Visiting Tioman Island in Malaysia: 5 Travel Musts

Visiting Tioman Island just off the coast of Eastern Malaysia takes a little bit of effort to get there, but is certainly worth the effort. Here are five ‘musts’ to help with your holiday planning:

Ensure that you choose the best time to visit Tioman Island

Being limited to school holidays, we often find it difficult to find places to visit in August, particularly in Asia. Tioman Island (Pulau Tioman) is best visited between March and October, which makes it an absolutely perfect destination for the summer holidays. The weather was understandably hot and humid, however, there was no rainfall and lots of clear skies when we visited in late August. Plus you are never more than a few hundred metres from the sea, wherever you stay.

View from deluxe bungalow at Paya Beach resort, Tioman Island
View from the bungalow at Paya Beach resort

Arrive early for the ferry to Tioman from Mersing

The sole ferry company operator between Mersing and Tioman is Blue Water Express. Despite it being relatively reliable for us, it is imperative that you arrive at the dock least one hour early, to ensure that you get a seat; particularly on your return journey. Whilst we got on without too much stress, there was a family who were not so lucky, and without chartering a private speed boat, were faced with being stuck on the island until the next day at least…

I would also ensure that luggage is minimal, clearly labelled with your accommodation name and that any expensive items are kept on your person. All bags get piled up in the middle of the boat; I still find it miraculous that we got them onto the motorbike side car of the hotel’s porter and that all four bags successfully met us at the hotel reception, which was a 6 minute walk from the jetty.

Dock at Paya Beach resort Tioman Island
Leaving the ferry on the Paya Beach Resort dock, Tioman Island

Eat outside of the main resorts

If you can survive a lunch or dinner without alcohol, eat at one of the cafes outside of the hotel resort-it cost us the equivalent of £9 for four burger and chips with soft drinks for lunch at Paya Beach Cafe Corner (please don’t judge us for our food choice: we wanted an alternative to chicken and rice!) compared with £25+ at the resort. The hotel restaurants are not unreasonably priced, and there are very basic convenience foods available on the island, but if you have any special food requirements or are travelling on a tight budget, then I would suggest that you some supplies with you.

Embrace Tioman’s snorkling and diving

Apart from the pristine beaches, under the sea is the island’s best asset, so be prepared to do some snorkelling or diving in order to appreciate this. The absolute best way is to go on a boat trip in order to get to the best snorkelling and diving spots. There are a wide choice of boat companies available, although to be honest, they don’t vary much in terms of price and itinerary, so we went with our hotel’s ‘in house’ activity centre who offered a wide range of things to do, both in and out of the water for a reasonable price (you are looking at about £10 per person for a half day snorkel trip).

Preparing to snorkel the coral reef in Tioman Island
Ready to explore the coral reef

Research your Tioman hotel resort thoroughly

Although it is only a small island, Tioman does have several varying resort areas, some more suited to backpackers and others such as Paya Beach Resort (where we stayed) that are more family orientated. What you do need to bear in mind however, is that the star ratings are perhaps not to the same standard as the ones in your own country, so you may need to adjust your expectations. There are not even any vehicles on the island and construction must be extremely challenging, so a Western toilet for example is considered highly luxurious and a source of pride!

Embrace the British seaside tradition: why Blackpool is so much more than chips and stag parties.

“So where is it this half term?” I was asked several times “Vegas…Egypt…Dubai?”

“Blackpool” I answered with some trepidation in my voice, prompted by preemptive thoughts of neon lights, run down souvenir shops and rowdy stag parties (fyi I saw just the one stag party and was quite impressed by the groom’s Colonel Kentucky outfit). Oh and that freezing northern climate 🥶

Dusk on the North Pier #nofilterneeded

Give Blackpool a well-deserved chance folks. A lot of money has been spent on its regeneration over the last few years, and Blackpool has managed to give itself a facelift whilst preserving a lot of its Victorian seaside charm. The promenade is immaculate, following a £100 million regeneration project, and the town itself is an awful lot smarter than many other UK beach resorts that we have visited over the years.

