Category Archives: Uncategorized

Discovering Malaysia


Art Space

George Town, Penang Island

[Malaysia]

The train ride took ~ 22 hours [from station to station] from Bangkok, Thailand to Buttersworth, Malaysia. The air conditioning was turned on high with no switch off. I was comfortable wearing my trackpants, sweater and winter hat laying out on the upper-level sleeper. It was a smooth ride compared to any of the trains I took in Myanmar – time passed quickly as I slept most of the journey.

After leaving Thailand and entering into Malaysia through customs I walked and immediately took a large boat ferry over to Penang Island. I arrived in George Town and walked to Love Lane street.

Walking down Love Lane there was plenty of accommodation available. I walked down to the street and chose the cheapest option for 18 Ringgit/ night [dorm room] (~$6 CAD). The guesthouse was named ‘54 Love Lane Inn’, appropriately that is also where it is located.

Paul is the owner who spent almost twenty years travelling. Sitting on Love Lane at night with a load of beer in the fridge chatting with friends. Listening to different perspectives while exchanging stories about life and travelling. It was good fun.

In the guesthouse dormatory room there was no airconditioning and the fan was not effective. I woke up a few times in an uncomfortable sweat from the heat.

Luckily to have travelled to the city at this time as the George Town Festival is under way [Jul 29 – Aug 28]. It is a massive arts festival held in many areas around the city celebrating local artists and artwork. With lots to see and do I spent many days in George Town roaming around the city checking out the different festivals, exhibitions and my favourite local street art [spray painted walls & more].

Statues and pieces of art were built with wire, props and objects, they were placed in different areas of the city. Historical reflections of the city presented through the artwork. A few examples:

100 Yellow Chairs stated. “Sit on me, move me, arrange me with others. Do what you like with me, just keep me in the George Town World Heritage Site.”

A hundred yellow freestanding chairs painted by members of the community with the invitation to be moved throughout George Town. It was a social experiment and fun to move them around, especially after a few beer.

Reading Art. This exhibit asked visitors to first view the poems or text based on the art, prior to viewing the artwork itself.  Artwork by Ch’ng Kiah Kiean.

Burning. Cloakwork’s piece provides a visualization of the pollution of smoking. Using graffiti and props, the art almost jumps out onto the street.

Panicrama. Edited photos to skew them sideways and modify them in different ways. Some of the photos were pretty twisted.

Love Lane Inn (Malaysia, 2016).
Love Lane Inn (Malaysia, 2016).
Artist at work (Malaysia, 2016).
Artist at work (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
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Wired work of art (Malaysia, 2016).
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Reading Art; photo exhibition.
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Cigarette blah blah
Burning Art Exhibition (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Art Works (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Meow (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Hellooo! Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Monkey Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
Yellow Chairs (Malaysia, 2016).
Yellow Chairs involved in the exhibition (Malaysia, 2016).
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Street Graffiti (Malaysia, 2016).
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Street View from Love Lane (Malaysia, 2016).
Finished Art (Malaysia, 2016).
Finished Art (Malaysia, 2016).

Exploring Penang

I met many local and foreigners at a couchsurfing meetup just off Love Lane. We shared many stories, laughs and beers. I hiked through Penang National Park the following day to some beautiful beaches.

The ocean water on Penang Island appears blue but when closer examined it has a tinge of brown/ black from the dirty run off from the land and jungle. I didn’t swim one time during my whole time on Penang because of this which was slightly disappointing.

Georgetown is renound for its amazing tasting foods. The Chinese and Indian influence is easily seen after spending only a few hours in the city. The diverse cultural mix from Malay, Chinese and Indian blend to make some great cusines.

Cheap alcohol!! Sitting relaxing, playing music, kareoke

I met some great people and I ended up staying in George Town for eight nights. There was an International Express down the street from 54 Love Lane that sold duty free beer for $2/big can of heineken. Spending nights relaxing, playing music and singing kareoke at the reggae bar, it was a blast.

I have heard great things about the Perhentian Islands on the east coast of Malaysia so I bought a ticket for the overnight bus for 53 RM (ringgit) and a return ferry ticket to the island for 60 RM (~$20 CAD).

