April 23, 2010

golden ticket

my whole life i have been in a hurry to get to the next place wherever that might be.  it wasn't any different yesterday when i left Tioman for KL.  it took all day and ended with me riding the subway in KL at 7PM looking for my hotel i booked and wondering what the hell i was doing.  i'm sure it didn't help that my back was on fire and itching with a combination of sunburn, jungle rot and bug bites.  in the end it all worked out great.  i'm staying in the chinatown area which was crazy with vendors and cheap knockoff.

i was looking forward to trying the fish pedicure where you put your feet into a tank filled with doctor fish [Caroline did this and told me about it] but it felt like bugs swarming on my feet and i couldn't do it. 

this morning i took the metro into the city center.  it's not user friendly and mostly by dumb luck i end up at my destination which is Petronas Towers and queue for a ticket to the skybridge.  there's a limited number of tickets given per day so i walk away like i'm the winner of a golden ticket for willie wonka's chocolate factory.   it was cooler to see the building than to ride up to the skybridge which took over an hour because of the lines and security and the required 15 minute commercial about Petrona.  here's the shot from the bridge.

what was really cool is they built a beautiful symphony hall in the Towers and i got a ticket [no line] for a performance tonight of a Malaysian performance.

April 22, 2010

monkey 01 jeanne 00

i spend a lazy day on the beach.  i hate to encourage the indigenous animals to eat off the tourists so i shoo away the monkey when it comes onto my porch looking for a snack. it snarls at me and i remember how ebola is spread through monkey bites.  i'm not even in Africa and it's the first thing i think of when i see monkey teeth. i have nothing but an empty potato chip bag so i back down pretty quickly, okay immediately, and let him have it.  fucker.

i'm off to Kuala Lumpar.

April 20, 2010

night of the bug attack

after a couple of days in ABC the Canadian and I store our bags, take a toothbrush and sleep clothes, and hike over to Juara. it's about 2.5 hours through the jungle and it's hot. it's hard to explain the amount of sweat it is possible to generate in the jungle climbing uphill. since there is no fixed path they say this is an unspoiled jungle walk.

there are trees along the way where they are collecting rubber and the only other guys i see on the path find a purple crab. wait, there was one old man who i passed. he had a half burnt cheroot hanging out of his mouth and a huge knife on his belt. he says "Juara?" out of the side of his mouth and i reply, "yes". he walks on by. until just a few years ago the path was the only overland route to Juara but now they have put in 'road'. as the path widens a 5 foot snake cross my path and also the monitor lizards are everywhere. still Juara remains an isolated little used bay with meager accommodations. the beach and water are pristine.
 
last night i slept with the windows open in my room. it was late and i was reading with the light on when a big [like four inches] bug flew into my room and attacked the light, shutting it down. i was doing a freaked out dance for a few minutes. outside i looked for the kind man who runs the bungalows but he was gone to bed. the only person around was a drunk girl wandering back and forth. i summoned all my courage, grabbed my headlamp and chased the bug out. gosh i'm proud of me. tonight i'll sleep with the windows shut but that will always be the night of the bug attack.

i'm making friends with the troll who runs the internet access on the island. although they have internet he doesn't seem to really understand the wireless part. since i have been using my laptop he is awed by the magic and has started letting me use the internet for free.

April 19, 2010

beach, snorkeling & fresh fish

Tioman island is spectacular. we arrive by ferry at ABC and run up and down the beach looking for accommodations. there are five of us in the group and we each find accommodations just steps from the beach. we swap clothes for swimsuits and are in the water in less than 5 minutes from checking in.

it's perfect then BOOM. i feel a sharp bite on my leg and look down to see a fish making it's getaway. we get hit a couple of times and i think they are baby barracudas. we check out the village and stop at a place for dinner and the sunset.
i am sharing accommodations with a Canadian. my share of the room is 17 ringets [$5.34 US]. food is fantastic. fish is caught daily and fruit is plentiful. a typical meal in Malaysia is running 10 - 15 Ringits which is $3-$4 US.

the next day we hike through the jungle to Monkey Bay. it's not a strenuous hike but the path is overgrown and it's really more of an electrical line repair access than a path. also, it's the jungle so it's really hot and we sweat buckets all the way. at one point the monkeys are angry and throw fruit down on us. fortunately we had snorkel gear and could use the fins as shields for our heads but they didn't have very good aim so i didn't get hit anyway. finally, we find our way and it is worth every drop of sweat. we have the whole bay to ourselves and it is spectacular. the snorkeling there is pristine. the coral is green and blue and pink which attracts a variety of colorful fish. it is isolated, peaceful and clean.

it's an hour back and it's already 4PM. here's the thing. all the food vendors shut down between 4PM and 7PM so if you don't eat before it's a three hour wait. as soon as someone tells you can't eat... that's exactly the time you'll want to eat.
everywhere there is talk of the volcano eruption in Europe and how it will affect the plans of travelers who plan to fly there in the next few days.

tomorrow we are hiking across the island to the village of Juara where we plan to stay a night or two. thankfully there are no starbucks on the island so there is no temptation. instead i drink coffee offered at cafes along the way. usually 1-2 Ringets [.30 - .75 US]

did i mention how much the locals hate to break big bills? it's crazy but i remember this attitude from traveling before. if you don't have exact change it can take quite a long time for them to find it for you. as a result i'm hording all my 1 Ringet notes. it's like carrying around a bag of pennies in the US.
 
there is a troll that runs the only internet access on the island.  there is another one but the modem is broken and could take a month to get repaired.  the troll sleeps to 11am and closes at whatever time he is drunk or stoned.

