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18th January
2012
written by Hazel

We had a really nice flight from Singapore to Tokyo.  And that’s coming from the girl with the deathly phobia of flying.  Really smooth, beautiful views and the food was good too.  It was a daytime flight, unusual for such a long flight, but I loved seeing some of the tropical islands and other scenery from the air.

We arrived in Tokyo just around sunset and began the adventure of getting to our hotel.  Since we only had a week in Japan we decided to book one hotel for the whole time and just focus on seeing the city.  It wasn’t enough time to see much else without having to race around like crazy and Tokyo is such a huge city we figured there would be plenty to see and do.

Tokyo is a very expensive place.  Our first encounter with this was just getting from the airport to our hotel.  The airport is about 80 kilometers from the city, and the convenient travel options are extremely costly.  We opted to take the local trains instead, an adventurous move for people who speak zero Japanese.  The subways in Japan take a little figuring out and although the main lines have signs in English, the smaller stations and trains rarely used by tourists do not always.  Fortunately, before we left the airport we grabbed a “Tokyo Handy Guide” (free at a ton of different tourist locations) which was a lifesaver in finding our way around.  Seriously, if you are going to Tokyo try to get one of these!

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18th January
2012
written by Hazel

As I mentioned in our post about the food in Singapore, there are indoor markets with giant food courts all over the city.  Since we’re not big on shopping we had mostly just focused on the food section, but after a delicious meal one day we decided to take a wander through the rest of the market.

We were in luck for our fabric project!  One of the first stalls we came across had some gorgeous designs on nice cotton fabric.  Perfect for quilting and so much easier than our searches in many of the other countries! We had trouble deciding what to buy as there were lots of pretty patterns.  In the end we picked three that were thought were unusual or a bit distinctive.  Very happy with these ones!

Singapore Fabric

Singapore Fabric

16th January
2012
written by Hazel

Sorry, this post is a little out of order since it was before we got to Singapore.  I still want to show of our fun Malaysian fabric though!

Our time in Malaysia was so jam-packed with action that we hadn’t had a chance to search for the fabric right up until the last minute.  After a pretty damp day in Borneo we were all set to fly back to Kuala Lumpur and head out to Singapore the next morning.  As we pulled in to the airport I realized that this might be our last chance to get any fabric from Malaysia!

Of course, there wasn’t a fabric shop at the airport, but they did have a great two for the price of one deal going on sarongs!  This meant that we wound up with much more fabric than we really needed, but the patterns are awesome and will definitely remind me of that part of the world.  And maybe we will even keep one of them as a sarong.

Malaysian sarong fabric

Malaysian sarong fabric

12th January
2012
written by Hazel

The first thing that struck me about Singapore is how clean the city is.  Seriously, they must sweep constantly and there are heavy fines for littering.  No grimy, dirty streets here!

We stayed at an excellent hostel which was a really good deal compared to other places in the area.  Singapore is not cheap, but A Beary Good Hostel was reasonably priced, a pleasant place to stay, and wonderfully located right next to a subway station in Chinatown.  We were able to walk or take the subway and see a lot of the famous sights.

We had a couple of days of relaxing (we were tired after our long travel and days in the jungle) and exploring the city.  So here are some highlights of our time in Singapore.

Lanterns in Chinatown

Lanterns in Chinatown

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10th January
2012
written by Hazel
Pretty strange burger

Pretty strange burger - not sure what was going on with this

I’ll start this post out by saying that almost everything we tasted in Singapore was excellent.  Singapore is not a particularly cheap place, but we were able to do pretty well by mostly eating at our local food court.  We stayed in Chinatown and there were plenty of tasty morsels to try!

We found that the best strategy was to go to the food court (kind of like a mix between a market and a food court you would find in a mall here), look around until we found a longish line and then get in that line and order whatever everyone else was eating.  Singapore has very strict regulations about food handling and cleanliness, so pretty much anywhere food is being sold it’s likely to be edible.

