Archive for April, 2014

Around the world: Kuala Lumpur

April 26, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

IMG_1806

IMG_1789IMG_1796

IMG_1801

IMG_1802

IMG_1809

IMG_1811

IMG_1824

IMG_1830

IMG_1844

I have probably met the highest concentration of hot Europeans in Singapore- Malaysia Hostels than I did anywhere else. Or maybe I have been travelingg for too long and anynody from the opposite sex has had their hotness factor increased by 5.

 

 

The overnight train is cold. This should be the first thing anyone mentions when discussing the inter city train in Malaysia. The tickets that has a bunk bed to allow you to sleep through the night needs to be bought a week ahead. So unless you bought those or you are on a really tight budget, I do not recommend it.

 

 

Kuala Lumpur itself is a very boring city. Lots of shopping malls and a batu cave to go visit. I was originally going to stay here for a while since it is pretty famous, but decided against that. Lots of western travelers here.Too many to count. It is very funny to see them at the China town night market haggling for stuff and taking pictures of their food and getting harassed by street vendors, while I get a completely hassle free treatment. For the first time, I understand what the locals feels like.

 

 

By the way, the China town here sells copies of brand name products and hasn’t been cracked down. I think I saw the famous Rolodex here. Will return in the future to buy.

 

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

 

Around the world: Johor Bahru

April 26, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

You know you are on the less travelled road, where there are no blond hair in your vicinity, nor the familiar turtle shape of a backpack.

 

 

In two days it’ll be two weeks, but I believe the traveler’s aura is already on full display, it’s just a matter of how strong it is. I’ve started to notice woman intentionally get within my vicinity as well as initiating greetings with me.

 

 

That said, I believe this aura is the result of constantly changing your environment. A sense of content at whatever you are doing or the mixture of different smells from different places concentrating on you. But I think it also has to do with the way I travel as well as I’ve met a lot of people who say they have been traveling for more than a year. I think a lot of these people have never actually traveled that long. You can tell from little missing pieces of their travels. Things that you realize isn’t true once you reached the destination of a story that they told you about. Stories from a story they heard from a traveler that passed by. These people, spend more time in the hostel than they do outside. Some are antisocial, some talks too much and some are extremely racist who will only talk with their own kind. All traits that probably should not be on a veteran traveler.

 

 

The one person that I’ve detected the aura from is a veteran traveler. From my observation, he was quiet and focuses on just one task that is currently in front of him without care of the rest of his surrounding or conversation. Yet when he speaks, tales of unique events flows out. Things that are not in the books and questions that he’d asked numerous times to the emptiness. Questions, who’s answer is a reality that you and I are all ignoring.

 

 

Yet his aloofness will disappear instantly if you do end up speaking with him. This is the results of having too many conversations with too many people from different places. A master of story telling. This is the result from too many extreme activities. Pushing the boundaries when others cower.

 

 

Then you get the imattriculately manicured european chicks who has the perfect tan and perfect makeup on. These are the high end rich travelers of the hostel world. I don’t know anything about them, I still don’t have them figured out yet.

 

 

For the southeast asia tour, there are two crowds. The Europeans who comes down from the north and the Australians who go up from the south. I’ve been meeting a lot of Australians going the same way. Starting to like these mother fuckers.

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Around the world: Langkawi

April 26, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the worldIMG_1889

IMG_1899

IMG_1883

IMG_1904

IMG_1905

IMG_1913

IMG_1910

 

A woman flashing her boobs right in front of me. Sam, the fat fuck getting raped by two beautiful Europeans. A couple breaking up and seducing a Belgium beauty who resembles Tina Fey right in front of her boy. Something about this island and the backpackers that stays wraps the atmosphere with sexual tension.

Because it is more of a tourist vacation place than a backpacker’s heaven, most couples who stay here are couples that are meeting after a long time apart. The woman usually works somewhere in Malaysia long term and the man are staying for a week before going back to home. The men are still the boy from before, while the women have grown, matured from their experience and knowledge of a foreign country.

Would I call it infidelity? No. More like dissatisfaction.

We talked long into the night after dinner. I discovered 3 things about myself tonight.

