Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Andaman Coast

Ok so again no pictures, sorry. I was going to post some now but this computer keeps saying it has a virus and the last thing I need is to lose all my pictures or possibly have to buy a new camera. So Southern Thailand. Wow! It is absolutely spectacular here. The rain stopped the day Jeff arrived and the baking sun continued to shine for the entire time he was here. When Jeff left last night the rain started again and its been pouring since. Go figure.

Krabi province is spectacular. Five days on Railey beach, a secluded peninsula accessible only by boat, was definitely too short. There are three unbelievable beaches there all within easy walking distance and enclosed by massive limestone cliffs. The scene is very low key with some chilled out bars lining the beach where you can lay back and enjoy a beer at while listening to some live music or watching some Thai kick boxing. We even caught a snake show one night. Railey is also the climbing capital of SE Asia (Jess probably would have cried or something ;) but I decided to save my excursion money for diving on Ko Phi Phi.

Phi Phi Island is a two hour ferry from Railey famous for its dive sites and rowdy night life. The island itself if beautiful; the water is crystal clear and the sand is so white you need sunglasses to go out. It's a shame you have to share it with thousands of speedo clad holidayers drinking their faces off. But the night life is cool, especially when you start drinking buckets of Samsung (Thai whisky) and Red Bull, Thai style. They say the Red Bull they sell here would be illegal at home, I don't know why and I'm not really sure i want to but it definitely does things to you... But after 4 nights of watching westerners drink until they cant walk I really started to wonder how much more of it I could take.

We didn't drink every night we were there, however. Sitting on the 'second best dive location in Thailand' there was no way I was going to miss an opportunity like that. And the diving certainly didn't disappoint! The first morning we went diving I learned the hard way what drinking Samsung and Chang (dirt cheap Thai beer) can do to you the next morning, even when you're taking it easy. But besides yakking off the boat after my first dive, it was fantastic, so much so that we did two more dives the following morning and a night dive the day after. I saw everything from large octopus to moray eels to reef sharks and one enormous leopard shark!

Once we were tired of the Phi Phi drink till you drop scene we moved on to Phuket and found a tranquil little beach town called Kata. Another one of Asia's spectacular beaches with a good chilled out night vibe. Jeff caught a plane out of Phuket last night to head back to work in Aus, it was great seeing him for two weeks, I guess he took the sunshine with him...

My Thai visa permit expired today, you only get 15 days in Thailand when you enter by land. I've stopped asking 'why?' when it comes to some of the ridiculous things they do in Asia but this one is a real mind boggler. So in order for me to stay longer I had to get to the nearest border today which happened to be a crossing with Burma. What an ordeal... Six hours to the border town by bus, find Thai immigration to get an exit stamp, hire a long boat to take you across the inlet to Burma (which means stopping at numerous checkpoints), one hour later get off and go to Burma immigration, get entry and exit stamp, get back on the boat, more checkpoints, get Thailand entry stamp. Fifteen more days. What a joke. The whole process cost me about $25, and all the while i was thinking how useful and benificial to them it would be if the Thai government just let us pay instead. But, it's Asia.

I wanted to walk around and take pictures of the town on the Burmese side but the men in army fatigues and M-16's on their shoulders reminded me of why I shouldn't buy any of the duty free items they were pushing. Not that there's anything to be worried about, but in case you've been living under a rock for the past 10 years, Burma's government isn't exactly a government you want to support. And the idea of just taking pictures and leaving doesn't sit with me very well me either. They dont need that kind of tourism. One day I'll really go to Burma, sit down and talk to those who want to talk, buy things from the locals and get off the beat and track. Maybe next trip.

I'm off to Ko Tao tonight for a 5-6 day stay on this tiny little island in the Gulf Coast known to be the cheapest dive location in world. Diving and Pad Thai. Mmmm.

Monday, June 15, 2009


So I was hoping to post some pictures of Malaysia but it's going to have to wait so instead I will just provide a quick update... Kuala Lumpur was a really cool city. Spent 4 nights in the Chinatown district shopping for knock off everything and drinking overpriced beers at night. I met a ton of really great people and my only real complaint with the city was that it was too expensive. I visited the Petronas towers and an amazing aquarium, but mostly spent my days around Chinatown.

I left KL for an island to the north called Penang, the food there was amazing! I then spent five nights on a large island further north, close to Thailand called Langkowi. Again it was way too expensive for me but it was beautiful none the less. Most of my days were spent on the beach and swimming in the sea. The island was duty free however so beers were incredibly cheap. It is the off season right now though so almost all the beach bars were empty in the evenings and there were very few people there in general. I found some great people staying at my guesthouse and we all decided to tour the island on motor bikes and visited the main tourist spots.

As far as culture goes Langkowi didn't have much of it, the Lonely Planet described it as an escape from SE Asia and they were right. It was hard to find local food and the western food was sub par.

I just arrived in Thailand yesterday to a small beach town called Krabi on the far south of the Andaman coast. It's very nice but again seeing as how it's the off season there are very few people here. Went out to a bar last night and had fun playing games with other travelers trying to pick out which of the Thai's were lady boys. Yikes!

So I guess I was spoiled on Langkowi, it was sunny and 35 degrees everyday, hardly what you would expect durring the monsoon, but here in Krabi it's been raining off and on since I arrived. Monsoon rain, not Victoria rain.

