Feb 25, 2013

Where I am

I will admit that once upon a time, in a not so distant past, I was miserable. Everything in my life seems to be falling apart and I didn't know what was the best way to handle it. It wasn't falling apart all at the same time, but it was cracking bit by bit and I could see it. But just because I could see it, doesn't mean I know how to deal with it.

I never did.

I don't think I ever did.

Right now I may seem like I'm just looking for ways to just get out and travel because I hate my life here. Wrong. I don't hate my life right now. I mean, it could be better but doesn't everybody think that way? Of course life could be better. But for what it's worth, what I have now is alright. It's not the best, but it's not the worst either.

I'm not miserable with where I am right now. I just know that there are more things out there for me to see, learn and experience.

Feb 19, 2013

"If you're not impulsive, you'll never get to travel"

Photo originally uploaded on Lonely Planet
Says my wise colleague, Tasnim.

And I am inclined to think there is some truth to that statement, despite knowing very well how impulsive behaviour can actually be a bad thing. But still, on Monday morning, the first thing I did when I got to the office was book my ticket to Bali, Indonesia, scheduled in June for a week.

I just got back from Bangkok, Thailand a couple of weeks ago and been experiencing some form of post travel blues. I found myself having nothing to talk about after I finished blogging about my Bangkok trip. Which was pretty depressing. And friends tell me that the only way to get over post travel depression is to plan your next one.

Which I did.

Bali isn't exactly somewhere I've always wanted to go up until recently. I swim like a fish but I've never been much of a beach person -- I loved the city too much. But lately the call of the surf has been calling out to me despite never having surfed a wave before in my life. Jordan wanted to take me surfing a few times before but it never took.

Photo originally uploaded on Lonely Planet
I am hoping that this time since I have booked my ticket to Bali, I will make it a point to learn how to surf finally and maybe surf alongside one of my bestest friends in the world.

The ticket was relatively cheap, even for a broke-ass poorfag like me. It was RM122 ($40) from Air Asia under their RM0 promotion. And when there's a ticket for less than RM200, you bloody well take it. Think about expenses later. I am going during the high season, and will be meeting others there but hey, Couchsurf like you mean it right? I'm actually contemplating on packing a tent just in case I get TOO broke and end up not having a place to stay Let's actually not think about that. For now at least.

I have well over 3 months to prepare myself financially and I suppose physically. Hey, I'll be on a beach. I think a pretty decent bikini body is in order.

So hey yeah thanks Air Asia for making me buy your cheap-ass tickets and regret it probably when I get home from the trip.

Purchasing flight ticket is slowly becoming addictive. Today I found myself dangerously close to buying a ticket to Vietnam for my birthday, but my low bank balance pulled me away from such trap.

Feb 10, 2013

The "holiday" portion of the trip (Days 6 & 7)

Being short on cash and planning to catch on some rest, I decided to stay in. I spent the day basically eating street food, watching TV and did some reading. I didn't manage to sleep in though, Koreans in my room were not the most stealth of people. I woke up around 9AM and took a shower and decided then what I was going to do with the rest of the day.

Which is eat, tv, book. Maybe a nap in between.

The hostel wasn't really that huge. The building was 4 floors, 3 with rooms, and an average of 4 rooms per floor. Some were 12 bed dorms, some were 8 bed dorms and limited private rooms. Why I'm describing the rooms is to establish the fact that it's easy to remember people's faces. During the first night there with the rooftop party, I think I met a little more than half the hostel occupants.

One guy stood out from the whole bunch. I think it was the red mohawk and the vine tattoos peeking out of his t-shirt sleeves. As much as I wanted to say hi, something about him felt a little intimidating. So I decided to shut up and just continued watching TV with a couple of other boys to avoid embarrassing myself in a foreign country.

Thomas secretly wants to be
a wizard.
Towards the evening, I got a little hungry so I decided to head out and get something to eat. I ran into him at the stairs and finally muster up enough courage to say hi. He introduced himself as Del. To my surprise, he was actually very pleasant.

You know it's a good party when
someone puts a cone on his head
I spent most of the evening on the roof talking to another guy, Thomas, who was also heading back home the next day. He's been away from London for a month and he just couldn't wait to go back home. Thomas is a fucking riot, I'm kinda bummed that I didn't get his Facebook details while we were there.

 A few hours passed, and the community once again grew. Not as epic as the night before, but it was a good size. But around midnight or so they decided that they were going to go to Khao San road to party. They invited me to join, seeing as it was my last night in Bangkok but I didn't feel like making the trip. So I stayed. Rooftop was empty so I went back down to the TV room.

le boys
Del was there, tapping away on his little netbook. I decided to sit next to him, and we started talking the night away, and reluctantly on my side, went to bed at 6:30AM.

