A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand: Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan

Nothing quite prepares you for the madness.....

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Once in a lifetime...

I was in Koh Samui, relaxing for a couple of days before commencement of muay thai training at SuperPro.
I went into a tour shop to use the net.
The owner was a friendly chap and asked what I was doing in Samui.
"Muay Thai and chilling on the beach..... nothing else planned mate" I replied.
He offered, "You wanna go to Full Moon Party tomorrow? Once in a lifetime experience...."
I thought about it for a while - this would definitely mark an end all the good detox work in Phuket, but passing on the chance would be regrettable!

Getting There

The Full Moon madness is on Had Rin beach, Koh Phangan. You can get a ferry from other parts of the island or Koh Samui fairly painlessly.
FMP runs every month (for every full moon), and seems fairly well organised.
I was picked up from my hotel at 8pm and met fellow Melbournites Sarah, Ben, Lauren and Adam on the bus who were up for a big one.

On the bus:
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Sarah had already been a couple of times and knew what we were in for - rest of us were in for a surprise.
The ferry took about 25 minutes to Had Rin pier.

We're on a boat ............. :
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As we walked towards the beach, the crowds of neon clad, sunburnt, wasted western backpackers grew thicker and wilder, whilst the bass grew deeper and louder.....

Party time

I've been to Ibiza, Glastonbury and many festivals and parties.... I thought I'd seen some wild times, however nothing quite compares to the Full Moon Party. It's huge, loud, and ultra-festive.
Along the (probably gorgeous, otherwise) beach there are huge sound systems pumping all kinds of dubby and uplifting techno and house; equipped with big podiums for the adventurous - even a water-slide!
There are massive fire displays and neon painting stands so you can decorate yourself for the party (I opted for neon fire down my forearms).
Needless to say it was a totally amazing, fun and reasonably hassle free night filled with boogieing, big sounds, big smiles and general camaraderie. I didn't see many problems.
Towards the end, a few passed out bodies littered the beach, but that's about it.
I didn't see a single policeman or authority figure the whole night. but apparently there were undercover cops everywhere.

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Glowstick duelling:
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Can't go to an international party and not show off our city's world famous shuffle ;-)
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Most people were wasted - not just wasted, but TOTALLY wasted.
I hope they remembered at least some of the extravaganza, because it was a spectacle I'll often revisit in memory lane.

Getting Home

It's not so bad ferrying back to Samui (unless you get seasick). We had to wait about 40 minutes for our speedboat and were duly greeted by our mini bus to take us safely home.

All in all....

It was a great experience, and I made some terrific new friends.
I'd recommend FMP to anyone who still has a bit of party spirit left in them. Go on!

Posted by SkinnyFists 03:32 Archived in Thailand Tagged koh_phangan full_moon_party Comments (0)

Thailand: Atsumi Healing Retreat

Healing and rejuvenation through fasting, detoxification, yoga, meditation and learning!

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Atsumi

Atsumi is a health retreat offering a comprehensive and informative program for detoxification of body and mind through fasting, cleansing, yoga, nutritional education, meditation, spirutual guidance, varied exercise and many other great offerings.

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Where is it?

Located in beautiful, sparse, quiet and super health conscious - Rawai, Phuket - with raw food cafes, roughly five muay thai boxing camps, and a strong contender for world's best unspoiled beach (Nai Harn) - the perfect place to immerse yourself in a healthy culture with no looming temptations or notable nightlife.
In the mornings hundreds of fitness tourists stomp the pavements for the mandatory 8km run as warm up before their respective Muay Thai / yoga / etc training starts.

Nai Harn Beach:
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Why fast to detox?

Here is my in-eloquent explanation...

Western diets are full of acidic / toxic contents that our bodies weren't designed to ingest - i.e. sugar, alcohol, red meat, etc.
Further, we cook foods for taste however enzymes are completely killed off in the process and more toxins are introduced.

When we consume in this way our bodies go into "defensive mode".
As part of this defense our bodies produce a mucoid plaque in the intestines in an effort to shield the body from inducing the bad stuff whilst protecting our inner linings.
A consequence of the plaque is that it slows the flow of foods into our system, inhibits nutrient absorption (which is why people who consume higher levels of sugar, alcohol, etc have bigger appetites) and also becomes a breeding ground for nasties.

When we fast, we have a clear path to flush the plaque (and all that it has trapped) out of our system, whilst letting our other digestive organs recuperate.
Think of a car - if you really want to clean the engine, do you just drain the oil and then put more in?
No, you empty the engine and give it a good scrub, then a flush.

