Monday, November 30, 2009

Color my Scrapbook

I'm posting from Canada for the first time since the start of my trip in August. I thought I would give myself a week and a halfish to digest my overseas adventures so I can make a well attuned final blog post. What a journey that was! 3 months and 7 countries was an incredible life-changing experience. As cliché as that sounds, there is not one part of me that will be the same after this trip. I met some very special and smart people along the way, whom I hope to remain in contact with and visit in the future. I traveled much of this trip with my friend Blair from Victoria, who I met through his older, but less-mature brother Scott. I never thought it was going to be this easy, traveling together for that long could make one kill another, which we saw plenty off (girlfriends bickering with boyfriends and vice versa). It seems the only time we were slightly short with each other was when we were hungry after a long day of traveling. Food! essential to traveling. However, their were never any personality clashes along the way. I think this party due to our extremely laid back Gemini demeanor that created a great connection that never was in trouble throughout the trip. Our order of the trip was Vietnam (South to North) -> Malaysia -> Singapore -> Bali/DPS -> Thailand -> Laos -> back to Vietnam. it was quite the bit to pack in on such a short trip, but obviously well worth it.

I have already started planning my second trip, which would involve a visit to my wonderful English friends. London here I come!! For the time being, I'm back in the frigid Canadian north-west, returning to freezing hail, near sub-zero temperatures, and many a incoming storms. Alas, it feels good to be back at home, I haven't seen my family and friends in ages. I do miss my extended summer though, and I hope to do a longer trip next time around. To my deep disappointment I was never able to fit India in on this trip, which was probably for the best. Having blitzed through the last 2 weeks of the trip we were more than proper busy, and I'm more than proper tired right now having not slept in 2 days. I do plan on trying to fit India in sometime in the near future, the country's beauty fascinates me, and I will try to not skip it the next time around.

This trip gave me plenty of send offs and lessons: one was a re-discovering of a part of myself that I never fully understood. Prior to, I felt I had my entire life figured out, my career mapped, and my future was surely in good hands. And Why Not? I had the last 23 years of my life planned. School and university dominated my life since infancy, so why shouldn't the next 25 years be any more less planned. The trip has left me with more mixed feelings about my future, Asia travel certainly stunned me with a type of travel bug that can only be rectified with more traveling. I am very eager to set afoot on foreign soil again, and I think that half of life is what you do, and the other half is who you spend it with. I've been to amazing places on this trip that this blog can not do justice to, but the places would not have been as incredible without the wonderful people that joined me along the way. I've made incredible incredible friends on this trip, some of which I regretfully only got to spend a few hours with, but proved to make such a great impression that I want to do nothing else but to dive into their lives more. I don't plan to be one of those that spends their lives at professions they don't like, rush into marriages they later dread, and are involved meager futures they can't escape. I think that spending 65% of your entire life at a profession you don't enjoy is completely absurd, and I do not intend to be part of that awful statistic. If you don't like your job, leave, and find something that suits you better, if that means less perks and dollars than so be it. There is no use complaining. We live in this world for a finite amount of time and there should be no price on anyone's happiness, not on mine at least. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the legal profession may or may not be right for me, but for the time being I plan to do what I enjoyed most, meeting new people, traveling to far-away places, and learning more about myself and those closest to me. Hopefully, in the process of, I can find my noble calling that suits me the best, this doesn't have to mean a 150k a year job with a corner office, whatever makes me happy will suit just fine.

My flight home from Ho Chi Minh City was pleasant but un-eventful. Blair and I were quite tired, having made a 32 hour trip from Venne Vieng to Vientienne to Bangkok then back to Ho Chih Minh City in non-stop travel that involved trains, buses, taxis, and planes. By the time we got to Ho Chi Minh City were were proper exhausted and spent the day walking around the streets, eating Pho, and eying up potential shopping venues. HCM city was around the same as last time around when we first arrived, you do notice the stark change in humidity coming from Bangkok to Saigon. Severe perspiration ensued and we were pleased that our place had A/C, a luxury that we have saved for our final few days. The last few days were spent doing very little, sleeping lots, and venturing out on a few tours. In the end, HCM city is a busy bustling place, but their is not too much to do in the surrounding areas. I much preferred Nha Trang and Hoi An up the coast much better. Less people, and less requests for "transport" "where you go" "handsome man, let me help you" "what you want" etc etc... Although, I never been called a handsome man as much as I was in SE Asia, this may or may not have to do with their desire to make a sale, I suspect the former to my dismay. The ride from United Airlines to Hong Kong was half-decent, Blair and I tried to venture upstairs into the 1st class executive lounge, but were promptly denied. You mean two unshaven, smelly, and scruffy-looking students don't belong in first class? Had a nice meal on the plane and were preparing ourselves for the 4 hour layover in HK before our flight back to Vancouver. The flight was great, flying home was considerably shorter due to the westerlies. 10 hours of watching chick flicks (100 days of summer, Post-grad, and some other movie I can't bother name) and we were their. None were very good except for 100 days of summer, but don't broadcast that.

My parents were unmoved as I show up, after waiting 45 minutes for my luggage I suppose they thought I was never coming. I had second thoughts about returning home when I was in Thailand and Vietnam. In an almost split decision I contemplated prolonging my travels to Australia where most of my "mates" were going. Alas, responsiblity and a dwindling bank account finally held me back. Until next time is what I said to Blair.

For now, their is no 5- year plan for my life, there is however a plan for 2010 and that is about it. One step at a time, not looking too far ahead is my new motto. For those who read, thanks a million for not letting me write in vain, thanks a million for reading and commenting on my posts. I apologize for the horrid use of grammar and of the English language. For now I have linked my 800 pictures from this trip, please view at your extreme leisure. xx


Also some useless travel tips

How to haggle 101

You: "How much is your said item?"
Proprietor: "Exorbitant dollars"
You: Like a good lawyer responding to a settlement offer, you react in extreme horror, you wave your hand around and say unprompted things like "too much" or "are you crazy!!!" and "way cheaper down the street"
Proprietor: "I offer your friend/family price!!" There is a difference between friend and family price apparently. Sometimes they are more aggressive and start grabbing you, this is a good sign your likely to get the price of your choosing
You: "No way" and start doing the classic walk-away
Proprietor: " Handsome man (or woman to be gender neutral) What price you want" hands you make-shift calculator
You: Enter a mildly low-ball price, and hope they aren't immediately insulted
Proprietor: Acts insulted and enters in another price
You: Walk away and say your going to "look around", the owner will look frightened because everyone is selling the same item and moves of his inflated price
Proprietor: "Ok Ok" gives you another price much closer to your asking
You: Success

Disclaimer: This obviously isn't a hard and fast rule for haggling and bargaining. If you get a un-interested dealer or owner you may be out of luck. Most of the time however you get the price that is fair to both of you. Remember your not their to outrageously rip anyone off. Most of the time your haggling over dollars or cents, so lets not get unreasonable. 1 dollar unfortunately doesn't buy everything, remembering that the person opposite of you needs to eat too.


British Slang that I am now familiar with.

blimey!: Oh geez!
bloke: a male
brilliant!: great! awesome!
dodgy: shady
gab: to talk a lot
gutted: some form of agony
wankered: drunk
fit: looking good
stones: measuring weight, "I lost 3 stones last year"
mental: crazy
proper: This jacket is "proper cheap"

lots of you reckon, proper, surely, or top notch and mint. In the end, the British were brilliant :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009


We got to Bangkok at 630 and is now on our way to do stuff! Bike riding and palace visiting will ensue when we are filled with food. Then off to Saigon for a few days then home!! :( how sad..

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sabadee Lao Lao

Luang Prabang! fantastic place. One of our biggest regrets is not having enough time to spend in Laos, and especially Luang Prabang. LP has an eccentric eclectic feeling that reminds travelers of Laos' colonial past. One would find it hard not to love this place, beside it being terribly cold when we were their, there is much to entertain in LP. We were traveling with 2 English girls from Bristol (Fi and Becca) and a fellow Canadian from Toronto (Matt) We make for a mean scarf shopping group and equally potent drinking contingent. Many passing travelers have said that LP is terribly expensive, however, we did not find it so. Being experienced travelers gives you some of the technical know-how on what is the right price and what is a massive rip off. It's hard to blame people, the population here is generally poor, and they see foreign tourists often as walking ATM's. We were sure to inform people we were student travelers and not ones with the huge bankroll. The boys purchased scarfs which would prove to be very useful returning to the Arctic that is Canada. Snow! it is a terrible thing, one must avoid at all costs. Anyways, 5 more days till I return and I'm already planning my next trip abroad, to the UK I go! Ahh, life is wonderful sometimes isn't it. We were staying at a wonderful hostel with brand new beds and new-style furnishings. 30,000 kip for a night! not bad at all.

