Star Date: January 2012
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
(Good Afternoon! Malay)
"If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you."
T. Alan Armstrong
Rekindle your passion. Discover the unexpected. Look inside. It is there. Ask yourself what do you love in life? Carpe Vita - Seize your Life. Start by adding some joy to those who are less fortunate. It will spread like wildfire.
Love music? Sing loudly - on key or not. Love dancing? Dance the salsa, tango, do some skankin'. Make up new steps. Share your new found freedom and joy with those around you. Dance with babies, whirl senior citizens around in wheelchairs. Love the water? Get wet. Kiss a flower or count stars. Give a kind smile to someone in need. Dive into what stirs you, the fire that burns deep in your core.
Modern life full of schedules, deadlines and 'busyness' tends to throw cold water on your flame until it sputters and goes out. We are made to think that this is how life should be; that stress is normal. Life becomes just one day after another. Be spontaneous. Be a free thinker. Make the time to claim that part of you that makes you feel alive. Climb out of the rut and never look back. Watch "Joe vs. the Volcano" for a smile and to blast open the ever increasing rigid box you are creating around you.
Each of us should have a cause to
help with, in our own back yard or around the world. A need
that lights a spark in your soul. A chance to give instead of
get. Without giving back some of what we receive in life, life
becomes just a spectator sport and we should
be charged admission.
As travel becomes easier and more widespread it seems our planet is shrinking. Prejudice and ignorance about our formerly unknown neighbors is dissolving. Within hours you can be halfway around the world, thrown into a mind boggling exotic land. And so we unexpectedly left Africa and arrived in Bangkok, traveling by land to Malaysia.
Bangkok, Thailand an international
crossroad, has become a 'home away from home' as we crisscross the
globe en route from Africa through Asia to Hawaii. Thailand
has long been a popular stop for travelers. Tides are
changing here as 'tourist worn' locals lose the very thing that
attracted visitors in the first place - smiles. The 'land of
smiles' is changing along with the tighter visa regulations.
Remote regions should be sought out to get a feel for the rich past and cultural mix of Malaysia. There are 64 groups of indigenous people, all speaking their own languages and adhering to cultural customs. Many of these groups have used the educational opportunities provided to them in their rural sustainable villages, to take more control of their lives, while respecting their cultural heritage. Grab an Air Asia flight ($20) over to the Island of Borneo where an array of cultures await the more adventurous in Sarawak and Sabah. Most live off the land hunting, fishing and farming.
The 'orang asli', the original people have inhabited the thick forest and jungles of Malaysia for a millennium. Some of the world's oldest jungles, shrouded with mystery, were the playground of spirits, both benevolent and mischievous. The world of myths and legends is woven into the colorful fabric of Malaysia.
Tioman Island is said to have been a dragon princess who decided to make her home where the island now rises out of the sea. Tranquil Lake Chini is thought to be the site of a magnificent Khmer city now sunk beneath the lotus blossoms, in the wilds of Pahang. Mount Ophir, in Johor, is said to be the home of 'Puteri Gunung Ledang', a legendary princess once wooed by the Sultan of Malacca.
The supernatural is woven into Malaysian life itself. The 'orang asli' believe that one's 'semangat', soul or life force, travels abroad during sleep; dreams are the record of the soul's adventures. No wonder we wake up tired some mornings! If you listen and look closely while wandering through the vibrant jungles it is possible to feel this strong connection with Nature.
