Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brunei - Photos

Here are some of the photos from our trip to Brunei. A write-up to follow. Enjoy!

A mosque downtown.

Teen and Vic checking it out.

Reflection in sunglasses.

Teen grows extra arms.

One of the many homes in the water village - shot from a river boat.

Our trusty captain... this guy.

Racing a rowboat as the sun sets. Amazing. Those guys were ripped.

Egrets fly overhead. Our boat captain kept telling me over and over I was as white as they are. Then he laughed. A lot.

A mosque with decorative boat at night.

Heading out to the rain forest in another river boat.

James and Vic relaxing on the ride.

Walking the bridge at the top of the canopy. We climbed up a rickety metal lattice about 120 feet to get here. Nervous, wobbly fun.

The view from the top. Totally worth it.

Part of our hike was through rivers, which I loved. It was cool and refreshing after tromping through the heat for hours.

Our guide, Rudy, in the waterfall we all swam in :)

A frog caught on our night trek.

Frog snack.

Nom nom.


Another trek on day 3, where we came across a chicken coop at a clearing.

Back in town at yet another mosque!

One more shot for good measure.

Fish at the night market.

The night market.

Teen excited to be with food.

Jenn exploring the floating village.

A mosque downtown.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bintan: For the Solitary Soul

The first long weekend arrived, and we went to Bintan, Indonesia with Ed who was visiting us for a week on his way back home from Australia. The Muslim holiday, Hari Raya, marked the end of thirty days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan. After that, I’d want a party too.

We left Thursday night, on the 8pm ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, which is conveniently quite close to our home. After a quick meal of the usual noodles in soup, we hopped onto a small ferry, laid out somewhat like an airplane, with a few rows of seats broken into three sections. We were entertained by a Rowan Atkinson biography and a few cans of beer and 45min later we arrived in Bintan.

The immigration line was surprisingly long, as we found ourselves at the end of it. Luckily a border agent approached us and hurriedly brought us to the front of the line. We were unsure of why we received this special treatment, until he took our passports, stamped them quickly with what I might add was a very nice looking visa sticker, and expectantly requested a tip for his good deed. For the $5 between us it was probably not worth his while, but we were on the other side and ready to go! Our driver from the hotel was waiting, sign in hand, as we walked from the terminal, and we were in a van and off to our destination.

Our accommodation, Bintan Lodge, seemed to be set up in an apartment complex. It consisted of 20 rooms, which must have been rented from the units. The suite was a decent size; two bedrooms, a kitchen and living room, and came with a friendly cockroach to welcome us home.

The village we were staying in was about a ten minute drive south of the main resort area. It consisted mainly of a hawkers center (outdoor food court), a couple outdoor mall areas which were mostly restaurants, small stores selling trinkets, and an abundance of single story apartment-like buildings; many of which were abandoned. We could walk the entirety of it in under 10 minutes. The first night we headed out in search of the nearest pub or bar. We found that very little was open, due to either the time of night or the holiday, even the locals we ran into were unsure.

After a brief search, and a short discussion with Tino, a security guard for one of the mall centers, we found a pub that was open until 1am. There was more staff at this place than patrons, but when questioned we were assured by the staff that Saturday night was going to be a big party. We ordered some mediocre food and a few drinks before heading back to our room for some shut-eye.

The next morning we woke up and headed back into the village for breakfast. Of the few people we encountered, most of them approached us with enthusiasm and suggestions of where we should go, what we should do, and where we could eat. Undoubtedly they had agreements with the local businesses, as a few men seemed to purely wander and scout for potential customers. When we ran into Tino, he was very excited to see us. “Where are you going today? Go to the beach?” he asked, running up to us and following as we walked towards a restaurant. “If you come back tomorrow... (a long pause ensued, as the suspense was building)... you can see me!” We got the feeling many of them were bored.

Later that day it poured; so much that it prevented us from leaving the room at all. We watched amazing Bollywood shows and children’s cartoons for a couple hours while waiting for the storm to pass. Once it cleared, we decided to head back down to the village for Balinese massages. $31 for an hour; unbeatable! Jenn’s favourite part was when the tiny Indonesian girl karate chopped her forehead.

