April 03, 2002

4/4/02 Kuala Lumpu, Malaysia (Phillip)

4/4/02 Kuala Lumpu, Malaysia (Phillip)

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Phew! That was a long trip down here. Started out on an overnight boat, sounds quite luxurious, no? No! 180 people crammed onto two floors (literally 'floors') of a rickety old boat. Luckily I met two insane Irish girls who made the trip much more fun. From the boat (docked at 5am) we were all split up to the different bus companies and herded onto mini-buses for a grueling 4 hour ride to the Malaysian border. This time I met two crazy Canadian guys and we poked fun at the whole situation. Immigration at Malaysia was a bit iffy too, I did manage to make it through passport control after some interrogation and then we all got back on the bus. However, as we pulled away we were stopped by the police and the few backpackers onboard were reinterviewed. Pretty insane.

Pulled into KL very late last night, after being ripped off by a taxi driver (took me to the middle of nowhere and told me my address was wrong before returning me to Chinatown and demanding extra money) but I found a shady little place in Chinatown. It's fine, I suppose, but I can't imagine staying there long. Need to call my friend Jamie and meet up with the Irish girls in a few minutes.

Initial impressions of KL, hmm, not sure. It's obviously a Muslim country, woman in headscarves etc... Haven't seen any terrorists (that I know of) yet, but I'll keep looking. Most likely they're staying at the same place I am! You have to love the 'No Porn Surfing!' sign over my head right now!

Saying goodbye to my little travel group was a bit sad, but it was time to move on. Ironically one of the girls was also teaching English in Japan, so perhaps if I go to Japan I'll see her again.

Keep smiling!

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April 05, 2002

4/5/02 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Phillip)

4/5/02 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Phillip)

Two journals in two days, what's going on here? I just wanted to add some details because I had a crazy time last night. Eventually I met up with the two (now lovely and not insane) Irish girls, Sinead and Mel (Imelda). After dinner we went for a drink or two at a bar. After the bar had closed we sat outside and spoke to the employees but some of the conversations were a bit interesting. Started out with a Swiss guy and I debating America. The pattern I've been seeing is that many young Europeans have a terrible dislike for America, this guy was no different. Conversation was a few hours long and even switched to French (yes, I debated in French) for a while. I had a very similar conversation with a German guy two weeks ago but this guy was far better educated. He had been hitchhiking around the world (started outside his door in Switzerland) for years now. All over Africa
and Asia, crazy. However, he really had a strong hatred for America and all things American. Now you know me, I love to argue so I couldn't pass up this opportunity. Really I think all Western countries (and Eastern also to a different degree) have a lot to answer for, particularly in regards to developing countries, but I don't agree that one country has caused all this. I don't think he was too chuffed when I suggested that UBS (United bank of Switzerland) was a leading beneficiary from both the Congo diamonds (his favorite example of America abusing the poor) and laundering the WWII moneys from Germany. It was a great discussion though; I really love hearing the different perspectives that you normally are sheltered from. The Swiss guy eventually shook my hand and talked about respect and then a Hindu guy took up arms. He wasn't anti-American though, in fact quite the opposite, but we spent the entire two hours discussing the differing perspectives of East vs. West in regards to Muslim extremists. That's probably the one discussion you're not supposed to have in Malaysia, but what the heck :)

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One of the locals also pointed out the misperceptions of Malaysia from the West. What major city in America could you safely have that debate at 5am in the morning on a downtown street corner without the police moving you along. I was amazed at how safe the city was at this hour, we're definitely not in the best neighborhood but no one even batted an eyelid. Even walking home at 6 or 7am by myself I felt totally safe. Malaysia is certainly not what I expected it to be, it does share some traits with Bangkok mainly the fake Rolex's and pirated software!

Still havenít got a hold of Jamie so I'll work on that this weekend.

Hope all is well for you.

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April 10, 2002

4/10/02 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (just)

4/10/02 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (just) Phillip

I only have a few more hours in Malaysia and so much has happened since I last wrote! I ended up bumping back into the cool Candian guys in KL while crossing a street. Much more of a coincidence than it may sound. So we all hung out for a night and they convinced me to go back up to Thailand (they only crossed into Malaysia to get a new Thai visa) with them. So they left expecting me to follow the next day, but in typical phillip style I ended up meeting more people which changed my plans. In between I said goodbye to Sinead and Mel. They're definately the coolest people I've met along the way, totally down to earth but tons of fun. I'll have to go visit them in Eire next year! Anyway, Sinead and I did some touring of KL, we went up the world's tallest buiding (Petrona's Towers) and I visited some temple's (Hindu and Muslim). I chilled out in a Hindu temple for a while and just watched the going's on. Definatley one thing I'm learning is that I've been conditioned to have some sort of fear or misunderstanding of non-Western religions. It's amazing how similar the Muslim's and the Christian beliefs are... Did you know that Jesus is a prophet to the Muslim's? Crazy stuff, I wasn't planning on coming to Malaysia at all after September 11th becuase it is sucha Muslim country and I was told it would be dangerous. Totally wrong. In fact I spent quite a bit of time yesterday talking to a Muslim guy about his frustrations with the Western misconceptions.

