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San Francisco, United States

My journey started around the end of April. It was one of those lazy weekend days, barely past noon on a Saturday and blue skies sunny outside and I wasn't feeling like doing shit. Despite my bodies will I motivated myself enough to head over to the Mission District in San Francisco.
- meeting at medjool
- didn't like job
- casey liked my skills and mentioned a job at the collective
- got me thinkin about joining
- a week later I quit my job

- Packed all day, left 3:30
- Arrived in Reno about 8pm
- Mexican and beer
- Reno is like a wannabee Vegas
- Latins and white trash
- Bar and travel talk, politics
- San Severino
- Breakfast, nutella

permalink written by  chris on March 29, 2006 from San Francisco, United States
from the travel blog: A global search for a meaning
tagged SanFrancisco and CouchSurfing

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Arrived in China!

Guangzhou, China

Well we got our Chinese visas yesterday evening and got the bus from Hong Kong to Guangzhou today. We even did it the brave, cheap, confusing way by getting on the bus at the last minute, at the more Chinese end of town where all the destinations were only in Chinese characters... but only had to pay HK$80 instead HK$190, which we'd have had to pay if we'd booked the more touristy bus in advance.

So far our experience of Guangzhou has been excellent, especially after a few people in Hong Kong warned us what a dangerous place it was. The bus stopped at a bus station outside the town, but our ticket said the stop was Guangdong Guest House, which we thought we had established was in Guangzhou when we bought the ticket at the bus, so we did not get off there. While we were parked and other people we getting off, a woman standing by the bus luggage compartment started to wave at me on the bus, and point to the compartment, shaking her head and waving no to someone. Obviously someone was trying to take my bag off and she recognised it as mine and warned me. By the time I was getting off the bus some other nice people had got involved and rescued the bags. That was nice.

Then there followed a good half hour of anxiety as we worried whether we should have got off there after all, but what little communication we were able to manage seemed to suggest that we were still ok for our stop, but I was imagining that we'd be dropped somewhere well beyond Guangzhou with no way of getting back, since the ticket did not say where the Guest House actually is.

The next stop was Guangdong Guest House where the driver seemed glad that these idiots were finally getting off his bus in the right place. Although it is called a guest house it is in fact a very large and posh looking hotel. Our mission was to get a chinese sim card, contact Pietro, our first couchsurfing host, and somehow work out were we were and how to get to him. We do not have a China guidebook, and oversight we should have corrected in Hong Kong, where all the hostels were selling the guides you can also borrow; this did not occur to me until we were on the bus.

On the grounds of the Guest House, just where the bus had stopped there was a small travel agent, so we tried there for a map. Bingo! A person who can speak a bit of English. We managed to get a map, and rough instructions for getting the metro to the area where Pietro lives. The guy in the travel agency was really helpful, and I was already starting to like Guangzhou people and think that this stuff about it being dangerous was nonsense. So we set off towards the metro, looking for 7/11s on the way, where Pietro had said we should be able to get a sim.

A couple of streets along we spotted one down a side street and headed in. It did not seem like the sort of place where people would speak English so I got out my Cantonese phrase book (almost useless without being able to hear what the different tones should sound like) and practiced. Luckily the tones involved were high-rising, and high -- the two it gives examples where similar sounds are produced in English. I think we communicated. I think she said "no we don't have any sim cards".

So we headed across the street to get some food at a little takeaway / sit-in restaurant. We hadn't yet eaten that day because we'd been in such a hurry to check out then get to the bus, but it was already about 5pm! It wasn't obvious how the eating place worked, where you order, what was on the menu, or anything! So I walked up to a woman sitting at a desk, but it could have been just where you pay when you leave. She sensed my cluelessness and very deliberately ignored me. After a minute of hovering around I gave up and sat down. Amazingly a young guy came up to our table and said "do you need some help?"

He put our order in for us (it was the woman at the desk he gave it to) and then sat and ate with us, speaking about what we were doing and what on earth we are doing in this town where no tourists come, but particularly this area, where they never see tourists. I told him our plan, and he helped us get a sim card, helped us get the metro, gave us his number and said if you ever need a translator just call me and I'll speak to them. What a nice guy!

