Tuesday, January 31, 2006

amazing perth

perth is truly a wonderful city. it is beautiful, vegetated, clean and stylish. a great place to live! and i'm quite happy that i got to visit here. i'm quite lucky though to have been staying with friends, as otherwise i would have hardly seen anything of the city, and for sure i would have missed all of the great things further affelds. see, unlike in asia, it's very hard to get around australia unless you have wheels or heaps of cash!

my hosts have been treating me very well, more than well even. we've been out for drinks and great food around the city, the beach and surrounding towns. i've tasted great beers (thanks to ian, my official drink adviser) and even ate kangaroo (tasty!). overall it's been lots of great times... and a very different type of vacation than what i had experienced so far. in a good way, of course!

yesterday was a particularly great day though. rawinia took the day off work and showed me around the swan valley region, WA's oldest wine region. we started the day at a conservation park, where i got to see the wildlife of all parts of australia. i got to hold a wombat, feed kangaroos and pet a koala. it was like being a kid again, i was just so excited and i had the biggest smile on my face. they're all so cute! can't i take them home??? afterwards we headed to the jane brooke winery for a relaxed lunch, where we sampled some wine and munched on a gigantic platter of cheese, dips, veggies and terrine. and afterwards, we headed to a chocolate factory for some free samplings. a great day out!

today though i have taken it slow. i had meant to head out to rotness island but i slept in... and didn't feel that it would be worth it with the time left. so i decided to relax instead, which is good in a way because tonight i am taking the red-eye to sydney, from where i will fly out a few hours later to auckland, new zealand. a new country! yet again. i can't help myself!

hugging a wombat!

feeding a kangaroo!

petting a koala!

a feast!
rawinia and our huge platter!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

welcome to perth, "a city for people"

well, i have left the land of never never behind (that's how the rest of australians call the northern territory, but i think that it should be specified to be the land of never never go there without any money or a car), and hopefully as well bed bugs and people who believe that wearing fluorescent-coloured clothing i still cool.

the flight from darwin to perth via broome was very, very nice. i think that seeing the outback by flight was a great way to see it, as you get to see it in a way that you never could from the land (and you avoid the days of driving through "nothing"). around broome was mostly flooded due to the wet and the last cyclone, but it made everything incredibly beautiful. the land has great patterns of green and blue-ish lakes, as if an artist had taken a paintbrush and splashed water paint around. and the beach in broome! wow! red sand goes on for kilometers and the sea is such a perfect shade of turquoise-blue... just wonderful. from broome to perth, we flew over a red outback, with great patterns as well. this time though, it was as if an artist had applied random large paint strokes on the canvas.

the flight was also great as i had the two seats to myself (and a whole lot more leg room than on my last flight) and so i got to sleep a few hours.

arriving at the airport was quite nerve-racking for me. i was so excited! it was really weird though in a way as well, realising that i was going to meet my friends, see people i actually knew, that it was my first time visiting someone from abroad abroad, and that there would be people waiting for me at the airport! so cool. rawinia and ian greeted me with a big hug and off we were to the suny city of perth, deemed by the lonely planet blue guide as one of the most remote places on earth.

so far in perth i've had to pleasure to enjoy a bbq dinner, wonderful sandwich, beautiful grass (not the warm country type, but the nice "walk in barefoot" type), cute streets filled with shops, amazing mango sorbet, nice views of the city core, and a great firework session for australia day. and i got to do it all with friends. it's so wonderful!

cox the night away

well, i ended up going to see carl cox with a fellow backpacker from france but after a few hours he was nowhere to be found, so perhaps technically i kinda went there alone... kinda!

being australia's day eve, darwin city seemed to have awoken itself and it's bars and such were quite busy. the club though where cox was spinning was not very full when i got there at around 11pm, but i think that might just be due to the fact that the place was *huge*, big enough to make you forget you were in a city of 90'000 people and a territory of only 200'000 (of a size bigger than bc). the club reminded me of gay bars in canada, with the music, the lights, the multi-levels... had to explain i guess though!

carl cox went on at midnight and it was all quite good, although dancing packed in like sardines is a little difficult at time. it was weird to be clubbing with white people, to not just have fun dancing with the ones around you as you do in asia but now have to wonder about intentions and the likes. it was just weird... also weird was to see how the girls were dressed... not used to it anymore! cleavage, mini skirts, stuff to get yourself hurt in asia! anyhow, i had a great time even though i was vey tired. he played great house and cool remixes of songs by sting, weezer, blur and the white stripes. load of fun! quite happy that i went.

the unfortunate thing is that i had to get up early in the morning to catch my flight to perth, so i was pretty afraid that if i'd sleep, i'd miss my flight. and so i spent another sleepless night... that's too many of them in the pat week!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

outta here!