What happens?

In a nutshell, you don't eat anything, however throughout the day you consume:

  • 2 coconuts (water only, no flesh)
  • Liver flush drink (garlic, lemon juice and olive oil)
  • Lots of water
  • Capsules containing plant based proteins and vitamins
  • Several cleansing drinks (consisting of natural fibre and a dried volcanic clay)

.... the clay expands in the intestinal tract and stomach and pulls the mucoid plaque and all the bad stuff down through the system.

Participants do 2 self administered colemas to "flush" from the system.
Sounds horrible perhaps, but you gradually feel the benefits both physically and mentally, as your body becomes cleaner (both in and out).

There is a lovely herbal steam room to help expunge toxins via our biggest organ (our skin!).

Each day we had a choice of massage. I went for the Thaiatsu most days - a strong mix of traditional Thai and Shiatsu.
The masseuses were strong and buff almost like muay thai fighters (only, older ladies) - so the massages were brutal but effective.

Further Activities

There is daily yoga or fitness training in the morning, and a variety of interesting sessions in the evening including:

  • Meditation practice
  • How to come out of a fast (slowly and gradually, increasing metabolic rate), and keep the good thing going.
  • Technical discussions around nutrition, digestion ( incl. good food combos and BAD food combos), and technical explanation of what your body is going through
  • Chakra healing
  • ......much more

Atsumi grounds:
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Additional Offerings

As with most health retreats there are additional treatments that can be undertaken. Atsumi's are specifically eastern and I have to say very effective.
I did one session with a chiropractic/physio healer who (whilst inducing more pain than I have ever experienced), completely reset my body framework and healed an accident injury that several visits to a western osteopath did nothing for.
I also worked with a spiritual healer who guided me through some of my trials and bigger life questions - I have to say this session had life changing impact, and everyone else who did similar sessions reported the same impact.

Results

I left Atsumi 7kgs lighter, much fitter, happier with a much more informed balanced and calmer view of the world.
Would recommend to anyone!

Photos

You can see my photos of Atsumi and the gorgeous surrounds of Nai Harn :here

Posted by SkinnyFists 03:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged yoga detox health_retreat_phuket atsumi Comments (0)

Recovery and Pack list

Recovering from travel injuries and reassessing travel essentials

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Back home for now....

Recovery

I spent nearly 2 months at home after the accident recovering at home with my parents.
The concussion, bruises, scars, etc gradually faded and the surgeon in Melbourne gave my neck and back the OK soon enough. However the leg and ankle took their time to repair.
It was also a good chance to see my folks again, and they made it really easy for me the whole time! :-)

Insurance

My insurance company were awesome. They replaced all of my clothes and damaged items - anything I could list, and paid all expenses without involving me at all.

Packing List

Since I was back home, it was a good opportunity to reassess what I really need for a round the world trip.
Here's what I came down to

  • Osprey Atmos 50L pack
  • Pack cover (for waterproofing and air security)
  • Waterproof jacket
  • 1 pair Keen sandals
  • 1 pair Merrel Waterpro shoes
  • 1 Kathmandu Merino Fleece
  • 1 Kathmandu merino 200 long sleeve
  • 1 Icebreaker merino 150 long sleeve
  • 3 Icebreaker merino 150 t-shirts
  • 1 pair Prana stretch hiking trouses
  • 1 pair Prana knicks (Prana
  • 1 pair cotton shorts
  • 1 pair Duchamp swimmers (thanks Thu)
  • 1 good shirt
  • 5 pairs travel boxers
  • 3 pair socks
  • 1 pair Icebreaker merino thermals
  • Usual toiletries
  • Amazon Kindle 3G (brilliant device!)
  • Medical kit
  • Glasses + prescription
  • Headlamp
  • Chargers and adaptors
  • Travel towel
  • iPod shuffle
  • Camera
  • USB Storage
  • Pocket knife
  • Passport and photocopies
  • Details for all Embasies and consulates for countries being visited

Wiggle Your Big Toe

After a lucky recovery and eventually feeling good, I decided to resume an active life starting at a detox, yoga and healing centre in Thailand....

Posted by SkinnyFists 04:15 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cambodia: Road Accident and Emergency Care in Siem Reap

Hit by a car in National Road 6 - emergency services and travel insurance comes into play.... **warning** not for the squeamish

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The Accident

As I was crossing the National Road 6 to get into the orphanage, a car, doing approximately 120kms came out of nowhere and hit me/my bike at full pace.
I can only remember the car approaching, the new few moments are a blank.

