Tuesday, March 21, 2006

SE Asia Emails (2002)

Email 1 – Holiday (01/03/02)

Hi all,

As many of you are aware it's my last day at the ABS on Friday. I will still be in Australia for a month travelling to Werrimull, Melbourne, Surfers Paradise, Melbourne and Canberra. I will then be heading to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

This message is just so that I can pass your email addresses to my hotmail account so I can keep you informed of my travels. If you know of anyone else that would be keen to get an update could you get them to send an email to me with the title "add to Trav's travel list".

If at anytime you would like to be removed from the list respond with the title "remove from Trav's travel list".


Email 2 – Greetings from Surfers (15/03/02)

Hi all,

Well I've been at the Gold Coast for a week now. I've been to Movie World and Dreamworld. Movie World was better but I did it first so maybe I was theme parked out by the time I did sleepworld. I've also watched some TV in my motel room and gone to the beach.

There are a lot of beautiful people here which is great, but also sort of depressing. The streets are really alive every night until 4am I think or 5am I don't know I lose track of time. Next update will probably be Singapore.

Travelling Trav signing off.

Email 3 - Greetings from Singapore (03/04/02)

Hi all,

Well I've been in Singapore for a couple of days. The weather is hot and sticky as expected. I'm in a cosy little hostel that is still quite expensive. I think I may have fleas. But it's in a great location right near the flea markets... Hmmm. Jon the kiwi turned up last night and today we went to zoo. It's the best zoo ever. There are hardly any cages. Just water channels to trick the animals into thinking they're trapped. You can walk in amongst all sorts of weird animals, they even had some kangaroos.

It's a great city but expensive so I've grabbed a heap of Malaysian Ringgits and we're heading to Pulau Tioman (a Malaysian Island) tomorrow. I've been told they don't even have a shopping mall there so you might not hear from me for a while.

Hope you're all well.

Email 4 - Greetings from Kuala Lumpur (07/04/02)

Hi all,

I've just spent 3 relaxing days on Pulau Tioman an Island off the East Coast of Malaysia. It was relaxing apart from when we crossed the Island over a huge mountain and I threw up from exhaustion. We made friends with a kiwi called.. (I've forgotten already) but he was quite dull. I told Jon we can't expect everyone to be interesting and maybe number 7 would be good.

Number 2 was an anti-semitic Austrian mountain climber we affectionately nicknamed Hitler. 3 and 4 were a British couple - yawn. 5 and 6 were Dutch Hippies.

Anyway back at the Island we went snorkelling and saw much coral and fish. I touched a turtle. Back at the 16 ringgit ($8AUD) cabin Jon got bitten by fleas, lots of fleas.

Number 7 person was a very interesting cab driver who informed us that the bus was full. Rather than trusting him we checked with the German couple he'd already lined up (number 8 and 9) and they backed up his story. He was kind enough to take us to his favourite food place which happened to have hero posters of Osama Bin Laden. But everyone was friendly and the food was good.

Now we're in KL and living it up in a flash 80 ringgit motel with hot water and hopefully no fleas.

Check you all later.

Email 5 – Greetings from Kota Bharu (18/04/02)

Hi all,

Well KL was great. I saw all the touristy things Petronas Towers (As seen in Entrapment - CR you know the movie I'm talking about), telekom tower, the Islamic arts museum etc. They were all really interesting. I've met heaps of people (now too numerous to number).

I spent a great last night in KL when some locals took a Tunisian guy and myself out on the town. It was very expensive though. I then went to Cameron Highlands which were OK if you like tea plantations. I was introduced to hitch hiking by an Italian guy. We just did short trips up the mountain to see the tea.

The Malay people are so friendly. The Chinese/Malaysian a little too friendly. A Chinese/Malaysian guy with his whole family in the car picked us up and asked where we were from. I told him "Australia." He replied "I could tell you were from Australia." I said "really how is that, from the accent?" He said, "No. Because you're fat." Hard to argue with your ride when it's raining.

Yes that's right it rained and was cold in Cameron Highlands so I went back to KL. Then I went to Kuala Lipis where I intended to go on a trek through the jungle. It sounded great, a guide takes you for 4 days through the jungle, where you visit a traditional tribe, see waterfalls, caves and hide out to watch the elephants and tigers walk past.

Unfortunately I was the only tourist in the whole town and you need at least 3 to do a trek. So I took a Jungle train to Kota Bahru. This is the Islamic heartland of Malaysia. This state tried to make stealing punishable by chopping off peoples hands. But everyone here is real friendly.

Tomorrow I plan to go to Perhentian Islands where I might do some diving and or snorkelling. See you all later,

Travelling Trav.

Email 6 - Greetings from Kuantan (26/04/02)

Hi all,

Well I've just left the Perhentian Islands. I was there for about 6 days.

