Saturday, April 30, 2011


Wow, horrible sleep. Even if I slelpt at all. There was this weird pressure thing happening on the bus, my ears kept popping and I was getting nasty headaches from it. And temperature, air-con blowing directly on me, blanket on me, my bodu couldn't adjust.

We got to Lijiang about 5:30am, I think, still dark. Got a taxi to take us to the old city, the touristy area, but nothing was open yet, so we just wandered around for a long time trying to find the good hostel in the Lonely Planet. We eventually stumbled on it, and Lisa walked into a random room, trying to find the reception desk, and ended up waking up some local. She asked about a room, he got up and took us down the road to the proper reception. He seemed upset that he was awakened by Lisa.

We got a twin room (100 RMB) and went to sleep.

Got up about 11:30am and checked-in and paid and got some directions and a map from a British guy working at the hostel for a few weeks.

We walked around the old city, then had something to eat, walked to the local market where I got an accidental buzzcut and a super close shave.

Lisa went to bed, as she's not feeling well and I wandered.

The Old City is quite awesome. A maze of stone roads and alleys, with restaurants and cafes and shops and small guest houses, it's very easy to get lost in all the intersecting lanes. There are no cars allowed, so it's pretty much all pedestrians.

I got back to the hostel just after 4:00pm. Wrote in journal, interneted, read for a bit.

Lisa and me headed to supper after 6:00 near the main square. There were a bunch of pubs there that had some awesome live acoustic music earlier in the day. We picked one, shortly after all the pubs in the areaq turned loud and obnoxious. After eating Lisa went back to sleep and I went to a quiet pub to have a beer and read. After a while, two older Aussie couples (3 originally from Malaysia, one from Phillipines) sat with me and we talked. Live music started, acoustic style, very good.

To bed around 11:00pm.

Lijiang Old City is a big tourist draw, but 95% of the tourists are Chinese and most of the shops and restaurants cater to them. There's only a handful that have any English.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Off to Kunming

Up at 7:30, showered, packed. Lisa booked train tickets for 9:22 train to the airport. She figured we would leave the apartment by 9:40, that would give us lots of time to get to the train station. We haqd a helluva time getting a taxi, they all had fares aready. Lisa was very concerned we would miss the train.

Finally got a taxi at 9:05, Lisa showed the driver our train tichet to give him some urgency re the time. Off we went, swerving in and out of traffic, laying on the horn. The whole while, Lisa was saying it would be close!

Wre got to the train station at like 9:20, jumped out of the taxi, threw a wad of money at thre driver, ran through the station, rushed through security, pushed our way through the gates (pushing the locals out of the way) down to the train platform, and throught the train doors. Made it! No word of a lie, within 60 seconds of us getting on the train, the doors closed and we were off. We didn't get onto our car, so we ended up standing for the trip.

Got to airport, flight left on time, got to Kunming and got a taxi to the bus station and booked a sleeper bus to Lijiang for 8:30. We had about 4 hours to kill, so randomly walked around and found a treed hill with trails, benches and grave sites. Lisa napped and I walked around.

Back to bus station, I had a real authentic Chinese supper (i.e. I don't know what I was eating), then we went to the bus.

Sleeper buses are hilarious. The beds are tiny, no more than 5 feet long and only about 16" wide. And they squeeze as many as they can on the bus, bunk bed style.

Bus left around 9:00. They give you a pillow and a thick blanket to sleep.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Day in Suzhou

Lisa got up to go to work around 7:30, I got up shortly after 8:00, showered, then hung out a bit. Lisa left me a map, her keys and her mobile. She works until 2:30, then she's going to call me to see where I am.

I headed to a pub called Mallone's, where Lisa tells me they serve the expat crowd and have awesome American breakfasts. It was about a 30 minute walk there, got there just before 10:00am and all the posters outside were in english. I went inside, there were two girls there who seemed a bit confused as to why I'm there. It soon becomes apparent neither of them speak any english, so I finally make the international "I want to eat" gesture (hand to mouth), and they understand.

They give me amenu, and there's no breakfasts on it, it's all burgers and wings and ribs and pub food, not what I want. I left, and went to the Starbucks near Lisa's and had a latte and a yogurt instead.

Back to Lisa's apartment around 11:00, updated my journal and Lisa's mobile rang. I answered and it's some Chinese guy talking Chinese. I keep saying english, english, but he keeps talking Chinese. Finally he hangs up. A couple of minutes later, it rings again, this time it's a lady talking english, and she tells me that there's a package for Lisa at the front desk and she needs to pay 15 RMB to get it. I tell her I'll pass the message on to Lisa.