I woke up, seemingly 20 minutes later, with a crowd around me and a friend from the orphanage holding a towel on my head.
An ambulance shortly arrived and took me to hospital on stretcher.
An immigration police officer was with the ambulance and asked what happened.
He said my bike was destroyed - a friend too a photo before it was taken away - like a crushed can.
Nurses gave me local anaethsetic around the injuries.

Hospital #1

We arrived at the hospital - somewhere in Siem Reap. Nurses quickly pulled the asphalt from my head and stitched up my wounds - face and legs.
My neck hurt real bad, and couldn't support my head.
No neck brace was available.

Insurance and Embassy Response

In serious pain and not sure about the standards of the hospital (floor was filthy and bathroom had grotty water leaking everywhere), I called my country's embassy to see what to do next.
The lady who took my call didn't really know what to do. She looked on Google as I waited for her to find an international hospital, and had no idea really how to help.
A friend from the orphanage called my hotel and told my friend there what happened. Luckily he knew of Ankor International Hospital and said I should get there straight away.
I told the doctor at my current hospital.
He said it's fine to move, but I need to pay my bill (in cash only) of USD$260.
I had no cash, and the bill was too much for anyone around me to front.
I called the Embassy again - no help at all. I started to get nervous.
I called my insurance company and everything turned around!
They said just to hold tight...I lay still.
30 minutes later an ambulance from Ankor International Hospital arrived with a local agent from my insurance company.
He paid my bill in cash, whilst an ambulance officer put my neck in a brace, and I was off to the international hospital.
I have to say here that i will be writing a letter to my foreign affairs department to ask "WTF?!".

Hospital #2

At Ankor International Hospital I received the best care ever. My insurance company paid bills on the fly, so there was no concern over finance, and the surgeons discussed my condition with corresponding surgeons in Australia who represented my insurance company.
I had 3 huge meals per day, as chosen from an extensive menu, and they even treated my hiccups with a little miracle cure!
My suite was huge - leather sofas, amazing bathroom, mini bar, etc - plus cable TV.
I had to stay for 5 days before I was given to all clear to go home.
Thankfully my father came over straight over to look after me too.
After the surgeon in Siem Reap gave me the all clear to fly the insurance company made arrangements for us both to return to Melbourne (first class whooop!)
My friends from the orphanage came to visit me every day (a 20km journey), which was just so wonderful.

This isn't an ad for travel insurance by the way - but if you want to know who I was with, just message me.
If you got to Siem Reap, please be careful of traffic, and take out good insurance!

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Posted by SkinnyFists 23:53 Archived in Cambodia Tagged embassy cambodia_accident travel_insurance consular_assistance Comments (0)

Cambodia: Volunteering PACDOC Orphanage

Teaching English at a Non Government Organisation for disadvantaged children. PACDCO is a truly inspirational and wonderful place

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Background

PACDOC orphanage is located roughly 10kms outside of Siem Reap.
It is primarily run by a Mr Boran and his wife.
They provide shelter, food, education / skill learning, clothing (including uniforms for government school) and importantly love, attention and direction to roughly 44 children who's parents have either passed or simply cannot afford to look after them.
Though PACDOC does not receive funding, there are some philanthropic organisations such as ELIV from Taiwan who assist by building infrastructure and teaching, for them.
I initially found PACDOC through a (will reman nameless) volunteer placement organisation who wanted some serious $$$ to place me there.
After finding the orphanage Facebook page, I found that going through an Agency wasn't necessary and they were happy to accept teachers directly.
Without knowing too much about the volunteering industry it seems there are placement organisations out there making a big healthy profit from the goodwill of others hmmm....
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Teaching and Classes

When I arrived, there wasn't much in terms of tools, books or teaching aids.
On my first day i brought a soccer ball with me, and taught the kids the basic words and phrases used in a soccer game - in English.
Of course they already followed premier league and loved both Arsenal and Manchester with equal passion.
It was a great afternoon, and good way to break the ice with the class.
The next day we got into lessons. I didn't plan too much ahead, but rather have different activities in my - arsenal.
All the children I taught had a very high aptitude, and strong willingness to learn.
English is a high priority for the orphanage agenda. They want to enable these children to eventually work in industry or the growing tourism market where there will be plenty of opportunities for them.
One of the great things about PACDOC is that their children get the standard government education as all Cambodia children do, plus the extra English lessons from volunteers - these kids have a great advantage in the regard, despite their disposition.
It took a few days, but we gained a lot of momentum with new phrases and sentence structure.
I would recommend for anyone interested in volunteering in Siem Reap to go here! Contact me directly if you want to know more.
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New Friends and Culture Learning

