Myanmar/Burma

I’ve been back for two months now so this is really late. Coming back from travelling is always emotionally hard, so I guess I couldn’t get my self around to go through Myanmar and Lao photos in April hah.

The last time I wrote something was in Bagan I think. All the cities we visited were totally different. Our first stop, Yangon was colorful, dirty, loud, fantastic and full of life. The streets of downtown Yangon are what you’d expect in any major city in any part of Asia. Completely crowded. Street food can be bought everywhere and varies from little fried crickets sold from a basket, to actual little eateries with the same little tables and chairs you can find in a lot of places in Asia.  This food thing in Myanmar seems to be a little similar to India. Eating is like talking. You just do it all day every day. We wanted to stay safe and not get sick in the short time we had there and stuck to inside restaurants.

Yangon (and the whole country) has a LOT of pagodas, Buddhist temples. In Yangon the one go-to Pagoda, is the Shwedagon Pagoda. If possible I’d go during sunset, the pagoda is beautifully light up and the whole golden temple area is really beautiful in the light of setting sun. Most of the pagodas are free but this one costs about 8-10USD but is totally worth it. It is one of the only sights you really need to see in the city.

Beware when visiting temples. Myanmar people are really friendly and nice. Usually you could trust your life with them and there’s not many scams but unfortunately one is really common and easy to fall into to.  You are visiting a temple, are approached by a very friendly man who starts telling you the history of the temple/Buddhism/blabla, tells you he studies in the monastery near the temple and takes you around to different places in the temple and monastery. When he’s done, he asks for a donation around 10-15USD for the monastery and the poor tourist gets disconnected from his money again.  Remember that you DON’T have to talk to anyone in the temple. Be polite and nod. Act as if you wouldn’t understand what they are saying. They’ll leave you alone. All the places he takes you to, can be visited without him if you really want to do that.

Moving around in Yangon is easy as hell. The city is relatively small in size so in the downtown area walking anywhere is not difficult. The streets are numbered and neatly organized so with a map it’s really easy to go around. Also people are helpful and a lot of them speak English. The only time we took a taxi was to Shwedagon Pagoda and airport/bus. Also every time you take a taxi you donate money towards the government.  

Mandalay is very different from Yangon. It is a big city, yes, but it kind of reminds me of Jaipur, low buildings but widely spread. Mandalay also is easy to walk around in but the sights in Mandalay are widely spread around the city so easiest way to see everything is definitely renting a bicycle. If you’re in Myanmar with a 25-year old friend who doesn’t know how to drive a bicycle, the easiest option is to pay a cute old man to drive you around on his bicycle. The first two days we went around to the main sights. Day with a trickshaw would cost you around 10-15USD depending on your bargaining skills. In order to see a lot of the historic sights, you’d have to buy a ticket for 10USD that is valid for all the major sights. They wouldn’t ask for it every where, but you can judge for yourself if it’s a risk worth taking.

If you have more than a day in Mandalay I recommend you take a trip to the ancient cities around Mandalay. It takes about 10-12 hours to do all three of them with a driver and is well worth it. Taxi would cost you around 35-45USD and a moto around 15-20USD.  I didn’t go, because I’m a dick and lost my ticket the first day. Oops. Didn’t want to spend on getting a new one being so late into my travels (much of my funds already spent) and having to have money to come back to the motherland still. My friend did it though and the photos from there look pretty incredible. So don’t be a fool and lose your ticket, go do this.

One night we went to theatre. We were kind of in between seeing the Mustache Brothers (look it up, I’m sure they’re worth seeing) or this traditional Myanmar theatre. I’ve seen theatre in India before and that was pretty amazing and a lot of culture in Myanmar comes from India/Bangladesh SO we decided to go see that. It was ok, but I was maybe expecting a little more. The show was only on for an hour and it just seemed to be a little homespun.  Worth a look if you have nothing else to do, tickets are 8USD. I feel sorry we didn’t see the Mustache Brothers.

 Oh Bagan. Go take a walk, rent a bicycle, rent a moto, rent an electric bike, hire a horse cart just go around as much as you can. Visit the smaller quiet temples. Visit the big ones, climb to the rooftop if it’s possible. Do it as many times as you can, the sight never get’s old. Do it during sunset and sunrise. Listen to the singing coming from the distance. Let you eyes rest. Bagan is an absolute Narnia. I think we were laughing the all of day one being so astonished by the place. There’s Pagodas as far as the eye can see. There are over 4000 pagodas all over the place. The city is really modest and purely built for tourism so I’m not going to write much about it. Decent food and wifi can be found pretty much anywhere. Don’t put too much effort into deciding which side of the city you’re going to stay. You can go for the cheapest option for everything is pretty close by and driving around on a bicycle would be really easy I reckon. Before entering Bagan you have to pay 10USD for a ticket to the city. You should have it with you at all times but I don’t remember anyone ever asking for it.

