Archive for November, 2007

FOUR MONTHS DOWN!!! – Enjoyed Phuket

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The island was very wonderful for a vacation spot. Maybe even to live there! (Guess we’ll see about that one). There were some relaxing places as well as an abundance of much busier beaches & towns. Most of the island is populated, certainly around the ocean touching circumfrance and along all major transportation corridors. There were some pretty exclusive resorts here too. The young Spanish couple living adjacent to the house we rented both worked at very nice resorts. One had individual two story buildings, on stilts, overlooking the ocean for each guest! Oh yeah, and each villia had there own private pool also overlooking the ocean. I have a powerpoint presentation that I will try and upload with a link for anyone who wants to download it and eat their heart out. It is a fairly large file, since the pics are all high resolution. For a few months or so, I have a seperate gallery with a few pictures of the house we stayed at adjacent to Phil & Joy’s in Phuket. There is a neighboring house, just about finished being built, that is very similar in style and is for sale. This new place includes it’s own pool rather than sharing one pool among four homes as the one we stayed in did. The gallery is at:
http://s114284247.onlinehome.us

One night while staying at the house, a bunch of staff from Phil’s company were planning a friendly airball game. Luckily I was invited along and happily accepted. The story on that evening is written as a seperate BLOG post in early December. All in all we had a great time and are VERY thankful for Phil and Joy taking us in (so to speak) and helping out so much with stuff. Joy also helped to arrange for Alex and Luke to attend a day of school with Josh and Kyla at the Thai English public school they attend. They had a great day there, and Luke later met a “classmate” on Phi Phi Don Island where her parents owned a diving company.

To say that our “Trip of A Lifetime!” seems to be gathering great speed and going by very quickly is a huge understatement!!! Grandma Vi is almost due to go home already too, and her three weeks has similarly gone by incredibly quickly. Our original plane tickets were only booked to getting out of China. The ticket stopped in Bangkok though, so we have yet to get some flights arranged onward to Delhi in India. We had originally planned for six weeks throughout India after two weeks in China. We added on four days to the end of China though, and are thinking of lopping off another five or so days from the other end of India to spend five extra days (than the originally planned two weeks) in Kenya nd Tanzinia. That leaves India with just barely four weeks now. This is significant simply because I am almost tempted to spend another week in Thailand when we pass through after China. Claudette probably won’t let that one fly though…

Ella Etty Eather enjoys…

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

eating elephants from earth. That is a poem I made. Any ways :). We went elephant riding! It was lots of fun. Me grandma vi and Mom had to have one And dad and Luke got the other one. Ours was 26 years old!!!!! I can’t remember her (his?) name though. I’m glad we went to a conservation center, not a camp! We heard lots of bad things about the camps. We got to see a little show, then go for a ride, then we went to see the baby elephants. They we’re sooooooooooo cute! We got to feed the moms to,(we also got to feed the elelphants at the show, I forgot about that.) After seeing the babys we went to an elephant hospital. Between 2000 and 2004 there was approximatly 254 sick elephants there. We did a little shopping at the market then came home.

Also we just went for our second white water rafting rafting! I think I preferred the other time but this one was still fun. It is grandma Vi’s first time. Some how she always seemed to get splashed the most :). We just came from Cheing-Mei and now we are in Bangkok.
Nothing else has really happened. Bye bye!
Alex

Having a great time in Thailand!

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Well we arrived in Chiang Mai 2 days ago, after spending 3 days in Ko Phi Phi.

In Ko Phi Phi we spent one morning snorkeling around Ko Phi Phi Ley, which was spectacular. The coral wasn’t as great as the Great Barrier Reef but the fish were way more plentiful and varied. On the downside though, there were a lot of (non-stinging) jellyfish and (stinging) sea lice which freaked Alex out so she really didn’t like it. I think Grandma Vi enjoyed herself even though it had been 30 years she she last went snorkeling.

Last night we went to the Night Bazaar which was like shopping overload, imagine blocks of vendors set up on the sidewalks with hundreds of people trying to get through on a 1 – 2 foot wide sidewalk…. We tried to control ourselves as Grandma Vi already has a full suitcase to take back for us.

Today we went to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center so as to get in our obligatory elephant show and ride. We had decided that we wanted to go there as they are known for their conservation efforts and all funds they raise from admissions goes to the Elephant Hospital on-site. In the end I think the kids really appreciated what the animals can do, and we also got to see a couple of baby elephants.