I went with some friends I made Charlie, Roy and Sophie. At the bus station we were taking our things out of the car and Roy thought everyone had grabbed their things so he closed the trunk. “Ouchhh, fuck!” Charlie yelled as he was jumping around the side walk. Roy had accidentally slammed the trunk right on his hand. Thankfully he got some ice and nothing was broken.

The overnight bus was surprisingly spacious. We stopped frequently; every one to two hours for food, petrol, a cigarette break, toilet stops, I couldn’t explain the need for all of the stops. In combination with that that the driver had the aircondition working at the maximal level. Truely it would have taken a winter jacket and toque to feel comfortably warm on the bus. I was able to doze off a few times and awoke around 0500 am in Kuala Besut.

Hiking in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
Hiking in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
The beach in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
The beach in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
The beach in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
The beach in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
The beach in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
The beach in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).
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The beach in Penang National Park (Malaysia, 2016).

Kuala Besut

There is no ATM on Perhentian Kecil Island. A local man had offered to take Roy and I at 0530 am but said that the bank does not open until 0645 am. The first boat to go heads off at 0700 am. The man forgot and I reminded him at 0650 am if it was possible we could still go. He said, “yes, of course” and turned as we followed him to his motorbike. Roy and I are both tall broad shouldered guys and the local man was fairly small. He was having a hard time controling the motorbike with both of us on the back, we swerved on the gravel road and almost crashed a few times on the short ride to the ATM.

“What you name?! Where you from?!” The local man was incoherently yelling stories and questions over his motorbike [also telling us how he had just bought the bike yesterday]. It was scary sitting on the bike [I mentioned to him that I have a motorcycle in Canada and can drive the way back].

As we hopped off for the first time I took a closer look at the local man and his eyes were glazed over bloodshot red. He was definetely high on something, thankfully we made it there without any incident. He requested that I drive the three of us back to the jetty to catch the boat to the island. Without swerving and weaving on the road we made it back safely.

We chose to head to Perhentian Kecil [the smaller island] because it seems to be more backpacker friendly and has more affordable accommodation. We went to Coral Bay on a whim because it sounded good. Looking out onto the glassy blue ocean, the sun was rising and breaking into the sky as the boat ferry made it’s way over to the island.

Street Art (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Art (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Art (Malaysia, 2016).
Street Art (Malaysia, 2016).

Back to Bangkok


One Day at a Time

Bangkok

[Thailand]

Flying from Mandalay, Myanmar into Don Muang Airport in Bangkok I was unsure of how long I would stay. With some help at the information desk I took a local bus direct from the airport to the Victory Monument and hired a motortaxi the rest of the way to The Overstay.

I hoped off the motortaxi and looked around for The Overstay, some other taxi drivers were helpful and pointed me in the right direction of the building. Approaching the older slightly run-down building up for 130 baht/night (dorm room) and a good reference it was worth checking out.

As I walked in, rock music was playing from the speakers and people were sitting around the bar area hanging out. There are two guitars, a bass guitar, full drum kit and microphone all for anyone to switch on and use. A nice pool table and many pets around. The Overstay was home to 9 cats and a puppy dog named wobble, also referred to as Wobilita.

I walked to the bar and Flo checked me in; and then showed me around. The building used to be a squatters residence and gives it character. Lots of positive and creative energy in this place. All of the walls are covered in paintings, mostly wicked spray paint. Everyone is encouraged to paint, write, play music or just hang out in a fun spot.

The place is a few kilometers away from Khao San Road. The toileting facilities were simple shared washrooms. The hostel could get loud at times but usually quiet enough to sleep in the dorm during the night time hours.

I ended up extending my stay at The Overstay and spent nine days in Bangkok.

My friend Olga from Russia did many amazing art works on the wall including spray paint and paint. At times I would just sit and watch, play music and talk. Sitting on the rooftop jamming was a great time.

One day a bunch of us friends from the Overstay [Spanish couple, Baron, Olga, Jon and a few others] went on an adventure searching for an abandoned skyscraper building. In a city with the 581 high rise buildings it didn’t take long to find one. Even though it was not the particular one we were looking for, it didn’t disappoint. The walk up to the 18th floor went by quickly with the views I provided on the way up. [The photos don’t do justice to the beauty of the sun setting over Bangkok.]

