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

Almost everything you didn’t want to know about bedbugs…

Why am I writing about bedbugs on a blog that talks predominantly about food and travel? Well, because bedbugs are unfortunately becoming a big part of travel, both when we travel domestically and abroad. Before I get going here, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m any kind of expert.  I just want to post some of the information that I’ve found from years of working in hostels and travelling internationally.  The more we, as travellers are aware of the currently HUGE problem of bedbugs, the better we can combat them and travel more comfortably and peacefully!

As you’ve noticed if you read my blog, we’ve encountered bedbugs at least four or five times on this trip already and we’ve only been gone about four months! This is a huge increase from our last trip where we were away for six months.  The bedbug problem is increasing and they definitely seem to be more prevalent lately.  That being said, we also find them because we know how to look for them, what they look like and where they tend to hide.  When we get into a new room, it’s the first thing we usually do and that is why we sometimes find them before sleeping in the room and getting bit.  In any case, I hope by giving you a bit of info about them, you are not totally grossed out and instead feel a bit more empowered during your next trip abroad or at home! So here goes:

-Bedbugs are non-discriminatory.  Like cockroaches, they don’t have anything to do with what star of hotel you are staying in or how clean or dirty it is.  They can be anywhere, regardless.  It doesn’t mean they don’t clean the room properly if you have them in your bed.  Bedbugs are extremely hardy and can go for a long time without eating.  They can live in the carpet, the floor, the mattress and the bed frame.  They can travel a long distance for a meal

-Bedbugs do not (as far as studies currently show) carry disease or transmit anything from one person to another.  They are essentially harmless except for their extremely itchy, annoying bites

-Bedbugs look like this:

I spared you the actual photos I found on google because they were just too disgusting.  Note the colour and the lines on their body.  If they are full of your blood they can look fatter.  I know this is disgusting, just hang in there!

Like I said above, they can hide in all sorts of places, but if you are trying to find them in your room you can look for them under the mattress.  Peel back the seam of the mattress and look for tell-tale signs.  If you don’t see them, you may find lots of black specks.  These are their body casings (they molt), and poo! AAAAAACK..so gross!! Shudder…okay.  Look in the bed frame.  If your bed frame is made of wood, look in the knot holes and the nail holes.  They like these kind of places.

-Bedbugs come out at night, specifically when you are in the bed as they are attracted to the warmth.  I read somewhere that they are most common between the hours of 3am and 5am and I tend to agree with this.

-Bedbug bites look kind of like mosquito bites so sometimes you might not realize what is getting you when you are travelling.  I’ve seen people just covered in tell-tale bites complaining of all the mosquito bites they’ve been getting while they are relaxing poolside chatting with their friends.  If you are getting bit in rows, especially in groups of three bites or more, these are most likely bedbug bites.  Check out this:

Messed up Bedbug Bites

These are three nasty, upset bedbug bites on M’s finger after the aforementioned “incident” in Ho Chi Minh.  I think he is a bit allergic to them, so you can see they are a bit infected.  We eventually had to lance them.  Yummy!! But you see how they are red, inflamed and in a set of three? Bedbugs!  How many readers have I lost yet?

-What to do if you find bedbugs: This is only my advice and what works best for us, and again, I am not a professional in any way but what works for us is to leave.  This is bad I know, because in some ways it heightens the risk of transferring them to the next place you are staying, and spreading them.  So this is why I suggest you take everything you are wearing, everything that has been out in the room and has been in contact with the room.  Put it in a plastic bag and tie it up and get your laundry washed.  Keep your bag as far away from the bed area as you can.  Tell the place you are staying and if they don’t speak English (as is usually the case with us), bring them the bedbugs if you can and show them.  Explain to them that they are biting you and they need to spray the room.  As for your bites, we find that a hydrocortisone cream works the best.  The itchiness goes away after a few days.  In fact, the worst thing about bedbugs is the psychological problems they bring.  After you know you’ve had bugs crawling on you in the night, sucking your blood, its hard not to get crawly and yucky feeling when you crawl into bed.  You may feel like you have them on you when you don’t and you don’t want to move to a new place after you get a “good” room for fear of getting them.  It kind of messes you up a bit.  But unfortunately, there is not much you can do about them. 

Anyway, I hope the above stuff helps some travellers and you are not too grossed out by me! I promise I won’t post too many more disgusting blog posts and I’ll get back to flowers and food and nice things in my next post! Thanks for hanging in there!

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!

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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.

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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!

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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 😦

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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!

Singapore and onto Bali…

Just at an internet cafe here in Singapore for a bit before heading to the airport, so no time for adding photos today, sorry! I do have some from New Years in KL at from here in SG but they will have to wait.  Ahhh Singapore, what to say.  I think I’ll gain some better perspective after leaving.  In a few words: I like it.  But we did have a bit of a rough start.  Our bus ride here was fine and going through customs and immigration over the land border was surprisingly smooth.  I think it helped leaving after the Xmas holidays were finished, so most kids were back in school.  There were no lineups anywhere.  The traffic was good so the trip was a lot shorter than we were originally expecting.  We arrived at a bus stop in SG and since I had done a bit of research, I had a vague idea of where we needed to go to get to the hostel we were looking at.  We hopped on a bus and after about a ten minute ride and a ten minute walk, we arrived in Geylang, also known as SG’s red light district. 

