Tuesday, July 23, 2013

$%#* just got real! Our introduction to Asia :)

OK, folks, this not-posting thing has gone on long enough!  I could make a million excuses: frequent Internet connection issues, fluctuating travel plans, exhaustion due to heat, humidity and eternal train rides, etc, but I think my writer's block boils down to the sheer sensory overload of exploring the planet's most populous continent.  Indeed, our momentum continues as we venture forward in our travels, all the while maintaining a deep love and appreciation for our respective native countries of Mexico and the US, along with our adopted home of Canada.

Therefore, even though I have no idea how to process Asia at this point (apparently, neither does the tourist sporting the T-shirt that inspired the title of this post!), I will share some of my favorite snaps of our first three fascinating destinations on the continent: Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.  Blogging also gives me an excuse to hide from our current location of Pattaya, Thailand, a place I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle...  Enjoy!

This isn't a poster; it is our view from the most bizarrely named coffee chain we have seen on this trip, during a layover at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia, before catching our flight to Singapore.

Arriving in Singapore, Harold captured my delighted expression as I viewed the advertisement for bubble tea for 1 Singapore dollar! (Roughly 67 US cents).  Best I've ever had!

One of Singapore's examples of fascinating architecture: part of the Marina Sands Hotel and Shopping Center, Singapore.

Futuristic walkway in Singapore.  All of our Singapore pictures were taken at night, since we were jet-lagged after the flight from Istanbul, and participated in the late-night street dining atmosphere.  We had been concerned about the abominable air quality of late (after all, we had only narrowly missed the floods in Central Europe and the most raucous protests in Istanbul's Taksim Square), but found it to be under control on our arrival, as forest fires in Indonesia had died down a bit.

This one reminds me of a dinosaur skeleton.  Singapore.

This is kind of a ridiculous photo, so I thought I'd share it.  Shortly after arriving in Kuala Lumpur and making our way to our rather dank, disappointing hostel (later to be switched out for an amazing one), we hit Petaling Street, Chinatown, and were pleased to find coconuts for 1.50 USD.  

A 19th century Kuala Lumpur building is illuminated by Chinese lanterns.  Known colloquially as "KL", the city's name means "muddy confluence"; it tends to be a resting point for those on long voyages or ill-planned backpacking trips such as ours.  Malaysia features an intriguing combination of cultures consisting primarily of the ethnic Malays, who converted to Islam in the 14th century, along with Chinese and Indian populations that settled in the area over the past few centuries.  English is used frequently to communicate between cultural groups, which is convenient for many travelers!   Need I mention the delicious food that results from such a cultural mix?  We spent most of our time dining in the street at all hours of the day and night, enjoying such delights as satay, tandoori chicken, and fish ball soup.

One of the dingier establishments, but certainly tasty!

The world's tallest twin towers, known as the Petronas Towers, in KL.  We obtained malaria medication and vaccines at one of the finest medical facilities I have ever seen, housed in the towers.

In the back room of the (free!) KL City Gallery, a gentleman prepares tiny, intricately cut pieces of wood to be assembled in a variety of structures in keeping with the Chinese craft.

An old KL municipal building.  You can see the influence of Islamic architecture, fitting in the officially Islamic country of Malaysia.

We came across a (free!) music festival preceding the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began during our stay in mid-July.  KL, Malaysia.

These are all head coverings for Muslim ladies.  I don't think I saw the same one twice.  The creativity in design was awe-inspiring, particularly when glancing down the street at all of the brightly colored heads, with the light fabrics fluttering in the breeze.  KL, Malaysia.

Utter chaos at a pre-Ramadan department store sale in Kuala Lumpur.

Satay!!  Some are breaded and fried, and others are steamed at your table.

I am a cockroach magnet.  One of the little buggers at the aforementioned underwhelming hostel where we spent our first two nights in Kuala Lumpur.

The second (delightful!) hostel where we spent four nights featured the most personable cat we've ever met, who unfortunately suffered an anxiety attack when we woke her up by opening the glass door... :(  Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur skyline, leaving the twin towers.

These cats are at Starbucks, keeping an eye on the operations.  Kuala Lumpur.

Hindu temple, Kuala Lumpur.  All three times we have entered Hindu temples, people have been very welcoming, involving us in the ceremonies and inviting us to take pictures.

These stairs lead to the Batu Caves, a set of Hindu cave temples outside of Kuala Lumpur.

This Golden Buddha was added recently and viewed as a bit garish by some locals.

Huffing and puffing up the steps.

One of the temples.

Guarding the caves.

Now we are on the train to Thailand, passing through the beautiful south on the way to Bangkok, where we started our exploration of this intriguing country.

We had never purchased sleeper train tickets; I was pleased to see that there were curtains on the bunks, as there were 40 other people sleeping on the same car!  We had a blast talking to some very pleasant and dynamic people during the 24-hour ride from northern Malaysia.

Arriving in Bangkok.  The famous tuk-tuk, one of the many vehicles constructed from a motorcycle base.

Dragonfruit smoothies: one of our great Thai discoveries.

Ronald McDonald, Thai style.

Temple view, Bangkok.

Lovely concrete design on the sidewalk, Bangkok.

One of the side streets in central Bangkok.

Passengers getting ready to board the ferry, which forms part of the transit system, circumventing traffic by shuttling folks through the dirtier mini-rivers flowing towards the main Chaophraya River, Bangkok.

The curtain is up to avoid splashes!  

Temple shot, Bangkok.

Lighting up the streets for Buddhist Lent, which began two days ago.

Crepes!  Bangkok.

Harold roasting his own chicken.

Young boys commencing their service as Buddhist monks in this Theravada Buddhist country.  Bangkok.

I needed some fresh air, so we headed to the River Kwai.  Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

River Kwai.

Relaxing at a bar, literally on the street, in Kanchanaburi.

Time for laundry- good thing the streets are lined with washing machines!

Festooning and blessing a 500-year-old boat just discovered a few weeks ago, its intact condition widely perceived to be miraculous.  Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

River Kwai.

A dwarf chicken!  Inside a soup restaurant!   Bangkok.

I left out our amazing first Asian jungle trip, so I will fill y'all in on that dream come true (and more!) in the coming days.  Thanks for reading, and peace and blessings to you :)

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