Saturday, August 23, 2014

Malaysia part1: Kuala Lumpur

So, after one joyful day in Singapore I took a night train to yet another big city - Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur. My train arrived around 9AM and as I managed to get decent sleep in the train I was quite ready to see something even that day. But the first task was to find the hostel where Ben was staying, which appeared to be bigger challenge than I thought..

After nice little wander in smoking hot weather with my fucking heavy backpack full of winter stuff from New Zealand (I got so pissed off in that moment that I've sent 8kg of my stuff home the next day) I managed to find the hostel and meet up with this clown again.. The picture is from Batu caves where we went right after my arrival to KL.

Huge hindu statue at the entrance to Batu caves

Inside Batu caves

I did a little bit of shopping in KL (shorts, shirt and flip-flops) at this place - Petaling street in Chinatown - the place where you can get the real Rolex for 5 bucks.

One evening we went with couple of guys from the hostel to the helipad bar to watch the sunset with KL skyscrapers. It was really nice as there were no railings at all so you got a nice clean 360 view over KL.

KL tower and some cocktail on sunset

Petronas twin towers from distance

Petronas towers close-up

"Ben, why is the Malaysian flag similar to American??"
"Ehmmmm... because we're the best?!"

KL city model in the museum

So, I guess I have to compare KL and Singapore here after my previous post.. And I must say I liked KL much better. Why? It has a soul. All the bums, rubbish, street-food stands etc. are creating an atmosphere and 'smell' that you inhale and that will allow you to keep the memories of the place. Singapore missed any form of expression or smell. Singapore is like a person unable of expressing any kind of emotion. Just a poker face. So KL is definitely winner in this battle for me. Still not a fan of big cities though ;) 

As I'm writing this I'm  already in Georgetown, the second biggest city of Malaysia located on Penang island known mostly for its great food and laid back lifestyle. We will spend here probably 2-3 days and then move to the Langkawi island. In total I would like to dedicate around 2 weeks to Malaysia..

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Express sightseeing in Singapore

I'm not a fan of big cities (in fact I really don't like them).
I'm not a fan of big crowds.
I'm not a fan of hot and humid city air.
I'm not a fan of air conditioning.
I'm not a fan of subway (I mean it definitely is great invention and very effective and fast, but I just don't like the feeling of loosing connection with whole world during the commute)
I'm not a fan of business meetings in fancy restaurants.
I'm not a fan of dressing up.
I'm not a fan of shopping.
I'm not a fan of total order and things running too perfectly.

And now, can somebody tell me, why the fuck did I decide to go to Singapore?!

I mean, don't get me wrong, it was a nice experience and I'm glad I've been there, but half a day in big city after long long time totally reminded me how I don't miss it... 

Here is why:
First of all, most of the time in Singapore I've spent under ground (unwillingly). Great! 
Second thing that I realized is, that people look much less happy and are totally anti-social and inhumane. Example: when walking in subway, you are passing thousands of people. Sometimes you get into eye contact. The automatic reflex I developed is crack a smile at everyone. I just realized it here though.. Because in NZ and Indonesia, people would do the same and that's why you have no reason to think about it... In Singapore I could count the people who smiled back on one hand probably.. Majority of the people would give me a weird look and get back to their smartphone screen or not notice me at all...
And the smartphones are the next thing - I regret that I don't have a picture from the subway train now... 99% of the people traveling by subway in Singapore would chat, play, do god knows what with their smartphones during the ride (well, even during walking)... I've seen exactly 0 books, 1 newspaper and barely some conversation.. Sad...
And the last thing is the unbelievable huge amount of consume. Basically whole underground system in Singapore is one big mall. It is just unbelievable and indescribable how many shops with expensive stuff the people don't really need is there and people actually go and enjoy spending time there and wasting their money.. I really couldn't get this... 
So, to summarize it, the main reason why I don't like big cities like Singapore is: they are way too impersonal and make me feel lonely (even though they are full of people).

