A Travellerspoint blog

That's not Turkish coffee, my dear

My first glimpses at Istanbul

0 °C

I was excited to use one of the few Turkish phrases that I've learned so far when ordering coffee (much needed after my insomnia) for my new friends and I. So I asked for it "sutlu", with milk but quickly got the response that I might as well get Nescafe, since Turkish coffee is NOT served with milk. Whoops, one of the many blunders I will make while trying to navigate this country. The Turk kahvesi that I did get, the right way, was yummy but small and strong, with grinds on the bottom, you can even read your fortune in them, like tea leaves.

I arrived in this lovely city Tuesday night. My first impression was amazement at the sheer size of the place, along with the traffic. Major grindlock combined with pedestrain mayhem, people running into the streets to wipe windshields and sell pretty much anything. I'm staying for the time being in a "lojman", kind of like a dormitory but it's in an old apartment building and I have my own room. There are two floors of guys and two of girls, and both sexes are restricted to their floor. There's a common room upstairs with a kitchen, TV room nice roof deck/balcony. I was up at 4 this morning and basically gave up on sleep so I snapped some photos up there early.

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A couple from California, Brandy and Pat arrived the same day as me. Brandy was also suffering from insomnia and was out on the deck early so she dragged Pat out of bed and we all went for coffee. They had to deal with some logistics so I took off on my own to explore near the waterfront. As I was taking pictures, a boy of about 10 or 11 was asking me, I think, if I w anted to go swimming. I tried to figure out what else he was asking me and this led to an hour or so intensive Turkish lesson. This kid did not go easy on me. He was drilling me, holding up fingers and I had to yell out the Turkish numbers, then he was pointing to stuff and had me repeat. He also wanted to know if I was married. I told him he was hired, but I don't think he got the message. An hour every day with this kid and I'll be fluent in Turkish in no time :)

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I met Karen, the director, at 4 today to go see the school and meet some of the staff. The school's a 5 minute walk from the place I'm staying so it couldn't be more convenient. I'm just not sure about the cleansiness of the lojman and the fact that there's a curfew. Some nights it's 4 am but still, I don't like the principle of it :P

Posted by jhl5006 12:38 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Kuala Lumpur

my last stop in Asia for now...

Selamat Datang ke Kuala Lumpur!

That's Bahasa Malaysia...the Malay language. Fortunately for me though most people can speak English. It's also usual for people to speak 4 or 5 languages. Some Chinese Malaysian guys I met could speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, English and another dialect of Chinese. It puts me to shame that I'm only fluent in English....

KL doesn't have a lot of big famous sights but what I liked was the multicultural feel of the city. The biggest groups are Malay, Chinese and Indian. There's a big Chinatown and a Little India. You feel like you're in Beijing on one street and then a few meters down you've arrived in Mumbai.

I met Carl at the hostel I booked on Saturday night. Carl and I both worked in Prague last year and he happened to be traveling in this area at the same time as me so we got to hang out for a couple days.

The first night Carl and I and a couple English travelers and Chinese guy went for a walk to check out the Petronas towers, the city's most famous landmark. It used to be the tallest building in the world until 2005. Now the tallest building is in Dubai.

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After that, Carl tried one of the local specialties---frog. Clearly,I refrained.

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The next day, Carl and I and the English girl Rachel and two Dutch guys we met at breakfast, went to the KL Bird Park, the biggest aviary in the world.

On the way we saw the National Mosque. Malaysia is a Muslim country so there are lots of mosques in the city.

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KL Bird Park:

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There were a few times that we got caught in monsoon-like rains. It would be really sunny and all of a sudden downpour. Here's me and Carl after getting caught in one of them. We tucked into a Chinese restaurant to grab a beer and wait for it to clear up.

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Now it's time to head back to the States. My flight leaves at 12:30 am. I have a 6 hour flight to Beijing, a 6 hour layover there and then a 13 hour flight to NYC...fun! But I'm excited to be back and recharge my batteries, see my family and everyone else I miss back home! See some of you stateside soon!

Posted by jhl5006 00:29 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Scaredy Cat

Yes, that's me. Recently I've been really afraid of flying and heights....but the cable car we went up in Langkawi was worth being scared. The cable car brings you up over 700 meters above sea level to get a great view of the islands. Giulia had to deal with my nerves on the way up.

