23 August 2011

Bangkok

After 5 days in Bangladesh, 2 days in Singapore, and 3 days in Malaysia.....we were finally in Bangkok. Unfortunately, I had only planned a brief stop in Bangkok. We arrived at 10am and I had a flight leaving at 2am. Now, I know what you are thinking....that is not enough time for Bangkok!...


The only reason I squeezed Bangkok into this trip was to catch a super cheap flight from Bangkok to Cairo ($400!). I knew that someday the Mrs. and I would come back, so no big deal.

Matt & I arrived and rather than deal with buses etc, we hopped in a Tuk Tuk ...off we went! The Tuk Tuks in Bangkok are way bigger than the ones in Bangladesh. They are open and airy...so very pleasant! They are like the ones in India...but even nicer! Hooooray fancy Tuk Tuks!


Our destination was the famous backpacker ghetto of Khaosan Road.



The district is loaded with bars, restaurants, shops and cheap hostels/hotels. We met up with Matt's Korean friend Joo who happened to be in town and we all walked around together...took in the sites, and had some lunch.


Mmmmmmmm yummy Thai food! I had the above spicy beef noodle dish for lunch...and it kicked my ass! Spicy!


After spicy lunch, Joo took us to a traditional thai massage parlor (not that kind!) and we all got our asses kicked by middle aged Thai women intent on causing as much pain and discomfort as possible. After an hour long torture session, I felt great!...but was hungry again...go figure!

This is where the Mrs. is gonna be jealous...not once, but twice this day I had Pad Thai...and it was glorious.


I found this picture on the internet because I didnt take any of the Pad Thai. It was super delish...yummmm nom  nom nom nom.

That evening, after only 16 hours in Bangkok, I said my goodbyes to Matt and Joo, and headed to the airport for my 2am flight. It was a great short visit to Bangkok, I can't wait to return with the Mrs.


Next stop.......Cairo!

14 August 2011

The Pearl of the Orient

Malaysia. the crossroads of SouthEast Asia. Historically, an important part of the Spice Road, home to some of the busiest ports in the region, and a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures.

Malaysia 's name comes from either Sanskrit or Indian and is said to mean"Land of Mountains"

Matt and I took a 17 hour train trip from Singapore north through the capital of Kuala Lumpur, towards our destination of Penang.


The train ride was long and uneventful...except for a Danish family whose favorite hobby was kicking my chair. Luckily, they got off in Kuala Lumpur...and I could get back to trying to nap my Singaporean hangover away.


The train ride was only supposed to take 13 hours, but long delays plagued us the entire trip resulting in a 17 hour journey. Normally this wouldn't be so much of a problem, but we were getting off in Butterworth to catch a ferry to Penang...a ferry service that stops at midnight.

As luck would have it, we arrived at 11:50pm and were just able to catch the last ferry to Georgetown on the island of Penang, get to our hostel and crash. Perfect.

Ferry to Penang....just made it!

Georgetown, a former base for the British East India Company, is full of British Colonial charm and multicultural sites.

Loaded with history. Imagine the Japanese Army marching down this street during the WWII occupation.

Matt and I had decided to skip Kuala Lumpur to spend two whole days and nights in Penang...and I'm glad we did. It was great just walking around the different neighborhoods...Chinatown, Little India...etc.

Its got everything you would hope from a former British colony in Asia...local charm and colonial architecture...cool.


Ask anyone who has been to Malaysia, and they will tell you the best thing is the food. Chicken Satay and the normal local delicacies were abundant, as well as the famous street vendors of Penang.

For me, far and away the best meal we had on the ENTIRE trip was lunch in the Chinese neighborhood of Georgetown. It was sliced, slow roasted pork, rice, green vegetable stuff and some delicious sauces.


Maybe the picture doesn't do it justice. It was so simple but so very good. It was/is exactly what I look for in an Asian style meal...simple but packed full of flavor. Washed down with a cold beer, we were in heaven.

Walking around the markets, we saw lots of cool stuff......like what the hell are these red prickly things?