My favourite part about Blackpool is how it retains its authenticity as a traditional British beach resort. Wooden Victorian piers with family show bars, copious fish and chip shops, donkey rides and traditional fairgrounds still stand loud and proud, all under the watchful eye of the iconic Blackpool Tower.

The Tower complex is a great slice of history in itself, and is like stepping back 125 years in time. In a world of modernity and innovation, we genuinely enjoyed embracing tradition as we visited the circus, the ballroom, and of course the top of the tower itself (each of which is worthy of a potential blog post in its own right).

At the top of the tower

We were blessed with dry, clear weather, and the nippy temperatures were easily combatted with hats, scarves and gloves (there was the odd hardcore pair of shorts spotted at times😱-clearly not on the bottom half of a southerner!). And whilst the temperatures were cold, the reception was consistently warm. Blackpoolians are a friendly bunch who are proud of their town (a positivity which disguises the fact that Blackpool has 8/10 of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods: a valuable lesson for those of us who are often negative about our own, more affluent towns).

So thumbs up to an autumn visit to Blackpool from The Griffalo trail. Absorb the bustling atmosphere under the evening illuminations, eat fish and chips with a wooden fork on the seafront and get sucked into the hypnotic effect of the arcade 2p machine 😂

Braving the ‘Skywalk’ at the top of the tower!

More information can be found at Visit Blackpool, Visit Lancashire, Visit England, Blackpool Piers and the Family Adventure Project. For accommodation we always use AirBnB and managed to secure a great caravan at the local Haven Marton Mere park. All of our activities at the Tower (and also Madame Tussauds and the Sealife Centre) were included as part of our Merlin Annual Pass, and was one of the primary reasons for our visit.

The Speakeasy bar: a celebration of 1920s US rebellion

To me ‘Speakeasy’ bars conjure up images of enigmatic and illicit glamour, with the name itself going back to the whispered access passwords required during the 1920s prohibition era. Having managed to have a rare weekend away sans children a few years ago, we finally had an opportunity to visit a bar styled as a ‘speakeasy’, and went scouring the streets of Barcelona (not the classic setting I am aware!) looking for a dimly lit doorway, with a disguised bouncer awaiting our excited whispers of the secret password.

Unfortunately our expectations were not met. This ‘secret’ bar, only accessible through a fridge door inside the frontage of a pastrami bar, was lit up like the Blackpool illuminations, with a queue of at least twenty tourists waiting for their bit part in Bugsy Malone. After a thirty minute wait, we did eventually get let to a couple of recently vacated seats, but whilst the atmosphere was great, the premise was more of a ‘one cocktail photo opportunity,’ rather than spending a whole evening reliving the 1920s; sipping spirits, smoking cigars and listening to the gravelly tones of the local jazz band.

You cannot deny however, the colourful and almost revolutionary history behind the concept, which started off with the abolition of drinking saloons, which were only open to men. The prohibition era made alcohol a contraband substance-it was available for ‘medicinal’ or ‘religious’ purposes although I am not quite sure how this was governed. Those who liked a tipple would have had to resort to bootleggers or speakeasies, the latter of which taking the revolutionary step of welcoming female patrons. Table service, live music and an emergence of Italian cuisine actually made many of these venues a far cry from the dingy basement establishments that are often associated with the era. On the downside, importation of illegal alcohol led to an explosion in organised crime: it is rumoured that Al Capone made $60 million yearly through supplying and controlling speakeasy establishments in the 1920s.

