Posts Tagged With: weirdo

Beijing: A Wall, another zoo, and some people who need putting in it.

Beijing was a good ending to China. It meant we didn’t leave on the huge negative hatred we had by the end of Xi’an. Or maybe we’d just got used to the spitting, squatting, staring and shoving by this point. Bad things in China begin with the letter ‘S’. There’s an episode of Sesame Street they never aired.

We started out, as I’m sure most tourists do, with Tiananmen Square. However, with two Metro lines to choose from (Tiananmen East and Tiananmen West) we were spoilt for choice.

“It must be a really big square if it needs TWO Metro stops,” I said to Ashley, quite excited.

“It’s the biggest in the world I think,” came the reply.

We arise from the ground to be greeted by a recognisable red building to the right of us with Mao framed nice and big in the middle…and a road to the left.

“Well, that doesn’t really count as the biggest square in the world. There’s a road going through it. I feel conned again,” I said, slightly disappointed.

After the mandatory photos of the big red Mao building, we headed back through the underpass to cross the road.

“Oh, ok. This is the square. I’ll let them off.”

We’d got out the wrong side of the road to appreciate the vastness of the square. Blocked by two rather large screens showing the beautiful sights of China on a loop, yes, but vast all the same.

Not quite sure how to get through to the Forbidden City without paying to visit a garden, we headed in the other direction and found ourselves in a modern looking, conveniently located tourist street. It didn’t take long to put the ‘2008’ date on the drains, artificial flowers and still fully stocked Olympic shop together and figure out that this street must have been built in time for the Olympics. It was like Disneyland. Until you notice a depressed sheep sat head in hands against a wall. Very odd.

By the time we left fakeville and reached the Forbidden City (through a garden we had to pay for) there was only an hour until closing time. And a homeless woman was having a breakdown. So we decided to do it another day. We did however, have time to go into a park behind the Forbidden City that gives the most amazing (but misty) view of the Forbidden City if you climb to a spot where an Emperor once hung himself. A bizarre sentence, yes, it may seem.

And so, as day two arrived in Beijing, it was time to hit the Wall. The Great Wall. One of the Seven Wonders of The World. A day to remember. It snowed a little. Doesn’t get much better!

And it was really cold. Really, really, really cold. But it was snowing! How could we not go to the Wall the day it snowed?! Imagine the beautiful photos! It’s higher up there, there’s got to be more snow! So we carried on regardless. There was no more snow.

The two main ways to see the Wall are tour or public bus. As the public bus cost a 10th of the price of the cheapest tour, we opted for public bus. We had a Metro station, and instructions to walk 500m east to the bus stop when we get there. However, east (or in fact north, south or west) is difficult to determine when you haven’t got a compass. Thankfully, a very nice man helped us out and pointed us in the right direction. Our new instruction was “second on the left”.

Before we reached “second on the left”, we found a sign pinned to a tree saying “919”, four Westerners and a man in uniform.

“Badaling? Badaling?” said the official man.

“Yes, yes. Badaling from here?”

“Yes, yes.” He spoke very little English. To make this easier, I’ve put the conversation in English.

“Ok. How much is it?”

“55 Yuan per person, per way.”

“55? I read 12!”

“No, no.”

Hmm. Something didn’t add up. So us and the other 4 Westerners worked as a team and found another bus stop further down – this time, the “919” was a sticker on a tree! Is that better than pinned to a tree?…

The same thing happened, only this guy wasn’t so sneaky,

“Yes, 55 each way. But with one, two, three in car, taxi, 400 Yuan.”

“Ahh, no, it’s ok, we’ll take the bus.”

Eventually, we found it. A bus stop specifically for 919 buses, full of 919 buses. At least 6 of them. Go team!

Our team of taxi tout avoiders had somewhat dispersed in the crowd but somehow me, Ashley and an American, Matthew, had managed to stay together. Matthew was a lovely bloke. He was also black – a rarity in Asia – as was proved when we arrived at the Wall for him to be met by two in-awe Chinese asking for photos with him. Good job he’s a good sport.

We weren’t sure when to stop walking the Wall. I mean, we didn’t want to end up out in the sticks, but thankfully our worries were put to rest by a huge sign in a square block of the Wall that read “NO VISITOR”.

We did it. We went as far as we could – I guess you could say we walked the Wall?…

We left the Wall feeling pretty good, if not slightly cold, which is more than can be said for when we left Beijing Zoo the next day. At least 50% of the animals caged were more intelligent than at least 50% of the visitors. Banging on the glass – including the gorilla enclosure, letting kids shout really loudly through the wires and  feeding crisps to the zebras. By the time we got to crisp/zebra girl, we’d had enough of “subtly” saying, “Oh, there’s a sign there – what dos it say? Oh, don’t bang? Oh ok then – I won’t bang the glass!”

Ashley approached crisp/zebra girl after we’d watched her for too long.