Anyway, back of my soap box, while at the National Mosque of Malaysia I met a nice Dutch girl, Eve. Since I'm heading back to see the Monk in a week or so I invited her to come with me. And somehow in return she convinced me to change my plans to go meet the Candian's and go visit the world's oldest rainforest: Teman Negara. It was crazy how fast all my plans changed, it was only 30 minutes from my bus leaving that I changed my plans and went with her. We had a great time though, our guide, Herman, was awesome. We could ask him absolutely anything and he would answer so we spent out time asking about how September 11th has affected his little village (which rely's on tourism). We went on a night safari with him and saw some crazy big spiders and insects, then I convinced him to let us all walk back in the pitch dark with no torches. Obviously, since it's a rainforest no light reaches the ground and this is especially true at night. We were tripping over roots and vines and hitting our heads on the same branches we had previously seen the spiders and ants (the size of your finger...). Cool stuff. The following day we did a canopy walk which is a rickety rope bridge 80m up in the rainforest, it was great. After this we went to meet a local indignious group and that was certainly interesting. They still hunt for their meat and move around every few months but it you could tell that the money from tourism was certainly having an impact. I got to use their blow darts though and hit the target first time. I didn't get to use the poisioness arrows though :( Finally we floated down the rapids in old inner tubes, the water seemed really brown but apparently it's because of the fast flowing river not any 'other' reason! I hope not..

Eve and I finally returned back to KL this afternoon and I finally got a hold of my friend Jamie who lives here. Turns out (typical me again) that I had written her phone number down incorrectly. Jamie lived in Austin and moved to KL last year so it'll be good to see her.

In 3 hours Eve and I are on a bus to the Thai border and eventually to Ko Phi Phi to meet the Candian's for a day, then up to Kanchanaburi to spend a peaceful week with the Monk learning meditation and Thai cooking!

I think that's all, hope you're all enjoying work/school :)

Posted by Admin at 05:27 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2002

4/12/02 Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

4/12/02 Ko Phi Phi, Thailand (Phillip)

Just a quick entry since I won't have internet for a while. Eve and I made it to the island of Ko Phi Phi yesterday to meet back up with the crazy Canadians (they insist I mention their names, Ryan and Nate). Really having a great time with them, very laid back. Today we snorkelled off the coast, totally beautiful, the movie "The Beach" was filmed here and I understand why!

Eve and I leave tomorrow to get on an 18 hour bus to Bangkok to get picked up by a nice Thai lady and driven to the Monk's house. I'm looking forward to relaxing and meditating for a while. It's totally serene there which is wonderful. Should be back in Bangkok on the 19th or so, then I need to plan my next move.

Posted by Admin at 02:12 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2002

4/15/02 Near Erawan, Thailand (Phillip)

4/15/02 Near Erawan, Thailand (Phillip)

Hopped on a bus with Eve and finally got to Ko Phi Phi and quickly bumped into the Canadians (Nate and Ryan). They're cool kids and I'll have to go visit them soon, hopefully in November since I should be in the States anyway and Canada's not THAT far of a walk :) They were quite amused when I asked if they were close to New York, apparently Edmonton is quite far away :) We didn't actually do too much on the island, went snorkeling and that's about it.

Eve and I caught the night bus, loaded with tourists of all sizes to Bangkok and, after quite a few cell phone calls, we finally met up with Prin. On the bus I met two Scots both from the town I lived when I was born, (mum- they even lived on Woodstock Avenue... I bet you knew them). Immediately we were off again, this time back to the Monks place.

Since we arrived yesterday itís been a lot of practicing meditation. Up at 4am too! Crazy stuff. I keep falling asleep while I meditate so I have to work on that (I'm totally relaxed :). We might have to go back to Bangkok a little early if we want a ride back with Prin, otherwise we can stay on and negotiate the local bus system again.

