Entries from January 2009 ↓

“God Put A Smile Upon My Face”

Coldplay comes to mind as I type this entry overlooking the breathtaking, clear aquamarine green Andaman Sea, off of the (relatively) undiscovered island of Koh Lipe in Satun, Thailand… Thailand Paradiso, really!!!

Where I left off….

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I ended up out with the boys and girls from the spot I was staying at in KL. I swear, they are like my family as well. Kept harassing my arse to go out with them…and even waited for me to get all my jungle’ness outta me and island planning etc. (I felt special, ha!) Ended up at Gypsy Bar at first.. (characters: Hady, Nilly, Asad, Shayan, Patrick, Phil and some other dude I can’t remember..) then crossed over to Twenty-One Lounge/Club where we met one of their local friends, Mirza. Just another night of pranks and drinks… the fellas kept having this dare game that us all entertained for the majority of the night.. though, I was hitting my sleepies especially since I had to be up for a 5:45AM taxi pickup for the airport… But of course… we ended up back at Equator nearing 4ish.. which meant… I wasn’t about to get any sleep. Stayed up chit chatting and dosing off with Asad and next thing I know.. taxi was there to pick me up…and I was Langkawi-bound!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Arrived in Langkawi, checked-in and headed my way out for a 3min walk to the main beach: Pentai Cengang. First Impressions: “Ahhhh a beach at last!! and everyone here is sooooo chilled out!!” But then as I checked the water, it wasn’t as nice and lovely I had hoped for….but was content I was at the beach. (The nicer spots are up north, but didn’t have time with my one day-stop before I hit Thailand sands.) The pictures are beautious and definitely nice… butttttttt I’m a bit of a beach connoiseur and this wasn’t the best beach I’ve been to. Sands are nice, but the water could be clearer. But again, I wasn’t about to be too picky; I was without any sleep the night before and was just happy to be outta the wildnerness and city. Ended up passing out the majority of the time on the beach anyway… but most definitely caught the sunset for some flicks to share… Then of course some dude, Vishal was his name, decided to make his way over and chit chat. Though I was still mentally in my “regain my peace of mind” mode… I entertained the convo and we ended up going out for dinner. (My appetite tends to be even greater after a hard day on the beach.) After which, met up with his friends at this reggae bar called Babylon, that I had laid myself out for the majority of the day (for tune relief: btw, they LOVE their Norah Jones, Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson here in Southeast Asia!).  His friends were talking some inhebriated chics from Wales…and I got my cue for my exit when I heard them talk about “their plans for their upcoming 21st birthday……”

Friday, January 30, 2009

8AM taxi pick-up to the speed boat for Koh Lipe, Thailand! My Thai local, Nilly from the Equator gave me the inside scoop on this 45min ferry ride from Langkawi to Paradise….and I took her word for it! And SOOO GLADDDD I DID. My mouth went on auto-pilot smile as we approached the coast….. ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! NOW THIS WAS A BEACH!!!!!!  Clean, clear … waters…. greens and blues… white, powdery soft sands… I love Thailand!!

I had met some folks on the boat ride, Nina and Matic (Slovenia) and Suzanne (UK). We’ve been a crew since then..

I found myself a room, checked-in and got into my beach gear for some eats and much needed chillax…. Of course, I had to get myself an oil massage on the beach as well. Ahhh, did I mention I love Thailand???!!

Dinner with the characters above at Bundhaya Resort where majority of wait staff were lady boys (def back in Thailand now)  and made our way to cool, chill out spot called “Peace and Love” Bar. Very nice… carpets laid out on beach… bright starry night.. I saw a shooting star! :-) Ahhhhhh  love, love!!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Went with the above crew for a day of snorkeling! I got my lessons in primary colors again with all the colorful fishes!  “Millions of fishes… fishes for me” was the tune remixed for that part of the excursion. I was on a quest to find Nemo…. but sadly… did not find him.  :-(   No Flounder nor Sabastian either, but I believe I did see Dori.) Anyhoots, I totally wished I had stolen Lisa’s underwater camera… but ahh well.. I’ll have the images stored in my memory chips and you all with just have to imagine! But for real… we island-hopped a bit for the snorkeling and checked out beach monkeys; of course I was the only one who got a few nicks from the coral and slightly stung by a jellyfish.. .. but  oh my God, the last stop was the topper! (I can’t remember the name off the top of my head.)  Absolutely Breathtaking!! There was no way for me to take a bad picture there!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My last full day on the beach… soooo I’mma dip out and enjoy it!!

PS. I’ve been mistaken for Thai and Malaysian here soo many times, I can not even count. Ie. Yesterday — local dude here asked me, “Where are you from?” I responded, “America.” He stutters a bit and says..”but you look …. you look… ahh same-same..” To which  smiled and said, “ahhh but I’m different.” :-)

OK.. kids… love ya’ll…. and love Thailand! I’m off for another wonderful day on paradise island and to break some more hearts on this local front. Current count of Thai boyfriends here on this island: 3 and 1 Italian but currently Thai resident. If only I had the time to type up those stories!!  Let’s just say Nina, Matic and Suzanne have had plenty of hearty chuckles at the expense of my embarassment. They’ve become my “messengers” of crush notes from these gents here. And now I’m known throughout the island as “The American Girl.”  Hilarity…

“God Put A Smile Upon Your Face” from album, A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay (08.27.02)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Taman Negara > So NOT Jungle Fevered

Phew! I am very happy to be outta the jungle (Taman Negara), back in the city(Kuala Lumpur)..and moreso headed for much deserved beach time!! the plan is: tomorrow AM, to take a trip up to the northwest region of Malaysia since it is monsoon season on the  east coast (Perhentian Islands)… and hit up Langkawi — supposed to be amazing; it’s after all where alotta Malaysian locals go to… thennnnnn word from my cool ass guesthouse hosts (one from Thailand)  tipped me on taking a 45min ferry ride further up north to cross over to the fantastic country of Thailand for superb snorkeling at Koh Lipe! YIPPPPPPPPPPEEEEEE!