The next day we rented a car with a driver to drive to the local town, Tanjung Pinang, then onwards for a swim at what was described as the best beach on the island. This was one funny trip. The driver seemingly didn’t understand what we wanted; to walk around town and see how locals live in Bintan.

He first took us to the dock of a $30 ferry that travels between Bintan and another tiny island only 15 minutes away. He talked up the island a little, so I think it is the place to go, however we passed on it due to the price tag. After a few photos and a brief wander down the street lined with vendors who were quite interested in us, we went back to the car to explore the rest of the island. We asked to go into the downtown area, which he didn’t seem to understand, so we gave probably the inappropriate word of “shopping?”

He took us to an oversized K-mart, or at least what we thought was a K-Mart. It was filled with cheaply made clothing and shoes, a food court, dodgy bathrooms and some sort of children’s play area. We didn’t buy anything, and at this point were mostly laughing about how everything on the trek so far were things we didn’t want. While browsing on our way out of the store, Jenn noticed two young local guys following her. After ignoring them for a moment, they approached her with an awkwardly nervous request for a photo. They must not see many white people. She accepted, feeling strangely like a celebrity, but also slightly uneasy about the experience.

Finding our driver once again, we gave up on the town and asked to see the beach; which resulted in an hour and a half drive north. The driver stopped in a grassy parking lot and asked if we wanted to take some pictures. Ed was quite frustrated at this point, wanting to go swimming and having nothing to do with this touristy photo-taking. We took a few shots before getting back in the car and demanded to be taken to a swimming beach! “Oh!” he responded. “Beach is back that way” as he signalled in the direction we had just been coming from.

As we drove, yet again, confused and a little irritated (but also slightly amused) we questioned further “Are you taking us somewhere we can go swimming?” He made a few phone calls and asked, “You want to go swimming?”

A resounding “Yes!”

“Back where we were you can swim!”

Universal eye roll and we turned around once more and headed back to the picture beach; where we managed a twenty minute swim. “Just take us back to the lodge.”

That night we had an epic dinner from Aura Resto, a small restaurant back near our lodge. We ordered double what we would normally eat, half to go, in preparation for the return from our expectantly crazy beach party. After a few beers back at the lodge, we were driven to the beach party happening at one of the bigger resorts. Finally; people! Well, other tourists. Our driver, Roja (we pronounced his name: Roger), joined us for the festivities. We skirted through ‘security’ (one guy standing casually near the parking lot) without paying the $10 cover and stood by the bar. Moments later Roja appeared with drinks for us! Super nice guy! He hadn’t had a drink in four years, so he told us, so we bought him a couple cokes until he broke down and finally had a proper drink with us.

The outdoor, yet covered, dance floor was facing the beach, with an enclosed DJ booth housing a young Asian girl who Teen seemed enamoured with. There were three Indonesian dancers who entertained the dispersing crowd for a few songs, before joining us by the bar. They had used dancing to escape Jakarta, a larger but depressed city in mainland Indonesia. One girl, who somewhat reminded me of an Indonesian Alicia, stole one of Ed’s sandals when he for some reason had taken them off to go speak to Roja. She hid it under the wooden dance platform, and when he returned, laughed hysterically at his confusion. Finally, after he repeated her name three times with his eyes closed, as requested by her, his shoe magically re-appeared.

Since the party was quickly dying down, Roja recommended another club. In this place, complete with a live band, dim lighting, and a sea of men, Ed tried to find Roja (who by the way was a quiet, slightly awkward nerdy guy) a girl against his will. We just shook our heads and laughed as we were two of five girls in the whole club.

Roja ended up staying on our couch because he had to work in the morning at 7am, and was alternately going to sleep in his car. He told us that at about five thirty in the morning there are monkeys in the parking lot if you leave food out for them, which Ed was determined to do. By the time we got home it was 3:30am, and for us was out of the question. We woke up to a very tired Ed, sitting at the end of our bed, regretting he couldn’t wake up in time to see the monkeys.