Jeff, my buddy from UVic, arrives tomorrow. Pretty stoked to do some drinking with him! Thanks for the emails everyone.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

McStomach Ache

Just gonna throw down a few lines about how things are going for those of you who actually read this... Malaysia is COOL. Man it's great to be back in the developed world again. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved India, but many things were really starting to get on my nerves in the last few weeks. For instance: the honking, man I swear I was ready to throw a brick at every car who honked their horn in India. It's incessant, you cant escape it no matter where you go. Even when you're the only person on the road and a car is driving towards you as soon as they're about a meter from you they honk their horn (I can't recall hearing a single horn here in Malaysia yet). But it was more than that... in India you can't ever just do something on your own. If I wanted to sit by a lake or a river and just enjoy the view within minutes I would have several people sitting next to me asking me the same BS questions: "where you from? you want something? just look sir." And if it's not the street hawkers harassing you then it's the Indian tourists who want to take a picture of you with them in it and practice their English with you. The Indian obsession with the West is really messed up. They want to be like us so badly, completely willing to abandon their own culture and yet I haven't seen anything that tells me they've got the slightest clue where to start.

And the garbage. Man the garbage problem is truly an epidemic. It is by far the most common conversation among travelers. India is dirty. Plain and simple. Sure there are many beautiful places you can go where they seem to have or are starting to get their act together but in general it's a really dirty place. One day I met a young Indian guy from Bombay traveling around Amritsar. We had just finished eating some corn on the cob from a street vendor and I was carrying the wasted cob in my hand for several minutes (you will never find a garbage can in India but it's really hard to just chuck these things on the side of the road even though it's often full of garbage). When he saw that I wasn't going to just toss it aside he took it from me and did it himself. I explained to him that in my country, this is highly illegal and can result in a fine if the police were to see you, and more than that, the people around you would most likely get upset because it's just not acceptable. His reply to me, and I swear this is word for word: "then my country is better because we can throw anything on the ground anywhere we want." Keep in mind this is a college student with a good paying job in one of India's most developed cities. The thing is, they just don't freaking get it. And it's more than the garbage and the honking; it's the paan chewing and the wild dogs on the street and the hawking spit that everyone (including children as young as 6 or 7) has no problem doing anywhere they go.

Bah, I love India! It is beautiful, and I really do miss it. I just needed to rant. haha.

So Malaysia...WOW. Tioman Island was beautiful. It was ranked in the top 10 most beautiful islands in the world (I have to say, I think the Andaman's were better) but it was stunning as you can imagine. I got 3 dives in there including one night dive which was stellar.

I am in a city called Melaka right now and it feels like I'm in any other city back home. Taking the bus across the country was no problem. They drive like normal humans here; no tearing ass around every corner and nearly side swiping any slow moving vehicles off the road. They stay between the lines and obey the traffic signals. This was a pleasant change.

As for culture, boy does Malaysia ever have alot of it. I know we like to think of Canada as a very multicultural place but walking down the street here makes our western wear look like uniforms. Most people are very well dressed. In one short block you will walk past Chinese people dressed in designer jeans or short shorts and then maybe pass a group of Muslim women all wearing head scarves. Turn the corner and you'll see an Indian mother adorned in a beautiful sari with her daughter walking beside her in jeans and a tank top, both women wearing bindi's.

And the food. Hell ya! It's SOOOO good. And it sure is great to be able to eat meat again. I think they put chicken in every meal here and it's always safe to eat (I had meat maybe 3 times in my 4 months in India). Oh, and you can drink the local water too. Sweet.

So today I had a Western day... There is a massive 6 story mall here, by far the biggest mall I've ever seen in my life filled with every brand I've ever heard of and hundreds more I haven't. I did some shopping, drank at Starbucks and ate at McDonald's. I definitely broke my $25-30/day budget but it was so nice to just feel like I was at home again. Oh, I ate at McDonald's in India, I forgot to mention that before, Jess and I decided we had to at least try it so on our last night there we checked one out. Now obviously they don't serve beef there so I grabbed a 'Chicken Maharajah Burger' which didn't taste at all like chicken and the sauce was pretty weird but the fries were normal so that was cool. But here in Malaysia it's stellar. Not quite European McDonnald's quality but better than North American. And my Starbucks was fantastic!

OK, that's all I've got for now. I hope for those of you who read this that it's enjoyable. I am completely in love with Malaysia as you can tell. No one has called me into a single shop, everyone who has approached me when I looked lost has helped me with no ill intent to lead me to their guesthouse or ask for money for assisting me. Malaysians are incredibly friendly.

Oh, I forgot to mention the only really really shitty thing that's happened to me here. Bed Bugs. Holy freaking crap this is not cool. Last night I slept in a dorm room and woke up scratching all over, when I looked around the 2 other people I was sharing a room with were doing the same thing. This morning I saw that I am covered head to toe in the most itchy rash I have ever had in my life. It is so unnerving it makes me sick to my stomach, literally (much much worse than those itchy sand flies, Jess, which I am still dealing with as well). It's crazy that in 4 months in India/Nepal I never slept in a bed with those creepy little suckers and man am I ever thankful for that. Now I have definitely learned my lesson: check every bed before you sleep in it.

I think I'm going to head to Kuala Lumpur in the next day or two, definitely excited to check out this modern city, who knows, maybe I can score a job with Petronas! haha.