Travel Diary

Welcome to the travel diary of John Shanchuk and Ravi Krishnaswami. Thrill to their adventures as they run screaming mad through Southeast Asia for three whole weeks!

>   Jersey City, USA - Tuesday, May 23, 2000 at 07:51:07 (PDT)
Well. It's 10:51 am.
We're packed, and somewhat ready for
the 14 hour flight. Cards, sleeping drugs, books, peanuts.

Next stop Tokyo.

Our itinerary, for those interested:
24 May--Arrive Tokyo, Japan
30 May--Arrive Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
05 June--Arrive Bangkok, Thailand
09 June--Arrive Panang, Malaysia
13 June--Arrive Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
15 June--Arrive NYC, USA

See ya soon. we hope.

- John and Ravi


>  Tokyo, Japan - Wednesday, May 24, 2000 at 05:35:56 (PDT)
Well we made it. Japan Airlines is the best airlines ever. Food was good and the stewardesses were better. Each seat has it own little flip up TV including a little game system, unfortunately not working today. The worst thing was that the economy class seats are much too narrow for this fat american ass. I was wedged in there and unable to move for 14 hours. Ouch. The green tea comes highly recommended though (Andy--you'd be in Tea heaven here--I just bought some yummy iced green tea out of a street vending machine--delicious, cool AND refreshing.)

Tokyo is great so far. From what Ive seen its an amazingly colorful city, overloaded with logos and advertising and ultra-style conscious, but somehow it seems all seems more fun. Anyway, we're gonna get dinner, then I'm gonna crash hard in our cozy hotel room. stay tuned.
- John Shanchuk


>  Tokyo, USA - Wednesday, May 24, 2000 at 05:42:05 (PDT)
We're hanging out with Raji, and I'm practicing my japanese. "Excuse me" and "sorry" seem to come in handy the most. And I can't figure out these weird phones yet.

Shibuya is like times square crossed with st marks place.... huge diamondvision displays next to noodle shops with only three tables.

jet lag is fun....
- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  Tokyo, Japan - Sunday, May 28, 2000 at 11:19:35 (PDT)
Hey everyone....
first , my sincere apologies if you're annoyed about getting spammed everytime john and I have something to say about our trip. Just thought this would be a nice experiment in cyberpostcards.

So its 3 am in Akasaka and John and Raji and I just had a huge korean barbeque feast. Oishi desu!

We spent a couple days in Kyoto, which is filled with Buddhist temples and japanese gardens. But of course the highlight of that trip was our last night in a hole-in-the-wall Okinimiyaki joint (japanese pancake/omelette filled with meat or fish), drinking with some musicians we met (a banjo player and a shamisen player). The place maybe fit four stools.

Although this country may turn us broke, its filled with really excellent people and the most amazing public transportation I've every seen. Long live shinkansen!

hopefully we'll post some pictures soon, but for now its time to get to bed.

- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  More Kyoto Pixs:
>  Our hotel, was more traditional styled Japanese Ryokan. Sparse, but clean and affordable.
>  the Hair Saloon. Go Engrish!
>  Around one of the famous temples we visited, were what seemed like MILES of these "grave" shrines, covering hills and valleys.
>  Around one of the big touristed temple complexes, Kyomizu, there were tons of school kids visiting on field trips from surrounding towns. I liked that each different school class was marked by different colors or kinds of hats. We had alot of fun talking to them, and were asking us a million questions. One class had an assignment to speak in English to tourists (us!) and write down their responses. This girl was a trip. She had us both cracking up. I think we were thrilled to finally be able to speak English to someone!
>  "prayer knots"
>  Despite what you might think, considering Japan's cultural link to the US, it was hard as hell to get by armed with just a japanese phrase book. This was the only restaurant around we could find that day where we could communicate at all to order. Ravi checks it out and it looks good.
>  WHAT?