i have finally figured out (albeit only partially) my plans for western australia and have decided to fly out of darwin and straight into perth. everything else was too expensive; bus rides, tours... it's just crazy around here! and so tomorrow, i will finally see the beach city and my friends! it will be wonderful to see familiar faces after so many months of meeting strangers. and i get there on australia day, so it will be even more fun!

it was getting pretty urgent to get out of here. i mostly can't afford to do anything and have just been walking around... which gets quite boring considering the "downtown" core only has 3 streets. i've been recognising the locals, it's weird. i've been to the museum and art gallery and that was wonderful. one of the best museum i've ever been to, with a wonderfully well detailed ethnographic exhibit. the bird life around darwin is also quite exciting, everywhere you look there's a new kind of bird. and the thunder storms are the loudest i've ever witness, which is just wonderful. but that's about that for darwin itself... nothing much.

anyhow, tonight will be a first. i have purchased a ticket to go see carl cox (who i missed in both bangkok and singapore). i don't really fancy the idea of going to a club by myself but i thought it would be a shame to just sit there and not go, considering this is aussie day eve and i shouldn't let the fact that i'm traveling alone get in the way. so there, i'm going. but why is he playing small-town darwin after doing places like bangkok, singapore, sydney? why not do uluru?

Monday, January 23, 2006

top of the morning to you, darwin!

somehow, that's what went through my mind as we were coming in to land in darwin this morning at 5am.

i flew with tiger air, and that didn't start off too well. they couldn't find me in the system, because somehow my ticket was still pending even though my credit card had been charged. they sent me around the terminal instead of dealing with it right there. and i had to put up with stupid requests and had to argue my way out of them emailing my cc# to the head office to fix the situation, which they might still do regardless. they didn't really seem to care about spreading my personal information around... the flight itself though was alright, although it was a bumpy ride. i was sitting beside a friendly australian from who chatted me up the entire flight, which was nice but a little annoying because it meant another sleepless night for me. but he has offered to take me around darwin, and i might take him up on it tomorrow. see what the top of the northern territory is all about!

going through customs was weird. the custom officials actually say g'day and are quite friendly but i have never been through so much interrogating before. they do it well though, unlike the in the usa. here, they make it seem more like a friendly conversation and less of a drill.

so, i am now in australia! a new continent, and country #9 on this trip. i have also thus crossed the equator for the first time ever, which is really cool!

darwin, though, isn't so great... i'm quite disappointed! i'm here during the wet, aka cyclone season and the whole town has this ghost town feel to it. i went for a stroll around the esplanade and i saw hardly anyone. the warf, which i thought would be great wasn't. it was also empty, apart from a few ships and fishermen. all the stores and restaurants were closed! and as you walk around town, lots of stores are empty, for sale or closed... very bizarre. and even the staff around the yha where i'm staying isn't friendly... but, i did walk buy one guy who greeted me as "sweetness" as we passed each other. it felt just as weird as the southern american hat tipping accompanied with a "mam" custom.

i was warned about darwin being really hot but it's not the heat that's a killer, it's the humidity. the heat i am used to, it's about the same as it was everywhere else. but the humidity! it's insane. like one big sauna! another annoyance are the flies, another thing i was told to watch out for. in asia, there are hardly any flies, and they never bug you. but here, they are pest and they just love to land on your face, with a particular liking for the eyes. very, very annoying!

i started to look around to go visit a few national parks around here and then start making my way down to broome. the prices though are insane! tours are crazy expensive and i saw 1 bus ride to broome for $300!!! madness. lucky for me, a lot of tours are shut down because of the wet and so it forces me to ignore places and save my cash!

i miss asia! where everything was easy, cheap and friendly...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

goodbye asia... on missing you or not missing you

today was my last day in singapore, and in asia. at first it wasn't quite hitting home but then suddently it hit me, and for some reason it made me very sad. and thus i've been fighting tears all day, which is quite insane. i'm not sure why it's hitting me that hard. my trip isn't over, i still have so much to see. but i did get used to asia. no, that's not right. i fell in love with asia. and i'm leaving her. maybe it's just harder because i've only slept 3 hours last night...

thus far i have visited 8 countries. i can't believe how far i have traveled, both in kilometers and in self-discoveries. i'm amazed at how many things i have done, seen, eaten, watched, experienced, smelled. i have walked the great wall of china. i have climbed mt fuji (almost completely). i have trekked in hilltribe villages. i have ridden down river. i have experienced incredibly long rides cross-countries. i've caught worms in my feet. i've had whiplash from a banana boat ride. i have met great people. danced the night away on a beach. swam in phosphorescence. seen so many unesco sight. and so many things i can't recall right now...

during this vacation i have made myself a list of things i would or wouldn't about asia, as to not forget them as i encountered each of them. many have been forgotten though and aren't here, but the important is... at least, i hope.

things i will miss about asia.

