Ipoh’s beautiful old town

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Ipoh has a old fashioned, relaxed way about it. The old city area is full of historic buildings, beautiful architecture and photo opportunities on every corner as well as some fantastic kopitiams, including two of Ipoh’s most well known Tean Chun & Kong Heng, which happen to be next door to each other.

Check out some of our Ipoh food adventures here!

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Sydney : Rose Seidler House

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The name Harry Seidler brings up a bit of controversy in Sydney. He was born in Austria in the 1920s and moved to England, Canada, the USA and finally Australia where he spent the majority of his life. He has made a pretty massive contribution to the face of Sydney and designed some impressive and innovative buildings, including my favourite; the Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga 23km outside of the Sydney CBD.

Harry Seidler designed the Rose Seidler House for his mother. When she died it was turned into a living musuem, as part of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales along with some pretty impressive and historically important buildings such as Vacluse House and Elizabeth Farm.

Rose seidler house sign

The building is amazing, it’s practically untouched since her death in 1991 and full of original furniture. The kitchen still has original appliances the building itself is still visually striking and original, sixty years on.

As the Historic Houses Trust website states “Bored with the monotony of suburbia? So was Harry Seidler when he arrived from America in 1948.”

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Instagram, our week in pictures 1st – 7th June.

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It’s June!? I can’t believe it… Summer is (possibly) in full swing in Europe, and winter is starting to kick in here.

This week was mostly filled with more eating, and another visit to Vivid Sydney.

On her day off, whilst I was busy earning a crust Jessica took herself off to Taronga Zoo with her friend, Lee. I have already been on two previous occasions so was pretty glad for someone else to tag along. I think the giraffes here have a better view than most people in Sydney.

We also took (another) visit to possibly our favourite place in the whole city, Gelato Messina.

They take gelato making to another level and get a bit crazy with the flavour combos. This week we tested the apple pie flavour, apple flavour ice cream, with real apple pie pastry, caramelised apple chunks and cinnamon. So nice. They also have an ice cream cake shop and sell a ‘Royale With Cheese’, miniature burger made from ice cream and other sweet creations. Step aside Heston.

We also managed to find somewhere that sells decent Vietnamese pho. Winning week.

Check out our other posts here, & come join us on instagram, our usernames are @jessica__smart & @btone6seven.

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Siem Reap & the Angkor Wat Historical Park.

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We previously wrote a piece on daily budgets for India, but didn’t write on for South East Asia – $25 (USD) per person per day, is a well reported figure online and we think is about right to cover backpacker style accommodation, basic food from cheap restaurants or street vendors and the odd beer. We thought it might be useful to note basic costs for visiting Angkor Wat on a backpacker budget.

 Visiting Siem Reap & the Angkor Historical Park will cost more than $25 dollars per day.

Park entry

There are three ticket options for visiting the Angkor Historical Park.

A one day ticket costs $20 (USD). A three day pass, valid to be used within a week is $40 and a seven day pass, which has to be used within one month is $60.

We used a three day pass for three consecutive days. We saw and did a lot we could easier have spent another day or two in the complex. A one day ticket would probably never be enough, you would briefly pass through all the popular/famous temples and not even see them properly, let alone visiting some of the quieter temples.

Transport

Angkor Wat is located 5-10Kms from Siem Reap, depending on where you’re staying. There are several transport options.

A car and driver are available for around $25 USD per day, often with air conditioning.

A tuk-tuk and driver are available for around $15 – 25 USD per day, depending on whether you’re staying in the main temple area, or planning to head out to places such as Banteay Shrei (32km from Siem Reap). Tuk-tuks are loads of fun and provide a nice breeze and respite from the heat and humidity. It’s your choice, don’t let a tuk-tuk driver choose you. There is a lot of competition in Siem Reap and people can be pretty in your face about offering you a ride… If you don’t feel comfortable with someone, you’re not obliged to use their services.

Moto Taxi’s are available for zipping around Angkor for around $10 a day, but are only suitable for one person. May cost more to travel further afield, and potentially more dangerous than a tuk tuk. May well invalidate your travel insurance also.

Bicycles are a great way to get around, but you need to be really fit, and able to cycle from the Siem Reap to the Historical park, as well as around it. You won’t get to go as far afield on a bike and you will have to put up with the heat and humidity, but I guess it depends on what you want to get out of the experience. The roads however are pretty good quality for cycling, and cheaper than a tuk tuk or private car.

