June 30, 2005

Couldn't Risk It

I decided to try a smaller restaurant with just one local eating at one of the four tables. The vegetables on rice was really tastey, I enjoyed every mouthful until she brought over my glass of water. It was yellow. Almost the colour of apple juice, I'm not kidding. I decided to keep smiling, not drink the water, and believe if my food was made of that water, at least it's cooked. The other guy was eating what I had and he seemed fine. Then he asked how much Thai I knew. After I listed all 3 of my words, we all laughed and had a good broken conversation. He works security at the airport. She asked if I travel alone. Instead of the surprised looks I got in Malaysia, here I get thumbs up and "that's good!" responses. It was all fun until she came over and asked if I was going to drink my water. How do you indicate nicely that you don't want to drink yellow water? Automatically she turned away looking upset and pretended to be busy. I thanked her for the delicious food and she politely smiled, but I felt so bad... :( P

June 29, 2005

Kata and Karon

I had intended to go swimming today but the red flags were out on both Kata and Karon beach. Goh has a row of beach chairs that he rents out for 50 baht each. They had probably been full when he had been working on Dec 26th. He saw the water go out all the way to the small island in the middle of the bay which must be more than a km out. Thankfully he ran the other way and the wave was blocked from going any further than the road because the beach has a slope and is lined with trees. Karon wasn't as lucky and there were people and bulldozers out today restyling the beach and walkways. Today Goh had the time to sit with me on the sand, as the chairs were already swept off, but there was nobody to sit in them.

On Karon, I waded just to get a little bit wet. I was only in less than knee high and the force of the water pulling back into the sea was so strong I had to struggle for balance. The waves were about a metre high and the undertow about 1 foot. Imagine the waves 10 times as high with 10 times the strength coming in and then pulling back... I just started to understand how the water had been so powerful as to break through the concrete walls on PP.

I ate a delicous crispy catfish. It was cooked with fried basil leaves and sticks of peppercorns with a little bit of red chilies. This was at Natural Restaurant which is overloaded with plants and decorated with statues and violin clocks and goldfish in tanks inside a TV shell. A very romantic atmosphere for me and the mosquitos! P

June 28, 2005

Phuket Town

It was sad to leave what I had left behind, it's too easy to become attached to something you like and become comfortable with. As much as I love travelling and seeing new things, I think most people strive to find one place where they can stay put. Constant change and moving around is exhausting. Although, I think the stay on PP was just long enough for me to be in one place, but not too long that I regretted not leaving sooner. I left the little paradise-in-repair and had a not too rough ride West to Phuket. The sun was out, the ipod on, and I watched Phi Phi Ley get smaller and fainter into the sea and sky.

There is a market in Phuket Town where I bought 3 sticks of banana that had been sliced, grilled and then flattened. 1 was enough so I offered the other 2 to a couple of girls in uniform who had just come out of school. They hesitated at first, but when I passed them over, their eyes widened and the smiles stretched wide, they were so happy! I was so happy they were happy, it made me really happy :) P

June 27, 2005

Bye PP

I now have my Open Water certificate! Thank you, thank you everyone at Hippos!!! It was so comfortable being in your company over the past week and a half. It actually seems much longer than that, I feel this has been home for a while and it is strange to be taking off to a new city tomorrow. Pip and Jason, have a safe flight and best wishes back in England, Mr. Ha, thank you so much for your generosity, Mr. Ahn, the Japanese curry was great, Young Hee, good luck becoming a diving instructor, Dao, I'll remember the walk up the hill with the stunning sunset, and Bao, you are a fantastic painter! You made Phi Phi much more meaningful than I ever expected. Kup koon ka.

