Sunday, July 30, 2006


Well Im back in Singapore. It's a bit of a late blog entry, since I'm standing 50 meters away from Gate C25 for flight QA something something to take me back home. I saw the free internet sign and I thought, why not. There's too much to catch up with so I'll just keep this one in the present tense.

Presently, I'm feeling pretty good. No end-of-trip depression to be seen at the horizon. The music in my ears is positive and my attitude is one of satisfaction, whatever the destination is. I've met with a couple more people at my last hostel, in a sort of last-minute let's still meet while we're open for it kind of vibe. Because where I'm going to tonight, we do not talk to strangers. Oh sure, we all dream of scenarios involving charming strangers and improvised urban adventures. -Let's ride till we hit the ocean, Barbie! -Oh Ken, I'll follow you anywhere.
Sounds familiar? Of course not. Besides, who in their right mind names his child Barbie? Seriously though. I miss that already. Travellers talking to eachother out of the blue. Oh well, change what you can and accept the things you can't. It's a choice more than a fact, and I know which option has my preference.

I'll say this trip has been about balance to me. Last year I redefined my norms. Wheter it is love, social skills or expectations out of life and myself, it was deffinitely about radical change. The following year took a lot of energy from me; re-adjusting to daily life. To adventures on smaller scales. Relationships moving at the pace of glaciers. Bad weather (do not undermine the effect of winter on one's enthusiam). I stretched the uplifting as far as I could through the ensuing months but the higher the flight, the harder the fall. Worked my way back to being an enthousiastic dreamer, an optimist and an adventurer. This trip has only concluded this. Set the new norms higher for another year. Steady energy. Certain pace. Constant openness to change and chaos. I know what I want and I know the path and I'm on it and right now it needs me to board on flight QA something something heading home.

Enters the Dice Man.



Sunday, July 16, 2006


Well I'm in Vietnam now.
I realise its been a long time since my last blog entry.
Ive been busy jumping countries like a trampoline.
Not a good idea, its hard to mee people when you're in a hurry.

Quick review then.

Cambodia was not bad at all. Too bad my only image of Cambodia is Angkor and Phnom Penh.
Both are barely a reflection of the real Cambodia, from what I heard. Very touristy, with begging kids selling postcards and hassling moto-taxi drivers. You spend your day saying No Thank You. And still that barely matches Vietnam. But thats for later. Angko was pretty impressive. For the anecdote, while Angkor was populated by a million of citizens around the year 1300, London counted 50.000. That kind of puts things in perspective, doesnt it. The way we learned history, not much was going on outside of europe. We discarded Asia's empires, from Siam to the Khmers and the Chinese dynasties in less than a chapter, before going back to the oh so relevant feudal system of the Merovingians. Anyway, I'll readily admit it: Tal is a racist. Yes I am. I don't like japanese tourists. I dont think of myself as superior though, just... let's say... more respectful to the man made wonders of Angkor and its 50 square kilometers of titanical architectures. But no, apparently Japanese people think the best approach is to photograph the fuck out of every stone. And I could show some understanding to that, if it wasnt for the way they tour around the archeological site in huge aircon busses. Most travellers rent a bike, or maybe a tuk-tuk driver for the day. But our Asian friends, they move around like fish schools. Arrive at one temple and they take over the place like ants on a chocolate cake. They'll shout at eachother from one temple tower to the other. Pose in front of temples like ad-people selling you a new house or a trip to the bahamas. Both palms held to their right, saying "You wanna buy? Call now for your vintage limited edition piece of Angkor !" Anyway, one morning I woke up for the sunrise and went to this temple, Ta Phrom which isnt a good place for a view of the sun rising, but that means you have it for yourself. And since its the only temple where they let the trees grow through the stones, their roots finding their way in every crease of the temple's wall, its pretty surreal and as peaceful as it gets. So that was Angkor.