Tomorrow we are off white-water rafting, I’m not sure how Rick convinced Grandma Vi to go but I’m sure it will be a riot.

The Gods smile down on us.

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Our hotel was fully booked from today and we had to leave. Luckily we found even nicer digs! Story below…

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Upon entering Thailand we went first to Krabbi, only a few hundred KM North of the Border with Malaysia. Krabbi was OK, we were a bit confused as to all the fuss of the travel books. The beach is about a half hour drive from town, but there are an abundance of tours to all sorts of islands and spectacular sights available. After asking around to other travelers, the lure of Krabbie would merely seem to be slightly cheaper accommodation and food prices with the inconvenience of traveling a bit more back and forth to the beach. It had a small market, and lots of GREAT! Inexpensive food so we enjoyed it for a couple of days. Alex got her hair done in a whole bunch of mini braids. This took two and a half people almost three full hours to accomplish! She loves it now, keeping her hair long, but not getting so sweaty and hot in the often muggy weather.

After Krabbi we chartered a large van to take us to Phuket for a week or two. Grandma Vi would be joining us here after a couple days. Claudette found a hotel on the web somehow that had two rooms available. These were pretty basic rooms, with a washroom and a large ceiling fan for about $30/night. These rooms sure smelled musty and possibly mildewy though, so people wouldn’t want to stay there more than a week or so… This place had only 14 of these fan rooms open, but they were constructing another 50 or so units on the same property, (right beside our rooms, from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM each day!). There were already 15 or so of these newer rooms (post Tsunami) open, but they cost a minimum of $16/night! We were here to save lots of money, not just a tiny bit. These other rooms had beautiful marble throughout, as well as air conditioning and king sized beds. A couple of them also had private hot tubs for only $165/night.

We had originally only booked for two nights in case it was a dump and we wanted to go elsewhere. This beach we were at was amazingly gorgeous, and very deserted generally. I walked a kilometer or two in both directions and there was nothing better for the same or cheaper money. The problem came though when we went to extend our booking and found out that all but one of the cheap rooms were booked for the next two weeks! So, Claudette and I ended up in a room with two single beds and the kids and Grandma Vi got a king sized bed altogether in another old room that was being renovated, (but that they opened up just for us at $60/night cause it was old but had air conditioning). After Grandma Vi arrived we did lots of relaxing, a fair amount of eating, uploading pics of GV relaxing for all her co-workers to see and some Blog posts (including the invention of Pete’s Blog, linkable from the upper left hand corner of this page). Luke made friends one day with a couple year younger boy who was Canadian and living here with his family. They had even just moved here from Oilberta! They didn’t make it back to the beach for a couple of days, and Claudette got a chance to meet the parents briefly. Close to our last scheduled day there, she gave Phil and Joy a call to try and arrange supper together some evening. This worked out wonderfully and we all had a great time catching up. He was a pilot and their kids attended a Thai public school (with an English program) rather that the English International school that is private. Better yet, they lived in a spectacular! House barely a seven minute walk to the beach, with three bedrooms, stunning marble floors and a shared swimming pool among four homes!!! Now the best news; one of these homes was empty and due for new tenants in another month so they arranged through the landlord for us to stay in it for a week, for the same price we got one two person fan room at the current hotel. Needless to say we jumped at it and decided to stay for an extra week.

I took a bunch of pics of the amazing house we stayed in as well as the deck area, BBQ, massage bed (they book to have them done at home once a week) and the pool. There were three other units almost finished being built in the same complex that were for sale. These all had their own private (un-shared) pools though, and are only priced at CAN$245,000. My mind was clicking away, working out how many other families we would want to buy with at 30, 40 & 50 thousand dollars each. The trouble is that most friends or family that we would trust enough to buy in with, are people that we’d want to go at the same time with. I mentioned this to a few friends with keen interest, but Claudette quickly smashed me back into reality, saying that we wouldn’t be able to continue our trip past Christmas, flights are $2,000 each from Edm, and take a little over 24 hours with layovers each way. Thus the idea has slightly waned… (Certainly NOT died…)

I’D LOVE TO LIVE IN THAILAND!!

