Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas with the Family... will finish up Bangkok posts soon

I hope anyone and everyone reading my blog had a wonderful Christmas, even if you're not Christian. Let's face it, Christmas is as commercial as any holiday these days, even in Singapore and Malaysia Christmas is a big deal. The difference between those countries and the United States is that they don't pretend it's anything but a commercial holiday. Singapore had lights decked out everywhere, especially Orchard Street (their main shopping street). It's really weird to be walking around in Kuala Lumpur malls and listen to songs about baby Jesus considering Malaysia is a Muslim country. There are Christmas trees, lights, and music all over Kuala Lumpur too!

Anyway, I got to spend Christmas in the Bay Area with my family. It was very nice. My family made a nice turkey dinner with stuffing, mash potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc for me. We usually have traditional foods on Christmas but they also did it because I missed out on Thanksgiving. I think it would have been really interesting to spend Christmas overseas, but I'll have to experience that another time.

I'm not from the Bay Area, but my family moved up here, so it's sorta become my home I guess. I forgot how cold it gets here. It's strange because I'm now used to the weather staying hot when it rains... instead it's freezing cold here and rains way too much! I miss the tropics... but at least there's warm showers here, and no blood sucking bugs around me all the time. I think it might be good to get a couple of those Japanese toilet seats I used in Japan for home use. The toilet seats here are super cold due to the terribly cold weather in the bay. Those Japanese toilet seats automatically warm up on touch.

I haven't been in a rush to look for work so I've been bumming around home. People are excited to hear about my trip and I'm happy to talk about it. I've been avoiding most stores so I missed out on the chaos typical in the malls.

My first meal back was a double double, fries, and a chocolate shake at In and Out. Man it was good. I still haven't had my American Breakfast yet... but maybe I'll get it today.

My hours are messed up. I'm not on Malaysia time or West Coast time. I think all the time spend waiting around and sleeping in the airports put me on totally messed up vincent time. I now sleep in the afternoon and wake up around 10 or 11 PM PST. Oh well.

I'll be heading to Vegas for New Years. I don't really plan on doing much, probably just eat and sleep. If I can get some nice pictures I'll put them up here.

Ok, so Happy New Years everyone, and I'll continue playing catch up with my blog very soon! I'll finish up Bangkok and then we're off to Siem Reap for Angkor Wat, the mother of all temples!

Monday, December 22, 2008

14 hours early

I like to get to the airport early... but this is ridiculous! So I'm really smart, I decided that with a 11:45 departure time I would leave my hostel at 7:45. This would give me ample time to check in and relax and just not feel rushed. Fantastic!

Well, I left at 7:45 and it was an hour cab ride to the airport. It's 8:45 so far no problem...

Oh hey look... the flight leaves at 11:45 PM. I left at 7:45 AM. OMG. What am I going to do at the airport for 14 hours?

Well so far I've been chilling at burger king because they have an outlet for my laptop. Luckily for me the Kuala Lumpur International Airport has free wifi, though it is slow. Hey, better than nothing.

Chilling is nice but I'm bored. Only 7 more hours until my flight. Yay....
Boy am I smart.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Travel Days Suck. Heading Home.

I hate travel days. They are long and tiring. You would think they're not a big deal, but when you're really traveling and have no schedule you get really used to waking up whenever you want. On travel days you often have to wake up early so you have to set an alarm. I hate alarms and I really dislike set schedules now that I've spent the majority of the last 4 months without schedules.

Going to the airport is a pain because you need to get there at least 2 hours early for international flights, though I prefer 3 hours early. Then you have to give yourself enough time to get to the airport. In many cities the airport is not that close and can take a while to get there. Making matters worse is the fact that you probably have no idea how long it will take so you give yourself even more wiggle room. I've asked hostel workers before, but generally in poor countries these people never leave their own country so they never go to the airport and thus do not give you the correct information (see my entry on Crazy Taxi).

You'd think just sitting there doing nothing would be nice, but it's difficult to get proper rest on a plane or a train or a ship. I've done all 3 and the ship was the best. Overnight trains stop a lot, and sometimes you have to get out in the middle of the night to go through customs.

I think the combination of waking up early and not getting proper rest just saps all your energy away. When I get to a new city the first thing I usually do is not sight see but rest. Maybe I'm just a lazy bastard but it's great being a lazy bastard.

Anyway as I type this I head home for Christmas. I'll spend about a 7 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea before flying back to the States. I didn't go to Korea so maybe I can count this? Ok, I know, that would be cheating. I won't be able to leave the airport but maybe I can get some good Korean BBQ.