There is a very broad range of ages at PACDOC - from toddlers to early 20's. The older ones drive the school age children to government school, assist with volunteers (and teach when volunteers are not there).
The older guys taught me a lot about Cambodia's wonderful culture and took me for a big night out on the town!
Teaching at PACDOC and bonding with the people there was a truly remarkable, humbling and inspiring experience that i will never forget.
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PACDOC photo album

Posted by SkinnyFists 23:17 Archived in Cambodia Tagged siem_reap cambodia_volunteering pacdoc teaching_english Comments (0)

Cambodia: Siem Reap and Ankor Temples

Beautiful cosmopolitan city, and fascinating temples that rival Egypt

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Bus to Siem Reap, and playing choons

The bus from Battambang to Siem Reap was a joy compared to the last trip. Almost seamless!
At the rest stop I enjoyed the best banana/sticky rice ever!
Anything wrapped in vine leaves in Cambodia seems to be delicious!
The young chap sitting next to me seemed fascinated by my iPod!
I offered to play him some tunes which seemed to make his day!
I started mellow with some indie, but he seemed underwhelmed.
Then I amped it up with some drum and bass which got him screaming and air drumming.
He loved the drums - so I stayed with DnB, Jungle and a bit of Hip-Hop.
Whenever the tunes got too mellow (Erik B and Rakim was too mellow!) he said "no, more dum-dum-duhdum" - flailing his hands in the air.

Finally we arrived in Siem Reap, and I was greeted by Mr Phally, the tuk-tuk driver for me hotel.

Siem Reap City

Siem Reap has a really nice vibe. The old market area is the nicest(see: touristy) part, located on the river, with an awesome night market and heaps of great restaurants and bars.

I'll also say it is the most friendly place I have visited in all of my travels thus far.
I stayed at Neth Socheata hotel, which is outstanding in terms of location, service and facilities!

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Temples of Ankor

Mr Phally took me on a 2 day tour of the Ankor Temples. Ankor Wat is everything you've heard and then some.
There are so many temples in this area that you could spend a week here. The architecture and designs are incredible.
For me this was en-par with the sites of Egypt. Just amazing!
I recommend buying a guide book for the temples. They are money well spent as are the guided tours of Ankor Wat.
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My photos of the Ankor temples are here:
Ankor Temples Photo Album - Facebook public link

Posted by SkinnyFists 23:07 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temples siem_reap ankor_wat ankor_temples Comments (0)

Cambodia: Battambang

Lush green province with a nice town and wonderful temples and landscape

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Bus to Battambang

The journey from Phnom Penh to Battambang was an interesting one.
One of the great services that Phnom Penh bus station has, is that they pick you up from your hostel or hotel, and take you there.
The driver then directs you to the bus.
The journey to Battambang should have taken 5 to 6 hours.
Sadly the air conditioning packed up about 2 hours into the journey, and we had to wait nearly 3 hours and a technician to come (via the next Battambang bus) to fix it.
Luckily we made it to a rest stop, and were able to sit and eat, drink coco-cola.
The bus eventually made it to Battambang town at around 8pm.

Battambang Town

I stayed at Asia hotel in an awesome single room with cable TV, nice bathroom for $12.
Battambang is small, and friendly - and very nice! There are plenty of nice places to eat.
The town seemed light on travellers though.
There are plenty of nice clothes shops, cafes, etc - but so very quiet at night.
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Battambang Province

I hired the services of the hotel's tuk-tuk driver for the day to take me on a tour of Batambang Province.
What an awesome day!
First we went to the Bamboo Train - which is exactly that.
Small motorised vehicles made of a bamboo platform on track wheels, that fly down the tracks for an untold distance.
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We only went about 15 kilometres to the next settlement, where I met a local family and shared tea and stories of our lives. The kids took me on a tour of their area including the rice press, and I also got a lesson in Khmer!
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After the Bamboo train we went up into the mountains to see various temples - all of which are outstanding, but individually tough walks to get to!
One of which sits next to the Killing Cave which was another murder site used by the Khmer Rouge.
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All in all it was a great trip to Battambang province and a marvelous area to explore!
Perhaps it is better that it is off the Banana Pancake trail to keep it's nice sleepy vibe.
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You can see the full set of my Phnom Penh and Battambang photos here:
Phnom Penh and Battambang (public Facebook link)

Posted by SkinnyFists 23:16 Archived in Cambodia Tagged battambang bus_journeys_cambodia Comments (0)

Cambodia: Phnom Penh

Beautiful welcoming city that lays bare a haunting ever present past.