Staying up past sunset the sky shifted to night where the cars, street lights and buildings provided a luminescent view of the city.

I spent many days wandering around the city streets and markets in Bangkok, it is a massive city with over 8 million people in the city and 14 million within the Bangkok Metropolitian Region. It was fun walking through the local markets, there were no other Farang’s in the area. I walked through two music markets. I spent time in at least 30 music stores browsing the market for a new ukulele and checking loads of things out. In the time I had with the ukulele I was able to play a decent number of songs.

I want an instrument that I can give a different sound when jamming. I found a banjo and went back to check it out 3 times. I withdrew some money before heading in the final time. I had been trying to get a better price each time. Initially he was asking ~6000 baht, I ended up walking away with it for 5000 baht [$180 CAD]. The family who owns the shop offered me a beer and some Thai food after. It was nice sitting on the side of the street making some simple conversations.

‘Shit this damn thing was expensive.. and pretty big!’ I thought to myself as I was carrying it home. I took the wrong bus and then couldn’t find a taxi who would use the meter so I ended up walking with the banjo a few kilometers back to the hostel.

It was a great way to spend a week hanging out on the rooftop, playing music, listening to stories and relaxing.

I booked a 22 hour train from Bangkok, Thailand to Butterworth. I hopped in a meter taxi and took off in the early afternoon.

Set-up by the bar (Thailand, 2016).
Set-up by the bar (Thailand, 2016).
The Overstay (Thailand, 2016).
The Overstay (Thailand, 2016).
Can cows swim? (Thailand, 2016).
Can cows swim? (Thailand, 2016).
Olga's artwork (Thailand, 2016).
Olga’s artwork (Thailand, 2016).
Smile (Thailand, 2016).
Smile (Thailand, 2016).
Big piece on the wall (Thailand, 2016).
Big piece on the wall (Thailand, 2016).
Art (Thailand, 2016).
Art (Thailand, 2016).
Monster (Thailand, 2016).
Monster (Thailand, 2016).
One of my favourite pieces by Olga (Thailand, 2016).
One of my favourite pieces by Olga (Thailand, 2016).
Wall sprayed by Olga (Thailand, 2016).
Wall sprayed by Olga (Thailand, 2016).
Found it! (Thailand, 2016).
Totally abandoned! (Thailand, 2016).
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Sky High (Bangkok, 2016).
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Checking out the view (Bangkok, 2016).
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Look down if you dare (Thailand, 2016).
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Skyline Pano (Thailand, 2016).
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Day fades to night (Thailand, 2016).
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Bustlin’ Bangkok (Thailand, 2016).

 

Myanmar V


Departing Indawgyi Lake

Hopin

[Myanmar]

Indawagyi Lake was amazing! It’s what I was looking to find in Myanmar, and found it.

Local people living life in a beautiful place.

@ Indawgyi Lake

Jack and I took a truck taxi from Lonton to Hopin, sharing with many local people. There was an older man who had some trouble getting into the vehicle, he was smoking what looked to be a rolled up newspaper. A man working the truck was hanging off the back and told us that he was smoking marijuana. We turned down his kind offer to try some.

A few local woman had tears from their eyes, initially Jack and I had thought it was the smoke that was bothering them. They were smelling limes, hacking and spitting out the side of the truck. It is a winding, uphill and downhill way;  throughout the ride it became more likely that the woman in the truck were all experiencing motion sickness.

Packed up in the back of the truck taxi ready to head out (Myanmar, 2016).
Lonton to Hopin via truck taxi (Myanmar, 2016).

Hopin

After arriving in Hopin we booked train tickets to Naba. We found some some coffee and pastries in town. After a few hours of the bumpy ride we arrived in Naba. We were bound for Katha but the train only goes as close as Naba so we had to take a taxi for an additional 45 minutes.