“Hey, hello, excuse me. Come here,” he ushered her towards the signboard. She looked stupidly and didn’t move. I joined Ashley, “Come, follow.” She still didn’t move.

“The sign says no feeding. Don’t feed them,” Ashley pointed to the crisps, “They’re wild animals. They can’t eat crisps.”

“Ahh, I know. I know.” Wow, she speaks.

We then proceeded to sit behind her for about 10 minutes. She knew we were there and didn’t feed them…until we eventually had to walk off.

Despite stressing out at the zoo and getting a tad cold, we had a pretty good time in Beijing. The Wall was more impressive than the Warriors and I think the Olympics must have worked wonders for upgrading the city here and there. That said, we were very much looking forward to getting out of China and into Japan.

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Categories: China, East Asia | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Hey, you’re British?! You must love Danny Boyle?!”

The Hangover Part 2 has now been added the list, along with Marley And Me, of Films That Were Rudely Interrupted In A Hostel. This time there was no Mowglina, but a rude French woman. I love French people, generally speaking of course, and had even spent an hour or so earlier that evening with some lovely French people. We just sat reading and enjoyed each others company. However, last night I was in the TV/Common Room, when I found The Hangover Part 2 about three down in a pile of copied DVDs. Amazing! I’d almost considered going to the cinema earlier to see it as I’d noticed it was on and am yet to see it…still am.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite master the DVD player, and no matter which combination of plugs and wires I tried, it wasn’t ready to work. “Oh well!” I thought to myself, “Reading it is”.

A little later an English couple came up, who I’d seen earlier watching Harry Potter.

“Ahh! You were watching Harry Potter, you must know the answer to my question!”

After a little fiddle they managed to fix it (the adapter wasn’t working – they had their own!) and we settled down to watch the film. About an hour in, a group of 6 or 7 people came to join us. Now, it’s quite a big room, but it’s not a conference hall. 6 or 7 extra bodies make it very crowded. But that’s ok if they’re happy to sit and watch with us.

“What are you watching? Oh it’s that film where four guys get way too drunk and can’t remember anything? Yeah, I didn’t like the first one so there’s not much hope for this. There’s only so much you can show about four guys getting drunk,” said a woman with long blond hair, “Oh no, we couldn’t talk in the kitchen ’cause of that man, now we come in here and we can’t talk ’cause there’s a film! Ha!”

“That’s good,” I thought, “She’s recognised we’re watching and enjoying this film and will soon shut up.”

That didn’t happen. Instead, with the film geared up as a conversation starter, she proceeded to ask a Spanish couple who had also entered with the entourage if they like Almodovar, a famous Spanish film director. Now, as an Almodovar fan myself, I can quite honestly say that it’s something I would never ask a Spaniard. It would be like saying, “Hey, you’re British?! You must love Danny Boyle?!”.

The conversation didn’t end there. On and on she went….”He’s so creative…I love the way he takes something so perverse and puts it in a different light.” Blah blah blah, enough of the pretense.

After about 20 minutes I gave up. I’d lost the plot line of the film, had no idea what was going on and couldn’t hear or see to understand even if I wanted to. So I went to bed and will attempt part 2 of Part 2 tonight.

Despite this, the general mood here is good. It’s a very nice hostel – and one of the cheapest in Malaysia so far at 17RM! I’m planning to base myself in Kuching until I leave for Singapore. Most things can be reached in a day trip from here – orang utans, Bako National Park, a longhouse…so we’ll see how it goes. Plus, that will give me some downtime and much needed staying in one place and not having to repack every three days!

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

One journey, two countries, eight stamps.

From Penang, I flew to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on Borneo. It’s still part of Malaysia, but because it’s semi autonomous, you get a little “entered Sabah on…” stamp. Initially, I was thinking of spending a couple of days here, one of which I would go to Mount Kinabalu National Park – not to climb the mountain, just to do some trails around the park itself and then head back. I though from there I’d then head down to Sandakan for a couple of nights as this is near one of four orang-utan sanctuaries in the world! After this, I was planning on Semporna, which is apparently home to some of the best dive spots in the world.

However! Things have changed slightly since that plan…I’m writing this from a different country. I was in two different countries today, yet I had my passport stamped eight times. I’m now in Brunei. If that means nothing to you, Brunei is a tiny country on the top of Borneo and it looks a little like this:


 

 

 

 

 

This means that when you go on a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Bandar Seri Begawan, this happens:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, let’s add something else to the perfectly to scale diagram, Malaysian Borneo is split into Sabah and Sarawak, both of which are semi autonomous:

So altogether the journey involves going in and out of two different countries, and two different states of one of those countries, a grand total of eight times! My passport now looks a little like this:

At border control number five (or four, they all became a bit of a blur), I had a brief chat with one of the drivers who told me that he has to get a new passport every two months because he racks up seven stamps each day! I checked, his work pays for the passports!