>  More Tokyo and Kamakura Pix:
>  Hanging out with some music people (Kenta, and I forgot the other guy's name) that Ravi was introduced to. They were really nice and showed us around, inluding taking us record shopping to some of their favorite spots including a weird undergroundy place where Ravi bought a pirated copy of the Beach Boys' unreleased album, Smile.
>  Raji looking very tough-guy on the streets of Tokyo. He's a real softie though.
>  Of course we had to have a Sushi feast--so we went to this excellent all-you-can-eat Sushi place, and boy did we!!
>  A night out in Tokyo--at a place called the Clip Joint. Raji is a regular and we drank and talked to lots of the Patrons. We stayed VERY late. These girls lived in the Tokyo equivelant of Staten Island or New Jersey, and slept in the bar because public transportation doesn't run all night and cabs are prohibitively expensive. Raji, thinking of somewhere for them to stay...
>  We took a day trip to a near by tourist beach town, called Kamakura. We had a good time there, and I especially enjoyed seeing the famous "Big Buddha" which is a giant bronze buddha, cast in 1252. It was once surrounded by a temple, but that was washed away by a tsunami, leaving just the big buddha standing alone in the plaza. Afterwards we took a walk along the beach, which was scenic, but cold and windy. Raji got out his kites. We all got pelted by flying sand.
>  Sumurai Ravi and Ultra-John.
>  On our last day in Tokyo, we meandered around the city to some areas we hadn't visited, including Ikibahara which is kind of like Times Square, filled with LCD screens and electronics shops. Click here to play the Ikibahara "Where's Wavi" game! We were browsing around in one of the many electronics shops, when lo and behold, in came a group of Sumo wrestlers. I just wanna let you know that they are nothing like you I expected--no Hulk Hogan or the "Rock"--and not the big fat dopes people here are likely to make fun of. They were HUGE men, towering over everyone. I never knew Japanese people get so big. Also they were wearing brightly colored silk robes, their hair was slicked back in samurai-like top knots and they were all manicured and perfumed. I was pretty much in awe of them. They headed into the shop, and headed straight for the DVD section where they browsed the Japanese porno. I took some inconspicuous photos.


>  Saigon, Vietnam - Tuesday, May 30, 2000 at 20:59:52 (PDT)
Ground zero in 'nam. Its hot, humid and terribly crowded. We got in last night on a vietnam airlines flight from hong kong (actually the airline was excellent) and brought to this little joint called the Oriole hotel, where the people are insanely friendly.

We ended up hanging out with a girl from Richmond, VA, who decided to pick up and move here to teach English. The poor girl hadn't eaten in a week because she didn't want to venture out at night by herself (and from the looks of this place, I'd say that's a smart choice). So we brought her out of her cave, so to speak, and hit the "backpacker ghetto" neighborhood called pham ngu lao. Its a densely packed two blocks of cheap guesthouses, cafes, cybercafes, bars, and lots of Auzzie and Kiwi backpackers. Too many. And here's the weird thing: at least two bars were simultaneously playing a compilation of Police songs. I guess they really like sting.

So we had some vegetarian fare and talked to numerous folks selling zippo lighters, photocopied books, cheap paintings and massage. We went to a bar afterwards, shot a game of pool and observed some very strange expatriates.

Today we're going to check out the Reunification Palace(which used to be the headqurs for the South Vietnamese government) and some other noteworthy places in the city. Tomorrow we may rent some motorbikes.

oh, and as is customary in a communist country, the hotel proprietor must call the police every night and tell them our whereabouts.

see yas. internet is cheaply available here, so you'll be hearing more.
- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  Saigon, Vietnam - Tuesday, May 30, 2000 at 21:06:09 (PDT)
We made it.

This place is completely wacked.

It was pouring rain when the plane landed and everyone crowded in a bus that took us to the terminal. Went throught customs where we were supposed to declare all cultural materials for inspection--so as not to injure the Vietnamese morality.

The cab ride was insane, weaving between motorbike, cyclos, and bicycles. People wearing plastic bags. Kids playing soccer on the sidewalks kicking puddles.

We havent really seen much of Siagon yet. From what I have seen the buildings looked tacked together and looley stacked on topof each other. Surprising that most of this city can stand.

The people here seem really friendly, but dont really approach us unless they are selling something. If you even attempt the simplest Vietnamese phrase like cam o'n (thank you) they seem completely shocked (and amused at your unavoidably terrible accent) that you even tried speaking Vietnamese.

Last night we walked over to the backpacker ghetto and I was very surpised how many foriegners there were. Im assuming they were mostly American. I think we saw more white people there last night then the whole time we were in Japan combined.

