Thoughts, Observations and Reflections – Part 2

We reached the end point to our time in Asia and Zac and I have added to our list of thoughts, discoveries, realizations, observations and reflections. As with the last list, the points aren’t in any particular order of importance or significance. This is just a small glimpse at some of the recurring thoughts we have had during this incredible time of our life in SE Asia.

1. The kindness of strangers is unlike any other form of kindness. Since we arrived in Asia we’ve recongized many ways we have experienced unexpected kindness. For example, when we were balancing a steaming hot plate of food in our hands in a crowded Hawker food area and an older local gentlemen and his wife waved us over to share their table. Or when we were eating supper with a group of eight German travellers and they all spoke English so we could be part of the conversation. Or when a security guard lead us out to a busy taxi loading zone and found us a taxi that would take us to our destination for a fair price. As a society, I think we generally expect our friends and family to be kind, but when people we have never seen before extend kindness, with absolutely no expectation of receiving anything in return, there is no amount of gratitude that can repay that.

2. It is extremely difficult to pick a favourite country. They’re all so different and all so great for completely different reasons. So just a heads up, we don’t have an answer for those of you wondering what our favourite country is.

3. There are not enough adjectives to describe all the shades of green that exist in this world. I don’t know how the paint chip people come up with names for colours of paint but kudos to them for having such creative minds and/or access to a huge thesaurus!

4. As much as we love sharing our day to day adventures with our family and friends, only fellow travellers can fully understand and relate to our travel stories and experiences. People back at home can’t quite relate to our thrills and annoyances like other travellers can. I think this is part of the reason we experience an almost immediate heartfelt bond or friendship with people we only spend a few hours with.

5. Bus drivers, mini van drivers and taxi drivers that we previously would have categorized as crazy now seem normal. Somehow we’ve grown accustomed to passing traffic on blind corners, narrowly avoiding head on collisions on single lane roads and continuous acceleration and break slamming. We don’t even bat an eye when 20 passengers are squished into a 15 passenger van or when we’re sold a standard fare ticket on a greyhound style bus only to find out that our seat is a spot standing in the isle. It’s just how transportation works in the SE Asia and since none of the locals find it odd then it only seems natural that we don’t either.

6. Sidewalks do not have the same meaning in SE Asia as they do in other parts of the world. I think a more appropriate word would be sideparking. Cars, motorbikes, stall vendors, delivery vans, dogs, and men gathered in groups all seem to take priority over pedestrians on what should be the sidewalk. We generally don’t even bother looking to see if there is a sidewalk anymore and walk on the street.

7. We ate unrefrigerated eggs every day for the last four and a half months and did not get sick from them even once. And unrefrigerated meat. And we didn’t get sick from that either. Makes me think of all the space we could have in our own fridge and freezer if we just left our meat and eggs out on the counter.

8. Writing in our travel journals is one of those things that Zac and I find annoying, but at the same time not writing them isn’t an option. We are so grateful when we receive travel notes from others, so based on that alone we know the value of keeping a record of places we’ve stayed and what we’ve done and things we’ve seen. Beyond that, the recorded memories are priceless for Zac and I. Even now when we look back at our entries from a month or two ago we have so much fun reliving the experiences and I can’t imagine how great it will be to read through our entries a year from now and even fifteen years from now with our children. So, for the sake of sharing travel notes with others, and for future moments when we want to relive our travel memories, we write in our damn journals.

We are headed to Europe with mixed emotions. We’re excited to see another continent and two more countries, but sad to leave behind an area of the world we have grown comfortable exploring. The past four and a half months lead us to visit 8 counties, make some lifelong friends, strengthen our marriage and gain a whole knew perspective on life. The next month and a half in Italy and Croatia will undoubtably have many more thoughts, observations and reflections, so we will be sure to share them with you!

 

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Our very first ‘selfie’ of the trip when we arrived in Bangkok on January 10th
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Cambodia
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Vietnam
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Laos
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Thailand
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Malaysia
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Singapore
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Indonesia
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Philippines

 

Thoughts, Observations and Reflections – Part 2

Monkeys in Malaysia

Our first stop in Malaysia was a place called Georgetown on Penang island. We enjoyed walking all over the city, taking in a museum, lots of street art, the botanical gardens, Penang’s national park, and hawker stalls (street food).

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Street art in Georgetown.
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Street art by Zac.

We didn’t mention it in the last blog, but we have had several monkey encounters. Most have been friendly, but two times we have had experiences that have made us less fond of the little primates.
The first was on a short eco walk in Thailand. We saw a monkey crawl onto a boat and started taking a few pictures when all of a sudden it jumped out of the boat and started coming at us. We calmly turned and started walking away, planning to just ignore it, but it came close, so I turned around and stomped at it. The monkey stopped in its tracks for a moment, but then came towards us again. I yelled and stomped towards it and it jumped into a tree and climbed away. Landra was running down the path screaming like a girl. Fairly minor encounter.

