Archive for June, 2017

June 28, 2017

strangers of the world

I’ve came across many kinds of people in my travels for both work and leisure. Some good, some plain ass bad. Thought of writing my personal impression of them here.

Best of the bunch. I love the Taiwanese. I’ve visited Taiwan twice in my lifetime, and both times, I was impressed with the hospitality given to me. The Taiwanese people are polite, courteous and most of them would go out of their way to help a stranger (I’ve encountered twice of such situation). Hell, even the taxi drivers are awesome (that’s rare)! Have you ever heard of a taxi driver giving you a discount because he feels like doing it? I once came to a total TWD 1.2k on the meter, and the taxi driver would just go ‘no dude, just give me TWD 1k and enjoy your holiday’. In Malaysia, you’d be lucky you don’t get mugged by a fucking taxi driver.

I find them laid back, professional and friendly. As a Malaysian, I have to admit that I sometimes do stereotype the Indonesians in general as ‘not trustworthy’ – given the stories I hear about Indon maids abusing children and how some of the unemployed illegals committing various crimes in our shores. But the Balinese, are nothing of that sorts. I feel safe around in Bali and the whole Balinese society gives me the impression that my personal space is respected – although one can tell that they’re a little bit biased to be nicer to white travelers.

Germans are best described as apathetic. They like to mind their business and it’s none of your business. They seldom smileI believe most of them older folks do not like Asians, and they’re just being content with whatever shit their government left them to deal with. I once walked into a beer garden, a few of the tables stopped whatever they were doing and stared until we had to bail the place out of sheer uneasiness. I mean, what the fuck?? I did meet a few friendly old folks in the countryside though, but they were speaking German to me. When I was there, I did not feel welcomed at all (esp. in bigger cities) and we’d be very selective where we eat lest we’d get into an undesirable situation.

I’ve been to Singapore shitloads of times, even lived there before. Singaporeans remind me a lot of the people of Penang, although we’re really different. They’re as apathetic as the Germans, and everyone seems to not care about anyone at all. They’re fast paced and feel self entitled to everything. The younger gens tend to look down upon Asians (especially if you’re from Malaysia) and their charm will be cranked down 150% to ensure you get a shitty attitude treatment if they have to deal with fellow Asians.

Chinese (China)
I’d call them – ignorant. They can be loud and excessively annoying. They’re well known to be rude as well. They’d jump queues, they’d push you away to be in your spot and the ladies scratch their poontang and pee overtly in public. At China, the people there give you the feeling that everyone is after your money. I do not feel safe in China at all. But I believe this only confines to those people who do not get much education and from rural kampung areas. Those from big cities will probably be little bit better.

The Americans can be as ignorant as the Chinese and as self absorbing as the Singaporeans. The older folks can be racists, they especially harbor a lot of ill feels towards the Asians (like the Japanese/Chinese/Koreans) – as testified by one of the Irish descent guy I met – it’s because they lost a few wars to the likes of us. I don’t know how true was that but the younger ones seem to be free of this issue. In big cities, I don’t feel safe wandering into areas that I do not know.

Hongkies (Hong Kong)
The Cantonese tend to be apathetic and plain rude. They do not seem to believe in courteousness. Try to ask for directions on the street, you’d get shunned. Try to deliberate on the menu inside a restaurant, you’d get shouted at. It’s rare to find someone in HK that would go out of his/her way to help a stranger. I speak fluent Cantonese and is familiar with the place, and yet I don’t feel welcomed at Hong Kong. It is a place you’d only enjoy by simply ignoring its shitty inhabitants inside. I fucking hate the Hongkies (more than I hate the people from China).

The South Koreans are friendly and professional. Hospitality is as good as the Taiwanese. They have a high functioning society and everyone is considerate towards making Korea a better place. Place is spot clean (I think Korea is cleaner than Singapore). In comparison, I wouldn’t deem them as the type that would go out of their way to help a stranger like the Taiwanese, but they’d help if requested (as opposed to the Hongkies, which would avoid even eye contact when help is requested).

Land of smiles. Yeah they’re friendly, make you feel welcomed and all but, you’ll get the feeling that they’re doing it for the money. Their friendliness is in proportion with the money you’re going to spend there. Not as bad as China but, the feeling’s present – that your wallet is in the watchful eye of the friendly people there. They’re courteous alright, but you don’t get the feeling of trust around in Thailand. Something seems to be off. I do not know why.

benchmark – Malaysians
I generally hate people so, don’t worry about me being biased towards our own countrymen. Malaysians are average. They’re friendly, not rude (exception on some hawkers in Penang) but they can be annoying sometimes. The taxi drivers here are not trustworthy, and like Balinese, they’re a little biased towards treating white folks better. Some small Chinese merchants still overcharge the foreigners just because they’re from abroad. Despite all that, I’d feel welcomed and safe around Malaysians, but would still practice common sense caution from roaming into dark alleys or lest visited areas.