- minute maid orange juice; china. the best ever!
- the food; especially in china, malaysia and singapore.
- cheap french food and pastries; vietnam.
- good and cheap beer; laos mostly.
- the smile of the local people, everywhere but mostly in china and indochina.
- the landscapes; laos especially.
- struggling with the language; everywhere except malaysia and singapore.
- shopping; bangkok thailand.
- great prices.
- street food!!! especially in thailand and singapore.
- free accommodation; sihanoukville cambodia.
- the tribal people; china, laos and vietnam.
- being the only white person somewhere.
- drinks in plastic bags.
- markets.
- the excitement of finding an atm that takse my bank card; everywhere above thailand.
- eating, eating and more eating!
- movies being played in restaurants.
- beautiful, long bus rides.
- constantly being amazed by how much things or how many people can be transported on a cyclo, moto, tuktuk, pickup truck, bus or anything else with wheels; indochina specifically.
- being "rich"; everywhere but japan and singapore.
- normal food portions at fast food joints.
- cheap flights.
- limestone mountains; laos, vietnam, thailand.
- the incredible rice fields and its many shades of green; laos and cambodia the most.
- sacred cows and water buffalos.
- locals chatting you up when they see that you are alone.
- wild orchids.
- dvd on buses.
- pirated movies.
- the mountains.
- lemon juice.
- the water; phi phi thailand.

things that i will not miss about asia.

- getting ripped off.
- seeing so many men urinating in public.
- people picking their nose in public.
- toilets with no toilet paper.
- wet washroom floor.
- fear of malaria, dengue, etc.
- struggling with the language.
- opening thai/khmer/lao water bottles.
- taking malaria pills everyday.
- cold showers.
- gun "coat check"; cambodia.
- people who do not flush in public toilets; china.
- having to travel/walk far to get to an atm that takes my bank card; especially china and vietnam.
- wet toilet seats.
- crazy motorcycle drivers; thailand.
- dirty pay toilets.
- having to walk around with a roll of toilet paper all the time.
- prostitutes or local women dating foreing men for their money/citizenship.
- karaoke videos on buses.
- people assuming it's a shame to be alone.
- bedbugs; malaysia.
- mosquitoes.
- muslim men; malaysia.
- people cutting in line.
- asian-size everything, especially leg space.

on the best and worst.

- favourite country: laos.
- best drink: tie; mojito in thailand and margarita in cambodia.
- cheapest beer: tsing tao, china.
- best beer: beer lao.
- best croissant: hoi an patisserie.
- worst meal: pho at the breakfast stop on the kangaroo café tour of halong bay, vietnam.
- best IYH bed: osaka, japan.
- best crowd at a hostel: far east youth hostel, beijing, china.
- coolest hostel: inn crowd, singapore.
- best hotel room: halo ha-loc guesthouse, hué, vietnam.
- coolest room: backpacker's travel inn, melaka, malaysia.
- cheapest bed: free, occhueteal beach, sihanoukville, cambodia.
- most expensive bed: Y3800 ($38), nagano IYH, japan.
- coldest place: bus ride, malaysia.


last night was my last night in singapore. in asia.

in good fashion i was sure to make the last night a rockin' event. thus, i tagged along with a big mixed group of irish, brits, sweeds and aussies and headed down to zouk, the club in singapore.

we got there for the "happy hour" entry, which means that you get at a cheaper admission cost and get two free drinks. thus, there went my no drinking intentions! it seems that it's always like that... anyhow, being there at 10pm meant being some of the only people in the bar. it eventually got busy and busier, and then the night got quite good. we spent the night dancing to unknown house music spun by a german dj and dancing on the podiums. it was a grat time! even ended up dancing salsa with a local gay guy! (gotta love acceptance down here, it's quite hidden usually...)

for some reason it was a much better night than what i'm making it sound like...

penalty for taking a picture in a club in singapore: 6 months in jail.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

are you in the navy too?

yes, that's what i was asked at the bar i was at last evening, while enjoying happy hour.

we went down to the quays after doing a tour of chinatown and ended up at a bar that was quite packed. it was bizarre being in a place packed with westerners - no locals - and it felt like being back home... well, being close to home. it turned out that the place was filled with americans, and more and more of them kept dropping in. they all had the buzz cut and everything, were loud as always and having fun amongst themselves. after a bit of staring on our part and a thourough haircut analysis, we decided that they had to be part of the u.s. navy. our suspicions were confirmed when the waitress asked her question, to which i just sat there laughing and trevor answered, "no, i'm british"! a classic.

today i took it slow... the beers quite got me my head. but tonight i plan on taking in the infamous singapore nightlife and dance the night away to the new retro night in town. it will be a sober night, but hopefully a good one!

and tomorrow... well, i get to say goodbye to this beautiful country, and amazing asia, and hit a new continent!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

singapore days

i keep meaning to update the blog with all of the wonderful things i have been doing around singapore but this city is just so great, i never actually get around to writing anything! which is not such a bad thing, really.