Posted by Admin at 12:37 AM | Comments (0)

4/18/02 The Monks Place

4/18/02 /18/02

The Monks Place (I can't spell the town), Thailand Phillip

So I've definitely decided that meeting the Monk and getting to stay with him has been the highlight of my trip so far. The days go pretty slow and peacefully but basically they break down like this. We wake up somewhere between 4 and 6am (depends on whether our teacher is here). It's pretty cold in the morning so we keep our blankets wrapped around us while we meditate. At 6:45am we go with the Monk to the local village to beg for food. Buddhists believe that they get a blessing (good karma for the next life) if they help others, but it's especially true for helping Monks. We go to the same houses everyday and I think the locals are getting pretty used to us. Anyway, the kids in the house and sometimes parents will come running out with rice and other foods to give to the Monk. Then they all squat down and the Monk gives them a blessing. The walk is totally silent but you need to be careful not to step on any ants or insects (that ant could be your brother!).

Once we get back Eve and I have breakfast (in front of me now I have a lovely bowl of seaweed and mushroom porridge) and meditate some more. Around 11am or so a local lady "A" shows up with our lunch. Also the Monk gets to eat his one meal of the day and there's a wee ceremony where he gives some of his food to us.

After lunch, you guessed it, we meditate some more. However, for the past two days Eve and I have left after lunch on motorbikes (loaned to us) and we go do stuff. When we get back we read and relax (generally I nap). About 6pm we get dinner brought to us and finally we chat to the Monk (my favorite bit) for a couple of hours. I get to ask him tons of questions and the Monk patiently answers them. Okay, so what question would you ask a Monk, I'm thinking, "What is the meaning of life?" Yup, I know the answer, I already asked. His answer was that the meaning of life is to "Separate the mind from the body". Did I already mention that the Monk says that I've met him in a past life and that meeting him in Kanchanaburi wasn't a coincidence? Well, he did, he said that when I went to the forest with him that I was there with a purpose. He wouldn't tell me too much then, but I did manage to weasel some more info out of him. Basically, he said that in my past life I was a European who came to Thailand and worked with the armies and kings. I'm thinking quite swish, I must've been someone important. Well, last night when I'm prying info from him (he says I need to meditate and get the answers myself) he lets go that I was actually an arms dealer.... bringing guns from Europe. yeah, here I am thinking I might be a king or a general, but no, a bloody arms dealer... anyway, had to go to the forest to rectify this because the armies I affected marched along the same road we drove along.

I'm still not planning on becoming Buddhist, (maybe I like stepping on ants too much? :), but I have to tell you I'm impressed to no end with them. Every religion seems to say basically the same thing but this is the first one I've seen to actually practice what they preach. The people are, by far, the nicest I've ever met. Most of them are very poor but always welcome you with a smile and try to make you happy. I really think the people here live like we all should.

Anyway, on a more fun topic, yesterday was the last (of 7) and biggest day of Thai New Year. Thai's celebrate it by throwing water around and we were invited to the local celebrations. Apart from just throwing water at anything that moves they wash the old people and the Monks in a ceremony. Eve, myself, and two Germans all got to take part in the fun. We got totally soaked and covered in talcum powder in the process. Tons of fun though, some drunk local took me under his wing and made sure I was always in the midst of the action. I kind of felt like a crutch (literally) with this guy leaning on me so much. The two German guys were cool (can't remember their names!) but they were working in Bangkok for BMW and had the NY holiday to travel. So they rented a motorbike and a tent and set out. Pretty cool, but they gave me tons of great information on how to travel across Europe very very cheaply (not transporting drugs, don't worry).

Tomorrow we hitch and bus our way back to Bangkok. My current plans is to stay for a few days and then head up to Laos, spend 2/3 weeks there then down to cambodia before bussing it over to Vietnam. The route follows the Mekong River and the Ho Chi Minh trail so maybe transport will be available.

Posted by Admin at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

4/20/02 Bangkok, Thailand (Kelly &

4/20/02 Bangkok, Thailand (Kelly & Phillip)

Hey guess what kids...we are finally back together...it only took a month!! We've talked and everything is cool and back to normal...you know Phillip's flatuation is still going strong :-) We are taking care of business today...organizing visas and flights for transitions to other countries...not too exciting stuff but it works for now!