More sightings today: squid, blue sea stars, star fish, baracuda, sea urchins, bubble coral, red coral (name?), porcelain crab. P

June 26, 2005


I went diving!!! After 6 days of painting, I started the Open Water course. Yesterday we spent in the pool practising assembling the equipment, putting it on, taking off the mask and regulator under water... still a little bit scary only a couple feet under the surface! Today went out on a boat to Phi Phi Lay (the island where The Beach was filmed!) and had 2 dives up to about 11 metres. Breathing under water became the least difficult thing to do, keeping my buoyancy at a constant level was another thing. Rose all the way up to the surface a couple times! Besides the awkwardness (everything is supposed to come much more naturally tomorrow on the 3rd dive, I hope this works for me), I got to see a leopard shark! It's actually in the mural. Also a scorpion fish, Nemo!, parrot fish, angel fish, baracudas, fan and table coral. There was a squid but I missed it, oops :) Sometimes we were surrounded by a school of what seemed like thousands, wow! Now I must do some reading and finish my homework... P

June 23, 2005

The Perfect Place

If you want to see the most amazing scenery you've ever seen, come to Phi Phi. There is a lot of construction and clearing still need to be done. But there are many options for food and accommodation. Yesterday I walked on a white sand beach and swam in a clear tourquoise blue lagoon with stunning lime stone cliffs around, almost all to myself. It was great to enjoy that perfect secluded beach that everyone searches for, but it was disturbing to think it didn't used to be this way that long ago. I imagined the resorts lining the beach. Peoples voices joining together into one continuous sound. Children laughing and splashing in the waves. Colourful blankets lying on the sand. And now it's all gone without a trace. Until I look behind me and see the scattered palm leaves, plastic bottles, broken glass, tiles.... All I want to say is come to PP! It needs the tourists to take the boat rides, do the scuba lessons, stay in the hotels, eat the pancakes and relax with a drink on the beach. This is my home for only a week, but home forever for those that live here. They remember how it was and I'm sure wish to see it that way again soon.

I was interviewed by ABC news the other day while painting the mural. I'm terrible at answering questions and hope it doesn't air. But if it does, you can look out for any documentaries on what is happening with the tsunami 6 months later. See you! P

June 21, 2005

The Mural

Three days of painting and the mural is going well. All of the Hippo Divers are fun to be around and are even helping out with the painting. I've got them all working hard so I can sit back and drink shakes all day (haha, just kidding). Hope to finish it off tomorrow and will take a final photo to show it off to you! Then I'm going to jump in the water. P

June 19, 2005

Hippos and Rain

Last night Hi Phi Phi had a meeting informing all interested volunteers the jobs that need to be done on the island. They put me to work using my "artistic skills" and I started painting a mural for the Hippo Divers shop. There is so much to do I have decided to stay longer, at least the rest of this week. It sounds like I may get to try a dive! Mr. Ha (I think, who's name means Hippo in English), the owner of the shop took a group of us out for a feast tonight, I'm soooooo full! But it was delicious and had the chance to try several Thai dishes from sweet chili fish, vegetables, chicken cashew, lemongrass seafood soup, greens (something like spinach) and a great watermelon shake. I haven't done much volunteer work in the past, and I have to say it is so rewarding to see how many people are grateful to have the extra help. It's the perfect job, except for the part that you don't get paid!!

I love the little things... everyone is so relaxed... this morning I was just about to step out of the Harmony Garden where I had a Thai pancake, when it suddenly poured with rain (this happens a lot). So I stayed under the roof, along with a few other people and the owner brought over some chairs for us to sit on while we waited. It was so communal. We didn't know each other but were laughing together at the fact we were just there. Instead of running through the rain to our scheduled destinations, we watched the rain and waited for it to stop. P

June 18, 2005

The Tsunami on Phi Phi Don

I'm on a beautiful island just south of Krabi. About an hour and a half ride by speed boat which was not much better for sea sickness as the boat I was on yesterday. I think I'll wait a couple days before getting on the water again!

Phi Phi Don has a narrow piece of land with beach on both sides that was lined with bungalows and resorts. The North side was completely wiped out by the tsunami. The South side has some remaining stores. What happened was a wave came from both sides, covering the entire piece of land in water, with the 2 waves crashing into eachother in the centre. A poor fishing village was destroyed. Bungalows were washed out to sea, with traces of floor tiles and small shampoo bottles still embedded in the sand. Palm tree roots are exposed. Almost 40% of the islands population was killed. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing first hand, and almost 6 months after the fact. All day, all around, people are hammering, building, constructing cobbled pathways, painting and digging holes for septic tanks. Yet even though so much is destroyed, a lot has been rebuilt and cleaned up and the cliffs and water and scenery is probably the most amazing place I've ever been. Many tourists are volunteering their time to help, yet there are still many enjoying the resorts and beaches. Tourism is so important right now to get things up and running the way they were before.