Then to Pnomh Phen where I met a bunch of very cool people. Funny how it is with the people I clicked most that I spend the least time. This one guy Andrew I met only for one night though I knew this was my kind of fellow traveller. Too bad but emails and maybe a soon visit to England and who knows. With Hannah, John, Izzie, Stacy and Mac, we went volunteering in a village 70 km outside of the capital. Just for two days. We went there full of positiveness and motivation, but we left pretty grim. The guy running the organization was barely organized. We thaught english to kids, but there was no continuity, no program, no idea which kid had had which lesson or how much they could speak. It was a start-from-scratch every lesson again. Pretty frustrating. And when we found out that the 6 dollars we paid for accomodation, all went to the cook, that's when we gave up. If you'd travel in Asia you knew there was no way three meals could cost 6 dollars. Not the meals we got, not in Asia. We even sat down with the owner and estimated the price of eggs, vegetables, rice, meat and spices, and the numbers didnt add up. Wheter the cook was ripping off the owner, or the owner rippins us all off, or whatever... But knowing that not a single penny went to the children, or schoolbooks, or pens or dictionaries or whatever, its still painful. I dunno...

Then I jumped to Vietnam. Its pretty cheap here but every local hassles you to take their tuk-tuk, to buy their chewing gum, their postcards, their home made breads. And the worse is, they sell books. New books. They simply photocopy bestsellers and sell them. I mean photocopy the way we do at home. Take the book, scan the page, print. What you get is a cheap tissue of pages too white, too clean to be anything but fake. Clinically fake. Books like Catch 22 or the Alchemist, surgically fake. Painful even to look at.

Right now Im in Na Thrang, a beach-diving spot on the east coast of Vietnam. It seems I grossly underestimated the distances of vietnam. Im looking at several 12 hours bus trips through the country. That aint' a fun perspective. I got to the point where I look at the map, count the kilometers, remember how long my last bus trip took, and I go 'Oh fuck'. General fatigue and not very meaningful encounters makes me wanna move less and less and just relax somewhere. Except Im on a tight schedule. Gotta be there by that date. Catch a flight back to Singapore. Then back to Belgium. Then be present at my summerjob on the 1st. Too much action and not enough time to know where Im headed and how I feel about it. Need to sit and think.

Time's up, before they charge me the whole hour of internet access.
Tired of arguing about worthless amounts of money that do mean alot for a traveller on a shoestring budget. But make the Vietnamese people who still have a bad taste left by the Americans in their mouth, understand that. Oh well. Can't complain, I'm travelling my ass off.



Thursday, July 06, 2006


A couple of FAQ brought up to date:

How old is Tal exactly?
Today Tal is exactly 21. He wishes himself a happy birthday, though attaching little value to the specific date. Still, Tal has treated humself to a more than satisfying Thai massage, even though it hurt from time to time. Our protagonist found himself amazed at the wisdom of these masseuses, who seemed to know exactly where to press for instant pain. It was, all in all, a very relaxing experience.

Where is Tal right now?
Right here.

In Bangkok, Thailand. More precisely on Khao San Road, the never sleeping always busy beehive where backpackers are more like ants and everybody appears to be going somewhere, still rarely they leave this one particular street that has everything to offer.

Wait a minute, hasn't he been here before?
Yes. 2 years ago. With his best friend from South Africa. It is in fact a tear-jerking best-seller-story of two friends separated in their early years, only to be reunited 10 years later in a foreign country. Tal's first acts on Khao San Road were to retrace the same paths used before. Checked in at the same hostel, looked for the same cafe, ordered a lemon-mint juice and spend some time at the bookshop. Ony once the ritual was comleted, could a new page of history be written.

Where is our hero heading next?
To Angkor Wat, Cambodia, where the renowned temples of ancient Siam await him. It seems the journey will take him the whole day, of which the second part will be done on the back of a pickup, hopefully rain excluded.

Aything else?
Not much. I'm glad I'm out of Malesia. Simply can not feel comfortable in a country where they pray five times a day, chanting words not exactly friendly towards the infidels. As towards the jews, well history speaks for itself.