It was a great couple of relaxing days in Penang...we didn't want to leave, but we had train tickets to Bangkok....so back on the ferry we went...goodbye Penang!


This train was far nicer than our last train as it was going to be an overnight trip....sleeper car! Wooohoooo!


The scenery in the north of Malaysia was very beautiful and interesting. There were a lot of stops where locals would get on, walk through the train and sell food etc.


Matt and I got way too much food, but it was delicious....much better than the crappy noodles we had on the train from Singapore,,,or the disugusting pizza i bought on the ferry. Train Noodles and Ferry Pizza would become synonymous for bad food or risky eating practices.


On the train, we made friends with the surrounding passengers, who turned out to be the weirdest cast of characters ever. You couldn't make this kind of stuff up.

There was a 50 yr old Australian guy, who had recently had an illness/surgery which now prevented him from eating solid foods...so he had a blender...and made shakes that included random food items, but almost always Bacardi.

His traveling companion was a 20 something Indonesian guy.

Across from us, we had a 25-30 year old Japanese student and later,  an early 20's Canadian lugging the biggest suitcase I have ever seen. What was in it? Books! He is traveling around the world with a 60lb suitcase of books...so he doesnt run out of reading material...what the?

There was also a 60 something Malaysian guy...who has been traveling the world since 1970. He was funny, wise and even did card tricks. He would prove to be the life of the party.


We all talked, drank beers and laughed our way through the Malaysian countryside.

It was like the beginning of a joke: " An Australian, a Canadian, an Indonesian, a Malaysian, two Americans and a Japanese student get on a train......."

When the train steward started folded down the bunks around 830pm, he did ours last...eventually , to be polite to the other passengers, we called it a night. A great evening followed by a great nights sleep.

Having a great time on the train to Bangkok.
In the morning, we woke up in Bangkok, Thailand! Stay tuned......

10 August 2011

Singapore

After 5 days in Bangladesh, Matt and I headed out on the second leg of my SE Asia adventures...a 3.5 hour flight to the Lion City....Singapore!

Unfortunately, we had only planned a short stop in Singapore as we had planned a train trip leaving in less than 48 hours. We chalked it up to one of the drawbacks of travel....not enough time!

We got in around 11pm and went to our hostel. Where we thought we had reserved a twin bed room....


Time to cuddle up little buddy!

Fully rested, we struck out in the morning to pick up our train tickets for the next day and recon how to get to the train station etc etc etc...this would turn out to be a genius move.

After 5 days in Bangladesh, I was super happy to be back on clean, air-conditioned public transport...Matt who had been in Dhaka for 2 months, was in a state I describe as stunned stupid...he couldnt even function for the first few hours.


After getting our tickets, we went downtown and covered a lot of ground seeing all the sites.


We were both enamored with Chinatown, and spent the entire afternoon walking the streets and just enjoying the atmosphere. Singapore is a beautiful, ultraclean and orderly place. The temperature is pretty much the same all year....85F(31C) in the day, 75F(23C) at night...all year long!

I have heard from friends (most recently Suzanne, Kelly's Africa Trip partner) that they loved Singapore...I understand why, its amazing.


As always with traveling, the food plays a big part. Matt and I found a food court in Chinatown, where we sat for an hour or so, enjoying a couple of beers and some dumplings....yummmmmm.


Matt's hand is in the picture above, because I asked him to move his hand while I was taking a picture...so now I have 8 pictures of Matt waving his hand in my pictures....oh the fun never stops when you are backpacking in Asia!

Here is a video I took at the food court in Chinatown...pay special attention to the....uniform? of the waitress near the end of the video....weird. I guess when you are a waitress in a food court, you dress to impress!

video

It was great afternoon. Singapore is one of those places you can just walk around and be entertained.


I personally enjoyed the Asian architecture and flavor of the area. Very nice indeed. A great taste of Singapore, someplace I will definitely come back to with the Mrs.


In the evening, we met up with Matts friend Kyle who he knows from High School. Kyle lives and works in Singapore, so he gave us a place to stay on the second night and took us downtown to Clarke Quay.