No thanks to the not-so-stealth Koreans, I was up by 8:30AM. I was hoping to catch a couple of hours more of sleep before checking out. I waited a little bit for them to leave the room at some point. But it was just taking them too goddamn long so I decided to get up and take a shower, pack my shit and just bring it up to the communal room.

Waiting for departure pt 1
I sat down talking to Rick and Dan before Dan leaves for Chiang Mai. We chatted for a bit and soon Dan had to leave. A hug, and he was gone. I decided to go find something to eat.

Coming down the stairs, Del came up with food in his hands. Possibly the most pleasant 'good morning!' I've ever had in my life. He gave me a hug, I went down to check out and get something to eat.

My flight was at 9PM. Don Mueang was about 30 minutes away from the hostel. Given the Bangkok rush hour, I figure leaving at 5:30PM would probably be smart. But it was only around 11AM after I ate. I pretty much attached myself to the couch for the next 6 hours, using Del's lap as a pillow, going in and out of sleep.

5:30PM rolled around a little too soon. It was time for me to go. With a heavy heart, I got my bags, hailed a cab, said my goodbyes and was on my way to good ol' Don Mueang airport.

A few hours later, it was time for me to say goodbye to Bangkok and go back to my life back in KL.

Waiting for departure pt. 2
Purchasing that ticket randomly in December, not knowing if I could actually afford the trip was possibly the best decision I've ever made. I needed to get out of KL. After that whole thing being blacklisted by immigration because of my student loan and never having enough money to even travel within my own country, let alone a different one, it was a refreshing change -- even if it was trading one city for another.

Next on my list for this year is Bali to learn how to surf. And possibly Nepal or Cambodia for my birthday.

The time where it took 3 hours to get breakfast (Day 5)

I let myself sleep in a little on Sunday because I didn't have anything planned for the day except for checking into the hostel at 2PM. I think I woke up around 10 and just sat on the mattress staring into space/checking my phone/reading my book. I packed my backpack the night before so I wouldn't have to dig into it again and wake Jeff up with the rustling of the compression plastic.

Took a shower. Eventually Jeff woke up and asked if I wanted to get breakfast. He called up Ja and we agreed to meet up later at Sukhumvit. Well, it wasn't really breakfast -- given the time it's pretty much considered brunch.

Outside Gastro
We left home and headed to Etz Hostel first at Soi Ngamduphli so I can just dump my bags and check in a little earlier. I didn't get my key of course since check in time was 2PM, but they let me leave my bags while I get me some grub. Nearby was Lumphini MRT so we hopped onto that and headed to Sukhumvit.

We walked a bit - and by a bit, it was a good 30 minute walk (I think) - until we got ourselves onto Sukhumvit Soi 22 to this little hole-in-the-wall cafe called Gastro 1/6 that apparently only served breakfast. I looked at the menu and while it was on the pricey side, I was okay with it since it is my last meal with Jeff and Ja while I'm in Bangkok and it was a nice place and we did walk quite a bit and I was starving. That's a lot of 'ands' in one sentence.

Jeff's coffee
It's a small place attached to an art gallery called RMA (if I remember correctly). I found a lot of pretty interesting cafes and restaurants in Bangkok that were nice and quaint but didn't really go in to because I did have a budget to keep to (which I totally busted), but will definitely go to at some point in the future.

We placed our orders and I was excited at the prospect of a big breakfast. So we waited for our order.

And we waited.

Waited a little bit more.

They did only have like 2 cooks and one server manning the whole place and it was a full house that day.

3 hours later, we got our breakfast. Well, I did. It was already lunchtime so I decided to just dig in before I start eating the table. The thought actually crossed my mind when we reached the 2-hour mark. Good thing it was a pretty good breakfast. Lunch. Thing.

After breakfast/brunch/lunch/FOOD, we headed back to the train station and we parted ways. I headed back to Lumphini to get my key and settle in.

Hostel friends!
I went up to the rooftop soon after to chill out and there were a few people there. Not surprisingly, I was the token Asian - well specifically Southeast Asian since the only other Asians there were Koreans - amongst a group of white people. I felt a little awkward to speak to them at first, since everyone seems to be talking about their recent travels to Cambodia/Myanmar/Vietnam/Laos/Nepal/wherever and here I am a first time traveller. I didn't have a story.

But I guess being Malaysian was actually kinda interesting to them because somehow they have this notion that, Malaysia being a Muslim country, it was pretty strict.

We all became friends, and the conversation carried on way into the night.