That's it for today. I'm off to bed, tired of the long train ride (22h) between Penang (Malesia) and Bankok (Thailand)



Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pehrentian Islands

Im actually back from the Perhentians.
What is it with islands and everybody being asocial?
Not that I spent 4 days alone in a corner, but still.
Somehow people barely nod to eachother.
My explanation is this: you find yourself at a place where tourists form 98 percent of the population. The meager 2 percent of locals are tending shops and serving you food. Maybe you're lucky enough to have a fishing village somewhere. And they're clever enough to stay the fuck away from the beaches turned into diving factories. And still. The Pehrentian islands aren't what I expected. Far less developped than Koh Tao (Thailand) or Utila (Honduras). That precarious stadium where the only roads are the sandbays between chalets and infinite blue liquid. Paths cross the island, with lizards the size of this keyboard to keep you company. This and the locals are still nice. They barely try to rip you off because they probably don't feel ripped off by foreigners. Yet. Hmm, where does all my anger come from. I had a great time on the island. Oh right, why people are asocial. Because the main beach is simply filled with foreigners, that you don't feel like a traveller in a far away country. You feel at home and you start acting like it. The way I don't talk to strangers in my city. Not on the train, not on the beach. Whereas when you find yourself in some hole called Penang and you're barely blending into the local Chinatown and nobody's paying any attention to you (thus continously nearly-hitting you with their car) and you're the only white guy sweating more water than you remember drinking; when you are and you see another white person and the salty lakes underneath their armpits bares ressemblence, then you nod and you smile and you ask where they're from or headed and if they're hungry and what they think of the local food. And they might be your next travel companion at least until your paths fork and you go on to new adventures.

And that's why Im more than happy to spend my days underwater on diving islands where you cant talk to eachother anyway (if you'd want to) and the fish are more interesting than the loser with his baseball hat waiting for the full moon party to start up in Thailand.
So I dived. Three times actually. The first dive was clumsy and I had trouble finding the right buyoncy and keeping my mask from filling up and stuff. But we still saw plenty of fish and eels and stingrays and even a small catshark taking a nap underneath a rock. The second dive was way better and I managed to use my oxygen sparsely and we spent 56 awesome minutes breathing in, breathing out, breathing in... your brain shifts a couple of gears down. You still have thoughts, but they barely ricochet somewhere far, far in the distant synapses that form your consciousness. It's like your always present thinking self is bypassed and the thoughts going back and fourth skip your own person. The way your stomach digests food without your attention. You think:
More up.
Equalize ears.
Further away, you hear bits of your own voice. Something like Did I... key to... left money... later.
It doesn't matter.
You're floating and everything is in its right place and the perfect soundtrack to this moment is eternal nothingness the way Buddha must have hummed it underneath the Banyan tree.
Ok back to reality. I dived a third time to a ship wreck. That was great too. Many more fishes. More corals. Bamboo sharks. Still haven't seen turtles. People go snorkeling and they see turtles. Guess I'll snorkel next time. Hopefully up north in Vietnam.

Amd now I'm in Penang. Another island but the way Singapore is an island. Just a big city that happens to be surrounded with far from paradisiac beaches. One big chinatown with a small district called little india. Little India inside China. Sounds like Nostradamus's prediction for the year 2066. The future isn't bright. The future is too spicy for me to digest and yes I went for a Mc Donalds this afternoon. Because there isn't something called the code of ethics for travellers. And nothing says you HAVE to eat local food for 35 days straight. The same way nothing says you HAVE to be growing your own brand of mushrooms between your toes. And you SURELY dont HAVE to climb Mount Kinabalu with Havanianas. So I had McDonalds. A local hamburger actually, called the Grilled Chicken Rollover and you can't find it in the Netherlands so I guess I tasted the local culture just the same as last nights chicken tandoori that kept me awake in my dorm bed wondering if spicy food really keeps mosquitos away or if its just another travellers legend. The bites on my left earlobe say its a big pile of camel's crap.

Anyway my iPod is recharged and I bought this great book called The book of the dice and I'd ready to face the 22 hour train ride to Bangkok even though I couldnt find anybody crazy enough to be headed the same way I was (without stops) and I should load my bag with food too. But the book. The book from the same author that fucked up my mind with The Dice man. The idea to start living your life randomly, dictated by the two little cubes already famous in casinos. Now a weapon against confined lives of routined encounters with daily matters. People, it doesn't take a flight to Singapore for that. Dice men, rise and lead the way to higher whims.



Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pictures part II

Cameron Highlands part II

Quick review of Cameron Highlands before I leave for the Pehrentian Islands. Its been said that internet is fucking expensive over there so I'll probably stay clear of the rip offs cafes for a couple of days. The lonesome junkie talking to himself on the beach, that's me in dire need of internet. 2mg Google. Liquid Hotmail. Little purple blog pills. Ugh, maybe I can find repentance in Malaria tablets. Sweet overdosis.

As I said, Cameron Highlands is just a collection of hills. Up the mountains. And a jungle, a mossy jungle (that means with moss included). Guided tours are available at Father's guesthouse but we're talking about a walk in the forrest here. I'll pass on the tour. Well yeah I do have better things to do with my money. Like internet, and laundry, and chinese food. Anyway me and Maoro the Italian guy and Peul the Czech guy went on a walk by ourselves. Well Paul was lagging behind cuz he's a semi-proffessional photographer and he takes about 13 pictures of every thing so he can select the perfect one later on. You know, the kind of people that care about F-Stop numbers and ISO levels and exposure milliseconds. Obviously not me. The hike was really nice but not that special since the forrest was so crowded and after having seen the first 362 trees, well I guess the next 8542 ones are pretty much similar.
We did see one bug though. Poor fella, we pretty much photographed the shit out of him. And he was barely coloured anyway. One does what one can. Then walked further to the already polluted waterfalls. The way Paul said it, it's barely worth a photo. Though seeing the clumsy japanese family climb down the rocks to pose for yet another serie of 50 pictures was nice.

Heading for the tea plantation up the hill was great. We got picked up twice on the way up and twice on the way down. Hitchhiking rules in these little towns. People no friendly. Never asked for even one ringit (which is already 1/4th of a euro). First a young guy who didnt speak a word of english. Then another who was bringing schoolkids back home. The local kids are so cool. They're often shy and sometimes huge fans of digital cameras and will pose for you in every power rangers positions imaginable. Up the hill we went where the tea plantation was already closed but the view where breathtaking and Paul was in heaven I guess. We left him there for his next round of endless picture taking. me and Maoro hitchhiked back downtown. First with a foursome of jeeps from a touring company. They were communicating with eachother by walkie talkie and the driver insisted I started a conversation with another driver whose face I never saw. Then dropped us off and we were picked up by a canadian guy who does consulting here on hydro-electric powerstation. Didn't spend one dime on tranportation nor touring that day.

Eaten indian food twice in a row and I think I'll have a break now. Told the shopkeeper we should see other people. He cried and then I cried but we're still good friends and he still shakes my hand like an old pal (and even though Ive seen him do this with other tourists as well I guess I dont mind :-). I had disgusting spaghetti tonight at our hostel and I guess I learned my lesson. The Naan bread at the indian restaurant is still the best thing I've put in my mouth since that godblessed bagel I had in Antwerp before I left.

Today I just chilled and we hitchiked our way up another hill to the tea plantation. The last guy to pick us up was so nice he brought us all the way up there. When the guard told us the plantation is closed to tourists after 4.30pm our driver spoke with him (they know eachother) and agreed on letting us do a quick tour inside the field of tea. Drove around, took more pictures, sat with the driver at some view point and then he drove us back to the village.

Tomorrow I'm leaving to the islands and you probably won't hear from me for another 5 days. I'm in for some amazing diving and partying on the beach and ranting about how everything is so damn more expensive on the island. Good fun.



Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cameron Highlands

First of all Blogspot sucks.
This internet blog website is so damn slow,
I get to Cambodia on a donkey faster than I get this page to load.
Dunno if they're gonna kick me out of their database now...