If you don’t want to go around on your own but decide to get a horse cart (way more fun than a car) a full day of going around to the major Pagodas and see the sunrise&sunset would cost around 30USD. If you want to take a car, it might be a little bit more expensive.

 

DO’S/DON’TS IN MYANMAR

 You can find 15000 lists like this on the internet and on travel guides. Read them all. These are just things on top of my head. Things we found to be important.

Talk to people. Tell them where you’re from. They probably “have a friend in Finland” or say “yes, yes very beautiful country” and have absolutely no idea where you’re from. Even though understandably not everyone is super excited of rich tourists coming to Burma to spend them money on the government, I feel that most people are happy to have visitors. Be respectful of these people. I think they are very happy to not be forgotten. Burmese people are very friendly and can strike a good conversation.

Spend money on the streets. When looking for something fun to take home, try to get it from the streets. Just traveling to Myanmar, you obviously have to spend some money that goes to the government but you can try to do as little of that as you can. Be smart with what you spend on. Stay away from tourist shops/info’s for anything but advice. If you’re left with some kyats when you leave, go buy a few locks or something on the street. Leave your money with the people.

Keep your guard up. Myanmar people are very friendly and I’d say I’ve never felt as safe anywhere outside Europe. But there’s always people who want to do bad things. I was left alone but my blond friend was bombarded with people with questions, wanting to take photos and that all the time. Kind of similar to being a western person in India. One time a man came to talk to us. He was with his family and started going on and on about his church. He obviously was excited to find westerners (Christians) in a country where 98% people are Buddhist. But he was very interested on what we do for work and if we are going to do business in the country. This is a big no no so we were just trying to tell him we work as cashiers and are not business owners of any kind. He wanted to have our full names and know exactly where we’re from and all that. I have no idea why this happened but we felt a little weird about it so we just decided to politely leave the conversation.

Read. Buy books about Myanmar in English. Read them and leave them behind. Don’t go without preparing yourself and knowing a little about the history/present day.

Do not touch the monks. Do not touch them. Especially their head.

I’m just going to give you the same advice a local gave us. When you go inside a temple “you don’t talk anymore”.  You don’t have to buy anything. Leave donations to the temples. If you feel uncomfortable, you can always smile, nod and sod off.

Cover up. This is a country with strict moral values and traditions. Don’t be disrespectful with the way you dress. Cover your knees, shoulders and everything in between.

Take your shoes off before entering a temple. Every time. Socks too.  Remember to not point towards the Buddha statues or monks with your feet.

 Be a man – buy a longuy. Traditional Burmese wear for men and women is a long skirt. I’m sure it’s a lot more comfortable for everyone than a pair of jeans.

Smile. So does everyone else.

 

I still have about 300 Lao photos to deal with so I’m just going to make Lao and Oslo in to one separate post from this one.

 

 

 

Yangon

Yangon

Yangon street eats

Yangon street eats

Yangon street eats

Yangon street eats

 

Yangon street eats

Yangon street eats

Yangon street eats

Yangon street eats

Yangon

Yangon

Yangon

Yangon

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Trickshaws in downtown Yangon

Trickshaws in downtown Yangon

Monks in downtown Yangon.

Monks in downtown Yangon.

Yangon

Yangon

Bogyoke Aung San Market. Worth a see but don't buy anything from these government controlled shops.

Bogyoke Aung San Market. Worth a see but don’t buy anything from these government controlled shops.

yeangn

Sun setting over Yangon.

Sun setting over Yangon.

Mandalay

Mandalay

Mandalay Hill.

Mandalay Hill.

Stairs to Mandalay Hill. About 1700 stairs. What a climb.

Stairs to Mandalay Hill. About 1700 stairs. What a climb.

Kuthodaw Pagoda "The Worlds Biggest Book"

Kuthodaw Pagoda “The Worlds Biggest Book”

Kuthodaw Pagoda "The Worlds Biggest Book"

Kuthodaw Pagoda “The Worlds Biggest Book”

Shwenendaw Monastery.

Shwenendaw Monastery.

Mandalay Royal Palace.

Mandalay Royal Palace.

Mandalay Royal Palace.

Mandalay Royal Palace.

Mandalay

Mandalay

Bagan

Bagan

Horse cart in Bagan

Horse cart in Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Traditional Burmese 'make up' Thanaka.