‘Speakeasy’ bars represented freedom. Young couples were allowed to meet without parental introduction, women did not require chaperones and what went on behind those concealed doors, stayed behind them (with the help of a few bribes exchanging hands on a regular basis). Whilst I am entirely aware that bars and alcohol are a lot more accessible now, and that authenticity may be a little hard to find, I would love to try one or two more ‘Speakeasy’ bars around the world, just to see if there are any that have preserved the enigma of their American origins (yes I know, maybe the States may be the best place to start!). And even if there aren’t, a little bit of imagination in reliving and understanding their exciting past may be the key.

For more historical information about the Speakeasy tradition, visit these interesting articles from The Mob Museum, History.com and BBC News. Advice on visiting Barcelona can be found here and you can find the best things to do in this city in this blog post. Those interested in cocktails will find this article from Vinepair very informative and an extensive range of cocktail recipes can be found at TheBar.com. TheNudge.com brings you a guide to hidden bars in London, with further detailed guides at The Bon Vivant journal and WhereTraveller.com.

Kid’s parties: my insight into the lives of the ‘Marbs Millionaires.’

Picture the scene: beautiful parents in oversized shades sipping wine and politely conversing under the late afternoon Spanish sun. A venue dressed to look like a scene from a fairytale, and an ‘animation team’ waiting to cater to each child’s every whim, as an army of catering staff bustle around ensuring that everybody has a glass in one hand and a canapé’ in the other.

It is at this point that I make my grand entrance: straight from work, ID tag still round my neck, stressed, hot and dressed like a quintessential secondary school teacher (because I am, not because I channel that particular fashion) complete with sensible shoes and a hastily wrapped present in a supermarket carrier bag. How on earth did I manage to infiltrate this world I hear you ask?

I was a teacher at an international school in Marbella, and one of the ‘perks’ of the job was that my children were able to attend the school for free. It did essentially mean that my children were in classes alongside the offspring of millionaire entrepreneurs, ex-premiership footballers and local celebrities, and along with that came many an invitation to birthday extravaganzas. These weren’t just ‘drop offs,’ these were five (precious weekend) hours of wining, dining and entertainment, that you were encouraged to attend with your whole family.

Paper ‘foam’ party!

Whilst it sounded amazing, it was a steep learning curve. Like when I was really proud of myself for spending ages finding a nice ‘decorate your own mirror’ set on Amazon as a present, and then having to slot it in onto a gift table adorned with Dior and Gautier gift bags (next to a full sized gifted handcrafted tipi?!), spending the next four hours praying that they were not going to have some sort of ‘present opening ceremony.’ Or spending the best part of a year wondering WTF I was going to do for my two children’s birthday parties?

My daughter’s favourite party was based at a Marbella mansion where they turned the swimming pool into a giant foam party (I still recall a whole team of lifeguards looking slightly concerned when there were thirty seven year olds in a swimming pool disappearing beneath what looked like a giant bowl of fairy liquid bubbles!). And don’t forget the parrots. A full on show that involved parrots riding bicycles and lounging on deckchairs (ethically wrong in my humble opinion). They had guest spots at three separate parties. By the third time, my daughter actually got bored of watching it, and it was another one of the times when I pondered the effects of what were essentially ostentatious shows of wealth.

In case you were wondering, we generally stuck to self-catered home parties for our kids, with a bouncy castle and a couple of rounds of musical statues. Did our children enjoy these as much? Of course they did. Give any five year old an opportunity to eat junk food all afternoon and run around the garden with their mates, and happy memories will always be made.

Links for further reading:

  1. What you need to know before teaching in Spain by Andrea Palmer2. Where to find the best parties in Puerto Banus 3. Guide to Pool Parties in Marbella 4. The Ten Commandments for expats living in Spain 5. Spain expat forum 6. Teach in Spain 7. Visit Gibraltar 8. 10 reasons for Living in Malaga and the Costa del Sol. 9. International Schools in the Marbella Area 10. Marbella Party Supplies

Disneyland Paris. Malaysia. Sierra Nevada: the travel fails behind holiday photos

