BootsnAll Travel Network

The Holy Shit Factor

July 9th, 2006

(Congratulations to my sister and her husband on the birth of their son, born July 7th. I love you guys!)

The small town of Trat in southern Thailand is the last stopover before crossing over the border into Cambodia, about an hour away by bus. Paul and I bought bus and ferry tickets in Thailand, that would eventually bring us to the beach town of Sihanoukville in southern Cambodia. At least this was the theory anyway, as heavy rains and crazy transport options had us, on more than one occasion, ready to head back to Thailand. Luckily we didn’t, for what was in store for us in the following 48 hours is something you can’t plan for, can’t arrange, and certainly can’t properly explain to people who weren’t there. But I’m going to try anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bangkok, Volume I – The Khao San Road Experience

July 3rd, 2006

Everyone has an opinion about Bangkok, whether good or bad. The capital city of Thailand, Bangkok can be just a quick stopover on your way to the next place, or will keep you marooned as days and weeks seemingly float by unseen. Many backpackers, especially ones from Europe, start their travels in Bangkok, as they can get cheap flights, it is the major transit hub to visit other parts of Asia, and if you are heading south to Oz or NZ, you have to stop somewhere in Asia and it might as well be Bangkok. It seems to be almost set up for tourists, with entire streets and areas of the city catering solely for Westerners, including the most famous backpacker haven in the world, Khao San Road (KSR). After hearing so much about it, I thought I would really hate the place; little did I know that I wouldn’t leave its’ confines for 5 days. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Vacation from our Vacation

June 30th, 2006

Phuket Island is sort of the Cancun of Thailand. The main beach area is called Patong and that is where the hoards of package tourists head to, with huge stretches of beach, seemingly endless streets full of bars and restaurants, all lined with market stalls selling everything from jewelry to fake Gucci bags to Thai silk suits. Chris and I were staying in a smaller beach area called Kamala Beach, in an apartment of a friend of his. When we arrived early in the morning from our separate flights, we checked in at reception, where our bags were promptly whisked away by a porter. I don’t think they get too many guests staying at the Kamala Beach Estate who arrived with backpacks, and even though it was low season and the place was practically empty, we were conspicuously out of place. We were shown the apartment we would be staying at for the following two weeks, and started laughing at the insanity of it all. One thing was for certain; we knew it would be impossible to leave this place, but that time would come eventually. We had to make the most of it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reflections – Malaysia

June 30th, 2006

Considering I wasn’t even planning on going to Malaysia, I really enjoyed my time there. Melaka was a nice town to start my travels in Asia, since Singapore didn’t really count. If I had started in Kuala Lumpur I might have been a little overwhelmed. KL is a nice bustling city with plenty to do, though the pollution does get to you. What I really found wonderful was how the three major ethnic and religious groups, Malays, Chinese and Indian with their respective religions, all seemed to live in peaceful harmony together. It was common to see a Malay businesswomen in headscarf walking along with her Chinese colleague, or groups of Chinese eating at an Indian restaurant. I found that very refreshing, and hopefully my short time there gave me the correct impression. The Cameron Highlands were also beautiful, and it was nice to spend a cool few days among the forests and tea plantations. Taman Negara was okay, but if you are short on time I think it could be missed, unless you are doing an overnight hike to a hide to spot animals. The Perhentian Islands are spectacular, and hopefully they will continue to stay undeveloped and relatively inexpensive. Penang was disappointing, but I wonder if I had stayed away from Georgetown on the beaches, that my opinion might have changed. I’d really like to head to Sabah and Sarawak, into the Borneo jungle to see wildlife, and to climb Mt. Kinabalu. That will have to be on my next trip.

Here is a short list of some prices for you fellow travelers, or just the curious. The exchange rate while I was there was US$1= RM 3.67.

RM 17 Small private room with fan, no A/C with share bath in Melaka
RM 35 A/C single room with share bath in KL
RM 19 4 hour bus ride from KL to Cameron Highlands
RM 8 Dorm bed in Cameron Highlands
RM 85 Full day tour in Cameron Highlands
RM 9 Banana leaf meal in Indian restaurant.
RM 12 Beer in restaurant
RM 6 Simple Chinese meal (meat with rice)
RM 85 Chalet in Perhentian for two, no A/C with fan, bath and mosquito net
RM 27 8 Hour Overnight bus from Kota Bharu to Penang
RM 1.5 Local bus to Penang Hill

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Paradise Found, and then Lost, and then Found Again.

