2004 South-East Asia
My journey through Southeast Asia in 2004 was my first trip beyond the European culture. At that time, I didn’t know that traveling would become my passion, because then I was only planning to fly to Thailand to train thai-boxing. Soon however, I realized that I wanted to see more, which is why I also went to Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I also joined Hong Kong and Sumatra. I really liked Asia and I felt that I wanted to go back and get to know it better. That way I started the Kompas site.
Travel plan for Southeast Asia 2004
In 2004 I organized my first trip outside the European culture. It lasted only 2.5 months and then I didn’t know yet that traveling is an “incurable disease” and that I will develop a great passion in that direction. In 2004 I did not have a specific itinerary. I just went to Thailand to train Thai boxing and so I did but at the same time I experienced a lot more than I planned. For my first trip I was completely unprepared but South-East Asia amazed me from the first moment. Thai-boxing was very tough but it also gave me great satisfaction, the food was great, the culture was very interesting and the local women were extremely friendly.
As I mentioned earlier I was going to go only to Thailand but the longer I was there the more I was curious about the neighbouring countries and therefore within my time I also visited nearby Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong (the only place in East Asia), then West Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (a town in Sumatra). From the perspective of time I can say that I was too short to really explore each country but in 2004, during my first Asian trip it was all about the passion for travelling, the presence itself at the end of the world and the number of experiences that I had. Now I believe that trips like that are also needed and I have to admit that for someone who did not have any plan I saw a lot and I remember my trip very well. I didn’t know it then but I left Asia a few days before the great tsunami (description at the end).
Thailand was my base where from I travelled to the neighbouring countries.
In this short article I do not intend to exactly describe any sights of the travelled countries but rather the impression of a tourist from Europe who reached the Orient for the first time in his life and was delighted with the wonderful world on the other side of the planet as well as concerned about other things. More detailed descriptions can be found in the specific countries’ sections and in the expeditions to south-east Asia from 2011 and 2012.
When I got off at the airport in Bangkok first I went to the tourist centre on Kao San Road. I quickly found a cheap hotel and despite the fatigue after a long flight within two hours I was already in training. In 2004 I was in a very good shape because even though it didn’t win with the Thai fighters I didn’t let them to humiliate me, and in Thailand it is a lot. In the evening I went out to try the culinary delights in small quantities, such as for example: the duck with rice and broth, various skewers and seafood and pad thai which are Thai noodles with chosen extras. The preparation of food in Thailand was quite a spectacle too because White tourists were staring at the Asian man throwing a portion of pasta with meat balls which then, just for just 20 baht landed on the plate. In addition, I saw many impressive temples and nice Buddha statues. I talked to Buddhist monks, I began to learn what Buddhism was and even though I did not agree with it I took that ideology as a very interesting philosophy; and art and architecture related to it I treated as a rich cultural heritage. Buddhist temples, as well as beautiful orchids became important parts of my trip around Thailand. One thing in Thailand which I found to be shown too often was the image of the king and endless compliments about him. I don’t have anything against the king but I think that Thai people exaggerate with that.
Unfortunately it wasn’t always that nice. The tourist district looked good, colourful and clean but just outside there was poverty and every girl could be a potential prostitute but not only. There were also women who were hunting European men and didn’t want any money. It was also the first time when I saw sodomites in the streets; boys dressed like girls and behaving like girls. I felt attacked with degeneration of the worst kind and I wondered why such creatures had been released to the streets. I felt that the homosexual issue should be solved. Whilst in Bangkok I also saw women from Ireland and England who were in relationships outside of their race and even though I tried to be forgiving I felt that I wasn’t able to show those women any respect. I felt that that issue of racial degeneration should be solved and in that moment I also felt that I needed more Thai boxing.
After a few days in Bangkok, after doing Thai boxing for a while and after seeing a few impressive temples and Buddha statues I went to Kanchanaburi to see the bridge over the River Kwai. Whilst there I learnt about history of Thailand under the Japanese occupation but I also did rafting and I rode an elephant. Then I went to the south to the island of Ko Pha Ngan where I admired exotic beaches and I swam in the turquoise sea. I was captivated by the natural beauty of Thailand. Beautiful beaches, palm trees with swings, orchids on trees embedded in coconut shells and a pleasant, warm climate kept me there for a few beautiful days. I enjoyed my lunches under a thatched roof and under palm trees and in the evening I saw geckos on the walls. I felt great.