headed out to orchard road, the shopping mecca around here. my first goal was to go to sta travel and see about my flight to darwin and about adding an extention to new zealand at the end of my trip. they were quite useless for both, and i now have to figure all that out on my own. the shopping though is quite good, orchard rd does that very well. a day filled with wishful thinking! haha.

that night i went to the infamous night safari to see what the fuss was all about. it was organised through the guesthouse, which was nice because i got to share a cab and meet fellow bunkers. our tickets did not include the tram ride but when we got to the tram section we charmed our way through for free, saving ourselves $8 each. the ride was a weird one, with the guide talking quite funny and giving odd, useless information about the animals. surprisingly, i learned that most of them like to hangout near water. how clever! anyhow, what was most bizarre was that at ever animal enclosure, the animals were always close to us, conveniently located and easy to spot. wolves were on the rocks, so were tigers, giraffe were eating and standing up, etc. it felt as if everything was constructed, like the animals were tied up at the spot or something. it was just bizarre, tacky. but what was worst was the animal show. granted it is aimed at children but it was just weird, with tidbits about keeping singapore clean. i guess that such brainwashing has to be everywhere in order to work! and it does work. it is quite a clean city. anyhow, our taxi driver told us to be at the gate at 11pm but he never showed up... so now i get to say that i was stranded at the zoo! the guy fell asleep and it was only 45 minutes later that we got into another cab and headed back to the hostel. fun times! well, it actually was. and the ben & jerry ice cream i ate there was great!


met up with trevor again. we didn't quite know where to go so we went to the MRT station and picked a random station along the way and decided to explore there. we thus headed out to "chinese garden", at the end of one of the lines. it's a small country, so we were within 22 minutes pretty much at the edge of the country. the garden was quite nice, islands on a big lake with pagodas, turtles, bamboo and heaps of kids camping on its ground. it was a nice break from the city though, and it was very quiet, with no tourist around. i mean, not everyone wants to go to the burbs!

afterwards we decided to go to "city hall" station, take in the old architecture and find a place to eat. to get there though we took the long train ride that goes all the way to the top of the country. on the train an old chinese lady started to talk to me about her travels, cruises, and backpacking around the world. it was great to meet a traveling local, but she had funny opinions about places that she liked and didn't like. apparently, the carribeans is not scenic enough and she doesn't care about its water. and about new zealand, she basically told me that the north island was crap and to avoid it, and only go to the south! she cracked me up.

city hall area was quite nice, although we never did find the city hall. i did find the best dumplings of my life though, and that great chili paste condiment you get everywhere in china with them. the are is filled with tall office buildings that are wonderful and follow the edge of the river. that part of the city didn't feel asian at all, it was quite bizarre. i felt more like in the states, it even had a certain similarity with chicago i felt. it was great though, to walk along the river, to see the skyline, to see wicked architecture for once. for dinner we ate at hacker stalls (street food) which were quite fancy and incredibly tasty. and afterwards, we ended up at the ice bar, a clever singapore innovation to provide the people here an experience of ice and snow. we walked in the first room and it was quite a shock: outside it was about 30C, inside it was a cool... -6C! haha. that got me my winter fix! we had a drink inside the "warmer" room, where you can still see your breath but where they provide you with a comfy down jacket. my toes were so cold though! they should provide boots as well!

after it was back to the guesthouse, for cheap "happy day" beers.


yesterday was a nice day so we headed to sentosa island, the beach resort spot in singapore. we took a cable car to the island, which was quite nice and very scenic. a great view of downtown and the storm clouds on the horizon! sentosa island had a weird feeling to it, kinda like the night safari. too pretty, too prefect, too manicured... it actually made me feel like brave new world, where everyone works hard and then are forced to relax and play in these beautiful locations. it was nice though, especially the man-made beach. just perfect resort-like... except for the factories smoking in the distance and the tank boats in the water!

then, we were in for a treat: an incredible thunder storm rocked the sky. we took cover at a nice restaurant, where i ate an incredible pizza... probably the best one on this entire trip. yum!

when the rain stopped, we headed back. i had to get my pictured burned onto a cd as i was out of memory, and that took a long time... and even included a fight with the internet shop guy who was upset that i was checking my cds to make sure that nothing had been corrupted in the burning process, as i had happened to me before. in the end i won, i got to check my pictures and didn't have to pay for the "extra service".

after a nice dinner at more hackers we went to see a movie at the cinema. it was nice to eat popcorn and see a movie on the big screen, in it's real version and not a pirated version where you get the bonus audience laugh and people walking in front of the screen. the movie though, the dark, was quite bad. actually, it was very bad. don't go see it! that night at the guesthouse they played the chinese movie "the promise", a much better movie. go see that instead!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

welcome to singapore! country #8.