We essentially live in a fake photographic world at times, where filters brighten up a dull day, grumpy kids are bribed for that ‘perfect shot’ and the bad bits of the day: well they’re just never captured and merely filed into the depths of our memories. Sometimes negative travel experiences pop up as anecdotes at a wine-fuelled dinner party a few months later, when the dust has settled and they have made the transition from being disastrous to hilarious. So thinking about this has given me the inspiration to give a snapshot of some of the back stories behind our photos, and to share a few of the non-instagram worthy ones just for laughs…

Buffet dinner at the Hilton Doubletree, Johor

Take this photo of Owen in front of a delectable meat buffet in Johor for instance. The reality was that we had not had a decent dinner for THREE DAYS prior, due to a combination of takeaway deliveries that disappeared into a black hole, exasperatingly fussy kids and jet lag that put us out of synch with restaurant opening times. We hoofed down our buffet like a pack of hungry wolves, a vast contrast to the night before when we were grumpy, tired and lamenting our runaway pizza.

When the rain finally stopped at MGM Disneyland Paris

I love this photo of us with my parents, taken this February at Disneyland Paris. What it doesn’t tell you, is that it rained solidly for three hours, starting right from the time that we arrived at 8:30am for our magic ‘Magic Hour’ as Disney hotel guests. And that when I had frogmarched the whole family to the Ratatouille ride that I was so desperate to get on, it was shut. I can still remember how grim it was standing waiting for one of the shows, penned in like cattle with the rain lashing down. Luckily the weather and the day improved thereafter…

Sierra Nevada. The one sunny day; kids are only smiling for the photo!

We have tried to go on a skiing trip to enjoy it. Twice. And we had one day of decent weather from our two long (too long) weekends (pictured: funny that!). I still remember going up on that ski lift in what was essentially a giant fog, and believe that my crippling fear of heights (I keep trying to fight it!) did not kick in because I could only see two metres in front of me. The kids were freezing and our boots were giving us raging blisters. And yet we tried again. The actual worst memory from that trip was not the fact that it was too crowded to get on the green runs and I was too scaredy to get on the red. Our accommodation was only accessible by a single track road that ran down the edge of a cliff. There were no safety barriers, it was snowing hard and we actually got stuck on the second day. I still remember a) getting out the car and refusing to go any further and b) looking up on YouTube how to put on snow chains, whilst stuck half way up the cliff face, praying that no car came the other way. No wonder when we ask the kids if they prefer skiing or camping, the answer is always the latter!

And I’ll leave you with two classic shots of my daughter: the first when she did not get to be the princess in the lovely smiley family picture, and the second when I took her onto the Wickerman rollercoaster at Alton Towers, without realising how fast it was (don’t worry, she was fine straight afterwards!).

An unhappy pirate at Gullivar World Milton Keynes
On a rainy day on a rollercoaster that took us a little by surprise

Links to places mentioned in the article/articles of further interest: 1. Hilton Johor Buffet 2. Disneyland Paris 3. Sierra Nevada Ski Resort 4. Alton Towers 5. Gulliver Land Milton Keynes 6. Villages Nature Resort Disneyland Paris 7. Wickerman Rollercoaster Review 8. How to put on snow chains 9. The best things to do in Johor 10. 101 Disneyland Paris tips

Legoland Windsor: military planning, amazing theming and dirt cheap hotdogs…

We visit theme parks on an almost monthly basis due to having Merlin Passes, and our six year old son’s favourite is Legoland Windsor. I will be truthful: out of all of the places that we visit, Legoland is the one that is the most consistently packed, so I thought that I would give you a few insider tips to help you to maximise your enjoyment of the day.

Friendly Lego family

I am renowned for my military approach to days out, and if there is anywhere that needs a ‘military style’ early start, then it is Legoland. First and foremost, you need to be there for 9:35 (I did warn you!). The front gates actually open at 9:30am as opposed to the advertised 10am, so whilst there are no rides open, you can find your bearings, have a peruse around mini land (which is the centrepiece Lego display that features Lego tributes to famous places) and place yourself at the gate nearest to the rides that you are aiming for. Oh, and 9:35 means that you miss the initial stampede in-there’s nothing to gain by being part of that one.

