Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Drink, Dive, Dance 3: Laurence

August 17, 2017

Laurence is French, albeit an atypical one. When nobody is around us on the snowy Annapurna trail, I’d tease her about her Polish accents. She’d lower her head as a reflex and then sneak a peak at me in between her bangs, eyes betraying her anger while simultaneously trying to hold back a laughter. For the French, my Quebec accent is just way too funny to remain serious with me for long.

She is the first French traveler I’ve met who wanders outside of the French circle and mingle with everyone else. Not only that, she is perfectly fluent in English (with that Polish accent). A walking Oxymoron for those of you familiar with how typical French travelers act.

Laurence, revels in finding the cheapest place to eat and then proceed to negotiate the price down. We’d often find ourselves in some hole in the wall local restaurant to eat; grimes on the wall with a fan that’s older than my grandma. She’d sit down after ordering, napkins on her lap, back straight and then proceed to eat her Dal Bhat with the most elegant command of the fork and knife I have ever seen.

Dining, it seems, is a very important event in her blood. I’d learned the difference now her different needs after a while. “Quelque chose à manger” means, let’s grab something on the go and keep sightseeing. “Bon! On trouve un resto là.” means I need to sit down and go through the proper routine of dining à la Français.”

For her, my ability to barter even better than her was the biggest turn on. We’d often have bartering matches where we take turn at different shops to get the same items at prices lower than the other was able to get. Each one of us is fully capable of planning the whole trip by ourselves and is able to get the best deal out of it while the other person can focus on whatever frivolous adventure that we want to try. The complete trust in each other’s abilities as travelers is unprecedented.

Laurence, for me, is the perfect traveling girlfriend… except for her quirky need to experience proper dining from time to time, as if straying away too far from “culture” is too painful. But its the memories of these quirks that brings a smiles to my face.

Whenever I miss Laurence, I’d visit a high end French restaurant, lean back on my chair and just close my eyes.

 

 

Drink, Dive, Dance 2: Alessia

August 6, 2017

The strange thing with me and diving is that I never experienced any anxiety at any stage of the diving experience, even when I was just a beginner. During my travels, I noticed that I have a natural affinity with anything water related.

The beginners nervously threw a glance my way from time to time, double checking to see if they are checking their own equipments properly. The new ones never just ask, somehow fearing that we’ll look down on them. They also, always ask how much air is left in the other diver’s oxygen tank.

If diving is meditation, then prepping the equipment is like the ritual you go through to get into the flow state before entering meditation. I enjoyed every bit of the the process as it is my own life and I am the sole person responsible for its outcome,  whether I fuck up or not.

Breath in, breath out, left hand at the back of the head, right hand on the BCD and lean back. One by one, we flopped backward into the water into the famously cold arctic water of West Coast Canada. My world blacks out as I instinctively closes my eyes. For some reason, I can never keep my eyes open when entering the water. Probably a reflex from the shock of suddenly being overwhelmed with cold water…

Exhausted from fighting against the famous strong current of Komodo island’s dive sites, I grab hold of the ladder as I await the others to climb up first. The dive master called the shot and we made the emergency ascent after only 40 minutes as the others are now too exhausted to fight the current. It must be because of the timing of everything together, but when I looked up into the boat, Alessia stood by the railings in her red bikini and flashed her big white smile at me. I had neglect to get to know Alessia before as she is a shy girl and I spent most of the time chatting with Leilani, an advanced diver whom I’ve been traveling with for the past 2 weeks, about the beautiful dive sites around Komodo Island. However, during that moment of exhaustion and delirium, seeing that welcoming smile, was like seeing an Angel smile.

Alessia is an Italian to put it simply. Dig a deeper into her roots and you are dealing with multiple citizenship and genes. But for the most part and simplicity’s sake, she is a traditional Italian who’ve had a protected upbringing and I am the dishevelled Vagabond, free and fearless. Alessia with the little curve at the end of her lips, long and shiny curly hair, the wider jawline from her other lineage and her propensity for single minded pursuit of something once she decides she wants it in her life. All of these combined made her a refreshing breeze for the me at that moment.

