Monday, August 30, 2010

Ko Phi Phi

After Singapore, we flew down to Phuket, Thailand. Phuket is kind of a crap town, but you have to go through there to get to some of the nice islands in southern Thailand. After arriving in Phuket, we went to Ko Phi Phi or Phi Phi Island by boat and stayed for a couple days. Ko Phi Phi has some beautiful views and is a great place to relax. There is a town area with restaurants and hotels that is more developed and touristy, but someone had recommended a nice hotel called Viking Resort that is off the main stretch and is a bit more secluded and peaceful. There are a bunch of bungalows to stay in, a private beach, and a nice clubhouse to get good Thai food. We really liked it there and thought it was a great place to stay. For a bit over $10 per person a night, it's hard to beat.

Viking Resort Taxi

The Clubhouse

Path to the Bungalow

Our Bungalow with Open Air Shower on Right

Beach near the Resort

Night Thai Food Sampling

Fire Twirlers on Beach

One of the days in Ko Phi Phi we took a boat cruise to some of the sites in the area. You get to swim in some isolated bays with beautiful, clear water, go cliff-diving, snorkel along some coral, and see some neighboring islands and beautiful beaches. 

Cruising Near Rocky Islands

Clear Water Bay

Boats in Bay

Swimming in Clear Water


The Captain of Our Boat

Another spot they take you to is Maya Beach, which was made famous by the movie "The Beach", starring the dreamy Leonardo DiCaprio. In real life, it is actually quite beautiful and a great place to visit. You have to jump out of the boat and swim to a rope ladder on some rocks, then walk for a little bit to get to the beach, which adds a little bit of adventure.

Maya Bay

Entrance to "The Beach"

Phil Soaking It In

Waves Crashing at the Beach


My favorite part of the boat trip was snorkeling in the coral. I've never done anything like that before, so I was excited to try. It was a really great experience being surrounded by so many colorful fish and seeing the amount of life supported in such a small area. In the salty ocean water it was really easy to just float for awhile and watch the fish, periodically diving down deep to take a close look. I know that stretch of coral we saw is probably pretty plain compared to some of the top reefs in the world, so it really only kindled the beginning of an interest in diving. I would like to do more snorkeling or get a scuba license so I can do some more serious diving in the future.

Phil had a heavy-duty waterproof bag for his camera we used to take pictures underwater. We couldn't get crystal clear pictures, but it was enough to give an idea. These ones below don't really show how many different kinds of fish there were, but does show how many tiger fish were around.

Fish Underwater

Wes Snorkeling

Right as we were ending our boat trip, an extremely heavy rain came in. It was the rainy season during our whole trip in Southeast Asia. When we were in southern Thailand, it rained on schedule everyday in the afternoon, which was nice in that it cooled things down the rest of the day. In other places we didn't have such regular rain, which would have been nice when it got so hot.

Heavy Rains Coming In

Wes and Phil with Boat Driver

On the last day in Ko Phi Phi, we hiked up to the peak where you can get a nice view of the entire island area. From the viewpoint, you can see the thin strip of sandy land where the town is built. During the Asian tsunami a few years back, apparently the town got completely wiped out. Not a big surprise when you view it from above and see how unprotected it is. 

Town in Ko Phi Phi

Trees on Hike up to Viewpoint

The Sign Says it All

View of Bay

Don't Worry, This Dude Wasn't as White and Fat at the End of the Trip

That was pretty much our trip in Ko Phi Phi. It's a really beautiful island and although it is heavily touristed, you can still get some relaxation and enjoy some beautiful nature. As we were leaving the island and taking the boat back to Phuket, we had some great views with the sun out in full force. It was a nice way to give us a good lasting impression about Ko Phi Phi.

For more pics, see:

Monday, August 23, 2010


Our first stop in Southeast Asia was Singapore. It's an easy staging point to the rest of the region and a good starting point to enjoy the comforts of a developed city before diving into some of the less developed areas. We were also lucky enough to have a friend from Northwestern living in the city to show us around and take us to some of the top eateries in town.