It's shortly after 1:00pm when I finish my journal, so hang out at her apartment until 2:30. She calls, heads back to the apartment (about 3:15) and we wait for Maru (Venezuela) and Megan (US), two other teachers, and we all hop in the taxi got Tiger Hill.

As me and Lisa were walking to the taxi (Maru and Megan came in the taxi), the taxi driver started yelling "LET'S GO!!!" over and over, ther only two english words he knows. It was hilarious.

Tiger Hill was cool, it's a large pagoda at the top of a hill, the tower leans, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Then we took a cab to Ping Jiang road, an awesome pedestrian walkway along an old canal, with small restaurants and shops and the canal all lit up. We ate supper there.

Taxi'd back home and to bed before 10:00. Lisa is not feeling well.

China Experiences!

Woke up at 5:30am.  The hostel lady knew we were getting up early, so she had tea and toast ready for us as soon as were out of the room. I didn't even really want it, but had to eat it, as she made it for us!  We left for the LRT shortly before 6:00am and took it to the KLIA Ekpress line, a high-speed train to the airport.

We got all checked in.  My flight is at 9:00am, Jen's is at 9:40.  We said our goodbyes as my flight was boarding and I was off to tackle China.

Flight was uneventful, Malaysian Airlines.  Just under 5 hours.

At Shanghai, the immigration was pushing people through at a record pace.  I've never seen immigration go so fast.  I got up to the immigration counter, handed the guy my passport and my entrance/departure form.  He gave me back my departure form, but called someone over, said something to him and handed him my passport.  The new dude said "Please come this way" and I followed him to the immigration supervisor area.  He asked me to have a seat on one of the three seats there, and my passport disappeared into the hands of a supervisor. Uh-oh!  I waited a few minutes (I was the only one there), then another foreigner was brought in and asked to have a seat.  He remarked, "I hope we're not in trouble", as he sat down.  I chuckled and said it's probably nothing.

While this was going on, I wasn't concerned or scared or anything like that.

After sitting for 7 or 8 minutes, I was given my passport back and was sent on my way.  No explanation or anything.  I blame Ryan, probably causing trouble with the authorities when he was here, now they flag all Courtnages.

After exiting the airport, an information dude approached me and asked me where I was going.  I told him I was taking a train to Suzhou.  He told me the best way to get to the train station was by taxi, as the bus is very slow, as it stops all the time.  I had read in my Fodor's China guidebook that airport bus #5 goes to the railway station, and Lisa had mentioned something about taking the metro straight from the airport, but my guidebook made no mention of the metro.  I asked how much for the taxi, he said 450 RMB (also called the yuan), I told him that was too much, he said no, it's not expensive only about $65 US.  I told him I was a backpacker, I needed to travel cheap.  Haha, he sighed, and pointed me towards the buses.

On the way to the buses, I spotted the Metro sign, so ended up taking the metro to the train station for 7 RMB.  Big difference between 450 and 7!  I think there's also the option of the maglev train, that I think interconnects somewhere else on the metro.  Apparently the maglev train really goes fast.  According to Wikipedia, it reaches 350 km/hr in just 2 minutes, and gets up to 431 km/hour after that.

It took about 1.5 hours to get from the airport to the Shanghai Train Station.  In the craziness that is the Shanghai metro and railway hub, I got swept outside to the big square in front of the railway station, so I took a few pics, tried to get my camera GPS to work (it didn't, said it wasn't available in that region), then went to buy a ticket.  It was about 4:30pm.  Trains to Suzhou run about every 25 minutes, but the next handful of trains were all sold out, the earliest train I could get was 8:00pm.  I bought a ticket, walked around outside for a bit longer, then went inside the train station, sad down with my backpack and read my Fodors China book for a while to try and kill some time.  I don't recommend this book for backpackers, it's aimed at the higher end traveller.

