The end - Tioman Island, Singapore, and KL
Trip Start Jul 16, 2004
12Trip End Jun 16, 2005
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May 29, 2005
As soon as I wrote my last journal entry I was on my way via dilapidated "taxi" to the Heho airport near Inle Lake. When I reached the airport, a small building in the middle of nowhere, next to a rinky dink runway, I was told that my 'flight' to Yangoon was actually THREE flights! The first leg was to Mandalay, then to Bagan, then finally to Yangoon. A total of 3 hours of take-offs and landings! But, heck, anything is better than that damn 16 hour bus!
So I settled myself onto the 66 passenger airplane, taking note of the emergency exits (as always!) and we were off. The flight, scheduled for 5:45pm took off at 5:05pm! I hope no one got to the airport late!
In both Mandalay and Bagan they told the transit passengers (me) to stay on board while the other passengers disembarked and new passengers got settled. All in all each stop was no more than 20 minutes. Quite efficient if you ask me.
Then it was back to Yangoon. I checked into my favorite little guest house "Daddy's Home" and spent the next day shopping and bargaining in the local Market. The same market (sorry Mom) that had been bombed two weeks ago. No sign of any extra security...or any foul play. So I had a fun time spending my last kyat on handmade souvenirs.
After only a few hours in Yangoon I realized that as much as I love Myanmar - it was time to head back to Bangkok. I was just "ready". And...I wanted to leave some sites in Myanmar for my next trip. I'm THAT certain that I'll be returning. So, I hustled myself to the Myanmar Airlines office in Yangoon and booked my return ticket for the same day.
By Saturday night I was back in Bangkok...just in time to spend all day Sunday maneuvering through THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of people in Bangkoks famous weekend market. It was like a county fair on acid! You could spend days in the market buying everything from souvenirs and traditional Thai crafts to pets to neon goldfish to artwork to food to clothing. After a few hours the crowds and heat got to me and I decided to retreat to a nearby internet cafe for some A/C and rest. So, here I am.
Will now put some photos on the web from Myanmar. Enjoy!
I do, now, feel like I'm on my way 'home'. Less than two weeks left. The countdown continues.
Singapore or bust
May 30, 2005
Singapore - a city so clean it's almost sterile
In an effort to ring every last ounce of travel out of this journey, I'm heading to Singapore tomorrow! Actually, I'm only going to Singapore on my way to Tioman Island off of the east coast of Malaysia.
I had intended to go to southern thailand for my "final" days at the beach but Menno's tales of Koh Samui had totally turned me off. The last thing I need is a McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts within walking distance of my beach bungalow! And many travellers warned me that the Thailand beaches have lost some of their allure. Many seem to now be a mini Koh San Road complete with pubs, restaurant chains, neon lights, and college kids on spring break.
So, forget Thailand!
On such last minute notice the only affordable flight south was to Singapore - instead of Kuala Lumpur. So, sure, why not?! I'll spend a day or two there, and then take the ferry up to Tioman Island off of Malaysia. After a few days in (hopefully) paradise, I'll head to KL for my flight home on June 11th.
**this is a condensed update since the computer i was working on just crashed and ate my story***
May 31st mini update...
I spent the last 1 1/2 hours trying to pack everything into three bags. One carry-on and two backpacks are now overstuffed with stuff! I've sacrificed my entire wardrobe for souvenirs - there simply wasn't room for both! So I'm down to one pair of jeans, one pair of travel pants, a bathing suit, a light jacket and a few t-shirts. The rest is stuff I've accumulated on this last leg of my journey. From wall hangings to bags to artwork to Burma batiks (kim!) to jewelry to lacqerware. All costing 1/10th of what it would cost in the states. The challenge is getting it home!
I'm starting to feel all sorts of discombobulated about my journey home. Has it realy been 11 months on the road?! I feel like I was in Nepal decades ago. And Malaysia and Indonesia memories have been blurred around the edges by Myanmar and China memories. It's like a kaliedascope (sp) of memories.
I look forward to going home to sort through my photos and journals from the journey. I look forward to sitting with my parents in their kitchen, sipping fresh coffee, while we wait for the deer in the backyard to make their appearance. I look forward to visiting friends, and hearing the telephone ring - knowing that a familiar voice will be at the end of the line. I look forward to pushing a shopping cart through the Supermarket, and eating a fresh cold salad with vinegar and oil! I look forward to playing by the pool with Jeff, Janine, Lucas, Cameron, Travis and Arianna. I look forward to visiting all of my friends (and second family) in New York City! And then a trip out west (save me the guest room Derek!)
So many things to look forward to. The timing couldn't be better for me to return. Asia is getting too hot, and I'm simply "ready".