1. Not everyone can hold conversations like I do and direct the group’s conversations. The way to do that I find, is by focusing on one person I enjoy and focusing on her. The others will try to butt in and it is up to me to decide whether or not to change subject.

2. I am very adept at being the center of attention. I know this because the party dissipated after I left and that some woman actually enjoys conversations of businesses and intellectual pursuits. Mainly Europeans.

3. In the future, I will not interact with people who try to limit who I am by pulling me back down to a definition. I realized this fact after talking with Zackry and him repeating I am Chinese. Even though I was born nowhere near China. It was interesting to note that a lot of his way of thinking on matters, mirror that of other old asian Men. He likes to show off his first class plane rides, five star hotel stays and basically anything to do with money. While dissing the backpacker’s way of life. Saying that he can’t fathom why anyone rich enough would travel like a backpacker. Showing his true colors on what he thinks of us. This is what I hate about this whole thing. He was actively trying to put me into a mold that I do not belong just because he sees my skin color and dismissing everything else. It’s like once I am yellow, only the traits that are associated are the only parts he sees. Yes I think that is it.

Asians usually have trouble understanding why you live in a way that don’t flaunt your wealth. Even though asians tout the mantra of self effacing humbleness, my view on the matter is that few people practices it and it is instead used as an excuse for not trying harder and being more outgoing.

Nothing beats Tariffa when it comes to the beaches. Coron came close with diving and snorkeling, but it doesn’t have a beach. Having been to Coron and then to Langkawi made me feel like I’ve been cheated out of my money. That’s how everything feels like here. Everything is made for the tourists with big money here, while the only two hostel on the island is fully booked for 4 days. I should’ve know when I saw only two hostels on my search. This is in stark contrast to Georgetown where so may hostels are concentrated in an area. But I wanted a beach and I heard there’s a beach .

Let’s do some comparison. I am on the Payar Island and the water here is a bit dirty and murky. There is some kind of black particle in the water. And people feeding left over food to the fishes, which made the water dirtier. The swimmable snorkeling area is cordoned off. On top of that, we are stuck here for 4 hours with 300 other tourists.

I just hope that the west of the island where I will be going, is a lot better than this. I am also fearing that Koh Samui, being a popular tourist spot, may have already been turned into a dump by tourists.

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

 

 

Around the world: Bangkok

April 26, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the worldIMG_1939

IMG_1940

IMG_1942

IMG_1946

IMG_1948

IMG_1949

IMG_1950

IMG_1953

IMG_1956

IMG_1958

IMG_1971

IMG_1973

IMG_1979

IMG_1986

IMG_1991

IMG_2009

IMG_2022

IMG_2026

 

I am sure every male tourist who’ve visited Bangkok have had this thought occurred to them before. “That woman is hot. Is she a ladyboy?”

The second hidden thought is probably: “Another creepy old fart with a young thai woman. If I don’t have a wife when I am 80, I am coming here to get myself a teenage Thai wife.”

The journey to Bangkok itself is an adventure. I really recommend those who are rich and less adventurous to take the easy road and fly either from Kuala Lumpur or from wherever you are.

Me? Since I blew through this month’s budget flying around the Philippines, I had to do some hard traveling. Which means a 2 hour ferry ride from Langkawi to Satun, Jeepnay and bus to Hat Yai bus station where I was promptly surrounded by 5 Thai guy who were trying to scam me into taxis for 150 baht. When they push you down to sit if you try to stand, you know shit is going wrong. I remember a similar scene in Tangier so I am pretty sure 150 baht is very unreasonable for a 2km ride. So I took the chance in a lull where their attention lapsed and just run out of there.

For new DIY travelers out there, taxis after landing from an airport, train station and bus depots are the most dangerous scams. The airport taxis will rip off the most money, but is is the bus situation that is the most dangerous physically. If not taken cared of carefully, your life might be in danger.

