Archive for the ‘2007-10, Singapore & Malaysia’ Category

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.

THREE MONTHS DOWN – Entering Malaysia to “KL”

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

EVERYONE here (and even in Fort Smith, just ask your friendly neighborhood reporter) calls their capital city, “KL” with affectioate reverence.

We arrived in Johur Bahru a little after lunch on Tuesday and weren’t due to leave for Kuala Lumpor (KL) until almost midnight. Thus we had several hours with nothing to do but go shopping!!! Luckily this city on the edge of the border with Singapore had some pretty impressive shopping options. The mall we hit had five floors up, a ground floor, and one basement floor. The ground floors are considered G here, and the first floor is pically the second story up. Thus, in our current hotel, while the elevator says floor nineteen, we are actually up on the twentieth story. This mall was huge! It seemed to stretch back into far corners that were not even fathomable from the central court. There were numerous electronic stores offering all sorts of camera equipment, personal audio players, ten tonnes of cell phones, computer gear, console & portable gaming, and of course all kinds of software… And what prices!!! Unbelievable they were… $5000 plus AutoCAD for only $3, and the latest $80 computer games for $5. All vendors assured me that they were perfectly legal legitimate copies, and so I indulged with a few titles that would be handy later once we bought a computer.

We also are fortunate that I had alreaady hacked our two PSP’s with an open version of the operating system. There were tonnes of PSP games for sale as playable image files on large sized DVD as well as UMD’s. The image files allow the games to be played directly from the flash card instead of having to carry the PSP designed UMD around, and having to physically swap them out. Most outlets also sell already hacked PSP consoles for the same equivelent price as what they are sold for in Canada ($200).

Our train ride was not quite as we expected since all of the first class bed suites were sold out. Thus we were stuck with second class beds down a long hallway. It was an OK experience and interesting to experience at least once we figured. The price of the First Class cabins are so disgustingly cheap that they are easily worthwhile though. The second shock came today when we tried to book first class bed cabins to the next town (7 hrs) near Penang and were told that all were long since booked. Even worse though was the fact that the second class lower beds (down the long hall with individual curtains) were booked as well. The upper bunks are slightly less money, but we would have to load our suitcases up there as well as us two Forty year old’s having to clamber up there!

Speaking of bags, we saw another caucasian couple (much younger of course, and no kids) travelling with just a small, carry-on size, hard sided suitcase and a small rucksack each. The contents of these four bags combined would probably have easily fit into Alex’s suitcase I think. Both Claudette and I stared at them in open mouthed wonderment, admiration and not a little jealousy. Clearly they had no electronics, (with associated chargers and converters), mosquito nets, and sleeping bags for hostels, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

The hotel we ended up booking in KL was quite a bit nicer than we could afford, but we didn’t really make arrangements before arriving. The Concord is walking distance to all the major sights right downtown though. It also has very good rates for an upper class type business hotel. We’re paying CAN $100 per night for a very large room on the top floor with a king sized bed (and cots) and it was highly recamended in the Aisia Frommer’s book we have. Hopefully we’ll make up for this higher price in Thailand. Food prices here are quite reasonable though. Rotten Ronnie’s today cost us CAN $15 for lunch and desert for four. Plus it helps a bit that a huge breakfast every morning is included with our room price.

Our first day we went to the KL tower, a single structure similar to (and slightly smaller than) the CN tower for cityscape viewing. It offered a spectacular view all around and we could easily see all of the Petronas twin towers several blocks away. he smog here was noticeable at that height, but we could easily see about 8 km, before it started to become pretty hazy at +10 km. We went yesterday to the twin towers for the free tour of the linking bridge, but the available tickets for the day were sold out long before lunchtime apparently. So, after breakfast today we went right to the ticket booth at the site and only goy 5:15 PM tickets! When we finally made it up the view and feeling was very cool. The “Eye of Malaysia” ferris wheel was a tiny dot in the distance and we quickly realized that it wasn’t worth going to after being in both tall KL landmarks. The Petronas twins are named for the Government owned Multinational oil and gas corporation which operates in Malaysia. Sadly this means that when I would say Pet-ron-as thinking it was some exotic Malay word, I was completely wrong. Turns out that it is Pet-ro-nas, simply derrived from “petrol” like seemingly all other aspects of our world these days.

