Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hitting the Books

I'm back in Singapore and have to get back into 'school mode'.  I have three exams to write before I am free again!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Doin' Things the Long Way

I left the Highlands and proceeded to Pattaya, Thailand, to visit my old friend, Jen, from camp.  After some initial missed messages me have met up and I've been having a great time here since.

The bus was my chosen mode of transportation to Pattaya.  I have decided that planes are necessary sometimes, but should be avoided since they release a enormous amount of greenhouse gasses.  Google Maps conservatively estimated the trip to be 20 hours and 34 minutes.  I think Google is incredibly reliable however it was mistaken, the true time on the road was over 25 hours, not counting all the time between the separate buses I had to take.

Generally the buses were quite comfortable and I was able to sleep a lot.  Except for my longest trip (the 13 hour drive from Hat Yai to Bangkok) where I was being pressed against from all sides; the seat in front of me tilted back while mine was stuck completely upright, and a suitcase stored just below my feet kept my knees against my chin for most of the ride.  I was angry that somehow the tallest person in the whole vehicle got stuck in the seat with no leg room.

By far what frustrated me most was the man beside me.  He was deaf, dumb and gay, and apparently interested in me.  He initially came on quite strong, trying to hold my hand, and asking if "I wanted him to suck my penis" (translated by his friends), but finally his advances were much more subtle, like falling asleep with his head on my shoulder and so on.

I really started kicking myself for my stupidity for not visiting Jen when she was back in Canada since she only lives a mere two hour drive from my house in London.  End of Rant.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands has rolling hills covered in thick forests with an occasional European-style village along the winding highway through the Malaysian interior. The European architecture of the villages, and the habit of the locals to enjoy tea and biscuits, is a reminder of the English colonization of these parts.

The climate is like northern Ontario, and made me miss home a lot. I felt like I was at camp at the end of the summer from when I was younger. The days were warm but the nights cooled off so that you needed to put on pants and a sweater. Some coniferous trees stood out around the hostel and you share a room with your bunk mates (mine being the two guys who helped me with my wallet troubles). What reminded me most of Canada was the mounties they have posted in the highlands there. Just kidding, obv. What reminded me most of Canada was the air, the high altitude made the air refreshing (a real treat when compared to Singapore's sticky, wet, and heavy air).

The landscapes were beyond words, especially the Tea Plantation I visited. So I will let the pictures do the talking. I've also uploaded pictures from my weekend long trip to Indonesia a few weeks ago, you can see it on my Picasa Web Albums or below.

Oh ya, I also went to Kuala Lumpur, but who cares about that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lost and... err.. and... ummm

Whats that last part again? It's probably not that important anyways.

I'm on the road again, and I have had my first travel mishap. I took a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highalands. I emptied my pockets of everything for the trip so that it would be easier to sleep. When I got to Tanah Rata I quickly stuffed all my stuff into my bag and pockets and walked off the bus. Now, I am not the most experienced traveler, but here is a tip: ALWAYS check your seat when you get off a bus or train or plane or whatever. Because when I left the bus and put all my 'stuff' in my bag, I left one important thing: my wallet. I didn't realize it until I got all the way to my hostel. By then it was too late, I ran back to see if it was still there but I'm not so lucky I guess.

It had all my money (equal to about 200 dollars CAD, sucks but it could have been worse), my credit and debit cards, and my student visa for Singapore. The visa for Singapore is not such a problem, since I only need to go back for one week for my exams, so a travel visa will work for that time. The money and cards were more of a problem. I was so lucky that my parents were able to help me out and send me a bit of cash, and cancel my cards. Also, two great guys I met Anders and Daniel were able to loan me some money for a few days.

The Cameron Highlands are incredible by the way. Later today I will be doing one more hike and then heading off to Bangkok.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Today was the day I leave for Thailand. However due to an assignment for my Soil Mechanics class, which is due today, I needed to stay and finish it. Hopefully if I get my work done I can leave tonight or tomorrow.