Taman Negara itself was an “ok” trip… Nothing tooo tooo special about it. And I was forewarned of the touristy’ness of it from my expat friends in Shanghai..but I figured, “whatever… I’ll just do it to check it.”  The trip itself wasn’t half as bad as I had imagined it to be with leeches and other nasty stuff. Certainly there were mosquitoes, but my lathering on of Deet told them to “bug off.” (hehe)  I think what made the whole experience nerve racking was my own personal paranoia over the leeches and bugs and insects and all of that yuck.  Here’s a quick break down:

Day 1

Left KL for TN. Folks on this trip aren’t even worthy of mentioning .. LOL. (Kidding.. well not really; plus I’m too lazy as I type this..and folks at this KL guesthouse are waiting me to go out tonight).. but ANYWAY… Yeah, characters on this trip, I “put up with” at best and was thankful to have another solo chic from the UK, Katherine to share my sympathies. The characters consisted of a crazy Malaysia dad with two kids (age 12 and 14), and 3 of the “1 little, 2 little, 3 little _____ ” (Jack & Gab– ya’ll are prolly gonna be the ONLY ones who got that joke!)  These guys kept wanting to yap and I just wanted silencio. Plus, I was uber tired still.. I think the travels had caught up with me..  The ride up to the spot = 4 hour ride from KL to Jeranut.. lunch… then another 1/2 ride to the jetty.. then a 3 hour jetty ride up to the jungle. Not gonna lie, but the jetty ride was quite pleasant and of course I fell asleep some more (as if I didn’t sleep enough on the bus ride getting to Jeranut.)  Checked in, and one girl in my dorm had her pants hung up …. with drying blood. Yes, drying blood! It looked murderous! She explained to me about her 6 leech bites and I wanted out! (Phil – This is where your voice came in.) I kept asking myself, “Why am I here?? Why am I doing this to myself??!! Damn my adventurous soul!!) After freaking out, dinner was served at 8:30pm and night jungle walk. Pshh.. we saw umm some small slithering snakes, a huge porcupine, a large ant (yeah, a large ant) and ummm like 5 deer.

Day 2

Irregardless of the heat, I was not about to fall victim to leeches. Morning of, I put on my shielding suit. Tights, one pair of socks over tights, trekking pants and another pair of socks over the pants. I was serious. Ha! Did up the Canopy Walk — which was actually pretty cool… got some video footage of that to share..then a 2 hour hike up to the viewpoint of Teresek Hill— I was dying of course in my layers, the heat, and uphill’ness, but I managed.  After lunch, we visited one of the local villages — real jungle people — called the Orang Asli Village… Pretty nifty stuff… they showed us their survival and everyday living tactics …. then laterrrrrrrrrr in the afternoon… went up and down the river for some Shooting Rapids…. This as Katherine said… “I could’ve just stood in my shower.” and I laughed and responded, “Amen!”  After dinner the dudes wanted to do the Night Safari..and I was not about to join.. LOL.  Figuring, this place is soo touristy, the night walk showed stuff I could’ve just imagined in my head..and the animals are not gonna be out.. I chose to head back to my room, chat up the tour guide who was staying in the same room — who told me the safari is not good.. (ha!!)  I spent some quality time with my i’pizzle and dozed off for finally a much-needed, good, full night’s rest!

Day 3

Headed back to KL…and landed back at my guesthouse. With a warm welcoming from Hady and some other folks, I exclaimed, “I’m ready for the beach!!”  We chatted a bit, and she intro’ed me to some other guests..and I got an invite to head out tonight… soooooo now shower powered and booked for tomorrow night… I’m off kids… for a night of who knows what… and…. then…

to elements I love — sand and water.

. . don’t burn the day. .

A Wonderful “Discovery” in Melacca

I really wasn’t expecting what actually became of my one day/night in the old town of Melacca. As per recommendation of my personal translator and assistant, Lisa in Shanghai (hehe)– she pretty much helped planned my trip and stuff…. She suggested to make a quick stop in Melacca in betwixt my Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (two metropolises) stops.

Sooooo…

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I got up, checked out of fantastic Hangout @ Mt. Emily (seriously a GREAT stay) and got myself to the bus station for 8AM departure to Melacca. A good 4.5 hour ride later, arrived and hopped into a taxi to my guesthouse. Mind you, I was pulling out my hair the night previous because I did not have a place to stay nor did the spots look decent online as it was afterall, an old, small town and all. I put my google skills to work and booked myself at Discovery Cafe and Guesthouse, located in central Melacca. The reviews sounded the best out of all I had read and there listed “live band” every night. O course, that’s just an avenue to my heart…soo I went with it.