It was a very strange scene. Its 11:00am here now and we still havent mangaged to venture very far from the hotel. I spent much of the morning trying to learn some Vietnamese phrases from the woman at the hotel. The whole staff has been very friendly. The coffee was tres bien.

Guess you'll be hearing more soon. We'll try to post some pix.

- John Shanchuk


>  Saigon, Vietnam - Wednesday, May 31, 2000 at 07:02:37 (PDT)
Hey. Im back. Most of you have probably been sleeping. We however smell of a strange mix of burnt oil and deisel fuel. We ended up hiring 2 cyclo drivers to take us around the city today for 2 dollars an hour. The two guys (I dont know how to spell their names) took us on a long tour around the city. We went to a market in Cholon that was squeezed into and around a colonial pavilion. We went to the Reunification Palace, which was the headquarters for South Vietnam in the American War. Everything was left as it was when the n vietnamese tanks rolled in and forced a surrender in 1975. The best part was the basement bomb shelter/bunker with control and communications rooms and maps where the operations for the south were carried out.

I've gotten much more acclimated to Saigon after today. Not quite the shot it was last night. We are meeting the two cyclo drivers back at the hotel at 9 pm (now) to go to a vietnamese club that has some local music.

Tomorrow we are probably going to get a car and drive (with our guide) down to the Mekong Delta and some towns around there.

all for now. see you soon.< - John Shanchuk


>  Central Highlands, Vietnam - Saturday, June 03, 2000 at 07:01:51 (PDT)
Hey there. Apologies for the lack of photos-- I don't think that's going to be possible.

I'm writing from a pretty awesome place-- its called Dalat, and its a small, french colonial city in the central highlands of Vietnam, about 6 hours north of Saigon.

The weather is much more temperate, due to the altitude, and the city is cleaner, friendlier and culturally richer than Saigon. Also, this is the reported home of the best coffee in Vietnam, so that might explain my current enthusiasm.

We arrived here yesterday afternoon and met these two motorcycle guys, Thiet and "Buddha" (he's got a big belly), who took us out on the back of their bikes today.

Last night, we made it to one of the many cheap internet cafes, but the whole report I wrote was zapped when the power went out (or according to the proprietor, it was shut off by the government).

So I'll back track for a sec and mention one of the crazier days I've had. On Wednesday, in Saigon, our "cyclo" driver (a bicyle with a seat in front) Myung arranged a trip down to the Mekong delta. He rented a van and hired a driver and brought this woman, and the five of us drove south to a town called Mytho where we charted a boat.

When we got out of the van, it was a real still humid heat, the kind you just feel all of a sudden on your clothes, even in the shade. We set off into the muddy delta waters around noon (it took a couple hours to get there from Saigon), and stopped first at what appeared to be a bit of a tourist trap, called Dragon Island. John and I still don't know the point of it was, other than souvenirs, but no other tourists were there. So we continued on and stopped at a coconut candy factory. This place was actually really cool-- just a mudhut on an island with vats of this stuff and a whole bunch of people assembling these little buttery candies. We also got to try some local banana wine, which was incredibly potent.

We returned to our boat and took a turn into a narrow tree-covered channel, the kind you only see in movies. We finally stopped on this island and walked to a pretty sketchy looking outdoor restaurant, where the menu had about six items, all seafood.

We decided to order some grilled shrimp and a fried whole fish (don't know what kind it was). Let me tell you, this was the most amazing meal I've seen. The shrimp were the size of small lobsters, and the fish, well you'll just have to see the picture. The shrimp we simply disassembled and dipped into dishes containing fresh lime juice and salt, and with the fish, we made small spring rolls with the rice paper, noodles and leaves provided.

We made it back from the mekong safe and gave a myung a bottle of Gentleman Jack bourbon that John acquired at JFK airport, along with some money.

So today was filled with more cool stuff than I can type right now but I'll mention one thing: I helped a buddhist monk check email on his new computer. Guess there's no escaping.

Anyways, tomorrow I pray for good luck because John talked me into returning to Saigon with him via motorcycle (with Buddha and Thiet). I'll be fairly exhausted by the time we make it to bangkok.
- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  Da Lat, Viet Nam - Saturday, June 03, 2000 at 07:27:26 (PDT)
Oh booooy.

