Back in Kuala Lumpur? Seriously?

                                                                Source: trekearth.com via anna on Pinterest


Hey guys! Been a while since I’ve had a chance to post and I apologize for that.  It’s been a wild and stressful past week but it’s mellowing out now I think/hope.  I’m not sure where we left off so I’ll just give you all a little update on what we’ve been up to the past while:

  • Went back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai and picked up M’s new passport, no problemos.
  • The next day we headed out to Thai immigration to attempt to extend our Thai visa.  By this point it was probably March 27th or so and our visa expired on the 1st of April.  
  • Getting to immigration was an all day affair, pretty much.  We had been there before, but the directions we looked up didn’t look to familiar.  It was, however, around the same area as the Canadian embassy so we’d a vague idea, but it turned out it was about a thirty minute walk from the nearest Skytrain station in about 37c heat.
  • When we finally found immigration, after having to ask a few people for directions, we found out that they moved their offices, despite the information on their website.  The office we had previously visited on a past trip now only services Burmese, Cambodian and Laotian applicants.  We felt defeated and it was too late to go find the new office. The map we were given was all in Thai.
  • The next day, probably the 28th by now we set off to look for the new Immigration office.  For whatever reason, they decided to very inconveniently locate the building in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE in an industrial complex out by Don Mueng airport.  Inaccessible by public transit, we had the option to take the skytrain to the end of the line and then taxi it, or take a local mini van service that Thai’s use.  We opted for the mini van service.
  • Rode the mini van till the end of the line, having no idea where to get off, no one to ask and no communication with the driver.  Realized we were lost when everyone else got out and we were at the end of the road.  Tried to get our point across the driver.  He took us to his depot and walked us to the road where we got another mini van going the other direction (back the way we came).  We finally got to the industrial complex and from there it was about another 1.1km walk (according to a sign we passed).  We were seriously in the middle of nowhere.
  • Found the building, and by the time we got there, the office was closed for lunch.  Yahoo.
  • We used the lunch break to fill out forms, glue photos and get everything ready.
  • Office finally opened and we went through a series of desks while they checked our documents until we finally got a queue number to meet with an immigration officer.
  • Number got called.  We were quickly shut down and told that we had no visa to extend, that what we have is an entry stamp and not a visa and that we could either pay to have a 7 day extension, or leave the country and re-enter to get another 30 days.
  • I’ll point out now, again, that it was either the 28th or 29th and we had about 2 days to figure out what the heck we were going to do next.  Rookie mistake thinking we had a visa.  So stupid, considering we’ve actually had a formal Thai visa before, but regardless of what we thought we had, we still thought that you could get an extension.  Anyhoo.  No.  Defeated we took a cab back to the Skytrain station and headed back.
  • During all of this drama, we also formally decided to go back to Saskatchewan for another summer of working with M’s parents.  This meant that we had to cancel our return ticket which we did before we actually found out we couldn’t stay in Thailand.  While we could postpone our BKK-SEOUL portion of our ticket till May 5th no problem, there were currently no available seats in May to get us from SEOUL-YVR.  We had a few options.  Well, I should say, we currently have few options.  We are on two different waiting lists for different dates, or we can reroute our ticket to put us in LAX for a layover before going to YVR.  (Nightmare of an option-have you been to LAX? They’re scary…I can’t imagine what they’d do to us after being away in SEA for 6 months).  Anyway.  Changing our ticket date costs nothing as we had an open ticket.  But upgrading, rerouting and whatnot so that we can have a layover in SEOUL again costs quite a bit.  Not as much as buying a whole separate ticket from SEOUL to YVR which is also another option we are looking at.  So anyway, point being, we planned all of this out as best we could before we found out that we would have to leave Thailand in two days and fly elsewhere.  Cha-ching!  And we still don’t have a ticket home.
  • Surprisingly, despite the level of stress we were going through at this point, we kept fairly level-headed.  We just said aloud that this is the way it was, and there was nothing we could do about it, so we best just find a ticket somewhere.  And that’s where KL came in.
  • We thought about flying to Laos since it was one place we had planned on going on this trip and changed our mind. But we decided against it for reasons that are a whole other long-winded post.
  • KL was one of the cheapest return flights (for some reason flying return with Egypt Air was cheaper than flying with Air Asia-totally bizarre).  We booked the flight and now here we are back in familiar KL in our familiar guesthouse.  
I never thought we’d go back to KL on this trip.  We spent WAAAAAY too much time and money here earlier on in our trip, including Xmas and New Years.  But we’ve decided to quit our whingeing.  There are far worse things than having to spend a few days in KL.  It’s a nice break of modernity after travelling in rougher places.  Our guesthouse is nice and clean and has air conditioning and its cooler here than Bangkok right now and it’s been raining every day since we’ve been here.  I can’t believe I’ve missed the humidity and rain! Thailand feels quite dry and hot now and it’s at least 4 or 5c cooler here now.  Malaysian food is great.  I’ve had laksa twice so far, Indian food for dinner yesterday and super cheap.  Our room is definitely more expensive than Thailand or Vietnam but the food is cheap so maybe it balances out somewhere…at any rate, here is where we are now.  
As for going back “home” I have mixed feelings.  I am not a die-hard living in Canada fan as you probably all know by now if you read my blog at all.  I am very fortunate to have been born in the first world and I am very lucky to come from Canada in many ways.  But I do have my problems with it.  Right now our relationship is classified “complicated”.  Me and Canada. 
A part of us really wanted to go to Japan.  I feel sad that I’m missing my favourite time of year in Japan right now and that the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom.  (I’ve also been told that cherry blossoms are blooming in Vancouver right now and they are soo beautiful there as well, but there is something to be sad for public drinking parties under the arches of the blossoms while you sit in your T-shirt, while Vancouver is raining all the time and VERY strict against public…well public anything, pretty much).  But we have come to the conclusion that in order to accomplish our 1 year goals we have going on, going back to Canada is pretty much the best idea for us right now.  M has writing deadlines he wants to have time for and I have an online business to launch.  And Japan will still be there next year. 
My long-term goal has always been to have a cafe and a shop/art space.  Since we have no plans to “settle down” anywhere long enough to set up something like that I have been working on ideas that allow me to travel and do what I love, which is to make “things”.  I plan to set up a proper website in the coming year with e-shop (and continue my blog of course!), branching into local retail when and where I can.  This gives me the space to build up my long-term goal slowly, while also being able to purchase and source things on my travels.  Huuuuge learning curve for me.  I know nothing about web design.  At all.  I have to hire someone for this.  I have a lot of ideas for what I want it to look like, but conveying those to someone who can bring my ideas to fruition while not financially ruining me is going to be tricky! But definitely doable.  It’s exciting! So I’ll probably continue with my Etsy shop and add things as I go along, while working on this side project of the website, while also working with M’s parents, helping them out with their Kettle Korn business.  Then we have some loose plans to travel again in the fall (to Europe), return for Xmas and then maybe go to Japan or?? We’ve decided it’s too hard to plan too far ahead.  So right now we set smaller, manageable goals.  
Sorry for the long-winded, no photo post! Not sure how many of you kept up till the end there, but I appreciate all of my readers who have been following my journey.  I have gained so many Twitter followers lately too and I love all of you! (except the spammers!! Grr!!)
 
