Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Taking Lumps in Kuala Lumpur

I can finally say that I've worked for Donald Trump! No, I didn't get a job working for the Trump organization or for the US Government - I've just had a boss who is equally as narcissistic and attention deficit. I should back up, I suppose.

This is not going to be a happy post.

In order to change up my little travel routine, I decided to sign up for Workaway while in Bangkok. I found a person in Kuala Lumpur who was willing to host me in exchange for twenty hours of my labor a week. Since it was physical stuff (painting, scraping, assembly), I figured I could work two tens or three sevens and have the rest of a week to go and explore - what's it matter when I work, as long as I get the jobs done? I also hoped that it would give me a different perspective, closer to staying with a friend and doing their dishes than staying in a hostel or hotel.

I'll note here that Workaway has all sorts of different arrangements - the standard trade seems to be twenty hours for a bed and one meal. I suspect when people get more reviews / have talents that are deemed more "valuable" they can ask for different deals. Similarly, hosts can change what they're offering depending on how well they're reviewed and how sought-after the position seems. One of the ones I was hoping for was filling sandbags on a beach - as long as X number were filled, I could stay in their beach bungalow and get a meal with the family.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

By George! It's Georgetown

Atop the KOMTAR Tower

Well, this certainly isn't being posted a month after the fact...

If you recall from the last installment, I endured an absolutely confusing bus ride getting to Georgetown (including an open-air installment pictured below). That being said, I arrived safely and in one piece at the hostel I picked out the day before (despite a trek down a dim alley that dropped straight into a sewer ditch).

After check-in, I hit the ATM and got myself some ringgits, then proceeded to grab a little dinner at an open-air cafeteria that had a live musical show on for some reason. I forget what I ate, but it was really tasty, which is the basic theme of Malaysia so far.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Go Go Koh Lanta!

After enduring the Phuket Trap, I mini-bused my way to Koh Lanta to join up with a new friend (Alia) I met in Bangkok. While it took several hours longer than advertised, the trip was pretty easy going - much in contrast to the ones before and after. After arriving at the Hub of Joys Hostel and checking in (on the 25th?), I crossed the road, found a beer, and watched the sun set from the beach.

Minibus on a Ferry
After city living in Bangkok and feeling tied down in Phuket, it was a nice change to have little to no obligations and be able to walk to the beach and drink a beer. That being said, there were a few excursions as urged by my more outgoing new friends. My first night, after the relaxing beach sunset, turned into a small group of us going to a blacklight "paint" party filled with EDM and a special brew put together by the "Mushroom Bar" - I was super tired, so only drank beer, but I did help a few folks work through their first times. We ended up nearly overloading a motorcycle+sidecar style taxi (not-a-tuk tuk?) when we headed home only minutes before the police came to shut down the party.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Phuket, I'll go

When I asked a couple folks where to go in Thailand, one said "avoid the Phuket Trap." I'm here to tell you to do the same.

First and foremost, I made the mistake of taking an overnight bus from Bangkok. An absolutely dumb idea - every time the bus jolted my mind started a new adventure of thoughts. Then I had to transfer buses at some out of the way bus station early in the morning. The people took my ticket, then drove off on a motorbike. Everyone else either had a ticket or a sticker. Everything worked out well enough, though I certainly got on the wrong bus for the second leg of the trip. It got me where I needed to be, I suppose.

I didn't really do anything exciting while in Phuket (which, by the way, is "Poo-ket" - apologies for ruining all your jokes). It was expensive and difficult to get around - a $2 trip in Bangkok cost $7 in Phuket. I did my best to wander around Phuket Town, but sidewalk coverage is spotty and I was preparing myself to get hit by a car on a dark road, which didn't add a warm feeling to the first day.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Bye bye Bangkok!

Tomorrow I depart Bangkok after three weeks. I've had an amazing time here and would gladly stay longer, but there's more to explore in the world - hell, there's more to explore in Thailand! That being said, I did a fair amount of exploring in Bangkok, which, I suppose, I should write down here.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

I walked through a door sideways (Bangkok)

Hey! I'm finally caught up to where I am. That being said, I'm scheduling this post for ten days in the future, so who knows what I'm actually doing.