I finally decided to head home because I've been wanting to just settle into a place for a while now and of course my funds are drying out. It'll be nice to relax in one place I think. Site seeing was starting to get a little old, as in very special places and things start to become just another place or thing, so I think it's time.

I don't know what will happen once I get home. We're in a terrible financial crisis so we'll see. I'm sure work will be hard to come by but I'll worry about that after the holidays. I have no regrets about leaving my previous job. I hated the place. I consider this trip an investment in life and I think it was well worth it. It certainly gives you perspective and a greater appreciation of what I have already. American, even in hard times, is still better off than most. Material things are just things. You can be happy without them, you can be really happy living with just 38 liters of stuff. =)

There's more in Asian I'd love to see. I'd love to go to the Philippines and swim with whale sharks, I totally missed out on India (bombing in Mumbai scared me off) but mostly if I come back to Asia I'd prefer to pick one place and just relax there. I'd really like to see South America next. All the Europeans tell me to explore Europe when I'm old because you can when you're old (unlike say trekking through jungles or climbing all over Angkot Wat) and it's expensive.

When I get home I'm going to get a double double (Cheeseburger), fries, and a shake! I've been dying for one. I'm also dying for some good American Breakfast! Pancakes! Anyway I will continue updating my blog until I've covered all the places I've been, so stay tuned!

Merry Christmas!

Life Update: American, Damnit!

The main reason I chose to backpack around East Asia and then Southeast Asia is that as an Asian American I can blend in as long as I don't speak. Having never traveled before, this whole trip was exciting but also scary. Being alone in foreign countries where language can be a problem and not always having people around to help you can be daunting. I'm pleased to say that the world is not as evil as you think it is. People in general are nice or just want to mind their own business, but that is a tangent.

Let's bring it back to the American issue. I blended in easily in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia (many Chinese in Malaysia), and oddly enough sometimes Thailand. But when it became apparent I was not a native, the people would ask me "Where are you from?" I would always answer America, or USA, or The United States. Often times, and always in Japan, people would always follow up with "ok... but where are you from?" or "ok but where are your parents from?" In the beginning this didn't bother me and I would tell them. Then they seemed all to happy to label me as that kind of person, not a real America.

In places like China, part of my heritage, the youth would say "You're not American, you're one of us! You are Chinese!" Don't even get me started on the whole my father is from Taiwan to the Chinese.... they'd say "Taiwan is China too!"

In Phuket I ran into a big drunk fat swedish guy who, in addition to saying he loved me (drunk idiot) asked "How can you be an American?"

In Siem Reap a little kid asked me "Where are you from?" I answered "America." He giggled and said "But you're Asian!" I said "Yes, yes I am". Then he ran away.

The only country where the people were satisfied at "I'm American" and didn't ask anymore was Singapore. I think that's because pretty much everyone there is an immigrant or descended from an immigrant to Singapore.

By this point I have to say I'm really annoyed that I can't just say I'm American and have that accepted. Just because I'm not white I'm some how not a real American? That really pisses me off. The next person that asks where my parents are from I'm going to say Jamaica. Look, I'm happy to visit the countries of my parents and grandparents and anywhere else in the world. It's good to see your roots and if you want to take a measure of pride in that, I think that's ok too. However at the end of the day I don't identify with these people... especially not with the people in China. America is where I was born and raised and that is my home. My high school computer science teacher, Mr. Franz, had a sign printed on his wall that I remember to this day: Americans come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Come January 20, my country will have it's first black president. There is no reason why I cannot be an American. So dammit people, I'm American. Ok, I'm glad to get that off my chest.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wat Arun - Temple of the Dawn

Wat Arun on from the Chao Phraya River (not my picture, it's from wikipedia)

Wat Arun is yet another beautiful Buddhist temple in Bangkok. It's built with Khmer style architecture and for most people you'll need to take some ferries to reach it. I walked over to the ferries right after visiting the Bangkok Palace. You'll need to take a few ferries as they go back and forth until you reach Wat Arun. Don't worry, the ferries are super cheap.

Info on Wat Arun:
Wat Arun at Sunset (not my picture, it's from wikipedia)

One of the ferries I took

Thais used to be water lords. This river used to be filled with traders.


Ferry landing dock

View of Bangkok from the ferry

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

View from Wat Arun

View from Wat Arun

View from Wat Arun

Can you see Wat Pho?

View of Wat Pho from Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Bangkok Imperial Palace and Emerald Buddha

What can I say? This place was beautiful. There were armed guard here. They looked like soldiers but overall I did not feel the tension between the people and the government when I was here.