After LP, we head to Vang Vienne, the tubing capital of the south or so we thought. We got to VV rather late on the first day so we opted not to tube and enjoy the scenery of the town. Somehow, we found a place with a wicked view, new beds, and a clean bathroom for an affordable price. When we got in, we thought for sure that this was going to be out of our budget. Nonetheless, we were pretty pleased to be proven otherwise. VV is a cheap city, 1 dollar baguettes and cheap pancakes litter the streets. If you have the munchies, there is no shortage of vendors willing to satisfy your voracious travel appetite. Blair and I are all baguetted out now, so we are going to head for some pizza soon. The Vang Vienne hot one is what it's called, it was a great suggestion from our Canadian friend from Vernon who is heading down to Aus soon! Best of luck to him. We went tubing the night before, and it proved to be a major disaster in the latter stages of it. Apparently no one actually tubes down the Nam Khong river, despite its auspicious title of "Tubing down the river" This branding proved rather dubious, as people swim from bar to bar, then hire a tuk-tuk to take them back. Being rookie tubers, we had no idea this was the case. Tubing in Canada means tubing, not tuk-tuking. So we decided to tube all the way down the river thinking we would be followed by a large contingent of fellow drunk tubers. Obviously, this was the case. We were 1 hour down the river and finally clued in that no one was with us, the water was getting more intense and jagged rocks began to appear. Luckily, a Chinese traveler from Hunan province saw us and decided to be nice and tow us for the next 20 minutes. Turns out he is working as a t-shirt manufacturing manager in Tibet and is on vacation in Laos. Fantastic! aid has arrived, we interchanged in mandarin for the next 30 or so, before he decided that it was time to take off! His name was Fai and we hope to see him again for a few beers on me. Long story made short we didn't get back to our place till 7pm, when it was 2 hours dark already, and involved us walking down a dark shallow river in bare feet. I managed to cut my foot earlier from a drunken fall into the river while attempting to doggy paddle to the next bar, so this made the walk down the river even more exciting than it should be. We were lucky we weren't more drunk than we were, or else it may have been fatal. Nonetheless, after all the theatrics we managed to make it back to our place, mend our wounds, cry out our poor luck, and head out for dinner. We met our English friend Erin Burn (Leeds), it was a pleasant sup rise, we knew she was going to be down in Laos, but didn't think we were going to run into her so soon. Erin Burn is fantastic! we met in Halong Bay in Vietnam and have tried to meet up for months. Needless, our anxiously awaited meeting was lovely, she was sick, but I drank nevertheless. Headed down to Smile Bar by the river watched some drugged up girl dance by herself for hours then headed home promising to meet up for lunch the next day. That's where we are headed right now, Blair and I are at the Internet cafe about to head off! So long everyone, see some of you in a week, some of you later on in the UK!

much much love,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Banky Bank

Severe apologies for the lack of blog excitement for the last 2 weeks. Being at the end of my trip, we are trying to squeeze in as much as humanly possible. The amount of travel days and running around hasn't given me the proper amount of time for a half-decent update. Ahh! I can't believe its almost over, setting out in late August seemed like centuries ago. I guess six countries and loads of good people in 3 months is nothing to complain about. There are worse ways to spend your fall and winter! I'm not sure if I will be able to withstand the horrors of 4 degree weather, freezing rain, wind chills, and the unwanted joys of a job/school. I'm currently staying in Venn Vienne (Laos), it is quite quaint here. Laos seems to have carried over much of the French-colonial style architecture from the early 20th century. While it has the dubious title of being the most heavily bombed country in history, it is quite beautiful here, the people are pleasant, and the food is quite agreeable. We just arrived from Lung Prabang, amazing city, one of the most scenic in Southeast Asia. The ride from LP to VV was not as pleasurable, windy roads and random potholes make for an exciting time when hungover. Laos reminded me of the days I spent in Hanoi in September, it has a nice French setting with a bustling robust night market. I will recap the happenings in the last 10 days.

On the 15th Blair and I arrived in Bangkok early in the morning, as instructed by many fellow travellers we headed to Khao Sanh road where the tourist hub in Bangkok is. Although the train ride from Surithani was quite long and 2 hours late, the ride itself was much better than expected. Rather than spending 12 hours in the same position on a "express bus" we opted to go for the sleeper train, which featured a bed and a table, and the opportunity to roam freely. The train was packed with locals, Blair and I were the largest humans their, which attracted a sizable crowd for onlookers. The bed was rather small, but it fit nevertheless, being 6 feet you can never expect a proper size bed that is long enough. We were glad to have chosen the the train instead of the bus, life was finally getting busy again. We had to rush our days in Bangkok and the North since the South was tooo nice, we found it hard prying ourselves away from the ocean/beach oasis that was the southern islands. Bangkok was better than expected, and by that I mean the endless berating of BKK that other travellers gave me on my way up. The food was cheap, and it seemed somewhat well organized. We did some shopping, Blair bought a backpack, and we opted for a fish massage.

The fish massage is a must-do, or at least a must-try, in BKK. Tiny fish (not sure what breed) nibble at your feet and hands chewing at the dead skin off. This procedure is meant to be therapeautic and cleansing, although that may be just the reason for them to lure you in. Nonetheless, I was able to cross "Fish-massage" off my extended list of weird things to do in Southeast Asia. It was around 4 dollars for 20 minutes and well-worth it. Blair's friend James met us in BKK as his around the world trip is ending also. Sad, but surely we will all be on the road again in the not-too-distant future. Nothing beats the feeling of being on the road, freedom is a beautiful thing isn't it? Happy times and happy trails. Torrential downpour ensued so we had a few beers, by few I mean many at a local pub, then headed to the mall! We also got a glimpse of the skytrain line, ahh the wonders of modern technology at our finger tips again. The mall was good, food court food was equally better, and it seemed no different from any shopping mega mall in North America. We only had a day in BKK so we were off to the train station and heading to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai was such a treat! we wished we had more time to spend their. We got a recommendation to stay at Julie's Guesthouse in the citys old quartar from our friend Sebastian (Germany) Of course Sebe didn't let us down, Julie's was one of the best places we stayed at. It had a bustling travelling crowd of all ages, most of them on their way to a trek, a bike ride, or some sort of outdoor adventure. Chiang Mai offers a buffet of outdoor adventures, we really wish we could have been here longer to do a 6-7 day trek. Given our tight time schedule we could only manage a 2 day trek up the mountain to a hill tribe. So we booked our trek, our transfers to Laos, and we were off!

Trekking! best time of my trip, rivaling Halong Bay. Trekking involved white-water rafting, bamboo boat rafting, elephant riding, and of course the trek. The trek was a lot easier than I thought, we didn't push the pace too much, and it was a nice leisurely walk in the mountain. Everything was grand! we had a group of 10, lots of English as usual. They are everywhere! it seems like I visited an exotic version of England rather than South-east Asia. That's nothing to complain about though, the English have proven to be a very pleasant bunch, and at this moment we are travelling with 2 English girls from Bristol! The best part of the trek was the white-water rafting, something I hope to get into more and more if I have the time and money. It is wonderful and a thrilling adrenaline rush, much to be said about that when I have more time. After the trek we were off to Laos! that is where we are now with the English girls! Will update more on the trek and Laos when I have more time, until next time.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

are we there yet?

Blair, Jason and I just finished our rather arduous journey from Ko Samui on Thailand's Southeastern coast back to Ko Phi Phi in the West. This included a ridicules visa-run over the Malaysian border at Pedang-Besar, which somehow included a ride on a local school bus along with 3 bus rides and another boat ride. Needless to say, the travel day between Samui and Phi Phi was definitely not to be desired. Tough Life we live! I know. At least all this traveling has gave me lots of time to finish some of my readings. I was able to read Grisham's "Pelican Brief" and "Rainmaker" and am 200 pages deep into "the Appeal." I quite impressed by the way Grisham writes, his novels typically displays the underdog broke, indebted, and underfunded lawyers/firms against big legal firms, his writing style is intoxicating and makes for an excellent quick and easy read. Reading his works has re-invigorated my aspirations to enter the legal profession, and I hope when I do become a lawyer I would be on the right side in matters of moral and ethics. Being a former lawyer himself, I think Grisham is good at depicting the realities of law school and the life afterward. Starting Law school I think most people go in with the idealistic vision of changing the world, making a difference through defending the law and the innocent. After three years of being waist deep in debt, most just want to land in the right firm, work their seventy hour a work-week, and hopefully be partners in 7 years. Sad reality, but I think if lawyers were to make the same as school teachers, 9/10 law schools would close down immediately.