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Although I was extremely nervous (probably just the anticipation) I had a very uneventful flight. Everything happened exactly on schedule. I met a few people on the flights (I didn’t even chatter too much, LOL). Cathay Pacific is second to none – definitely the way to go. I thought Vancouver Airport was huge and it really is but Hong Kong’s is even larger. I actually didn’t leave the Security areas at either airport to make things easier for myself and I’m really glad I didn’t. I’m in Phuket and it is fabulous and from what I’ve heard the rest of Thailand is totally a magnificant place – can’t wait to see more of it.
Our hotel is pretty basic but just across the street from the grand Pacific Ocean and the water is fabulous as is the weather.
Hi to everyone and I’ll write again in a few of days after we get to our next town/hotel/or whatever???

Massages…

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

NOTE: spelling errors abound in this post since there’s no firefox 2 browser or word processor to check in. Sorry!
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Even though we actually had a well trained and registered massage therapist in Fort Smith for a few years, I had never gone to one before this trip. Even at Daivik a girl from Yellowknife would fly in for a week or two at a time and offer evening bookings for anyone who could afford her. This all changed in the last month of course…

I woke up one morning in our little Toyota camper van with a pretty good knott in one muscle next to my shoulder blade. This was at about the end of our second last week in Oz, and it got progressively (and uncomfortably!) worse over the next two days. I managed to find a massage place open on Sunday’s (it was a Saturday when I realized that walking hunched over in a very slow and decrepid manner was not a long term option) in Mooloolaba and booked the soonest appointment I could get. She was a fair sized girl. I’d booked in for an hour. The first seven to nine minutes were spent talking about the main problem, reviewing (quite extensively!) my health and body status questionaire, and generally sorting out what I needed. Then the pain! Oh, the sweet pain… I knew it was all for a VERY worthwhile result, but Man! did this girl (all 240 pounds or so of her) ever have some strength and Ooomph! in her. I didn’t call her off once, (sure came close twice though) and she worked out tense stuff I didn’t know I had.

My proudest moment came near the end when she casually commented on how much I had taken. “Most Aussie guys are absolute whimps, and will call me off after only a bit of pressure. It’s very frustrating when if they’d just take it a little more, I know that I get get them all sorted out in one or two visits, rather than a string of eight or ten visits over two or three months. I’d rather help them more efefctively and work myself out of some work. You have taken more than any of my customers in at least five years!” Whew, so I was tougher than most Aussie business executives who could actually afford such regular treatment, hardly something to be extroirdinarily prowd of…

The weirdest part was that she seemed to focus slightly more on my oposite shoulder muscle that I had mentioned to her. When I brought this up (casually of course) she insisted that it was in much worse shape, and liable to “go” at any time. Confused I just accepted this. I had gained instant respect for her earlier though when she quickly identified that I had had a shoulder seperation on my left side over 10 years ago (it was 20) and she quite accurately described the scope of severity. She had used her elbows and massive forearms quite a bit throughout, and near the end, those rounded blunt objects of death midway in her arm found their way into my thighs to some nerve I had never heard of before. (Leesa-Maree told me but I’ve erased that “full-on” experience from my memory.) Once again she kept going longer and longer, and I refused to say “STOP! No more please!!!” until she saw the tear starting to form in my eyes and gently let up. The second one on my right side was absolutely worse cause I knew what was coming this time. Like the dreaded spanking that a child doesn’t get right away, (he gets to think about it and dwell on the scope of severity for a few hours first) I almost cried knowing the excruciating torture I was about to endure… Sure enough she held this one longer! Truely a sadist (in such a good, well meaning way of course) I suffered gleefully at her hands knowing (in my heart at least) that it was all working towards a tremendous benefit (me joining the last fourty thousand generations of mankind in walking upright). At the end, as I was getting dressed, I asked her how many marriage proposals she received from first time paitients. She had an instant reaction of slight panic, until she saw my laughing eyes. Then I further commented that I had to get my wife a year off of work and send her to massage school for a couple semesters. She then gave me a couple addresses of two on the East Coast of Oz, but I reluctantly (and very sadly) threw them into a rubish bin outside knowing Claudette would never have the slightest interest in such a thing as a “more than a five minute massage” never mind actually having to go to school for it.