To think where I am sitting at this moment was covered in that wave is so hard to comprehend. I met John today who was here on that day and survived the tragedy by seconds. He asked me to take his photo infront of a hill. I didn't think the hill was anything spectacular, but that was his place of refuge with others who ran up for safety, thinking another wave was approaching. Later they came down to look for people buried beneath several feet of debris. John heard a small cry below a destroyed house. He rescued a small girl and put her on a helicopter. He is now back on the island in search of where she went. And here he is alive to tell his story and half a year later, finding the answers to another story. It's been a solem day and there is so much more to say, but I will end here. P

June 17, 2005

Krabi, Thailand

The landscape changed dramatically from Malaysia over to South, Western Thailand. Like the sounds of frogs, the mountains change in every country. They look like the tall, cliff mounds I expect to see in Vietnam. Really beautiful and so amazing. Yesterday I had a little boat ride to see the mangroves and a cave. The cave was a little scary on my own (the driver stayed in the boat). There was a bat squeek once in a while and crap falling from above, making a soft carpet of turds for me to walk on. I took a couple pics and left fast!

Today was great, did an all day boat tour, which took us around 4 islands to go snorkling. Amazing coral and fish, but didn't get to see a shark. The water was really rough, almost had a case of sea sickness on the ride back. Now I know why the driver said it's low season. Since I've been here it has rained off and on. But still warm and I have my first burn to show for it (doh!!) P

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Originally uploaded by Art Journey.

I have a new batch of photos up on Flickr! Just click on the tea men and it will bring you there. P

June 13, 2005

Penang Hill

Ascended Penang hill on the steep, slow train. Decended by foot for a couple hours, ending up in the Botanical Gardens where everything was caged up except for the scary monkeys that snarled for my ice cream. I ate it in time for it to lose interest and turn away, but if not, how do they expect tourists to obey the sign "do not feed the monkeys"? I'm loving all the satay, samosas and fruit juices! Starfruit, guava, pineapple, apple... all with a little froth on top :) P

June 11, 2005

Dragon Boat Opera

This weekend, the National Dragon Boat race is being held in Penang. The three of us ended up hanging out under a tarp, watching the boats with the Penang team... we won three times! and cheered, ate cinnamon buns and talked about all the various religions and languages in Malaysia. Other teams were there from Australia, Germany, Japan, and the rest of South East Asia. Indonesia and China have the strongest teams because their government pays for them to train full time, where everyone else has their regular day jobs. Toronto was there last year and a couple commented they did really well (yay TO!). 6 boats race at a time, 10 rowers in each, with the drummer up front beating a rhythm for the paddles to follow. Everyone had very nice arms!

Tried durian... I may have to give it another chance. We ordered a small one which was white (yellow should be sweeter). First thing is getting over the non-juicy, slimy texture. The smell sticks around and apparently anyone speaking with you can identify it for the rest of the day. Washed away the taste with some mangosteins.

The evening was a traditional Chinese Opera. The actors do this for fun as a hobby to help keep the culture alive. A lot of banging drums, loud singing and bright sequence colours made for some great photos! Had a "back stage tour" to see the makeup being re-applied and heavy costumes changed. P

June 10, 2005


Left on the bus this morning with a freshly made pineapple roti for the road. That was our favourite restaurant (went there 3 times in 2 days!). Arrived this afternoon in Georgetown, a city on Penang Island. I like the city already, very small but filled with character. Many mosques and temples, samosas and fruit. Wandered around with Mindy and Conner, almost getting hit by motorcycles a few times. Sidewalks and pedestrian crossings are even rarer in this town! I hope to rest here a few more days than usual, lots I could draw... P

June 09, 2005

Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands have been a beautiful escape from the city. My wish also came true, and I met 2 single travellers at the bus station, Maggie and Trent. We ate rambutans (a furry but delicious lychee-like fruit) and found accommodation for $2 a night. It's so amazingly cheap here, I'm in heaven! Breakfast was a roti (thin crepe) folded with banana and coconut inside with a cup of sweet Masala tea ($1.50). Dinner last night was a mound of Indian curries, naan and things I don't have names for ($2). A half-hour drive in a 1965 mercedes taxi out to the amazing tea plantations ($1.75 each). Honestly, my travel for 1 year is expected to be less then the amount of rent I payed for 1 year in TO!