That day we took pretty slow and just got a ride to the local resort beach. It cost $10 a piece, plus a $15 cab ride for all of three to get there but we still had a great time!

That night we headed back to Singapore, spending the ferry ride with two Kiwi girls who had taken the day to ride their road bicycles around Bintan. We exchanged numbers with our new friends as we parted ways. They biked home while we waited for an hour and a half at the end of another long line for a taxi that never came. We finally hopped onto a bus, then onto the last MRT train (which we ran to get and arrived at the platform just as the doors opened) and finally home by midnight.

All in all, it was a great weekend; not what we had expected but a fun experience nonetheless.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

About: Teen

Why do you want to travel?

I have always wanted to travel, but as I have gotten older, my dreams of it kept getting pushed away. I remember thinking about going around the world and see different animals (this is when I was super young). I think these dreams started to get pushed away because the stresses of school/job were getting in the way and I kind of put it aside. Jenn has been an amazing inspiration and has pushed me to knock those stresses off. I am indebted to her for many things, and this is one of them.

I want to find myself. I want to grow into a strong confident person. I want to experience new flavours, ingredients, food, drinks, cultures and people. I want to see different ways of thinking in different places. I love seeing different customs, routines and behaviours.

Where have you traveled so far?

I have done my fair share of travelling thanks to my amazing Mom and Dad. We have always done a family trip somewhere either close or far from home. We used to camp every chance we got when Dave and I were really young. We have done some intense outdoors stuff like the West Coast trail and Bowron Lakes, more recently because Dave and I could carry our own. I have also been to Hawaii, USA, Cuba, Singapore (duh!), Vietnam, Thailand (but only for two days, NOT ENOUGH) and I have been to China.

Where do you want to go most in your Asian travels?

I think I am most excited about Bali. We are supposed to go there with Jenn’s sister, Helen. After reading “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert I am really excited to meet people and experience what Bali has to offer.

Also, Laos.

What inspires you to travel?

I want to tell a story. You know when you talk to someone who has been travelling and they are talking about all of this stuff they have seen or done and it sounds so scary but exciting, I want to be that person telling a story. I want to tell people my story to inspire them to do something (whatever it is). I have recently met up with two people who were my inspirations. They had so many stories to tell and I was in awe of them. Thanks to them I have had a complete change of heart. I wasn’t in the best mindset when I first got here to Singapore, but now I am totally stoked.

If nothing was standing in your way, what would be your ideal trip?

It would be an events tour around the world (over and over, based on timing). I would want to go to all the big and small events/festivals that I could. Events and festivals include concerts, sporting events, local events/competitions, food, wine, beer, music. Everything that has something involving people getting together for an event, I would want to be there.

Top 5 destinations?

- Italy – for the food
- China – I have been there once and I really want to go back. And to see pandas.
- Gorillas/wildebeest migration in Africa (I don’t know where they are but I would go wherever to see them)
- The Amazon – I want to see one of the oldest rainforest in the world before it is gone. This includes staying at the Sloth Sanctuary.
- Ireland

So... what's next, what's the plan?

First, I want to explore more of Singapore. I have gotten to know this little corner, Chinatown. But this Saturday Jenn and I will be moving to our new place so it will be nice to explore another side of this island. Then in a week we are off to Bintan with Jenn’s friend, Ed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

About: Jenn

Why do you want to travel?

It's been a slow transition, I definitely haven't always wanted to. In fact when I was younger I never wanted to leave Vancouver Island (where I grew up). I liked everything to be safe and constant. When I was forced out of consistency by landing my first animation job in Vancouver, I started gaining a different perspective on life. New places are fun and exciting! You meet new people more easily when you're out of your element, people with unique histories and life experience, which in turn gives me a glimpse of ideas different from my own. I needed that. I was (and still am in many ways) stuck in my ways. I feel the need now to experience as much as I can in this life, so I can gain more insight and understanding of how the world and the people in it work. Some people may believe you can find this at home, but I find it so much easier getting away from what I know and seeing how I can adapt and learn in new environments.

Where have you traveled so far?