We're still tooling around in Nam. Miss you all. We've done quite a bit since we last posted a message. No way to hit all the details. But, I'll give you some highlights.

We got out of Saigon. That place is something to see but I had to get out of there. That place really is insane. Puts New York to shame for being noisy, crowded, and polluted. (and Bangkok here we come)

We took a long 7 hour bus  to Da Lat. Its kind of a Vietnames resort and honeymoon town. It was founded by the french 80 or 90 years ago because of the great (and very temperate) location in the central highlands of south Viet Nam. Its famous for growing lots of excellent vegetables and coffee. Lots of run down french colonial buildings. Its much easier to walk around here and enjoy the place. The people are great, especially the kids, who always run up and wave, screaming "heeelllllooooooo!!!"

Right off the bus, we met 2 motorcycle guides-the "Buddha," nicknamed because of his round belly and big smile, and Thiet, an ex-south vietnames infantry man who is really knowledgable about the area.

We spent all day today, with them riding around the area on the back of their motorcycles. Its an amazing way to see the place.

One of the most notable things we did was go to a hill tribe (called montagnards or highlanders) village. This place is on the tourist map, known as "Chicken Village" due to a huge (hysterical) stone chicken statue erected by the communist government for the people of this village--probably 4 or 5 hundred people. As the Buddha said, "these people are poor for money, but rich for heart." It was a pretty strange, wonderful and sad experience. Thiet took us around the village. He studied the minority peoples' dialects in school and during the war, when he worked with American soldiers to befriend and make allies with various hill tribes. He knew a lot of the villagers, especially the children. He brings them clothes and other needed goods from Da Lat.

The place was very poor. Mud and wood hits and thached roofs. No electricity or water, or anything like that. Thet farm on their land and in the nearby mountains. Flowers, vegetables, coffee, and fruit mainly.

A woman buddhist monk lives among them, making cinnamon and sandalwood incense and helping the village. It was pretty amazing to see how the incense was made. We walked into many of the huts and saw how they lived. Thiet told us about a lot of their customs and lifestyles. Hard to describe it all here and in a short time, but it was really eye opening to see it. It felt very strange to be walking into some of the shacks while old women cut vegetable and prepared food, two rich americans with cameras around our necks.

They other really interesting thing we saw today was a local eccentric know (fondly?) as the "crazy monk." The way I understand it, he is monk that lives alone in this old run down (but really cool) monastary on the old french district on the edge of Da Lat. He's sort of an Zen mix of Steven Keene and Howard Finster, painting thousands and thousands of picture/poems. He has become a bit of a tourist stop as he welcomes tourists to come in and talk and see his paintings. He speaks 6 languages fluently and some of many more. He is a really strange character, wearing paint splattered monk's robes and this really strange floppy hat. You have to immediately like this guy.

Locals and many buddhists are a bit resentful of him, because over the years he has become one of the richest people in the area from selling paintings and poems, which he used to give away. (He is supposedly saving up 30,000 dollars for a round the world trip to see all his friends.) And because he has completely neglected the upkeep of the grounds of the monastary. I think they even tried to remove him from the place once...

Anyway, we walked around and looked and took some photos. It was really pretty cool. The funny part happened when he noticed my digital camera. When I showed it to him and he realized it was for a computer, he said he wanted us to look at his computer! Apparantly he had just gotten hooked up with a computer and email/internet access (very rare in Viet Nam) a few days before, and he has no idea how to use it. He needed someone to do a few things for him (send email, edit some documents). He was very excited (and giggly about the whole thing. He asked if we had time and then led us off through the funky studio maze of the monastsry. Through really cool and wet overgrown gardens. Through a dark tunnel that might have been his sleeping quarters with his 5 dogs jumping around on us. Out into a ramshackle courtyard to a little shack that was the computer room! We took of our shoes to enter the computer shrine and we gave the monk a little lesson and some free tech support!

Never in a million years could I make that story up.

It was really funny. I loved the way he giggled at the modem handshake.

Thats about all for now. Gotta get to bed. Tomorrow, rather than taking a bus, "Buddha" and Thiet are going to take us on the bikes all the way to Saigon, about 300 km. We're gonna try to pack as much as we can in, and its going to be exhausting. You cant imagine what its like driving on the roads here!