The Chinese were famous for
trading near and far around the globe. During the Ming
Dynasty, in a gesture of good will the Emperor of China betrothed
Princess Hang Li Po, to the Sultan of Malacca, ruler of the rich and
strong port city of Malacca. This royal princess and her
entourage numbering over 500, formed the first permanent Chinese
settlement in Malaysia. With their new Malay brides they lived
at Bukit China or China Hill and the mixed Malays/Chinese became
known as Peranakan. Soon adopting Malay traditions, customs
and dress they formed a hybrid subculture, strong and powerful
to this day. While some Chinese rituals are practiced in
scattered temples, most of life in Malaysia today is a fusion of all
the immigrants who have arrived at her shores. Buddhists (24.6%)
worship next to Hindus next to Christians next to Muslims
In 1511 the Portuguese conquered enticing Malacca and ruled for 130 years. Next the Dutch, then British East India spice Company spread their influence near Penang or Georgetown. Stirred into the pot were immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and neighboring Thailand to name a few; making Malaysia a destination that whets the taste buds. British food was drowned out by an exciting array of taste sensations unique to Malaysia. In the land of the coconut everyone cooked with coconut oil for centuries and the cream in the curries added a mouth watering richness. Coconuts are a healthy self contained package of nutrition, good for the heart and health in general (see Thoughts on Health for more info). Malaysia was free from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure centuries. Now all the 'rich mans diseases' are currently rampant in this progressively, upward affluent society. A healthy palm tree vibrates with life. It bends with high winds without breaking. Every bit of it is used in constructing huts or for food. Endless miles of coconut groves have been leveled and replaced with palm oil trees. Palm oil, as with all the GMO oils in the west (corn, soybean, canola, etc) are poison to your body after they have been chemically extracted and processed at high temperatures. The wonders of technology. Nature knows. Why do we have to keep trying to perfect on perfection? Too bad we can't learn from the destruction of the palm trees and society of Easter Island. And so history repeats itself. Each time the stakes are higher.
For us to be able to have authentic Indian food served on banana leaves in Indian Town or Chinese Buddhist vegan chicken drummies and vegetables the next day, followed by Pad Thai, or Malay curry during the week we feel the trip was worth it just for the food. From metropolitan Kuala Lumpur to Penang, and everywhere in between, the fires are lit and the food is bubbling. My taste buds are tingling. I think I'll take a break and go find a snack! Simple pleasures are life's treasures!
And so it
goes.........................................Next month back to the U.S.A.,
to help my Mom after a serious stroke. Until then let's try to
find our passion.
The clock is ticking!
Love, Light & Laughter,
$1.00 US = 3.20 Malaysian Ringgits Malaysia:
Remember to check out the deals on www.airasia.com throughout Asia, and now China, Australia, London, India and more each year. They give away free tickets 3 times a year - get on their mailing list. Good dependable airlines, usable secure website, but recently NO refunds - only changes. And once you print a boarding pass (at time of payment usually) there are NO changes so only print once your plans are secure.
Le Village Guest House
www.tunehotel.com "5 star comfort for 1 star price." Book through Air Asia -$22 reg -watch for sales. Our room was $6, right at the LCC airport. The room was a miniature, classy, spotless a/c room with bathroom. I would certainly check out their availability throughout Asia. One is opening downtown KL also. email@example.com.
www.stayOrange.com Hotel; Petaling Street, right in the heart of Chinatown, phone # 603 2070 2208, Book on the internet for cheaper rates (we paid about $12 which is unheard of in downtown KL). You can stay in a basic but quiet, clean room, with spotless white sheets, comforter and A/C. Check out the backpacker places for the same price and you will be sold. None of the budget places have windows around here but at the Orange Hotel you don't have to put up with other people's smoke and noise at night. We did miss our friend Adam at the backpacker place though. Hi Adam, thanks for keeping in touch.
EE Beng: GREAT Vegetarian Buddhist Chinese restaurant. 20, Lebuh Dickens (across from the police station)
Info on living in Malaysia:
Turn left at end of Soi Rambutri - walk down left side of street for about 2 blocks - very professional and friendly - they speak English. Not all dentists are the same in the office. Let us know if you can recommend a good one. Joseph had all the mercury removed from his teeth, or I should say repaired from an incomplete job done in Uganda. He checked at the Dental College near Siam Paragon and although it was a bit cheaper you had to return many times to have all the work done. Better to just go to Dental Time. The Dental Time next to Burger King at the end of Khao San Rd. is more expensive but just as good. It costs about 500 baht per surface filling, discounts for a lot of work.