I was quite looking forward to the journey, well, as much as you can be looking forward to an eight hour bus journey. Within minutes of me sitting down and whipping out Sons and Lovers, Justin Bieber Never Say Never The Movie was on! Well, Sons and Lovers could wait. Plus reading on a moving vehicle makes me feel a bit sick, whereas watching Justin Bieber on a moving vehicle? That just makes me laugh. Unfortunately, we went over a speed bump after 15 minutes and “The Beebs” was gone. However, my personal favourite quote from what I saw was his vocal coach’s response when “JB” asked for a razor – “Really? A razor?”

The DVD player was off until we stopped at the first border and the drivers had a chance to play with the wires. Only to put on AWFUL karaoke tracks. The lyrics were rolling across the bottom of the screen in front of cheesy images edited on Windows Movie Maker. URGH. I whipped out the iPod. But the karaoke was loud, and it was about to get a whole lot louder…

On the seat opposite me was an adorably bizarre old woman, wearing a batik dress held on with a bumbag, thrown over pyjama bottoms with little wintery bears dotted on them. She had a pink quilted jacket and green thing that was on and off her head more times than I thought about Rick Astley during the bus ride. She must not like karaoke, because not long after the karaoke started, she whipped out her own entertainment device, presumably to block out the noise. She had a little portable DVD player and a carrier bag full of DVDs. Only problem was, she didn’t appear to have any headphones. I wouldn’t have minded too much if she was watching something I could sneak a peek at. However, when the films started, it soon became clear that she was watching home videos of herself. Mainly of herself singing. To a duck. Seeing as she clearly didn’t seem to care about her volume, I put mine up to block out the crooning “lay lay lays” to the duck. At times, I was literally clutching my ear to block out the sound. Especially when KL Gangster came on after the drivers got bored of the karaoke DVD. It started with a man getting a beating on the road outside the entrance arch to Petaling Street, yards from where we stayed in Kuala Lumpur! They also threw in lots of night shots of the Petronas Towers for good measure. I wouldn’t recommend they add it to the in-flight movie list, people would be landing and going straight back out.

As for Brunei now I’ve finally arrived, well! It’s a fascinating little place.

I set out to stay at the “Youth Centre” for B$10 a night (5GBP) as opposed to B$30 (15GBP), which was the next lowest price I’d managed to find. I found the Youth Centre no problem; Bandar Seri Begawan is very small. There was a man stood at the entrance to what I assumed to be the Youth Centre.

“Pusat Belia?” I asked.

“Yes, but the manager has now gone. I am also wait here and he say he come back soon. You come in, come sit. He is here soon. You can have bed.” replied the man, ushering me to sit down. I hadn’t fully understood what he was trying to tell me, mind you.

“Well, I think..so, what? Do you work here? Can you give me a bed? Or do I go in and wait for him?”

“You can wait here. I am customer also. I do not work here. I am here on business but I ring him and he say to me that he is here soon.”

“Right, err, ok.” I sit down.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“England. And you?”

“Oh England. I have been three times to London on business.”

“Right. What did you think? Did you see Big Ben? Buckingham Palace?” I was struggling to think of monuments for a few seconds after that. Isn’t that awful?!

“Yes yes. I see all these things. It is very nice. You are very nice. You travel alone?”

“Yes.”

“And where is your husband?”

I’d decided at this point it was best to go with the fact that yes, I do have a husband. I don’t.

“He is working. In England. But he will come and meet me soon.”

“And does he work or do business?

“Sorry?”

“Does he work or do business? Business is better. You can get lots of money and then not a lot of money. But with work always the same amount each month.” Surely, he’s just talked up the benefits of work as opposed to ‘business’?

“Right. Yeah. He works. And does business too. So where are you from?”

“Bangladesh. Have you been?”

“No, not yet!” And I probably never will! But I didn’t tell him that bit.

“You must come. You can stay at my house. I live 20 minutes from the airport. I will give you my address. And you can stay in my bed. In my house.”

“Right. Maybe one day!” A very polite way of saying never.

“And next time I come to England, I can stay at your house. You give me your address and I will come.”

“Hmm. I live a long way from London!” I don’t. “Way up north!”

Thankfully, someone arrived at the Youth Centre. He headed towards the swimming pool. I went to ask if he knew any more than we did. He was very nice and from Sudan. And he did know more than us. Apparently they are closed for a few days after Hari Raya (the end of Ramadhan). B$30 a night it was then. I started to head back into town.

“My friend! Wait! Where do you go? I ring him now! And he says he comes! He will be here very soon! My friend!” Mr Bangladesh did not want me to leave. Even if the Sudanese man had only meant that the swimming pool was closed after Hari Raya, I wasn’t waiting any longer with this guy to find out.

I arrived at my 15GBP a night room (the most expensive so far!), showered and headed out for food. Thankfully, I found a hawker market very close to where I’m staying as shown on the map in Lonely Planet. Only, it was very quiet. Once I finished my chicken and rice, I discovered the rest of Brunei was also very quiet. This is the capital city! And it feels deserted! It is remarkably clean though and it does feel very safe. I took myself on a little stroll around the main hub of the city, passing Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the call to prayer on the way. One of the better “singers” for the call to prayer I’ve heard.