Posted by Admin at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2002

4/22/02 Vientiene, Laos (Kelly) We

4/22/02 Vientiene, Laos (Kelly)

We arrived in Laos early this morning...around 6 am. So far there is not much difference here compared with the countryside of Thailand, but we haven't really seen anything. We have a trek planned out that we are going to do up in the mountains and stay with local village people which should be pretty fun. We met a German girl, 19, who is traveling by herself so our group of 3 (Phillip, Eve, and I) has now grown to 4. Ann is going to be with us through Laos and maybe Vietnam...not exactly sure what her plans are! It is about 1:15 in the afternoon and I haven't showered since yesterday...I think I have invented my own insect repellent :-) I am exhausted as well so the hostelís shower and bed are calling my name! Chow!

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April 26, 2002

4/23/02 Vientiene, Laos (Kelly) This

4/23/02 Vientiene, Laos (Kelly)

This morning was quite hysterical. We met 2 English guys, an English couple, a German girl who lives in Denmark named Anne, and 1 Asian girl--don't know where she is from. Anyway, once we all stepped off the bus we had to grab a tuk tuk 22 km into town. When we were finally able hail one down we crammed all 10 people's bags and 10 bodies into this tuk tuk and drove off. (It was a big laugh!)
Once we finally got to the town and arranged our hostel, we were all dying of starvation so Phill, Eve, Jeff, Geoff (the 2 English guys) and I went and grabbed some grub.
We arranged our Vietnam visas walked around a bit and then I decided to go back to the guesthouse, shower for the first time in 36 hours and went to sleep.

Posted by Admin at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

4/24/02 In Transit to Viang

4/24/02 In Transit to Viang Viene, Laos (Kelly)

Today actually turned out to be a pretty funny day. I met some great people today!
First off we caught a 7:00 am bus from Vientiene and headed to Viang Viene. We were all packed in this bus like freakin' sardines...they added plastic chairs to the isles just to fit everyone in. I wound up sitting on a couple of rice bags next to Anne and Phill while Jeff and Geoff were standing on the stairs. For about 4 hours we journeyed through the countryside and mountains playing scrabble; I also read a bit. Once we arrived we all piled off the bus. Eve wound up sitting a lot closer to the front of the bus than the rest of us. She actually sat next to two other Dutch girls, Esther and Afke. Well our group has grown a little...from 4 to 6. Esther and Afke have to be the coolest girls I have met in a long time. Esther is 26 and we have completely hit it off...she acts like she is 12...we're perfect together.

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4/25/02 Viang Viene, Laos (Kelly)

4/25/02 Viang Viene, Laos (Kelly)

Phill, Eve, Anne, Esther, Afke and I...goodness, I don't think it could get any larger than this, took a tour through some caves today, 3 to be exact. The first cave was a total walk/swim of about 5km. Yes, I did say swim. The water inside at points was so deep that we literally had to take our clothes off and swim...burr, the water was sooo cold. The rocks were so moist from the water and mud, which causes them to never really dry, so as you can probably imagine, it was extremely slippery. On the way out I got a really good scream...thank god this time it wasn't me that made entertainment headlines for the day; it was Eve. We were walking out and she stepped in a mud whole and fell right on her ass. She was literally covered in mud from head to foot, which eventually dried and became crusty, for the next couple of hours. Esther and I rolled. I know it was probably not the politest thing to do but neither of us could help it.
After we left the first cave we went and looked around in another one for about 30 minutes before we got to eat lunch...uhhh, we were all starving!
We ate sticky rice and bananas at someone's house, who I think feeds the tour on a regular basis. Wasn't bad, but I definitely wasn't full!
Fun time! Next, we went tubing down the river. Anne and I had to devise a plan to keep our cameras from getting wet, which made for another big laugh! I actually can't wait for these pictures to come out--my crazy new friends!
Esther, Afke, and Eve have all arranged my trip to the Netherlands for the latter part of the summer...they're going to be my tour guides. Anne has also offered her home in Denmark when Phillip and I arrive there. I'm getting really pumped about my journey to Europe.

Posted by Admin at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

4/26/02 In Transit to Luang

4/26/02 In Transit to Luang Prabang, Laos (Kelly)

Another 7 hour bus ride crammed this time with only tourists, which incidentally made the ride more expensive...surprise, surprise!! Tourist prices here we come!
I only have one really funny, really disgusting story for the day. It happened at dinner. Esther found a damn caterpillar in her vegetable fried rice, uhhh! Incidentally, I was eating chicken fried rice so I pretty much lost my appetite for the evening. The only thing I wound up eating was an ice cream from across the street! I know I've probably eaten some really nasty things in my travels, but I haven't known about them--I prefer to keep it that way! "Out of sight, out of mind!"

Posted by Admin at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)