The tea pluckers (they like that word here) were very happy to get into and look at our photos and videos of them in action. I hope the footage is good, but definitely the hardest I've laughed in a while. Our cab driver was also quite the character and became todays ongoing conversation. The children here are adorable, makes me want to have one (did I say that!?), they love to say "Hello"... we could go back and forth for hours.

Good times. I miss you all though, and think of you often. P

June 07, 2005

Yes, ONE!

Maybe it was a little funny at first but now I'm resentful. The second most asked question after "Where you from?" is "Only one?" Well, yes, just me and hey, if they're surprised then maybe I should be a little proud to have the guts to do so. But the reaction doesn't state, wow, that is amazing, you're so brave. It looks more like a state of horror, what, no family, no boyfriend? It would be more fun to travel with a boyfriend. Well, ok maybe so, but I don't have one!!! I encounter this every time I ask for directions or buy a mango or walk into a store. Actually, I don't even have to do anything at all, everyone just wants to know who I am and what I am doing by myself. The worst is going for dinner. I would really enjoy some conversation, to share food and just not take up a whole table for myself. Everyone travels in couples or groups of 4-8. When I order my meal, my aloneness is reinforced several times. Only one? Yes. So one plate? Yes. A drink? Yes. One glass? Yes!! Where you from? Ahhhhh!!!! P

June 06, 2005

The Weirdest Thing

I have to mention this because it's happened 2 times already since I've arrived in KL. I'm not sure if there is some tourist scam going on or if I am having the wrong assumptions about these genuinely honest people. Everyone is really so helpful and quick to start up a conversation, that I feel bad to be suspicious.

So... my first day here I sat down and not more than a minute later there was a happy 30-something woman commenting on how white I am. Here name was Vanessa and her friend sat on my other side. When I said I was from Toronto, she said her sister will be moving there in about a month and her family is very worried for her. Vanessa asked me if I would like to chat with her sister and give her some information about Canada. I felt there was no harm in that and if their place was only a few minutes away, why not? We ended up in a cab out in some KL subburb and I was introduced to her Uncle. Apparently her mom was ill and the sister had to take her to the hospital. She would return soon and in the meantime the Uncle made small talk about Canada, what I do, what he does. He has worked in casinos all around the world. He volunteered to teach me a fool proof way of winning Black Jack. In 10 minutes he taught me the game and how to cheat with hand gestures. The subject changed to his friend Mr. Chow who would be coming over to play a game... for money. Everything happened so fast and next moment I was sitting next to my partner (Vanessa) with $100 US of the Uncle's money in my pocket to bet against Mr. Chow who placed $2000 US on the table. Flaberghasted is probably a good word here! Everyone was so smiley and nice and said "don't worry, this is for fun!". I took Vanessa aside and said I wasn't comfortable betting someone else's money, that I expected to only be talking with her sister, and that I need to get back to the city. Ok, it was fine. As quickly as it all happened, I was back in a car downtown. Vanessa was smiling when she said bye, but I also saw a glint of sadness which made me wonder if I was over-reacting.

And then... today as I waited to cross a road, a different 30-something named Kaka asked me where I was from. "Where you going?" To the monorail. "I'll take you!" She grabbed my hand and guided me across the road down the street to Burger King. "Here, come." She bought me an iced Milo and we sat down to talk with her cousin who had followed us (but remained behind us). When I replied "Toronto" to their question, the eyebrows raised and what would you know, she has a sister moving there!!! "Yes, many Malaysian are moving there because it's easy to get a Visa, not like the United States." I am then invited to go to Kaka's house and have her mom's home cooked Malay meal and talk about Canada. I said thank you for the offer but how about we meet at a coffee shop tomorrow? I ended up on her cell talking to Lisa the sister, and her telling me it has to be today, at her house. I said no a hundred times but thanks for the drink and felt awful for refusing her generosity. And there was that exact same glint of sadness in her eyes. What is this, REALLY??!!! P