Outside the Haunted House Monster Party


Before you visit, make a note of the rides that are your ‘must dos’ and head towards those first. Ninjago and The Dragon are two that we tend to head for first, and the haunted house ride is quite fun (it’s not scary at all: it rocks and gives the illusion of going upside down along to an addictive soundtrack). You can get the app which gives you all of the queue times, however, we have found these to be inaccurate at times, with some estimates being up to 30 minutes longer than reality. We particularly find this with Laser Raiders and Fire Academy. In essence, spend a busy morning doing as many rides as you can, then as the park fills up (and it will!) use the time to admire the exhibits and fantastic theming. The 4D cinema is great and always easy to get a seat-they have a rotation of different films (Lego City 4D is the best), so you could even go in two or three times during the day. And if you sit in a seat that looks wet when you enter..don’t expect to stay dry (although our kids moan if they don’t get the full water spray experience!).

Land of Ningago, our son’s favourite theming

Very important: the hot dog trick! We always take a flask of boiling water filled with hot dogs and then make them up for lunch. It’s best to rinse the flask with hot water once before filling it up, and then fill it up again with the boiling water and hot dogs. We take sachets of ketchup and serviettes too, and whilst this sounds slightly overkill, there is something extremely satisfying about getting a hot lunch and saving in excess of £20 each time (and to keep mentioning our savings to each other in a smug way!).

If you have the endurance and really want to get on a lot of rides, waterproof up and go on a wet day. When we went a couple of weeks ago; a sunny Saturday meant that all of the theme parks were full to the brim and we got on a mere two rides in an afternoon at Legoland, yet when we went to Chessington on a showery Sunday, we must have easily got on 25 rides.

Finally, if you have the time, join one of the numerous park Facebook groups, I use the Merlin Annual Passholders group, and the advice that you can get is amazing. I would also recommend that the rides in the park are suitable for children up to the age of ten; all of the theming is suitable for all ages, but I have seen a couple of bored moaning teenagers on one or two occasions! So there you go: if you brave it, at least you are now armed with a little extra advice. We have genuinely had some great days at the park, but the best days are the best planned….!

My favourite ride!

#legoland #legolandwindsor #merlinannualpass #merlin #merlinattractions #familydayout #themepark #daysoutwiththekids

Living in Spain and commuting to Gibraltar. Brexit: how it affected us.

Brexit. Yes, it has even made its way into an essentially lighthearted travelling blog, and whilst I cringe at the political mess in the UK parliament which is currently reminiscent of a primary school playground, this is not a rant, merely a reflection on the impact that it had on our little family.

From a rooftop pool in Gibraltar

Three years ago when the referendum took place, my family and I were living in the Costa del Sol in Spain where I was a teacher at an international school and my husband worked as a finance manager. The key link between Brexit and our situation, was that my husband worked in Gibraltar, and along with 15,000 others, did the daily commute to get to work across the border. We could not afford to live in Gibraltar, so this gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy the low cost of living and open spaces of Spain, balanced with the security of my husband’s employment. Being an international teacher afforded me a lot more flexibility in terms of getting an English speaking job, although we had welcomed our second child two months after arriving in Spain, so really, it took me almost two years to get my career back on track when I secured a job at a lovely school in Marbella.

Life was generally merry. Apart from the growing undercurrent of negativity that would eventually turn into more of a tidal wave: Brexit. It was the core of many a debate in the staff room; as British expats we all had a keen interest in the predicted outcome, although at the time, it was perhaps disregarded as ‘a storm in a teacup.’ I must admit, I checked my phone on the morning of June…. and actually felt a little bit sick inside. A metaphorical dark cloud hung over our end of year staff breakfast that day.