This morning I set off nice and early, thinking I could make the 3km walk to the Palace and another mosque before it got too hot. I think I got about half way and was sweltering! So I gave up on that idea and instead went straight to the Royal Regalia Museum, which is full of gifts given to the Sultan by presidents, prime ministers and other royal families from across the world. Personally, I couldn’t help but think it led me to understand a little further as to why we’re having a global economic crisis.

“What shall I send the dear old Sultan of Brunei for his birthday, Phillip? Ooo, I know, a big glass vase with my initials on it. That’ll come in handy for him.”

No it won’t Lizzie, it’ll end up in a museum. I’d feel slightly insulted if I spent that much money on a gift and it wasn’t even in his house. Especially when his palace is three times bigger than Buckingham Palace!!Even if he put it in one of the 257 bathrooms I’d be happy.

I’ve only been here less than 24 hours, but I’m mesmerized by the place. It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been and if you come to Borneo, it’s definitely worth adding a day or two here to your itinerary. The wealth is evident but not in the sense of skyscrapers or amazing monuments, the money has been put into religion, royalty and roads. I’m also quite fond of the fact that for the first time in over a month, zebra crossings mean something.

My only negative of Brunei is that I can’t send text messages – so apologies if you’ve text me over the past couple of days and I haven’t replied! I’m still alive! I suppose this is good practice though because tomorrow I’m heading back into Sarawak to a town called Miri. This is the base for flights to Gunung Mulu National Park and the Kelabit Highlands. I’m hoping to spend a couple of nights at Mulu exploring the caves and a couple of nights in the Kelabit Highlands, perhaps doing a longhouse visit if it can be arranged! If I get to Mulu and the Kelabit Highlands, I’ll also be phone (and Internet) free, but I’ll report back as soon as I can!

Categories: Brunei, Malaysia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts on Penang (and other exciting news!)

In keeping with the rest of Malaysia, Penang is very nice. In difference to the Cameron Highlands, Penang is very hot! I haven’t really sweated yet since I’ve been away, yeah, it’s been hot, but Penang? WOAH! I’m thinking it could just have been the change from shivering at night in the Cameron Highlands to stepping off the plane into a blanket of heat but wow!

After my wonderful night at Jim’s Place, (not only was there a bratty jungle kid but my fan didn’t work!!) I awoke bright and early and was ready to leave ASAP. I showered, packed my bag, checked the map for an idea of which direction to head for cheap hotels and so I was set. I headed downstairs. Complete darkness. Brilliant. The shutters were down, no-one was around…then I saw a man on the sofa. It was Jim.

“Jim? Jim?” I whispered, “Jim?”

He stirred.

“I need to leave now”

“Ok. You can go out the back, baby.” That’s the kind of guy Jim was. He had notice boards on the wall filled to the brim with quotes from “Sir Jim”, mainly about having sexual intercourse with the Thai population.

Glad to have finally left, I ended up in Banana Guest House! Doesn’t sound much better, does it? Thankfully, it was, and I had a very pleasant last night’s rest in Penang. A much needed one after my 8km trek through Taman Negara Pulau Penang earlier that day. That’s Penang National Park to you and me. It was a fun, sweaty hour and a half before reaching a beautiful white sandy beach with a turtle conservation centre – and a tank full of baby sea turtles! It was very cute!

I met a lovely man called Izman and his two cousins who were so kind, and gave me a lift to the Toy Museum that I’d seen on my way over. However, when I got to the entrance, I noticed the ticket price – as far as I could make out, it would have cost me 100RM (20quid!) just to see some toys. I was kinda hoping for 1-10RM…so I headed to the bus stop straight away to catch a bus back into town.

“Where do you want to go?” came an angry sounding voice from the shelter.

“Err, I need bus 101? Into the city, Komtar?”

“Ahh, yes, ok, it will come. But i’ve been waiting half an hour already. Huh!” She was quite a character, “So where are you from?”

“England.”

“Ooo, long way. How do you like Malaysia?”

“I love it! I was in Indonesia before, and I hated it. So Malaysia is great in comparison!”

She nodded and smiled. We sat for a few moments and then she asked, “What do you believe?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What do you believe? Like, God, religion? Are you a Christian?”

“Oh, I’m not religious. I…don’t know what to believe.” This was an easier answer than getting into a religious debate. I turned the tables, “And you?”

“I’m a Christian. I used to be a Hindu but then I changed. What is the point of a religion when I can’t do anything, you know? But being a Christian, I can ask for forgiveness, you can’t do that in Hinduism, I mean, we all make mistakes sometimes, we need to ask for forgiveness and my old religion didn’t allow for mistakes so now being Christian LOGOS HOPE!!!” The endless monologue was interrupted when two minibuses drove past with the words “Logos Hope” on the side.

“What’s Logos Hope?” I asked.