Bangkok Imperial Palace

A model of Angkor Wat

Emerald Buddha... no pictures allowed inside

So of course I'm gonna try and take a picture of it from the outside! They change the Buddha's clothes depending on the time of year. His clothes are made of gold.

I love the sky in this picture

Lots of scam artists in Bangkok, gotta watch out.

This was under construction. It's across the street from the palace.

Bangkok - Wat Pho

Bangkok... the city conjures so many different images and emotions. It's a backpackers paradise, it's got something for everyone and it can be quite cheap. I had a great time in Bangkok. After China Thailand was a nice change of pace. The locals are much nicer and the streets seemed not at all chaotic, but that's probably only because I had just come from China.

First up... Wat Pho. It's a Buddhist Temple with the world's largest Reclining Buddha.
Wat Pho is the birthplace of the Thai Massage. You can get lessons on how to give them here. I Don't remember the cost but it wasn't cheap.

Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha

Mother of Pearls

Reclining Buddha

Pick pockets at a temple? Geez...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

China Closing

I have mixed reviews about China. There's so much history and culture to see. It is after all the longest continuous culture on earth. But everything you want to see is old... the new China is a different beast. People are so aggressive and frankly, mean. I'm sure part of it had to do with the fact that everyone thought I was Chinese since I am Asian American. I'm rather behind on my blog, so as I write this I have been to Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, and Malaysia since China. The Chinese are by far the most rude and just not very friendly people I have encountered. Now, as all generalizations go this doesn't apply to everyone. And certainly not everyone in the other countries I visited were nice. There were plenty of nice Chinese people I met, they just all worked at the hostels I was staying at, or were working at the places I was visiting. Generally people on the street were not nice.

The Chinese also seem to have a spitting problem. They like to spit everywhere. When I say spit I mean they like to hock it from deep down. It's pretty nasty, especially when they do it while standing or sitting right next to you. People all over the poor areas I've visited spit, but nobody spits like the Chinese in China. The Chinese people outside of China, like in Singapore or Malaysia or Taiwan, do not act like this at all. I heard spitting was something Mao used to do a lot so it became popular in China. I dunno how true that is. I mean look, I went through a spitting phase too, when I was like 9. I'm over it. I've pretty much been over it for YEARS now. I hope the Chinese people get over it too.

Anyway, my Mother was born in China, and my Grandparents fled the communists. Both my Grandparents were educated people, but of course when you lose everything to the commies and immigrate to a new country you're no longer rich. Still, despite this I cannot ever say I saw my Grandparents act the way the people in China do. They did not spit, they did not yell at people on the street, and they certainly had a sense of pride about their heritage. The current Chinese aren't the same. Some people tell me it's because Mao burned their book, or because the cultural revolution chased out anyone that was educated or cultured. Well, I suppose it was a success, the Chinese have their own new culture now (make money at any cost)... and that's their choice. I was still glad to see some of China's past. I can't say I really look forward to being amongst their people, but the legacy of their culture and history is truly something special.

Frommer's Guide (Entire Info Free):
Lonely Planet:
1 USD = 6.8 Yuan
Weather was a mix between Humid (Shanghai) and Cooling down for winter

Chengdu - Panda Research Center

Chengdu is rather famous for their Panda Research Center. It is the most successful in the world at breeding Panda in Captivity.

Panda Research Center

I always see people with big SLR cameras taking pictures of little things like flowers. I don't get it. I thought It'd be fun to copy them. So.... what is this? Another Apple computer style background?

The bamboo pandas eat are actually just grown all over the park. Workers just cut down what they need to feed the pandas.

This is where bamboo is cleaned for the pandas to eat

Ah the life of a panda is the life for me.

Yum Yum... I'm just chilling and eating. I'm a picky eater, I only eat certain types of bamboo

Work? What's that? I'm gonna sleep all day.

Just chill, 'till the next episode
You can pet and hug a 1 year old panda for 3 minutes, it'll only cost you $150 USD. That's some easy money right there. Yes that is a 1 year old panda. Also, as I am a vagabond for $150 USD you may also pet and hug me for 3 minutes.

Red Pandas

Sugar Cane

Fresh eggroll cookies. They were I think 50 cents and soooo good. Nice and warm.

Shopping at Wang Fujing

Spciy Noodles... and I mean spicy! Szechuan is known for spicy food.

A pork sandwich with Chinese bread

Some bread thing

Octopus and Chicken Gizzard.... yum? YECK~!

Ok, sometimes you need a break from the hostel scene. Green Land Hotel, 4 stars or something
Breakfast at Green Land Hotel

Green Land Room Service

Green Land Room Service - they were spicy

What???? Some Engrish for you