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Preview: Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia





Updated: 2016-06-11T11:45:27.823-07:00

 



I wish....

2007-03-24T20:54:59.755-07:00

Getting used to Canada is a hassle.
No Tuk Tuk drivers to bargain with, no friendly local Thai to return my smile, and no attractive backpacker or local ladies around.

Everyone I meet seems to be fascinated by the fact that I actually took time from my comfortable Canadian life to travel in a different country. Is it so difficult to imagine yourself traveling? Sure you might have to get used to the language barrier, smells, scams, and the occasional mafia but if I can do it anybody else can do it.

I am not a different person in any aspect. I am just a regular guy that used to have a regular job with regular western desires (money, girls, power, girls, etc...). Please don't give me credit for spending my money on a trip that I wanted to go on.

After describing some of the places that I have been to on my journey and telling them stories of my experiences there the usual reply that I receive is "Wow, I wish I could do that". The truth is everybody I know can do what I did and probably more. It does not take a prodigy to travel in foreign lands. I've met ladies (who are BTW very admirable and brave not to mention hot) who risked rape, murder, robbery, and many other none pleasant things of travel to experience India - known to be one of the toughest places to backpack.

Please quit telling me that you wish. As I have quoted in my past entry "You are never given a wish without the power to fulfill it".

As for my stories, perhaps I should charge $$ as I am currently out of a job...



Oh Canada..

2007-03-15T00:49:16.418-07:00

Back home after 23 hours of flight, 10 hours in transit, and 3 crappy movies.

Things haven't changed much since I took off to SE Asia 2 months ago. Everyone working the same job, everyone with the same blank look on their faces, everyone slaving away for their piece of the "American Dream".

Why do we work the same job that we dislike?

For family? So that they can have the little piece of scrap left of you after you give yourself to the will of your betters for 8 hours?

For Happiness? Every country that I visited in SE Asia as very little middle class. And even though I would claim that the general populace is happier than the average north american, the happiest of the bunch was always found far from "civilization"; far from cities, in the remotest parts of the country with barely any material goods other than a home, food grown from the earth, and the water that either comes down in rain or hauled away from nearby rivers. Same people, same needs, different standards. Their smiles were the most kind, generous, authentic, self giving, audacious, and warm enough to melt the polar ice cap. They are happy by just being happy. Most Canadians I know have to tell themselves that they are happy.

For money? Is money the be all and end-all of our civilization? Must we give up our God given rights in order to make money?

For $24 an hour I gave up my freedom of speech and forgot the fact that I am honest and authentic. I was let go because I called 1 customer who was in fact lazy a "lazy ass". This was on the second day that I arrived in Canada.

I am free.



Luang Prabang

2007-03-01T04:11:07.519-08:00

The most relaxing city that I have been to on my trip so far..

Luang Prabang still has the french colonial atmosphere with the baguette sandwiches and awesome cups of coffee in every single cafe. The coffee in Luang Prabang is unlike any other coffee served in any other part of the world. It is so strong that it is served with a water chaser so the caffeine does not damage the drinker's stomach.

I came here to stay for 2 days and ended up staying for 5. Never in my life have I spent an entire day just chilling at the local cafe reading news paper, drinking coffee, and watching the locals and the tourists go by.

It's as if time refuses to add the usual urgency that one can feel in the big cities of developed countries.

I fell in love with Luang Prabang...


"You are never given a wish without the power to fulfill it. However, you may have to work hard." - Illusions