“It’s a boat, a travelling book fair, and it’s here in Penang, first time in Malaysia and first time in Penang and it’s here!”

What a lovely idea. A book boat shop that travels the world.

She was chatting all the way on the bus too. A very nice, open woman called Mala.

The following morning I left Penang and after a few hours stop in Kuala Lumpur airport, I arrived in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on Borneo yesterday. So far, so good! I caught the bus into town for 30p as opposed to at least a tenner for a taxi and went for some lunch in a shopping centre. I found a small cafe in a supermarket where I chowed down on a plate of fried noodles for 40p, only to be filmed by the women on the next table…I wasn’t literally chowing the noodles down, I’m not a dog. I was eating sensibly despite being ravenous. So that wasn’t the reason they were filming me. I did still have my backpack on but get a life! I even turned back as I walked away and she was still filming me!!

It was a half hours walk from the bus station to Lucy’s Homestay (the cheapest in the book!) and if they were full there looked to be plenty of other options nearby. Thankfully, they had space and I’m now in a lovely hostel for the next three nights (well, two now!) with free breakfast and wi-fi AND I’ve had my laundry done! Hooray!

Even more exciting news is…

  1. I may be able to do a try dive in the Semorna Archipelago – apparently one of the best dive spots in the world!
  2. I have planned Borneo down to a T and should be able to hit the orang-utans (not literally), Semporna, Gunung Mulu National Park and Kuching within a time span allowing me to…
  3. GO TO SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX!! Yes! How amazing is that?! It falls just when I’m ready to leave Borneo, flights from Kuching are dirt cheap (I’ve already booked one!) and Shakira, Linkin Park, Shaggy AND Rick Astley are playing!! I mean come on, Rick Astley? Cherry on top of a fantastic cake or what?! It’s a night race around a track in the city centre so different to most races around the world. What a cool place to see my first Grand Prix! Of course, I’ll be rooting for Hamilton and Button….if I’m not too busy singing along to Rick Astley that is!

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Categories: Malaysia, Singapore, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Who hasn’t slept with half the world?

Ooo, I need a rant! So this place I’m staying in Penang, really odd…

I’m walking down the street, map in hand, trying to figure out why I can’t find Blue Diamond Hostel (the cheapest in the book!) when I’m stood right by exactly where the dot is on my map, and a guy on a moped stops and asks if I’m looking for a room.I would normally ignore this, but he had an old white man on the back of his bike so he must have been a bit legit…

“Yeah, I’m looking for Blue Diamond Hostel?”

“It doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s that,” he points to where the dot on my map would indicate, “Expensive now, over a hundred Ringgit a night.”

“Oh..”

He sends me to Jim’s Place. He’s Jim.

The people are a bit weird here, like travelled for waaaay too long, dead cynical etc….then there’s this little girl. She shows me the animals at the hotel behind this place (they had lots of terrapins!) and when I get back from my walk around town, she wants to play cards. No worries. Bored of her cheating at Go Fish and having been to see the animals again, and watched her dance, I decided to go upstairs and watch a film. She follows, we end up watching a copied and skipping version of Marley And Me.

After about ten minutes, she sat on my back…then she picks my key up with her toe, no problem, then she won’t give it back to me!!

“It’s MY key, you need to give it back.”

“No, it’s Jim’s key.” She sounded rather smug.

You may think I’m overreacting, but I attach my hotel keys to my suitcase key and thus to everything I have to keep me alive for the next 4 months and a keyring with 2 out of 3 photos I have with me of me and my boyfriend. AND a keyring my sister got me from ChocoStory in Belgium. That was the deal breaker. I was rightfully, I think you’ll agree, getting angry with a little girl.

When I eventually get my key back, after feeling like I’d gone back to working in a school with the tone I was having to use, she starts tugging on my watch!! She wouldn’t let go, thinking it was a joke, I could see the evil in her eyes. The skank.

Her dad, who kept finding fault in “the system” during an earlier conversation, was downstairs (he’d smoked dope earlier in the day…great parenting, right there) and I heard him saying earlier “Do you have kids?” to some guy.
The guy responded with, “Yeah, one French, one Palestinian.” What the hell?!?!?!?!

As if it’s the most natural and normal thing in the world to have slept with half the planet, Isa..something..blah blah’s dad replies with, “I’ve got 3. One Spanish, one (something else) and Is(..blah blah or whatever her name was.) Her mother is indigenous. We were living in the rainforest for sometime.” WHAT?!?!? You were living in the rainforest so long you decided “Hey, let’s get pregnant?!”

Literally mental. Tomorrow I’m finding somewhere else!!

Just needed to vent that!

Please tell me I’m not on my own here, that’s weird, right?…

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

Kuala Lum…phuurr, what’s that smell?