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The first (smaller) monkey we saw.

The second assault happened in Penang. We were on a 5.4km all uphill hike to a train station that had a good lookout of the city. At the 4.5km mark we came across two larger monkeys (we’d passed several earlier without a problem). I was ahead of Landra and as I got close the monkeys started growling and showing their teeth. I stomped towards them assuming like our last encounter they would run into the bush. Nope. I yelled and stomped again, but they kept coming. Now I ran and screamed like a girl downhill towards my wife. When I got to her she stomped and yelled at them and they both stopped. Now it was the two of us facing the two of them. We had less than 1km to get to our destination and they were in the middle of our trail hissing at us. We both yelled and stomped at them again to get by, but this made them more mad and now 4 other monkeys had come down from the trees and were walking on the road towards us. Throughout our hike we had come across maybe 10 vehicles in 2 hours, but luckily we could here a motorcycle approaching. As it drove by, we sprinted beside it yelling like crazy people and hoping the monkeys would be scared of the sound of us and the motor and leave. The two larger monkeys ran after us and the rest scampered away. Luckily we got on the uphill side of them and they stopped chasing us after about 20m. The view at the top of the hill was great though and the 188 flights climbed and 6 monkeys dodged were worth it.

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View from the top of Penang Hill station.

That night we googled what to do when faced with an unfriendly monkey.

1. Don’t look it in the eye – we gave them death glares hoping to intimidate them.

2. Don’t yell or show your teeth (they take that as a challenge) and other monkeys may approach to attack as a group- we yelled as loud as we could with no attempt to hide our teeth. Other monkeys approached.

3. Be still, even if they jump on you (most likely they’ll lose interest and leave you alone) – we ran.

We didn’t see any monkeys in the Cameron Highlands area! From the little town of Tanah Rata we walked to the Bharat tea plantation and the next day did a great tour that included a trip to the Boh tea plantation, a lookout point, trek through a mossy forest, strawberry farm and a few other tour fillers not worth mentioning. The Cameron Highlands area looks just like it does if you google it, which is exactly what we were hoping for. We had a great group of people with us on our tour and had supper together that night at a great Indian restaurant. Malaysia has a high Indian population and we’ve discovered that we love Indian food.

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Bharat Tea plantation.
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The workers use sheers in areas where the incline is too steep for them to use the slightly more efficient tool they normally use to cut the tea leaves.
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Cameron Highlands!
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View from the highest point on Penang island.
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Our ride for our tour through the Cameron Highlands.

We aren’t huge fans of being in the cities, but we really enjoyed the architecture in Kuala Lumpur – especially the twin Petronas towers. They are the largest twin towers in the world and were amazing to see during the day and at night. The KL tower, which is the 7th tallest in the world wasn’t that impressive to look at, but we took in the great views it had to offer during the day and again at night.

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The twin Petronas towers! The bridge in the middle is there so that if you have to go from one building to the other and are on one of the top floors, you don’t need to go all the way to the ground floor and then back up again.
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Every night there is a water show in front of the towers. The show is nothing too spectacular, but the towers in the night sky are worth taking a look at.
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KL tower was much nicer to look at at night.

Safety standards are much different in SE Asia and we really noticed it on the viewing deck of the tower. Part of the chest high glass was under construction and below was the safety precaution at 420m high.

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High level of safety precautions at the top of the KL tower.

Another highlight of Kuala Lumpar was the food. We found several delicious Indian restaurants and found our favourite street food of the trip so far (with the exception of the second picture below).

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One of our favorite food experiences of the trip. The street food in Kuala Lumpar was some of the best we’ve had.

We spent one night in Melaka and did an afternoon tour of the city centre. The highlight for one of us was a Frozen themed trishaw ride. Our drivers English was not the best, but he insisted we learn a street safety song. If I knew how to post a video on here I’d let him and Landra educate you by song on crossing the street safely.

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Our Trishaw. Unfortunately this one did not come with a ghetto blaster to blare the “let it go” theme song.

From Melaka we headed to Singapore and really enjoyed our time there. It was a bit more expensive, but extremely clean and had much more order to it. The Gardens by the Bay were beautiful and there is an awesome light show choreographed to music each night. We spent a full day walking through the gardens and the marina area.

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Th famous Merlion at Singapore’s waterfront.
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The double helix bridge and the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore.
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Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.
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Choreographed light show at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.

Our second day was spent in the botanical gardens, riding the subway, and checking out the malls. We found a Lululemon, but unfortunately prices were double what they are at home, so I couldn’t let Landra buy anything.

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Botanical Gardens in Singapore.
Monkeys in Malaysia