Oh! One last thing regarding the Sharon Salzberg/Tranquility du Jour book club and my 28 day meditation challenge.  I suppose being that it’s April, I’m “done”.  But the journey for this is just beginning.  I admittedly fell off the meditation wagon a little bit during that last week.  The time that I needed to calm down the most (see above chaos) and I barely had the time to sit still at all! But I’m back on the horse this week, sitting on my pillow, on the floor of my guesthouse room.  It feels good.  My brain is no more calm really.  But I know it’s doing me good, I can feel it during the day.  Unfortunately it didn’t really seem like the book club group took off for this book for some reason and I haven’t been able to post anything else on the comments for the club either, and no one else has either.  So I never knew if that was just because of the shitty Thai internet cafes or if there was some kind of problem with the site.  Really? No readers or commenters? It’s kind of weird! As well, there is no book club selection up for April, so I don’t know if the book club kinda petered out or what.  I hope not! 
Anyway, no idea what we are going to do in KL for the next few days but I plan on catching up on some writing and relaxing a bit after the last week.  Then, if they let us back into Thailand, we’re hoping to head to a beach ASAP.  If we’re going back home, we really ought to get as much beach time in as possible.  We actually spent most of this trip in big cities and hardly any of it on a beach so we’re really looking forward to it.  As well, Songkran is coming, which is Thailand’s New Year’s festival and it’s sure to be mental.  It involves water fights, everywhere, which means I probably won’t get too many photos of it as the camera will be secure in a plastic bag wherever we end up! 
Thanks for reading and thanks again for following me here and on Twitter! It really means a lot to me that I have this community of regular readers all over the world that I haven’t even met! I hope we get to meet someday! 
xoxoxox
Advertisements

What I’ve been eating…

Okay, sorta fib!  This is just food in general.  Some have been meals and some have not.  In case you haven’t noticed, I can’t stop taking photos of cakes.  I don’t even like cake very much, but some of these cakes I am seeing are so beautiful, and so colourful, I can’t resist!