OK, let me tell you about Danielle. We started on a pretty innocent basis. I go to Singapore, she happens to sleep in the same dorm as I do. Fine. I leave her there, take my bus to Kuala Lumpur. Walk around, go up the KL Menara tower where you can get make some pretty nice pictures of the city. Somebody taps me on the shoulder. Yes. It is Danielle, together with Wendy, the other british travelling girl I met in Singapore. At first I thought she was one of those self-hating travelling type. The kind that complains about other travellers, all going to the same places, sleeping at the same places, and never leaving what is commonly referred to as the Gringo Trail in south america. Ze path. The one crossed by every traveller who doesn't go 'off the beaten track'. Like what, I come from fucking Holland, I consider some hole named Penang pretty much of the fucking beaten track :) But no, Wendy you see, she really connects with the locals. She takes a full month to see a country the size of my iPod. She stays a whole week up in every hole on the way until she knows the number of tiles at the Inn Crowd's bathroom. Wendy if you're reading this I love you ;) OK, so that was my first impression. But I decided to have a chat with her. I guess I get her point of view. She has time. She likes to meet people, local people, and get more than a feel of the place she's at. I can understand. But some of us have only five weeks to see SE ASIA, only one holiday a year, and no cash growing amongs the weed plantation. So yes I kind of breeze through a whole country. And no I haven't met the local chief's daughter. Hell, maybe I'm just pre-viewing south-east Asia. Maybe I'm just getting a taste of everything so that when I will have the time, and the money, I'll know where to go. Besides, isnt it my duty as a child of the beloved zapping-generation to just fast-consume travelling the way I'll multi-watch television and simultanously talk to people on msn and browse three websites at a time? Alright, maybe travelling is like speed-dating, and there are about 192 ladies I have to pay a visit, so no I can't stay for another month in Malesia cuz Ghana sounds like an foxy lady as well.

Oh I lost track of Danielle. Anyway, so she was there in Kuala Lumpur again. Now here I am at Cameron Highlands. It's up in the mountains where they have many tea plantations (imagine vast hillsides striped by neatly tended plants). Makes for great pictures. And it's really laid back. And apparently you keep meeting the same people there cuz guess who I saw coming through the door about 20 minutes ago? Senorita Danielle. She plans to hit the Pehrentian Island the day after tomorrow, just like me. Guess we're going together. And to think that I thought she was slightly bitchy when I saw her the first time at the hostel in Singapore. (Danielle if you're reading this don't strangle me in my sleep with my own socks please, I kinda got to like these socks) Well there you go, I corrected my prejudices twice already. See if I can keep it up.



Monday, June 26, 2006

Kuala Lumpur Pictures

The famous Petrona Towers at night...

Sunset seen through the binoculars at the Menara tower
(Didn't think that picture would work, actually ;-)

More modern architecture, KL is really ambitious...

Ze Petrona towers at daytime.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

SingaLesiaThaiBodia and 'Nam

First things first,
I changed my plans.
Very exciting cuz I had to commit to a date.
Rendez vu at Honoi Vietnam for an inland flight back to Singapore.
Guess I'll have to change my blogs name now.
Too bad, I really liked the sound of Singalesiathaibodia.
Now its going to be crappy sounding SingaLesiaThaiBodiaNam and back.
Argh, the whole thing is ruined... ;-)
What else, please, if you're one of the people Ive met on this trip,
Im an idiot and I forgot to ask you email adres. Please contact me and give me yours, Im simply an idiot. You can also leave a comment on this blog. Preferably something starting with 'Hey dude you're the coolest person...' You know the drill. Seriously though, contact me.
Vaughan, Sara (from Spain), Sara (from Germany), Crazy English Queen of Cancers (should have asked your name), Stockings tattoo meditation girl, Justin, Irish guy.
You know the deal though, we can't promise we'll keep in touch, but minimum is
you can come visit and have a place to sleep in the Netherlands/Belgium maybe even Paris.
Looking forward to that.