I decided I needed to try and get an email to Lisa, as she was expecting me around 6:15, but there was no free wi-fi in the train station.  I found some secure lockers to put my backpack in, then left the train station to see if I could find a Starbucks, as they always have free wi-fi.  There's about 20 KFC's and McDonalds surrounding the train station, so figured there shouldn't be a Starbucks too far off. Sure enough, one appeared about a block away, I ordered a latte and confirmed they had free wi-fi.  Sat down, connected to the wi-fi, but to use it, you need a get a username and password, and the only way to get a username and password is to get a SMS message sent to your China Mobile phone, which, obviously, I didn't have. Foiled. I asked the Starbucks dude (he spoke pretty good english), so he grabbed his mobile and he let me use it to get the username/password SMS message.  He received it, but then the username and password didn't work anyway.  He had no idea why.  Foiled #2.  I guess I won't be getting a message to Lisa.

After finishing, I walked around some more outside, then back to the train station, got my backpack and waited for the train.

The Chinese are in so much of a hurry.  They always try to rush on to trains, planes, the metro, with no regard for anyone else or for anyone trying to get off the metro.  It's very chaotic! Complete opposite of Singapore, where people would wait in the train platform for everyone to depart the train before they got on.  It's like the Chinese are scared the train might all of a sudden close it's doors and leave them there.

The train was SUPER FAST.  We hit a top speed of 317 km/hour.  Made it to Suzhou in no time (about 25 minutes). What a change from the trains in India, for example.  Haha.

As I was leaving the train station in Suzhou, a guy asked me "taxi?"  I said "meter?", he nodded.  I think those were his only two english words, and I'm not even sure on the word meter.

I showed him Lisa's address, that I had printed off, he indicated that he knew where it was, so I followed him, past the taxi stand, past the police van outside the station (which he kept looking back at as we were walking, like he was concerned about them). After a couple of blocks, nearing his car, it was obvious it was not a metered taxi, he wanted to charge a bunch of money to take me there.  I told him, "No taxi, no meter".  He pointed to his car and said "meter", I laughed and said "no meter" and walked back to the normal taxi stand.  He didn't try and come and coerce me back or anything.

I queued in the taxi stand queue, after a few minutes, got a taxi, showed him Lisa's address, he gave me the international OK sign (making an "o" with is thumb and forefinger) and off we went.

About 15 minutes drive, I saw the big traffic circle sculpture that's near Lisa and knew we were close.  He dropped me off close to gate, I paid him and managed to find Lisa's building and ring her number.

Shortly after 9:00pm. Made it!  Way later than expected, though.

Lisa and I headed to a Japanese restaurant there they cook everything right in front of you.  I think they were pissed at us, it appeared they were just closing as showed up, but they let us in and order food anyway.  We got back to Lisa's apartment and to bed around 11:00pm.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sunway Lagoon

We got up around 8:00ish this morning.  We have an air conditioner in our closet room, but we left it off last night, as it was already decent temperature in the room.  We just had the fan running. Over the course of the night, it got warmer and stuffier and I was sweating in the morning, but slept pretty good.  My throat is saying thank you for not having the air on all night again!

We had breakfast at the hostel, then went across the street to Starbucks for a latte.

Back to the hostel, and we hung out there until about 10:30, then caught the LRT and bus to the Sunway Lagoon.  I had mentioned it to Jen earlier, and she was pretty pumped to do it.  Courtney and me had spent a day there in 2003 and had a blast.

Much of it was the same, but quite a bit busier than it was in 2003.  Back then, we pretty much had the whole park to ourselves, no lineups, we could go on ride after ride after ride.  There were some lineups this time around, but nothing too long.

The water park is part of a bigger complex, including a HUGE mall. So, after the water park, Jen went shopping and boughbt 3 pairs of shoes at Charles and Kent for way cheaper than she can get them anywhere else.  She was a happy camper.

We left in mid-afternoon, when we got off the LRT near our hostel, it was pouring rain, so we waited in the station for a while for it to subside.

Back to the guest house, we hung out for a bit, then went for Thai food for supper (not that great, just average), then walked around a street market and the Central Market, bought a few trinket things, then back to the hostel and packed our bags, as we're leaving tomorrow.

To bed before 10:00.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Off to Kuala Lumpur

We got up early, 7:30, as we had an 11:20am flight to KL. Although we were woken up much earlier by morning prayers.

Around 8:00, we went out to try and get some breakfast, but nothing was open yet, so we got our bags and waited on the main road for bus 102, which goes to the airport. The 102 only runs every 45 minutes, and we didn't get one until 9:05. We (i.e. Jen) figured the bus ride to the airport would be about 45-60 minutes, perfect time. Unfortunately, it ended up taking much longer. We didn't get to the airport until after 10:30 and Jen was convinced we were going to miss check-in. We rushed to the counter just as they taking down the sign, but we made it. Incidentally, this flight cost us $17 CDN, $30 CDN with all taxes in. I don't understand how they can operate so cheaply.