Walking is another option, as with cycling you can’t go as far afield and will be in the sun all day.

With private cars, tuk-tuks and moto taxis make sure you are all clear on how long you are paying for, and how much – agree on a time period and a price before jumping in. It can save a lot of confusion and and potential confrontation at the end of the day. It would suck to have such a small thing ruin what should be an otherwise awesome experience.

Guides

Apparently an English language guide is available for around $25 USD per day, more for less common languages.

Personally, I’m not so keen on the idea of a guide, and many of the tuk-tuk drivers know a fair bit about the different temples anyway. The difference between a guide, and a tuk-tuk driver is the standard of English, but we found our tuk-tuk captain to be a informative, friendly guy. This is entirely down to luck though…

Money

Cambodia has a national currency, the Riel, however most places list prices in US Dollars and take dollars as their primary currency. To complicate matters further you may often receive small change in riels, not dollars.

It’s really useful to have an exchange app on your phone to work out costs. We use the XE app; it’s free and lets you store ten currencies and will exchange rates without an internet connection. Winner!

Make sure you have some small bills, a lot of businesses in Siem Reap wont be able accept or be able to give change for bigger notes. It’s not all about the benjamins.

Accommodation

Accomodation options in Siem Reap are endless, my guidebook suggests “There are now more guest houses and hotels around Siem Reap than there are temples around Angkor”, and a search on Hostelbookers showed more than 100 options. There is a lot of choice, and options to suit all budgets but the demand is there also, several hundred thousand (probably more…) people pass through Siem Reap to visit Angkor each year.

We stayed in a double with shower/en suite as we did in most places in South East Asia for around $20 per night. The standard was as good as anywhere else in Asia we have stayed, although maybe slightly more expensive. We specifically looked for a hotel with a pool. We thought it would be a nice way to end the days after tramping around temples soaked in sweat – it was one of the best choices we made on our South East Asia trip.

Food

At Angkor Historical Park there are a number of places you may be taken for lunch, the two we went to were overpriced and pretty bland. $6/7/8 for a pretty average stir fried meat, veg and rice. If you want to save your money, take your lunch with you, or arrange beforehand to go offsite for lunch.

 Weather

Cambodia is hot, and humid. Get out as early in the day as possible. Around nine or ten in the morning the humidity becomes pretty stifling when you’re trekking about and climbing up steep steps. We visited in early December, which was apparently the cooler season. November through to February is apparently the premium, cooler dry season but with that expect lots of tourists around this time and high levels of humidity.

Realistically, it’s mostly going to be pretty busy unless you’re prepared to visit in the wet season, or when the temperature rises to around 40ºc.

Practicalities

Wear decent shoes! The paths are uneven and stony, there is also plenty of gooey moss around. Girls, make sure you are well dressed. Long dresses and covered arms will ensure you won’t offend the many practising religious folks at Angkor. It also means you get to visit ALL the temples – Phimeanakas, for example had an enforced dress code when we visited and a sea of under-dressed girls were left at the entrance.

Plan ahead and try to visit the more popular temples when they are less likely to be busy – lunchtime for example,or dawn when almost everybody will be watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat.

 Siem Reap town

As this is an incredibly tourist driven city there are A LOT of beggars, mostly children. It’s heart wrenching to ignore children telling you ‘I don’t want money, just buy me some food’ they could well be part of a scam where they sell the products back to the shop and split the money 50-50. Also these children are often being used and exploited by a gang running the scams. As harsh as sounds if you engage with them, and give them money, they will not break the cycle, they will continue to go without an education, and will spend their entire lives destitute and begging. If you want to help, there are many places in Siem Reap and surrounding areas where you can volunteer your time.

The same can be applied to children selling souvenirs in the Angkor Historical Park. They are going to work instead of school – it’s a moral judgement as to whether you buy something from them, We bought some postcards from a boy; he was probably around nine, but I am absolutely sure he went to school as well. I spoke with him about his life, and I negotiated that he had to teach me some Khmer if I bought his postcards. I have no doubt he will do well for himself, he was clever and his English was fantastic but there will be children in similar situations who will spend their whole life selling crap to tourists, never breaking the cycle, whose children won’t go to school either.

The town itself is an unusual place, it’s got such a high concentration of tourists it feels almost like a European holiday resort, there are bars and restaurants everywhere, and it’s not hard to find somewhere to eat. ‘Pub street’ in the heart of the backpacker area is full of restaurants, I imagine prices are slightly inflated with comparable restaurants in the rest of Cambodia, We unfortunately cannot compare as we didn’t have time to visit any other areas of Cambodia.