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Lately in the hospitals, the halfway homes and choking jails,
There's people on the mend again,
With hopes to carry on,
Come on people, keep your friends close,
Your enemies won't mater in the end

(Enemies/ Friends, Hope of the States)

Arriving

As the plane approached Phnom Penh from the wild west (Bangkok), you could only see water and submerged buildings.
As we drew closer it became apparent that the floods were not as bad as it seemed.
Most foreign nationals require a tourist visa to enter Cambodia.
I purchased an e-Visa before my arrival, however the visa itself did not arrive in time.
Armed only with a receipt I tried my luck at customs, rather than have to buy another one.
The easy going customs officer just sighed, took my thumb prints and stamped my passport.
Once you leave the airport, a swarm of tuk-tuk drivers swamp arrivers offering a lift.
I heard many warnings about driver scams where they take you to their mates' hotel coincidently with the same name as yours
I organised for my hostel (Nomads) to pick me up from Phnom Penh. i was greeted by the friendly lady and the hostel's own tuk-tuk driver.
The roads of Phnom Penh can be dusty, so travellers have your Khmer scarfs ready!

Exploration

Phnom Penh is a nice, vibrant and fairly welcoming city.
Though the activity is evenly spread.
Most nightlife and tourist hangouts are on the beautiful waterfront area of the Tonle Sap.
There is also a really nice night market on Friday and Saturdays.
There is also the Royal Palace and National Museum that were really interesting.

S21

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S-11, a school before Khmer Rouge evacuated the city in 1975, because a centre for torture and interrogation during Khmer Rouge's 4 year horrific reign. The site is now a museum and site of remembrance for the atrocities that were committed there. The displays are very graphic and some of the torture beds, complete with tools of interrogation remain as chilling evidence. There are many photographic displays showing prisoners as they are processed, as well as tortures taking place.
There is a very sombre and chilling feel to the experience and it was difficult to hold back tears for the victims and families that were affected by Khmer Rouge.

Killing Fields

Located roughly 12 kms out of town the Killing Fields is the site where Khmer Rouge lead their people to die.
Soldiers dug enormous pits here, and lead their victims to the edge of the pits, where bodies already lay dead, sliced their necks with sharp palm leaves and pushed them into the pits.
There is an audio guide which leads you around the museum, explaining how the Khmer Rouge tricked their victims into thinking they were being relocated to better homes, before being lead to their death.
The grounds themselves still show evidence of the pits - from the moulded ground, to the bone and clothing fragments that are still emerging from the shifting soil.
There is a shrine with 17 floors full of human skulls found here, where to can light incense and pay your respects.
It is the single most harrowing thing I have experienced, yet also inspiring to know how quickly the Cambodian people have risen from their past and are boldly moving forward.

You have to hand it to Vietnam.
In 1979, having just evicted the American and Australian forces, and rebuilding their own nation - Ho Chi Minh decided that enough was enough, whilst the more equipped western world just looked on, and liberated Cambodia, forcing Khmer Rouge to retreat into the jungle.

On the whole....

Phnom Penh is a really vibrant, friendly, busy and thriving place.
Really enjoyed it.

You can find the full set of my Phnom Penh photos here:
Phnom Penh and Battambang (public Facebook link)

Posted by SkinnyFists 02:15 Archived in Cambodia Tagged phnom_penh killing_fields s_21 Comments (0)

Multicultural Malaysia: Impressions

Thoughts and experiences of the thriving, yet some-way-to-go multiculturalism culture in Malaysia.

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Religious melting pot

When the judgment comes to find the world in shame
When the trumpet blows won't you call my name?
- Peter, Paul and Mary

As I left Kota Kinabalu for the last time, boarding a flight for Kuching, I saw a man struggling with a box up the stairs to the plane.
I offered to help and he graciously accepted. He spoke good English and was very interested in my travels. It turns out that I was seated next to him and his colleague.
I asked what they were doing in Kota Kinabalu, and they replied "The international Gideon convention. Do you know who we are?"

I do.
Famously, the late comedian Bill Hicks had funny bit about them - wondering how they sneak around distributing bibles like the easter bunny - to hotels and anywhere else for that matter around the world. Spreading the good word of Jesus and warning of the perils of not heeding the good word"

I had to ask, "how do you fight the good fight in a Muslim majority country, that is sectarian, despite claiming not to be?"
Sensitivity and care of others' pre-existing beliefs is the answer.
In other words, they only try to convert atheists and agnostics.