Anyhoots, I arrived via taxi. Temp = hottt as hell degrees. I needed a shower refresher, but was stopped quick in my tracks by the bartender/waiter/check-in dude, Shan. He wouldn’t let me check in as he told me to drop my bags and come watch —- a start of a beer drinking contest. I thought, “OK this place could be fun…it’s only 1PM.” I checked it out…. a dude tried to drink a yardstick in less than 5 seconds… for possible prize of a hamper. He did it in 15 seconds, so no winner there. The tune in the background was John Legend ft. Andre 3000 “Greenlight.” I thought, “Dope! Love this song and video! I haven’t even heard this being played in Shanghai yet!! I’m feeling the open cafe vibe of this spot.”

Then, Dave – one of the other owners called me over to “sit down and relax, have some french fries…” Not wanting to be rude, I joined for a bit of chit chatter… which led Dave to tell me to leave my stuff down and take only my camera. I followed him up some windy steps and on the rooftop we were — overlooking the old and new town. Pretty cool, and awesome location this lil cafe/guesthouse was.

I finally got to check in and talked to an older gentleman from the UK, by the name of Vince. He had been staying for 3 months now! Yup, 3 months. Crazy. Then, the big boss man, Mr. Teng greeted me with a big ol’ smile and asked why I was only staying for one night…. trying to convince me of how splendid Chinese New Year will be in Melacca…. and eventually letting me go my merry way… but not before inviting me back for “dinner with us at 7:30pm.” I didn’t know what to make of “dinner with us” but figured I’d be back in time anyway.

Super small, I walked out to the sights within a 4-5 hour time frame. Historic churches and forts “back in da day” when the Dutch and Portugese and British and Malay weren’t the best of friends. Cool stuff, but I was drenched in sweat from the sweltering heat. I had a bit of time to kill so I checked myself into St. Francis Xavier church for mass and these people have FAITH. The church itself was packed with folks outside on the steps! Two large projectors in the front part of the church had responses for the lay people to follow. Hymns were upbeat and groovy….. I really felt BELIEF was present in there.

Then skipped back to Discovery and sat my butt down at the bar; thinking, “OK, it’s time to chillax for real.” Two seconds later, in comes a blue-eyed, good looker-chap in his mid/late 20′s, named Ben, from the UK and we struck up some convo. He had just arrived with backpack still on his back. I figured he had pre-booked, but later found out that he was just stumbling in and was looking for a place to stay. Meanwhile, the staff was getting the tables and chairs ready for “our dinner at 7:30pm.” Eventually, another hostess, asked Ben if he already checked in, and he responded that he was a walk-in. To that, June gave him a little trouble about room availability because he had waited so long just chatting away with me and not requesting a room first. (Yeah, I felt bad at this point. I was under the impression he had already sorted that stuff out. Oops.) But anyway, Mr. Teng comes over and gives him shit a little bit then told him, “Come join us for dinner and then we’lll talk about your room.” HA! I was just as confused as Ben was — Were they just pulling his leg or what? …. I didn’t care.. I was ready to eat! :-)

Amazing… the owners had worked it out to have a “family dinner” for all staff and guests in honor of Chinese New Year in addition to “just to show appreciation for all the guests.” The food was DELICOUS!! Chicken and Potato Curry, Green Beans and Egg Omlette, Shrimp, Mixed Veggies, Lady Fingers…. and the people who were staying there we soooo lovely to talk to. Daniel from Canada (in mid 30s) had such a soft spoken eloquence to him. Then, there was Harald from Germany who had been in Melacca for 3 weeks after living in Thailand for 6 years… He was at about a good jovial 60 years of age, biggest grin of a smile ala Walter Matthieu.  These people were genuinely beautiful on the inside!

After dinner, Ben got his room sorted and we all sat at a roundtable just enjoying each others’ company. Next, live tunes started being pumped out on the outside patio/stage… so we all made our way out there. This band was jammin!! Little bit o Bebel Gilberto, Bob Marley, Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Elvis, UB40…. It was great! The keyboardist (who I could never remember the name because it was some crazy 3 or 4 syllable word, so we called him Mr. Z) was one unique, crazy, happy go lucky guy in his mid 40s. Though not an official member of the Discovery Cafe Band, he lives next door and just simply comes over to jam with the band out of love. And honestly, he was the life of the band, emceeing the whole night thru! I had the biggest permanent smile on my face… It was exactly what I miss and love. Outdoor seating, live band … Christmas lights blinking and Red lanterns lit in preparation for Chinese New Year…and Mr. Teng kept emptying pitchers of beer in all of our glasses. Ambience and vibe was perfecto! I was almost trying to convince myself to stay an additional few nights to ring in the Lunar Year with these locals. … but at last, I had to stick to my original itinerary.

(BTW, Mr. Z was off his rockers or something… he kept on giving me shoutouts on the stage and dedicating songs to me… One in particular in mind is… “Only Fools Rush In….” It was great!!)

Anyway, after some good convo and band wrapping up at about 1ish or so in the AM, Mr. Z comes over and invites myself and Ben out with him to continue on with the night with some extended live jams. I felt special as since we were the only ones he invited…and we had to keep it on the hush…. So we made our exit and followed him down a few streets of the small town and landed ourselves in a street full of life! Folks were still out.. seated in the outdoor patios, bars were opendoor’ed with live bands … we eventually made our way to Mr. Z’s friends/band mates who were getting ready to close up shop. They were all in the40-late 50s range.  Mr. Z convinced the owners of the spot to keep it open in order to show “Mimi from America and Ben from the UK” a good time….. and that they did! Mr. Z got on stage with his buds and busted out some more jazzy, bluesy tunes; it was lovely!! and mannnn after a couple hours of that, nearing at 4am.. they had to close up doors…and I needed some shut-eye in order to wake up in a couple hours to catch my bus to KL….