I'm sure that after a few weeks at home I'll be stir-crazy and missing Asia - but that means it's time to start planning the next part of my journey. Perhaps Africa. Perhaps Europe and then Africa. Perhaps back to Myammar. Perhaps... Perhaps... Perhaps...
Want to make God laugh?!
Would love to hear from everyone who has been tracking my journey. Even if I don't know you, please tell me what you've enjoyed the most, and the least about my journal. And, out of curiosity, please let me know who you are and how you got ahold of "jensjourney"! I'm curious to know who is out there....!
My love to all,
Tioman Beach Bound....
Jun 1, 2005
One day in Singapore was plenty. I spent the day with Hannah from England touring Singapore via double decker tourist bus. It's a beautiful, sterile, city - but almost in a Disney world sort of way. It's so clean, and perfect, and doesn't seem real.
I had planned to leave tomorrow morning for the beach but as they say...!
There were no bus tickets available for tomorrow...or the next day. Not a single seat available. So, in desperation I asked about the bus that leaves at 10pm tonight. Sure enough - one seat left. I've already been warned that it's the seat all the way in the back of the bus, but after India and Cambodia and all of the other bus rides I've been on - "how bad could it be?"! I hope I didn't just jinx it!!!
Anyway, it's only a 3 hour ride. Barely enough time to get settled in and take a nap. And, it means I'll be on the beach by tomorrow afternoon.
I'm not sure about email access from the island so there is a slight chance that this is the end of my log for a little while.
If you miss me, do a google search for Tioman Island and join me in paradise!
Jun 5, 2005
Tioman is outgrageously beautiful! If it had longer beaches, and got rid of the sandflies it might even be in contention with the Perenthian Islands which are farther north off the east coast of Malaysia.
Tioman is a 1 1/2 hour boat ride from Mersing - a small fishing village on the mainland. Smartly, Mersing has a wonderful little guest house called East Coast Backkpackers which makes all travellers feel right as home as they travel to and from the island. Of course the objective is to get straight out to Tioman in one shot but often travellers get stuck for a night in Mersing.
Tioman Island has beautiful caribbean blue seas, powder blue skies, and colorful fish of all shapes and sizes. There are no roads on the island so the five small towns which dot the west coast can only be reached by boat. Town hopping - island style!
I was lucky enough to land myself in the northernmost beach of Salang, in a large bungalow right on the beach. A bungalow with a porch SO huge that I was inclined to throw a little party one night. About a dozen locals and travellers made the 10 minute walk to my place to hang out and swap travel stories until early in the morning.
But, this place is not just beautiful - it also has it's own unique cast of characters which have made my trip here an incredible experience!
First there is "Man". A 25 year old Malaysian who works at the Fishermen Dive Shop. With his patience (and an Actifed to help me acclimate) i was able to jumpstart my PADI dive career. My first day on the island I went out and did two boat dives. It was nice to be back among the underwater world. I was quickly surrounded by turtles, clown fish, blue spotted sting rays, and beautiful coral.
Then there is Farouk (from Singapore) and Mortin (from Denmark). Two guys who couldn't be more different - but none the less quite compatible. Farouk was the first person I met on the island. And Mortin, ironically, was the last person I saw before I left Malaysia altogether.
Then there's Peter and Thomas who I hiked to Monkey Bay with...
Thomas having just lost his wife to cancer one year ago. And Peter who wore his button down short-sleeve shirt everywhere - in the ocean, on the hike, on the beach.
And Raza, a Malaysian snorkel shop owner who retrieved Peter, Thomas, and I on his little power boat from Monkey Bay. Anything was better than making that 1 hour trecherous jungle-hike back to Salang.
And Steffen from Norway who helped me carry the beer to my bungalow party...and quickly had me laughing with his great story-telling.
And Adele, an australian gal who lives in Holland with her boyfriend, but is now on a 6 month job related trip to Kuala Lumpur.
And Cynthia, a late arrival to the island. Of Chinese-Malay decent she sure had the locals guessing as to her heritage. I think they were sometimes surprised to hear her speak english. Cynthia was one of those travellers who you meet once and immediately share a special bond with.
So many people - all of them colorful, and friendly, and like-minded as far as "the journey".
That's what we are going to rename this island. Then we'll bring in the camera crews and build a TV show around it. Something like "Survivor" for the 30 and 40 year old viewing audience. I've met the most colorful and fun people here on Transition Island. The list of character grows...and most, if not all, are in some sort of life transition. If not before they get to the island....then once they arrive! Be warned - Transition Island is not for the faint of heart!
There is Kristin - a 6 foot, 2 inch, Geophysicist from Germany. Her and Steffen spent one dinner comparing their knee scars. Hers from a very serious motorcycle accident. His from a paragliding mishap! Kristin is returning to Germany in a few months to interview for a job with the German govt. Guess they need a Geophysicist with a "marine" specialty.