Back to travels. Our Visa run had to take place on the 10th/11th. Our tourist visa in Thailand was quickly running out and the only way to renew it without paying an exorbitant amount of baht is to quickly cross into Malaysia and scamper back to Thailand for a fresh 28 days. We left Samui early in the morning (5am!! yuck) and ended up at port to go to Hat Yai, once their we will take a bus down to the Malaysian-Thai border at Pedang Besar. We got to Hat Yai in one piece, no AC and all in 35 degree weather, it was not pleasant. Sweating and smelling poorly ensued quickly, and the mood dramatically soured as each hour went by. We hopped on what we thought was a bus used for the border-run, instead it was a bus to take school kids home. However, we were not informed of that at the start. I assume the school teacher was trying to make a few extra dollars on the ride home. We stopped at two dozen different locations on the way down, making a 1 hour ride into more than 2.5 hours. At least the situation was mildly hilarious, and we got some fun out of it. The school kids here are very well dressed, have neatly packed books, and were well-behaved. Pictures will be coming up of the bus-ride. Once we got to the border, we got our Thailand-departure stamp and card filled out. Then we had to walk 3 kms with 15pound bag to the other side of Malaysia to get an Malaysian entry stamp and card. Nonetheless, walking 3kms in the blistering afternoon heat came with its share of grumbles and complaints. We walked back and got our new 28 day visa, taking us to the 23rd of November. We must leave before that or risk paying a 15USD/ per day fee for overstaying our visit. I never understood the idea of Visa's, especially country's who charge for tourist visas. Quite evidently we are spending a small fortune their and they should encourage it rather than making it harder than it needs to be. Anyways, enough complaining. We get our VISA and we were on our way back to Hat Yai to catch a bus to Krabi. We managed to get to Hat Yai just in time for the 7pm night bus to Krabi. We were in a sever food coma at this point, and none of us function well in long periods without food. More grumpy behavior ensues, we find food stalls and gorge ourselves on curries at an appalling rate. We get on the "3 hour" mini bus ride to Krabi. 3 hours turns into 6 hours and we get their exhausted, it didn't help that they cramped as many Thai's and tourists into the bus as possible. We were proper squished, and to make things worse Thai Karaoke was blasting at a ridicules volume. This seemed to the theme on long bus rides, being squished and horrible Thai Karaoke will ensue immediately. On my ride to Bangkok I will pop a Valium and be off to bed.

We get to Krabi, the mini bus drops us off at a random location. We were in the middle of a dead street not knowing where we were. Touting and selling ensues, soon 3 motor-taxis ambush us with recommendations for accommodations and places to eat. This was expected, but at 1am at night, we really were not in the mood. We found our place on the Lonely Planet and hire motorcycles to takes us their for 1 dollar each, a pleasant 6km ride knowing we will finally get to a comfy bed with a shower. We sleep that night, as well as we could, get up early again to head to Ko Phi Phi. Alas, Paradise is not lost, we get their find a good place to stay and then head straight for the beach for some proper tanning. However, having not worn sunglasses in awhile, I managed to get myself a pretty bad raccoon tan, horrible. This tan seemed to get worse and worse as days went on. After 2 nights here, some modest partying, we are of to Railay, and here we are waiting for next boat to Raliay. Railay is the best part of Southern Thailand, its quiet and peaceful, and not littered with overweight and over aged sex-tourists. What a poor exhibition of western culture. That is a rant for another day! As for a plan for the remaining two weeks. I will be in Bangkok for just a day on the 15th, we will spend more time their on the way back. Then up to Chiang Mai for a trek on the 16th-18th, and then to Laos on the 20th. But for now, I have a boat to catch. See you.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

"I am never drinking again"

Famous last words after three day bender at Ko Pha Ngan island in Southern Thailand. Finally, Jason, Blair and I grudgingly left Railay after a "rock" solid 7 days there. Railay was by far my favorite place in southern Thailand so far, great scenery, good rock climbs, fantastic beaches, and epic jungle hikes that would make the grouse grind look like child's play. Railay is a somewhat non-touristy destination for most foreign travellers due to the absence of a quality night life. It has a few major streets, by streets I mean dirt roads winding around the Peninsula. Around 5000 people inhabit Railay, and it was a quiet retreat from the hectic life in Phuket and Ko Phi Phi. Anyways, we had to leave because the Halloween/full moon party was coming up and we were definitely not going to miss that. So we were on our way to Ko Pha Ngan!!

The ride from Railay to Ko Pha Ngan went off without a hitch, besides being squeezed into a small non-ventilated clearly over-crowded bus, everything was fine. The problem with travelling in Thailand is that every bus, boat, rickshaw, or tuk-tuk wants to stop everywhere. Mostly at their cousins, uncles, moms, or grandmas house to sell you their wares. This is moderately annoying and more annoying if your not as patient as I am. These "mandatory" stops are designed to get your baht rolling buy their overpriced goods. Needless to say, the common phrase "patience is a virtue" definitely gets overused here. The stops usually range from 10 minutets to 1hour to 3 hours to sometimes longer, with the level of annoyance going up with each time interval. The tuk-tuks are really bad for this. We took the overnight boat from Railay which left at 2:30pm and got to Ko Pha Ngan at 6:30am the next day. The overnight boat was by far the most interesting experience, about a hundred of us crawl into a cramped bed-bug infested sleeping area, where you are literally touching the person next to you as you sleep. Thank goodness I was beside Jason and Blair the whole time. Not wanting to thinkg about it too much, I popped a quick sleeping pill then was off to bed.

I woke up in Ko Pha Ngan, madness ensued, touts competing for your business lined-up everywhere. We took a 100 baht (3 dollar/1.5 quid) taxi to Jason's hotel, which was actually a walking distance. Oh well! we would have never found it anyways. Besides the rude staff, it was a good hotel, and with how the next few days was going to go we weren't going to sleep much in it anyway. The first night we relaxed on the beach, swam in the pool, and enjoyed the night life in Ko Pha Ngan. There was good street food around, in the form of fried chicken for 50 cents a piece, being 3 guys we promptly gorged ourselves on it.

The next 5 days was going to go like this.

Day 1: We were off to the Halloween pool party at the Coral Beach Inn at Haad Drin bay. HD is where all the action is and where people go to party at night, it was a 20 minute taxi ride that was mildly amusing and dangerous at the same time. Powering at 80km/hr in windy back-country roads can be a bit un-nerving. However, the night was absolutely brilliant, we were out till 5am and ended up stumbling into bed at 6am. Lots of beautiful girls from Sweden and a weirdo from Saskatchewan. Long story made short, a "grain farmer" from Saskatchewan (province in the middle of Canada) made himself out to be a 3rd degree clinger. He literally followed us around everywhere, and proceeded to embarrass Canadians every place he went with his red-neck banter about farming grain in the middle of no where. We were definitely not pleased with his presence there, he was an appalling figure, and we had no interest in hanging out with him. Needless to say he did not represent the province of Saskatchewan very well. Oh well! off to day 2

Day 2: Pre-full moon party, I shit you not, I was already feeling absolutely haggard from the night before so I did not partake this night, but Blair and Jason were out in full-force again. They came back at 5:30am and woke me up with some good band-camping (gossiping about the rumblings that happened during the night) We talked for a few hours then we all went to bed.

Day 3: This was going to be the day of days, party of party's, night of nights, and gathering of gatherings. Life was swell, I was feeling semi-better, with a mild headache. The buckets of alcohol you drink here contain a lot of sugar and redbull (that is banned in North America and Europe due to some of its ingredients) so you get a massive headache after from the sweetness of the mixed drinks. We sucked it up, ate lots, and took a long nap before heading out at 10 at night. That is when all the party started, 10,000 people all on one beach, and it was a marvelous sight to be a part of. We got our drinks and dance the night away. We met a lot of cool people during the night, many of which I do not remember names of. The amount of dancing that occur ed made my legs and feet very sore and by 7am the sun had gone up we were still on the beach. Life is good! Nothing would ever come close to that experience. Alcohol, drug-peddlers, naked girls running around, and just overall carnage summed up the night and morning. I got back to our hotel at 9ish and slept till 3am, then slept more and more. We definitely needed sometime to detox our bodies from the amount of alcohol and crappy food we were eating. We were positively wankered and needed sleep asap. For those who have never been to a full-moon, it is a must go, it is absolutely crazy. Seeing that many people have that much fun definitely gets your adrenaline pumping. Also, I have acquired many new dance moves that I will export back home. Watch out Canada! Johnny Wu is coming home to the dance floor!!! Oh ya, for those looking at my pictures and looking confused at the names Blair wrote on my back. They are a collection of mediocre to horrible Canuck players, quite hilarious considering no one else their understood what was going on.

