Tag Archives: Asia

Cambodia

10 Feb


Cambodia is one of those places that every traveller has to go to before they die. It’s a mystical magical place that can rub shoulders with the ancient wonders of Egypt.  Unfortunately the 1000 year old temples are the only remarkable thing about Cambodia.

The major temples of Angkor are all located near the town of Siem Reap.  If not for the temples Seam reap would just be another Cambodian village.    Siem Reap is the rest stop for all tourists exploring the temples, and unfortunately that’s all you experience.  Just thousands of tourists, from backpackers to package tourists, roaming the streets.  There is no real feel of Cambodia or Cambodian culture.  everything feels a bit fabricated.

Even with some of the most spectacular sites in the world, Cambodia is a very poor country and poverty lurks around every corner.    Coming from a country where poverty is a daily issue, I have become somewhat immune to it.  I know this sounds very selfish and arrogant but if you are faced with something everyday you tend to get used to it.  But this year in Korea took my away from the reality of seeing beggars on the street and people living in shanty towns.  Seeing people suffering after such a long time really broke my heart.  Little kids begging for food and people missing limbs going around with a sign asking for some help was just horrible.  It’s horrible that people have to live like that.  We gave what we could.  As with any poor country in Asia, I guess, a tourist is a walking talking shiny dollar sign and that is exactly how we were treated.  Apart from the staff at our hotel I found general Cambodians to be very rude.   They would stick a smile on their faces when they are trying to sell you something or convince you that you need to take a ride in their tuk-tuk.  But after the sixth”no thank you” that smile quickly goes away and is replaced with a look of disgust.  When they shouting out prices of things in the market they sound like whiney 3 year olds.  All of them.  The sounds of ‘one dollah’ coming at you from all directions was a little unnerving.  So I came to the conclusion that Seam Reap is just a stopover, a resting place, somewhere to recuperate and regain your strength for the next day’s tomb raiding.

Also it’s important never to be in a place for longer that is required.  It is possible to take most of the important sights in Siem Reap in 3 days.  We had a total of 5 days and it felt a little long.  But nonetheless I had a great time and it was magical to walk and climb inside the temples.  There is just something about walking in a 1000 year old structure that is difficult to put into words.  It’s just amazing.

I happened to have my birthday in Cambodia and although it’s very exotic and everything I missed celebrating my birthday with my friends.  But that doesn’t mean that my birthday wasn’t awesome.  I was treated to a helicopter ride/flight (I don’t know which one) around the magical Angkor Wat.  It was truly magical and something I will cherish for the rest of my life!

Cambodia was great and right up there with the awesomeness I experienced in Egypt!

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Malaysia – Easy going, laid back Asian wonderland.

9 Feb

 

Malyasia was probably the last place I thought I would be going this year.  But as I started looking into places to go for my Winter break Malaysia kept creeping up!  Adding that the flight tickets there were also the cheapest of all South east Asian destinations, it really was a no brainer.  Malaysia is tropical, located very close to the equator, just what I needed to escape the freezing Korean winter.  I really did not know what to expect from Malaysia and in a way I think that is what made the place so amazing!

Arriving in KL we were greeted with humidity.  It was easy enough to get a bus into the city from where we took a taxi to China town.  We hadn’t made any hotel reservations for Malaysia.  Once we got to China town we looked at about two or three different cheap hotels before settling on one decent enough.  We wasted no time and went about exploring the city.  We took the hop on hop off bus as this would take us to the city’s main sites.  KL was amazing and everywhere I went I was amazed by how green and lush the vegetation was in the city.  There were many mosques and older buildings that transpired you to a time of sultans and flying carpets.  Everywhere we went there were these traditional Indian eateries were the locals ate.  It was easy enough to decipher the malay menu and indulge in the Indian goodness.  If nothing else Malaysia is definitely a food destination.  I fell in love with Kuala Lumpur, the scenery, the people, the vibe, the trees – just everything!  One thing that I immedietly noticed was the friendliness of the people.  Everywhere we went people wanted to talk to us and smiled at us.  It was strange experiencing this, especially coming from Korea where this is not common practice.  But what made Malaysia even more memorable was the fact that these people were genuine.  In many South East Asian countries (or poorer countries) people usually are very friendly but it’s with an agenda.  They want your money, to them you are just a big walking dollar sign.  But in Malaysia we never got that impression.  The people were genuinely friendly, they didn’t want to sell us anything or take us on a tuk-tuk, nothing.  It was great.

