Monthly Archives: March 2013

Willy caves and Fire shows

Also known as Railay Beach. Amazing!

First..I will note…if you are staying a night before taking a long tail to the peninsula stay in Krabi…you can find Great homestays for 150 Baht! its 150 to take the boat to railay…or you could spend 50 on a tuk tuk to go from ao nang and then 100 for the boat…boats from krabi drop you on Railay east where accommodation is more backpacker friendly. Which is relative…Railay is crazy expensive. We are currently in a tent to save cash which is still 300 each a night…the other bungalows my friend and I stayed in were falling apart and squat toilets for 400….

Anyway! Pranang beach is where it’s at. Got heaps of typical thailand photos which are now uploaded to Facebook and Flickr. Also visted a cave with like 100 different sized wooden carved willies…which sounds less perverted than penises….or peni? anyway…it was funny…we took an uncomfortable photo with one and got severely judged by the german man we recruited to take our mug shot.

We have also headed to Last bar literally every night to watch an old man who is phenomenal at acoustic covers and horrific at speaking english followed by an excellent dj set followed by random asians covered in tattoos swinging fire around a murky lagoon that looks straight out of the pirates of the carribean ride at Disneyland.

The beach food straight out of longtail boats that serve as drive throughs for the hundreds of tourists daily is actually the cheapest food…everything here is literally triple the cost of stuff in Krabi….c’est la vie.

Of course…my banking has gone awry and my camera wont turn on….paradise was too good to be true. Anyhow this is just a brief update…more in depth writing to come post my 15 hour bus to bangkok tomorrow eve.

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Starting off with my new found posse in JB Malaysia had hope…then I got to KL…where they lost my hostel reservation and put me in a single room which was really a closet with a bed…a sheet-less bed that had blood stains on it and creeked…never mind the fact that I couldn’t fit my backpack on the floor beside the bed. Better yet the showers didn’t exactly work….so the guy told me to use the water from the ‘rinse your ass’ bucket to bathe myself…NOT. A. CHANCE. The best solution? Walk around, find cheep food, buy lots of it. Get into a food coma so you don’t know you’re passed out on the most disgusting bed ever.

That being said I did have the best pork bun ever. Unfortunately I didn’t even see very much of KL because it’s probably one of the least walkable cities I’ve visited (even google says so)! Anyhow then I was conned into losing a day of my life on the bus because they told me I’d be saving 15 ringgitt (like 5 bucks) to connect in Ipoh on my way to the highlands…turns out I saved 2 so like a dollar…and spent 4 hours in Ipoh, and was on the world’s slowest bus to the highlands.

Cameron highlands were nice…not so hot and humid, and thus swamped with Dengue carrying mosquitoes. Once I got the courage to go hiking I picked the most difficult route, hiked for an hour….realized if it rained I’d die and spent 2 hours climbing down. I also froze to death at night…I know that’s a whimpy thing to say for a Canadian but they don’t have heat or insulation..so if it’s 10 degrees outside that’s what it is inside! I did book another night purely because I had good wifi….and pay for a Starbucks coffee to steal copious amounts of toilet paper and paper towel..

My new hostel inquiry: Do you have wifi? Breakfast? And Toilet paper?

Headed off to Penang-food capital of SE Asia! Decided to ‘splurge’ on the hostel’s bus because I couldn’t have been bothered to go through the same shenanigans….might I also add that Lonely Planet’s portion of Malaysia in on a shoestring is ridiculously out of date.

Anyway, Penang…spent the first night at muntri house where they rationed everything…free coffee and tea all day meant actually one cup with breakfast…free breakfast, I got one tiny serving of noodles, then they brought out toast and watermelon, they said no seconds…..all you can eat in one serving, so the other guy had a bag and bagged noodles for later….but that didn’t matter, then they told me I took too long a shower….so we checked outta that joint. Might I add that the online posting said sausage, egg, toast, fruit, coffee/tea as breakfast…SO unimpressed. So I hobbled down the road and ‘splurged’ 10 dollars to stay at Reggae House on Love Lane and had a great time. The beds were like pods, you had a GREAT mattress and pillow, they were beds built into the wall..no noisy bunks, air con, free filtered water, light, 2 sockets, mirrors, a fold out desk…pure luxury. Additionally it’s partner bar Reggae mansion has FREE drinks for ladies from 6-10 nightly….defo a great time! And breakfast was actually good!