Laos

2007-02-27T21:28:41.304-08:00

My guide book says that travelers who go into Laos from any other SE Asian countries "utter a distinct 'ahhh'" when they arrive in Laos. My first thought was that this statement was absolute bollocks as most guide books have a propensity to exaggerate.I crossed the Thailand Laos border via Chiang Khong into Huay Xai. I did get a bit of a hassle from the Laos customs as they charged more for travelers paying baht than those paying in dollars to by a 30 day visa into Laos.The small town of Huay Xai isn't much for natural beauty, stunning architecture, or the atmosphere. It is a place for travelers who are traveling to other destinations. The one distinct feature about Huay Xai is that there are no Tuk Tuk drivers vying for business and rarely anybody hassles the travelers with trinkets and souvenirs.I stayed in a guest house called BAP Guest house and met a nice Korean girl (lady rather as I found out that she was 8 years senior although she did not look it).The next day I left for Luang Prabang via "slow boat" down the Mekong river. The first ride took 6 hours to a small transit town called Pak Beng.Pak Beng was indeed known for people either going down or going up the Mekong river to other destinations. What was unique about Pak Beng was the atmosphere. Another unique characteristic about this town was that the electricity of the entire town was fueled by a small generator. This meant that electricity of the whole town was due to turn off at some point in the night.Despite being a small tourist town, Pak Beng had it's charms. I had the first East Indian dinner in SE Asia while I was in Pak Beng. I can't recall the name of the restaurant but their Mutton Vin Aloo, buttered chicken, and cauliflower with green peas created festive flavours in my mouth.The people in Pak Beng were very much relaxed compared to all the other locals I've met in other SE Asian countries. At first I wondered why this was so, but soon I discovered a major possible factor that may contribute to the relaxed atmosphere. After getting of the slow boat, I was approached by the usual crowds of locals who query travelers for guest houses. What was also queried was the business for Ganja. At every turn I found that some local would come up to me and attempt to sell me marijuana. At night time I even found several locals sitting around in small caffes sipping strong Laos coffee and smoking a generous sized joint.The "magical" time of Pak Beng came when the generators where shut down and the lights went out. I was sitting in front of my guest house balcony at the time and I can recall every bit of things that contributed to the relaxed atmosphere. Since the moon light was the only light source, after the lights went out I could see silhouets of houses and the mountains that were paralleled to the Mekong river. After about 10 minutes numerous fireflies came out from their hiding and flew around in front of the guest house balcony to create the country side atmosphere that I once felt living in Korea.[...]



Journey so far

2007-02-20T23:35:26.574-08:00

Bangkok --> Surat Thani --> Ko Tao --> Chumpon --> Ranong --> Ko Chang --> Ranong --> Ao Luk --> Krabi --> Hat Yai --> Kuala Lumpur --> Taman Negara --> Kuala Lumpur --> Pulau Pangkor --> Kuala Lumpur --> Phuket --> Ko Phi Phi --> Ko Lanta --> Trang --> Bangkok --> Aranya Prathet--> Poipet --> Siem Reap --> Angkor Wat --> Siem Reap --> Poipet --> Aranya Prathet --> Bangkok --> Ayuthaya--> Phisanulok --> Sukhothai --> Chiang Mai



Angkor Wat

2007-02-18T20:36:07.492-08:00

Angkor Wat is one of the 7 wonders of the world. My first impression of the temple ruines that once was the crown Jewel of the vast Angkor empire was absolute amazement.

Then I thought to myself, "How could a country that once was such a great empire and hosts one of the wonders of the world be so poor?". Cambodia had its woes in the recent decade when Pol Pot took over and slaughtered millions of people in just few months.


It seems that everything can be bought with just 1 US dollar in Siem Reap Cambodia.

sidebar - Siem Reap is the city that houses the millions of tourists that visit Angkor Wat every year. Siem Reap means Siamese Defeated.

Your local taxi/tuk tuk driver is the pimp, the drug dealer, and your tour guide. In every street corner and in every temple you can find a child no older than 10 years of age who speaks 3 - 5 different languages. He/She knows how to say the following in the languages of choice:

1. Mr/Mrs, give me a dolla.
2. Mr/Mrs, want pineapple?
3. Mr/Mrs, want to buy post cards? 10 for 1 dolla
4. Where you from? followed by - Capital of the country that one is from

Cambodian people are extremely smart. Even though the country is poor, the people adapted to their situation uniquely and took advantage of the fact that so many millions of people (especially Korean, Japanese, and Chinese tourists) that come to see the pride and joy of their country every year.