‘Stop being melodramatic!’ I hear you say. Well the implications were this: we lost 20% of our savings overnight as the pound did a nosedive and more importantly, there was the very real chance that crossing the border every day was going to jeopardise my husband’s job. One of Spain’s first reactions was to reiterate its desire to ‘take back’ Gibraltar. Further down the line Rhodri’s company did suggest that its employees moved to Gibraltar, but due to my job and the kid’s schooling, that was untenable. Who knows what will happen at that border beyond October 31st, but we did not hang around to be part of it.

Brexit alone did not make us move back to the UK, but it certainly played its part. I often get asked why we moved back, and some of the main reasons that I cite is the my husband’s double taxation, wanting the kids to do at least four years in the UK schooling system, and the massive property taxation for buying a house in Spain. But it it does have a place in our top five.

View from ‘the rock’

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being back in England after a decade away. I try to avoid arguments by not discussing Brexit, but I do wonder: in a year’s time, will Britain be Great once more? I will leave it for you to decide…

Malaga city: a cultural gem

Malaga is often merely seen by the British holiday maker as the airport that provides the gateway to the popular ‘package destinations’ in the Costa del Sol, and as a city, it is often overlooked by it’s neighbouring city travel destinations such as Granada and Seville. However, Malaga is a gem in its own right, and offers everything from the cultural delights of its cathedral and museums, to relaxed beach cocktails and barbecued sardines at the ‘chiringuito’ beach bars.

Apartment with a view

Families can often be put off with the idea of a city break, and I must admit that I was glad when we could ditch the buggy, and were able to navigate Malaga’s winding cobbled streets and squeeze into lovely authentic tapas bars without having to apologise every ten seconds for inadvertently bashing into somebody. One of my daughter’s favourite places to ‘hang out’ in the evening was Artsenal, an eclectic museum/bar/music venue that was set under the road(!) by Malaga’s port, which came alive at night time with live bands and great cocktails set against a backdrop of fabulous local artistry. There, families were welcomed, and you could lounge around on their pallet furniture and comfy cushions whilst watching the sunset, accompanied by the ever changing rotation of local bands and DJs. As many have correctly said before me, children are very welcome in Spain, all the way through the evening into the small hours should they have the stamina! Even after living in Spain for six years, I still found it amusing when a family (complete with toddlers and grandparents) would sit down for their evening meal in a restaurant at 11pm!

Artsenal mural

The beauty of Malaga city is that it is easily navigable (lots of good tips in Guide to Malaga) and the general advantage of the British traveller is that we are often up and about far earlier than our Spanish friends, so it is easy to beat the crowds (and then be deemed very strange by the locals when we are eating lunch whilst they are on their breakfast!). You also have great diversity, from the cultural charms of the old town, to the cosmopolitan feel of the shopping district and cruise port, right through to a sandy beach where the kids can entertain themselves when walking around takes its toll on little feet. We stayed in a flat in the port, and felt that this was the best family option; the package holiday companies have not stretched out towards Malaga city, which almost preserves its authenticity, particularly when the cruise ships have departed. Malaga gets extremely hot during the summer season, but is perfect in spring or autumn. If you want a real treat, go and see the Malaga Christmas lights: a strong competitor to the London lights and you can even eat your lunch ‘al fresco’ without your coat on!

Why did we move to the Cayman Islands? The 4500 mile leap of faith…

Why did we move to the Cayman Islands? It is a question that I still get asked many times (followed by LOTs of others!), even though after ten years of expat living across two continents, we are now back in Blighty. I hasten to add, that I come from a close family who were understandably surprised, yet incredibly supportive across the decade that we were out of the UK.

To be honest, as young twenty-somethings, my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) and I did not really have to think about too many factors. The obvious was the place and the job prospects; having to worry about kids and houses was four years in front of us. I admire those who emigrate with a family, we were in that situation when we moved to Spain, and boy do those priorities change (cue trying to negotiate a nursery space in extremely Spanish) !

