Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 or 8 near-Deaths in Southest Asia (1 of 2)

I’m a little late in putting this up - been spending far too much time on searching the internets for election-related stories, and of course fantasy football. Since this is a “sports” blog, i really should write about my fantasy draft, though sadly I was unable to attend as I was somewhere in Southeast Asia when it occurred. Of course, this resulted in me scoring my best opening game in years, and all my players did well except for the free agents that I had a roll in acquiring.

I’ve tried to write this blog a couple times already, but I kept getting interrupted by random buddies showing up at the convenience store table where I wrote and wanting to booze. Today, I’m ready to go, as I’ve found a new fortress of solitude in which to hammer this thing out - at a different convenience store table, of course. Anyway, I’ll try to throw down all my trip stories in one blog, so that I can write on more topical things - like the election and fantasy football - next week. I’ll put the stories on the top, but if you are not inclined to read them, you can scroll down to the disjointed pictures in the latter half. But you shouldn’t.

I flew to Bangkok on a Saturday night, and got loosened up for the trip by a terrifying dive that my 767 took somewhere south of Taiwan. Even the stewardesses seemed a bit rattled. Not good times. I had just ordered a gin and tonic, and it had just been delivered when the plane dropped - as did the G and T, in one gulp - and I was sober at the time. I did as well as I could for the remainder of the flight to not be. Fortunately, on the flight a couple days later on an Air Asia flight to Malaysia - on a ghetto, old, clearly second-hand 737 (the signs inside the plane were in Spanish for fuck’s sake), there were no such incidents.

After going boozing my first night, I did what I came to do in Bangkok - ate tons of Thai food, bought some cheap clothes and a Malaysia Lonely Planet, and hung out on Khoa San. In doing this, I somehow lost my camera. Apparently, cameras are the new sunglasses for me. I bought my fourth camera since arriving in Asia, fifth if you count the at-the-time high end cell phone that I brought here with me from the states and lost in the spring of 2007. Worst of all, when losing or breaking all five cameras, I was as sober as a Republican when the cameras were on. I haven’t been losing my cameras because I’m a miserable drunk - that I could accept - I’ve been losing them because I’m an idiot. True story - the day after I lost my last camera (earlier this summer), I somehow lost a pack of smokes that I bought at a store that’s next to my building. Only I could lose something when a) I didn’t stop anywhere to lose it, and b) I was walking 30 feet, tops. And no, I didn’t leave them at the store, I checked.

Anyway, after buying my new camera in Georgetown, the main city on Penang Island in Malaysia, I decided I had no reason to stick around in town, and hopped on a non-air conditioned bus to the beach. Despite no AC, the bus was fairly awesome, since it cost like 60 cents to ride to the other side of the island and you could smoke on it. I didn’t, but just knowing I could was cool enough for me. I settled into my hotel, and after a couple nights of hostels and clubs and drinking an aptly-named “bucket” and shady Bangkok taxi drivers and airports and haggling for cameras and horrific in-flight dives and un-air conditioned busses, I finally felt like I was on vacation. My hotel was nowhere near 5 star, but it was perfect. AC, cable, fridge, and right on the beach. In that, I mean that to leave my room and it’s sweet deck, I had to walk through the sand to get to the road. I ate dinner at a beach bar, went to sleep at like 11 p.m. and woke up at 10. Vacation.

I spent my first day on the beach pretty much doing nothing, the farthest I went from my hotel was wherever I cruised out to on a jet ski. The next day, I rented a scooter, which I then proceeded to crash. Twice. It turns out that simply driving one in Grand Theft Auto doesn’t make me particularly qualified to drive one in real life. In my defense, the roads were really twisty, plus people drive on the wrong side of the road there, so it wasn’t like tooling across Iowa. After my first crash (a very minor one about 30 seconds after I got the scooter, that required me to pay some guy $7 for cracking his rear light) I practiced a bit, then headed to the national park to hike through the jungle. Unlike a Korean national park, there weren’t a million people everywhere. I was out hiking 3 hours and saw a total of 4 people. I found a secluded beach, and saw a freaking monitor lizard along with the ubiquitous monkeys.

Malaysia seemed to be quite advanced country - much cleaner than Korea (but so is LA) and much better organized infrastructure-wise than, say, Thailand. Still, there’s lots of fun stuff that you could never get away with back home other than smoking on busses. When I returned my twice-crashed scooter to the internet cafe guy that rented them (the second time I knocked both mirrors off and shattered one, but had it fixed up at a nearby bike shop for 8 or 9 bucks) the guy didn’t even look at the scooter. He just said, “Oh good, you’re back in one piece,” and gave me my deposit back no questions asked. Later that day, after drinking a bunch of Thai whiskey on my deck, I decided it would be a good idea to go jet skiing again. There was no deposit, no paperwork, nothing, I just haggled with the guy then paid him. Jet skiing is fun, but jet skiing while drunk is unbelievable. For some reason, I started loudly singing Doors songs and had a couple unspoken races with this Saudi couple (the dude driving of course, and the woman in full burka. On a jet ski.). Being that there were two Saudis, likely sober, and only one of me, I won the races pretty easily.

On my last day in Malaysia, I hired a taxi to go sightseeing around Penang before moving on to the airport. It was very cool, but I won’t bore you with most of it, I’ll mention the snake temple. It had a snake farm, which turned out to be pretty boring, just a bunch of smaller snakes in 10 gallon aquariums, like the reptile house at any zoo. I saw a large cage in the center with 2 enormous snakes in it, but the snakes didn’t move at all. There was a mouse in there, running all over the snakes’ heads, and I kept waiting for them to eat the mouse, but they didn’t move at all. I mean, even for snakes, they were totally still. I assumed that they must be rubber fakes, so I touched the tail of one of them, and it moved it’s tail. Okay, fair enough, they are real. Then, I noticed the sign on the cage indicating what they were. King cobras. Oops.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Malaysian food. It doesn’t get much press, and I’d never eaten Malaysian food other than once in Hong Kong. I loved it in HK, but it was also my main HK going-out night out when I had it, and I probably would have enjoyed microwaved tree bark at the time. It turned out my drunken Hong Kong taste buds were right - Malaysian food is the best. I cannot understand why there isn’t a Malaysian restaurant on every corner. It’s Asia, so it’s all rice and noodle based, and it’s something of a mix of Thai, Indian, Chinese, and Arabic. Had there been a Taco Bell on Penang, I doubt I would have gone. On the other hand, I love me some Thai food, but had there been a Bell in Bangkok, I totally would have gone. In fact, there was a Mexican place down the street from my Bangkok hostel, and I did go, and it wasn’t even the Bell.

Anyway, so much for this one-blog idea. I’ll post part 2 in a couple days, with more pictures

Batu Ferringhi Beach, from just outside my hotel

My hotel, photo taken standing in the same spot as the last one

My sweet ride

Lonely jungle beach (though WiFi on my iPod worked here)

Click and zoom, monitor lizard going for a swim

The beach from my deck before a 5 minute rainstorm

Old looking monkey

Maybe the best sunset ever

Me at the same sunset

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow I'm glad you made it out alive.
I'm thinking that making it a habit of only going to beaches for the rest of my vacations for the rest of my life.
Just returned from the cape it was awsome.