I guess you deserve some pictures after reading those whining words:

Getting ready for the F1 grand prix

Esplanade theatres

Financial district skyline from Esplanade

Marina bay hotel and mall + arts gallery

Marina bay 'gardens'


Chinatown again

ion orchard - one of the endless number of huge malls (I had a feeling you can get lost there for days. It was really big challenge to find the way out sometimes - because the subway stations were located somewhere deep inside of these monstrous objects)

Inside one of the malls (I think it's Marina bay).. Crazy shit like huge ice rink or water channels with gondolas inside the malls. Well, why not, right?

Skyline at night

Marina bay at night

So, as written above, I'm glad to have experienced this circus, but also glad that it was so fast... I'm already in Kuala Lumpur, so another big city, but at least you don't get the sterile feeling here and you can smell some character and atmosphere of the city. I met up with Ben again and we gonna start the tour around Malaysia from here...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Indonesia, part 2: Gilis, Lombok and back to Bali

After Ubud (see end of previous post) we thought we would go to Uluwatu, but the fact that the Rip Curl Cup at Padang Padang was going on there was causing us troubles with finding accommodation. So we changed the plans and headed towards Gili Islands. Gili Islands are three tiny islands between Bali and Lombok and each of them has different atmosphere: Gili Trawangan (commonly known as Gili T) is a party island, Gili Meno honeymoon island and Gili Air laid back chill-out island. Now you can guess where we went first... Bingo! Gili T it is :)

 Despite the fact mentioned above that each of the Gilis is different, there are few characteristics they have in common: there are no motorized vehicles  (only horses and  bicycles), no asphalt roads and no police on any of them. On the picture is obvious that we arrived at Gili T - you can tell by the load on the cart - Bintang beer (the iconic Indonesian beer - half of the souvenir items in Indonesia are with Bintang logo)

As you can see from the picture, the water around Gilis is beautiful. It is one of the best spots for snorkeling in Indonesia.

 So after one of the rough nights we surprisingly got up early enough to catch the boat and do the snorkeling trip - the boat took us to several snorkeling spots around all Gilis to see various creatures and corals. The highlight definitely was the swimming with the big sea turtles. Breath taking.

Our evenings on Gili T were usually starting here - little bar on the West side of the island. Every night there was a fire and drum sunset show.

Sunset on Gili T - the mountains behind which the sun is setting is Bali

And then after sunset our steps usually lead us here - to the night market. Every night few locals would come, put up their stands in the middle of the main street and sell the best food ever. Yum.

After 5 nights in Gili T (and especially after the last one which was the Full moon party) we definitely needed some detox. Lombok was the perfect place for that. We only spent 2 nights in Kuta Lombok, but still managed to see some of the beauties of this much less touristy and busy Bali's neighbor. On the picture is view from some hill towards Kuta Lombok and surrounding beaches.

View from the same spot to the other side

Mussel collecting at sunset. In comparison with Bali, Lombok is totally different. I've heard it many times, but never wanted to fully believe. Until I experienced it. First of all, Lombok's dominant religion is Muslim, whereas Balinese Hindu, which might or might not make the difference. In my opinion it does. You can tell by the mindset and behavior of the people. Second obvious difference is the 'wealth'. I don't want to say that Bali or Balinese are wealthy people (hell no!), but if you come to Lombok from Bali you can see that the people here live in even poorer environment than in Bali. And the third very obvious difference was the development and infrastructure - Lombok still has street with no traffic jam that ends up somewhere and takes you to abandoned beach or forrest road, whereas Bali is just built-up with houses and hotels and restaurants and god-knows-what everywhere you go. Lombok still has the place you can escape to, Bali... I don't think so.

After Lombok we went back to Bali, went to chilled Canggu for a bit of surfing and relax, Ben left to Kuala Lumpur after few days and I went down South to Bukit peninsula to meet up with my Slovak friends Stanka and Tomas who are on their vacation in Bali. The plan was to try to surf as much as possible, which at the end did not work out that well for me for two reasons: 1) the surf conditions were not too good (see picture) + there was enormous number of people in the water all the time and 2) and more important was that after first day which I spent riding the scooter (and basically steaming my head in helmet) for half a day and surfing for the second half a day on the strong sun, the next day I got quite bad heat-stroke which left me with fevers closed in the room for almost 2 days... So, not that much surfing, but I still managed to see some places. On the picture is the famous Padang Padang beach, place of the annual invitation only Rip Curl Cup for the best tube riders in the world. The 2014 cup took place one week before I was there. Quite funny to imagine that just week ago there were 2 meter high perfect barrels on this exact flat spot :) (not that I could ever go in in that conditions)

Uluwatu temple. The temple as such was not that interesting, but the cliffs that it was placed on - beautiful.