We got to KL and managed to find the hostel tucked away in a back alley. It's a brand new hostel, very nice, our room is a tiny closet with 2 bunks. You can smell the fresh paint.

We're two stone throws from Pudu Hostel, where Courtney and me stayed back in 2003. This area has changed quite a bit since then, lots of development.

We showered and went walking to Plaza Low Yat, a huge electronics mall. I was on the lookout for an Android tablet or maybe a Nexus S, but didn't find much. They only had the 7" Galaxy Tab, which I didn't want.

We then hit up some shopping malls where Jen was in shopping heaven. Then to Petronas Towers for pictures and ate at Chili's.

KL has changed a lot. The area around the towers has all kinds of new towers that I don't remember being there before.  They have a vast MRT that goes all over now. The skyline competes with Singapore for modern skyscrapers. Very cosmopolitan city, little cafe's all along the streets, very livable.

After supper headed back to the guest house and hung out, updated journal, etc. To bed around 11:00.

I also want to mention the air-con.  We've had air-con every single night since we started travelling, and it's wreaking havoc on our throats.  Our throats are very rough, and not used to the hot, humid of day, then sleeping in the cold air-con of night.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Batu Ferenghi Day 2

Morning prayers again at 4:00am, but no fighting cats this morning. And I wisened up and put a towel over my legs to help keep me warm = better sleep.

We ended up sleeping in until 10:30, holy crap!

I finally got motivated around 11:00 and we went for breakfast.

After breakfast, we headed to the Tropical Spice Garden and walked around it. Jen wanted to do a cooking class there (as recommended by Tony at Betel Box in Singapore), but they only do private classes on Monday.

We went for a cola drink across the road while a storm rolled through, then caught a bus back to the hostel.  It was still early in the day, so so we headed to the buttefly farm (by bus), just south of Teluk Bahang. This was pretty cool, thousands of butterflies.

Had a snack at the butterfly farm, then back to the guest house. I updated my journal and Jen researched hostels in KL and booked one, Ribbon Stayz.

We went to The Living Room for supper, it's supposed to be one of the best places to eat on Penang. It was awesome. Then we walked along the long night street market to a bank and got more RM

To bed earlish, we have a flight to KL tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Batu Feringhi Day 1

Got woke up very early (4am, I think) by morning prayers. The guest house, aside from being right at the beach is also right beside a mosque.

Tried to gonto sleep, but couldn't, as after the morning prayers,, cats were fighting for the longest time.

I think we got up around 8:00, had breakfast, thenheaded to Teluk Bahang and Bahang National Park. We did a hike to Pantar Kerachut, a beach on the western part of Penang.

There was a handful of other people there. It's also possible to take a boat from the park headquarters, so there were boats coming and going as well.

We went swimming and I got stung by a jelly fish on the foot. OOOWWWWWWWWW. It hurt long time.

Jen was in no mood to hike back, so we got on one of the returning boats back to the park entry.

We had an awesome lunch at a tiny roadside Indian place for cheap, then caught a bus back to the guest house.

We had a crap sleep, so I read and Jen napped for a couple of hours.

Around 7;00ish, we went to a different beach restaurant while the sun set.

Had a few beers, a storm rolled through, then to bed sometime after 10:00.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Georgetown, Penang

Up around 9:00am. It was so cold with the air-con on all night, Jen had to gret up and turn it off.

We had breakfast at the hostel (free), then went on a walking tour of Georgetown. It's a World Heritage Site because of all the old British colonial buildings downtown.

Went into the museum, visited Fort Cornwallis had lunch downtown and walked around the old colonial area.  Very cool.

Mid afternoon, we headed back to the hostel, got our bags and caught a bus to Batu Feringhi, maybe a 30 minute bus ride.

The northern coast of Penang is full of massive hotels and resorts.

We got to Baba Guest House and checked into our room, got changed and went for a swim in the ocean. Jen got stung by a jellyfish.

We went out to the main drag so she could get something for her sting, then headed to a beach restaurant and had supper and drank beers while the sun set.

We then walked along the night market along the main drag, which seemed to go on forever.

Then to bed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Singapore Day 2

Up shortly after 8:00, I slept awesome.

We had breakfast and decided to head to Pulau Ubin, a backwater island 500 metres off the NE coast of Singapore.