I’ll add more as I travel…

michaelooi  | characters  | Comments Off
June 20, 2017

Indonesia – Bali

If I were to summarize my Bali trip in one word, it would be ‘unexpected’. For some strange reasons, I had the impression that Bali is a small place, despite the fact that I could see myself from the map that it’s goddamn huge! But it was ‘unexpected’ in a good way for me. I expected it to be a just mediocre holiday destination but the trip unexpectedly turned out to be quite pleasant for me and my family. Here are the list of hits and misses of Bali:

Hits (good):
Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang : To be frank, you’ll only be impressed with the first few Hindu temples you visit in Bali. After that, it gets trite and common, and most of them would look all the same after that. Just like those churches in Europe. But not Lempuyang. This place has a magical feel, and it’s the only temple in Bali I’d vouch for. Its magnificent view of Mt. Agung (subject to weather condition) and serene ambiance, makes me feel at peace.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces : It has a UNESCO label on it, and rightly so. On a clear day, you’d see contrasted green or yellow fields of rice terraces against the blue sky. Takes away all the stress.

Pura Ulun Danu Beratan : The water temple that is surrounded by a well maintained park. Because it is located at a highland, the air is cool here and breezy. Great place to relax and killer postcard scene to be had.

Twin Lake view : Located not far from Beratan lake, it is a free viewpoint with some restaurants lined up along the street. It’s a great place to have some local snacks/meal, while enjoying the super awesome view of the 2 lakes – Buyan and Tamblingan.

Kintamani : Another viewpoint that I’d vouch for. Kintamani’s view of Mt. Batur is damn nice! Like the twin lake viewpoint, the air is cool and breezy here, which is pure bliss.

Ubud Monkey Forest : It’s not about the monkeys. Fuck the monkeys. But this ‘monkey forest’, does look ‘magical’ with its ass old vines and trees. You can hike around the place too. Of course if you like monkeys, that can be a bonus for you. There are shitloads of them here, but they’re pretty much harmless.

Tirta Empul : Holy bathing place. Can be full of tourists sometimes but, it’s special enough to warrant a visit here at least once. If you’re a believer and has strong faith in Hinduism, I’d recommend to take a soak in the spring water (which are just blessed piped water, by the way).

Penglipuran village : Has a bamboo forest right outside of the main village. A stroll along the forest gives you the calm (or creeps, depending on the size of your balls). The village itself is also very unique – the traditional Balinese village setting, complete with their own private temple at each home (which is common throughout Bali). You can just walk into any home, the tenants will welcome you… with hope that you’d purchase some souvenirs, drinks or food (which are reasonably priced). An eye opener to even the locals (especially kids born in modern times), I heard.

Pasar Senggol Gianyar : Reminds me of those ubiquitous night markets throughout Taiwan. Shit tonnes of food at dirt cheap prices.

Melasti Beach : Nice beach beside some cliffs. Place is right next to Indian Ocean, which is blue and has huge beautiful waves. If I wasn’t pressed for time, I’d sit there for a long time to admire the view the whole afternoon.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu : Famous for its sunset view. The walk along the cliff offers magnificent view of Indian Ocean and some impressive waves down there. Place is touristy and full of nasty monkeys – but do not let that dampen your spirit of going there.

Waterbom : I don’t know about the claim of being the No.1 waterpark in Asia (I haven’t been to many waterparks), but this place is really a gem. If you have a day to kill and the weather’s inclement, head over to this waterpark and kill your whole day here.

Misses (bad):

Goa Gajah : Old temple but much of it is in ruins. There are a few filthy ponds nearby which are eyesores and there’s not much going in its compound. But outside the temple, there are shitloads of stalls with vendors pestering everyone to buy their overpriced merchandise. If you miss this place, you won’t miss a thing.

Ubud traditional art market : Place is a shithole. Stuffs are cheap… yes, but only after you bargain till there’s no tomorrow. I don’t like this kind of way of doing business, so…

Pura Kehen : Another temple which is located in some town smack dab of nowhere. Small compound, and there’s nothing much about it. You’d feel ripped off for having to pay to enter this temple because it’s like paying for nothing…

Kertha Gosa : Unless you’re a history nerd, this place offers nothing much other than a couple of re-created buildings of some old remnants of a guest house surrounded by a small moat. There’s also a museum in the complex which has very limited exhibits. Conclusion: This place is as boring as watching paint dry on a wall.

Tirta Gangga : Boring park with fountains and ponds. I don’t find it interesting but, can be a great place for a family picnic if that’s your thing. Because the place is located far to the north-east of Bali, I’d say to goddamn give it a miss unless you’re in the area.

Taman Soekasada Ujung : Another water palace like Tirta Gangga, which also used to be a prison for ‘evil sorcerers’ or something. Fucking mind boggling I know but, one would expect the place to look darkly impressive at the very least but, place looks like it’s trying too hard to be a botanical garden/park but failed miserably.