After that first time I was naturally hooked. The difficulty was in how to absorb the astonishing (yet VERY worthwhile) $75/hour fees. Luckily we are travelling, and economically repressed areas represent a repreive from said “Western” styleized fees. At the entry to Malaysia, when we were killing several hours at a huge shopping mall until our train left for KL I had my second massage. They had nine chairs lined up for doing pedicures and foot massages, but only one body massuse. I had to wait three hours from my enquiry time until there was a free booking. He was a little 145 (or so) pound guy, and I was the last hour of a twelve hour shift for him. It too felt really great, especially since he did my feet quite thoroughly first. The hour long combined back, arm and foot massage worked out to be about CAN $23. I even snuck Luke into the chair for five minutes of a back rub since he was sore after wandering around town for several hours too. This little guys pushed, massaged and bent my muscles very effectively (and wonderfully) for 46 minutes before he stopped and said I was done. I looked at my watch wondering about the remaining eight minutes that I had pre-paid for. He just sat there looking quite exhausted himself saying in very broken English while looking at his hands, that “there’s nothing left, I am out of power”. I let him off (“white devil” that I am) since he had very reluctantly fit Luke into my time. Not to mention I guess that he had done a pretty effective overall job, (with the exception of bending my RSI entranced thumbs back way too far). Claudette continually declines my offers (and strong recamendations!) for a massage herself. I will keep offering just to ensure she doesn’t have amunition to consider me too much of a selfish bastard spending the family money on such luxury.

My third massage was last night. Ummmmm, the memories come flooding back. There are quite a number of massage places on either side of the beach road, and we are in a VERY uncrowded area of Phuket. Many of these are just open air places with basic beds or even mats on the floor. On the inland side of the beach road there are a half dozen or so in buildings with actual walls. I had heard of the “special” massages available in Thailand from many people back home, and from other travelers we’ve met along the way. An English guy we met here (Dan) had told us about a busier area they had been to last week where there was a huge string of massage parlors along the roads. In this, the much more populated area, the signs were actually labeled occaisionally (every forth or fifth one he said) with “No Sex” for the parlors where the girls were gaurenteed NOT to hassel you at the end of the main one.

I went to check e-mail and type in the start of a BLOG post last night, but was actively canvased (being late at night) to come in for a cheap massage at various places along the way. I started thinking how nice such a gentle rubdown would be after a long day (it was almost 10:00 PM, and all other family members were in bed). I headed to the little sideroad that the internet cafe was on. This also had a pathway to a tremendously nice (and crazily expensive!) resort. I figured that the more reputable places would be adjacent to this resort’s beach entry path, and picked one there. The prices seemed amazingly reasonable (if not downright bloody cheap!). A twenty minute foot massage was (all prices converted to CAN $) $4.50; a half hour back rub $6; a sports massage (meaning vigerous?) was $10; an all over 60 minute body massage was $9; and an all over 60 minute “oil” body massage was $12. I opted for the 60 minute oil one, and then sent me to the open air roof with a little 120 pount thai lady who knew very little english. She gave me a 65 minute wonderful workover everywhere but “there”… (thank gawd!) and I felt compelled to still tip her another 100 Baht (equivelent of $3, since the original massage price was only 400 baht! or $12).

Most bizzarely though, on my way back to the hotel I was canvassed again. Here I was still outrageously reeking of linament oil, and with my skin all glistening, and she wanted to offer me a massage??? I kindly explained that I had only just had one and began walking away. She called me back suggesting that I might need a “special” massage now. I then realized that she must have seen me come out of the “reputable” place and figured I was disappointed or something??? So, mildly curious (nothing more than curiosity, HONEST!) I asked how much. She asked how much would I pay. I was growing impatient and wanted to go, so I exasperatedly replied that I had no idea since I’d NEVER had one before and was just curious, but really wanted to go to my hotel and get to bed. After more talking among the two girls, the English speaking one replied that a “specail” massage would be 1000 baht. She asked more in a negotiating tone of voice expecting me to come back lower I guess. Naturally I said thanks, bid them a good night and ended up somehow at Les & Tina’s room (Dan’s In-laws) swapping stories over a beer for another hour. I have no idea what “special” is: being full on, or just a hand; don’t care either… But I know there are many readers who would be “curious” to know the price. So it’s 1000 baht, or CAN $30 and is most likely negotiable down from there…

Grandma Vi is gonna get one (or more if she gets hooked like me!) tomorrow at the reputable place. Just for fun I might send her to other place and tell her to ask for “special”. But, knowing Grandma Vi, she would be slightly suspicious of my wry smile, and then Claudette would spill the beans. I’m sure that the massage girls would just laugh at her anyways… At least, I hope so! (Eeeeeewwwwwweeeeee!!!!!!)

