Farewell to Asia

On Dec 16th, we left Cambodia by bus. From Phnom Penh it was about 14 hours to Bangkok. It wasn’t the best bus ride of my life, but it wasn’t as bad as many others I’ve been on. As usual in Cambodia, there were beggars at every one of the truck stops we went to. I watched one for a few minutes and worked out that, if she earned that same amount for every busload of passengers, she’d be earning about $10 in a few hours. While that may be very little here, that’s a lot of money in Cambodia.

We arrived in Bangkok around 9pm. I went straight to the guesthouse where we had a room booked for us, while Jos, Holly, and Ron went straight to the suit maker who was to have their suits ready for them to pick up. Then we went shopping like mad before the stalls all closed down, and Ron and I ate street vendor food. It’s the cheapest hot meal you can find, and it’s tasty and a lot less dodgy than it may appear. I got three big spring rolls for 25 bhat, which is a little less than a Canadian dollar.

The next day we went to the MBK mall, a massive mall in Bangkok, to do some last minute shopping, then grabbed our stuff, caught a cab to the airport, and got on a plane bound for Singapore. Holly flew out of Bangkok later that day to Kuala Lumpur to catch her flight back to Calgary. Yet another photo of clouds from a flight:

We arrived in Singapore, got a cab to a guesthouse in Little India, the area in which I’ve stayed every time I’ve been in Singapore (not including when I stayed free as a guest at NC’s home). The place was pretty shabby, and didn’t fit the description of the Lonely Planet so well, but it was good enough and cheap. There was a bird sitting in the distance outside our window.

The next day I went to hang out with some friends of mine, while Jos and Ron went to pick up their stored luggage at another guy’s place. My friends and I went to the beach at Sentosa Island, a small island connected by a causeway to the main Singapore “mainland” (which is, of course, a small island itself). My friends all do Parkour (sometimes called Freerunning in English), tricking, and fight scenes, so they practised in the safe environment. Landing in sand or water is much better than landing on grass or concrete.

It may look like NC fell while flipping in the first pic, thereby covering his face in sand. In fact, he did his wall flip just fine off the tree, but Torched (nickname of another guy who is a police officer) wanted to show me the techniques the police force is trained to use against people. So he twisted fingers, arms, and all sorts of crazy pressure points that looked very painful, using NC as his subject. Thus, NC’s face got very much covered in sand.

Jos and Ron met us at the beach after a while, and we convinced Ron to learn to do a back flip. Azri, the guy on the right, is a gymnastics teacher at an international school in Singapore, and is a very accomplished gymnast himself. George is also a gymnast I believe, and is experienced in helping people learn to flip.

Ron tried hard, and sort of flipped, but in the end sprained his ankle and had to stop.

The sunset was nifty, and although I have a gazillion sunset photos from various places, this one seemed unique enough to put up.

That evening we went to NC’s home where his aunt had prepared us a massive meal of Indian food.

[Me, George, NC, and Ashton on the MRT]

[Me, Jos, Ashton, George, Azri, and Ron at NC’s place for supper]

It was soooo good! We ate as much as we possibly could, Ashton left to get back to army base before curfew, then some time later we grabbed my luggage which was stored there, and headed back to our guesthouse. I had re-injured my knee for about the 10th time in a year while playing frisbee before Ron and Jos got to the beach. With two large suitcases and a 25 kg sidebag carry-on between three people, it was funny to see Jos pulling the largest suitcase as well as the huge and heavy carry-on bag, while Ron hobbled very slowly carrying nothing, and I limped along, pulling the small suitcase behind me. Countless people stared and laughed at us!

The following morning, the 19th, we got up early and caught a minibus taxi to fit all our luggage, and headed for the airport. We met up with Azri and George there for about 5 minutes, as they were flying to Bangkok for a week’s vacation, then we checked in at the airline counter and headed through security and all that.

Our plane was decorated with Christmas decorations! It was kinda cool. And Singapore Air is always good service, so it was about as good as a 17 hour flight can be. We stopped in Seoul, Korea for an hour which was annoying. We did that last year as well going the other way, because it’s the refuelling stop. The only reason I was annoyed both times is that I severely overload my carry-on baggage to keep my checked luggage under the weight limit, so walking through the plane and airport, having to go through security again and everything, with this massive sidebag, is not fun.