On the way to Malaysia I stopped in the border town of Hat Yai which luckily had a traditional Thai market and an interesting street stall with aquarium fish, although as I later noticed there was also a big and a tragic brothel. After dark men dressed like women walked in the streets and tried to look like models on catwalks. This was the moment when I was really disgusted with sodomy and black clouds started gathering over my head.
On the way to Laos first I saw a few beautiful temples in the capital of the north Chiang Mai and then through the mountains and rice fields I got to the border town of Chiang Khong. I was sitting on a balcony made of bamboo and I watched Laos on the other side of the Mekong river.
My trip around Thailand was aimed only to train Thai – boxing but the beauty of this country, its cultural values and its cuisine did not allow me to seat in just one place. After some time the sport started to be of a secondary importance.
In 2004 Burma was just opening up to tourism and of course all that I could hear was the stories of the brutal regime, poverty and economic catastrophe; but nothing about the golden pagodas and the culture of this very interesting country. In Thailand also nobody wanted to talk to me about Burma because Thai people had never been there too. On the other hand everyone warned me to not to go there, even though nobody could fully understand why. I suspected the exactly the same stupid stories were probably served to English people about Poland in the 70s’, so I finally bought a ticket and flew to Yangon.
It was clear to me that Burma was poorer than Thailand. There weren’t decent roads and in many places they were none at all. I also noticed that although there was a right-hand traffic, cars were designed for left-hand traffic with steering wheels on the right side. That’s how it is in Burma, nothing works as it should and nothing is as it should be but somehow the life goes on. When I finally got to the hotel near the Sule pagoda the street itself looked as if regular raids from air were taking place. The room had only a bed and a ceiling fan and showers were outside. In addition, the black market in Burma works great because everyone deals hard currency, from taxi drivers and a hotel owners to tea and juice vendors in all the sad places. I think that my first impressions speak for themselves but Burma is a country where tourists have to get used to a very special environment and after a short time they would certainly discover its beauty. Apart from that I was traveling with a young blonde who turned out to be really nice to me and I met an elderly Canadian man who told me how the Taliban in Afghanistan put him before a firing squad for a joke. We sat together in a dirty bar where we were served by young boys and we slowly began to understand what Burma truly was. After sunset it was so dark that I didn’t see anything apart from a few car lights.
The first time I spent about a week in Burma and of course I saw the great temple complex of Shwedagon Paya Pagoda. Then I went by bus to Bago, the ghostly town without roads but fortunately there were some spectacular temples and Buddha statues. I stayed in a proudly named hotel San Francisco where toilet flush did not work and electricity jumped out of the window. Then I went to the village of Kimpun from where I went to see the Golden Rock pagoda called Kyaiktiyo what turned out to be an exhausting mountain walk among palms and banana trees. Transport was also very adventurous because every time we stopped the bus was entertained by sellers of such specialties like chicks impaled on a stick or fertilized duck eggs. I decided to not to try. Other things that I liked in Burma were bamboo scaffoldings and a chalk makeup on a whole face. Soon I flew back to Thailand.
My first trip to Burma in 2004 was great because it turned out to be very simple and very beautiful at the same time.
I got to Laos trough Mekong River from Chiang Khong in northern Thailand. At the very beginning I noticed that there were no standard dishes based on rice but instead they had baguettes because Laos was a French colony. From the border town of Huay Xai I went on a fast boat similar to a canoe but with an engine attached to its back and I flew on Mekong to Luang Prabang. Along the way we had to stop because the driver had to load a big fish on a board, but that was the only break. The engine did a lot of noise and I felt like a bobsleigh contestant, but on water. It was such fun!