GV: our first visitor from home

Monday, November 12th, 2007

A wonderful (and faithful) blog reader suggested that: “We could start a new game called “where is Grandma Vi”” Well… neat idea, but that’s a little ahead of the game. She’s probably over the Pacific right now, about an hour or two your side of Hawii still. She doesn’t land here for another 15.5 hours! Since there’s no doubt that she’ll be plenty tired, we’re planning very little for her first afternoon and evening here. After that though, it’ll be GANGBUSTERS crazy busy! We have tonnes of stuff planned: like relaxing on the beach, relaxing by the pool, relaxing at the beach front restraunts for three meals a day, and then occaisional leisurely strolls down the beach once we build up our strength. Agh……..

Actually, we have two “busy” activities planned while she’s here with us in Phuket. One is an evening spectacular buffet and elephant (50 of ’em doing stuff) and acrobatics show. The other is an all day (8:00 – 5:00) guided slew of activities including: whitewater rafting, (YES! we’ll post the pics of her screaming) an elephant ride through the jungle, an ox cart ride, posing on a water buffalo, 4×4 backcountry tour and swimming in a warm jungle waterfall pool. Their websites are: www.islandsafaritour.com and www.phuket-fantasea.com

After Phuket we have no idea specifically where we are going. We just plan on heading North up the coast to Bangkok and then Cheng Mei and seeing what happens?

I wonder if my Mom took one of her computers over to grandma’s house so she can still read the blog postings and see the pics? Maybe someone else is printing ’em off for Grandma, Idaknow…

We still have plenty of itinerary left for anyone else who wants to meet up somewhere… Start planning.

Phones

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Telephones & telecommunications the world over (so far) are an interesting thing. In Central and South America, everyone had cell phones. Not just one per household even, I mean almost all individual family members over 16 it seemed. The best part for us was that the internet WIFI VOIP phone worked in many many places, so we made many fun calls to various family and friends that were dirt cheap and quite a reasonable quality (considering!!!). Thanks gawd for Robert & Leesa’s home internet connection for making calls while we were there. Other than that, I only found one place with an open connection fast enough for us to use in a little strip mall a few weeks into our travels there.

The best way to communicate we’ve found, is by gmail chat. It is an instant messaging (IM) piece built directly into their online webmail page. No extra chat software need be downloaded and installed (like MSN, yahoo chat, ect) since the google chat works directly from a browser window after logging into a free Gmail acount. Quick & easy! And you can see people logged in and start chatting immediately! For anyone who wants to sign up (or has an account already) go to:
http://www.gmail.com and our user name is james.rick@gmail.com

As cool as the WIFI internet phone was, it proved to be pretty much useless in Australia as I mentioned above. At least we used it quite a bit in South & Central America before I lost the darn thing in Singapore. Instead, in Malaysia we bought a new cell phone. While this is something I always believed (and said occasionally to some people) I would avoid, it just proved to be absolutely invaluable while traveling. Throughout practically the whole East coast of Australia that we traveled, public payphones were few and far between. Most campgrounds had one, but they were a pain to use! They were often vandalized and required specific coins (which we didn’t have eight of to call around to different campgrounds or tour operators to check availability and pricing) or not giving change for the larger coins that we did have an abundance of. It was also incredibly useful to be able to make calls while driving to make arrangements for a couple of days ahead, but during business hours.

In Australia I bought the cheapest, most basic phone (Vodaphone) that I could find (for about CAN$50) to use there. The rates were OK, mostly about AUS $0.30 per minute (I think?) to call around within the same State, and AUS $1.50/min to Canada. I had planned on using the WIFI phone throughout Asia and didn’t worry about getting a more versatile cell phone. That turned out to be a huge mistake of course, since the Vodaphone was VERY expensive per minute to use in Asian countries, and (EVEN WORSE!) it didn’t work like they said it would in Singapore and Thailand. That’s a $50 credit I will likely NEVER see again from Vodaphone. Worse yet, their customer service numbers can’t be reached from any phone so far here, so I can’t even demand a refund… Live and learn.

