Posts Tagged With: Asia

A Walking Tour of Penang

We only had one full day in Penang before heading to Langkawi, and were determined to make the most of it!  It was a sleepy Sunday, so not much was open but it was still fun to walk around and check out the many sights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We set out in a random direction, armed with a map.  We managed to get lost after I ate what was the most delicious fried rice I’ve ever had in my life (for breakfast, lol) from a cart, and the proprietor warned me about bag thieves and the myriad of ways people could steal my bag and money.  I thought SHE was going to rob me, from the detail she was going into!  I clutched my bag and left as we walked and walked and WALKED, saw churches and temples and mosques and the city hall and the esplanade running along the waterfront and a memorial clock tower, finally deciding to purposefully find a museum after realizing we had inadvertently seen half the city’s sights just by walking around!  We got lost in Little India and sidetracked at TeoChew Temple, we finally located the Perenakan Museum and saw some more history concerning the wealthy Straits Chinese families, I am so fascinated by this particular facet of Asian culture, and find the food so delicious, I’m convinced I must have been a Nonya in a past life!

We stopped for sushi and I splurged hard on good food, the most I’ve spent on any meal since I’ve been away – 62 Ringgits!! 20 bucks! It was well worth it, though, the sushi was fresh and I was super satisfied.  We decided to check out a movie that night and headed to the mall, which was about a ten minute walk away.  We loaded up on candy and ice cream, and saw R.I.P.D, a fluff movie but good for the hotness that Ryan Reynolds provided!  I had a long chat with my sister when I got home, shes five months pregnant and one of the main reasons I’m looking forward to the end of my trip: I get to meet my new nephew soon after I get back!
Our feet were achy after so much walking, so it was bedtime for us as we had an early ferry to catch!
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Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Road to Penang

Wahoo! Nothing like a nine-hour bus ride to occupy your day.  Although travel days are different in a way because there’s no way of knowing what your destination brings, it usually turns tedious pretty fast.  Our bus driver was late because of traffic (excusable) but had to be called back to the drop-off point because he had taken off without us, his four passengers, in the back!  Oh man.  Our driver, captain Taz, as he introduced himself, was dressed for a day of golfing in short pants, long socks and a golfing tee and hat.  Hmmm? I didn’t ask.  Soon after we left it was clear he was an AWFUL driver with a lead foot and shitty attitude behind the wheel, I wedged myself between a bunch of backpacks in the backseat and hoped they wouldn’t fall on me – which they did – eventually.  Then. The traffic.  OH MY GOD. It was some of the worst traffic I’ve ever seen, and we inched along the road, lurching forward with every stop. Only my music made it bearable, and I watched the charge slowly decline and prayed the tunes would hold out till we got there. They didn’t.  Our minivan held four other passengers besides Micheline and I, and after three hours we were all hungry and desperately had to pee!  We asked Captain Taz to stop, and he replied that he would but he would keep the van inching along in traffic and we would have to run and catch up.  What? So we ALL ran out when the door opened, I guess he realized he would have some explaining to do with an empty van and no passengers, so he stopped for us reluctantly.  I peed in some Muslim guys backyard (oops sorry!) and we stopped at a roadside stand to buy fruit (some passengers were not as prepared as us with our loaf of white bread and peanut butter) and ran back to the torture device that was our ride.
 
 The time slowly passed as we alternated between breakneck speed and painfully slow jerkiness, finally we came to a roadside stop where we were the ONLY ladies with our hair uncovered, this was a sight for the rest of the Muslims around, who were lovely and friendly and fascinated by us, especially by Micheline’s blonde hair!  We got back on the road, and our driver told us he “didn’t know” how long it would take for us to get there….lol. We finally arrived around 8pm and were recommended to a guesthouse by our golfer/driver/captain. Since we were too tired to object and the guesthouse looked clean and there was a sweet mural on the wall, we paid the 35 Ringgits ($11.50 CAD) and dumped our stuff, happy to finally be in Penang.  

 
We dumped our stuff and wandered around a bit, since we were in the heart of Chinatown there was a sweet night market serving all kinds of food and drink, so I sat down with a plate of noodles and we had watermelon shakes and happily went to bed after walking a bit and realizing there’s not much nightlife around!  
 