The trip around the nearby village with flat and dusty, nothing exciting, but we had each others company, the sun and the ocean whenever we got too sweaty. I would often tease her about her binary conflicting internal struggle. That of her clear desire for jumping me and her traditional upbringing of being a good girl before marriage.

Besides diving, suntanning and making out after beer with Alessia, there wasn’t much to do at Labuan bajo. Leilani and I already went to the Komodo islands on our way east towards Labuan bajo, so there’s really no interest in taking that trip again and beside that and the diving town of Labuan bajo, there isn’t much else to do. So like that, we spent three day at this little unknown tropical paradise until Alessia had to leave to travel with her father. It was supposed to be their bonding trip.

Nothing further happened between us in those three nights. We’d always come back to find Leilani going at it with some guy she picked up from “Paradise” (if you go to Labuan Bajo, you will know this place) and a sock on the door knob. Besides, Alessia is still mentally panicking about the whole issue. I was in a good mental place at this stage of my journey so I didn’t push any further. Then, two more days later, after saying goodbye to the other vagabonds I met on the way, it was my turn to step onto the propeller plane back to Bali. You know you are in a very remote place, when the planes are small, propeller based and your luggage cannot be heavier than 10kg. It really brings about the feeling that you are on an adventure and along with it, all the things that make your heart skip a beat, like the huge dive your propeller just took because it couldn’t fight the strong downward air stream. I shut my eyes thinking “this might be it, I am going to die a happy man.”

And that’s how I am brought back to the current reality. The freezing cold water of the North. A different climate and a different reality. Every time I do something that I did on my long journey, I get flashbacks of a different place in a different culture. Feels like a lifetime, but happened in an instance with all the feelings compressed to a second. An explosion of nostalgia. I will meet Alessia again though, in another part of the country but I didn’t know it back then. Like all the people I’ve met on this journey, our stories continues on just as our lives continued on.

Travel anecdote: Labuan Bajo is an interesting little diving village, what surprise me is how the people I met on the way there seem to throw away their inhibitions once at this place and openly hook up without any fear of shame like in other places. Other than that, there’s really not much to do here. I would recommend every diver to go there to experience the dive sites as this place is, so far, the site with the most marine life I’ve seen.

 

Drink, Dive, Dance 1: Prolog

July 26, 2017

Every once in a while when I close my eyes and lean back on the chair, I get catapulted back to a different time, different place to relive a small part of the journey I had. Little insignificant things will trigger the memories, It can be a familiar tune I heard while somewhere, it can be the familiar feeling while crossing the street on a red light or it can be the silence from the absolute absence of civilization. Whether the memories were good or bad, I’d stop whatever I was doing in order to cherish the once forgotten experience.

I slowly opened my eyes.

Kathmandu, deep past the chaotic Thamel. The plan was to walk until we don’t see foreigners anymore. That has always been the preferred travel style of Laurence and I; two veteran travelers who met each other while wandering around the Annapurna circuit randomly. Tagging along are three newbies we picked up along our journey to join us in the excursion into chaos.

The smell, the donkey carts, discarded food on the street and people everywhere alongside  the safety of a group of similar minded travelers who are open to experience a place instead of passing judgment. This, to me, was the height of traveling experiences.

From time to time, we’d lose sight of each from being swept away by the crowd or some over zealous barter session with a stubborn shop owner, but we’d always end up finding each other. No man left behind, was the unwitting rule between us. Not that Kathmandu during the day and smack in the middle of the local maze is any danger to any tourist, but we didn’t know that back then.

The fun lasted for the whole day until Matt, one of the tag-alongs, decided to try one of the delicacies from a street food cart. I cringed at the thought as Matt is from England, where food safety is paramount compared to Nepal. “A boy has to become a man one day” I thought. Just as one of the traveler’s rite of passage is to taste the local street food.

Needless to say, our excursion didn’t last too long after that. I closed my eyes and shook my head in laughter at the memories of Matt semi running towards the direction of Thamel where we were all staying.

