Saturday, January 31, 2009

Traveling Solo

After a week of traveling alone, I'm pleased to say that it wasn't as bad as I had expected. Without anyone else to worry about, I've been able to see and do what I want when I want. However, I do have to say that the hardest part is on days of disappointment. This morning I started in Cambodia, watching the sun rise over a thousand year old temple, with haze misting the air ever so slightly, causing the yellows and oranges to diffuse just that bit more, and now I am sitting in KL in the midst of dirty urban sprawl. The let down of going from high to low without being able to talk about the extremes that are only a two hour flight apart makes seeing this alone a challenge.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cambodia / Kuala Lumpur

I've just arrived in Kuala Lumpur, this time for a two day stay rather than just a short night's sleep. Before touching on my first impressions, I have been thinking a bit more about my time in Cambodia. Yesterday, I spent the day touring some of the temples further out. They were by far the most impressive, not because of their size or detail, but because they weren't overrun with tourists.

I hired a driver yesterday - the same guy who picked me up from the airport initially - and had some interesting conversations with him while driving back and forth from the temples. Interestingly, he repeatedly described himself as "ignorant" and having married an "ignorant wife," as that is the only woman who would be with him (mind you he speaks near perfect English and used to work as a land mine remover). It is comments like these that made me appreciate just how dire the conditions are for so many in Cambodia. (If you're in Anchor Wat, and looking for a driver give Yong Heng a call - +855 1292 6115)

KL has proved similar to any other large developing city I've been in. There are run down buildings, and then when you round the corner is the world's tallest bi-tower. After a week of traveling I am fairly run down, and hence a bit happy that it is raining out, giving me an excuse to lay low. Interestingly, there's an arrow painted on the ceiling pointing to Mecca).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cambodia: Day 2

Today, my second day in Cambodia, left plenty to ponder. I started my day with a trip to the floating village - the large lake in the middle of the country grows and shrinks depending of the time of year - on a government boat. Apparently, certain boats are run by the government, with the earnings funding local schools, while others are for profit tour companies.

This got me thinking about how my money is entering the local economy, and whether there are better ways of doing this. As the 16 year old boat driver said "Cambodia can't help Cambodia, only tourists can help Cambodia". I'm staying at a starwood hotel, so short of the wages to local staff, that money is leaving. I've been trying to eat local, and I've been sticking to my tuk tuk driver, which I hope goes directly into their pockets. I've also been questioning buying the trinkets from the children at the sights; they claim they need the money to pay for school, but if they are out selling on a Tuesday afternoon, can school really be a consideration?

All in all, it makes me wish I knew how best to help the locals - poverty does not do the situation justice in a lot of cases, and being able to see a place like this does make me want to show appreciation for it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Singapore Day 2

Walking through Singapore on Saturday, and more so today while exploring the temples of Angkor, I kept thinking how impressive this all would have been 20 years ago. Reflecting on it, I'm sure people 20 years ago said the same thing, which makes me wonder whether 20 years from now people will wish they were seeing it today.

Eirherway, 1,000 year old temples can't be put into words. They were all built and had been in use for hundreds of years before America was "discovered". Some now have hundred year old trees growing through them, and yet the structures are still standing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Singapore

I'm on day 2 of my stay in Singapore, and thought I'd share a few impressions;

I've always heard stories of the rigidity and rule focused aspects of this fine city (pun intended). Therefor I think I was expecting something like Beijing, with a cop on every corner. However, I've only seen one police car during my stay. Nonetheless, the rules are certainly followed.

China town feels more authentic than Hong Kong, I suppose it's the result of it being self contained and concentrated. As a whole, the city seems more diverse than HK, but also more segregated.

The walking lights at intersections make laser like noises when you can walk.

I feel like in two days, I've seen most of the sights. I suppose that you could spend longer and go to the zoo, but 48 hrs seems to suffice for the unique attractions.

Food wise, I tried the chili crab last night, which was comical. Imagine the general difficulty of eating crab, and now add sticky chili sauce to the mix. However, as it's a national specialty, worth the struggle. I've also had some fried dumplings, made befor my eyes, which were astounding.

Heading to Cambodia tonight, with a stop over in Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Getting ready for vacation

Although I've only been back in Hong Kong for two weeks, next Friday I'm heading off to explore a bit more of Asia. I'll be passing through Singapore, Anchor Wat, and Kuala Lumpur while most people around here celebrate the start of the year of the Ox.

As I'm going by myself, any tips or contacts would be welcome.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Christmas Vacation



I've just returned from 2 weeks in Germany and Amsterdam. Rather than go into detail on the entire trip, I thought I'd share a few impressions and highlights:

- Being cold is part of winter. I've been sitting in weather that is in the high 70's since mid-November, only once I plunged into the cold in Germany did it start feeling like Christmas.

- Spending time in Berlin, I for the first time became truely aware of the different histories in the city. Specifically, I had never really distinguished between World War II history and Cold War history. It is interesting to walk from the Museum Island to Check Point Charlie and cover over 100 years of history in about a mile.

- Amsterdam, while nice and relaxed, is not a city I particulary enjoy. It seems too touristy at times, and too local at others. Nonetheless, we were pointed to some fantastic pancakes and were it warmer I'm sure I would have relished a bike ride.

- New Years in Berlin. Everyone celebrates in the streets, not in a bar. When we settled in for midnight, it was a bit surprising to see everyone get up and leave the bar to go set off fireworks in the street. We didn't go to the main "party mile" but stuck to a trendy neighbourhood.

- Apartment rentals are the way to go in Berlin. It was much cheaper than a hotel, and gave us space to be comfortable.

Here are my pictures

I hope you all got into the new year safely, and that 2009 brings you what you hope for

Pictures: Western Market & Lama Island


Here are a few pictures from late last year. The Western Market is by my apartment, and sells a variety of dried Chinese foods, including shark fin, birds' nests, and deer antlers. Lama is a fishing island about 40 min by boat from Central. There are a few hiking trails, and some very nice little seafood restaurants.