I stayed a while in Luang Prabang to do some shopping at the night bazaar, to climb just another mountain in my life and to see some good temples. However, the next day I went to see the beautiful waterfalls of Kuang Si and Tad Se which were hidden in the jungle and their numerous swimming pools piled up giving me warm showers and baths. They also had Asiatic black bears and along the way I stopped in the Hmong ethnic minority village. Soon after I travelled through the mountains to the adventurous Vang Vieng by the Mekong River where I saw several caves and I bathed in water holes between rice fields. I highly recommend the whole area around Vang Vieng for its beautiful panorama of Asia and endlessly poured Beer Lao. My next point was the capital Vientiane, another place of fine temples and exceptional peace. Then I got on the bus and after sleeping on bags of rice I got to Si Phan Don, also called the “land of 4000 islands” on the border with Cambodia. I spent the night in a hut overlooking the Mekong, I watched buffaloes grazing near rice fields and everything would have been fine if I didn’t have to share my room with a fat American girl who was as fat as one of the buffaloes. I didn’t bother. The next day Buddhist monks gave me a lift to the border on the roof of their truck, then I walked through the jungle, I paid $2 bribe for a stamp in my passport and I was in Cambodia.
So what is Laos? Laos is a charming sleeping area of south east Asia and its main asset is the scenic natural beauty, deep caves, waterfalls, huts on wooden posts, rice fields, palm trees and nice temples. Tourists go to Laos for nature but there are also those who go there for Laotian beer and then fall asleep next to waterfalls.
All I knew about Cambodia before going there was the information about the magnificent temple complex of Angkor Wat. In 2004 this was the reason why I went there but by the time I got there a lot of surprises crossed my path, which later turned out to be usual for the developing world. I crossed the border of Dom Kralor located in the jungle and then I waited for a transport on a dirt road which simply wasn’t there. Once I gave a bribe of a few dollars for a stamp in my passport I finally saw a car which slowly took me to the river. I was lucky because a boat which waiting there was already full and it left immediately to the town of Stung Treng on the other side of the shore. Stung Treng was a miserable rat hole where wind played with garbage and where the locals were desperate for a few dollars. Of course transport was not there so I ate a small portion of fried rice with vegetables and I gave the drivers some time to offer me a better price for transport to the capital Phom Penh. Cambodia is a small country but transport took forever because in 2004 there were no roads yet. We drove on a beaten path full of deep, up to one meter holes and we either had to go around them or we had to drive into it and come out. On the way I saw people living in the jungle in wooden huts on posts and in the middle there were always light bulbs on the ceiling and in some huts also TVs. I doubt if Cambodians in that area had electricity so probably people living in a bigger village had one generator to share between them. Driving at an average speed of about 10 to 20km/h made me fall asleep, especially that constant slalom around the pits and holes was lulling. My first impression of Cambodia exceeded my expectations because instead of temples and beautiful nature first I saw a very primitive country without roads or electricity. There was only a dark jungle and Mekong river somewhere nearby. When the car stopped swaying it was a sign that we finally got to Phom Penh.
In the capital of Cambodia I saw the Royal Palace and a few spectacular temples with interesting statues and exotic plants. But then, in 2004 it wasn’t the important thing to me. I was interested in the realism of the country and in contact with people on the streets. I went to a shoemaker, to the cheapest eatery in the street, I sat with locals at one table and whilst watching poor and busy people I felt that I was getting to know the real Cambodia. Unfortunately I ran out of money and it was a big problem because in 2004 Cambodia didn’t have cash machines but at the end after hours in a rickshaw and sad phone calls to Poland I was saved by Western Union. I didn’t get much so I had to calculate how much money I could spend every day in order to get safely to the nearest ATM which was in Vietnam.
When I was leaving Phnom Penh I saw an elephant which helped to carry heavy things on a construction site what proved to be another great attraction. I was on a board of an ancient bus and I was moving forward on the road rich in holes through the country of wooden huts, banana trees, rice fields, buffaloes and street vendors. In 2004, the road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was the only decent one on which transport was possible. Cambodia was just beginning to modernise.
In the end I went to Siem Reap and then to the temples of Angkor Wat. I walked a whole day from early morning to late night around the magnificent ruins which left me highly impressed. The main temple of Angkor Wat was huge, monumental and I felt that I didn’t have enough looking at it. I felt that apart from sport in Thailand, thanks to Angkor Wat Cambodia fulfilled my entire trip. My favourite however were the great carved faces of the Bayon Temple and Angkor Thom destroyed by huge trees and large roots which became integral parts of the temple. apart from that there was the jungle, children selling postcards and lunch based on rice served in a very special outdoors. Yes, I truly loved Angkor Wat and not just one temple or a group of temples but also the very special character of the entire place.
