Monday, April 25, 2011

My first Islamic Easter

Once upon a time, two Singaporean princesses caught the travel bug. They had dreams of conquering Southeast Asia, one country at a time. So when they got the opportunity to visit Kuala Lumpur, the capital of bordering country Malaysia, they grabbed it. However, their trip did not go as planned.

These princesses boarded a five hour night bus to KL from Singapore. The bus ended up taking seven hours, but the princesses did not let this dampen their spirits. These princesses were responsible travelers and had booked their hostel in advance. Unfortunately the cab driver could not find said hostel, so the princesses were left on the side of the road at 3AM.

The princesses were getting stalked and harassed by street bums, so they walked into the first hostel they saw. The man at the door seemed very nice and gave the princesses a reasonable price. But once the princesses walked into their room, they were shocked. This room was not fit for a princess. This room was not even fit for a street bum! The princesses were too tired to care, so they slept on dirty shirts in a room with moldy walls and no hot water.

At least it was air conditioned?
The next day, the princesses found a new hostel. This hostel was much better and the hostel owner said that they could share a mixed dorm with two handsome Danish princes. The princesses were very excited because they loved to make new (male) friends. Unfortunately the Danish princes were not interested in becoming friends with the Singaporean princesses. But the princesses did not let this dampen their spirits either.

The two princesses began soaking in Malaysian culture. They visited the National Mosque, the Islamic Arts Museum and the Petronas Twin Towers. They even got to wear burqas! They finally were starting to fit in.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Local Muslim babes

That evening, the princesses decided to experience KL nightlife. For the first time ever, they were rejected to not one, but TWO, clubs. The princesses were flat out pissed off. They couldn't understand their bad luck. The only people that wanted to talk to the Singaporean princesses were two Australian pre-teens who were 'double-dared' to go up to them. They decided to make the most out of their misfortunate so they spent the night at a shisha bar called Baghdad Nights with middle aged Arab men.

The next day, they ventured off to the Batu Caves. After hundreds of stares and dirty looks by locals, they finally arrived. They spent the morning indulging in the Indian culture of Kuala Lumpur and enjoyed it very much.

The princesses were hungry for lunch, so they headed back to their hostel. Then they realized - Oh no! - they only had 10 ringgit ($2.50USD) left. So they got happy meals from McDonalds, which did not make them happy at all.

The princesses decided that they were over Kuala Lumpur. They got on a bus back to Singapore where they spent the rest of the weekend eating dimsum and lounging at the pool. They lived happily ever after.

The End.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Parents visit, Hong Kong & Thailand

The past two/three weeks have been a complete whirlwind. My parents arrived April 1st and we spent time in Singapore, Bintan and Hong Kong together. It was great to show them my life here and spent time together. They spent a few nights at the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel in downtown Sing. The MBS has an incredible infinity pool on the 57th floor that has awesome views of the city. We got some great pictures, even with cloudy weather. I took them around my school and favorite local restaurants before heading off to Bintan, Indonesia for two days. In Bintan, we continued eating great food and soaking up the sun before returning back to Singapore. I had school all week and met up with my parents after classes each day. They left for Hong Kong on Thursday and I met up with them on Saturday morning.

They made it!!

Playtime in the Marina Bay Sands pool

Marina Bay Sands hotel
The kiddies enjoying some much needed sunshine

We found heaven, it's in Bintan
Hong Kong was AMAZING! It has the vibrancy and pace of New York but the similarities end there. My first stop was for some dimsum (of course) and we spent the rest of the day visiting markets and shopping. Even my dad had a great time. In fact, he had to buy a new suitcase because he had bought too much stuff! My parents were like giddy teenagers running around the city reminiscing about their old favorite spots. I didn't remember anything from when we lived there fifteen years ago except for a few sites from pictures hanging around the house.


Fa Yuen street shopping

Her favorite, the jade market

Best. Food. Ever.

I was dying to go experience the nightlife in Lan Kwai Fung and my parents were total sports about it. We went bar hopping and I even got my mom to do jello shots out of a syringe with me. Everyone at the bar was cheering on the American "sisters" and we had a great time. The next day we visited Victoria's Peak, Repulse Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui. I would say the highlight of my trip was the food. I am obsessed with any and all Asian food and the dimsum in Hong Kong was too delicious.

The American sisters

Lan Kwai Fung, HK party district

View from the Peak

At Dickens bar in the Excelsior hotel, his old fav.

Repulse Bay beach

My parents left HK Monday morning to go back to the US. Before my mom even got on the plane, she was talking about her next trip back. I told her it'll be in two years when I graduate and am living in this time zone full time. So start booking your trips now, people! My flight wasn't until Monday night so I spent the day on Lantau Island. I took a crystal cable car to the top of a mountain in Lantau and met a lovely couple from Chicago who kept me company. I visited the Po Lin Monastery, Tian Tin buddha and Tai O fishing village before my flight at night.

Cable car up the mountain

Walking up the many stairs to Tian Tan buddha... These women stopped after each step to pray.
Tai-O floating village, nicknamed "Venice of the East" haha

On Tuesday, Leah and I were on the internet and found dirt cheap tickets from Thursday - Sunday to Krabi, Thailand. It is "E-learning week" at NTU so all of my classes are held online. The lecture notes are posted online and you write short responses to each lecture. There are no physical classes held. It is really bizarre - and pointless, if you ask me - but it meant that we could book the tickets to Thailand. We did and it was a great decision.

We nearly missed our flight on Thursday morning because the shuttle to our terminal was running late. Luckily, they kept the gate open for us an extra five minutes and we made it. We saw a few exchange students who we'd met earlier in the semester on our flight and made plans to hang out for the day. We spent the rest of the day drinking on the beach and exploring Krabi. We ate amazing Thai food and just had a really fun time.

Thailand crew
"Mrs. Sweet and partner" as the hotel staff called us

Drunkenly babysitting Thai children haha

The next day, Leah and I rented a private longtail boat to visit the surrounding islands. We visited Poda Island and Tub Island. It was absolutely beautiful. The pictures speak for themselves.

Poda Island

Hanging out in our longtail boat at Tub Island

Our driver for the day
After our trip, we got some delicious paid thai and did some shopping. Leah is cross-training for a marathon this summer so she went to the gym and I went to get a thai massage. I was a little nervous because thai massages are very physical and look painful. (Google "thai massage" and you'll see what I mean.) It ended up being an interesting experience because the women spoke no English. She walked on my back and bent me in positions I didn't know were humanly possible. It felt very nice until the next morning when I woke up with a sore neck.

We only have two weeks of classes left before finals begin on May 10th. We have this Friday off and are taking a trip to Malaysia with our friend Rachel. We plan on going to Malacca and Tioman island from the 21st- 25th. We haven't made it to Malaysia yet and I'm excited to check it out! After that is our last week of class. Leah and I are beyond excited because we leave for VIETNAM on the 30th. We are flying into Ho Chi Minh and spending two days there and two days in Mui Ne. I CAN NOT WAIT! Then I've got finals on the 10th, 11th, 18th and 19th. I leave for the US on May 23rd but have a five day layover in Madrid to visit some friends. I am missing Leah's birthday so we are trying to fit in one final trip from the 19th-22nd to celebrate her twentieth birthday.

Am I the luckiest girl in the world, or what? :)