Bangkok pin entry

Trip Start Aug 07, 2008
1
5
9
Trip End Dec 22, 2008


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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The political
situation here got even worse, while trying to block the first session of the
parliament under new PM Somchai (brother in law of convicted criminal and ex PM
Thaksin) the police police opened fire and used tear gas to break up the crowd. There was at least one casualty and over
400 people were wounded. It was
later discovered that the tear gas canisters were the cause of most of the
injuries, they exploded and sent shrapnel flying which caused many people to
lose limbs and be hospitalized.
After the violence there were armed military stationed around the city
to keep the peace and somebody high up in the PM's cabinet (maybe the vice-PM)
stepped down and blamed the PM for the violence while calling him a
murderer. A lot of people expect
the military to stage a coup like similar to 2006 when they ousted Thaksin, but
so far the Military has continued to say they will not get involved, but have
been critical of the new PM. Just
like before the violence had little effect on daily life in Bangkok.

A friend of
mine, Erik from Germany, and I left on Wednesday the 8th to
Singapore after our last midterm.
Singapore is an amazing city and for a while, at least while I was in
the city I wished I had gone to Singapore instead of Bangkok, but that wore off
quickly once I got back to Bangkok.
Singapore absolutely blows Seattle out of the water when it comes to
nature and greenery. Every single
part of the city is covered with jungle flora, and there are parks everywhere. This is definitely one of the reasons
it is such a clean city and probably helps keep it cooler than Bangkok even
though it's almost directly on the equator. The three things I'd heard about Singaporeans before I got
there were that they loved to eat and shop and they weren't very friendly. The first two were definitely true,
there are food stalls and restaurants everywhere and I'm pretty sure the city
could qualify as one gigantic mall.
The last is definitely false, the people there were extremely helpful
and friendly, even moreso than Thais who have a pretty good reputation for
being overly friendly and nice. It
was a huge relief to be able to communicate with people and we took full
advantage by asking for directions and advice often. We used the Subway system to get around a lot, it's a great
system and you can get almost anywhere in the city with 10-15 minutes, it
really makes me jealous that more American cities and especially Seattle don't
have better public transportation.

We spent the first
morning walking around the city, we walked through Clarke and Robinson Quays,
the central business district, the riverfront, and Chinatown. I know it sounds like a lot but all
these places are really close to each other in downtown Singapore and we were
able to walk all these areas in like four hours. We had a pretty good time, these are really cool areas of
Singapore with famous landmarks and scenic views. We then hopped on the subway and went to Orchard road, which
we'd heard was a pretty cool shopping area. It was a nice shopping area but all they had was malls and
nothing that was unique to Singapore.
After lunch we got back on the subway and went to Little India, which
was pretty cool but again wasn't anything too exciting. After Little India we went to Newton
Center which is a Hawker center (like an outdoor food court with food stalls
instead of restaurants) that was recommended to us by someone for chillied
crab, a specialty of Singapore.
The food was really good and afterwards we went to a night safari, which
was kind of cool. It was pretty
much a zoo but they had natural habitats usually without cages and some animals
were allowed to roam freely.


The next day we
woke up early and got our bus tickets to the Cameron Highlands and went to the
Singapore Flyer. I don't know if
everybody has heard of the London Eye but the Singapore Flyer is the same
concept, only bigger. It's
basically a giant ferris wheel with compartments that fit up to 28 people and
at its tallest is 165 meters high, 30 meters higher than the London Eye. We had a fantastic view of the Strait
of Melaka, Downtown Singapore and the riverfront. Afterwards we went on a riverboat tour of the city, which
was not nearly as interesting as the Flyer though still enjoyable, mostly
because we had walked through most of the areas the day before. After lunch we walked through Chinatown
again, it was much livelier than it had been the day before, probably because
it was later in the day. We wanted
to go to the World's Largest Fountain of Wealth and found out that there wasn't
a subway station close so we got walking directions and walked there. The walk was cool because it was about
an hour away and we never walked outside and never left a mall. We started in one mall, walked through
it and found another mall, and another all the way to the fountain. All in all we walked for about an hour
and never left air conditioning or a mall, which was nice considering how hot
it was outside. We got to the
fountain only to find it turned of and found out that they didn't turn it on
until 8 and did a laser and water show.
We had done everything we had time to do (we wanted to go to Sentosa,
another area of Singapore buut there wasn't any time for it) so we just killed
some time in the mall. We watched
Burn After Reading, it was a really funny movie I strongly recommend it. The laser water show was pretty
impressive but it turned out to only be like 5 minutes long. We grabbed some dinner and got on our
bus for the overnight ride to the Cameron Highlands.