Day 4: Sleeping, zzZzzzZzz

Day 5: Off to Ko Samui for a few day some rest and relaxation. That is where we are now! it is great! Plan is to do some mountain biking, gun-shooting, and driving ranging.

Overall: Southern Thailand has been an absolute treat. I did not plan on staying here for this long, but with so much going on how could one not. I hope to stay here for another 10 days or so then head up to Chiang Mai to do some trekking. I will try to update again sooner, now that I'm not so hungover. Hope all is well back home! Although, I do not wish to come home to such frigid circumstances , I do miss my family and friends and I hope they are all well. I also miss the new best friends I have met along the way, and hope that they are doing well at home, working away at their jobs!! hehe

much love always!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blair, Obama, and Mr. Harper

Due to some excessive relaxing on Railay beach causing a lack of scandalous typhoid filled travel news, I decided to post a general rant about some general political happenings around the world that are close to my heart. As for a general update. Blair and our new friend Jason will be heading up to Ko Pha Ngan for the full moon party and Halloween on the 29th, then we will spend a few days in Ko Samui and a day or 2 in Bangkok for a bike tour.

First, Tony Blair as the 1st President of the EU! No! no! no! and a fourth and definite no! surely the European Union and its member nations could find someone with less ideological baggage than Mr. Blair to be its nominal first President. While on the surface, Blair seems like a sensible candidate for the position, having spent 10 years as Prime Minister of arguably Europe's most influential nation. His attempt to re-enter European politics is not only pathetic and shameless, but indeed quite sad. Blair is almost the last person the EU should want to see at the head of its organization. Someone who holds this position should bring credibility with fame and charisma, both characteristics Mr. Blair does not hold. As the co-captain of the Iraq war, he alike his partner in crime have yet to atone for their Iraq war sins, and with the global re-focus on the Middle East and relations between Arab nations and the rest of the world, is Tony Blair really the noble leader for a new peace in the Middle East, I think the answer is a resounding no. During his ten year reign at No.10 downing street, Blair has failed to keep GBR at the heart of European politics, instead his Iraq war follies have left him alienated from Germany and France. Blair has done little to reunite the European Left, instead many painful vestiges of Margaret Thatcher's era have yet to be rolled back. He has kept GBR out of the Euro, instead holding on to the diminishing prestige of the pound sterling. Having gone for world empire to global umpire has been hard to accept for most British nationalists, but I think its something that needs to be acknowledged rather than dragging out the last memories of empire through the 21st century. Blair's invovlement in the Iraq war will stick out as a sore thumb constantly questioning at his credibility and his decision-making process. The reason why he was able to commit GBR to war was his contempt for the views of others in his party and in Britain. Whether or not the position is a symbolic or influential one, it does not matter, the fact that it may be just for symbolic purposes makes this appointment more important. The leader must come with a sense of humility and modesty to be able to tackle important issues on a multi-lateral level, and I think Blair has proven to show none of the qualities of a great leader and should be relegated to retirement and the odd speech here and there. On another note, I hope the recent conference in Copenhagen can produce some real plans for tackling climate change!

Secondly, the issue of a nationalized health care in the United States is absolutely reaching ridicules proportions. An issue that is neither conservative or liberal is reaching a very heightened pitch for the wrong reasons. Rather than focusing on the issue that millions of Americans are without a health care plan, and that the current system of health coverage is simply not working, American conservatives are turning the issue of health care for all into a bash Obama session. Maybe many Americans don't deserve a charismatic leader like Barack Obama. Many like I do feel that Obama is a once in a lifetime leader, however real change also depends on the will of the American people. This isn't an issue that is Left, Right, or Center; it is about the willingness of one person to make sure that his neighbor, brother, sister, dad, mother, father, or significant other is being taken care of. It is absolutely absurd that the country that calls itself the most industrialized, civilized, and exceptional nation on earth cannot agree on a plan that would take care of all Americans. GBR has the NHS, Canada has health care for all, France and other industrialized European nations have health care coverage for its citizens so why can't the Americans figure it out? All comes down to the power of government, and I feel many Americans still re-visit the old Federalists vs. Republican argument of how much power should big government have? When it comes down to it, I rather have the government handling my claims than profit-driven HMO's who want to deny deny deny health coverage to rightful recipients. For their sake, I hope they come to their senses soon and end this hurtful partisan bickering. Also, congratulations to President Obama as the recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, a high honor in any regard. His commitment to international diplomacy and bridging gaps between people should be admired and followed.

Lastly, Stephen Harper please bring back Omar Khadr. For those who don't know this issue, please google it. I guess in the end you can't fix stupid, and that is what the Mr. Harper represents, backwards conservative politics that has no place in Canadian politics.

That's all the ranting for now, I'll revert back to travel blogging when the time comes to update. Hope everyone has been enjoying the blog so far, and that this senseless deviation into a political post won't turn anyone off. Being a political science and history student just gives you the urge to write and rant when possible.

Best wishes,
home in a month,
Johnny Wu

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I just got to Railay beach in Southern Thailand. After a long un-eventful boat ride from Phi Phi island, I've finally reached the rock-climbing capital of South-east Asia. We got to Railay yesterday pretty tired and hungry so we decided to stay in the first bungalow accommodations we found. It was only 300 bahts, but not surprisingly the front-desk person informed us that the price was going up after 1 night, claiming it was some tourist holiday. We met our friends Jason (Vernon, BC) and Adam (L.A) and we soon discovered that their place was much better. Although it was slightly more expensive, 500 bahts or 15usd, to our delight it has a TV, fridge, and a hot shower. We moved their this morning, and so far its been fine and dandy. It is nice to have a TV and a fridge, I watched a few sports highlights before mid day. Not much to report from Railay yet, I decided to take a personal day and finish my book before I lose it along with the other books I have lost. I'm currently reading Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" which is quite interesting. His book defined what is commonly known in the U.S. as the counter-culture and/or the beat generation, and it is interesting to see how his book influenced the rise in the counter-culture in the United States leading up to the Vietnam War. I've gotten over 150 pages into the book, and is finally getting into it. Being on the last half of my trip, I've been trying to find more private time for a bit of self-reflection. Railay is good for that, its quiet and less touristy than Phi Phi! Anyways I'm going to get back to my book, so far I have a planned hike and maybe some rock climbing tomorrow. Limestone Karsts make for a good climb!

Tah tah,

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ko Phi Phi

Firstly, I had a great time traveling in Melaka, Malaysia. I met my new best friends Jason and Swiss who were travelling around the world, which I am highly jealous off. They are graduates from Purdue University and I wish them the best in their travels. It just proves it is never too late to go out and do what you want no matter where you are in life. I got to spend a decent few days with them in KL and Melaka, which made for an enjoyable time. However, I did not get to spend a proper amount of time in Malaysia, and I hope next time I'm there I would be able to tour the whole country. Malaysia has quite the cuisine and beautiful cities, and maybe one day I can take my Mom and Dad here, I think they would quite enjoy it. Nevertheless, I had to be on my way to Thailand!

Finally after an un-nerving 2hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket, I have finally settled in to write a quick blog post. I caught the red-eye flight from KL to Phuket on the 19th, which was perhaps not the best idea. I got into Phuket, Thailand at almost midnight and having never been to Thailand before and having no place to stay, I was a bit nervous coming in. I managed to find a place to stay for the night in my Lonely Planet manual, which told me to go to the Phuket hostel somewhere in old town. Obviously, I had to get the taxi driver that was completely new to the area and had literally no clue where to go. Although I had the address all written down, he still stopped at 5 different locations to ask for directions. At one point I thought he was going to drop me off at the side of the road and leave me to fend for myself. Thank god the latter didn't happen and eventually I arrived at the hostel at close to 1am. There were lots of people at the hostel to make me feel less nervous about being in a foreign country and having no idea what to do and look forward to. I felt a lot better after reaching in the hostel, there were other travellers to make me less tense.

