Thursday, February 22, 2007

10 things i learned in greece

1. greece has a special alphabet which is hard to understand
2. stat mech can actually be useful when travelling in greece cause you know that special alphabet
3. baklava are the best pastries ever in greece, not as sweet as at home
4. there are pastry shops everywhere except when you want to buy some baklava
5. sunday is the day that ruins and museums are free to visit
6. everywhere in greece is the site of either a ruin or a famous battle
7. winter schedules really reduce the hours things are open
8. don't ever believe the winter schedules given to you by the tourist information desk
9. greece is the only country when entering some religious sites you have to wear a skirt (as opposed to covering your head in mosques and covering your arms in churches in italy)
10. it's a really cool country

Sunday, February 18, 2007

greece, athens

i'm back in europe after over 5 months away. i arrived in greece at 7 am on friday after a 12 hour flight and headed to the hostel. it was nice to get some breakfast and get an idea of what to do in town from the incredibly helpful staff. i went to a street market with a girl from scotland that i had met that morning and we got a ton a veggies for almost nothing. that afternoon in exchange for a free meal, i peeled potatoes for 2 hours. i now understand why it's a horrible chore in the navy! but it was nice to get a cooking lesson at the same time since the chef was making curry for that evening. that evening i met 3 ppl from aylmer, quebec (what is now known as gatineau) so i had a good time talking french with them. and to my great surprise i managed to stay awake til 10:30, i was only hoping for 9 since malaysia is 6 hours ahead of greece.
the next day was a walk to one of the hills in athens and a great view over the acropolis (which is just behind the hostel) and a visit to a museum with some olds greek sculptures, pretty cool to see since most of the roman ones that you see in italy always had the comment " based on a greek sculpture" so these were real originals :) then a crazy night of partying followed, with 2 euro gyros instead of 2 dollar chowmein, but what can you do, when you're hungry at 4 in the morning, you have to eat.
today being sunday meant that the acropolis was free to visit so i wandered there for a while and also saw the agora, another important archaeological sight just below the acropolis hill. since there is a carnival going on right now there were bands out playing greek music and ppl were dancing to it, very cool to see traditional dances in the streets. and since it's a national holiday tomorrow, the guards in front of the parliament building had very special uniforms that almost rival the swiss guards, photos to come at some point.
and it's nice and cold in greece, there was a chance of snow today so it's a nice change after malaysian weather.

Friday, February 09, 2007


well after one week in vietnam, i'm now in malaysia for a week. other than the complete difference between hanoi and kuala lumpur, (kl reminds me of any big modern city, not very pedestrian friendly), the weather is also so completely different. here it's at least 30 degress and humid whereas hanoi was dry and about 20. today i wandered a bit, checked out the petronas towers, the highest buildings in the world (not sure what their qualifier is, since the CN tower is the tallest free standing stucture in the world). i didn't go up though since the next tour available was at 6 pm and it was only noon at the time.
wandered around, got lost and finally found my way to the craft center. it's a place where they little huts where you can see ppl doing crafts, pottery, batik, woodcarving. it's pretty cool. i saw one guy do a large batik painting. (batik are the drawings that look like tiedie but you use wax to delimit where the paint will go. you paint using dye on a cottonor silk canvas). it was really cool to see how he just applied wax here and there and then added some dye inside the area to add some detail to the painting. i took my turn at making a batik painting. it wasn't too bad for a first time and it's pretty cool to see how you can change the colours with just a little bit of water dotted on the fabric.
tonight the plan is to go to some tower and see the city at night. some ppl i met in NZ are in KL right now so should be fun. it's always fun catching up with ppl you have seen in some other country a few months ago and then see somewhere completely unexpected a while later

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

vietnam, old and new

vietnam cannot be described. it is just incredible, so many things are modern, like thegirl listening to her mp3 player while selling beads, yet so old, like the women with cone shaped straw hats selling fruit on the street from baskets that hang over their shoulder with a long flat piece of wood. there is absolutely no sense in how the traffic works other than trucks and cars do not stop for anything, scooters and bikes weave their way around everything and ppl need to cross really really slowly, with no change in direction or speed and then you are safe. so far no accidents. it's amazing that it actually works! and is amazing just to watch.
in the center of the old quarter, since it's the tourist part, ppl tend to speak english but you can just wander a few blocks away and then you pull out your handy lonely planet (if bought in vietnam, it's a decent photocopy) to ask for info about places and things. today i was with someone who wanted to buy snake wine, so we asked at the tourist bureau who sent us to one place who sent us to another then dwon the street to a third place where we sat down and tried to order it. since no one spoke english, i ended up talking to one of the other patrons (who is a local) in french to explain what was wanted. i was impressed that she spoke french and good french at that.
if you want to buy anything, you can get it here. and it's always "many coulours", "very beautiful". so today since i have only another day left in the country, i went shopping and got some nice silk scarves that i bought from a high school chemistry teacher who was helping out at her sister's store. next thing on the list is chopsticks.