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Around the world: Singapore

April 13, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.
IMG_1759IMG_1752IMG_1753IMG_1755IMG_1752 IMG_1749IMG_1757IMG_1758IMG_1762Before I continue farther, there is one absolute myth that I have to destroy. My father told me that Philippines is a country filled with robbers. Who will rob you with a gun in broad daylight and it is not a safe country for woman to travel in due to all the kidnapping that happened before. I was made fun of by the locals sometimes for being so on guard. “Ohhh, big bad robber” is what they said. But that is part of traveling. To be able to stick to your way no matter what the local customs are. To be shameless and without pride.

 

The new president in Philippines have taken steps to make it safer for everyone to travel. That’s why you see police officers with shotgun everywhere in Manila. I personally have never been robbed nor had stuff stolen from my person. Then again I am a very cautious traveler. Everyone else who heard of bad stories all heard it from a friend of a friend and had never had any accidents happen to their immediate circle.

With that off my chest, I think the rumors of accidents are from people who flaunt their wealth and are just careless in general. I would recommend not to go out past 10pm or walk around in areas where extreme poor people resides (which I ended up doing which was stupid).

That said, being in Singapore is like coming back to civilization. A lot of the stress, the need to watch out for things and be on guard, just disappears. Singapore has many many asian culture mixed into it, as well as the western culture. It feels just like Taipei. BUT… the weather is not ideal for a city that I want to settle down in.

I went to all the temples and Churches in town and asked all the god the same question. I am backpacking, but I am not at the same time. I am asian, so moving through asia is not as adventurous and strange as it feels in other strange lands. I am also very envious of the Germans. Everywhere they go, they can find their own kind in any part of the world. I am often the only asian in a hostel.

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Around the world: Philippine Coron

April 11, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

A thought occurred to me in between islands… I should live by the sea. It’s peaceful and quiet here and people have no ulterior motives. Life is simple. There seems to be a recurring theme with the sea and my travels.

IMG_1691

It was during dinner when I started letting my guard down and had some fun talking with the Filipinos. Up until now I’ve always kept them at a distance so as to protect my belongings. Or I was terrified of all the stories of kidnapping I’ve heard. It was this return to innocence that I needed. A  way to trust people again without defense and without suspecting an ulterior motive. There is also the fact that people here are not trying to take your money.

Writing this down, I realized that I’ve really been corrupted by my experience in the corporate world. It is now, more than ever, that I realize that it is not for me.

The way into Coron city proper from the airport is through a winding mountainous road in a van. Which is the only transportation that is available at the airport and costs 150php. About what you had to pay for taxi anyway. But if you look at it from the perspective of a would be victim. It was totally  shady.

And holy cow that was a huge cockroach that just ran across the floor.

Back to the description of Coron. The town itself is a dump right now, due to hurricane yolanda killing all the vegetation The important places isn’t the town itself, but the island hopping tours and the scuba diving trips. The whole town only has one night club which I seem to have a hard time to find at night.

How to get there

coron-map

You get to Coron either by flying from Manila or Cebu. The airlines that caters to this are Cebu pacific, seair and Philippines airline. You can also take the ferry from Manila to Coron. Though the length depends on how big and fast the boats are. The small ones might take 16 hours while the faerie will probably take 6hours. However, make sure you book your tickets and return trip a week in advance. The hostels, as well as the tickets to get to and from Coron, are often booked full a week in advance.

Island hopping

This is, by far, the best thing in Philippines. It is also a must do. At 650 php I really recommend everyone to do so.

IMG_1657

IMG_1659

IMG_1662

IMG_1661

IMG_1664

IMG_1665IMG_1682

 

IMG_1692

IMG_1696

IMG_1697

IMG_1704

IMG_1707

IMG_1720

IMG_1721

 

Tourists

Coron is a place filled with couples. Especially so on the island hopping tours. There are a lot of people who comes here specifically for scuba diving since it is so inexpensive rack up experience and get a license. So for single backpackers the experience might be a bit lonesome. Since there were a lot of couples, you will have to get used to a stranger sight. That of Older americans on their first date with mail ordered brides, or older americans with their young Filipino wives. You and I both know what’s going on. Whether or not there is true love is up for debate. Sometimes, it feels better to be single than to be in these weird first dates on a boat full of lovers.

