This is the third installment of excerpts from the travel diary I kept during my trip to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand in 1999. The previous posts covered Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Present day thoughts are in italics — after Penang I didn’t keep up with my journal very well, so the remaining posts will be mostly annotations.
Bangkok is full of amazing temples – it often seems like there is one on every other block. The Grand Palace was also amazing and truly spectacular. It is huge and covered in gold. Other than that though, Bangkok wasn’t too interesting. It is dirty, full of smog, and has terrible traffic. We went on a boat tour mainly through the outskirts of the city. The guide was an interesting lively guy, but he kept us how extremely happy and content the people that lived in little shacks along the river were, which seemed a bit of an exaggeration. They let us off at a snake farm where we saw an impressive show. Men grabbing poisonous snakes with their mouths, stuff like that.
I may not have liked Bangkok too much because I got sick during our first or second day there. Having an upset stomach while in the country with the greatest food in the world is a terrible misfortune, so I can’t have been too happy.
It was neat to explore the ancient buddhist temples and imagine what the lives’ of their safron robed monks were like. Many of the monks were very young – barely teenagers. It is common in Thailand for kids to spend a few years at a temple. How would that experience change the life of an American teen?
The Grand Palace was an incredible place. Since this trip I’ve been to a number of European royal palaces, and while they are obviously majestic in their own right, none have the level of detail exhibited by the exquisite carvings and statues everywhere on the palace grounds. Not to mention the fact that literally everything seemed to be covered in gold.
This is the second part of the travel diary from the trip I took with my dad to Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia in 1999. The trip was before my sophomore year of high school, and was my first experience outside of the US. In the first week of the trip we explored Singapore for a few days before going on to Kuala Lumpur and the Taman Negara rain forest. Once again, my present day comments are in italics. Now we move on to Penang, a Malaysian island once known as the Pearl of the Orient.
Days 7-8: Penang
I like Penang. It is a dirtier, older version of Singapore. There are tuk-tuks, trishaws and people on bikes everywhere. It isn’t a particularly beautiful city, but it has a real flavor of south east asia.
I remember taking a ride on a trishaw (basically a bicycle cart taxi) around town when we first arrived in Penang. Besides that, we walked everywhere during our trip. Since then, whenever I am abroad I much prefer walking around the cities that I visit. I use public transportation when the distances are long, but taxis are an absolute last resort. In most cases, I’d rather walk from point A to point B so that I can really see what the surrounding areas are like. Perhaps this habit comes from Penang where I remember laughing at the overweight american tourists in Hawaiian shirts and sun glasses being ferried around in trishaws. It seemed like they spent more time inhaling the exhaust from the cars and motorbikes zipping around town then actually seeing what the city had to offer.
Today we have had bad luck. First, a clan headquarters that is supposed to be a very interesting site was closed for repairs. Then the museum my dad really wanted to go to was closed since today is Friday. After that, the restaurant we walked all the way across town for wasn’t at all what we expected and didn’t seem to sell lunch. Now it is starting to rain.
Our hotel room is currently covered in drying clothes. The clothes I washed back in Taman Negara did not dry at all due to the humidity [in retrospect this is somehow not very surprising]. Hopefully today they will make more progress. There are also lots of rats here, and dogs – the first we have seen this trip. Hopefully neither of those will end up as our dinner. Money changers are everywhere in Penang. They usually also sell jewelry and/or (oddly enough) used books. Actually, it seems that everyone sells used books. There was a place that sold “used English books and motorcycles”. Quite a market niche. Continue reading
I recently found the travel diary from the trip I took with my dad to Singapore back in 1999 (when I was still in high school). This was my first trip out of the country, and an amazing experience. To help preserve it, I’m going to repost bits of it here along with some of the pictures I have. I’ve added some annotations which are in italics. Enjoy!
Days 1-2: Singapore (Aug 13, 1999)
We arrived in Singapore at around 6:30AM after a very long flight (about 24 hours). Singapore is beautiful. The bus ride from the airport was spectacular, exotic trees lining the road, beautiful flowers, etc. Once you get into the city the trees start to disappear although that does depend on where you go.
While we were walking around we came to a Hindu temple where an elaborate ritual was going on. Drums, chanting, all that stuff. Next door was a Chinese temple which was also bustling – perhaps because it was Friday the 13th?
Our second day we continued to explore Singapore. We visited a “theme park” designed to teach Chinese mythology which was pretty interesting. However, it was pretty much empty, so I guess people aren’t too interested in learning that kind of thing. Afterwards we went to the Singapore Cruise center and then toured an old cargo ship. For dinner we went to the “Malay Village” which was disappointing because of both the rain and the lack of things there. We did have some good satay though. Continue reading