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Pehrentian Island Paradise

Yay! We are back on the beach again!  The Pehrentian Islands are a two tiny islands on the east coast of Malaysia, close to the Thai border and about a ten-hour bus ride from Singapore.  After crossing the border without a hitch, we settled in to sleep and tried to get some shuteye on the swerving bus.  I think i succeeded – i woke up feeling not too crabby at the Merang jetty, the closest we could get to our destination by bus, but still an hour away from our port.  We found two lovely Polish girls to share a taxi with to the Khota Baru jetty, splitting the 100 Rinngit cab fare four ways, making it about CAD $8 each.  At the port, we bought tickets to the islands ($23 return fare or 70 Ringgits) and tickets for our bus ride onwards after the islands (60 Rinngits to Penang, about $20).

The boat ride to the islands was refreshing, and we landed on Kecil, the smaller of the islands, at Long Beach, which isn’t actually that long but looked lovely to us.  We had some problems finding a room, as it’s a holiday weekend and we walked from place to place with our backpacks on, sweating bullets as we begged for a place to stay.  I finally found a room at the LAST place on the beach, a little cottage with a fan and two beds that was grungy but perfect for us at 50 ringgits a night! (25 rinngits each, about $8).  The beach was calling us after that, and we laid on the beach alllll day, working on our tans and soaking in the sun.  Our dinner was not the best,  but it was cheap so what do you expect.  Our plans to watch the fire show were cancelled as it started to pour and we were tired from our overnight bus ride.
Our second day on the island was awesome!! Even though we had to wait an hour and a half for our breakfast at D’Rock Garden, our guesthouse, the sun was out and we hit the beach again.  Around lunchtime we stopped for Milo milkshakes (mmm malted chocolate) and eavesdropped on others who were having trouble finding rooms, even going so far as to sleep on the porches of various hostels and guesthouses!! We felt pretty lucky to have found a room without too much trouble, after that! In the afternoon we walked over to coral beach on the other side of the island, comparing the beaches and the food we found. It was smaller than our but the ambiance was quite nice!  We had dinner (pizza mmm) at the Imbiah Resort and tried to catch the sunset with no dice, as there were clouds rolling in.  Our second night’s attempts to go out and hit the beach bar were once again cancelled because of rain 😦 BOO!! I wanted to see the fire show!
Today it was grey and rainy, so I decided to type up all my blogs and hang out at the overpriced cafe.  Their wifi is down, but its funny to hear all the spoiled and disgruntled tourists complaining around me about poor service, no ATM’s, lack of rooms, and the weather.  Cheer up, people!! You are in paradise!  SO what if there’s nothing to do, there’s a beach!

The evening ended up being really nice, so after playing cards all afternoon and catching a few rays as the sun went down, we decided to go out to the beach party and ended up having an awesome time!! The Changs were flowing, we shared some shisha with some friendly Malaysians, and watched the fire show on the beach – not quite as good as Thailand, but pretty impressive nonetheless!  I even spun some fire myself, sorry Mom!! I cant help it, its too fun!! The fun ended around midnight, though, as these two Cinderellas had to catch the 8am ferry back to the mainland.

 

xo

 

D

 

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Little Red Dot and a Night on the Town

On our third day in Singapore, we woke up to an unpleasant sound – rain!  It was a crap day outside, and we stayed in bed until it cleared up a bit.  We had some shopping errands to do, namely buying some gifts for our gracious hosts, so we ventured out to the market in the hot sticky damp weather and found some flowers and chocolate for the kids who had given up their room for us!  Then we packed up our stuff and headed downtown to our second stop on the journey, The Little Red Dot hostel, close to downtown and Little India, but very expensive for us at SG$20 per dorm bed.  We got there without too much trouble and checked in, the hostel is clean and nice with a good atmosphere, our beds were soft and the room had air-con so we were very satisfied!  After all this, we walked to the Golden Mile complex, a multi-use complex where many long distance buses left for other destinations in Malaysia.  We tried to figure out the cheapest way to get to our next destination, but the cheapest we found was SG$55. Yikes!! After weighing our options, we decided to try a few other places and quickly realized it was Sunday night and nothing else was open. 😦 boo.