Soon it became clear to me that in south-east Asia sex for money is more widespread than anywhere else. One rickshaw driver was so kind that he offered me a tour for just $1 and I agreed. He said he was taking me to a “very nice place called the aquarium” and he took me to a big brothel where the girls were sitting like in a cinema in several rows behind a large window. As a good Catholic I was just about to leave but I saw familiar faces. Of course they were Americans who I had previously come across in Angkor Wat. They shouted: “hey Polack, why don’t you help us to choose”, and because I was nice I did.
When crossing the border I noticed a huge difference between Vietnam and the countries that I had visited before. In Cambodia and Laos the borders were just wooden huts in the jungle. I saw sculptures depicting Angkor and monks and immigration officer was dressed in shorts and had an open beer. In Burma I saw good organisation at the airport but then I saw golden pagodas, palm trees, flowers and local art. On the other hand in Vietnam there was no jungle, neither art nor relaxed atmosphere. In Vietnam I was greeted with communism. At the border I saw vulgar buildings similar to those from the Soviet Union from the Khrushchev era, I saw soldiers in large green hats and above them red flag with a yellow star. I started to hate this country before I even entered but because I stood at the border I decided to give Vietnam a chance. From the bus window I saw a gray road full of Asians travelling on motorbikes in a cloud of smoke and after about 2 hours I got to the area called Pham Ngu Lao in Saigon which is the equivalent of Kao San Road in Bangkok. As soon as I got off the bus two girls on motorbike stopped in front of me and asked: “hey you, boom boom for $20?” I thought; “So that’s the way it is done in Vietnam”, but on the other hand I was also wondering why they always suggest it to me. I found a room for $5 and then I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I saw fruit vendors, sellers of broth with noodles which is very popular in Vietnam and a few propaganda posters on the walls depicting communist workers. The whole street was a bazaar and among many things I found “Good Morning Vietnam” t-shirts, caps with red stars and t-shirts with Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Lenin. They made me feel very uncomfortably but I though that Vietnam must have had to offer something beyond communism.
Whilst in Saigon I saw a few interesting places. One of them was the War Museum dedicated to the American – Vietnamese war. It was a very interesting exhibition of photos showing US troops in action, bombing, people torn to pieces, crying women and children in the background of burnt houses and the whole horror of that war. However the most scary were the effects of chemical weapons used against Vietnamese people what caused a lot of children in Vietnam to be born disabled and what contributed to cancer. This means that the war still continues. Outside the were standing helicopters, airplanes and heavy artillery from those times, always with the inscription: “This tank / plane was taken from American imperialism.” Well, they are perfectly right. To improve my mood I went to see the Chinese Jade pagoda with a spectacular roof and turtles swimming in the pool outside. In addition, I also saw a copy of the Notre Dame cathedral, the post office built in the early twentieth century by the French, the pink Catholic Church and quite a few evenly trimmed trees in pots. I also noticed that in Vietnam (the same as in any other country in the world) next to nice temples and trees there is always propaganda. I’m talking about the Museum of the Revolution and a monument to Ho Chi Minh presented as the defender of the nation, what is pure fiction.
Cu Chi tunnels also turned out to be a very interesting trip because it showed how Vietnamese people set up traps for Americans in a very clever way and how they moved underground in the tunnels. I also saw large pits after the bombing, rows of bombs used by the Americans and I managed to shoot from AK-47. It is fair to say that the whole nation was like an army because all Vietnamese helped guerrillas in many ways. They transported rice and ammunition, they dug traps with sharp bamboos at the bottom or with venomous snakes. The Vietnamese did have imagination. I also went to Mekong Delta where on a small boat I moved around between high grass and among many places I visited the factory under palm leaves where they produced candy made of bananas and coconuts. Then we had a Vietnamese dinner, I saw a pineapple field, a very interesting Vietnamese bazaar and at the end of the trip a woman dressed in a traditional Vietnamese way with a pointed hat sang a folk song for us.
In Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam I stayed near Hoan Kiem lake where there are several oriental temples, cheap street eateries and a very interesting propaganda art from the times of war. Very popular were also landscapes of Vietnam depicting traditional life but to me revolutionary art was the most interesting, especially that a lot of Vietnamese take it very seriously. I also went to a very interesting Ethnographic Museum which has a very interesting exhibition inside and out and presents the life of Vietnamese people, their art, tools and how the used to build different houses throughout history. Not to be missed is also the Cho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the great looking Temple of Literature which in my point of view, next to Hoan Kiem Lake is the best place in the whole of Hanoi. At the end I went to Halong Bay where I spent time sailing between the mountains, I saw a few caves and a water village and I spent the night on Cat Ba island next to a picturesque beach.
I will always remember Vietnam as a communist country of million motorbikes with spectacular temples, beautiful views, women dressed in pointed hats and where there is propaganda art, museums of war and revolution, publicly displayed tanks as monuments to the glory of the nation……. and brothels. My departure from Vietnam was stressful because I had a little time to get to the airport and that’s why my taxi driver was faster than wind. Luckily I arrived on time and soon departed for Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is located very close to Hanoi and because the ticket cost only a little more than a return to Thailand I decided that I will go there too. On the 30th of July 1997 the British lease of Hong Kong was ended and the whole territory became the special administrative region of China. This means that it has its own currency, its government, its police and what is very important also its own immigration laws. Hong Kong and its New Territories today operate on the principle of “one country, two systems” which means that the city enjoys greater freedom and independence while the government in Beijing is officially responsible only for defense and foreign affairs.
When I was entering Hong Kong I could not believe how many people I saw on the streets and I think that comparing the city to an anthill reflects the seriousness of the problem. The area of Hong Kong covers 1104 km2 and only 25% is developed into residential areas, even though it is difficult to believe whilst strolling along the main shopping street of Kowloon. The biggest part is covered by parks and nature reserves and people live mainly in skyscrapers. It still does not change the fact that Hong Kong is so overcrowded that in the most populated areas there are 43,000 people per km2. Life in Hong Kong is possible thanks to a well-developed underground network that serves all parts of the city.
I lived in one of the very tall blocks on Nathan Street in Kowloon in the cheapest hostel in the city that resembled a narrow cell with bunk beds. It was so nasty that I had to get out and it worked for me very well because the I started exploring HK sooner. Nathan Street and the whole Kowloon is a one big shop which at peak times it is so overcrowded that it is difficult to get through. In the higher parts there were adverts frequently showing manga characters and in the bottom there was of course crowd, clothes stores and in side streets usually Chinese eateries. I also recommend Kowloon by night when life runs with a full pace. People are hungry whole day because bars are always full, and by the way I advise to not to get surprised if a female “tourist” from the mainland China gives a business offer.
Finally I got to the walking area by the sea proudly called the “Avenue of Stars” where I saw stars engraved in the ground with the names of Chinese actors, then a monument of Bruce Lee, exotic plants and many interesting sculptures from the film industry. However the most important place is the view of the Hong Kong island which looks best after dark, when the financial centre and Victoria peak sparkle with many colours. Every tourist comes to this place many times as it is the signature view of Hong Kong as seen on postcards. It is also helpful to give a warning that a group of Indians wrapped in turbans operates in Kowloon and they look for idiots – another words they read the future from hands. Soon I got on the boat and sailed to the Hong Kong island.
On the island of Hong Kong I felt like in an English city but with this difference that I was surrounded by yellow, slitty-eyed faces. It is from this island that the British began their great trade with China and it was here where they built the great financial center which later became the global power. I on the other hand didn’t want to take the HK island only that way because it had a lot more to offer. Relatively not a big part of the island has been turned into concrete. Most of it is still wild and green. Of course not to be missed is the distinctive building of the Bank of China but there are also notable colonial buildings around and squares with fountains. It is also fun to travel on the old green tram around the street of shops and office buildings or a visit to Soho, the street of bars, pubs and restaurants. The main event of my program was a bus journey to Victoria peak and whilst I was driving around the mountain in the left-hand traffic I realized that after a while I looked at the huge skyscrapers from below. At the top there was a line of shops and restaurants but also a dream view point on the forest of lit skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island, the view of the bay and Kowloon. This view alone was worth going here.