 Uluwatu beach / village - the perfect surf spot. The whole village with all restaurants, shops, surf shops etc. is carved into the cliff on the way down to the sea. So if you are not surfing among the thousands (okay that is exaggerated, but it was sooo crowded) people, you can enjoy your food and drinks by watching them. Not bad..

Young surfer checking out the chicks while getting out of the water  - Uluwatu beach

Bingin beach - same concept as described above in smaller scale. Much more charming.

Young surfer going for the morning session. No chicks watching. - Bingin beach..

Look at Bingin from the access path. No big swell here either...

So, that's it Indonesia. It was my great pleasure, thanks for showing off your beauty, you really are amazing  and I hope I will ever get a chance to come back, because there is so much more to see... But now it's time to move again... I'm currently sitting at the airport in Bali, it is 2AM, my flight departs at 6 with arrival to Singapore around 8:30 local time. I'm only staying in Singapore for the day and then taking the night train to Kuala Lumpur to meet up with Ben again. No more plans after that yet...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Indonesia, part 1: Bali - gay honeymoon, temples, monkeys and almost no surfing

After they almost did not let me to fly away from NZ (I didn't have an onward flight from Bali by the time I was flying away from NZ) I survived 2 long and boring flights and finally landed in Bali last Friday. In the more than week here we (me and my american buddy Ben) managed to see and experience quite a lot of Bali already:

 Right the next day after my arrival to Bali we left the busy touristy part and traveled to quiet NW part. Just for one reason - Ben got us a deal to stay in his friend's super fancy villa in Pemuteran for free for few days. It was a perfect place for honeymoon or family vacation, so obviously being 2 guys staying here made us definitely a gay couple in eyes of all staff and other guests :) still totally worth it... on the picture is the resort, our villa on the left.

Private pool, hahaaaa

The NW part of Bali is one of the best spots for diving and snorkeling in Bali. Ben did his diving course here, I went snorkeling couple of times and it was amazing!

As I don't have any underwater picture-making device, I tried to google and find a picture from the area where I went snorkeling. And believe it or not, it literally looked like this! 

Sunrise in Pemuteran

On the way to and from (and around) Pemuteran we stopped at couple of nice temples (Bali is flooded with them). This one is a monkey temple just next to Pemuteran.

Tanah Lot - one of the most famous and visited balinese temples

Ulunung Danu temple

Balinese dancer at Ulunung Danu

Sunset on the way from Pemuteran to Ubud - our next stop

First day in Ubud we went to cremation ceremony of some probably important or rich man (judging by how big the ceremony was)

First part of the ceremony was to bring the body and all the other stuff through the long street to the temple where the actual cremation took place

After some dances and celebration rituals they took out the coffin and...

...put the body inside the big animal.. and burned it.

Rice terraces near Ubud

Luwak coffee - poop coffee. Balinese special coffee - they let an animal named Luwak (something between cat and possum) eat the coffee beans from the plants (Luwaks are picky and only eat the best beans) and then they collect their poop and make coffee out of that (Luwak's digestion somehow makes the coffee special - I'm not a coffee fan so I can't really tell if it was that good. But people say it was :))

Here it is - liquid shit for 50k rupees (it is around $5, which makes it quite reasonable amount of money here in Bali - e.g. enough for meal and drink in restaurant for 1 person)

Monkey forest in Ubud. Ben found couple of friends there. 

This guy was my favorite - all of the other monkeys were running around and trying hard to get some food from the people and this guy just sat there with hands full of crackers and looked really happy

And one more temple to finish the post - Gunung Kawi.

The next plans are to go to S of Bali and finally get some surfing (I only went once until now) for few days and then to go and experience the hip Gili islands and maybe some more surfing at Lombok. I have 2 more weeks here in Bali and then I fly to Singapore on 19th August..