June 25th, 2006

The shuttle bus to the Perhentian Islands ended at a small jetty, where we were ushered out of the bus and brought into a small travel agency. Since it was the Malaysian school holidays, Ann and I were sort of concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find accomodation so late in the day, so the agent behind the desk called a few places to book a chalet for us. Only two islands make up the Perhentian Islands, called Besar and Kecil, or as most people call them, Big and Small island. Most backpackers stay on the small island as the accomodation is cheaper and there are more bars apparently, but Ann’s friends were staying on the Big island, so I decided that was fine for just the three days I would be there. I was told that the Big Island was “full of resorts” and “really expensive.” What backpackers consider resortlike and expensive is fairly laughable, as Besar was the most unspoiled beach area I have ever been on, and while some things were more expensive than mainland Malaysia, it was insanely cheap compared to any other island getaway. Read the rest of this entry »

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We’re in the Jungle, Baby

June 15th, 2006

I left Kuala Lumpur early in the morning, on a bus that would cost me RM18, or about US$5, for a 4 hour journey. I was heading inland to an area called the Cameron Highlands, a large tea plantation and fruit growing area high in the mountains. When I arrived at the bus station, I found my platform underground in the dark cavernous bus terminal of Purduraya bus station next to Chinatown. So far, all the buses I had taken were nice, new coach buses. The outside of this bus, while still new enough to not have windows that open, looked slightly old and rusting. But it looked good enough, or so I thought, as I boarded with a ton of local Malays and one apparent other backpacker. The seats looked worn, the floor was dirty and the windows were blurry years of soot and fingerprints. That, I didn’t realize, should have been the least of my concerns. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wonderfully Lost

June 1st, 2006

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a sprawling city of 1.5 million people. Huge skyscrapers, most seemingly with names of banks on them, loom in the center of the city, surrounded by endless neighborhoods of Malays, Chinese and Indians. Petronas Towers, the huge two towers which pulled rank on the Sears Tower as the highest building in the world, only to be overtaken by Taipei 101 in 2004, is the city’s pride and joy. A sprawling complex of offices, apartments, and shops, surrounded by huge fountains, parks and a mosque, it is never quite out of sight. It disappears around a corner, only to appear a second later in between two other buildings. The two towers, linked by a skybridge on the 41st floor, is I think the main tourist attraction in Kuala Lumpur, but somehow stupidly so. This city, with hectic Chinatown and fragrant Little India, plush gardens and a swirling mass of people dodging cars, has so much more to offer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Asia, but not quite.

May 27th, 2006

There is a Hooter’s in Singapore. I walked past it my second night there, and stopped and did a double-take. Pushing aside the temptation for spicy chicken wings, I passed the girls in bright orange shorts spinning hoola-hoops to try and attract customers, which seemed to be working as the bar was full of people, foreigners and Asians alike, families sitting alongside groups of businessmen. It confirmed my initial reaction to Singapore; that is was not quite Asia, not quite the West, but languishing somewhere in between. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reflections – Australia

May 24th, 2006

As many people warned me, 3 months is just not enough time to do all of Australia, though I did try my best to see the things I wanted to most. My friend Lora had 4 1/2 months, did everything she wanted to except Tasmania, spent almost 3 weeks in Darwin, so that seems like a good amount of time to do “everything.” My 2 1/2 weeks at the sheep station would otherwise have been used on the East Coast probably, but I wouldn’t trade in that experience for a few more beach days. I’ll have plenty of those coming up. Doing the drive from Perth to Darwin, I would say you need at least a month to not go insane. Any less than that, and you will be exhausted, trying to go from place to place with no rest in between. Add more if you intend to visit the Kimberley. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 22nd, 2006

My last week in Australia was a fairly busy, and expensive one. After spending a large amount of time lounging around Darwin, I realized that I needed to go to Ayer’s Rock, or Uluru as it is known to the Aboriginal people, since it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Australia. I had considered not going there, but Lora convinced me that it was worth it, so I booked myself on a 3 day camping trip, and arranged my transportation to Alice Springs, the closest town. In my lazy stupor, I insanely decided to take the overnight train, The Ghan, from Darwin to Alice Springs. It was only 24 hours, and was the same price as flying, so I thought I might see some interesting things along the way.  I left Lora Monday morning, as she was staying in Darwin for the duration, and boarded the train south. As I continue to learn, but apparently not remember, in Australia, the road anywhere is almost never interesting scenery-wise. The one place we did stop, Katherine, I had already been. Our 4 hour stop in Katherine was uneventful, as they were still pulling salties out of Katherine Gorge and weren’t allowing the canoe trips, and I didn’t want to take an expensive cruise. So I strolled through the town again, and browsed the art galleries and shops, just trying to kill time. We were back on the train again at 7pm, and after dinner a movie was put on and we settled down for the night. Unlike the Indian Pacific however, the seats were fairly comfortable, and the train was almost empty, allowing me 4 seats to myself to sleep on. It was an uneventful trip, as we arrived in Alice on time with no problems. My hostel had a pick up at the station, and I was quickly whisked away, checked in, confirmed my tour for the next day (which was run by the hostel), showered and off I went into town. My one main goal in Alice would be to find some Aboriginal art, and I was on a mission. Read the rest of this entry »