1. Tokyo, Japan

     
  2. Oct 30 - Yogyakarta, Indonesia


    On the 26th we were back in Jakarta. At this stage in the trip I had planned to drive from Jakarta through Java to the its eastern most point and from there catch a ferry to Bali to meet up with my Phil, Ben, and Yoan. According to Google maps the trip is only 1,044KM, but I wasn’t looking to take the most direct route. I had planned to zig-zag through the island finding everything and anything worth checking. The road would be ill-defined and my pathetic command of the Indo language would have guaranteed that the trip would have been interesting. My brother was extremely reluctant. . “Scared money don’t make money.” “Go big or go home.” “Fuck this dealer.” All of the usual lines my friends and I would use to rationalize our old gambling habit applied.  My brother was scared money.

    As you can tell by my tone it didn’t happen. My parents put an end to that quick and to make sure I didn’t do it anyways recruited my uncle and aunt to escort our entire family on a trip to Yogyakarta. What was supposed to be a road trip of a lifetime ended up being a pleasant, but easy 3-day stay in Yogyakarta where we visited Mount Merapi (volcano), Borobrudur (world’s largest buddhist temple), and the Sultan’s Palace (for some reason this city has a Sultan). The highlight was seeing the Indo Mona Lisa. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a joke, but I laughed. A lot.

     
  3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

     

  4. PKU - KL - SNG

    Oct 18, 2012 - Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

    My brother and I finally get free to spend extended time with Phil and Ben in Pekanbaru. Unspeakable things occur. They find me topless in a parking garage.

    Oct 21, 2012 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    This visit feels like it happened ages ago. I barely remember anything from our two nights here. I do remember that we stayed in unusually fancy hotel that had an breakfast. A quality breakfast can make the crappiest hotel stay pleasant. We were right in the thick of things. We walked over to the Petronas Towers. It’s always cool when you get to see something you’ve only seen in pictures and movies.

    We made our way over to an area called Bukit Bintang; a major shopping and entertainment district. There are two sides to Bukit Bintang. North of Jalan Sultan Ismail there is high-end shopping, fine dining, and just an overall classy vibe to the area. Once you cross over to the south side it immediately becomes the spot for clubs, hawker food stalls, bars, and prostitution. Let me say, prostitution is rampant in Kuala Lumpur. There’s probably more of it in other cities in the world, but of all the places I’ve been no where else is it so overtly available and promoted. This is a grimy, but fun area to spend a night.

    The next day we take a cab to the Batu Caves. There’s a giant golden Hindu statue up front and the stairs up is a bit of climb. I guess it’s cool to visit if you’re into that sort of thing, but it wasn’t worth our time. That evening we head back to Bukit Bintang for more of the same. Shopping opportunities are everywhere and every merchant is hungry. My brother took a passive look at sunglasses at one street-side store. The gun running the shop quickly stopped him and immediately went into sell-mode. 80 Ringgits he offered. My brother wasn’t interested. 80 Ringgits quickly became 15 Ringgits without my brother saying a word. I don’t know who taught this guy how to negotiate, but eventually my brother caved. As aggressive as he was, that merchant doesn’t even crack the top 10 I’ve witnessed. While in Jakarta my uncle made the mistake of confusing a ticket scalper for a parking attendant. After he discovered his mistake and drove away the scalper actually ran along side the car for at least 100 meters trying to complete the sale. Hustling aint easy.

    The next day we flew out to Singapore, but not before my brother lost his phone and we missed out flight. Awesome.

    October 24, 2012 - Singapore

    This post is running long and this I come back to Singapore 2 more times so I won’t go into much detail about this visit.

    Our hotel room was a closet. Barely big enough for the bed. The only redeeming quality was that the balcony overlooked the main pedestrian road in Chinatown. Can’t complain.

    Singapore is about two things: shopping and eating, so we ate. We ate anything we’d come across. The only thing that I targeted was Sup Tulang (bone marrow soup) and only because I remember seeing it a while ago on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Video here. Doesn’t it look amazing? I actually hunted down the exact spot he went to have it. Unfortunately it was closed for renovations, so I had to find another. It sadly wasn’t worth the effort.

    I will begin doing quick recaps after leaving a city worth mentioning.

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    Currency: Ringgit. $1 USD = ~3 Ringgits.

    Cost: If Papua New Guinea is 1, Toronto a 5, and Sydney a 10, then Kuala Lumpur is a 4.

    Grime: 7/10. Would have been a 6, but the rampant prostitution pushes up a point. Safe, not exactly clean,

    English? 8/10. English is one of the primary languages in addition to Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin.

    Should I?Yes. Probably the best city I’ve visited that feels like an asian city without being unmanageable (Jakarta) or overly civilized (Singapore).

     
  5. Oct 17, 2012 - Padang

    After 5 days in Padang I can safely say that I have no interest in living here. The notion of living in a small city in Indonesia devoid of most things I’m used to probably wouldn’t have existed had my cousins Phil, Ben, and Yoan not moved there a couple years earlier. After having lived in Toronto for 12 or so years they rather suddenly moved back to Padang. I wondered if maybe there was some kind of magical small town charm that I wasn’t aware of.

    There isn’t. But, it’s my parent’s home town and my mom couldn’t wait to take me on a trip down memory lane. The most distinguishing feature of Padang is the Minang architectural style that has a horn-like roof structure. Besides that, I don’t know.

    That’s not to say there aren’t good things to say about Padang. The food is awesome. I favour the food available from street vendors over restaurants. It might be because the street food is actually cooked for you, while at the restaurant it is cooked in the morning and served at room temperature throughout the day. In Padang, when sitting down at a restaurant they bring every dish on the menu to the table; you pay for only what you eat, which is traditionally done with your hands. Eating here is not for germaphobes or the easily offended.

    Things to do in Padang include sitting in your house, sitting in your car, or going to a karaoke bar. Smoking and karaoke are probably the top two activities in Indonesia. I’m not good at either. Although it is a coastal city, there is no beach, unless if you travel a little outside the city to Bungus. If you want to switch up and having something other than Indo or chinese food then you better prepare it yourself. A McDonald’s just opened up before I arrived.

    As down as I am on the city, I am equally amazed at the nature that surrounds it. West Sumatra has the most scenic natural environment I have ever seen. It’s like being in Jurassic Park. I’d go back to Padang just for the chance to camp out in Harau Valley. Well, that and…

    To visit my aforementioned cousins Phil and Ben. They were two of the closest people to me before they left. They’ve made a nice life for themselves in Padang. Phil runs the most known tailoring shop in the city and Ben does his Lucky Strike thing. If this were the 60s in Manhattan they both would have been in Don Draper’s rolodex. It was great to see them again.

    I guess it’s not all bad in Padang.