Browsing: Down Under

Winter 2010 trip to Australia, the land Down Under, plus traveling in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Lots of pictures and travel stories!

Down Under
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Food in South-East Asia

Coming from Australia, where food was expensive and not exactly haute-cuisine, South-East Asia was a foodie’s paradise. First, food is cheap by world standard and simple meal usually cost under $5. Second, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand have a “street food” tradition and numerous hawkers offer local delicacies on-the-go. Finally, the blend of flavours was simply amazing, from Thai curry to Penang’s Nasi Lemak.

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The Epic Journey Back Home

We left Singapore on Tuesday evening and arrived in Sydney early morning on Wednesday. We barely slept in the plane (note to self: budget airlines suck for long-distance trips). The F1 Hotel we had booked in Kings Cross looked like a halfway house: the shower was a trickle of water, the window was busted and there were cigarettes burns everywhere. Both exhausted, we headed to Bondi Beach for a last look.

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Signs in South-East Asia

I love taking pictures of signs because they tell so much about a country. For instance, Canada’s bilingual “stop-arrêt” sign is unique, and so are the many weather-related warnings, “ice falling” being my favourite.

During our trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, I collected various signs.

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Images of Singapore

Singaporeans seem to have two main activities: shopping and dining. When you are done shopping, you grab a bite and when you are done eating, you go for a walk with your credit card in hand for some exercise. The country is one huge shopping mall and there is food just about anywhere.

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Multicultural Singapore

I have this theory that everyone should be a minority once in his life. The rich one among the poor, the poor among the rich, the short among the tall and the tall among the short ones etc. Just to experience what being on the other side of the mirror feels like.

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Bangkok’s National Palace

So, did I fall in love with Thailand? I can’t say I did, for a few reasons.
We enjoyed the scenery. The islands in the South, close to Malaysia, were great and people were really nice and helpful. It only got worse close to touristic places and I must admit some tourists behave pretty badly in Thailand where they seem to do things they would never do at home.

Down Under
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Say Wat?

Wat Pho, birthplace of traditional Thai massage and home to the imposing Reclining Buddha, Wat Traimit and its five-tons solid gold Buddha image, or Erawan Shrine, nested among Bangkok’s skyscrapers, were all busy with tourists and locals alike.

Down Under
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It’s A Mall World

Asian malls and markets are somewhat of a surreal experience to most Westerners. Upon entering the maze of shops, people usually go through several stages, notably “oh my God everything is so cheap”, “oh my God I have to bring that back home” and “oh my God I need to buy another suitcase to bring all that back home”.

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Hello Bangkok

“We are now in Bangkok and we arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule” bragged the flight attendant upon landing in the capital. Gee, I would have rather arrived ten minutes late and avoid the near-death experience when touching down.

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A Thai Massage Story

Along with “Taxi boat? Taxi boat?” and “Tuk tuk? Tuk tuk?”, the ubiquitous call for massage is the most overheard sentence in Thailand, and you will hear it even in your sleep. Massage is both part of most Asian cultures and loved by tourists. The result? There are massage joints at pretty much every corner.

Down Under
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Phuket

Everybody has heard of Phuket, Thailand’s most famous beach destination. Some remember it because of the tsunami that hit the island in 2004 while other knows it because of its reputation as a sex tourism center.

Phuket is disconcerting at first glance: it no longer look like Thailand, you could be anywhere on earth.

Down Under
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Krabi, Ao Nang and Railay

One of Feng’s legs was resting over my left knee, his feet were on the dashboard, and I had one arm around his waist, another above his leg. Picture a Kamasutra-esque position without the honey-get-your-clothes-off bit. That’s what it took for the two of us to fit on the passenger seat.

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Ko Phi Phi Ley

Ko Phi Phi Ley, Phi Phi Don’s little sister, is a popular day-trip once your hangover is over. Pretty much all of the travel agencies in town sell a half-day boat trip to the small island for 250 baht (about $8). Still curious to see why people liked the area so much, we signed up for it.

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The Woman in Black

The couple walked into the restaurant and sat right behind us. The first thing I noticed was that we had the same shoes, a pair of red rubber flip-flop, the kind everybody wear at the beach. Her feet were tan, like mine, and I could see a whiter patch of skin where the sandals’ strap rested.

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Ko Phi Phi Don

We had heard a lot about it. Ko Phi Phi (yes, it’s pronounced “pee-pee”!) has the best beach in Thailand, it’s a must-stop etc. Well, what we found there was very different from what we were expecting.

Down Under
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Ko Lanta

If you feel an irresistible need to read Tom Clancy while burning under the sun, wear a Speedo swimsuit and yell in some Scandinavian language, be massaged by young Thai girls, show off your bad-ass tattoos and listen to Scorpions while on holidays, you came to the right place. Ko Lanta has all of the above.

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Tham Morakot, the Emerald Cave

Ko Muk is famous for the Emerald Cave, a limestone tunnel that lead into an island cave, semi submerged by the sea. The only way to get there is by boat, so we arranged to have a long-tail to take us there.

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Ko Muk

Ko Muk is everything you could dream of. Palm trees? Checked. Pristine water? Checked. White powdery sand? Checked. Throw in picturesque Thai long-boats (the main form of transportation around here) and you feel like you stepped into a postcard.

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The Thai Adventure

My motto has always been “travel the world, take pictures, eat chocolate”, but I’m strongly considering changing it for “you haven’t lived till you’ve taken a bus that runs out of gas in the middle of the freeway”.

Down Under
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Pulau Langawi

We had originally planned to cross to Thailand right after Georgetown, but we decided to linger a bit longer in Malaysia. Still looking for the perfect picturesque island, we settled on Pulau Langawi, which was said to have Malaysian’s best beach.

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Georgetown

The empty streets were bustling with activity at night: we were right in Little India and we could almost taste the smell of incense, burning in front of most shops. We were also close to a Mosque, and the first night, we suddenly woke up to the sound of the prayer call in the wee hours of the morning—it was pretty surreal.

Down Under
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Kuala Lumpur

Crossing the street is best done with both eyes closed and a prayer book in hand, as you try to dodge trucks, cars, irate taxi drivers and motorbikes. The pedestrian green light, a flashing animated little stick figure that runs, sums it all up: run like hell.

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