According to the local Filipinos, the island hopping tour in El Nido is a lot better than the ones in Coron. Plus El Nido have the perfect beach. However, El Nido is very hard to get to and is even more backward than Coron. In Coron, you cannot pay with credit card but at least they have ATMs. In El Nido. Everything goes by cash, so you need to bring a big stack of cash along with you.

I stayed at the Coron backpacker’s guesthouse. It has a very good atmosphere and layout for social mixing with travelers. The workers and their friends re mixes easily with backpackers from all around the world. Even though it looks shady as heck and is located on top of the water (which is filled with sewage) I still recommend people stay here. The only problem is that they are almost always booked full. The alternative is Marley’s backpacker’s guesthouse down the street.

Here is the proper google link to Coron Backpacker’s guesthouse since the ones that are on the web are all wrong: <br /><small><a href=”https://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&amp;source=embed&amp;saddr=Coron,+Philippines&amp;daddr=11.999329,120.201082&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=CZVopXFsWo41FbZIuAAdNe4pByl11rAl8h66MzGOll6ouRqEaA%3B&amp;sll=11.999739,120.201373&amp;sspn=0.005573,0.008261&amp;t=h&amp;mra=mift&amp;mrsp=1&amp;sz=17&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=11.999739,120.201373&amp;spn=0.005573,0.008261&#8243; style=”color:#0000FF;text-align:left”>View Larger Map</a></small>

Another possible thing you can do is to hire a boat with tour guides to take your group to an island and spend a night there with the tour guide. It cost about 700php per person and they take you to Banana island. There is also another route that is more of a secret. You will have to ask your local hostel owner or a well traveled Filipino to find out. Apparently, there is a tour group that takes people from El Nido and island hopping for five days to reach Coron. Then takes another group to do the same island hopping back to El Nido.

The sight also made me realize something about myself. Or rather, my selection of woman. If the woman cares so much about being chic and proper while keeping their makeup on when I took her out on a coral reef snorkeling trip. That is a big turn off for me. I really enjoy someone who can participate in adventures with me.

I have also been slow to realize a certain leadership ability in me. Perhaps my previous job’s habits have not yet dissipated, or perhaps the traveler’s aura is slowly coming out (It has been a week and a half), but people seem to look to me for command. Take rope pulling for example, I somehow ended up being the guy sjouting the rhythms which in turn made our team win. I also used to deviate responsibility and look at handsome and hot people for directions, but now I find them looking at me when met with a decision.

On other people’s girlfriend or wife. Maybe I am just trying to feel good about myself, But why are they flirting with me? I kind of get why woman traveling in Muslim countries feels ignored when they are with a guy. It makes perfect sense in aw brutal way. If you are already claimed, why waste time chasing after you when you can spend your time on someone single which gives you a better chance. Mind you, this is assuming that the woman has no other use than sex. I am going to take this up as well if the woman’s abilities present no particular use to other parts of my life. Yes, I can talk about the weather pretty well.

Business

Coron is prosperous because of the tourism here. Walking around the street, you will see a very high concentration of foreigners. According to the locals, about 40% of the business here are owned by foreigners and operated by Filipinos. For example the hostel I stayed at cost about 500 000php which comes out to about $11000 usd. If you take the per night room rate into account at 500php, they bank about $30000 usd per year, which is a return on investment of  3 times cost of capital.

The market beside the port, according to the locals, was built specifically for the foreigners. The locals themselves buy it directly from the shipping company. So no matter how you look at it. You are not getting the local rate. Here’s the price of a few things

Roast chicken whole 200php

ground beef 1kg 200php

Pork chops 1kg 200php

Van to the airport 150php

Meat on a stick: 10php

Cafe latte 100php

Island hopping tour 650php

Scuba diving beginner two dive 2500php

Hostel 500php

Tricycle 10php

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Around the world: Philippine Cebu

April 8, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Cebu seems like a better and cleaner city. A mini Manila in itself but with better security. The police don’t stand around with shotguns, but there are police presence in the important part of town. Overall, the lack of police presence is more due to the fact that less crime are committed here than because there are less security.

Tourist

In short, Cebu can be completed within one day, unless if you plan on seeing the waterfalls in which case you can rent a motorcycle for 500php to get there. But usually the type of people you meet here are travelers in transition from one place to another and sight seeing really isn’t a great option. If you want to see Spanish historic buildings, you are better off going to Spain.