Bartering

Siem Reap is full of markets, if you want to buy some souvenirs, or some ‘replica’ items there are loads of choices, barter hard and walk away if you’re not happy, there are a hundred other people probably selling the same thing.

With regards to tuk-tuks or drivers, and guides we’ve read online you can barter them down a little bit, but why would you? $15 to employ a driver all day, and for him to wait around for you whilst you’re busy pretending to be Indiana Jones (was it just me?) is a really cheap price for a westerner to pay. What difference is a couple of dollars going to make to you? What you pay them is probably their daily wage, and they all have families to feed just like anyone else – Don’t be a dick.

We didn’t attempted to barter with our tuk-tuk captain and he made every effort to help us, he told us what types of food we should try, and offered to buy our water for us at locals prices rather than tourist prices, he also told us everything he knew about each temple. He was awesome, we were really lucky and I would have felt a dick if I had tried to shave a few dollars off.

All prices are in US Dollars,and based on our visit in December 2012.

**Check out our other posts on Angkor, including temples here & here.**

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Instagram, our week in pictures 25th – 31st May.

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another week has disappeared and we are fortunate enough to say the Sydney rains haven’t joined us, yet.

Weve mostly been trying to get a chance to check out the Vivid Sydney events. During the cooler off season Sydney puts on a great sensory spectacle of lights, music and installation art – It was pretty good; even with a million people camped out with their tripods taking picture after picture of the Opera House.

 

 

Sydney had been in the grips of fog from the start of the week, and I took this picture of the Westfield tower from our break room at work, i’m pretty lucky to have a view over Hyde Park at the best of times, but with the fog it was awesome.

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The fog

And just some general, everyday pictures of us doing hipstery things such as taking pictures of our food at a ‘Vietnamese tuckshop’ and checking out some art & galleries in Sydney.

Check out last weeks post here, & come join us on instagram, our usernames are @jessica__smart & @btone6seven.

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Instagram, our week in pictures 18-24th May.

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This morning, whilst I was taking the dog for a spin I took some pictures of Autumn, I noted to myself (and the dog) about what wonderful photos I had taken this week and as such declared (again, to the dog) I should create a slot in this little online place for a weekly Instagram update. We both love Instagram (Jess and I; not the dog), it’s fun disposable photography. I don’t have to carry a camera around everywhere and a don’t have to faff about on Photoshop, I can just put a cool little treatment on it and instantly it’s out there in the hipster world…

So partly as a way to make sure we create a post at least once a week (I’ve been very slack in Australia) and as a bit of a ‘here’s what we’ve been upto this week’ kind of thing, mostly for ourselves because it’s nice to look back at photos. Also, I’ve not been writing my travel diary in Australia either; page after page of ‘I got up went to work, ate a sandwich and came home to look a memes and watch re-runs of Criminal Minds’ is really quite uninteresting.

Here is my compromise.

'Extreme Gelato'

‘Extreme Gelato’

So last weekend like typical tourists we went for ice cream in (nearly) winter. Went went to N2, to eat ‘extreme gelato’. It’s a pretty crazy science themed place in Chinatown where the staff were lab coats, and all the ingredients are stored in conical flasks. The ice cream is made to order using kitchenaid’s and some sort of nitrogen – it’s quite the spectacle when the nitrogen is poured in and it looks like some fifities b-movies with fog everywhere; or a Top Of The Pops in the nineties when they had so much dry ice you could never see below anyones knees. The flavours are pretty left field too. We had earl grey caramel & buttered popcorn (with actual popcorn in it!) basically, I can’t recommend this place highly enough. Nomnomnom.

We’ve been very pleased to (finally) find one of our favourite Asian snacks in Sydney. Tao Kai Noi, spicy seaweed snacks are unfortuantely not 20 Baht. Weep.

Lastly very pleased to announce Jessica, the future Helen Levitt of Sydney has had one of her photos featured on the City of Sydneys Facebook page. Riches and awards are to be bestowed upon her forthwith.

The money shot

The money shot

Come join us on instagram, our usernames are @jessica__smart & @btone6seven.

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Sydney : Bondi Graffiti.

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Bondi is another area of Sydney with a great street art scene, the promenade all along the famous beach is painted with bright, vibrant images.

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Interested in Sydney? Check out some more culture, tips and articles here.

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