Our lovely “family” had invited us to dinner that evening near Clarke Quay, so we walked over to the quay to meet them and enjoyed an amazing Indian buffet.  It was delicious!! We really enjoyed our time with the Dias family, thanks again guys for welcoming us into your home and showing us your Singapore!  After dinner I had made arrangements to meet a friend whom I had met in the Philipines, so we trekked over to the reverse bungy ( a kind of slingshot that shoots you up into the air instead of down) and met up with Magnus. The three of us had drinks on a boat in Clarke Quay, but after two beers my budget for the day was exhausted, so we walked back to our hostel.  You may think theses things are close together, but Micheline and I are excellent walkers!  It took us about an hour to get home, but since it was nice out and Singapore is an interesting place, it wasn’t a hassle.
Our next day was pretty chilled out, we decided to bite the bullet and buy the expensive bus tickets out of here, reasoning that since it was an overnight bus we wouldn’t have to pay for accommodations.  After that, it was shopping time! There was lots of bargaining to be had at the Bugis market, and it wasn’t quite so overwhelming this time, I came away with two reasonably priced shirts, a pair of sandals and some trinkets for friends.  Grand shopping total?? $40!! Eeps! Oh well 🙂 when will i ever be back in Singapore? Who knows!  After lunch at the hawker center nearby, we decided to check out Marina Bay Sands, the mega complex and casino on the bay that was topped by a giant ship on three towers, and a huge “Gardens by the Bay” as well.  The hotel itself was very impressive, we didn’t go up to the top of the ship as it was expensive, but we checked out the view of downtown from the quay, and gawped at the Singapore Flyer, a huge ferris wheel that takes a 1/2 hour to go around and gives awesome views of the city and surrounding area.  We walked through the malls and hotel complex to get to Gardens by the Bay, checking out the cool avatar trees and greenery until the sun got the better of us and we decided to go back and get ready for our epic night on the town.
We started out night at the Wine Connection, a reasonably priced place on Robertson Quay, where Magnus, Micheline and I were joined by fellow traveler Ame, Constantin, and my friend Linus, who I had met at full moon last year.  We had an awesome time trading travel stories and I finally had a glass of wine after missing it for a month, and headed out to the Playhouse, a club on Clarke Quay that was pretty much empty, due to it being Monday night.  We said screw it! Lets make our own party! We may have partied a little (wayyyy) too hard cause both me and Micheline woke up with massive hangovers and nixed our plans for the zoo the next day 😦 oh well.  Our day was spent recovering, packing and getting ready for the night bus.
We walked over in the evening to the Golden Mile and I had some pretty goof Pad Thai, as the complex is the “Thai” hub in Singapore, I got a little nostalgic for Thailand!  Our bus ended up being AWESOME, with fully reclining chairs, TV screens, video games and lots of little comforts.  The only bad thing was the bus Nazi, our driver who kept waking us up by screaming into the loudspeaker when we had to cross the border, shouting at us to hurry up, and generally being a surly dude. oh well.  I had an ok night of sleep on the bus, and was eager to get to the Pehrentians the next day!  Beach Paradise, baby!!
Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sunny Sentosa Island

Our second full day in Singapore turned out quite sunny and nice, so we decided on a beach day at the city’s resort island, Sentosa.  We decided to cab it there, and feared for our lives as we sped through traffic as breakneck speed, forking out SG$15 for our fare. Yikes!  Luckily we had brought snacks with us from the local grocery store, and managed to have the cab ride as our largest expense of the day.  After being dropped off at the casino (where there is no surcharge for taxis to come and our 4 dollar entrance fee to the island is waived) we wandered around, in awe of the huge shopping complexes, restaurants and attractions that were on display.  We felt like it was Disneyland, with prices to match!  It was wild after being in the “other” Asia for so long to see such luxury and the newness of it all struck us as very artificial. But hey, at least the tram was free!  We boarded and headed to the other side of the island, to the beaches.  The first beach was called Siloso, and it really wasn’t much to look at.  A tiny beachfront with a view of the huge shipping tankers in the ocean, bordered by some very expensive cafe’s charging SG$20 for the use of the loungers.