after a 5.5h long bus ride (instead of the expected 3h... somehow malaysia is really bad with schedules) i have made it into singapore. i had reserved myself a bunk at the inn crowd backpacker hostel in little india and the place is genius! it is actually weird to be somewhere with such friendly staff and western amenities /feel. i mean, there are at least 8 rolls of toilet paper per stall (as opposed to none in the past 2 countries) and the kitchen is all ikea. the walls are bright and colourful and there's a bar in the lobby. a good transition into australia i bet!

singapore is a great place. although it is weird that every sign is in english (hasn't happened since home!) it's nice not to struggle with the "where am i"questions. and little india is wonderful! the whole place was swarming with tamil folks, especially because of the harvest festival going on right now. there's bunch of vegetable stalls in the streets, and there's just so much to see. and the smells! so wonderful. i kept walking around my hostel checking out the streets and at first i didn't want to take pictures but then i couldn't resist. and i kept walking around with a huge smile stamped on my face, enough that i started to worry that people might think that i'm weird. i'm just so happy to be here... the kind of happy where you want to jump up and down and shout!

and to make things even better i ran into trevor, who i met while in georgetown, penang, malaysia. we had dinner together, a great mutton curry. and then we headed out to chinatown, to check out the markets and get a change of scenery. we took the MRT (the subway) and i swear, getting out the station was like landing in another country. from india we got to china, with everything getting ready for the upcoming new year. it was wonderful to be able to experience such a change with just a 6 minutes ride in between. what a great country!

tomorrow my priority #1 is to sort out my flights, and inquire as to the possibility of adding NZ to my list of places to visit. see, traveling is like a drug: you never want it to end.

Friday, January 13, 2006

happy friday the 13th!

i love friday the 13ths. they're always great days, and today was no exception. blue sky and sun joined the fun as well, the first time since i've been here! (hum, that's 1 week today...)

i started the day off right by getting up at 1:30pm (yup! lazy... actually, i haven't been sleeping well), taking a hot shower and eating a great breakfast. berry yoghurt (first time on this trip, i have an aversion to foreign diary products - aside from cheese of course), nectarine, corn flakes (dry, no milk. and why don't they taste like back home?) and chedard cheese slices.

then i was off to get some sightseeing done. i walked the streets of "chinatown" and explored back alleys that opened-up onto's people's kitchen. it was wonderful, and i even had one cook run outside after me, asking me to take his picture. he was so funny! it was really sweet. i also visited the oldest mosques of malaysia and a great little hindu temple devoted to ganesh. it was a great temple, but the guy running it was afraid that i'd step in his freshly painted patterns drawn on the floor, which would have been easy to do but i was careful. also visited a great old chinese temple... and at last, i was able to capture the christ church melaka under the perfect light at sunset. a great day filled with too many photo ops, so much so that i ran out of memory cards!

i also spent an hour or so hiding from the rain in a really great hip café near the temples. i sipped on a fresh lemon juice while reading travel magazines... nothing like a 20 page article on new zealand to make you dream again!

and then ended the night with a great dinner, well, my leftovers from last night, but still great! yummy goodness. i missed my food.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

a plague upon thy house!

to every muslim man of this country who tried to pick me up (or any other white women for that matter). shame! how would you feel if someone did that to your mother? your sister? your wife? and so, i curse you. perhaps going shakespeare on your ass is a little mean, but if that's what it takes for all of you to wake up and smell the coffee, than that's that.

i am sick and tired of muslim men. of them whistling at me. making weird noises with their mounths. what are you trying to call over, a dog? don't wave your hand at me trying to get me to come over there. do you really think it will work? don't try to sit at my table when i'm eating. no, i don't want to get in your car. no, you can't visit me in my hotel room. no, i won't marry you. and for christ sake, don't grab my ass. just leave me alone! why can't you be more like your fellow chinese and hindu countrymen???

i would just love to be able to go outside in peace...


and damnit. one too on the houses of slow internet connection and hotmail. haven't had so much trouble since vietnam! the damn thing just won't work!!!

i am *so* full right now...

i cooked! for the first time since japan i am actually responsible for what i ate for dinner tonight (and am the only one to blame for eating too much).

it all started with a stop at the local grocery store for some fruits and all went downhill from there. actually, it all went downhill when i found some real chedard cheese from oz and then it was decided: tonight, i'm cooking. (conviniently made possible by the communal kitchen in my guesthouse.)

so, i bought pasta and veggies. enough to feed an army! but whatever. the owner of the guesthouse was looking at me funny when i was getting my veggies ready. "big meal", he said. ha! "cookin' up a storm", a fellow guest said. well, cooking for leftovers really! a big stir fry of eggplant, green and red peppers, onion, tomatoes and bok choy on pasta. then covered in cheese. yum! actually, it could have been better, had i got some herbs and spices, or bothered to buy some tomatoe sauce. but heck!

anyhow, i made myself a huge portion for tonight. and it was way too big! i cant believe that i used to eat that much back home... i've gotten asian all-around on this trip i guess. i still ate it all. it was too good to waste. i am way too full now though.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

i had to give myself credit last night.