Ok, other news. I'm now in Kuala Lumpur. been to Singapore, left yesterday night. Singapore is what Disney's wet dreams must look like. All planned, all ready for tourism and everybody speaks english. Don't ask me what there is to do in Singapore. Got no idea.
I've heard something about a fake island, a night safari, cocktails at some Raffles hotel, many many many malls for everything you could think of buying and the usual 7 Elevens.
The airport was scary. I landed on a Boeing 737 or some, I mean those huge planes with a second floor for christ sake. Got to the passport checking desks and there were no lines.
Not only that, I could choose from 5 different desks. It seems the way Singapore deals with people is overcapacity. I could have had the airport shuttle for myself if it wasnt for the australian guy and his vietnamese wife.
The backapckers place was everything you'd wish for. A good old portion of western comfort in the middle of an asian jungle. Toast and eggs for breakfast instead of squid with noodles. Friendly english speaking staff. Enters Justin. The man. I had belgian chocolates for him given to me by my belgian travel agent and friend named Karel who had been to Singapore in november and knew it was Justins birthday the 23rd and they're going to Madagascar together for the summer and I can see why Karel thinks they're similar and they're both just cool people :-) I liked talking to Justin so he could give me an insider point of view on Singapore. Seems its famous for its diversity in food. And prostitution. Didnt know that. It's so modern you don't expect it to have a sleazy neigbourhood or some. Surely not at the airport where even the free internet computers are empty and begging you to use em.
It seems Singapore is the Switzerland of Asia. No one has a problem with Singapore really. They're friends with everbody and such that they need to visa for most countries, pay no entry fee or get no hassle. I guess the night safari thing just conquered everybody's heart. Also, Justin scratched the backpacker's dream a bit off. Behind the friendly clerks are hard working people who DO have better things to do than clean up our cigarrette butts and magazines and dishes and toilet paper. And though we're just travelers enjoying our freedom, we're still kind of representing our countries and the impression we leave isn't always good. But I'll pay attention to that now, be extra nice to clerks and the local people and say thank you and try not to be rude or disrecpectful.

I tried meditation too but it didnt work out because the stockings tattoo girl was supposed to teach me and the queen of cancers but she seems to have forgotten that because at some point in the temple we wondered where she was and by the time we found her she was way past consciousness or something and I had to meditate on my own. As if.
I closed my eyes, breathed, tried not to fall asleep, focused on my nose or chin or something very not distracting and I barely managed to stop asking myself 'is this working?'.
So I just looked at stockings girls meditating and I couldnt figure out what she was doing so I left and went to chat some more about family guy with the irish dude and the english queen. Apprently you can take a free course of buddhism even in your home country. Something about not speaking for whole days and stuff. Hmm, maybe... I could give it a try. Nothing's too bad when you have your iPod.

Ok I'm really getting carried away here.
Quick summary:

Country - Malaysia
City - Kuala Lumpur
Plans for the day - Visit some caves and find an adaptor for my electic stuff
Slept at - Nighttrain
People of the day - Three canadian girls
Soundtrack - Arctic Monkeys and Donavon Frankenreiter
Lessons Learned - When the taxi driver says 'not worries', start worrying
Clothing - Red Allstars and white hat
Diarrouah - Zero
Gonorrhea - God no
Malaria - The doctor said I only need the pills for Cambodia, other travelers say I'll be dead by the time I left Malesia. Maybe I can get a burqa and walk around like the women; ambulant mosquito nets.

That's it folks,


Thursday, June 22, 2006

The great escape

Let's do this quick.
I barely got the time for you.
One hour left before the great escape.
Houdini style.

People ask me when and why and how and where.
Taking their hats off when they hear about my travel.
Requesting post-cards. That I travel safe. And call.
Don't Don't and Don't.

I'll keep it brief.
Packed slightly less underwear than I'll need in between laundries.
More money than I plan to spend.
An Ipod. Electric rasor. Immodium pills.
Condoms, six. Hat, one. Mobile phone, zero.
What else.

What this is, in my friend's words, is writing-exhibitionism.
Funny, I thought, hours much too late;
Ain't that what every writer does?

What this is, I don't know.
The big unknown and randomizing.
Happiness beig found in the small stuff and all that crap,
I say this is doing what I can while I still can.
While 2000 euro's need not be spent on car insurances,
gas bills and mortgage (whatever that is).