I arrived in Bangkok on October 1 around noon. The flight, having been delayed from around six at night to seven in the morning due to Typhoon Trami was okay enough - I finished Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles on the way. Going through immigration was a bit different, but easy enough and I'd arranged with my hotel (technically a guest house - I don't know the difference) to have a taxi waiting for me. Sure, it cost extra, but I wasn't super ready to start my Bangkok adventure with a taxi driver who didn't understand me (Anchorage was enough of a headache).

In a room that had its own bathroom for the first time, I was feeling pretty well set to go and explore. After a nap, of course.

For the most part, I've just been exploring the mile or so radius around Bangkok's Democracy Monument by foot. On my first expedition I found a museum of coinage (which had a great exhibit on the late king), the post office (now to find postcards!), a cool fortress, and the famed "Backpacker Street" - which was pretty tame on a random Monday afternoon.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

More Vignettes from Osaka

When I thought of these, a bunch came to my head quite readily. Now that I'm trying to type them, I'm having no luck. Since I have a couple, I think I'm just going to post this and come back should inspiration strike in the future.


Big square glasses and a cigarette permanently affixed between purple lips, the square-faced man watched the hairy foreigner struggle to make himself clear through pointing, gesturing, and typing things into his phone. It was a show for the night, he supposed, occasionally displacing his cigarette to allow a bite of dinner or a swig of beer to enter his mouth. The foreigner seemed to making a reasonable go of it though, interspercing "arigato"s between every word and gesture - he did end up getting food and drink, so his efforts weren't in vain. Finished with his own meal and out of cigarettes, it was time to move along and head home - maybe hitting a bar on the way.

When morning rolled around, he discovered that maybe he'd hit the bar a little too hard. Pushing himself into acceptable clothes, he decided to get the good coffee around the corner instead of the instant he kept at home. He got his wish soon enough and his coffee was set in front of him just as his current cigarette had run its course. Taking his first sip, he looked up only to find around the bend of the bar sat the hairy foreigner - the remnants of toast and an egg on a plate in front of him. The show was starting again, but this time with an accomplice - a second foreigner lacking the first's beard, but making up for it with hair up top. Both had notebooks with drawings and handwriting in front of them that they kept passing back and forth chittering in their shared tongue. What were the chances of meeting twice in less than twelve hours? Probably low, but what did it matter?

The coffee man boiled up a second cup in his glassware for the hairy foreigner and the square-faced man took stock of his situation. Feeling a bit better, he decided to call it a morning and get to his next destination. Perhaps he'd see the foreigner there too?


Whatever vignette inspired me earlier here has gone. I went to a temple, watched turtles lazily swim, and imagined myself as the reincarnation of some ancient monk visiting his favorite turtles.


Again, lost the thread. I went to two different malls - one inside, and one outside - just to explore the city. At the indoor one there was a huge line of schoolchildren waiting for autographs from some celebrity.


In Osaka, a fine NPC*
His head was all I could see
Through a hole in the wall
He often would call
"I'll hang on to your bag for a fee!"

*Non-Player Character

In Shin-Imamiya a world to explore
Though typhoon soon closed that door
As I tried to pay
The Bag Man did say
The airport bridge is no more!


Point at a picture, get what you pointed to. Seems pretty easy, right? Everything started out well enough - I squeezed into a coffee shop where I could touch both walls if I laid down and was handed a menu with three pictures. Coffee, coffee with egg, coffee with egg and toast. I pointed at the bottom and a bunson burner was lit. A flask of water was brought to a boil and, through a steam pressure mechanism, the water mixed with the coffee grounds located in a chamber on top of the flask. When the wrinkled old man behind the bar felt the coffee was sufficiently brewed, he turned off the bunson burner and focused his attention to buttering a huge piece of toast while the steam cooled and pulled the coffee back into its original container. The coffee was poured into a cup, the toast was cut into three pieces and placed on a plate, a hardboiled egg was drawn from a cooler and put on its own miniature middle-school lunch tray, and the set was placed in front of me, a wet-nap and tiny glass of ice water completing the picture. All was well in the world.

In due course, the comestibles were consumed. I wasn't quite sated though, so I reacquired the picture card and pointed slightly higher - the coffee and egg. It was only ten yen cheaper, but it was the difference between getting more coins in change or getting rid of the coins I had in my pocket. The old man magicked up some more coffee, the hostess brought forth a second egg on a second tray, and a fresh wet-nap sprang forth from the aether. I was happy.