I got in and bought my one-way boat ticket to Phi Phi island, which is where Blair was staying and I desperately just wanted to go there and meet him. My boat left at 7am in the morning, which proved to be far less dramatic than other boat rides in South-east Asia. The boat took a tad longer than expected, but reached Phi Phi nevertheless. I ran into Blair pretty fast, and he had already gotten us a room set up. Phi Phi island is considered one of the resort islands and therefore is a bit more expensive than the rest of Thailand. We have our room for 400bahts which is equivalent to 6-7$ us dollars each per night. This is my 3rd night on Phi Phi and so far its been amazing. Still trying not to catch anything after my Typhoid fiasco, I have been more careful with what I eat and drink. However, the food is quite pleasant and proper overall, quite spicy though. I plan on taking a cooking class when I reach Chiang Mai, so friends and family back home beware, Johnny Wu will be moving his new skills into the kitchen very soon. Tomorrow Blair and I are making our way to Railay, which is another beach in Southern Thailand. We look forward to rock climbing and snorkeling adventures when we are there.

As far as my Typhoid fever goes, I am nearly 100% and feeling much better than before. God it was miserable when I did have it. I'm glad to be out of Indonesia and into the last major country of my trip. The Thai people have been very nice and hospitable and overall we are harassed far less here than in Indonesia. The beaches here are stunning and there are plenty of holiday goers here. However, southern Thailand is quite expensive and we should be only staying here till the beginning of November, and moving our way to the North. Accommodations are not expensive in general, but food is, and we do eat a lot so its good to save when we can. Anyways, I will post again soon, I hope everyone back home is doing well. I got mildly home-sick for the first time awhile back and do look forward to coming home at the end of November. I miss clean beds, home-cooked meals, and the general conveniences of being back home. Until next time! bye for now.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Johnny Wu the Typhoid Kid

I am indeed still alive, after not blogging for ages I have finally found time and more importantly the good health that has eluded me for the last 12 days. So I left off after leaving the Gili's, which was a wonderful time and maybe I shouldn't have left because as soon as we got into our next destination that is when all the trouble started. We got to the town of UBUD 2 hours north of Bali central (Kuta Beach) UBUD is not known for much besides relaxation and basking in the culture their. UBUD is loaded with rice paddies, steep ravines, minor trekking, and its filled with Balinese culture. There were dances, shows, artisan shops, and craft shops to visit. They usually won't be pawning their regular souvenir tourist knock-off items but crafts that they actually made themselves and are selling at their store front. The food was interesting and definitely somewhat agreeable, a mixture of Indian and Balinese food. We travelled in a 4-some to UBUD, Blair and I met two wonderful ladies and we decided to all travel together during our time in UBUD before they headed down to Australia. Needless to say they provided outstanding company and enjoyment, and we had a very much the time travelling with them. Sally and Amy are off to Aus now so I wish them good luck in their travels their.

The problem started when Blair first got sick, I woke up one morning and Blair was literally immobilized to the bed, he couldn't move, all his joints hurt and he felt like he got a concussion. Possibly a mild form of dengue fever, but we aren't sure since we never went to the clinic to get it checked out. This lasted for a total of 3 days, then it was my turn to get sick, this time I got proper sick. I won't bore up with the gross details, but I felt absolutely nasty for the longest while. I couldn't move, my bones felt dead, joints were useless, and my brain was getting a heatwave not seen since Africa. I was lying in bed for a good awhile, it hurt to talk and I was a complete mess. Blair had to take care me for the first week, which was awesome to not be travelling alone and have someone take care of you when needed. We ended up wasting a lot of time in UBUD being sick and not doing much, which is quite unfortunate since there seemed like a lot to do there. We headed back to Kuta, so Blair could at least go surfing and I could go see a doctor.

We got to Kuta and I went to see the Doctor, which was more settling. Long story made short, I got diagnosed with Typhoid and a high fever. The former being more serious than the latter. I had to take a series of shots and medications, which I'm still taking. Determined to not let Typhoid hit me again! This comes to one of Johnny Wu's travel lessons, if the only lesson you get from me! Please please get your necessary shots before you leave for a long trip overseas. The process may seem tedious and slightly painful, but it is inexpensive and it saves you a lot of potential nightmares and hassles when you are overseas. I know people constantly say they didn't get them and they were fine, but every body reacts differently to different situations, and its seems silly not to get it when it can prevent so much undue headaches. Anyways on my next trip I will definitely get them, or I might even get a few in Thailand, which is known to have some good doctors kicking the can around.

As for now, we have left Kuta and I'm not back in Malaysia hanging out in the cultural city of Melaka till the 19th and I will be on my to Phuket to meet up with Blair. Melaka has been great, the food mostly. After recovering from Typhoid, I've had a voracious diet, so I've been feeding my face at a near alarming rate. O well, better than not eating.

I'll try to make a more detailed update on my plans soon, I know this isn't a lot, but having Typhoid doesn't give you a lot to write about. Cheers all, Thanks a million to my Dad! Mom! Peter! and friends for the support!

one love,

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Post-Quake happenings

As many of you have already heard, Blair and I are doing just fine after the massive 7.6 quake on West Sumatra in Pedang. So far we haven't been affected, we are pretty far south and out of the epicenter zone. I do send my deep condolences to the good Indonesian people of the Sumatra area, it seems like since 2004 they've had a run of brutal luck. Tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes seem collect around that fault line, terrible terrible happenings. The plan was to go to North Sumatra (Banda Aceh) from Medan on the 13th and stay there till the 19th, but that plan has obviously changed. While the north was barely hit, it seems extremely innapropriate to go there other than for humanitarian purposes. Surfing and leisurly walks on the beach certainly do not qualify. So we are going back to Malaysia for 5 days then heading up to Phuket, Thailand. There is lots to do in Malaysia, and I felt we rushed our time their the first time around.

The plan now is to go up to Penang in the North, not to be confused with Pedang. There we will enjoy many Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian culinary delights. Apparently, according to my brother, it is the best food in all of Southeast Asia. I certainly do not have a problem filling my face with delicious cuisine. We will spend 4 nights up there, after a 5 hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur. It should be brilliant indeed. I will try not to over indulge myself and over-eat like I've been constantly doing on this trip. Also, Malaysia is a much cheaper country than Indonesia, and I find their people much friendlier overall.

The other odd thing about Indonesia is I have constantly been asked if I'm Japanese, and the people here have even went as far as just plainly speaking loosely put together colloquial Japanese to me. I really despise being associated or confused as Japanese, since Japan has a rather dark and dubious colonial record in Indonesia and everywhere else in the world; I definitely do not want to be mistaken as a Japanese. So, I've been very firm in answering every time. Not Japanese! Canadian! or if you want to indulge in my background further, I was born in Taiwan. Bottom line; No JAPAN!! It is very similar to my mate Blair being confused as American in Vietnam. A big no no that everyone should avoid. American travelers in Vietnam go as far as saying their from Vancouver, Canada to avoid potential hostilities and a thorough verbal accosting. Other than that, the Indonesians have treated us very well thus far.

The Gili's are a mystical island, and you really could get lost here if your not careful with time and money. So far we've been on this island for 6 days and potentially more. There is not a lot to do, but its a nice change from the bang bang no-rest traveler lifestyle. Sitting on the beach, eating pineapples and fruits is a nice way to relax for sure. However, we are leaving soon, to the chagrin of the many locals here who we have befriended. We will be venturing Easterly to the island of Lombok where we will attempt to ascend with a group of porters the great Volcano of Gunung Rijani. It is similar in height and technical difficulty to Mount Fuji in Japan. The climb although not perilous is a very arduous climb to the top. It is an active volcano, but it has been reopened after being closed in June 2009 due to inclement weather and potential eruptions. The climb will take 4 days and during that time I will be unable to send updates. I will for sure update with pictures after the hike is done.

For now, I'm going to rest after a day of snorkeling and swimming. Yes! life is difficult. Anyways, thats all for now! Bye everyone

Speak soon,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gilli Trawanagan

I have reached the wonderful island of Gilli Trawangan. Can't post a lot as being I'm on a 800 person island consisting of huts and bungalows. Anyways, we just got here 2 days ago after a hellish journey from Bali, which some hostile 17 year old Indonesian kids from the town of Bangsal (where we waited for our boat) threatened to beat us up and not let us on the boat. The issue was over a bottle of mosquito pray and some mosquito coils, which Blair and I were looking for to prevent dengue fever on the island. Eventually the situation got pretty bad so we ended up buying it at a reduced price to prevent an all-out brawl. Have to watch out when your haggling here, things can get pretty dodgy with the wrong crowd. Anyways its wonderful here, I'm on a tortoise shaped island with turquoise colored water that is bathtub warm. I'll post more eventually when I have more time, I have to return to my bungalow now for a afternoon nap.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

We shall never cease from exploration

After having some personal time of meditation and quickly nearing the one month mark of my trip; I thought it would be a good time to make a reflective post on my overall travels thus far.

