wild thailand

we weren't sure how to feel about the monkey at our guesthouse in koh chang. she bit my hand the first time i said hi. jay still tried to make friends with her on several more occasions only to be bitten...once on his eyebrow. she seemed happy to be carried around on the shoulders of the maintenance guy or to be held as she fell asleep in the arms of one of the restaurant staff. but often we would see her tied up in the dining room or near the fire pits. did she miss her monkey friends in the wild? i never once saw her swinging from the trees surrounding the bamboo huts where we stayed. sometimes she would climb the railings of the diningroom hut and shake them...perhaps in frustration...

these little guys shimmered in the sun, their bronze skin reflecting red and green in the light.

the sand crabs were very hard to see. in fact, you wouldn't know they were there until you stepped too closely and they would quickly glide away from your foot.

we haven't seen any wild elephants in thailand. the elephants on koh chang once worked the farms and plantations on the island. the word chang means elephant in thai. now they provide entertainment to the tourists. you can ride them, wash them, and feed them for a fee but we decided not to.

this beauty fluttered around us as we enjoyed a waterfall on koh chang.

this is the small spider we saw on our way back from the waterfall. this guy was tucked near the ground in his web and was about the size of pringles potato chip. we saw two huge spiders, one as we crossed a bridge and one above our heads hanging in its web between two branches. this is the picture that turned out the best. still scary, right? i believe all three of them were batik spiders...only mildly poisonous...it's bite like a wasp's sting.

i like geckos. they're cute. they eat bugs.

more crabs in the sand. the whole beach was covered with little balls of sand like an abstract painting. the balls are a result of the crabs digging hiding places in the sand. see if you can spot the crabs...there are at least two in this picture.

i saw movement out of the corner of my eye as i was relaxing on my lounger. i could barely see this bug that looks like a blade of grass.

on the rare occasion that my hair is not in a ponytail or braids...since i haven't had my hair cut in six months...it's a bit wild.

don't ask

how hot is Thailand?

this is for our friends and family back in canada...cold canada...winterpeg, manitoba. as you start your new year with a low of -27 degrees celcius and a high of -20 we begin ours with a sunshiney +35. nah nah nah nah boo boo :P

so hot! good thing there's an ocean to jump into :)

yup that's sweat dripping off jay's nostril


Malaysia... why not

China town gates Melaka

Part of the plan was not to have a plan...much to Corina's chagrin...but enough time had been spent in Singapore and it was time to move on. It was down to either Indonesia or Malaysia. For the simple reason that it was easier to get into (ie. no visa required), Malaysia won out. So now we have 7 days where should we go???? K.L. (as the locals call it) ...Hmmmm...nah, we had just been through a bunch of big city's and even a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur sounded a bit repetitive. Time to hit the beach!!!! Now, do some web searches, read our travel guide and... voila! The Malaysian peninsula has AMAZING beaches on it's east coast! Woo Hoo! But apparently we got there at the tail end of the monsoon season for the east coast.. and all but the fanciest resorts were closed. Drat! More digging, more reading... Oh! the west coast has a completely different climate and though, not as astounding, some nice beaches as well. Done and done... Pick a town any town! Dig...read...web search... humm apparently the island of Pulau Penang has a nice beach about an hour out of the main city. Next we trot off to our neighbourhood bus terminal and see if we can get a ticket. Well, they only go to Melaka and K.L. but once in Malaysia we should be able to go just about anywhere no problem. Seeing as how I had already read about Melaka we decided to go there and find a bus to Pulau Penang to soak up some rays.

First stop Melaka, who knew another UNESCO site, part of the Portuguese colonial presence in Asia. Famous for cultural diversity food and world class ruins...we had but one day and one night in Melaka but we did manage to get some stuff done, some sights seen and, of course, some food et. We walked around historic St. Paul's hill and the town square. We had lunch and dinner at one of the 17 recommended restaurants that were mapped out for us by the proprietor of our hostel, the very nice, clean, and comfortable River View Guest House. Melaka did live up to it's billing. The cultural diversity was evident in the many different temples and churches, the ruins were cool and the food delicious. One day was not enough.

Melaka Malaysia, World heritage city... Who knew?

Chinese temple, there are Hindu temples, mosques and churches as well

Extremely good curry soup.

Next up was Batu Ferringhi, the beach on Pulau Penang. We had purchased our tickets when we arrived at the bus terminal in Melaka. We took a VIP express bus to Georgetown only to take a local bus to the beach itself. This took the better part of the day and night had fallen when we arrived at our beach-adjacent guest house. It was clean and it did have a A/C unit but when the guide book described it as "basic" they hit the nail on the head. Our days at Batu Ferringhi were lazy and involved alot of beach time. There was a nice mix of Malay and foreigners at the beach. Even though the water was a little cloudy and there was a constant barrage of jellyfish eggs, we went swimming every day, it was too hot not to.

Jelly fish eggs (the translucent slimy things)

Once again food is important to the region. Breakfast was either spicy noodles, coconut rice and yam donuts or Corina's favourite banana roti. Truth be told I can't imagine anyone not falling for their warm banana-y goodness. Lunch was usually just a snack on the beach. Dinner was at one of the hawker and was fried noodles or rice.

Banana roti, all Corina wants for Christmas.

We really took it easy and I finally polished the Steig Larsson trade paper back I had been hauling around since Greece. We watched the endless supply of para-sailers drift peacefully by only to land with an audible thud, 3 minutes later, on the beach. It was a simple 7 days where it was enough to let the days slip by. We did some reading on Thailand as we were headed there next but it is safe to say that for the next month or so the plan will be... well to have no plan and wing it. Much, like I said, to Corina's chagrin.

Corina's (she)Grin =)

(To be fair Corina's "go with the flow" is flowing just fine) take care all and Merry Christmas, Jason.



jason and i sit here pondering the computer screen wondering what to say about singapore. it was ok i guess but when you've seen amazing, when you've experience fantastic, when you've tasted exquisite it's hard to be inspired to write about ok. what makes it extra difficult is that we are sitting in an internet cafe in bangkok and bangkok is definitely more interesting, way crazier and more inspired than singapore.

here's what we liked about singapore...

christmas was evident here. even if the weather wasn't what we would expect at christmas time there was something in the air... christmas decorations were everywhere, christmas musak was piped through the malls and people were doing the mad shopping dash wherever you looked. these of course aren't our favourite things about this time of year but brought a sense of home to our nomadic lives.
orchard road is lined with malls and more malls included not one
but two louis vitton mega-shops within 2 blocks of each other.
chinatown offered the other extreme

the food was good and the food was cheap if you knew where to look. we ate mostly at the hawker food stalls in outdoor food courts. when we say cheap...our dinner would rarely cost us more than $10 cdn. there was a food court near our hostel that served up a yummy pineapple curry and delicious tofu/choy sum stew which we ate several times.
hawker take away food, star fruit and grass jelly for dessert

the local weird food was called a durian. durian is a fruit but you could have fooled us. it stunk so bad that our hostel wouldn't let anyone eat it inside. on our last night in singapore we hung out with another couple, mark and viv, on the terrace. mark bought some durian and we were all forced to try some. jay didn't take much forcing...you can guess that corina did. the taste was likened to mushy onion and the smell to stinky feet/b.o. for some inexplicable reason jay and mark didn't stop eating it until it was done. the girls wisely stopped after one bite. it's really too bad that no one thought to bring out a camera and record the momentous occasion.
the victoria theatre and concert hall in the background looks like a durian with its oval shape and spikey shell which is how it got it's nickname 'the big durian'.

