Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Travelling and Meeting New People

Today was the first meeting of all the volunteers. Today is definitely a better day than yesterday. I met 9 other volunteers who were all intelligent and smart; they came from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Germany, Canada, Australia and another Filipino, Kareen. We were asked to introduce ourselves, and mostly the people involved in this conference are of course either into the environment or tourism.

Before I left for Malaysia, I went to buy some Philippine souvenirs to give to the other volunteers. I went to Quiapo and bought 9 fibreglass carved jeepneys, and a Philippine flag pin for Kareen. I was so happy that I did this; it was such a good idea to give them something to remember me by. A jeepney that costs PHP 45 is not only just a remembrance but they would probably think of travelling to the Philippines! Not so bad for an investment for Philippine Tourism, eh? Everyone was surprised, happy, and were very appreciative of the gesture.

Since I’ve become a Mabuhay Guide, I've become even more intrigued with other people’s culture and also sort of obsessed talking about the history of the Philippines! “...300 years in convent and 50 years in Hollywood...and the Spanish just handed us over to the Americans, as if it were theirs to give...” relearning our Philippine history is one of the best things I have ever gotten for free.

I found myself asking my new friends about their country’s history: “who were your country’s invaders?” haha. Shehani from Sri Lanka told me their history in a nutshell, they were also conquered by the British and she said, that on the northern part of Sri Lanka there is a group of African tribe in which their culture are still very intact because when the British came into Sri Lanka they shipped the Africans to become slaves and when then Brits left, and they just stayed there (or were just left there). It’s amazing. I’ve never ever thought of travelling to Sri Lanka before but now, it’s a totally different story. This is one of the things why I love travelling or meeting new people...conversations like this is what I look forward to having.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Malaysia Truly Asia

I arrived Kuala Lumpur LCCT 3 o’clock this morning, when i arrived the airport, the vibe of the whole place felt like it was only 3 in the afternoon! There were so many people, and everyone seems to be awake. I was bombarded by hawkers!

I went out of the terminal and too the Sky bus that i booked online. I wasn’t sure from whom I could ask information from because Malaysia is so diverse. You cannot really tell who is a local. In one corner you’ll see a bunch of Malaysians, then some Indians, and Chinese; they could be tourists, who knows?! so I just went and approached a group whom I overheard was speaking in... Filipino.

This is my first time ever, officially, to be travelling alone. I am not here to meet anyone, I do not know anyone here, I am just here and figuring things out on my own. So... it’s pretty lonely. Haha. I found myself choking up, almost crying, ok, crying when I called up my sister Girlie this afternoon.

This afternoon I went to the Kuala Gandas Elephant Sanctuary. In here you can ride the elephants’ back, swim with them, feed them and take photos with them. Here is how to go to Kuala Gandas Elephant Sanctuary: Take the Monorail to Titiwangsa Station, go down the station to the other side to the Pekeliling Bus Station, look for KL Temeloh in ticket booth 8, the ticket costs RM 10.40 one way, tell the driver that you are going down at Lanchang. This trip will be around 1.5 hours. When you get down, you will see a store selling cellphones called HOTLINK. Owners are Chinese and were very helpful. It is very important that you tell them that you want to buy a ticket back to Kuala Lumpur because maybe by the time you get back; there will be no more tickets available. It is also at the shop that I got the owner to arrange me a taxi to go to Kuala Ganda, it costs RM 30, 2 way.

So when they did, they called on an old Malay driver with an old minivan. His name is Mr. Wam Ismael. He drove me to the sanctuary and became sort of my personal tour guide; although half of the time he couldn’t express himself and speaks to me in Malay, and I just tell him: I don’t know. HAHA. He is so friendly and really helpful (details below).

In the sanctuary, I took an elephant ride for about 30 seconds, this was mainly my goal today. I’ve always wanted to see elephants up close and personal. They are just so cute, they really do look like Dumbo (or should I say Dumbo looks like them), with the long lashes, big ears and everything. So Mr. Wam offered to hold my bag and I asked him if he could take my photos while I was on the elephant!

Here is the best photos he took of me on the elephant:

Here is a photo of the elephant swimming:

Here is the photo of me and the other elephants:

I did not expect to have finished so early, I arrived the sanctuary at 3PM and rode the elephant and everything (thank God I was there on time, because the elephant ride ends supposedly at 2:30pm) and I’ve done everything except swim with the elephants (which i didn’t want to because i had to go change, it’s a hassle). So I was done by 4:15PM. I was hoping to go back to Lanchang station so that I can catch the 4:30 bus instead of the 6:30 i booked. But when we arrived, it was already 4:45PM and then the 5:30 bus was already full and i have to wait for 2 whole hours before i can come back to KL. I was standing with Mr. Wam and told him, “oh! We didn’t catch thew 430 bus and now i have to wait for 2 more hours!” and just as I was saying this, the KL Temeloh bus just pulled up in across the street. He then went to the other side, talked to the driver and asked him to accommodate me right away even if my ticket was for 630!! He’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me so far in this trip! 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam here I come!

I am Malaysia-bound in a few days. I volunteered in the World Ecotourism Conference 2010 that is happening in Kuala Lumpur. This event was actually brought to my attention by my friend Vangie; since she knew that I was in the tourism industry, being a Mabuhay Guide and everything. This is a very good extra knowledge to have. I guess you can never have enough extra knowledge, right?

I mindlessly filled up the application, not really thinking that I’d get in to become a volunteer; and I found out that there are only 10 of us representing 8 nations that were chosen among the hundreds that applied! I am very honoured to have been chosen. Among the 10 volunteers, 2 of us are from the Philippines. I have never met her but with the age of the internet, anyone can be a stalker haha; and so I searched her name in facebook and sent her a message, she apparently is also a Couchsurfer!
Judging from the 3 common friends we have. The rest of the volunteers are students from other Southeast Asian countries, Canada and Australia.

After Kuala Lumpur, I will be going to Singapore to meet my friend Sandra, who lives and works there now; I am actually fulfilling a promise of going over to see her. I’ve been to Singapore before but it was as a tourist, now, well I guess I’m still a tourist but I am going to hang out with a local  Another person I’m going to meet up with is my friend Zach! I hosted him here in Manila about a year ago and then we travelled together in Zamboanga, so now it’s his turn to show me around!

To top it all off, my friend Diana and I are going to meet at Vietnam!!! Diana and I both decided that we will become not just great friends but travel buddies! I think a travel buddy is hard to find. It does not necessarily mean that if you’re good friends, that you automatically become good travel buddies. Diana and I made a “pact” that we’d travel once a year. So this year, Vietnam it is.