I know I sound super cheap, but coming from places where your dollar is worth 10,000 or even 40 of the local currency, it was tough to pay for things that were on par with our dollar.  If I wasn’t careful I could have blown the rest of my trips budget in a few days!
We happily ate our store-bought peanuts and people watched for a bit before deciding to check out the other side of the island, and Palawan beach, which ended up being gorgeous!! In a totally artificial way. Lol My friend even told me later that the rocks on the trucked-in sand were made of plastic! Nonetheless, we enjoyed the beachfront, and were sharing it with what seemed to be about a thousand high schoolers or university aged students, taking part in some kind of epic games day in the sweltering heat.  Whatever!  The sand was warm and the water was nice, so we wasted away most of the afternoon on the beach, browning ourselves while the Japanese sought shade and looked at us like we were the crazy ones!
After all the sun and sand, we boarded the tram and rode it around aimlessly for a while, checking out the rest of the island and it’s activities.  Theres no shortage of fun things to do there if you have money – you can ride the cable car, the luge, go zip-lining, surfing in a fake wave pool, rock climbing, hang on the trapeze, go to universal studios, go to the aquarium, you get the idea.  We didn’t do any of those things and still had a great time on Sentosa, so it all depends on your budget, i guess.  On our way back we stopped at the giant mer-lion, Singapore’s mythical mascot, and climbed the covered escalators (??) to the top of the lookout, where there was a view of Sentosa and the city beyond.  We laughed at the ridiculous items in the gift shop and ate ridiculously expensive ice cream, and boarded the tram back for the ride across the causeway and out to the city once more.  The tram dropped us at a giant mall called Vivocity (surprise, surprise) and we walked around feeling like scrubs in our beach clothes, finding a giant food court and some sweet and sour pork for me!
We were ready to trek back to the burbs after our $5 dinner, and after our 30 minute ride, we were happy to have a quiet night with our host family, playing cards and having a great time relaxing with them.  Jo even popped my laundry in the dryer for me while we were out, and folded it all for me!! 😀 to a traveler, this is actually the NICEST thing you can do for someone on the road, to help them with their laundry!! After some good phone chats with friends, we called it a night.  more adventures awaited us tomorrow 🙂
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City Life in Singapore

I love Singapore!! The six days I spent here were completely unlike the rest of my trip so far, it’s been nice to take a break from the beaches and head to what is the most civilized and organized place I’ve been in Asia. Of course, that label has its pros and cons, but it was a good change nonetheless. I arrived around 8pm and was dropped off in the middle of downtown, I had no idea where I was and only a vague idea of what Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station was close to me, so I wandered a bit and with the help of a lovely Singaporean lady, found the station and took a smooth if not sweaty ride to the place I was staying.  I am lucky enough to have some family friends with a brother living with his family on the island, and when they invited me to stay for a few days I jumped at the chance!  Staying at a hostel is nice, but it’s always cooler to see how people actually live when you visit a new place, it gives a whole new perspective on what life is like for them!