Penang was a solid one. I’m considering returning to work as a promoter for the hostel. I have never had such amazing Indian food!! I also decided that the India visa was way too complicated…which was convenient for not feeling guilty for eating it. They also had guides to Penang’s street food which was amazing…Curry Mee….and chicken and egg curry noodle soup remains my favourite…and is often only 1 dollar. There’s also Cendol, which has pandan noodles (a sweet pea) coconut milk, shaved ice, beans, and syrup…So refreshing! And then a bunch of stir fry noodle situations….but ahhh biryani rice in little india….amazing. I also found a great indian place off of Penang Rd, I think it was called Fast Lane or something….anyway its down an ally just off of the junction between Chiulia and Penang Rd close to #117? Oh! And laksa….a bit disappointing but the flagship Penang food…I also tried Rojak and hated it. It’s similar to a veggie salad I had in Indonesia but the salt content in the penutty sauce they put on fruit was about 20 times more. I also had orange wafer cookies dipped in chocolate…and SO many samosas. I also helped make a couple samosas…beyond amazing. Anyway….I am getting hungry and feeling fat at the same time as I remember allllllll I ate in Penang.

Which is why I chose to hike Penang hill….then got to Penang hill, looked at the steep incline of the 5km walk, and how sweat was beading off my arms from walking 100m from the bus and peaced out. If you chose to walk it you are committed as the train goes from a separate entrance—just saying.

Went for great Indian food last night for my last night, which was 8Ringitt (3 bucks)…’splurging’ but so good, chicken masala wrapped in a thala with other sorts of breads, sauces, and a deep fried banana dessert. Then my friend Max and I walked the esplanade—a MUST do at night. The colonial buildings are beautifully lit! We also followed the road towards batu ferrengi (Penang’s beach) and were able to cut in at the Eastern & Oriental hotel and walk their perfectly groomed promenade for an hour where we basically forgot we were in the chaos and questionable hygiene in Asia.

We got back to the hostel, met a German guy who’s intro was “Ya, my friends make fun of me for riding a single speed bike, wearing plaid, and rolling cigarettes because it’s so hipster…but I’m not a hipster—I did it first”….

Anywayyyy I’m typing from the second leg of my 10 hour journey into Thailand to Krabi town to go for a climb in Railay. The first bus was a time. 2 Americans, an English girl and myself swapped stories for a few hours and had a seamless transfer over the Thai border….this bus however has no aircon and very un-breathable vinyl seats. I reallllly need to do laundry…and start booking places to stay before I get there. Here’s fingers crossed to there being decent prices at the beach.

I’m actually so excited to get on the beach. I ‘ve completely lost my perfect aussie tan and traded it in for a tourist farmers tan…the good news, the 100 dollar cream I got sampled in Singapore has completely fixed my skin and although it is increasingly hot, humidity is becoming slightly more manageable.

Over all Malaysia was sweet…only because Penang ended it on such a sweet note…but otherwise I found the people (besides the gentleman’s club) to be quite rude, pushy, and on a mission to con. The indian men groping me everywhere in KL was also not optimal. OH I also got a foot reflexology massage in KL…worst decision ever, he had tools that were excruciating and left my shins bruised….definitely should have waited to save 10R in Penang and support one of their many programs where they train the blind to do massages.

Gentlemen’s club

Once again I find my field of study creeping into my social situations while travelling….I was killing a 9 hour wait until my night train to Kuala Lumpur from the border city of Johor Bahru, just north of Singapore. I spent a few hours in the mall wandering but was back at the terminal by 7pm when the bus wasn’t until 11:30. I tried to cozy into the flimsy aluminum chairs at the terminal and hope for the best.

