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Down UnderImpressions of Asia

On 26 November 2003 from Penang, Malaysia | comments closed

The last days Bet and I have been travelling together. Because it was a religious holiday (end of ramadan) she got some days off from work. Our days have mainly be filled with some sightseeing, much eating and a lot of relaxing. On Sunday we went sightseeing in KL (Kuala Lumpur), where Chinatown offers some great shopping opportunities. In the afternoon we got on the bus to Penang, an island in the North of Malaysia. We stayed here for three days, sightseeing the city, a Chinese clan house, a large Buddhist temple, Penang Hill and the beach. But our pace was pretty low, because the temperature is always above 25 degrees with a very high humidity, making even minor exercise pretty tiresome.

After having spent a few days in Malaysia, I think it is time to write down the first impressions. First of all: the food is just great. For the ones who know my cooking: in this country they specialised in rice with chicken. And the great thing is that I usually do not spend more than 2 euro for a meal with drink. However, there is more to eat than rice and chicken, although most main meals are based on rice or noodles. There is also a great variety of fruits, with some tropical fruits being my new favourites. Because fruits are so cheap and widely available here, fruit juices are also much more common and often freshly made. With all this new and good food to try, I am eating much more than usual, and even quite a lot of fruit. I guess this should take away one of my mum’s main worries.

The other impression I made so far is that Malaysians and Singaporeans love shopping, because there are so many huge malls in this country. The first times I went to these malls I thought I was in the USA if it were not for the fact that everyone was Asian. A great number of shops and brands are American, or at least western. These malls made me really realise the uniqueness of Europe. It is strange to see all these protests against globalisation in Europe, while the old continent itself has still maintained much of it old ways of living, where other continents are much more affected by American culture. But enough about this, since it is supposed to be a travel log, not a political rant.

Down UnderCrossing Malaysia

On 22 November 2003 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | comments closed

Yesterday evening (after last post) I waited for Bet in Singapore and we walked around the city a bit. I made some really cool night skyline photos of Singapore with a long shutter time and I will try to upload them asap. However, not every internet cafe allows this and internet connections here are pretty slow. Hope it will be better in Australia.

Today we (Bet and I) drove with a friend of hers to Kuala Lumpur, arriving in the late evening. Tomorrow there is some time for sightseeing the city (with the famous Petronas Towers) and we got a ticket for an afternoon bus to Penang.

Down UnderArrived in Asia

On 21 November 2003 from Singapore, Singapore | comments closed

The journey to Malaysia went pretty perfect. Because the Dutch railways were on time (who expects that nowadays?) I arrived at the airport 2,5 hours before my flight, and had to wait for 2 hours at the gate. Luckily Cathay Pacific has been a really great airline so far: no delays and I was very well taken care of during the flight (example: instead of asking “could you move your bag under the seat?” they said: “can I move your bag under the seat?” It’s the details that count…). I also had about 1,5m of legspace because my seat was at the emergency exit (and no one needed to use it). So with a stopover in Hong Kong, 14,5 hours of flying time and no sleep (I can’t sleep during the day), I arrived in Singapore, where it was really easy to find my way to Johor Bahru in Malaysia. In this city – just across the bridge from Singapore – I’m staying with Bet.

Today I did some electronics shopping in Singapore (512MB CompactFlash memory card for my digital camera and USB 2.0 reader for it). This place is really technofreaks heaven. I shopped at a 6-storey building with only electronics stores 🙂 Other than that, I just walked through the Muslim and Indian areas. I’m still a bit tired from the fact that I made a 32-hour day yesterday. But one more good night of sleep and I should be over my jetlag.