Clarke Quay is a historic riverside area on the Singapore river that is now a pretty impressive and happening night spot. Load of clubs, restaurants and bars...some are even on refurbished Chinese Junks moored in the river!

We partied all night long, and didnt make it back to Kyle's until very late. We had already scoped out the train station and picked up our train tickets as mentioned earlier....Good thing...our train was at 830am!

See ya later Singapore....next stop......Malaysia!

06 August 2011

Dhaka, Bangladesh...part deux


There is no tourism in Bangladesh. Matt cracked up when we saw an ad at the airport from the Bangladesh Tourism Department...it read "Come to Bangladesh before the tourists do!"...like thats gonna happen anytime soon!

Doing anything in Dhaka is...punishing. Once outside of the orphanage, we were immediately immersed in heat, noise, filth and chaos. All as oppressive as you can imagine. 100 degree heat, 16 million people, a city with little infrastructure...and as much chaos as you can pack in. Hold on, its a wild ride.

Just walking to the store, I took the picture below.


We saw entire families breaking bricks for a living. Smashing big bricks into little bricks, little bricks into pieces of bricks, and pieces of bricks into brick sand. Kids are put to work as soon as they can walk. We saw a 4 year old smashing bricks with a homemade tomahawk...no joke. The more kids you have, the more people you have to break bricks.

Its a sobering sight.

Next up? Hundreds of people waiting in line to get a cup of rice from a government truck. Same truck, same place, every day....wait in line....in the heat.


Luckily, it wasn't all gloom and doom. The locals were so very friendly and the kids were positively giddy when Matt and I played cricket in the street with them.


Another highlight was the food. Anyone who knows me knows that spicy food makes me sweat like a hooker in church...but when its 105 degrees out....who cares!


Does that food look spicy? You're damn right it does...and it was! Good Christmas they like their food spicy....its no joke....and delicious.

Most meals consisted of the same items. Bread...Yellow mushy stuff...Rice...Brown mushy stuff, and unidentifiable meats in spicy sauces. One sauce I believe came from Satan's underpants....in fact, thats what I would order...since they don't speak English and would bring the same stuff anyway.

"Some Yellow and/or Brown Mushy stuff, some Bread and some Rat meat bathed in Satan's underpants sauce please...thanks"


Its really unbelievable not only the amount of activities we squeezed into 5 days, but also the variety. Besides hanging out with Bangladeshi gangsters and playing bumper cars with motorcycle rickshaws, we also went to a soccer game in the big stadium...oh and crashed a wedding.

Thats right, we crashed a wedding....in Bangladesh....a Muslim wedding. Who has big giant b**ls? We do, thats who!

 Matts buddy Marshall has a sister who was going to a wedding, so because Marshall is 19 and doesnt know any better, he decided we should just show up. We were a bit fuzzy on the details until we got there and realized "hold on....we weren't actually invited (like Marshall said)...wait a second, why is everyone staring at us?"

Matt and Elodie....wedding crashers
Well at least it was a small wedding...of 600 people!

It gets better.

The waiters had no idea what to make of us...especially when we told them Elodie is a vegetarian. They were completely stunned and confused. So much so, that they just hovered around her and every 30 seconds or so, scooped more vegetables on her plate.

I took this picture right after I signaled to the waiter that I thought she needed some more veggies.


Bon Appetit! Her face says "STOP TELLING HIM TO GIVE  ME MORE VEGGIES!" or actually it probably says something like that in French....because she is from France.



It was an amazing trip. One I certainly wouldn't have made unless Matt (above) was in Bangladesh. Kudos to his adventurous spirit....Bangladesh...crazy!

I also cant say enough nice things about Elodie and the orphanage we stayed at. If you are looking for a worthy cause to donate to, look no further. They are making a REAL difference in the lives of many street children in Dhaka. You can click on the link below for information about their charity.



http://www.partenaires-association.org/

Stay tuned for our next stop...Singapore!