We have been to Bangkok so many times we forget to include sites to visit such as the Grand Palace, the water taxi up and down the river (drop off along the way at Chinatown, etc), the national museum, the floating markets. Ayuthaya is a 2 hour drive from the city. A smaller version of Angkor Wat in Cambodia but with tickets so cheap why not just fly on Air Asia to see the real thing? Don't miss an up close encounter with a 600 lb. tiger the Tiger Monastery in Kanchanaburi about 3 hours away.
Also check out
past webpages for more info on Thailand: click here to see
(Sun) Guesthouse, 62 Soi Rambutri,
Sunset along the river with the locals is a relaxing event. Just head down the alley from Soi Rambutri towards the Chao Praya River and keep walking 1-2 blocks until you come to a sharp right bend in the road. The park is on the left side along the road and is a fun people watching place. The impressive span bridge lights up at night.
Don't miss going to see the 'circus' at night along Khao San Rd., and the lights along Chao Fa Blvd are spectacular, especially around the time of the King or Queen's birthdays. The Grand Palace and a ride up the Klongs are not to be missed. The list of sights in Bangkok is endless.
Take the river taxis up and down the river. At the far end, away from city center, is Nontha Bri Market. Get off at the clock tower at the end of the line. Amazing sights to behold. The taxis run back every 30 min until 7pm, but you would want to leave before dark.
Pantip Plaza: Computer heaven in Bangkok. If they don't have it, it doesn't exist. Bus #15 or 47 from near Khao San.
New Year's Eve Thai style: Take the river taxi before 7pm from Soi Rambutri to Tha Chang pier and walk to the field opposite the Grand Palace. You will need to patiently take a land taxi back to Khao San. If there is ever question of a possible traffic jam bargain for the price ahead - point to point, or it will cost too much via meter. Once you know the prices you can bargain - ask a local standing next to you. Meter is better if you don't know the cost.
The 'tuk tuks'
will offer you a cheap city tour or ride to the malls if you stop
and shop in a jewelry or tailor shop. They get a gas coupon -
whether you buy or not. We have helped out a couple of drivers when
we had extra time. DON'T take the tuk tuks back during rush hour
(5:30-7pm) or you will get gassed to death in the jam.
The Happy Cow website lists vegetarian places in Bangkok, but every restaurant can whip you up something vegan in a jiff. They love vegetables here and haven't added all the terrible western diet items yet.
A little ferry crossing to Pra Arthic pier from behind Soi Rambutri to Wang Lang has a small organic vegetable produce market. Just ask.
Ethos Vegetarian & Organic Restaurant. Left at Burger King on the end of Khao San Rd, right down alley, left into lane. Tasty food, juices and deserts.
Siam Paragon, Gourmet Grocery: Longing for anything familiar overseas? You can find it here! Also has a delicious salad bar you can eat safely and a whole organic vegetable section to purchase.
www.airasia.com is still the cheapest airline in Asia. Great service, modern planes, young energetic staff, great safety record. Go to their website and sign up for their newsletter. You will get notices for the 1 million free or reduced seats they give away annually. Just got a notice that for under $40 we could fly from Kuala Lumpur to London, 4 places in India, 5 places in China and less to inter Asia destinations. Professional - reliable website. Don't miss them. From Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok is only $10-15. We also heard Jet Star is cheap from Bangkok.
Highly recommended on the southern island Koh Samui: Lemai Beach - Green Villas. Bungalows only 350 b per day near the beach.
Koh Chang Island:
Once you get to
the north end of the island it costs 120 baht (posted) to Bang Bao
at the complete southern end of the island (about 40 min). Riding
in the back of a covered truck 'sawngthaew' is kind of expensive so
plan your trips around the island wisely. Chartering to a remote
beach is also expensive so find others to share with you. You can
walk to Kong Koi Beach, about 1 mile from Bang Bao but better to
check it out first as the K.K.B. Huts are often full.
Their are several good restaurants along the pier for some tasty Thai food at sunset.
snorkeling- go about 1 km up the hill away from the pier. Turn left
at Nisa Cabana. Continue about 700 m to the end. The shore near
Paradise Bungalows has great snorkeling.
Kong Koi Beach: