Alright, So prior to leaving I had to make preparations that made for a busy week:
First was getting my re-entry permit. This required a few hours off of work and then driving into the city, pay 60 dollars and then go back home. Not too intense, but now when I leave japan I can come back. Pretty important. Given that I’m working for the Gov’t, I would get special liberties had I not bought one, but it really would be a major problem and some special strings would have had to be pulled in order to get back in the borders. I would rather not test those liberties.
Well, it’s go time. I have my flight at 9:00am on Friday, but it is all the way in Osaka. In order to make it there on time, I need to leave the night before by taking the overnight ferry from my city to Kobe, which is basically Osaka. You might say riding a boat like this would suck, especially from 12-4am, and you are absolutely right. So when we get to the boat office, I buy my round trip ticket, only 30 dollars. This compared to 140 by train or about 75 by bus. For sure the cheapest way to travel, and it really only takes about an hour longer than either of those alternatives. This boat also runs a few times during the day, which is how I returned home. There were seats in the boat, though I didn’t see them. I instead went to this area which was just metal floor, and I thought that was my only option. Successfully passed out anyway and woke up in Kobe.
I caught some trains, made my way to the airport, all was well. I get my boarding pass, and security and all that and finally get on my plane. We don’t take off, “it’s just a delay…” I sit on the plane for 3 hours before the plane is canceled and we have to deplane and just chill while they figure out all the other flights. Well, for me, there wans’t another flight to Beijing that I could take, so they were going to put me up in a hotel in Osaka and fly me out the same time the next day. I said “NO”, along with a few Swedish people with the same destination as me. As that would cause us to lose a day, we struggled though language barrier and the insanity and stress that they had as they tried to get everything sorted and in the end, we got them to fly us that night to Bangkok, Thailand. With that, we were able to catch a morning flight to Singapore and save a few hours that would be critical to my time in Indonesia. I missed out on staying with another Couch Surfer, but no worries.
So the Indonesian taxi people aren’t really taxi drivers. Some are, but mostly they just hound the ignorant foreigners and try to sell you a seat on the back of their motorcycle. They basically wouldn’t accept the fact that I didn’t need a ride, so I went inside to escape from them.
I went to a mall and inside it was pretty crappy. This place definitely is not a tourist destination. There is a restaurant chain called BFC, Best Friend Chicken and is in the same red font as KFC. Loved it. Then, there was a store that had random crap. I also went to the store and made one interesting purchase. I also went to a supermarket that had some very strange things. Like a cup of water, sealed at the top, just peel open and drink. Same in concept as a bottle of water, but this cost 4 cents and made none.
After a bit of time going solo I met the person who was hosting me. He picked me up on his motorcycle which was pretty cool and we just tooled around. My immediate conclusion was that this was the least safe place to drive I have ever seen in my life. There seems to be no rules of the road, other than which direction you drive in a lane. Also, 4 or 5 people on a single motorcycle was commonplaceand completely killed me.
Host and his cousin.
To save a lot of text, I’ll just let you know that we went to a LOT of places for food, I feel like I’ve tried everything that Indonesia has to offer. They put spicy chili on everything, and that was delicious. One meal we went to was with all of his friends. 15 plates of food were brought out to us, and basically we ate as much as we wanted, as they would just bring out more if we finished any of the plates. If we didn’t want to eat something, they didn’t charge us for it. 8 people got stuffed for 40 US dollars. One other bit on eating in Indonesia, it’s done entirely with the right hand, being a largely musim country. Restaurants provide a basin at the table to wash the hand. Also over the day and a half we went to some famous bridge, shopping at a nicer mall. Basically everyone sells fake stuff, but there was some other good stuff too.
A highlight of the trip was a traditional Indonesian Massage. I got a 90 minute oil and lotion massage for 6 dollars. It was so amazing, and she was a professional for sure. She started by washing my feet and then a quick massage to them. Then, I layed on my stomach and she did a basic massage up my legs and back. She would basically climb on and over me to get the best angles and such. When on my back, she knew exactly were to apply pressure, each time she moved her hand her fingertips were in different places. It was like touchtyping and it was wonderful. After that, she had some special cream that she would apply and then knead in. Her fingertips would move down the muscle mass, and it would push at the spaces where the different muscles meet. This continued on all limbs and them my back. From there, I flipped over and she did the fronts of my limbs. Finally, she got behind me, propped me up with a pillow on her lap and then gave me a nice shoulder massage and head/face massage. The head work was awesome too, never had that before. Everything in Indonesia was cheap, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had money so well spent in my life.