After the vodaphone hassle, I did some quick self education on cell phones and bought the cheapest tri-mode one I could get in KL. It was only about CAN $110 and included tonnes of fancy options! Somehow I restrained myself from getting the Nokia E90 messaging phone (about CAN $1,200 in Malaysia) which was about the coolest thing ever! All phones over here have removable SIM card for changing providers (and as a result, phone numbers) in different countries that you travel to. This is incredibly uncommon in North American cell phone models. We seem to get completely screwed by the providers there! (And I haven’t even talked about rates yet!) The versatility of giving the consumer choice with changeable SIM cards is such a fantastic idea, yet we don’t even know about it or consider it. We just eat up the crap and garbage that the huge money making cell phone corporations feed us. Most phones here don’t seem to have nasty, locked in, incredibly expensive plans either. They are mostly all pay as you go with incredibly friendly and adaptable plans and rates. Even in Australia the pay-as-you-go plans were nice. The vodaphone let us pay $29 for $139 of credit that expired in thirty days, (but could not be used to call from other countries). For $30 we got $60 of credit that expired in 90 days (and could “supposedly” be used overseas). Or for $50 it was $100 of credit for 90 days. In Malaysia & Thailand the rates are even better! While the vodaphone was “locked” and couldn’t use other SIM cards, these phones here (in Asia) are completely open to change around cards at the wonderful whim of the owner. A SIM card here (so far in Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand) costs between CAN $8 and $15 which usually includes about $2 to $3 of “starter” credit. After that, “top up” cards can be bought for $3 to $10. These allow the user to just enter an unlocking code and “poof” more calls.

In Malaysia the local calls were very cheap, and even calls to Canada we calculated out to be about 30 cents! (Yes, Canadian cents!) Thus, we were making calls to Canada like crazy at the train station trying to use up our $15 balance. Even after three long calls, we still have a $9 credit on that SIM card that doesn’t expire for another two months. Way cool!

In Thailand, the calls to Canada seem marginally more so far (about CAN $0.33 per minute) but local calls are also so quick and easy! The one bad (sorta) thing about the Malaysian SIM card we bought was that text message sending capabilities (plain or multimedia SMS) required a separate VISA registration and charges, whereas the Vodaphone in Australia was just AUS $0.50 per 160 character message sent. I haven’t looked into yet for Thailand since we only just got here yesterday afternoon, and picked up the new SIM then.

So, sadly a tri-mode cell phone is something we would probably consider a necessity for traveling on your own (not an organized tour), when traveling for more than two months or so. I have no idea what we’ll do with the phone once we get home since we really have no use for one in Fort Smith, (never mind the fact that Northwestel only has analog service!). I’m not even sure if we can get a “Mobility” SIM card in Canada?!?! The cheapest tri-mode phone that I could buy in KL has a video/still camera, push to talk, and all kinds of other features. We might sell it (privately or pawn shop? who knows?) or I might just keep it for when the travel bug hits again!

For anyone who wants to send us an SMS (since we rarely have the phone turned on to receive calls) the number is:
+66-085-790-0565

Although someone told me that the “zero” preceeding the area code is only used when dialing within Thailand. If this is true then the number will be:
+66-85-790-0565

Malaysia…

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Was one of the most pleasantly surprising countries we have visited so far. The lodging was slightly less expensive (perhaps about 75%) than the same type of room in North America, but the food was quite a bit cheaper, (and Nummy!). Malaysia is a remarkably progressive country. There were certainly some poorer areas, but they were seemingly much fewer than in the other countries of the Southeast Asia region. The larger portion of the population are Muslim, but there are also very significant portions of forth, fifth and sixth generation Chinese and Indians.

I mentioned in a previous post comment that the later two seem to feel significantly discriminated against for government jobs, holding office, getting post secondary student financial awards (even though their proportion of higher academic achievement is significantly greater) and other such things. Once again, this is merely the strong perception of most residents we spoke with and not a result of our own observations (which were not exposed enough to said areas to draw a relevant conclusion. The one thing that we did notice was that a highly dsiportionate amount of the shopkeepers and restaurant owners (and workers) were Indian and Chinese.