Traditional Burmese ‘make up’ Thanaka.

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Man painting in a temple in Bagan.

Man painting in a temple in Bagan.

bagan10

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan river

Bagan river

Bagan river

Bagan river

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bagan

Bangkok/Koh Chang/Arriving to Myanmar

It’s been a while but time just simply flies here. Also I haven’t been doing much of anything interesting. Crossing the border from Cambodia to Thailand was surprisingly quick and easy. I took the 6am bus to avoid the midday heat and crowds. There was no queues at any point and the whole thing took me about 20-30 minutes. Leaving just few days earlier on the 8am bus, my friends had to stand in line for a good hour- hour and a half. So to avoid that it’s obviously smart to pull yourself out of bed couple of hours earlier and catch the first bus. The whole journey from Siem Reap to Bangkok took me about 8-9 hours.

We stayed at Green House hostel right next to Khaosan road. The hostel was ok, pretty cheap rooms and an expensive restaurant. The cheapest way to eat and pretty much the best way to save money is to enjoy as much street food as possible. A big plate full of Pad Thai would cost you around 25-35baht and a spring roll around 10 baht a piece. Khaosan is kind of far from everything but Khaosan. The palace & river are within walking distance but that’s about it. The upside on Khaosan (for some people) is that it’s absolutely crowded with tourists. Mostly young people, getting hammered in the many bars around the area. It’s always loud, always full and the ping-pong shows etc. are offered in every corner. We didn’t go but if you wish to, it costs about 500baht to do that including taxi there & back and the show. It does get really annoying after few days. Taxi’s & tuk tuk’s near Khaosan are really expensive. There’s no metro around the area, but there’s a lot of buses operating close by. Ask locals for directions. If you do want to avoid the long sweaty bus drive to your destination and take a taxi, best to stick with the pink ones. We found they’re the only ones driving with the meter (not always, remember to ask before getting in).

After spending the weekend with the girls doing their last shopping, visiting Redsky and some other places they were replaced by one of my really good friends from Finland. She flew on the same day the girls left.  I had to stay in Bangkok with her a few more days to go apply for our visa for Myanmar. We did a little sightseeing, went to the Lumpini Park and saw the reclining Buddha (Wat Pho). Entrance fee for Wat Pho was 150bhat and the temple are is big. We thought we’d only see the Buddha statue lying there but there’s so much more. Absolutely worth a visit.

There are a lot of people scamming tourists especially around the Grand Palace area. They say there’s a prayer thing going on and the palace can’t be visited right now. They are really friendly and draw you a map of a near by floating market and try to push you to a tuk tuk to take you there. There’s also people renting clothes to visit the area, don’t be fooled, you can lend clothes for free inside the palace area. Don’t talk to anyone around there to be safe from these things.

Getting the visa was actually a lot simpler than we read online. Everyone was saying that we should go there really early to avoid the worst queues but being lazy bastard, we got there maybe 15 minutes before they opened. There was a queue outside, maybe 50 meters or so but the whole thing took us about 35 minutes. This is not the peak season; it might be a lot different in January or February.

Once we got our visa-applications done, we were ready to leave Bangkok for a while. We wanted to go somewhere just to chill out for some days before Myanmar and chose the island of Koh Chang. We stayed at a small (horrible but cheap) bungalow at Lonely Beach. I don’t really have much to say about the island. We saw one waterfall (all the other ones were dry, or so they said) but aside from that we didn’t really do much but hang around in the sun trying to regain energy after Bangkok and before Myanmar. After another night in Bangkok we finally got to pick up our visas and were ready to head out to Yangon.  We got our flights pretty early so we only paid around 80USD each for a round trip.

We had read a lot about how Myanmar has no ATM’s that’d accept foreign cards and that you shouldn’t change money at the airport (this is also what Myanmar Lonely Planet says) because the rates are shit but I guess tourism in this country has developed fast. ATM’s can be found pretty much everywhere and the rates to change money at the airport are good.  Withdrawing money costs about 5USD + what ever your bank is charging on top of that.  The rate for a dollar at the airport was about 966kyats, which was not bad at all at the time. What still seems to be true is that the dollar notes you change or use have to be in perfect condition. To be sure we’d get the right kind of dollars we changed all our Myanmar-money from euros at Forex in Finland.

We’ve been here for a little under two weeks now, I’ll write more about this place when I have more time. Too busy sightseeing all the time, there’s so much to see here. I have a lot of my Bangkok photos on my phone, I didn’t really carry around my camera that much. I’ll try to get them online at some point.

 

Tasty street goodness in Bangkok.