And so I’ve just got on the bus heading towards the Cameron Highlands to leave Kuala Lumpur.  And I’ve encountered my first Malaysian asshole. After waiting for far longer than I should have for the bus and beginning to think it was not going to arrive, I was quite relieved to finally sit down in the seat the bus driver pointed me to. I wave goodbye to my mum and sister who are, well my mum is, looking up and down the bus to locate me. Then these two men get on, one of them stares at my seat number, wanders up and down a bit and then comes back down for another seat number staring contest.

“The driver told me to sit here,” I said, “I think my ticket says four but he’s sat in four….what does his ticket say?” I waggle my finger towards seat number four. No-one bothers to ask seat number four guy what his ticket says for quite a while. Eventually, after a lot of asshole hovering in the aisle, someone asks seat number four guy. His ticket doesn’t say four! Asshole’s friend sits down next to me, and despite there being plenty of seats still free on the bus, asshole keeps hovering.

“Would you like me to move?” I asked, slightly annoyed at the fact I’d had to close my loading laptop twice already.

“Yes, yes,” he responds.

“Right, well just say so then. It’s not that difficult, no need to cause a problem is there?” I mumble, loud enough for the English people in front of me to hear, but quick enough for the asshole not to be able to understand. Quite glad now that his English was minimal. I contemplated throwing a difficult to translate insult in there for good measure but decided against it.

Despite this, Kuala Lumpur has been rather good! I was joined here by my mum and sister, Hayley, who took an impromptu holiday to see me for a few days after the disastrous start that was not being allowed on my plane, having a rubbish host in Yogyakarta and consequently a rubbish (actual) birthday. I was glad of the company. It was nice to be able to have someone I know to show my photos to, moan about how crazy dirty Indonesia is and show my surfing bruises to. I think Hayley had suffered a bout of culture shock by the time I arrived, as she found Kuala Lumpur very dirty and smelly! To be fair, it is a little, but it’s not a patch on Indonesia!

I was met at KL Sentral bus station and taken to the hotel to drop off my bags. I was then shown the sights of Central Market, where I let some little fish nibble on my feet! I know this seems to be the latest trend in the UK at the moment, but I’d not got around to having it done there and was keen to try it. Until I took my shoes off and faced the fish. It’s actually quite scary!

“They have no teeth,” the fish spa lady informed me, “They won’t bite, just massage.”

I eventually mustered up the courage to dip my feet in. It feels very odd. Difficult to describe but I’d recommend giving it a go.

We headed to “Kenny Rogers Roasters” for dinner. Yeah, Kenny Rogers as in the country music star. He was plastered all over the walls. I don’t know if he’s affiliated but it was an odd restaurant. My mum had asked if I wanted some Western food for a change, and for the sake of my sister’s dislike for rice and noodles, I agreed. Looking back, I think Hayley would have preferred a huge steaming bowl of rice boiled in Kuala Lumpur sewer water. We both opted for pasta as meat on the bone isn’t our strong point. I chose the Chicken Macaroni Cheese and she went for the Tangy Chicken Spaghetti. Mine consisted of macaroni shells, fake cheese sauce and those bits of sandwich chicken you buy in Tesco. Had I become so accustomed to nasi goreng that this was gross?

Apparently not as Hayley didn’t much enjoy her meal either. She had the same chicken as me, the macaroni substituted with spaghetti and instead of fake cheese sauce; she had “tangy” gravy poured over it all. Delicious.

The next day, we took the KL Hop On Hop Off bus to the Butterfly Park. This was great as pavements here aren’t made for walking. Unfortunately it rained during the bus journey so the lady at the butterfly park informed us there may not be as many butterflies due to the rain. Where they were hiding I don’t know. I didn’t mind though, because I saw more tortoises and turtles than butterflies! Hooray!

I also realised during my batik course in Yogyakarta that my souvenirs were becoming significantly tortoise themed after being given a little wooden tortoise by the French family in Bali and making my own tortoise batik. To add to the collection, I got a little fimo tortoise magnet from Kuala Lumpur yesterday. I’m not obsessed, they’re just everywhere…

Anyway…back to what I’ve been up to. The next day I saw some more tortoises and turtles. Genuinely. But they weren’t the main attraction, the KL tower was. However, when you get your ticket, you are offered to choose one additional activity, and as the F1 simulator was taking a siesta, Animal Zone it was! The KL tower lift made my ears pop, but when you arrive at the top, you’re given a little iPod-esque device with a video tour telling you which window to look out of and what you can see, quite cool. Then we went to Animal Zone and saw some tortoises.

Yesterday was another animal themed day. This time there were no tortoises, just deer, two bears, some pets and some ELEPHANTS! We went on a little package tour to a nearby elephant sanctuary – stopping at Deerland on the way – where you could feed the deer, see a hamster in a cage big enough for one of the bears and have your photo taken with a bear! An actual honey bear, like Winnie the Pooh. Except if A.A Milne had had his books illustrated with real honey bears, then Disney would now not be raking it in from the 100 Acre Wood.

The main attraction was of course the elephants – and the extraordinary amount of Lancashire folk on our bus, which always alters my mum’s accent. That’s Lancashire folk that alter my mum’s accent, not elephants. She doesn’t speak Mammoth.