[VIDEO] Lina Meets Bangkok, Thailand

Click HERE for the YouTube version.

So I heard there's a cock fight...(Day 4)

Gemma, myself, JC
I was told if I want to get around the Chatuchak/Jatujak Weekend Market without having to give someone a bloody nose or a black eye, I would have to go really early in the morning. And so I woke up pretty damn early for someone who's been out pretty late the night before, got ready and saw myself out the door by 9:30am to meet up with Gemma at Silom.

Gemma brought a new friend, JC, from the hostel to follow us to Jatujak. I brought with me 1000B and little did I realize it wasn't nearly enough.

Jatujak Weekend Market
We took the MRT to Kamphaeng Phet where it stops directly at the weekend market. Walked around for a bit to get the feel of the place before going in to do some shopping. After picking up stuff friends had ordered and given me money for, I realized I only had enough for a pair of sandals (which Gemma and I got for half the price), food and transportation back.

Jatujak was great though. It was so big, you need a freaking map. For a market. A MAP. And on the map I actually saw the words "Cock Fight". Of course, we didn't catch one. But. Damn.

There were ATMs there, but not only I activated the card to withdraw from CIMB only, there was NO CIMB ATM at Jatujak. There were Siam Bank, Kasikorn but not one CIMB. So I had to cut the trip to Jatujak short.
Mine and Gemma's purchases.
No points for guessing whose
feet is whose :p

The three of us headed to MBK to find a charger for Gemma's camera because she left hers back home, and JC wanted to find some clippers.

To be honest, aside from Jatujak, Day 4 was a pretty slow day. The fatigue was beginning to set in probably. I returned to home base.

I texted Vina, asking her what she was up to and if she was up to hang out. She was having dinner with her boyfriend's family and invited me to come by and join them.

Watching the Thai family dynamics is different from the Malay family dynamics but at the same time, it felt really familiar. But James' family was very welcoming, so it was a real nice experience on this trip.

After dinner, Vina, James and I just chilled out, joked around and had good conversations until I had to catch the train back to Sala Daeng to head back to home base.

It was my last night at Jeff's place.

Feb 9, 2013

Skybars are freakishly expensive (Day 3)

Monks in Silom
In Kuala Lumpur, it's a public holiday. In Bangkok, it's payday. And it's Friday and the Thais will definitely be out and about at some point. I woke up pretty early for someone on vacation. I texted Gemma to plan our day ahead. We agreed that we would head up to Chinatown to check it out.

If you've been to a lot of Chinatowns across the globe, this one would probably not interest you that much. But Petaling Street being the ONLY Chinatown I've ever seen, I was looking forward to spending a few hours in Chinatown. Also, I would have to brace myself for the sea of people I'm about to endure.

A little bit of Tandemic in BKK.
We met up at Silom and made our way to Hua Lamphong. We walked for 15 minutes before we were in the middle of Chinatown. Or rather Yaowarat. We went food hunting because I was getting hungry as fuck - which is not really a new thing, I'm always hungry - so we settled on some noodles in a restaurant because apparently, Chinatown comes to life in the afternoon. Trip Advisor said so. The place is sprawling to say the least. It was really a huge maze of a market and Gemma was pretty excited to see little escalators in individual shops in the alleys.

Chinatown market
We walked around the alleys simply because it became impossible just to backtrack or find our way around. We didn't actually buy anything - I was on a budget and Gemma was on a 4-month SEA tour so she didn't wanna have to haul shit around - so we walked around for a couple of hours more until I got hungry.


And I wanted to hunt for dim sum.

Which didn't happen because Gemma's sandals snapped. So we backtracked to the market and pretty much snagged the first pair of flip flops we saw. I decided to forego the dim sum hunt and text Nadine to ask her where she was.

MBK crossway
We made our way to MBK, a mall next to the National Stadium. Nadine was looking for a dress to wear to a wedding. But I was hungry -- I didn't get my dim sum, also known as not having lunch. MBK had fast food joints and I didn't really feel like hitting a maccas. So we went out and walked around for some street food. But the weather was crazy hot (yeah, weird for a girl who grew up in the same climate to complain of the heat -- YOU NEVER GET USED TO IT) so we decided it was spoiled travellers' day and retreated into an air conditioned cafe.

Food was good though, even if it was on a slightly pricey side.

I was developing quite a headache so I decided to retreat back to home base. Went home, popped a Panadol, showered and just rested.

That is, of course, until Jeff called and asked "hey you ready to go out?"

I checked myself. Dress - check. Headache - gone. Sprayed on some perfume and I was ready for the (yet another) night out. We headed to Lebua State Tower to meet up his friends at the skybar on the 64th floor. My irrational fear of heights began to kick in but I kept it contained. I looked at the menu and almost felt like base jumping off the top of the tower.