And, Lash, a scuba instructor who reminded me of Annie Lennox (hope you don't mind Lash! it's really meant as a compliment!). Maybe it's the platinum white, short, haircut. A cut she keeps trimmed with her handy nail scissors during happy hour! A bright blue cocktail in one hand, tiny scissors in the other. She is a very colorful gal who, although from Pittsburgh, is just about as "international" as one can get.
Anyway, I'll continue my character list when I get back to the US. I've had a lot of fun with everyone here and really enjoyed the island. But, tomorrow I head to Kuala Lumpur.
Here are some highlights of Tioman:
+ The porch party.
+ Snorkeling solo and seeing all of the colorful fish. Then noticing a 4 foot shark swimming in my direction. I held my breath...watched it swim by...then headed to the shore and walked home!
+ Completing four boat-dives ranging from 15 - 20 meters deep.
+ Cleaning Monkey Bay of it's assortment of trash and plastic bottles.
+ Too many Tiger Beers and 3-Mile Long Island Ice Teas. And lots of yummy roti.
+ Hangovers too numerous to count.
+ Sunsets - every night so different. Sometimes pink. Other times yellow. I've enjoyed each and every sunset and spent hours in my little hammock swinging in the warm Tioman breeze.
+ Snorkeling off Raza's boat with a honeymooning couple from KL. Fresh grilled fish and squid compliments of the "pirate" fishing boat and Raza's excellent beach BBQ.
+ Fresh grilled fish every night.
But...now it's time for reality. The countdown continues until "home". In fact...I'm VERY MUCH looking forward to it. Home is the next chapter in my journey - but surely not the end. See you there!
Kuala Lumpur - where it all began!
Jun 9, 2005
It's now 7:30pm on June 9th. I'm back in Kuala Lumpur after a 2 hour ferry ride and a 6 hour bus ride from Tioman Island. Kuala Lumpur is pretty much the opposite of Tioman. Here it is loud, and congested, and busy. There - nothing! Not even a car on the island. And only a handful of bikes - which are pretty much useless since the longest stretch of pathway is only 1/4 mile - at most. If it weren't for the sandfly bites all over my body I probably wouldn't even believe that I was on Tioman Island this morning! In typical island fashion - when I was walking to the jetty this morning on Tioman I said goodbye to one of my dive friends, Raymond. But, the Malay turned around it wasn't Raymond - in fact it was a total stranger. But before I could apologize for my error he said "Goodbye Jenny"! Small island. Guess everyone knows everyone.
But, now I'm in my final stretch. I'm sitting in the internet cafe where it all began in Kuala Lumpur. When I walked in the guy said "you look so familiar?", and then I reminded him that we met last July. It's such an odd feeling to be back here. But nice. When the bus pulled in I knew exactly where I was and quickly had my sense of direction. So, now it's just sureal. Everything looks familiar but almost a year has gone by.
Wonder how it will feel when I step off that plane in NYC?!
Jun 10, 2005
OK. I'm not really in the city of Soeul, but I'm in the airport for three hours between flights. If all goes as planned I should wake up tomorrow (Saturday) as the plane lands in the friendliest airport in the world (ha ha) JFK.
I guess I expected to feel differently after 11 months of travelling. But, honestly, it feels like I just did this trip last week. It almost feels like a business trip and I expect to see some of the FORTUNE crew get on the plane beside me. Business as usual - except that I'm in flip flops and carrying a backpack.
I'm embarassed by many of the things I learned on this trip. Things I must have forgotten since my last History class or Geography lesson at school like:
+ Malaysia is a country - not just a cuisine! I used to think Malaysia was simply a type of cuisine they served at Penang Restaurant on 83rd and 2nd avenue. Embarassing but true.
+ China had a devastating cultural revolution yet many shops still sell Mao's dreaded 'little red book' while the Chinese people prefer to avoid the topic altogether.
+ Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime, lead by Pol Pot, still is beyond comprehension to me. Even after seeing thousands and thousands of skulls in the killing fields.
+ The enormous number of landmines in Cambodia (and Laos) that still exist and detonate today. And the many visible victims on crutches or even crawling along the ground, begging for money so they can survive with one less limb. Unbelievable. And pathetic that not more has been done about it.
+ Myanmar's military regime is still ruling the country. How is that possible?
+ When the king of Nepal calls a curfew, it effects everyone.
Some more things I learned:
+ Western men are plentiful in Thailand - courting young Thai women (or unknowingly young Thai boys who look like women)
+ India wins for the most people that can be crammed onto a bus, into a train, onto one seat, or into a jeep.
