Tag Archives: Asia

Sometimes, you just have to JUMP

13 Dec

and take the plunge!

Live for every moment.

Halong Bay, Vietnam (2010)

Notes on Vietnam

17 Nov

1) The most dangerous thing you can do is walk across a huge intersection or through a roundabout. If you don’t get hit by a motorcycle, bicycle, or car, you’ve won the real life Frogger game you’ve been thrust into.

2) Things here are relatively cheap – from a Western world view. You can stay in a decent hotel for $20-$30 USD a night – and that’s talking mid-range price. A meal with a drink will be $5 average in a regular non-fancy restaurant. A bowl of Pho is $2. You get the point.

3) Halong Bay is a beautiful place – a must-see even if you hate “touristy” places. Be prepared to line-up to see some caves and eat a lot of fried food, the fare of choice for boat-cooks for some reason.

4) The level of harassment to buy things is pretty low compared to other countries (e.g. Egypt). Win!

5) “Line-ups” are just crowds of people invading each others’ personal space so they can be first to get checked-in, to get on a bus, to get on a plane, to annoy people, etc.

6) Everyone’s a millionaire in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Dongs

Vietnamese Dongs

Too much to say…

28 Jul

too little time to type (for now).

My apologies, but my detailed on-goings in Korea will have to wait since I don’t have much time left here and I have to make the most of it by notwriting about it.  I’ve got the best personal tour guides in Korea who keep me busy – we really don’t stop til 6 in the mornin. sometimes 7.

This is most likely going to be my last post. so Cheers to my readers, commenters, and fellow travellers. Big Thanks to all the people who contributed to my wonderful trip by providing and participating in endless entertainment, taking time out of your day to inform me and show me around, and by providing accommodation.  And farewell to those who I’ve met along my travels – it’s a small world, so i might see you sooner than you think.

See you Torontonians soon.

Mudfest Mania

24 Jul

It took us 2.5 hours to get to the mud festival. We spent 5 hours playing in mud. We got lost for 1.5 hours. Then it took us 5.5 hours to get home. Yes – we spent more time travelling than anything else.

The day began as normal – little sleep because of a late night out to welcome Cezan to Korea (for the night, Korean Beef BBQ was in order as were drinks in a park and a live band in a bar).  The girls were on 2 hours of sleep when we made our journey down to the bus terminal only to find out that we had to wait approx. an hour for the first bus to Daecheon Beach (the information booth guy said there were earlier buses!).The ride was full of restless sleep and confusion. i.e. “where are we and is this where we get off?” The bus driver made announcements in Korean and we had no idea what was going on. So we decided to follow people who were obviously going to the beach as well. Yes, we have become stalkers of English-speaking people in Korea.

When we finally got to the Boryeong Mud Festival (www.mudfestival.or.kr) at Daecheon Beach, we got down and dirty after finding a good spot. Mud was everywhere. when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. There was no way to avoid it. We attacked each other with muddy paintbrushes to get a nice even layer of mud. Keep in mind that this isn’t just any mud – it’s supposed to be good for your skin.  Boryeong is known for their mud massages and mud skin products. After mud painting, we decided to cause a little ruckus in the mud pool. I have battle wounds from a mudfight with Hanna.  Apparently the pool wasn’t made to cushion falls.

So many people were muddied up – foreigners, locals, adults, youths, little kids. There were more things to do, like the mud slide and obstacle course, but only if you wanted to line up in a huge line and most of you know that i don’t do line-ups unless absolutely necessary.  There were some nice people to be met there, definitely.

After washing ourselves out on the beach and after Cezan’s fulfilled desire of being buried in sand (and being made into a sand mermaid),

mudfest.jpg



we ate street food and decided to go to the bus terminal to buy our tickets home to Seoul. Alas, we got lost. We walked around and attempted to find this bus terminal. We obviously did not take in our surroundings when we were walking from it to the beach when we got there. We asked a staff member but he was directing us to the Daecheon Bus Terminal (this is different from the Daecheon Beach Bus Terminal which we later found out).  Then a nice lady escorted us (had us follow her) to the Beach Bus Terminal which was really great of her. Now you’d think we were relieved to finally be there…and we were…until we found out that ALL bus tickets to Seoul had been sold out for the night. now there were 4 girls potentially stranded. We were pretty adamant on getting home though so the bus ticket lady had an unofficial translator help us find a way home. We took the biggest detour to get home – hence why it took us more than double the time to get home than to get to Daecheon.