Compared to the Malaysia & London tourist ferris Wheels, the “Eye of Singapore” was huge though, and sadly wasn’t opened yet when we passed by there. It is larger than London’s and is slated to be open in mid 2000. The KL Tower is the currenty the third tallest tower in the world, after the CN tower in Toronta and one in China. The display downstairs had a very nice gallery and displays on all of the worlds 20 tallest towers. The Petronas twin towers were actually the tallest buildings in the world for several years until Taipe 101 opened a few years back. Now, those crazy, “money growing out of their ears” guys in Dubai are building the hugest of all! It will be open in about 20 months I think I read, and once finished will not only be the tallest building, it will exceed the CN tower as the tallest tower, and also will take the coup de grace over some (unmanned) TV tower in the midwest States somewhere as the tallest manmade structure on the EARTH! While the Taipae building is 101 stories, the Dubai one is about 160!!! These guys don’t want anyone breaking their record anytime soon it would seem.

We killed the day waiting for our free bridge tour with some other errands and attractions. The best was a 30 minute demonstration of Malaysian dancing put on at the Tourism Information center halfway between the twin towers and our hotel. A dozen men and women in extravagantly colorful outfits (which changed multiple times throught) gave wonderful displays of various regional dances. Most were all very lively and upbeat, and Luke even joined them for one dance when audience members were invited up. Sadly, his extreme caucasionness came through loud and clear as they tried to teach him the steps to the national dance in under 300 seconds. At the end the MC invited audience members to come up on stage for pictures with the troup, and said that she would give “The Foreigners” the first opportunity. I nodded yes, and she invited us up immediately. So, I stood up and strted going to the end of the isle only to find that Claudette was sitting there calmly waiting for all the other foreigners to go up first. When I pointed out that we were the only “whity’s” among a packed gallery of about 100 school kids, and other Asian (Chinese, Indians, etc) tourists. She and the kids joined me after Claudette stood up and looked around at the rest of the crowd.

We have to stay one extra day in order to catch the Saturday train to Butterworth (near Penang). Saturday is the only day that there is a daytime train sceduled. Then we plan on spending almost a week luxuriating on the beaches in Penang before heading accross the border to Thailand. We have amost confirmed our GAP tour from Northern Thailand, through Laos and ending in Hanoi on our flight date. We (half of us anyways) just thought it would be easier than stumbling along in a country which isn’t quite touristy and organized with that focus yet.

Singapore!

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

What a huge city/country…

After an eight hour flight (I was expecting something much shorter from my memory of looking at the globe) we arrived to full darkness at 2:00 AM. Speaking of globes… before we left I aked Leesa-Maree to borrow one from school and bring it home to show everyone Canada versus Australia. She managed to find a little tiny one (about 10cm in diameter) that showed political boundaries from a few years ago and had a couple towns marked. Funny enough though, the ONLY town marked in the Northwest Territories was PINE POINT! Very odd of course, since Pine Point has not existed as a town for probably around twenty years! It was a mine town, and one the mine was closed all houses, buildings, power poles were removed when the mine shut down.

Singapore was quite an interesting visit for the few days we were there. Our plane arrived an hour later than scheduled which meant we arrived at the hotel about 1:00 AM! Yes, we were all tired and cranky. The plane was quite nice though… It was a boeing 777 with all the fix’ins. 10 seats accross a row and a fully customizable entertainment console in every seatback. This one was even better that the 747’s though because we could play networked games (checkers, backgammon ect) with each other. Plus these phones could call other passengers, dialled by seat number. What a great way for singles to meet up to possibly join the “MH club”.