i've had tonsillitis many times when i was a kid, for many years in a row. i actually do not remember how many time is "many" but it is, for sure, over 5. i had it so many times that i could predict my illness. i remember clearly the one time i was at my friend's cottage. i was eating cherries and i told her that tomorrow i'd be sick. she didn't believe me but the next day, i proved her wrong with tonsillitis. i remember my dad taking good care of me during those bouts of illness, because as he said, he could get close to me even in the first couple days when i was contagious. i don't remember why it was ok for him to do that... maybe he just took the risk regardless.

what's incredible is that after all those infections doctors never found it bad enough to warrent the removal of my tonsils. and so, here i am today. back in trouble. and it hurts! and i doesn't feel like i remember it to have felt. i started to wonder last night if it used to hurt this bad when i was younger, if i had such trouble swallowing, if my ears hurt this much, if i had fever as often. i realised yesterday that even if it didn't, i still had to give myself credit, for i endured this repetively as a kid. i put up with it. wheter it was this painful, worst or better, wether i complained more or less, i was a kid and it would have been worst.

so last night, i was proud of me as a kid. i did good back then. i was strong. i'll get through this one as well. and maybe, in months from now, i'll remember being in pain but not the pain. as i was told too many times, "tu ne t'en souviendras plus le jour de tes noces" (you won't remember it on your wedding day), we humans have the great power to forget about pain (or at least lessen it's memory) and remember the good.

food on my mind

well, another interesting day of lying in bed, trying to sleep, sleeping in, reading, talking about my travels, hearing about other's travels, etc. yet again, big highlights of the past 24+ hours have been the food i have consumed.

1. overall, i don't know anything that's on the menus around here. i've been giving blank stares at the wait staff and said, "i just don't know!'. so, they're a helpful bunch. so i'm met with a set of questions that seems to satisfy them in deciding what i'll eat. sometimes it's just easy as "rice or noodles?", "spicy or not" and they walk away. the cool thing is that i never know what i'll be getting, and i haven't been disapointed yet. it even seemed the other night that the lady at the chinese restaurant created a special noodle soup just for me. maybe because i looked in such a state of despair (from the pain of my tonsillitis, not from my menu confusion). regardless, i know that there was no noodle soup on the menu she had given me minutes earlier. i guess they're just sweet like that around here!

2. lesser highlight: i've eaten the worst chicken rice on this trip last night. scary fact: the best chicken rice was consumed at the food court at the mall in the twin towers, KL. who would have thought?

3. biggest highlight: I'VE FOUND DUMPLINGS! i don't think i can stress the excitement in that discovery enouhg. i'd been craving dumplings (pronounced "bowtsey" in mandarin, but spelled differently i'm sure!) since i've left china. regardless, i figured with the huge chinese population around here they'd be everywhere but in fact they were nowhere, and if ever there was "any", it was either dim sum or a different take on the good ol' dumplings. anyhow, i hadn't found anything to really get excited about until last night. after my boring chicken rice diner i was walking home and came accross a chinese restaurant with a picture menu. and there it was: a picture of small, round dumplings in a wooden steam basket. i was already full, but in i went anyways. i pointed at the wall and he seemed confused, i insisted i wanted bowtsey and off to the kitchen he went.

while waiting, i met a chinese man named low and his business partner (whose name i've forgotten) who were quite keen on asking me every possible questions about my trip so far. we talked a lot about china, where i've been, traveling alone and somehow, high speed internet. they offered me tea and kept refilling my cup. and then the dumplings came.

they were a little undercooked but they were really juicy. the dipping sauce was not the one i was used to and wasn't the best, so i skipped it. the dumplings were filled with minced pork only(instead of blanded with leek as in the PDR) but they were quite tasty. overall, it was a great experience. the tastes took me back months back, miles back, to the country #2 of my trip. i will have to return again for more!

by the way, the chinese duo paid for my dumplings, which made them even sweeter.

4. tonight i was introduced to the art of boiling satay. basically it's the same old food on a stick routine except that in this case you cook your food youself in a boiling, slightly chunky satay mixture. it was quite tasty but i think that i prefer the good old grilled chicken satay off the street.

last night while i couldn't sleep i kept thinking about all the meals i can't wait to eat when i get back home. the meals i used to make, mostly. fantasized about ratatouille (on pizza or pasta, with loads of gaot cheese), pizza bianca, numerous pork roast (mom's version and my carribean version mostly), too many pasta dishes (ex: yellow pepper, lamb sausage and aragula; goatcheese and bacon; lasagna), salmon steak in my asian sauce, my jams (!!!), apple crumble, apple pie, my fruit cake... then moved on to dream about poutine, eating at bin 49, that buffallo steak at cin cin, a great margarita, cranberry juice, good icecream (mondo gelato!)... anything really! i think i might be at my limit of eastern food. damn, i miss vietnam! i miss home. i miss montreal.