When I opened my eyes again, I am back where I am. With a cup of coffee in my favorite cafe but sans Laurence.

Travel Anecdote: I didn’t write about the women I am/was with in my life out of respect for their privacy, just as I don’t write about my friends or people I live with nor visit their blog because I want the interaction to be real. But the stories of my journey cannot be complete without including the adventures I had with them. Laurence was an integral part of this part of my journey. I know will meet her again in future flash backs.

Wasted potential

August 7, 2016

Sometimes, I pass by these beggars on the street who looks absolutely stunning. As a guy, all I can do is feeling resignation towards these people. How can they waste so much potential and end up on the street.

A good looking face opens the door to many possibilities. It means that, as a man, these guys have wasted away countless opportunities that have opened up to them in the years that have passed. Opportunities that were thrown upon them instead of having to fight and struggle to get a foot in the door.

I always wondered how it happened. Was it a sense of pride that led them to reject these opportunities? Was it general incompetence from having life too easy for them as children?

I’ve never been able to get a yes in anything just by asking in my life. I am assuming that this is what high status and good looks gets people. So there’s always some element of maneuvering that I need to apply when I am eventually met with a no at first. Persuading people without using intimidation, anger or seduction is an art worth studying, but its general benefit in my life is very minimal. Persuasion and persistence only pays off when done early in life. When that 20% off an annual utility payment or 80% off an area rug when Eaton goes bankrupt can snowball into something big 30 years down the line.

But when you reach my age. The skills that nets you discounts are no longer worth it due to time constraints. The next phase of life requires skills that multiplies any spending by 100% or 200%.

“What are these skills?” is what is currently on my mind as I get ready to travel again.

Around the world: Sarajevo

November 18, 2014

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If only people here don’t smoke indoors, I’d stay here for a bit and work on my ideas

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Sarajevo didn’t strike me as anything special when I first got here. In fact, I had my defenses up to full because this city has a heavy muslim presence. Add the usual stereotype of slaves and I have my reasons to be careful. On top of that, the only train from Zagreb took 9 hours so I landed at night.

The first night I spent in a shitty hostel called Ljubicica. It’s your usual hole in the wall backpacker’s lodging. I found bed bug nests and got moved to an apartment by myself. For €5 a night, I will pit up with it, but I having landed in bed bug infested hostels 3 times in a row, I decided to get out of there as soon as morning came. Yes, I’ve become an expert at eliminating bed bugs on the go, but constantly having to wash and isolate everything is taking its toll and too much time from me.

So I moved to “Hostel for me” based on the recommendation of a backpacker in Zagreb. Bosnians, I find, are extremely friendly. It is on he same level of Taiwanese and Vietnamese friendly, but a bit less.

Sarajevo has a way of growing on you the longer you stay. Like Rishikesh, many tales of travelers who originally planned for 3 days and ended up staying for a month. (except Rishikesh measures time by years). It’s a small town in a valley with a nice view. Islam is present but not aggressively oppressive. Multiple religions co-mingle peacefully. The view on the mountains caught my breathe.

For Bosnians, I must be a rare animal. I’ve had 3 people wanting pictures of me since I got here. This must be what the whites felt like in asia.

Like the rest of Europe, tourists don’t pay a different price and like the rest of Europe, people smokes a lot. Indoors, outdoors, in restaurants. As a non smoker, this is the reason why I am not settling down to work on my projects here.

The hostess gave me a very clear view of her boobs several times while bending down to clean. She was wearing very revealing strapless tops and a bra that’s too big for her. I always wondered if woman do this intentionally. In any case, after misinterpreting woman’s interest 3 times on this trip, I just let it go at that. A good memory.

There is a Korean guy who is traveling and supporting himself through trading like me. We had some good times through limited english exchanges. He told me that Russians are really pretty… and Lithuanians. Funny how most asians have a thing for Russian girls, while I have no interest in them because of my dancesport experience. He did resolve a question i’ve had for a while though. For a long time I suspected that Russian woman have a racial predisposition to look at asian as ugly. He said he experienced the same thing and that the most likely reason is because most asians in Russia are illegal immigrants from poor western China.