when we were in greece we saw a documentary about sandwiches. did you know that greeks have a fetish for documentaries? jay watched several. anyway, icecream sandwiches were highlighted in the film and we laughed at the idea of actual bread being paired with icecream. our notion of icecream sandwiches so ingrained in our minds to be that of a chocolate wafer and white icecream. when we happened across an icecream guy on orchard road we HAD to try one. the sweet pink and green bread wrapped around a raspberry swirl icecream rectangle did not disappoint.

how cold is it jay?

i think that if we had gone to singapore on a short vacation type of trip we may have enjoyed it a bit more. as a stopover on a year long journey we found it above our budget and too consumer oriented.

varEn, jumpa lagi, see you later, bai bai,

corina & jason


the amazingly adaptable flat people

...from ancient caves to modern cities the flat people can handle it all!

the flat petroffs decide that these cubby holes found in goreme, turkey are the perfect place to play tic-tac-owen.

flat hannah is the clear winner in a game of queen of the cubby holes although ellie almost made it just as high.

flat sasha may look like she's smiling in front of this ancient goreme cave house but on the inside she's thinking to herself, "more stairs? didn't we climb enough in pamukkale?"

flat jane and flat owen think it's time for an extreme makeover on this old run down cave house! where's flat ty when you need him?

the flat petroff feel right at home in dubai's indoor ski slope...i mean, it's below zero, there's skiing, sledding and man-made snow...much closer to the reality of home than the +30 degrees C outside.

flat sasha was encouraged by flat hannah to do her best snowman impersonation. flat ellie couldn't stop giggling as usual.

flat owen and flat jane were asked to help guard hong kong's botanical garden with this chinese lion. apparently his partner on the other side of the gate really needed to pee.

obviously the flat penners didn't listen to their flat parents' advice to never play ball with hong kong lions...someone always loses an arm!

the flats practise their hovering skill above hong kong's famous skyline. miraculously flat hannah and flat sasha recovered from their run in with the lion.

the merlion in singapore's marina was a big hit with uncle jay. he was so excited to see a mermaid and a lion statue (and what's with all the lions in asia anyway?) that he literally forced the flats to pose with it. after all it's famous. good excuse, i suppose.

gule gule, baai baai, see ya
from the flat people who are now going to sleep...it's way past their bedtimes and they had a full day on the beach in penang! (pictures to follow)


so hk was nice. really nice!

if i left it to jay...he would say...hong kong was nice. very nice. he thinks all things are nice. i bug him about saying nice because he uses it ALL the time. we'll be talking to a cs host about our visit to their city and his response is always "it was nice, really nice!". as i type this he is poking me in the kidney trying to make me stop. it won't work.

we had only planned to stay 3 days in hong kong but we extended our visit by a day. it could have been 5 extra days and we wouldn't have run out of things to do. we changed our flight because one day was taken up by my visit to a doctor. i've been having trouble with my ears after flying and it was starting to freak me out.

i saw a medic in athens after the first incident which is why we took a train to istanbul instead of continuing the second leg of our flight from rhodes. he told me i risked permanent damage if i flew when my ears were red and inflamed. when we landed in dubai one of my ears plugged up and it took about 6 hours for it to feel better. when we landed in hong kong the same ear blocked again and this time i had shooting pains down the right side of my neck. not good. we called our insurance company 'world nomads' and they suggested a clinic just down the street from our hostel. i got some anti-inflammatory drops and drugs and i'm happy to report that my ear pain was almost non-existant when we landed in singapore a few days ago. yay for drugs!

so what was so nice about hong kong? it had character, it was bustling, it was alive, it was energy, it was...what a big city should be. after dubai, hong kong was a great 'welcome back' to real life! oh...and the food! the food! omg...so in love with chinese food! i can't even explain my desire for more and more choy sum...

