Thursday, November 29, 2007

Malaysia - November 28-30

A bit of a short story for the whole of the Malaysian peninsula, but a fairly epic travel day took Justin and I off Singapore Island and into the tiger-hiding jungles of Malaysia by bus. After a confuzzled bus transfer in the Kuala Lumpur, capital city, we headed further north to Butterworth, and from there, a short ferry trip to Pulau Penang. This island lies only about 3 hours by mini bus to the southern Thai border, so basically, I've watched an entire country pass by my window.

While super-eager to get once more onto sport-bolted limestone cave formations, this afternoon has been hugely enjoyable. Charming low-rising architecture with a supremely friendly people, next time I'm in the area I might have to stay a little longer. But tomorrow, alas, I'll be back on the bus. And if all goes well, I'll be celebrating a first Thailand climb with a beer in hand on a postcard beach, within 24 hours from this moment.

The Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers on Earth, in Kuala Lumpur. Second tallest man-made structure, after Taipei 101. What a gyp.

A reminder, if you do have recreational drugs, toss them out the bus window now! Much better not to bother bringing them here in the first place. Death to drug traffickers in Malaysia, as well as in the Philippines. Yikes!

Sure love that garlic naan. And thats tikka chicken again too.

Malaysia is a Muslim country, but this island is peppered with chinese confucious shrines (man who steps through airport turnstile sideways always going to Bangkok), hindu temples, and christian churches as well as mosques and minarets. The spice of life runs deep here.

Singapore - Nov 25-28

We'll start with a bit of small world syndrome: while staving off the effects of dehydration at Manila's Ultimate tournament two weeks ago, I ran into Adam, who also hails from Airdire Alberta, and was playing in the tournament as well. The Turner family and mine had crossed paths many times quite a bit earlier in history, but Adam having 5 other brothers, most of whom schooled around the same time as me, it's never wholly unlikely to meet randomly with one of the bros. Adam has been teaching in Singapore for the past 2 years and invited Justin and I to recharge at his place once we had left the Philippines.
Very quickly I was to learn that Singapore is unlike any city I've visited yet. Singapore is a city, and exists as its own country, much like the Vatican. Its fills a small tropical island just a smidgin away from the equator which lies south, and just a hair away from Malaysia to the north. It is a clean, healthy city crowned with graceful sky-scrapers and bejeweled by palm trees. The people of Singapore (3 million singaporeans and 1 million expats) exude confidence, smiles, wealth and style. Multiculturalism abounds as this has been an important trade crossroad between Europeans, Chinese, Indians, and Malaysians for centuries, and it would not be unlikely to hear the languages of each while enjoying an afternoon's stroll down the tree-lined Orchard road. I've about convinced myself, that some day, I'll be the 1,000,001st expatriate on the island.

A funky cafe near the river aptly named "Clinic" finds its patients immobilized and even if need be, fed alcohol through IV drip bags. The operation was a complete success!

One of my favorite spin-offs of multiculturalism (besides french exchange partners run-amuck)are the culinary adventures to be enjoyed. At Sammy's place, a former British colonial house, we enjoyed tikka chicken, masala, and the ever delicious garlic naan all over top a sprawling banana leaf. Who needs plates when you've got equatorial vegetation.

Not much in the way of pictures, but imagine downtown Calgary, surrounded by rainforest, without gum sticking to your shoes or anyone holding out an empty coffee cup to you, on a tropical island. With a drink named after your city. Absolutely amazing impression, further decorated by the overwhelming hospitality of one of its own.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


In acknowledgment of the holiday my American friends celebrate today, but also because this is something I feel, like Valentines (possibly also New Years), that should/could be celebrated everyday, a thanks giving:

To the people who have painted my world beautiful with Love, understanding, generosity, companionship, patience, helpfulness and guidance - I thank You.

For the people who make this world worth traveling through their kindness and their work towards spreading peace - Grazie.

To the higher, always mysterious power which consistently prevents me from causing myself disastrous harm through my own grievous shortsightedness, ignorance, or plain stupidity - Kamsahamnida.

My cup runneth over completely. It could never be big enough.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Manila and Boracay Island, Philippines
November 13-25

Manila Spirits Final Match - Ringers of Fire vs Shanghai
Manila Mall entertainment - lightweight kickboxing matches
White Beach, Boracay

It is so emboldening stretching the line over fine powdery sand. Doesn't hurt nearly so much to bail off comapred to over the paving bricks in my Seoul apartment's coutyard. I think this is what the inventors of slackline had in mind all along :)


Manila, capital city, was an experience rich in apparent disparity between the have-nots and the more fortunates, and also a whole hell of a lot of fun. Justin and I spent the first few nights in Malate, an inner city neighbourhood known for its seedy night clubs and cafes, street kids, and crappy western fried food. The latter, to which I have been (disgracefully) giving into increasingly often, attests to the larger number of obese people than I've observed anywhere else over this last year in Asia. Still no match for North America! Anyways, I digress.....

Towards the end of the week we started hanging in other, much more affluent neighbourhoods with Ultimate Frisbee players who began streaming into town, for the much anticipated Manila Spirits International tournament. A last minute decision had me fitting into a team of Hong Kong players, and heading into my first truly competitive ultimate frisbee event. After each of the 2 sunny, sweaty and muddy days of playing various Asian teams was a seriously wicked party, very demonstrative of the hugely generous, friendly and chilled mentality of Philippine people I've observed so far. This part of town featured houses out of Belair, fresh prince style. A very cool and fortunate introduction to Ultimate, and to the Philippines.

After the tournament, I've found myself with about 15 others from the tournament on an island paradise known as Boracay. This place features beautifully cerulean and warm ocean waters, palm trees, perfect white sand, sweet parties and lots of Korean couples. Something I had forgotten about was that Koreans LOVE to honeymoon at this place, a target clientelle possibly seconded only by western backpackers. So it turns out I STILL can satisfy those late night kimchi cravings. If I were having those, that is. Seriously, this place is beautiful! While I'll keep my date with destiny and a PADI scuba diving cert course for Thailand, I can get lots of work in here on my slackline between palm trees and a new project, skim boarding.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hong Kong - the afternoon lay-over on November 13.

After a comfortable but literally packed-to-the-ceiling ride on a sleeper bus out of Yangshuo, Justin and I arrived in Shenzen, and from there an efficient ride on the subway took us to the work of corporate artwork that is Hong Kong. Without much else in mind, we lugged our packs heavy with climbing gear to the Victoria mountain tram, taking us to the top of a peak overlooking downtown and the fragrant harbour. Hong Kong to be quite honest, begs a serious question to Seoul: "are you kidding me?" Hong Kong is expensive, but we really didnt have too much time time the spend the money we had since we were to catch a flight to Manila, Philippines, that evening, and most of our time was occupied with testing Justin's new remotely controlled helicopter and hacky-sacking anyways. An interesting lead on an outdoor job in Hong Kong might have me back there before too long.