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Giulia left Langkawi on Friday and I was sad to say goodbye. She's gone to London to be with her boyfriend and look for a job. Who knows, maybe I'll be in Europe soon so I'll get to see her again. I left for Kuala Lumpur on Saturday evening. My friend Carl, from Perth, Australia saw that I was in Malaysia and he was in Singapore so we planned to meet up. He's traveling in Asia for a little while before heading to Beijing to look for a job. Carl and I met in Prague while I was working there last year. We shared a flat during our TEFL course. It's always great to see a familiar face while you're on the road!

Posted by jhl5006 23:52 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Catfish Eagles and Sisha

Langkawi Part 2

sunny
View Dali, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Malaysia on jhl5006's travel map.

Yesterday we took a boat ride out to some smaller islands.

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The first one had a freshwater lake in the middle of the island that you could walk to and go for a swim. This island had tons of monkeys living on it, some black ones that I've never seen before. Then by the lake you could stick your feet into the water for a "massage" by a swarm of catfish. We were more squeamish than relaxed but it was a cool experience. I think they were biting off the dead skin cells from our feet. Yuck.

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Then we took a ride to another island where wild eagles circled our boat and came swooping down for a feeding. This was great to watch!

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The last stop was an uninhabited island with crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches :)

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On the boat with us were a group of Malaysian Chinese guys on holiday from Kuala Lumpur. They were a cool bunch and we got some drinks with them after the island hopping at our favorite bar on the beach, Babylon, that we were at a couple nights ago.

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It doesn't get much better than sitting in the sand on the beach during sunset with good company and good music. We were happy girls :)

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Posted by jhl5006 22:41 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Langkawi

Hello from Paradise!


View Dali, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Malaysia on jhl5006's travel map.

Ok so maybe our room is a little dingy, we can't afford the Four Seasons Resort on the island, and maybe we have no air conditioning and have been bitten alive by mosquitoes at night in our room, but I still feel like we're living quite large here in Langkawi, Malaysia.

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Friday night, just before midnight I flew to Kuala Lumpur to catch a connecting flight to Langkawi island, off the west coast of Malaysia. I had to wait 6 hours in the airport after arriving from an overnight flight from Chengdu. I had a good few hours of people watching in the airport. Malaysia has a really interesting mixture of people. The majority are Malay Muslims at 50% , 25% Malay of Chinese descent and 8% Malay Indian. Upon arrival, we were reminded that if anyone was smuggling drugs into the country, they would automatically get the death penalty. Later on, I learned from locals about some other strict rules in the country. One of them being that homosexuality is illegal and another that if a man and woman are caught kissing in public, there will be mandatory jail time. Crazy right?

Giulia went to Guilin after we finished our contract in Guiyang and we met at the guesthouse on Langkawi island. The first day I was pretty useless, after not getting any sleep the night before so we hung out on the beach and grabbed a local Malay dinner. Yesterday we rented a motor bike and drove around to the north part of the island, stopping whenever we saw something interesting. We found loads of white sandy beaches, a hill which we hiked up and swam under some waterfalls and saw lots of wild monkeys. The sun here is severe and it's extremely hot and humid so we have to be careful about getting burnt to a crisp.

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I learned about rubber trees yesterday too. Apparently when you strip of the bark of these trees, the resin that bleeds from the tree turns into rubber. We saw loads of these, with little buckets underneath to catch the resin.

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We met an Italian guy traveling through and Giulia was happy to use some Italian. We met up with him for some drinks later in the evening after an amazing Indian meal (so much great, exotic food here!) and then landed at a bar called Babylon on the beach. You grab a table in the sand and sit around on mats, listen to reggae music and smoke hookah. It's a real chill place where I'm sure we'll frequent this week. Right now we're pretty beat from last night so we're getting a late start. We'll probably hop on the scooter again today and check out some beaches in the south of the island. Giulia will be here until Friday and I'm leaving Saturday for Kuala Lumpur. So lots of beach time this week. Gotta get used to the heat!

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Posted by jhl5006 04:05 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

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