I never realized the importance of getting out of your own shell and opening up to see the world. I never traveled much before this trip, and this trip has casted some different ideas out of me. Part of it is the pure goodness of experiencing foreign cultures, languages, and people, it is hard to figure out just how much of your own cocoon environment is just a self-sense of comfort that we most often take for granted. How much of our sense of "normalcy" and "civilization" is really just having our own culture accepted as normal in our ideology. How orientalists view the world are much different once a traveler is transplanted to a environment that is completely different from home.

There is no real normalcy or the civilized in this world, I believe we all lead our lives differently, and there is no one way that is better than the other. Traveling has been good to my soul, to be often remind that, apart from our family and friends, we are a very small being in this universe. History is so deep and long that we would all fall into the dark lonely abyss without someones shoulders to lean on. This world is so vast that we could easily get trapped in our own environment without exploring others. How unfortunate would that be.

It's good to realize that America, Liberalism, and unabashed over-consumption is not the way of life for most humans. The United States is not the center of the universe. My lifestyle and cultural preferences are not the "norm" of humanity. I believe in our hearts we all know that, however, it is good to be reminded of the fact.

It's good to be completely out of the North American way of life and into another culture. It feels great to be bewildered by another language that I have no idea how to communicate in. I've been trying to learn new words and phrases in every country I go to be more respectful. It is extremely refreshing to talk to the locals, who think their small little village, their city, and their small possessions are all they need to make them happy. Happiness in life is in you to lead and have, its their for the taking. Growing up you often feel this unrelenting pressure to meet lofty ambitions, obtain new possessions, and seek un-needed pleasures. However, love and happiness are simply too beautiful of a thing to fit into strict guidelines of wants and needs.

Traveling has definitely taught me to exhibit a greater sense of humility
. We're all missing out if we don't embark on this journey, and we all find just a little bit more of who we are, on a visit to our neighbors in this wonderful world.

Hope everyone has enjoyed reading thus far,
Much Love,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Just got into Bali last night from Singapore. So far so good, did a bit of surfing today, was out till 4am last night wandering around the township. The city is quite nice, although our place is not, three people sharing one bed makes for an interesting night. Woke up this morning, had some breakfast, and headed out to the beach for some surfing. I was quite tired having only slept 3 hours last night, but I did manage to get out and catch a few waves. The water is warm and not frigid like the Pacific North West (Tofino), so one can manage to stay in the water longer. Also you don't need a wetsuit, which allows you to move easier out there. This makes it better for getting out far into the ocean. Other than that, not much to update thus far, Indonesia is quite the place and I plan to spend the next few weeks exploring it!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Le Garden City

Happy Happy Days! Sorry I haven't been posting as regularly as I usually do, the last week has been busy taking care of the logistics and planning of my trip to Indonesia, which has a very strict visa policy. My 3 days in the Garden City aka Singapore has been quite magnificent. I arrived early in the morning at around 9ish to my good friend Bobby at his Singapore house, which is also better known as the mansion. Bobby is a good friend of mine who I worked with 4-5 years ago at Electronic Arts in the QA department. Actually, Bobby was actually one of the people who hired me for the summer co-op job. I am quite grateful to have someone to stay with here in Singapore, also someone to show me around this great city. Singapore is really the Mecca of Southeast Asia, it is also considered the most westernized nation in the area. This comes with a lot of benefits, like clean air, greater environmental awareness, and safer streets. However, this also means the cost of living and travelling here is comparably higher than other SE Asian countries, by at least 5-6 times when I was in Vietnam. Beers are 5-15$ and generally the prices for goods and services is the same as what we pay in Canada if not a little more. Nevertheless, I'm thrilled to be in this part of the region, my parents have often raved about the beauty of Singapore while I was growing up. Indeed it is very beautiful, there are stiff fines for littering so there is no garbage anywhere on the street. Singapore is a convenient places, where Bobby lives there is restaurants and hawkers (roadside eats) just in the back of his place.

The mansion is quite beautiful, Bobby and his roommates (Brian and Wayne) just moved in from their former apartments. Bobby and his roommates all work at the animation and movie company Lucas Arts, which is quite big in North America, located in the San Francisco bay area. There are three floors and I was situated on the second floor in the guestroom. This was a nice change from the extremely dodgy places that I stayed in Malaysia, where you could hear gun-shots going off almost consistently. Obviously, this wasn't in all parts of Malaysia, but where Blair and I stayed it seemed extra-dubious. The mansion is spacious and has lots of room for us to entertain ourselves.

On the first day we went to the Singapore flyer (see wiki), which is a well known Ferris wheel like establishment in Singapore. If you ever been to London, its much similar to the London eye, and the Singapore flyer is bigger than the London eye. The flyer takes you high up and lets you see a lot of the city, its new construction, and its beautiful skyline. Each flyer trolley can take up to 12 people, and we did see a lot of people having champagne dinners in the trolleys. Apparently the trolleys are popular places for formal engagements and weddings. We saw two weddings taking places in a matter of 45 minutes. The flyer could get quite expensive for the extra frills, since it was just myself, Bobby and his girlfriend we got the cheapest trolley, which Bobby was nice enough to pay for us. I managed to take out my well-used DSLR and took a few pictures on the flyer, which some turned out better than others.

After the trolley we went off to browse the city and its shopping centers. The city is quite modern, even more so than many North American cities. The stores and department stores are all very current, some of which are recognizable from home. We then decided to see a movie downtown, the Ugly Truth, which I have seen prior to. Since we were all running on 3-4 hours of sleep, we headed home for some rest.

The next day we ventured out to the tree top walk and attempted to visit Sentosa island. Sentosa is a sort of Disney does Singapore like creation. It has a beach front much similar to those in Southern California. It's one sparse island has been transformed into a Disney like wonder, with imported sand and fresh water from Malaysia. It also has palm trees and other such exotic imports. Unfortunately we were not able to venture out there due to a torrential downpour that was taking place. We managed to take a 16km hike in the outskirts of Singapore, where we were confronted by many a monkey. The hike was a nice get-away exercise from being in the city so often. After the hike we went out to the Hawkers near Bobby's place for some Indian grub. I had a roti-john-king which is some sort of Indian sub sandwhich with various odd sauces on it. I enjoyed it and we went back to Bobby's to watch some Band of Brothers DVDs then went out to bed.

This morning I went to Little India and the Arab district to check out the wares there. It was exciting, I had more Indian food, and was on my way to Changi airport to catch my flight to Bali. I will miss Malaysia and Singapore immensely, I do hope to return one day with more money. I love the Indian food here, and have been enjoying it with great abundance.

I'm coming up on the 1month mark of my trip and so far its been better than expected. I hope everyone back home is doing well and in good health. I do miss everyone back in Victoria and Port Coquitlam. I have sent some post-cards home! My ten minute time at this Mcdonalds free computer is coming up, so TAH TAH! until next time!

Much Love,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ooompa Lumpur

I just arrived at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Things are going very well, Blair, Cei and I spent the first two days visiting the towers. The Petronas towers are free to go up to the sky bridge, and it is a magnificent wonder. The towers were built in 1998 and we got an informative seminar on how the towers were built. Impressive indeed! We loved it! The KL tower wants 10$ to go up so we just viewed from the outside. Apparently you can get a really nice view from the top, we would have done it but 10$ was too steep for us. Unfortunately, Malaysia is just a stop-over for me and I won't be spending enough time here as I would like. On my next trip I would want to go up to Penang and Melaka and the surrounding areas. Things are really cheap here, we have been eating on the street for 1-2$ maximum, you could really spend a lot more, but Indian food is just magnificent here. I feel like I'm in India, there is a nice mix of people here, and I quite enjoy the atmosphere here.

We spent today resting and we attended a Mosque for a bit before we headed home. The Mosque visit was quite nice, we had a nice tour guide (Abdul) who showed us around and explained some parts of the Islamic religion to us.