Poipet II

2007-02-15T18:49:43.779-08:00

Story so far:1. I'm in Poipet (Cambodia).2. The bus station is run by the local mafia.3. The mafia pays the police.4. The police keep the locals under control by prohibiting competition from other small taxi drivers and transport companies.After being used as a bate, I was back at the bus station separated from the rest of the group and my buddy Igor.As soon as the taxi stops and I get off to talk to Goon 1 and the rest of his mafia crew. I tell him to fuck off and inform everybody at the bus station to NOT take any buses or taxis from the bus station. While I am doing this the 2 Germans get scared and decide to pay $60 US to get a taxi to Siem Reap. Pussies....Sidebar - I was informed later that the 2 Germans were pulled over on their way to Siem Reap and got charged an extra "highway fee" by the local police (or some dude in a police costume).Determined not to get ripped off and give money to the local mafia, I decided to talk to another group of people. There I met Matt the brave English fellow (if you are reading this Matt, I sincerely respect you for your bravery and courage), Hoshi the Japanese, and 2 Swedish girls who later ditched us.After explaining the whole deal to Matt, we decided to venture out to the edge of the town to see if we can pick up local taxi instead of the one run by the mafia.When we started walking towards the main road, a new fellow that I have not seen before approached us on bike and started speaking in an angry tone. He stated that he was the police and that we had to take the bus or taxi from Atta or we will be picked up by the local mafia and etc, etc...I was a bit hesitent as first as I did not know if this fellow was really the local police but Matt directly asks him to see his badge. At first the fellow seemed hesitent but he eventually produced a card that said "Immigration Card". Immediately after seeing this card Matt said"I saw this card a hundred times and I don't want to see it again. This is fucking bullshit"and grab the card from the guy forcefully and threw it on the ground. At this point the fellow claiming to be the police got even more angry and said"I cut you now!"to Matt and started to rummage through his pocket for something. At this point I thought he was looking for a pocket knife or perhaps a gun so I immediately threw my back pack on the ground and got prepared to back Matt for violence that may ensue. When the guy pulled out a small cell phone and pretended to start dialing for back up I was extremely relieved and felt that I had accidently soiled myself :-)Observing the obvious anger of the guy Matt immediately changed the course of the argument and apologized for throwing his "badge" on the ground. At this point we told him to go away and we walked towards the main road.Upon walking for about 10 minutes on the main road towards Siem Reap, we were approached by a local on a dusty yellow moped who discreetly told us to continue to walk away from Poipet towards Siem Reap and a taxi will be waiting for us. A few moments later, the fellow who claimed to be the police approached us again on his moped and offered a taxi for 3 of us at $60 US. I offered him $45 for the 3 of us and he kept persisting on $60. We then told him that we were talking to Siem Reap and to leave us alone. After saying something in broken english, he took off.About 5 minutes later he came back saying that he can arrange a taxi for the 3 of us for $45. I told him no and lowered the price to $30. He got pissed off and stated that I originally said $45 before. I told him to fuck off again and in about 5 minutes he did.Finally we arrive at the edge of the town. At the left corner were standing the guy who claimed to be the police, the local on the yellow moped who approached us earlier, and another local on a black moped. Each of them had there own taxis and obviously were very hungry for our US $.We took the taxi offered by the fellow who c[...]