Tasty street goodness in Bangkok.

IMG_4849

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Koh Chang

Koh Chang

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

IMG_4706

Koh Chang

Koh Chang

Koh Chang

Koh Chang

Koh Chang

Koh Chang

waterfall in Koh Chang

waterfall in Koh Chang

Koh Chang

Koh Chang

Sihanoukville/Phnom Penh/Siem Reap

We didn’t really have solid plans on how and where it’d happen but we all wanted a few days of just doing absolutely nothing on a beach somewhere. It just so happened that Tiina’s boyfriend was traveling Asia too and we all decided to meet in Sihanoukville. Well obviously the two lovebirds wanted their privacy for the short time they had and they ended up staying on a small island next to Sihanoukville called Koh Rong. Henna and I felt it would’ve been a little bit of a stretch to our budget and stayed at Otres 1 in a 10USD bungalow. Nothing too fancy (like seriously rat shit on beds and that) but it was at the beach, had a roof and a lock on the door.

There’s not much to say about Otres. Beach was nice, laid back atmosphere. Happy everything is everywhere. If chilling on the beach getting happy is your thing, this is definitely the place to do it. We didn’t really do much apart from just that. On Saturdays they have a thing called “western market” or “Otres market”. Live music, a lot of people and few stalls selling the stuff. It’s more like a big party than a market so don’t go there expecting to shop like crazy but to have a few drinks with people and listen to music.

After trying to build up energy for 5 days it was time to head to Phnom Penh. We were all excited about going there and the killing fields and s21 were high up on our list of things to see in Asia. The experience was obviously sad but I think it was good to see it with our own eyes. I don’t think a lot of people really know too much about the horrible things that happened here just 30-40 years ago. I recommend reading a little bit about the history of Cambodia before coming here to have enough respect for what these people have been trough.  A tuk tuk to take you to s21 and Killing Fields would cost you around 18USD/tuk tuk. There’s no point in making any deals with the tuk tuk drivers on your own, all hostels we’ve been to ‘arrange’ tuk tuk drivers to take you to the local sights and you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off and sometimes the driver might even speak a word or two of English. If you decide to do it on your own, try to ask people what they paid and ask for the same price. No point in overpaying although the drivers usually don’t try to charge anything too ridiculous.

As I’m writing this I’m still in Siem Reap. I’ve been super lazy here and in 4 days have just managed to go to the Angkor temples. It’s easy to spend three days there, but I think two is enough. For a tuk tuk to drive you around Angkor for a day would be around 13-15USD but again, renting a moto or bicycle is the cheapest way. There’s no way to avoid being in a huge mass of tourists but the most popular time to visit is sunrise and as it get warmer (after midday) there’s less people, but walking around can be a pain if the temperature goes up to 30-35C. Remember to cover your knees and shoulders in order to enter some of the temples.

After sunset the place to be is the Pub Street. Right next to it is the night market, old market, river, bars, restaurants and such. I guess the most well known place among backpackers around Pub Street is a bar called Angkor What?

You can get a massage for 2-6USD and you nails done for 2-4USD. Quality is obviously not as great as it would be in fancier, more expensive places but it’s good fun and it’s nice to have someone digging out the dirt you collected under your fingernails while travelling.

Tomorrow I’m off to Bangkok to meet a friend who’s flying in on Tuesday. Not too excited about sitting on the bus for eight hours but it’s good to leave. I think I’ve been here long enough. I’m going to miss Cambodia. People are very helpful, kind and they seem happy. I’ll definitely return one day.

Some of the photos below are actually from Bokor Hill, Kampot. I was too lazy to empty my camera in Sihanoukville.

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

IMG_4645

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

Angkor

IMG_4588 IMG_4582 IMG_4577 IMG_4566

Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek

Choeung Ek

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Bokor Hill

Vietnam/Arriving to Cambodia

Flying from Kuala Lumpur to Saigon was something none of us were too happy about. We all know just how annoying going trough all that airport crap is. Everything went well until we were going trough the last check to get into the plane. Tiina and I got trough with no problems but the guy checking Hennas boarding pass and passport was not as educated as the guy checking ours. He didn’t let Henna trough for she didn’t have a visa for Vietnam. She tried to explain him that Finnish people don’t need a visa to go to Vietnam and that the two girls (me and Tiina) had exactly the same passports as her and got trough just fine. He disagreed. Even us standing outside the plain almost laughing didn’t convince him. He took Hennas passport, left, came back within two minutes and let her trough. What an idiot.