It turns out due to lack of space on the island, nearly everyone lives in condos or government constructed housing, with lots of food centers and community spaces in between, not to mention about a thousand malls.  I wish I was exaggerating! Singaporeans must love to shop!! I got out of the station at Yio Chiu Kang and followed the instructions on how to get to the Dias household, where they welcomed me in and we got acquainted.  I had missed meeting with my new travel partner Micheline at our rendezvous spot, and was a little worried until I got on the internet and heard her flight was delayed.  I was able to meet her at the station and walk with her ten minutes to the condo, which has a gorgeous pool and layout, all the amenities one could want, and I was feeling pretty lucky as we settled down to sleep.
The next day involved an EPIC amount of walking.  Micheline and I both agreed that we should just check out the downtown before deciding to do anything, and we picked a station and set off for Little India. We wandered into a little Hindu temple and right into a pooja, which is a ritual worship or mass. We watched, totally out of place as the priests blessed the statues and people who were praying to the goddess Kali, who is a goddess of destruction and kinda scary looking!  We walked around the temple grounds and watched as people prayed to the various idols and gods, setting little ghee candles and flower garlands on the gods and drinking what looked like milk or ghee (clarified butter) that had been blessed. It was so surreal, the exact opposite to the Roman Catholic masses of mu childhood, Hinduism seems to me to be the Vegas of religions, with its multiple brightly painted gods, flashing lights, incense, chanting, fires and offerings.  It was sweet!  I’ll never forget it!
Our next stop in our wanders was the aptly named thieves market, a badly put together market of what totally looked like stolen goods and junky stuff.  We stopped for lunch at a hawker center, finding tons of cheap eats in this otherwise expensive city.  Most of our meals consisted of rice or noodles and some kind of meat like duck or pork, and yummy chili sauces.  Sometimes we would just point at some picture of something without knowing what it was, laughing as we ate and guessed what it might be made of. After lunch, we found ourselves in a cool covered market area by Bugis station that was selling tacky souvenirs, fruit shakes, pastries, a lot of Asian clothing and accessories, and pretty much everything in between.  We were totally overwhelmed and took it all in, three floors of tacky Asian goodness. When we finally emerged back into the bright sweltering heat, it was time to find refuge in the Asian civilizations museum.
After a long, hot walk, we found the museum and stepped into an air-conditioned time warp.  The museum was HUGE! and AWESOME!  For a culture nut like me, it was so interesting to learn about the various Asian civilizations in and around Singapore, and how they all ended up together in this one giant melting pot of a city.  It took us a couple of hours to get through the museum, and after that we walked to Chinatown, which is, I have to say, one of the most bland ones I’ve ever seen.  The market was cool, and there was another cool Hindu temple, but overall I would say i preferred the more vibrant and historical Little India in this particular city!  We stopped for pork-filled buns and beer in the Peoples Place Mall before wandering over to Clarke Quay, a trendy spot where everyone goes to drink and hang out after work, it seems.  One look at the prices and we decided to give the patios a pass, although it was a gorgeous riverside spot that we would visit many times over the course of our stay.  We just. kept. walking. and found ourselves on Orchard Road, which is pretty much a paradise for shoppers, with mall after mall after mall offering the latest luxury goods, we saw all the best and well-known brands were present, and laughed about how we could spend our entire trip’s budget on one Miu Miu bag!!
Our feet were done at this point, so we hopped on the train at Orchard Road station and went back to the condo, settling down for the best nights sleep we had both had in a while!

 

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One Sweet Day in Melaka

Well, I’m glad I only planned on staying two nights here, because one and a half days was more than enough to see all that this little town had to offer.  I wanted to check it out since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and since I love history I thought it would be a worthy stop.  I found it to be charming but super touristy, and although the food was good and it was worth a look around, there’s not much fun stuff to do besides take pics, check out museums, eat, and shop.

 
I left my hostel on a mission to find some good coffee and a big breakfast to fuel my day, and I found a riverside café with both of those things.  I chatted with my mom over breakfast (nighttime for her) and caught up on all the news from home 🙂 I had kind of a route planned out and first decided to check out the Museum Rakiyat, which had some good if slightly bland exhibits about Melaka, a kite museum and a really interesting exhibit about beauty practices all over the world, including scarifications, piercing, corsets, Chinese foot binding and more.  I found that really interesting, but not much else, and then while trying to follow my walking route I inevitably got lost, found, then lost again after finally getting my bearings at the extremely cute town square with outrageously decorated tricycles for hire, some with boomboxes attached, blaring 80’s tunes!!
 
 
My second museum stop was the Baba Nonya house, a Perenkian style house that showed how the rich Indochinese merchants lived when the area was a main shipping town in Malaysia. The women of the house were rarely seen, and lived their lives indoors and behind screens.  Fascinating!  I ate yummy Nonya food at the little café and did some shopping after that, there’s lots of kitschy little stores and antique shops, I sampled some baked goods (seriously there are SO MANY yummy things to eat here.  Oops.) and headed back to my hostel to hang out on the rooftop lounge and get to know some of my fellow travelers.
 
Today i sampled some Chinese goodies before leaving town, and may or may not have a box of pineapple tarts to snack on during the trip to Singapore!  My waistline cannot take the goodness that I found in Melaka!  Right now I am on a very bumpy bus to Singapore, where I will rendezvous with my travel companion Micheline and meet some family friends who are graciously putting us up!  Onwards!