Our ticket entitled us to feed the elephants, ride the elephants and bathe with the elephants! Very exciting! However, on hearing the words “Watch out for the poo”, seeing the colour of the water and watching everyone else being splashed with said water as soon as they sat on the elephant, we chose not to “bathe” with them. The feeding was fun though, and the ride. Hayley and I rode together.

“Can I get on first? Behind the man, then I’ll be in the middle, think it’ll be safer,” she asked, not knowing how sweaty the elephant man was going to be.

All in all, I have a very good first impression of Malaysia. Especially in comparison with Indonesia, so much so that I’m now considering changing my plans again to avoid having to head back to Sumatra for orang-utans and diving, but instead heading to Sabah as originally planned to do the same stuff in an all round nicer feeling country.  Subject to change. But hopefully not.

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Categories: Malaysia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crappy birthday to me.

It’s been a pretty rubbish birthday so far…allow me to explain…

Here’s yesterday and why I’m now in a hostel…..

Woke up, headed out to Borobudur which is a temple 2 hour bus ride away. host said her friends cs people were going – but then they didn’t have a mobile number so I went alone – again, her sister drove me to the bus station….
good day there, met Yvonne from york again who had met another guy (Matthew) and I went around the temple again with them. my host had been talking about this Ramayana ballet thing, which there was a big arrow on my map to. so between us, we decide maybe we’ll meet again there later!

we get the bus back, I get off near the centre coz I hadn’t eaten anything all day (she didn’t give me breakfast and her sis drove me straight to the bus station, so no food all day!). so I stopped for a meal….I’d just finished and I get a text “do you still wanna come? it’s a 40 min motorbike ride from my house” I’m thinking I’m closer than her house, so I text back saying I’ll walk from here…she texts back saying get the transjogja bus to “museum blah blah blah” so I go to the station, show the text to the girl, she tells me which bus…I wait, get on bus, check the bus map and think ok, so I turn round then get off…so I do that (not checking the name of the bus stop – I saw the Ramayana ballet place and thought “this must be it”…I wait for about half an hour then she starts texting me like “where are you?” “are you far?” “I can’t see you” etc….im texting back like “im here, right by the bus stop, outside the entrance to the place.”…..then I spot Matthew sat having finished his meal! so I head over towards him…and then get a text saying “I’m going home, ive been waiting like 25 minutes. im tired now.” so I text back saying “well, im here. I’ve found my friend from today so do you mind if i still go with him?”

we head over to get me a ticket, and just as I get my ticket, I get this message: “the curfew is 00:00 and make sure you come back before it. and I am absolutely disappointed, I had been waiting for you for 25 min and I broke my promise to the polish guys to see the show at prambannan. if you told me in advance that you are not interested of watching it, I can go by myself.”
what the hell?!?!?! you can’t let someone into your home and then turn schizo on them for a mistake!!!

it turns out that there were 2 Ramayana ballets last night – I’d gone to the wrong one (but the one that was signed very clearly on the map!!!). So I stayed and watched, it finished at half nine and I decide to head back. I asked a little rickshaw man how much to go the station near her house (i didn’t have her address on me, just the name of the station near her house and directions how to get to her house from there)…he didn’t seem to know where it was. so Matthew said he’d walk me home.

we got so lost! asked loads of people…from what I could remember of the street name, they didn’t seem to think it meant anything!! we came the street name, they didn’t seem to think it meant anything!! we came so close and then it was like 11.30 and she wasnt texting me back with her address so we had to get a rickshaw to the taxi terminal and then a taxi to Matthew’s hostel and I had to spend the night there.  huuuuh. so yeah, that’s how I turned 22! fun times.

then today, i make my way back to her house this morning, i arrive she’s SUPER nice to me, says we are going to a cs meet up for the Indonesian independence day (today-my bday!) at 1, but I’d already arranged to talk with my boyfriend at 1 today so i told her this, she was SUPER nice, said she’d take me to a really good cafe with wi-fi and let me borrow her laptop etc, which she did. then we meet her friends at the cafe, they eat, i go upstairs to Skype, feel like she’s telling them about last night…i come down to eat, they are ready to leave, she seems annoyed that she’s having to wait for me to eat…we head to this meet up thing, she ignores me, talking to all her friends individually, they keep looking over at me, its obvious shes telling them about last night. i felt so angry!! you can’t treat people like that!!
then Isaline who I’d met the first night we went out came over and was really nice and I broke down coz my host had been so mean and I wanted to leave. she offered to take me to my hosts house on her scooter to get my stuff and then to town to get a hotel but my host insisted on coming….we left her house, Isaline took me into town and helped me find a hotel and we’re going to go out to a really good restaurant (she’s studying here atm and knows these things!) and have a proper birthday……she couldn’t have been more helpful. but my host was like schizophrenic or something!!! so now I have a nice hotel, with a proper shower and western toilet and I can relax and not be anybody’s pet! it was like I was her cs accessory – when I arrived this morning and said I wanted to use the internet at 1, she said, “well you must be tired, rest in your room til then.” and in her house I felt like I had no option but to rest in my room!! not that i wanted to socialise with her at this point but its the principal….phew. what a day….