We caught bus 2 to the Changi Ferry Terminal and there was hundreds of people in the queue to go to Ubin.  It's a holiday in Singapore, Tony (hostek owner) told us it would be busy.

We waited about 30 minutes before we finally got on a boat. It was a 15 minute boat ride to the island. Each boat only takes 12 people, so they had a loyt of boats working today.

On Pulau Ubin, we had lunch, then walked around the hike close to the pier, through sokme kind of jungly bits, along the mangrove forests. It's so hot and humid I'm sweating like crazy.

After walking, we drank beer and a storm rolled through. Thunder, but not much rain.

Ubin is more like other parts of SE Asia, not hi-tech or developed like Singapore.

Around 3:30, we caught the boat back to Singapore, back to our hostel and booked Baba Guest House for April 23, 24 and 25 on Penang.

We were trying to figure out how to book a hostel for tonigjht, as we arrive at midnight. Jen had sent an email to a guest house in Georgetown earlier in the day, but they replied and said they had no room.

We started talking to Tony, owner of Betel Box, and he did us a favour and called Hutton Lodge and was able to get us a room for about $10-12/night. Decent price.

Tony was super helpful and awesome.

Jen and I started talking about supper, and Tony suggested laksa and told us where to go to get the best laksa.

Around 7:30, got our backpacks and headed to the airport, via the MRT.

Arrived in Penang around midnight and caught a taxi to Hutton Lodge and went to bed.


Slept pretty good, considering it was the middle of the day to my body.  Up about 7:15, Jen too. We're in the 20 person dorm, so tried to be very quiet.

Showered, then we had breakfast at the hostel (free).

After breakfast, we got directions to the MRT and headed downtown. Downtown Singapore is exactly as I suspected, huge skyscrapers, ultra clean, very modern and super nice. We didn't really have a plan, just walked around the Marine Bay area.

There's a huge hotel complex that looks like it should be in Dubai. It was three massive towers, with a "boat" on top, sporting palm trees and a pool. We tried to go up, but they wanted $20 to go up, and you couldn't even use the pool.

Very humid today.

We headed to Chinatown for lunch and had a beer, then headed to Orchard Road area. Jen had heard about a "4 Floors on Whores" at Orchard Tower and she wanted to check it out. We didn't see much.

We headed back to the hostel around 3:00. So tired. Still jetlagged. Updated journal, then I napped for 2 hours and woke up at 6:00pm, then Jen and me took MRT to Little India to get some Indian food for supper. After supper, went to a pub for a few beers, then took MRT back to hostel.

To bed about 11:00pm.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Off to Singapore

Mavis took me to the airport.  I took the C-Train to Lions Park Station, and where she picked me up.

It was a direct flight from Calgary to Tokyo, and was very uneventful and arrived in Tokyo on time.  As we were flying down the coast of Japan, I wondered if I was getting a higher dose of radiation than normal.

I had a 3 hour layover in Tokyo.  Narita Airport is BIG, so I spent a lot of that time walking around it.

My flight from Tokyo to Singapore was United Airlines.  I wasn't expecting much, and they didn't disappoint.  Hey, United, 2001 called, they want their little 4", lo-res LCD screens back!  And, for business fliers only, they advertise a "Personal Video Tape System".  Tape?  Really?  Oh, and one of the announcements before we took off: "For security reasons, passengers are not allowed to congregate around the washrooms on the plane."  One cool thing they have on offer is the ability to listen in on all tower communications.  It was interesting to listen in all the planes and towers communicating. The plane was about 25% full.

During the flight, a curious thing, the planes flight plan showed it flying right over Taiwan.  But, when we reached the northern tip of Taiwan, the plan made a sudden course change and veered down the east side of the island.

Landed in Singapore about 11:50pm, got through customs and got my bag and Jen was there waiting for me.  She was waiting for 2+ hours at the airport.  The Beesy Bus dude was there waiting for us, so after grabbing some money at an ATM, he took us too the Betel Box Hostel.

The hostel was very busy, and we had to wait for him to get to us, finally we got checked in and probably got to bed around 2:00am.

Long day!

Off on another adventure

Today I'm off on another adventure. I'l be spening almost four weeks travelling through Singapore, Malaysia and China. The big part of this trip is a hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge in western China.

I'm meeting Jen in Singapore for 8 days, then flying to Shanghai to meet up with Lisa for 10 days. The final week, I'll be on my own, taking trains from Kunming back to Shanghai.