In truth, Malaysia is a very tolerant and mixed country.
Conservative, even by Asian standards, but open nonetheless with some wonderful cross pollination of foods and interesting beautiful faces.
From a religious perspective stats are something like 60% practice Islam, 20% Buddhism, 10% Christian, with the remainder practicing Taoism, Confucianism and other Chinese religions.
Interestingly, by law, all ethnic Malays must practice Islam, and I am told there are breaks and incentives to be Muslim in Malaysia, despite the open status.
So, on the surface it does seem very harmonious, however through the fairly limited-tourist engagement with my new Chinese and Indian non-Muslim pals in Malaysia, I understand that there is favoritism, which does create a strain for non ethnic Malays.

I was lucky enough to be in Kuala Lumpur for Malaysia Day - commemorating 48 years of union with the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak. The dialog of the day, was "we are a great multicultural nation, but we have some way to go before we are a completely integrated society.

Posted by SkinnyFists 21:49 Archived in Malaysia Tagged religion malaysia Comments (0)

Malaysia: Perhentian Islands

Super chilled, like Gilligan's Island with cabins on the beach, great food, wonderful warm personalities. Beach party at night.


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Perhentians

I flew from KL to Kota Bharu (near Thai border), and then took the very eventful (see: rainy, bumpy, getting soaked) trip across to Pulau Kecil - a gorgeous, stunning oasis.

Long Beach, Perhentians
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Lodgings

Checked in to Mohsin, on the coast which had a gorgeous view of the sea from it's elevated point.
Food there was terrific, but it's right next to the beach party (goes until 5am), and being an elder gent, I decided to check out in the morning and move to Coral Bay around the corner.
CB is worlds apart, so quiet and not many people around. I checked into Maya and got my own cabin with bathroom and fan for about $10 a night. So nice!

Diving

Did two dives on the Perhentians. The first was D'Lagoon, where we saw a lot of turtles, and other interesting fish. It was a nice easy dive.
The second was Sugar Wreck - a sunken ship way off the coast. Conditions were POOR! Super strong current and almost no visibility. We went down anyway, but a few minutes in we lost one of the group!
Protocol says to ascend after 1 minute to find them, our dive master indicated for us to stay put whilst he looked around.
Upon returning without our friend, he indicated to then just continue the dive(!!).
I freaked out, but did what the diver master asked. Eventually we found our lost friend, but the dive was a bit of a waste

Snorkelling

I decided to join the Maya snorkelling trip the next day.
Totally awesome!!!
The group was about 30 people on two boats and we went to 6 sites around the island. The water was crystal clear, and there were black tip sharks, turtles, barracuda, and bump heads everywhere!
Was a great trip and good group.
I met a couple from Germany who gave me a lot of insights into traveling India and South America, and a couple on their way to Sydney to work. Everyone on the trip (internationals) said they would like Melbourne better, I think the poor souls were disappointed.

Me with a new friend
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Long Beach is the place to party at night. There are two beach bars set up, and the nights I was there, a fire twirling (for want of a better word) group were performing. It was absolutely amazing. Put the Confest hippies to shame. Really spectacular.

The Perhentians are really nice, and worth the trip!

Sunset at the Perhentians:
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Posted by SkinnyFists 05:09 Archived in Malaysia Tagged beaches snorkelling diving malaysia coral_bay perhentian_islands Comments (0)

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur

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KL

Ridley Scott's vision of a future metropolis in 2019 will likely be realised in Kuala Lumpur: with it's enormous Petronas Towers, multi level hi-way overpasses and intermittent rains, and Bangkok (I will explain BKK later).

KL is a nice place to visit - especially if you like shopping.

Lodgings

I stayed at Back Home Hostel - which is fantastic!! Some hostels in KL unfortunately have a rule that doesn't allow Asian or Middle Eastern people to stay. I find this strange and discriminatory. Many Australian Hostels have the same rule.
Fortunately this one doesn't have such a rule, so i was able to meet people outside the western-backpacker sphere of folks.
On my first night I shared a dorm with a group of Indonesian students; the remainder I shared with a family from Cambodia who incidentally run a guest house in Siam Reap - so I will probably stay with them in Cambodia.