Saigon was a lot of fun. We had a really nice hostel in the backpacker area, just around the corner from a lot of bars, restaurants and all that. The two days we had there we spent going to the War Remnants Museum, the Ben Thanh Market (where bargaining is a must if you’re gonna shop anywhere but the fixed price area) and just walking around the city.

The War Remnants Museum was definitely something worth seeing in Saigon. It is very eye opening and educational for anyone traveling in Vietnam. The price was somewhere around 15 000 dong. The museum is open until 5pm and we got there around 3pm, if possible it’s smart to go a little earlier. It was a bit of a pain from time to time to try to read/see stuff behind people’s backs for it was super crowded at that time.

It’s pretty easy to walk around the city and see a lot, people are very helpful when for example crossing the (very busy) streets or trying to find something. We didn’t go to the Cu Chi tunnels even though it is one of the main sights in the city. We’re all too afraid of small spaces to be able to crawl trough the small tunnels :-P

On our last night in Saigon we met two of my friend’s friends who happened to be in Saigon as well. We ended up staying out with them until six in the morning, crashing at our hostel for 30 minutes and catching the 7am bus to Mui Ne.

We were warned that Mui Ne is a very touristy place with not much to see or do if you’re not in to kite surfing or getting shitfaced with Russian tourists. We got an ok room in an ok hostel for an ok price. Service was good, but no one speaks much (if any) English in whole Mui Ne. It still turned out to be a fun couple of days. We went to a five-hour tour to the main sights: Fairy Stream, White&Red sand dunes and Fishing Village for 8USD. The last day we just relaxed in the sun reading books and enjoying doing nothing.

We got a night bus from Mui Ne to Saigon, from Saigon to Phnom Penh and a shared cab with two people from Phnom Penh to Kampot. The journey took us about 18 hours but was at the end pretty painless.

I felt pretty ill on the bus going to Saigon. It was totally packed and the a/c was not working at all. I felt feverish and really sick. In these situations I tend to think about the comfort of my moms voice and the reassurance in my dads. Thinking about them made me feel better and soon enough, I fell asleep. Despite a man vomiting below my bed and the smell of sweat and puke in the air, I woke up in Saigon.

Crossing the border and getting the Cambodian visa was very simple. The bus staff collected our passports and our filled out visa application forms (which we got and filled out in the bus), we paid 25USD and got the visa at the border.

Getting a bus from Phnom Penh to Kampot was not that simple. Everywhere we went people told us all the buses are full. Luckily just by accident we bumped into these two guys who were about to share a taxi to Kampot. We paid 10USD each which was not bad at all.

Our hostel here is pretty nice. We’re going to Bokor Hill and some other sights tomorrow and heading to Sihanoukville on Saturday.

Our hostel in Saigon: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g293925-d2196442-Reviews-PP_BackPackers-Ho_Chi_Minh_City.html Clean room, wifi in the room and nice English speaking staff.

Our hostel in Mui Ne: http://www.travbuddy.com/Ly-Ly-Guesthouse-v753635 Nice staff, wifi, restaurant and a relatively cheap (15USD for three people) room with our own bathroom. The 8USD tour-thing was also arranged by the guest house.

IMG_4335

IMG_4332

Red Sand Dunes

Red Sand Dunes

Red Sand Dunes

Red Sand Dunes

On our way to White Sand Dunes.

On our way to White Sand Dunes.

White Sand Dunes

White Sand Dunes

White Sand Dunes

White Sand Dunes

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

Mui Ne

Fishing Village

Fishing Village

Fishing Village

Fishing Village

Fairy Stream

Fairy Stream

Fairy Stream

Fairy Stream

Fairy Stream

Fairy Stream

IMG_4230

Saigon

Saigon

Virgin Mary Church, Saigon

Virgin Mary Church, Saigon

IMG_4218

Fresh!

Fresh!

Fresh!

Fresh!

IMG_4176 IMG_4160 IMG_4155

Saigon

Saigon

 

 

Singapore/Malaysia

Our last days in Singapore were full of hanging out with my local friends and sightseeing at places they took us to. We went to the Singapore art museum where they had the Singapore Biennale exhibition. Singapore is somewhat a city from the future. Everything in the center seems new, flashy, and big. People are fashionable and you can see they put a lot of effort into looking good. Everything is expensive as shit. Not as expensive as Finland but some things, like cigarettes and alcohol might be even more expensive than the cheapest places in Helsinki. It goes without saying that we didn’t really go out there.