i need to take more food pictures!

yes, i could eat you too right now! sweet memories of mexico... shripm and scallop cheviche in lime juice with vegetables and avocadoes on cantaloupe.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

cheering myself up

a colorful world
Originally uploaded by

to get my mind off the pain, i've been looking at wonderful pictures of where i will not be going in malaysia. wait. that's not cheering myself up! that's sheer torture!

see more of speedM's malaysian pics. it's worth a look! (he also has great food pictures!)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

well, you know. just in case you were wondering, i still haven't seen the city.

i couldn't sleep last night. i was just boiling hot, so i read instead.

i did fall asleep, at around 5am. was then woken up at 10am by 6 screeming japanese kids on the rooftop patio. then it was my turn to scream, when i tried to swallow. and then there was a lot of crying involved. and some awful facing expression when drinking water.

holly hell. i hate this thing!

on the upside, i went for a strange lunch. it was a buffet type, but instead of going to the buffet, it came right to your table. they brouhgt you plates and you ate what you wanted. what you didn't touch, you didn't pay for. strangly they only brought me 2 plates, both of chicken. but very yummy! they kept looking at me funny... i wonder why.

mais ils ne me disent rien ces gars! félicitation quand même!!!

my favourite french cycling trio have finally made it to new zealand!! bravo les gars! they obmitted to let me know and i hadn't looked at their site for a while but they have landed in kiwi land finally. they've biked their way there from paris, with a few buses in vietnam (where i met them, well, vietnam, not the bus!) and a few plane rides, and possibly some more cheating as well along the way? who knows. regardless, what they have acomplished is incredible. i am very proud of them!

françois, philippe et françois.

là les gars j'espère que vous allez mettre une photo de vous trois à destination sur votre site! c'est quoi la suite, l'amérique du sud?

melaka, or the art of not visiting a city.

well, an other day in this city (actually, i haven't even been here 24h yet) and i have still seen nothing of the city, aside from the few streets around the guesthouse which are real boring, the hospital and the mall.

during the night i had more fever bouts, and the next morning i was struggling a whole lot to swallow anything so i decided that it needed to get checked out. so i switched guesthouse first, had breakfast and went to the hospital. the hospital is actually right behind where i'm staying, so it was quite easy to get there. it was really cool there because you could see chinese, hindu and malay working together, and that, well, is so malaysian and so beautiful. anyhow, i got to see a doctor and she agreed that there was something wrong with my throat... asked if i had tonsillitis, i said tons before, but now i think she was thinking this was left over from that, which is impossible because i haven't had tonsillitis for like 12 years now... regardless, i was prescribed antibiotics and a rinse, which cost me over 3 times the cost to see the doctor. but thank god for asia and very cheap hospitals! it's crazy how much we over charge back home.

when i got out of the hospital it was pouring like crazy outside, so any plans to visit the city went down the drain. i thus wasted my time at the mall and got suckered into buying a couple things. blah!

anyhow, the good thing about my day is my new guesthouse. it simply rocks! there's a japanese/malay living room, a roof-top patio, a restaurant and nightly movies, a self-serve halal kitchen, hot showers, it is clean (unlike the mouse-feces infested place i stayed at last night) and it smells nice and my room kicks ass. it's on two levels, with a desk area downstairs and a bed on the top. but not a single bed; a king size bed! i will never want to leave that place. and the staff is half japanese, so they know how to be polite. just heavenly!

hopefully tomorrow will be sunny and warm (it is quite cool here under the clouds) and filled with portuguese churches and houses.

Friday, January 06, 2006

to melaka

i got up early this morning to get the ferry to the bus station in butterworth and catch a bus to melaka, a colonial city. not knowing when such a bus left, i planned to be on the mainland for 9. it would have worked had i 1. not taken the lazy way (wonderfully charming) and got a trishaw to the ferry terminal, and 2. had they not shut the gate in my face at te terminal (it seems that it always happens to me!). anyhow, it was all good because the bus only left at 10:30. i mean, 11. they're always late!

as soon as we started going, i realised that they were not taking the highway. it soon became apparent that there was no way that we would reach melaka by 4 or 5 pm as i had been told. i figured that at the rate we where going, we'd be there by 6:30. unfortunately, i hadn't planned on my bus going to KL to drop-off and pick-up passengers. we arrived in KL at 5 and left 30 minutes later, and thus i arrived in melaka at 7:40pm, after nearly a 9h bus ride. sweet! on the upside, i got to see beautiful landscapes, mountains, fields of palms and old wooden houses on stilts.

on the downside, i felt quite sick during the entire trip and actually had time to fight a mild fever while on the bus. i will thus get to bed early tonight to get a proper rest and hopefully fill-up on energy for tomorrow.