Walking thru the morning streets with all the red Chinese lanterns lit in this intimate town was simply beautiful. Finally getting back to Discovery, I rested mis ojos and got myself out to KL on the 8AM bus.

So I got to KL yesterday and had finally “hit my wall in my travels.” I was oddly sort’ve not liking the fact that I was back in a “big city.” Gasp! Yes, this is coming from me. I really missed the familial feel of Melacca (or insert any smaller town) but ahhh well…. I got myself checked into the highly recommended Equator, and yapped to the hosts about my plans for Malaysia. COOOL folks there!!

Right now, its 7:25AM…and I’m waiting to get picked up by the Taman Negara crew…. I’m heading out the national rainforest/jungle here and totally freaking out about the leeches that will be latching onto me.. YUCK!! But it’ll be an experience to write home for sure!! I can’t wait for the Canopy Walk!! It’s said to be the longest in the world!!

Aight… time to toodles for TN!!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Singapore< I came, I saw, I conquered.

Two full days and some change in Singapore and I covered all of what I wanted to see/do. Happy that this was my first stop after Bangkok, because I really needed a “clean relief.” I walked countless hours in the various ethnic neighborhoods of this pleasant city, thinking that this place just wasn’t real. It’s a man-made city, to the point where I constantly thought I was on set of some Hollywood film. Bizarro in the fact that people were just oh so overly-friendly and honest; I didn’t just get a “you’re welcome” in reply, but a genuine, high pitched, “you are most certainly welcome!” combined with a wide smile. (Now, that’s what I’m talking about!) No lie. Made me do a double-take. If only I can sign up some Shanghai locals for a Manners class in Singapore…. This place really gave me the impression that there is still Hope for Humanity…. And quality of life seems to be in balance for the most part - affluent bunch with a relaxed head on their on their shoulders. Always keepin’ it cool…

I even had the time for a midday $23 sgd Singapore Sing at the infamous Long Bar at Raffles Hotel.  Personally, I think it was overrated and most certainly over-priced.. as did my buddy Tim from Cali who was sitting next to me at the bar. We both “had read somewhere” that this was a “must-stop” and well, we were both suckers to the guidebooks. Ha! It tasted like a Mai-Tai at best, but nothing really special to it. And atmosphere, well, it was a regular “nice pub.”  I would’ve preferred the hotel courtyard to be honest, and probably a different drink….

Savory (and spicy – just the way I like it!) food all-around. And Singaporeans got a killer accent! (Yes, Khairi — that means you too.. but don’t let it get to your head! :-) ) And the varying languages coming out of peoples mouths just amazed me. And I don’t know why this was because it’s not like I haven’t been around multi-cults — I’ve lived a life surrounding myself with multi-cults. But the accent combined with hearing… English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, Tamil… is pretty cool. In that sense, Singapore is bit like NYC… prideful ethnic neighborhoods filling the blocks of the city: Arab, Indian, Chinese etc.

But I gotta keep this brief because I’ve got a bus to catch in the early AM for Melacca (Malaysia). Then, please pray for me…. that I’ll be able to score a ticket from Melacca to Kuala Lumpur for Sunday. With Chinese New Year on Monday — this part of the world does NOT play around. But, I REALLY need to get to KL on Sunday…so that I can plan out for my next adventure in the JUNGLE = Taman Negara!  The longest canopy walk in the world awaits me!!!!

Till next time… ciao ciao! xxoo…

. . don’t burn the day. .

Kissed by a Pink Dolphin!

….. but it didn’t come till after a rather emotional roller coaster ride of a day! Here’s how the day went….

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I woke up bright and early sunshine around 7:30am ish and had me some breakfast downstairs. Then off, I returned to the bus station to get a hold of my ticket for this Saturday’s departure for Melacca (my first stop in Malaysia.)  NYC has really prepped me for the world. Trains and all, after one try last night with the help of the friendly local… I got it down this morning with no problemo!  I arrived at the ticket booth and the lady told me that due to Chinese New Year on Monday, there are NO trains to Melacca till Tuesday. All booked. I naturally thought, ” You have got to be kidding me! Fiavmakeuionuenvrjgi@%$#&$%^$%^!!  TUESDAY?! That is absolutely unacceptable!” But  I calmed myself and explained to the lady that her news was really not music to my ears; it really would’ve F’ed up my intended itinerary. Then, like magic she asked me, “How many persons?” I replied, “Just one.” She looked at something…and asked me, “Is 8AM, first bus ok?”  I replied, “Yes of course. I wanted the earliest one anyway.”  PHEWWWWW!!  That play of emotions was NOT cool, but I got my ticket so all got back to being kosher in my world. But, the chick after me in line… I think was really arsed out. > shrug <