As I had moved on from Malaysia to Thailand in my Lonely Planet guide, the man behind me over my shoulder abruptly informing me that I was looking at the wrong country. Attempting not to be put off by his interruption a laughed it off and explained my travel route. As many people do, he told me I was both brave and crazy. I asked him what train he was waiting for, then he explained that he lives in JB and commutes into Singapore daily for work because he earns double the money at his factory job. We continued to chat about family and mostly my plans for Malaysia. He basically convinced me to ditch the Perhentian Islands which I had become dead set on after hearing more travellers rave about them in Singapore…he asked what I liked doing and laughed saying, none of that is what you do on islands, spend your time in Penang and Chiang Mai (My interests were: Eating, Yoga, Hiking…and stuff). Valid.

Anyhow, as about an hour passed we were surrounded by another 3 men (all in their 60’s except my friend who was only 53…which angered him because his friends got the seniors fare and he couldn’t). One fancied the Indian cleaning lady, another had all sorts of great snacks, and the other showing me his dialysis ridden arms. I may also note that they were appalled when I said my grandpa’s arms looked just as bad from treatment in Canada. Anyway, a couple others came and went but that seemed to be the core group. My new friend Kua explained that before him none of them would talk…but they all speak Mandarin, and him, Cantonese…so even though he brought them together they speak in Mandarin and he can’t understand much of it anyway.

I found it interesting that they had made this sort of club at the train station. A group of middle aged men, Kua is married, his wife is in Indonesia, who hang out sometimes all night and shoot the breeze because for whatever reason they would all rather be there together than home apart. It reminded me of the sort of group my grandmother started at her local café, and even what I have been temporarily doing in each of my destinations. I also realized how my attitude towards it has changed as I’ve travelled. For starters I tried to be friends with people I felt already had a group that I wanted to be a part of based on others thinking they were ‘cool’ [high school, I know] and hoping that they would accept me. I’ve grown to a point where I’m genuinely confident enough on my own that I have found myself not only seeking people of quality to surround myself with, but also reaching out to those too shy to reach out on their own. I don’t consciously look to find a group, but when I look back at it the trends sort of surface, and its an interesting shift in mindset I didn’t realize I had had.

On this note I think I realized why I don’t like the typical backpacker day in each city travel style. This is definitely biased from travelling alone, but until I’ve been a part of a group, I don’t feel like I’ve belonged somewhere. And without feeling like I belonged, I either don’t like a place, or don’t feel like I’ve been…maybe because I have had nobody to share it with. For example, I found Kuala Lumpur to be dismal. A terrible city to walk, having my ass grabbed by indian men, dirty, rude, and a total dismissal for modern washrooms even in upscale places….coincidentally I made no friends. I’m not saying I added nobody on facebook…Literally the longest conversation I had was with my foot masseuse. I felt more love for Johor Bahru, the skeezy border town, because for the night, I belonged. His friends and him bought me dinner and buns for the train ride (in theory they could’ve been laced…but they were fine), a few called friends to ask tips for where I was going and what hostels to stay at…and they tried there damndest to teach me phrases of mandarin.

And so, the travels continue…except I’ve changed a bit of my plans…I have 20 days until I need to be in Phnom Penh, but I do not want to feel the way I did about KL again… so 2 things..I will stay longer than a day, and I will put in the extra cash to have at least tolerable levels of hygiene at my hostels/homestays. I am spending 3 days at the Cameron highlands…mostly because LP claims that it isn’t hot and humid…and I’m really tired if perma-hyper-hydrosis. Then off to Penang for about 5 days…for the food…let’s be honest. Also with hopes of being able to go for a couple runs , 3 days of trains and rice post bali and I feel like I’ve lost all the awesomeness I was feeling. Then I will be in Thailand for the Full moon party whether I go or not, I’ll spend 4 days on each the west and east islands, with remaining days in Bangkok before heading over the border.

Also, I’ve become an expert at collecting toilet paper and napkins at all stops…Although spending money on paper to wipe your ass with might be a frivolous expenditure, with all the money floating around asia these days I really thought they would’ve converted. Also, I’ve learned my lesson…always ask to see the room before paying. My room last night had no sheets…holes in the mattress…a sliding door, because there literally wasn’t enough floor space for a hinged one…there was no toilet paper, soap, or even water bucket in the washroom….and the breakfast was ‘luxurious’ because there were two flavours of jam. Thank god I paid 7 bucks for a single room…I might have preferred the dorm for 4 bucks except the part where I could smell the rice cookers on from across the hall… Oasis guest house….don’t do it.