A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: olin


Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs...

Many people point out how clean Singapore is, and indeed it is. In fact, the degree of signage encouraging hygiene and good manners almost borders on visions of a sterile dystopia. But that is balanced by the multitude of cultures and the lush greenery that still grows throughout most of the island.

Although much the city is a mind boggling network of upscale shopping malls (almost every metro station will put you in one), there are escapes like the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, East Coast Park where we enjoyed some windsurfing against a backdrop of giant cargo ships and some cable-tow wakeboarding, and Sentosa Island which we did not visit since the cable car was being renovated.

Another highlight was the Singapore Zoo. We really enjoyed the absence of cages which made it feel like the animals had room to roam. The polar bears seemed somewhat out of place though, and didn't seem as happy as most of the other "guests".

Accommodations were more expensive than surrounding countries so we ended up in a dorm room for 20 Sing dollars each (about $15 US), which we shared with all manner of folk, from your average European 20 something backpacker, to an Asian businessman and a somewhat crazed drunk of indeterminate origins who had to be expelled from the room after a few disturbing outbursts that made us feel unsafe sleeping in his presence.


Posted by olin 19:03 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Happy New Year

Mellowing out in Malaysia

sunny 35 °C

We're on a northern island of peninsular Malaysia right now, Langkawi. Arriving here around Christmas made finding accomodations tricky. We headed to Cenang Beach which the guidebook said was the best place for budget accomodations. Our first night we ended up in a dorm, which was fine, except for the snore monster that was about twenty feet away from me and managed to make my night on of the worst I can remember. Nelly was lucky enough to be far enough away and close to a fan that seemed to drown out his ear shattering roars.
The second night we were in a private room, but it had no sink.
The real problem with Cenang, besides being full of tourists, is the open sewer grates every ten feet along the sidewalk. The stench is overpowering and inescapable, which has made some of the restaurant owners and shopkeeps resort to trying to cover the grates with mats and plastic sheets, etc. but with little success.
The beach itself was kind of a disappointment after coming from some incredible islands, Koh Kradan, Thailand most notably, so we decided to head back towards the main town.
After spending one night in a "Westernised" hotel (50$/night), and two nights in a local hotel (25$/night) we found a perfect isolated beach bungalow for a measly 15$/night. We've booked 3 nights there and spent New Year's in quiet isolation, passing out around 9pm after a few glasses of wine.
We're enjoying the multitude of wildlife here. Eagles are a common sight, as are macaque monkeys. We also spotted a family of dusky leaf monkeys, much more docile and pleasant than the macaques, and had to brake for a 4 foot monitor lizard while motoring on the scooter we've rented. We also saw a type of squirrel that was about twice the size of any I've seen, about a foot and a half long body, dark fur on top, with a creamy brown belly and a 2 foot long straight tail, also dark.
We've spent more time here than we would have because we are trying to find a sailboat that will take us on as crew so we can sail south down the coast. We have potential passage on a 43 footer heading to Singapore, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.


Posted by olin 01:53 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)


You are welcome.

Thanks to the general flavor of western media coverage, we had some trepidation about visiting a middle eastern country. Ironically, it turned out to be one of the most pleasant. The people are uniformly kind, welcoming and genuinely helpful.
The day we visited the Dead Sea was especially memorable. Having discussed how to get there using public transport the previous night, we headed off with our towels and bathing suits. After a rather long walk through Amman to the bus stop, we found the correct one (an old but serviceable minivan, pretty much the standard transport in most of the countries we've seen) and hopped on. Not long after leaving Amman, the bus gets flagged down at a checkpoint, at which point all the passangers start pulling out their ID cards. All except Nelly and I who have managed to not bring any. Oops. After some explaining, which the passanger to our left helped us with in Arabic, the quards bid us the ubiquitous "Welcome to Jordan!", and we were on our way. This happened two more times, Nelly and I both stressing out considerably, realising we're in the middle of a middle Eastern country, bordering Israel, with no ID, but each time after a short explanation that we're Canadian we were welcomed and sent on our way.
At one point we reached an intersection and the bus driver urged us to hop of and board a different bus that would continue to the Dead Sea. We were apprehensive but we obliged, and were rewarded with a most luxurious red velvet interior, complete with embroidered hearts on the ceiling of this also somewhat dilapidated minivan.


After taking us on some interesdting backroads throughb local villages, we eventually reached a rather large highway and could see the sea. The bus driver once more told us to hop off and trhat we should find a bus heading south since he was going north. Most of this was communicated in Arabic so we were not entirely at ease that we would ever get to this famed tourist beach. However, having little choice we once again hopped off in the middle of approximately nowhere, in searing desert heat, and began walking towards yet another checkpoint. Our luck was holding, though. The guard, after listening to our sory, bade us welcome and reassured us that we were heading in the right direction. He also said that there may indeed be a bus at some point, but by bthis point we had determined that there was some type of holiday, so bus service was intermittent at best. We walked a bit past the checkpoint and then decided to take refuge in some shade while we dabated our options. The guard we had spoken to was checking another car, and immediately after sending it on its way, he waved to me, pointed to the car heading our way and gave the thumbs up sign. The car promptly pulled up and the two young gentlemen inside explained they were employees of the resort near the beach we were going to. They were on their way to work and would be happy to give us a lift. Nelly was a little heasitant, but we hopped in and sure enough they delivered us the few kilometers to the beach in question, smiling and affable the whole way.
After enjoying the buoyancy and black mud of the Dead Sea, we were faced with an interesting problem.


Because it was a holiday, it seemed that there were no buses heading back to Amman. There was a possibility of a taxi, but they were extremely expensive. After a short discussion with a security guard, he assured us we could just go up to the road and a bus would pass by in a few minutes. Dubious, but with little choice, we took up our spot in the still sweltering sun and hoped. Buses came, and buses went, but we had no idea where they were going or if they were interested in passangers. After some time, I started waving them down indiscriminately in hopes of finding one going our way. Sure enough, a man driving a minvan stopped. He was heading to Amman and for a modest fee was willing to take us. I was just glad to get out of the heat, and again against Nelly's better judgment we hopped in. His English was sparse at best, but we had a nice ride and he did manage to communicate to us that he could help us get tickets to Petra, our next destination. Upon arriving in Amman, he took us to the bus station, helped us book our tickets, then took us as close as he could to where our hotel was (the streets were closed for the parade). All in all, a somewhat humorous, somwhat stupid and all around lucky day. Thank you Jordan, and thank you kind Jordanians.

We owe you one.


Posted by olin 01:53 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

Gaudy Gaudi

Wandering the streets of Barcelona

30 °C
View Sinusoidal Planetary Circumscription on olin's travel map.

We're in Barcelona for a couple of days. Managed to see 3 Gaudi buildings, Casa Batllo, Pedrera and Sagria Familia, the cathedral. We were extremely disappointed to find that after paying 11 Euros each to enter the cathedral, the majority of the interior is covered by scaffolding.

Posted by olin 16:38 Archived in Spain Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Blog burnout

Surely there's a better way.

View Sinusoidal Planetary Circumscription on olin's travel map.

We've just been uploading pictures with Picasa to our web albums because it is so much more convenient and time efficient than the system on this site. Unfortunately, it means we can't throw in any descriptions of the amusing events that might make the pictures somewhat interesting. Blogging is so time consuming. Does anyone have any suggestions for taking some of the tedium out of the process?

Posted by olin 16:29 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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