OK, with ticket for Malaysia in hand, I was good to go on with my day…  to Sentosa Iiiiiiisland! I’ve been talking about riding elephants in Thailand (check! :-) ) and swimming with dolphins in Singapore and Jungle/Rainforest/Longest Canopy Walk in the World, found in Malaysia – ever since I booked all my flights back in November!!  Just as geeked as I was for my Dumbo friends, I was AMPED for my swim with PINK Flipper friends! Today was THE day. As I waited on the platform for the speedy Sentosa Express (4 min ride), they were ironically playing a song that I had been randomly singing the other day: “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves. I thought: “This was meant to be!” The ride came, I hopped on and made some friends along the way – some Slovakian dude who has been living in Beijing for the last 8 years, and was in Singapore for a few days, showing around his ‘rents. Cute. Anyhoots, off the Express Train I was and I had to get in line for local tram to take me to the Dolphin Lagoon. As soon as I got off the Express, all of this IIIIISLAND music came on! Blue skies, palm trees, calypso tunes - so festive, so happy… my head couldn’t stop bobbin and my hips couldn’t stop swaying. Whistling along, I really was “walking on sunshine!” :-)

I got to the Lagoon at about 11:30am, and was told the next show wasn’t until 1:30pm. Fine, I can live with that, but what next I heard, COMPLETELY DEVASTATED ME: I asked about swimming with the dolphins and was told, in order to do that, I must pre-book at least 3 days in advance. Here I go again… ” You have got to be kidding me! Finjvhrguhajfnu@%$#&$%^$%^!!    3 DAYS IN ADVANCE?! How is that possible? Every guide I read on this thing did NOT mention anything about pre-booking!!” But sadly, I did NOT win this battle. So there I was….. my happy bubble was completely busted; I felt like a kid showing up at Disney and told that that I couldn’t go in–EVER. Le Sighhhhhhh. I purchased my ticket for the show anyway and saw that at the very least, I can get a picture with a dolphin after the show for $15 SGD.. but no swimming :-( I went off to the nearby Underwater World to kill time and since it was part of the ticket deal. It was “eh” I’ve seen better aquariums in my lifetime.. the “touch a sting ray pool” was kinda cool.. I put my hand in for one of them  and got totally splashed on.  I was in there for a total of 15min; I told you, I’ve seen better. In fact, even my visit to The Shanghai Aquarium was better.

Off I went to the beach! Beautiful, clear green-blue waters, clean sands….. just what I needed to chill me out a bit…

After a couple of dips, it was pink dolphin time. I signed myself up for a picture with my water friend after the show and got me a seat up in the front.

Show began… we were greeted by 3 of the little cuties, doing of course all sorts of tricks: waving, dancing,  jumping through hoops, etc. . Then… it was time to get the audience involved!  3 folks were invited to join the slippery pinkies. I beat up some kids in the running for it and was selected to go forward!  and yes, I teach 1st grade now……. JUSTTTTT KIDDIN!! :-)   But yeah, the MC asked this dude that was sitting by me to participate but he declined, so I got my chance!  I was asked to go up towards the front alongside the other 2 volunteers. I couldn’t believe it! “Redemption Song”!!!! I didn’t get to swim with them, but now I get to still interact! Whoooo Hooooo!!  The MC had each of us do some hoolah hooping first — basically just to embarass us. Then we each got to go next to a dolphin; mine was named “Splash” — cool name for a ‘phin. I got to pet, hug, feed the little guy some fish…and he gave me a sweet peck on my cheek! ALL of this was caught on camera by the Lagoon photographer and I of course made the purchases….so you bet I’mma share them when I land back in the ‘Hai!! And then after the show, I still got my photo taken. LOL…. I think I went a little nuts with it…. but I think the experience of being so up close and personal with my dolphin … may rival my elephant ride! – Gasp! I know!

After that experience, it really didn’t matter what else I was gonna do for the rest of my day. I explored a bit more of Sentosa.. and eventually headed back to Singapore city via cable car to overlook the city… had me some traditional food for late lunch: Nasi Lemak (another Khairi recommendation) which was absolutely palatable to my taste buds! Then checked out the hoods of Chinatown and Clarke Quay. Singapore is such an odd city in its cleanliness and friendliness. I haven’t heard one car honk nor anyone get testy!! And this is by far the most cleanest Chinatown I have ever seen in the world!!

OK, after walking for about 12 hours straight, me tired. But I leave ya’ll with one note: this day should remind us … “if at first you don’t succeed… dust yourself off and try again...” – After first being told, “no,” … I got me a Ticket to Malaysia and a Peck from a Phin…. Good Night folks! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Singapore: First Impressions

What lovely people!! Clean, orderly, organized, efficient systems. And accents I can dig!!!

My plane landed at about 2:30pm but after doing the metro shuffles and finding the guesthouse atop of Mt. Emily Hill/Park… and being drenched in sweat with jeans and a tee on, I think I finally checked in at about 4:30-5pm’ish. The guesthouse is really nice and most definitely a recommendation. Ultra-modern and chic, Longely Planet’s suggestion of http://www.hangouthotels.com/ is a winner and weighing in at about $27usd/night! (the priciest on my list.. but Singapore in general is pricey. but I mean.. its $27 “pricey.”)