Market prices here were generally OK. Services and food were distinctly less expensive (20-50% of the full cost) of North America. Goods however varied. We bought a (cheap) short “D” handled spade at a hardware store for CAN $2.30 that would have cost at least $15 (or more like $20 if not on sale) in Edmonton. We also bought a couple of plastic buckets (about 3L and 8L) for just under and just over CAN $1. Computer software, audio CD’s and all DVD movies are astoundingly cheap, but presumably that’s because they are all pirated. Electronic hardware on the other hand is barely less than what we would pay in Edmonton. Maybe about 85-90% of the sale prices at home for brand name TV’s, computers, portable audio players and game consoles. There were some audio systems (and an awesome looking DJ system Robert!) for phenomenal prices (maybe 15-25% of Canadian & Aussie prices) but they were names I’ve never heard of and were likely of very dubious quality.

The economy seems very robust, both in the larger and smaller cities. The most significant thing that we noticed though was the strong proliferation of English everywhere. All the street and store signs were in two (or occasionally three) languages. English was generally spoken practically everywhere we went including the somewhat remote back alley eateries that all the locals (and us stark white Canadians) would go to. We “sorta” noticed this a bit while we were there, but admittedly (now) took it quite a bit for granted as well. The wake up call came as soon as we entered Thailand and English was immediately barely spoken or understood right from the street vendor, to snack bar cashier to train ticket window. Clearly the Malaysians have very strongly assertive English schooling in their model public school system right from an early age. All in all we were pretty impressed with Malaysia as a very economically advanced country. While we saw the destitute shanty towns on the edges of town, the majority of the population was well educated and quite progressive. This point is extra funny of course when I reflect on the opinions of most Singaporeans (sp?) about Malaysia. They were like the embarrassed upper class cousins, when Malaysia is really quite middle class compared to other far less developed countries in the region. One last example: Shopping malls in Malaysia were for practically everyone except for the poorest of citizens. Department stores and larger malls in Thailand (so far) would seem to be targeted mainly only for tourists and the very few richer people of the upper class.

So, while not quite as “cheap” as we perhaps expected, Malaysia was a very enjoyable touring experience for the nine or so days we spent there. I certainly learned much more about it than I knew beforehand. That’s to be expected of course, but most other countries (ie: Thailand or China) we here about considerably more in the media or from friends. One last forecast for KL: I expect them to build an even larger tower than Dubai, to reclaim the title, by 2020. That may sound like quite a ways off, but in the timeframe of planning and actually constructing such a monstrosity, that is very quick indeed. And as much as we enjoyed Malaysia, thank gawd (for our budget) that we’re now in Thailand where hotel rooms are $25 per night instead of $85 (or $115 in KL).

STUFF I’VE DONE

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

STUFF I’VE DONE

1.COSTA RICA:

Experienced an earthquake
Missing Fort Smith:(
Rafting on rapids
Missing Fort Smith:(
Learnd spanish
Missing Fort Smith:(
Made lots of new friends(not just humans)
Missing Fort Smith:(
Went to Poas volcano
Missing Fort Smith:(

2.PERU:

Went to an area where an Earthquake/tsuami hit
Missing Fort Smith:(
Did and explored many areas of Machu Pichu
Missing Fort Smith:(
Went to my first hot springs
Missing Fort Smith:(

3.ECUADOR:

Did a five day tour of galapagos islands,
and saw many strange and new animals,plants and stuff
Missing Fort Smith:(
Went to the Equater (which was totally awesome!!!)
Missing Fort Smith:(

4.USA (only for a day in between flights)

First time in Las Angalas
Missing Fort Smith:(
Sat around and was bored for the whole day
Missing Fort Smith:(

5.AUSTRALIA

Sydney Aquarium
Missing Fort Smith:(
Sydney Opera house tour
Missing Fort Smith:(
Sydney haurbor bridge climb
Missing Fort Smith:(
Made new friends (and stayed with one family)
Missing Fort Smith:(
Took surfing lesson
Missing Fort Smith:(
Saw first Kangaroo
Missing Fort Smith:(
Went to first caves
Missing Fort Smith:(
Went to town of 1170 and rode in a LARC
Missing Fort Smith:(
Went snorkling (and diving but only Alex and dad did that) on the GREAT BARROIR REEF!
Missing Fort Smith:(
Australia zoo (home of the crodile hunter)
Missing Fort Smith:(