Poipet

2007-02-14T02:08:24.459-08:00

Out of all the days on our journey, the first day in Cambodia was probably the most interesting yet frustrating time we've had.We crossed the Thailand Cambodia border from Aranya Prathet to Poipet. When we arrived at the border we were approached by a young fellow who seemed to be around my age. I can't recall his name but I will refer to him as Goon 1 for the rest of this post.Now Goon 1 seemed to be a very friendly fellow. As he spoke some english, I asked him how to say Hello and Thank you in Khmer (the Cambodian language of choice) and he kindly replied with the correct answers. He then proceed to tell us that he worked for a bus company in Poipet and will "help" us to get there as he would like to generate business for his bus company.So Goon 1 took us through the Customs and told us to pay for the Cambodian visa which will allow us to stay in Cambodia for 15 days. When we got through the Customs and proceeded to the visa purchase counter we were approached by another Cambodian who told us we had to pay 1000 baht (roughly $33) when the sign above said the visa costs $20 US.sidebar - the visa counter price was $20 not 1000 baht: Scam #1When we got through to the Cambodian side of the border, sure enough Goon 1 was waiting for us. He then told us that we were to ride in 2 buses that would take us to the main bus terminal.sidebar - the main bus terminal in Poipet is not an actual bus station: Scam #2We would later learn that we needed to be persistent with the $20 US visa.Once we arrived at the bus station Goon 1 started to refer to me as his friend. He then proceeded sell me the ticket to Siem Reap which was very expensive. At this point, the story gets a bit complex.At the bus station we met Sarah and Josey (sisters from England), Chad and Cori (Texans with incredible "Southern Charm"), Benjamin (the flamboyantly Cool French fellow), 2 Chinese couples from Gwang Ju, and 2 German homosexuals named Hans and Frans - I refer to them as homosexuals because they wimped out on me later, but I'm ahead of myself.After our introductions to each other we inquired about the bus ticket price and the taxi rental price. We sent out scout parties to various parts of town as the bus ticket was priced at $10 US and the taxi rental price was at $60 US. The taxi was only big enough to fit 4 people. After walking around for a while we started to realize that the local taxi drivers and the locals in general were avoiding eye contact with us and even refrained from talking to us even though we initiated the conversation. At this point, some of us realized that we were being followed by some people from the bus company who were on motor bikes. The bus company's name was Atta.After walking a short distance away from the bus station, we turned into the main road. After walking for about 10 minutes we came across a taxi driver who was willing to take all of us; we would have to rent 3 taxis but he would charge us $30 US per taxi instead of the $60 US quoted by the bus company. Please remember that we were still being followed by the people from the bus company.With the good news of the deal at hand we headed back to the bus company to inform the rest of our group. Once we loaded all our gears and backpacks and started to head out we were met with criticism from the people at the bus company including Goon 1. We neglected them comments and walked towards the taxi driver. When we got to the taxi driver he changed his original position and declined our offers profusely. At this point some of us were pissed off as the temperature was hot and the road was dusty.After we were declined by the taxi driver we decided to head back to the border. Once we arrived at the border we were approached by a local on a moped who asked us if we needed some taxis to Siem Reap. He told us to head to a certain restaurant near the border. At the restaurant we made a deal with th[...]



Aranya Prathet

2007-02-13T19:59:04.356-08:00

Gateway to Cambodia.
Small town.
Some type of night festival.
Singers and dancers.



Journey so far

2007-02-08T21:16:44.250-08:00

Bangkok --> Surat Thani --> Ko Tao --> Chumpon --> Ranong --> Ko Chang --> Ranong --> Ao Luk --> Krabi --> Hat Yai --> Kuala Lumpur --> Taman Negara --> Kuala Lumpur --> Pulau Pangkor --> Kuala Lumpur --> Phuket --> Ko Phi Phi --> Ko Lanta --> Trang --> Bangkok --> Aranya Prathet



To Cambodia

2007-02-08T21:13:54.942-08:00

Didn't want to go but had to...Leaving Ko Lanta was painful. It was the most beautiful island I have witnessed so far in Thailand as well as the most relaxing (Ko Tao + Ko Chang - All the hassles).Because of our lack of an itinerary we were lucky enough to get the 3rd class ticket from Trang to Bangkok. Trang was reached by taking a minibus from Ko Lanta. On the minibus we met 2 gorgeous Swedish girls who ever travelling to Kuala Lumpur via Hat Yai.Note to self - travelling with unknown + hot women is much more interesting than travelling with ones friends.The train ride was an experience on its own. When the tickets said 3rd class, we really did not know what to expect. After we got on the train, the meaning of 3rd class was shoved down our throats.To begin, all the 3rd class carriages did not have A/C but fans. Because of the hot temperature and all the passengers, the carriage cart became a sauna. The synergetic factors that added to the experience was the smell that I can only describe as a night club washroom + east side Vancouver.The ride was around 13 hours so naturally we were expecting to sleep on the train. I had never been so wrong in my life.Sidebar - people left ALL the windows open and the fans were turned on.When the sun set, at first it was refreshing to feel the cool night breeze that was flowing through the open windows. Naturally we went to the very back of the last carriage and started a very superficial yet entertaining conversation with Thais who spoke virtually no english. What was interesting was that the SE Asia phrasebook I had taken with me was more handy to the Thais than to me. They were flipping through the phrasebook like there was no tomorrow just to tell me their names and where they were from. One particularly friendly Thai named Tom even taught us how to roll a cigarette using a palm leaf.When we got back to our seats we found that the ladies in front of us were using our seats in correspondence with theirs to make a bed.Sidebar - 2nd and 1st class seats have nice comfy beds which we saw after the ride.Thus we began our brief but interesting quest for our sleeping area. Once we started moving towards the upper carriages we saw some interesting sights. Some of them include, locals whom were sleeping on the ground using new paper as a thin layer of protection from the train floor and themselves, kids who fell asleep standing up, and my personal favourite the baby that was sleeping upside down.When we finally found an empty set of chairs to sleep on little did we know that the previously described stench would permiate through and into our souls. Our sleep on the train was as follows:1. We fall asleep2. 10 minutes later the train stops for no apparent reason. Because the air stops circulating, the stench comes back and chokes was awake3. We get used to the stench and fall back to sleep4. Bunch of merchants selling food and beverages jump into our cart and shout at the top of their lungs of the goods that they are selling5. We wake up again6. The merchants bugger off once the train starts moving.7. We fall asleep.8. The cool night air eventually turns cold.9. We awake up.10. Goto step 1 until we arrive in BangkokThe result of the ride was caked on dirt + sweat + blood from bug bites + narcosis from the stench. When I took a shower once we arrived in Bangkok, I dare say that it was the best shower I had taken in my life.Let this post be a warning to all and the future note to self:WHEN IN THAILAND, DON'T RIDE THE TRAIN IN 3RD CLASS.[...]