The taxi (or “taksi” as they spell it here) system was pretty cool in that everyone lined up at a booth inside and prepaid the fare to whatever part of town you wanted to travel to.Very efficient and saves negotiating with (and/or getting screwed by) the individual drivers. The first thought as we emerged from the aic conditioned terminal building was dealing with the overwhelming heat and humidity. We all agreed that it was just as bad or even worse than Figi. Our second vivid impression of Singapore was while driving from the airport was watching a cab just ahead of us in the adjacent lane at a stoplight. A rear door causually opened and an early 20’s guy began expelling the contents of his stomache on to the pavement. Now, as one might imagine, we were not a little stunned to witness this after hearing so much about spitting in public and posession of gum being illegal in Singapore. Thus we were slightly relived to see that perhaps they weren’t quite as stringent a society as travel reports (both published and verbally from others) had led us to believe.

Our hotel was actually a large hostel complex with larger patio areas in front of each single story, “condo” style unit. There were many people milling around even in the wee hours when we were walking to our room. This unfiled fact would come to haunt us the next night. To check in we were actually dropped off at the wrong part of the resort. The driver had dropped us off at the slightly) nicer part of the resort complex. The night desk clerk there called the other officeo get an electric cart to pick us up.

We slept in the next day, and wandered a few blocks away to semi shopping complex called “Downtown East” for some 11:00 AM fast food breakfast. With a variety of western franchises and some local ones we chose an elaborate buffet place to pig out at. After walking back through to the main complex we decided to hit the waterpark there. It was smaller scale with a slant towards younger families. They did have two water slides which were rather tame with gentle curves compared to West Ed. This place did have a huge tube (8 passengers!) river ride which we had to force Luke to go on and all enjoyed a couple times together. The wave pool was very small, (even slightly smaller than the Millwoods pool) but right beside it was a two person tube half pipe. This was VERY cool! Alex went with me the first time and she was too speechless with fright to even scream!!! Somehow, (under deep coercion and trading a variety of privelidges) I even concvinced Claudette to go with me. Alex forgot to warn her mother NOT to go down first (with her back to the downhill slope and looking up at me) and all Claudette said she saw was my bulk blocking out the sun and sky above her as we went hurtling down at about a 75 degree slope. It is rather difficult to explain but I will try and find a website link.

That night the neighbors partied until a little after 4:00 AM. Worse was the fact that we had an adjoining door though which all noise easily flowed (in fact it semmed as though it might have been amplified!). My loving supportive wife refused to allow me to ask them to tone it down a bit or to even phone the front desk. We asked around the next morning and quickly realized that since most homes here were very small that this was a cheap way for friends and/or family groups to get together for a party. The room next door to us was completely vacant (and unslept in by the looks of it through the open curtains) so everyone just took a cab home when the party wound down. During the day as we had walked through, there were very large groups BBQing with charcoal in front of rooms which we knew could only sleep 4. Now we know better! It also probably didn’t help that we were booked in there during a weekend, never mind the fact that it was a long weekend!

Since we had originally only booked for two nights, when we decided to stay a third night we had to change rooms. Also in this area was a small amusment park called escape. It also had most rides for slightly younger families. Claudette stayed in the room to do some more relaxing while Alex, Luke and I went in the rain to check it out on Sunday night. Most rides were closed during the rain but we went inside to wait anyways. The kids went through the haunted house a few times while I threw some cash away at the typical midway games. I tried one however where I won on the first try (MR2, or about CAN $0.62) of rolling balls down into slots to accumulate a small or large number, but not the range inbetween. Cleary the gods were smiling on me and I scored a huge purple Snuffelupagus. The kids were impressed by it, but insisted on calling it just a plain old elephant. I think it had big sweet droopy eyes just like Snuffy though. Since it was much too large to take with us, I gave it away to the lifegaurd at the pool as we went to check out.

We booked ourselves a mid afternoon train trip to the main Malaysian city (Johor Bahru) just on the other side of the border. This took one hour, and to save a huge amount of money we had to buy tickets to the rest of the way to Kuala Lumpor from within Malaysia. Unfortunately all the first class sleeper cabins were booked, so we were stuck with the second class sleeper hallway. It’s difficult to describe but I shot a few pictures. The carriage is lined with top and bottom bunks with individual curtains.