Take care all. Wishing the best. John

- John Shanchuk


>  Saigon, Viet Nam - Sunday, June 04, 2000 at 08:48:36 (PDT)

Boy are we zonked. Rode with the Buddha and his sidekick Thiet all the way from Dalat to Saigon today--on the back of their motorcycles. It was a great way to see the countryside, but tiring--the trip took about 11 hours all together, with quite a few stops.

Tomorrow we leave for Bangkok. I am too tired to type must sleep.

Ravi says, "ditto."

- John Shanchuk


>  Bangkok, Thailand - Monday, June 05, 2000 at 07:22:51 (PDT)
We arrived in Bangkok late this afternoon. Lord have mercy it is hot. My body was in shock when I went outside this evening as the sun was going down. I felt like I would be unable to move--fortunately I was able to move, only VERY SLOWLY, to the annoyance of the heat-resistant Krishnaswami that I am traveling with.

Our hotel is amazing. My bed is wider than it is long so I am going to sleep sideways--thanks Bones for the recommendation! We are within a stone throws distance to some of Bangkok's most noteworthy tourist attractions, and since it is Mr. Krishnaswami's 25th birthday to day, we are getting ready to go out and celebrate.

This evening we took a walk down to the famous Oriental Hotel, on the river, a short walk from the hotel. Its an old colonial hotel and we had some simply excellent food and drink, and listend to a sweet little string quartet. So far Bangkok has been a shocking contrast to Vietnam with our luxury hotel and dinner this evening.

Guess thats all for now. Happy Birthday Ravi!

- John Shanchuk


>  Bangkok, Thailand - Monday, June 05, 2000 at 07:26:41 (PDT)
Still alive, and still seeing some crazy stuff.
Yesterday was really draining, riding for about 11 hours with many stops via motorcycle. We saw some boring and some interesting stuff, including mushroom farms, basket weavers, silk worm farms, coffee plantations and ducks in gas stations. Its hard to be on a motorcycle that long, but our guides did a good job of keeping it interesting.

So we flew into Bangkok this morning.... it doesn't seem so crazy and polluted after being in Saigon. Fairly modern, in fact.

In honor of my birthday (yes the big quarter-century) John and I walked down to the Oriental Hotel, which is probably the lushest joint in the far east. We ended up having dinner in the least expensive restaurant they have, which was still a bit of a splurge if you're thinking in Baht (dollars... well no worse than NYC). This place was definitely a slice of colonial times. In fact the original building is over 150 years old. The level of service combined the high-nosed-ultra-loaded snootiness of most of the clientele certainly made us feel like a couple of english chaps finding a little bit of civilization amid the savagery (please note the sarcasm). But the banana frozen compote in coconut crust topped with passion fruit coulis was to die for.

Well, no sense in wasting away behind a computer for the rest of the evening...

- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  Bangkok, Thailand - Tuesday, June 06, 2000 at 21:03:37 (PDT)
This is the most service oriented country I have ever encounted. I'm actually at an internet kiosk at the Bangkok airport, sipping a coffee, waiting for a flight to the island of Ko Samui. John and I decided on a whim to ditch the backpacker attitude and jet right out of here to the beach rather than taking an overnight train. It was incredibly easy to obtain tickets the morning of the flight, and we just saved about 11 hours travel time.

So Bangkok has been fun, although I would say we met more genuinely friendly people in Vietnam. The heat and humidity is pretty intense, and on both afternoons in Bangkok our sightseeing quickly changed to sitting in a restaurant slowly sipping a beverage.

Yesterday we checked out the beautiful Buddhist temple "Wat Po," which contains an enormous gold painted reclining Buddha. The highlight, however, was getting a traditional thai massage at the temple, where the artform is taught. No words to describe it. I'm sold. Amazing.

We also strolled around Banglamphu, which is the Euro-backpacker/ex-pat ghetto, which was actually a really neat neighborhood. We met a strange guy from South Carolina who's teaching English in Vientane, Laos, and wanted to know "whats going on these days in the states."

I think fatigue has set in, so for the next couple of days John and I plan on being in a little bungalow on Ko Pha Nga, an island which neighbors Ko Samui and gets less traffic. I hope they don't have computers out there...
- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand - Thursday, June 08, 2000 at 02:26:41 (PDT)

Long exhale.