M's meal

One great thing about Singapore: vegetarian and vegan restaurants abound.  All meat shown in these photos is faux!

Vegan BibimbapVegan Bibimbap!

IMG_1840

Macarons-Singapore

Love, love macarons! This store had violet and rose meringues as well!

Macarons-Singapore

Another veg meal in SG

Something M had with faux duck.

IMG_1796

Veg Spring Rolls

Spring rolls!

ABC Juice (Apple, Beet, Carrot)-Singapore

ABC Juice (Apple, Beet, Carrot!)

Laksa

Laksa in Malaysia-our daily lunch for a while…loooove Laksa!

Barbie CakeBarbie Cake!

More Cakes!!

Cakes!

Cakes!!

More Cakes!!

Kanchanaburi…

Just a quick little post to let you all know I am still alive.  I will probably post more within the next few days.  Been re-relaxing myself after that last debacle and Kanchanaburi is a good place to do it! This is our second time here and we are staying at the same place as last time.  Since we did most of the “touristy” stuff last time we have just been hanging out poolside and M has been finally catching up on his writing assignments.  Anyway, for now, here are some very belated photos!

IMG_1657

New Years Eve in Kuala Lumpur!  It is so hard for my beginner self to take photos of fireworks.  This is one of the better ones and even this one didn’t turn out very well!

 IMG_1862Beautiful Singapore! These were hard to get to turn out too 😦

 IMG_1874

Raffles

The dreamy Raffles hotel of W. Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling fame, to name a few.  I will stay here one day and redo my Singapore hotel experience!

For more photos, check out my flickr here!

Last few days in KL…

We are finally making some kind of plan to get out of here.  New Years last night was subdued but enjoyable.  We bought a couple of bottles of wine and walked to KLCC to see the fireworks.  There must have been 100,000 people there.  There was a sea of pushing people and with the weather over 30c even at night, I can’t even fathom how hot it was as we tried to make our way out of there when the fireworks were finished.  All in all, a lot of work for 9 minutes of fireworks.  Photos of that to follow!

 Rambutans-KL

Looking forward to going to Singapore for a few days and then hopefully flying to Bali. We meet this next bit of our trip with trepidation. Singapore is expensive and then we have to shell out some mega bucks for the flight to and from Bali. It sucks to see our travel funds dwindling but it’s what we saved for and our plan was always to go to these places. You can’t do this stuff without spending money unfortunately! That being said, M just sold a script so we have some money coming in as well. Very proud of him and his partners and their move towards a successful film career. It’s a very long and difficult road but M is probably the most driven determined person I’ve met when it comes to getting what he wants.

Durian Truck!

Anyway, after making our way out of the Petronas Towers area we went back to Bukit Bintang to check out what was going on there. Tonnes of people on the street just wandering around.  No alcohol, no big destination.  It started thinning out after a while and it was pretty tame! We did see one guy getting arrested though. Hundreds of police were all around the Bukit Bintang area waiting for? I have no idea! It’s no wonder I had a hard time finding online what was going on in KL for NYE. The main event *IS* the street party. People just standing around, shooting cans of silly string and fake snow at everyone. It was quite funny when someone tried to sell us a can of the spray snow. “Ummm, no, we get that for free where we come from and it’s why we left!”

They look cool!
Spent most of the day before yesterday wandering around the Lake Gardens area. It’s a beautiful, quiet, lush respite in the city and really the only outdoor space I’ve found here where people actually have the space to jog or um..segway.

Lake Gardens-KL

I’m looking forward to what is sure to be an eventful 2012 while trying not to look too far ahead.  It gets a bit overwhelming and the worst thing I can do right now is worry too much about the future, and miss what is happening right in front of my face, today. 

 KL

Happy New Year everyone!!