On a whim I decided to get my Open Water Diving License. It was fun. We cornered a shark, it decided it wanted to get out and must have known I was the novice as it headed towards me. I was more than happy to get out of it's way. I also touched a jelly fish which I was told was safe.

The lunchtime volleyball of a fews years ago has held me in good stead. I really showed those local guys a thing or two. Well I was the tallest there anyway. The Island was great with a lovely sandy beach and plenty of sunbakers. The Mars Bar milkshakes were excellent too. But after a while (6 days) the 1000s of mosquitoes, big scarey spiders, and not having a fan, was too much, so I left.

Now I'm in Kuantan which is just a big city. I'll probably go to Lake Chini from here for some canoeing.

Travelling Trav.

ps. Malaysia doesn't have enough schools so there are two school sessions. Half in the morning and half in the afternoon. This means that there are kids roaming the streets at all times of the day. It's like the Belconnen Mall during school holidays but everywhere all the time. The worst place is the internet cafe where they all play the latest shoot em up network games.

pps. Hotmail is crap.

Email 7 - Greeting from Ko Pha-Ngang (09/05/02)

Hi all,

Since my last message I've travelled very far into the very dangerous Thailand.

First I spent a few days at Lake Chini canoeing and going on a jungle trek. The chief of the Orang Asli tribe known affectionately as "chief" was kind enough to take us. I then returned to Kuantan to start the arduous journey across to Thailand.

I travelled about 8 hours by bus then walked across the border into Thailand. It was dark and I was being harrassed by little men on bikes. I said I was OK and kept walking. But was feeling very nervous. Then 4 dogs jumped out and started chasing me. I ran with my fully laden backpack until I realised I'd be better off yelling atthe dogs, which I did. The next morning in the light everything was great and all the people are very friendly and helpful.

I made my way to Ko Samui which is a great party town. I met an Aussie there who looks and acts like the Crocodile hunter. I lazed around on the beach for a fews days and partied a few nights. Then I went to Ko Pha-Ngang for a rest. But I met a very funny East German guy. He speaks great Russian because they told him at school he must learn Russian, everyone in the world speaks russian.

He has a great catch phase "very danger" and to him in Thailand everything is very danger. To me he's very danger because he can drink lots of beers. The other thing we have incommon is we don't like Germans. Last night he informed me he is very drunken. Luckily he is going tomorrow morning back to Germany. But tonight it's Men's day in Germany which is a national holiday where German men walk through the forest trailing a trolley full of beer. I predict very danger.

Travelling Trav.

ps. The sunset is good too.

Email 8 - Greetings from Bangkok (31/05/02)

Hi all,

It's been a while since I updated you all on my travels. This is because I have been doing very little.

I planned to stay on the Islands for 15 days but I ended up being there for a month. I went to a black moon party. I drank much Sang Som and became quite mao (drunk). It was a dance music party. There were about 300 people there. I then went to Ko Tao which is apparently great for diving. I say apparently because I didn't get around to doing any myself.

I then went back to Ko Samui where the words "You very handsom" and "I go with you" get heard a lot. It's very flattering until you see a large 50 year old Bulgarian man, with a beer gut bigger than 2 of mine, getting told the same thing.

Lady Thai boxing is also quite a draw card at Ko Samui. They really belt into each other. I made some friends and went to the Karaoke bar until 5am in the morning. I was the only farang in the whole bar. I attempted to sing along to the Thai top hits. Then I chose from the wide election of English language songs. I couldn't go past "Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree". There was almost a standing ovation for that one.

I then went back to Ko Phangan for the full moon party. I met a beautiful and rich half Thai, half Dubaition? (from Dubai) woman. Unfortunately she has a boyfriend back in Dubai but she loves to party and doesn't mind shouting buckets of Sang Som, coke and Red Bull. Every night the party went until 8am, I usually crashed at 3am. But for the full moon party (where 10,000 people hit the beach) I was up until 7:30am. I went and grabbed my camera at 7:00am and I've got some great footage of freaks that have been dancing to music all night.

Once I'd recovered from the Full Moon party I jumped on the night train to Bangkok where I met a Pommy guy called Glynn. I've only been in Bangkok one night and I know many people hate the place, but so far I love it.

I had to go across town to change my flight at Singapore airlines. I then cruised back on a Tuk-Tuk. He wanted 150 baht but I say "pohm mai bah bah baw baw farang 100 baht" (I'm not a stupid foreigner 100 baht) and he says OK. The traffic was horrible and it took about an hour to get across town. It was the best ride I'd had in ages. Weaving in and out of cars, slipping through the back streets.

Of course they have many copies of shirts and watches etc. here. Many soccer guernseys, Man U, Liverpool etc. I wanted a copy of the Thai national team guernsey. But guess what, that's the only one they don't have. These Thai's may be greedy but they're still patriotic.