Ko Lanta

2007-02-06T06:05:04.690-08:00

Back in Thailand.


I love this country - especially the south.

After being in the big city - Kuala Lumpur - for a week, it is nice to be back in a beach bungalow scuba diving with the fishes twice everyday. The traffic in Kuala Lumpur is bad enough to drive Mr. Rogers angry.

Ko Lanta is a small island off the west coast of Thailand near Krabi. It is not yet developed as some of the other popular tourist islands (i.e. Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Samui, etc...). Life is slow on Ko Lanta. The locals run most of the hostels, restaurants and stores but the dive shops are run by the farangs.

Diving in Ko Lanta is supreme compared to Ko Tao. The visibility is quite good and the marine life are a plenty. Even the over all atmosphere of the Advanced diving course was much mellower when compared with the dive factory that is Ko Tao.

Our dive sessions included depth of 20 - 30 meters. While we were down at depth we saw schools of small red fish that makes a "wall of fishes". Other marine life that we saw include octopus, sea snake, ghost fish (family of sea horse), puffer fish, and heaps of other marine life that are a part of the ocean ecosystem.

Sidebar - note to self, buy a camera casing for under water for next dive.

I am afraid that I am slowly getting addicted to scuba diving. When I am underwater, the rules of the above world do not apply. I feel as though I am just another creature of this planet visiting an unfamiliar territory. Then all the western influences just wash away with the under water currents.

From Ko Lanta we will travel to Bangkok and catch a train to north Thailand and hopefully into Siem Reap.



Thaipusam

2007-02-01T19:11:07.345-08:00

Wikipedia sayz:Thaipusam (Tamil: தைப்பூசம்) is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). Pusam refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates both the birthday of Lord Murugan (also Subramaniam), the youngest son of Shiva and Parvati, and the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (lance) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting. On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common. The most spectacular practice is the vel kavadi, essentially a portable altar up to two meters tall, decorated with peacock feathers and attached to the devotee through 108 vels pierced into the skin on the chest and back. Fire walking and flagellation may also be practiced. It is claimed that devotees are able to enter a trance, feel no pain, do not bleed from their wounds and have no scars left behind. However, some of the more extreme masochistic practices have been criticized as dangerous and contrary to the spirit and intention of HinduismTo this day, I have never seen that many brown people (East Indians) in one place at the same time. Mind you, I live in Surrey BC, Canada which is the East Indians' home away from home.The tour of the Batu cave usually takes about 20 minutes when the cave is empty (please refer to my flickr photos). But this 1.5 million people, it took about 3 hours from and back to the entrance.Another salient characteristic of Thaipusam (besides the amount of people) is the sound of the beating drums. Before the devotees make their journey up the 272 stairs, they seemed to get "psyched" for the journey ahead by listening to the fast beating of the drums and dancing in circles while carrying their kavadi (which looked extremely heavy).I don't know what it is, but one can feel a presence when he/she hears those drums beating. One can almost feel the enchanting effect of the drums when listening carefully:As wikipedia describes, the devotees pierce their skin in the strangest places and perform feats solely based on faith that I have not yet observed in any religion (including my own)After observing Thaipusam, only one statement remains in my mind - "No religion in this world has ANYTHING on Hinduism, Thaipusam, & its devotees". Also I felt ashamed for the fact that I do not give my religious dues solely out of laziness & lack of faith.[...]