Malaysia Day

I was lucky to be in KL for Malaysia Day. This commemorates the union (48 years) with Sabah and Sarawak, and celebrates the rick and varied diversity of Malaysia - with enormous fanfare!
The dialog of the day was "we are a great and varied nation, but we have work to do in order to be completely integrated.

"If you feel Malaysia Day get your hands up!"
Malaysia_Day.jpg

In da... club

The hostel was generally pretty social, and a group of us ventured out to Sky Bar, which is within the Traders Hotel, at around the 36th floor, facing the Mighty Petronas Towers.
The club itself is the hotel's pool by day, and so in the evening, you could easily fall in after a few drinks. The view from the club is spectacular.
Nobody seemed to be dancing. It was a fairly stuffy place where people like to be seen.
We had our drinks and sat down at a table.
An american fellow, flanked by a swathe of ladies way above his punching weight told me that he was waiting for friends and that we should move.
"Contractors?" I asked with a smile. He just looked at me blankly hahaha.
We found a couch and had a nice night out.

Shopping

Most people come to KL for shopping. The centres are enormous. They make Chadstone (Melbourne's biggest) look minuscule. 8 levels of enormity. Each having at least 15 opticians, which is what I was after.
Specs are soooo cheap in KL, so I indulged in 2 pairs, and a couple of shirts.

Batu Caves

The Batu Caves are a huge natural shrine for Malaysian Hindus, roughly 13km outside of KL. Ceremonies still take place there, and it is a healthy climb up. It was a really nice visit, and I did a tours of the bat caves, which was very interesting indeed.
Batu Caves Wikipedia

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:29 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur batu_caves shopping Comments (0)

Malaysian Borneo:Sarawak Highlights and Departing Thoughts

Exploring Kuching and Baco National Park

semi-overcast 35 °C
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Kuching

Kuching is a gorgeous riverfront city, with a warm, friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
I arrived in time for the Moon Cake festival, so there were many Chinese festivities, and lots of yummy street food to be had.
I stayed at Beds Hostel, and definitely recommend it to any backpackers going to Kuching. It was recommended to me back in Kota Kinabalu by fellow travelers.
Imo and David at Beds made my stay totally awesome. We went out on two occasions drinking around town and singing karaoke. On my last night in Kuching, David, myself and Marion and Karine from France had a few too many shots of Tuak - felt it the next day.
Going back to the hostel - the facilities were excellent, I actually had a dorm to myself with air-con.

Kuching at Night:
Kuching_Night.jpg

Baco National Park

Baco National Park is roughly a 1 hour bus ride plus 20 mins on the boat from Kuching.
It is a massive jungle on the coast with beaches and wildlife - and when I saw wildlife I mean wild promiscus monkeys swinging in the trees!
I took a maps from the registration office and hiked two of the major routes, covered about 8 kms of jungle all together. At the end of each track you reach the coast, and the juxtaposition of jungle and beach makes for a truly spectacular scene.
Map of tracks:
Baco_Map.jpg

View from the coast:
Baco_View.jpg

Bye Bye Borneo

Sadly, I ran out of time and couldn't do any more of Sarawak, as my flights out were not changeable. It would have been nice to stay longer, but I had the best time in Borneo.
I write a further few weeks on from departing Kuching and still say it's been my favourite part of the trip so far.
I met a lot more intrepid travellers there, and really got to know the local people. It's a really wonderful place that hasn't been spoiled by tourism yet, so if you like trekking, diving, amazing wildlife, down to earth quality hospitality and vibrant culture definitely get yourself to Sabah and Sarawak!!!

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:28 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo kuching jungles baco malyasia Comments (0)

Malaysian Borneo: Sabah Highlights

Diving, climbing, eating, wildlife and getting to know the wonderful people in Sabah

sunny 35 °C
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Welcome to Malaysia, Craig David Parsons

Wow, it's a month already since I left freezing Melbourne for the tropical jungle of Malaysian Borneo.
First stop was Kota Kinabalu, and it was pretty fast paced for the next 4 weeks from there: exploring, diving, climbing, eating wonderful food, getting a little bit sick and meeting terrific people.
In KK I stayed at Masada Backpackers - if you go to KK I recommend it!
Facilities are the bees knees, it's super clean and the food is divine!
On my first day I decided to book an action packed itinerary - whitewater rafting, diving, Mt Kinabalu climb, etc.
When I told the booking agent my name, she asked "Craig? Like Craig David?" .....even in Malaysia!!! proper bo

Here are my highlights from Borneo

Kota Kinabalu

The "capital" of Sabah. A really nice place to visit - lovely people and a lot of diversity: Christian and Buddhist Chinese, Muslim Malays and Hindu Indians. Lots of lovely food - everywhere!