 

Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mmmm, Melaka! – Foodie Paradise

I love Malaysia!!  It is extremely awesome here – I was not expecting such a clean, well-organized and developed country. I think im going to really like it here.  In between my first stop in Malaysia and the rest of my travels in this country, I’m going to check out Singapore, as well.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I got off the plane at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal, thank goodness I did some internet research as my lonely planet is two years out of date, and was totally directing me to the wrong bus station 😦 i caught wind of this before making this tragic mistake, and got on a sexy bus that cost me 8 ringgit ($2.50 CAD) for an hour and a half bus ride to the new, beautiful bus station.  All the buses ran on time, left on time, were clean and air-conditioned and in great shape!! OH MY GOD ITS A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.  iT ACTUALLY IS. This type of service is pretty much unheard of in any other asian country I’ve been to, so needless to say I am already impressed.
My bus to Melaka was easy to find, super cheap (9 ringgits, or 3 dollars for a two-hour bus ride) and right on time.  I stared out at the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur from my bus window. it looked so orderly! No signs of poverty, no roadside shacks, just cheery looking row houses and palm plantations.  Woah.  Minus the palm trees, you could be in any developed country in the world and not know the difference.  The highways are also well maintained and well-marked.  If you know me personally, you will understand why I’m pointing this out, I have an organization fetish and this country’s got it going ON!! lol.
We got to Melaka in record time, and my cab from the bus station cost 20 confusing ringgits, I didn’t understand how I could have travelled for over three hours for less than twenty ringgits, and then my five-minute cab ride cost me just as much as that. HMMM. I got to my hostel, Ringos Foyer Guesthouse, and while it’s not much to look at, it was pretty comfortable and I met a bunch of interesting people there so points for that, even though it wasn’t the prettiest place I’ve stayed.  I was super tired from getting up at 4am, but decided to go for a little walk and check out the very charming town and grab some Nonya Laksa, a yummy curry soup that is a local specialty.  The cats found me, as they always do, and I shared some of the seafood in my soup with them.  I can’t help it!! I love kitties!! I walked around a bit more and oriented myself, and crashed hard that evening after chatting with some fellow travellers in the homey common area of my guesthouse.
xo
D
Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Manic, Muggy Manila

Wahoo!  I am finally out of Palawan!! To be fair, the place did grow on me after a few days, it’s a super cute if not smelly place, and its very cultural for someone who wants to experience the real Filipino way of life, I met some great locals and made new friends, so I can’t say it was all bad.  I was just ready to leave and am soooo excited for Malaysia + Singapore, having bought a Lonely Planet and started reading all about the places I’m going!!

I flew out of Palawan around 1pm and got to Manila without a hitch.  I’m staying with some mutual friends here, who turned out to be excellent hosts and great company as well 🙂  I got to their gorgeous penthouse condo, and there just happened to be a birthday in the house, so we went out to celebrate my new friend Marshalls Bday!  After the first decent shower I’ve had in weeks, we went out to the Sofitel, a very fancy hotel on the bay, doesn’t look like much from the outside, but man was it ever nice inside!  We played some pool while waiting for our table, and had a great ( if not expensive) dinner while swapping travel stories.
The next day I was on my own as my new friends had to work, so I ventured out into the sprawling big city by myself in search of adventure.  Instead of adventure I found a pancake house for breakfast and settled for that, lol.  Everything is so Americanized here! There is TONS of fast food, A Mcdonalds on every corner, and I even found a Starbucks to satisfy my caffeine craving!  Not quite the authentic experience I was looking for, but the Philippines was an american colony for 50 years and before that belonged to spain for 400 years, so it truly is woven into the culture here.  A hybrid mix of old and new which struck me as strange but, hey, its part of their legacy here!
I ignored the shouts and catcalls of the many touts and guys and duders and security guards and walked along the big, dirty, dangerous, smelly streets.  Seriously everyone shouts hello at you, whats your name, where are you from, where are you going….you get the picture.  I just smile and pretend not to speak english. I`ve got nothing against meeting the locals, in fact i love it but they way they approach me makes me feel threatened so i just play dumb.  I found myself at Rizal park, the place where Filipino independence was declared, and although its majestic, its basically just a big fancy park.  i got lost after that trying to find the historic district, and luckily got approached by a sweet lady tout, Mary Jane, who told me I was going the wrong way and offered to give me a tour of Intramuros, the `city within the walls` which is the oldest area in Manila.  I got into the sidecar and had a really enjoyable few hours in the old city, checking out all the old buildings, forts, and museums that I could handle, and talked to MJ about her life in Manila, which is hard but she was super cheery about it and assured me that it was way better here than her life of poverty in the country. She overcharged me for the tour but at that point I really didn’t care, so I gave her 700 pesos (about $18) and decided to check out some of the newer parts of Manila.  I swear I could have walked faster than the taxi that took me to Robinson’s Place, the traffic in this city is actually the WORST.  Add the smog and the heat to that, and , about ten million people, and you have one big dirty mess on your hands.  Still, it is an interesting city and I`m glad I made the effort to stop here.  I even saw my first prostitute deal go down!  A tiny Filipino girl and a big American dude – go figure.
At the mall, I experienced a new kind of culture shock – i felt like I was in America again!  Everywhere I looked were american brands, stores, and chains.  But it all came with some distinctly Filipino touches, lots of kiosks selling Filipino food and drinks, the strangest assortment of foods, and pretty much anything you can dream of was available in this mall.  I ate some delicious Pho (Vietnamese, Not Filipino, so sue me) and successfully maneuvered my way back to Bayview towers, a small accomplishment but I was still proud of myself!!
As I walked back, I noticed two more things – one is the huge population of transgendered men and women in Manila – the concept of gender is very fluid here and nobody seems to blink or care as lipsticked men and butchy women mingle and go about their business.  Its awesome!  The second thing that I saw was absolute poverty everywhere – people living on the streets, sifting through the garbage and living hand to mouth. It was hard to see, and while i was busy feeling sorry for them a whole family noticed me, broke into huge smiles, waving, saying hi and being super friendly and polite.  Wow.  To have such a happy, upbeat attitude for what they had, it really gave me a new perspective.  i waved and smiled back, gave the littlest one some change I had, and continued my way to my penthouse, feeling infinitely luckier than before.
My lovely hosts made me dinner that night, thank you Duncan and Marshall for taking such good care of me in Manila!  i went to bed early and was up at 4:30 am to grab a cab to the airport and flew to Kuala Lumpur without a hitch. My Malaysian and Singapore adventure was just beginning!!
Categories: Phillipines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Solo Journey Begins