Food was.. Well not my thing to be honest. I guess it’s just simply too far from what we’re used to. I’m sure spending more time there and eating at better places would guarantee finding something really good but the stuff we got was not that amazing. Cheap beer in a food court costs around 3-4 sgd and in a cheap bar around 5sgd. And that only goes for the crappiest beer Tiger (which is not actually that bad) that locals don’t really drink. Meal in a cheap place was somewhere around 3-6 sgd.

Best thing about visiting Singapore was seeing my friends. Living half way around the world makes it kind of special.

Coming to Malaysia was really easy. We took a metro (or MRT how they call it) to Kranji and the public bus number 170 all the way to Johor Bahru (JB). Our passports were checked and stamped at the border, and after that we just returned to the same bus. Everything was super quick and easy. The bus only costs a little under 2sgd so this is a very easy way to save a bit of money. After arriving to Johor Bahru (JB sentral) we took a public bus to the bus station from where it was easy to get a ticket to our final destination, Malacca.

Malacca (an old fishing village) is a popular get away for Busy people of Kuala Lumpur, and now being here in KL it’s not hard to understand why. It’s very near by, bus to there only costs around 12-13 myr and takes 2,5 hours to reach. We did the basic sightseeing things, went around China Town, walk along the riverside and saw the Sultanate Palace. It was easy to spend two full days there, but a third one would’ve been too much in my opinion. Maybe if you’re into big shopping malls or want to spend time shopping you might be able to keep yourself busy for another day. Malacca is small and it’s easy to see stuff by just walking around.

We got to Kuala Lumpur yesterday and I have to say this is one of the best hostels I’ve ever been to. It’s very centrally located, price includes breakfast and beds are good size and clean. It is a bit pricey (30myr for a bed in 6 bed dorm) but I’m happy to pay an extra 10 for working Internet and great location.

It only took us 15-20 minutes (if that) to walk to the twin towers. We ended up only taking pictures of it rather than going up for what we heard, it’s really expensive and none of us are to crazy about highs.

The first night in Kuala Lumpur was strange. We decided to go and check out a near by bar street. After sitting in an Irish bar for a while there was three people approaching us from the small alley between bars. One Malay woman and two African men. They were really keen to get us to go across the street with them to another bar. The woman said she had a lot of friends in Finland and all that noise. We all kept our valuables close and kindly refused. I don’t know if this was a scam but just before they left the owner of the bar came out to see if we’re ok even though these people were not aggressive in any way. So maybe they’ve had customers ripped off like this before. Who knows? Well about 20 minutes later just as we were leaving the waitress asked us if we’d like to join the owner’s table. We thought why not sit down with him for a while. We ended up having a lovely time with him and one of his friends. They were very polite, asking us about our plans here and recommending things to do.

Today we went to Batu Caves. Train from KL Sentral is only 2myr and takes you directly to Batu Caves. The place was amazing, definitely worth a visit. We’re flying out to Saigon on tomorrow morning. I’m not crazy about the idea of doing the whole airport-thing again (waiting around, and all that) but I’m really excited about seeing what Vietnam is about.

Petronas Towers

Petronas Towers

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Sultanate Palace

Sultanate Palace

Drying laundry in Malacca

Drying laundry in Malacca

Malacca

Malacca

Malacca

Malacca

Malacca

Malacca

Garden of Sultanate palace

Garden of Sultanate palace

IMG_3967

Our favourite bar in Malacca (beer only 6myr!) Shantaram

Our favourite bar in Malacca (beer only 6myr!) Shantaram

IMG_3993

Malacca River

Malacca River

IMG_3951

Supertree park

Supertree park

Supertree park

Supertree park

IMG_3918

Sunset in Singapore

Sunset in Singapore

IMG_3847

Singapore

Singapore

Singapore

Singapore

The Merlion

The Merlion

Singapore

Singapore

IMG_3833

Singapore

Singapore

Sea cucumbers? Dried?

Sea cucumbers? Dried?

Ice!

Ice!

IMG_3808 IMG_3780 IMG_3783 IMG_3786 IMG_3795 IMG_3803 IMG_3774 IMG_3771 IMG_4139

Batu caves

Batu caves

Baby monkeys at Batu Caves

Baby monkeys at Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

IMG_4085

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Stockholm/Istanbul/arriving to Singapore

After a quick hop in and out of Stockholm with my sister, and another week of panicking about whether I have everything done or not before I go, we finally managed to get ourselves to Istanbul. We spent the very little time we had there sightseeing (the usual Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar..) and just going around the bars/cafes/stores close to Taksim&Tünel. Trying to not stress about seeing and doing as much as possible but to simply enjoy ourselves and get ready to hit Asia.