June 04, 2005

In the Middle of Nowhere

There is one more thing to mention about Melaka, because the photos cannot describe it. The last day there, Mark and I spent 5 hours to get to Pulua Besar Island. It was a round about way of getting somewhere by getting ferry and bus information from people who didn't really know. After the ferry wouldn't leave because they didn't have at least 12 passengers, racing in a cab to the other dock to find out we had to take a bus to another place, taking a bus that took an hour to catch, getting to a transfer station to take another bus that took us a 30 second walk from where we originally started, then arriving at the dock to discover the last ferry left 10 minutes ago and the next one wasn't for another 2 1/2 hours, we finally arrived at 3pm! Anyway, the part I wanted to mention was being in the middle of the rainforest with the cicadas humming so loudly, it was an intense shrill. It was like an opera with the audience being the immense trees looming above us so tall. I wish I took a video, but the last ferry was going to leave soon. P

Kuala Lumpur

My first meal here was sting ray! A little spicy and hard to eat with the bones right through the middle of each peice, but it was really good. Have experimented with a few of the hawker stalls in Chinatown that are presented so well. Tried some crab balls mixed with veges on a stick. You dip it into the boiling water (or oil?) for a few seconds and dip it in sauce. There were these tiny rotis with potato and fish inside (pronounced "fiz" by the Malays, which took me a few confused expressions to figure out). And then some chick peas mixed with some spices but not too spicy for me. I'm hoping my tolerance is getting better :)

Yesterday I went to a Butterfly Park and it was quite amazing. Met Alex the biologist who is doing a round the world tour in 4 months, travelling specifically to see the best flora and fauna and later to write a book about it. Apparently the other places he saw did not match up with this one, so it was worth it even more! Was filled in on a little inside information. The Malaysian butterfly has long, narrow black wings with a green stripe running through them. The females have a white dot. I took a video of one of the largest in the park, which has a poison that would kill any birds that try to eat it. For this reason, it will linger on one flower for quite a while, knowing it's black and yellow warning colours will keep away any predators. P

June 03, 2005


The Muslim culture here is so different from what I expected. All the women wear headscarves, but almost as an accessory, along with their jeans and t-shirts, as if they hardly know it's there. On motorcycles, the long fabric ripples behind them underneath the helmet. The younger girls especially, look so sweet with the scarf lightly wrapped around their faces and big brown eyes. They laugh with eachother and smile freely at strangers without feeling self conscious. They are really beautiful people and their acts of kindness are so genuine. On the bus, a girl came over to Mark and I to say "Welcome to Melaka. I hope you enjoy your stay here." Smiling, she quickly turned away and hopped off the bus. I couldn't believe it, when does that ever happen?! P

June 01, 2005

On to Melaka

I was so glad to leave Singapore on a much more positive note than how I'd been feeling the last couple of days. Sherry had just arrived a few hours before we met from LA and still managed to inspire me and gear my thoughts in a new direction. We talked about art, careers, life, love, and how much better life is in your 30's! She showed me a few paper shops to drop off samples of my greeting cards (maybe I'll soon be selling internationally!). Also went to a small art shop where she buys all her Chinese paper. I'm now set up with some large sheets and a tube, which has made my pack a bit bulkier, also with the extra repellent I stocked up on for Malaysia.

After 3 stops on the bus (Singapore customs, Malay border, and then the first bus breaking down) I got to Melaka. It's a historic town, the original in Malaysia, where the Chinese and Malays intermarried and created a new race that later migrated to Singapore. There is a lot of colonial architecture also evident throughout the rest of the country. I met Ali who took me on a rickshaw ride around Chinatown, past some temples and ended with a churry chicken noodle soup. Ali is Malay, and hasn't left the country, but has travelled within. His fun personality and knowledge of history, I'm sure won him an acting part in a movie called "Veronica goes to Asia". It's supposed to be playing now, so if anyone watches it, let me know if you see him! Met another Hollander, and watched the light and sound show with 5 others in the audience. It was so bad! A half hour I will not get back:) P