To top it off, when we made it to the Cheonam Bus Terminal (end of our bus detour), we had to taxi to the subway station. We didn’t know where we were so another man from the bus ticket counter escorted us to the taxis and told us where to go. Yea, we had quite the number of unofficial guides that day.

We ended up catching the last trains. And everyone stared at the 4 semi-muddy girls who were using towels as blankets in the cold subway. 

When we had to transfer to another subway line the oddest thing happened. Everyone started RUNNING for the transfer subway train. We had no idea why they were running, but we knew it was for good reason so we broke out into a fast run too. I kid you not, these people seemed like they were running for their lives. When we got the platform, we found out that everyone was running for the last train – a very good reason to run, I guess. So us girls were lucky to catch the last one. And we were relieved to be finally home…so relieved that we went to eat and shop from 2 – 4 am.

All in all, an eventful day full of “a series of unfortunate events” (Cezan Duong, 2007)

Random Going-ons

20 Jul

Chingy at Club Prive in HK. Him + entourage have a weird thing for asian hair.

HK was way too humid. always sweating.

Mosquito bites all over legs since Malaysia. stupid sweet blood.

American travellers not representing their country very well.

Soju games in random bar with random korean people to avoid rowdy drunk slurring foreign tourists in club setting. (Maybe we’re getting old…)

karaoke bar with two levels per room. for example, you can climb up a ladder to the second floor (attic style) while passerbys watch you through a window if they so please…..weird.

always lost in translation. not many people here know how to speak english so we’ve resorted to pointing and sign language. all i know how to say is “hi”, “thank you”, “english”, and “1,2,3,4,5″ in korean. and “bitch” as well (which doesn’t help me). and edible/drinkable items: bibimbap, jabchae, kimchi, soju.

all the food is spicy. i’ve burnt some tastebuds off for sure. but we love it. thank god for anna and her mom for showing us the good stuff around.

Too much shopping being done and more to do. Loving the markets. $5 – $20 for shoes and clothes. what more can a girl ask for? (yes, i AM going broke – fast – even though the prices are cheap)shoes.jpg

koreans love to use their umbrellas, rain or shine. it is ridiculous to us.

garbage cans are rare and the waste management system in Korea isn’t very good. thus it smells all the time.

street food is goooood. except that if we order without anna, we have no idea what we’re eating. and probably don’t want to know. slowly getting rounder.

going to attempt to NOT get lost when trying to get to the annual mud festival. it’s going to be messy, no doubt.

bye!

Sleepless in Hong Kong

17 Jul

I know, I know. I haven’t updated much since Malaysia.  After M’sia, I went back to Singapore and did the whole hanging out with cousins and family friends thing. It was good to see them after 4 – 8 years of absence from each others’ lives.

Now I’m in Hong Kong. The first couple days (Thursday to Sunday) I didn’t get much sleep. Blame it on Hanna, Cyn (Hanna’s friend), and Jeff. But it’s been really fun. really fun. They party non-stop here and these old bones can’t keep up. Plus it doesn’t help that my parents love all day tours that start as early as 7 am in the morning. 5 days is definitely not enough to see all of Hong Kong.

I’m keeping this short and sweet because there would be too much to type and too much for you to read if I were to describe my HK adventures. Here’s a list of where I have been if you care to know: The Big Buddha on Lantau Island, The Peak and all the major landmarks on Hong Kong Island, some markets on the Kowloon side, and Macau (Asian Gambler’s Paradise).

I’ll tell you guys stories when I see you.

Hanna, Cyn, and I are heading to Korea tomorrow. Cezan is to meet us on Friday. Anna is already there.  It’s going to be amazing, even though we still don’t have a hostel and we have no idea what there is to do there. All I know is that there is a mud festival.

Cheers.

Various views

7 Jul

This post isn’t going to be easily comprehensible because of the many random thoughts I am choosing to reveal.

Most disgusting moment thus far: realizing that women in China don’t care to close bathroom stall doors when taking a leak.

Most fat moment thus far: all of today. Family members honestly try to overfeed you. I ate everything I could have possibly wanted to eat in Malaysia and Singapore combined.

Happy 50th Birthday to Malaysia (prior to 1957, Singapore and Malaysia were combined as Malaya)

First Malaysia’s government tried to move the capital from Kuala Lumpur to Shah Alam.  That first project failed. Now they are trying to move it to Putrajaya – where one streetlamp costs $10,000. I’m pretty sure this second project is in the midst of failing. What a waste of money – the government could have done more for its people.