While in Asia somewhere, someone (I think it was Ron) suggested we all wear our suits off the plane. We decided it was too uncomfortable to wear suits for such a long ride, but then realised we could change in the Vancouver airport after arriving! Furthermore, we realised we had colour combinations that essentially matched! So after landing we took turns watching the stuff and going to the bathrooms to change into our suits. We even got questioned by a customs official who was watching us by the carousel, as to why we had changed into suits.

Well, we walked into the arrivals hall looking snazzy in our suits and immediately spotted both sets of parents waiting for us with big smiles.

And that, my friends, is the end of my overseas travels for a LONG time. I am in debt to the banks, my parents, and the government, and it’s now time to get back to reality. I’m back at UBC beginning January 4th, and looking for part-time work in good ol’ Vancouver city.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Today I woke up in time to take advantage of the free breakfast offered at my ghetto hostel. The breakfast wasn’t too ghetto – toast, scrambled eggs, hot dog wieners, tomato, carrots, pineapple.

After breakfast I got myself ready, loaded up on water and juice, and caught a bus to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Singapore is one of only two cities in the world (Rio de Janeiro being the other) to have within its confines primary rainforest, and it’s a damn fine rainforest if you ask me.

I spent just under four hours hiking the trails, taking innumerable photos, and sweating, sweating, sweating, drinking and drinking, drinking. I didn’t see all the creatures I had hoped to see – saw no flying lemurs, no tarapins, no frogs, and no pitcher plants (the ones that fill with water and catch bugs, also used by frogs to harbour tadpoles, which mature inside).

I was sad there were no monkeys either, until I arrived back at the entrance/exit to find hundreds of them had arrived. I started taking photos but my battery died after only 3 or 4, and having travelled all this way I decided to give in to consumerism and buy a disposable camera, with which I took 24 photos in under 5 minutes. If they turn out, I’ll scan them all in New Zealand and post a small selection.

Monkeys are cool.

I also got scared shitless by a large black snake that suddenly slithered in front of me – well it was already in front of me and slithered away in fright. It was 4-5 feet long, and about 1.5 inches in diameter, black all along it’s body. There are over 100 varieties of snake in Singapore, 28 of which live only in the Nature Reserves. A number of them are venomous.

I may be able to connect my laptop to the internet tomorrow or the next day at a friend’s house here, in which case I will do my best to upload some photos of my trip so far.

I Terrorist

So it turns out I’m a terrorist.

Hokay, so: it started snowing in Vancouver before my plane took off, and we lost our place in the queue for de-icing so we ended up behind like 20 other planes, then they ran out of fluid for a bit, so we left over 2 hours late.

Arrived in San Francisco with 15-20 minutes to get from the N. American terminal to the gate for my Singapore Airlines flight. San Fran’s airport is not user friendly: one way the sign said “Gates A1-A10” or something like that, and the other way the sign said “Baggage Pick-Up”… there were only two ways to go.

I chose baggage, and luckily it turns out that in American English, “Baggage Pick-Up” refers to any part of the airport that is not a departure gate of the letter A. So I bust my ass to the other end of the airport, where my gate is, only to find out that my flight has been delayed 5 minutes. The ladies at the check-in counter take my passport and ticket, and upon reading my name both suddenly stop smiling and worry and pity spread over their faces.

They run into a side room and come back after a minute, then tell me things should be ok, but I have to wait a few minutes. “Sir, your name is on the TSA list. The police are on their way to interview you and then you’ll be allowed to go.”

Luckily, San Francisco Metro Police (at least the two I met) were quite nice and after 5 minutes of reading each and every one of my passport stamps and only asking me a couple questions, they let me go.

Run to the gate, where 200 people are lined up for security checks. I bypass all but 30 with a fast pass for the employees lineup. Then I called a security guy and persuaded him to let me skip past the other 30 to the very front since my flight was due to depart within 0-5 minutes.

Bust my ass to the gate, only to find that everyone is waiting – no one has boarded. 5 minutes later, a man announces that “the problem with the lavatory has yet to be remedied, and we will make the next announcement in half an hour.”

Get on the plane, turns out it’s not a direct flight to Singapore as my itinerary says. We stop in Korea for an hour on our way, with 45 minutes consumed by the security check (mandatory, even though we weren’t leaving the airport – and we had to leave the plane for cleaning).

Arrived in Singapore at 2am and was met by 4 kind young Singaporeans who paid for my cab ride to my hostel (I knew them from the internet).

And now I have to let the line of people waiting to use this computer have their turn.