+ Cambodia wins for the most people, livestock, goods, that can be carried by one scooter. I've seen 7 people on one scooter. I've also seen pigs on scooters (obviously not the ones driving) and goats.
+ Kids everywhere are beautiful. It's just that some of them are forced to become adults at very young ages due to the circumstances of their lives. I've seen 5 year olds (and younger) taking care of tiny babies while the parents work in the fields. I've seen kids of all ages begging in the streets for tin cans, pens, money, bon bons, milk, shampoo....
+ Once you've been to India everything changes....cause "heck, It's India"!
+ Sandfly bites itch for days and days and days.
+ There IS such thing as too much sticky rice!
That's it for now. My time is almost up on this airport computer.
My love to all. And away....I go.....homebound!
The trip home...
Jun 11, 2005
Currently, only 18% of US adults hold current passports.
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It's now Tuesday and I've been home less than three days. It feels like I never left. If it weren't for the sandfly bites from Tioman Island, which still itch, I'd swear that my trip to Asia was just a dream. I've been pretty numb since I left Kuala Lumpur airport. Kind of like the whole 'returning home' thing has been an out of body experience. Like I'm watching myself go through the motions, but I'm not in my body. I'm watching. But slowly, slowly, I'm coming back into myself and the numbness is starting to fade. And my body, mind, heart are dealing with the fact that I'm no longer in Asia. In some ways it's so nice being home - especially when I get to spend time with friends and family.
In other ways, it's boring. I don't have any friends here in Monroe, and it's not as easy to make new friends here as it is while travelling through Asia. Also, I don't need to worry about booking bus tickets, finding guest houses, doing hand-laundry and living out of a backpack. It's all kind of too easy here. Especially with my Mom and Dad taking such good care of me with amazing meals and everything else that makes home 'home'.
I've easily adapted to my old bed but my body clock is still maladjusted. I wake up every night at 3:00am - which doesn't make any sense cause that's 3:00pm Asia time. I'm also having a hard time remembering what clothes I own. Eventually I'll need to weed through the closet and drawers to refresh my memory. I feel so spoiled to have so much to choose from. Remember, for the past year I've had the choice of maybe two t-shirts and two pants. So now it's a little overwhelming to have too many options! Although all of it is probably considered "out of date" and a "fashion faux pas" by Instyle magazine! I won't even attempt to be stylish! The same goes for music. Now that my CD collection is within an arms reach, I'm paralyzed by options! So I stick to the radio. Let the DJ's decide what I should listen to! (At least until i get a CD care-package from M).
I also just realized that for the first time in my life I don't own a pair of sneakers! I ditched my travel-pair somewhere between China and Burma. I thought I had a backup at home but if I do, I can't find them. So, when I went for a 16 mile bike ride yesterday I had to sport my good ol' fake TEVAs from China! Hey, at least they are functional! I wouldn't dare jog in them though. Guess I'll need to bite the bullet and invest in a pair of sneakers next. I just can't imagine spending $60+ on them. Especially when the most expensive pair of shoes I bought since last June was $7!
This weekend I'm heading into New York City to see my friends. Kristen is coming in from CT, Jennifer from D.C. and Claudia lives in New York. The city is a 1 hour bus ride from Monroe. One hour? That's nothing! I used to dread the bus ride into the city - it felt like an eternity.
Now, one hour is just enough time to take a nap and arrive in Port Authority. Perfect!
I don't know what my next plan is... Right now I'm just sorting through photos and the stuff I shipped home in boxes from each country. So much stuff. I'm lucky my parents have extra space for storage. I'm not sure how I would have fit it all into my teeny apartment in New York City. The ironic thing is that now I have all this great stuff to decorate a house with... A house?! What was I thinking?!
As I sort through photos I'm going to update my website with some of the best ones. So, if you want, join me in rereading the old journal entries.
I also plan to keep updating the website while I'm home. So, check back occasionally to hear how life in the U.S.A. is treating me. I hope to go to California this summer, and maybe Delaware (thanks for the invite Jen), and hopefully Maryland and Connecticut and Montauk and... It may not be as exciting to read about as Asia but it's still part of the 'journey'!
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Things we take for granted at home...
- Drinking water straight from the tap. No need to filter and boil it first! And no need to buy bottled water.
- No need to wear flip-flops into the shower! Yiippee.
- A fully stocked fridge.
- Being able to use the computer without worrying about the time, and the cost per hour.
- Living out of drawers instead of a backpack.
Jun 17, 2005
Horoscope for June 18th NY Post:
The changes that are now taking place in your life did not come about by accident; they are the result of decisions you took, or did not take, a long time ago. There is, therefore, no way you can change them at this late date - all you can do is accept them and make the best of them. That's all you can ever do.