By this time I'd been in touch with Pietro again, who said we should find our way to the Starbucks near the metro stop as it was halfway to his place; he would be there a bit later as he was giving a cooking lesson at the moment. We found our way there and just sat down for a couple of hours, glad of the rest after a slightly frantic day. Eventually Pietro turned up and took us to his apartment. What a lovely place! It's huge, especially after the little box we were staying in, in Hong Kong. He also seems a very nice guy, very relaxed, and who seems to really enjoy hosting people. On the first shot the couchsurfing has certainly worked out well. More of that to come I think.

Anyway, must go an do something (I'm actually writing this the next day, and we've not yet had our dimsum for breakfast). If anyone wants to call or text, my phone number in China is +8613026893295.

permalink written by  The Happy Couple on January 21, 2009 from Guangzhou, China
from the travel blog: Michael's Round-the-World honeymoon
tagged China, CouchSurfing and Mobile

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Hooray for Malay!

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

So begins backpacking/busing up the Malay Peninsula to the ultimate destination (and where I start my semester abroad on the 23rd) in Bangkok. Malacca for 2 nights then one in Kuala Lumpur.

Malacca is known as "The Historical City" because of its rich heritage involving being taken over by first the Chinese, then the Portuguese, then the Dutch, then the British...if that is something really even to brag about.

I was able to see the entire city in a 2hour run around in the morning and to the best of what I saw, its a pretty drab city. Lots of small museums and some old buildings, but otherwise the city is fairly dilapidated and impoverished with few Western tourists. A good proportion of population in Malaysia is Muslim, as is evidenced by a number of Mosques and a large Islamic heritage Museum, shown to the right.

I love exchange rates! I was able to stay in a hostel (actually Malay family's spare bedroom) with two Canadians from Banff for $5 each per night, great deal. One surprising thing is that although food and rooms are incredibly discounted in Malaysia, beers and hard alcohol are still expensive, and roughly equal to what you'd expect to pay in the US. In fact it is much harder to find liquor in Malaysia; I speculate this is due to government taxes on the sale of liquor because of the high Muslim population.

We found this out during our (the Canadians and I) Friday night out in Chinatown. A pitcher of beer for $12! Chinatown is the one happening part of the town, and receives the largest share of tourists who come mostly from China. It is very dense with shops and people selling things, and highly decorated with these paper red balls ) for the Chinese new year. Friday night was very crowded on the main promenade (walking street) in Chinatown; Sellers on the each side of the street hocking their cheap toys/sunglasses/hats/food/desserts/etc, Malay teenagers were walking with their girlfriends, families dining in the restaurants, tourists ogling at the sights, and crowds watching various street performers, singers and otherwise.
The picture above is of a me and Ms. Canada with the McDonalds Mandarin, get a picture with him and get a McDonalds token of good luck for the new year. (Mandarins are what the Imperial Chinese ruling-class and their silly dress is their traditional high-class clothes). I would wake up the next afternoon and travel 2 hours north through Kuala Lumpur, where I would have to take the plane the next morning to Bangkok. I stayed on the couch of some friendly Finns (pictures below) and luckily made it to Bangkok (and am loving it) despite a scare of waking up and realizing I had absolutely no money to make it to the airport. But that story next post, all this writing has made me tired, and I'm off to get a $10 2hour massage, and maybe a $1 fruit smoothie as well.

The Chinese use these red paper balls as symbols of luck and fortune, typically meant to be used at the beginning of something such as the opening of a new store or a new year. They are used very liberally though, and can be found in many shops, new and old, and many times hang year-round in Chinese shopping areas. (Malacca)

This is a statue in Malacca of Mr. Universe 2008, who came from this area. It is right out front of what is his weight-training center.

When partying in Malaysia, shoes come off at the door. In many countries in Asia (maybe all, I'm not sure), it is customary to take your shoes off upon entering a residence. Thus, you can usually figure out how big a party is by just looking at how many shoes there are!

This is me posing with some Finns and a Malaysian friend on the balcony of the condo I "couchsurfed" at. I guess its the new cool thing to do, people offer their couches for poor travelers to stay at for a night or two all across the world. Although I actually met them randomly on the street, I have been formally initiated into the couchsurfing society. ( Couchsurfing.com )

And here is a picture of me happy I made it to Bangkok! Although I had a little scare of getting my checking card canceled because of a fraud alert, and only 8 Ringat (2 dollars) in my pocket, I managed to make it to Bangkok, story coming up on the next post!

permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on January 18, 2009 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged CouchSurfing, Malaysia, KualaLumpur, Malacca and JackCrestani

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