Pulau Pangkor

2007-01-31T01:48:19.464-08:00

Small relaxing island of the West coast of Malaysia...



Taman Negara

2007-01-28T20:34:42.015-08:00

The locals tell me Taman Negara is the oldest forest in the world. Due to my short term memory I can't recall exactly how old at the moment but I do recall that it is much older than the Amazon.The journey to Taman Negara is a story on its own. First I took a 5 hour bus ride from KL to a small town called Jerantut. From Jerantut I took a long boat to Taman Negara for about 2 hours: Despite the duration the boat ride was quite refreshing. The slow river current and the breath taking scenery mixed harmoniously to produce the euphoric feeling of "R&R".The most interesting fact about Taman Negara is the sounds. Several types of monkeys, bugs, and other noctural creatures that sing their own idiosyncratic mating calls to produce a beautiful & unforgettable evening symphony.Another interesting fact about TN is the leeches. Several leech species around the world are known to reside in swamps and shallow muddy waters and black in color. The leeches in TN crawl around the forest, are around 1 to 2 inches, and green in color.The locals their told me that when we walked through the jungle that the leeches stick to our shoes and crawl up or into our shoes. They then crawl to our legs or any exposed areas in which they can feed.Their bite produces only a minor itch or no readily apparent feelings so it is difficult to detect them. Once they bite, they inject their own saliva which stop the blood from clotting thus producing a steady stream of blood directly to their mouth.Even when the leech has finished feeding (about 10 - 30 minutes) the blood flow does not clot for a while.Due to limited time I was faced with limited choices of activities. I first took a walk on the jungle canopy which hangs 20 - 40 meters above the jungle floor. It was not particularly entertaining or challenging but the duration of the walk was the sweatiest 3 hours of my life. Even the European travel mates started sweating profusely.side bar -- a note to the ladies: If you want to loose weight FAST, go to TN and stay there for about a month. Do the canopy walk every day and I guarantee you will loose ALL your unwanted weight and get that superficial yet slim figure that you only dreamed about achieving but could not because you are either too lazy or already knee deep in denial.Next activity on my list was a visit to the Gua Telinga (called "ear cave" due to the shape of the entrance). I will never forget the smell of that cave. At first I did not know what was producing the smell. Then I realized after seeing the several inhabiting bats and crawling through soft cave soil that the smell was produced by bat guano (excrements) and the soft cave soil was actually bat guano.The final activity on my list was a visit to the Orang Asli; the aboriginal people's village. The locals of TN informed us that the Orang Asli live a simple nomadic life style in the TN jungle. They build small huts using palm leaves and other small timber produced by the jungle and hunt for monkeys & other jungle animals.Even though they gain many benefits from the government as the indigenous people of Malaysia (treated MUCH better than the natives in Canada & US), I felt a bit saddened by the fact that globalization has affected their lifestyle. The frequent visits of tourists and the concept of money seemed to have tained them to a degree not apparent to me.At first I started taking photographs but after seeing the strange stares of the children of the village, I could not help out put my camera away.[...]



Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur

2007-01-27T20:00:58.624-08:00



KL (Kuala Lumpur)


I arrived here in 3:00 AM and was herded off to a cheap hostel. At first I thought I was getting the raw end of the bad deal since EVERYBODY in Thailand wants nothing more than your money (thanks to the gazillion tourists who go there on a monthly basis). To my relief, Malaysians were much more honest than Thais.

KL is just like any other mega-city in Souteast Asia. The traffic here is as crazy as Thailand although they have many more lanes and traffic lights. If your car is bigger than the car on the on coming traffic, you have the right of way.

When I got to KL, I met my father's old friend who I have not seen for 16 years. I recalled he was a skinny man who wore big glasses with a raspy voice caused by years of smoking. Raspy voice was still there but he was now a chubby middle aged man with grey hair. He had the typical mid-level, corporate asian business aura about him that I really found peculiar. (More about this guy in a future post).