Around the world: Berlin

September 8, 2014

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

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It was pure grit that welcomed me when I landed in Berlin. The dark part of this city, unlike in the other European cities, is shown without any façade to hide them.

In most cities, the gritty part of town is usually cordoned off to just one street. The red light district or some other name for it. I tend to land straight in the middle of those as my travelling style coincides with the underbellies of society. Besides, the best way to understand a city is to understand the sins that people participate in. Berlin’s underbelly represent at least 50% of the city.

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 Tourism

It looks like Berlin is fixing up its old part of time in order to promote tourism. When I was there, the cranes basically covered the skyline. People living in the hostel are mostly migrant workers. Russians, blacks and eastern Europeans. The tourists are mostly from Mexico and the latin countries as well as Australians and French. The majority are from Germans themselves though.

The place I stayed at, is straight in the heart of sin. Druggies and alcoholics. Broken bottles and bottle caps litter the roads because it is ok to carry alcohol in broad daylight. But open drunkenness seem to be a pervasive problem here.

What Berlin is not though is boring. On a cursory scan on places to dance, Berlin have all sorts of dance every night. After midnight, there are all sorts of street artists playing music everywhere. Impromptu rap battles, minstrels guitarists. There’s a bit of fun almost everywhere you go.

Business

I don’t know what is the main form of business. Berlin seems to have a good diversity where no one sector trumps everyone else.

Stories

The rule of percentages holds true everywhere. He top 1% is still going to be the top 1%. One enters from the bottom means someone gets kicked out. Just the same for the bottom 1%. The only thing we can ensure is that the disparity in lifestyle between the top and the bottom is not as high. But what is a high disparity? No matter how much you give certain people, they will always pawn it all away for drug and alcohol.

While I was in the US, I coached a Mexican I live with through getting his first job, but it ended up a disaster when his drug test came back positive for Marijuana. It sucked for him, but it also disenfranchised me from helping people. Now I am more selective. This just to say, not everyone can be saved and determining who can is a new skill I am practicing that I didn’t know I needed.

In Europe, the bottom 1% still exists. Just because it is Europe doesn’t mean it can escape. Except the bottom 1% are filled by white Caucasians, whereas in America, these people are usually immigrants or colored people. Imaging my surprise when he person mopping the McDonald’s floor is a very pretty white girl. But I guess being a pretty exotic European in Europe is probably just a norm. Remove the exotic part and everyone still obey the same social conventions.

I’ve been speaking German with people. Wonder what I sound like to them with all the accents of different countries. But the experience reminded me a lot of what happened when I first moved to Canada. Because of the language barrier, I was forced to act in certain ways. My brain also took over and filled in the gap on a lot of the words. So I started assuming a lot of he things. These behaviors, are behaviors I didn’t like about myself. I wonder if all immigrants go through the same personality.

The question for me is then: “Do I want to start over from scratch?”

I remember saying that I get more racist the more I travel. That was about 2 months into my travel. After that I get into this I don’t care mood whenever debates with prejudice started. Then there’s now. I accept the racism and stereotypes that exist, but I have realized one very important thing. A lot of times, I was able to achieve what I was able to achieve because I was ignorant of the social norm and stereotypes surrounding a subject. So the lesson I learned from all these is that intention and action trumps all.

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

 

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A page from the real journal

August 28, 2014

Pariston is back. My enthusiastic CEO personality. I should probably stop referring it as Pariston since it is me. But I notice its absence greatly when I was sick. And then there’s the me writing this.

What is messed up is that I wanted Pariston to take over. Or I mean the life that Pariston character can promise. Where not one individuals in life will ever matter too much as to hurt me. Where everything is fine because I am just trying to parlay everyone into the goal I set.

There’s the journal I write here and then there’s my real paperback journal. Nothing beats the feeling of pen on paper on a train ride at night in the middle of nowhere. Deranged, sleep deprived and a little hazy on penmanship.