Anyway it should be a big night tonight as well since it's the first game of the World Cup. I'm meeting up again with Bob and Melissa, two American friends. Melissa lost everthing on the beach at Ko Phangan when she went swimming at 3am. She had her passport with her at the party. Her passport and about 10,000 baht. I can't believe how "bah bah baw baw" she was.

I've decided to go to Laos now. I'll be going in a few days. I don't think there'll be as many internet cafes in Laos so you might not hear from me for a while. Someone had 400,000 Lao kip to change so I'm cashed up on kip. That's about $100 AUD.

And I now leave Hanoi on the 10th of July 1 week later.

Signing off,

Travelling Trav.ting tong farang (crazy foreigner)

Email 9 - Greetings from Luang Prabang (12/06/02)

Hi all,

Well I had fun in Bangkok. I went to see king Rama the V's statue and many of the local urchins were on hand to sell me trinkets "for the king". I got some amusing footage of me saying "I do what now? I put the incense sticks where? What do I with the gold stuff?" etc.

I picked up a throat infection and had a great time checking out a local hospital. On arrival my sore throat felt a lot less serious. Everyone was very helpful to Mr Trawit and when I said I had a train to catch I managed to skip ahead in the queue by 2 hours. I felt a bit guilty as I slunk off to get my antibiotics.

I then took the night train to Vientiane in Laos. The next few days I was feeling sick so I saw a lot of the World Cup. But when I was feeling better I hit the local night spots. One place had a live band and when they sang Kylie Minogue's "can't get you outta my head" in a heavy Lao accent well I just had to get up and dance. I pulled out my red and blue flashing cross that I picked up in Ko Phangan. Despite being a Communist Buddist country it was a great hit with the locals who had never seen technology put to such a flippant use.

The next night a Pommy guy and I hit Zeaza's a really flash place that serves large bottles of beer for $4 AUD (normally they are $1.20). We were the only foreigners in the place. The lucky draw was tricky given the numbers were called out in Lao. But Saung See Naung Gow Hah didn't come up.

The next afternoon a group of us from the guesthouse decide to join the locals in Aerobics Lao style. A gazebo beside the Mekong is set up and everyday at 6pm several Laotians, mostly women, partake in Aerobics for an hour. Some songs included Ice Ice Baby and MC Hammers You Can't Touch This. Added to the usual crowd were two Australian guys (me included), one tall skinny English guy a Chinese Canadian, a Vietnamese and an Israeli woman. It was quite a traffic stopper. That was 3 days ago and I'm still sore.

Yesterday I went to a sleepy little town called Vang Vieng. I floated down the river on a tyre tube stopping occassionally to do a bit of sperlunking. My guesthouse was easy to find, you just walk down the main street and turn right at the Opium dealers on their pushbikes.

I got up early this morning to get to where I am, Luang Prabang. It really only has a whole bunch of Wats (temples) so I can get that out of my system tomorrow. I'm expecting a wake up call around 4am from the monks banging drums. Apart from that nothing much is happening.

Cheers for now,

Travelling Trav.

Email 10 (23/06/02)

Hi all,

I'm now in Phnom Penh and glad to be away from those damn monks. Though there are a few here too. In Luang Prabang they didn't wake me up but they did help me develop a healthy fear of monks. It started in Thailand. I saw a news story where a disgruntled monk walked into the Thai parliament with an AK47 hidden under his robes. You could hide a lot under those robes and it makes me very suspicious.

In Luang Prabang I saw monks skylarking about, especially the younger ones, kicking footballs and generally lingering in groups (or gangs as I call them) wearing the same robes (or gang colours). In Vientiane they hang out at the aptly named Budda Park where they cruise for chicks. Often sideling up to foreign women offering assistance.

An Australian I met went on a meditation retreat and was later invited into their Wat (or headquarters). Here he saw many Brittany Spears and other girlie posters on the walls. I just don't like monks.

Anyway now back to my travels. In Luang Prabang I hired a motorbike and went to see a waterfall. Words can't describe the place but I'll give it a go, "it was really really good". I saw a man walking behind his Bullock with one plough, up to his knees in mud and it was raining. So things aren't so bad.

I stopped at some of the local roadside stalls and bought stuff just to mix with the locals. I got some colgate toothpaste and an orange drink. I took a bus with only locals to Vientiane it was a great experience and I got many waves from the village kids.

I then made my way through Thailand to get to Cambodia. In So Kaeo Thailand I expected to get the next bus but it wasn't running until 8am (the time was 12:30am). I needed a motel. There were two Moto drivers at the bus stop. I'm telling the guy where I want to go and realise he's drunk. "Kuhn Mao", I say. Meaning you're drunk. He shakes his head and points to his friend who is nodding, staggering, dancing, singing and saying "You want Moto" all at the same time. Figuring my guy's the better option I agree and go with him. It was a bit of a shakey ride but I made it.