the skyline from the top of victoria's peak
our only disappointment with hong kong (besides seeing 2 whole cockroaches...one dead, one very much alive!) was the smog. smog and blog worthy photos do not mix. we went up the steep climb to victoria's peak on a tram, sitting on the right side of the tram as suggested by our previous cs hosts, steve & lenka. we had a great view of the island portion of the city from the peak terrace but the smog blocked out the kowloon side entirely.

walking around at night...wishing we had a tripod
using a skywalk railing as a tripod

at the advice of gadi and rebecca, our winnipeg-rtw-cyber-friends, we stayed on nathan road. we checked out some rooms in the 'mansions' that they suggested. i'm not sure what i expected from a mansion in hong kong but it definitely wasn't a dirty highrise building with dead mice and garbage in the halls! the first place we looked at was probably a flop house, rented by the hour, and not our idea of a good time. we moved on to the second 'mansion'...this time prepared for the worst. two girls were coming out of the building so i accosted them. i mean, if two young girls could stay there...how bad could it be? they directed us to mr. simon and luckily he had a room for us. luckily because this mansion really wasn't any more pleasant than the last BUT mr. simon's place was very clean. i'm attributing the cockroach that crawled under our door on the last night to the vegetarian, hole-in-the-wall, disgusting restaurant next door.

the kowloon hood

our last, extra day we spent by getting out of hong kong and exploring the town and market of stanley. it took awhile for my stomach to stop flipping around because of the rollercoaster bus ride we took through the mountainous terrain. we wandered through the famous stanley market and found a beach. if you have a passion for seaglass, like jay and i now do, this is the place to come! hoards of glass pieces are just lying there for your delight and collection.

the view at stanley pier
after being to several big cities on our trip, hong kong has made our list of favourites. i think it has even beaten out...well...let's just say it's up there with the likes of amsterdam, barcelona and paris.
baai baai,
corina (with a few inspired words from jay)


top that!

dubai is a city of the biggest, the tallest, the fastest built, you name it...it's here and it's the best of anywhere else in the world. we were told it was a national obsession by someone that lives here. dubai has also recently hit hard times maybe bigger and faster than other countries. rents have plummeted from astronomical to merely expensive. while the construction of dubai has slowed slightly there are still many cranes and active construction sites.

dubai is a city for cars...no pedestrians allowed. trust us...we tried. most of the roads are freeways with no sidewalks in sight. crossing a freeway would be certain death for anyone that dared. one day, after spending the afternoon at the beach, we decided to walk back to our couchsurfer host's place. he lived about 6 blocks away...6 dubai blocks (ie. biggest, longest, fastest) but nonetheless only 6. we walked along the freeway on a sidewalk that turned into a boulevard that abruptly ended because of construction. not willing to give up easily we crossed the road and walked through a complex of hi tech companies called internet city. only to be confronted with sheik sayed freeway with...of course...no pedestrian crossing. our only option was to flag down a taxi. yup. in dubai you need to take a taxi to cross the road.

the tallest building in the world - burj dubai at 800m
we were in dubai during a muslim holiday known as eid al-adha (in turkey they called it biram). on another attempt at walking through the city we came across this goat. we weren't sure why a goat would be walking through dubai dressed to the nines...but eid is a celebration of sacrifice so...

poor poor goat
not everyone celebrated the weekend off with a sacrificial goat. our host, haytham, prepared an eygptian bbq for us and some friends. it was a feast...rice with chicken liver, okra, bbq chicken, yummy green stuff (can't remember what it was called but boy was it good), tahini sauce and jay's contribution of mango salsa.

haytham, nancy and monika preparing our feast

jay chilling with pink panther at haytham's

on our last day in dubai we decided that since we only had a few hours we would not attempt to walk yet again. we relented and called a taxi. we had yet to see the famous 7 star hotel, the burj al arab, which is built on a man-made island.

the burj al arab in dubai

dubai was on my must see list. am i glad i saw it? yes. would i go back? probably not. at least not for 20 years or more. maybe by then they will have the sidewalks completed.

ma'a as-salaama,

corina & jay