KL proudly boasts the world's tallest twin towers called KLCC:



(image) (image)

















Also near KL is the famous Batu cave. Hindus from all over the world come to Batu cave during January/February period to mutilate their own bodies in worship of their god Lord Subramaniam. The festival is aptly titled "Thaipusam":

(image) (image)




Back to Ranong on to Ko Chang

2007-01-21T04:29:15.414-08:00

After 4 days in Ko Tao, we (Ingrid, Bart, Igor & I) headed back to Ranong.When we arrived in Ranong, we were faced with the familiar smells of the city and the hustle & bustle of the streets of Thailand.Sidebar - there are no lanes in Thailand and there are very little traffic lights.The next day we headed to an island about the size of Ko Tao called Ko Chang. Ko Chang is idiosyncratic in the fact that not too many people go there and it is nearly deserted compared to some of the popular tourist destinations such as Ko Phangan and Ko Tao.The ride there involved an hour of gentle swaying in a long boat. Also what I found interesting is that so Buddhist monks seem to head to a hear by island for a reason unknown to me:If there was one spot on earth that anyone can come and just relax - not from actually attempting to relax but from the atmosphere, surroundings, sounds, smells, etc... Ko Chang is definitely that place. Any human being can come to Ko Chang and literally bask in his/her exitence.Ko Chang is also a place of complete focus. I saw a book rack in the restaurant/bungalow check-in desk and picked out "Da Vinci Code". Although I have not seen the movie I decided to have a read. The book is roughly 600 pages long and I finished it in 2 days. I could not believe how concentrated I was in Ko Chang. At home a book of 600 pages would take me roughly a month to finish. I didn't find the book to be a good read but this was the most amazing reading experience I ever had.Perhaps the images below to add flavour to my words:[...]



A girl named Am

2007-01-20T07:01:15.831-08:00

The most beautiful girl that I have ever seen in my life (up to this day - Jan 20, 2007) was a girl named Am. She worked in the dive shop in Ko Tao that we were taking the scuba lessons from. I don't know what it is about this girl but everything about her is absolutely perfect. I guess those stupid slow motion hollywood moment happened to me when I first saw her.

From her beautiful alabaster skin to her eyes that curve and twinkle when she smiled erased every bit of Canada that was in me. If my boss was right next to me at that moment, I would have told him that I am going to quit my job to live in Ko Tao and pursue the girl of my dreams.

GOD I WISH I HAD MY CAMERA WITH ME!!!!!!!!

Almost makes me want to go back to Ko Tao.



Ko Tao Island II

2007-01-20T01:13:13.410-08:00

Ko Tao....

Our first day on the island was eventful. First we met a very bored but friendly Italian/Thai teenager who was on Ko Tao for a vacation with his mother.

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This kid was quite the character. He is an only child who has a father living in Australia and a mother who has a place in Thailand and Australia. Like most only child he was extremely spoiled and very lonely. As soon as I introduced myself and others to him, he followed us around everyday and everywhere. Despite that, I really liked the kid. He reminded me of how I acted when I was his age.

Back to Ko Tao..

The first scuba diving session was quite boring. We were shown a 1:30 hour long DVD of scuba equipment and basics of diving and etc... We were also expected to read a 200 page book and take an exam the following day!! I figured I wouldn't be doing any studying in my vacation but I guess I was wrong.

The following day was our first dive. The exam before the dive turned out to be extremely simple. While we were writing the exam, we joked that we should all get pissed drunk and see if we can actually fail the test. After the exam was over, we put in our scuba gear (tank, regulator, wet suite, mask, fins) and headed to 3 small islands conjoined by strips of white sandy beaches.

When we arrived we drove off the side of the boat and went into the shallow waters. Despite being in the shallow waters, we saw a plethora of fish and other marine life. There were schools of small fish that came and swam near/with us and other small blue fish that nibbled at our legs for bacteria and other microscopic life form.

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I am in complete awe/love with this place....



Link to Flickr photos..

2007-01-20T00:39:20.808-08:00

Please check out my photos from the following link:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/69283728@N00/



Ko Tao Island

2007-01-20T00:36:29.424-08:00

Koh Tao (Turtle island) is a small island off the east coast of Thailand. It is known for pristine waters, scuba diving schools and white sand beaches. It is one of those places that we see in travel magazines where a person is walking along white sand beach with couple of palm trees on the side and crystal clear water in the ocean.