Being a small island-city-country, Singapore doesn't have a huge number of tourist sites, but it's a very clean, modern city and seems like it would be a nice place to live. For a budget traveler like myself, it was a little on the pricy side, but there is still a lot to see walking around and exploring. Our first night we walked around the river area and met up with our friend Dylan.

Singapore Skyline with Lion Fish

Singapore Skyline

One of the interesting things about Singapore is the mix of people and fusion of a lot of the Asian cultures. From a western perspective, it might not be what we would normally consider diverse, but upon closer inspection, it's extremely diverse in the Asian sense. There's a mix of Chinese, Indian, Malays, and other Asian groups, with everyone speaking English as one of their native languages (although with a slightly funny accent the locals call Singlish).

The mix of Asian culture and cuisines also makes Singapore a great place for eating. Under the same roof of one of the food courts or food centers in town you can get Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, or other types of food.

Food Republic Food Court

Wes Eating Some Singapore Foodstuffs

Albert Center Food Court

Fruit Shakes

We spent the next day wandering around the city, seeing Chinatown, Little India, and the new Marina Bay Sands casino. We got rejected at the casino because we were wearing shorts and sandals, but with the heat and humidity in Singapore we didn't have any regrets about wearing shorts that day. We joked around that Singapore is one big mall, since it seemed like every block had a huge, air-conditioned mall, but at least it was a nice break from the heat. 

We didn't run into too many of the strict rules in Singapore, such as the no chewing gum law. Apparently you can bring gum with you into the country, but can't buy it in the stores there. The casino did have kind of a funny rule, though, in that for foreigners it is free to enter, but for Singapore citizens it requires 100 Singapore dollars (~ $75) to enter. Pretty pricy, but ensures they're mostly soaking the tourists and the rich at the casino. 

Little India

Temple in Little India

Mango Lassi in a Plastic Bag (Yogurt Drink)

Marina Bay Sands

Singapore Skyline

Marina Bay Sands

That night we did a night safari at the zoo in Singapore. It came highly recommended and was actually really cool. You walk around on paths with just a few lights lit up to see the animals. Besides the most dangerous ones, most of the animals are not caged, although you'll be separated by a ravine or some barrier. The best part was the flying squirrel and the fruit bat areas. Those areas are sectioned off so that the animals can't get away, but you can walk inside the cages where the animals are. When we were in the flying squirrel area, one of the squirrels jumped from a tree and hit a girl, making her scream pretty loud. The fruit bat area was pretty cool, too, with bats zipping around your head and stretching their wings out in front of you.

Fruit Bat Area (See Bat on Banana)

That night we had one of the best meals of our trip at the Newton Food Center, one of the "hawker centers". It's basically a big open air food center with all different kinds of food available. Some of the specialties in Singapore are the Chili Crab and Sting Ray, both of which were delicious. Our favorite ended up surprisingly being the Sting Ray, which was really tender and mild in flavor. Our friend Dylan took us there with his wife and treated us to a great meal, after which we were all stuffed to the brim.

Wes, Jaslyn, and Dylan

Newton Food Center

Chili Crab

Sting Ray


One other "delicacy" in Singapore is the Durian fruit. Durian has a really pungent smell and you can often catch a whiff of it wafting through the air throughout the city. It must be such a big problem in Singapore that they've outlawed it on the subway to avoid people getting asphyxiated in a confined space. I've tasted it before in China, but it doesn't seem as prominent there as in some of the Southeast Asian places we went. I really don't mind the taste, but it does leave an aftertaste for a long time and will result in Durian flavored burps for the better part of a day. It's supposedly very healthy for you and in China they always call it the king of fruits.

Durian (Although a Small One)

No Durians Round These Parts

We definitely enjoyed Singapore, especially the eating part of it. It was probably some of the best food we ate on the trip. It's a nice city and worth a visit.