God I think this is the best place yet. It certainly feels like vacation anyway. We ended up flying from Bangkok to a very popular island (Ko Samui) to save a 12 hour bus ride. Took a ferry over yesterday to Ko Pha Ngan. Rented a little quiet secluded bungalo that looks out over the bay of a deserted beach with an excellent view of the sunset (for 12 bucks a day).

Just over the hill on the other side of this pennisula (a five minute stroll) is party beach central. Lots of young Euros and Aussies come here, this place is apparantly famous for mushroom inspired full moon parties every month.

Anyway, we've done much relaxing and I cant bear the thought of leaving this place. I floated in the bay for about an hour today. I could stay here for months.

Think I'm gonna give up typing and go get another massage.

- John Shanchuk


>  Ko Pha-Ngan, South Thailand - Thursday, June 08, 2000 at 02:28:19 (PDT)
Okay, so someone sold me a "bango" lassi last night. Yikes.

This island definitely feels like vacation. We had to take a ferry
from the more popular resort of Ko Samui to get here. We're staying
on the quiet side of the southeast cape called Hat Rin. On the other side
is probably the most popular raver beach in South Thailand, home
of the "full moon" parties which draw internationally recognized techno DJs. Quite a scene.
Everyone on this beach is betw 18 and 28 years old, mostly brits,
germans and other euros, and frequently pierced or tattooed.
There's something of a venice beach feel, but its certainly quieter and the
water looks about a billion times cleaner. Its fairly green and clear, and very calm, so the swimming has been great.

Alright, I'm heading back to the beach now.
- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  Ko Pha Gnan, Thailand - Friday, June 09, 2000 at 21:46:03 (PDT)
We've met so many brits on this Island, you'd think it was the UK with a bit more sun. Sheesh.

Last night was the "half moon party," which basically meant that a bunch of the beach front bars cranked up the techno on their PAs and put candles out on the tables. Apparently everyone on this island has adjusted to the schedule of partying all night and sleeping all day on the beach.

John and met some Thai folks the day before that we met up with for some drinking and dancing last night. For 150 baht (thats about $3.50) you get a small bucket of ice, a litre of coke and a small bottle of really sketchy Thai whiskey (it has a bit of a rubbing alchohol smell to it, but mixes well). Not a bad way go. Our Thai friends clued us into that local deal.

One of the most hilarious things about this island is the amount of internet cafes and "playstation huts" around. And all of the restaurants show pirated American movies at night. Yesterday I sat sipping a pinapple shake watching "American Beauty" for about an hour.

Today's our last day in Thailand. We may motivate to rent motorbikes or maybe not. Maybe I'll go visit my friend Kob instead...

- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  Ko Phangan, Thailand - Friday, June 09, 2000 at 21:47:06 (PDT)
Ok, I keep loving everywhere I go, but I have to say that Thailand is great. (and SOOOOO cheap).
Thailand certainly warrants a longer visit, like 6 months--I will certainly have to come back.\

oh, what have we been doing. Mainly hanging on the beach, being baked by the sun. Being entertained by the locals.
I took a long walk yesterday down the deserted side of the island and saw about 10 people on a 2 hour walk. Really gorgeous bluegreen water and rocky cliffs and mountains blue sky and hot sun. You know, no need to go on...
But, tonight we leave for Penang. I'm sort of enjoying not going anywhere, but I have heard lots of great things about it. Thats pretty much going to be our last stop before heading to KL and flying home--yuk.

- John Shanchuk


>  Penang, Malaysia - Sunday, June 11, 2000 at 09:21:31 (PDT)
Now, Malaysia. Getting here sucked. Im zonked. We took a night ferry from Ko Pha Ngan last night. It left at 10pm and arrived in Surratani at 5am. It was a pretty cool ferry though: the whole 2nd floor was covered in mattresses and you could sleep.

The hell part was the "minibus" we took from Surratani to Penang. Basically a big van with 11 passengers and a driver and no shocks. I sat in the back and couldnt really sleep because if I wasnt consciously holding my head up every bump in the van felt like it was giving me whiplash. I've never experienced any kind of motion sickness, but around 3pm today, I felt like I was seriously going to get ill if I didnt get out of the van.