It was already evening so I didn’t have much time to play with. After a cool-me-down shower, I went down to the front reception to bombard them with my questions. Great, friendly, knowledgeable staff. Since I am not flying to Melacca (Malaysia) this weekend, I had to go pre-purchase my bus ticket and get all of that sorted out so that I woundn’t have to think of it while I’m exploring Singapore sights. So I trekked up to the bus station…. but had to ask for help. This gentleman, whose accent was soooo very familar — bc it reminded me of my Singaporean “brother from another mother” (whom some of ya’ll may know in NYC), Khairi!!  But anyway,  these Singaporeans may have to battle with the Thais on how nice, friendly and helpful human beings can be to one another. It’s SOOOO REFRESHING especially coming from the rudeness in Shanghai. But yeah, this local dude totally pulled out his mobile to phone the bus station for “how to get there” and detoured his entire route to accompany me to the ticket booth! How nice?! (and/or I am sooooo jaded!) Then we did the “thank you and cheers mate!” thing. :-)   The only thing was …. the ticket place for Melacca had been closed. Ugh. So I gotta wake up early in the AM tomorrow to get it sorted…. thennnnnnnnnnnnnnn I’m hoping to catch me some PINK DOLPHINS to swim alongside with on Sentosa Iiiiiiiiisland! :-)  

But for dinner, I took the recommendations from my boy, Khairi down, so checked my notebook and said… I gotta get me some “chicken rice.” Lobby chic told me where to get it nearby….and mmmmmmmmm!!! delish!! A good meal for $3.30usd.

Aight… gotta hit the snoozies so that I can have an early rise and shine tomorrow. PINK DOLPHINS!!!!!!! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

OBAMA’guration 2009… Happened in Bangkok, too!

Ugh…. I told ya’ll about my Lil’ Jon - ”Whatttt??!!”  moments with these damn accents in this Bangkok guesthouse…and then, come to find out I was only 1 of 2 Americans that were present in the lobby of a good 12 or so to witness OBAMA’guration 2009. After a some snide and snarky remarks from the non-Americans in the audience, the flat screen was eventually switched to channel: Bloomberg.   And goodness, Bloomberg – must you commentate over parts of the actual ceremony?? I mean really. I need not hear what you think about who’s on screen but would rather want to HEAR who’s on screen first.. then mayyyyybee I’ll be interested in your commentary. Sheeeeesh!

But eventually….. I got to witness history once again. I saw THE MAN  be sworn in and heard THE MAN speak. PROGRESS, ladies and gentlemen. PROGRESS.

Overall, though – folks from every country that ‘ve met all  share the same HOPE, JOY and a real sigh of relief to have the O-man in the big seat! :-)

Oh and speaking of progress… I gotta keep this one short… since I gotta catch some snooze to catch my flight to Singapore in the early AM… Now THAT, too, is PROGRESS! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Everybody’s Muay Thai Boxing!…and Playing Pong Wrap Up

Muay Thai Boxing is freakin awesome!!  (I had flashbacks of myself and 2 good buds attending bull fighting in Barcelona..but this was sooo not the same.) I was all ooh’ing and ahh’ing along with the Thai crowd — who take this spot very seriously!  Of course flicks and footage will be up in a month or so. The crowd’s grunt and cheers along with the fighting music intensified the whole experience.

And as for the infamous “Ping Pong Show.” Welps.. for those who have no idea what this is…. simply put, in the Pat Pong area of Bangkok, there are a slew of spots which feature  females putting their secondary lips to use via showcasing various tricks; props and tricks to include:  poppin pong balls out, the inhale/exhale of cigarettes, blowing out of birthday cake , shooting needles at balloons, etc. Obviously there’s  some skepticism behind some acts… but it’s pure entertainment at its best.

A great moment of the night was when they come after you with the bill well into the thousand-baht range, despite being told you’d only have to pay for 1 drink at 100 baht. Now, our guesthouse host had forewarned us of this and I was surely prepped for this battle. The two that were with me — not so much. First, they are Scotties with a very THICK accent. (No exaggeration but, I feel like Lil’ Jon most of the time with them, pulling my hair behind my ear and repeating.. “WHATTT??!!”)  But anyway, as amateur travellers they were especially in the world of Asia, they were a bit skurred of my verbal altercation with the staff and eventual “manager.”  I think after living in Shanghai for so long, having to get used to bargaining and being a bitch at times to vendor folks as well as just norm folk in commute, felt a sort’ve thrilling rush with my rhetoric with the manager over “the tab from nowhere.”  My mental-game-discourse with breaking down marketing and promotions of ”his business” had him speechless at one point! HA!!!  Eventually, it was settled but only because one Scottie was super skurred, interrupted my conversation flow, and gave in. If it had been up to me, I would’ve kept going… but in the end 300 baht each versus somewhere in the thousand per person was the damage. Ehh, what’s 10 bucks for a pong show performed by some pitied looking women?! No seriously, they did NOT look happy…and who could blame them?

Then, after we made our exit. Of course we’re in sort’ve a night market central for tourists etc. We were approached countless times to view a “ping pong” show. Here’s a good tip for if any of ya’ll women who are reading this and planning to be in Bangkok some time in the future: Simply reply.. “No thanks, I do ping pong show.”  They’ll leave you alone after that. :)

. . don’t burn the day. .

My Neck, My Back….

Now I’ve had my fair share of massages in my lifetime… especially since I’ve been living in Asia for 7 months now with membership at Dragonfly back in the ‘Hai.  And trust me, I’m no stranger there.

But Thai Massages …. in Thailand… is like no other. I had one in Chiang Mai by this older lady who was all spiritual with it…. and definitely got the spinal to crack… but here in Bangkok, with high recommendations from the Guesthouse Host…. I walked down the street to this spot called Boonsita on my first night here. Signed myself up for an oil massage …and good lord, this was AMAZING!  So amazing that I just returned from there because I had to check the regular Thai Massage. The folks are younger; the kneading is serious; it hurt like a mofo at times.. moreso than the spiritual one I had in Chiang Mai…. and definitely more as it was sans oil… much like the “feel good” pain I got during the first week of track or basketball practice back in my sporty days…. Being FLEXIBLE is key.