When I was in Hong Kong in 2004 I also saw the Convention and Exhibition Centre with a roof in the shape of an aircraft carrier. On the 30thof June 1997 the ceremony of transfer of Hong Kong from the British hands to the Chinese took place over there. As a curiosity I can say that the sculpture standing in front of the building is a gold bauhinia (Bauhinia Blakeana) which a type of an orchid not found anywhere else in the world apart from Hong Kong. There are about 300 species of this flower around the world but Bauhinia Blakeana exists only in Hong Kong. Today, this flower also appears on the flag of Hong Kong.
After returning from Hong Kong to Bangkok, after few lessons of Thai-boxing and a few trips around Thailand I realized that my Thai visa was expiring so I was forced to organize a visa trip to Malaysia. My plan was to only go to Kuala Lumpur to see the Petronas Towers and then return straight to Bangkok but my trip took me longer than I expected. As a matter of fact everything in my entire life takes me longer than I plan.
Malaysia is a Muslim country where Islam is a part of the cultural identity of about 60% of the nation and in comparison with countries such as Pakistan or Yemen Malaysian version of Islam is mild. When I arrived to Kuala Lumpur my plan was to return to Bangkok the next day or two but I liked it so much that I stayed longer. Among many things I saw the famous 452m Petronas Towers and the whole place was so enjoyable that I spent a whole day by the pool with a fountain in the shape of a whale. I also liked palm trees and flowers around the towers. In the evening I went to the KL Tower and then I got back to Petronas to take pictures of it by night. At the end I went back to my cheap hostel in Chinatown on the underground. Every day there was a bazaar on the street full of cheap counterfeit goods of top companies, including perfumes and clothing. Malaysian food was no longer new to me but the meals were very good and Chinese waiters moved around very fast. The next day I went to see the attractive Masjid Jamek Mosque and Merdeka Square, where in 1957 for the first time the British flag was replaced with a flag of independent Malayas.
During one of my evening walks around KL I saw that this was not the cleanest city and a lot of rats that crossed my path between the piles of garbage were extremely big, like small badgers.
Whilst in Kuala Lumpur I looked at the map of Malaysia and I realized that if Malacca is so close why I shouldn’t go there too. Malacca is one of the largest ports in south-east Asia which was once a permanent point on the trail of spice trade. To tourists however, Malacca is a small but culturally and historically a very attractive place of many interesting sights. There is Chinatown and Little India and the colonial district where the Netherlands “meets” Portugal. Malacca is full of attractive buildings from many cultures of Asia and Europe but there are also attractive bridges and the river where it is possible to organize a cruise. In my opinion Malacca is culturally one of the most attractive cities of Malaysia which should not be missed.
When I arrived at the bus station and I had to buy a return ticket to Kuala Lumpur I looked toward Singapore and instead I bough a ticket to Johor Baru and from there I crossed the causeway to the country of Merlion.
Peninsular Malaysia has a lot more to offer but back then I had to consider my time and my budget. I chose between natural beauty which is similar to other parts of South-East Asia and the culture and history. My tour of Malaysia in 2004 was therefore concentrated on culture and history.
First of all I bow my head before the ever demonized British Empire because Singapore is the best proof that the British did a lot of good things in the colonial countries on all continents. We are very outspoken about the bad things that the British Empire did but they used to also build, educate, protect and develop economies of those countries, what benefits them greatly until today. Let’s also not forget that the slave ships belonged to Jews and English people only worked on them. Without Stamford Raffles today Singapore would be probably just an obscure fishing village at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula but thanks to the vision of one man and the empire that helped him Singapore is a global financial power with a great port and a high standard of living. (Exactly the same opinion I have about Hong Kong and a few other postcolonial countries).