We got to the
Cameron Highlands around 8am and ate breakfast and walked through the town,
Tanah Rata, before our tour left.
The area was absolutely beautiful, the busride in was especially
spectacular, we had views of the jungles and mountains draped in fog. We went to a tea plantation up in the
mountains, which was also gorgeous.
We then went up to a tower on the highest point in the area and had an
amazing 360 degree view of the surroundings. Our guide then took us on a hike through the jungle and
showed us some really cool plants and their medicinal purposes, a ton of our
medicines come from plants from this jungle. We also saw that is shaped kind of like a bowl and has some
liquid in the bottom that attracts bugs, the bugs get stuck and the plant eats
the bug, pretty cool carnivorous plant.
After our hike we went to the tea factory, which wasn't that,
special. On the way back to Tanah
Rata we stopped at a little animal sanctuary that had a lot of the animals from
the area including, frogs, snakes (king cobra!), scorpions, lizards, beetles
and butterflies. After our tour we
walked through town and were pretty shocked to find a Starbucks in the middle
of this small town in the mountains in Malaysia. We took advantage of the clean air conditioned Starbucks to
wait for our bus to leave.

Our bus got to
Kuala Lumpur around 10 and we walked around for about an hour with all our bags
before we found the place we were staying. Kuala Lumpur was a pretty cool city, not as nice as
Singapore but nicer than Bangkok.
It was also between Singapore and Bangkok in terms of cleanliness,
pollution, and economy (wealth, prices, etc.). Like Singapore KL has a pretty good public transportation
system but it's much more confusing and split between three different systems,
a monorail, a subway, and an above ground light rail. Overall it was a fun city and I'm glad I saw it but I don't
regret only staying for one day.

The next morning
we went to the train station to get our train tickets to Surat Thani and our bus
tickets to Penang before going to the Petronas Towers, formerly the tallest
buildings in the world. There is a
skybridge on the 41st and 42nd floors that connects the
two towers. We wanted to go up to
the skybridge, they won't let you go all the way up, right away but instead got
tickets to come back at 4:45 in the last group of the day. We were lucky to get tickets, we had no
idea that the delay would be that long, we got our tickets around 9 and they
opened for tickets at 8. We walked
through Kuala Lumpur City Center, which is a park right behind the towers
before leaving to go to Masjid Negara, the biggest Mosque in Southeast
Asia. When we got to the Mosque we
realized it was right next to the place we picked up our bus tickets and that
the Mosque was closed to the public until that afternoon. We left to go to the Central Market
that has been in the same building since 1880 and got some Kuala Lumpur
souvenirs. Afterwards we walked to
Chinatown, which was pretty cool but very similar to a lot of other markets
with "authentic" Rolexes and designer jeans. We stopped by the National Hindu Temple of Malaysia on our
way to Merdeka Square, a big park area with a lot of government buildings and
some really cool Arabic/Islamic architecture. By the time we finished the Mosque had reopened to the
public so we headed back. The Mosque
was pretty cool, I'd never been to a Mosque before and they had a guy there
that explained some Muslim prayer rituals so it was pretty interesting. We went straight from the Mosque to the
Petronas Towers and went up to the Skybridge. The view wasn't great, it was kind of cloudy, and we figured
out that we were basically the same height as the Singapore Flyer. It's still pretty cool to be able to
say I've been on the skybridge of the Petronas Towers though, they have a lot
of national pride for the towers in Malaysia. After dinner we went to Kuala Lumpur Tower, another tower
though not as tall as the Petronas Towers actually had a better view of the
city because it sat on a hill and there was an observation deck at the very
top. We got a nice view of the
city at night, it was especially beautiful to see the Petronas Towers lit up at
night.

After the KL
Tower we got on a bus to Penang, an island in Northwest Malaysia. Our bus got there around 4am and we
slept for another 4-5 hrs in the bus station. We spent the morning wandering around Penang and catching a
ferry over to Butterworth to get on a train and head to the Full Moon Party in
Thailand on Koh Phangan. We were
pretty tired from all of our traveling and didn't see or do anything noteworthy
that morning.
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