Istanbul is a wonderful city, I definitely got the feeling that I need to go there again with more time. People are not too keen on being too ’nice’ with you, but once you actually meet them, you find them being very friendly and helpful. Our hostel owner even insisted on taking us out for breakfast our first morning.

After trying to get a tiny tiny look at Istanbul it was already time to pack our bags and fly to Singapore. We got a little worried  at Ataturk airport when the guy at check in said we might have some trouble not having flights away from Singapore. He did let us through when we showed him our tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Saigon next week. He thought it was very suspicious we’d be traveling with only hand luggage.. Luckily we had no trouble what so ever arriving here. No one even asked us about our plans. I guess they’re used to seeing western kids coming here with very little things and big plans.

We didn’t sleep at all on the 10 hour flight here so arriving at 9:00 in the morning we were tired, hungry and jetlag. My awesome singaporean friend Alvin came to meet us at the airport totally unexpected and took us to our hostel by metro, which we could have never done by ourselves in less than 4 hours. We decided to get a ez-link card for the public transportation that we can top up when needed. Cost of the card is 12sgd and the card is charged with 7sgd. If/when returning the card, you’re also given back 5sgd. Other than that we didn’t do much today, just ate and walked around a little bit with Alvin and another friend from here.

We’re definitely going to be more energized and ready to face Singapore tomorrow.

Our hostel in Istanbul http://www.cheersmidtown.com/ cheap, good wifi, nice owner, good location. You know what you’re paying for. Nothing too fancy but definitely worth the 8€/night we paid.

IMG_3397

IMG_3398

IMG_3406

IMG_3432

IMG_3454

IMG_3463

IMG_3476

IMG_3479

IMG_3482

IMG_3483

IMG_3497

IMG_3508

IMG_3516

IMG_3530

IMG_3538

IMG_3544

IMG_3558

IMG_3565

IMG_3568

IMG_3573

IMG_3576

IMG_3579

IMG_3581

IMG_3587

IMG_3591

IMG_3613

IMG_3614

IMG_3642

IMG_3644

IMG_3646

IMG_3649

IMG_3660

IMG_3673

Seeing this made me very happy. Stray cats seemed to be in a pretty good shape and I’m sure this is part of the reason why.

IMG_3686

IMG_3708

This little guy kept us company at a coffee shop. As you can see our travel stories didn’t do a very good job keeping him awake.

IMG_3717

IMG_3755

IMG_3756

Three weeks to go

I’ve super busy lately with christmas and work and all, but decided to take the morning to post something here.

A lot has happened since my last post. First of all one more friend decided to tag along for 5 weeks of the trip. Which is nice, the more the merrier right? I also bought a flight back to europe. I’m flying to Oslo on 11.4.2014 after that I was hoping to spend some time chilling somewhere in Europe, maybe drop by to Berlin to say ‘hi’ to my friend Anis. That plan unfortunately had to be forgotten after my 100% sure dogwatch cancelled on me the second time. The whole thing came really out of the blue, because he’d bailed on me once before a month ago and then called me to say sorry and cancel the cancellation, and now he’s canceling canceling the original cancellation. So that’s cool. Anyone who owns a dog but loves to travel knows, what a bitch finding someone to look after your pet can be. Obviously getting pets is a choice and all that but I just think it’s not cool to go back and forth with something like this and then finally back out of something that was agreed on six months ago. Luckily I have an awesome family and great friends willing to help me with the dog (who are not dicks like him) so I’m going to be able to go. Just have to come back a bit earlier than I thought. But that’s everything I’m going to rage about that.

We finally decided where we’re going to go. After Singapore, we’ll go to Malaysia. I bought us flights from Kuala Lumpur to Saigon which is our third stop in Asia. From Vietnam we’re trying to cross the border to Cambodia by Mekong. Nothing is 100% sure, but I think we have a pretty good idea on what we’re going to do.

The girls will leave a month earlier than me so decided to get flights from Bangkok to Myanmar. I’m flying to Yangon late march, so if anyone is there/has any tips on Myanmar, please contact me! I’m almost most excited about going there.

I guess things here in Helsinki are just the same as always, we had the first real snow yesterday. I’m so happy that I’m getting out of here. I’m so ready to not wake up at four in the morning.

20140112-112800.jpg

Helpx.net

I’ve been thinking. My friend I’m doing the trip with will not be able to stay in Asia for very long so I figured why not look for a volunteer work from there and maybe stay put In one place for a while. I’ve been interested in these thing for some years but since I’ve always travelled with friends, boyfriends I never really had a good opportunity to try it.