IMG_1639

IMG_1643

 

IMG_1644

IMG_1646

IMG_1636

 

IMG_1640

 

 

IMG_1637

The place I stayed at called Tr3eat Guesthouse has air conditioned room. In Philippines and traveling cheap, that is a very rare sight. So I basically stayed in to enjoy the AC. Met a girl, Caroline, I believe. Who was very talkative. Then met an australian guy who works in Alberta. The two seems to hit it off. I push them along s bit since I missed my chance, but somehow  the guy doesn’t seem that interested. This is the second time that I’ve seen a girl kinda push to have some time together while the guy just kinda let it fall apart without taking the initiative. Also, I don’t know why, but most of the girls traveling seems to have this urge to explain that they have a career, even though their “career” seems a bit too odd after you dug deeper. There’s that interior decorator who sells junk art to her friends. A Hurricane psychology researcher who is in the Philippines to research the psychological impact of a hurricane etc. Whenever someone ask me that, I just straight forward say I am laid off.

In any case, I do not want to drag on Cebu for longer than necessary.

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Around the world: Philippine Davao

April 5, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Dear god. What the heck am I doing here? Is there a life for me to go back to?

IMG_1613

 St. Pedro CathedralIMG_1615

Davao is supposed to be the safest city in Philippines, but walking around town at midnight, my spidey senses were tingling all over. You know you are probably going to be in trouble when you end up on an unlit street full of hookers and their pimps. The only reason this city is safe is because of the 3 strike and you are dead rule… provided you are found out. In which case, just escape somewhere. For those travelling in the Philippines for nefarious reasons, these rules are a godsend.

With the strict no drug and no smoking rule, it is not really a backpacker’s heaven. The rules force crime to the other two category… prostitution and alcohool. The lack of a hostel and gathering place for backpackers makes gathering information that much harder. So, Davao can be done in a day’s work, but I am stuck here for another day due to plane tickets for Saturday is insanely priced.

My 250 pesos per night room at Hotel Uno (pronounced Ono by the locals) is Spartan as heck. But you get half of the money back by having the hotel do your laundry for you.

20140404-171802.jpg

Jeepnay

20140404-172257.jpg

One of the distinguishing features of Philippines is that there are Jeepnays everywhere. A cross breed between front of a jeep and a van/truck. They serve the function of buses and is hard as heck to figure out for foreigners. How they work is this: they have destinations on their windows and you stand at the side of the street, looking directly at the driver. The driver will honk once and if you nod, he will stop for you. The letters are usually small and the locations incomprehensible. Even some of the locals get on the wrong ride from time to time. It cost 8 pesos usually payable upon embarking and you knock on the ceiling furiously if you want to disembark somewhere. Do not try to communicate with the driver on where you want to go. He will just ignore you. Make sure you do not bring valuables with you when taking one and make sure you don’t take one in Manila. As a foreigner, this is not going to be a comfortable ride for you. I am 175cm high and my head touches the ceiling while slouching in one. You also have to hug the passenger beside you because that’s how cramped it is.

China Town

20140404-172332.jpg

Apparently, I heard crimes in China towns are pretty bad, I personally don’t feel any danger where walking around. But then again, I blend in perfectly. That said, It is really not worth visiting as there isn’t any distinct feature with this China Town. There really isn’t that many Chinese shops and the restaurant’s foods are terrible.

Local playground

20140404-172539.jpg

There are a lot of poor kids in Davao, I’d say similar in number to India. Be careful of swarms of poor kids on the street.

Gaison mall

20140404-172404.jpg

20140404-172421.jpg

The mall is famous for having been bombed by the muslims. I find the extremists a bit stupid since the mall is also frequented by muslims. On the outside the mall looks like something clobbered out of a Fallout game, the inside though is very modern and stylish.

Aldavecco flea market

20140404-172514.jpg

Sadly, the 70 years old flea market got demolished when I got here.