Singapore is a small country / city but there is a lot to see. I moved around on the underground (MRT) and saw all the important areas. I was in Little India where I saw the Indian culture and tried food from the Subcontinent. Then I stayed in the Muslim district of Kampong Glam which is very nice and has nothing to do with the Muslim sewage that colonizes Europe. Whilst there I advise to pay attention to Parkview Square which because of its appearance is called the Batman building from Gotham City. I also went to the colonial district to feel more like in England than in Asia, then to the business centre with its skyscrapers and then to Marina Bay to see the attractive Botanical Gardens and the great view from the boat sitting on 3 tall buildings. Then I also went to stand by the river, by The Quays and finally I ended my day in the busy Chinatown.
I also recommend the Singapore zoo and the Botanical Gardens near Orchard Road which I regard as the nicest places in Singapore. At the end I went to the spectacular Buddhist temple called Kong Meng San Phor Se and then to the island of Sentosa to relax on the beach and to swim in a shade of palm trees. What’s interesting the whole sand was imported and the big rocks are artificial. So much can be done in small area for big money and Singapore is the great example of it.
When I was sitting in a hostel on my last day and I planned to go back to Malaysia and from there to Thailand, I started to wonder that if I was going that way anyway that I could sail over there through Indonesia. That’s what I did but I knew that despite of my appetite for discovering new countries my advancement to the south couldn’t continue anymore because I had neither the time nor the money.
Indonesia – my adventure in Sumatra
My trip to Sumatra turned out to be exceptionally good. I was heading for Mallaca but I wanted to experience one more interesting adventure and that’s why I left clean and well organized Singapore and after a 45 minute cruise I got off at the Indonesian island of Batam. When I got there I was greeted by crowds of interested people who were staring at me and getting excited about the White man. The “rock star effect” worked on Batam very well but I really didn’t need that. Finally, when people cooled down they asked where I was going, to which I replied that wherever as long as not there. Indonesians were so helpful that five men grabbed me and took me to the ticket office, where I bought a ticket “somewhere to Sumatra and not far from here.” Indonesians were very nice again in their own way. One grabbed my backpack and the other three threw me on the boat to make sure that I wouldn’t miss the departure. I was happy to leave Batam but not for long. The floating filth that I was on was as dirty as an Indian slum. Water and garbage were floating on the deck and in general everyone was staring at the White man. The boat was commanded by captain “Nemo” (as I called him) who judging by his dirty clothes had a serious argument with a laundrette owner. Shortly after departure captain Nemo served water and rice with something spicy to enrich the flavour, but about forks he forgot. During the few hours I answered a lot of questions about my country, I looked at the sea and at the bushes sticking out from water. The engine was making noise as if it was possessed, everyone wanted to make contact with me and I was surrounded by super filth. I had my adventure after all.
After a few hours on a boat I got to the town of Dumai and I quickly understood that it would have been better to stay in Batam. Dumai is located in Riau province in Malacca Strait and it has only about 150.000 residents. It is an oil port and the center of the petrochemical industry although I wasn’t interested in the industry. I wanted to see a new place and see new people. I was just through Indonesia on the way to Malaysia and I have to admit that I wasn’t disappointed with Dumai because it was the type of a rat hole that I was looking for. As soon as I showed up at the port a Muslims herd began to point me out with their fingers and yelling: “American, death to American” and I have to say that I was very changed after that experience. It was the first time I got to know the true nature of goat-lovers. They started grabbing me by the shirt and creating unpleasant crowd so I used the help of a con artist who said that he would take me anywhere to arrange everything, even though all I needed from him in that moment was to get me out of the port in one piece. He was with me and helped me push the crowd away with his elbows and whistled to get the van. We jumped on it and the car drove off with screeching tires showering the crowd with dirt.