My husband works in finance and I am a secondary school teacher, so we used a process of elimination in order to determine places that suited our relatively meagre requirements. We wanted good weather, widely spoken English and a higher standard of living that the one that we had living in a small flat in East London. I really only knew about the Cayman Islands on two counts: a documentary called ‘No Going Back’ where a couple got to experience life in Grand Cayman, and John Grisham’s ‘The Firm.’ It was as shallow as that. How simple life was back then.

So obviously we started to do our research about cost of living, work opportunities, visas etc. We managed to get in contact with a lovely company called Stepping Stones who basically sorted everything out for us. Rhodri was almost guaranteed a job within weeks of our arrival, and my secretarial skills (thank you GCSE Office Studies!) meant that I had a good chance of getting some temping work until a teaching role came up. They also arranged for us to stay with an English expat couple until we could find accommodation of our own.

Essentially though, we left two good jobs, packed two suitcases apiece and moved 4500 miles across the world. If I could turn back the clock and do it all over again, would I? You betcha!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What did I learn from Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai?

So we’ve been back for a few weeks now, the kids are back at school, and whilst the weather Gods have blessed us with a relatively sunny September so far, our holiday seems yet a distant memory. Distant but solid, I would hasten to add.

I have now had the time to ponder some of the new knowledge that this year’s travel has given me, and also how it could possibly shape our travel choices in the future.

Malaysia. Land of contrasts.

What did I learn from Malaysia? A cliche that can possibly apply to 80% of the countries on earth, but it’s diversity. Had we have stayed in Johor and never visited Tioman island, we would have had such a single view of this multi-faceted country with its towering city silhouettes and dense jungle just 30 minutes down the road. Time permitting, new countries for us in the future will need to have at least two stops, and we will try to pick the most contrasting environments possible in which to stay.

The paradise that is Tioman island was somewhat marred by the lack of thought that has been given to recycling and sustainability. Whilst there is a long way to go in the UK in terms of plastic use and recycling, we are twenty years ahead of some of these places. Litter and plastic were an unfortunate reality in some of the ares that we visited in Malaysia, and I wondered what the root cause of this may have been. Apathy? Lack of understanding about environmental damage? Who knows, but seeing litter and plastic on the beach and on the jungle paths made me wonder what some of these islands and coral reefs will look like in twenty years time without intervention.

Malaysia is the 8th worse country in the world for plastic pollution. Photo courtesy of juice online.com

Singapore. Efficiency personified.

From Singapore, I learnt how antiquated our London Underground is. Their metro system is light years ahead of the tube. I did wonder how it must feel for some of these high-flying Singaporean executives to be getting on the Bakerloo line, and exiting a sweaty, squashed mess, with the smell of urine clinging on to their nostril hairs.

I also learnt that it really is a safe place to be: we stayed in the red light district and whilst a little precarious perhaps five years ago, I did not feel unsafe walking around with my family. Yes, we saw ‘business occurring’ all around us, but I think that the only downside from being in an area like this is having some choice questions from your kids. In the future though, I would do a greater level of research as to why we have procured an apartment at half the regular rate of all of the others!

Photo: visitSingapore.com

Dubai. Opinions from trodden paths.

I refer back to my previous post about Dubai, wherein I sung its praises and marvelled at how different it turned out to my expectations. The one main lesson that I learnt from here, is to let go of preconceived ideas about future visits, and to realise that every body’s view is subjective and strongly based on situational circumstances. For example, had we not stayed ‘all inclusive,’ would we have hated the high costs of wining and dining? If we had not stayed centrally, would the constantly travelling around impacted our enjoyment?

Only form opinions on the paths that we have trodden. Empty your mind of expectation and create your own memories, without the undercurrent of opinion affecting your own perceptions (I feel like this needs to end on Amen!).