Everyone has been lovely except the girl i was staying with!! the most important one to be nice!! hey ho, it’s over now, tomorrow is my new birthday! 🙂

*NOTE*- I am aware of the bad grammar in this post. Frustration doesn’t allow for grammar!

Categories: Indonesia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Can I ask you a question? I’m too dark to be a mixed race guy, right?”

Erm…. How do you reply to that?! After a very successful airport experience on take two, I was very relieved when I sat down on the plane. Of course, I wanted a window seat but booking it only the day before meant they’d all gone, so I settled for a happy little middle seat. Until one of the stewardesses came and asked the man next to me if he wanted to swap so someone could be closer to their family. He didn’t want to because he didn’t want a window seat,  but I said I’d be happy to and jumped at the chance!

Not the best idea I’ve ever had. Yes there was some good views, but my God was there some weird questions. The title of this post being one of them. At first I thought the two people next to me were traveling together. They were both blokes, about the same age, just seemed to make sense. Unlike the one of them who was “too dark to be a mixed race guy”. Who was unfortunately the one next to me. He didn’t make sense.

As the flight went on, I began to notice him doing some repetitive muscle flexing and that the guy I thought was his friend wasn’t talking to him very much. “Maybe he’s autistic”, I thought. Then the questions started and the comments started and that’s when I began to think there was something odd about this bloke. “Maybe he’s got learning difficulties”, was the thought that now crossed my mind, “Maybe the other guy isn’t his friend, but his carer. Nice of him to take him to Dubai. That’s some good caring, right there.”

When he went to the toilet, I had to find out what was going on.

“Are you guys travelling together?” I asked his friend/carer.

“No! He’s something else isn’t he? Well done you, you’re getting all the questions!”

“So he’s traveling alone?! That is worrying.”

When he returned, I had to find out more, “So are you staying in Dubai or transiting somewhere else?”

“Yeah, I’m getting a plane from Dubai to Somalia. See my family and that. Got no family in London. Gets very lonely, you know? I love London. London is my home you know? I love London.”

“You live in London on your own?” I asked.

“Yeah, 11 years. I moved here when I was 11.”

“Ah right.”

Somalia?! I don’t know a lot about Africa, never mind Somalia, but what I do know about Somalia is that there’s famine there. And pirates. “Maybe he’s a pirate,” was my next thought.

Towards the end of the flight, he asked me if I smoke weed and I decided then that maybe he was stoned. I told the air hostess as I left the plane and she said they’d all noticed him too. I wasn’t surprised.

If you’re reading this and thinking I’m being a bit harsh, then here’s some examples of what he said:

  • On opening a butter carton, “What’s this?”
  • On cheese, “Is this cheese? What do I do with it?”
  • To the stewardess whilst grabbing the bag she was holding: “What’s this?” Stewardess, “That’s full of rubbish, sir.”
  • “So are we going straight to Dubai or are we gonna stop at other countries to pick people up on the way?”
  • “What country are we in now?” constantly, throughout the flight.
  • On taking off, “Are we gonna go higher?”
  • “Is this your first time in Dubai?” x7
  • Taking a sip having taken a drink from the stewardess’ tray, “What the hell?!”. He then put it back on the tray.
  • On flyinginto Dubai, “I love Dubai man. I never want to leave.”

Think I had a valid point in thinking he was odd now? Thought so.

After escaping him and getting off the plane, I was in Dubai airport for 6 hours. That wasn’t too bad, there was a lot to do and see as far as airports go. I took some amazing pictures of Dubai as I took off to Singapore. The aerial view is fantastic. Definitely somewhere I’d be interested in going – and that’s just from visiting the airport!

I sat next to some normal French people on that flight, which was a nice relief after my Somalian pirate on the last flight.

I arrived in Singapore at about 9 last night. Got all my luggage, checked through immigration, then followed the signs towards “Train to the city”, which I assumed would be the MRT. Turned out the MRT ticket machine doesn’t take cards for payments of S$2.90, so I headed back up the stairs to find an ATM. Then across to the shop to get an idea of how much things cost and figure out how much I’d need to get out. Then back to the ATM. Then back down to the MRT. With 3 S$50 notes. Which the machine also doesn’t accept. Luckily, the information lady could give me some change for a 50, so I got myself a ticket and headed off.

My hostel is average. Considering it is only costing 5 pounds (no pound sign on this keyboard!) per night, it’s pretty good. I got a good nights sleep, a shower and some toast and set off for the day.

I won’t expose much of Singapore just yet – I’ll save it for when I’ve been here a bit longer and have more to say – but so far I’m very impressed with it all…apart from the rain!

Categories: Singapore, South East Asia, United Arab Emirates | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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