We had delicious noodles with pork.

So Good!!!!

So Good!!!!

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5th January
2012
written by Hazel

We had a bit of a trip ahead of us to get from Borneo to Singapore.  Remember that thunderstorm which got us completely soaking wet after we saw the orangutans?  Well, it made for a very slow taxi ride to the airport and a fairly bumpy flight back to Kuala Lumpur.  It was 11 pm or so by the time we got in and we had to be on a train to Singapore early the next morning.

Justin did an awesome job planning this segment because he found us a hotel right by the airport, meaning we could get to bed right away and still be near transportation to the train station the next morning.  What he found was Tune hotels, which are a little different than normal hotels.  I don’t have any pictures, but I’ll try to describe it the best I can.  Or, just click on the link and look at their description.

Basically, it’s a hotel modeled after a budget airline.  So you get a really cheap, really tiny room, and anything else you might want has an extra cost associated with it.  The beds were some of the best we encountered in our travels, the shower was awesome, very clean, etc., but hardly enough space for us and our backpacks.  Especially since we had wet, muddy clothes we wanted to hang up from the jungle!  We didn’t need many of the add-ons.  In fact, we paid about 32 cents each, each direction, to get the shuttle from the airport to the hotel and about 65 cents to have a towel provided since we wanted to keep ours dry.  And that was it!

I’m not sure how a place like that would be for a longer stay, but for what we needed it was perfect.  I have never seen this concept anywhere else, but it looks from their website like they are an international chain. So who knows, maybe this will be the next big thing!

5th January
2012
written by Hazel

Our last activity in Malaysia was a trip to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.  I was really excited for this because we had not seen any orangutans in the wild and they are some of my favorite animals.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

We stayed at a pretty good hostel close enough to walk over to the sanctuary, so we were able to get there in the morning for the first feeding of the day.  There are two sessions, morning and afternoon, but if you buy a ticket you can go to both of the sessions in the day.  This is the best chance of seeing the orangutans because the sanctuary covers a huge area of land and you are pretty unlikely to see them unless they are coming to get food. (more…)

28th December
2011
written by Hazel

So, for my birthday we had one of the most amazing adventures of my life:  three days at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center!!!

Thai Elephant Conservation Center

Thai Elephant Conservation Center

We stayed for two nights and had two full days playing with the elephants.  Each of us was assigned an elephant and a mahout (elephant trainer) to work with and we were with the same one the whole time we were there.  Justin’s elephant was called Wannalee and mine was Sri Siam. (more…)

16th December
2011
written by Hazel

Justin had planned an awesome elephant adventure for my birthday, but since it started the day after my actual birthday we needed something to do on the day.  The solution was to do another Thai cooking class!  This time in Chiang Mai, a town in northern Thailand.  We found one that looked good on the internet and would highly recommend it as the class and the food was AMAZING!  The school is Thai Farm Cooking School.

Choosing our recipes to learn

Choosing our recipes to learn

They had a great system – they picked us up in the morning and handed out menu selection paper.  We each got to select five courses and each course had three choices of dish to cook.  We tried to pick different dishes so that we would have the widest selection we could make in the future.

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15th November
2011
written by Hazel

Our time in Vietnam was a bit of a blur as we only had one week and we spent all night every other night travelling.  Unfortunately, this left us a bit exhausted and I really wish we had had a lot more time to enjoy this amazing country.  I cannot say enough good things about our time in Vietnam.  The people were awesome, the food was awesome, the scenery was awesome…all in all, awesome.

So, this post will probably feel a little crazy, but I’m just going to throw a bunch of photos of the places we went at you, and maybe the crazy rush along the country will come through.  We started in the south in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and worked our way north by a series of long bus and train trips, ending up in Hanoi.  If we had just a little more time I would have liked to see more of Hanoi.  If we had a lot I would have been very happy to just keep exploring and to make many more stops along the way.

View from hotel

View from hotel - Hoi An

Hoi An

Hoi An

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