We got to the hostel I had been emailing, and not only did they claim the person I had been emailing didn’t exist, but the rates I thought we were going to pay, didn’t exist either.  Due to their general surly service and the fact that their private room was actually a triple tiered dorm with no window and the size of a small train compartment, we decided to look elsewhere.  Around the corner in the same area, we found another guesthouse, this after wandering around with our backpacks looking for both a hotel and a bank machine.  We talked to the guy at the front desk of this place and he was actually trying to discourage us from staying in the private room, which was in their older building, and instead wanted us to stay in their dorm in the new building.  Since it would be more expensive for us both to stay in a dorm than in one private room, we persisted.  Uhh, yeah.  We checked in and looked at our dismal state of affairs.  The room had a bunk bed.  That in itself, not a problem for us.  It had aircon which worked, which is a luxury for us.  We are not the luxury flashpacker type.  However, once we saw the blood (yes, blood!) and mold on the walls and the pools of piss in the bathroom (which he warned us didn’t work!) we decided it probably wasn’t for us.  Luckily we hadn’t paid as we hadn’t found the ATM yet,  we walked around once again looking for somewhere else.  Finally we stumbled upon another hotel we were recommended by a couple friends we made recently.  Compared to the last place, it looked much better but it meant we’d be going from $44 SGD to $65 SGD with the rate going up on the weekend.  Fine, no problem.  We went back and got our bags from the blood wall place, told him sorry we couldnt stay after all and walked back to the other hotel and checked in.  While a small step up, we soon realized we weren’t in a much better place.  Mold covered every surface in the room.  The walls, the vinyl wallpaper the wood, everywhere.  The smell was overwhelming (and I’m being serious here, I’ve stayed in plently a musty place, happily! But this was a bit beyond our limits).  The bed itself was made of vinyl.  Vinyl.  And the bedsheet came to about the 3/4 point of the bed so when you got in, you were touching the bare vinyl bed.  The sink emptied out onto the floor.  Whole families of 6 were crammed into rooms next to us, screaming and running down the halls all night.  It was awful.  I stayed up as late as I could just so I would be so tired, I could fall asleep right away and hoped that morning would come soon. 

Whine, whine, we survived and checked out early the next morning.  Headed down to look for yet another hostel in the guidebook, wandering arounda  new area to not be able to find it anywhere.  Finally I found a payphone and tried to call them.  No answer.  We were getting really frustrated by this point.  Hot, tired and stinky, we just wanted a decent place to put down our bags for a couple days.  We knew we needed to find a place fast.  We were only going to be here for a couple days so every hour we spent wandering around with our bags was time lost from sightseeing and actually enjoying things.  I left M with my bags and wandered around the neighbourhood a bit.  Finally, after looking at another scuzzy moldy flop house (and quite sure a den of prostitution), I found a very nice hotel.  At $150 SGD though, a huge leap in our budget.  However, after going back and talking about it with M, we just realized it wasn’t worth the struggle anymore.  We were tired, we were losing out on “fun” times and in the end, what were we going to remember from the trip? The money spent on a hotel room or the time we spent having fun looking at stuff? We dragged our bags to this last place and were so relieved to finally check in to a place that is MUCH nicer than we are used to.  Highlights included: bathtub (actually clean enough to have a bath in!), buffet breakfast included, clean bedding, tv, aircon, kettle with tea and coffee in the room, free luggage storage, helpful friendly front desk staff, no mold! etc etc.  We were very happy and I finally had the best nights sleep I’ve had in ages. Far above and beyond what we normally get travelling but a worthy treat in these circumstances.

The rest of the time in SG has been good.  Apart from the higher cost of food than we are used to, we found it to be a very good city  to hang out in.  Green and beautiful with amazing modern architecture, we vowed to come back and stay at Raffles one day.  I will say more about this kind of stuff when I get a chance to post pictures I think.  We walked around Orchard Road a lot (tree lined shopping district), checked out Raffles and the Marina Sands Resort (gorgeous), Fort Canning, our area of Bencoolen and some temples.  The best part about SG food has been the huge amounts of Vegetarian food everywhere.  We were even given a veg guidebook by the tourism office.  That and the fresh fruit and vegetable juices have been great.  The fruit and veg juice is very cheap and since you can drink the tap water here you don’t have to worry about them adding water, like you do in other places. 

Anyway, today we are onto Bali as I mentioned, and another hotel room.  This time we decided to take a chance and actually make a reservation at a place with a so-so rating, but the most reasonable priced place we can book online.  Our plan is to stay there for one night (in Kuta) and look around for a cheaper/better place the next day.  We arrive in Kuta at 9:15 tonight so it was a good idea for us just to have a place to head to as soon as we get out of the airport.  For everyone’s reference though, the hostels and hotels in my above-mentioned experience are:

Ideal Backpackers-surly staff, coffin like rooms, overpriced but looked clean

River City/Kallang Backpackers-blood on walls, piss on floors and probably harbouring large families of illegals!

Hotel 81 Orchid-mold everywhere, weird sheets, horrid smell

Sunview Hotel-in Bencoolen, fantastic but you pay a lot more!

As far as staying in Geylang itself, I wouldn’t neccesarily not recommend it for the area.  It is supposed to be the red light district but I don’t think I actually saw any “ladies of the night” while I was there.  I did however see:

-A dead bloated cat with its legs up in the air and a towel over its head

-A fight between a crazed man and woman from our hotel window where they basically beat the shit out of each other

-A man laying on the sidewalk with his face all bloodied up, making a phone call on his mobile

-And possibly worst of all: tonnes of live frog porridge restaurants!! Aquariums of live frogs waiting for death everywhere!! 😦

Crossing my fingers for Bali.  Don’t think I’m going to be much of a fan of Kuta itself but I’m looking forward to Ubud and beyond.  M has scared me a little bit as I don’t think Indonesia is his favourite place to be.  Loves the country, but hates the hassle and pushiness of the touts and transport issues (flat tires, delays etc).  Sounds kind of like India! I can do this!

xo

PS-Sorry, I can’t spell check on this ancient computer for some reason.  Forgive my mistakes! 😛

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!!