Overall, I AM A COMPLETEY HAPPY CAMPER with my adventures so far. Travelling, meeting folk from all over, sharing travel stories and insights,  figuring things out, just experiencing and living with an open mind. LOVE IT!!

Bangkok is surely NOT one of my favorite cities; In fact, I’d put it down there with Milan.. It’s massive, dirty (not the dirtiest, but still dirty and polluted) without any real heart/soul to it… All the modes of transport are dizzying with its vastness and lots of scammers out there..

PS. I used to love accents…  but maybe not so much after this Guesthouse stay. I’ll be damned if I know what these Scotties, Brits, Aussies are saying to me 99% of the time!!

Aight, I gotta get ready for an evening of Muay Thai boxing…

Besos!!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Tap That Elephant! Surf That Bamboo Raft! and Randomness!

Soooooo I arrived in Bangkok earlier this evening….and have already been to a “ping pong show”… if you don’t know.. ya betta axe some boday!!  But I don’t want to get into that justttt yetttttt…. Lemme first recap as much as my memory chips can handle of my last full day in the charming city/town of Chiang Mai…

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ummmm I woke up, got me some bfast, got myself together and then dashed off in a van with some strangers for the day tour thing to include my elephant ride…. Hopping in the van, I realized…”OK, sooo I’m really here in Thailand… and doing it solo…. there are just soo many folks I wish were with me on this leg of the trip, but whatevs”..  Chick in the back handed me a clipboard and nicely told me that I had to sign in. Cool, that I did. I observed my comrades and noticed a same aged-mixed couple in the front, an elder Taiwanese  couple, another mixed couple of folks in the back and a solo dude. That’s all. I moved myself a little further back to accomdate the old Taiwanese couple that were joining us, and ended up chatting up with the chic  that had handed me the clipboard. Cool, this is what traveling is all about right? Meeting new people. Learning new stories yada yada. At that moment, I had met Shelley and Lundy – both from San Diego. I thought, “Cool, some American compadres.” 45 minutes after some chit chatting of the basics, we arrived at The Maetamann Elephant Camp.. WHOOO HOOOO!!!  I had been talking about this for days now, and the time has finally come! I’mma ride an elephant!!!!

First thing first, a proper elephant show. Cute! The heavy gray friends were doing all sorts of tricks including painting pictures… During the show, I got to meet-n-greet with the solo dude, Eric from Malaysia and of course quizzed him on what I should be doing for my Malaysia leg of the South East Asia version of the Emancipation of Mimi Tour… Next, ox cart riding was on the list of things to do. 4 to a cart…. and the elder Taiwanese couple got on, I naturally hopped on thereafter… and Eric joined me. Very uncomfortable ride; rickety rackety wooden cart… I would NOT choose this as my ideal mode of daily transport. Good thing it only lasted for about 15 minutes or so.

Hopped off, and we check out one of the hill tribes, The Lisu. SUCH  a joke. Just a lane of souvenirs aka crap. No thanks!  More chit chatting going on amongst us van folk and drummmm rolllllll…… ELEPHANT TIME!!! I am super geeked!!  We lined up and Shelley suggested for herself and her friend, Lundy to split up in order to take pictures of each other (though, I later found out it was a bit of set up..They weren’t so much of a “couple”… Mmmmm Hmmm!!)  He was easy on the eyes and had the humor down, so I didn’t mind. And plus, I was all about elephant time! And baby elephant, ahem, Dumbo was on my request list..and I got him! He was soooooooo cute! Anyhoots… Lundy and I are on this AWESOME ride together; I couldn’t believe I was on a freakin’ elephant!! It’s just crazy how things you envision, come true!  I took video that I will eventually post up of a classic… Lundy performance of Akon’s “Tap That” with our baby Dumbo. Absolutley hysterical!!!  (Disclaimer: Never, eva would I have eva thought that I’d eva mention Akon in my blog.) So yes, that was on of the highlights of the “you just had to be there” moments.  The ride itself was super awesome, up hills, splish splashing through river waters… just everything that I could’ve ever imagined.. Only, I wish it was a longer ride…. it was maybe just I dunno … 30min.. le sigh…

We hit some lunch… not too shabby. Not traditional Thai, but edible. Then, to the bamboo rafts we were!!  4 to a raft…. myself, Eric, Shelley and Lundy were the characters for this part of the adventure. Serene ride up (err was it down) the river….  clear blue skies, lush greenery, warm sun shooting down – just picture perfect.

Thereafter, we all hopped back into the van and were abruptly split up due to the varying tours that we had all booked. I was told to ride on different van with the older Taiwanese couple since I got the “full tour” to include some hill tribe visits… and so of course, that’s when the feverish exchange of info goes down  btw myself and  bamboo rafting crew of the “let’s hang out… keep in touch… blah blah goes down.” — Ya never really know what will ever come out of things like this… but I jotted down my info and went on my merry way. That’s it. It wasn’t on me to maintain the connection.

At this point, I was beginning to wind down, especially since I was stuck in a van for the rest of the tour with a 60 year old sumn couple..and heading to the hill tribes and Butterfly and Orchid Farm. The Karen Long Neck tribe was what I was primarily interested in, but of course, the set up was … simply put – a tourist trap. I took some flicks with some “giraffe women and kids” and was encourage to purchase to souvenirs. Surprise, surprise. And I mean, I LOVE orchids — they are my favorite flowers.. but this thing was pitiful!!  The display was not something to rave about and the butterflies. Please.. I counted a total of 3. I was in the “just get me back to my guesthouse” mode. But oddly enough, ran into S and L at the Butterfly/Orchid spot…and re-confirmed my info and the “let’s hang out later..”