As we were leaving the train station a man asked us if we need a taxi. Katha is a popular destination from the Naba train station. The driver had managed to find many local people looking for a ride, the back of the truck was getting packed. A few of the local guys hopped onto the roof when space was running out. I wanted to ride up top with them so I climbed up. The driver had wanted me to get down but I assured him it wasn’t a problem.

It was a great ride on the roof watching the sunset over the mountains. The truck was swerving around corners and bumping along. It was fun exchanging a few words and laughs with the locals on the roof.

Life on the top of the truck taxi (Myanmar, 2016).
Life on the top of the truck taxi (Myanmar, 2016).
View from the top of the truck taxi (Myanmar, 2016).
View from the top of the truck taxi (Myanmar, 2016).

Katha

It was dark by the time we got into Katha. Jack and I made our way to a guesthouse and looked to find some information on the boat to Mandalay. We didn’t find much information about the government boat and the alternative ‘fast boat’ is 25,000 kyat ($27 Canadian). We wandered around town for a few hours; had dinner and a few beers at the Riverside Bar right on the Irrawaddy River.

We met some funny local people and had a ton of laughs. Littering seems to be an accepted norm nationwide. Watching the guys working at the restaurant, I was disappointed to see them take the trash off the table and throw it into the river rather than into the trash bin that is 2 meters away. We headed back to the guesthouse and called it an eary night.

After waking up in the morning Jack and I tried to find the price and time of the cheaper government ferry. Again finding any information in regards to this was tough, the woman said her manager was gone so she was unsure whether or not the boat would go the next day. The price for the slow government ferry was about half of the fast boat fare so we tried again later in the day for a thrid time, still unable to determine when the boat would go we just bought tickets for the ‘fast boat’. The guys working in the ticket office were really nice, we were joking and laughing with them for a few minutes. After chatting for a bit we ended up paying 20,000 kyat ($22) for the ferry rather than 25,000 kyat. It is scheduled to leave at 05:00 am.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the town. Not many people visit Katha, tourism doesn’t appear to be very popular here. We walked and saw George Orwell’s house where he lived and wrote the book Burmese Days. It has changed into what looked like a school. The back of the house gave a stunning view onto a body of water with houses all around.

We explored some local markets and chatted with some people. It was a great day, walking in the town seeing first-hand how the people go about life and dealing with the high levels of the Irrawaddy River. We met many smiling people saying ‘mingalaba’ and waving as we walked through different neighbourhoods.

Walking in Katha beside the Irrawaddy river, it quickly becomes obvious that it is like a bloodline for the people. It is used in such a large capacity, tap water is most often used in the western world for similar activities. Throughout the day I passed by the river many times as the guesthouse was located on it. Every single time there were always many people bathing, washing, doing laundry [and more things] when I walked by the river.

It was an early morning waking up at 04:30 am for the 05:00 am boat ferry. The morning sunrise brought a brilliant sunrise from the boat, the sky was showered with vibrant colours. It was nice to lay out at the front of the boat to catch a bit more sleep.

Body of water in Katha (Myanmar, 2016).
Body of water in Katha (Myanmar, 2016).
Animals lounging (Myanmar, 2016).
Animals lounging around (Myanmar, 2016).
Flooding in town (Myanmar, 2016).
Flooding in town (Myanmar, 2016).
Smokin' Trucks (Myanmar, 2016).
Smokin’ Trucks (Myanmar, 2016).
Me in front of George Orwell's house (Myanmar, 2016).
Me in front of George Orwell’s previous house (Myanmar, 2016).
View behind George Orwell's previous house (Myanmar, 2016).
View behind George Orwell’s previous house (Myanmar, 2016).
View from behind George Orwell's previous house (Myanmar, 2016).
View from behind George Orwell’s previous house (Myanmar, 2016).
Street view in Katha (Myanmar, 2016).
Street view in Katha (Myanmar, 2016).
Exhausting Truck (Myanmar, 2016).
Exhausting Truck (Myanmar, 2016).
Laundry drying out on the truck (Myanmar, 2016).
Laundry drying out on the truck (Myanmar, 2016).
The Irrawaddy River flowing through Katha (Myanmar, 2016).
The Irrawaddy River flowing through Katha (Myanmar, 2016).
View of the Irrawaddy River (Myanmar, 2016).
View of the Irrawaddy River (Myanmar, 2016).