Not much else to report, it is raining hard again, and I plan on catching up on some sleep tonight. Tomorrow, I will be getting a haircut at a less-dodgy location and hopefully organizing parts of my Singapore arrival. I will be seeing my good friend Bobby there and a few other people so life should be good there. I would like to write more but internet is expensive and the keyboard is quite rank. Happy Happy Days!! Cheers!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grande Capital

Rain Rain Rain and more Rain! that is simply how I would describe Hanoi thus far. Although the city is aesthetically pleasing and the buildings remind one of why this city was chosen as the capital of French Indochina, the rain has drowned out a lot of the potential fun that could have happened during the first two days. The monsoon has officially hit Vietnam, and its effects are as treacherous as they are volatile to my carefully laid out Hanoi plans. It has been raining non-stop since I got here, and it looks like its being rather unrelentless in its wake. The rain is not something I particularly fancy and I am somewhat relieved that Hanoi is my last stop on my Vietnam tour. I'm currently living in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, in a Aussie-style backpack hostel. The travellers here are great and it is a great place to get advice from others about travelling in South-east Asia. So far I have visited a few museums, and the Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum, which were all exciting for a culture vulture like myself. I declined the farther attractions due to the weather and accessibility.

I did find Hanoi to be more historically and culturally appealing than Saigon was. Hanoi did not represent the follies of sprawling toxic capitalism, it had a classical french colonial feel to it, which I had a particularly strong appetite for. I managed to frolic around the city quite a bit on my first day. The OQ (Old Quarter) is the place to be in Hanoi, and I have come to quite adore its classical ambiance.

The highlight of my trip was on visit to Halong City and subsequently the Halong Bay cruise. I will be posting many pictures from the boat ride, because words do not do justice to the beauty and grace of Halong Bay. A group of eighteen of us took a sleeper junk (a type of boat) into the Bay for 3 days and 2 nights. The group was filled with a variety of PHd, law, and undergraduate students, which made for many interesting conversations. Most of the travellers were from England and other parts of Europe, some who were from Austraillia. There were also some belligerent and obnoxious Belgian girls on board. The cruise included swimming in the sea, which was quite warm. You could dive off the 10meter boat at 3 in the morning visibly quite dark and still be quite alright. We did a number of activities including rock-climbing, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving. The rock-climbing and kayking was the best part, the rocks were a soft limestone making it a lot easier on the hands. The kayaking was intense at times, Blair and I took kayaks out to untouched beaches and epic epic islands. Again, see the pictures to be posted later. I did meet a lot of interesting people on this trip, most of were around the same age as myself.

Anyways, its pissing rain outside, and I should get some sleep. I will post more later. My itinerary has changed quite a bit. I will be travelling to Singapore and Malaysia with Blair on the 17th or 18th depending on when we can catch a cheap flight. We will stay in Kuala Lumpur for 3 nights then head to Bali, Indonesia for a good few weeks. Then we will round up to North Sumatra and to Thailand for the rest of our trip. I decided not go to Laos till later due to some complications and dodgy situations recently at the Laos border. I will venture there on my way back from Thailand to Vietnam, and I certainly do not want to miss its marvels. Anyways! I'm gonna look for a flight for Blair and I, short update today, but stay tuned for more. Much love to the people back home!


Saturday, September 12, 2009


Just reached the capital city of Hanoi, not much to post as of yet. I've booked my boat tour in Halong Bay and will be making my way there in the morning. I will be traveling on a sleeper junk which should be exciting. I've been wandering the old quarter in Hanoi, quite beautiful indeed. After that I will proceed to go solo into Luang Prabang in Laos! Thanks for reading all! more to come soon after my 3 day halong bay adventure. Cheers

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Happy Days in Hoi An

Before I get to the Hoi An arrival, I have a mildly hilarious, potentially could have been very-not-hilarious story from my last day at Nha Trang. So Brian and I thought it would have been a good idea to rent a motorbike on the bustling less-busy-than-Saigon streets of Nha Trang. We rented one for 3 dollars, gassed it up, and were prepared to have an epic adventure up at the Lo Son Pagoda in Northern Nha Trang. Ten minutes in our motorcyle gets very wobbly, and we geniousely thought it would be a good idea to pull over. Next thing you know our back tire is flat. Great! we are in the middle of the countryside on some random bridge far away from the city. Next thing you know, the Monsoon hits and it starts raining and we are pushing a sub-standard popped tire motorcyle down the street. Luckily to our delight a local flags us down and starts laughing hysterically. I guess the situation is kind of funny! well not really if we have to push the thing for another 15 kilometers, yuck! That idea was met with a terrible moan. Good thing the local had a spare tube on him and tools, we pulled our bike into his shop and promptly put on a new tube in 15 minutes. Turns out our old tube had been patched several times, by several I mean everywhere possible on the tube. Since the monsoon hit, we decided to just head home and take our bike elsewhere some other time. I watched "hitch" (don't laugh) on HBO and promptly went off to bed.

The next morning we caught a plane to Hoi An, which took maybe 45 minutes. This seemed like a better altnerative than taking a 12-14 hour train that would have cost 20 dollars less. Hoi An is a beautiful beautiful city! it is one of the only cities never to be bombed by U.S. forces during the war. Quite possibly one of the most pleasant places I've been to date. If Saigon is known for its sprawling symbols of capitalism, and Nha Trang for its beautiful beaches, Hoi An must be known for its tailors. It boasts over 400 tailors in the city. I didn't waste any time, and popped into the first tailor recommended by my friend Laura. All said and done, I managed to get two 3-piece cashmere suits, 2 dress shirts, 3 ties made, and 1 winter coat made. Total costing just under 400. Quality day for sure, the suits were very decent, and they finished them in 1 day. The good thing was, the suits were fitted down to a T, which makes for a very nice fit. I can see why Hoi An was known for its quality tailoring and good service, it was also nice to know where to go and where not to go by fellow travellers. Since I will probably be looking for some-type of job when I go home, the suits would prepare me well.

After the suit-making soiree, I decided to rent a bicylce, figuring if the tire pops I wouldn't have to lug it too far. I rode all the way down to the beach, which was quite decent. The water is very warm here, I could stay in forever, nice waves also. I waded in the waves for a bit, it felt like Tofino, except minus the cold. Then the monsoon hit again, and I rode my bike all the way home drenched in the pissing rain. The rain here is actually not as a abominable as the rain in Vancouver or Victoria. It's generally large droplets of warm water with literally no wind. I spent a local pub conversing with other travellers, some from Britain and Austrailia. The beers here are .60 cents, which is music to my ears.

I woke up at 6ish and headed of to Mỹ Sơn, 2 hours outside of Hoi An. My Son is a cluster of ancient ruins left behind by the Cham dynasty. I won't go too much into it, but they were made and dedicated for the Hindu God Shiva. Feel free to visit the wiki link for more info on it. The ruins were magnificient wonders. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it was not 35 degrees outside, which along with the humidity made for a very sweaty and stinky day. I managed to take a few pictures, which are on my facebook. The ruins took up most of the day. Afterwards we went to a woodworking factory, a ship yard, and back to the harbor for lunch. Hoi An is on the Central coast of Vietnam, so it enjoys a wide ranging varieties of seafood. But.......I have to run now! poor internet, sticky keyboards, and the English calling are driving me to the bar! Best wishes to those reading from home!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Nha Trang

Hello Hello! I finally found some time to post about my numerous Nha Trang adventures. I arrived pretty early in the morning around 5ish via train from HCM city. The train ride was moderately acceptable; we were in a 6-person cabin, which was pretty small on its own. It ended up being only Brian, I and one other local in the cabin. Then the oppressive music playing ensued, the local lady promptly pulled out her cell phone and started to play Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" loudly and abruptly. While I do appreciate her love for popular Canadian artist(s), I did not particularly enjoy such obnoxious banter at 11 at night after being up for almost 20 hours. However, she fell asleep fairly soon and I turned her phone jukebox thing off. The train ride was 6 1/2 hours, I slept for most of it, when I woke up we were just a few minutes from Nha Trang.

We had no idea where we were staying so we caught a cab to go to the beach. We were pretty excited, Nha Trang is known for its pretty beaches and clean water. It is also one of the most popular destinations for local Vietnamese tourists and international backpackers. The beach was quite beautiful, although their was some litter on the beach, it was not so much that you could not enjoy yourself and "paddle" in the water. We ended up finding a hotel that was recommended by Lonely Planet, we paid 14$ for 2 of us, which we deemed as very suitable. First day didn't involve much; we hung around on the beaches, drank a few beers, and met an asset manager from Singapore named Shohn, pronounced like Shawn. The water was really remarkably clean, so I went for a quick dip. There is considerably less traffic and peddles in Nha Trang, which is a pleasant change from HCM City where one could not walk 30seconds without being asked to buy goods or services. It is actually illegal to sell your wares on the beaches here now, the government has implemented new rules to where you can or can not sell your goods. This was witnessed as a sunglass saleslady was dragged away by local cops despite her strong objection. Apparently when you get dragged in, they take all stuff away, this time being sunglasses. We saw met up with a friend Blair, had a few pints, and a nice meal at our hotel. We went to bed pretty early that night, due to severe exhaustion.