Tourism

Like I’ve mentioned before, the lack of a hostel indicates that not a lot of backpackers comes here. Davao is definitely one of the less traveled road. You will probably never bump into other backpackers here. The only type of tourists you’ll see are old fat white man or old fat Japanese man. Yes child prostitution toursim is alive and well, but the same can be said for other third world countries.

Food

Fruits are abundant and fair. I recommend gorging your heart out. Stay away from the fried stuff though as I believe they uses butter as their frying oil. In general the food in Philippine is a fusion between Chinese, Japanese and hot/ sweet cuisine. If you are asian, you’ve probably alreawdy tasted most of these.

Mango waffle

20140406-061226.jpg

Street BBQ

20140406-061238.jpg

Durian Cappuccino

 

 

 

 

IMG_1628

 

Local breakfast

 

 

 

 

IMG_1627

Cost

April 3

Flight Manila to Davao 4645php

Taxi 160php

Dinner Jubilee: 125

Hotel 250php

April 4

Pork bun 14php

Water 2L 22php

Passport photocopy 4 php

BBQ stick, unknown meat 4php

Water 2 L 22php

Popsicle 15 php

Weird fruit 35php

Stirfry noodle 125php

April 5

Local breakfast

Boiled liver 30php

Rice 30php

steam pork with mushroom 30

Egg 5php

Oranges 1kg 60php

Water 250ml 8 php

Yakut 40php

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Around the world: Philippines Manila

April 3, 2014

 

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.

Philippines plan

Manila is a good place to stay and gather information.Most people just landed here or have finished their tour and are on their way to fly out to another country. Most people gathered in hostels here are the more experienced who are one year into their travels. After all, Philippines do have its reputation for being a hard core place to go to, but isn’t up to par with dangerous places. However, watch out for robbers and don’t show your fancy phone in public places. You know this is important when the Philippinos on the airplanes switch to their dumb phone as soon as they land and wear their backpack in front.

Because of such, backpackers you meet are up to pretty extreme activities… compared to what most people considers extremes. Because I made a deal with my Mom so that she will not worry, I did not do these things. It all works out since I am also slowly easing back into the hardcore level of my previous trips.

Most common worries in Manila is being robbed at gun point or having your girlfriend kidnapped. But these are not matters that most backpackers should concern about if you took the normal precautions. A fake wallet to give to robbers, taxi money taped to your ass crack and important money and docs hidden evenly in different places. As long as you don’t bring much and wear dirty clothing when you are out. You can live a normal daily life.

Clubbing scene here is pretty crazy and a bud is a crime punishable with 10 years jail term. But it is not something that can stop a backpacker from obtaining them. Some hostel owner should be able to hook you up, but use your judgment. The shadier the hostel, the better your chances. But apparently, as a Canadian, I am supposed to be the central intelligence hub, within the backpackers, on how to obtain a bud. Oh my fellow Canuks, what the heck are you promoting to other people. To stay off the crime radar, I just refer them all to Chefchaouan in Morocco.

Weather in Phillipines is super hot and there are cops with shotgun in every store. Jeepnay (8pesos) are everywhere and a taxi from airport to your hostel should cost no more than 200 pesos. $1200 For an official airport taxi with permit, or a yellow taxi. You take these official ones if you are afraid of getting kidnapped. Most tourists should do this, but for a dishevelled backpacker, try to get the local’s rate, especially if you are a male. For the airport to hostel route, I did the $1200 rate as I’ve agreed to with my parents. But for most common travel, LRT (13 pesos) and Jeepnay to move around, just make sure you do not bring much with you. Lock everything in your hotel or hostel.

I’ve made up my mind about where I want to go. Davao, Cebu and El Nido. Sadly, El Nido cost twice as much to fly to than its less known counter part: Coron.

Flying to Coron is cheapest from Cebu for about $3500 pesos. It takes about $1000 pesos to get to Cebu. Direct flight from Manila to Cebu is $6000 pesos. Or you can do what my fellow hardcore Korean backpacker did. Take a weird boat that’s smaller than a faerie to Coron. Which cost  $600 pesos and can be found near the United nations building, or the old Spanish town in Manila. The boat trip takes approximately 17 hours to Coron, or 36hours to El Nido… I won’t even recommend this route unless if you considers your life as worthless.

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the world.