 

 

Kuala Lumpur’s multi-cultural population adds to the splendor of the city.  The mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian groups makes Malaysia a melting pot of Asia.  From the architecture to the food these influences are visible everywerhe you go.  Kuala Lumpur is definitely among my top 10 World cities!

 

From Kuala Lumpur we set out to the UNESCO world heritage city Malacca about two hours south of the capital.  Malacca is great with Dutch and Portuguese architecture and a very small but vibrant China town.  The main sights of Malacca are all concentrated in the town square area so it wasn’t too hard to see everything in one day.  So that same evening we returned to the bus station to catch a 7 hour bus ride to Lumut, north of Kuala Lumpur.

 

We arrived in Lumut freezing at 4am.  The AC on the bus was set at the minimum temperature and we soon realized that all forms of public transport were freezing!  It seemed like we were the only people awake in Lumut and just sat on a little bench to wait for the ferry at 7am.  I venutered a little donw the street and spotted a little restaurant/shop down the street.  We had a cup of the most fowl tasting coffee at this little place until it was time to board the ferry for Pangkor Island.  The lonely planet described Pangkor Island as the girl next door of islands and it truly is.  Very queiet with limited cars on the island we had a blast.  We spent our three days chilling on the beach.  We even had a small island all to ourselves for a full day!  It was great!  One of the days we rented a scooter and explored the island on our own.  It was really hard for us to leave Pangkor Island but we knew we wanted to more of Malaysia.  So back on the mainland we took a bus to Butterworth where we would catch the ferry for Penang Island.  Georgetown is described as the mecca of backpacker destinations.  We arrived on Penang on the day of the Hindu festival Thaipusam, so finding a place to sleep proved to more difficult than anywhere in Malaysia.  After seeing some of the most horrible places I’ve ever seen (literally beds separated by office dividers) we found something suitable and affordable.  We wanted to take the Ferry to Langkawi the following morning but could only get seats for the day after so we had an extra day on Penang.  Penang truly is the food Island as I had some of the most delicious Indian food here.  Restaurants and local eateries are everywhere.  Gerogetown is also a UNESCO world heritage city and everywhere you go you are surrounded by history.  Georgetown is really pretty and it has a certain charm to it that I don’t think you can experience anywhere else.  Our time in Penang quickly ran out so it was time to head to Langkawi by ferry.

 

Langkawi is a collection of 99 islands and it is truly beautiful.  I was really hesitant to visit Langkawi because from everything I read about it on the Internet it sounded like a Malaysian Phuket.  But due to the Monsoon season on the east coast we we had no choice but to visit Langkawi.  And contrary to what I’ve read Langkawi was nothing like Phuket.  It still felt like Malaysia and not just a cluster of tourists.  Among the Europeans and other backpackers there were many locals as well.  We spent another three days on Langkawi and once again just relaxed.  One of the days we took an excursion to Palau Island where we snorkeled and saw some of the most beautiful tropical fish.  We also swam with black tip reef sharks and it was an amazing experience.  We ended our Malaysian trip in style by taking a sunset dinner cruise on a yacht.  After our yacht trip we went to the airport for our flight back to Kuala Lumpur. We got into KL at midnight and our flight to Cambodia was at 6AM so we decided to just sleep at the airport!

 

Malaysia is one of my favourite countries and definitely in my top 5.  It’s an ideal holiday destination where you still get a feel of the people and not just feel like a tourist among thousands of other tourists like Thailand.  The people are some of the friendliest and warmest people I have ever come across and the culture is amazing.  The food is so great that being back in Korea is so hard because nothing can compare to it!

 

Malaysia, what a wonderful place!  I will definitely go back one day!

 

Sounds of Korea

10 Dec

Korea – the land of the morning calm, where nothing can disturb this tranquility! …(crickets)…… uh yeah right.  As with any developed country, Korea is noisy.  No longer is this Asian a destination for calm and soothing vibes.  Nope Korea’s many bustling city’s and it’s neverending desire to develop and prosper chucked the morning calm.  Korea is very noisy.  The population density is very high so you can imagine.   Now these noises are fine, and being a city person myself the noise is not that bad!  But there are other noises that drive me insane.  seriously so much that I want to kill myself!