But its these words that I read when I go back in time to find out what happened where. These thoughts from my true self that is very different from the facade and too weird for the Normal society. If i wear my true self, I’d be a crazy man. I know because I once did.

And for some reason, the only time I manages to write with such clarity of self, is when I am in this condition. Maybe, I am traveling to meet myself over and over again in short bursts of seconds from he reflections in the window.

Around the world: London

August 17, 2014

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the worldIMG_3828 IMG_3798

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There’s culture, culture everywhere. Every street looks like the tourist part of an american city.

 

I should write something more recent so it feels less like a chore to chronicle my experiences. London has been awesome. Certain different in its architecture, but it was the difference in people that stood out. Subtle differences to Americans in their behavior. From my observation, Europeans value education the way we Americans value wealth and it seems a lot harder to get a university degrees than in America. Canadians are blessed with the “raw” nature. By inference, I believe our personalities are more “raw” as well due to the environmental impact. Some find this raw intention charming, some feels unrefined, but I don’t think there is a clear favor on which direction people lean towards. The other observation I’ve made is that there are a lot of Britons with a broken smile. Something about being poor in a very rich city. Always failing to hit the jack pot and unable to say: “For me, this is enough.” But isn’t that kind of ambition the exact sentiment necessary to achieve great things?

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Stories

It occurred to me that I’ve met Dutch people 3 times before and that this is the 4th time I’ve bumped into them. They were there first to welcome me to Morocco,  then they accompanied us in our Fremen journey and finally I witnessed “The slaughter” with the Dutch in Tana Toraja. Jesse and Luca educated me on the fact that Holland = Netherland = Amsterdam = Dutch and not “Deutch” like the Germans calls themselves. In all of my encounters with them, I remembered them as the most fun loving people to be around. Though, sometimes their frugal ways rivalling  the Polish really gets on my nerves because I just wants thing to move forward instead of “haggle or die”. In any case they’ve made enough impression on me that I believe I will need to visit Amsterdam to see if it is the city I want to eventually settle down in. But look what silliness I managed to persuade them to do for me. Fear my iron tongue of thousand bullshits

 

One of the big differences I’ve finally grasped is that Europeans gets offended when you say they look young whereas for Americans, we get offended when we are told we are older. So, complimenting the age of American woman, people usually tend to subtract a few years as a small white lie to make them feel good. Now with Europeans,  they get offended. It explains why that Lithuanian girl in Thailand got offended. So I probed the dutch girls further and understood that it is a fine balancing art, as saying someone looks 30 is probably insulting. They want to be intelligent, but not old.

So I’ve been asking people how old they think I am and keeping track: Briton 27, Mexican 22, Indian 21, Lithuanian 23, Dutch 27 28.  Most Europeans guess my age + 2 and most Americans will guess my age – 2 to be polite. But you see the problem here? None of them are remotely close, which really opened my eyes to something about me. Suddenly, it all made sense. I look like a student fresh out of school. This is important because if I can understand what first impression I am making, it is easier to manage the conversation and steer it. Now I know that I will need to set my age first thing during a business meeting, otherwise no one will take me seriously.

Anyway, there we were, sitting at the dining room playing card and these two drunk “lifer” backpackers tried to pick up the dutch girls twice. Once by just screaming “sex sex sex” the other time by pretending to be another traveler and asking where they were from.

Luca ended up saving the day by telling them to go away, I was in a dark place with my fist clenched looking directly at them, simulating paths of attack. I didn’t realize that I had entered fight mode… which happened way too often after I got more cocky in my martial arts skills. Just a few years ago, I would’ve been scared shitless. These random encounters where there are no time to think are showing me the side of me that I cannot see for myself and I am happy of who I am becoming.

Here’s a funny pic I drew of the encounter.

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How to get there

Fly into Europe in the cheapest way you can find. Once you are in, train, boat, cheap airlines abound. I have yet to figure out what is the cheapest way because there are so many offerings and all of them are insanely priced in my current sticker shocked state.