Padas River Whitewater Rafting

The train ride through the mountains is nearly as exciting as the rafting itself, weaving through the jungle mountains on a rickety old train.
Exciting.
The Padas river has level 3 and 4 rapids, which means pretty fast and busy.
The experience itself was wonderful, my group didn't capsize, but came close a couple of times as we steered through the rapids!
Where the water was deep, we were allowed to swim through, but floating on our backs, with feet up/forward. Lots of fun, but lots of water up the nose.
For the last rapid, I hung from the front of the boat, which was very gnarly indeed!
P1030495.jpg

Mantanani Island

This is the tropical island that you see on ads. Crystal clear blue water, white sandy beaches, (literally) no-one around.
I took a speedboat over with new pals from the hotel, Darren and Xui and we stayed at Mari Mari resort.
Basically 6 elevated huts and a mess/hall restaurant - r i g h t o n t h e b e a c h!

The dive centre servicing the areas, is a huge facility built on stilts out in the ocean. Absolutely fantastic
Did 3 dives at various sites, with visibility of (and I'm not kidding) 40 metres plus.
Saw turtles, barracuda, black tip sharks, nudie brands, everything. Super duper!
Mantanani.jpg

Mt Kinabalu

This was H A R D yakka!
Xui and I were driving to the Mountain by the owner of Masada where we met our guide for the journey!
The first part of the trek is 6 kilometers of pretty grueling trekking on (at times) very steep gradient)
The scenery was so very lush and nice, though it can be hard to focus on such beauty as you dig deep to press on.
I have to say the vibe amongst trekkers was really positive and fun, which helped a lot!
On the way up, you meet hikers on their way down, giving very mixed accounts of what to expect!
At the 6km point we reached our stopping point for food, shower, and rest - before the big part.

There is no hot water at the lodge, and with temps down to about 16 degrees, the cold shower was tough, but invigorating.
My trainer at home reckons cold water is just as good, if not better for the muscles to recover - and indeed it helped.
A quick dinner (nice food) and then straight to bed (a little narc'd on altitude too - whoop).

At 1:50am we rose again for a quick brekkie and straight on to conquering the peak of Mt Kinabalu.
The last 2.5kms of the trek are the toughest.
Much of the finale requires you to pull yourself up via ropes, and it you are at all squeamish about heights, then it may be a bit scary.

In the final 200 metres, you start humming to Rocky soundtrack (doo-doo dooooooo!) and get to the peak. Amazing!!!!
So cold (-1 Celsius), but so worth it.
As dawn breaks over the mountain, you become in total awe of nature - it's enormity, beauty and power.
Definitely a life highlight.

At the top:
Kinabalu_top.jpg

On the way down:
Kinabalu_morning.jpg

Climbing down was definitely harder than going up - the legs are exhausted and you kinda slump your way down.
AT the end my calves were pretty destroyed, though proud of themselves too :-)

Kinabatangan River

This is the Borneo that you hear about: wild oran-utans playing on the banks of the river (we saw plenty), promiscus monkeys, playing in the tree tops, bats, giant lizards, etc.
I stayed at Billit Kinabangan - and was the only guest - so I got a private boat tour, and night explore/hike. Was truly spectacular!
Froggy having some chill time:
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Dramatic Kinabatangan at dawn:
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Diving: Mabul, Sipadan, Kapali

This also falls into the 'life highlight" category!!
I had to take the bus down to Semporna (Lonely Planet describes this town as "no great shakes" - a total understatement), and then meet my group for the speedboat across to Seaventures Dive Resort; a converted oil rig which is like divers heaven - right in the middle of some of the best dives sites in the world (and Jacques Cousteu's absolute favourite).
I stayed for 3 nights, where we did 3 dives at Sipadan, 2 at Mabul and 1 and Kapali. All sites are amazing in their own right, but Sipadan takes the cake. Malaysian Government mandates the folks need a permit for Sipadan, and rations are low. This means that it isn't crowded when you are lucky enough to get in.
Truly spectacular.
The food, organisation, accommodation and service on Seaventures is outstanding too. I'll never forget the experience!

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Photos
Feel free to check out all my photos from Sabah.
(Note: they are Facebook links, however you don't need to have a Facebook account or be my FB friend to access)

Sabah Gallery 1
Sabah Gallery 2

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:08 Archived in Malaysia Tagged food diving wildlife jungles mountain_climbing oran_utans Comments (0)

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