The journey to Koh Tao was quite interesting. Because of high winds, the water was extremely choppy and we were cutting through 2 meter waves. There were several european tourists who were getting sea sick due to the constant swaying motion produced by the waves. A girl who sat in front of us was vomitting every 10 minutes. We felt sorry for her but I must admit the crying/vomitting at the same time produced a bit of schadenfreude. Her boy friend kept on smiling at us while patting her girlfriend's back indicating that he was having a good time. While we were at the boat we were bombarded by advertisements of scuba diving schools/resorts from the Burmese people who worked in the Koh Tao resorts.

When we arrived at the island, we walked off the pear and headed to the nearest bench we could find. To our luck we met a very nice/friendly Dutch couple named Bart & Ingrid (pictures to follow). Also we arranged scuba lessons (International cerification for $300 Canadian + Awesome bungalows) and a place to stay while we were there.

When we got to our Bungalows (located right above Freedom beach) we knew that we had made an awesome choice. Imagine waking up to the following every morning:
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And ending a beautiful evening with the following:
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Brief Tour around Bangkok

2007-01-20T00:41:29.100-08:00

Although Bangkok is no different from any other bustling cities around the world, I noticed subtlies. At 6:00 AM, I was awakened by the crowing of roosters and some flamboient Thai music.

After purchasing a phone card at the local 7/11 and letting my parents know that I am alive, Igor & I headed out for the first Thai meal in Bangkok. After walking for 10 minutes, we stopped at a place called Roti-Mataba and had the small but tasty breakfast. I found the flavours of the food to be very similar to the food I had in East Malaysia. Even plain chicken currey with rice was bursting in familiar flavours. For the side dish we had the chicken mataba. It consists of roti-like bread stuffed with chicken and spices which is served with sweet/spicy dipping sauce.

Alright, saying "and then, and then, and then..." is not interesting so I shall change my style from here on.

The Grand palace was hands down amazing. I could not believe that human beings could construct architectures of such awe and beauty that it literally takes one's breath away. But the best piece of work that I saw in the Grand Palace was the Emerald Buddha. It is a small figureen roughly couple feet tall/wide made of gold and with the face made of (you guessed it) emerald. The awe produced by this figureen itself is astounding. Buddhists from all over (includng tourists) could not walk with a straight posture when walking out of the place and those who are sitting and admiring the figure could not point their feet towards the figure.


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So here is the deal with Thailand - the first and only great advice that we received was from a Pot head Canadian (Canadians rock!!!) from Vancouver Island. "Never trust anybody. Not the locals, and definitely not the farangs (foreigners)". So with this scepticism implemented into our vertebrai we began our journey into the great unknown. Another advice that the pot head gentleman gave us was that we should to Ko Phan-Ngan (pronounced similar to Copenhagen) as it is a place for "younger/more energetic" crowd. So we decided to follow with the advice and bought 2 tickets to Ko Phan-Ngan which would include a 12 hour bus ride and a 5 hour boat ride.



Arrival in Bangkok

2007-01-10T05:28:15.374-08:00

Finally, after 22+ hours in the economy class seat of Korean Air I am in Bangkok.
For the readers who do not know the background:

1. Me & my friend Igor decided to back pack Southeast Asia about 6 months ago.
2. We are currently in Bangkok.


I always wondered why people got so excited when they were planning a future trip. "I'm travelling to _____. I can't believe I am actually doing it!!" For me, I just wanted to get away from everything. Work, parents, obligations, friends, church, my mind, the somber Vancouver atmosphere. Strangley enough, I never got the excitement. Even when I arrived at Bangkok airport it seemed like I was in the Vancouver airport.

When we eventually left the Bangkok airport (hoping and praying that we don't get ripped off by the public taxi), the excitement started to build up.

We were dropped off at the legendary road 'Th Khao San". Allegely, all backpackers to SEA make pilgrimage here and begin their journey to wherever. At first we were excited to be in a place of such diversity. However, the excitement was soon replaced by disgust as we found out more about 'Th Khao San'. All that was visible to the eyes were farangs (foreigners) with Thai prostitutes and bums who begged for money. Even the street itself was unkept and very dirty.

Needless to say we were tired beyond imagination so we started to look for the next available hostel. After searching for about an hour, we finally found a place for 600 baht ($20). We were glad to end the first day alive and intact.

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17 hours of flight and I am finally back in my home land.

2007-01-08T02:21:09.825-08:00

Korea...


Seems strange to be back in the country that I was born in.
Perhaps it is the jet lag but it feels pretty good.

5 more hours until Bangkok.