The next day we went on one of the best boat trips ever. We were picked up at 830am and shipped off to the local port to visit four islands. There were numerous Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and English tourists on the boat, which made for an interesting mix. On the first island we went snorkeling for a bit, there is a plethora of neatly arranged corals on the ocean floor, which was beautiful. I didn't snorkel for long and went about to sit on one of the beach chairs with my new friend Laura from London! London, England not the one in Ontario. Turns out we had to pay for the chairs we were sitting on, 100,000 VND (6 USD) per hour to be exact, being the budget cheap travelers we were, we decided to go sit on some less-comfy concrete steps instead. One must be careful where he/she puts their bum on in Nha Trang. Everything from beach lawn chairs to chairs under the shady trees is pay-per-use. We found that out pretty quickly, the lawn chairs in Nha Trang was only 30,000 VND for the whole day, which is far more agreeable. Turns out Laura is a corporate lawyer in London from a top50 firm in the UK. Exciting news indeed! You meet a diverse group of people when traveling. We entertained each other for a good hour conversing about politics in the UK, British Labor, and life in the legal profession. I got some good advice that I undoubtedly will use later on. She was on her way from North to South, so her next big destination is down to Saigon where we just came from. Turns out she was on an economic recession holiday due to the credit crunch in the UK, thanks Gordon Brown.

On our next island we ate lunch, which involved a variety of fresh seafood, including shrimp, cutter fish, squid, pork and beef. It was quite light and refreshing. The Vietnamese seem to eat much healthier than greasy deep fried Western diets. Most people here seem pretty fit and slim compared to people back home. Then we all dove into the water for a "floating-bar" party. This was probably the best part of the trip; we all jumped from the top of a two story boat and floated in inner-tubes while being served a Vietnamese wine. I had maybe half a bottle and came out of the water a bit tipsy. There was a fair amount of dancing, music playing, and debauchery going on, which made for some delightful entertainment. We headed back to the boat and headed for the third island, there we sat around, chatted, and relaxed while watching travelers go para-sailing. We got some good R&R and time to sober up with a few beers of course, as Laura described it, it was pinch-yourself moment. It was times like that, that made you not miss anything back home, especially not work..

The next island we stopped of at an aquarium. This was the shortest part of our trip. We saw a few sharks, turtles, and various fish that were indigenious to that area. Then we were on our way home. The whole tour including food was only 7$ and was well worth every penny. After which we went back to our hotels, got dressed up, and went out for dinner at the sailing club. The Sailing Club was a great establishment that catered to western tourists, thus prices were higher than usual. The Indian curry there was quite delightful. We were able to shoot some pool, which I lost miserably. My pool skills seem to have gotten significantly worse after leaving Canada. After pool we headed off to a local brewery, had a few pints and called it a day around 1130. Took the long way back on the beach, and dropped Laura of at her hotel! It was one of the best days and evenings on my trip, perhaps the best, and I hope I will meet more interesting travelers on my backpacking trail. We fly out to Hoi An tomorrow morning, being a UNESCO heritage site, there should be lots to see and do. Much to entertain indeed. I'll try to post again soon, and will upload pictures from my Nha Trang adventures.


P.S. Happy Birthday to my good friend Jessica who turns 24 today

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Kong

Just about to run out and get the train for Nha Trang on the Central/East coast of Vietnam, thought I fire off a quick blog post before I leave. Today I was up early at 6am to go on a day-trip to the Mekong Delta, which as usual left me rushing for the bus after a breakfast involving a french baggette, scrambled eggs, and lots of coffee. I made my bus, and proceeded to make the 3 hour journey south to the Delta. I was surrounded by excited tourists, travellers, and a few locals. I find long bus rides in Vietnam much more agreeable and excitement filled than long bus rides elsewhere in B.C. or Canada. It may be because I'm in a foreign country, and there is so much to see and stare at, the city fascinates me, and the driving is downright ridicules. Although to the first time observer, the driving may seem outrageous, it really is the best form of managed-chaos that I have ever witnessed. Anyways, two hours went by, and there I was at the Delta with our guide Master P (no relation to the rapper).

The Delta, while seemingly to the untrained eye looks dirty and abominable, really is not. According to Master P, the water has a brownish tinge due to the abundance of silt in the water. Much like the Fraser river, although I did see a plethora of garbage and random objects in the water. The Mekong Delta serves to irrigate the race paddies in the area. Vietnam is second largest rice producing nation in the world, and the nutrients in the Mekong serves to replenish the race paddies. There were four main islands that most travelers venture out to; Unicorn, Turtle, Dragon, and Phoenix. All very exciting names indeed. Since we were on the 1 day trip, costing a total of 8$ USED, we only got to visit Unicorn and Dragon, which nevertheless provided great excitement. The boat ride took a total of 20 minutes to get to Unicorn, on the way we saw plenty of fishing boats, junks, and barges. The water was relatively calm and we all made it to Unicorn safely. Upon arrival, we visited a bee farm, and sampled some delicious tasting bee tea, with some bee wine. The bee wine was quite strong, but good nonetheless. After we tromped off to a music show put on by the locals of that island. The traditional music was great, and most of us tipped a few American dollars for the show they put on.

Good to note is that many of these larger islands on the Mekong Delta depend on travelers for subsistence, due to the struggling economy, the demand for fish and rice has dropped significantly. Many of the locals have gone bankrupt and are buried in massive debt. While their persistence and touting may seem overly annoying, it is good to show a sense of humility and not let our ignorance kick in. A simple "no thank you" usually does the trick and the local merchant will move on to the next traveler. Some sensibility will go a long way when traveling abroad, and helps us understand differing socio-economic conditions. In a sense, seeing the rampancy poverty in Vietnam has made me tremendously grateful of the situation that I'm in. While it's easy to whine and mope about the poor indebted student life, it is also good to understand the enormously fortunate position that we are in. My early travels in Vietnam have in a sense made me more humble, realizing that the frivolous and useless items of our society carry less importance than being truly happy. I think happiness eludes many of us because of the great expectations we all have in our lives. To drive the newest car, live in the biggest house, and own the best toys. Anyways,

we proceeded afterwards for a canal ride for about 20 minutes. The canal's in the Mekong are suppose to contain a large amount of crocodiles. We were forewarned to keep our hands and feet inside and sit in the middle of the boat. To my deep dismay, I did not get to see any such crocodile. Our ride went smoothly, and we ended up at a coconut candy factory.... The coconut candies are great, the locals make them from scratch, literally extracting the coconut to make candies to sell in big metropolitan cities. I will post pictures of this process along with others of Mekong on my face book. I purchased a few packs of the candies that I plan to send home, as long as I don't eat them prior to getting to the post office. No promises there. The coconut candy apparently is so good that they many other manufacturers have attempted to counterfeit them.

After the coconut factory, we proceeded to go to lunch after a few boat rides. The lunch involved pork chops, mixed vegetables, rice and tempura. It was delicious, and after a long morning, some of us kicked it back with a few beers. After the beers wore off, I went on a bike ride along the island. The bike ride took me through some of the slums on the island, and left deep saddening in my stomach. As I cruised on my 1-speed, some others joined me, and we ended up riding to a hammock half-shelter. There Brian and I set up hammocks, put on some music from his phone, and took a long nap. Then it was time to set home, taking the boat back, we headed towards the port to go back to Saigon. On the boat ride home I met two girls traveling from Paris, Fran and Marguerite. They were both graduate students who recently graduated from Sciences-Po university in Paris. Funny thing was, my friend Dr. Andrew is currently studying at Sciences-Po University. Fran works at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris and spoke three languages (German, English and French). Impressive enough, she told me she was contemplating an offer to go to the Congo to provide humanitarian assistance and guidance to the people their. She was a political science & history major, with a two masters, one in environmental sustainability and urban development. A girl after my own heart! this is something I definitely would like to get into when I finish graduate/law school.

However, they Fran and Marg had to leave to go to their cousins. I was on my way up to Nha Trang, and probably won't seem them again. They only have 2 weeks of holidays from their important work, and were heading back to Paris soon. I hope to run into more travelers like them, who are smart, multicultural, and have a strong passion for creating real change in the world.

Anyways, I need to run! Train is coming soon and I need to cab my way out their. As usual, I hope all is well to those reading this, and I will post when I'm in Nha Trang!! Also, I’ve been posting without reading through it again, if there are grammar and spelling errors, I do apologize..not!

one love,