Kuala Lumpur

Finally catching up on what’s going on here..we are in KL and loving it of course although the switch from beach to city has been exhausting…here’s what’s been going on the past few days…

(journal excerpt-December 3, 2011)-An eventful last few days-on the 30th of November we began the long arduous journey from Ko Lanta-KL by way of Satun.  We manged to get a ticket from Ko Lanta for 150B less than most places were selling which was great.  We said goodbye to our friends and Pen sent us on our way with some fried egg sandwiches.  Two ferries and two mini vans later we stopped in Pak Bara, an interchange area for people going onto the Ko Tarutao Marine Park.  The place was the usual tourist clusterfuck with a tonne of ticket counters, people waiting, some eating and luggage and backpacks heaped all around.  The driver told us we had to change vans here which immediately set off alarm bells as we bought tickets that were supposed to be the two vans (ie-we knew we had to change vans once in Trang but the second van was supposed to take us directly into Satun bus station).  But we had no choice but to get out and we hauled our bags to the same waiting area as everyone else.  Everyone in our area eventually left for their destinations except for 3 young Brits (the girl in daisy duke cut off jeans and boots-oh so appropriate not only for the climate, but for the muslim conservative south!) Finally the ticket selling woman told us it was time to go and I almost got excited until we got to her pickup truck.  The 3 Brits piled in the back cab leaving the ONE front seat for both M and myself, plus our two daypacks.  By this point we were pissed off because 700B/person should definitely buy you at least ONE seat each and then I knew something was going on. 

To back things up a bit-the woman in Ko Lanta who sold us the ticket was very sweet.  She had two twin two-year old boys and M was playing with them and she told us this story about the photos of monks on her wall and how it related to her business and telling the truth.  One of the photos of a monk was the head monk of the monastery where her brother lives who is also a monk.  He is dead now but he was known for his truthfulness and taught that one should always tell the truth and believe in what one says.  One day in the village of Ko Lanta a Chinese monk of some sort came and there was some sort of event which involved walking on fire (the details/language barrier make the story a bit fuzzy here-sorry!)  Miss Oy/ticket seller was telling some tourists they could do it even though she was not sure at the time herself it if was possible.  Some people ran across it very fast and were still burned.  But some people went slowly and were OK.  She was asked to do it herself and she was afraid but since she had been telling others that it was okay to do, she felt that she had to do it herself.  Everyone that was walking across was making prayers to this Chinese monk to protect them.  But as she went across she told us just how she had faith in what she said and remembered what this monk preached, about truthfulness and saying what you mean.  She walked across slowly and had no problem.  From this, she learned that in her business one must always mean what they say and tell the truth or say nothing at all. 

So this brings our story back to M and I sitting on the ebrake of a pickup truck barreling down the highway with hot pants singing the “ooo eee ooo ahhh ahhh ding dang walla walla bing bang” song.  No joke.  You can imagine my amusement.  After about 15 minutes of this we were told to get out and she put us into a local songthaew.  A songthaew is a pickup truck with two or sometimes three benches in the bed with a low cover/canopy.  It is a local mode of transport for Thais and dirt cheap.  This songthaew picked up people and dropped off along the way and went on like this for TWO HOURS, mostly on highway under construction.  We finally arrived in Satun but as we expected the songthaew driver wanted to take us to Tammalung Pier-you see, no one actually STAYS in Satun.  It’s another transit hub for people going onto to Langkawi and entry into Malaysia but we had decided to break up the trip by spending one night in Satun and avoid Langkawi altogether by taking a different boat to Kuala Perlis with the hopes of getting a bus from there to KL.  So regarding our transport, it became apparent to us that the woman in Pak Bara, took our booking, kept the difference, drove us to the town to catch the songthaew driver and paid him, keeping our mini van money.  This was confirmed when I wrote Miss Oy to ask about what happened.  I know it sounds like she could have been in on it too, and I guess its possible but that’s not how we saw it at the time.  She actually told us to come back and see her when we get back to Ko Lanta and she will pay us back somehow. 

Anyway, the songthaew left us on the side of the road, not the bus station so we started asking the few people around how to get to the street of our chosen guesthouse.  No one had heard of this street or the guesthouse and I found out a few days later it had been closed since 2009 at least.  Way to go website for keeping up to date info! Finally another guy turned up and asked if we needed help.  He seemed convinced where this place was, so he got another songthaew driver to take us there.  Blah blah blah-we drove around for a while, the guy obviously didn’t have a clue-at the time we didn’t know it didn’t exist anymore and eventually he just took us to this other guesthouse.  Which was great, because we ended up staying there and it was quite nice…to be continued soon….