There was no way I was gonna spend 195B on a bottle of water. And that was the cheapest drink among the 300B beers and 500B cocktails. So I just decided to soak in the view. It was pretty though.

After the bar, we walked down the street, supposedly heading to another bar but at some point changed our minds and parted ways with Jeff's friends who wanted to head to Khao San. Not keen to make that trip, Jeff and I hunt for some food. He took me to a nice small restaurant, before heading to Ratchathewi to meet up with his friends.

What went on after that was just hours of fun and really awesome conversation. It was a good first Friday night out of town.

Feb 7, 2013

That day I almost got scammed for the first time as a tourist (Day 2)

DAY TWO - 31st January 2013
Sala Daeng BTS
I can't remember exactly what time I rolled out of bed -- or rather, the mattress on Jeff's floor -- but it was pretty early. I was supposed to send a couple of documents Kris -- we became friends when he was in KL and he asked if he could send a replacement debit card to me since I'm the one with the permanent address -- at Khao San Road. I figured it would be wise to drop that off first and get it out of the way.

The most interesting thing about this whole journey is not once I picked up a tourist map. I just kinda winged it with the Lonely Planet guidebook I borrowed from Jeff, Google Maps and good ol' Uncle Google himself.

I wasn't too confident on taking the motorcycle taxi all on my own so I played it safe and took a cab. It was pretty cheap anyway -- compared to Kuala Lumpur of course, where the taxi drivers not only try to scam tourists, they are dumb enough to do it to a local -- and took it to Sala Daeng BTS.

On the boat
Bangkok was foreign, but oddly enough kind of familiar. I think it's just the fact that I am a Southeast Asian myself, I'm just trading one SEA city for another for a while.

Clutching onto my Lonely Planet guide, for some reason wanting to be identified as a tourist (because they tried speaking to me in Thai, you see), I made my way to Saphan Taksin where I'm supposed to take the boat if I want to get myself to Khao San. I saw a girl alone at the train station with a map and looking pretty lost herself so I went up to her, still clutching my book like a complete jackass, and asked if she was going to the pier. She said yes, and introduced herself as Gemma from Holland.

And that, my friends, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

We walked up to the pier and for some reason, Jeff's advice slipped out of my head and we ended up taking the tourist long boat that would set us back a couple of hundred bahts if headed straight for Khao San. Another guy was heading to Wat Pho and the Grand Palace and it was slightly cheaper, so Gemma and I figured we'll just take that and sightsee with this guy Sam from NYC, who happened to not be having the luckiest of days.

On top of losing his pretty damn expensive sunglasses to the murky Bangkok river, he got splashed with said murky water pretty bad.

Truth to be told, I was never really a temple visiting sort of person. I admit Wat Pho was pretty wicked (and big) but once you've seen one, you pretty much seen it all. But you know if you're into temples then it's a different story. We saw the big reclining Buddha just chilling while pasty white foreigners red roasted in the sun and the Southeast Asian takes pictures of him and was out there in a matter of minutes.

Well, after pretty much elbowing through other pasty white foreigners of course.

I took shade under the makeshift roofed area that is the smoking section, where I agreed to meet up CSers Nadine and Pavel after much difficulty in syncing our schedules together. We walked around Wat Pho for about another hour before we figured we've had our fill of temple for the day. We went out and made our merry way to the Grand Palace down the road.

I've heard stories about scammers saying shit like the tourist attraction is closed and some poor old sod falling for it and got taken for a ride. With that in mind, someone actually did try to scam us, although it wasn't even a good attempt. My grandmother can probably do better. We walked into the compound. And of course, much like the temples, the palace required strict clothing regulation. Fortunately for me, I went out wearing rolled up jeans and a loose Uniqlo top which was perfectly temple-and-palace-friendly. Gemma, Nadine and Pavel however, had to cover up.
Pavel and Nadine covered up
After around 20 minutes of battling with the dress code, we made our way to the ticket booth. Only to find out the ticket to see the King's crib was 500B. Which is more than I would be willing to pay for to see someone's house. I think I could go through life without seeing the Grand Palace. I don't think I'll lose my first born. So we decided to walk through the large park and headed to Khao San.

I refuse to sound even a LITTLE bit racist but goddamn I have never seen so many white people in one area in Southeast Asia in my 26 years of living. Khao San reminded me a lot of Petaling Street, which I don't particularly fancy. I mean, I would go there from time to time but no way am I staying there even for a couple of days. Which I'm glad I didn't book a hostel there because to actually get to fucking Khao San took forever.