I dont like Malaysian customs. A little too fascist or something. There were 2 stop points along the way after the border crossing too, with army guys with M-16's. At one, they opened up the van door and asked for Ravi's passport (just Ravi's) and then handed it back and said "oh, you're Indian." I think they thought he was Arab (q.e.d. a terrorist).

Penang however seems like a great town. Very good vibe right of the bat. Very chill. Mello and friendly people. Really cool old architecture--old and run down, but not decrepit. We had dinner at a really good Indian restaurant. Penang is known for good Indian food, well, good food generally. Ravi and I are planning to be food tourists while we're here.

Our hotel (the Cathay, featured in the movie "Beyond Rangoon"--thanks again to Bones for the recommendation) is really great. Its a beautiful old colonial building with a really great lobby and nice rooms. A real bargain at $17 a night. Not to mention they have a "health center" in back, populated by beautiful women. I wonder...

We walked around the main part of town tonight, and down by the waterfront. Had a beer at the Hong Kong bar, populated by a bunch of British Isles Military types. (Damn those Brits everywhere everywhere!)

Thats about that. Gonna see the sights tomorrow, and then, ALAS, soon it will be time to return.
- John Shanchuk


>  Penang, Malaysia - Sunday, June 11, 2000 at 09:26:05 (PDT)
I was sad to leave Ko Pha Ngan last night. I think I could have stayed a year or two. The people were cool, the food was cheap, the water was blue. I took a walk yesterday wading through the deserted waters of the west side of Hat Rin Cape (the party scene is on the east side) stepping over all sorts of different coral and creatures that looked like eels. There are beautiful limestone outcrops which go right into the water. I had no desire to climb.

Last night I also had my new favorite thai dish: spicy coconut soup with chicken and lots of ginger. Oishi Desu! And the pinapple shakes...

Penang is neat so far. Fantastic colonial architecture. And Malay is a bit easier to pick up (what with Roman characters and many words adopted from English like "Teksi" which is taxi...) John and I are still considering renting motorbikes for the day. Its certainly cheap enough (like $6). Cheap way to die, I guess.

The rickshaw drivers are much mellower. They go away the first time you say "no thanks." And I was pretty impressed by the highways in Malaysia-- they put most american interstates to shame.

Well, as you can see, I use this space for my own useless ramblings rather than writing with that clumsy old pen.

- Ravi Krishnaswami


>  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Wednesday, June 14, 2000 at 02:24:58 (PDT)
This is it. I suppose this is my last entry--we're flying out tonight. We've been in KL for a day and a half. The train crawled here from Penang. Sometimes it just stopped in the middle of nowhere and just sat on the tracks for 30 or so minutes.

Not much to report. We met up with Ravi's friend Laila and she and one of her friends took us round and about the city by car, seeing some sites and sampling cuisine. We spent quite a bit of time doing a little souvenier shopping. Trying to spend all our Ringit.

But thats about it. Our plane leaves tonight at 11pm. Get to Tokyo at 6am. 6 hour lay over. Then the big flight back to New York. I think we get in at about 12 noon on Thursday, so I'll probably see a lot of you suckers after work.

All I can say now is that I dont want to leave. I guess I'll just have to start planning the next trip. Anyone wanna come along??

Hope some of you have enjoyed the Travel Diary. Others, sorry for all the extra crap in your email.

Looking forward to seeing everyone. See you stateside.
- John Shanchuk


>  Narita Airport, Japan - Wednesday, June 14, 2000 at 19:15:13 (PDT)
Okay, signing off from Asia. Im very sad about leaving. Malaysia was quite fascinating. ]
Those folks like to shop! KL reminded me of a newer American city. Yesterday we we went to
the top of KL tower with Laila and hit several shopping spots before taking in a traditional Malay
music performance, which featured a pretty good Shenai player.

Malaysia is probably the closest thing to the states on this side of the planet as far as quality of life.
We ate some excellent Roti Canai and Dosais, and I generally liked the Indian food
better than the Malaysian food. We also tried quite a bit of street food, including something that I can best describe
as deep fried fish jerky. Yikes.

So I think Im pretty out of it right now, and I havent even made it onto the twelve hour flight yet. John and I figured out that
we will be flying with the earths rotation, which means that every minute will be like two minutes, so there will be about half as much
darkness tonight. Make sense?

See you all in the states.

- Ravi Krishnaswami