It’s day three of my solo adventure and things are going great!  I found a much more awesome guesthouse called Banwa Art House and settled in there for three more nights.  I thought about going to El Nido, but its a seven hour bus journey there and I leave again from Puerto Princesa for Manila – so a fourteen hour round trip just doesn’t sound worth it to me for one night in El Nido. Damn.  I decided to make the best of my time here, and the owner of my hostel has been so helpful and lovely in sorting everything out for me! What a nice change from the previous guesthouse I was at!  The owner lives most of her time in Ireland and has two very sweet daughters who are spending their summer here with her, the hostel is filled with other lovely travelers and I feel right at home, even though there is no aircon in the room and a few neighborly mosquitoes, gotta take the good with the bad I guess!

My first solo day was pretty uneventful as I settled into my new place and took a looooong walk around the little city, which is slowly growing on me. Slowly.  I caught up on my world news and chatted with friends from home that evening, hitting the hay early because i had a scooter rented for the next day and was excited for my journey!
I woke up the next morning and packed up my stuff, getting ready to scoot off on an adventure to find Emerald Beach.  I got directions from my lovely hostel owner and drove off down the streets of Puerto Princesa, loving every minute of my drive and finding the beach no problem after about twenty minutes on the road.  It was awesome!! Even though I was parked in front of a hotel, NOBODY was around save for the hotel staff, and I had the beach/pool to myself for pretty much the whole day.  I sunned myself and ate a lovely lunch by the pool, my friend Laura from the hostel showed up about halfway through my day and we chatted about backpack life.  I went to leave in the late afternoon and realized – uh oh, I had somehow lost the key to my scooter!! Yikes 😦
I pretty much had every maintenance guy, security officer and tourist police guy looking for that damn key, and finally one of them triumphantly pulled it out of the sand!! WHEW! I was so relieved that I didn’t have to pay a major fee for losing the key!! I scooted back to my hostel after that without any other bad things happening, and spent the evening relaxing, playing a very interesting game of chess with a five-year old and chatting with the other travellers in the place.
Today has been a quiet, relaxed, blogging kinda day, ive been to two coffee shops so far and have been typing away, trying to record the events of the past week (feels like so much longer!) and staying out of the rain.  Tomorrow I finally leave Puerto Princesa and move on to Manila and Malaysia awaits!  I’m sure there will be lots of new adventures waiting for me there 🙂
xo
D

 

Categories: Phillipines | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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