Le awesome foot massage
We met up with Kris while having lunch. We chatted for a little bit before we parted ways. The girls and I then decided to relax and get ourselves massages. They got Thai massages, I got a foot massage because Thai massages are way too extreme for me and I cannot have anyone touch my back. The hour long foot massage was just what I need after walking around so much.

Nadine didn't want to be taken
a photo of :p
Being the little fatty that I am, we got something to eat before heading back to our home bases. The girls and I thought of sharing a cab to get to Hua Lamphong. But I realized walking out with two girls from Khao San really means taxi drivers would actually try to cheat you into a high fare and refuse to turn on the meter. Nadine then had the idea of taking a ride on a tuk tuk to the station. Gemma and I figured why not, we haven't taken a ride on a tuk tuk.

Tuk tuk driver wanted 200B. We were like, are you fucking crazy? We started telling him 100B. He then demanded for 150B. I raised my voice and insisted on 100B. Even had a stare-down with the guy until he sighed heavily and said okay. Of course, the ride wasn't the smoothest of rides. Hell, it made the motorbike taxis seem like fucking limousines.

Tuk tuk adventure!
We parted with Nadine at Hua Lamphong MRT and headed back to Silom. Gemma and I parted ways there.

When I got back to Jeff's, he was going out for dinner with a friend. I stayed in and read a little. At first I was supposed to meet up with Jeff for drinks with his friends. The plan didn't really happen so we ended up just chilling on his rooftop and talked. I almost forgot how good it is to sit down and have a conversation with Jeff. Stories were exchanged until we got tired and decided to call it a night.

You know that week where I disappeared to Bangkok...(Day 1)

A 36L and a cheap backpack -
my crap of the week
DAY 1 - 30th January 2013
So when I got that ticket to Bangkok I wasn't really thinking all that straight. Yeah, RM280+ for a return ticket why the fuck not right? But what I didn't think about was the money I was gonna spend there - what with the new job and a prorated paycheck.

But whatever. I'll figure it out. So I packed my bags and with the charity from family, I set off for the unfamiliar.

I gotta admit though - the excitement as the days drew closer killed me. My flight was at 1PM but I grabbed the 9AM bus to LCCT. Which was actually a good plan considering how late the bus arrived at the stop.

You have no idea how retarded
I looked smiling when I crossed
this sign.
Being a first time Air Asia flyer (and a first time flyer in 10 years), I don't quite remember the whole checking in procedure that I actually texted around and asked. Yes. I did that. So hah. I mosey on in to the departure hall and waited to board my plane pretty goddamn early. And true to the Air Asia reputation, the plane was about 40 minutes late to begin boarding. At this point I was nervous as hell.

But two hours and a cramped, bumpy plane right later, I was in the land of smiles and traded in my city for a foreign one for a week.

The papaya salad from hell and some
delicious roadside padthai.
Getting connected to Jeff was easy. Got myself a sim and immediately contacted him to figure out how to get to his place. My sister warned me that taxi drivers in Thailand don't exactly read much romanized letters, so I was beginning to feel a little nervous. But the airport had a service where they write down the name of the address you need to go in Thai and passes it to the taxi driver. Not too long, I was making my way into Sathon.

Vina and I!
First thing's first of course, was food. I was starving since the only thing I had to eat that day was Tasnim's pasta. Jeff brought me out to the street vendors near his apartment and got me some papaya salad and padthai. Needless to say, I'm not use to the Thai brand of spicy. I wasn't sure if it was the heat or that papaya salad actually did pack a mean punch.

Tribal Tattoos  Exhibition
Jeff had already planned something for the night - a gallery closing party. I freshened up and put on one of the two dresses I brought with me on the trip, thinking it might come in handy - which it did. We got into a cab and headed for the train station to meet up with his friends before heading to a bar.
Catherine, Jeff and Vina

This was the first time I went on a motorcycle taxi and I swear to god it scared the bejeezus out of me. Especially when you have absolutely no idea where you're going.

Late night munchies
A couple of drinks to start the night off, I met Vina, who happens to be one of Angelo's good friends when they were in China. Talk about small world, it was crazy. The rest of the night consisted of heading to the rooftop gallery for the closing ceremony of a photography exhibition on tribal tattoos and a late night meal of spicy and sweet. After a pretty long day, I crawled under the covers and past out for the night.

Feb 6, 2013

Back from Bangkok, snitches.


It's 3:15AM. I just finished unpacking and chucking my laundry into the wash.
A long post on my Bangkok trip coming soon. Video too.
But for now I am fucking knackered. I just want to past out for 24 hours but I have work tomorrow.