Chewing sounds.  Koreans chew with their mouths open.  I am yet to come across a Korean that eats with his/her mouth closed.  And they chew very loudly.  It’s quite disturbing.  In fact it nauseates me!  I literally want to puke.  I can not even count how many times we have left a restaurant because of this.  There is no way in heel I would ever be able to get used to this.  And don’t get me started on gum in the subway.  You would think that the loud subway noises and the announcements would drown out the chew sound, well guess again.  Koreans love rice cakes and these little delicacies are chewy as hell.  Combine that with the inability to silently and opening your mouth so wide I can see your tonsils and you will begin to understand my irritation level!  It’s bad!

Another sound that pollutes Korea is that of the cough!  Yes Koreans (men mostly) are chain smokers and they have a lot of phlegm.  It’s gross.  They spit everywhere.  The men.  The woman.  The children.  They all do it!  and apart from the fact that every single street in Korea looks like a spit factory it’s the sound that is the worse.  That sound that makes you realise that somewhere, someone is busy getting rid of a weeks worth of slime and guts.  It’s utterly gross and makes me cover my ears!

The other sound has also got to do with snot and its gross.  Koreans love to sniff.  The suck their noses dry and it just makes me want to puke on the snot sucker!

These sounds are enough to send me to a mental institution and have never in my life ben so thankful for my ipod.  If anyone ever asked me what is the most essential thing to bring to Kimchiland, I would say that it is your Ipod!  Because without covering your ears and blasting dangerously high decibels into your ears, there is no way that you would survive the sounds of Korea.

Cheers from (sniiiiifffff) Kimchiland!

Fighting back!

9 Dec

It’s getting colder and colder here in Kimchiland.  Last night as I walked home the first snow flurries fell.  It is absolutely freezing.  And to be honest if everything isn’t covered in white then this weather is just not worth it!  The whole open the windows and switching on the heater thing is still going on.  It is as if they have to either freeze to death or melt to death during the summer!  We are looking for a balance people.  An equilibrium!  Oh well, what can you do.

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So as month ten is almost over I am progressing in standing my ground here in Kimchiland.  Koreans (in general) are not too welcoming or accepting of foreigners, so for us to be treated with a little dignity over here can sometimes be a battle!  But nothing major to run home about.  It’s just different.  Get over it or get out.  Or get even!  I go for get even!  On Monday night we went out for dinner for a friends birthday and on our way to the restaurant (in my neighbourhood) all of a sudden an old woman (Ajuma) shoves me out of the way.  Now I know she cannot speak English and ask politely “excuse me” but there is no reason to shove me out of the way when there is more than enough room to pass.  It’s ridiculous.  So I retaliated and decided to through her with my gum!  Unfortunately it only hit her shoe but it was good enough for me.  Next time I’m aiming for the hair.  That’s right you evil Ajuma’s – I’m fighting back!!!!

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So this past week I have been reading in the Korean times and on an English teacher Forum that our jobs as Native English teachers might be in jeopardy here in Kimchiland.  Yes tha’s right the government has developed a multi-million dollar robot to replace all english teachers.  I guess it was only a matter of time before this happened in this high-tech asian country.  And if this is at all feasible then go ahead, because ultimately the government will save money.  Native English teachers are an expensive investment.  Our flights are paid, we do not pay tax for the fist two years, we get housing, we get severance pay and half our medical aid is covered by the school.  But can the robot really replace the person?  Especially in such a personable field susch as teaching.  But then again, the Korean English curriculum basically trains these kids as robots.  They memorize instead of practice.  And that is no way to learn a language.  Oh well Goodluck to robot 2154458-998!

 

That’s all for now, Cheers from Kimchiland!

 

Too long!

26 Nov

This whole North-South nonsense has gone on for way too long.  Before coming to South Korea I never really paid any attention to either one of the Korea’s.  I knew the UN secretary General came from South Korea and also LG, Samsung and Hyundai.  And that’s about it!  Now that I am here I must say that I have learned a lot about both these countries and how much of an impact they have on the international community.  The two richest (maybe strongest) countries in the world are battling it out by exploiting the North-South tensions!  China backs the North and the US the South.  North Korea easily and often claim that South Korea is the US’s puppet and they often forget that China is their puppet master.  Yes North Korea is dangerous and poses a threat to international security, but jeepers this has gone on for way too long.