6.SINGAPORE:

Went to the Wild Wild Wet (waterpark)
Missing Fort Smith:(
Went to Escape (theme park)

7.MALYAISA:

Climbed Menara tower in KL (we actually took the elavater)(it doesn’t beet the CNtower)
Missing Fort Smith:(
Took the elavater up the Petronas twin towers up to a sky bridge
Missing Fort Smith:(
Took a tour of Penang Island (thats where we are, its kinda a state)
Missing Fort Smith:(

8.TYILAND

made a new friend
Missing Fort Smith:(
Grandma got here
Missing Fort Smith:(
saved a friend after he fell in a pool(he was 4 and the pool was over my head)
Missing Fort Smith:(
went on another rafting tour
Missing Fort Smith:(
Grandma Left here
Missing Fort Smith:(
started tour to laos
Missing Fort Smith:(

9. LAOS

Went on boat tour

10. VIATIAM

11. CHINA

So as you can see in each and every country I have been missing Fort Smith, and all you guys!

WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

LUKE 🙂

Top 4 Lists, News & Reference Pages

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Claudette brought over the “Top Four” lists from her “Claudette” blog to the main blog. It is something that we will update and change as we continue to travel. The link is reachable from any reading blog page at the upper left hand corner, underneith the “home” link.

Also, just to break things up a bit, I made a seperate page for NEWS items that we might have missed normally. A few of you who requested it I have upgraded to “Editor” status to be able to add to this timeline list. Anyone else who wants to add things from their neck of the woods on occaision need only send me an e-mail ( rick (at) jamesworld dot ca ) or write a quick comment requesting to get access to edit this page. It can be reached from any blog page in the upper left hand corner, under the “Home” link, labeled “WORLD NEWS”.

Simply click on the “WORLD NEWS” link, and then click on the “edit” link in the lower right area of the page (after the last current entry) and add a date and the news brief. I put a few things there already that people have mentioned in the comments, but anyone who’s registered should feel free to add more. (ie: Leesa or Robert: we’ll be expecting federal election results please… 🙂 )

I realize that we could also read a newspaper (on-line or otherwise) much more thoroughly and regularly than we already do, but internet time just goes so fast, and time in general to spend on this versus relaxing seems sparse for some reason???

Lastly, Claudette and I have been periodically quizzing the kids on all sorts of things that come up as a semi-academic review of things we’ve done, places we’ve been or questions that somehow arise. Some things that I will ask again they have put in a REFERENCE PAGE, also linked from the upper left corner of readable blog pages.

Bragging rights ! (aka new stuff I’ve done)

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

I so get them!!! what have I done:
I touched a Boa Constrictor!
(and this other really freaky green poisonus snake)
Gone scuba diving!
Kuddled with a koala (I misspelt that by aciddent by the way)
Gone parasailing(It was totally awesome!)
done zipling(don’t worry I know thats not a word!)
been to Machu Pichu
climbed a really tall tower in the amazon jungle
(thats all I can think of for now, I had lots but the message deleted itself (Ididn’t do it)

Stuff I still gotta do:
Go horse back riding (PLEASE DADDY!)
have a snake on my shoulders.
climb the Eifel (Eifal? Eifil?) Tower

thats all for now, expect this blog to be edited.

Alex

Claudette’s view on Singapore and Malaysia so far…

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Well, it’s just barely been a week since we’ve left Australia, and I must admit I really miss the familiar and the annonymity. So far we stick out like tourists even more so than I felt in South America. It’s a bit eerie to be watched everywhere we go.

We have kept to most of the big shopping centers and attractions, although we did venture out to Chinatown while we were in Singapore. It’s pretty much just like the movies with small 4′ x 8′ kiosk selling everything and anything. Yesterday we picked up a couple of watches for ourselves. Rick bought a Rolex off the street and I picked up a “Guess” watch from a kiosk for the equivalent of about $3 Canadian.

In Singapore we did mostly family stuff with going to the water park and theme park, while in Malyasia we have done more sightseeing. The hotel we ended up picking is fantastic as it is walking distance to most attractions and the KL Monorail is right beside it. Tomorrow we are off to the island of Penang, so we will be doing more relaxing on the beach.

Rick’s already nagging me to start thinking about contributing some writing to the family Christmas letter, Ugh… I can’t believe how quickly time is flying by.