On the brighter side, I just got back from Tioman Island. The Island itself looks like its from the movie Jurassic Park; lots of jungle with steep hills with exotic wildlife like bearded monkeys (made that name up), monitor lizards and velociraptors. The atmosphere at the beach we stayed at was laid back, with backpackers and locals hanging out on the beach until late at night. Tioman is also known for scuba diving, I was able to do four dives and saw a blacktip reef shark, two cuttle fish and a sea turtle.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hitting the Dusty Trail

On Thursday morning I'll be packing a few clothes, my toothbrush and my lonely planet guidebook and heading out for a quick tour before coming back to Singapore for exams.

I will be diving in Pulau Tioman (an island in Malaysia), and then on Monday morning moving onward to Thailand. I am a bit concerned to go to Thailand because of recent quarrels between the government and protesters. But, not concerned enough to not go I guess.

Monday, April 13, 2009

So Far So Good

As I mentioned in the previous post, coming to Singapore has been an amazing experience.  In that time I have had the opportunity to visit some of the neighbouring countries.  I was able to make quick trips to Malaysia and Indonesia.  As well as longer extended trips to Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) and Cambodia.  I tried to keep this short, but I compiled some of the most memorable parts of my trips:

Malaysia and Indonesia were great, the people there were incredibly friendly.  Malaysia was my first trip outside of Singapore so everything I saw totally amazed me.  Indonesia was my most recent trip and Asia still continues to blow my mind all the time.  Jakarta and Jogyakarta both have bustling busy streets with tuk-tuks, bike-taxis, buses, and cars occupying of all lanes, yet turn down a gang (alleyway) and you enter a quiet, intimate neighbourhood where kids chase chickens and old woman cook meals for their families or anyone who wants to but some food.

Borneo has spectacular untouched forests, enormous (largest in the world) caves, and blue ocean.  It was my first time travelling alone, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I was happy when my pal Karlijn came to join me midway through.  The eight day trip mainly consisted of winding boardwalks through the jungle which lead to ominous cave entrances.  The caves themselves were homes to bats, swiftlets, spiders, and a lot of guano (bat droppings).  Borneo has so much beautiful nature to offer, with wildlife you can only see on that island, I was sad when the trip came to an end.  The final day Karlijn and I were able to relax by the ocean and watch the sun set, it was a great ending to a perfect trip (well it felt a bit short).

Cambodia was a field trip for my geography class about natural resources.  We had the opportunity to stay with families in a fishing village on the Tonle Sap lake.  There was an extreme language barrier between me and the family I stayed with.  The only words exchanged between me and my host father were ar kun (thank-you), and tuk (boat).  We got along really well, and he let us borrow the tuk whenever we liked, which was essential to see the village since it was literally floating on the water.  The meals were fishy, literally, for supper we ate fish soup, with fried fish and rice, but it was quite tasty.  At night many families from the village came to our house to watch Khmer soap operas on the small TV which was hooked up to a car battery (or maybe they came to see the white kid).  My trip to the Kingdom of Cambodia was really great to see first hand another lifestyle completely alien to my own. 

The Beginning of the End

The exchange students at the National University of Singapore are struggling to get all their final assignments in so they can have a week, or more, of travelling before exams.  Soon after exams they will be going home to their respective countries, or (most likely) embarking on trips around South East Asia.  It is the beginning of the end of the exchange student experience.

Coming to Singapore has been an amazing experience, and I am thankful I had the opportunity to do so.  Alas, I will soon be leaving and travelling around the south-east of Asia (woe is me), which both scares and excites me.  I will return to Singapore briefly before heading back to the Great White North.  Leaving Singapore will be bitter-sweet, since I know it mean the beginning of my travels, which I have been dreaming of for some time.  But, this city (which has both amazed and frustrated me equally) has become my home, and moving is always difficult.

Just like graduating high school there is the excitement of what lays ahead but also the sadness of leaving your friends behind.  There is the chance you will bump into each other again, but it may not be for a long time.

Nearly four months have gone by in a flash, but I still have lots of experiences ahead of me before I hop on a flight to Canada.