There’s tons of websites out there that offer the opportunity to find hostels, farmstays, homestays, organisations that help people in need etc. And for hosts to find guests. You usually receive a meal a day, a place to sleep and some places even give you a little pocket money. This is kinda rare though. Free accomodation is the usual deal for working a few hours a day, this is all up to what you arrange with the host.

SO after roaming through some of these sites I ended up using helpx. I’ve been a member since 2010 and I think I’ve been a member of some other ones as well but the thing is in order to view full profiles, send e-mails and stuff you need to pay about 20€ to the site. So that’s why a cheap bastard like me wouldn’t want to use multiple sites for looking for hosts hah! I’m hoping to find a great relaxed place where I’d have some work, enough time to get to know people, maybe draw and paint a bit and just breathe in the new place.

I know volunteering in to sort out peoples lifes in the middle of a natural disaster such as the Philippines righ now would be an incredibly good thing to do but I’m not sure if I’d be up for it. My heart goes out to all the families in crisis and all the volunteers working towards a better tommorrow there and everywhere in the world. I do the best I can donating money every month, maybe some day if the time is right I’ll do a volunteer trip like that. This just is not my time.

I’ve sent out few messages to different countries so let’s see if any of them work and get me work. If you have any suggestions of great relaxed backpacker hostels or other cool places in SE Asia that might need volunteer help, please let me know! I can help with websites, social media, designs, customer service.. Also I am pretty awesome.

Here’s some tips on websites that help find a host/work to get you started:

GeoVisions
Projects Abroad
VolunteerMatch
GoEco
World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms

There is tons more of I’m sure great sites that offer same services so don’t hesitate on using your own searchengine skills.

My friend Alex.

I used to have this friend. When ever I would talk about traveling with someone, he was the one I mentioned. He really inspired me to go out to travel, to take the chance and just go. He was the one who just lived off a bag for years and travelled around the world. Met all these people and worked in different places. I really admire his courage, his will to do what he wants.

When I was 14 I met the boy of my dreams, mohawk, tall (to me everyone was and still is tall) and punk all the way. We dated for almost two years and while spending time with him, I got to know his childhood friend Alex. Me and Alex always got along great. There was a time we three almost lived in the same room for some time. Me and Alex became really close friends. After my boyfriend and I broke up, Alex stayed in my life. He moved to downtown and I spent all my spare time at his place when I was in high school. He worked in bars and did all kinds of different things to save money to move abroad. The only thing he ever really wanted to do.

His apartment was a tiny single room place. He only had his bed and a cardboard box to serve as a table. All his belongings were in one bag. When he finally got the money he needed, he left. He moved to Australia and lived there and everywhere for few years. Just some months ago he came back to Finland. His plan was to study to get a proper education and start a life. I was happy to get him back here. To be in my life again really.

Last week at work my phone rang. It was my ex boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him or spoken with him in seven years. “Alex is dead”, he said. I was shocked. This thursday we went to his funeral. it was beautiful and I broke down completely. I still don’t know how to handle this pain. It seems to be the right thing to write this to him.  I miss you buddy.

Your peace is infinite as the sea.

Kuvankaappaus 2013-11-17 kello 2.10.41

Winter’s coming

Phuh it’s been awhile. I’m the worst at blogging. Doesn’t really fit my busy (yeah right) schedule. Just wanted to write about couple of things. I’ve had the best month, had some really cool people over and got to spend some very very very very good times with them. First my dear Alvin came all the way from Singapore to see us, his european friends. It’s kinda funny how I have friends living in the same city who I see less than him. It’s going to be epic to see him again in feb in Singapore. I’m expecting a lot from that after hosting him like a king here twice hah. I felt a bit sad when he left but it is comforting to know that I’m off to sunshine land in just a little over three months. Shit. Last tuesday I was at work and out of the blue there was a deep georgian voice next to me ‘Hi there’. I knew Bryan came to Finland on sunday but didn’t think I’d meet him before going home that day after spending some time at my dads house. It was such a joy to see him again and spend this last week and a half with him. Just doing the usual stuff, going out, taking pictures, cooking with good friends. Well yesterday came and so he left. I really miss him a lot. If I’d just get enough tourists to stay at mine via airbnb I’d save up more money and fly to the US from Asia in the spring to see him.  I’d really like that. 

And this my friends, is how people become real friends by couch surfing and bumming around at each others places.

I got a flight to Istanbul on 1.2 so I’ll spend few days there before heading out to Asia. I know time will fly and february will come soon but this autumn weather, knowing winter will soon be here makes me really depressed. Hopefully everything goes well and I’ll have tons of savings to stay out of this shit for a good while. 

 

 

Image

:’-) <3

Image

at the photography museum