It is kind of a sticky situation that we currently find ourselves in.  North Korea attacked South Korea and although they deny that they initiated the attack according to them and their ‘borders’,  South Korea did enter their maritime space.  I think the solution is to give all the water that surround both Koreas to the UN!  Now the US is sending a ship and they are going to have a circus right by the North Korean border and possibly aggregate crazy Kim Jong Il and his delinquent of a son even further.  So I don’t know!  I really do hope that everything will just kind of fade away!  I have too much to look forward to and I will not let stupid Kim Jong Il ruin my fun!

North and South should just settle their issues like two Korean middle-schoolers- Kai Bai Bo!  That is Rock Paper Scissors.  Although thoroughly annoying to a teacher this little wonder can solve any Korean obstacle.  And the speed at which they conduct their games is absolutely mind boggling.  These Koreans are professionals when it comes to the are of Rock-paper-scissoring.  So Lee Myung Bak and Kim Jong Il call each other on Skype and settle it once and for all.  Sudden death!  Seriously!

 

Cheers from Kimchiland!

The world at my fingertips!

26 Nov

I love travelling.   If I could I would become a traveller, by profession.  It’s times like these that I wished I lived in Thomas Cook’s days.  Just sail around all day looking for new and undiscovered places.  That would be great.  But seriously if I could I would want to do something that involves travelling constantly.  Maybe I’ll harass the travel channel until they give me a job!

Coming to Korea was partly because I want to travel and what better way to do it while teaching?!  And sure enough I have done some travelling this year that made me very happy.  With our time here in Korea running out we had to make the most of our opportunity to explore Asia a little further.  When we started thinking about where to go during our holiday and after our contracts it was a complete mind frying experience.  We literally had the world at our finger tips.  we could go anywhere.  Never before have I had the luxury to go literally anywhere!  It was great.  It was like being blindfolded and pointing at a map and just go there where you pointed.  So exciting!  A million destinations and adventures entered our minds and it was magical.  In the end we decided on Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore and Bali.

Last night we booked the last flights and it is wonderful to just go online and be like “Let’s book tickets to Bali”.  So thank you Korea for allowing me to have my fingertips where they are.  But then again I sure as hell have  worked hard t deserve it!  In moments like these life can’t get any better!

 

Cheers from Kimchiland!

red, yellow, green

9 Nov

For the most part I think Autumn has departed.  Even though the red, yellow and green leaves are reminiscent of Autumn the snatching cold tells a different story.  I am enjoying the cold weather very much. The only downer is that It get’s dark at around 17:50 which sucks!

 

This past weekend we made our way to Palgong mountain to see the autumn foliage.  It was nice to get out of the city and be one with nature!  Our little adventure started down town Daegu where we had to wait for the Rapid city bus to take us there.  The bus was packed and we barely had room to stand.  And at every stop more people just got on without ant people getting off.  We assumed that everybody was on their way to the mountain.  One thing as certain and that was that it was going to be a long bus ride.  The 1 hour and 45 minute bus ride wasn’t the most enjoyable thing I have ever done in my life but in the same breath it made me smile a couple of times.  Koreans love hiking and the outdoors.  Especially Koreans above middle age.  The love hiking so much that they wear hiking gear everyday.  In fact I don’t think they own anything other than hiking clothes.  And not just any hiking clothes – brightly coloured ones.  The interior of the bus looked complete like a brewing pot of rainbow vomit.  And these feisty Ajuma’s don’t take any crap, as they’ll shove as hard as thy can t get past you even though it is humanly impossible for you to move an inch!

At the mountain we walked around, took the cable car up and took way to many photos of leafs.  It was beautiful.  But as with everything else in Korea it was extremely crowded.  Everywhere you go it is crowded.  There are people everywhere.  It get a bit much sometimes,  I mis wide open spaces and driving for miles and miles without seeing any traces of civilisation.  Is it possible that I am longing for a weekend in the Karoo or even the Free State?  It’s time to get out of here, I am going nuts.

 

The leaves were beautiful and the colder weather is wonderful.  Korea can be beautiful, it’s a pity that it only lasts about a month of the year.

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