One other thing we did was go to the beach. The water was beautiful, and being at the equator ensured the water was warm. Though there was a bit of trash at this beach, which surprised me.
A very interesting thing was the language they spoke. While everyone knew mandarin and Indonesian, and some amount of English, the primary language for only this small island of Indonesia was Taochew. It is the Chinese dialect that Sandy’s family speaks. It took me a while to notice, but it was crazy hearing it spoken somewhere other then their house. I said a few things and really surprised some people.
Overall impressions. You can live like a king there as a tourist. The best of food will cost you almost nothing. I really need to see a lot more than what I have, so I would love to plan a subsequent trip to Jakarta or Bali someday. I did however really enjoy seeing a place that wasn’t a tourist destination. It is so much more fun being places that other foreigners aren’t really at. There was a bit of poverty in the area, but it was a cool place for sure.
After all this, I caught the ferry back to Singapore and immediately hopped on a bus to go to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia overnight. Saves me the necessity of a place to stay and works well with my time constraints.
Alright, so I arrive in Kuala Lumpur and am immediately presented with an issue. The overnight bus got me there about 4:30 am, so there was basically nothing I could do till a normal time of day. I went to a McDonald’s, got breakfast which had just started, always the most amazing thing possible. Then, I just chilled in there for about 3 hours. They had European football on TV, so I just watched that a bit. It was a good match between Valencia and some other dumb team. I also just changed my clothes in the bathroom. South Asian toilets are the worst, they just don’t use toilet paper, instead they have a hose that you use to spray yourself clean. I must really be missing the technique because I have to get completely naked so as to not soak everything I am wearing. I don’t know how else to use the equivalent of a shower head and turn it upside down without dominating myself.
After this, I decided to walk to see the Petronus towers, These are the world’s tallest twin towers, and are pretty cool looking. There is some park in front of them where I crashed on a park bench. I was exhausted from lackluster sleep. After waking up, I went on to go to the towers and have a look about the mall on the bottom floors. They were all mega upper class shops, LV, Georgio Armani, Prada etc. It was nice to walk around and then on the higher floors there were more normal stores. Never seen that before where 1 mall has both types of places, usually they opt to separate the wheat from the chaff. While walking around, I found a guy at the mall who was travelling as well, so we decided to do some sightseeing together.
He was a chill guy, but he gave off the overly privleged vibe. He is currently living in Kuala Lumpur with his dad and he and his bros travel all over the place off of what sounded like their parents money. And he spent money frivolously on anything he ate or drank, going so far as to laugh about how cheap it was. (cheap, but not that cheap)
We went to an aquarium/zoo together. That was pretty good. saw me some atlus moths which were extremely massive. A good amount of sweet fish as well. Not the best, but I was able to get a student discount. College, the gift that keeps on giving…
Then we walked around the city, and we decided that we needed something to drink. We stopped at some Egyptian Cafe and order a soy drink that was really good. We also got a hookah and that was wonderful. The thing was probably 3-4 feet tall and they just set it on the floor next to us. This area had a large arab population so they knew how to do this right. I forget the flavor mixture but that was really good. Picture opium den, minus the opium.
After this, we split ways and I make my way to my CouchSurfing Host. I took a taxi, it was like 20 km, but I paid only 2.5 US dollars, nice. It was going to be about $3, but I said that was too high… I get there and it is a guy and his girlfriend, they are really cool. we ended up going to a movie. The new Resident Evil Movie. Glad it was so cheap, otherwise I would have killed myself over it being the lowest imaginable production value. After that, we went back and then stopped at a food shop on the side of the road. They had these famous chicken and egg burgers that were amazing. When we got back, there was a bit of chatter, but soon it was sleep time.
In the morning I talk with the GF for a bit, and learn how to get where I’m going. I thank her and then head back to the city. There are still places I want to try and see. Getting to the city by buss was awful. There was no bus schedule, the bus came when it came. And then as soon as you were on the bus, there was no way to know what stop you were at you had to guess from surroundings. One place I wanted to make it to was this Buddhist shrine that is built into a cave, known as the Batu Caves. On the bus, I met another solo traveler from England, we me and spent the rest of the day together. At the caves, there were tons of wild monkeys and that was cool. Here are a couple of relevant pictures.