Tourists

Surprisingly, there are French tourists everywhere and I thought that the French hated the English. Not many Germans, considering the fact that they are everywhere else in the world. Then in Hyde park, it feels like you stepped into Iraq. Lots of Mexicans. The worst tourists are still the French, but that’s probably because I can understand them and they didn’t think I can speak French. It’d probably be like me complaining about others in Mandarin to my friends and being called out by a French tourist. There was a woman that these French calls “La Chinoise”, she got really famous in a bad sense during our stay there. Complaining about the noise, odor, the food and o-too-hot shower temperature (she and a German teenager both). I know where she came from with her complaints as the Chinese are new to what backpacking and hostel is. The fact that a hostel costs 1/4 that of a hotel is in enough demand that they can just not take her business and have 5 others ready to take her bed doesn’t seem to sink in either. I got a brief run in with her when her room got changed to ours because she couldn’t stand the noise. Sure enough, we were having a lot of fun in the room and making a lot of noise. She came in, sat in the corner and sulked. Then she left 30 min later instead of joining us to have fun. The Chinese, just recently opened their borders and their travel culture is still in its infancy, they still have a lot to learn about travelling and there will be clashes in the future. I can only hope that their culture don’t take over the current culture or that I’ve already found the reason why I am travelling so I have already stopped when that happens.

Business

Lodon’s primary industry is probably tourism and finances. There must be millions of tourists here at any given day, each spending close to $100 a day on tourist stuff. On top of everything, transportation and food costs are insanely high. I’d wager it is about double that of America standards and quadruple that of an Asian country. Another business that seems more prominent are live theater plays. In my limit experience of the world, London is the only city where that hasn’t been replaced by movie theaters. I got the honor to watch “Anthony and Cleopatra” at Shakespeare’s globe and walk the old streets of money in front of Bank of England. Part of my pilgrimage of World wonders/ruins and money trail. IMG_3810 IMG_3813 IMG_3789 IMG_3799 IMG_3816 IMG_3837 IMG_3823 IMG_3838 IMG_3826 IMG_3829     IMG_3833 IMG_3785

 

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

Around the world: Chiang Mai

May 5, 2014

 

This is part of the series: Backpacking around the worldIMG_2047

 

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Chiang Mai was a very lonely experience for me. A testament to the fact that you need money to increase social activity and random beneficial encounters.

The place I stayed at costed only 120 baht per night. It is not designed to increase social collision. So nothing happened. I took this chance to see if people will form into groups without my help. It turns out that, no. They don’t interact with people at all without me. So all the random social encounter up until now, has been manufactured either by careful planning of the environment, or the forceful urging of a leader.

I am good at this, but I want something to happen without me willing it to happen. I want to feel wanted and swept away by chance from time to time.

Industry

 

 

Chiang Mai’s main industry is tourism and it is one of the better organized ones. It doesn’t give the controlled vibe of Europe, but everything in this town is made for tourists. Especially Chinese tourists. That said, Chiang Mai has one of the best night market I’ve seen so far. Especially its Sunday night market which intertwines with the Wats that are on the main road.

I get some sort of guilty pleasure out of knowing that the monks are whoring their temples out to street food vendors and foot massage parlors to supplement their income. Proving that even religion, is bound by the reality of money.

Manufacturing

Most of Chiang Mai’s manufacturing are still done by hand. The tools that they use to build things are confined to hand tools. Therefore no automation is involved.

Tourists

The main group of tourists are Chinese, followed by the usual European/American mix. Although I am seeing a more significant amount of Americans and French. What Tina Fey told me in Langkawi probably has a certain truth in it. Germans don’t like to go to places where there are a lot of tourists. Thailand is filled with tourists. I thought Malaysia had a lot if them, but I was wrong. In Thailand, there are western people who lives here and the amount of people who lives and work here are probably equivalent to those who are just visiting Malaysia.

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

Around the world: Kuala Lumpur

April 26, 2014

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

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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.