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing trip

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Posted by Grete Howard 13:27 Archived in Philippines Tagged cocktails bohol air_asia el_nido insect_bites room_service walking_stick bohol_beach_club el_nido_airport welcome_drink poorly_bird Comments (4)

El Nido Island Hopping Tour


View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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Today is a water-based day, and we are picked up at 08:30 by a man with a van who is accompanied by his small daughter. Neither speak much during the short journey to the centre of El Nido Town, where we are dropped off at the office of a company called Discover El Nido, who specialise in boat trips around the bay. From here we are walked down the road by Amal who will be our guide for the day, and his two young helpers.

El Nido is a ramshackle town with a chilled hippy feel.

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We are heading for the beach, where we wade out waist deep to climb aboard the using a ladder, where the bottom rung is thigh high – quite a challenge for my arthritic knees.

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Boats lining up to take tourists around the islands

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I'm in!

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The crew

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David

After assessing my disabilities, the crew re-arrange the itinerary to suit us.

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Big Lagoon

This was meant to be our first stop, but as it is only accessible by kayak, we just stop and take some photos from our boat.

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Shimizu Island

The island is named after a Japanese scuba diver who didn’t surface after a dive in a deep underwater tunnel, and his body was found days later on the beach here.

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I send up the drone for some amazing views.

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Shimizu is one of the numerous stunning islands with imposing rock formations and fine white sand in Bacuit Bay.

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As we get back on board the boat to move to the next island, the scenery all around us is nothing short of breathtaking.

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Entalula Island

With its crystal clear water, and fine white powder sand beach, Entalula Island is a good place to spend some chill time.

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Like Shimizu Island, it is almost completely deserted, making it another great place to use my drone.

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Two SCUBA divers

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Us on the beach

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You can barely see us here

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Incredibly clear - and warm - water

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While we take a picnic lunch, David charges the drone using his mobile phone (for those of you who have not read yesterday’s blog entry, we left the spare batteries for the drone behind in Puerto Princesa).

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After lunch, we ‘swim’ a little – more like just floating in the bathwater-warm sea.

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Just as we are leaving, a whole load of people arrive – perfect timing!

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David has found his place

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Seven Commandos Beach

There are a couple of stories about the origins of the name of this beach, one legend claims that seven soldiers were stranded here during WWI, whereas the other legend suggests that it was the name of a fishing vessel that was stranded here, and the passengers decided to make it their home. Either way, it’s a beautiful place.

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More drone images:

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Because we did not stop at Big Lagoon, nor have we been snorkelling, as is part of the trip, and most people will do, we have finished earlier than they normally do, so Amal asks us if we’d like to visit another island or whether we’d prefer to return to El Nido now. Much as these islands are incredibly beautiful, one sandy beach is very much like another sandy beach, and we suggest heading back.

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Amal and his crew

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A tourist resort on one of the beaches

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Jagged karst landscape

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Returning to civilisation at El Nido

Huni Lio Hotel

On the return to the hotel, we jump straight into the pool where we chill for a while.

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Great view

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Cold sore

Having spent a large part of the day in the sun, I find my lips starting to tingle this afternoon – a sure sign I am developing a cold sore. I am prone to them, and they often turn into a secondary infection, leaving me with an enormous sore covering half my lip, so David goes to find the local pharmacy – but unfortunately, they have nothing to treat cold sores.

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David dons a mask and a sun hat for the short walk to the local shops

Dinner

This evening we share a cheese, onion, and bacon pizza with some chips and onion rings.

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The pizza

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Chips and onion rings

I order a Tequila Sunrise, which is not available, but tonight they have White Russian, so I have that instead.

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White Russian

Just as we are about to retire to bed at 22:45, a package arrives with our missing batteries, which is a great relief, as we are moving on to another island early tomorrow morning.

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Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging the Grand Tour of South East Asia, and their local partners for looking after us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 10:11 Archived in Philippines Tagged beach pool scuba picnic kayaks karst boat_trip island_hopping el_nido drone undiscovered_destinations picnic_lunch big_lagoon drone_photography el_nido_island_hopping shimizu shimizu_island entalula entalula_island seven_commanos_beach swimming_poolhuni_lio_hotel cold_sore Comments (3)

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