After spelunking, we went to Chinatown, got some authentic cuisine, and then just explored blindly. Soon enough we decided we were done and then went to the bus station to buy tickets. My original plan was to do the night bus again, but I didn’t feel like dealing with the inconvenience again of getting there super early. So I went back to Singapore and got there around midnight, went to little India, home of the mustache, and then got a bed at a hostel for about 6 US dollars. At this point I was getting really ready to finish up my journey that has been going at such a grueling pace.
This was an overall really interesting place, but I didn’t feel like it had nearly as much unique culture as did Indonesia. It just seemed more of an extension of China with a few more languages, that was it.
Alright, this was my last day of the trip, so I just wanted to walk around and see whatever I could, so I put together an itinerary for where to go. Starting in Little India, I made my way over to a local restaurant for breakfast. I wasn’t in the mood for ethnic food, so I broke down and got a good english breakfast.
After that, I went to this cool Hindu temple. People were meditating and such, and that was pretty cool, I like seeing other religions in action.
Then I went and looked at some famous government buildings, some cool architecture, and then took a look at this thing called the merlion. It is a famous symbol of Singapore. while I was there, this family from Indonesia called me over because this family wanted to take pictures with me. I apparently looked really good and they wanted to remember me. So I humored them and posed with each member of the family, which was lulzy, and then the 21 year old girl wanted my e-mail so that we could stay in touch. I obliged and it was a little flattering I guess. My blonde hair and non black eyes really stand out here, I like being different in that way.
Here is the Merlion with part of the skyline in the background.
One other cool thing in the city was that they were setting up for the F1 race in Singpore that was going to happen in the next few days. It was really cool to walk around the streets and see the track.
By 3:30pm, I had exhausted my itinerary, but I had to wait till my flight at 12:55 am. Ii went to the airport to see if there were any earlier flights to take, that way I could go chill in Beijing for a while. This didn’t work, so I decided to head back to the city and just go to the casino for a while. It was a brand new place, built in the last year or so and it was really nice inside. I hit the atm and got 75 singapore dollars, good for 3 minimum bets in blackjack. I was a little nervous, since I didn’t want to lose it (obviously), but I wanted to have some fun (obviously). So I play and right away I’m doing well. I won, I lost, but was overall really successful. I earned 400% and walked away with 300 dollars. It was really sweet, because that covered about half of my travel expenses and then there were also a lot of people that were putting money with my own bets. Basically they were betting on me, and considered myself a good investment. That felt really cool, and that was the first time I’ve had that happen to me.
My betting strategy is to mostly do minimum bets and then they to keep enough chips on hand to play 3 or 4 hands. If I got more than that, I would put it in a side stack, and those were to be my takeaway. When my playing chips are gone, then I’m done. If you don’t do this, then you just gamble till you have no money.
Feeling like the master of the universe, I walked around a bit. There were a number of high stakes games going and I saw some people loose mako money. One guy lost a few big sums, and his wise decision was just bet everything he had to get it back. Well, that disappeared too. He subsequently yelled, pulled his hair, threw some cards, and then stormed away. He was a master.
Then I went to the lounge. There was a cover band playing that I later learned was from Canada. Becausae I had the time, and because they we really good, I sat down and had a listen. They played a lot of Santana, and the guy nailed every solo. Then they played “Tengo la Comisa Negra”. That killed me. I ordered a beer, a nice Guiness for a mere 18 US Dollars. Didn’t care though, since I was still big money man. So I listened to their show till it was time to get back to the airport. It was a really cool way to burn all of the extra time I had.
Picture of the hotel. Loved the architecture. That is a park on top of the towers.
I hop the train back to the airport, board, and that was the end of it. A really nice day and a smile on my face from casino time.
I get back to Japan, ride the ferry home, and then make my way to my normal life. At the end of the day, I existed in 6 countries in 6 days, and added 15 stamps to my passport. Feels good man.
It was an amazing experience, but I would definitely say that solo travel is not nearly as fun. I really want to have a travel partner next time. There is one baller from England who I hang out with a bit, he is a prime candidate and we are working on a South Korea trip next month. There are also a number of others who have expressed interest in the adventure.
Super interesting to read a Chinese newspaper (in english) in the Beijing Airport because it was really obvious how slanted the article was. I thought that was really interesting. It really does feel like my mind is expanding a bit as it experience more and learns more about the vastness of the world. I hate the travel bro connoisseur mentality, how they talk and such, but I do really enjoy the experience of the travel.