Not many places! This is why I'm making this blog and hoping to put more effort in the coming years to do so as much as possible. So far I've been to the USA, Mexico, Cuba, France, Spain, Australia and now Singapore.

Where do you want to go most during your stay in Asia?

This changes constantly because I honestly feel like I want to go everywhere. As the years go by I've been desiring the more unexplored countries and regions. Since I'm in Asia now, I would say I would most like to visit Mongolia. It is one of the most uninhabited countries on earth, yet is filled with some amazing people and incredible landscapes. You have the Gobi Desert, and valleys of nomadic reindeer herders. It's incredible. I want to grab a 4x4 and just drive through it.

What inspires you?

Hearing about anyone and everyone traveling anywhere. The main source of inspiration comes from Justin Lukach and Scott Wilson of Departures. This show is incredibly inspiring, beautifully shot, and the exact way I would love to see the world.

If nothing was standing in your way, what would be your ideal trip?

I would want to just go, everywhere. Grab my backpack, fill it as little as possible, and go for as long as I wanted. A year would be amazing. Work keeps getting in the way, so I guess I just have to stop letting it if I want to achieve this dream!

Top 5?

Again, this changes constantly but if I could only pick five... not counting Mongolia which I just mentioned (that way I get 6 heh):

Papua New Guinea
Nepal/Tibet (Everest sits between them)

So... what's next?

I've got three trips lined up for the remainder of this year. The first is a quick trip to Bintan, an Indonesian island off the coast of Singapore. In November I'm going to Brunei, a small country tucked up north of Malaysia, and for Christmas I'm going to Thailand! I think that'll be a great start.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And they're off!

Hello and welcome to "Do The World"!

My name is Teen and I am the one that is jumping on that top graphic up there. This is the start of mine and Jenn's whirlwind adventure.

We will be starting in Singapore.

Background: Jenn got a job, so we moved.

First impressions of Singapore: Different.

It is like a big city in North America with a twist. A twist that is good though. High sky scrapers, underground subways, frequent buses, and people wearing nice business clothes. Everything that a big city has, Singapore has. The high sky scrapers are mostly in the business district where there is expensive food and a major of the population works (at least what I can tell by the direction the big crowds are going). The underground subways are called SMRT: Singapore Mass Rapid Transit. Believe me when I say this is SMART because it is super efficient and it is so big, you looked in either direction while inside the train, and you feel like it goes on and on. Like it would take hours to walk from one end to the other. I haven't riden a bus yet, so I don't any much to say, but it seems like they are really good and they are supposed to be air conditioned which is KEY here! Everyone here wears nice suits, ties, shoes, tops, bags, heels and cell phone head sets. You can spot a tourist out of the crowd because they will be the only one wearing shorts and sunglasses. PS in a place that is sunny 70% of the time, you would think more people wear sunglasses. The twist is, that even though so many things are so similar to North America, they have their staple on it (which I love). The things people hear say, do, wear, go have the culture here pouring out of it, yet you are looking at it saying "you look just like us". They do look just like us, it just has its own charm (I guess) about it.

The food here has been absolutely amazing. Not only is it super delicious it is super cheap! Jenn and I got dinner the other night for S$11 (=$8 CAD). Yeah it is awesome to dine here. Because it is so cheap to eat out, Jenn and I have been trying not to buy groceries until we move into our more permanent residence. Jenn's company includes a place for the first month. They are very nice!

With all that in mind, first impression of Singapore, it is a city. A BIG city. If you can handle the hussle and bussle of everything, you will fit right in mind (like me because I love transit services). If you still want to see Singapore but aren't a big city slicker, stick to the not-so-downtown areas you will still see things that are amazing and new, and you won't be so intimidated by the big crowds and tall buildings. Also good tip for anyone traveling around here, if you want to avoid the crowds travel at wierd times. Everyone goes/leaves to work at the same time, avoid those times and garunteed you will get a seat on the SMRT.

I have been doing some exploring and I like Singapore a lot. I am very excited to explore more and really get to know Singapore. Hopefully one day I can see the under belly of this place, see what is really going on behind the scenes!

These images are of the casinos with the Skypark on top and from atop the Skypark. Enjoy!