Irrawaddy River Adventure

Leaving Katha we picked up some more passengers at another port outside of Katha. As we were heading down the river many local people would leave their houses on the mainland and have a small boat take them to the ferry; the big boat would slow down and the boats would be parallel to each other. The man working on the boat would help the person get onto the ferry and assist them bringing their things aboard. This happened frequently throughout the trip, [mostly for ~ 150 kilometres from Katha].

The ride was a smooth journey. Enjoying the views as the sun was shining. The effects of the monsoon were still shocking. Many of the houses that lined the Irrawaddy River were submerged under the river water with only the rooftops visible. When we came within 150 kilometres of Mandalay local people would individually move towards the front of the boat and indicate to the driver where they would be picked up by there family member or boat taxi. It was the reversed procedure as when people were coming onto the boat. Thankfully all the boats picking up people had a motor (except one) so things moved relatively quickly when people were getting off the boat.

Reports have come out that over half a million people in Myanmar have been displaced from the torrential rains and flooding.

It was an amazing journey, arriving around 04:00 pm, taking almost 12 hours. Jack and I both had a great time lounging on the boat watching the local people do as they do. We had packed enough food from Katha to eat well for the whole ride [ & local people came onto the boat selling food at different times of the ride].

View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
View from the boat of the sun starting to rise.(Myanmar, 2016).
Gorgeous sunrise (Myanmar, 2016).
Gorgeous sunrise (Myanmar, 2016).
Houses submerged by the Irrawaddy River (Myanmar, 2016).
Houses submerged lining the Irrawaddy River (Myanmar, 2016).
Toilet on the boat (Myanmar, 2016).
Toilet on the boat (Myanmar, 2016).
More passengers coming aboard (Myanmar, 2016).
More passengers coming aboard (Myanmar, 2016).
A passenger signaling where her ride is to pick her up (Myanmar, 2016).
A passenger signaling where her ride is to pick her up (Myanmar, 2016).
The boat view (Myanmar, 2016).
The boat view (Myanmar, 2016).
Town view from the boat (Myanmar, 2016).
Town view from the boat (Myanmar, 2016).
Blue skies and sunshine for the ride (Myanmar, 2016).
Blue skies and sunshine for the ride (Myanmar, 2016).

Mandalay

Arriving in Mandalay we were offered a few taxis. The man wanted 10,000 kyat to drive us 1.5 kilometres. The price was ridiculous for such a short journey so we walked to the BBQ restaurant we had seen on maps.me. We ate some dinner and had a few cold Myanmar draft beer.

We found a reasonable taxi and headed to Dreamland Guesthouse. A guy we met at Indaw Mahar Guesthouse in Lonton had recommended it. It was a nice place offering music lessons and had many instruments free for guests to use. I played some guitar and ukulele throughout my stay there.

The two nights I spent in Mandalay went by quickly. Wandering around the city and trying different foods, I was feeling tired from all of the transit and travel. I was due for a few days of relaxation and wasn’t feeling too motivated to see more temples.

Hanging out and visiting the local markets was how I spent my last few days. Jack and I went out one night finding the only nightclub in town named Pioneer [same name as the nightclub in Yangon]. We were disappointed to find that entry for a foreigner required buying a bottle of alcohol. The cheapest on the menu was 65,000 kyat ($70 Canadian) while locals could get entry for 5,000 kyat ($5 Canadian). It is entirely unfair so we just went back to the guesthouse and had a few drinks with some friends.

I have spent almost a month in Myanmar and loved everyday, sometime in the future I would like to return to visit the coast (during the dry season) and parts of the country that aren’t yet open to tourism. I left Dreamland Hostel and took a shared taxi with two other people for a total of 10,000 kyat.

Flying out of Mandalay bound for Bangkok, Thailand. I will figure out where my journey will take me next once I get there.

Sun setting in Mandalay (Myanmar, 2016).
Sun setting in Mandalay (Myanmar, 2016).
Jack and I at Dreamland Guesthouse (Myanmar, 2016).
Me and Jack @ Dreamland Guesthouse (Myanmar, 2016).