A few minutes and certainly a few tiny glasses of water later, I squeezed my way out f the establishment. Five ten-yen coins disappeared from my pocket, as did two one hundreds and a five hundred. Now much less jingley, I went out wandering the neighborhood.

Pounding pavement for a couple hours, it came time to sit and digest what I'd seen (and maybe get a bit of writing done). I found a new cafe with a lot more space and two women running it - the hostess and the bartender. A familiar picture menu appeared as I sat down at the bar, though it was a bit pricier - four hundred yen whether you got food or not. I pointed at the top picture - coffee - and used my best friend of a word "oni-guy-shimas" (no idea on spelling - it's "please"). This was met with a smile and a few words I didn't know. Then there was a gesture at the menu - I sat there as Homer Simpson, Smiling Politely. A nod did the trick though and a bunson burner was lit. Then the bread was placed in the toaster oven. A minute or so later there was a familiar set in front of me, complete with wet-nap.

It wasn't a big deal - everything was the same price, after all. That's probably what the hostess was trying to tell me. I wasn't really hungry, but everything went down well enough. While I took my time eating, I wasn't quite ready to start walking again, so I caught the eye of the bartender (maybe better luck with her?). I held up my empty coffee cup and employed my magic word. Point at the cup, thumbs up. Point at the plate, crossed fingers. The lady smiled brightly and nodded.

The bunson burner was lit. The bread went into the toaster oven...


Killing some time before the typhoon hit and found the strangest mashup of a bar.


Who needs an evacuation plan when you have a six pack and a sleeping pod?


I don't know if I'm jet-lagged or lucky. In any case, I caught the first train to the airport and arrived an hour before my international flight.

TV AND 333

The company I was flying with scheduled a departure time of 7:20am. The bridge to the airport reopened at 6am. The massive lines and confusion meant TV cameras everywhere and I got interviewed. Told at check-in that I needed to be at the gate twenty minutes prior, we finally got off the ground. I paid for a cup of coffee in-flight. I had 373 yen in coins I didn't want to carry. The coffee cost 333, leaving me with four, ten-yen coins.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

No Sake in Osaka

Osaka is probably best told in a series of vignettes, so let's get the stats out of the way. I arrived September 28th (crossing the international date line - I wasn't on an overnight flight) and left October 1st (originally scheduled for September 30, but was interrupted by a Typhoon). I made a series of mistakes on this leg, the biggest being withdrawing 50,000 Yen instead of $5,000 Yen ($500 instead of $50). The second biggest was in the choice of hotel. There was also the fact that I clicked "bid 4 biz" on the airline and entered the lowest bid - $120 - assuming I wouldn't really pay that. I won the bid and got upgraded to first class on the flight to Osaka, though I'd already paid extra for my bag and a meal.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Living the Beach Life in Honoulu

My review of Honolulu is going to be a bit of a mess, as I took the opportunity to be an absolute bum. In a first for this trip, I've actually been to Honolulu before, so I did not feel pressured to go and see all the sights. Rather, I got to where I was staying and stayed within a couple blocks - the furthest I wandered was to a place called the Rainbow Drive-In for some cheap eats.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Los Angeles: Acute City of Angles

As of this writing, of any city so far this trip, I spent the longest amount of time in Los Angeles. I didn't really expect to go there - my mind was originally set on immediately flying from Alaska to Asia, but I'm really glad I did. While I'm writing this only a few weeks after the fact, so much has transpired that we'll see what all I can remember.

What drew me to Los Angeles was a generous offer by a couple friends (Sean & Rachel) from Philadelphia of the use of their couch. I figured that would cut costs significantly and it would give me a home base (plus, of course, I'd get to see friends!). I arrived at their spot in Culver City sometime around seven in the morning and, after a quick nap, Sean brought me along to a writers group he had been attending daily. The writers group (Writers Blok, LA) turned into a wonderful therapy session for me - I got a lot of writing done over the next week or so.

After writing (and, I think, another nap), we went out for sushi and walked around Santa Monica for a bit, generally having a good time.

While I'm sure I have specific stories, most of my life was pretty much the same - attend writers group, wander around (or not!) and generally take a bit to just be someplace, as opposed to heading to the next destination. Perhaps we could block this off into "excursions":