Down UnderMy backpack

On 18 November 2003 from Reuver, The Netherlands | comments closed

All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go

Because I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again

I just finished packing my backpack and daypack. I have not weighted them yet though, I am afraid that if I do that I will not be able to sleep tonight. I have never been good at packing light, although I did make an effort this time. I will let you know how heavy it turned out to be. Here is a list of most of the items in my backpack:

Things to wear
Large backpack (Nomad, 70 litre)
Smaller daypack (32 litre)
Sleeping bag (Nomad, 1 kg)
Lightweight Travelsheet (150 g)
Long trousers (2 zip off and 2 regular)
Wind- and waterproof jacket
Fleece sweater
T-shirts (1 longsleeve, 3 regular or polo)
Button down shirts (2)
Underwear & socks
Decent hiking boots (Mephisto)
Sandals (Caterpillar, too heavy, but I like them too much to leave at home)

Things to use
Towels & washing hands
Hat, sunglasses & suntan cream (Vision, factor 28)
Swimming shorts & goggles
Plate, cup & cutlery
Small medicine bag
Large toiletbag (too heavy, partly because of electrical shaver and toothbrush, but what can I say? I’m a technology addict)

Things invented
Compass (Recta, for worldwide use)
Pocket knife (Wenger, Swiss of course)
Flashlite (Maglite 2xAA & 1xAAA)
Digital camera (Canon Digital IXUS v3)
Mobile phone (Nokia 3310)
MP3 CD-player (Cenix MMP-CD20)
CDs with software & MP3s (Playlist: CD1, CD2, CD3, CD4, CD5, all CDs)

Things written
Passport (in a Russian cover)
International driver’s license
ISIC-card & frequent flyer card
Debit card & credit card (Rabobank)
Lonely Planets (Australia, Thailand & travel photography)
Books & magazines
Resume & copy of diploma
Diary & ballpoint pens

Down UnderGuido de Oz guide

On 17 November 2003 from Reuver, The Netherlands | comments closed

Click here for the full-size screenshotI am already proclaimed an “OZ-specialist-guide” by my travel organisation Australian Backpackers. And I have not even been in Oz yet!

Down UnderWebsite philosophy

On 14 November 2003 from Reuver, The Netherlands | comments closed

This website has been designed with speed and maintainability in mind. Speed means that the pages should be small enough to load reasonably fast on computers with a slow internet connection. For this purpose the graphics were kept to a minimum and the design is clean and sober. Maintainability implies that I should be able to update this website from any computer with an internet connection, without installing any software. This is important because I am relying on internetcafé to update my site during my trip. The easier the better.

To achieve this, I installed and configured two software packages:

Also, I have tried to make this site as much standards complaint as possible, making extensive use of CSS for the site layout (especially for the Experiences). However, this could mean that this site does not display very well on old browsers. In that case, upgrade your browser! Anyone still using Internet Explorer 4 or Netscape 4 or less should be banned from the internet anyway, because they are blocking internet progress. This site has been tested with Internet Explorer 6 and Mozilla 1.4, and works fine in these browsers. Some feedback is always welcome though, that is what the comments are for 😉

Down UnderI booked my flight, again

On 10 November 2003 from Reuver, The Netherlands | comments closed

I thought everything was going okay with the preparations for my trip. I got my insurance papers and some useful presents at my official graduation ceremony last Wednesday. But on Friday the travel agency called and they told me that Thai Airways had changed the conditions of my flight. With this ticket I would not be able to change the dates for free and I would not be able to change the city to depart from in Australia. This was one of the main reasons I booked my flight with Thai Airways, along with the fact that it is a Star Alliance airline, so I could get a lot of frequent flyer miles at Lufthansa.

After a weekend of thinking things over and getting my priorities straight, I decided to change my flight to Cathay Pacific. It is actually a better airline, and they allow me to take the overland route from Singapore to Bangkok on my way to Australia, a stopover in Hong Kong on the way back, unlimited free date changes and one free route change. Especially the latter was really important, since I don’t have a clue yet from what city in Australia I will depart. The price of the ticket also stays the same and I even got some airport tax back. Unfortunately Cathay Pacific sucks with regard to earning frequent flyer miles. Oh well.

Check my trip: a detailed online view of my trip. In short:
19 November 2003: Amsterdam – Hong Kong (1 day later) – Singapore
14 December 2003: Bangkok – Hong Kong – Sydney (1 day later)
09 February 2004: Sydney – Auckland
21 March 2004: Auckland – Melbourne
open: Melbourne – Hong Kong
open: Hong Kong – Amsterdam

I also got confirmation from the Australian Government that my Working Holiday Visa has been granted. I applied for it online 2 days ago. I love the internet!