When you encounter Malaysian beggars, you almost tend to stop sympathizing with Canadian ones.  I only say this because I’ve encountered 3 in one night market – all could not walk because of missing or deformed limbs. Apparently, there is some sort of syndicated operation where someone will pick these beggars up and deposit them at busy areas for them to collect/beg for money. Once the rush is over, the beggars get picked up again and share their gains with other beggars in the group – and the group mastermind of course (who is an able bodied person).  Would you give these beggars money? Think about it. There are many pros and cons to any decision, no matter how you look at it.

“True” Malays are preferred by the government in M’sia. They are to be put at the top of large organizations – i.e. sometimes, a Malay must be a CEO. They also get incentives to start businesses. Other ethnicities do not. Especially Chinese-Malaysians. There is underlying conflict.

The streets are really dirty here in Malaysia. and smelly.

I really hope I don’t talk like the Singaporeans and Malaysians when I come back. As in I better not get used to speaking without pronouns, nouns, etc and using “lah” way too often.

Singapore & Malaysia

2 Jul

I realize that I didn’t update much when I was in Singapore. This is because there’re far more better things to do in Singapore than go to an internet cafe. Sorry to disappoint my avid blog readers ;)

I shopped a lot. And when I say a lot, i mean A LOT. I have to figure out how to stuff the clothes and shoes and purses into my suitcase now seeing as I never did have a lot of extra room in the first place.  The cheapest place to shop is Bugis Market/Junction. You can get cheap stuff (i.e. $10 shoes) and bargain, to boot. Luckily Richie likes shopping, so he didn’t get too bored when I made him go shopping at multiple places. What a good sport.  For those who know him, Richie says hi and he misses everyone in Toronto.

We ended up going to Chatterbox restaurant in the Mandarin hotel for Chicken Rice. yup, apparently it’s the place to go for the best Chicken Rice if you’re in Singapore. It’s their signature dish. We also went to Raffles hotel for Singapore Slings (which is their signature drink). Good eats, good drinks. And then we headed off to Clarke Quay which is the place to go out at night. They have amazing restaurants and they have a strip of clubs  (read: a strip of clubs…not strip clubs). Think Richmond Street, Toronto, where there are just clubs on both sides of the road. In Clarke Quay though, they’re just clubs on the side of a huge sidewalk so no cars can drive through – which is a lot better, I think.  Anyway this area was built up during the last year, so it’s still pretty new. These clubs/pubs have better designs than ours, that’s for sure. There’s one called Clinic. They have hospital beds where you sit, and IV drips from which you drink your alcoholic drink out of. Creative huh?  I gotta tell you guys though, there isn’t much of a hip hop/reggae scene in S’pore. They love their Euro and trance stuff. And there are a lot of drunken foreigners/ex-pats. a lot. and weird asian girls who like to stand in front of mirrors and watch themselves dance crazily – while providing me with endless entertainment. :)   Another thing I like – the fact that you can get pitchers of mixed drinks. That’s right, folks. Get a pitcher of RedBull Vodka with 4 straws in it for you to share with your friends. None of this individual drink garbage.  Clubs go past 3:30am here…I don’t even recall a mention of ‘last call’. Downside of drinks: one amaretto sour costs $11.00…ya that’s right. you know we can get that for about $3 at our clubs. Drinking is expensive in S’pore.  But the shisha ain’t bad.

I just got into Malaysia yesterday – and I’m already bored. If we have nothin’ better to do, we’re gonna go back to Singapore early before we have to go to Hong Kong.  I think it’s boring here because we’re not in the main city that everyone knows – Kuala Lumpur (where a lot of shopping is!). I’m in Kajang – the city of satay (y’know….meat on a stick. think of it as a simple shishkabob) where there isn’t much to do…you have to hop on a train and go into the main part of the city if you want something worthwhile to do.

Did I mention that it’s insanely hot in S’pore and M’sia? So…very…hot. sweltering. Everybody likes the mall because it’s air conditioned.

The internet is ultimately slow here. you’d be annoyed. but i have nothing to do all day so i have all the time in the world to be patient.  But I doubt I will update much in M’sia – because I doubt there will be anything interesting to update about.  Stay tuned anyway.