April 17, 2010

old dutch stuff

political conflict in Bangkok. i love the right of the people to participate in the political process. there are as many opinions about the conflict as there would be if it was taking place in the US. the violent protests are localized to a small area of Bangkok. so while i remain interested and monitor the situation i am not concerned about safety as i have no plans to travel to Bangkok or anywhere near it. from talking to the people here it seems this is just a power grab by the party not in power. in any case i'll be leaving my red and yellow shirts in Malaysia.


i arrived in Melaka from Singapore and had a look around. it's hot here. there are some old dutch buildings and a bunch of new stuff. after Singapore it seems dirty and chaotic and lacking in any charm.  i'm not the only one who thinks so either.  the locals feel since it received the UNESCO historical site certification it has become overdeveloped. i'm looking for a beach to sit on for a few days so i will head off to Palau Tioman.  haven't seen a starbucks yet.

the guest house in Melaka is run by a wonderfully outgoing Malaysian named Howard. each night he would take a group for a bike ride city tour and stop for dinner.

April 13, 2010

indonesia

Indonesia was a unique experience. i was able to see the factories that make all the crap we buy. i also saw the buildings that house the workers, earning less than US$200 monthly, who live at the factory so they can make all the crap we buy. i visited a local Indonesian family who had a store and lived in some rooms in the back. the whole place was less than 500 square feet without running water.

the local market was filled with the cheap clothing and household goods that the Indonesians buy. there was a section that was an open air food market. the flies and overwhelming smell of rotting food had me making a very fast exit. along the way i tried several new fruits the only name i remember is the dragon fruit.

we went to the mall where it as packed. you can get anything there. i had a 1 hour massage for $12 US. on the ferry ride back there was a boarding by the Singapore coast guard. they take security very seriously. in the subways they have video screens with graphic photos of the London bombings with warnings about terrorism.

Ricky has been a phenonmenal Singapore host and i am glad to have met him. we had many discussions about the economic, political and social enviornments of southeast aisa which will help me better understand the cultures i am traveling through.

Ricky stops at starbucks on our way to the ferry but i decline.

April 12, 2010

singapore

it’s been rainy in Singapore but not really a problem yet. i’ve ducked into a few museums and missed it for the most part. i borrowed an umbrella from my hotel but can see an investment in my own coming up soon. the asian civilizations museum was interesting but i was too lazy to read all the signs myself so i took the guided tour. pretty much what i learned is that people have been doing weird shit for or because of religion for a long time. Last night I connected with Scott’s friend Ricky here for dinner and tour of the central business district which is beautifully lit at night.

the sign at the deli today said pig organ soup was the special. can’t wait to see what they are serving in Indonesia. Ricky is taking me for the day to Indonesia which is just across the water from Singapore.

Singapore is as advertised. small, ultramodern, clean, super safe and the food fantastic. around the city are food courts with food choices as mixed as the cultures here. the people are well educated, traveled and friendly. i am staying in the area called little India which is self explanatory. the economy here is thriving and quite healthy. i guess they have a bunch of the jobs that used to be in the US.

no starbucks today although the green circle taunts me from street corners.

April 9, 2010

asupicious beginings

if there is something to recommend about 22 hours of plane time it is that point in time when the exhaustion overrides the excitement of the trip and you are so tired you can finally sleep. for me that was just before tokyo.

united wouldn't let me check in for the flights to singapore which i had suspected could be a problem with a one way ticket and anticipating this i had booked a bus from singapore to malacca in malaysia for proof of onward travel. even with this documentation united was unhelpful and required i purchase a return flight before i could check in. i took my boarding passes and new ticket receipt, went through security and immediately called to cancel and get a full refund on my ticket [i asked and got the ticket agent to waive my $30 ticketing fee].

here i have to vent because this is the perfect example of again where we are so completely caught up in bureaucratic processes that common sense is left behind. in the back of my mind there is a thought forming that perhaps if even united airlines thinks this is a bad idea then perhaps the universe is sending me a message.

flying over alaska, the bering sea and russia was amazing. the mountains were completely covered in snow and looked so treacherous with big ribbons of water winding through like a huge maze. over the bering sea the ice floes were still covering the water and watching, even from 37000 feet was mesmerizing.

in tokyo there was a long line for the women's restroom and an old asian woman jumps the line and bangs on doors until someone comes out. i can appreciate showing respect for elders but it felt like instead of others honoring her it was she who was disrespecting others. there were snorts from younger asian women in the line but no one said anything.

as the anticipation of my trip mounted i was balancing separation anxiety with my laptop which i knew was too heavy to carry with me. in a last minute decision [literally hours before being dropped at the airport] i picked up a sub note book which i've been using to skype and access the internet. my anxiety over being disconnected is less although i keep hearing the phantom vibrations of my blackberry and i wonder how long that will last.

starbucks is everywhere and i'd like to complete the trip without ever stopping into one but i'm feeling weak already. it's like i can feel it calling to me from my room in little india. 'come here, it's cozy, i'll give you magic powers'.

April 1, 2010

gone to find fortune teller

all the required reading is done. after what feels like 100 trips to REI, Target, Barnes and Noble, Petco and Amazon all the shopping is done.

after easter i say goodby to willie and settle in for a 22 hour flight to Singapore where i arrive at midnight.

i expect updates to be sporadic as someplaces might be a little light on access.  despite all the shopping i am traveling quite lite.  a large daypack is all i am taking.  i hope i have choosen well for this open ended trip.