On that day I already experienced two such warm welcomes and I felt that it couldn’t be any worse any more. Whilst getting to the city and shaking on the back of the van I asked the man if he had any plan. He gave me a lift to the best hotel in town which wasn’t that bad but a little expensive for my taste. When asked if there were any cheaper he said that there were cheaper hotels but that one was really safe. The hotel was by far the best well kept building in that creepy little town because just opposite there were permanent barracks with roof panels and palm trees above them. The main street wasn’t busy too. It was an asphalt road with a few cars and rickshaws passing through and barracks on bot sides with a flag of Indonesia in the middle. In the hotel everyone warned me to not to go out especially after dark but on the other hand they’ve been warning my hole life and nothing happened. I have to admit that the people were very nice to me and very curious about who I was. Everyone wanted to shake my hand and they all wanted to talk me, even those who didn’t speak any English. The bank manager was so nice that he opened the back door for me so I could exchange the money even though the bank was formally closed. Women in the bank jumped off their seats when they saw me because as they said: they “saw White men only in American films.” I had no doubt that I became a highlight of the whole town. I was so popular that even a local faggot ranged my hotel and said that he wanted to come to my room, so I had to explain to him in a very nonsensitive way to stay away. Generally Dumai was very poor. People had their stalls on the pavements and children from the surrounding slums came to watch me like a television. The next day I got on a bus which was half-eaten by rust after a ride on a holey road I got back to the port. As soon as I got there they cheered me up again with a loud “American”, so I helped myself with elbows through the crowd, I bought a ticket and I was already on my way to Malacca.
Perhaps Dumai wasn’t such a bad thing? There is an opinion among travellers that Dumai is only useful for buying a ticket and to get out of there as soon as possible, but I am under a different opinion. Sometimes the least attractive places can provide the best travel experiences. My visit to Sumatra was very short but very educational. I went to one of the most non-touristy, ordinary town in Sumatra and therefore the experience I had made me feel on my own skin how people in this country towns really live. Most tourists board a plane and land in luxury resorts of Bali or Lombok and they have absolutely no idea about the Indonesian reality. My travels on the other hand, rely on realism and my experiences there, people’s reactions to a White man, poverty and desperate faces of children would remain in my memory for a long time. My time in Indonesia was educational, adventurous and crazy.
From the organizational point of view the region of south – east Asia is easy to travel, it is cheap and visas are either available on arrival or are a formality to get. My first trip outside the European culture turned out to be a beautiful, educational adventure and at the same time gave me a lot of fun. In addition to picturesque views and beautiful temples I also saw great contrasts between the rich and the poor and the horror of everyday life which was a paradise to others. The trip was a necessary experience to me because through my experiences I started to shape my view of the world on many issues. I was beginning to understand how disgusting it was to promote sodomy and how terrible was only prostitution but also the prostitution industry, which is linked to the drug industry and slavery in all skin colours. I also liked the fact that although all the neighboring countries had their languages, their cultures, their own flags and emblems, they were all racially and culturally similar because they all represented the same ethnic circle. In Europe it was the same until our enemies introduced multi – “culturalism” involving the White genocide agenda. In south – east Asia there are Thais, Malays, Laotians, Burmese, Vietnamese and a few other nations and they are very similar to each although slightly different. In Europe we also have people who are very similar though slightly different, such as: Slavs, Aryans or Nords and although they all have their own countries, their flags and their own cultures they are also very similar to each other. I understood that this is the only diversity that Europe needs and the only diversity which I am able to accept.
————— ♦ —————
At the end I want to remind the tragedy that occurred only a few days after my departure from South-East Asia, because if I had left a few days later I would have probably died. On the 26th of December 2004 there was an earthquake 30km beneath the Indian Ocean close to the northern Sumatra, so close the town of Dumai. The earthquake triggered tsunami waves which in a few hours hit several countries in south-east Asia, southern Asia and later in Africa. Waves reaching 15 meters in height were moving with a speed of a flying airplane and devastated coastal villages and towns as well as islands visited by foreign tourists. The tsunami caused the greatest destruction on the coast of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Smaller destruction was recorded in Malaysia, Burma, the Seychelles, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Somalia. The number of dead and missing amounted to at least 275.000 people but this is not the final scale of the tragedy because millions were left homeless and 150.000 were infected with serious diseases. It was calculated that that tsunami was the third most powerful in history of the released energy was equal to the force of 22.000 nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima. Apart from that waves moved 5.000km into Africa still causing damage and killing people, although Indonesia was affected the worst.
At this point I reminding myself all those people who I met and all the poor, laughing children who are most likely dead. As I mentioned earlier the tragedy occurred on December the 26th and I left south-east Asia on December the 22nd. It was so close…….