You’d think my day was done. But nope. Not quite. I was transported with the old couple to see how paper was made from elephant dung. Kinda interesting but not really…. after a quick tutorial and a purchase of a magnet made out of elephant dung… we were officially finished with the tour!!  I was finito and in need of a shower refresher.

Getting back to my guesthouse, I got myself so fresh and so cleaned, cleaned… checked my email and was whoa’ed – I had received an email from my new friends (well, L and S )to meet for dinner and night out etc. I turned to my guesthouse contact and asked where the spot was…and it was in my hood. “Cool, I can walk it!”  – I love having my bearings in a new land.

I marched on out… and eventually found the spot with the help of some super nice, friendly and helpful Thai folk along the way. The Thais are awesome peeps for real!! Always smiling and always willing to help a foreigner in distress. Characters at cool little spot with outside seating called, Pat Klangviang Bar/Restaurant/Guesthouse all-in-one:  Shelley, Lundy, their “local” friend Aou and myself. Aou was a cool dude – born in Thailand, grew up in Gainesville (not so much a Gator, but most definitely a Player Hater), lived/s in DC and is a “all of a sudden” Thai Chef in Chiang Mai. Unique for sure…but he also DJ’s and knows of some of my folk in my previous Giant Step days. Pretty damn dope! Ya’ll know how I feel about music and passion and passionate people about music. :) So we vibed on some music items for a bit…and I of course got in my usual excitement mode from all of “small world” connections…

Then, we were shown to an All You Can Eat for 150 Baht (approx. $5usd or so) Buffet ala “hot pot” style. MMMMmmm delish!  Every animal above and below sea level was on the menu. Our “local” but not so informative local was cool in all our books. (Aou had just moved to the Chiang Mai area about 7 months ago or so.) Plus, he could take some hits on the jokes end ….so of course that ups the acceptance factor.

Anyway…. they had been talking about this “Rooftop Bar” on Moon Muang that they wanted to show me…and of course I was game. We get there… definitely a chill place with all sorts of colorful Christmas lights… a rather “international East Village – type – esque” crowd….and convo was nice with the acquaintance of a couple of “scorpion bowl-esque drinks.” - a Mai Tai Bucket and a Samson (Thai rum whiskey) bucket…and  uhh yeah, and a mojito..

And thennnnnnnnnn we’re off to a club. Boy oh boy, a club in Chiang Mai. I had to brace myself as I tried to warn the comrades of my snootiness when it comes to these things. Club Fabric (which was our Plan A intent) had apparently been recently shut down… so Club Bubbles was it as our Plan B. Need I say more? The spot was called Bubbles. With a drink in our hand, we trooped to the dance floor and joined the tranced. MmmHmm.. I will leave it at that. Umm L and I got to get to know each other a little better and were eventually left off to our own demise, as S and A called it a night.

Next stop, Club Spicy. I mean, I love all things Spicy… but now after that, maybe not all things spicy. LOL.  Spot was seedy and just reminded me of Spring Break Cancun in some ways. But yeah… after some pizza, convo and some umm joining in with crowd, L and I made the exit boogie .. only to eventually find that we were stranded with no mode of transport. I got to see one of the famous wats (temples) that I had missed in the day though. Score! lol. But yeah, this got us in a rather “think outside the box” mode. Some local dude was walking by and we asked where would be best to get a taxi and the dude could only respond that he needed a lighter for a smoke. We told him to hop in the 7/11 on the corner and he said he had no money. We told him if he could get us a taxi, we’d get him a lighter. But he failed, and so we failed. Ha!

Now, what were we to do? Then some chic riding on some motorbike stops at the barren intersection and we approach her for insight to where we’d be able to get a taxi or tuk tuk…and she says, “Get on. I will take you near my house. There are tuk tuks there.” I replied, “err both of us??? on your bike?” Of course that was a stupid question on my part. She says, “Yes, of course!” So we hop on like the desperate foreigners we were. She weaving through dark alleys and says.. “Were you guys at Bubble tonight?! I remember you!” Uhhhhh…. “And then, did you guys go to Spicy? I was there too!” Uhhh, I guess we were memorable? ANYway, we stop in some real local alleyway neighborhood with som tuk tuks but sans driver! At this point, our motorbike chic friend was real adamant of getting us to where we needed to be. (I’m telling you! The Thais are some dope ass folk!!)  So we tell her to take us back towards Aou’s restaurant. I did a 4AM call to our local boy, Aou to hook us up with something, but nada, zilch – no pick up from him. Who could blame him? It was roughly 4 in the morning. We hopped off and surprisingly there was a tuk tuk right there. After she insisted that she’d take us whereever we needed to go and how we told her she had done enough and that we’d go with the tuk tuk and offered to pay her for her efforts… all she wanted was to “be our friend on facebook, so that when she visits America, we’d show her around.” HA! OK, my new friend! But for real..she was a saviour sort’ve and she really didn’t have to go at any of the lengths that she had done. Ya’ll know.. I will send her a facebook request for sure. Sooo what happend to us? Well, we got on the tuk tuk and were soon escorted to a guesthouse. Mission Accomplished.

Thereafter,  I can say… “I Heart Chiang Mai.”

. . don’t burn the day. .