I got to the Cambodian border and was inundated with small kids begging for money. It's very hard to deal with because if you give one some money you're totally swamped. I had a kid walk beside me for a while carrying an umbrella. It was very hot and much appreciated so I gave her 5 baht (25c) just before the bus left. The Cambodian bus trip was very annoying. I had to get a bus which should take 4 hours but took me 11 hours.

It's a scam where they take a long time then dump you at a guesthouse who pays them a commission. The idea is that you're so tired you just stay there even though it's a dump. I paid $5 USD for the bus knowing full well that I could get there cheaper but I was sold on the fact that it would be quicker and easier. Reviewing my lonely planet guide I discover that it's not good to get angry in negotiations as everyoneloses face. After 11 hours they can have my face and I stayed somewhere else.

The temples of Angkor were great but probably watching a documentary on them would be better than anything I can write. But I don't know what I'll do the next time a little kid comes up to me trying to sell two flutes for $1. Where's the Pied Piper when you need him.

The boat trip to Phnom Penh was choice but slower than expected due to technical difficulties. All along the Tonle Sap river locals with nets and aerosol cans as floats are trying to catch something muddy. They were happy to wave to the foreigners even though our fastboat was coming close to capsizing them.

Today I went to see Prison 21 which is now a Genocide Museum. It was pretty gruesome. I then headed out to the killing fields. Which was also no Mary Poppins. My moto driver seemed like a bit of a novice he kept asking for directions and really seemed unsure about everything. He could not speak English well either. This made me feel a bit sorry for him as I figured he wouldn't get many customers. So I was more than happy to give him a generous $5 USD for his 6 hour taxi trip. No kidding this is good money for him.

I've purchased my Angkor Beer T-shirt to go with my Chang Beer and my Lao Beer T-shirts so I'm ready to hit the town.

Travelling Trav reporting from Phnom Penh.

PS. Isn't the World Cup great.

Email 11 - Greetings from Hanoi (09/07/02)

Hi all,

I headed from Phnom Penh to Saigon by boat and bus. Saigon was madness on the back of those little motos. You head into a roundabout. Who ever toots the loudest gets through. The War Remnants Museum (formally the American War Crimes museum) was quite disturbing.

So the next day I went to the water park and raced skinny little kids down the water slides... and I won. I then took a train to Nha Trang. It was a lot quieter than Saigon so I hired a moto and drove myself. Everything was going fine, I was cruising through little villages waving to the kids. Some returned the waves, some threw rocks.

Near the centre of town a guy with a ladder was walking along the street. His mate said, "hey Trang", he said "What?" and turned to look at him. I can't say what I said as the ladder swung onto the street but it started with f. Don't worry Mum I just got a grazed knee and I'm fine.

I then bought a soft seat train ticket to Hoi An. There's soft seats, hard seats and sleeper cabins. I was told there were no sleepers left. On the train a woman selling drinks in her pyjamas tells me there are sleepers and if I give her money she can get me one. I wasn't about to give some money to someone wearing pyjamas so I went and found a guy with a name badge and a hat. For 50,000 dong (about $3USD) I got me a sleeper cabin. All up I paid less than the others already there.

In Hoi An I was getting a photo copy of the local map and who should walk past but Barry Keeley, a guy I used to work with at the ABS. We arranged to meet in Hanoi.

In Hue I took a tour to the inappropriately named Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where most of the heavy fighting occured. I went to Khe Sahn and I can say that there were definitely no Australian Soldiers fighting in Khe Sahn. So please everyone stop singing that stupid song.

The next day I hired a bike to see some tombs and stuff. 55,000 dong for foreigners to get in only 10,000 dong for locals. Needless to say when I said "Toi tu Viet Nam" (I am from Vietnam) I didn't fool anyone.

At a small roadside stall I found a very precocious little girl and her mother who talked me into buying a pineapple, some soup and water. The girl sang for me, which was cute. I'm not personally familiar with the song "Hello teacher, hello teacher, very thank you, very thank you." So if you know it let me know. She may have been saying sister but I'm not sure. Then her 48 year old mother kindly sang a song for me in Vietnamese. This Karaoke thing is getting out of hand. I politely smiled for the entire 1 minute and 43 seconds.

The music on the train to Hanoi was unbearable so I went to the restaurant. Where I got given some Vietnamese whisky, 3 beers and two email addresses. The people here are so friendly. Last night in Hanoi I spend several hours sipping beers with Barry on a busy street corner. The beers cost 1,500 dong, 10cents US. The seats were a tiny little plastic stool and the beer was home brew in a dirty old plastic keg. It was the best beer I've ever had.

For those of you who actually read these long boring messages and not delete them straight away I can now tell you that I'll be at the Labor Club from 5pm on Friday if you want to catch up.