Goa Lawah : Bat Cave Temple – that’s the only impressive thing about this place – its name. Its just a small temple by the roadside. Having to pay to visit this place makes it feel like a RIP OFF. I couldn’t even see the bats because they’re hidden in a cave, which is restricted to visitors/worshippers. There’s totally no point of visiting this place unless you’re here for some religious purposes.

All the malls : Malls at Bali are big jokes. Most of them have retarded air conditioners (stuffy as shit) and overpriced merchandise that can be found right at the stall across the street.

Entry fees for almost all the places : My gripe is that, some of the places do not even have proper facilities like clean toilets or even a fucking parking lot – so why the entrance fee? Escapes me. I guess it is just there to part your money from your wallet in case you’re smart enough not to buy any of their low quality ‘handicrafts’.

Taxi drivers : Seriously, there are just too many of them. More of them in Kuta than those monkeys in Ubud. They’re everywhere and they’d honk at every passing foreigners on the road. If you cross the road, one or two of them would stop to ask if you’d like to go somewhere. Goddamn taxi drivers. The Bali government should consider a proper public bus (hop on and off kind) service instead of letting these shitbags to ply the streets of Bali.

Average (meh…) :

Pura Tanah Lot : Post card place that every visitor would post a picture of, when in Bali. Place looks great but, is too crowded to be able to get a decent picture there. So crowded with tourists that it has become filthy, and the reeks of tourist trap. Go there at planned time, and it might be great.

Pura Taman Ayun : A major temple of sorts. Its walls look majestic but otherwise, it looks like any other Hindu temple you can find around Bali. Might be good to visit this before you visit other temples to appreciate it.

Kuta Beach : Impressive wave but, it’s a beach teeming with people and a bit polluted due to proximity to Kuta & Denpasar. There are better beaches around Bali.

Balinese food : Greasy as hell, and not too spicy (some can pack quite a punch). Taste wise, it’s nothing to shout about. The only thing I enjoyed there was the Babi Guling meal (roasted pork). The rest are just… meh. (maybe that’s because I come from Penang).

Turtle Conservation And Education Center : Place not meant for entertainment, but more for educational on turtle conservation around Bali (as the name implies). If you’re on precious vacation time and you want max enjoyment, this might disappoint you to some extend.

Ocean rafting to Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan : Great experience on the high speed raft but the snorkeling wasn’t as impressive as say… Redang or Lang Tengah at Malaysia. Corals are bland and dull, fishes are shy. The beach club by Bali Hai is old and dated.

Bintang beer : You see signs everywhere promoting it like it’s the holy water that will give you eternal youth. But really, it’s just very normal. Go for the brand ‘Anker’ instead…

michaelooi  | places  | Comments Off
June 12, 2017

Bali, Indonesia – Itinerary and planning (1 week)

I’ve always wanted to visit Bali all my life… and it was my destination for this year’s mid year break. I chose Bali and the first week of June to be there for some strategic reasons – it was the dry season, meaning, there will be little to no rain at all. Blue sky is my shit. Secondly, it was the week before the Indonesian school holidays start so, less chance of running into hyper screaming kids. Did the trip last week and everything fell spot on according to plan. Following would be the itinerary for those of you who is looking for an idea for Bali (after the disclaimer):

– Bali is a mountainous region and has unpredictable weather. This itinerary was planned in June to minimize the chance of seeing rainy days… and even that, we did encounter 1 rainy day. If you plan this in any other season, the weather may ruin your shit so, plan well.
– Bali has a relatively short daylight in June (or whole year long, I’ve no fucking idea). It starts to get dark at about 6pm and the sun starts to set between that time till 6.30pm before it gets completely dark. If you plan on a hike, might be a good idea to get a flashlight.
– This is an itinerary post, I’ll do a separate post for what I think about the places I’ve visited. (link)
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my 11-yo daughter, and myself. If you’re planning for a group of more than 4, this probably won’t work for you.
– The main objective is sightseeing, to visit temples and places of interest. To save myself a lot of extra planning and maximize my time there, I secured the service of a ‘supir’ (a driver cum guide) with my own itinerary. We did some discussion through emails prior coming up with the plan, and the plan is flexible across the days. Again, this won’t work for you if you have a small child in your group (that little shit is not going to be pleased visiting so many goddamn temples, believe me)
– If you have a heart problem or is goddamn old, this itinerary probably won’t work for you.
– If you have motion sickness, this itinerary is going to be your nightmare (long car rides, boat rides)
– If your religion prohibits you from visiting buildings or monuments of other religious faith, this won’t work for you too.
– If your vanity prohibits you from getting a lot of sun or if you’re sensitive to the sun, this won’t work for you.

Read the rest of this entry »

michaelooi  | places  | Comments Off