I love Singapore…

28 Jun

but I hate that it’s probably going to make me fat.  The food here is amazing…and it’s cheap.

Oh and the city’s so much cleaner. And the people don’t have disgusting manners like some of the citizens in China (i.e. spitting on the tiled airport floor, picking their nose blatantly and obviously in public, cutting everyone in line – everyone who is also trying to get through customs at the airport to catch their flight…)

This is my second day in Singapore (June 28, 2007) and all I’ve done is shop and eat. There are so many shopping complexes with all sorts of nice and cheap things to buy. and I already mentioned the food was cheap. I got a meal for $2. When have you ever gotten a meal for $2? And that’s in Singapore dollars which is worth less than the Canadian dollar.

I’m finally getting a chance to take it easy….only because I’ve been here before and seen all the sights on previous trips. The weather here is amazing – a little too hot in the day, but the night is wicked. Perfect summer nights.

My dad’s telling me to get a job here so that I can be an ex-pat and move here. I don’t think I’d mind too much either. I know that a lot of you would LOVE it here. Visit Singapore whenever you get a chance – trust me, you won’t regret it.

Yangtze River Cruise

25 Jun

Alright so after Xi’an (shee-anne), we went to Chongqing (chong-ching) to board a cruise ship; but we got to look around the city for a bit before boarding.

Chongqing was the war capital of China during WWII (what they refer to as “the anti-japanese war”). Why’s this interesting? because you can still see bomb shelters built deep into the mountains of Chongqing – these are now being rented out by citizens from the government.  The population of this “small city” is 32 million. Yes, folks – the approx. population of Canada is “small” according to Chinese people.

We boarded President Cruises No. 6 Friday June 22, 2007.

Saturday June 23, 2007
We went to Ghost City in Feng Du (where I had to climb over 400 steps….goodness). This place consists of Taoism and Buddhism temples. Although it concentrates on the two major Chinese religions, it is believed that ghosts from all over the world, regardless of religion, race, and gender, come to Ghost City to be judged after their death. Those worthy go to Heaven (or a similar rewarding place depending on what they believed in) and those who were damned went to hell – which is believed to be Ghost City. Citizens of Feng Du believe that the ghosts wander the streets after midnight and so they stay home. There is a statue of the God of Hell (oxymoron?) which does NOT represent the devil. The God of Hell is just in charge of judgment and punishment. Punishment examples: cutting off your tongue for lying, cutting your body in half for bigamy.  All in all, it was an interesting place….whether or not you believe the stories.

Sunday June 24, 2007
I realized that this cruise was probably the most relaxing part of my trip so far. Even though I haven’t gotten up past 6am on any day, my cruise days have consisted a lot of sitting and relaxing with a book or just enjoying the view. The purpose of the Yangtze River cruise was to see the famous 3 Gorges and the huge Dam Project (which costs 23 billion US dollars and requires the displacement/relocation of 1.3 million citizens due to the rising water levels which submerge lower land!).  The Dam Project is supposed to be completed in 2009. 
The scenery of the 3 gorges is beautiful. All you see is mountain after mountain, cliff after cliff, and waterfalls trickling down the side of sheer mountain drops. Nature paints the perfect picture, as they say.  You can even see little farms and fields where people own and work on the hilly terrain.
A weird sight you have to know about: Hanging/Suspended Coffins. These are coffins made of special wood which are excellent for preserving bones for more than 130 years. These coffins are in little caves in the mountain walls. The mystery behind hanging coffins is that nobody knows how people put them there. Imagine a huge mountain wall with a random coffin in a hole – so far off the river and so far below the top that you can’t get to it. There are no steps or attachments to access them.

—————————

In Chongqing, I bought a painting. A simple picture of flowers in bloom…painted by an artist with no arms.  Mr. Huang Guofu lost his arms at the age of 4 in an electrical accident. Growing up, he never had the chance at a proper education, so he decided to earn money by painting. He learned to paint with his feet and mouth. The paintings are nothing short of amazing. You’ve seen Chinese paintings – they are the same, except his are more awe-inspiring. Watching him paint with his mouth was unbelievable. He is an example of a strong individual who lives the phrase ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’. He paints and earns money for his family and gives his earnings to charity as well. A giving, remarkable man who faced and overcame difficult obstacles.
I bought the painting to remind me of my good fortune in life – how lucky I am. It also reminds me of one man’s strength, will, and determination. It reminds me that I have everything to be thankful for.