melaka though is not very impressing as of yet. although i have only seen it in the dark, the area where i am staying is not so great and pretty dead actually. my guesthouse is also crap, but i managed to reserve a room in a much nicer one for tomorrow. the good hting though is that this isn't a big city, and i am quite close to the sights and historical spots. it's just that right where i am, it quite lacks anything charming or quaint.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

last day of georgetown

today i took it slow... actually as i mostly always do nowadays. after a good breakfast i was out of the door by noon and heading towards kek lok si temple, a buddhist temple that blends chinese, thai and burmese architecture together (frankly, i think it's nearly all chinese with a couple non-chinese buddhas but whatever they say!). apparently kek kok si is one of the largest temples in south east asia, and i have to say that it is pretty big. there's lots of things to see and great views of the city and of the khan yin bronze statue (the largest such statue in the world) from the 7-tiered pagoda. there's also well over 10,000 buddhas within the entire complex.

the area around the temple was quite nice too, filled with markets, restaurants and sweet-smelling chinese bakeries. i bought myself some fruits and headed back to the guesthouse. there, i ate half my pomello (they are huge) very slowly (and hard to eat) while listening to oldies on the radio. a perfect way to waste a late afternoon.

tomorrow i need to get up early (yuk) and head to butterworth to get a bus bound for melaka, a city with a different spelling almost everywhere you look.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


langkawi is an island that was described to me as the stuff of dreams. to be honest, i was expecting a more upscale version of ko phi phi but with it's waters (after all, it is in the same sea). langkawi is beautiful and much bigger than phi phi. it has nice limestone mountains, although not as dramatic as on phi phi simply because they are further away. langkawi also offers rice fields, waterfalls and island-hopping, although i did only the last one. what disappointed me though about langkawi was the water. the water is like in penang: murky. although it is of a nicer shade and doesn't taste funky as in penang, you can't really see past a foot in the water and that's quite uninteresting after having seen thailand (or the caribbeans or mexico).

but langkawi has really nice, long beaches. beautiful soft sand, sea stars and nice shells. island-hopping was nice, and we got to see a lake, a beach and some eagle feeding. langkawi has a huge population of eagles, different types of them even and they are quite beautiful birds. some of them are huge!

i guess i didn't stay long on the island because it was pricey and because it wasn't absolutely incredible. it had a nice atmosphere though, with a cool reggae bar with live music. anyhow, there's still so much left to see in malaysia and i want to head to australia early, so i have to pick up the pace! because of this, i am back in georgetown to get a few sights left scratched-off my list and then i am off to two other spots before heading down to singapore, the final asian destination.

for some reason, perhaps because i will be done asia soon, i feel as though my trip is about to end soon. this is crazy though, because i still have 2.5 months left really... that's a lot of time! but regardless, i feel a little sad, and i often dream about going back to some of the places that i've visited so far. breakfast in dali. a tube ride in vang vien. snorkeling in phi phi. phosphorescence in halong bay... so many things... i guess that i just don't want to let go of them just yet.

selamat tahun baru!

happy new year everyone!

i wanted to do this update on the 1st but didn't get around to it, unfortunately. fortunately though, it means that i was keeping myself busy with actual things and not by sitting in front of a computer. actually, the first day of this year was spent at the beach. not too bad!

new years eve though was a lot of fun. i went down to the esplanade beside the beach with folks from australia, england and new zealand. it was a long walk away in georgetown but it was worth it! there was thousands of people there, spraying everyone with silly strings and fake snow. the strings were fine but the snow was more like shaving cream, and it wasn't as pleasant. i spent a lot of time covering my eyes by fear of getting blinded by the snow!

new year went off with a countdown and few fireworks, but with tons of snow and silly strings. then, music started and a show of breakdancing got underway. eventually this was replaced with a live dj. the weird thing though is that hardly anyone was dancing. as well, i have to say that this was my first new year with a very sober crowd, considering that the bigger chunk of the malaysian population is muslim. it was a little weird to see people just standing there, especially when the dj went on and most people simply left or moved back. then with us dancing and then standing around us, it felt kinda like being on display... eventually the boys started to dance like crazy and the breakdancers moved to the streets and the party really got started (after paul being threaten to go to jail if he kept dancing). in the end, we were all dancing with the locals (some of which ha wondering hands) and even got to dance with the breakdancers in their circle. what was really bizarre though is that as soon as we decided to leave, so did everyone else. we looked back, and everyone was gone. i guess the attraction was over! but we got lots of cheers as we walked away, with some hand shaking and the likes. it was a great night.

we unfortunately walked back to our guesthouse (i say unfortunately because it was a very long walk) and drank and talked on the balcony until sunrise, after which i had to bid everyone adieu and i was off to bed. two hours later, i was up, and two hours after that, on a bus bound to the beach.

in all it was a great new year, malaysian-style. i will never forget the experience!



more snow

the gang

you can find more pictures of new year's eve celebrations on flickr.